Yesterday afternoon we got to the Drury in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I finally got to talk to people! People in New Mexico are generally very polite and friendly and have a chill vibe about them. I actually have two stories, well two that struck me.
The first one was from Shamrock, New Mexico or Texas (I've forgotten which) where my family and I were hitting the Nacho Fry Box, again at Taco Bell at a gas station. (Yes, the boxes are that good.) I was talking to a mom about my kids and her two little girls. She was maybe in her late forties with intense curly hair and tan skin that comes from working too long in the sun. She had that matron look about her, plump, but also an "I don't give a shit what you think of my body" attitude. She had a reserved look at first, but then opened up when my kids, my ever-squirrely kids, sat at all the tables and talked to all the patrons. We talked about her youngest child, this high spirited little girl who was the spitting image of her.
She said to me, "We can't go nowhere. This one gets car sick."
I asked, "How old are you?" (Four) I said, "Mija, vomiting in that bag is going to be a very important life skill." She just kept smiling over her second bean burrito, while her sister commented on how incompetent the younger one was at aiming for the bag, recounting in great details all the recent times she failed to aim for the bag at all.
It was 11:30a.m. and as we were leaving, the mom said, "Be safe on I-40." I turned and asked, "Why?" "Because of all the drunks."
??? "Drunks this early in the morning?"
She answered, "It's Saturday." I walked away, looking at the highway in a whole new light, and told my husband the advice she gave me. He, too, looked at the highway in a whole new light.
The second story was again about parenting. I captured that one at the Drury during drinks and dinner. (Yes, the hotel offers dinner and breakfast, always.) I was standing in line with Antonio, ready to get my second complimentary margarita. Antonio and I had noticed earlier that this genius bartender had all the fixings for Shirley Temples, so we both got in line.
Antonio and I were bickering about something because he is 8 and at that annoying stage where he is holier than everybody else, especially his parents.
Somehow, the argument turned to his fake tattoo, which he has been working very hard at saving to the lengths of taping it up when he goes to the pool or takes a bath.
Well, this gentleman who was eavesdropping said, "You don't need to mark your body, just be good and work hard. All you really need are your tools. Be good to your Mom."
This wise stranger looked tired, with red eyes. He was maybe in his fifties with a nut brown round face, with almost indigenous features. He was maybe 5 foot 8 inches, and he had a glimmer in his eye, but he looked like he needed that vacation. He dressed as though he had just ended a long shift out in the fields or yard and wore a white T-shirt and tattered Levis. The wife, who we met a few minutes later, was well put together like she was on vacation.
Her hair was blonde and done up, you know that barrio blonde. She had bright red clothes and gorgeous, balanced make-up. She was little taller than him and had an imposing persona, strong.
I looked intently at Antonio when I said, "Thank you for that sage advice."
"My son is 16," he said sadly, "He doesn't come with us no more."
Internally, I was like, "The fuck?" But what I asked was, "You let him stay alone?"
"Yeah," he continued, "Love your mom and enjoy each other because it won't last long." Of course, I joked about the boy probably having a kegger, and he said, "Most likely, he hasn't picked up the phone."
Then the mom chimed in, "Yeah, he gets lost."
I asked, "What do you mean?"
"He goes to the mountains for days and gets lost. Last time for three days," she smiled.
I stared at them flabbergasted. If Antonio ever pulled a stunt like that, I would microchip and GPS tracker his ass! I wished them a great rest of their vacation and went to sit with Antonio to spend some mom time with him.
I realize now that man was probably more sad than tired, and in my heart, I'm saying a prayer for his boy to get home safely.
Well, that's all for stories. :) You know, I decided to keep collecting stories. After all, sometimes the best stories come from my relatives. I'm not going to say the cliche about life and fiction.
On the writing front, today I am copy-editing a novella for a former student of mine who no longer attends HWC. She is going to give one more read to La Bruja del Barrio Loco which I hope to launch this Friday.
Oh and on another exciting bit of author news, my friend Brett processed all the author head shots he took last Sunday. I put them to a vote on the Writers Helping Writers site on Facebook and my own wall. This one got the most votes, and yes, my readers actually helped sway me in this decision. That great shot will be on the back of my book covers from now on. (See the cactus in the back?)
Well, I know this entry was rather long, but I hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more vacation stories!
Today, stay close to your kids or those people you love, in case they fly away for a time. #Resist
Yesterday went by way too fast. We barely had time to talk to people, but I wanted to write about our Nacho Fry excursion at Taco Bell in St. Louis, Missouri. We made a total of two pit stops, and Aaron was rushing me; however, I made him stop for lunch, and most of us wanted Taco Bell. Now, for the last few days we had been seeing the Nacho Fries ads, which Antonio and I were very skeptical of, but in the, end we sold out.
We get to this restaurant, and the young man at the front counter, the only person at the front counter, had special needs of some kind. I immediately liked this young man, because as soon as he saw Simona he started trying to play peek a boo with her and comment about how cute she is. Simona who sometimes acts like Klingon, completely ignored him.
Well, we ordered our food and ordered the nacho boxes which come with nacho fries, a hard shell taco, and a beef and cheese, aka heart attack burrito. My kids as ever, made the order complicated. Simona wanted a taco with only meat. Antonio wanted the taco only cheese. I eat everything, and didn't care, but should have held back the cheese on the burrito.
The worker was confused, too, because there are three nacho fry options, including ours. You can get the Nacho Box, the Nacho Fry Box, and Nacho Fries. Really?
I made the young man read the order back, and because I didn't know his name at the time, I said, "Read that order back to me, sweetheart." (He had no name tag.) He said, "My name is Rick, not sweet heart." He then proceeded to read my order back line by line as it appeared on the screen: Medium Sprite, Nacho Fry, Hard Shell Taco, etc. and repeat it again because there were two boxes. It sounded mostly right.
Of course, when I got the order, it wasn't. In fact, none of the orders were right because so many customers wanted their food their way. To my surprise, the manager was cool. She corrected Antonio's order, and got me Simona's taco for free.
You know what struck me? Everybody whose order got messed up was patient. I don't mean condescending assholes. I mean nobody got upset or complained. The manager and workers, too, could have been annoyed, but instead, they encouraged Rick. They were all zen and didn't make a big deal about it.
In the midst of all this order confusion, my son exploded a Sprite all over the front counter where people pick up orders. I was like, "Are you serious?" Then, he proceeded to make a bigger mess trying to help to clean up. By then, both of my energized children had danced in the Sprite puddle, despite my telling them not to. Yeah, I was that irritated mom. I apologized to the manager and workers at the front desk, and they were like, "Don't worry about it," and meant it.
Now, I used to work fast food, and I doubt my team would have been so understanding.
As I was leaving, I said, "Bye Rick! Thanks a lot. See you next time." And he said, "Bye!" and proceeded to tell all the customers to fill out the customer satisfaction survey, which nobody did.
So, in all of this you are probably wondering if all the Nacho Cheese Fry hype merits a purchase. Well, it does. In fact, we are probably going to hit the Taco Bell in the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and get our Nacho Boxes again.
Since the trip is so rushed, and we are blowing through states, I am going to be realistic and aim for one story a day. I would rather people tell me stories, but we will see if this morning's breakfast leads to some good ones.
I hope you enjoyed this Nacho Fry excursion.
Be more zen than you need to be, and write. #Resist
I got one! The first story of my road trip! Many of you who read my blog know that I am on the road driving back to Arizona. My family and I make this trip at least twice a year because with kids, it's cheaper than flying.
This time, I decided to do something fun and collect at least one story, minimum, per state. That would require me to talk to people, and pry their hands from their phones. The first one, I collected from Champagne, Illinois. I won't say at which hotel, though many of you know where we prefer to stay. Let's just say the name rhymes with Truly, and I had my three complementary margaritas last night. LOL.
The first story comes from one of the workers here. My husband and I have talked to this wonderful person before, but when I told him about my writing challenge he was like, "I am the story! Right here. (He points to himself) It came out in the paper recently." Of course, he got my immediate attention.
Story Giver #1, is a tall young black man, well over 6 feet tall. From the outside, he could be in his thirties, but is probably in his early twenties. He is also very built, although his physical size is not imposing and not what people notice. His eyes are kind, and he always has a smile on his face, even when other hotel guests are bristly and downright rude. He is warm and generous to my children, and I daresay, a wonderful human being, which is why his story took me by surprise.
The cautionary tale is a typical one that needs to be told. Essentially, when he was going to high school he was the town football star and on a football scholarship. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL his senior year. That was it for him. No more scholarship from the university, no more promises of a bright future. And what is more, often his high school teachers would let him slide by, which put him at a grave academic disadvantage. That revelation made me truly sad.
Well, to make matters worse, his parents got a divorce his senior year, and he went through a lot of hardship, more than any young man should endure.
But, there is a happy turn to that story. Our brave Story Giver #1, decided he needed to come into his own and discover who he was. He decided to enroll at a community college, so he would be away from everyone who knew about his lost football scholarship. He needed to succeed and come into his own. Thanks to those amazing teachers at his local college, he was able to excel academically with honors.
Now, he is finishing his university degree and going into real estate. This is his last semester. I am so proud of him and grateful that he shared his story.
**I hope you enjoyed this first bit. I captured as much as I could between interrupting hotel guests.**
In the next couple of days, I will be grading essays and creative writing portfolios, all wonderful, so my writing escapades will be short. However, I have something magical to tell you, well two magical things. (1) I got feedback from my editor, and she says the main character is no longer fundamentally unlikable! She had positive, very positive things to say about "La Bruja del Barrio Loco" and (2) That beta reader I hired, she is going to look over my story, and I am going to copy edit hers! That has made my week! Isn't that amazing?
Collect stories today and share them with the world. You may just make a difference to someone. #Resist
What do you write? Horror? Fantasy? Magical Realism? Science Fiction? Serious fiction? Do you read the same? How would you categorize your craft? This question came up in one of my writing groups, and it caused me to pause. Why? My beta reader commented that my horror story, which I was sure was so damned scary, wasn't scary enough. Oh Lord! (yeah, anybody who says writing is easy, especially self-publishing, is a legit asshole)
I hate to say that she may be right. I also think the first book, The Long Walk, was more of a zombie drama. In fact, I think my writing is more weird fiction or what I have dubbed magical-realism suspense. I mean in this day and age of sexual liberation and social movements, labels are meh, but that's the conclusion I've come up with regarding this last piece. I would love to hear how you categorize your work or art.
Well, in real life, I have to go get treats for my students. It's the last day of the summer term, and I always love to have an end of the year party. I will also miss my students very much and will do a lot of reflecting on how the summer creative writing class went. They are all writing reflective essays today about their writing growth, which I can't wait to read!
Oh, and while I'm on the road for the next few days, I will be blogging about the stories I collect. Woo hoo! Road Trip Treat for You!
Weave what you love, often, even if it's a complicated happening. #Resist
Many of you know I teach literature, and I revel in the many ways students can interpret the same text. But, how many of you are surprised and shocked at how readers react to your own work?
I was talking to someone yesterday, someone I respect, who has read all of my books. (Yay, You!) This individual asked, "Can I be honest with you?" I was like, "Of course!" (Though I was internally bracing myself for the worst.) The reader said, "I really liked La Bruja. . . ." La Bruja in the Orchard. I gathered that person didn't like my other work, which is fine. Yep, that cuts deep. But. Is. (Grunt.) Fine. This individual is not the first person who has said this grand revelation. I guess zombie and werewolf stories don't appeal to everyone. You fucking bastards. I just hope this person likes the sequel that is tearing a hole in my brain, but is damned good writing.
Ah, damn, I have more to say, but my daughter just woke up.
So, I'm back. As you may know, part of this week, I gave myself a different writing assignment or goal. My family and I will be on the road for three or four days, to the west coast, and I have a goal to collect one good story every day, from each state. That means I will have to talk to strangers, eavesdrop, and read local newspapers. After all, most folks are on their phones these days, but I also believe many travelers are bored and want to talk to people.
On the writing front, this morning I worked on "La Bruja del Barrio Loco." The writing is coming along seamlessly, and it is now 113 pages long and will be just a smidge longer. My editor is reading the fourth revision. The cover designer is reading the story, and I'm sure is going to wow me with a proof. My good friend is processing the best head shot and Photoshopping at least 20 pounds off (please, please). Oh, and I also found a larger community of writers on Facebook that are really helpful: Writers Helping Writers. I waited a while to join, and am glad I finally did. Because of them, I drafted the book description numerous times:
Thirty-year-old Elisa Sandoval wants nothing more than to get her graduate degree in Women’s Studies and hopefully, marry her boyfriend Greg. But, when she encounters a real witch in a Mexican herbal shop, and she slights the old woman over a seemingly trivial matter, Elisa’s life becomes an unimaginable hell.
Stalked ruthlessly for weeks, Elisa comes face to face with magic and chaos straight out of the cuentos, fairy tales her mother told her as a child. The nightmare continues as Elisa is incarcerated for a murder she did not commit.
Yet not all is lost, as she finds allies along the way who have battled the witch and will make any necessary sacrifice. But will Elisa be willing to fight? Will she sacrifice everything she loves, even her life, to protect herself and those she loves?
I hope you all are gathering stories and being surprised by your readers.
Be open to new perspectives and ideas and write them down. Even if they hurt, some. #Resist
First of all, let me say Monique Landsberger is a phenomenal writer. (For those of you who may think I am violating ethics, she is no longer a student at our college and is looking to make some extra money.) Please consider hiring her. She is amazing at giving editorial and proofreading feedback.
If you have a story or novel you need beta read or proofread, please, check out her page. Trust me, she will be worth the coin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/monique-landsberger-44542217/
The saga continues. I read over the story, "La Bruja del Barrio Loco" #2 in La Bruja del Barrio Loco Series and realized, it needs more content and more side character development. I wanted to keep the main character in denial about her boyfriend's death, but I overdid it. So thank you beta reader.
On a side note, I know you shouldn't pay beta readers, but I don't have one, not really and need professional feedback you might want to hire her. (She has a service at http://nomablack.com/.)
Now that I'm done crying about the main character, who is still unlikable, and will probably stay that way, I can add more muscles to this piece. I also sent it to the editor because I thought it was done. Won't she be surprised, when the next version has at least 20 more pages. Good Lord!
I also am doing more research on the arrest process and incarceration process, as that is part of the story. Luckily, I work with a lot of retired police officers, and one of them agreed to help me out. He worked in a women's correctional facility for over 30 years. I learned for example, that regardless of the crime, the arrest process is the same. I also learned that men and women get treated the same. He also said he preferred to work with males, and I was curious to know more about that.
On the real writing front, this morning, I got up at 4:30a.m. and was eager to work on this story and my novel. Unfortunately, my daughter woke up and put the kabash on that plan. Writing in the evenings isn't working out so well for me, and tonight, we have to clean the house. We are going on a road trip back to the southwest, so we need to prepare. But, after I am done submitting final grades that will mean some glorious time on my laptop! (I have a weird writing goal of collecting one interesting story or concept a day, based on where we are.)
Keep weaving those stories, even if the tapestry is longer than expected. #Resist
Yesterday, I was agonizing over the comments from a beta reader I trust that the protagonist in my next short is fundamentally unlikable and possibly a bad mother. Yes, ouch! So, I sent it to my editor, again, and posted it to my small CW group. (I could give it up to Jesus too.) Oh, and I sent it to my sister who has background in psychology and reads a lot. Essentially, the story needs more work, and I am not going to scrap it, even if my main character is a bitch.
In fact, I added another scene to it. Well, that was my resolution to this writing agony: If the main character is fundamentally unlikable, then, I will make the other elements of the story, so compelling people will still want to read it. Sometimes, you have to do right by you, and in case you haven't noticed, I really like this story. I am eager to write the one coming after it, so this one must continue.
Yesterday, I also had a series of head shots and a family pictures taken. See below. My family looks great! We will see about the author shots. My good friend did this amazing work and offered to design my covers. I may take him up on that because I have more shorts coming out next month.
However, I farmed the next one to my other friend who designed the cover for Wolf Trek. I can't wait to see what he comes up with. I sent him a prototype this time, and explained in greater detail how I wanted the back. He has a hard copy of Wolf Trek, and I will mail him a copy of the proof, so he can see the whole layout.
I also connected with a new writing group on Facebook, Writers Helping Writers, and got some great feedback on the description for the next book:
When Elisa Sandoval, encounters a real witch in a curandera shop, a Mexican herbal shop meant to help people, and she slights the old woman over a seemingly trivial matter, her life becomes an unimaginable hell. La Bruja torments her for weeks, stalking Elisa and exhibiting impossible magic. As a graduate student of Women’s History, Elisa is incapable of admitting that she is seeing magic unfold before her eyes.
Then, the witch commits a series of gruesome crimes against Elisa and those she loves most, her son, Alex, and her boyfriend, Gregory Holden. Now, incarcerated for a murder she did not commit, Elisa must figure out how fight La Bruja.
But not all is lost, as she finds allies along the way who have battled La Bruja and will make any necessary sacrifice. But will Elisa be willing to do the same?
It does read better, shorter. I hope I can get a great Beta reader through this group. Happily, I will say that after my fourth pub, and even with the current writing agony, I am getting more confident to stand on my own two feet. Honest to Peter.
Sometimes, though, it's hard to face the writing mirror and tell the truth. Sometimes.
Be honest with yourself, but don't stop writing. Writing can be a real struggle, and that also hones great work and skills. #Resist
I feel like I'm having an existential crisis. (Editor and beta reader, please, don't get upset if you read this post; you are giving me great feedback, which I am clearly grappling with and processing, painfully.) I've had two people I trust with my work tell me the protagonist in "La Bruja del Barrio Loco" is essentially a bad mother and unlikable. That cuts.
The first time my editor told me that with a previous version, I was like, "The fuck?" But, then I added some scenes to soften the protagonist and show a different relationship with the son. I think I have humanized her some more. I, in fact, don't see it, but I have been working on this story for a long time and really like the main character and characters in this piece. I really like the story line, and the one that is coming after it. In fact, this story was inspired by my sister, Little D.
But. what if, your main character is for all intents and purposes fundamentally unlikable? I have written about this topic before. Maybe my main character, Elisa Sandoval, is in a shitty situation, and she is really angry, which makes her unpleasant. Plus, she's a graduate student in a predominantly white institution. Of course she's pissed off. Ugh. I don't know. I am going to sit with the story a bit more, even though I want to get it out by the end of the month.
This morning, I am working on The Harvest, and after that I am going to read literary interpretations and original poetry by my students for workshops this coming week. My creative writing students have to submit final portfolios next week, which is what I will be evaluating on the way home to Arizona. What a splendid life, no? It really is.
Also, today is the big day! I am getting an author head shot, and we decided to put some cactus plants in the background if possible. Thank you Brett! Adios tatas. I have decided to wear my dark blue dress, the one I wore to Brett's wedding a few weeks ago, to minimize the tatas, and I am going to leave my hear long. I know TMI. You'll see the final version on the back of my book covers. :)
Write through your agony and hone your craft. #Resist!
Some stories wipe you out, when you are done, or they are done with you. "La Bruja del Barrio Loco", number 2 in "La Bruja del Barrio Loco" series kicked my ass. It is now 106 pages long, and I must say, I am quite happy with the finished story, aching bones, missing blood, and all. Here is the description if that titillates you to download it once it is published (yes, it will be on Kindle Unlimited. my friend Eric Allen Yankee has talked me into this process of uploading all my books.):
When Elisa Sandoval, encounters a real witch in a curandera shop, meant to help people, and she slights the old woman over a seemingly trivial matter, her life becomes an unimaginable hell. La Bruja, that vile witch, torments her for weeks, stalking Elisa and exhibiting impossible magic. As a graduate student of Women’s History, Elisa is incapable of admitting that she is seeing magic unfold before her eyes.
Then, the vicious witch commits a series of gruesome crimes against Elisa and those she loves most, her son, Alex who is 2, and her boyfriend, Gregory Holden.
Now, arrested and incarcerated for a murder she did not commit, Elisa must figure out how fight La Bruja, to save her life and the life of her unbaptized son. But not all is lost, as she finds allies along the way who know La Bruja and will make any sacrifice to defeat evil. But will that victory come at too high a price? Or will Elisa lose herself in an ancient war in which she is unwilling to fight?
Well, this writer has to rest now. Ironically, the next story is itching to emerge, but my novel, The Harvest, needs more attention. Tomorrow, I will be writing in the morning and grading after that. Then, in the afternoon, I am finally getting an author head shot. Think happy thoughts my way, so the weather is good, and the light captures my features well.
Knit you mental bones and blood back together, so you can write better tomorrow. #Resist
Dr. Jesú Estrada,