Monday, December 9, 2013

More Than a Short

   First of all, here's the finalized cover of the print version of REQUIEM. 


   Last winter, times were as tough as they have ever been for me, and I'm not proud to admit I was in quite a dark place in my own mind. No need to go into it. Transitions of any kind are notoriously painful, especially when they require longer than any of us are ready to allow.
   And so, I began writing the story of a failed man named Kenneth Glass, who happened to be in worse circumstances than me. Life had gotten so tough for Ken that he began asking himself if everyone would just be better off if he weren't around, particularly his estranged wife and son.
   We meet Ken at the burial of his best friend. After all the mourners leave, Ken is approached by an old man, one of the gravediggers. He thinks little of the man before him until the man begins to share some eerily accurate insights.
   Forced to take shelter in an old, dank outbuilding by a storm, the man engages Ken into a conversation filled with cryptic statements and strange riddles, along with the a knowledge of Ken's every thought, slowly driving our suffering hero into a life-changing realization. The epiphany comes at a steep price, and Ken faces the consequences of his jaded attitude toward life.
   What will it take for someone to stop wasting another minute on recriminations for sins past? What does it take to snap out of self-pity and understand that once we reach acceptance, determination follows? What do we need to be shown so we don't turn away from life?
   Those are some of the question that forged the lines of REQUIEM.
   Once again, the characters held certain parallels to my own life, except for the mysterious cemetery man. In all honesty, I don't know where he came from, but much like he did for Ken...
   He changed my own attitudes, and that's what makes this story so special.

   Today I'm thankful for another breath of air that tells me I'm alive and well, and I can make of the rest of my life what I want it to be. I broke down and decided to make a print version of this short story.
   In an effort to give readers a little more than expected, I also added a showcase. Basically, excerpts from everything else I've written. I want to give new readers a chance to sample The Gaze, The Next Chapter, My Two Flags, and John & Ezekiel, not only to entice someone to pick up one of those novels for their next read, but also to remind myself that none of the countless hours of writing were spent in vain.
   I've accomplished more than I thought I ever could.
   I've gained some terrific new friends through the writing, and I've tasted the sweetness of success in readers' opinions.
   Transitions of any kind are notoriously painful, and it's easy to remain bugged down in regret and uncertainty that we miss the high points we all make for ourselves. Everything we do has meaning, especially stories born of an impulse to bring something to life on the page.
   REQUIEM allowed me to quiet all the discordant noise in my mind so I can hear the melody of life once again. It became more than a short story, and I can't wait to see it in someone else's hands.

   Javier A. Robayo

   ***This book is dedicated to the memory of two of my high school friends, who left us before their time, Christopher Papp and Joe Budahazy. We will meet again, brothers.

REQUIEM is available from Amazon and javierrobayoauthor.com

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sing

   She approached me slowly, hesitantly, just a child hoping not to disturb her father. 
   I chose to leave the blog post for another day and turned to my daughter Kendra. Nine years old on the outside, older than time in many ways. I took a second to take in the face before me, not the visage of a little kid, but a refined bone structure that transcends simple prettiness. She tucked her long dark hair behind her ears and grinned like a sage selfishly hoarding a wondrous secret.
   "I have a dilemma."
   No need to even ask her if she knows what the word means. She goes through books the way I go through "digital ink."
   "Project Adventure starts this week, but this is also the last week of chorus practice before our winter concert."
   Kendra has been talking about Project Adventure since hearing about it during orientation at her new school. Joel Elementary gives its students a chance to participate on a week of fun physical activities to combat the typical cabin fever that takes over when the climate turns cold. As soon as she heard the words "zip line" she knew she wanted to do nothing else.
   "So...I don't know what to do."
   "Well, talk to your teacher and if you want to do well at the concert, ask your chorus teacher to give you the songs you'll be singing and I'll help you practice."
   I was not prepared for the wide eyes and the sudden look of abject horror on her face. 
   "You mean...you'd hear me sing?"
   "Well, yeah. That's kind of how it works."
   "But I can't sing in front of people."
   It was my turn to look shocked. I have a video clip that proves her wrong, so wrong. Unknown to Mommy and me, Kendra can carry a tune better than she even knows. "You just sang in front a group of veterans and you did it really well. What do you mean you can't sing in front of people?"
   She stammered that it was easier with a group although in the clip, she's the only one singing; one of the tougher lines of "America The Beautiful" no less. After a back and forth conversation about singing in front of an audience, I sensed the answer was far simpler.
   "What if someone laughs at me?" She confirmed my suspicions.
   When your child asks a question, someone up there hits you with a fleeting bolt of wisdom, just enough enlightenment to fulfill your parental role in the life of a new soul. This was one of those moments. "Do you like to sing?"
   "I love to sing," she replied, her hazel eyes glittering.
   "Sing for yourself first," I told her. When she continued to stare blankly at me, I added, "Look, ever since you held that crayon with your left hand and put on fashion shows for me, I knew you had an artistic streak, and artists do whatever it is they do for themselves first. They don't care what anyone else will think of them because they're doing something that makes them happy."
   Tears filled her eyes though I didn't know why. 
   "But kids make fun of other kids."
   Hard to believe, considering the lengths she'll go to, being a goofball for anyone else. "Yeah, but you have no problem being a clown with your friends."
   "Well, I'm a comedian," she laughed.
   "Comedians are courageous."
   "They are?"
   "Of course they are. They act all weird and say silly things, knowing that some people are not going to like them or laugh. It takes a lot of courage to get up on a stage and tell a group of people a joke they may not find funny."
   "Then why do comedians do it?"
   I imagined myself coming off like a sage, so I leaned in and looked her in the eye, enjoying my movie moment. "Because, Kendra." I paused for effect. "They love to make themselves laugh first."
   We shared a long silence, and a sparkle in her gaze told me she understood.
   "Singing is a gift to be shared. I heard you sing for the Vets and you were great. You held each note, your voice had volume, and it sounded amazing. It really did. It really surprised me. It'd be a shame not to let others hear your voice."
   A grateful little tear trickled down her cheek before she smiled and thanked me. She promised to get a list of the songs for the concert and now looks forward to practicing with me. 
   Once I got back to this blog, I realized that perhaps that enlightenment that comes at those father/daughter talk moments, was also meant for myself.
   I've questioned why keep writing.
   I've questioned it like never before. Some practical voice inside me often protests the time committed to write and all the work that yields such little results. Another cynic voice often wonders why even try when every possible storyline has already been told. Some reproaching voices scream at me to stop trying, to stop filling Facebook feeds with book ads that are often ignored completely; to stop posting reviews that elicit very little response from others; to stop anxiously waiting for a promised review that's never going to come; to stop writing so the risk of hearing my stories are boring no longer exists. Time to put the time into getting a real job or a degree that will turn work into better living. Time to lose the illusion of finding you novel in the hands of millions. Time to accept no one will ever care about making a film out of your scripts. Time to move on and meet your responsibilities with a better arsenal than millions of words that yield nothing but a bank account in the red.
   When times are tough, those voice are loudest and much of myself agrees with them but...
   Writing makes me happy.
   I've stopped caring about what anyone will say of my flawed Samantha because she taught me strength while Lewis taught me to be true to myself. I ached over the decisions they made just like I gritted my teeth as John saw no way out of his losses until he somehow realized that once you hit rock bottom you can finally stand. Ken Glass managed to rearrange my perspective on death, perseverance, and the melody life can really be, and Tony reminded me to rely on family and solid friendships to surge ahead. 
   I write for myself. I write because I simply need it the way I need to breathe to live, and because more than a few people contacted me to let me know my stories touched them, changed them, and affected them. At that point writing became a gift to give and how could I leave those few people wondering where Gwen came from; or what will become of Patricia or what's the name Brooke Elizabeth chose?
   I realize many who read this post have no idea whom I'm speaking of, and I apologize for that. But there's one thing I've learned through trying to infuse my daughter with the courage to shine before an audience, and give her gift to it. I learned I wrote the stories for me, just like many of you have written your stories for yourselves, and oh, how they shine when that passion comes through each line. How those wonderful characters come alive when the author breathed soul into them: Cassidy Jones, Jay the Treeman and Jodi, "Daddy" Edwards, Beck and McSwain, Zack in heaven, Anna in France, SUKI, Chayton and Montana, Mauricio, Hattie, and thousand others that live in those stories...
   Apologies to practicality, common sense, reality, and responsibility. Writing is a gift to be given.
   Like the comedian who distorts his face to elicit a laugh, like the singer who works so diligently to hit that high E and turn a voice into a godly caress, like the painter who gives life and light into a two-dimensional canvas, like the sculptor that carves the statue out of a block of stone, and like the many of you who answer the what-ifs and make sense of your triumphs and failures through spending copious amounts of digital ink, mainly in hopes of answering your own questions...
   I write.
   
   ©2013 Javier A. Robayo 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Mash

   Halloween is by far my favorite holiday. It's not the candy. Never was much of a sweet tooth, really. It's the brisk night air, the scent of wood fires, and the undercurrent of excitement as everyone tries to figure out what to be.
   What to be...
   What other holiday offers you the chance to be someone else, if only for one night. One night you put your life as you on pause, and become someone or something else. It's quite the thrill for everyone, especially for kids, but I never thought I'd see a whole community take part in the festivities the way Clinton, Connecticut did during the annual Monster Mash at Joel Elementary.
   My wife, Sheri, met the incomparable Paul Gebauer, his lovely wife, Olga, and their impish little cutie, Tessa at Clinton Beach over the summer. During my first conversations with Paul, he couldn't say enough about the parents involvement with school. That was the first time I heard about the Monster Mash.
   "The school is transformed," Paul said. "You won't even recognize the place!"
   He went on to tell me about years past and how much fun it was to be a part of it. 
   Now that I can actually be a part of my kids' life in a greater capacity since I no longer work shifts at a steel mill, I volunteered to help.
   Soon I met the one, the only, Julie Mendez, who takes the word Dynamo to a whole other stratosphere. Julie led a troop of Friends of Joel, parents of Joel students, on the project of turning the school hallways into a Halloween extravaganza. Monster Mash is a fund raising function. Now knowing much about my new town, I didn't know what to expect.
   Local businesses donated materials, paint, and Julie provided the group with supplies as she outlined the fantasy world we set out to create. 
   We turned the gymnasium into a game hall where kids were able to spend some energy and even win a few prizes. Students from Morgan, Pierson, and Elliot volunteered their time manning the games and entertaining little Spider Men, Dorothys, a plethora of Ninjas, an array of superheroes, including Supergirl, and all types of personalities from Disney movies as well as the staples of Halloween: witches, Draculas, Frankensteins, and werewolves.
   The games I helped set up were simple in design, but you wouldn't know it from the kids' reactions to hitting a strike by flattening paper bowling pins, putting a beanbag through Franky's belly, picking the winning color at roulette, knocking over "punkins" off the shelf, and even landing the pumpkin on the winning ribbon at plinko, (which several parents told me was from The Price is Right. Never knew that...)
   We even set up funny mirrors. You know, the kind where your image is distorted. Kids got a kick out of seeing themselves elongated and shortened. It must be noted that many people, myself included, stood for several minutes in front of the thinning mirror. I know it made me want to start running again.
   Few things in life bring more joy than the smile of a child, and it was a privilege to evoke more than a few. But the games were of course, NOT the main event.
   Leaving the gym, parents and kids went to a galaxy far, far away, and met none other than Jabba the Hut from the unforgettable Star Wars sags. The display built by Rob King and his crew was nothing short of a masterpiece. Jabba moved his arms, blinked, and even licked his green lips as kids stared wearily. Some of the little ones actually froze in fear. If I let my imagination wonder, I'd swear I was looking at a real Jabba. I can't even imagine what kids felt. Han Solo, Rob, the Jedi Knight, let them over an ingenious ramp of bulletproof glass. Beneath it, one of the Star Wars monsters pawed for candy and would suddenly fill the screen with his hideous face, making kids jump or run straight into a frozen lair, where Luke Skywalker hung in an ice cave. 


  After negotiating through the icy stalagmites, the yellow brick road extended past the timeless characters of The Wizard of Oz. Magic continued to be the theme as the hallway turned into the dim halls of the wizard world of Harry Potter. Potions, spell books, and treats no Mogul was allowed to enjoy, created an aura of mystery. 
   The corner rounded into the rabbit hole and Alice in Wonderland and company took over the scene, leading the crowd into the realm of Pixie Hollow then on to lands of witches, and into the "Punkin Hall". 
   Every time I think I've seen it all when it comes to decorating a pumpkin, I'm shocked by the ingenuity inspired by the spirit of Halloween. I felt sorry for the judges of the Pumpkin Contest. I could've stared at those for hours. Minions, angry birds, even a Teenage Ninja Turtle version of a pumpkin, gave the hall an attractive pallet of color and style. It might have even lessened the effect of the standing coffin where my buddy, Bones, grinned at passerby as they entered the promised land where baked treats and candy awaited.
   When time ran out, I watched in awe as the parents and their troops of volunteers turned Joel Elementary back into the school they know and love. Some kids went hunting for souvenirs and word has it that Jabba the Hut might have even found a home.
   I can't give the parents involved enough credit. The kids who volunteered to play games with the littler ones, and even help in the assembly and cleanup, also deserve credit. It was a terrific experience and I'm thrilled I got to be a small part of it.
   To say that Julie Mendez and Friends of Joel did an amazing job of putting Monster Mash together is a gross understatement. A lot of thought and hard work went into it, and the raised money goes right back into the school so the real winners are the students at Joel Elementary, and the entire community in the long run.
   Paul Gebauer was right. I couldn't believe how fun it was. Mostly, I was in awe of the way so many people worked together to make Monster Mash such a success.
   "I already can't wait for next year," Paul said, already thinking ahead about building new games.
   I'm with Paul on that one. I can't wait either. In fact, I'm already thinking of what to be...

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Power of a Review

   When Monica La Porta talked me into holding a promotion to gain some exposure with my novel, The Gaze, I thought about it for far too long before making the decision to go ahead with it. I had my doubts and truthfully, the thought of giving away a novel that required so much work did not sit well with me. However, wise as always, Monica delivered the right piece of advice.
   After successfully promoting her novel, The Priest, Monica shared with me a list of sites that cater to the ebook reading community. Many of these sites invite authors to promote their work, and although I cannot speak for each of them, many of them required your book had at least 15 positive reviews.
   The Gaze held 36 reviews at the time, and I've been honored by my readers with incredible praise and nothing but four and (35) five star reviews.
   One of the promoters sent me an email to congratulate me on getting a spot on their page. The administrator of the site went on to tell me they only place up to 10 titles on their page for a limited time, and that they carefully consider the review factor. That's the deal maker for these sites. After all, they have a reputation to establish and protect.
   At the onset of the promo, my Sheri asked how many downloads I expected.
   "Realistically, if I get some two hundred and fifty, I'll be pretty happy. No one out there really knows me or my work, you know."
   Sheri gave me a little smile and added, "Well, that's readers you wouldn't have had before, right?"
   The promo began last Friday, Oct 25th. I checked the numbers at about 7:30am. 
   Six.
   Six downloads. At that pace, I figured I'd do well to expect no more than a hundred or so.
   But...
   I had asked my friends on Facebook to please share a series of illustrated posts containing quotes from the story along with the link. I don't like the promotional duties of an Indie Author. There's such a fine line between tasteful awareness and outright spam, and I did not want to be the guy splashing the feed with the same line to go download The Gaze for free on Kindle, and blah blah blah...
   I hope to have made the ads enticing, easy to look at, and I hope the call to action was somewhat subtle. Not a scream to go download the book now! But more of a friend informing another, hey, this book is pretty good and it's free. You should get it.
   In that last phrase, "this book is pretty good", has to come from someone else, not the author. Of course the author will proclaim his work a masterpiece. Why not? 
   And boy did they ever...
   I received emails from readers with quote suggestions. Friends shared my posts on Facebook and their friend shared their posts. Twitter friends of mine added their own tweets and the reach was never more real than when the download count hit 1,000.
   People were telling their friends to take a chance on my novel, often with a "Look at the reviews!" 
   Reviews hold tremendous power in anything and everything. From lawn equipment to shoes to novels, we want to know what others like us thought of the product. The manufacturer will always tell us what they offer is the best of it all, but that's what they're supposed to do. 
   With books, the reviews are often much more personal and if we, as authors, are lucky enough to get a reader to connect to some part of the story, whether with a character or a plot line, and evoke an emotional response that compels them to post a review, good or bad, then we have advanced further in our path.
   The promo will end tomorrow at 11:59pm, as declared by Amazon. 
   After that, it'll be somewhat agonizing to wait for reviews to appear on the book page, so long as some readers become fans and time allows, of course. 
   Readers, when you come across a great read, I promise you, nothing short of a movie contract will help that author more than your review. The biggest triumph an author can attain is not a pile of cash, as welcome as that may be, it is having an audience to whom to deliver what the voices in our heads tell us to write.
   I cannot emphasize how important reviews are, and I thank each and every one of my reviewers, who inspire me to bring them the best out of my writing with each new piece. 
   The reviews I have on The Gaze are what propelled this promotions from an expected couple of hundred downloads to over 2,571
   2,572...
   2,573...
   I can't wait to see what the final number is, and to all my new readers, I look forward to your thoughts.
   Thank you.

   Javier A. Robayo











Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Samantha's Voice

Welcome everyone,
Promotions, like any political campaign, involves constant tweeting and posting and the line between tasteful and outright spam becomes filament thin.
I've tried to offer a variety of excerpts along with graphics in order to breathe a bit of life to my novel The Gaze.
However, to listen to a character in our heads is one thing, but to actually listen to their voice...


Just hit play and you'll see what I mean.



The lovely Kaye Vincent is the author of the English Romance The Treeman, a fun read that touches every emotion as the pages take you through the lives of an array of memorable characters. When I asked her to read for an audio sample, her excitement was contagious.
I have heard Samantha speak (sometimes scream) to me while writing her story, but I never thought one day I'd hear a real vocalization and I'm still wondering if I was indeed the one to write the story.
I hope you've enjoyed this little excerpt. I know that novel like the back of my hand, but I'd give anything to have every page read by Kaye.

On a personal (yet quite public) note to my good friend Kaye Vincent, you did a phenomenal job of giving Samantha a voice, and I shall be forever grateful for your time and dedication. You're the best!

Check out Kaye's novel The Treeman by clicking on her cover or you can find her at http://www.kayevincent.moonfruit.com/ to learn more about her and her work. You will be impressed.




PS: Don't forget: The Gaze can be downloaded for free over a period of 5 days starting this Friday the 25th for FREE on Amazon Kindle 

I hope you've enjoyed the excerpt. I know I'll be listening to it a few hundred times more, and that's just this week.

Javier A. Robayo

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Words are Real

   As many of you have seen, I've finally put The Gaze up for free for a limited time. What's the big deal, you may ask? 
   Think about it, an author spends countless hours, nights, weeks, years, diligently working to produce a novel. It's unrealistic for a new author to think the money will pour. A book needs readers and readers will not simply sacrifice their time for just anyone claiming to know how to write. So, the author gives away all that work in the hopes people take a chance, like it, and scream it from the rooftops to all their circles while anxiously waiting for more. The author has just invested all that work in time to build an audience. It took me a while to understand that.
   I did not write my novels with money in mind as the first objective. If I get to the point where I can make a living by writing, I'll have realized my biggest dream. Writing is incredibly personal and you challenge yourself past the breaking point when you commit to creating something out of nothing.
   But, The Gaze is not something created out of nothing. 
   My Sheri and I were watching Disney's "Chicken Little" with out two daughters: 6 year old Amber and 9 year old Kendra. As the credits rolled, I checked Facebook pages and learned my latest promo post hit a pretty large number of feeds. It just means that many people liked it, viewed it, or even shared it. Good news for an author striving for a little exposure.
   I have problems with that. In fact, the first few promo posts don't even have my name on it. It's all about the story, you see.
   Anyway, I read the words I added to the image and that's when it hit me. Those words, those very words, first appeared on a coffee-stained paper place mat about seventeen years ago.
   It's true.
   In fact, those words were inspired by the pretty girl sitting on the couch with her mini-me sleeping on her lap as I write this post. Yes, I wrote those words after walking away from Sheri back when we were young and I was stupid. 
   I will refrain from sharing much more than that in a blatant attempt to entice you to read the novel. You'll have to hear it from the characters. That's Tony's story to tell Samantha after all.

   ...I will be no more than a transient thought in her mind, a small measure of time, insignificant. No more than a barely familiar set of notes to a song seldom remembered...

   Recalling the moment I wrote those words is actually pretty easy. I remember the conflict, the pain, the emotional maelstrom, and regret that forged the passage. 
   It just makes me wonder just how many lines we hear in movies or read in books are actually real. How many of those were born of emotion at a precise, pivotal moment in someone's life.
   Did someone really say the words: "Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things..." to Stephen King?
   How about "After all, tomorrow is another day." Who spoke those words to Margaret Mitchel? 
   Maybe we'll never know.
   But I do know this, in the millions of words I have written since that day I bought a composition notebook at Kyle's in Shelton at $1.99, never have I written one phrase that actually made me this proud. It's my own little where-did-THIS-come-from? moment.
   You're welcome to disagree, of course. I cannot claim this little passage to be a literary gem like the ones produced by authors I deeply respect and admire.
   What fascinates me about these lines is that they are real. They were part of my life before becoming a part of a page, a part of a novel. 
    I thought I'd just share that with you.
    Now, I know what those lines meant to me. I have an idea of what those lines meant to Sheri. That particular novel will forever have a two person audience, I'm sorry to say. But what will those lines mean to Samantha Reddick, the main character from the novel? And furthermore, what else rings with the echo of true within the pages of The Gaze? 
   
   Javier A. Robayo
   

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Novel on the Shelf

  We've all come across pep talks about writing and how to get your book out there. I haven't come across too many accounts of what happens after.
   By after, I mean after initial reviews come in, after you run a few giveaways, after you've shocked people who "know" you when you tell them you've written a novel. After your novel is on the shelf, then what?
   Easy, write the next one.
   Too much? Okay, then blog.
   Tired of the social networking gig? Okay, read.
   Stop checking your numbers every single day. Fight the utter frustration of the dozens of readers who fail to post a review. Keep writing.
   Shakespeare once wrote "Expectation is the root of all heartache", and broken hearts fail to produce.
   Of course none of us is made of stone...okay, maybe most of us aren't made of stone and the creative ego is as fragile as gossamer in a hurricane. We all start out expecting everyone to like our stories but when those copies sit on the shelf for a few weeks, doubt inevitably sets in. It's okay.
   Don't blend expectation with belief.
   Believe in your voice and trust your writing instincts. Nothing can crush belief except for you.
   Expectation paints scenarios that get you giggling from the pure joy you'll experience but when that expectation is dashed, the anger, the agony, the resentment, the utter sense of defeat makes your voice as audible as a scream in outer space.
   Success in writing depends on an insane amount of luck, another person with an audience you manage to impress, but realistically time and talent. I'm not looking for an agreement, but it's what I feel.
   So write the next novel. Make it better. Learn more. Read more. Create more. Bleed your soul onto the page and be patient. Just think, by the time you become the next great American novelist, your adoring audience will reap the benefits of your belief by having three, four, maybe ten novels to delve into, and all written by you.
   Believe, don't expect.
   And don't believe in gaining fame and riches from your writing.
   Just believe in yourself and all the tales and characters you create.



   Javier A. Robayo  

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Frank Conversation

   I'm a website builder.
   I can do enough graphic design to offer it as a service.
   I'm training as a receiving clerk at a local hardware store.
   I'm a chimney technician doing everything I can to grow a business.
   I'm a father to two terrific young ladies.
   I'm a husband to the girl of my dreams.
   I'm also the author of three novels currently in circulation.
  At first impression, you would assume I'm awash in cash but that image is so far removed from reality. It really is a struggle just to make payments on rent and utilities each month. It's an uphill climb.
At present, I've failed to compensate my editor on a timely manner. I did not set out to take advantage of her understanding, but it angers me that I haven't been able to come through with my part of the deal after all the work she put into it. 
   I'm cashing in bottle deposits and watching every mile I have to drive. I'm adamant of shutting off lights and the occasional pizza is a major luxury.
   I'm not crying out or throwing this out to feel sorry for myself. It's just the reality of my life at present and I'm merely sharing so much just to set the scene if you will.
   I left a job that paid well and gave us quite the comfortable life precisely because it was no life at all. I have little regrets on that front.
   Truthfully I left to regain the love and support of family and lifelong friends. I left only because after writing The Gaze, I truly felt like I could accomplish anything.
   Perhaps most of you out there heard the speech from Chris Ashton Kutcher, the one he delivered after receiving an award. The most striking quote to me was "Opportunity looks like a lot of hard work."
   It resonated with much of my life now.
   I learned long ago that realizing a dream does not always mean credits rolling to a nostalgic theme song. The sense of triumph fades quickly, especially when what you love to do is threatened by struggle.
   I will not go into how much time and practice it takes to understand the whims of software and graphics. Obviously, there are facets of this endeavor I enjoy otherwise, I wouldn't do them. I won't go into how confusing the world of retail really is or how mundane it quickly becomes. I won't tell you how frustrating it is to compete with thieves and scam artists that make tatters out of the image you try to build as a business. How difficult it is to get enough people to notice and understand you're trying so hard to do a job worthy of becoming a lasting relationship with a customer.
   I will go into the writing because it most parallels life in every aspect. 
   If you speak to any real novelist out there, they'll tell you writing is in their blood. We're unable to stop the plot from unfolding. We're bound to each and every one of our characters, and the emotional investment is far more than what Mr. Trump could claim on his biggest business venture. 
   The committed will be on an endless quest to improve their voice; to hone their writing skills to produce the kind of prose that can stop a heart or shock every brain cell in a reader. It's the Holy Grail for every courageous man and woman who penned a piece of writing and threw it out there for everyone to take a shot at a piece of their souls. 
   The mediocre will be happy to claim they wrote something and anxiously expect to be hailed as the next Stephen King.
   The ignorant...well, they'll probably just remain in the dark for readers are not stupid people. Their time is sacred and we should feel so lucky they find it in them to devote those hours to the pages we write.
   Opportunity looks like a lot of hard work.
   You think you've written the next great novel and the masses will shower you with acclaim until you walk into a bookstore and you see an entire table filled with the works of Raymond Berry, Suzanne Collins or whole shelves teeming with John Grisham novels. You think you've written something no one else has written until that review shows up telling you that they thought they were reading Twilight or Hunger Games
   It's at that point when you feel the walls of your illusions crash down around you, leaving you to drown in a sea of doubt. 
   Or,
   You let your baby into the light and suddenly, like the expanding circles in a pond from where the pebble sank, a small group of people reads your work and asks for more. The highs of that roller coaster allow you a glimpse into everything you've wanted, everything that until then, was only on the other side of your own fears.
   The lows, the bad reviews, the dozen people that received a copy of your book at your promotional giveaway who never even let you know if they even got the bloody novel, let alone post the review they were supposed to do in exchange. The friends who tell you they have no interest in reading because they have no time, and those who mean well, but are ultimately false in their praise, you know. The ones who give you the appropriate ooh's and aah's and promise to read your book because they find you "so interesting" but who quickly forget, making the next time you see them infallibly awkward. Those are major tests of character.
   Sometimes it's tough to fight that sense of indignation. After all, we spent however many months composing, fixing, adding, deleting, and pulling every available trick out of our arsenal to evoke a reaction to our characters. The least the world can do is read it! Right?
   But this is the path we chose and if we haven't gotten a huge response, we can't waste our time wondering why or what's the point. We just haven' written our best work yet. We've got to accept it. Get back to the keyboard. Dream big. Create. Compose. Write. It's what we do. It's in our blood.
   Writing cannot flourish if it's done for fame and wealth. It's a self-imposed challenge and one of the loneliest professions a human being can ever choose. It's not meant for just anyone.
   It's a struggle. It's a lot of hard work .
   I imagine that if I had gotten paid one penny for each word I've written, I'd be a wealthy man. Not only does that mean that I've had a prolific enough run to produce three novels, but it also means I have worked ceaselessly for fractions of pennies on the hour.
   Perception is everything in the world of writers. I've met one or two authors that by all appearances were making it and making it big. What a strange disappointment to discover I've been blessed with more effusive reviews on one book than one of them has in all nine together. Stranger still to rank higher than the other one, and I'm talking a good 120,000 spots higher. I was stunned.
   Perception is everything.
   I haven't done anything. The day I feel otherwise is the day I stop composing another sentence. I'll share the messages I receive from readers or the one or two reviews I'm lucky to get, but it's difficult to define a measure of success in writing.
   The best authors out there will tell you they wrote for themselves. They wrote out of their hearts for the enjoyment of no one else but themselves. They adore their characters and are often shocked and fascinated by the way they fleshed out. It's the only way really. I had to fall head-over-heels in love with a British girl who took me on one hell of a ride. I found a hero in a man-another Brit-who found his way in the end and helped me find mine. I recreated my past though taking liberties to edit at will and in so doing, I surrounded a kid in a new country with all the people he'll need on his journey to that last epilogue.
   Where will it go? I wonder often.
   What is all this writing for?
   And why keep doing it when I should work more, firmly plant both feet on the ground and spend more time doing and less time at the keyboard building images and emotions that may go largely ignored?
   Why do we write?
   Why take on the struggle and the upstream swim in the rough waters of competition?
   Why hope for a stranger to devote their time to reading and coming to enjoy the story?
   Why?
   Because writing is in our blood. It cannot be shut off. And speaking for myself, as long as I have breath, I'll take on those journeys and accept the accusations of escaping reality or dreaming my life away. I'll respect the efforts of those who make it and praise the works of those of us, jacks of all trades, masters of none, doing whatever it takes for shelter and a bite, devoting a few minutes to their stories in those lonely hours of the night when stress bites hardest.
   Maybe there's little point to this blog post. I've wondered where it's going much like you are at this moment. 
   It's just something I had to write because it's in me.
   Now, fresh after venting, I can go back to tweaking a website with more tricky graphics. I can wash my red shirts and go over the receiving clerk duties for the store. I can go over my list of preparation for upcoming jobs and hoping for more phone calls from new customers. I can read a book to my little one and hear the latest jam my soon-to-be-tween deems cool. I can worry about bills and school shopping with my wife, oh, how our conversations have evolved since those days when we both felt we could conquer the world...
   And when they escape into their own dreams, I'll be back at the keyboard. I'll thank God for giving me enough opportunity to keep a roof over our heads, a yummy bite of something in the fridge, a comfortable chair, and I'll even thank SeƱorita Linares for teaching me how to type back in eighth grade. 
   And then...
   I'll write for me.

   Javier A. Robayo
   
   
   
   

Monday, August 5, 2013

Teaser for Requiem


  An old friend from high school contacted me via Facebook to congratulate me on my writing. Barely two weeks after that exchange, he passed away. 
   Few events in our existence give us a fresh perspective like the loss of a young life. I raged and questioned the usual questions that come with anything difficult to accept.
   As it happened, I had finished drafting Requiem, a story that showcases a darker side of my writing about a man who loses a friend and decides life is nothing but a pointless abyss. 
   I had first intended to write the story to cope with my own sense of mortality, the way I wrote John & Ezekiel to regain the spiritual ground I once had.
   Somehow, much of my writing runs parallel to my own life, and I will only divulge that the last three years have been by far some of the hardest parts of my entire life.
   It's easy to lose faith when you fight tooth and nail to climb one hill only to reach the skirts of a much more daunting, jagged mountain of challenges. 
   Besides the incredible support from my family and my closest friends, it was my writing that has helped me keep it together.
   Even a fleeting glimmer can be a tremendous comfort when you sit in perfect darkness. 
   Just as it happened with The Gaze and The Next Chapter, one character in Requiem came to life and dueled with me over every little word pertaining to him. I let go and simply sat back to see what would happen. I may have written Requiem for me and me alone and I can only wonder if the story will forge a connection with one of you out there. I wonder if one of you will find the message I found within its pages that helped me realign my own perspective and attitudes towards the challenges of life.
   What follows is a dialogue between Ken Glass and Morty. I could not choose an excerpt, I chose several, but I like this one because honest to goodness, it truly wrote itself.
  

  “Why did you bring me here?”
   “Yous tell me. Yous be the one afraid.”
  I can't deny that. Any normal person would grab his coat and run out of the dank place, but a strange calm prompts me to stay.
  “Yes…” Morty sighs. “Now you’s comin’ round.”
  “What’s going on? What is this?” Fear coils in the pit of my stomach.
  Morty smiles. “Spit it out, son. What’s eatin’ at you? What yous think of dying?”
  “Wait a minute. Why are your clothes dry?”
  Morty only continues to smile. “What yous think of dying?” 
  A silvery flash dances over his eyes. It’s so fleeting I almost think I imagined it. Almost. 
   I need to get out of here.
  “Not befo’ yous tell me,” he says sternly when I glance at the door.
   I’m at a loss. “Dying...is not fair.”
  The man laughs so hard he ends up with a coughing fit but recovers quickly. “Don’t think so? Why?”
   “It just causes a lot of pain.”
   “Sho' do, sho' do. But pain’s life. Dying? Hell, that’s well deserved rest.”
   “Dying is becoming nothing. I don’t want to die.”
   “Well,” Morty says, clasping his arthritic hands. “Now that be the first time yous lied today.”
 The epiphany crushes over me like a rogue wave on an unsuspecting raft but somehow I manage not to lose my voice. “What about you? What do you think of dying?”
   After a long moment, Morty grins. “Which time?”

   Javier A. Robayo

Monday, July 29, 2013

Heat and Warmth

   The first time I even heard of Clinton was in 1998 when my best friend, Jay Hornyak, asked me to help him with a job. Jay is the owner and operator of Advanced Chimney Service. His business has served Clinton and the surrounding communities for nearly twenty years.
   My first impression of Clinton was of a sleepy coastal town, so much so that I immediately took some notes in order to make it the setting of a future novel. Fast forward to 2013 and I can now call Clinton home, where I work alongside my best friend and enjoy the perks of being my own boss after working for a steel mill in Pennsylvania for more than a decade.
   Clinton boasts plenty of charming brooks and streams that meander through heavily wooded areas, marshlands that teem with wildlife and of course, a beautiful piece of Connecticut’s shore. And despite the passage of fifteen years, Clinton has retained that same allure I experienced the first time I visited.
   The small town is a throwback to quaint Americana with just the right touch of modernism. Main Street, Clinton’s portion of US Route 1, is still lined with humble store fronts, some of them set up in well-preserved New England houses. No big chain stores and gigantic home improvement centers mar the simple beauty of Clinton, and that’s just how its residents like it.

   I may know slightly better than most what it means to move into a new town. I moved to America from Ecuador when I was only thirteen, and the experiences of that year ended up on the pages of my latest novel.       Old fears resurfaced when my Sheri and I made the decision to move. How would we fit in? How do we find what we need? Where do we go for this or that? What are the people like? Will our daughters like their new surroundings?
   We’ve had the fortune of good friends guiding us to find answers to some of our never-ending questions but ultimately, we know we have to find the beat of the town on our own.
Summer in Clinton screams “Beach”, but the last couple of weeks kept us indoors, where I made it a point to reverently thank one Mr. Carrier for inventing A/C.
   On Saturday, July 20th, We took our girls to the Town Beach for Clinton Family Day. Suffice to say that after meeting Bob Ruggiero, I no longer hold any fears as to our future as Clinton Residents.
   Bob Ruggiero has volunteered for Family Day for the last ten years. Bob offered me a cold bottle of water while he sliced watermelon. Just as I was about to ask how much, Bob smiled.

   “It’s all free,” he said, much to our surprise.
  I thanked him for the cool drink, and we struck up a conversation. I’ve seldom met people who are genuinely proud of their community and their town. The Ruggieros have called Clinton home for over forty years.
   After sharing a verbal tour of Clinton, Bob welcomed me and my family with a solid handshake. He pointed out the Chairman of the Parks and Rec Office, his wife Lois, who walked from one end to the other, clipboard in hand, tending to the activities planned for the day.  He also pointed out his daughter, who was one of the many volunteers working feverishly to make Family Day as fun as possible for the littler Clinton residents.
   My new friend gave the volunteers and particularly Bo Potter, who runs Clinton Parks and Rec, all the credit for putting together another successful Clinton Family Beach Day. And it was nothing short of a success.
   The Crowd pleasing music was loud enough to enjoy without interfering with conversation―to watch old timers, middle agers, and teenagers sing along to “Sweet Caroline” is something to beholdEvery kid was a winner and they gleefully chose their prizes or cooled off at the water slide. Smiling volunteers made every game and contest fun and exciting. Some adults heeded their inner little kid and could be seen trying out playground equipment alien to their own childhood. Yes, I was one of them.
   I followed my oldest daughter from end to end. But after our third lap, it dawned on me she and her new friend were safe and I didn’t need to worry so much. I then cheered my little one as she and a whole line of kids hopped to the finish line, most of their little bodies inside a burlap sack.
   Meanwhile, Bob continued to treat his community to watermelon slices and pink lemonade while Mystery Mike entertained a rapt audience who benefited from a few lessons on the sly. I wish my college professors discussed ancient civilizations while tossing around “articles of juggling” and wearing a beany hat featuring a propeller.
   It was a perfect beach day.
   The ocean gently lapped at the crescent of sand and the boats bobbing in their berths at the marina drew a most picturesque skyline worthy of a postcard. A steady breeze kept the heat at bay and made it enjoyable to watch the kids run through the obstacle course and enjoy the beach the way only kids can.
   Strangers offered easy greetings and shared the usual views on the weather with friendly smiles. It was precisely what I hoped to feel: warmth. The kind of neighborly warmth that welcomes a newcomer. Just about every person I spoke to said, “You’ll like it here”.
   I believe I already do, Clinton. I look forward to making a home out of this quaint little beach town where warmth is felt not only on the skin or the sand beneath my feet.





Javier A. Robayo

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cassidy Jones Adventures III: The Review

    Elise Stokes has done it again in her latest installment of the Cassidy Jones Adventures series. Volume 3, The Seventh Attendant not only packs a punch in terms of action and adventure, but also brings that one element that breathes life to a piece of writing: heart.
   Just when I thought I could not love these characters any more I'm pleased to admit I fell even harder for them. I adore the people around Cassidy and I could write blog after blog about each of the main protagonists because Elise gave us much of what makes up their soul.
   
Cassidy's biggest asset as a superhero (though she thinks of herself as a mutant) is her very humanity. Her adoration of her little brother, her affection for her friends, namely Emery, and her crushed out feelings over Jared, gives readers a real connection. Who among us has not had that special friend or been victim to the whims of romance in our early years? 
   I got to learn quite a bit more about her supporting cast. The experience was akin to boarding an elevator that took me to new depths of their personas.
   I was completely taken in by Cassidy's dilemmas, resolutions, adventures, and superpowers of course, but it's the relationships within the pages that absolutely enthralled me.
   Above all, Elise Stokes takes great precautions to keep the feel of her universe and language appropriate for any age. It's almost too easy to break those parameters, especially when you have such a binding commitment to making a character with realistic aspects. The dialogue is smooth. I always knew whose voice I read, even when the scenes brought a multitude of players. 
   Cassidy's ruminations are vibrant and evoke plenty of emotional responses. Trust me.
   I'd like to point out or claim that I've read for over thirty-four years. I moved quickly from abridged versions of classics to the real tomes as a kid. I've explored every imaginable gender and found fault and virtue in each work, even my own. Rarely ever have I come across a story that was such a complete and utter joy to read. A story that made me grow along with the characters to the point where I look at them in my mind as my own flesh and bone friends. 
   From a reader's point of view, Cassidy Jones Adventures is, hands down, the best series I've had the pleasure of absorbing. Whether Elise Stokes meant to or not, she's brought a hero our kids and much of society as a whole, desperately need. 
   What do I mean by that? 
   Cassidy finds herself as her own worst enemy when it comes to dealing with those adolescent insecurities that still plague some of us in our adult years. She strives to do the right thing, regardless of her circumstances which could easily change her into a narcissistic egomaniac like the many "stars" out there, who flaunt their empty-shell personalities thanks to whatever power given to them by TV reality shows or movies.  
  Cassidy may be a fictional character, but I want my daughters to look up to her and emulate her far more than any Kardashian sister  or new oversexed starlet singing the latest hip-hop hit. 
   I'd love for them to find a friend like Emery and not because he's a genius, but because of the way he is: respectful, considerate, confident, attentive, and sincerely affectionate, all the elements that make a good friend a great once-in-a-lifetime friend.
   I want them to value each other the way Nate and Chazz value their sister. Even when there's the usual picking on each other as any siblings do, when the situation calls for it, they're there for each other.
   As if that weren't enough, the adults in the story bring their own contributions. In the latest, no one more so than the enigmatic Gavin Phillips, who truly inspired me to be a better father and a better husband.
   No, my friends, this is NOT just another YA run of the mill story. 
   From an author's point of view, if you allow me, Elise's heart paints the most vibrant hues on the pages. We write what we know. We write what we've lived and hold dear, and that unnamed quality is what turns a book into a novel. It's what an author truly hopes to accomplish by risking it all and writing from the heart, and I've been fortunate to experience what it's like to breathe life into a fictional someone that makes a reader lose their emotional compass as they connect with that character in ways no one could have imagined.
   This blog however, belongs to Cassidy Jones and The Seventh Attendant, the third in a series that inspired this author to write his first blog review. 
   I invite you to lose yourself in Seattle, to befriend a terrific group of kids. Be entertained, be awed, be inspired. 
   Creating a character may sound awfully simple, but it's not. An author transforms thousands of words into someone and that someone has got to be able to touch the minds and hearts of an audience. It requires a tremendous commitment to give that character a voice, an emotional makeup, a personality, virtues and flaws, and sooner or later, they LIVE. 
   

  Elise Stokes may have become a victim of her own talent, for she appears to have effortlessly brought Cassidy, Emery, Jared, Miriam, and so many others to life, and I am stunned at the way they each grow in their own timeline, their own sentimental maturity. I can't say enough. 
  This author (yours truly), this reader, father, dreamer, wants more of Cassidy Jones. And should you, my dear friend, delve into the pages of the first in the series, The Secret Formula, you will inevitably move on to Vulcan's Gift, and after you read The Seventh Attendant, you may find yourself right where I was at the time I composed this blog. 
   You'll grin from ear to ear, perhaps wishing to be a teenager again, perhaps utterly satisfied with a major fiction hangover; perhaps shaking your head in awe recalling every scene. And this is where I leave this blog review, thanking my lucky stars for Elise Stokes and her unparalleled talent and heart.


   Javier A. Robayo

   visit Amazon and download this series for you and for your young reader: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/182-1406921-7460667?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=elise+stokes