Sunday, May 27, 2012

George (A Memorial Day Tribute)

      I was in the fourth grade, attending the prestigious Pensionado Borja 3.  The Jesuit school was essentially a prep school for Colegio de San Gabriel, which eventually led to studying at La Universidad Catolica.  There were no finer educational institutions in Quito, Ecuador.
The homework was abundant, the reading was exhausting, and the teachers were increasingly demanding, particularly if you were at the top of the class.  I found myself in that position, able to meet these demands thanks to the efforts of my mother, who pushed me to be the very best I could be in school.
Each morning, I rode a bus that motored down the Via Oriental, all the way to La Vicentina, where the working class neighborhoods gave way to office buildings, and the more attractive parts of Quito.  There were two minutes of this ride that I looked forward to each and every day. 
On Avenida 6 de Diciembre, just past the Military Geographic Institute, rose a building complex painted in pure white, surrounded by a black iron fence.  The tallest structure of the complex was topped by a cupola that served as the base for a sight that never failed to take my breath away, the flag of the United States of America.
I’d crane my neck to look up at its stripes, flapping in the Andean wind.  The deep blue, star spangled field contrasted sharply with the sky regardless of what the day threw at it.  On a sunny day, the colors were so vivid that their resplendence etched itself in my eyes.  In the rain, there was something about the darkened fabrics that conveyed strength and resilience.  At night, with floodlights aimed to the sky, the Star Spangled Banner was a fluttering of color dazzling against a black mantle.
I learned that the thirteen stripes represented the first thirteen colonies, from which a nation was born.  I learned that the blue field embodied justice, and that each star symbolized one of the fifty states.  I learned that the white was a commitment to peace, and that the red was a tribute to the sacrifice of its sons to attain that peace.  
Four years later, a mural of the flag I adored, welcomed me after our papers were stamped at JFK airport’s customs office in New York City.  Two years later, when I was able to read, write, and speak English, I threw myself into the history books and soon I was proud beyond measure of my land of the free, my home of the brave.  But my reading paled in comparison with a certain conversation during a Memorial Day in 1995. 
I finished up finals and took a job around school just to stay around my friends.  My good friend, Jim was having a Memorial Day picnic at his parents’ home in Mercer, Pennsylvania.  When I got there, I met my friend’s grandfather, George. 
George sat in a wheel chair on the front yard under the protective shade of an oak tree.  Despite the balmy day that carried the promise of summer in the air, George wore a nylon jacket and a blanket over his lap.  I noticed a patch on his jacket, the head of a screaming eagle on a black field with the word “Airborne” arching over it.  I noticed George didn’t have a drink in his hand, so I prepared a cup of iced tea and walked over to him. 
“For me?  Oh, thank you, fellow,” he said in a kind voice. 
He took a sip of his drink and sighed with satisfaction.  “You’re Jimmy’s school buddy.”
I nodded.  “Yes, Sir.  I’m Javier, but you can call me, Jay.”  I always offered my initials since many stumbled with the Spanish “J” of my name.
“It’s nice to meet you, Jay.  Jim told me you’re a new American.”  There was a twinkle in his eyes.
I smiled.  “I just became a citizen over a year ago after five years of residency.”
He leaned closer, looking up at me.  “Mind telling me what being an American means to you?”  His gray eyes fixed on mine, pinning me in place. 
“Living here has been my dream since I was six,” I said awkwardly, thinking back on that school bus ride from when I was a kid.
George nodded slowly, as though he liked what he heard.  “A dream come true, is it?”
“Yes, Sir.  It is.”
He looked around, his eyes on the flag that hung limply from its pole off the front porch of the house.  “It’s not perfect, but it’s a good place to live in.”
I silently agreed.  “Can I ask you about the eagle, Sir?”
His eyes seemed to cloud in recollection.   “I was a wet behind the ears Private in the 101st Airborne back in ’44.  Do you know what was happening back then?”
I was about to answer that we were fighting the war, but suddenly I realized how disrespectful that “we” assumption would’ve been to a man who was actually there.  “Second World War,” I answered, feeling a chill course through my spine.
George nodded once.  “I was crazy enough to enlist.  All my buddies were going overseas to kick some Nazi tail.  After all the rah-rah stuff, I found my butt on a troop boat headed for the beaches of Normandy, right into the teeth of the beast.”
My eyes widened with surprise.  I was familiar with the landing on Normandy.  “Oh my God…”
“Sarge barked at us to ready our weapons… even he, sounded scared out of his mind…” his voice sounded haunted.  “A lot of those boys wet their pants right there.  Others puked their guts out.  I remember looking at one another knowing a lot of us were never going to make it to the sand…”
My heart twisted painfully at the image he painted.  I was scared that I’d stressed him too much.  “Sir, you don’t have to go into it.  I’m so sorry, I…”
George raised a shaky, age-spotted hand to stop me.  The intensity of his gaze was simultaneously pleading.  “Every Memorial day I think of those boys…”
My eyes welled with tears at this glimpse into what it meant to wear the uniform, fighting in a foreign shore for the freedom of others.  I realized I was in the presence of a flesh and blood hero, and I felt I couldn’t muster enough reverence for this man. 
I followed his gaze, fixed on the flag again, and that’s when it came to me.  That image of that beautiful flag snapping in the air on my ride to school, and what it truly meant.
George turned contemplative as he silently cried.  I didn’t know what to say or do.  I certainly didn’t understand the billowing mass of emotions that gripped me at that moment as an image of rows and rows of white crosses filled my mind.  At one point, as I sat there weeping like a child, George wheeled closer to me and squeezed my shoulder. 
“We’d better join the party, kid,” he said, remarkably composed.
I knew I had to say something, so I fought thorough the awkwardness and forced myself not to be so damn shy.  “Thank you, Sir.  This world wouldn’t be what it is today without men like you,” I choked on each word as I took his right hand, feeling the strength of the titan in the wheel chair.
“I appreciate that, son.”  He took my hand in both of his.  “Welcome to America, young man.”
When I looked up, there was a smile on his face, a smile that showed me the immensity of this man’s strength. The sentiment undid me inside, but I managed to compose myself enough to grant him a grateful, ephemeral smile.
Connie saw her father wheeling himself to the picnic table, and quickly discarded her paper plate to come to his aid.  I watched her roll him under a picnic shelter after she heaped a plate with macaroni salad and placed it on his lap.  I stood under the shade of that oak for a long time in complete awe. 
With all due respect to everyone who served in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, George is to me, one of the men from the greatest generation that ever lived. 
He passed away a few years after that, but each May, when the pools open and the aromas of grilling waft in the warm air, I think of that last smile George gave me as he welcomed me to America.  This one little exchange taught me so much more than any history book.  It gave a whole new meaning to watching our flag flying in the breeze each Memorial Day.
Thank you, George, today and always,

 A grateful new American.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I admit I was terrified of Twitter back when my good friend @johnwhuffman told me it was essential for me to tweet.  I didn’t understand the format.  I didn’t get what the #s and @s were about, or what the little links were.
The concept of following and followers made me feel as though I was trying to start a cult.  Eventually, I plunged in.  As intimidating as it was, I found comfort in the fact that nearly everyone on the feed was either writing, or promoting their books.  I was stunned.  Where I work, I've always felt I simply don't belong, a real case of oil and water.  Like many of you, I live in my head.  The guys at work usually talk beer, trucks, hunting and, the injustices at the hands of management.  I have nothing to contribute to those conversations. 
Even at home, I drive my pretty wife to tears with my diatribes about books and writing.  She's thankful for all of you that gave her husband an outlet to discharge the convoluted contents of his mind. 
I recall following @LanieMalone, simply because I’d written a script several years ago, and the lead female’s name is Melanie (Lanie) Malone.  I had no idea how to “twitroduce” myself, so I remarked on her name.  Now I know enough about @LanieMalone to understand that I’m fortunate she tweeted back.  Who would’ve thought that barely two months later, she’d become a huge fan of my first novel #TheGaze.  Her blog review made me feel on top of the world.
Backtrack to that initial tweeting count of a whopping 3 followers… 
I felt rather foolish for not coming up with something creative like other handles I’d seen.  I was in fact about to change it into something enigmatic when I came across @PatriciaParis1, hands down one of the coolest names ever!  In fact, with her blessing, a character of mine will be named after her.  @PatriciaParis1 surprised me by calling my name, the coolest name ever.  As a result, she gained a fan, and I kept my handle.
When I finally caught up somewhat, and after becoming intimately familiar with #bitly , I started opening up the little links.  I discovered a world of advice, guidelines, anecdotes, and a wealth of writing that inspired me to share my own musings.   A few weeks later, I noticed several tweeps introducing themselves with a “buy my book!” theme.  I’m ashamed to say I hopped on that wagon, not knowing any better, and feeling like slime because of it.
Then I came across a blog that advised on a radical approach: be yourself first.  Let them get to know something about you, and introduce your wares when asked. 
At the time, my followers numbered at an improbable 57!  Only then, I discovered the magic of the RT button.  I came across some of the most wonderful articles, not just on writing, but on life itself.  And to my utter shock, I started receiving thank you tweets, for simply sharing their work with my 57 followers.  I don't know about the rest of you, but that has a way of humbling you that I never expected, particularly when the tweet came from someone with 46k followers. 
My mother, who once was the toughest, roughest, meanest disciplinarian, was big on manners.  (Today she the most pliable grandmother on the face of the earth, of course).   I began responding accordingly and my handle was mentioned under labels like “cool tweeps to follow”. 
Since then, I've made it a point to respond individually to each follower.  When someone has the accidental click that brings them to my page and they follow me, I immediately check their profile and often comment on anything they’re proud about, as revealed in the intro. 
Sometimes, a tweep has nothing on their intro.  I can type "TY for the follow" faster than you could blink.
Other times, you can see a wealth of information, just in the way someone smiles at the camera.  @CassidyJonesAdv is one of the most polite, and infallibly caring tweeps you’ll ever be fortunate to follow.  Her Emery Phillips is by far one of the best characters ever created.  Because of him, I was swept away in the #AdventuresofCassidyJones. This gifted author sees superheroes in her own children, just like I see in mine.  It’s a tough world nowadays, and our kids have much more to contend with than we did!  I was so happy to share that feeling with someone who’d understand. 
I exchanged a tweet with @ChristinesWords and discovered that she and I were going through similar growing pains soon after our release of our first novel.  We shared some of the doubts and apprehension, and ultimately decided to shrug it off, relying on the quality of our work.  Now she knows I got crushed out on her Sunny.  She can arrest me any time after meeting her in #SomeLikeItInHandcuffs.
I built a blog (without a follow button for like… ever) and was shocked whenever @JanRomes and @jvonbargen retwitted my little musings.  They’re some of the classiest tweeps out there.
I remember obtaining a TY for the follow from another bilingual author.  @momilp and I tweeted over commonalities that made me feel that she and I were classmates at the same Roman Catholic School in another lifetime.  Her book #ThePriest has become one of my all-time favorite reads, and I’m ecstatic that @momilp drew such joy out my review, even if I failed miserably to convey what a journey her story was through the eyes, and heart, of her Mauricio.
I once tweeted about a review I obtained in #Amazon and I received a reply, “yay for you.”  Text like that can be easily misconstrued,and I didn’t know if that was sarcastic or what.  I looked up the profile and followed, mainly because @KafeCastro took the time to tweet, sarcasm or not.  Today, I’m one of her biggest fans, for she writes like no one else I’ve ever come across, and the main message of her stories, to me, is simply, “we are who we are, no apologies.”  I’ve also discovered that “if it’s not over the top, it’s not #KafeCastro.”  Today I’m proud to consider her one of my best friends I’ve yet to meet.  She also became a huge fan of #TheGaze, so much so that her harsh critique on its sequel #TheNextChapter will make it into a story worth reading.  I can't thank her enough for that. 
And thus, it’s gone on. 
I had the opportunity to express my gratitude to @BertCarson for the simple fact that he represents a breed of people I’ve always admired.  Really, how many of us would calmly go to a foreign land to fight in combat?
I’ve gotten to practice Spanish with @teresasc15, who loves great song lyrics that touch the heart.  @SerenaAkeroyd gets my goodnights to her mornings since we're apparently at opposite ends of the globe.
I’ve read eulogies to long gone authors that moved me to tears, and I’ve gladly shared a good word with a new tweep, seemingly every day.
Not all of it is peaches and cream, of course.  I thanked a man for following me only to be told “of course, I’m the best author America doesn’t know about.”  That was the first time I tested the speed of the unfollow button.
Then I came across @kristi_ayers who has a way of making me feel that I know much more than I really do.  By being no one but herself, she’s gained a fan long before she awes the rest of the literary community with her#OnePetalFlower .  How do I know that?  Because she revealed a comittment to write from the heart, and that makes for the best stories.
During a midnight shift, running crane at the steel mill, @EmmaCalin lifted my spirits with just a few tweets. She was kind enough to add tags to #TheGaze on #Amazon.  I’ll never forget that.
There are now…883 people crazy enough to follow @J_Robayo1974, and as much as I’d love to include every single one of them (even the office furniture tweep that follows me… weird, I know...)  I’m afraid I can’t presume to hold anyone’s attention for as long as that endeavor would take. 
I will make a mention of some great authors who besides doing their own work, are now constantly pushing the rest of us to the forefront.  Their efforts will not be ignored.  @KathyReinhart, @Hotlitbooks, @JadeVarden, @MarlaAMadison, @Clive_SJohnson, @dcPriya… so many…
Thank you all, each and every one of my 883…. Wait, make that 884 followers, even you, yes you, office furniture tweep.   I look forward to that next blog, your next announcement of your new release, you crazy pictures, and all the Retweets.
yours truly,

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Harsh Critique

Note:  This blog is aimed at authors.  With the wonders of social media, feeling alone is a choice.  If my musings can help, inspire, or let one of you out there know that you're not alone either, then I'll keep openly sharing these chronicles.  Thank you for your visit.

   Over the past year, I wrote THE GAZE, and frankly I didn't know just what I had once I did what I thought was the final edit.  This book has gone on to garner some beautiful reviews and just like all of you out there, my fellow authors, I'd like to see another hundred reviews with all five shining stars at the heading. 
   Those of you who are there, drop me a line and let me know how it feels, please?
   And so, with a strong wind in my sails, I caved under the overwhelming demand to see more of these characters, particularly, Lewis Bettford. 
   My friend Lewis is the friend everyone wants.  Even me.  I could use his support, his brutal honesty, and his superior company, more times than I could count.  If you wonder why, then may I humbly suggest you read the novel and get to know him.  I dare say you will message me, asking to see more of him.
   Thus, the work for THE NEXT CHAPTER began.
   For obvious reasons I will not tell you much about the book, but I'll tell you that I'm close to achieveing a story of similar caliber to GAZE.
   I compare it to movie sequels.  They never beat the original. 
   Once you've allowed the story to throw you in every direction of the emotional spectrum, you refuse to settle for anything less, and the expectation is higher than you could've anticipated. 
   There are several of you writing series, and maybe I'm not alone in this swim against the current of replicating what the first story meant.  This is where it gets tricky. 
   Often we try to give our main characters some new attribute, taking the risk of detracting the person your readers have come to know and love.  At this point, if the risk doesn't pay off, chances are you will disappoint your reader.  That literally keeps me up at night.
   Recently I made an advance reader out of a trusted friend, and fan of GAZE.  I eagerly awaited her reactions to the new story, and often bit my nails hoping I'd hear something favorable.  When the critique finally came, it confirmed my gnawing fears.
   I'm nowhere near to what GAZE is.

   A philosopher of obscure reputation named T.L. Tate once said, "The harshest of critiques from a true friend is an invaluable tool."
   I'm glad I recalled that quote.  If you've done any writing in the attempt to impress an audience, writing a speech, an article, a novel, I'm sure you've been there.  I've seen friendships fall apart over critiques.  I've seen the uncomfortable smiles.  I've heard the uttering of apologies.  I've been on both ends of it all.  Neither one is easy. 
   However, if you know that friend is true, and that inner judge we all have, has been telling you, your script is not good enough, it's inevitable to feel that kick in the gut when you have no choice but to accept, it just wasn't good enough.
   At this point you have two choices.  Choose the healthy one.
   Harness that energy and tap into that tortured soul most of us invoke, and hit the keys with a new goal in mind.  Use that invaluable tool to polish what you have and change the mind of your critic.  After all, would you rather hear it from ONE person who cares about you, or would you rather see ONE star reviews from a hundred people. 
   T.L. Tate, despite his eccentricity, has those moments of wisdom that have helped me out in my budding writing career.  Never more than at this moment, when I'm seriously contemplating rewriting the entire manuscript.
   I want my friend to know how much I appreciate the harsh critique, and when THE NEXT CHAPTER becomes a worthy read, as I intend to make it, I want my friend to know that the harsh critique was precisely the wake up call I needed.
   This is what's on my mind today.  The blog is called Out of the Mind of Yours Truly, after all.
   And now, to hit the keys with renewed purpose...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Still Falling

   I came up to kiss our girls good night, wishing I didn't have to go to work for the night. When I saw you pull your brown hair back to kiss their little foreheads.  For a moment, my breath caught when you looked up at me.  Your clear blue gaze arrested me just like it has since the day I first met you...
   I can easily recall walking into the bank where you worked.  You were at the drive-thru window, wishing your customer a good day when I walked up to the counter.  You were the only one there, looking elegant in a pant suit, your brown hair loose around your shoulders.  Then you turned around and when I saw your face, I knew, I just knew you were everything I would ever want.

  I ached with the urge to see you smile from then on, and I wanted nothing more than to be the reason for that smile.  I wanted to see myself in your eyes, I wanted to occupy your heart, for I knew you were in mine.  But at that point I felt utterly unworthy of even being one of your thoughts.  It was enough for me to walk into that bank and hand you a stack of bills, deliberately jotting down the wrong quantity on the deposit slip, just so I could watch your lips move as you counted out each bill.  You must have thought I was hopeless when it came to counting money, but it was just sweet torture to watch your lips, dying inside with the need to crush them with mine.  Oh, how I loved that look you'd give me, shaking your head, yet dazzling me with your grin.  How I cursed that damn thick counter for effectively keeping me from reaching up to feel the delicate skin of your cheek.
   I remember the sudden meaningful glances we exchanged during those two-minute visits. I remember trying to convince myself that it was enough, and it was, until the night you came to that party.  Everyone around us simply ceased to be and there was only music, and you.  I held onto you as though I was holding a fragment of a dream.  When you looked up and fixed me with those sapphires I could see in them the man I never thought I'd be, and when you slowly closed the distance and your lips touched mine, I knew I'd never be the same again...

   The day I waited for you at the altar, precisely thirteen years ago today, I didn't think it was possible to be any more in love with you.  I still think the vision of absolute beauty that walked down the aisle that day was the best dream of my life.  Little did I knew that this dream was only beginning, and I never thought that thirteen years later I'd still have yet to stop falling in love with you.

   I still look forward to that first kiss of the day.  I still wait impatiently for you to wake and come into my arms, allow me to lose myself in your eyes and feel that flutter in my chest as your lips touch mine.  Thirteen years of marriage have done nothing but intensify everything I feel when you're near me, and how could I not feel that way, when I fell in love with the girl you were, only to fall even deeper for the woman you've become, and then reach a new level of loving you for the amazing mom that you are.  

   Happy Anniversary, my Sheri Sue, I have yet to stop falling for you   



Friday, May 11, 2012

A Mother's Day Thank You

   Damn!  Not again!
   I sigh and glare malevolently at the offensive pen in my hand.  It can't be that noticeable, I think to myself, but it is.  It practically leaps off the page.
   I can hear Mom coming up the steps to check on my progress.  There's no point in writing anymore.  I have plenty of experience with what's about to happen.
   "Well, let's see," she says over my shoulder.
   The way she inhales so sharply might as well be an explosion of disappointment.
   Outside, the bounce of a well-inflated basketball echoes in the street.  My best friend is already on his way to the court for another epic battle.  I'm the outside shooter.  He needs me.  I need to be there, but I know that's just not going to happen.
   "Javier, you need to be more careful with how you write.  You cannot hand this in to your teacher with this horrible smudge.  It's disrespectful.  Not to mention you misspelled diligencia."
   There's an ominous pause as she gives me a second to absorb the implications of my carelessness.
   "Do it over," she says imperiously as she takes the page and swiftly tears it off the notebook.
   I can only nod while repressing the urge to cry.  It's the second page she's torn today.
   "I'm sorry, but what you write is a reflection of yourself, so you need to take better care in how you present your work.  You made a mistake because your mind is already on your game with your friends, but one day you're going to realize that there are more important things in life."
   I can't possibly care about the important things in life.  I'm eleven!  And right now the most important thing to me is to join Manuel at the court so we can beat William and Camilo.  Why can't she understand that?
   "Okay, Mom."
   Satisfied, Mom goes back downstairs, leaving behind ninety-eight pounds of rage.  A bitter tear of resentment falls and smudges the blank page of my notebook, already ruining it before I even begin writing.  With a herculean effort I rein my emotions, clear my head from how badly I want to see that ball fall through the hoop without touching it, and start over...

   26 years later...

   I just wanted to say, thank you.
   Thank you for tearing all those pages from my notebook when I made mistakes.
   I didn't understand the lesson then, but I see myself enforcing it each time I write, and as a result, I was able to complete a novel.  A whole novel, Mom!
   I didn't have to tear my own pages, (Thank God!) but I can tell you that on my keyboard, the "delete" key no longer has a label upon it, testament to a whole lot of digital page tearing.
   I wanted to tell you that you were right.
   If it hadn't been for your commitment and devotion to my academic success when I was a kid, I know I would've never seen my name on the spine of a book. 
   You were there each and every time, despite having a whole house to take care of, despite having another child to raise, and we both know that was a huge feat because my little sister was NOT easy.  ( I'm going to pay for this one next family gathering )  Despite whatever worries assaulted you in the most vulnerable hours of the day, you were right over my shoulder, guiding me, pushing me, teaching me, and also letting me know how proud you were of my A+ homework and tests.  Thanks to all your efforts, I'm a writer today.
   But how can I call myself a writer when I couldn't possibly write anything remotely adequate to convey how grateful I am for you in my life?  How can I write a whole novel, create an entire set of lives on the page only to sit here, unable to say much more than thank you, for all you've done?
   When it comes to you, there aren't enough superlatives to attribute to the kind of mother you've been.  I'll just say that nothing in my life would be what it is without you.  I wouldn't be the person I am without all the work you did to keep me growing straight.  I wouldn't be the kind of father I strive to be without the example you set when I was a kid.  I owe it all to you, Mom. 
   It infuriates me that I have at my disposal two entire languages, an abundance of words and phrases that fall hopelessly short of expressing what I feel when I think of you.  I have no choice but to rely on simple phrases in the hopes that you feel my gratitude and eternal admiration.
   I love you, Mom. 
   Thank you, for everything. 
   I pray I can always make you proud of me. 



Friday, May 4, 2012

Characters, they're all around us

For a while I thought about writing some paranormal story for that's trending big time right now.  Many of us aspire to write the next Twilight and to do that, we have to be at our best in creating a character.  Not an easy feat. 
But, suddenly it hit me, why do I need to invent the most beautiful vampire, sophisticated, sharp, strong, undeniably appealing, when there's an entire world full of interesting people that can easily become the basis of a character in a story?  Come to think of it, why not tell their story?
I'm thinking these things while on an errand to the supermarket.  I always cringe when my Sheri asks me to run to the store for something.  To make a long, horrid story short, let's just say I'm a victim of variety.  At least now she can text me a picture of exactly what she wants and the screw ups have minimized considerably.
I wonder if I get back home and remark about the pretty brunette on aisle 10, my Sheri will heed her possessive streak and limit my visits to the supermarket during busy hours.  I don't know that I'm brave enough to test that theory, but I think that's how Dad was able to cut off that trend.  I don't even know that he remembers what the inside of a supermarket looks like now.
While searching the dairy aisle for some sour cream, I notice that there are ten different brands to choose from, which begs the question:  what makes them different? 
Knowing my Sheri favors white and legible lettering, I go for a tub of Daisy.
Just then a woman walks by me.  She has an infant in the seat of the cart, a toddler hanging from a handful of her shirt, and the quintessential big brother and little sister of school age, that are constantly picking at each other, pointing their arguments with several loud "Mom!"s
My mind begins to write a story out of its own volition.  First, a name.  She has four kids so she's got to be one strong woman.  I'm a father of two and with one trip to the supermarket, I return home on my knees begging for mercy, while nursing a bleeding wallet.  The power of their cuteness is too much for me to overcome.
So, we'll go with something strong, like a "Sara", I like it.  Let's take it a step above and add an ambiguous H just to make it unique, let's go with Sahra.  So, Sahra has four children, that alone should say much, but we'll take it up a notch and make her not only a mom of four, but also an aspiring nurse, taking night classes.  Why does she want to be a nurse?
I almost want to ask her, but she's too busy calming the infant down, while keeping her toddler's busy hands from grabbing every block of New York Sharp cheese from the cooler.
And then I got it!  She's a widower, yes, tragic of course, but there's the motivation.  Her late husband may have survived had he received special care... mmh, we'll put him as a volunteer helping the Haiti earthquake victims when he contracted an infection that took his life.  Sahra not only wants to be a nurse, she wants to go abroad and teach nursing skills in undeveloped countries.  Wow, Sahra, what a heart you've got!
Her two older kids are trading sneaky rabbit punches at each other until the little girl connects solidly, making her brother wince.  With one frown, the little girl is off to the races leaving her mother's scream in her wake.  The girl tries looking over her shoulder and her flip flops  (worst footwear design in history) bend beneath her toes sending her headlong onto the cold vinyl floor.
Big brother stops to laugh and is rewarded with a decent smack on the back of his head. 
A well-dressed gentleman quickly helps the little girl to her feet and kindly walks her back to mom.
I'm already composing the love story between these two, but I won't cram that in this post.  I know our attention span is akin to a gnat's so by this point I may have already lost some of you.
The point of the whole mad ranting is, characters are all around us.  So don't lose heart over not coming up with the perfect vampire, or the meanest werewolf, or the funniest zombie.  Reality gives us a vast spectrum of choices and as authors, it's our job to weave them into a story. 
Of course, Sahra would make an awesome vampire, after all, if anyone needs superpowers is a single mother of four, studying to be a nurse.
And for those of you wondering, yes, Sahra is as real as you and me.  At least that's what the name on the tag pinned to the light blue scrubs she wore.
Happy Writing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


"Let me introduce you to my friend Javier A. Robayo, author of THE GAZE"

With that tweet, my new friend from all the way in Australia unknowingly earned himself a devout blog follower, facebook friend, and staunch supporter.  It was a great gesture from someone I may never meet in person.  And so goes the world of the social network. 
I can now call dear friends to people I've only read about, or shared a few tweets with.  It's incredible really.
In less than 140 characters, we've exchanged ideas, shared opinions, expressed our support, provided encouragement, and even laughed and cried a little.
Be conscious of how far a few words can go, be cautious with their power.
A talented writer with nearly 30,000 followers somehow took the opportunity to retweet the work of a new author of very small stature (yours truly) gaining my gratitude and respect. She showed me what a rewarding task it is to push forth the work of others in similar situations.
I came across an incredible writing voice who thought no one out there cared.  A few comments sparked a roaring flame of inspiration and this wonderful lady continues to weave gold onto the screen, knowing I will enjoy her every word. 
That's why we write, isn't it?  We write for that one person that's going to read and take something from your words. 
I may be wrong but making money, writing the next Hollywood blockbuster, topping the bestsellers list, shouldn't be the goal, but the result of having found that one person whose praise of our work starts a contagion of interest.  When the work is good, it inevitably floats.  When the work is bad, it never surfaces.  I've learned to never underestimate a reader.  Anyone who reads, has an intellect, and no one takes kindly to anyone insulting that intellect.
They're more powerful than we think, despite our collective penchant for composing entire epics out of them. 
It's the smallest clusters of words that make big impressions. 
Just when I begin feeling that no one is out there willing to read a few words I write, I'm pleasantly shocked when I see something retweeted, or something commented on.  Just like that the wind pushes the sails again, and I remember that I decided to write with one simple goal in mind, to give something back to that one person who devoted a few minutes to read what I wrote.  I want to let them know that their time was well spent, and I will always offer a thank you and a word of friendship to those who take the time to grace me with a comment.
They mean everything in this medium.  Use them well.