Ish Got Real. Tangled is Official!

As I sit here looking at my third novel Tangled finally up on Amazon (days before Christmas, at that)—feeling proud, thrilled, nervous, and relieved—I still can’t believe it’s been six years since I carried this strange mix of emotions.

I was on a roll back then—Sellout in 2010, A Hard Man is Good to Find in 2011, a published article in a national fitness magazine—then… nothing. Full stop. Life and school slowed me way down, hijacking all of my time.

I went from junior college to graduate school within that six-year period, from writing for pleasure to writing essays for grades. After receiving my degree, I went through the headaches of updating my resume/cover letter and applying for jobs, hoping to start my career in exercise physiology. Luckily, I landed two great positions, and with the job situation resolved, it was time to scratch that itch again and jump back into writing novels.

I’m not the type of author that likes to write in a box; I love a variety of genres, and I believe my different tastes reflect in my writing. But Tangled veers right a bit, where most of the characters lean toward the dark side. Disturbed, even, like the kind of person that will smile in your face, then stab you between the shoulder blades for money. Plus, I delve into a few touchy subjects with elements of suspense and mystery, so I was a little concerned about how readers would react.

Inspiration for my novels come up in strange ways. While in the military, I witnessed all kinds of deviant behaviors from people you’d least expect, turning into mini soap operas that begged to be told somehow. I’m also a sucker for those random headlines and videos that show up in my Facebook feed, describing something ratchet and wild that was committed against a friend, lover, or family member. I can never resist clicking, and I was curious: Could I craft a story that was as jaw-dropping as some of the stuff I’d read in a headline or seen on video?

Tangled is a gripping psychological suspense about the high school reunion from hell. We are offering Tangled for the low price of $3.99 for a limited time, so you want to get your hands on this book as soon as you can! 😉 The print version will be available in January 2018. You can find it at this link: http://amzn.to/2oEKrn2.

Thank you in advance for checking it out and looking forward to reading your feedback! #gettangled

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DECEMBER 18!

We finally have a date! At least… for the e-book. 🙂 We plan to launch TANGLED as an e-book first on 12/18, with the print version sometime early next year. And we have the final back cover blurb. Thanks for all your votes!

Welcome to Monte Clara High. Home of the Blue Devils.

The Class of 2005 is excited to attend the Monte Clara High ten-year reunion, which has been billed as the party of the decade. But at an event perfect for rekindling lifelong friendships and reminiscing over the teenage years, one former classmate has plotted something way more sinister.

Everyone’s curiosity is piqued when a mystery person masquerades as their high school mascot and posts strange videos on social media. Attendance numbers swell to record levels in anticipation of the big reveal: Who’s the Blue Devil?

Before the night is over, someone will cheat with an old flame… someone will reveal a dark secret… and someone just might die.

TANGLED is a gripping, psychological suspense about what happens when high school nostalgia clashes with a burning desire for revenge. At this year’s epic party, everyone is wearing a mask, but who will get the last laugh?

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And the Winner is…

With over 100 votes on my website and social media, voters have chosen Pic 2 as the best cover for TANGLED! Now, time for round two of votes (see below). Need your help again! 🙂

Which back cover blurb do you like best?

View Results

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Blurb #1

High school sweethearts Gerald and Lisa Durston attend the Monte Clara High ten-year reunion, branded as the epic party of the year. On a night perfect for rekindling lifelong friendships and reminiscing over the teenage years, someone has plotted something way more sinister. 

To drum up interest in the reunion, a mystery person wears the high school mascot mask and posts comedic videos on social media, calling him or herself “Blue Devil.” Anticipation builds, and attendance numbers grow higher than any high school reunion in Monte Clara history. Everything starts off as fun and games—until the Blue Devil’s identity is revealed.  

TANGLED is a suspense novel about high school nostalgia clashing with a burning desire for revenge. Many of the attendees wear masks, but when faced with exposed dark secrets, what happens when the masks come off?

Blurb #2

Welcome to the Monte Clara High Class of 2005 Reunion. Home of the Blue Devils.

Someone will cheat with an old flame. Someone might reveal a gruesome, dark secret.

And someone just might die.

TANGLED is a suspense novel about high school nostalgia clashing with a burning desire for revenge. At this year’s epic party, everyone is wearing a mask, but who will get the last laugh? 

(end)

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TANGLED Book Covers! Need Your Votes!

We need your votes for my upcoming novel TANGLED! After reading the back cover blurb, which one do you feel fits the story best? Don’t forgot to sign up on the mailing list below!

By the way, the TPC3 has given out goodies to readers on our mailing lists in the past, from free books, to $$$, to a friggin’ Kindle.  I’m just sayin’. 😉

Back Cover Blurb:

Welcome to the Monte Clara High Class of 2005 Reunion. Home of the Blue Devils.

Someone will cheat with an old flame. Someone might reveal a gruesome, dark secret.

And someone just might die.

TANGLED is a twisty tale about what happens when high school nostalgia clashes with a burning desire for revenge. At this year’s epic party, everyone is wearing a mask, but only one will get the last laugh.


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On Deck – TANGLED

It’s summer and TPC finds itself on the book grind once again after a looooooong hiatus!

The ol’ motor in the TPC machine has cranked up, back to writing bomb-azz books, out-the-box promotion, and finding readers. It feels good to slap on my author hat, just in time for the release of my latest novel TANGLED, scheduled to launch this fall.

Fi-nal-ly!

We still have some work to do before the big debut, but we’re punching our way forward. Steph is finishing up her edits, Omar is crafting a marketing plan, and we’re in the process of choosing a cover (stay tuned — we’re gonna need your help with that!). It’s been a minute since the TPC3 dropped a book, but you know what? It wasn’t that hard getting back into the groove; it’s just like riding a bike.

But, I admit I’m a bit nervous about this one, considering it’s been six years since my last novel (I blame graduate school!). It’s not like writing, publishing, and marketing books in 2017 will mimic our efforts in 2011, either.

I’m somewhat of a scatterbrained writer, too, unbound by any particular genre. My method is simple: A crazy idea pops up out of nowhere and a potential plot assembles on its own. Then if the storyline grows legs and makes enough noise in my head, I structure an outline and write until it doesn’t make sense to write anymore–all the while hoping I crafted a tale that readers will not only enjoy, but will tell their friends about, maybe share on social media.

Fortunately, those hopes came true with my two novels SELLOUT and A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND. But my latest baby TANGLED–a twisty tale about high school nostalgia clashing with a burning desire for revenge–has a darker, dare I say, “sinister” tone. I’m not sure how the reader will react (either like “whaaaaat” or “what the f**k, James?”). Although the story also has elements of romance–where a teenage crush may blossom into a fairytale kind of love–it also touches on a messy topic, one that many of us have little experience with, or flat out ignore. The more I researched true-life stories related to this topic, the deeper my belief that people do this type of jacked up sh*t all the time.

What “topic,” you ask? Well, sign up on the TANGLED mailing list so you can be one of the first to find out. We have a few goodies planned for TANGLED, so stay tuned…

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2017 Upcoming Book Events!

I’m back on the book grind to prep for the launch of my next book, TANGLED (more info to come). Come out and see us this summer at the following events!

July 22, 2017 – Bay Area Black Expo, 11am-5:30pm, Oakland, CA

June 10, 2017 – Santa Cruz Juneteenth, 12-5pm, Santa Cruz CA

June 4, 2017 – Bay Area Book Festival, 10am-6pm, Berkeley CA

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2016… Back on Track (2015 Year in Review)

What can I say? I thought 2015 would start off in beast mode for me, maybe have one or even two new novels blazing the social media pages in mass marketing campaigns. But… well… seeing my mom lying in a hospital bed suffering through the last stages of her life killed the “beast.”

Last year was a series of highs and lows for my wife Stephanie and I. The first part of the year was particularly difficult as we lost my mom in March. She battled cancer for nearly thirteen years, and finally succumbed to her illness on March 5, 2015. In the weeks leading up to her passing, family gathered to say goodbye and support each other, including her three sons together in years (me and my two brothers, which is something that hadn’t happened since 2011), just a few days before she left us. A few weeks later, family came from far and near to celebrate her life, and though the circumstances were sad, it felt good to spend time with family that we don’t see nearly enough. We miss her so much, and are doing our best to live our lives in a way that would make her proud. She was particularly insistent that we “be loving toward each other,” so we focus a lot on that as well.

While we spent a good portion of 2015  grieving and tending to end-of-life matters, we did manage to have some fun. In August, Stephanie and I accompanied my brother-in-law Bill and his family to Costa Rica for an epic family vacation. Bill and his wife Jessica (with their three kids in tow) were returning to the site of their honeymoon to renew their vows on their 10-year wedding anniversary, and we felt so blessed to witness this special event. The trip was also perfectly timed, as by this point we really needed a vacation. We spent two weeks traversing the Costa Rican countryside, hiking to waterfalls in the rainforest, ziplining through trees, tubing down rivers, swimming in the ocean, eating, sleeping, resting, and enjoying stress-free moments, which had been in short supply over the past year.

On September 4th, my nephew Miguel and his wife Cassie welcomed their second daughter, Chanel, to the world. We were so excited to meet her, and travelled to Michigan to visit them in early November. My brother Kenny also made the trip from Germany to meet his new granddaughter. We had a nice few days of family bonding time, and even watched a Michigan football game from the sidelines! We know it made Mom so happy to see her boys making an effort to spend time together.

Exercises-for-Older-Veterans-with-PTSD-original

Finally, on December 3rd, I presented my Master’s project (a book I wrote entitled Exercises for Older Veterans with PTSD) to a panel of Kinesiology faculty at San Jose State University. I’d been working hard on the final project for several months, and this was the culmination of two years of work in the Master’s program in Exercise Physiology. I am now the proud recipient of a Masters of Arts in Exercise Physiology!

I think 2016 will start off on the right track, considering I’m almost done with my third novel. Look out for Tangled Web in the summer of 2016! Back on track, baby.

 

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Beast Mode in 2015!

Me in 2015!

Yeah, I know, I know. I’ve pretty much abandoned this website, cobwebs and dust all over the place. I posted my last blog in what, June? Pitiful. In my defense, I started a new school semester, and since I’m a few cards short of a full deck, I took on 9 units (3 classes). That may not sound like much, but with graduate level classes, my schedule entailed a buttload of reading and writing. I had to write two final papers, about 20 pages each in APA format, based on a topic of my chose (I wrote about physical activity and its effect on post traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans for both classes). That meant hours of researching scientific literature, reading said literature, writing the papers, editing, APA formatting–yeah. Oh, by the way, I still had to finish homework and study for exams (one class had 4 exams, the most since high school). Sh*t was no joke. Oh oh! Not to mention my dumb butt took TWO physiology classes. The dearth of human body material made me want to gouge out my eyeballs, grab an ice pick and stab my skull through the empty eye sockets. I was…

Oh, sorry about that visual. You, uh, get the point.

But you wanna know what’s crazy? Through the mayhem, I wrote more of my latest work-in-progress Tangled Web than I did in the lazy summer. How? By the time I started the semester, I had finally finished revising the novel outline (which I had struggled with for months). And since I formed a habit of writing with my iPhone in the digital notepad–I wrote this entire blog with my index finger, like a boss–I took full advantage of breaks everywhere. You’d be amazed how much you can write during a jam-packed schedule with a cellphone–while standing in line (waiting to order something, grocery store line, etc), sitting in a lobby, during TV commercials, in the car (not driving, of course), while exercising using Siri, before bed, when nature calls, etc.

As a result, I wrote (and still write) almost everyday, at least 5 times a week, sometimes pumping out 500 words or more. As of this writing, I’m at around 42,000 words and hope to complete Tangled Web before late January.

You know what that means, right? That means I’m ready to go back in the game, coach. Been too long, way too long (my last TPC-published novel was in 2011!). Book promotion, more social media engagement, author interviews, advertising, book conferences/fairs–yezzir. In 2015, I’m going beast mode, Marshawn Lynch-style. That includes revamping this website, weekly blogs (at least until I publish Tangled Web), contests, and a chance for YOU to publish AND get paid for your work in an upcoming anthology (I believe writers should receive compensation with dollar signs). Stay tuned.

In the meantime… HAPPY (LATE)  NEW YEAR!

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Quick Tips for An Extended Summer European Vacation

Just before the official start of the summer, the wife and I embarked on our first international journey–a European hop to Italy and the Netherlands. Can you say epic? I checked off a few items on the ol’ bucket list, let me tell ya. We traveled to eight cities, averaging three days at each stop during our three-week stay. No rental car, either, just one intra-European plane trip (from Amsterdam to Venice), a lot of train rides, the occasional bus, and tennis shoes. We each had Osprey hiking bags packed to the hilt and strapped to our backs (mine specifically was the Osprey Waypoint 85. Highly recommended). Except for one missed train and extra fare, our first international excursion went extremely well, and I owe it all to prior planning between the two of us.

Okay, mostly her planning. When it comes to travel, the woman is a savant.

She made all the travel arrangements long before our departure–lodging, transportation, hiking trails, even entertainment and restaurants. Ever since she took her first European hop solo–yes, an I-can-do-this-by-my-damn-self trip for 11 days to Switzerland and the Netherlands–it lit a flame to return, this time with yours truly. Luckily, our wedding honey pot provided the necessary financial boosters to send us off.

Perfect timing, too, especially since we planned the trip around the end of my graduate school semester and to research settings for her soon-to-be-finished next novel The Space Between (her highly anticipated sequel to When Love Isn’t Enough), which is mostly based in Europe. Since I’m also an author, I dreamed of ways to plot a book somewhere in Europe, specifically in Amsterdam (an erotic murder-mystery within the Red Light District, maybe?).

Simply put: Best. Vacation. Ever. Yup, hands down. But how did we manage to survive a three-week trip in different foreign cities without any major glitches? Well, if you’re also planning a European summer adventure that includes no rental car, affordable lodging, hiking (or at least, lots of walking), and an extended stay (two weeks+), you might find these quick travel tips helpful:

General preparation

Passport. Make sure it’s up to date. Hell, make sure you even have a passport. If not, it can take 6 weeks to get one.

Lodging locator. In addition to the usual suspects Expedia, Priceline, TripAdvisor, and/or Hotwire, check out Airbnb, a site with unique accommodations such as condos or villas. In Amsterdam, we stayed in a townhouse with a washer/dryer, kitchen, and hot tub!

Travel apps for phone. Whatever the travel need, more than likely you’ll find an phone or tablet app for it. We probably used Yelp and an Italian train station app the most.

Data roaming (for cell phone). This may not apply, but something to think about. You’ll need it to access your smart phone’s map program (unless you find an area with WIFI). Also, I have a friend in Amsterdam, but couldn’t text him. I didn’t have his email address, either, so I missed the opportunity to connect.

Important copies. What if your bank cards and IDs are stolen or lost? Hey, shhh happens. Make copies of all bank cards and IDs just in case.

Inform your banks of your trip. Many banks will suspend your account without notice if they suspect unusual activity. Transactions within foreign countries raise flags, so let your banks know your trip schedule in advance.

Take care of affairs at home (bills, cats, mail, etc). Common sense, but easy to forget, like what about the food in your fridge? Bills, pets, mail, and car storage are a few other common home “to-do’s” to worry about.

General Packing

When to pack. I suggest at least a week beforehand, especially if you’re forgetful like me. Write a list of important items, too, then check them off as you pack them. It will help you avoid, “Damn, I forgot so-and-so!”

Travel bags. Although bags on wheels come in handy at the airport, we each enjoyed an ergonomic balance with our Osprey backpacks, despite the extra weight. You want to avoid musculoskeletal imbalances as much as possible. Dragging your bag on wheels everywhere may cause problems, since you’re torquing your shoulder to pull it.

Pack light. Pack only what you need. You don’t want to add unnecessary weight since you’ll have to lug all that poundage around (upstairs, downstairs, while running to catch trains, etc). For example, Italy has some freakin’ steep stairs, too.

Clothing. Instead of thick clothes that take up too much space, pack for layers (from tank tops to long sleeves) to adjust for weather changes and whatever the occasion (from night life clubbing to a day on the beach).

Use your clothes for extra storage. I saved space by piling small items in my shoes and pants pockets.

Walking shoes. Important! Yeah, some of us still want to look all cute when out and about, but comfort takes precedence here. We averaged at least five hours of humpin’ it a day. Invest in quality shoes.

Packing Items (you might not think about)

Wash cloths. Most of the hotels and hostels had hand towels for showers, not regular wash cloths. That may not be a big deal to you, though.

Converter. Italy and the Netherlands use 230v outlets, which is nearly twice that of the US of A (120v). I suggest a 230v converter with multiple 120v outlets for your electronic devises (phones, tablets, laptop, etc.).

Sunglasses case. Not a big deal, but you’ll definitely need sunglasses, so you’ll want to protect them. On travel, sunglasses are way too easy to break.

Portable smart phone charger. What if your phone runs out of juice in the middle of a 10-mile hike? A portable recharger solves that problem.

Creams/sprays. Although you’ll enjoy the elements, you’ll “battle” against them, too, especially sun rays. You’ll definitely need suntan lotion, but don’t forget mosquito bites, poison ivy, athlete’s foot, and the occasional cuts, scrapes, abrasions and blisters. Your shoes might reek, too, so some shoe freshener, maybe?

Language book/program. Unless you know the language of that country, of course. If not, you can find a ton of language apps for your phone, tablet, or laptop. Or a language dictionary for whatever country you visit works just fine, too. Luckily, we encountered enough English speakers.

Umbrella. It might be close to a hundred degrees in the late afternoon, but cold and pouring at night. We experienced tornado weather in Cinque Terre.

Hand wipes. No way around it, you’ll have sweaty, dirty hands all day. You can hand-wipe those bad boys after sloppy samples of gelato (we ate gelato almost everyday!).

Small flashlight. You never know when you’ll need one. When the sun sets, you may still be hiking the hills with little lighting.

Small bag of detergent. It’s easy to dirty up your last stash of clothes before finding a laundromat. You may have to go old school with your hands, too. I rub-a-dub-dubbed my underwear in a hotel bathroom sink!

Soap/body wash. A few of the places we stayed didn’t have soap, so you might want to bring that Axe body wash with ya. Or small bars of soap.

First AID kit.  Those cuts, scrapes, and blisters I mentioned earlier? They’re bound to happen. If not a kit, at least band aids and creams/sprays for any skin damage (including bites).

Misc

More on Yelp. Yelp gives you the best idea of the good, bad, and ugly for a particular spot based on past experiences of other travelers. You learn the little things that can save money, too, like gondola rides in Venice are more expensive after 7pm.

Foreign transaction fees. Whenever you use your credit card overseas, you’ll incur a transaction fee. They add up, too.

And don’t forget…

You need to be aware of your surroundings. Europe has pick pocket rings, slick enough to separate you and your wallet or purse within seconds.  So:

– Keep contact of all your belongings bags at all times. If on the floor, you can place the strap of your bag or purse around your legs.

– Try pockets with zippers for your pants or shorts. It’s easier to slip a hand in a loose pocket than one that’s on lock down.

– Turn your purse with the outside pockets toward you, even if zipped up. As a traveling tourist, it’s easy to get distracted admiring the views of the city. A thief may use your distraction to his advantage.

Hope these help. Now, last thing … HAVE A GREAT TRIP!

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My First Live YouTube Video!

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