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Monday, January 31, 2022

My Community Is Beginning to Look Like a Third World Country

    I’ve been blessed to be able to work from home and at the office on a hybrid schedule each week since the pandemic started. The Metra is virtually empty most days when I catch the 7:45 a.m. train, and there isn’t much more of a crowd on the next train at 8:18 a.m. The ride is quiet, and it gives me time to focus on my daily routine of duties as a paralegal for a law firm in downtown Chicago. It also gives me time to reflect on my life in general and on what the future may hold for the country and the world as a whole in the midst of COVID-19.

Wasteland

    It's a thirty-minute ride from the Riverdale stop at 138th Street to the Millennium Station stop at Michigan and Randolph. I usually stop at Dunkin Donuts for a doughnut or turkey sausage and egg sandwich, and then I’m off to the AMA Plaza building where I work on North Wabash Avenue. The street is practically empty on my saunter down Wabash, even during the summer in the heart of tourist season. The grinders have all but ceased as most of the downtown workforce have opted to create office space in their living rooms or spare bedrooms. I arrive at the AMA building and scan my ID at the front desk, say good morning to a couple of security guards and make my way to the elevator. It’s only 8:33 a.m. when I arrive on my floor, so I wait an additional twenty minutes before I clock in moments before my nine o’clock start time. I then take off my coat and head to one of the kitchens to make myself a glass of iced tea. I see the usual suspects in their respective offices and cubicles, and I greet all five of them―my office is practically a ghost town just like the streets. And that’s the beginning of my day in a nutshell.

    Like millions of other Americans, I’ve learned to adapt to this present environment even though I feel most days like a fish out of water. And I ask myself countless times: What’s the endgame? Will I survive? It’s to the point now that I see businesses fall by the waist side on a monthly basis―the Shoe Carnival, which was one of my favorite shoe stores in the River Oaks Mall, folded at the start of this year. Numerous restaurants, clothing stores, and small businesses didn’t survive the pandemic, and my neighborhood is beginning to look like a wasteland as vacant and boarded-up storefronts have become commonplace throughout the community. I’m afraid to think what the country will look like in the next five years with a failing economy, food shortages, and the threat of WWIII.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Indie Authors Are Essentially Small Business Entrepreneurs

    Authors who publish books independently are solely responsible for production of the book cover and the editing, formatting, and marketing of their books, for example. Self-published authors are also responsible for paying taxes on the royalties of their books, and there’s fundamentally no difference between independent authors and small business owners. Advertising platforms like Amazon Advertising and Google Ads have made it possible for authors to market books on a grander scale online.

    I’ve consistently advertised my bibliography on Amazon and earned a profit for the last three years, and I’m constantly looking for new ways to market my books both online and offline. Commercials on Internet radio and blogging are two alternative forms of marketing that I’ve used to sell more books with marginal success, and my long-term goals were to rent kiosk space at my local mall and to attend various book fairs in the Midwest region before COVID-19 struck.  I’ve also encouraged my readers to leave customer reviews on Amazon by adding a personal note of thanks at the end of each one of my books.

    Indie authors must liken themselves to small business owners to have a sustainable level of success in their writing careers. The ultimate goal should be to write books full-time, and this is a slow and methodical process for most authors. However, with hard work and perseverance, writers can steadily add novels to their booklist and increase sales and monthly revenue.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Does Your Fictional Character Have a Secret?

    A main ingredient that a fictional story must have is one of the characters―preferably the main character―should harbor a secret. The plot can gradually lead up to solving the mystery, but the author needs to show and not tell it bit by bit. The secret of a character builds intrigue and suspense, and a good way to culminate a story is to put the final pieces of the puzzle together at the end of the book.

    One secret that the main character could have is a drug habit he or she doesn’t want anyone to know about. In my book titled Deception, the main character Greg’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer has a cocaine problem that’s revealed early on to the reading audience but isn’t revealed to any of the other characters until her best friend found out about it toward the end of the story―her erratic behavior goes unchecked throughout its entirety and was totally out of character to the people who cared about her the most. Her greatest fear was being exposed and possibly losing everything that she worked so hard to achieve.

    Another way of weaving a secret into a plot is to drop gems to the readers as well as the characters in the tale, and the secret is revealed to everyone in the end. In my book Blind Fury, the protagonist Julian’s son Miles is murdered in a pickup game of basketball, and Julian spends the entire time trying to piece together the clues that led him to the killer(s) responsible.

    A healthy dose of drama can be sparked by a sordid secret such as a betrayal of some sort a la an infidelity or a murder mystery, and the very secret itself could be hidden until the climax―the main character learns that his dad isn’t his biological father, for example. These types of surprises help to captivate an author’s audience greatly, and once an author masters this skill, the readers will continue to buy one’s books for years to come.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Book Review: This Game Has No Loyalty by June

    Junior had become the king of the Baptiste housing project in Brooklyn in a relatively short period of time, and the haters didn’t like him because of the fact that he was an outsider and was making money hand over fist selling crack cocaine. He was also dating one of the most coveted girls in Baptiste named Shondra, and life couldn’t be sweeter for the two of them.

    However, things began to unravel for Junior when he started being attacked from all angles―the neighborhood stickup kid Stump wanted him dead, and his right-hand man Kendu set him up to get robbed and murdered by Stump. He was also wanted for questioning by the police for a couple of murders in the area, and his girl Shondra was angry at him for two-timing her with the beautiful Muffin.

    The author June narrated the story with a methodical but steady cadence―paying close attention to detail and painting a picture that was virtually cinematic. It was as though I had a front row seat on a bench in Baptiste, and even if you’re not a fan of urban fiction, this novel is an accurate depiction of what life was like back then in the early 90s. I strongly suggest reading this book as it read like an episode of the hit series The Wire.

    My Rating: ★★★★★

 This Game Has No Loyalty by [Brooklyn JUNE]

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Blogging Is the Social Media Platform for Introverts

    I want to start off by saying that I’m currently not on any social media platforms―not Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, nor Instagram―I’ve tried them all, but I wasn’t successful. I tip my hat to the YouTubers who create content daily and captivate their audience because I realized early on that talking in front of a camera wasn’t my strong suit. I’m not popular enough to have a following on Facebook that would yield me any substantial book sales, and I’m not talkative enough to create a video per day in order to keep viewers interested in what I have to say. I did have a decent following on Twitter and was part of their writing community, and I even made a couple of genuine connections. However, I didn’t feel that the time I spent on Twitter versus writing stories was worth it, so I quit.

Video Shoot

    Blogging has provided me with an avenue to share my fifteen years of knowledge on writing and self-publishing with authors who are starting their writing careers. It also has given me a vehicle to showcase my novels and short stories to the reading public. I created my blog seven months ago, and it’s now beginning to gain traction through search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. An introvert like me can then interact with my readers via informative and meaningful posts weekly that shed light on some of the pitfalls I’ve encountered over the years as well as entertain them with articles and short stories.

    In summary, authors who don’t feel comfortable on social media or awkward in front of a camera can use blogging as a tool to sell books and gain readership without any direct contact. Authors also can be unconventional but still effective in achieving their goals despite being introverted, and I’m living proof of that fact.

Five Things I Learned After Self-Publishing My First Book

     I can remember how excited I was like it were yesterday when my first book titled What Happened to Little League Baseball in the Inner ...