Writing is hard. And you know why? Because writing isn’t just about putting pen to paper. It’s about a whole lot more. Like acting, writing is about the business of writing. It’s not just about getting to be creative and doing the thing you love. You must also do all the other things that come with it.
I’m happy to announce my book Harlem’s Awakening has been republished with Spaceboy Books! But wait, you may be asking, “Peppur, didn’t Harlem’s Awakening come out like 10 years ago?” Why yes, it did.
In 2013, I became a published novella author with the now-defunct Black Hill Press. BHP was an indie publishing house which specialized in novellas. They then rebranded into 1888.center and had a brick and mortar book shop and cafe in Orange County, CA. Like many book ventures, BHP came to a complete end earlier this year. How did I find out? A few months ago, my friend Nika mentioned that her manager was trying to get my book on Amazon and it was unavailable. You can imagine the panicked shriek of “Whaaaat?!” that flew from my soul when I read her text. Well, that notice led me to contacting the other BHP authors and I learned what they already knew. Our rights had been reverted back to us and our books were no longer available.
It was now up to me to get my book back into the world.
You all know I’ve been working on Harlem’s Awakening Part 2 since 2013. It gives me such a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about all the time that has passed and is still passing since I started writing this series. HA Part 1 began around 2006, if I remember correctly. This has been such a journey and it is crazy to think about how long it has taken me to write this book.
It has taken so long because for me, and for other writers like me, writing is not just about writing.
Writing is about identity.
When I heard my book was out of print and no longer available, that shriek came from a place of losing a part of myself. For soooo long, I’ve been able to smile and say, “You can get my book on Amazon!” That meant something to me because, although it is only one book, it made me a “real” writer. When it was gone, I felt like a ghost. Like I didn’t exist. I know that’s dramatic, but I really felt like that.
Writing is about the unknown.
My friend Parul, who works with authors, offered to help me re-publish the book. She explained to me how we authors can all self-publish on Amazon by purchasing ISBN numbers and following some additional steps to make it happen. That made my head spin. While I am a go-getter and pretty tenacious, technical stuff makes me lose my shit. Thankfully, at the same time, my friend Nate Ragolia stepped in. Nate was also published with BHP with his book, There You Feel Free. We started collaborating and commiserating on all that we needed to do to market and promote our books. See, BHP was an (amazing) indie pub, and they told us from day one that we would need to promote our books ourselves. No problem, I’d thought. I have a marketing degree. I got right on it. I remember when I reached out to my friend Ava Chin for advice (who published my first short story, Three Way in “SPLIT: Stories from a Generation Raised on Divorce“). Ava had just been published again with her book, “Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal” and she said something like, “You should have been promoting, getting reviews and doing pre-sales at least six months prior to your book coming out.” Yowza. My sails dropped. I felt unprofessional and unprepared. And very un-agented. I was in the land of the unknown. I didn’t know what I was doing. Well, needless to say, I did not have extraordinary book sales, I did not get reviewed by The New York Times and I did not make any best-seller lists, but I did eventually turn my book into a one-woman show and with the help of my friend, Nicole, took it on the road and sold books out of a Samsonite trunk.
Since then, Nate has taken the fate of his books, and now mine, into his own hands. He and a friend created Spaceboy Books. They focus on fine sci-fi, fantasy and perhaps speculative fiction. They published Ancestry.com, my slave ghost story, in their anthology “Boned Every Which Way (2018)” and published another BHP author, Pam Jones.
Writing is about slaying failure beasts.
Y’all know I battle with feelings of failure. I battle, I battle, I battle. Even when things are going great, my negative brain finds a way to tell me I’m not. I assume I will slay this beast one day; however, in the meantime, I have awareness that it’s there and I’m able to get back up a little quicker when knocked down.
My book is available now on Spaceboy Books. Here is where I add the exclamation points: !!!! Yayaya! I have an identity again. I’m back in the game. Is it the same book? Basically, yes. But I did take the opportunity to go back in and make some edits on mistakes that were printed (thank you to my Aunt Elaine for proofing). Also, thanks to a slightly negative-but-not three-star review on Goodreads that sent me into a tiny “I’m a bad writer” tailspin, I added an epilogue to the book to let readers know that more is coming for my main character, Harlem. It also has an updated cover designed by the original artist, Benjamin Mills!
Writing is about writing.
In January, I recommitted to finishing “Harlem’s Last Dance”, which is the title for Harlem’s Awakening Part 2. During pandemic, my kick-ass editor friend, Auburn Scallon had given me great notes on the first half of the book. We both were feeling down and out with the shut down and my book connected us both in ways that I’m super grateful for. In January, I hired an amazing, a-mazing editor, Kathryn Ross. Connected by 1888.center, we met on an author panel for Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center a few years ago. As a fellow Black author, she inspired me then and inspired me again when she started her editing service. She gave me incredible encouragement and suggestions. I finished Kathryn’s edits in March and April. Then in June, I got that edited manuscript of 100,000 words to a blessing of a copy editor, Ashley. My client, Anthony found Ashley on Fiverr.com for his book I edited, “The P.L.U.S.H. Lyfe: From Prison to Peace”.
Writing is about patience.
Matt and I went to France early this month. I thought I would work on Ashely’s edits while relaxing in the Bordeaux countryside. That didn’t happen. That didn’t happen it all!
So, yesterday, in my London Writers’ Salon Gold Hour coaching session, I committed to getting to Ashley’s edits this week. That is the goal. Yet. You know where this is going. HA part 1 is out there and I must promote it so I can do right by Nate and by myself. Last night, I found myself doing an impromptu photo shoot of vintage outfits I thought some of my characters – Lady Magdalena, Harlem, Ruth, Mary, Jonas — would wear. I’ll need to edit and post these videos and photos.
Right after I finish writing this blog.
Writing is about doing so many other things than writing. But its also about small and big wins, milestones, friendships, relationships, learning new things, and in those peaceful moments, you.
If this is you, happy writing.