I am almost well enough from that demonic headache and chest cold to get back on a writing schedule. Thus, I have been working more diligently on my short story collection, Not Your Abuelita's Folktales. I decided to have a different sort of magical creature in that last story because even we have stereotypes of them. Besides, I like it when the main character discovers the Magical Other. Yeah, I said that.
I have also been thinking a lot about translating La Bruja in the Orchard. It bothered me a great deal, not my family thankfully, that I was not able to give them something they could read in Spanish. Luckily, my aunt who was an educator in Mexico, just retired. I am going to ask her if she is willing to read over my translated work. I hope she is not too busy traveling the world to say yes, but something tells me, she will help me.
This week, I am also reading Hoot because my second cousin loaned it to me. It justifiably won the Newberry Award, so I was studying it because the writer managed to maintain its edge with a PG-13 language use. That takes some skill. My short YA collection maybe pushes the boundaries a bit, but it is aimed at an older audience. I plan on having a Child Development educator read that one, too, to get her opinion on if it is written for the right grade levels, which would be junior high and up.
Well, it is 2a.m. in So-Cal, and I haven't decided if I am too tired to write, so I am going to get back on it before I go back to sleep.
Keep adventuring and writing. #barrioblues
Yesterday, I was really sick with a vicious headache and horrid vomiting. It was the worst way to spend Christmas Day, but even through that struggle, I managed to do some writing-related things. I introduced my books to my family and their friends and gave four of them away.
What struck me is how proud they were. They analyzed my author picture and at one point my Auntie, who is like a second mother to me said, "We have a writer in the family!" She was gushing and loved the dedication in the book. It was a really happy and unexpected moment for me.
Earlier that morning before I went into a sleep coma, my cousin Tony was making me laugh. He said he had mad skills and would illustrate my book. He was narrating, in-depth, as he drew. See the results below. I mean he has the general concept down, but his boasts of mad skills were untrue. He put the picture on the refrigerator. Then his son, Cele, who is an obnoxious 14-year-old, but growing dearer to my heart each day, gave me some sage advice.
He said, "I know how you can sell more books of the La Bruja del Barrio Loco?
"A YouTube video?"
"No, you just put a picture of your face on the cover!"
That was most of my day yesterday, but today is a brand new day with a minor headache and no trips to the toilet. I am visiting my uncle who has horses, and every time I go, I leech him for horse research. Mwa ha ha. He is just a phone call away now, but he goes into great detail about the personalities of horses and the political struggles that ranchers face in California.
Well, that is all for this morning! I hope you are all reading and writing what you love. If you have time, consider buying my books. All Amazon profits are going towards a Harold Washington Chapter strike fund.
A link to my books on Amazon, Author: Maria J. Estrada.
Love what you do and do it better. #barrioblues
This morning, I worked on my short story collection Not Your Abuelita's Folktales. Instead of writing a story about the Day of the Dead, I decided to write a Chistmas story. Below is a blurb of the first draft. That is all I will post, as many of you I'm sure are celebrating today, but if you have time to read, buy one of my speculative fiction books!
All Amazon profits are going towards the HWC strike fund because it is better to give than receive. Ho ho ho!
Besides, my friend Todd Heldt wants me to finish his awesome book Jukebox Loser, which I hope to do today.
May you have a magical time with family, friends, or characters from books!
Keep giving your gift of writing. #barrioblues
The Christmas Gift
ISELLA JONES READ his last text message with disgust: See ya tomorrow tonight, hottie. She glared at the flame emoji. She replied: No too busy preparing for X-mas dinner. Gottga go. -xo cRymson. Isella and Richard Portia had been going steady since junior high, over six years ago. He had always been a sappy romantic, but ever since he went to college last year, to MIT no less, he was changing, and although she expected some change, she wondered if it was time for her to end things.
Isella was the level-headed one. He had asked her out twenty times, once in front of his nerdy debate friends, and she had turned him down gently. She only started going out with him, when he brought her bouquet of hand-picked flowers for Valentine’s Day with a detailed hand-crafted card, in seventh grade. By that point, Rich was starting grow taller and muscular, but he was always thoughtful. So she thought.
She put the phone down sticking her nose back into her physics book. The formulas and examples were a haze as she mulled over why they were still dating each other. She sat at her sparse wooden desk and looked over to the expansive Christmas gift she had for him. It was in a large box, embraced by shiny red paper and crowned with a large golden bow. Isella had put the most thoughtful gift ever in that box along with some expensive hard cover books by the author they both liked, Inia Beginnings, the top-ranking mystery writer of her time. She had spent hours crafting his gift, and knew he would love it, at least pre-hottie boyfriend would.
“What are you doing studying on a holiday?” she asked herself swiping at her annoying long curls. The clock on her phone read 8:30p.m. on the dot. Against better judgement, she got on her gaming system and played Escape the Horde, a combination zombie shooter game with puzzles and locks. She preferred the puzzles and locks to the undead killing sprees.
She was on level 4 when her friend Viddie, chatted, “Hey, The Boy come over yet?”
Isella took her sniper rifle and took out a few more zombies before she put her headset on. She made sure first that he, ZombieAnnihilator69, Rich, was not logged in, just in case he could do so from the plan, “He’s flying in tonight. His mother is going to pick him up. I don’t think I’ll see him until after Christmas. Mom has me making all the dinner preparations because she has a double.”
“That blows, but girl, you ready to give him the best gift of all? I mean, he’s been waiting a long, long time on unwrap that gift.”
She paused thinking over her response in light of her doubts. “Hey, don’t stop talking about that present. I’m all ears,” said a strange, older boy.
“Screw you,” said Isella, muting him out with two clicks. She ignored the fool, “Let’s go to a private room.” She created a room just for her and Viddie. She called the room “Piss Off Pervy Weirdos” and started a new match.
“I’m not ready,” she said resolutely.
Viddie’s exasperated sigh could be heard throughout the digital zombie realm, “You want to stay a virgin forever?”
“I’m 17, stupid-pendeja,” she missed her shot as she aimed for a speedy ghoul, “Damn.” On the screen, Viddie was wearing the head of the lion and silver armor and successfully guiding the horde of 20 plus undead towards some traps. She was better at running and killing masses.
A fast zombie emerged out of nowhere from behind a dumpster, and Isella dispatched it with a quick heads hot, “I got you girlfriend.”
“Dude, don’t use my alternate name!” she hated when Viddie used her real name but called it her alternate name whenever Viddie slipped up, which happened too often. CrYmsonSavage was the name she preferred.
“CrYmson,” she said apologetically, “Nobody cares if you’re a virgin anymore. Come on, even your mom put you on the pill.”
“I beg to differ,” said the same strange voice. Standing right next to her muscular form, on the secluded rooftop, was a regular looking player in an army outfit.
“What?” she said, “This is a private server! How did you get in here?”
He did a stupid dance, “I got my ways. Gorgeous.” His voice was think, and she couldn’t tell if he was 16 or 30. Isella instantly deleted the room and called her friend.
“What was that? How did he get in?”
“He’s a piece of trash hacker. I reported him as you were rage killing our awesome server.” Viddie knew her friend Isella was crazy paranoid of meeting pedophiles and other questionable people online. She only played to talk to Rich every day, but these days, she and Viddie had spent more time talking online, Viddie being Rich’s secret cheerleader to sleep with her best friend, a girlfriend of six years, which was practically marriage in Viddie’s estimation.
“It was too weird, Vid. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before. It was creepie and gross,” she shuddered as she imagined an obese nasty man with a dirty beard playing online. Food plastered on his gamer t-shirt to tight for his paunch and acid jeans too retro for today’s fashion. Viddie laughed her high-pitched squeaky laugh.
“Well, good night. Wish me luck for tomorrow,” she sighed.
“What’s going on tomorrow?”
“I have go to food shopping. Weren’t you listening? The meat’s on sale at Don Julio’s, and mom will be too busy at the hospital to go shopping. Might as well let me do everything, but she’s doing all the fun Christmas shopping.”
Viddie snorted, “Girl, on your Mom’s budget, she’ll be hitting the Thrift store.” They both laughed because it was true. Ever since her father left them when she was just ten, they had been on a tight budget with her mother always working double shifts at the hospital, so Isella would focus on school. Still, Isella managed to contribute by selling unique collectibles and hand-crafted goods on E-bay. Her top seller that week was a dime from the 1800’s worth $100. She had bought it at a yard sale for $10 from a kind old lady.
Isella went through her nighttime routine, careful to floss every tooth and brush each quadrant, 26 times. Then she went through four skin care bottles ranging from cleansers to scrubs her dermatologist recommended. As an RN, she had cut a deal with the hospital’s dermatologist, and she got free samples. Isella suspected she was sweat on that doctor, but she never pried.
She inspected herself in the mirror. She had one zit, one lousy zit on her right cheek bone, but otherwise, her creamy light skin was the envy of most girls. Her soft brown hair, however, was not the envy of anyone, as her curls had a mind of their own. The only saving grace was that waist long hair was in. She had perfectly arched eyebrows, which her mother had taught her to pluck meticulously to save money, large round hazel eyes, a angled nose too small for her face, and avatar worthy full lips. The one thing that bothered her is that she was small all-around except for her breasts. She was a damned living Barbie doll, and it vexed her. She wanted normal A cup boobs, proportional to her frame. The lack proportion made it almost impossible for her to find clothes that fit and would often have garments altered, which was not cheap.
She went to bed and stared at her game console which she forgot to turn off. The green light beckoned her to go one more match. Out of curiosity, she turned on the TV and saw she had a new friend request, “Friendster17”. It was him, the piece of scum hacker. In her message in box was a pathetic video he sent with a face of teddy bear, not his real face. Coward, she thought to herself. “Sorry, if I scared you. I just really want us to be online friends. I’m not a pervert or anything, and you can’t blame me for thinking you are gorgeous.”
Isella froze. She had no real picture of herself anywhere, online, but her avatar was pretty attractive, crafted with long black hair and perfectly proportioned body parts, including her breasts. Still, she turned off the console and TV and vowed not to play until after Christmas.
I finished my holiday book ad, finally. It took a while because I've had the writing blues, coupled with exhaustion. Now, I am getting my morning energy back on, mostly because of the time change; plus, I have editorial feedback to input into my collection, Not Your Abuelita's Folk Tales. I have one more story to write called "The Altar" and one freebie I promised my newsletter subscribers called "Mona".
Unfortunately, we left for our vacation, and I couldn't get the the painting I planned to use to the cover designer, so he could take a high-res photo of it, but I will use it in a future book. Or have him design it when I get back in a couple of weeks. I left that up to him, as I am not quite done with the collection. I also asked him to do a small favor for me because every time I create a book ad, I get irritated by the cover of my last book, so I asked my friend to design it again. It's no the image; it's the font. It drives me bat shit crazy, when I shrink it.
If he designs the cover early, I can pre-sell it. Plus, I am going to put this collection on different platforms, which means that I won't be able to put it on KDP. KDP hasn't really done much for me yet because I need a wider reader base. My hope is that if I put it on Ingram and Lulu, small bookstores might take it.
This road trip, I have been reading young adult fiction, and I realized Anne of Green Gables is a great book, but damn if I'm not irritated when the writer glosses over major events. That is one thing I won't do in my collection. She also does a lot of visual description, which reminds me to use other senses.
Well, my brain just flat lined like my book sales, so I'm to kill some zombies.
Keep writing through the muck! #barrioblues
I was working on my Christmas book ad and quit. Yeah, it happens like that sometimes, but now as I'm writing this blog, I thought of something funny to put in it. Sometimes, I think you have to say fuck it, and go wash dishes or make a really questionable breakfast of chile sauce and flour tortillas (with coffee). I was too downtrodden to make eggs. Bah humbug.
I think the real issue is that I get so bummed out when I see no reviews and sales flat line (though I did sell eight last weekend, in real time). Then there is the question of freebies and no reviews.
I was counting the downloads from my November givewaway, and there were over 40, but no book reviews. Why aren't people reviewing my book? Are they busy? Have a long reading list? Will they read it this holiday season? Do they think my books suck? I suspect that most people who download my books are hustling to sell their own books and asking the same questions.
I know friends who are like, "I don't like zombie books, but I bought yours." Which probably translates to, I didn't read it. I had one friend tell me recently, "I read your book, and you are a very talented writer, but I just can't suspend my beliefs when it comes to zombies." He can't understand how they function when there is no blood flow to the brain. (You're not supposed to!) Could you put that positive shit into a review? Nah.
And after all that blah blah, I always come to the same conclusion. Just fucking write and love it. Put all you've got into it, and then, send it to the two really great beta readers you have for support. Yeah, stocking gift coming your way.
Bah Humbug Doubts and Writing Blues. #barrioblues
I have been gone for way too long, but not totally removed from writing related activities. I had two physical book sales, the second one spontaneous, where someone wanted copies of my books. One buyer promised to do reviews.
Between these sales, I had a giveaway in November for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, where The Long Walk and Wolf Trek were downloaded over 35 times. I got one favorable review, but I think that reader had purchased the book. Maybe the giveaway reminded him to review it. LOL. I'm not sure that giveaways are the best way to get reviews, so I think it's back to the drawing board.
I have gotten suggestions to submit stories to journals and do interviews, and I think I am going to go that route.
I also decided to donate all of my Amazon book sales to the HWC chapter strike fund. I am separating the print sales because I can keep track of the digital sales and am using the book sales for exposure. Besides, I mostly recover the cost of shipping. The Amazon sales aren't amazing, but a contribution is a contribution.
So, I finally got my computer back a little over a week and half ago. That separation along with the union activism have thrown off my writing schedule. Last week I was organizing the strike authorization vote for both Faculty and Professionals, and that took most of my free time. Now, it's final grading time, and I hope to be finished by this Sunday, so I can get back to my projects, some small some large. Here they are in order:
That is a lot to do in a few weeks, but some of the smaller goals, I hope to accomplish while I am on the road, and my kids are trapped in their seat belts. I won't be grading on the trip this time, but will finish final grades from home, which will be a different rhythm for me. I am always trying to maximize my writing time during breaks.
I am wishing all of you a new spirit of writing this holiday season! I hope you get a lot of work done.
Rest and enjoy this holiday break, but keep writing! #barrioblues
Dr. Jesú Estrada,