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 downloads. At that pace, I figured I'd do well to expect no more than a hundred or so.
   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
   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 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