Ezekel Alan

This blog is about: cotton candy, cold milo, midgets, mangoes, sex, aged rum – everything but writing my next book

Archive for the category “My books”

Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean

I have a short story coming out next year. It will be published by Akashic Books as part of an anthology of Caribbean short stories. Look out for it.

Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean | Akashic Books.

Description

Featuring the 2013 Commonwealth Prize–winning story “The Whale House” by Sharon Millar.

Akashic Books and Peepal Tree Press, two of the foremost publishers of Caribbean literature, launch a joint Caribbean-focused imprint, Peekash Press, with this anthology. Consisting entirely of brand-new stories by authors living in the region (not simply authors from the region), this collection gathers the very best entries to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, including a mix of established and up-and-coming writers from islands throughout the Caribbean.

Featuring these brand-new stories:

“The Whale House” by Sharon Millar (Trinidad & Tobago)
“A Good Friday” by Barbara Jenkins (Trinidad & Tobago)
“Reversal of Fortunes” by Kevin Baldeosingh (Trinidad & Tobago)
“The Monkey Trap” by Kevin Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago)
“The Science of Salvation” by Dwight Thompson (Jamaica)
“Waywardness” by Ezekel Alan (Jamaica)
“Berry” by Kimmisha Thomas (Jamaica)
“Father, Father” by Garfield Ellis (Jamaica)
“All the Secret Things No-One Ever Knows” by Sharon Leach (Jamaica)
“This Thing We Call Love” by Ivory Kelly (Belize)
“And the Virgin’s Name Was Leah” by Heather Barker (Barbados)
“Amelia” by Joanne Hillhouse (Antigua & Barbuda)
“Mango Summer” by Janice Lynn Mather (Bahamas)

and others!

A pan-Caribbean anthology of original short stories culled from the very best entries to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Forthcoming: 4/1/14

$15.95 $11.96 Not Currently Available – Check Back Soon!

 

Advertisements

Book Club – CaribLit September feature

Ezekel Alan’s first book Disposable People, winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Writers Prize, describes a tough environment in a turbulent period in Jamaica’s history.  Based on actual events and set in the 1970’s, Disposable Peopleconjures gritty images of poverty, violence and bitterness through the eyes of ten-year old Kenneth Lovelace. Readers bear witness to Lovelace’s sojourn from the naïveté of his childhood to the harsh realities of his adult life.Disposable People challenges readers emotionally, causing them to reflect on the socio-economic divides in their own communities. Reviewers have called it gritty and rousing. Alan says he would add “disturbing, raw and real.”

Read more here: Book Club – CaribLit.

Some recent interviews

On Susumba: Ezekel Alan on writing, Jamaica, and Disposable People

http://www.susumba.com/books/interviews/ezekel-alan-writing-jamaica-and-disposable-people

 

On ALLI: How I Do It: Ezekel Alan. Top Tips from Top Indie Authors. – See more at: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/blog/how-i-do-it-ezekel-alan-top-tips-from-top-indie-authors/#sthash.YuZTMM1u.dpuf

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/blog/how-i-do-it-ezekel-alan-top-tips-from-top-indie-authors/

 

And recent Amazon and Goodreads comments I found interesting:

Ingrid Persaud (Amazon)

I found this a difficult but compelling read. It plunges you straight into a world of searing poverty without plot or guidance that this is a novel, memoir or art-as-writing. But stay with it and you will soon adjust and trust this unique, authentic voice as he navigates a past of haunting brutality with equally brutal honesty. And it is a generous work because although the author might have been a disposable man he has escaped – a miracle of will and education – and could have remained a safe distance. Instead he chose to return – to confront the hateful place and to tell the wretched stories of Georgie and Cookie and Tall Man and Garnet and all the others who remain either disposable or invisible to society.

Duczi (Amazon)

Readers have said this book was raw and pessimistic etc, and it is all that, but it is also incredibly funny, funny you laugh out loud. It is not for the faint hearted for sure, or for people who expect pretty characters with happy endings saying life sucks they want to read about more pleasant things in books. It is incredible to be faced with the fact how much hardship some people have to face growing up just because of the pure luck or “unluck” of having been born to a certain place, but the book does have a message that yes, it is possible to get out of there, it is possible to become a great writer and survive a childhood full of hardships. I have always liked cynical sense of humor; and I have always liked survivors.

Paul (Goodreads)

Powerful – initially hard to get into, as the style is of a memoir, but ultimately well worth persevering with. Left me hungry for more – a proper voice and a story needing to be heard.

Karen Lloyd (Goodreads)

I love how refreshingly honest this novel is. It is not an immediately-fall-in-love type of read but soon enough you come to appreciate the bluntness of the language. All in all it is a rewarding experience, traversing that ‘hateful f**king place’ with Kenny.

Katalin (Goodreads)

This book is awesome!

 

I love the simplicity of this last 5 star review.

One love

Zekes

Losing touch with one’s roots

It is a clear sign of how much I have lost touch with my roots. Yesterday, a nasty, inconsiderate bird offloaded its burdens on me while I was on the way to the office. I was wearing a suit, and a fine one. If something like this had happened thirty years ago I would have saved my lunch money from school and, on my way home, stopped by the local Dropon man to buy the numbers. I would not have hurled expletives at disappearing feathers and cursed Noah for bringing two birds on-board the ark.

If my palm had itched me terribly thirty years ago I would have tried to cajole my cousins into playing marbles for money, knowing that luck was with me, and I was sure to win. When my palm itched yesterday I worried about bacteria in the metro and on the rails I had held.

It’s more than the Oceans that separate me from my homeland now. And it’s much more than time. I no longer know what leaves are good for what ailments, how to smell death on someone soon to die, what to do if I want to see ghosts and such. I’ve been so long out of the ghetto that I can’t even fake being ghetto any more. The culture of my old community feels like an alien insect that’s been extracted from beneath my skin and taken away for study.

This is perhaps why I never saw it coming. Why I didn’t realise what the bird shit and itching palm portended. You may have seen the news by now – Disposable People was, first, short-listed for the very prestigious Commonwealth Book Prize 2013. Then it won the Regional Prize for the Caribbean!

1467922730_frontcover

Regional Winner- Commonwealth Book Prize 2013

The funny thing about it is, when I was writing the novel it felt more like a catharsis than a work of art. A purification of the soul, getting rid of memories, superstitions, wickedness, rottenness and things unspoken. Now a panel of international judges thinks that the purge was good. Well blow my fish!

All I can say now is that if I see a fat woman sneeze today I won’t be thinking of Avian Influenza; I will be dragging my skinny negro ass and watermelon belly out on  the town tonight to see just what else Destiny has already decided.

book-regionalwinner-2013

Who knows, I already see an email in my inbox from a potential agent…

Could Jamaica win gold, silver and bronze in the men’s 100m in London?

English: Yohan Blake during 2011 World champio...

Yohan Blake  (Photo credit: Wikipedia). There is a reason he’s called the Beast!

There is some speculation that Jamaican men could win gold, silver and bronze in the Olympics. There is no doubt that we have the talent to do this – if you look at the number of times athletes have run below 9.85 seconds you will see that Jamaican athletes dominate, and the trio of Bolt, Blake, and Powell lead the field. (I also think it will take a sub-9.8o time to win, though London may be a tough environment for anyone to run these times.)

The 9.85s barrier

The question is therefore not whether we have the talent, but whether we are ready to perform in London. Leaving fitness aside, there are some factors for us to consider.

The first is what my old man used to say, “If you eat your money and fart, don’t expect any change.” I never understood half of the things my old man said because he was often smoking weed when he said it, but this one I understood.

We, as Jamaicans, have a tendency to waste what we have (eat our money) and still expect to have things left over (fart and expect change). This problem has dogged Jamaican athletes and musicians for years. They will hit upon success, spend all their money on the latest model cars, girls, clothes, houses, etc, help maintain all their 50 close followers (or ‘hangers-on’ as we call them), party ’till them drop every night, ‘splurt’ like crazy, etc, and then look surprised when they find that they have nothing left.

As Jamaicans we all know that the most chronic problem of our athletes and performers is mental discipline. Few of our ‘stars’ seem to be able to see success as a start and not as an end; few see fame as an opportunity that requires them to continue working hard, training hard, and staying focused on excelling. This has dogged our Reggae Boyz footballers for years – the sense of being too important to listen to anyone, too important to focus on getting the job done, too important to be disciplined by a manager.

It is, I think, also for this reason that many Jamaicans are concerned about Usain Bolt in particular. Bolt is a phenomenon, but he is also young, and perhaps doesn’t fully appreciate just how much his success is Jamaica’s success. Brand Jamaica is built on names – Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Jimmy Cliff, the Bobsled team. For many of us it’s not just that we want a Jamaican to win the Olympics 100m, we want Bolt to win because of the effect on the brand. Bolt winning gives a collective lift to all our identities. Deon Hemmings might have been the first Jamaican woman to win gold at the Olympics, but when we tell people that we are from Jamaica no one asks, “Isn’t that where Deon Hemmings is from?” Sad, but true. This is the reality: Bolt has charisma and appeal, and he has built a brand that helps Jamaica.

Usain Bolt 03

Usain Bolt (Photo credit: pirano Bob R). In form, no one runs beside him.

Hence Bolt partying, Bolt crashing his BMW, Bolt buying a cheetah, Bolt staying out late at night, Bolt dating a white girl, etc seems to all of us as Bolt eating his money. It bothers us much more than the usual foolishness of the Reggae Boyz, whose momentary and flamboyant flirt with fame fizzled a long time ago.

We want Bolt to win. Plain and simple. And so we want Bolt to remain focused and disciplined, and we want him to train much harder than he parties. Some of us fear that he may be rusty.

Bolt

A rusty bolt (Photo credit: Mathew Knott)

Blake, on the other hand, seems to have a hunger; he’s still in the stage where he is reaching for fame. All of us will remember Bolt at that stage, the look on his face when he won gold in 2008, the concentration and training that went into seeking that big prize. I feel that Blake has had this hunger now for some time, while Bolt is trying to reconnect with it. You need that hunger to succeed, and you need to stay hungry if you want to continue to excel. Bolt has been eating, a lot, and doesn’t seem hungry. Blake looks hungry, and my fear has always been that he may feel so famished that he might do something foolish to win. (Many Jamaicans know what I mean.)

The conditions in London may also favor Blake – with a lower centre of gravity and an explosive start out of the blocks, he may be very hard for Bolt to catch in sub-ideal weather.

Asafa’s issues are well-known – the crude among us call it stage fright, the more sophisticated speak of lack of exposure, referring to the fact that he did not go through the Boys Champs process. His problem is not fame or lack of discipline, or hunger, it is anxiety and lack of self-confidence when the big moment comes. I think the critics have been correct on this score, but I also think this is an issue in the past for Asafa. He has been around long enough now, and performed at enough big meets, and endured the vicious tongue of Jamaicans for long enough to be ready. The issue for me is whether he is in top shape and feeling confident about himself. The last 2 races I saw he ran extremely well and nearly had Bolt at the line. If he were to get a similarly good start on Bolt, feel confident in himself, and run the sub-9.8 time that he is capable of, then look out!

But while our athletes may be their own biggest obstacle, we also have other challenges in this Olympics. The Americans are in form, and I suspect that Justlin Gatlin has been to see a voodoo man in Haiti – he too has a lean and hungry look, and the glint of medal in his eyes. Tyson Gaye also seems extremely focused. And there are others.

Anyway, here are my predictions for the final:

1. If security around our training camp is slack and our boys can slip out to party, then we will get bronze and nothing more.

2. If Asafa Powell is again in love with someone very attractive, and feels confident in himself, he may run hard enough to get silver; if he’s not in love then he’ll be 5th.

English: Asafa Powell after his 9.72 win and t...

Asafa Powell (Photo credit: Wikipedia) When he’s in love he can perform

3. If the final is run on a cold, bleak, dreary, typical London day, then we should be happy if the boys finish the race.

4. If there is some quarrel in the camp, and ‘bad-blood’ sets in, then silver is the best we can get. (And all hopes for the relay would be lost.)

5. If the boys are not given Jamaican porridge for breakfast, if there is no yam to be found in Brixton to make their lunch, and if there is no cold milo readily available, then Jehovah bless us! We are doomed!

If all is well – Bolt is not allowed to party, Powell is in love, Blake the Beast gets his 12 bananas with his breakfast, and our guardian midgets are merciful – then its 1-2-3. As for the order of that 1-2-3, I’d say Blake, Bolt, Powell.

So mi seh aya!

—-

Postscript:

Prof. Mary Hanna, foremost literary critic in Jamaica, has published a book in which she lists the 50 best Jamaican books to read for Jamaica’s 50th anniversary. She selected 16 works of fiction, and Disposable People is one of the 16! You can find her book, JAMAICA WRITES 50 Great Reads for Jamaica’s 50th, on Amazon.

I am coming out – afterall, we are who we are, and what will be will be

I have a family member whose name is…well let us call him Brian. At any rate, this is the name I have given him in all my stories.

There are two things about him that I would like to talk about before I get to me.

  • Brian loved playing football

Everyday that the good Lord gave him, all Brian wanted to do was play football. There were days when I wasn’t sure whether he ate, fetched water, bathed, helped his mother to cook or do anything, or if he simply got up in the morning, grabbed the football, and went outside his house to stand and wait on us to come and play with him.

In the evenings when my brother and I came home from primary school it would be the same – he would either be standing there waiting on us or playing with some other kids. No, he himself didn’t go to school. No, that wasn’t unusual, and it’s not because his parents were worthless or poor (both of which is true), but because in the village where we grew up going to school and expecting something to come out of it was like pooing and looking to see if you had laid a golden egg.

So this bwoy, Brian, loved football. And every day he wanted somebody to play with him. He’d see you eating your mango and…heresy!… the bwoy would want you to hurry up with the mango and come play with him! Or he’d see you chatting up a girl, trying to get somewhere over the rainbow  and…blasphemy!…would want you to give up on those prospects and go kick a home-made football in the boiling hot mid-day sun with him.

"Somewhere, over the-" (Rainbow)

“Somewhere, over the-” (Rainbow) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bwoy would drag a baby off his mama’s nipples to go and play with him.

I rarely played with him and the other kids. I was always the type that prefered to watch and write. Not all of us are athletic. And, believe it or not, at 12 years old, I much preferred watching other kids playing and enjoying their short lives, than being a part of it.

Anyway, Brian was addicted to football. He was a real fool.

The bwoy was also a bitch of a thief.

  • Brian was also a thief
theft

theft (Photo credit: wallstalking.org)

No matter how often he got caught stealing, and no matter how often his parents beat the living daylights out of him, he would return to stealing. I remember one day my old lady gave him some money and asked him to go buy some kerosene oil for us, and the bwoy stole the money and sold the container for the kerosene. He didn’t show up for about 5 days. When he eventually came back home his pappa beat him rural-farmer style, which is to say, mercilessly. Three days after that the bwoy was back to stealing marbles, chickens, virginity, dreams, any damn thing he could get his hands on.

I mention these things about Brian to make the point that some people are just made a certain way. It is who they are. There would be days when no one would want to play with Brian, days when his father or some stranger he stole from, beat him ’till it seemed like every bone in his body was broken, days when the police beat the crap out of him, and still Brian kept playing football and kept stealing.

This is who he was.

As for me…

I have long come to the realization that who I am is a writer. I am in love with words. I interpret the world through words. To me, there is nothing better than having some alone time to think, and an immaculately clean, white piece of paper to welcome my ideas. I want to play around with words, giggle with them, touch them, squeeze them, flirt with them, take them with me to bed, wake up with them, shower with them, love them.

Words

Words (Photo credit: Southernpixel Alby)

When I die I want to be cremated, and I want my ash to be taken to the top of a high mountain and thrown towards the sky. Somehow I can see my ash forming words that the breath of the wind will whisper into stories for people around the world.

This is who I am and who I will always be. I am Ezekel, and I am in love with words.

(P.s., Brian stopped playing football and stealing people’s things rather abruptly at the age of 16. But that’s another story for another time. The full and true story is in Disposable People.)

The things we find hard to say or talk about

I was 28 in February 1998 when I met a drop-dead gorgeous fashion designer who owned a boutique store in New Kingston. I saw her every day, opening her store as I went to work. I never said anything to her.

I knew she was married, not only because of the blinding lights radiating from her ring finger, but because I had also seen her often with him.

She was older than me, richer than me, prettier than me, better fed than me, sexier than me, healthier looking than me, and, from every conceivable perspective, clearly beyond me.

English: Catherine Malandrino - Fashion Designer

Fashion designer. Photo credit: wikipedia

In April 1998 I finally built up the courage to approach her. I saw her one morning opening her store and I simply went over and said, “I hope your husband looks forward to seeing you the way I look forward to seeing you every single day.” She smiled. The next day when I was passing she smiled again and asked if I wanted to help her.

I cannot write about the things that happened after that, because this blog is child safe. All I can say is that the months that followed were steamy and delightful.

This happened, all of it, but only inside my head.

I never spoke a word to the woman, and never felt her light breath as her lips brushed against mine, with her eyes closed and struggling to conceal all her deepest desires for me. Nope, none of this happened, though I often daydreamed about it, in all its details.

There are things we have often thought about but never had the courage to say. And there are things we also find very hard to talk about with friends or anyone. Thinking about it this morning, I came up with my list of things people seem to have a problem saying or talking about. This is my list:

  • How much we earn. This is particularly true for men, but women fall victim to this as well. We might talk about our salary if we work in the oil industry, or as a private investment banker, because then we’d know that we have a huge advantage over everyone else, but otherwise we shut up and wonder or guess. (For the record, I earn somewhere between “little to nothing” and “great expectations”.
  • What you really wanted to say when a co-worker was sitting beside you and you were both working late one night, and you could smell his/her cologne. You started with, “Would you like to-” but what came out was “finish this report tonight?” instead of the real words you wanted to say. Days and months passed and those real words never appeared, and sometimes you wonder what might have been.
  • The worst thoughts you’ve ever had. I know we are capable, each and every one of us, of evil thoughts, sinful thoughts. And perhaps you have once or twice found yourself in a place where your thoughts were darker than darkness. These thoughts you’ll always keep to yourself and never chat about at a barbecue.
  • The times when you just couldn’t perform (and I don’t mean that you were asked to play Chopin.)
English: "An unhappy wife is complaining ...

“An unhappy wife is complaining to the Kaddi about her husband’s impotence her evidence is a zibik (dildo)” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • How hard it is for you to keep up with the Joneses. We will be at lunch with the Joneses and they will be chatting about their plans for a new house, new car, new Sony laptop, summer vacations, to go to a Lady Gaga concert, etc. And we will chat around it, but never really find the nerve to simply say “My friend, all of that is beyond my means right now.” (For the record, I can keep up with the Joneses, the problem is the Bakers, the Johnsons, the Smiths,…)
Keeping up with the Joneses

Keeping up with the Joneses (Flicker.com/photos/77005536@N00/29797195

  • Our physical insecurities. True, there are some insecurities we find not so hard to talk about because they are challenges we as men or women have in common, like stubborn acne, or weight gain. With these things we can laugh and talk about our weakness for chocolate or we can chat for hours about how useless certain acne medications are. But when our insecurity relates to size, smell or shape, well… Discussing your own bad breath? The size of your itsy bitsy teeny weeny something? Talking about your crooked teeth? Your smelly arm, etc.? Nope. These are not so comfortable to  discuss over wine and cheese.
  • Our real sins. We are all born sinners and so we know that there is a space reserved for each and every one of us in hell from birth. Some of us go to church, meditate, and do things for charity etc. with the hope that these deeds will help to convey our regrets to the devil and cancel our reservation. Most of us are not bothered terribly as we laugh and talk about trying to give up simple ‘bad’ habits like smoking, drinking, and maybe even cheating. But sometimes there are things we have done that we find it very hard to talk about. Things that may have confirmed our reservation in the front seats of hell. Things we find it hard to forgive ourselves for, let alone to ask others to forgive. These things we don’t talk about at the picnic.
  • Those things a parent, wife, husband, or loved one said to us that ripped us apart and exposed all our dangling frailties. The people who know you best, who know all your fears, weaknesses and mistakes, are usually the ones who can hurt you the deepest. Perhaps it was after something you did to a wife or husband, that led to a biting response which has stuck in your head ever since. Which has now become a living memory. Something said about you, about who you really are, that is so hurtful and terrible and possibly true, that you’ll never talk about it to anyone.

What have I left off this list?

Anyway, when I started writing my first novel I didn’t know how much of the things I’ve always been afraid to talk about I could actually write about. I am surprised at how much I wrote. Even more surprised that I am still writing. About the murders, the rapes, the sex, the beatings, the fears, and the hurtful things that people said in that little village a long time ago. And about the good things that happened as well. I guess, somehow the time comes when all of us must speak, or write.

Special giveaway – today and tomorrow only

Here’s something special: if you would like a free copy of Disposable People Kindle version, get it today! Special promo – its free and listed as one of the best kindle books being given away today! Get it before it goes back on sale, which it will. You can access it by clicking here: Amazon, or clicking on the following link: http://www.squidoo.com/the-best-of-amazon-daily-free-ebooks-kindle-ipad. Please remember to read the reviews on amazon and add yours!

Please read the Jamaica Observer newspaper review by clicking here. It is as honest as it gets.

The Nook version will be released in 1 week.


Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: