Seasons Change: How I Destroyed My Family and Saved My Life

That is the new title of my novel, previously known as “Saint Graziano the Good”. It came to me this afternoon, with “Seasons Change” by the 80s girl group Expose’ playing in my brain, as I was perusing the Internet for title suggestions. For the moment, I have that settled. Now, what to do about the title of this blog?

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Alternate titles

The title “Saint Graziano the Good” sounds so clunky, so cumbersome, so boring. I thought that it was a cute title at the beginning, but I’ve grown to be disappointed with it. If I want my first novel to be even a cult hit, I need to give it a snazzier title, with one caveat: I absolutely refuse to begin the title with a gerund. Those titles suggest a lack of inspiration and individuality.

So, here are some titles off the top of my head:

IN THE WORST OF FAMILIES

THREE MONTHS

MEMOIRS OF THE UNLOVED AND UNWANTED

I DON’T DRINK WINE

AN ITALIAN-CANADIAN MAN

THE GOOD (FOR NOTHING) SON

HOW I DESTROYED MY FAMILY AND SAVED MY LIFE

G.T.A. (GRAZIANO’S TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY)

THE FALL AND WINTER OF MY DISCONTENT

WHITE STEEL

A TORONTO SAGA

I’m not very good with titles, so any help is welcome.

So, I won’t be going to New York City this summer.

After some thought, I have decided that once and for all, crowdfunding is not for me. I just don’t have the goods to get people to financially support my stuff. In effect, my campaign (hosted by Trevolta) to get to the Writer’s Digest Conference this August in New York City is over. Well, not officially. It officially ends on the 10th of July, but let’s face it: unless something miraculous happens between now and then, I can just kiss the dream goodbye.

New Chapter Titles

I’ve created some new chapter titles for my book, except for Chapter 02 through 04. Here they are:

Chapter 01: So, This is Christmas

Chapter 02: The Tenth Circle of Hell

Chapter 03: The B-Words (Bullies, Bitches, Bodybuilding, and Bereavement)

Chapter 04: Evan Smart

Chapter 05: The Beginning of the End

Chapter 06: Happy Birthday to ME and ONLY ME

Chapter 07: No Goodbye, No Farewell, and Yes to Good Riddance

Chapter 08: Thanksgiving Weekend

Chapter 09: Teachers and Tyrants

Chapter 10: 600 Queens Quay West

Chapter 11: The Intake

Chapter 12: No Saints and No Souls Day

Chapter 13: The Return of Mykhaylo Karbanenko

Chapter 14: We’re Not Family

Chapter 15: Date Night in Toronto

Chapter 16: Melanie Globes

Chapter 17: Worst. Dream. Ever.

Chapter 18: Shoppers’ Drug Brawl

Chapter 19: Sunday Dinner, Ukrainian Style

Chapter 20: Job and Community Hunting

Chapter 21: Canada’s Next Top Male Model?

Chapter 22: Mother of the Year

Chapter 23: Feel Like Making Love for the First Time

Chapter 24: Like Water for Chocolate is NOT a Pornographic Novel

Chapter 25: The House on Ascot and Nairn

Chapter 26: Intimate Portrait: Nadine and Joseph Buonfiglio

Chapter 27: The “Model” and the “Role Model”

Chapter 28: (Some Women Are) Bitches on Ice

Chapter 29: I Hate Earl Haig Secondary School

Chapter 30: Murder, They Wrote

Chapter 31: Dinner is Served, But What About Revenge?

Chapter 32: The Feast of Saint Lucia

Chapter 33: Murder, They TRIED to Write (But NOT This Time)

Chapter 34: A Gift Delayed is Not a Gift Denied

Chapter 35: The Kidnapping

Chapter 36: The Christmas Eve Showdown

Chapter 37: …And What Have I Done?

The Epilogue will remain as is. I’m also thinking of changing the title of the book. “Saint Graziano the Good” sounds a little too bland and cumbersome for this story. I want a title that says, “Pick me up, read me, buy me, and read me some more!” The cover should also do that, but that’s for another day.

While I’m mainly working on poetry these days, I’ve every intention of writing a second novel. I wonder what that will be?

Why you should contribute to my crowdfunding campaign

I love to write. I love to hold a pen or pencil in my hand and just write, be it controlled or free-form. I love it when I use a keyboard and see my words appear on the screen with every solitary click. I love to write in the dead of night and in the cold and sober daylight. I cannot express myself through any medium other than the written word. I cannot imagine a life without being able to put my words on paper. To do so would be tantamount to suicide.

Since I was a kid, I have longed for a career as a writer. I can’t play an instrument, I can’t sing, and I’m not athletic. I’m Asian-American, and I have sought a career in the arts despite the odds against me, many of those odds coming from my own ethnicity and family, where such careers are eschewed in favor of more lucrative ones, like being a doctor or a lawyer. It has only been in the past four to five years that I have made any inroads toward my chosen career, and despite the obstacles, I still press forward, hoping that the day will come that I can do what I love and make at worst a decent living.

This explains my recent attempts at crowdfunding. Last year, I completed my first novel, a fictional tell-all called Saint Graziano the Good. It was the result of three years of writing and, well, not writing. After consulting many books and online sources, I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. I couldn’t land an agent at the time, so I figured that I should cut out the middleman, so to speak. That attempt was a disaster. I raised over $200, but I soon realized that that would not be enough to publish without it looking like the typical self-published book of recent times: amateurish, with stock cover images and stock text. I gave up and decided on pursuing the more traditional approach of finding an agent.

But crowdfunding never left my thoughts. I soon thought about raising money for a writing project, as opposed to a book. I decided to combine my love of writing with my need to get out of my rut: a thirty-something still living at home with parents, with no job prospects, with a healthy case of writer’s block, and with enough personal problems to merit Iyanla Vanzant coming over to “fix my life” over the course of three episodes, at the very least. This led to an ingenious idea: Why don’t I go across the United States and Canada, and let the wonders of both countries inspire me to write poems? I’ve already done a novel, and a collection of poetry would be a good follow-up.

And then I saw what I was up against. The crowdfunding campaigns that were raking in the dough involved innovative items and charity projects. On Kickstarter, the most funded campaign is that of a customizable e-paper watch called Pebble, with over $10 million in contributions. On that same site, the most funded publishing campaign is from Planet Money, a joint project of NPR and This American Life, and it involves “(making) a t-shirt and (telling) the story of its creation”. On the rival site Indiegogo, I’ve come across campaigns to build a Nikola Tesla museum, to send Karen Huff (the famous bus monitor) on a vacation, to create gravity-powered lamps, even to purchase a video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford allegedly smoking crack.

I couldn’t compete with any of those. In fact, I could not compete with ANY of the campaigns, even if they didn’t involve politicians doing drugs or raising money so that a harassed woman could experience happiness away from a bunch of screaming kids. Those campaigns (in fact, most if not all crowdfunding campaigns) had glorious thank-you gifts, tempting potential contributors. In my initial campaign for Saint Graziano the Good, I had said that I would send copies of my book to contributors, and for my poetry campaign, I had said that I would send collections of my poetry to contributors, but I simply did not have the funds to afford those gifts. As of this writing, I am living on food stamps. How in the world can I expect to accomplish all these lofty goals when I can’t even find a part-time job that doesn’t require three years of experience?

My poetry campaign on Indiegogo lasted two months in late 2012 and raised $5. My goal was $5,000. I was so disappointed that I almost gave up the idea. Earlier this year, I restarted the campaign on GoFundMe. It has yet to receive one thin penny. I admit that I am at fault here. Creators of successful campaigns are relentless and spend every available moment pounding the Internet pavement for contributions, making regular updates, and seducing potential contributors with thank-you gifts. I have a hectic life as it is. I accompany my dad to and from dialysis three times a week. I walk my dogs. I take my medicines. I go shopping for groceries. I ride my bicycle. I do so many things, even on the Internet, that I often lose track of things, and what I want to do suffers in that regard.

Another thing in my way is the fact that I don’t know enough people, and I don’t know enough affluent (in relative terms) people. I can’t ask my parents for the money because they’re retired and living on a fixed income. Even if I do land a job, there is no guarantee that I will have enough left over for a down payment on my project, let alone the whole shebang. I’ve promoted the campaign numerous times on my Facebook and Twitter networks, with little success. Most (if not all) of my friends have more pressing needs. I understand if they can’t make a contribution, and I hold no ill will towards them because of it. It makes me wonder, however, how the winners in the crowdfunding game manage to come out on top. Is there a secret network of people with disposable income and good hearts that we don’t know about?

There are times when I think that my campaign in and of itself is flawed. In this economy, campaigns like mine would seem exorbitant and selfish. Who in their right mind would want to help a writer get his career off the ground? Who in their right mind would help someone go across the continent and write poems along the way? Their money would be better spent on charity and techie projects that may never see the light of day, irrespective of how much money is raised. I know that there are people who are worse off than I am, and I wish that I could donate money to help the needy in Angola or wherever, but I can’t, because by virtue of me being on food stamps, I am part of “the needy” in this world. And I am sorry, but I just don’t have the techie gift of innovation that so many others have in abundance. I just never have had it. Must I keep apologizing for wanting to be a writer? Must I keep apologizing for not being a visionary like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and the Spanx queen?

But I still go on. Despite all the problems I have faced, I refuse to roll over and surrender, and I’m the kind of person who has found it hard at times not to. Writing, be it novels or poetry, is just as important in today’s world as technology is. It is still a viable and acceptable way to make a living. Without the written word, this world would not exist. I think that it is more important than ever to nurture up-and-coming writers and their projects. Guys like me are the future of the written word. Technological advances are great, but writing (yes, even bad writing) is timeless. So, think about this: if you had the money and if you had the choice, would you be more likely to contribute to a budding writer’s campaign to in effect launch his career, where the results would be as accessible as going to your own library or bookstore, or an online video of a disgraced mayor doing drugs, which may or may not exist? Frankly, I’d choose the former. And I hope that you would, too.

http://www.gofundme.com/2131qk

Query Letter for “Saint Graziano the Good”

Last year, after I finished my novel, I sent out the following query letter:

Attn. (INSERT NAME HERE):

When Graziano Buonfiglio’s family disowns him, he sets out to reclaim his life… even though they want to end it.

A lifetime of physical and emotional abuse, along with the unsolved deaths of his grandparents and boyfriend, leaves Graziano Buonfiglio enduring the continuous wrath of his family in Brampton, Ontario. Following his latest suicide attempt, his family banishes him from their lives. Graziano heads back to his hometown of Toronto and moves in with his former English professor.

For the first time in years, Graziano flourishes personally and professionally. As his professor provides him much-needed stability and support, he makes new friends and reconnects with old ones, and even contemplates a career in modeling. But as his lot in life improves, the clouds from his past are always present.

After his family discovers him alive and thriving, much to their displeasure, they begin a covert war against him. Graziano soon learns the shocking truth behind the deaths of his loved ones, and as Christmas approaches, he and his friends come under threat. Before it is too late, Graziano must save them and himself from becoming casualties.

SAINT GRAZIANO THE GOOD is a 63,000-word LGBT Fiction/Adult Contemporary novel. Below is the first chapter of the book. The full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Alex D. Sarmiento

I e-mailed 20 potential agents across the US and Canada. Unfortunately, I did not get a single response in my favor. Some of them did not respond at all, and those that did told me that my material wasn’t right for their agency. I felt so defeated that I pretty much gave up.

A year later, I plan on going through the same rigmarole again.