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Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year In Review-Progress Report

2013 has been a rough year for me. Money was extra tight. I had to use money from my jury allowance from Federal Court in January to keep All About Marilyn and The Temptation of John Haynes in print this year.

In spite of my financial issues, I’ve published a lot of books, worked on a bunch of blogs and made every effort possible to expand my reading audience and make this work. Still struggling, but still making progress.

In 2013 I published the most books in the history of the SJS DIRECT imprint. Twelve titles written by me made their debut throughout this year. Those titles include:

5.     TheThetas

First book of 2013!
In addition to my books I also published the sequel to Lawrence Cherry’s Commencement. School of Hard Knocks:The Re-education of Jim Reid (Words by Lawrence Cherry, page layouts and cover by me)

Looking back at that list I can’t believe I wrote that many stories this year. I have to wonder if I’m a machine. Writing stories, designing covers, editing scripts, doing page layouts and uploading files for multiple books. Five years ago I barely published one book a year.

Five years before that I was broke. I only had one book in print, Isis and struggled to find a way to promote it while I looked for a day job. Now I’m managing a catalog of over eleven paperbacks and 38 eBooks. While I still look for a day job. I still feel like I haven’t done enough to get my work out there and, I’m still working towards getting to that next level.

Over the past year I’m getting a bit more comfortable with running a publishing imprint. I’ve got a handle on release dates and scheduling books for release, promoting titles and keeping books on a deadline.  On recent titles like School of Hard Knocks and Isis: All About The Goddess I was able to build a nice window before the title’s release to do pre-promotion on the blog.

I’ve also gotten a bit more editorial experience on working with clients like Larry. Over the past year, I’ve learned how to communicate with clients and how it’s an editor’s job to LISTEN to their writers and be there for them by giving them support and guidance so their books can be the best they can be. It’s never a writer’s job to re-write a writer’s work or to tell them how to write it. It’s an editors’ job to give them advice, make suggestions, and on occasion correct some grammar. The goal is to produce the best quality books and maintain the integrity of the work. I’m learning the editor has to believe in the writer and their work, in order for the relationship to work at a publishing house. If an editor doesn’t believe in a work, then they shouldn’t publish it.

On the suggestion of a friend, I split the summer YA campaign into two different promotions. One set of books on Smashwords and one set of books on Kindle in the KDP Select Program. Splitting the titles between booksellers was a smart move, I expanded my audience with both retailers.

 I published Lawrence Cherry’s second Novel: School of Hard Knocks: The Re-education of Jim Reid. A sequel to Larry’s first book Commencement, this powerful Christian title did very well as a Free title in the KDP Select program with over 1,000 downloads over three promotions this summer. Since the title was doing so well we moved it over to Smashwords this December. Larry’s not happy about the slow sales, but I’m telling him to give it time.

After a yearlong run on Kindle, Commencement made a return to Smashwords. Since it’s return Commencement has been downloaded over 3,000 times between Smashwords and its affiliates and has over 122 facebook likes.

getting a following!
The Isis series has done fairly well since its debut a year ago. This year Isis: The Beauty Myth has sold decently on Kindle and Isis: My Sister, My Frenemy is starting to build an audience there as well after a slow start this summer. Isis: Death of a Theta also struggled on its debut, but is starting to pick up a little momentum. Isis: All About the Goddess is building up some momentum since its debut. Readers seen to like the Isis series.

I will try to work on two new Isis books this year. Still running ideas in my head for them.

sleeper hit! 
A huge surprise hit was E’steem’s book. The free short E’steem: No Good Deed has received over 3,000 downloads on Kindle, Smashwords, itunes and Barnes & Noble. While some have complained about the length, they seem to keep coming back to download it.  

E’steem’s second book Deadly D’lilah received over 2,000 downloads on Kindle, Smashwords and their affiliates.

Unfortunately E’steem: Demons Anonymous flopped on KDP Select this month. Only 25 downloads L in a KDP Select promotion. Really disappointed in that. I put a lot of heart into that story and to see it perform so poorly was disheartening.

Not too popular :!
If I do any more E’steem stories they’ll be on Smashwords. That’s where her audience is.  I really want to do an E’steem series. I have fun writing her adventures. But the hardest part is getting readers to try her stories. I know many have an issue with the demon angle in her stories, but there’s no Satanism or Satan worship. But her stories are as harmless as a Harvey Hot Stuff comic.

Smash hit! 
My new novel, The Thetas has been a hit since its May debut. In the two free campaigns I’ve done with KDP Select the novel has received over 1000 downloads and has received positive reviews from readers. The book has performed so strongly that I feel confident enough about taking the title out of the KDP Select program and releasing the title on Smashwords and Nook later in 2014. I’d love to do a paperback run, but I don’t have the money for a full print run. If I do a print run It’d have to be through CreateSpace.

All About Nikki’s Second Season has performed well as a free eBook on Smashwords. Over there it’s one of the most popular books in my catalog with over 1,000 free downloads. On Kindle, not so hot. I’m going to have to regroup before I launch the Sensational Season 2 full edition this Summer.

On the Nonfiction front, Manginas-TheyLook Like Men But Act Like Ladies was the most popular Nonfiction book this year with over 1000 downloads. The Second part of the Simp Trilogy is not only a hit in America, but all over the world. Manginas has been downloaded in the UK, Austria, The Netherlands, Germany, and even far away as Australia and Russia!

Thanks to the popularity of Manginas I’ve met a lot of MGTOW/MRAs on Facebook and have been invited to join their groups.

The final part of the Simp Trilogy The Misadventures of Captain-Save-A-Hoe has been a breakout hit since its November Debut with over 100 downloads on Smashwords and 100 downloads on Smashwords affiliates in less than 30 days! Misadventures is well on its way to becoming just as popular as the other two books in the Simp Trilogy.

In addition to the dozen titles I published, I wrote over 200 blogs. That’s up from 2012’s 183 blogs.

In November, the blog celebrated it’s 200,000th hit on the web. Currently the blog has gotten over 230,000 hits. Over 100,000 of those this came in year.  I’ve had several days where the blog has gotten 700 or 800 hits. One day I almost hit close to 900. I’m hoping next year I can have that 1,000 hit day.

Several blogs continue to remain extremely popular since their publication:

Why Real Men Avoid Single Mothers is now the most popular article on the site with over 17,000 hits. Many MRA and MGTOW sites use that article as a reference or just discuss it. Some single mothers have written response pieces to that particular article.

The article The roles of Fathers in the lives of Children has over 4000 hits.

The article Why 70 Percent of Black women are Single has over 3000 hits. In addition to several comments and response blogs to that article Someone made videos in response to that article on YouTube.

Lots of people link to my blogs and I’ve gotten requests to use the in e-zines. I have no problem with people linking to my blogs as long as they give me a credit.

Following God’s guidance I’ve started writing more about Men’s issues on the blog. And I’ve helped a lot of guys and some girls get a better understanding of what it is to be a man. I’m proud of the Men’s issues articles and I really like sharing my wisdom with young men.

I’ve gotten several requests for blogs on relationships and Men’s issues and they’ve been hits. Blogs like Negro Bed Wenches and God send me a Man, were written after I received requests from readers. 

There will be more blogs on Men’s issues next year and I’ll be tackling more issues relating to things only a man knows about.

Unfortunately, with all the blogs on Men’s issues there have been detractors both male and female. I’ve had to deal with arguments from females in the comments section on blogs like What Women Don’t Know about Being The Side Piece, The Silence of Black women, and How Halle Berry Tarnished the image of Black women. I don’t mind a debate, but in a lot of cases I’ve had to check fools in the comments section. If I can I’ve had to follow up with a blog where I can turn that argument into a teachable moment.

I was forced to delete the blog Why Real Men avoid Single Mothers Part 2 because of people trying to take the subject off topic. I don’t like deleting topics but in this case I had no choice. In between the ad-hominem attacks, promotion of homosexuality, gay Marriage, Atheism, and Manginas looking for pussy points™ I had to shut it down. People are allowed to disagree but not to get personal. 

On the paperback front I continue to struggle with poor sales.  This year I had to discontinue All About Nikki-The Fabulous first season in paperback on Lightning Source due to no sales. The paperback while critically praised, never sold a single copy. Oddly, the eBook is a top seller for me. I guess Nikki’s audience is only a digital one.  I’ve kept a paperback edition of Nikki on CreateSpace, so I don’t lose all the money I spent on the ISBN and barcode ($179) and the Uploads ($120) and the maintenance fee ($24).

Thanks to donations from readers, I’ll be able to keep All About Marilyn and The Temptation of JohnHaynes on sale at online retailers in paperback for another year. I’m doing what I can to rally sales so I can keep these paperbacks in print, and I’m asking readers to help me out and buy a copy or two. All I need is four paperback sales on Amazon or Barnes & noble to keep these books on the market. These are great books, give them a try!

In addition to my work on the blog, I had the pleasure of contributing articles to the site I really enjoyed working on the features for that site and I’m looking forward to working with them in the future.

I also had the pleasure of working with Gabriel Foreman and the staff of the Monroe College Ecosystem on improving my LinkedIN profile and page. With their help I’ve updated my page to look more professional and be much more readable. Trying to expand my LinkedIN network, so check out my page over there.

A lot of people discovered the blog on Facebook, and Twitter over the past year. I’ve met a lot of great people over on Facebook and I'm getting more connected with my reading audience. 

 I had the pleasure of discovering Facebook Friend JM McSwain’s blogtalk radio show Tech Talk. Tech Talk is a great show where African-Americans talk about IT and computers.  I’ve promoted their shows on the blog because I believe in their program and I want to see more brothers and sistas in the IT field.

I finally managed to deal with my feelings regarding the job I lost at The City College of New York’s Science Library by writing a 25-page blog I published soon after my 40th Birthday. I had been depressed over the issue for five years and kept working towards my goals in spite of how I felt. After putting my experiences down on paper I’ve felt a little better. It still hurts, but I have to follow God’s order and Keep going. I’m glad to know I’ve helped a lot of Black men with that blog and showed them the numerous pitfalls to avoid when they enter the job market.

I’m getting a little better at making YouTube Videos. I’d love to do more of them on the regular, but until I can make enough money on books or find a full-time job to pay for a Verizon Smart Router, they’ll come sporadically. Right now I’ve got a lot on my plate and I’m working hard to get my books and myself to the next level.

2013 was a year with a lot of struggles. But I’m still trying to make progress. I’m giving away less and selling more. Building up my catalog. Books I release are able to stand on their own without book clubs or review copies. Titles are getting reviews from readers, and not just book clubs. I don’t have that best-selling novel yet, but I’m on my way. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

All About Nikki Easter Eggs

The Concept for All About Nikki came up around Sunday Dinner around 2006 or 2007 after I had finished The Temptation of John Haynes and had just started writing All About Marilyn. My brother was looking in a high-end catalog like Brooks Brothers and then a Paul Fredrick catalog where he scoffed at the quality of the product. I knocked my voice up for a racist valley girl character centering around the joke: “Rumsfeld, what would I use this for….Why We use these for waxing the Rolls.  The joke got lots of laughs.

Other jokes I did in the Nikki voice were “Dad…I don’t have to work. That’s what we have Mexicans for.” This joke, while offensive got even more laughs.

Along with…”That’s a poor people store.”

The more jokes I did as the rich spoiled rotten obnoxious Beverly Hills girl got more and more laughs. So I decided to create a character around them.

At about the same time I was writing the screenplay All About Marilyn. And for that script I inserted several of the All About Nikki vignettes to show how the evil Nikki character she played contrasted Marilyn’s real life and who she really was. Yes, Nikki is a villain. But underneath the surface of this bad girl is a girl next door.  There’s much more than meets the eye with Nikki Desmond, and that’s what makes her fun to write.

Both the Nikki Desmond and Marilyn Marie characters are rooted from my love of superheroes and comic books. The inspiration for both characters comes from the concept of superheroes and their secret identities.

Nikki is the larger than life heroine to the world of TV viewers while Marilyn is the alter ego. While in the All About Marilyn screenplay, we see the reverse. Marilyn as the strong heroine and Nikki as is the evil alter ego. If readers read both All About Marilyn and All About Nikki they’ll see the artistic statement I’m making.

Just as Marilyn’s character shows readers how Black actresses struggle with racism in Hollywood, Nikki’s character shows them how rich Black girls struggle with racism in Beverly Hills. Again, using the Alter ego model readers see how two different Black women struggle with the exact same issues.

I originally planned to just write two episodes of All About Nikki (I Got it Maid, All About Christmas) around the gags of the vignettes in All About Marilyn. I originally planned for them to be bonus material in All About Marilyn, but cost prevented them from being added to her book.

But to my surprise All About Marilyn was a huge hit with book clubs and readers. So I decided to launch a Nikki book as a companion to Marilyn so aspiring TV writers could see how a spec (speculative) script for a TV show was developed. And to write that Spec series I decided to write 13 complete episodes so kids could see how a storyline for an entire season of a TV series like the ones they watched on Disney or Nickelodeon was written.

So in 2010, I took those two episodes and began crafting a storyline around them.  From there I established the premise of Nikki Desmond, the spoiled rotten New York socialite shipped from boarding school to boarding school who gets in trouble and is then sent to live with her father. With her father’s guidance she’s supposed to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around her and that everyone isn’t here to cater to her.

As I wrote her, the Nikki character became her own person and started speaking in her own voice and telling her own stories. And in less than a year I was able to put together the remaining eleven episodes of Nikki’s Fabulous First season.

The mission of All About Nikki TV series is to teach children the importance of doing unto others as we’d do unto them. Each episode of All About Nikki was designed to teach children about social interactions and how to behave in certain social situations, what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not acceptable. In between the laughs of each story is a lesson in etiquette and protocol.

Each episode also teaches kids that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Kids who read (or eventually watch) All About Nikki would learn that when they behave a certain way that there is a consequence for that behavior.

I designed the show with tween and teen girls in mind, the audience that watches That’s So Raven True Jackson and Victorious. The educational component of the show is designed so tween and teen girls need to learn about socially appropriate behavior and what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable to say and do in public.

All About Nikki is set in 1990’s Los Angeles. A native New Yorker from the South Bronx, I’ve never lived in Los Angeles. But I do my research so locations look and sound authentic. Many of the devices like Discmans and brick cell phones are part of life in 1990’s L.A.

The reason why Nikki is set in 1990’s Los Angeles is to make it consistent with its sister book All About Marilyn. All the details between both screenplay books flow seamlessly into the other. However, for a Real Nikki TV show If I had to, I would adapt the story of Nikki to 2013 L.A.

Nikki Desmond’s name is derived from Norma Desmond, the faded silent film star from the Classic Billy Wilder movie Sunset Boulevard.

Nikki’s personality is inspired by Hilary Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Cher from Clueless. Hilary had the look and the “voice” and Cher had the personality and depth I was going for.  This is why the logline says The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air meets Clueless.

Nikki’s Dad Donald is actually based on actor Tim Russ. Russ always had the fatherly vibe to me, and I always thought he’d be great playing a TV dad.

For a long time Donald Desmond didn’t have a name. I just called him Father in the script.  I wound up giving him the name Donald Desmond because it sounded rich and Black.

Rumsfeld is based on the character I made up for my Sunday Dinner gag. He’s a polished Black British servant who wears formal wear and has impeccable manners.

Rosa the maid was brought over from All About Marilyn vignettes.  I developed her character to show that even the most educated people from middle class families have a hard time finding jobs. So they have to take whatever’s available. My plan is for Rosa to use the maid job as a stepping stone to entering the middle class.

With Rosa’s character I wanted to show children why they shouldn’t make racist slurs and discriminate against people of other ethnicities.  I felt if there was a main character that experienced racism from the lead character it would make them come to understand why racism is wrong and how they could learn to overcome racist ways of thinking.

Along with the Rosa character I explore the issue of race in the episode like All About School and intra-racial racism and class racism in All About Black. When it comes to race, oftentimes we see Black males and White males as the protagonists and antagonists. But rarely do we see the issue explored with female characters. I felt it was time readers saw that yes, women are just as racist as the guys and that Black girls also experience racism every day.

In All About Nikki I don’t apply political correctness. I believe children need to hear slurs like wetback, you people, and carpet muncher and be shown why it’s wrong to use these terms regarding others. People need to see why these words are offensive and why using this language is insensitive to the feelings of others.

Fun fact: In Nikki’s world characters like Isis, John Haynes, Marilyn Marie and the Thetas are fictional. And in their respective world All About Nikki is a classic Black sitcom.

The number of Leslie Desmond’s penthouse 3430 in the pilot is actually the address where I lived in the South Bronx as a child, 3430 Park Avenue.

Art used for Nikki Season 2 Sneak preview!
Candice’s parking space #3C is reference the apartment number of the apartment we used to live in as a kid. In almost every book I write I try to mention 3430 Park Avenue and Apartment #3C.

Candice Cameron Collins is actually named after former Child Star Candice Cameron Bure. Used to watch a lot of Full House Back in the day.

 Nikki and Candice’s issue of being the only Black girl in school is something many Black girls who live in the suburbs struggle with. I wrote her with the plan of exploring race and identity of Black people in the suburbs. We rarely hear about the stories of Growing up Black or rich, and the struggles of identity these brothers and sisters have regarding what is truly “Black”.

The joke I have something to say to you….You Stink. Is a gag I came up with as a retort to my sister back in my late 20’s. I’ve also used it in All About Marilyn and most recently Isis: All About the Goddess.

The first three episodes (All About the Pilot, All About School, and All About Rivals) are designed to be a three-episode story arc. The goal of these three episodes are to establish the main character and set up the premise for the series.

The fight scene Nikki has at the Met in All About The Pilot is actually inspired by the fight scene of the opening credits of the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and its theme song. I wrote that scene basing it on the lyrics:

 “There were a couple of guys who were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got into one fight and my moms got scared and said…You’re moving with your auntie and Uncle in Bel-Air.”

I designed the first ten minutes of Nikki’s pilot to be reinterpretation of The Fresh Prince’s theme song. The reason for the fight is based on many conversations I heard in the Hallway at Park West High School and a fight that was rumored to have transpired on a class trip I didn’t go on.

However, The fourth episode, I got it Maid was actually written FIRST in 2009. And the tenth episode of All About Nikki Nikki’s Christmas Carol was written SECOND in 2009. While the pilot arc was written after that.

So anyone who aspires to write a TV show should know, most episodes aren’t written in order. Usually a writer will get the basic details down for a story and then write continuity around it afterward.

I came up with the idea for the sixth episode Keep it in the Closet while riding the D train with my sister on the way to Macy*s. I acted out all the jokes on that train ride and got so many laughs it wasn’t funny. When I put fingers to keyboard, I wrote that episode in less than four hours.

The routine Nikki mocks in All About Love regarding Sean’s Saturday night is actually how I spent many a Saturday night in the 1990’s. Money was scarce and I was looking for my first real job.

The Episode All About Bullies is based on my real-life experiences in Junior High and High school with bullies. In that episode I wanted the reader to understand how powerless kids feel when they are bullied and why they try to keep their torment a secret.

The reason the episode All About Work starts out just like Keep it in the closet is to show how TV writers use tricks to fill pages. TV writing especially kids shows will sometimes copy and paste certain parts of older scripts to save on time when writing a new script. Things like opening scenes sluglines and even some running gags, will just be copied and pasted and then new scenes written around them.

The episode All About Work is based on my experience working at Food Emporium from 1996 to 1997 and my sister’s experience working at the Gap and Toys R Us from 1998 to 1999.  All the manipulation, headgames and silly rules are something everyone has had to deal with in retail jobs and I wanted to show how insane some of these work environments are.

The customer the Big COUNTRY GUY in All About Work is based on another one of the gag characters I’d do at the dinnertable on Sunday evenings.

The community center Nikki volunteers at in All About Black is inspired by my experience as an Americorps*VISTA at STRIVE from 2000 to 2001.

The episode All About Fashion with special guest star Tommy Hilfinger was originally supposed to be a Season 2 episode. Unfortunately, I was running short on Season 1 stories and decided to slip this one in. Plus this one had lots of laughs.

The brother in his draws in the Laundromat was based on another real life experience. One day looking out the window in 1991.

The girls mentioned in episodes All About Christmas and All About Black,  Kendra, Cheryl Victoria and Monisa are actually the names of girls in my CES 132 Fifth and sixth grade classes.

The episode Candice’s Man was based on all the boy crazy girls I ran into at Park West High back in the late 1980’s. How obsessed and crazy they’d get over drug dealers boys and not see these guys clearly. The goal of that script was to show how people have to support their friends even thought they are just being NUTTY and saying and doing all sorts of things while in teenage love.

All About Mom was not intended to be the original season finale for Season One. The original season finale was a 2-part episode called “Grounded” where Nikki gets arrested. But I felt that episode was WAY too dark and scrapped it.

The Season 1 finale episode All About Mom from season 1 serves as a book end to Season 1’s All About the Pilot.  In it we see how Leslie Desmond’s emotional abuse leads to Nikki taking a long hard look at herself.

I also wrote this episode to make a powerful statement about the impact single parent female-headed households have on children. One of the reasons why Nikki was acting out and was so cruel to people in Season 1 was because she was not getting her emotional needs met. It’s this lack of nurturing that leads to her being so insensitive and narcissistic to others.

All About Mom begins the redemption of Nikki Desmond which starts in Season 2. In season 2 we see Nikki making efforts to change as she adjusts to life in Beverly Hills.

Cover inspired by the All About Nikki
Doll mentioned in All About Marilyn!
The Season Premiere of Nikki Season 2 like Not that there’s Anything Wrong with Me comes from my real-life experiences with Peer pressure. For years I was harassed about not having a girlfriend and had to deal with the shaming language and charges of homosexuality for choosing to be single. I wrote this particular episode to let tweens and teens know that there’s nothing wrong with them if they’re not dating or they don’t have a boyfriend.

The Episode All About Sex was written in the vein of those A Very Special…episodes of Blossom Back in the 1990’s. American people are ashamed of talking about sex and sexuality and I feel this topic really needs to be discussed openly like every other topic. (yes, Donald’s views are my own)  I believe the better educated boys and girls are about sex and sexuality, the more informed choices they’ll make about their bodies and how they express their sexuality.

The Episode All About Parties was a quiet commentary about the impact smothering mothers have on boys and how they prevent them from having a healthy social life. The Character of Sean Basition is written to show how a boy has to cut the apron strings and grow into manhood.

The episode All About Time was inspired by a book my sister was using in her first grade class called Here Come The Shapes. In the book the kids sneaking around sing 1-2-3 look at me, 4-5-6, up to tricks. On reading the end where the kid shapes get caught, I did a Samuel L. Jackson voice saying 7-8-9 your behind is mine! snapping a belt and got laughs. So I decided to write an episode around the joke. Like Keep it in the closet, it’s one of the funniest episodes of the series.

The episode All About Face is based on my experiences with Afrocentrics. It’s also based on my many experiences with women who profess pro-Blackness

The episode All About Dad was based on an experience from my Junior High school days at IS 148. Many a kid back in 1985-1986 wore Pony City Wings. Inspired, I wrote an episode revolving around 45 year old men, their daughters and vintage sneakers. Other inspirations for that episode were my numerous trips to the Dr. Jays and V.I.M on Fordham Road in the Bronx as a teenager. On another note, I suck at playing basketball.

I originally released All About Nikki as a sample ebook with the first three episodes before releasing the paperback book.

Never sold a single copy of the paperback :
Only two copies are out there in the hands of book
Unfortunately, the paperback never sold a single copy and I was forced to discontinue it this year due to my finances being strained.

But the eBook has been popular since it was published back in 2011. Readers all over the world have downloaded All About Nikki eBooks, and currently episodes of both seasons have been downloaded thousands of times.

To date Both Nikki eBooks have gotten hundreds of Facebook likes and thousands of downloads. To my surprise art imitates fantasy life. Nikki Desmond is actually more popular with readers than her alter ego Marilyn Marie!

The reason why All About Nikki Season 2 was released in fragments is because of my schedule. I was eager to get a season 2 book into production in 2012, but I just didn’t have the 13 episodes completed.  I had a bad case of writer’s block and got stuck around episode 9

I also had several projects like the Isis series in the works. So I had to put Nikki on the back burner. But I have completed up to episode 11 and the Season 2 finale finished and I have two more episodes to go. I hope to have the complete Season 2 book up by late 2014 and maybe the lost episode Grounded revised as bonus material. I know Nikki has a growing audience of readers and I want to get the complete season 2 eBook out to them. But I want it to be the best quality possible.

My ultimate goal is to release a real All About Nikki TV show. I believe if it came to air, it’d be just as popular as That’s So Raven and True Jackson. Maybe even as popular as the Teen TV classics it was inspired by The  Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Clueless.

You can buy All About Nikki the Fabulous First season on Kindle  And Volume 1 of the Sensational Second Season on Kindle !

Friday, December 27, 2013

Air Jordans, Economics, and the Negro

I was reading reports over riots at sneaker stores over the new Retro Air Jordan sneakers. Again.  Some want to make this an annual event.

 Somewhere in heaven Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King *FACEPALM* Is this what they fought and died for?

It’s sad that Black people will sacrifice their own dignity and self-respect over a pair of tennis shoes that cost less than $3 to make in a Chinese factory.

It’s even sadder to say Black folks have been killing themselves over Air Jordan sneakers for over 25 years. Ever since these sneakers first went over the $100 price tag in 1988, I have heard of Black people robbing Black people for them and killing other Black people over them. I even knew a few victims back in high school.

Twenty five years. Wrap that around your head. Black folks fighting and killing each other over sneakers for over twenty-five years.

Seriously, The Civil War and the Civil Rights Struggle weren’t that long. And in both cases Black folks got tired and frustrated. But the Negro somehow finds the energy, tenacity and the passion to continue to fight and kill each other over tennis shoes for twenty-five years.

It shows you how sad and pathetic this Negro is. Still looking for his self-esteem on his feet.  I doubt slaves in 1835 would fight over corn bread as hard as the Negro fights over Air Jordans in 2013.

What’s even crazier is that this Negro will sacrifice his personal power and his intangibles like his dignity by sleeping outside of a store and waiting overnight in the cold to go to a store and give a nonblack retailer $200 of his hard-earned money to buy shoes made by a White man that cost $4 to make.

A retailer who tells him he has to check his bag at the door because they believe he steals. A retailer that scrutinizes his money to make sure it isn’t counterfeit. A retailer that tells him there are no refunds on his purchases.


Even crazier than that is that the CEO of Nike Phil Knight and Michael Jordan over 25 years ago both have said they are not responsible for the mayhem and violence caused by these $200 sneakers. For them, the deaths of Black men over their product is just business as usual.

But the Negro continues to spend his money on these sneakers. And smiles while doing it.

What’s most disheartening about this annual fight over Air Jordan tennis shoes is the fact that just a month ago Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips were racially profiled at Barneys for buying a $345 belt and a $2500 purse. Another man was racially profiled at Macy*s for buying an $1100 watch.

But because Al Sharpton comes out with a non-binding Customer Bill of Rights, (Bill of Sale, IMO) the Negro believes it’s okay to go back to business as usual instead of taking a long hard look at how he spends his money.

Pacified by this Civil Rights dinosaur and his publicity stunt the Negro continues to sacrifice his dignity camping outside of Foot Locker and other sneaker stores and fighting in the street like a savage so he can spend $200 of his hard-earned money on a pair of shoes at a nonblack retailer who didn’t want him there in the first place the other 364 days of the year.

A month ago there were calls from self-aware Black people to participate in group economics and shop at Black-owned stores this Holiday season.  I even wrote several blogs and made a YouTube video asking Black people to participate in group economics and told them about my books.

A month later I notice I still get next to no traffic from Black customers for my books on Amazon or any of the other online retailers like Barnes & Noble and Smashwords where my products are sold. All my calls for Blacks to support my business and to support the businesses of other Black people fell on deaf ears.

All while the Negro eagerly takes his $1.1. trillion dollars of spending power and uses it to finance their own unemployment and poverty. Spending money with people who take 97% of Black dollars out of the Black community and use it to build wealth for nonblack communities.

The Negro will fight and die for a pair of $200 shoes. If only he pursued the education, SATs, college, or started a business with that same passion and tenacity he’d be much further ahead in the game. What’s most disheartening for me is that twenty-five years after the Air Jordan was priced over $100, the Negro still hasn’t come to realize that he is more valuable than these shoes.

Holiday Hiatus Random Picture

Holiday Hiatus is on, and Articles will be off  Until January 2014. 
However there  will be All About Nikki Easter Eggs and Year in Review coming soon! Until then Here are some Random pics!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Merry Christmas readers! This year's Holiday  photo features Black Superheroes! Can you name them all?

Merry Christmas  Readers! For Christmas I'll be offering Three FREE titles on Kindle:

E'steem: Demons Anonymous

Bad girl gone good! Good girl needs help! Approached by the handsome rogue demon Claudius, E'steem is asked to speak at Demons Anonymous, his support group for demons who have left Lucifer's Legion. But when Lucifer and D'lilah learn about her plans to speak to his demons about Christ they plan to crash the party and crucify Claudius. Can Hell's former harbinger save Claudius' soul from the wrath of their former lord?

*Due to a glitch(Shawn not checking the dates on theschedule) E'steem: Demons Anonymous will actually be FREE December 26th and 27th.) Sorry for the inconvenience.

Isis: My Sister, My Frenemy

Frenemies! Things come to a head as Isis tells her estranged sister E’steem she still doesn't trust her. But when E’steem is kidnapped by the demon D’lilah, Isis realizes that she has to move past the frenemy zone to save her former arch-enemy from a fate worse than death.

&All About Nikki- The Sensational Second Season Volume 1Six months after moving to Los Angeles sixteen-year-old Nikki Desmond is adjusting to life on the west coast. As she starts a new semester at Beverly Hills High School, she’s resolving to make changes to overcome her surly racist and rude behavior. In the screenplays of the first seven episodes of the Sensational Second Season of this teen sitcom, Nikki tries to navigate the Beverly Hills High social scene with a combination of tough love, humor and life lessons.

Take this opportunity to try my writing or share it with your friends!  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Writing books for Black Boys

 About a year ago a commenter told me that there was a growing market for fiction for Black boys. Now I wanted to jump on this opportunity and reach the market of young brothers, but I realized I wasn’t ready.

Now I had some stories published with Black male leads such as The Temptation of John Haynes, The Sneakers, and to an extent A Recipe For Success, but developing fiction for Black boys requires a writer to really know what they’re doing. A writer like myself has to have their mind right before putting fingers to the keyboard.

So I’ve been taking time to get in touch with my manhood. Embracing my masculinity. Learning about the issues relating to black boys and Black men.

I’ve been reading lots of articles from Black men and watching videos produced by Black men and chatting with other Black men on Facebook, twitter, and my blog.

In addition to social media, I’ve been studying TV and films. Old TV shows like Dragnet, Adam-12, and Marcus Welby M.D. used to promote the relationship between men. In these shows the older man used his wisdom and experience to teach the younger man lessons of life he could only learn from another man along with the career he was pursuing. And it was from those life lessons that the younger man became proficient in the social skills he needed to pursue his career path.

When you present a story to readers the message has to be just right. Or else the reader will come out of the experience for the worse instead of better. The last thing I want to do is publish books that teach boys how to grow up to become weak Black men.

Over the last 40 years Black boys have been taught one message by society: That their main goal in life is to please women. In most Black media today, we are shown that a Black man must sacrifice his own happiness to please the women in his life such as his girlfriend, or his mother. That having a relationship with a woman is more important than their education, their job, and even their personal intangibles such as his dignity and self-respect. That he has to have money in order to win the girl of his dreams.

These messages are detrimental to the development of a Black boy and prevent him from growing up to become a strong Black man who can lead his family and his community.

These dysfunctional messages are not only in the media but reinforced in the social interactions black boys have in their personal lives. With a majority of Black boys growing up in single parent female headed households, they learn from day one that women should be put first and that their job is to make a woman happy.

If I write books for Black boys, I want to promote positive character traits that will teach them to become strong Black men and leaders in their own communities. I want to get back to the messages I saw in classic TV, where a Black boy learns the lessons of life from an older man. Where a Black boy learns about a business or a career path and the lessons needed to maintain that business and make a contribution to their communities.

The way I see it a Black boy needs to read stories where he sees Black men as a role models and leaders in their own communities. Someone who can teach him. There are only some lessons a man can learn from another man and boys need to see that patriarchal relationship modeled for them.

I believe stories for Black boys have to show young brothers that Black men are valuable. That Black men have something to offer them. And that they can grow up to become people who bring something of value to the table.

For me, writing stories for Black boys isn’t about making money. It’s about providing Black boys with literature that will allow them to develop the critical thinking skills that will help them compete in a changing world. Black boys desperately need literature that shows them how to become leaders and innovators, something that gets them to start thinking outside of the box, inspires them and opens up their imagination and creativity.

I’m almost ready to start writing stories for Black boys. I’m still doing research and I’m trying to refine the story model before I start creating characters and putting fingers to the keyboard. I want to give my Black male readers the same type of quality my female readers receive in my Young Adult stories like The Isis series, All About Nikki, and The Thetas. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Memo to DC Comics: Everyone Can’t Be Batman!

One Size does not fit all. And when it comes to comic book characters another hero’s tights don’t either.  

Someone at DC Comics has the insane notion that the late Grim-N-Gritty 1980’s Batman’s story model can be applied to the entire DC Universe. Because everyone likes Batman. So as part of the Nu52, the plan is to turn every character in the DC Universe into dark brooding loners who see the glass as half-empty in their never-ending war on crime.

That model of storytelling may work well for Batman, but it just doesn’t work for everyone else.

Angry Superman who breaks stuff and beats people up just because he’s mad just doesn’t work. Nor does Wonder Woman who butchers whatever gets in her way.

Both of these characters have different distinct approaches to their story models that have been ignored in the Nu52. Superman is the symbol of the American dream, the ultimate immigrant who adopted the American way and found success. And because he found his American dream, he dedicates his life to protecting the hopes and dreams of others. He’s supposed to be a ray of hope. He’s an idealistic dreamer. And his city of Metropolis should reflect that, as a bright sunny place, a contrast to the dark urban Gotham City.

Wonder Woman is an ambassador of peace and goodwill. While she has the fighting skills of an Amazon warrior, she uses diplomacy and seeks a peaceful resolution to conflict FIRST. She’d rather use a smile to disarm someone rather than her fists. She only uses violence as a last resort and even then she uses defensive attacks, not offensive ones. She travels from Paradise Island to various exotic locations to go on diplomatic missions. So her view of the world should be unique, one from a female perspective.

In both their cases, there’s nothing dark about their stories. Neither of these characters are dark or angry. And Batman’s story model would never work for them. Because their worlds are completely different from Batman’s.

The way I always read it Superman was the idealist, Batman the realist, and Wonder Woman presented things from a female perspective. And since each of their views contrasted each other, their stories would be completely different from one another.

What many at DC today don’t understand is that even in Batman’s world there were different undertones and nuances similar to the shadows and highlights of a masterpiece painting that made it rich and distinct. Not everyone in the Batman Family was a dark angry person. In fact there was a lot of diversity of personalities and approaches to crime fighting in the Batman family.

Dick Grayson was often more people related in his approach to crime fighting as Robin when he got older, a total contrast from his mentor’s mysterious ways. His interpersonal skills allowed him to grow as a hero and as a man during his term as leader of the Teen Titans. He often and valued his friendships and liked working with other characters as Robin and Nightwing. And he enjoyed his downtime with friends.  

Jason Todd was angsty brooding and bitter Post Crisis. He was the poster boy for late 1980s the grim n’ gritty story model. Full of emotion, and I’d say given the mantel Robin by an emotional Bruce Wayne still upset over Dick Grayson’s departure.

 But this I believe he was made Robin to prove a point. To show readers Batman wasn’t always right. That the Dark Knight was fallible and human, capable of making mistakes. And that from his mistakes he could learn to be a better crimefighter. With his death, Batman and Bruce Wayne were able to grow as a characters.

And Just like DC editors in the 80’s were trying to make the point that Batman wasn’t always right with a Robin, They made the exact same point with Jean Paul Valley in the 1990’s. Sure Jean-Paul was a capable hero as Azrael, but Azrael’s brutal approaches just weren’t right for The Batman. Sure he was driven to get vengeance, but at the end of the day was no detective. For all the flash of his armor and weapons, he lacked Bruces’ substance. He didn’t have the discipline to mete out justice on the guilty like Bruce Wayne did. He was out to get bad guys, but not the RIGHT bad guy, the one who did the crime. If anything Jean Paul Valley, was a Valley for the world of Batman and Gotham City. A place where readers realized not just anyone could wear the mantel of the Batman. Again, proving that Bruce was fallible and human and capable of making mistakes. 

Tim Drake was also very social and open as Robin like Dick Grayson. He often had fun during cases and in between cases. . He actually LIKED doing detective work and wanted to be Batman’s apprentice. But unlike Batman, he was dedicated to learning, not driven bordering on obsession. He had time for friends like Connor Kent and Bart Allen. He had fun working with Spoiler. And when his father was alive, he had time for him too.

Barbara Gordon wasn’t angry and full of angst either. Neither was Helena Bertinelli, Stephanie Brown Selina Kyle or Helena Wayne.

Hell, even Batman himself wasn’t always so dark and angsty as he’s been depicted in Today’s DC Comics. Read any 1970s or early 1980s Batman story and you’ll see a balanced Bruce Wayne and a balanced Batman who had time for the little things in life in between his war on crime.

All of that diversity led to distinct characters. Distinct stories. And diversity that made Batman’s corner of the DC Universe one of the most entertaining for 75 years.

Yes, there was a lot of dark stories in the Batman part of the DC Universe. But there were lots of periods of Sunshine too in Gotham.

This angry, brooding, no one can be happy story model was OBSOLETE in the late 1980s. But DC’s editors insist on applying it to all their characters in their New 52 Universe to their detriment.

From a writer’s standpoint I can tell you writing characters in the New52 story model would be no challenge to me at all. Seriously, where’s the writers’ motivation to continue putting fingers to the keyboard? If a world of characters is just misery all the time, what’s the reason for them to go out and put on that costume?

A main character has to want something. And that hope of achieving that something is what motivates them as they run into the conflicts that prevent them from achieving their goal. Storytelling 101.

If anything characters sacrificing their personal lives and their happiness for other people sounds like a cop-out. An excuse for lazy writers not to challenge themselves and bring depth and dimension to the characters they were assigned to write for. 

To quote Superman in the STAS episode The Late Mr. Kent: If “I had to be Superman all the time I’d go crazy”. 

And I believe readers would go crazy reading the same stories over and over again featuring different characters. Instead of getting a three-dimensional world, we wind up with a drab, flat one-dimensional DC Universe.

The way I see it, the reader needs a reason to CARE about the characters. To CARE about the story. And in order to do that they need a payoff at the resolution of the story that’s been set up on page one.

What the editors at DC don’t understand is that their New 52 story model leads to a very BORING world. If everyone is angst filled, angry and has no hope, then there’s no hope of a payoff for the reader. And if there’s no payoff for the reader, then there’s no incentive for the reader to buy into DC Comics every month. Why pay $4 for a comic where the hero never can win or be happy?  Why pay $4 a month to read the beginning of a comic where you already know the ending?

If I want misery I can look out my window here in the South Bronx and see that for free and have $4 in my pocket for groceries.

Long-term this all misery all the time story model just doesn’t allow DC to compete in a entertainment marketplace where comics have the lowest entertainment value per dollar compared to other forms of media. A reader can get a great eBook for 99 cents on Smashwords or Kindle. A story where they can escape. Where they can have an adventure. Where they can get a laugh. Where they the good guys win.  And have $3.01 in their pocket for something else.

Bottom line, every character at DC can’t be Batman. Sure Batman rakes in all the cash at the box office and with merchandising, but it’s also possible for other characters to do so as well with the proper execution. All it takes is a willingness to write the kinds of stories that make these characters and their worlds appealing to fans.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cartoon Network Doesn't Want Girls Watching Their Shows...*FACEPALM*

 Cartoon network doesn’t want to produce superhero cartoons for girls. They say girls don’t buy action figures.  Just Princess dolls. 


I have to wonder what these idiots at Warner Brothers are smoking.

Clearly there’s a market for a girls’ action/fantasy/adventure series. I’ve seen it for 11 years when I present my Isis books to customers.

Women love superheroes. Girls love superheroes. I see a growing audience of women and girls at the comic cons. And they’re looking to buy more than just shirts or dress up as cosplayers.

From what I’ve seen at the toy store, girls do buy action figures. I remember many a time seeing a girl carrying a Pink Ranger, Xena or a Sailor Moon back in the day when I was at the toy store. I’ve even seen girls carrying Batgirls or Supergirls or Wonder Womans. Many times I’m in the toy store both boys and girls will go looking for a female character to complete a group of heroes.

Female action figures don’t sell. Only because American toy companies won’t manufacture them. Or make a serious effort to promote their characters.

Superhero Cartoons for girls won’t work. Only because TV executives only think of making dumbed down cutesy shows with pink sparkles and princesses.

I do remember a series called The Powerpuff Girls that came out in the late 1990’s early 2000s. Very popular. Had its own cereal. Everyone loved that show.

But unfortunately no action figures. Just like Static Shock, another popular series that came out around the same time. Seems like anything that isn’t white or Male doesn’t sell with today’s executives because they don't know how to market to girls.

When it comes to girls, most American Toy manufacturers and TV executives are still stuck in the past thinking about the Princess Leias and Wonder Womans that rotted on toy store shelves in the late 1970s and 1980s. Not understanding that cool female characters like the Pink and Yellow Ranger, Elisa Maza, Xena, Nefertina, Batgirl, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Lois Lane Starfire, Raven, and Hawkgirl, changed the way American boys thought of female characters back in the 1990s and the 2000s.

Over the last 20 years female characters have become more complex and multi-dimensional in superhero and fantasy/ sci-fi animated programming. They’re no longer damsels in distress or the girlfriend. They have their own stories. And sometimes they’re written so strongly they can carry their own series.

So why not give girls them a superhero cartoon or two?

The demographics clearly are there and show this is a growing market. 51% of the population in America is female. Women control the purse strings in more households today. And it’s a known fact girls and women buy products faster than men. Money in the bank for any smart businessperson.

So why not produce a cartoon with a female lead? Or an action figure line?

Here’s a fact: Two Monster High exclusive dolls outsold both Shazam and Swamp Thing at San Diego Comic Con, TWO YEARS IN A ROW. Polly Pocket She-Ra exclusive outsold Swamp Thing at San Diego Comic Con two years ago. In both cases, there was a line of fathers waiting to buy these products for their daughters.

There’s clearly a market for a girls action figure line. I see fathers and mothers at the toy store with their daughters looking for products for their daughters all the time. Only it’s not available because no one has made it.

Again, if toy manufacturers and TV producers would produce a cartoon with a female lead, girls would watch it and buy the toys.

Created for GIRLS!
But guys can enjoy her stories too! 
Over the past decade I’ve been working on two fantasy series for girls, the Isis series and the E’steem series. Why? Because I want to give little Black girls the heroines that looks like them and presents the issues they encounter growing up. I've been marketing to women exclusively for over a decade and I know there’s a market for girls; I see it whenever I look at my royalty statements for Kindle and paperbacks. 

Women all over the world enjoy the Isis stories I write. But what many don't know was originally Isis was supposed to be a Comic book. But I couldn't break into the marketplace. So it became a YA book series instead. 

I'd still love to produce an Isis comic or a cartoon so little Black girls can have their own heroine leading her own series. And if I ever got a chance to do it, I’d love to have Isis action figures to go with my collection of Marvel Legends or DC Universe Classics.

Would little girls watch an Isis cartoon or play with Isis action figures? I don’t know. But I do know if given a chance a cartoon with a female lead or an action figure line for girls could do very well. I’ve been saying since 1999, girls are an untapped market for the comic book industry and cartoons; if someone makes it they will come. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing for Younger Readers Does Not Mean Dumbed down!

Written for younger readers but not
 dumbed down! 
Some editors, artists and writers in the Comic book Industry believe that writing for kids means writing material that’s dumbed down. Stuff like Scooby-Doo comic books and Manga.

But that’s not the case at all.

I’ve been writing Independent Reader and Young Adult fiction for the past three years. And the subject matter I’ve tackled in my work is anything but dumbed down.

I’ve tackled topics like masturbation, and feminine hygiene in The Thetas and All About Nikki Season- The Sensational second Season. I’ve written about body image in Isis series stories like Isis: The Beauty Myth.  I’ve written about I’ve explored the world fine Art modeling in Isis: All About the Goddess.

And younger readers have read all this content with no problems. Tween and teen boys and girls men and women of all ages all over the world have enjoyed my stories. 

All demographics of audiences the comic book industry desperately needs to pull  it out of a two decade slump.

I didn’t talk down to my readers in my stories. I didn’t patronize readers by dumbing down the subject matter or the characters. 

Too many in the American comic book industry treat children like they’re dumb. Like all they want to read is Scooby Doo or Manga.

I wrote content in such a way that the reader could comprehend the subject matter. That didn't mean I dumbed things down. That meant tailoring the content in such a way that it was appropriate for the audience of tweens and teens I was targeting.

Too many people working in the comic book industry treat younger readers  like they’re dumb. Like all they want to read is Scooby Doo or Manga. Or allegedly  child oriented comics like Archie or Johnny DC. 

Here’s a News Flash:  small children, tweens, and teens are SMART. If they’re passionate about a subject or a character they can read between the lines of the story and understand literary elements just like adults. All a publisher has to do is get them excited about reading.

And from what I’ve seen, they can handle content that features complex subject matter.  It just has to be written in a way that’s age appropriate.

Comic book writers don’t have to write down to younger readers. In fact they’ll see right through that kind of content.

Kids read this story and got it!
I used a lot of big words and complex
terms but Kids understood it
A good writer knows how to scale their content so it’s tailored to fit the audience of readers they’re trying to target. For example, in my Isis series books and All About Nikki screenplay books I often tackle topics subject matter like sex and body image. But I make it a point to NEVER talk down to the reader. The way I figure it, the reader will be smart enough to put two and two together. When these topics are presented to the reader in a tasteful manner that’s explains things clearly, the reader will walk away learning a bit more about the subject than they did before they read my work.  

What younger readers can’t handle is subject matter that’s obscenely inappropriate or just plain excessively violent like today’s comic books.

Younger readers can handle superheroes punching bad guys in the face or someone being knocked out. They can handle seeing a nude body in the context of a medical examination or a bath. They can handle hearing two characters talking about sex and sexuality or even showing characters having a romantic relationship.  They can even handle death. 

What is inappropriate for younger readers is seeing comic panels of someone being eviscerated, decapitated, or mutilated.  Seeing two characters having graphic sex in panels. Seeing graphic pictures of rape and sexual assault. Seeing panels featuring depraved acts like cannibalism. Hearing characters like superheroes using hard profanity like F-Bombs. Seeing “good” characters like superheroes commit murders and have no sense of morals in their lives or in the lives of their secret identities.

Enjoyed by readers of all ages!
(Well, 11 and up)
It’s content like this that alienates audiences like tweens and teens. It’s what turns away women and girls. All of these audiences buy lots of Young Adult fiction which features similar content to comic books. The Young Adult market that currently buys Monster High, Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games could be the next big market for the comic book industry if editors in the comic book industry made serious efforts to capitalize on those demographics with quality content presented in the appropriate context. 

When it comes to content, many in the comic book industry don’t understand it’s not content, but context. In the proper context almost any subject matter can be presented to younger readers. If a creative team handles content in a sensitive and tasteful way they can reach an entirely new generation of readers and introduce them to the comic book medium.

As a writer who has written stories dealing with complex social issues, I know that the best ideas can fall apart due to poor execution. And when a creative team thinks that an idea is childish it’s because they’re not coming at it from the right perspective. Writing for younger readers does not mean writing in a dumbed down way. It means getting creative and finding a way to reach your intended audience with content that appeals to them.