November 23, 2014
November 19, 2014
You’ve heard that rule before. Supposedly Publishers and agents abhor them and you risk being rejected if you do.
But I use them in almost every one of the books that write. To quote Elmore Leonard “A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.”
A well-written prologue sets the scene for the story. It should act like an appetizer to wet appetite of the reader. It should foreshadow things to come of importance – a lot of importance – in the story that is about to enfold. The opening of a story should HOOK the reader. Make them think , “I wonder where the author is going with this?”
A prologue is used to give readers extra information that advances the plot. It is included in the front matter and for a good reason! Authors use them for various purposes, including:
Giving background information about the story. For example, in a sci-fi book, it may be useful to include a description of the alien world, perhaps in a scene that illustrates its essential characteristics and functioning, so as not to confuse readers by plunging them into a completely foreign world in the first chapter (and having to explain it then or leave them lost, which may lead to disinterest).
Grabbing readers’ attention with a scene from the story. The author could pick an exciting scene from the middle of the story to draw readers in and make them want to keep reading.
Describing a scene from the past that is important to the story, such as a fire where the main character’s father is killed, which is the motivation for the action in the novel.
Giving information from a different point of view. The story is written in first person, and the prologue is in third person. The prologue focuses on a secret of one of the characters (which the main character would have no way of knowing, and the author would not otherwise be able to tell the reader due to the first person perspective).
Expressing a different point in time. For example, the prologue may be about the main character who is in her eighties and who is remembering her childhood, which is when the story takes place (and which begins in Chapter 1).
So you see, prologue can be very useful in a story. Try one yourself.
November 15, 2014
In November of 2009 I wrote a post on my blog telling how the Internet was the prime reason for finding me a commercial publisher. The Internet has been bery, bery good for my writing career. In fact, I can point to the Net as the prime factor of any success I have had in publishing my writings.
I can add to that artilce now, with the publication of my new novel MURRAN.
Before MURRAN was totally completed, I hired a publicist on the Net referred to me by one of my followers. His task was to promote my then self-published ebooks. He did a pretty good job getting me visibility for my books and sold more than I normally would over a three month period.
I told him about MURRAN and he became very interested in the project and helped me acquire pre-publication quotes for the book. On one occasion I asked him if he knew of any publishers that might be interested in publishing my works. I thought to myself – What the heck. Doesn’t hurt to ask.
He referred me’ with his personal recommendation’ to two that he had worked with. One of them was Indigo River Publishing.
I arranged a phone call and discovered they did read my ebooks and were impressed with my writing. Then the publisher asked me a question.
“What book have you written would you like to be known for?”
I thought a moment and said, “None.”
That set him aback and he asked why. I told him the book I wanted to be known for and the one that had the chance to make me a noted author was one I was just finishing now – MURRAN.
He wanted to see it and when he did – they loved it.
So, there you go. Again the Net was the prime factor of my publishing success.
November 10, 2014
“It’s such a regular part of my vernacular. It’s a word I use every day,” said comedian/actor Tehran Von Ghasri, a 34-year-old D.C. native of African American and Iranian American heritage. “I’m a ‘nigga’ addict.”
When I considered writing MURRAN, I wanted the story to be as close to reality as possible. From the streets of Harlem to the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, to the Maasai tribe in Kenya, I wanted to try and reflect how things actually were.
To this end, the youth gangs in the story use profanity and the ‘N’ word liberally. The few white characters never use the word. I fully understand that in this race charged political environment, the race card will drawn automatically by the race baiters in our society. But I believe using the ‘N’ word appropriately and the understanding of that fact will not bother those who do not have a cultural axe to grind.
A recent article in the Washington Post supports my position. Here is an excerpt:
If there is one thing certain about the modern n-word — a shifty organism that has managed to survive on these shores for hundreds of years by lurking in dark corners, altering its form, splitting off into a second specimen and constantly seeking out new hosts, all the while retaining its basic and vile DNA — it is that it defies black-and-white interpretations and hard-and-fast rules.
The word is too essential as an urban slang term to be placed in a casket and buried, as NAACP delegates attempted to do in a 2007 mock “funeral” for the word. It is too ingrained in youth culture to be eliminated from city streets, as the New York City Council attempted with a symbolic resolution banning the word the same year…..
…..If anything, in 2014, it is the very notion of banning the n-word that appears dead and fit for burial. It was a long and noble fight, waged largely — but not exclusively — by an older generation for which the word is inseparable from the brutality into which it was born. If there is still a meaningful n-word debate left to have, it is over context, ownership and the degree to which it should be tethered to its awful history — or set free from it.
A word that is used 500,000 times a day on Twitter — as “nigga” is, according to search data on the social media analytics Web site Topsy.com — is almost by definition beyond banning.
I wonder which side of the fence my critics will take on MURRAN.
November 6, 2014
In 2003 by Italian pen maker Delta, introduced a red-and-brown fountain called Maasai. It was part of their new “Indigenous People” luxury line. It retailed for upwards of $600. “That’s like three or four good cows,” a tribesman, ole Mbelati, 35, says.
The Delta Maasai pen is just one of the products on display in ole Mbelati’s outreach session, an effort to organize one of Africa’s most famous tribes to lay claim to the commercial use of their name and image. Maasai leaders have come by public transportation, in Land Rovers, on motorcycles, and on foot to a small compound of roughly painted buildings to listen to a two-day presentation on intellectual property. According to Ron Layton, a New Zealander who specializes in advising developing world organizations on copyrights, patents, and trademarks, about 10,000 companies around the world use the Maasai name, selling everything from auto parts to hats to legal services.
Layton estimates six companies have each made more than $100 million in annual sales during the last decade using the Maasai name. In 2003, Jaguar Land Rover sold limited-edition versions of its Freelander called Maasai and Maasai Mara. Louis Vuitton’s (MC:FP) 2012 spring-summer men’s collection included scarves and shirts inspired by the Maasai shuka. The shoe company Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) says on its website that the distinctive curved soles of its sneakers were inspired by “the wonderfully agile Masai [sic] people walking barefoot.” Bedding by Calvin Klein (PVH), shirts and trousers by Ralph Lauren (RL), and cushions by Diane von Furstenberg have all been sold using the tribe’s name. “Most of the value of the Maasai brand is not in the handicrafts the tribe produces,” Layton says. “It’s in the cultural value of an iconic brand.”
The Maasai’s campaign to share in the profits made off its name and likeness has precedents. In Australia the aboriginal people have managed—mostly through a public-relations campaign—to gain control of their cultural symbols. Although the effort has focused primarily on ensuring that aboriginal iconography and stories are treated with respect, some communities have seen money from visiting television productions or art galleries.
So it begs the question. Can the Maasai copyright their name and profit from their exploitation?
November 4, 2014
“If we don’t initiate the young, they will burn down the village to feel the heat.” – African Proverb
My new novel MURRAN will be released to the public the first week of December.
Trey wanted to belong. He wanted respect. He wanted to be a man.
With his father dead and his mother a drug addict, Trey and his sister Nichelle are forced to go live with their grandmother in Brooklyn. Surrounded by inner-city crime and conflicting ideologies, Trey seeks security and recognition by becoming a member of a small street crew.
When he’s framed for a crime and facing prison, Trey flees to a Maasai village in Kenya with his English teacher and mentor, Mr. Jackson. Though initially repulsed by the Maasai customs, Trey slowly comes to value their traditions and morals. As he goes through the Maasai warriors’ rite of passage becoming one of their own, he learns what Black African culture is truly about. Only after confronting lions, disapproving Maasai elders, and his own fears does Trey begin to understand that men are made and not born.
Honest and unafraid, Murran is a tale of a young African-American teen coming of age amidst the pitfalls and threats of 1980s Brooklyn. What he learns along the way could possibly lead his community toward a cultural revival.
November 3, 2014
Rites of Passage are the actual tests or challenges an adolescent faces. I’ve written of an example we see for females in the Hunger Games.
While the rites of passages vary from culture to culture, the process of initiation – this passage from child to adult – is almost always the same.
It involves risk.
Risk is the most common and necessary factor in a rite of passage. Initiations are set up to create an ego death of the boy (or the girl), or put another way, to create a developmental shift. The process simply sets a boy up in a situation that requires a man to complete. Risk is the doorway to this internal shift. Risk, however, has a dubious and often negative connotation in this modern culture. Indeed, risk is the opposite of insurance, which strongly drives our culture in its desire to eliminate risk in America. The fear of injury and/or legal liabilities makes it almost impossible to create true rites of passage for our youth.
Rites of Passage are simply a manifested, choreographed implementation of the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, or the hero’s journey, is a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world.
Every traditional culture found the need to create these processes, thus ensuring a healthy transition from adolescence into manhood and womanhood.
An example is Star Wars and my new soon to be released novel MURRAN.
As in MURRAN, Stephenson states:
Another universal dynamic in all rites of passage is ‘community acceptance.’ Quite simply, what a youth goes through as part of his or her initiation must be accepted and supported by his or her community. This creates a clear expectation for the youth to follow and the adults to expect. There is no question as to whether what the youth experienced counts or not. Everyone has agreed beforehand that it does. This is a critical issue that is all but impossible in a melting-pot culture with no common or unifying threads.
Much of our teen violence, drug addiction, gang involvement, teen pregnancy, etc., can be attributed to the loss of these rites of passage.
November 2, 2014
Here are some writing tips – arbeit harsh, from great writers. Ignore them at your peril
From Thought Catalog
- The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy
- If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker
- You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
- Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
- Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut
- Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway
October 30, 2014
If you were speaking of poor role moles for boys, Homer Simpson would be right.
Popular characters like, Homer Simpson, Fred Flintstone, Family Guy, American Dad and a host of dumbed down male fathers and friends – are all poor role models for young boys and all poor examples of boys to men.
Here is a portion of an interview with Frederick Marx, creator of the film ‘Boys to Men’ that makes my point.
Rachael Kohn: In America today, how many young men are without father figures?
Frederick Marx: Oh my gosh, well, I think there’s something like half of the young men growing up in America today either don’t have fathers in the home or they don’t have the father figure, as it were. It’s harder to define of course ‘father figure’, that can be quite broad, it can be a coach or an uncle or whatever. But for me this is one of the primary causes for so much of the social dysfunction that we see across the planet.
Rachael Kohn: But young people invariably look to some kind of leadership, and that would probably be in the popular culture, in bands and rock bands and in films. What sort of an impact do you think that’s having?
Frederick Marx: Huge, there’s no question. The simple truth is, as elders in this society, if we don’t take the responsibility to initiate our young people into mature masculinity, they are certainly not going to be able to cobble it together from popular cultural influences. You know, we still have…and these are extremes, but on one hand we still have the popular macho male myth, and on the other hand we seem to have the Homer Simpson model from the Simpsons cartoon. I don’t know how it has happened exactly, but over the last 20 years fathers have suddenly come to be seen as the buffoons of the family, as the figures who can’t do anything, who don’t know anything, and are complete idiots, not only in a sort of emotional sense but in any kind of practical sense. So that seems to be the scope of the images that are offered our young people. Obviously there are others, through music in particular. But it is really, really difficult in a post-feminist society for a young man to decide, well, how do I become that man that I want to be in my life? And if they are just left to popular culture, the chances are not good they’re going to find it.
Rachael Kohn: How much has feminism in fact altered the ideal man? In Australia for example we have the notion of the sensitive new age guy, the SNAG, which happens to also be the name for frankfurters or sausages on the barbecue, but that has certainly undergone some change.
Frederick Marx: Yes, and I think young boys, at least in the United States, they know that they are supposed to be sensitive, they know they’re supposed to be emotionally vulnerable, but nobody is really teaching them the skills to do this, giving them the tools to both access and identify clearly what these emotional states are, and then to use them in a productive way that will serve their lives for the better. And that’s just one skill set, is the emotional one. There’s integrity and accountability. My belief is that all men aspire to being in integrity, to being accountable, to being, in a sense, to use Joseph Campbell’s term, the hero of their own lives. But we don’t give them the tools, we don’t educate them in how to do this.
Rachael Kohn: But isn’t that what religious traditions have always tried to do, they have set up the ideals for the good man, the holy man, the pious man, the community leader. They’ve done this through rituals such as in the Jewish tradition the bar mitzvah, in the Christian tradition confirmation, or in other Protestant traditions declaring your faith in Christ and your commitment to the community. Isn’t this where religious traditions came into their own in a young person’s life and now perhaps not nearly as often, not nearly as much?
Frederick Marx: Yes, I think the religious traditions and certainly all of the indigenous cultures across the planet I think are the fountains, the source fountains of this knowledge about initiating young people. There is an African proverb that says if we do not initiate the young, they will burn down the village to feel the heat. In fact that is I think a lot of what we are experiencing around the world now with our young people. But what has happened in the modern age is that so many of these wonderfully rich and powerful traditions have been corrupted by consumer ideology, by the worldwide consumer fever.
So even a rich and wonderful tradition like a bar mitzvah practice…you know, when I was a young man and I would talk with all of my friends who were being bar mitzvahed, the conversation would begin and end with, ‘What did you get?’ It was all about the money you received, the gifts, et cetera. And so the real ritual intent of creating a threshold that was a real trial for a young man to cross in order to deserve that recognition as a man was not happening. There wasn’t enough of a trial, in effect.
The concept of a ‘trail’ is so important in bringing boys to responsible manhood. My new book to be released in December – MURRAN – explores this ‘trial’ and shows a positive example of it.
October 28, 2014
“If we don’t initiate the young, they will burn down the village to feel the heat” – African Proverb
From Rites of Passage
We tend to think in this society when a male reaches 18 or 21, graduates high school or college, has that first drink or sexual experience, drives a car or joins the army, or worse, robs or steals, rapes a woman or takes a daredevil risk, beats up a “sissy” or shoots someone, that he is now miraculously a man. These and related notions are some of the most pernicious yet commonplace in our society today. The repercussions of this ignorance could not be more far reaching. They are everywhere to behold.
We live in an age where suspended adolescence seems to be the norm for all too many men, most notably among men in positions of power.
Indigenous cultures knew better. For them there was no such thing as adolescence. You were either a child or an adult. To mark that threshold, to perform and accomplish that transformation, was a function of the village itself. It was a cultural obligation. Biology alone would not do it. Village elders, both men and women, accepted the responsibility their ancestors entrusted them with. The African proverb summarizes this neatly: “If we do not initiate the young they will burn down the village to feel the heat.”
But how can we even aspire to universal values of mature masculinity when we inhabit a world so varied by culture, race, class, religion, nationality, sexual preference, age, and more? I believe we can, as do Doctors Seymour, Smith, and Torres. The key of course is not to ignore difference or go around it, but to go through difference. Once we acknowledge and name our deep and significant differences we can begin to open our hearts to what unites us as men, not in spite of but because of those differences, what makes it possible to proudly and without exaggeration recognize ourselves as brothers. “Brothers from another mother,” as some put it.