Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of time trying to improve my Kindle books on Smashwords before the release of "Zona 5". (That is happening at my Virtual Release Party tomorrow. Join us!). The Meat Grinder as authors affectionately call the Smashwords compiler has been wrecking havoc on my free books or novelettes written for newsletters subscribers. Yesterday, I tried "nuking" the formatting, even lost two plus hours of my life trying to compile the *.mobi file for Kindles on Scrivener and nope.
This morning, I woke up with an idea: Why not post the Kindle file on my author site? Duh. So I am going to test that out. Or, I am just going to upload all but the Kindle file on Smashwords because a *.pdf file can also be read on the phone. Newsletter subscribers, I will still send the newsletter and *.pdf of my freebies, unless the file is too large. The next freebie coming out tomorrow may be too large. We shall see. But for now, let's take the mobi file for a test drive! Download La Lechuza for Kindle:
I also wanted to offer my latest book review of The Mysterious Benedict Society. I gave it four stars:
In general, I loved the four characters, even Constance Contraire. Author Trenton Lee Steward did a great job of creating a world of intrigue where gifted kids can be heroes. I was rooting for the protagonists the whole time, Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance. I was equally appreciative of Mr. Curtain, the villain in the story, as well as the side characters. I was fascinated by the relationship that Reynie had with his tutor Miss Perumal. The puzzles were also great fun to read about, and sometimes, solve, and I am sure that development if ideas took a lot of work to weave into the story. The only reason I am giving this book four stars is because of the tying of loose ends that were either too convenient or unbelievable. The Sticky story line resolution, happy as it was, was too rushed, and there were no indicators that it would conclude as it did. As a mother of small children, I also found the big reveal about Constance to be too unbelievable, even with the suspension of belief that comes with this kind of work. Despite all of this criticism, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series and will review it.
Well, that is all I have time for this morning, as I am going to test the file I just uploaded!
Today, think outside the box or smash the box! #barrioblues
Today promises to be a fantastic day where I can immerse myself in my work. I purposely set Saturday up this way because I have my virtual book release party on Monday, April 1 Live Streamed via Facebook—you are all invited—and I am processing all of the beta reading comments for the story being released that day: “Zona 5”. The comments have been amazing. The funny thing is that some beta readers are really apologetic, “Like you probably won’t want to be my friend after you read my comments.”
First of all, I welcome these comments because I have never had such great beta readers. I have been dreaming about having good outside readers look at my work. Now, that I have them, I am sure as hell not going to complain if my readers are honest, and harsh. In fact, tough comments are the best because the comments force me to take a hard look at my work.
Today, I also plan on reading their work, and no payback is not a bitch. I look forward to reading what they are producing and giving their work candid feedback.
Another goal I have is to demystify the Smashwords Meat Grinder. That is what they call the processor that takes Microsoft word documents and creates *.mobi or Kindle files. Now, when I published “La Lechuza”, I didn’t know how to process the file properly. However, after watching YouTube videos, I realized that the document needs to be free from formatting or else it doesn’t process correctly. The *.epub book looks great, but I want my books to look good in the Kindle too, even though the work I am posting there for now is free.
Finally, I am creating my email list database. Thanks to all of you, my subscribers are growing, but I need to manage them properly, until I get a good service to work with. I have not been impressed by Email Chimp or haven’t found the right template, and I am still using Canva to create my newsletters, which is fine for now.
Well, that is all I have time for because I have to get to it, and I have to take advantage of this golden hour when the kids are sleeping.
Set your goals and thank your beta readers, even when they crack your nuts. #barrioblues
On Sunday, after the triumphant completion of "Zona 5" and first round of edits of Not Your Abuelita's Folktales, I spilled milk on my lap top. RIP laptop. :(
I have a new rule, no having computers around food or liquids. Well, I got a refurbished laptop with a warranty for a year. Now, I need to recover all of my passwords. The good news is, I backed up most of my creative writing work. Yay!
So, the April 1 party will continue. Hooray!
Well, keep on, no matter what. #barrioblues
It’s a little past 8a.m., and the writing vacay will continue for a few more hours. It was productive. I incorporated the feedback from my toughest beta reader into the final revision of “Zona 5”. Still, I farmed it out to one more bold volunteer (because I got contradictory feedback), but I made a noob mistake and neglected to inform my generous, heroic beta reader that it was a science fiction piece. To my shock, he does not like science fiction and can’t get into it, which created a paradox in my brain. How can this be? (For he is the quizat haderach. . . NOT!)
So, that raised the question: Can you trust your gut? Separately from thinking “Zona 5” is a great story, can you trust your writing gut? That is a tough question, but I decided, it’s past time to grow my big girl chonies and take the plunge. I know that’s a lot of metaphors. The point is that I have to believe in myself like the heroine of a triumphant Disney movie, preferably Moana.
That doesn’t mean I won’t ask beta readers for support. They are, in fact, invaluable. However, as a writer who can pull up her big chonies, I am getting better on a number of levels. I decided I should trust myself. It’s my work after all. And, then there’s the nature of the questions I often ask, questions which red flags they are.
“Does the narrator need a strong desire?” Yes.
“Dos the narrator curse too much?” Yes.
Well readers, I am done having my overdue, cathartic moment. I’m off to print the story and keep on with my collection. Last night, I went over the Spanish in the second story of, Not Your Abuelita’s Folktales, which is being launched April 13. Then, I have to print it and give it a full pass.
By the way if you are interested, check out my vlog on proofreading; a lot of it is what I teach my college students, and I have grown that list from practice and listening to better more prolific writers. You will need Facebook to view the video: https://www.facebook.com/drmariajestrada/videos/2318156295122561/
Have your own writing cathartic moment(s) today! #barrioblues
I am really excited about the beta cover below, not because it's a masterpiece, but because I finally bought Photo Shop! Actually, I bought the whole suite with a monthly subscription. Well, as it turns out, I haven't completely lost my skills. I was pretty good with the software over ten years ago, when I was a web designer. Yeah, that too. The program is a lot easier to use, but a class in graphic design wouldn't hurt. I can take one for free this summer. In any case, I can vastly improve all of the covers on my books, even with the skills I have.
Enough of that. About the cover design. I decided to have the word Zona placed vertically because it’s more visually appealing. The photo by lalesh aldarwish also has a macabre feel to it, which I like; I gave the artist a small donation because we artists have to stick together. For the first time, I am incorporating a pull quote, but it needs more edge. Would “A hero junkie will rise from the streets” draw you in as a reader? I am not 100% sold on it, but I like where it is placed.
So, it's down to the wire, and I am going over my story "Zona 5" like a boss! I also got great feedback regarding the dialogue of my characters and other aspects of the story. I was told to have the narrator curse less, and I remembered the piece "Cold Little Bird." The narrator can have edge and not curse like a sailor. I also decided to remove the swearing from the narration because it is not first-person point of view. Anyway, I still love the story, which is why I need beta readers. It's like dating someone for the first time, and everything is wonderful, wonderful. Ha ha ha.
Finally, I invite you once again to my first-ever virual book release party where I will be reading part of my story. The April 1 party will be Live Streamd via Facebook. I also have author Todd Heldt lined up to speak at this first or my larger book party, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 13. (It really depends on who is taking care of the kids, I think, as we both have small children.) The second, April 13, party will be a hybrid face-to-face Live Streamed party because I am going to imbibe spirits after I read and really celebrate my book Not Your Abuelita's Folktales, a book I plan to publish through Ingram and Amazon.
Well, have a great day getting perspective on your writing, even if it hurts.
Write, write, write and thank your support team! #barrioblues.
Yesterday evening, after a fantastic fundraiser for Jeannette B. Taylor running for the 20th Ward in Chicago, I finished my short story, "Never Have I Ever, Slept with My Clone." However, as it goes sometimes, the characters ended up doing unexpected actions. Thus, I am thinking about serializing this story or writing a longer novella. Right now, "Zona 5," as I retitled it, is 8,729 words. I am really excited about this story because I had a great deal of fun writing it, and to launch it out into the universe, I am having my first virtual release party, April 1 from 6p.m. to 7:30p.m. central time, which I cordially invite all of you to attend. There will be prizes for folks who watch and add comments to the events page. Plus, I will have an author guest, Todd Heldt, who is way more talented than I am talk about writing and how he puts a story together. Actually, he can talk about whatever writing related issue he wants to discuss because he's fucking brilliant.
I am also incredibly blessed to have beta readers, one of whom stands ready to read my entire collection of Not Your Abuelita's Folktales, which I am launching April 13 at a real and partially Live Streamed Party. That event will also have guests and prizes.
Now, I don't take enough time to reflect on how lucky I am to have other writers read my work. They are quite serious about their craft, and I am fortunate to give feedback on their work. I finally have my little writing familia, and I am still over the moon about hiring the editor to edit and copy edit my novel The Harvest. All of this support will only improve my work.
Well, that is all the time I have for now. This morning, I have am working on my course work. I have to finalize a Power Point on arguments, but that is good because I have to put a little distance between the completion of the story and its revision.
Be grateful for your writing talents and author friends! #barrioblues
Dear Author Friends and Creative Writers,
Our small writing group is looking for members interested in real, prompt beta reading and support. There are a lot of talented writers here who want to engage with other writers.
(Also, congratulations to Clarke Collins for winning the renaming of the group contest! Competition was fierce!
**One of my characters in my next story, "Never Have I Ever, Slept with My Clone", will be named Clarke Collins or whatever name Clarke chooses.**)
I hope you are having an exciting day writing and supporting others. (I have a busy day with my daughter's birthday party and a dinner party. Gasp, we actually got invited somewhere!) #barrioblues
I am so ecstatic, I just had to share my good news. First, my article, "From Masters to Moms: Writing Tips for Beginners" came out in the second issue of Inner Circle Writer's Magazine, which was released today. I am not exaggerating when I say it is one of the best writing magazines I have read in quite a long time. It is well designed and the content is outstanding. In fact, the first article, "A Guide to Traditional Publishing" by Dennis Doty, I swear, was written for me. The analysis on large versus medium versus small publishing houses was beautifully explained. So, get yours! The price for the subscription is very reasonable; look, the second issue alone is 144 pages.
Where else are you going to get such a great deal?
Onto other bits of good news. I have been invited to read my poetry at a social justice event here in Chicago, in late March. As many of you know the housing crisis in the U.S. is unconscionable, inexcusable, and destructive.
Here, in Chicago, we are no exception. I invite all of you to attend this event, "Without A Roof For The Height Of Your Dreams" linked on Facebook!
When? Thursday, March 28, 7p.m. – 9p.m.
Where? The Preston Bradley Center 941 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago,
I hope you can come and support this worthy cause because everyone deserves a dignified place to live.
Plus, all of my book sales for that event will go to the People's Tribune, a press which elucidates the major political, socio-economic, and grassroots issues of the day.
Finally, speaking of the People's Tribune, I am happy to brag that they published one of my poems, "Magical Realism Nopales," in the March issue. I am deeply honored by this acceptance. The poem itself has been well received by many of my author friends and acquaintances. I hope you will explore this important newspaper AND consider submitting your work.
Well, my next freebie calls for me to finish writing it! Just another quick invitation, I will be having a virtual release party for that free story to test the process of having a virtual party, before my first-ever major book launch of Not Your Abuelia's Folktales, a magical realism collection of short stories for young adults, scheduled for Saturday, April 13, time TBD.
But, the first party will be on April 1, 6p.m. to 7:30p.m. central time, and I won’t just be reading my work, I will be giving away some of my favorite-books! I simply ask that you subscribe to my newsletter, follow my author site on Barrio Blues and Other Totally True Stories on Facebook, AND/OR review my books on Amazon or Goodreads. (I am trying to get favorable reviews so that La Bruja del Barrio Loco gets shelved in the L.A. and New York Public Libraries.) Yes, you will need a Facebook account to attend the party as I will be Live Streaming it. Of course, you have to "attend" to win. Please join me for some good literary fun.
Well, I hope you are having an amazing day. I know I am.
Celebrate your writing victories! #barrioblues
This morning, I was pondering what exactly I wanted to do with my novel, The Harvest, once I finished revising it. Asking a beta reader to copy edit 117,000 words is not cool. Would you want that? Hell no. After thinking about what I want to do with the novel, I decided to ask a reputable editor if he would edit and copy edit my work, before I submit it to Pitch Wars or presses or self-publish it after a time. He agreed, which is amazing, and I can work with his rates. I had to convince my husband, though, but he supports my endeavors. I thought about doing a GoFundMe, but we should be OK. Look, I’m underplaying this decision. I am fucking ecstatic and excited to finally be working with a real editor.
I have also been grappling with what to submit to In Case of Emergency Press. What would you consider your best poem or story? The one you would keep in case everything else were destroyed? That is a deep question, but I am having a hard time deciding. They do take previously printed work, but I think my best poem is “Jesucristo Santifícanos” and the short story, I don’t know. They are all so different. Maybe I haven’t written it, yet.
I posed the question on Facebook, and the answers were varied:
One friend said it should spark joy.
Another said to pick the story I’ve reread the most times.
My friend Brett suggested I choose the one with multiple meanings.
All of these are great suggestions. Perhaps the best short story should be the one you would enjoy reading under the worst conditions and that you can continue writing in the sand. Argh. Well, I have my poem down, I think. Stay tuned.
Wait, “The Invitation.” That is the one. I could do better, and maybe, that is why I am having a hard time choosing.
Well, I am punking out. I had a lot of meetings, and it’s time to read and rest.
Write, like the world is ending. #barrioblues
Over the weekend, I took a leap of faith. I am going to have two virtual parties in April. The one April 1 will be exclusively online for my newsletter subscribers and 600+ followers, most of whom are my friends. Hooray for 600+ Facebook followers on my author site! You are welcome to attend both of them. The first one is already linked as a Facebook event here. The second one is forthcoming, but will be my first-ever live book release and Live Streamed party for Not Your Abuelita's Folktales, so people can come to my house and also watch it from the comfort of their homes. I am going to have prize drawings for both parties, including some e-books. Stay tuned!
The other bit of great news is that my poem "Que Se Mueran de Sed" was accepted by Spillword.com and according to the editor is coming out 3/20/19 at 12:45am Pacific Time (PT). I will post the link as soon as it is live. In that poem, I italicized the Spanish, so I hope it comes through. You should read the online journal. It is amazing, and I am not just saying that because they took my poem.
The last excellent bit of amazing news is that I finally got a reply by a bookstore! I am going to submit my next book for consideration, so they can shelve my book. I am submitting Not Your Abuelita's Folktales as soon as it is done. They take publications from Ingram, but it is my understanding that Lulu Press publishes to both Amazon and Ingram. I will definitely have more to say about this process after next month.
Well, that is all the time I have. I am trying to get midterm grades done by this Friday, so my blog posts may be somewhat scattered, but I will try throw something out to the universe at least every other day.
Have a Magical Realism Monday! I know I am. #barrioblues
Dr. Jesú Estrada,