Opportunity!

Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #9:

“Opportunity plus instinct equals profit.”

(Yes, I am a mid-level Trekker–let’s leave it at that.)

I have come to realize how important this adage really is, especially when trying to promote my work. I also realize why a traditional publisher would not be interested in Beauty School Drive-By: it is proving to be a very difficult book to find a place for, much less market.

A few days ago, another one of my former teachers from Empire told me how much she loved my book and that her students were interested in it as well. Then she told me that she and the Director talked about the possibility of making the book available at the school.

Needless to say, I contacted Madam Director as soon as I could to try to broker some kind of deal. I may not be as mobile as I would like, but I am willing to show up at a place that wants me and to hawk some books.

A one-stop book tour. I am here for that.

This opportunity has me thinking about where this book really fits. I am marketing it as humor, because everyone who reads it uses the word “hilarious” to describe it. I picture my audience as predominantly female, Black American, and over 30.

I guess I’ll see where else it fits.

Too Good To Be Judged Fairly???

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, with SIX gymnastic moves named after her, has to withdraw from the Olympics because the judges refuse to award her the points that she earned, to soothe the fragile egos of her competitors (and really the Caucasian Contagion).

She is too good to be judged fairly?

Picture the look on my face. Hear the word in my head that God will not allow me to put in print.

I congratulate Simone–and Naomi Osaka–for doing the braver thing of stepping back from that seedy level of racism, for not allowing it to overtake them or change their way of competing. Neither of these young ladies have anything further to prove this year. Sure, they can come back later and compete, if they choose. Now that they realize how this world really works, I hope that this experience will make them stronger.

What galls me is that this was Simone’s only way to get peace. I haven’t read about anyone advocating to the bigwigs on her behalf. I haven’t read about anyone protesting this travesty. I had no idea that the Olympics was the God of Sports–not to be questioned or challenged. I am learning this today.

Having said this, I hope that Team USA gets exactly what they deserve, as well as the Olympic Committee. Shame on all of you.

Teacher Testimonial!

Last week, I gave a copy of my book to one of my former teachers at Empire. I did NOT expect this response! 🥰🥰🥰

Kenyatta Smith is with Ms. Chantal

Heyyyy 👋🏽 Y’all… Please help me give one of my former students; now Author…who we proudly addressed as Ms. Chantal @mschantalauthor a HUGE  Congratulations 👏🏽 … She wrote a book called Beauty School Drive-By, and I must say it’s a page-turner, and Hilarious 🤣 I couldn’t put it down & I finished it within TWO days.

When I told her that I had finished the book, she shared w/ me how she was a little nervous about my reaction to being “Dr. War” …  #IYKYK 🤷🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️ Frankly, I’m quite honored😁 As an Educator, I know my personality is not for the weak, but once my students understand that my response/reaction always comes from a place of love, they see that I’m not a threat, and I’m actually an ally who Expects them to live up to their very best♥️ #WalkinyourGreatness #BeConfident No one can take anything away from you when you #KnowyourStuff & #AlwaysbeOpentoLearning

Anywho,  if y’all haven’t already…Ya need to head on over to Amazon and order Beauty School Drive-By… It doesn’t disappoint at all!

One last thing,  Ms. Chantal, if your book makes it to the BIG Screen 🎬🎥 make sure the real “Dr. War” gets a guest appearance… Besides, can’t nobody do me like Me😁🤣😜

Thank you🥰🤗 & I wish you much continued SUCCESS💫💫💫

#ShineBright #CheltenhamCampus #TheFloor #BeautySchool #MustRead #Snippets

If you went to school w/ her… You might be in it👀

Happy Juneteenth?

I’m feeling some type of way this year.

Don’t get me wrong…I am happy as a clam that Juneteenth is now a national holiday, even though I would have named it Emancipation Day, to be more accurate. I guess *some* people would rather not have an annual reminder that America once subjugated an entire race into slavery. In many ways, Black Americans still do not have independence, and our community is not self-sustaining like the Amish and the Asians.

Yet.

Before someone dares to use the phrase, “you should be grateful”, which would force me to unleash the Kraken, let me try to break this down.

My favorite restaurant right now is Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill. Excellent food, well worth the money. Let’s say I drove two hours from PA to NJ just to eat there. I order the beef wellington, roasted brussels sprouts, and my favorite lobster mac and cheese. While I am waiting, the Executive Chef sneaks out of the kitchen and gets a take-out meal from one of the diners on the Boardwalk: burger, fries, coleslaw, and a pickle.

And that is what they bring out to my table.

Thank you for the food, because I’ve been driving for two hours, and I am hungry. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the food; it looks delicious.

But it is not what I ordered. Not what I was expecting. Not what I drove two hours and crossed a state line to eat.

You already see where I’m going, but stay in your seat for another minute…

We have been ordering equality and basic human decency since the first ship of kidnapped Africans touched American shores. Critical Race Theory, Voting Rights, Police Reform, Reparations, and MORE…

We have driven a LONG time to be where we are in American history, through slavery, systemic racism, microaggressions, wage gaps, and being hunted for sport by thugs with badges. We ask for the big things, because we still need them. What we get back are cosmetic concessions. Aunt Jemima gets an updated look. President Biden is the first Commander-in-Chief to visit the site of where Black Wall Street was destroyed. And June 19th becomes a national holiday.

Pardon me if I don’t jump up and down about that. Maybe next year. I am still working on nationwide attempts to suppress the Black vote, our Community having no political strength or influence, and my not being able to afford a house in my fifties.

By all means, eat your tea cakes, drink your strawberry juice, and strut like Black folks do. We are in this together. But this is not what we ordered, and someone needs to correct that.

Happy Juneteenth.

Cake….

Whoever used the phrase “it’s all cake” to mean that something is easy to do has NEVER done what I had to do last week.

Jenise is the baker in our household. I cook, she bakes, I decorate. Last Thursday, Jenise took on the assignment of baking her goddaughter’s graduation cake for some outdoor shindig that Saturday. I already knew that I would be tasked to decorate it, because that is my job.

Simple? Of course not.

This is the picture that Goddaughter’s Mom gave Jenise. Of course, Jenise had no clue how to make a cake that remotely resembled this…but she wasn’t about to tell THEM that.

It also didn’t help matters that Jenise is in school (for her second Master’s degree!), and she had a paper due on Sunday. Not wanting to let her goddaughter down–because she really is a sweet young lady–Jenise gets the idea to outsource this cake to any bakery who would take the order.

Unfortunately, she picked a week where everybody’s child was graduating, and every bakery was booked solid. Sheet cake, no problem…tiered cake, forget about it.

In desperation, we hobbled downtown to Tiffany’s Bakery, THE place to go in Philly for a cake. They had already turned us down twice, but Jenise figured that going in person would make a difference. It did, because they had pre-made cakes on display, to be sold as-is. Jenise purchased two birthday cakes: a ten-inch monster and a seven-inch baby.

At that moment, I knew that Jenise’s cake project had just become MY cake project: transforming two store-bought birthday cakes into one two-tiered graduation cake. For the first time. Ever.

Father God, in the name of Jesus…

I had 40+ years of self-taught cake decorating and craft experience on my side. I am also an avid watcher of the Food Network, and I happen to LOVE Buddy Valastro, the “Cake Boss”. I pulled out my cake spinner and every baking tool that I thought I would need. I scraped off all that blue and green buttercream, remeasured and recut new cake rounds, and even found dowel rods in my craft inventory. Jenise had ONE job: make the new buttercream icing.

Two attempts at the white icing later, I am re-covering this cake. Smooth. Cool Runnings! Then we hit a snag with the burgundy icing that I would pipe the borders with. I knew that using too much food coloring would affect the taste of the icing, but we were using food color that was sugar-based, so I thought we were good…until I tasted it.

VILE!

It almost knocked my head off!

Now, we needed a Plan B. Everything was closed, we could not use that icing, and there was no chance in Heaven, Hell, Earth, or Purgatory that the cake was going to look anything like the inspiration picture. We didn’t even have backup decorations; the stores were cleaned out.

Jenise left the room to contemplate suicide, and there I was, with a blank canvas cake and no clue.

Father God, it’s me again…..

Piping the borders: not a problem. Piping “Congratulations” with that tiny tube of writing gel: passable. Printing up inedible decorations on my home printer and sticking them on with buttercream: good save. Finding just the right tassel to craft a graduation cap to top the cake (and take the attention away from that crappy “Congratulations”): priceless.

Voila! My first two-tiered cake! I already know where the flaws are, so please don’t call me out on them. It is my first, and everybody loved it…even Goddaughter’s Mom.

I will spare you the details of how we transported this fifty-pound cake in my 2012 Ford Hoopty, holding our breaths the entire time. Suffice it to say that my back was wrecked for three days.

We dodged a bullet, but Jenise has learned a lesson about piling her plate too high. I learned that icing a cake on a professional level is MUCH harder than it looks. Therefore, BOTH of us will be signing up for a Wilton class.

May God have mercy on us.

A Talented Nobody

This is me: a Talented Nobody against an army of Mediocre Somebodies.

Okay….let me break this down before you start thinking that this is a pity-party.

Forty-five years ago, before the birth of the Internet, it was a LOT easier for a Talented Nobody to get published. All you needed was the right publisher who was willing to take a chance on your creativity and invest in your work.

Stephen King. Anne Rice. Alice Walker. Maya Angelou. None of these people had a fan following BEFORE publishing their first books.

In the 21st Century, that is the criteria by which a “traditional” publisher will judge your worthiness to be a published author. You MUST have a social media presence and a significant number of followers. You must ALREADY be a household name, or at least related to one. And you MUST have enough clout to buy your way onto the NY Bestseller List.

That is why Talented Nobodies like me (eventually) choose to self-publish.

Self-publishing, AKA vanity publishing, used to be the kiss of death for anyone who was trained and educated to write. It implied that you weren’t good enough to get published “for real”. It was also ridiculously expensive, because you had to pay out of pocket at every stage of the process.

Times change. Some things don’t.

I am discovering that self-publishing is a trial by fire. Writing the book, which is by no means easy, is the easiest part of the process. Marketing and promoting your book when you are a Nobody is like trying to be heard singing in a room full of yowling cats. My days are spent slogging through a sea of offers to promote my book for inflated subscription fees, trial and error to find the perfect keywords, ramping up my social media posts, and budgeting for Amazon Ads that may or may not bring attention to my book.

It’s an uphill journey.

I was born to tell stories. I have a college degree in English. I specialize in Creative Writing. I have been trying to get my work published for 30 years. This one project will either cost me my sanity or every cent I’ve got left in the world.

Is it worth it? It is to me, because this is all that I have left of me to market. There is nothing left in my bag of tricks. I am fresh out of other options. Either this will work, or I will perish trying.

Here’s to the Talented Nobodies who desperately lead with their true passion.

May we become the Somebodies that we work so hard to be.

Crappy Tuesday

That was yesterday, and that’s what I’m calling it.

We all have crappy days. I get it. I’m not the only one. But yesterday just WANTED to be crappy for me, despite all my efforts to pivot and be productive.

Jenise was at the office. I had the place to myself, so I decided to make video footage for my next doll projects. Hair and makeup, jewelry, found a nice top…I went full-out.

Then my new downstairs neighbor decided to spend an hour yelling at his children. I don’t like it when he yells at them. His tone disturbs me, but I can’t do anything about it.

I go to my kitchen and clean the Lockdown Stockpile off my dining table. Sometime after the holidays, I left something on the table that ruined the finish, so I bought the necessary materials to re-varnish the table. I had done this before, with my computer desk, so I was confident. Unfortunately, I forgot that I had to sand off the existing paint/varnish job. I spent hours getting that varnish and sealer just right, only for it all to come up the first time I wiped down the table. I’m going to have to do the whole thing over again–but no time soon.

In the meantime, the maintenance guy decided to mow the lawn outside my window. For hours. Back and forth went the roaring of the sit-down-mower-thingy, strategically whenever I started talking on the video. Very unnerving, and I took it personally. So I stopped filming and scrapped all the footage. There was nothing I could salvage.

Okay…I couldn’t get the intro done, but I could work on the content. Background noise is irrelevant with those little snippets, because I replace the sound anyway. I had two dolls that needed re-sculpting, so I worked on them. Some time later, I went back to them and realized that the placement was all wrong. I had to scrap both jobs and prepare to re-do them–but not today.

By that time, Jenise was home, and I had to do all of things that I do when Jenise is home: cook dinner, collect the trash, unload and load the dishwasher, and be her sounding board. I couldn’t even go to bed when I wanted to, because Jenise had a paper due and could not send it before I proofread it.

I had wasted my entire day. Crappy Tuesday.

Today is different. Another day to get it right.

Hopefully.