This is a victory post. Really. I know it doesn't seem like it because as soon as someone says Writer's Block, I think most writers feel like they get kicked in the gut. Others remember the paralyzing fear of writing a term paper or nearing a deadline with no clue what to write about. Fear. Dread. Mortification.
Now, let me introduce you to "writing brain fatigue". On Saturday, after my son was fed and watered (my four-year-old daughter was asleep, thank goodness), I sat at the computer at 7 a.m. like I always do first thing to write. Nothing. It wasn't that I didn't have ideas. My brain was like, "Fuck you! I'm on strike!" I could write everything but my story. What was even more annoying is that I had the story mapped out. I had so many ideas the previous day, dialogue lines, struggles. Yeah.
After a few hours of sitting there and goofing off on social media, I opened up the document and knuckled down. You know what happened? Nothing.
Not. A. Damn. Thing.
So then I started to get a little worried. Then, a lot worried. I did some chores, fed and watered kid #2. I thought to myself, I will try to take a nap. I couldn't sleep. Finally, I thought what I would tell my students in this predicament. (I would tell them to take a nap.) But, what would I tell a writer?
"Sit your ass at the computer and wait." If you show up, in theory, your muse will show up.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what I did. The writing was slow, painful, lethargic. It was NOT my usual word-vomit process that just pours out: I know that's nasty. No, this process was like oatmeal, bland, unexciting oatmeal. I finally got it done and managed to go over 75% of it yesterday.
No doubt, I am just fatigued. I have also been fighting a perpetual migraine, and these weather changes don't help.
But I showed up, sat down, and got it done. I hope this never happens to me or to you. Now, as I am revising the story, I hope the writing isn't dull and slow. If it is, I can always revise it, but "Mona's Return" is done at 42 pages.
Phew! What an ordeal and what a victory.
The virtual release party for that free story is still set for May 1, 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Unfortunately, it may just be me Live Streaming on my Author Wall because I could not add my author guest on Sunday during our test run. I am not sure why that was since I added my guest on Easter so easily. I am researching that aspect and am asking my friend P.S. Malcolm for advice.
Whatever your writing struggle is today, show up and stick to your guns. Your story deserves it. YOU deserve it. Be patient, your muse will show up.
Well, friends, I hope you overcome all of your struggles today. No matter how slowly you get to that victory. #barrioblues
How You Can Support Author Maria J. Estrada #indiewriter #bookreview #freebies #postthelinksalready #bookreviewsareboss #yestotequila #prayersRead Now
More Free Books! And Rising Above Migraines #barrioblues #indieauthor #Amazon #freeshit #freeeBooks #free #e-book #eBook #bestdamnedfreebieRead Now
If you enjoyed the two free eBooks Easter weekend, you are going to LOVE this one! On May 1, I am giving away Mona's Return #3 in La Bruja del Barrio Loco series. Mona is back with more moxie, more magic, and, of course, more challenges.
In this novelette, "Mona's Return", Mona will encounter a new evil that will make (the Witch from book 1, La Bruja in the Orchard) La Bruja's ensnarement child's play. You can join me in my release party, where I will be reading excerpts from "Mona's Return", May 1, from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., U.S. Central Time. Live Streamed via my FB Author Wall with co-host and photographer, Brett Jelinek.
At the end of that short party, I will be giving away two, yes two books (Deception of the Damned and Overthrowing Capitalism, Volume 5) and an issue from the fabulous Inner Writers Circle Magazine, the best writing magazine! See the event for details.
Well, that is all I've got. Yesterday, I wrangled with a villainous migraine all day. It was so bad, I took a day off work and couldn't do a damned thing. My vision also was horribly blurry, so I got nothing done until after 5p.m. Even then, I was all wobbly and whiny. But, I got through it, and I rested. From now on, I may take Sundays off as the Good Shepherd asks us to do, so these awful headaches don't happen, and I can write!
Celebrate your victories and innovative ideas! Even if the victories area against yourself. Take care of yourselves, today, writers. The story will still be there tomorrow. #barrioblues
So, both of my eBooks made it to the top 20 for free downloads. That was all because of YOU! I almost made it into the top 10 and got to number 11 for La Bruja in the Orchard.
That was small potatoes.
The greatest victory was that I got three book reviews. That made the giveaway worth it. And, I didn't spend any money on ads to promote my freebies. Boom!
In between all of that promoting, I grew the members of Penned in the City, a Facebook group comprised of emerging writers from Chicago. A lot of them are my former students who want continued guidance. I was so thrilled five new writers, prolific writers, joined the group. In Penned in the City, we are really trying to promote a group where we can give timely feedback to each other, especially the emerging writers. Anybody can join, as long as they cooperate and offer constructive criticism.
The most surprising personal accomplishment, and it had nothing to do with the promotion, is that I had a breakthrough after I read an article by Steven Lester Carr in the Inner Circle Magazine and "talked to" him via FB chat. Part of the article was on beta readers. I love my beta readers. I waited a long time to get some outstanding beta readers. I have some phenomenal ones, but in the article, he talked about authors finding their voice and learning to be independent. Thus, I asked him something to the effect of, “How do you know when you’re ready to fly?” because I think I’m really close. Well, he said just to take the leap.
You know what? I’m taking the leap. Or have taken the leap.
I am finally secure within myself and listening to my writer gut. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t ask folks to read over my work because often, beta readers home in on something I hadn’t considered and that improves the work. The bottom line is that I feel more confident. I’m also working really hard and improving, and I see the quality of my writing taking leaps, ergo the confidence boost. You know?
I did get some difficult criticism, but when someone who is a better writer than me gives advise, I listen. I won’t go into the specifics, but essentially, my endings need to be stronger. Also, somebody recommended that I clearly advertise when my publications are novelettes, and that is what I will do both in the description and the cover. However, I don’t plan on publishing short works in the foreseeable future. My new publications will have to be novellas or novels.
What’s next? I have a freebie, "Mona's Return" coming out May 1. It will be free forever on Smashwords and hopefully, Amazon. My collection of novelettes Not Your Abuelita’s Folktales is coming out soon. After that, I am working on a novella titled The Awakening. Of course, I am revising my novel The Harvest, so things are going well!
Take the leap and fly. Your support team will catch you. #barrioblues
Authors and Readers, Don't You Just Love 5-Star Reviews! #barrioblues #free #ebooks #Amazon #IndieAuthorRead Now
I FINALLY, got my fifth 5-star review of La Bruja in the Orchard. (In case you are interested, the eBook is free through Monday, 4/22.) Many independent writers know how hard it can be to get book reviews. That is why I try to do thorough reviews, every time I read any book. Book reviews are quite easy to post, and they help writers with rankings, which are crucial in this business.
In Goodreads.com, for example, you can just give a book stars. Amazon is a little more nuanced because you have to hit a word limit on the review and offer a header. However, it only takes a few minutes to give a short favorable review. This week, I did a Facebook vlog to show my friends and fans how easy it is to do reviews on both platforms. Hence, my one review. Yay!!!
It may seem like a small thing, but this fifth review will hopefully get my novelette into the LA Public Library. I have a feeling it will make it there; if not, perhaps for the next longer work. I will keep you posted.
Well Authors and Readers, the freebie La Bruja in the Orchard: Mona's Return is calling. That great novelette will be launched May 1, and I will have a virtual release party, Live Streamed on my Facebook Author Wall, from 6p.m. to 6:30p.m. central time. I hope you can join in! Tell your friends about it.
Celebrate your book reviews, and if you like what you've read, give the gift of a positive review! #barrioblues
That's right! Get your free eBooks this Easter weekend!
I am really excited about the redesigns of both books; I also redesigned the printed versions of these two pubs. If you download the eBooks for free, please give them a kind review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
What else is free? May 1, I will be releasing my next freebie for newsletter subscribers, an installment of La Bruja in the Orchard. In it, you will learn more about Mona and La Bruja. I plan to read a chunk of it during my virtual release party, which will be live streamed on my Facebook Author Wall @drmariajestrada!
For my next big project, I am still proofreading my collection, Not Your Abuelita's Folktales and may add a few shorts to it. Three of the stories are longer than 20 pages. The second story is shorter, so I thought, "Why not add a few shorts in-between?"
I have also decided to put out a second edition of Wolf Trek. My son keeps ripping on the ending, and I am going to make him eat his 7.5 out of 10 rating. In it, I will add more closure for the protagonist and a fast-paced adventure south of the border.
Well, I hope you all have a great Easter weekend, if you celebrate the holiday. If not, enjoy my books!
Give of your gifts and celebrate your awesome writing! #barrioblues
A lot of multi-lingual writers, at some point, have grappled with how to treat different languages in their fiction or writing. In fact, this struggle stalled one of my publications where I was being ambitious and going to add a glossary. That goal died six pages into the translation. Don't get me started about what to do with the Spanglish. Later, I would encounter Junot Diaz's The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Diaz doesn't translate his Spanish, in fact he's pretty brazen about not translating, but he does offer footnotes often to explain historical contexts. I thought that choice was genius, and it has influenced what I do with language.
When I use Spanish I do the following, but whatever I do, I try to be consistent:
(1) Integrate it with the rest of the writing and add enough context clues, so the reader isn't lost.
(2) Italicize it and add enough context clues, so the reader doesn't get lost.
(3) Treat is as Spanish and add a footnote to translate it.
(4) Integrate the Spanish, boldly, as is and not differentiate or translate it.
In the beginning of my collection, Not Your Abuelita's Folktales I added some italicized Spanish and something I don't like myself or other writer to do: I added the translation directly after it. In fact, I may get rid of the English in the sample below and add the footnote.
Rita Sifuentes was sitting at her outdated Dell computer while most kids her age were watching YouTube or sleeping in on a Saturday morning. She frowned at it, and her cheek turned up in that funny backwards Y.
"Come on stupid thing! Load faster!" Rita hit the monitor. Her long obsidian black hair was an increasing nuisance that kept getting in her face, even with it tied back. Somehow, strands managed to escape the tightest ponytail. She looked down at her legs. Her long lanky body was a barrio joke in the desert of Nopales, Arizona. The other kids would call her noodle or worse, lumbriz—tapeworm. The kids in her neighborhood were just jealous of her. At least, that's how she reasoned it out because she was going to get out of the barrio, and they were not.
When writers translate Spanish with English right after it, bilingual readers are in essence, reading the same thing twice. It annoys me. I understand why writers do this overwriting, but when long sentences are translated like this, the writing becomes cumbersome.
What I did in most of my collection is add footnotes when necessary or when the whole sentences are in Spanish. In the segment below, I treated the dialogue as you would see it in Spanish, but I did not italicize because speaking in Spanish is normal for the characters.
Her Nana was a bent reed with long bright white hair like the clouds on a hot summer day. Her abuelita would wear it in a long silky braid, and whenever the kids would come outside their fence and make fun of Rita, she would chase after them with her cane, shouting -¡Callensen canijos!- When her parents weren't home she would chuck rocks at them.
 Shut up, jerks!
As a reader, I prefer to see the translation as a footnote, not an end note or glossary. Flipping to the back makes me lose concentration. In fact, most of the time when there is a glossary, I don't even use it.
Footnotes are a great way of keeping true to the Spanish.
The work gets more complicated with ebooks because you will have to create links so the reader can navigate back and forth. This will be a time-consuming part of the book creation I haven't dealt with in the past, but I'm looking forward to it.
In the end what matters is validating other languages and making it easy for all readers to navigate through the usage.
How do you treat other languages in your fiction? Whatever you do, stay true to yourself and the characters.
Keep writing and making thoughtful choices. #barrioblues
Ingram vs Amazon. When I started writing books and considered where to distribute them, I am sure I researched this question and went with Amazon.
Well, now that I have researched the pros and cons, I remember that Ingram requires an ISBN, which costs $125. Ingram will only allow you to upload one manuscript at $49. If you have any errors or need to upload another manuscript. Guess what? It costs, $49. I suppose that makes me a cheapskate. Cheap, cheap, cheap.
That is why I went with KDP.
This next collection will also go on Amazon and Smashwords and Apple Books. I made the mistake of putting my first four books exclusively on Amazon, so they would be part of a Kindle Unlimited program. My books are low-priced enough that if people want to buy them, they will.
If I could make enough money, I am sure I would post them on Ingram. That time, is not now, sadly.
I am working harder at writing and copy editing. I know I am getting better at what I do, but I'm not going to throw away $200 until I have a wider reader base. I think for now, I'll just focus on revising my novel and getting it ready for Pitch Wars.
All this to say, I will not have a hard copy for my next book, Not Your Abuelita's Folktales. (Now, if sales pick up, I may be singing a different story.)
On another cheap note, I am still reformatting my ebooks for an Easter giveaway. I was going to give them all away, but I am going to give away the ones I redesign. Thus far, that is only The Long Walk. I hope the get La Bruja in the Orchard redone and work up from their.
Never stop writing! Never surrender! #barrioblues
What kind of stories grip you, busy reader?
One of my friends and beta reader raised this question. Do the stories evoke feelings? Will they interest the person with a million things to do? A reader like you?
Today, I also read a blog for Pitch Wars mentees. As many of you know, I am getting ready to pitch my first novel The Harvest in the hopes of attracting a mentor and ideally an agent or editor. One of the areas that mentors focus on is whether the novel evokes feelings.
The truth is I hadn't really thought about that when writing. I think about all the formal elements of the story, starting with the characters. I focus on the character's main goal and conflicts struggles and resolutions. I short, I focus on the literary aspects of the story.
I enjoy writing the story, obviously, but how do you reach the out of body perspective to imagine how a reader might feel? Obviously, readers will not all respond to stories the same way. But, the stories should grab the reader and keep her there, until she reads all the work.
I don't really have an answer. Reading itself is pleasurable, which I suppose is a feeling, but not a feeling evoked from the writing itself. Ah well, since I can't survey the readers of the story, I will just focus on whether I enjoy writing it and reading it once it's done, even when I have a million things to do, but I would love to hear what you all think.
#Keep growing, learning, and feeling. Smirk. #barrioblues
On Sunday, I spent most of my morning reformatting the ebook for The Long Walk. Then, I had to reformat the printed version, which is still being processed. The content is the same, but after I published my freebies, I realized I had to reformat the other ebooks on Amazon to make them compatible on various ereaders.
When I first designed my ebooks, I added too many graphics, around the headers and between chapters sections. I do like some of the dividers, but I am getting rid of all the fancy crap around the titles and scenes or sections. For Zona 5, I just used asterisks because withe death of my computer went all my graphics.
I don't know why I didn't bother to reformat the books before. I guess I was focused too much on getting the software for the cover redesigns.
I also made a decision to put Zona 5 on Amazon for $.99; it should be published later on today. The story is one of my favorites. I am only selling it as an ebook, but you can still get it and set the price on Smashwords.
Next week, I am also working hard to finish copy editing Not Your Abuelita's Folktales. I am only on page 30. I have 120 pages to go, but I should be able to focus a few hours a day. Then, I can plan my release party. At the rate I'm going, I think the party is happening mid-May. One thing at a time or else I'm going to overthink the venue.
Keep getting better, and don't get mad at yourself if things don't go perfectly the first few tries. #barrioblues
Dr. Jesú Estrada,