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A writer friend of mine recently sent me a link to an interview with author Alex Perez about his experience at the Iowa Writers Workshop. I LOVE his responses. He rails on White Wokeism, and it deserves it 100%. Here is the link to the Perez piece: https://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/alex-perez-on-the-iowa-s-writers-workshop-baseball-and-growing-up-cuban-american-in-america


Here is one of my favorite sections: “My take is the only take and the one everyone knows to be true but only admits in private: the literary world only accepts work that aligns with the progressive/woke point of view of rich coastal liberals. This is a mindset that views “whiteness” and America as inherently problematic, if not evil, and this sensibility animates every decision made by publishers/editors/agents. White people bad. Brown people good. America bad. Men bad. White women, I think, bad…unless they don a pussy hat. This explains why nearly every book is about some rich fuck from Brooklyn confronting his white guilt or some poor black girl who’s been fighting “whiteness” and “patriarchy” all her life. All this stuff is ideologically-driven horseshit propagated by some of the most artless people on the planet. We know who they are.”


Yep. Absolutely. Here’s the harsh truth: Wokeism and Art cannot coexist. Pick one. I don’t care how “evil” you think the right is. (And look: I am NO FAN of the right.) The appropriate and efficient and effective answer to conservative authoritarianism is simply NOT Wokeism. Perez’s quote nails something very satisfyingly accurate which, as he says, everyone knows but most won’t admit in public: Wokeism represents cultural fascism. Lefties love to talk about how cancel culture isn’t real and, even if it was, they say, it’s not “censorship” anyway because it’s “not from the government.”


But this is a paper-tiger argument. Sure, it’s technically not censorship to de-platform people you disagree with or who the Woke mob attacks en masse on Twitter and gets canceled…but it IS 100% censorious. Do we want that? A censorious, anti-liberal, anti-Democratic cultural environment? Of course we don’t. (Re cancellation, check out Sam Harris’s newest podcast interview [#300] with Meg Smaker: https://www.samharris.org/podcasts/making-sense-episodes/300-a-tale-of-cancellation.) Fascinating and terrifying.


One of my novels—an autobiographical YA—was rejected by multiple agents, after they read it multiple times and praised it, because I was/am a WSM (White Straight Male) in the Time of Trump. (They used less obvious language but the message was clear.) I DO totally support all non-white serious writers and I say WHY NOT to their work getting out there…as long as it has merit. And much of it clearly does! But if writers (or anyone else in any industry) are given book contracts simply because they’re non-white and fulfil the leftist ideology: That’s textbook racism. That means you don’t measure a writer’s worth by the power of their prose, but rather by the immutable color of their skin. The color of their skin should be irrelevant.


No, I’m not naïve enough to think we can be or should be “colorblind.” Rather I think the opposite: All human beings—black, white, brown, red, Asian, etc—have some racism in them. We all do. Be honest with yourself. You notice differences in skin tone, right? Based on your class background and the way you were raised, and your childhood geographical location, etc etc etc, you automatically make judgments about people you see. That is no big deal. It’s healthy, rational, normal. But. You have to question those underlying assumptions when they arise, because otherwise you risk getting ensnared in cliches and stereotypes which might sometimes describe some portions of some groups some of the time, but have very little to do with actual individuals of any race. We have to, as MLK famously said, judge each other by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. (I would amend that to, Judge first, then criticize that automatic judgment.)


I reject the notion that race is foundational based solely on power; that, because of historical oppression, black people, say, cannot, by definition be racist.


I remember living in a rough part of East Harlem during the first three months of the Covid lockdowns. It got crazy in my area, around 130th and 5th Ave. One day I was writing and heard a man screaming brutally at someone. I stopped what I was doing and walked across my office room to the window. Looking down—I was on a third-floor walkup—I saw a gigantic black man probably 6’2 with bristling muscles the size of my neck wearing a wifebeater and a gold chain necklace screaming his lungs out at a tiny 5’0 Chinese woman walking her baby in a stroller down 5th Avenue. She looked terrified but faced straight ahead, didn’t respond to his yelling, and kept moving as quickly as possible. Several times he said, “Go back to China, bitch! You brought the Virus here!” He pointed and screamed like a madman; spit flew out of his gaping mouth. I just shook my head. James Baldwin—the famous 20th century renowned (and often misquoted) black writer—talked in depth in “Notes of a Native Son” about the strangled, confused history of racial tension between African Americans and Asian-Americans. Black people can be racist. By saying that I give black Americans the dignity they deserve. They can be ignorant and biased and bigoted just like white people and everyone else.


I knew my “fictional memoir,” “Two Years in New York,” covering my months in East Harlem during Covid and being chased and followed and spat on my the locals would never get an agent. I’m white. So I am publishing it now on Substack: michaelmohr.substack.com.) This is 2022. Racism has been redefined so many times at this point that no one really knows what that old, tired word even means. When you look in the dictionary the “definition” is so blatantly ideological and biased it cannot be taken seriously. And that’s the sad truth about America in 2022: The nation as a whole cannot be taken seriously any longer. The cultural “narrative” has become so detached from real life, so unthreaded from non-white minority struggles, so myopic and navel-gazing and ironically all ABOUT white people (yet again) that you just have to laugh, say Fuck It, and DIY.


I for one am more than stoked, though, to read interviews by people like Alex Perez. He has guts. He tells it like it is. Young white Woke women are 98% of literary agents. If they even so much as SMELL non-ideological writing—or God forbid authentic, real, honest, raw writing that actually represents human life—they reject the manuscript so fast it’s like God took a shit on Satan. The media; mainstream institutions; literature; thinking: These are all a thing of the past; passe; so 2015. This is, again, why I joined Substack. For decades I thought I wanted to go the traditional route. But that time is over. It’s time to fight back. It’s time to lift our collective sane voices and say NO to Wokeism. It’s time to believe in Art and Truth and Honesty.


Trump said Make America Great Again (MAGA). The Left seems to say Make America Divided Again (MADA). I say: Make America Sane Again (MASA).


Michael Mohr

Read my Substack and subscribe! Maybe even pay for it!


(To read my “fictional memoir” about living in East Harlem NYC during Covid check out my Substack newsletter, “Sincere American Writing” where I am publishing the book in chapters each week: https://michaelmohr.substack.com/) *You can subscribe for free but PLEASE consider becoming a paid subscriber for $5/month.


Hello everyone!! Wow. I haven’t posted a single blog post on my website since September, 2017. That’s right. Just over five years. Wild. Much has happened since then, of course. FYI: I have re-posted all of my old blog posts from 2015-2017, so check those out. I originally started the blog back in late 2013 while I was interning for a Bay Area literary agent. I started as a slush pile reader (I learned a lot!) and later got into editing. From there the blog grew. Around late 2017 I grew bored with the blog, frankly, and I started focusing more on my fiction writing and book editing. I edited Christian Picciolini’s memoirs WHITE AMERICAN YOUTH and later BREAKING HATE, both published in 2018 and 2020 respectively by Hachette Book Group. He had an MSNBC tv series for a while, also called Breaking Hate. In addition I edited Deborah Holt Larkin’s memoir, A LOVELY GIRL: THE TRAGEDY OF OLGA DUNCAN AND THE TRIAL OF ONE OF CALIFORNIA’S MOST NOTORIOUS KILLERS. As well as Gene Desrochers’ SWEET PARADISE, among many other successful books.


Also, many of my short stories were published, one of which was nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2018 (“American Freaks”). I wrote several more books, several of which were read with serious interest by dozens of NYC literary agents but were ultimately turned down due to often complex reasons. (One read my literary roman-a-clef YA novel three times and sent me long emails praising it and then disappeared; another loved the book but rejected it due to me being a WSM in the Time of Trump. Yes, this is true.)


I left the Bay Area, where I was living in 2017 still. My longtime girlfriend and I split up. I kept the house and the cat. Saving up money for all of 2018—not to mention the sordid love affair with a woman I met in Mexico City, a story for another time perhaps—I moved across the country in March, 2019 to New York City. Manhattan. This was my absolute dream. I wrote, I explored, I saw live comedy and Jazz. I took the subway trains everywhere. I explored like a lurid madman, insatiable. I lived in lower East Harlem, then Hamilton Heights, then upper East Harlem, and finally Lenox Hill in the Upper East Side on 70th between First and York.


In March, 2020, as everyone on Earth knows, the global pandemic struck the west, where it’d already been decimating China. It was a terrifying time. I lived on the corner of 130th and 5th Avenue when it happened, in East Harlem. Those first three months of lockdown were the scariest of my life. I lived alone, nearly 3,000 miles from any family. I was isolated, alone, afraid. This led me to depression, anger, grief, fear and terror, yes, but it also led me to writing. This became my “fictional memoir,” TWO YEARS IN NEW YORK (click here) which I am publishing now on my Substack.


In June, 2020, I fled East Harlem for Lenox Hill. In May, 2021, my 16-year-old niece tried to kill herself. Finally, I flew back to California after eighteen months away. While there, in July, my father was diagnosed with Stage Four Melanoma. Thus began a new period of chaos. I left New York. My mother and I started caring for my sick father. It got bad. He almost died. He lived. He’s better now. I continued to write and revise and edit my “fictional memoir.” Eventually I asked writer friends to read it. They did and gave me solid feedback. I implemented the changes. All the names are changed. Many details are altered, blurred, etc, to protect real human beings. But almost 100% of this all happened “in real life,” except the parts that didn’t :)


I don’t know how often I’ll post on here. Maybe once a week. We’ll see. Maybe more at first. I have found Substack to be the best platform at the moment for serious writers who respect Art and free speech and who are sick of Woke-obsessed white female agents who reject anything that isn’t ideological and propagandized. That, in my view, is not Art. That is the Anti-Art, if anything. For more on the infestation of Wokeism on writing, read this brilliant interview with Cuban-American author Alex Perez: https://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/alex-perez-on-the-iowa-s-writers-workshop-baseball-and-growing-up-cuban-american-in-america


So if you’re interested in going along for the journey of my NYC experience, again, check out my Substack: https://michaelmohr.substack.com/. I have and will also publish different material, besides simply my memoir. Political commentary, more books down the line, all of this is to come.

As always: Thank you for reading and supporting me!

Below is the prologue of my “fictional memoir,” TWO YEARS IN NEW YORK. Click here to keep reading.


Michael Mohr

Sincere American Writing


***


TWO YEARS IN NEW YORK


Prologue

Early May, 2020


Hospitals were overflowing all over the five boroughs. Queens got it the worst, then the Bronx, then Brooklyn. Manhattan not as bad but still terrible, of course. Ventilators were yanked from intubated Baby Boomers in hospitals and handed over to younger COVID patients who needed to breathe to survive. We read the stories in the New York Times and the New Yorker; we heard the tales online and from DeBlasio’s and Cuomo’s mouths. Fear whirled in the air in Harlem like helicopter blades at riots in the 1960s. There was an anxiety which glowed around the neighborhood.

I was, it was obvious, seriously depressed. I barely talked to anyone. Days went by without my even texting a single friend. I started eating and drinking horribly—tons of soda day and night leading to a bad sleep/caffeine cycle; pizza and gigantic pasta plates to suck the carbs from them like manna from heaven in a desperate attempt to feel “better.”

Most white residents seemed to have left. I wanted out of Harlem so bad but my will to take action was very low. Plus I had another three months left on my lease.

I hadn’t told my parents about the two times being chased, or about the gun holdup in the building. They’d just worry. And there was nothing they could do anyway. I felt so alone, so isolated, 3,000 miles away from everyone and everything I truly knew. It was as if I were actually in outer space, floating by myself in the vast dark emptiness, inside of this small, cramped two-bedroom apartment in East Harlem. No one knew where I was. No one would help me. The energy from young men outside had become hostile. I stared at the middle-distance when I passed them; I averted my eyes, looked away, looked down.

Every day was a struggle.

It happened one night when I least expected it. The night before I’d read an article in the Washington Post about how NYC hospitals were seeing a small but growing number of patients in their twenties and thirties who’d come in for asymptomatic COVID-related stroke. Some small percentage of them were dying. Turned out most of them had had COVID without knowing it. That was the thing about COVID—it was often, especially in younger, healthier people, asymptomatic.

This particular day was a bad one. My usual routine now was this: Get up around seven, eight AM, read, drink caffeine, try to hit at least part of an AA meeting on Zoom, eat something, feel the strong urge to write but skip it out of emotional COVID fatigue and depression, and then, around eleven or noon, take a “nap.” I was 37 years old and I’d never in my life needed to take naps during the middle of a Wednesday, say. But now I napped every day.

I passed out that day around 2pm. It was sunny and blue outside, but with a crispness which tickled me through my open dirt-stained window overlooking 5th Avenue. Everything was silent now except for sirens and police and paramedics; even the basketball courts across 130th were silent; the city had finally removed the nets and locked up the courts.

I woke up later that day confused, groggy, out of it, as if from a profoundly deep REM sleep. My phone, which I reached for on my bedside desk, proclaimed it was 5:30pm. Glancing outside I saw it was bending slowly towards dusk. COVID days were like Before Times weeks. They passed sluggishly and slowly like honey globulating down a tree. Like dripping molasses.

I decided I’d take a shower.

After ten minutes of scalding water I turned it off, got out, stood there a minute, steam rising off my naked body. I closed my eyes. I breathed deep and slow again. My heart, probably because of the heat, I thought, seemed to be beating rather fast. I toweled off.

I walked back into the kitchen. My hot heel and toes cooled against the cold black kitchen tile. I poured another glass of water and drank half of it. I walked into the second room—my writing office—and looked out the window onto 130th, north, and at the empty, desolate basketball court. A black SUV drove by pumping gangster rap.

Back in the kitchen—thinking I’d put fresh pants on—standing right in the center of the space, I suddenly stopped. My heart out of the blue started pounding. I mean really pounding, as if an angry child were inside my body and was punching as hard as he could. I’d never experienced anything like it, not even when I hopped freight trains, got in scary fist-fights, or hitchhiked across America in my twenties. This was something new and foreign to me.

Next, before I had even processed the pounding heart, a wave of frenetic heat washed through my entire body from my head down to my toes. I imagined being electrocuted might be like this. After that, my left arm started going numb. I mean completely numb, as in useless limb. Then the rest of the left side of my body started numbing. By now I was absolutely terrified. I remember thinking, I’m having a COVID-related stroke.

Still naked, frantic, the left side of my body mostly useless now, my whole body vibrating with heat and a pumping heart like a fist, the final blow was the worst: I started, for the first time in my life, truly struggling to breathe.

I couldn’t get enough air, no matter how much I tried. The oxygen to my brain dropped. A vast, hyper-intense headache was descending. I panicked. I started trying to gather my clothes so I could…do what? My impulse was to run. But where? Why? Then I thought: Hospital. I need a hospital. But the next thought was: Hospitals are dangerous right now. What if you get put on a ventilator? What about COVID? But isn’t THIS COVID? I didn’t know. I was lost. Scared. Alone. I ran to the window again in the office, looking outside. Empty streets, shiny from a light spring drizzle. Street lamps. Desolation. Nothing.

Police, I thought. Call 911. Or my downstairs Texan neighbor, Latisha. Someone! I sensed in that moment that I was going to die. It was inevitable. I was going to die at 37, 3,000 miles away from friends and family, totally isolated and alone, scared and depressed, in East Harlem of all places. I felt my eyes widen in fear. I was too young to die. Too young to leave this planet, this life. Help!

At last I looked for my cellphone; it took me ten seconds to realize it was already in my right hand. I’d been going on autopilot. Had I been talking out loud? Had I already called anyone? The breathing got much harder again. I struggled. I needed air.

I dialed my mother. She picked up. She knew something was wrong. I never called randomly, unplanned. I said, my breath locked and rugged, “Mom. I need help. Struggling to breathe. Beating heart. Left side of body is numb.”

“Jesus Michael,” she said, the fear hot in her voice. “Ok. Ok. Look. Honey. What happened. Nevermind. Can you sit down?”

“I need a hospital mom,” I said. I realized then there was a hospital up on Lenox and 137th. Eight blocks away. I could throw clothes on and sprint up there. But with my struggle to breathe?

“No!” My mom yelled into the receiver. “Hospitals are dangerous right now! Let’s see…let’s see…shit…honey, can you call your neighbor? Can you sit down?”

I heard the panic in her voice. I heard my father asking her what was going on. She briefly answered him. I heard my dad say “shit” in the background. I had my mom on speaker phone. I was still in the office. I’d managed to get an old raggedy pair of shorts on. I sat down on the little thrift-store gray couch in the corner. My heart was still beating hard; the left side of my body was still numb; my breathing was shallow and weak.

“Ok, I’m sitting,” I said.

“Good. Good. Ok. Honey. Can you just take real slow, deep breaths for me?”

I wanted to weep. “I don’t want to die mom.” Fear was paralyzing me. My brain seemed half frozen. I was groggy and confused. Time seemed to move in LSD-like waves almost. It was like crawling through psychic mud.

“You’re not going to die, Michael. Keep breathing. Slow. Deep. In…out. In…out. In…out. Okay??”


I have worked with, been edited by, and spoken to Donna Galanti on many occasions. She is a kind, thoughtful, sharp-eyed author and really knows her stuff. It doesn't hurt that she writes extremely well. She is now starting an author training course on how writers with their first book coming out can create their author platform. I am thrilled to host her giveaway and promotional materials in order to assist new authors.

WHO IS DONNA?

Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com. She also loves building writer community. See how at www.yourawesomeauthorlife.com

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It’s a funny thing once your book is published. People you don’t know are reading it and reviewing it. Some reviews will be good. Some will be conflicting. Some may be bad. Here’s my take on what authors can do with reviews and how to find best fit reviewers.

Conflicting Reviews You may wonder how two people can find such differences in your book. Easy. It’s all subjective and your readers will vary. Just as your book is unique, so is everyone’s opinion of it based on their collective life experiences.

In the same week, a reviewer for my book noted “absolutely no grammar errors were noticed which proves that good editing is out there!” and another noted “Good plot, but a lot of typos.” Recommendation? Laugh over them and then ignore them. Bad Review Unfortunately, you may receive them. Are bad reviews all bad? Not necessarily. If people are talking about your book passionately, it's more likely to reach some readers who'll like it but would never have found it otherwise.

A bad mention can be better than no mention at all, particularly for those readers who are skeptical of too many glowing reviews. It can lend more credibility to the book.

The more reviews you get the more exposure your book gets on Amazon – good or bad reviews. As you get more reviews, Amazon ranks you higher in their search engine for keywords related to your book so more potential readers can find your book. As you can see, even bad reviews can then help boost your book’s discoverability. It also helps your book to be more balanced for reviewers.

A few rotten reviews are expected with every book, as a book is so subjective to each reader, and it gives your book more credibility. A book with all 5-stars seems a bit too good to be true. Readers will weed through the reviews and can surmise the value of your book and if it will appeal to them.

Best reviews are the ones that are a mix of critical comments and positive as it means the reader was affected by your book enough that they took the time to leave a thoughtful review on many points. What not to do about a bad review? Respond. All authors receive them. Even the New York Times bestselling authors. Why a bad review? The reader might not normally read your genre, or was misled by the cover. The writing style might not be one they normally connect with. Have you read a book and wondered how people could praise it? A bad review can even lead to self-awareness of your writing and improvement. And remember, they are reviewing the book – not the writer.

Finding Best Fit Reviewers Can you increase your chances of finding positive reviewers? Yes! Research book review bloggers in your genre and age-range that you write in. Review their website and see what kind of books they have reviewed in the past. Check out their review request policies. See if your book falls within the guidelines of what they want to read and request a review. Places to find book reviewers? Use Google Alerts. Type in key words like "romance stories" or "action novels" and then in what medium you want them to appear (as they appear in blogs, the news, etc.). Google will then send you a list every day of all the hits according to your search specifications. Click on the links recommended. If they include bloggers that do book reviews, send them a request for review. Also, search for “book blog” plus your genre to find reviewers. Try searching Facebook book groups. They can have corresponding blogs that offer book reviews.

Have Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)? Use them to do a Goodreads giveaway. This can generate positive reviews as readers who enjoy your kind of book will enter to win a copy of your book. Always send a handwritten thank you note with the book and politely ask that they write an honest review.

Have an ARC in e-book format only? Many book bloggers accept them for review as well.

Final tip on finding best fit reviewers. Search for comparable and successful authors with keywords of “author name” plus “review." You will find book bloggers that reviewed that author’s book. These are good blogs to familiarize yourself with and not only request a review, but ask to do a guest post and/or giveaway.

Best of luck with your reviews!

***

Connect with Donna:

***

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TRAILER FOR 'JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD' BOOK TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feNB-d6RF08&authuser=0


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