Thursday, October 25, 2018

When Do You Reveal Your Main Character's Identity? #barrioblues

 The question hit home for me as I was reading Misery for the first time. In that story, you don't know the main character's full name until chapter 3 or so. You find out more about his identity in later chapters, an identity which of course is central to the story.  Obviously, a short story is, well, shorter, but I was looking through my own introductions, and sure enough, often I start with the main character's name.  

So, I started tweaking the introduction of the third story in my collection Not Your Abuelita's Folktales.  I do think the introduction below reads better, although I introduced two main characters in the same paragraph, which I will have to revise later.  There are so many elements to consider, but first thing's first.

I have to finish all the stories before I take them apart and put them back together like a gorgeous puzzle.  The work has to develop in the right stages, with time, and I have this vision of a nestling that has already hatched, has grown but should not be set off to fly too soon.  Or else, it will crash and die.

Well, I'm off to write and write and write some more.

Analyze to improve, but don't rip your work apart.  #barrioblues

"El Encantado" (The Enchanted One)

He spied her in the mirror’s reflection. She had gorgeous golden hair and almost silver eyes. Her face had what the gueros called a sweet heart shape, though a bit elongated, with a perfect nose and kissable lips. Her eyes are what had attracted him the most; she had enormous, kind eyes that never judged anyone. Her skin was flawless, and he swore glowed. She was slender like an alfalfa stalk, and when she smiled and eyes sparkled, his heart would melt. If her father could see him spying from the window, he would shoot him on the spot. He peeked over the expansive ranch-style window, with imprisoning bars, but she was so absorbed with her primping and beautifying that she paid no mind to him. It was a hot July summer day, in Yuma, Arizona, and despite the heat she looked fresh. How did she manage to keep her hair so bouncy when he was sweating like a pig? “Girl, you’re perfect. You don’t need all of that on your face,” he whispered, tracing a circle around his own face.
            An acidic hiss startled him out of his adoration. There was the ugly black mangy cat she loved so much, Nightling. It hissed again with all of its hair standing on end.
            “Mind your own business!” he hissed back. He peeked one more time through the window, and she looked up, but he ducked before she saw him. Beto crept back towards the desert. The ugly trailer he called home was just over the wall, just a five-minute walk away. As he neared the property's end, he felt the hot breath of Mr. Stan’s hideous Rottweiler on his backside. It snarled and snapped sending spittle at his face. Beto screamed and ran so fast, he didn’t hear the cacophony of barks that followed his trail. The ugly beast neared and nipped so many times, but each time, Beto managed to avoid getting mangled or killed and practically leaped over the adobe wall that surrounded her property.
            The dog only stopped and spun around when Sarah Isabelle Stan’s dulcet cries called him back. He wished with all of his heart she would someday call out to him like that. “Beto,” he whispered sweetly, imitating her voice in a high tone, “Oh, Beto, you’re so amazing! Damn, no one plays ball like you.” He took off his baseball shirt and mopped his brow.  A. Andrades it read in embroidered black letters in the back, but he didn’t go by Alberto, but Beto for short. He took a deep breath, put his jersey back on, and left.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Signs of Life a.k.a. Don't Let Sales Bring You Down #barrioblues

I'm going to write about something taboo, I suspect. But, screw it.  It happens to everybody who self-publishes, I suspect.  Maybe even folks who publish traditionally get these blues.  You stare at your sales and wonder why they have flat lined.  Surely your book merits a download or two.  What is wrong with people?

Well, like the amateur that I am, I started to let the lack of sales bum me out.  Then, I sold four copies!  All is well in the JesĂș universe again.

What really troubles me, of course, is when I find a gem like Jukebox Loser that hasn't gotten much exposure.  How can that happen to such a great book?  I have my books being advertised on at least four independent sites and Amazon, and  I know more needs to be done.

Anyway, I also uplifted my own spirits because I had been complaining that I can't get up in the mornings to write.  So, I decided to sit my butt on the chair and just go.  I am currently working on The Awakening (#3 in La Bruja del Barrio Loco Series).  It is another speculative fiction piece about witchcraft, but it takes place in the future.  Stay tuned.  I'm not giving myself arbitrary deadlines, just putting books out in their due time.

Well, I am about to pester the designer of my last book because even though it looks cool in print, the e-book cover is hard to read digitally.  I may have to go with the white font color altogether.  I also am working with my friend who took the author photos.  He is going to do me a solid and design the cover of my short story collection for free because my union could go on strike, and I did invest way too much money on the last four books.  (Don't ask me how much.)

Uplift yourself and keep writing!  #barrioblues        

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Almost Done with "El Encantado" #barrioblues

I know, it's been a few weeks since I last updated anything.  That is because we, the Cook County College Teachers Union Faculty, Professionals, and Security, are busy organizing and preparing for a potential strike. Despite all of that, last Saturday, I managed to get trough 2/3 of "El Encantado" and hope to put in some writing time this weekend.  The main character of that story is on the JV baseball team, and I am excited because I have a content expert looking at my story.

My awesome beta reader also came through and had great feedback for "Rita vs the Duende."  My goal is to input his comments this weekend.  For my part, I look forward to reading his work too.

This young adult magical realism story collection is going to be amazing!  I hope my readers who have been requesting a YA book will enjoy reading it, as much as I am crafting it.

On the writing front, this morning, I am going to put in about 20 minutes into the story, but the majority of my writing will be focused on my speech, if my request to speak to the CCC board gets accepted.  That is the governing board of our educational system, and they need to be made aware of how awful the negotiations are going.  I want to show how this lack of bargaining is impacting students.  It is only a four-minute speech, but I want to do a great job on it.

That is all I've got!  (I know my Barrio Blues newsletter is delayed, and I hope to get that out this weekend.)

Stay true to your work.  #barrioblues

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Great Writing Exercise: 10 Truths, 10 Lies #barrioblues

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.

  1. Ricky is 17.
  2. Wants to drive a Dodge Challenger.
  3. Is undocumented and wants to be a DREAMER.
  4. Loves his mother and does chores when no one is looking.
  5. Has a dog named Chucky.
  6. Plays baseball.
  7. Is an average student because he doesn’t try hard enough.
  8. Prays the Rosary in the bathroom.
  9. Has a severe crush on his neighbor but pretends to hate white people.
  10. Has a complex about his large feet.
  1. (Deleted to prevent spoiler.)
  2. Drinks alcohol.
  3. Goes to Church regularly.
  4. Wants to work at the mechanic shop with his dad.
  5. Wants to go to a university.
  6. Would rather live in Mexico than the U.S.
  7. Plays the guitar.
  8. Is a virgin.
  9. Looks up to his father.
  10. Eats everything his mother makes for him.

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Spending Time with My Next Book's Main Characters #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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Onto Story #3 of My Young Adult, Magical Realism Collection & Upcoming Giveaway, Black Friday #barrioblues

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book 5 Needs a Title and My Next Story Concept

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