Lessons Learned

I haven’t given up on this blog. More to the point, I haven’t given up on writing. But I have learned a few things. Least of which is that this profession isn’t a kind one. Worse than the blank stares from people who don’t understand my wish to write for a living are the compliments and encouragement from friends and family that have led me here. Not to say that they were wrong to do so, their kindness simply left me so wildly unprepared for the scathing criticism that awaited me that I can’t help but be weary of it.

But it’s okay. I’m stronger for it. And as a result, I’m going to be switching gears a bit. Mixing things up. Novels are high risk investments. Between raising a family and working, time is more precious than ever. Because of this, I’ve decided to redirect my focus on smaller projects first, namely, children’s books. My brain needs the equivalent of a breath mint to wash the taste that writing—for all intents and purposes—a failed novel has left me with. I’ve also decided to make these books, and the new website dedicated to them, free. All of it. Buying my ebooks is a risk on the part of the consumer, and I’d like to reduce that risk in favor of gaining some fans.

So begins a new experiment. Visit Jaloma Books.com to watch it unfold, and stay tuned to Cafe Lopez to hear how it’s going!

And as always, keep writing!



Last night the winter solstice coincided with a lunar eclipse. The first response to come out of my mouth when asked if I would stay up to see it was, why bother? A million pictures better than anything I could ever see on my own were sure to pop up the next day, so losing sleep just to say I saw it live seemed, well, pointless. Even so, I set my alarm, and at 2:31 am my cheek was pressed up against a window as I watched history unfold. Of all the emotions to experience, I felt something I haven’t felt for sometime now…


The moon, an absolute that I take for granted, was cast in shadow by forces I couldn’t begin to understand. My problems, my neighborhood’s problems, my city’s, the state’s, the world’s, they all disappeared with the sunlight, their insignificance brighter to me in their absence than they ever were out in the open. Moment’s like these, when nature puts me firmly back in my place, remind me of my one and only fear: nonexistence. In the same time that it takes me to write this blog, I will cease to exist. Don’t believe me? Okay. Blink. If that seems familiar, it’s because it’s the first thing I asked you to do in this post. Yet even now, both blinks are a part of your past, no more so than the third time I’ll ask the same of you, even if you haven’t done it yet. The future is the past, we’ve all already slipped into nonexistence.

Us, those who loved us, the very memory of us, gone.

Still, I cling to the now that slips from my grasp, I claw at the present as though I might catch hold of it. If all I have are memories until I become one myself, I’ll be damned if I don’t fill them with as much love, friends, family, cooking, and writing as I can, while I can. So for those of you who missed the eclipse:


See? It’s already a memory.

Triple Chocolate…fiction?

Well, it’s been a heck of a week. My daughter, Lucy Marie Lopez, was born Nov. 23, 2010, and it’s been a roller coaster ride from beginning to end. I’ve been changing diapers, entertaining, cooking, changing diapers, and yes, even writing (but not much, to be sure)! Unfortunately, in that same passage of time we lost some notable celebrities, in particular, Irvin Kershner, director of, among others, The Empire Strikes Back. That’s right, for those of you who aren’t die hard fans of the Star Wars films (myself included), George Lucas only directed the first of the original trilogy, which probably has something to do with why they’re held in such higher regard than  the latest installments of the toy obsessed franchise. This seldom mentioned fact got me to thinking: here was a man who avoided the limelight for the sake of his craft, whose passion for his work overrode is desire for recognition, admirable qualities, no doubt, but should they be emulated by aspiring writers?

So often on blogs and Twitter I see writers tooting their own horns, speaking with such confidence that one can’t help but listen/read. I know that I should be doing the same thing, but knowing and executing are two very different things. I don’t care if I don’t have hundreds of followers or blog subscriptions, but I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot either. So the question is, can I effectively market myself and remain as humble and passionate about my work as Mr. Kershner, or should I jump on a podium and announce my presence from every outlet I can get my paws on? Probably the second, but I think I’ve come up with a viable alternative: the candy aisle.

Let me explain.

People are reluctant to invest in new writers. Lack of reviews, preponderance of alternatives, and general mistrust of so called “self-published authors” prevent consumers of digital media from shelling out money on little known authors. I don’t blame them. When I go the supermarket (which I try to avoid at all costs, as I much prefer farmers markets), I rarely, if ever, go with the intention of buying candy. But every so often, as I stand in line politely avoiding my bad habit of trying to figure out the lifestyle of the person standing in front of me based on what they’re buying, I’ll reach for whatever new twist on a classic candy has just come out. It’s cheap, and for all I know, I’ll discover a new favorite treat. The latest? Triple chocolate Kit Kats. Yum.

My writing needs a candy aisle. People should have access to a cheap taste of what I have to offer, and at $7.99, The Dead Don’t Cry isn’t going to cut it. So I’ve decided on running a series of short stories called Tales from Two Earths. Each one will feature different people, places, and events from the world of TDDC, and in so doing introduce readers to my writing for the bargain price of $.99 each. The first one is underway, and I couldn’t be more excited. At the very least, it’s better than beating my chest every chance I get. Unless I’m pretending to be Tarzan with the kids, in which case it isn’t nearly as exciting.

Believe in Yourself, Bub.

So our bathroom is being remodeled, and the time has finally come to paint. Being the obsessive compulsive that I can be (it once took me eight hours to mow a lawn, let alone four years to write a book), I’ve promptly taken over for our contractor, not trusting him to those perfectly symmetrical lines of color that I’ve come to love. As soon as I gave him the good news, the first thing he asked (after hugging me) was what color we were going to use. I told him brown (coffee bean), to which he promptly replied, in his thick Brooklyn accent:

“Brown? You kiddin me? Really? Brown? It’s going to make the room feel tiny, mo. Really? Brown?”

It gets better. Our (usually) supportive landlord’s response:

“No, I don’t mind. You going to paint it white before you leave?”

Where’s the trust? The vision? The support? No where! And you know what? I can’t blame them. Were they recently inspired by a trip to IKEA like Jen and I were? No. Where they (and are they ever) able to see outside of whites and creams? Nope. And could I have given the contractor advice on how to have done his job better? Hell no. But wait…what does that have to do with anything?

Some most people have opinions on things they really aren’t qualified to judge. A Northern New Jersey police officer and an unlicensed contractor should defer to a designer (best bud), retailer (wifey), and, well, me, but that didn’t stop them from speaking their mind, or from being wrong (it looks great!). Not convinced? Consider this anecdote:

When I was eight years old, I was actively drawing and writing stories. Dubious of my parents’ opinions regarding my work, I cooked up an experiment. After tracing an image of the comic book hero, Wolverine, I showed them the finished product, and after claiming to have made him up all on my own, asked if they thought he’d make for a cool superhero…

They didn’t like him.

So whether you’re writing a book, or pursuing a dream that no one seems to understand, do yourself a favor and learn to filter the constructive criticism from the bad. Just imagine where we’d be today if Marvel had consulted with my parents…

That’s right. Summers without Superhero movies!

No Left Turns!

I don’t know about where you live, but here in New Jersey we have the ubiquitous no left turn signal that seems to turn up wherever I really need to make a left turn. Once in the very bluest of moons the sign will be justified, but most of the time it seems to be posted for no other reason than to piss me off. Fortunately, like most rules in life, I regard them more like strong pieces of advice than anything else.

I strongly encourage you not to make that illegal left turn, but if you’d like to do the sensible thing anyway, then by all means, go for it.

This is what e-publishing is to me: a giant literary illegal left turn. I’m going to take flak for making it, and there’s a good chance that I could die (if not by car crash, then by starvation…somebody buy my book!), but dammit, if I make it out alive, I not only get to stick it to THE MAN, but I get to enjoy that special thrill of living life on the wild side!

So watch out! Because I think I see a yellow light about to turn red!

eBook Launch Party!

I am proud to announce The Dead Don’t Cry’s Official Launch Party!

We will be hosting the Event at The Shannon Rose Irish Pub in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Anyone who loves to read is welcome! From fans to industry professionals, we will have a broad spectrum of sci-fi lovers coming together to share their enthusiasm for the genre that dares to imagine the impossible!

For more information, and to sign the guest list, visit us here!

Tough Critics and Apple Filling

Last night I had my surrogate mom (my best friend’s mom…mine passed away years ago…sigh), her mother, and her brother over for dinner (wife’s birthday, Happy Birthday J-Lo!). What started as some simple mass cooking in the morning to carry us through the day quickly turned into my very own little proving grounds (grandma is a notoriously tough critic). With their being Irish and all, I decided on deep fried meat stuffed pastries (empanadas), spanish rice (a reliable hit), and what I like to call “sun-chips,” fried plantains, a potato-like banana sliced and flattened into chips. Grandma enjoyed everything very much, especially the empanadas, but described the chips as bizarre. Not satisfied, I decided to finish the night with a bang: home-made apple pancakes with hot-off-the oven candied raisin/apple/walnut syrup topped with a generous a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Verdict?


I took a risk with a tough critic and knocked it out of the park. Woot.

The Dead Don’t Cry is my literary risk. It’s my four year home-made pancake, and I want the toughest critics to give it a taste. Does the time spent on it validate anything? No, because if I really spent that much time cooking a pancake, I’d end up with a charred, disgusting mess. But I believe the passion counts for something. So here’s hoping I find some book starved grandmas out there!

PS. I really should start photographing my culinary concoctions…the attached pic does not do dessert justice.

After Four Years…

The Dead Don’t Cry is complete!

For those still looking, I’ve been inactive for the last three months. It wasn’t for a lack of enthusiasm, but for a complete lack of time! I don’t know how some of you do it, but I needed to keep my eyes on the prize to see it through. Now that it’s finally done I can begin the next project, and return to the Cafe, with some changes, of course. Gone will be three posts a week, one is much more realistic. I’ll also be abandoning the “In the Biz” feature…although that isn’t exactly written in stone. Hopefully this time I can keep the Cafe going!

In the meantime, The Dead Don’t Cry is ready! Have you seen the cover art??? Sure you have, I’ve attached it to this post:-P

Genre Identity Crisis

It’s been some time since my last post. What can I say, other than I’ve been busy? Been reading some great blogs though, and by blogs I’m referring specifically to Zoe Winter’s blog. She is precisely who I’d like to be, without the sex-change of course.

Anywho, for those of you accidentally visiting this blog due to the quote from Inception (you wouldn’t believe how many people google that daily) or those precious few still checking in for content, I have a question for you. Is there such a thing as Family Adventure, insofar as genres go? I’ve been thinking a lot about this, particularly because I’ve never been a hundred percent comfortable with labeling The Dead Don’t Cry science fiction. I mean, make no mistake, that’s what it is. But that classification doesn’t give the reader the faintest clue as to what they’re getting themselves into. Zoe writes supernatural romance. Now that’s specific. I can grab any of her books (I presume) and read about some powerful beings getting it on. There’s so much value to that. As someone completely unfamiliar with her work, I have a sense of what her books are about. What does sci-fi tell you about TDDC?

NOTHING (especially useful anyway).

So, I’m creating a genre. And if it exists (which is entirely possible) please inform me of my ignorance and point me in the right direction.

The Dead Don’t Cry is Sci/Fi Adventure.

You dig?

Keep your eye on the Prize

Two nights ago my good friend and I spent some time working on the new cover to The Dead Don’t Cry. After several hours, we came up with two covers: the first was generic but typical for the genre, while the second presented a more literary aesthetic (or trashy romance, if you were to ask the bartender who served us later on that night). Neither blew our mind, although the more we looked at the sleazy romance cover, the more we rationalized it working. That was until my girlfriend came home.

Can you try blending the roots with the artwork?” she asked, innocently.

And just like that, she jump-started a burst of creativity that lead to our best book-cover yet. Let this story serve as a warning to all you writers out there: if you’re not jumping for joy over your book cover, let alone the content of your book, don’t stop tweaking until you are. It’s dangerously easy to give the green-light to mediocrity, especially when you’ve been burning the candle. If in doubt, send it over and we’ll check it out (gladly, I might add). And that reminds me (don’t ask me how). I have an idea for a new column, but I need your input/contributions for it to work. Check it out:

As in all Cafés, people do more than read while visiting Café Lopez. They also like to eavesdrop. That’s why we would like to feature a new column dedicated to the idea of listening in on other people’s conversations. Have you recently had a debate/discussion (over AIM, Google Chat, etc, related to writing of course) that others might benefit from reading? Send it over to Cafe Lopez and we’ll post it for review.  I have one terrific conversation ready to go—I just need a few more to get it started. So, what are you waiting for? Submit!


Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of places. Consider this week’s “In the Biz.” As I was visiting one of a handful of my regular internet stops, I came across a Q & A with none other than Sylvester Stallone, the star and director of the upcoming film The Expendables. I’m a big fan of his, and not just because he’s an action icon. The man is brilliant. Don’t believe me? Listen to the director’s commentary included in the DVD to his latest Rocky film, Rocky Balboa. The man is passionate about filmmaking, and it goes without saying that we might just learn a thing or two from someone as passionate as him. So – on with the interview! I’ve taken some of his more pertinent responses and matched them with paraphrased questions, but the original interview in its entirety can be seen here. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

Come back to check it out! It’s different from the last few, and stars a certain “Italian Stallion” known for going the distance 😉

A Toast to Cynical Optimism

I changed my homepage today from Google blog reader to my email account. Not because I get a lot of email, but because I have well over 1,000 blog posts that I’ve neglected – and have zero intention of ever reading. I started off strong, and there were many posts that I enjoyed reading along the way, but there was also something deceptively misleading about it all. Bloggers are too friendly, too supportive, too willing to devote their precious time to helping others like themselves.

How is this a problem? Continue Reading »

Block the Hate!

If you ask my kids what sunglasses are they’ll tell you they’re called ‘hater-blockers.’ And if you ask them what hater-blockers are for?

To block the hate.

When I was a child, all I remember people telling me was to follow my dreams. Want to be an artist? Great! Draw and follow your dreams! Want to be a world record shattering runner? Fantastic! Keep running and challenge yourself to be great! Reach for the stars, the sky’s the limit, never give up, be all you can be (ok, the last one may have come from my Army recruiter, but you get the idea). And then I became an adult, and curiously enough, the rhetoric changed. Suddenly it’s get a real job, you need security, but what about your future?

What happened? Continue Reading »

Two weeks ago, we had the privilege of hosting artist Jake Murray for our “In the Biz” column. This week, we return to writers with blogger Rebecca Hargreaves from Diary of a Virgin Novelist. Whether you’re looking to write your first e-book, or determined to go the traditional route, Rebecca’s fearlessly candid responses are as refreshing as they are inspiring. But don’t take my word for it… Continue Reading »

This morning, NPR reported that the Wylie Agency, a top literary agency, has teamed with Amazon on a joint venture to electronically publish what’s known as ‘back-list titles,’ best-sellers written long before the age of e-books. The publishing industry wasn’t happy, particularly Random House. In a quintessential display of the kind of pig-headed mentality that has alienated authors (like myself) from traditional publishing, RH essentially blacklisted the Wylie Agency, refusing to enter into any future (English language) agreements with any of its clients. This act on their behalf has left some bloggers, that is Café Lopez, extremely confused as to the message they’re trying to send. Continue Reading »

I haven’t been devoting much time to the blog lately due to the final developmental stages on the book. But this I had to share:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your query, and I apologize for the delay in response.  I have reviewed the work, and decided to pass at this time.  I wish you the best of luck, and success in the publishing world. Continue Reading »

An idea is like a virus…

Café Lopez is a place devoted to writing and creativity. We avoid movie reviews because they’re a dime a dozen, but sometimes a movie deserves praise no matter how many people have reviewed it. Inception is one of those movies. It’s complex yet simple, layered just enough to be a thrilling heist or an existential thought provoker. And it’s been wildly successful. A $60 million opening for an original property? Incredible. And you know what’s even better? This is a film that challenges its audiences, and people are responding. I know of at least one other soon to be released property that expects the same from its audience. So in the hopes that I can one day repeat Nolan’s success, allow me to plant an idea into your head…


Last week, I had the privilege of hiring artist Jake Murray to design the cover to my book, The Dead Don’t Cry. With a keen eye for subtlety and a love for science fiction, he is bringing to life characters that have until now existed only in my imagination. But that trick isn’t unique to him. What is, however, is the level of thought he brings to his work. Regarding the angle he chose for my cover and the tilt reflected therein, he writes:

The “worm’s-eye” viewpoint gives us a sense that these two characters are strong (at least stronger than us because we have to look up to them), while the tilted angle suggests unbalance. They are strong, but their world is not stable.

Jake has not read TDDC, yet he understands perfectly the theme I was aiming for. In today’s “In the Biz,” he shares some more of his wisdom with us all! Continue Reading »

Cover Sketches

Well, this is exciting. Sketches for TDDC’s cover art are in, and they are fantastic! But don’t take my word for it…

The artist’s name is Jake Murry. I hired him for two reasons: he understands subtlety and the power of contradiction. TDDC’s cover must convey beauty and danger in equal measure, and if possible, an underlying sense of hope. Difficult themes to illustrate, but perfectly captured in the first sketch…so why is it so hard for me not to choose the second? I love its energy, composition, tilt, the immediate danger posed in its framing. I admit – this probably isn’t the best direction to take, and it would probably be better suited for, say, an image in a trailer. But I’m curious, what do you think? For those of you who haven’t read The Dead Don’t Cry, which would be more likely to draw your attention?

Looking forward to your input!