Saturday, April 9, 2022

Publishing Dear Mustafa

I've written a novel called Dear Mustafa, the story of an artist whose near-death experience on September 11, 2001 compels him to confront the legacy of his late lover who died a decade earlier of AIDS. I'm currently working on publishing it.

Here's a description of Dear Mustafa.

When Peter discovers a journal his lover Rano kept from 1989-1991, he must confront a big secret: back in Rano’s homeland of Algeria, Rano left a son, Mustafa. Rattled by the journal’s anger and revelations, Peter flees San Francisco for his New York gallery debut. Given the chance to dine with Thomas, an influential Harlem-based art collector, Peter postpones his return, inadvertently missing one of the doomed 9/11 flights. The calamity of 9/11 collides with the unresolved aftermath of AIDS to hijack Peter’s life: he can’t paint and he can’t sustain connections with others. Over the next year, he must grapple with Rano’s secrets as he struggles to paint—and to love.

Peter has company. His art dealer, Erica, must convince her tech wizard ex-boyfriend to salvage Rano’s brilliant Internet research. Brice, a former dancer, must resolve his feelings for Peter and Rano and for his own curtailed creative career. Immigrant-turned-millionaire Linh must reconcile with her family. As the first anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the collector Thomas waits to see how Peter will honor it, and whether he’s resolved his relationship with Rano.

Counterpointing the story of Peter and his friends, Rano’s journal—addressed to his son Mustafa—chronicles the agony of dying from AIDS while revealing the perspicacity of an Internet scholar far ahead of his time. Only by uncovering the ultimate clue Rano left online can Peter and his friends move forward together.


Dear Mustafa is a historical novel describing the AIDS crisis from the inside and connecting it powerfully to other American tragedies, from Vietnam to 9/11.

I'm learning the difference between being a writer and an author. It's one thing to write a book and quite another to publish it.

Friday, April 8, 2022

How I Came to Writing

My career has been a series of startups. Some went well, others not so much. Between startups, knowing I would have little or no vacation after the next startup unpredictably came along, I made sure to take time away. Sometimes the next startup came along in weeks, sometimes months.

Early on, I raised money for EntertainNet, a video distribution site. It was like Youtube, only a decade too early. Video content was still too expensive and online advertising practically non-existent. I had to shut it down. Because this was during the dot com boom, I figured I could travel for a couple months and there would be something waiting when I returned.

In fact, there was something waiting. The day I got home, I was stepping into the shower and the phone rang. As much as I needed a shower, luckily I answered. An Internet incubator asked me to raise money and run one of its new companies.

So, you're wondering, what does the unpredictability of the next startup have to do with why I started writing?

Well, after a startup failed during the 2008 financial collapse, I found myself in a startup freeze colder than the dot com bust. With investors hibernating, I expected to wait much longer than usual for the next gig. It was an opportunity for personal development, but what kind?

I wanted a skill for later in life, something I could do anywhere so I could travel, something that would keep my creative juices flowing, some way to engage with the world. I played violin, but traveling with a fiddle and finding fellow musicians didn't fit the bill.

After some omphaloskepsis (my father's favorite word), I realized I'd always liked writing. Up to that time, most of my writing was reviews (theater, film, video games) and marketing copy. The act of making words mean something satisfied me. With time on my hands, I enrolled at a creative writing school in San Francisco, The Writing Salon. The teachers were practitioners and practical. Even though I have an English literature degree, I had to adjust from critiquing to creation. Boy, was I nervous when I read my early efforts.

Learning to write, it turned out, was like learning to play violin—many solitary hours working and re-working a phrase or a passage. It wasn't always enjoyable, but payoffs came as I shared stories with friends and fellow students. I started Dear Mustafa while I was working in New York. Now I'm writing while I live in Barcelona and travel around Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

The next step is publishing my words. Like music conservatories, writing schools focus on craft, not on building an audience and generating income. That's the phase I'm entering this year. It's a big step from writer to author. If there's anything I've learned from startups, something good won't happen if I don't try.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

I Wrote My First Book in a Day!

To be honest, I not only wrote my first book in a day, I wrote and published my first book in a day.

The day was October 5, 2011. I was working on a novel I never published, learning the craft of writing. Before I went to a party at Lorenzo's house that night, the news flashed up on my screen: Steve Jobs Dead.

Armed with my knowledge of Lulu's self-publishing platform, I decided I would publish the first posthumous book about Steven Jobs. I'm pretty sure I did. Quotes from Steve Jobs was available for sale on Lulu before I left for the party.

Ten years later, I'm not exactly sure why I published the book. Maybe I thought it would be cool to write and publish a book in a day, but probably I thought I'd earn some kind of first-to-market advantage in the avalanche of books about the Apple founder

The search engines goddesses didn't notice. There was no first-to-market advantage. No sales. What I did learn is that selling a book takes more than making it available online.

Until last week when a friend found it on Lulu, I forgot I'd published the thing. No regrets and still kinda proud of getting Quotes from Steve Jobs out in a day. I've learned the payoff of writing comes with patience and perseverance.