Friday, June 29, 2012

The BAD Review

   Nope, not my kind of book. Vvveeerrryyy long, too many twists & pretentious writing. The last 20 pages were the only redeeming factor of this book.

   Yes, it had to happen, didn't it?  If we write a novel and don't expect someone to dislike it, we're either naive, overconfident or have completely lost touch with reality.
   Still, my entire morning was ruined by this young lady's review.   
   I'm not writing this to discredit her.  Believe it or not, I messaged her and told her that I felt sorry that she didn't find THE GAZE to her liking, and I thanked her for her honest opinion.
   Did it bother me?
   Of course it bothered me, it bothered me so much that I knew the only way to get past it, was for me to blog about it, so here I am.
   Those of you out there writing your novels know how much of ourselves goes onto the page, particularly when we write from the heart.  So, I'm fairly positive I will find some sympathy among you, but this is by no means a pity party, it's an opportunity to reassess and learn.
   While writing GAZE, I realized no two people read anything the same way.  No one interprets a passage equally, and everyone gets their own personal connection to a story they read, which varies from person to person.  We are all so different, and our life experience has much to do with our likes and dislikes.  In other words, we'd be foolish to believe we can please every single person out there.
   This person's words have brought my feet back on the ground before I floated away in a cloud of overconfidence, thinking I totally know what I'm doing.  I realize I may have much more to learn and I look forward to the challenge.  I wish I understood what she means by the pretentious part. 
   She's got me there... 
   And of course, I'm glad to have found some redemption in those twenty pages, according to her.  I'm glad I didn't waste all her time.
   One of the chief complaints I've received about GAZE is its length.  488 pages seem to be way too much for many people to handle.  Not one of those people will ever know that I cut the story like a bush explorer blazing a new trail, and yet, it turned into a large body of work nonetheless.  I will never apologize for it, of course, because the next leading comment I've seen is "I didn't want it to end".
   I'm not about to hand over my book with a label NOT FOR IMPATIENT READERS.  The same way I've taken a chance in writing a novel, a reader takes a chance in reading it.
   My duty as a writer is to the content of the novel first and foremost.  When the book is done, I lay it out on the chopping block knowing that the chances of success are 50/50 at best.  People will like it or they won't.
   I've taken great, immeasurable comfort from the fact that several people I've come to admire have pulled the axe away, and praised the novel, allowing me to believe I did all right.
   Those of you out there writing your first novel, keep in mind that there will be days like these.  You have to respect the opinions of your readers, and understand that their beliefs and attitudes are the result of their own life experience, and if what you wrote failed to touch those parts of them, the connection is simply not going to happen, no matter what you write. 
   Writing a novel is about taking risks.  You may offend some readers, yet you may inspire others, and you may accomplish this with that same body of work, those same words read through different minds.  It's fascinating, if you think about it.  A bad review is not the end of the world.  It certainly is not the end of my world. 
   This BAD review has grounded me and kept me humble in my perception of myself as an author, despite the cold shiver of agonizing disappointment that coursed through me when I first read it.  I'm trying to face it and absorb its impact then it's gone, and it's on to expect the next review, hoping that proverbial axe doesn't fall onto my novel.
   I feel much better after sharing this experience.  That's what this is, an expeirience, a part of the entire process, and I've chosen to aknowledge it and with that done, I'm moving on to write the next  novel that will either find praise by those who make a connection or it will be just another pretentious passage in the eyes of someone who may inevitably care enough about to give it a BAD review.
   And I welcome it...

   Javier A. Robayo

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Real Writer

   Today, June 27th of 2012, will forever live in my heart, much like March 1st of this same year. 
   After a whirlwind of emotions, long hours at the keyboard, and despite a full time job that demands I work different shifts each week, I can now look at the fruit of my labors and sigh with utter contentment.  Today I dare call myself an author, a novelist, a writer.  I now have the audacity of thinking myself a real writer for the first time since a day back in 2000 when I entertained the idea of composing a story.

   This endeavor I titled THE NEXT CHAPTER, a sequel to The Gaze, is now reality, and I've allowed myself an entire night of reflection on everything that has changed since writing a character named Lewis Jonathan Bettford as Samantha Reddick's best friend in THE GAZE

   I'd love to be poetic enough to compose something profound about the way I feel at this very moment, but I can't be anyone else but who I am, so... I CAN'T BELIEVE I WROTE TWO BOOKS WOO HOO!!!

   But what's even more unbelievable is that, unlike GAZE, this new epic already has readers, some eagerly wating for it.  It's so surreal knowing that there are people out there who may still wonder how to pronounce my name, but who easily associate it to THE GAZE, that book with the intense-looking young lady on the cover. 

   THE NEXT CHAPTER has an audience, it's by no means huge, but for the first time since writing my first, I now believe, a little more than just hope, that it may just be a matter of time before I'm flooded with questions and comments about this little universe of mine. 

   I never thought I'd be in this position... 
  Yesterday, I worked until 6am, came home to sleep a few hours, and then rushed to the florist.  The owner of the flower shop was beyond flattered that I chose them to make the bouquet.  Linda, the owner of Smiths - The Main St. Florist, even bought a copy of THE GAZE right on the spot.  She took the copy I was supposed to show Bob, the photographer, but I was honored and thrilled to sign the book and let her have it. 

   My little girls and I took the bouquet and this resplendent tangerine fabric to Bob, who quickly set his lights and propped the fabric with a critical eye.  It only took about fifty shots before we agreed on The One.  It was not easy, and it may have been impossible without the help of my Sheri, who's got far better color vision than I do.  Ocular migraines have taken a toll on my color vision over the years, and it makes for some hilarious choices on my part.  I'm all about white t-shirts and blue jeans because of that. 

   Sheri gave her blessing to the image and later my very talented father worked his magic on the lettering.  The former technical draftsman employed his innate artistic talents to complete the image, and soon the cover was done.  In order to maintain the old adage that nothing is perfect, Sheri and Dad insisted on blemishing a perfectly good cover with my likeness on the back.  Reluctantly, I agreed, but only because I'm confident that after reading Christina Fifield-Winn's kick-butt blurb, readers will immediately return to the front cover to immerse themselves in the story, forgetting all about the author's picture.

   I'm now contemplating all the things I could've written differently, along with everything I've learned throughout the experience of bringing THE NEXT CHAPTER to fruition. 

   Much like THE GAZE, this sequel has been a great help in making me understand certain enigmas in my own life that have kept me up at nights.  I look forward to divulging just what this novel has done for me as its author, but I can't spoil the plot.  I pray, I hope, it manages to connect with readers much like GAZE has done, much to my complete awe.  I hope they find the comfort, the joy, and all the emotion I found in the mind of Lewis, for we are always destined to write the next chapter in our own lives.

   Javier A. Robayo

The Face of THE GAZE

    Some three Christmases ago, I gave my dad a copy of Alexander Dumas' "The Three Musketeers". At the time, I was struggling with an adventure story that had more block walls than any self-respecting labyrinth. I had a feeling this story was going to end up in the shelf, at least for a while. But in order to make myself a goal, I wrote a promise on the first page, "Dad, I promise you one day to give you a book with my name on its spine..."
    If you've ever held Dumas' wonderful work, you'll remember that it's one of the biggest novels ever written. I was trying to give myself plenty of time, after all.

Three years later, I finished writing THE GAZE, a novel about struggle, redemption, and the importance of true friendships, and their role in our lives. Truth be told, I did not look beyond writing the novel. When I opted to go the Amazon route, I played with their cover maker software. They were explicit about requirements and had stern warnings about using someone else's work. I went rounds and rounds trying to come up with a cover. The first few ideas are not even worth mentioning, so we won't go there. But the title, which I finally settled on towards the very end of the novel, gave me an idea.     My wife Sheri literally became the owner of my soul the first time she gazed at me. There's no way to describe the pure beauty of her eyes. I hounded her for pictures like any accomplished paparazzi. I went as far as calling her a few unflattering things, just to see if I got that unique look, that GAZE.
    One night, I simply pointed the camera at her and begged her for one more picture. She gave me that look and I thought I'd lost every chance I had.
    My father is my own specialist when it comes to anything computer. He's a jack of all trades and master of many. He took the shots and brought out exactly what I'd hoped to bring out, THE GAZE.    I was excited, too excited. I royally screwed up the margins of the book and submitted the files, chose a cover and used a different shot. I wanted the book in white, thinking it would look mysterious. When I got it, I was thrilled that I finally had a book with my name on the spine, but there was no way I'd keep it in that format. I chose a different style through Amazon Cover Creator and settled on another template.     When we got the proof, I nearly cried. It looked like the pretty face on the cover was being censored from speaking. That was when Dad gave me THE SHOT. After putting the image in a black and white filter, I thought it mysterious and enigmatic enough. I was happy with it, until I'd see it online and notice how simplistically plain it looked. Compared to the vibrant, resplendent covers of other words, I held little hope to attract a reader based on the look of the cover alone. Dad produced the Kindle cover. Sheri was loving the fact that she could see a whole face and not just a set of eyes that seemed to be "burning into you, like 'read this, or else!'"
    I liked how it looked online. It was still simple, but I liked it. I would've lived with it until a good friend of mine pointed out that people may expect to see the Kindle cover on the print, and that it didn't seem fair to the reader. I wholeheartedly agreed. By then, I was determined to make the cover a bit flashier, though I didn't have much of a change in mind. Some of my friends urged me to do it, and soon Dad was at it again. Within a few days, we had what will now be the cover of THE GAZE forever.

    We matched the font of the inside title, Sheri still gazes out at the reader, though there's a certain softness and warmth now. There are times I can't open the cover because I get lost in the image. I feel very guilty about not doing this from the beginning, but the process sure taught me so much about what to do for the next novel. Putting those lessons into practice, I worked with my thinking team, Dad and Sheri, and we settled on the cover for THE NEXT CHAPTER.     I wholeheartedly hope that my readers of GAZE forgive me for giving them something less than what they deserved, when they hold its sequel in their hands. I won't spoil it for you, but that cover is a one shot deal. No alterations, no changes, and just like the new image of the cover of THE GAZE, the cover of THE NEXT CHAPTER will enthrall readers. I cannot wait to share that with you. I'm simulatenously excited and fearful of releasing it. I'm looking at the image right now, and I see it as a symbol of a promise and committment to give my readers the very best of me, for it's what they deserve. 
   Thank you.
    Javier A. Robayo

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Honor of Flag Day

Author's note: I thought it appropriate to share this excerpt from the upcoming MY TWO FLAGS in honor of our Star Spangled Banner.
   We land in JFK at midnight.  Two hours later, our visas are checked and signed.
“Welcome to America, Mrs. Amaya,” the lady behind the counter says, handing over our documents.
Muchas gracias.”  Mom’s eyes turn liquid as she thanks her. 
My mother, though short in stature, with pixie features and a soft voice, is nevertheless tough.  Her strength is only surpassed by her kindness; a well of optimism and a rigid guide.  Her skin is so fair, she easily burns in the noon sun and freckles dot her face.  Her soft hair lightens a bit, unlike her sisters whose more traditional darker skin and thick black manes make it hard to believe they share the same parents. 
I shrug into my coat while Mom buttons up my sister’s jacket.  Mom can’t stop crying.  We are all eager to see Dad again.
“Today is your dad’s birthday,” she reminds us.
Our reunion couldn’t have taken place at a better date.
Once outside of the small office, the first fragment of reality that shocks me is the stifling humidity that takes my breath away.  I feel like I’m in an oven.  The jacket quickly comes off, as well as my sister’s and Mom’s sweatshirt. 
“Why is it so hot?” I ask in a bewildered voice.
“I forgot it’s summer here,” Mom explains.  “It slipped my mind.”
The heat makes me shake my head, and suddenly long for the mild climate of Quito.  Up until this very moment, I never thought to appreciate such a blessing.
 Men wear shorts and t-shirts or tank tops, and women wear scandalously short outfits that show a lot of skin.  Carrying our jackets, we might as well have beacons over our heads proclaiming us as foreigners.   
Ahead of us, on the stripes of a large American flag are the words, “Welcome to America” in just about every language spoken across the globe.  The sight of the flag has always filled me with a sense of wonder; ever since I heard Mom call it a symbol of hope as it waved in the breeze on top of the American Embassy in Quito.
 We follow the people from our flight to a large contraption that rolls luggage on a carousel.  I spot our mustard-colored suitcase which contains the only possessions we have: clothing for each of us, a few letters and pictures for Dad and Hernan, and a few icons of another lifetime that Mom refused to do without, but they weren’t many.  In fact, everything we owned was in that single suitcase.  Mom had promised us we’d get it all back once we settled.
I was fine with leaving everything behind.  After all, if I’d brought my soccer ball with me, I would have only been able to look at it, and recall each game, each goal scored that I celebrated with Manuel.  The memories would be enough to crush me, and that is just one object. 
From up on a tier, two arms wave frantically.  They belong to two men that share so much of their appearance they could be twins.  Their smiles are bright and triumphant.  Dad’s is the widest and happiest I’d ever seen on his dusky face.
We push through the crowd, urged by the desperate need of embracing family in this strange new land.  And then he’s there, throwing his arms around Mom, my little sister and me.  The four of us cry as we cling to one another.  At that moment, the tensions and pressures of the last seven years are gone like a tear in an ocean.  
I’m three thousand miles from where I grew up.  I’m in my father’s arms in the United States of America. 
   I’m home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Once a coworker, now a friend

   Mark is a thirty-eight year old, rough, tough, angry crane operator who started working at the steel mill the same year I did.  That means I’ve known him for over thirteen years.  We are diametrical opposites in nearly every aspect of life, so it’s no surprise that we never gave each other more than a passing glance along with a Keys are in it, buddy.  See you tomorrow.”  A typical exchange at shift change when I replace him behind the controls of the crane.
   I favor the humble practicality of mini-vans, he’s a biker;  I love my wife and kids, he’s all about girlfriends and has said more than once "I’ll never bring a child into this f----d up world"; he fights tooth and nail with the bosses.  Although I don’t blame him, I take the approach that those people only affect me for the eight hours I’m working.  Once I clock out, their power over me is no longer an issue. 
    He admitted to hating his father, mine is my best friend and most cherished hero; he told me colorful stories of his mishaps and troubles with the law because of his drinking.  I’ve not drank to the point of inebriation since one questionable night in college that shall forever remain in the dark annals of my own history.  Mark and I could not be any more different, so it was a real shock when he approached me about a month ago and asked me for a copy of THE GAZE.
    I asked who he was buying it for and he told me it was for his girl.  It was his way of supporting the little guy.  With no small amount of trepidation, I gave him a copy of my novel.  From that point on, each time I saw him, I’d avoid him like the plague, terrified of what he’d say about my novel after he mentioned that he was the one reading it. 
    Mark and I have been the youngest guys on our respective turns for more than eight years, meaning our seniority put us at the bottom of the totem pole, a real disadvantage when a horrible deficit in workers forced us to work 16 hour days, every single day we came in for the last ten years.  We endured the long hours and the false sympathy from our coworkers who were happy to see us stay for another shift, for the fifth or sixth day in a row as they left for home.  Inevitably, Mark and I grew bitter in unimaginable ways through all of this. 
    Mark turned his rage outward and soon attained a reputation as a dangerous hothead.  I turned that rage into the motivation to find a way out of this place.  The experience gave us a bit of common ground and we respected each other for practically living at the mill against our will.
    Two nights ago, a downturn forced a schedule change and Mark and I were alone in the same inactive aisle for eight hours during the midnight shift.  What transpired throughout those eight hours, I would have never believed unless I’d been there to live it.
    Mark brought up the fact that he'd finished reading the novel.  He pointed out that curiosity won out, for he’d never have picked up a romance book otherwise, but once he realized that a woman named Samantha told the story, he was taken aback.  "How the hell did you write like a woman, dude?" He told me by the first page of Chapter 1, he was hooked.  He went on to compliment the work I did, expressing that he’d never seen it coming from me. 
    “No offense, dude.  But your accent, the fact that you never talk to nobody.  I didn’t see it coming, but I enjoyed it, man.  I really enjoyed it.  You know me, I don’t pull no f-----g punches, I f-----g tell like it is.  Yeah, you did a good job, man.”
    I actually thought I was dreaming this whole episode.  I asked him if he had any questions about the story and he nodded.  For the next few hours, I talked at length about what all went into the making of THE GAZE.  When I told him that the famous place mat that launches the story was actually written in real life back when (during a serious lapse of good judgment) I left Sheri behind to put myself back together, his eyes went wide with shock.  He grilled me about what else is based on reality and I revealed a few things.  He said he couldn’t wait to read it again, saying that our talk has given the book a whole new meaning.
    Everything I learned about Mark, which I wrote at the top of this page, I learned over this conversation.  Neither one of us has opened up to anyone else until that shift.  This place where we work leaves no room for any type of vulnerability, and you learn early on to keep everything to yourself, for anything out of your mouth can invite disastrous consequences.
    The shift flew by.  At around 5:45 A.M. we made our way past the giant scrap buckets, the old inert furnaces, the parked forklifts, making tracks in the ever present lime dust that coats every surface of the mill, collecting in our hair and throats, scenting our skin.  Once outside, we removed our respirators and looked at each other with new appreciation.
    “When I first met you, I thought you were just another jackass.  I’m really glad I read your book, I’m very impressed, man.  Very impressed.  I’d kill to meet a real Samantha, man.  She’s hot and she’d understand me, I know she would.  And I’m so glad we talked tonight, man.  You and I have seen the worst of this f-----g place.  You keep doing your thing, man.  I hope this becomes your way out of this f-----g place.  When you finish the next book, I want one.  I’m telling you right now.  And don’t worry.  The next time one of these a--holes here starts talking s--t about you and your book, I’ll set them the f--k straight.  I’ve been telling them, ‘it’s f----g good, man.  Read it!  You’ll be blown away just like I was’, and you know me, I don’t f-----g lie, man.  Keep doing your thing.  I’ll see you tomorrow, JR.  Thanks for the talk, man.”
    For the first time in all these 13 years and 2 months I’ve worked in this strange place, I feel I found a friend in a coworker I’d normally never have any dealings with, and all because of THE GAZE, a book I wrote.   

   Javier A. Robayo

Thursday, June 7, 2012


    "June 6, 1944

     Dear Dad,

     I had to date this letter a day later because it may be the last time I can write to you.  I already gave Mom the 'don't worry' letter, but man to man, Dad, I've never been more scared in my life.
     Remember when that old owl chased me in the barn at night?  I was seven, and you ran in there, shotgun in hand, and saved me from its talons.  I always wanted to know what that felt like.  What did it feel like to be a hero? 
    Dad, they throw that word around a lot around here.  The sarge talks at length about sacrifice and constantly tells us that we have the best naval power in the world, the best men, and that as Americans we are heroes of freedom.  If he's so confident, why was he in the toilet, crying as he read the bible just now?
    I'm trying to envision it all, see it in my mind.  Coach Jones always told me to visualize myself doing good to do good.  I don't even know what to imagine.  We're going to get piled in these box boats.  We're basically pointed at the beach and when that gate falls open, we come out fighting.  No one really mentioned that the bad guys are going to see us coming a mile away.  They're sure as hell not going to wait until we get to the sand. 
    Sand, Dad...  I remember trying to run in the sand when we went to the beach and it was impossible.  Do you know how much gear we gotta tow on our backs?  No one wants to say it, but it's no use, Dad.  We're sitting ducks in those things. 
   I'm sorry for whining.  It's not very honorable I know.  I'm just allowing myself to be scared because there won't be time for that tomorrow. 
   I'll be brave tomorrow.  I'll be a good American soldier.  I know this owl is no owl, and it's not just a little kid afraid of being pecked or slashed.  We're talking an entire country, millions of French men, women, and children, that we're going to fight for.
   Sarge kept asking us, what would we do if this was happening at home?  He said "What would you, maggots do if those Nazis showed up and locked up your ma and pa, and slaughtered your little brothers and sisters?"  I could only think of the way you ran into that barn, took aim, and dropped that owl.  And that's what I'm going to think about tomorrow.
   But for now, I want to thank you for showing me how to throw a curve ball, for running next to me until I could ride that bike all by myself, and for not telling Mrs. Wendell that you caught me kissing her daughter.  I also want to thank you for the tearful blessing you gave me before I left.  I know I promised you that I'd come back in one piece, but Dad, please don't hold it against me if I can't keep that promise.
   I'm going to pray all night.  Mom will like that, I'm sure.  I'm going to pray that we make it somehow, and that one day we can read this letter together and sigh with relief at the unrealized fears.
   But if that's not the case, Dad.  If these are the last lines you get from me.  Please know that I did all I could to be a hero like you.
   I love you, Dad


Let us never forget the greatest generation that ever lived...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Gaze, the book that almost never was...

   Despite the frustrated glances I endured in those first months of writing, my Sheri and two daughters eventually came to the realization that I had to see this novel through to the end.  I spent over ten months adding, deleting, rewriting, developing, and well, many of you know what it's like to write a novel. 
    I clearly recall walking into a Barnes & Noble when I felt I was a chapter away of finishing THE GAZE.  At that point, I had yet to come up with a title for what I was writing.  I walked into the bookstore to try to figure out how these authors came up with a title for their novel.  Upon seeing the glossy jackets, the intricate artwork, the sheer volume of the book du jour on promotional tables, I felt as though I couldn't breathe.  When I got back in my car, I wondered why I was even entertaining writing a novel that in most likelihood, no one would ever read.
    I already had near 200,000 words and I saw no choice but to finish it, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.  And so, I kept at it, all the way into November and December.  Reading and reading, changing, plugging things in, removing things.  I remember how strange it was to delete a whole chapter only to end up with twenty pages more than what I had before the deletion.  I remember so many nights that I wrote and wrote until my alarm went off telling me I had to go to work.
    Eventually, I had the draft.  The first few attempts at interesting an agent into working with me failed and failed miserably.  I got a lot of the "we only work with published authors" bit. 
    Enter the incomparable John W. Huffman, author of Wayward Wind and Above All, two of my all time favorite books.  I came across John on Facebook, while reading Tiger Woman.  One thing that jumped out at me was his own labeling, Independent Author
    I asked John about it and he was gracious in his reply, guiding me into CreateSpace.  I honestly figured that at the very least, I could keep the promise I made to my dad one Christmas, and hand him a book with my name on the spine.  Once again, I didn't see beyond that and my lack of confidence infuriated Sheri, who constantly told me the story of this Samantha Reddick, and her struggles and triumphs was good.
    "Of course, you're going to tell me it's good," I'd tell her.  "You have to be supportive to your husband.  It's in the contract."
    It was difficult to ignore her eyes rolling skyward, her lips muttering a prayer for patience.
    Writing a description of the novel became a major challenge.  I had no clue as to how to reduce 255,000 plus words into two little paragraphs.  I turned to John for help, and he was incredibly patient with my attempts.  His emails started coming in.  "Not working, try again.", "You almost have it, but you're not making me want to buy it.", "Too much.", and so it went. 
    Eventually, I was able to generate something acceptable to John.  We developed a friendship by this point and he offered me a blurb for the cover, which meant he'd read my novel.
    I remember shaking so badly I couldn't type a reply.  I mean, here's this author, award winning author of books that I held dear to my heart, willing to read my novel, the one no one would want to read.  Out of respect, I sent him the file.  By then he'd read an excerpt and encouraged me by observing it had a pretty good presentation, which made it a little easier to hit that send button.
    That night seemed interminable.  When I did sleep, this is what I dreamt:

    I was getting a coffee at a Starbucks.  I placed my order and stood to wait when I noticed eight women at a table reading THE GAZE.  Suddenly one of them stood, vociferously proclaimed the book to be garbage, and all eight proceeded to rip the books to shreds.

    I jolted in bed, gasping for air, scaring the bejesus out of Sheri.  After washing my face and changing my shirt, I looked at her and in a desolate voice said, "I wrote junk."
    She only shook her head and said nothing.  She tells me now that she realized nothing she said would be something I believed.  She knew I'd have to hear it from someone else.
    I made my way down to the computer to write an apology to John for putting him in this position of reading garbage.  When I opened my email, there was a message from him.  I'm happy to say that the contents of that email changed my life forever.   When an accomplished author tells you that they envy the way you write, you can't read much else after that.  I read the message a good ten times, unable to believe what I was reading.  Still, with shaky confidence, I went on to call myself an author, and launch my novel the first of March of this year.
    I was reluctant to accept the praise of friends and family.  I loved it, but really, what were they supposed to say?  Then suddenly, people I've never met got their hands on it.  They took a chance and gave up their time to open the same pages those women at the dreamworld Starbucks shredded, and many have filled my pages with reviews I never expected.  Two other authors, Chris Fifield-Winn (Kafe Castro) and Lanie Malone (Awakening the Nightmare) took the time to blog amazing reviews on THE GAZE.  Other readers even filled my inbox with heartfelt accounts of how they connected to this story, reducing me to tears.
    I'll be shipping the 177th copy of my novel tomorrow.  I've only kept track of the print copies because I'm still old fashioned that way.  In the grand scale of things 177 is a small number, but to me, is a measure of success I never even dared to consider when I released it. 
    Just recently, Bert Carson, author of Fourth and Forever made me feel like I could walk through fire when he blogged about my novel.  I consider his blog my first Grand Award.  I've printed it and framed it, along with the first email from John W. Huffman
    When doubt creeps in as I pound at the keyboard, I look to my left and these gentlemen's words infuse me with the confidence I still don't always have. 
    I'll smile at the frames, shake my head in disbelief and think aloud, "Not bad, for a book that almost never was.  Now, how can I write this better..."

    Javier A. Robayo