Very early this morning, I spent some quality time with Ricky Andrades in "El Encantado", the next story I'm finishing for my YA, Magical Realism collection which is coming out either in late September or early October. Yesterday, my goal had been to spend more time fleshing him and the side characters out, but I got busy with work, then making dinner for the kids and my husband. Asi que, this morning at around 12:30a.m., the writing bug woke me up, so I spent time writing a description of him, which I needed to do.
He needed more fleshing out, so I reverted to an exercise I teach in my creative writing class, 10 truths, 10 lies. You can list more, but essentially, you list these qualities or untruths about your characters. Below are the description, main goals, and lists:
10 Lies and 10 Truths about Ricky Andrades:
Height: 5 foot 8 inches.
Build: Thin and muscular.
Hair: Curly, sandy brown.
Eyes: Dark brown.
Skin: Darker than his peers.
Face: Sculpted and handsome.
Voice: Deep and slightly musical.
Main Desire: To play professional baseball and go out with his neighbor, Sarah Isabelle Stan.
You can also add 10 odd facts, but I don't bother. Anyway, after I did the exercise, I was able to carry on with the writing, and it flowed well.
And that is all the time I have this morning! I have to work on Union business and organize chapter finances, when I would rather be writing.
Oh, I do have one bit of good news. I was talking to another faculty member who teaches creative writing, and she is going to organize a monthly gathering of other faculty who are writing novels or chap books or whatever creative form. I am so excited! I found out one of my colleague is working on a fantasy novel, which just goes to show, you just don't know where there might be a secret writing life.
Today, hammer out your characters until they are sculpted to your satisfaction. #barrioblues
For some writers, especially those of us who word vomit, spending time with characters may not seem as important as the act of writing. I beg to differ.
Most of my stories stem from well-crafted characters, whether they are major or supporting characters. Asi que, this morning, I am spending more time with the characters from "Encantado" from my next Young Adult collection. I have the ending in mind, and the major conflicts, but I need to flesh out Ricky Andrades (in my ghost story. ha!). I am also writing about undocumented issues in "El Encantado" and am making Ricky a DREAMER because that is the direction the story took. It makes sense as many young people in the Chicago and elsewhere are DREAMERS, and I hope they like this piece.
I also have an idea for the cover and will reach out to my friend for support to paint it. This will be a solo design, this round. Yikes!
That's all I've got. Keep sending me those creative vibes because I still don't have a title for my next book, which is not usual for me. In fact, that is driving me bat shit crazy. Ugh.
Be awesome and write or spend time with your creations. Or all three. #barrioblues
Onto Story #3 of My Young Adult, Magical Realism Collection & Upcoming Giveaway, Black Friday #barriobluesRead Now
Yesterday, on the road trip down here, to my writing cave away from home, I started writing the third story of my next book "El Encantado." Encantado could mean someone who is delighted, cursed, or haunted. This will be my first attempt at writing any ghost story, and I am adding a twist. However, I may have to delay the launch of this book, if it is to reach 150 pages. There are so many legends that are a treat to infuse with my fiction. There is El Cucuy, which legend says is an old man that carries a burlap sack and steals naughty children. There is La Llorona, the weeping woman, who kidnaps children near bodies of water. There are angels and saints that would make great characters.
Anyway, the writing playground is vast.
I have also been formulating the next giveaway for Thanksgiving and Black Friday holiday. I am going to reduce the cost of all my e-books to $.99 and $0 when folks buy printed books. Unfortunately, I can't drop the cost of La Bruja del Barrio Loco, but people will still be able to buy it for $0. I am also going to use Ingram to publish my next collection, if bookstores will take it. I just won't be able to put it on Kindle Unlimited.
The other thing I am going to do today is to grow a pair of balls and put the foundation for a reading of my books for next month. I haven't sent the email yet. I figure if I'm not done with the collection, though I hope to be soon, I can read from WIPs. I am also going to try another venue to distribute my books.
My retired librarian friend offered to help me connect with the central CPS library. The head librarian likes to sponsor local authors, so I am hoping she will take my next book. Now, I need a snappy title for it, that is attractive to moms and kids, but I haven't been able to come up with one.
My husband and I were brainstorming in the car, but nothing sounded appealing. Send me inspiration this way. Or else the title will be something lame like Grandmother's Magical Bedtime Stories. I have never been stuck on a title before. This inertia is wholly annoying, but the writing is flowing, and that is what matters! Once I am done with this collection, I am going to move on to finishing The Awakening (Book #3 in La Bruja del Barrio Loco) series and start revising The Harvest in real earnest.
Overcome your creative struggles. Write on. #barrioblues
This morning, I got halfway done revising the second story for the next book coming out this month, re-titled "When the Devil Came for Him". I am not dead set on that title, and I am still trying to come up with a title for the entire collection.
The story I am working on has kittens in it, and details The Devil, in the flesh and blood, punishing people. In this case, The Devil punishes a three-year-old boy, who is not successfully being disciplined by his parents.
Growing up, listening to these stories, often, the devil wasn't so awful like in American movies. He would return his penitent victims who would often have a permanent change of heart. I thought those folktales were odd, since people actually became better after being tested.
Well, it's time for me to go to bed. I spent the day hanging out with my family, making dinner, and actually cleaning for a few hours. I rarely have spare time, but I managed to clean the bathroom and other areas that need work. This is a huge point of anxiety in my daily existence. I am not done yet, but it was a good start.
I am also really amped up for my writing vacation. On road trip to whatever surprise destination my husband has planned, I am hoping to finish revising the second story. However, there is a good chance I may have to write at least two more stories because the collection is too short right now. I don't want to produce books that are anything less than 150 pages because without a spine, most bookstores won't take my works.
Well, I hope you got some writing done.
Keep writing and finishing amazing projects. #barrioblues
This morning, I got up at 1a.m. to prepare my classes and write. Not much writing got done because my daughter, who sensed I was being productive at an ungodly hour, woke up and demanded my immediate attention. I didn't get back to sleep until 5a.m. Still, this morning, I thought about my next book a lot, and I am sad to report that I don't have a snappy title for my new short collection. Usually titles come easy, but I am not sure that Rita vs the Duende quite covers it. I hope something, some line pops from one of the stories.
Also, after turning ideas in my head, I decided I am going to write an original ghost story from a boy's point of view for the third story. To date, I have not written a ghost story. This concept will balance out the gender and points of view of the other two stories. "Rita vs the Duende" is told from a 12-year-old tween's point of view. "Descarado" or shameless is being told from an elderly woman's point of view. I am thinking of changing that title to "When the Devil Came for Him" or something more descriptive.
I am also excited to be going on another writing vacation. We are not sure where, but we have enough points for a free hotel stay. Let's hope the printer is not out of ink or paper. Ha ha ha.
Write like you're life depends on it. Someone's might. #barrioblues
I really should say, I'm a publishing midwife, but a writing one too. That is happening, of course, because I am surrounding myself with writers and student writers and virtual writer friends. Today, though, I was happily surprised to find out that one of the parental acquaintances who I talk to regularly had written and illustrated a children's book. Our kids go to the same school, and often we talk as we wait to pick up our Littles.
The book he created sounds amazing, but unfortunately, he was getting scammed by a vanity press to pay thousands of dollars to print his book. In my mind I was thinking, "Fuck that! Fuck these scammers!" So I offered to shepherd him on publishing his book on Amazon and Ingram for free. We swapped numbers, and I sure hope he takes me up on the offer. I really want to see his artwork, too.
I think helping other writers along is one of the best things I can do to contribute to the arts. I don't now how else to put it.
Today, sadly, I only wrote for a short time because I was falling asleep at the laptop at 5a.m. Later, our long early morning Faculty negotiation was a vast disappointment because the administration is not interested in incorporating our Shared Governance language into the Contract. This frustrated me to no end, and I took a long nap after that meeting to rejuvenate. Now, I am waiting for another long strategy meeting to respond to what is happening (or not happening) at the bargaining table, so I don't think much writing will get done today. Still, something writing related happened. :)
Keep those writing happenings going, even if you just connect with other artists. #barrioblues
Yesterday, at a fantastic birthday party with glorious cheese and yummy wine, I was talking to a number of the guests about my next collection coming out in September. (Hey, they asked!) I was explaining to another Chicana about the premises of my stories. Would you believe she has never heard folktales about duendes or The Devil? I was like, "How is that possible?" So, I told her a couple of the folk stories. I also gave her a summary of the first two stories, and then, got stumped on the third. Why? I haven't written it yet, but I have a hankering for writing a ghost story. Perhaps. Or an angel story. In any case, it will be PG-13.
I also got a chance to talk to my friend Brett. Sadly, he will be out of town on his honeymoon in a few weeks (okay, that is not remotely sad because he is going to Europe on a fantastic adventure with his gorgeous wife, where Trump is not president), and won't get to work on the cover for that piece. However, he did say he wanted to help design the interior of the book for future pubs. I was like, "What? What's wrong with my books?" He had definite opinions on the layout that I hadn't thought about, so when he was time, we are going to review the last book La Bruja del Barrio Loco. Now, I am pretty proud of my interior book designs, but I'm not going to say no to making them prettier. I would love for the chapter titles to pop.
I also told him that I am going to simplify the design of my e-books. I want them to look good on the Kindle and computer viewers. All the fancy graphics and caps at the beginning of chapters can be off-putting. They do look great on Kindle Readers, but I want some consistency.
Finally, let me tell about the next phase of my marketing scheme. I am going to put the foundation for an October reading. I have been a little hesitant with this move. Why? I am not used to reading my fiction. I read poetry just fine. I am not afraid of public speaking, but reading fiction takes a different skill set. Therefore, I am going to reach out to my good friends who are actors or speech teachers to give me some pointers. I am also going to videotape 30-minute readings and review them. You see, I am actually pretty nervous about this next step, but I don't want to be like those boring authors that can't captivate their audience. You know what I'm talking about.
Whatever you do with your writing today, do it with love and some courage.
Push the envelope and go to the next level in your writing career. #barrioblues
This morning and today, we have a number of socials, including a church pic nic, which my husband forbid me to cook for, so I would relax. I did spend the morning going over the draft of "Rita vs the Duende", and it is shaping up beautifully! It is just a first draft, but solid, and I am looking forward to thoughtful feedback by my beta readers.
So, for your morning reading pleasure, here is the introduction to the story in my next story collection:
“Rita vs the Duende”
By Dr. Maria J. Estrada
Rita Sifuentes was sitting at her outdated Dell computer while most kids her age were watching Saturday morning cartoons. 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 Somerton, 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.
She was the only one with a computer, although it was three years old, ancient by modern standards. She was the only one in her neighborhood since anyone could remember of a ninth grader who had won first place in the science fair. Rita had also won first place in the math bowl, to the acid hatred of the junior and senior nerds. Her Nana didn't know what to make of all the ribbons with the cryptic writing hanging all over the house, but she was proud of her Rita.
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 occasionally when 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. Once when Lizandro called her a puta, a whore, her Nana let out Bucho, the family dog. In truth, Bucho, wouldn't hurt a fly, but he was a large Rottweiler. He would just get excited to see other kids, so he would bark a low bark and prance after them. Lizandro got so scared that his feet tangled up. He fell down. Busted his front teeth. And never called Rita any bad names, at least not to her face and never in front of her house.
Have a fantastic writing Sunday! #barrioblues
Finished the Next Story for My Collection and Sent It out to the New Beta Reader (that took mega balls) #barrioblues #supergrandehuevosRead Now
Done! This morning I revised "Rita vs the Duende" my next work in progress that will be aimed at Young Adults, and I added comments from a previous editor-friend. The story will be part of a short story collection for YA and will be out this month. I was able to work steadily on it and make all the changes because I stayed away from social media. Milagro!
Plus, (drum roll) I just took the leap and sent it to my new buddy Eddie. I also offered what I thought were specific feedback questions for him. I listed them below, in case you are curious what this process could be like, now that I'm done breathing into the paper bag and hit send. Just kidding.
Beta Reader Questions:
This afternoon, my son invited me to watch a remodeling house show, and one of the suggestions for marketing was to have a recognizable hashtag. It just occurred to me that I hadn't been using one, which is stupid considering all the social media I use, so I am claiming #barrioblues. Get used to seeing it on all my posts, especially book promotions. I don't think I will be using the #Resist tag because that has to do with my political life and not my writing. Duh.
I hope you all have a great day writing and revising or whatever book stage you are at!
Let the synapses in your brain birth new ideas! Grow some super huevos grandes as you take risks. #barrioblues
Today, I go on another book peddling adventure. It will have to be short because I am going to the Harold Washington Library for another purpose, but a little bird in my local library told me one of the librarians at the main branch self-publishes and has his books on the shelf. The libraries, in fact, take independently published books. If I have time, I am going to fill out the right paperwork and submit my book or books, if they take more than one copy to send out into the library universe. Wish me luck!
Yesterday, I also finally dropped off my book markers at 57th Street Books. The funny thing is, I couldn't decide whether to put one or the other side face up, so I asked the worker, and he suggested I display both. I have to say, they look pretty awesome.
I hope to print a bigger batch with my next paycheck because I am all out.
Well, I have a few golden moments to write because I was messing around on social media and wasted time. Today, I am actually going to take a break from writing and grade all the assignments students have posted online, so I can have Saturday to work on my long short story "Rita vs the Duende". My beta reader-friend and I are going to swap this weekend. I will let you know how that goes!
Keep writing and experimenting with marketing! #Resist!
Dr. Jesú Estrada,