snoopytypeI love to write or I wouldn’t be doing this. Even if no one read my scribblings, I suppose I’d scribble them anyway. That’s a recurring theme from writers. We write because we have no other choice. It’s not like we don’t have any other skills, we simply have the overwhelming need, passion, desire, yearning – call it what you will – to write.

Still, it’s gratifying to have others read what I write. Getting my words to an audience beyond immediate family and friends takes a lot of self-promotion, networking, schmoozing, and building of a platform. None of that comes easily to the average writer. They tend to be introverts. I have the advantage of being an extrovert, but promoting myself remains a chore. To improve my lot, I’ve decided I need to take a drastic next step:

I need a title.

Adding a title to a name immediately increases its credibility. Where would “Cedric the Entertainer” be without “the Entertainer”? Many of us wouldn’t know what to make of him absent the built-in endorsement; at least we know what he’s supposed to be. Which would get more press, King Richard I or “Richard the Lionheart”? No contest. Numbers get confused or forgotten. Lionheart will live on forever.

So a title would be a big boost, but the choice is a dilemma. It should be influential without being obnoxious, positive without being presumptuous. You can’t undersell yourself. Seriously, would you remember a ruler called Alexander the Adequate?

weegeeThere’s no guarantee that adopting such an appellation will work, however. Photographer Arthur Fellig was more commonly known as Weegee. Somewhere along the line, he gave himself the title “Weegee the Famous”. He even marked all his photos with a stamp bearing his title as shown on the right. Have you heard of him? I rest my case.

Some titles could be misunderstood. I fancy myself a relatively humorous person. “Rick the Humorous” is too understated, but “Rick the Hysterical” could get me in trouble.

It’s also a good defensive move to assign a title to yourself. Otherwise, you could end up with something less desirable than you might like. Jack the Ripper, Ivan the Terrible, and Mack the Knife probably didn’t choose those labels. If they’d been more proactive, who knows? Maybe we could look back fondly on Jack the Repairer, Ivan the Tender, and Mack the Spoon.

I’ve yet to home in on just the right title. As of now, I have only this list of unsuitable candidates:

Rick the …

  • …Writer (trite)
  • …Blogger (too on-the-nose)
  • …Wicked Awesome (too pompous)
  • …Storyteller (I kinda like that one – hey, I can dream)
  • …Ridiculous (a quality alliteration, but nothing I want to advertise)

So the jury is still out. If anything strikes me soon, I’ll have to give it serious consideration. Too much is at stake.

Suggestions are welcome… within reason.

The Squatter

Among the many things I’ve scribbled in the sand is a novel entitled “The Squatter”. Some folks to whom I’ve confided about the book aren’t crazy about the title. I find it hard to disagree. It’s not a very pleasant sounding word. However, it effectively and succinctly captures not only the protagonist, but her situation as well. Anyway, I’m sticking with it for now, but am open to negotiations, especially from editors and publishers.

This is all to preface the following post, which is the opening few paragraphs of the book. There’s danger, some might say, in exposing one’s writing (even as brief as this) this way. They would have us all believe that creative thieves lurk around every corner of the Internet. They could be right, but cowering in fear is no way to live. My protagonist, Fania, would say the same.

Chapter 1

January 12, 2010 – 4:45 PM

Anticipation hung in the house like the fine particles of dust that filled the air. The family had long since grown accustomed to seeing the air they breathed; the constant presence of the dust made it disappear. When something is everywhere, it ceases to exist.

But apprehension, anticipation’s malicious twin, followed like a rabid dog nipping at its heels. Good fortune never walked alone in Haiti. Hopeful elections carried with them violence and turmoil. A cool, refreshing rain inevitably brought streams of filth running through the tiny hovel that was the Dieusel family home. It had reached the point where they dreaded good news for the trouble it promised.

Still, Fania hoped. Her dreams were simple for a fifteen-year-old girl. An education. Reading and writing. Humble dreams, more remote than the far off peaks of the Massif de la Selle. Just as she couldn’t see those mountaintops from her home in the Village Solidarité neighborhood of Port-au-Prince unless she climbed to the roof, she couldn’t conceive of being in a school, reading books, or writing letters.

This was the day when all that could change. The news her father carried would determine whether those mountains would be brought within her reach or, if his news was bad, she would continue to dream of distant peaks.