Monday, July 23, 2012

#@&%!!! I can't believe I missed this!

   If you have ever written for someone, from a grocery list to a schooldays' love note, to a short story or a novel, face it, you've gone through this, but as an author this little comic has a whole other significance.
   I remember toying with this idea, urged by a good friend to write what eventually became THE GAZE.  I went through the "my writing really sucks" stage for a solid month before I was able to move to the "hey, I'm not so bad after all" stage.  Some eight months later, BOOM!  I felt like I was definitely in the "wow, this writing is brilliant! I rock!" stage.  I finished it, I took my Sheri and my dad's impressions and compliments from another author, the incomparable John W. Huffman as validations and published it.  
   In my eagerness to shout it from the rooftops that I wrote a novel, all by myself, I picked a cover, had it printed and put it out there.  Of course, my family and friends, supportive souls that they are quickly asked for an autographed copy and I was more than happy to oblige.  Riding a high, loving this little glimmer of fame, I picked up my own copy and began reading my own novel...
   Oh...the horror... Officially, the "wow, my writing really sucks. sigh..." stage set in with a bloody vengeance.  
   In the relative privacy of my home office (the basement) I tamped down the urge to scream #@&%!!! I can't believe I missed this!
   Once the shock wore off, a wave of embarrassment and shame crushed over me, like a tsunami on an unsuspecting tropical paradise.  I wanted to crawl under a rock.  I wanted the ground to open up and let me jump into its depths.  I wanted to refund everyone who bought my atrocity, plus interest!
   I couldn't believe it...
   It made no sense.  I'd read the script over eleven times, easily.  I magnified each and every page (and there are a ton!) looking for errors.  
   I wrote "form" instead of "from".
   I wrote "piece" instead of "peace".
   I wrote "Toni" instead of "Tony".  The Spanish side of my brain took that one over.
   I omitted some "me"s, and let's not go to the comma usage.
   I found things like "was did..." probably because my brain was still fighting over which tense to use long after my fingers danced on the keyboard and moved on.
   I almost felt as though the clean pages were severely outnumbered by the dirty ones, making me reconsider what had made me think I could edit my own work.
   When I related these avalanche of typos to my advance readers and even my editor, they told me, to my shock, that they didn't really notice until I brought them up.
   "How can that be?" I asked biting my tongue before questioning their collective sight.  In essence, they all sort of gave me the same answer:  "I got caught up in the story..."
   Taking advantage of the forgiveness born of friendship and family ties, I immediately went back and cleaned up the body.  Once more, I improved the cover and with a little more confidence, let it fly.  I tried hard not think of it, but I kept wondering how many mistakes I missed.  I was reading other authors' work, even a couple of best sellers, and I found glaring mistakes that made me feel a little better.  It seems it happens to the best of us, unless we have teams of proofreaders combing through every page.  With a book of over 255,000 words, I could not in good conscience fatten the wallet of a professional proofreader.
   I tossed in bed every night, recalling the way Mom would tear my pages out of my notebook if she found one smudge of ink, one misspelled word... She often lectured me about the importance of presenting a clean body of work.  My conscience tortured me every night as I was writing THE NEXT CHAPTER in a much more careful way.
   Three months after releasing GAZE, I downloaded it to my Kindle and read it for fun for the first time since releasing it.  Soon I found out I had not gotten out of the last stage of our comic.  I found new mistakes.  To add to my mortification, a great friend of mine kept track of errors in an effort to help me.  Christine Fiefield Winn, whose Coffee Break Series are flawless, gave me a list of pages where errors mockingly danced before my eyes.  I might have screamed, but I don't remember exactly.
   I dissected my novel yet again, and found a minimal number this time.  By then, I had gotten a fifteenth 5 star review of GAZE on Amazon and there was no mention of the glaring typos, none!
   The compliments poured and I knew I owed the novel the best possible presentation with people seeing such potential in it.  I stopped all my projects and went page by page, cursing the proofreader ads advertised on the web.  Their calculators came up with astronomical prices, so I bit the bullet and carefully went over each line.  At the end of the revision, I decided to remake the cover and although I may have very well missed something, I can say I am very proud of the presentation of GAZE.
   I've offered many of my first readers a new copy, citing the mistake which they unbelievably missed.  I feel very fortunate that Samantha's story was found so engrossing that my glaring mistakes were forgiven, but by God, I don't want to go through that again.
   So, for those of you starting out, don't make the mistakes I made.  Accept the fact that this learning experience demands a lot of patience and attention to detail.  The time spent in polishing and cleaning your novel will go a long way in ensuring that you experience that fourth stage for an entirely and perfectly normal reason.  No determined, conscientious writer lacks a perfectionist's streak, and we all know we could've written some passage differently or we could've added another little detail to the plot.  We never stop writing, especially when we grab our book and read it again, but believe you me: typos and poor presentation will really have you screaming #@&%!!! I can't believe I missed this! leaving you bewildered as you enter the "wow, my writing really sucks.  sigh..." stage.

   Javier A. Robayo


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mentions @Version 2.0

   Some 45 days ago, I composed a blog, thanking some wonderful tweeps for their support.  Gratitude, like many human gestures, needs upgraded and upgraded often.
    Once I started writing THE GAZE, I felt it was important to never forget how it all started and so I launched Out of the Mind... and dedicated it to this journey.  I remember jumping for joy the first time I saw a 10 on the view count.  I don't know 10 people that would read my blog, so it was very significant, and I literally jumped up and clicked my heels a few times.  
   In any endeavor we take, we have only two choices, we improve, or we lose interest and move on to something else.  The latter happens when there's a lack of support.  The former, is a must, when suddenly your view count jumps and you realize you're now blogging for an audience.  And this is where these people come in.  Most, if not all of them, excellent authors who have taken the time to stop by and RT my blog.  Feel free to click on their names and I highly recommend you follow them, if you don't already.
   In the beginning it was easy to profusely thank my supporters until suddenly no less than 30 people visited the blog and even left a few comments.  I love tweeting on a one on one basis, but it's time I acknowledge my friends once more.
   @BertCarson one of my favorite authors ever, channeled me into the atmosphere of several authors who always seem to go out of their way to support my blog.  There are many, and may God forgive me if I miss one or more.  His lovely wife @CarsonCanada has been kind in her comments and encouragement, just as the admirable @jvonbargen whose poetry is second to none.  @JanRomes and I have exchanged some laughs over our writing woes, and immensely enjoyed each other's work.  @Clive_SJohnson @CalebPirtle @jackdrsm @stephenwoodfin @dla1950 @laurazera @magdaoichawska @PendragonDan @hobbinb @Claudenougat left encouraging comments on my blogs, one of them lamenting, and accepting, a not so favorable review. 
   @TeresaCadena left an encouraging message for me in our mother tongue which was very special to me.  Talk about a reminder of where I came from...
   The enigmatic @ketadiablo along with @SayBumpandTweet @rsguthrie @RChazzChute @JChaseNovelist @AlanaEWoods @OscarSparrow @CarolynArnold @greentamarind @FCEtier  @KimberlysTips have also pushed my blog and little do they know how thankful I am each time I see they took the time to promote something I wrote.  It means much more than any of you could possibly imagine.
   @DigitalBKToday @KindlBookreview and the @MasqCrew are tweeps that make me think there are entire groups convening to read my blog, making me feel not only important, but also very aware of what I commit to the blog.
   And of course, some my first tweeps, the lovely @CassidyJonesAdv the naughty and talented @gabdeveraux my newbie friend @kristi_ayers the courageous @EmmaCalin the very sweet @KayeVincent the hardworking @BethLynne1 and of course, my good friends @ChristinesWords and the one and only @KafeCastro and with the best name ever, the wonderful @PatriciaParis1 and also the savvy @JoanneWadsworth along with the witty @SerenaAkeroyd
   Last perhaps, but most definitely not least, @momilp whom I respect greatly, and the mysterious @LanieMalone whose talent is forcing me to go to sleep with the light on.
   At present, there are 1206 people who hopefully feel I have something to offer and I wish I could go on and name each one, even the office furniture tweep.  
   I hope you accept this as a huge THANK YOU for all the support that has made it possible to see three digits in the view count of my blog posts pretty consistently.  
   Sometimes, being a writer is not enough to mold the perfect sentiment in our language.  "Thank you" seems so trite...
   I wish all of you to enjoy the success each of you deserves.  I've been learning from you, drawing courage from your comments, and marveling at your interest in my posts.  In this long journey we've decided to take, I hope you know I'll do the best I can to be a good companion and hope I can convey how grateful I am for each of you.

a note for the inner editor residing in all of us: the commas between the @yournames severely detracted from the aesthetic quality of this piece, and that's why they were omitted, but fear not, I'm still a strong believer in the power of the Oxford Comma, and we constantly do battle on the edits of my novels.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Book Is How Long...???


   I was intimidated by the length of the book at first...Amazon Reviewer
      My only issue with the whole book was the length...Blog Reviewer
    (Happily, both reviewers gave The Gaze great marks)

   I've seen smiles fade quickly once those eyes fix on the thickness of my novel. I've watched in remorseful anticipation as someone opens the book and squints at the 10 point print. I've enjoyed the shock when I answer "Ten months to write it, two more to polish it." Often, I receive incredulous looks and I can almost read the question in their mind, This book is how long...???
   Although one of my dreams is to see my novels standing on a shelf in an old fashion bookstore, online shopping might be the best thing that could have happened to a writer of dramas. Yes, THE GAZE and THE NEXT CHAPTER are better categorized as dramas, and dramas tend to be long. As I'd mentioned before, I refuse to apologize for it. If anything, I know how important it is to make the time spent reading worth it to the reader. The writing had best be good and entertaining to justify the weight and thickness of the print copy.
    Ebooks have got to be one of the seven wonders of the Information Age. I noticed that when I read THE GAZE on Kindle, I flew through it and before I knew it, I finished it. I didn't feel the length of the story. The last review I obtained on Amazon touched on that.
    With this issue in mind, I set out to write THE NEXT CHAPTER with a page count in mind. I wanted to keep it under 350 pages, and I accomplished that... or so I thought.
    When my advance team read it, the utter disappointment in their words and eyes set off all sorts of alarms in my head. At 312 pages with a 12 point print, the story was ridiculously lacking. I was beyond embarrassed for having wasted their time and I profusely apologized for letting them down.
    Fast-Forward to July when I held the proof in my hands, I proudly stood it next to a copy of THE GAZE and my jaw dropped. THE NEXT CHAPTER is slightly thicker than its predescesor, which seemed to me impossible.  
   Wordcountwise, GAZE is a much bigger work, MUCH BIGGER. It made no sense and I imagined it would turn people off. At 548 pages, as listed on Amazon, it's bound to make some people shy away from it. What they won't see is that in reality the real page count is 513 pages. There's a three-chapter excerpt from my current work in progress, and let's not forget the front matter of the book. Still, CHAPTER is "bigger", but only because I wanted the page to be comfortable with larger, better spaced printing. I braced myself against the familiar reactions evoked by the size of GAZE (514 pages), but then I thought of two big books I've read that were in fact, not long enough for me.
    When my Sheri and I fell in love with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, by the time we got to Breaking Dawn, I was despondent that I was facing the inevitable end of the saga. At 754 pages, it looked like one of the biggest books we've ever read, and we hated page 755's two words: The End.
    Alexander Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo has 1116 pages and I wonder how many people missed out on one of the most amazing stories of all time when they saw that super wide spine.
    I decided that it didn't matter in the end. My dad, one my harshest and most honest critics actually wishes GAZE was longer. He's gone as far as telling me that he will not accept anything less than 500 pages. Well, Dad, mission accomplished.
    I figured book lovers will go out of their way to take a chance on a big book, and I hope to never break their heart by giving them a big, yet insubstantial book.  I'd like to think that they can take a chance on my thick, heavy novel. I did all I could to keep them from sighing and staring at the spine in total bewilderment, asking themselves, "This book is how long...???"

  Javier A. Robayo

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vicki, A Dream Fan

   I reserve this blog to share the experience of writing a novel.  Blogs are like a writing work out for me and this experience has given me plenty to blog about.  I realized, since I posted a blog about a bad review, it's only fair to counter that with a good one.  But this is not just a good review. 
   Like many of you out there with your novels, I've been blessed with some positive feedback on my work, THE GAZE.  However, this particular review is special because it comes from Vicki, an educator, a high school teacher, whose opinion matters to me a great deal because where I come from, teachers walk on water. 
   I'd like to take this opportunity to share her review, though not for the promotional reasons you'd be fair to assume.  I'm sharing this review from Goodreads because Vicki is the type of reader we write for.  This lady is not just a reader, she's a fan, a dream fan. 
   And I hope you all get to have a few thousand like her.

Vicki rated it 5 of 5 stars false
Shelves: favorite-books
THE GAZE...what can I say except READ IT! I am positively amazed at the way Robayo is able to create impeccable suspense! There were so many twists and turns that I kept trying to figure out who, what, when, where, why and how! I was taken by surprise every time I turned a page, especially the last 100 or so pages of the book. My heart was literally racing at times. I laughed (especially at Lewis...LOVED him), cried, reflected, reminisced, screamed in my own mind...even had a monologue with myself. (Hope I am not just losing it!)

Characters: I fell in love, head-over-heals, with all four of the main characters: Samantha, Tony, Gwen (Tony's wife), and Lewis who is Samantha's long-life best friend. I had ambivalent feelings for the villain of the story, Brooks. I say that because his character is, like all the others, built so convincingly that I abhor the person he is, but I love the way he is the epitome of villainy. It's like loving the most wicked character in a movie because he plays his part so well. There are other characters that play important parts in the lives of the above mentioned and, of course, they are also very genuine.

Setting: Well-detailed but not overly descriptive where you're yawning through the pages. Set in different states as well as London...loved learning some new Brit terms...thanks, Mr. Robayo.

Plot: Yes! SO well-developed! The author uses dialogue a great deal to develop the story line. Robayo is brilliant to create the plot by incorporating what millions of us love...Facebook. Samantha "friends" Gwen on Facebook and they develop a true friendship. Gwen is unbelievably a friend that I fell in love with as a friend...strange, huh? Well, considering that I met my husband online and we chatted for several months before meeting in person, I was completely sold by Gwen and Samantha's developing online friendship. I found myself being giddy with them! A little weird? Not really because they were so authentic to me.

SO much more could be said, but I don't want to give away too much of the story. I would LOVE to discuss the book with anyone who has (or does) read it. (Friend me on Goodreads.)

I even created a new shelf for this book called "Favorites" so that when people look at my "books" on Goodreads, they might look to see my absolute favorites and perhaps want to read THE GAZE.

I HIGHLY recommend this book. It has suspense, romance, humor, thought-provoking phrases, and FRESH and unique similes, metaphors, and personification. I absolutely LOVED the author's use of different literary devices. It takes a true gift to write as this man does.

Javier Robayo, you are now among my top three authors, and I will not waste one minute to purchase your next book...The Next Chapter.

NOTE: I purchased this book after entering for the giveaway three times but failing to win. I'm so glad I took the chance! Money well-spent!

   I kept thinking of some way express my gratitude to Vicki, and a memory popped in my head from when I was a sixth grader at Pensionado Borja 3 in Quito, Ecuador. 
   Every April 13, we celebrated Teacher's Day.  I remembered several kids bringing gifts for our teacher, Mr. Villalba.  He was a frank, brutally honest man who grudgingly thanked the class for the gifts.  He then stood and looked at us all with severity and said, "The best way you, gentlemen can show your appreciation for my efforts as your teacher, is to give me your very best in class and earning high marks.  That's the best thank you I can get.  Remember that."
   I will keep this special review up on my wall to remind me of that as I work on my next novel, determined to put the very best of my writing on each page.

   Javier A. Robayo

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New Website, The Latest Evolution

The evolution continues, this time in the shape of a brand new website that I hope will stand for a lifetime to come. I've always been in awe of many authors' websites. They're vibrant, elegant, and depending on their style, very unique.
Just as need is the mother of invention, and pressure makes diamonds out of coal, I immersed myself into learning how to build a website. It really is not as complicated and intimidating as I once thought. The good folks at Weebly made it a fairly good experience, and they did not require I sign over my first born pricewise.
I knew I was in trouble when the release of THE NEXT CHAPTER became a reality.  My old website was the epitome of simple, at my request.  I shied away from many of the ideas my very helpful friend, Dylan, had.  I will forever be grateful for all the help he gave me in launching my first website. 
Typical of the sentimental sap I tend to be, I ended up choking up a little when I included the text announcing the upgrade on the old page.  Every “first” of becoming an author is very dear to me, and the website is no exception.
And so, I’m so proud to launch my new website:

In essence, it’s a photo album of this amazing ride I started back on March 1st with the release of THE GAZE. 
In reflection, what a ride it’s been…
So much has changed in my life and within myself.  I’ve had to learn far more than 14 years of schooling did, and it has been all worth it. 
To those of you, who are more than a few miles ahead of me in your careers, you’ve got my admiration.  I didn’t realize the type of commitment that today’s writing careers demand, particularly for those of us who have taken the Indie route. 
Boy, it’d be nice to have teams of proofers, editors, web designers, publicists, agents, and promoters, wouldn’t it?
At the same time, I’ve learned that there are so many people out there willing to help with a good word, a comment, a “like”, a “retweet”, and others that do much, much more.  We really aren’t that alone, and if we are, it’s the result of our own choices.
To those of you starting out, give it your all and more than anything else, more than the learning, the promoting, the networking, keep writing your stories, and never sresentettle for any less than your very best.
I still have much to learn, I hope I never lose sight of that, but to me, this new website represents a huge step in the right direction, and of course, I do hope you visit it.   

Javier A. Robayo