Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Before the Christmas Tree...

My girls are now 10 and 7 so the Christmas magic is still alive and well in their hearts. At their age, I always made a point to sit before the decorated tree and think back on the year that was. This year is bound to hold several dog-eared pages from its chapters, and these particular pages hold numerous names, and what kind of writer would I be if I don't share this little message for them to know?
But allow me to share some backstory.
Sheri and I moved back to Connecticut after losing our home in Pennsylvania. For over two years, we struggled in ways that put our very lives to the test. I will admit, Connecticut felt like a horrible decision at times. The lows outnumbered the highs and we both reached our breaking point, leaving us in the most uncertain of times.
Somewhere in the fog that was my brain at the time, I found my way to Porter and Chester Institute with the intention of studying electronics only to follow in my father's footsteps as a Drafter.
Desperation is an incredible motivator. I took to learning CAD and managed to form a reputation as a dependable and talented designer. Not even halfway through the course, barely into the second quarter, I applied for a position as a piping drafter designer with General Dynamics Electric Boat. To my surprise, given my short time in school and my limited, but admittedly impressive drawings, I earned the chance to work for the premier submarine builders in the world.
In the last three months, all I wanted was to demonstrate what the job meant to me, and I've done all I can to become a strong team asset, and I want it known that I'm determined to go as far as I can within the company. The opportunity is endless!
And so, this year, I became a professional, which gained me the stability and prosperity I so desperately needed.
Every piece of my life's puzzle fell into place, and every question I ever had on why something was happening at the time it was, was finally answered. It all led to Clinton, CT, where I can finally rebuild the concept of HOME for us.
Life can be merciless at times, but given enough motivation, and a touch of luck, it can be amazing.
I couldn't have done it alone and this is why I needed to pour these words out.
First and foremost, my parents, my heroes, my rock. Thank you both for carrying me through most of the year. I don't know what I would've done without you. You helped me in every way possible and found a way to make me see light where I saw darkness.
Sheri Sue Robayo, you really are the strongest person I have EVER known and I can't tell you how proud I am to be your husband. It wasn't easy many times, but to see the smile on your face when I look at you is a reward no Heaven could ever bestow. My life doesn't happen without you, and I look forward to more triumphs in our lives. I love you more than you'll ever know.
Jay Hornyak, my brother, thank you for everything you did for me, for my family. I wish you the success you deserve with ACS. I'll miss driving the Red Diablo.
Kristen Diekmann, my oldest and best friend, and the one person who knows me better than I know myself. Thank you for always believing in me when I least believe in myself, and for always knowing how to straighten me out.
Paul and Sue Feher, you brought so much warmth to one of the coldest winters of my life. Thank you for your help and encouragement.
Brian McCarthy, I have no words to adequately express just what your friendship means to me. No friend could've done more for me when I most needed it, especially talking me into applying for a career at Electric Boat. Thank you for seeing talent in me, and for dragging me into believing in myself. That conversation went on to change my life and I will never, ever forget it.
Sarah and John May, Kathleen and Eric Bergman, Aman and Gurmeet Singh, "La Cuadrilla". You guys...let me just say that Clinton feels like HOME in large part thanks to you. Thank you for the laughter, for the cheer, for the support. Here's to making more memories together!
Paul and Olga Gebauer, you two always knew the right words to say when I needed them most. Here's to more Halloweens and amusing conversations! Thank you both for your genuine friendship and affection.
Lorena Bedoya, my sister, my very best friend. You were a huge inspiration for me to get my act together and find direction in school. You're tough, and you've come a long way yourself. I'm so glad I'm back to share our lives together with our kids, and for reinforcing what makes us Robayos. Love you, kiddo.
Fabio and Eileen Ciampini. Fabio, we've been friends since our days fresh off the boat, and no one has ever made me feel like family despite time, distance or circumstances. I'm so glad you're in my life. I'm so thankful for all the special occasions we've shared, especially Liana's baptism. Parenthood is a wonderful trip, and I'm so happy for you two.
To Doug and Lisa Tappager and their incredible kids, Sarah, Amanda, and Dougie, my Pennsylvania family. Lisa, thank you for that swift kick in the pants and for pulling me out of the hole. I truly believe this recovery, though long in coming, started that day at your house.
Scott and Stephanie McCreary, time and distance means nothing in a friendship like ours. May the years bring us together often.
My book buddies, Elise Stokes, Peggy, Monica LaPorta, and my editor Heather Jacquemin, thank you ladies for your gracious understanding and help, even from afar. You all gave me perspective and encouragement when I doubted my writing. I don't know if I will write again, but it's so good to know I don't have anything to prove to anyone after earning your admiration and praise for my craft.
So, this was my year.
I found I have a great family, terrific friends from before and today; I found my very best friend in the girl I love. Oh how I admire her as a mom and as a woman; I found that things indeed happen for a reason; I found I can be happy again; I found it is possible to rectify every mistake once you reach the shores of hope after enduring the crushing waves of self-recrimination.
And last, but not least, Merry Chirstmas and a Happy New Year full of Health and Prosperity to you and your families.

Javier

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

REDO

At 5am I started the engine, took a deep breath, and drove to my new life.
Without the usual rush on I-95, I set the cruise control and thought back on long gone days when I made my way to my old job in Pennsylvania.
Back then, I fought wave after wave of anxiety at the thought of having to survive another day at work. It wasn't easy to run an old crane, but there was an element of fun and self-pride in moving heavy loads with skill. Carrying the possibility of something going wrong when you least expect it was not.
Not in the least.
Neither was the thought of breathing billowing clouds of dust and smoke or enduring headaches from the ungodly roar of the electric furnace and the flashes of light that rendered me unable to face a sunny day without the protection of sunglasses.
Most disturbing of all was the gripping worry of being forced to stay for another eight hours. Throughout the last five years of my employment at the mill, eight hour days were a rare event. I missed entire weeks on account of living at the mill. It was no easy life although it did provide me a healthy bank account.
Perhaps I took such a job for granted. Perhaps I should've kissed my lucky stars for having a job with great benefits. I did make a pretty good living although holidays at home with my family were so few and far between.
Perhaps the money was worth the migraines, the apnea resulting from sleep deprivation or the weight gain from doing little more than sitting in place, and grabbing a bite of greasy convenience. Maybe it was worth the constant pollution accumulating in my lungs, which surely had little to do with two of my coworkers losing their lives to lung maladies.
I made a pretty good living despite the fact that a summer vacation was simply not in the cards for years to come.
I went on working swing shifts, enduring the constant stress, the pettiness of so called managers, and the lacking culture of a steel town worker angst bred and influenced by the ever-present struggle between union and company.
I made a pretty good living among people who laughed at making more money than college graduates, among people who had all the answers, who openly expressed their relief at seeing me forced into a double turn for the sixth consecutive day while they bragged about the beers they'd drink while I worked.
I made a pretty good living, but it was no life at all.

I recall coming home after an afternoon/midnight shift, lamenting the fact I had less than six hours before going back to do it again. My little girl was five at the time. Like most kids, she was up and ready to go at 6:30am on a Saturday morning after fighting tooth and nail for an extra minute of sleep during the school week. Upon seeing me crumple on the couch, she gave me a sad smile and said, "You came to visit."
I held her tight and hid the sting of her words, burning my eyes, as best as I could. Her innocent, yet truthful statement was a key that unlocked the vault of my conformity.
Damned if I was going to settle for this kind of life, I thought that day. I was no longer comfortable with the idea of letting my wife, my best friend become more of a stranger to me. I was not going to continue letting friendships fall away because It was useless to plan a simple get together to catch up. I was not going to miss my girls' games, recitals, graduations or weekends together. I was not going to waste away in a job where taking on the responsibility of keeping workers and equipment safe despite working on few hours of rest was never recognized. I was not about to grow old and bitter in the knowledge that it was the best I could do.
In my mind, the solution was simple. In practice, it was anything but.
No one remotely associated with the steel mill life understood my choice to leave. I'm certain many even felt vindicated in their assessment of my foolishness when learning about the struggles I faced after leaving the mill. I lost my house. I lost the majority of my possessions. I even lost the will to live at one point.
I left Pennsylvania, cloaked in shame and burdened by a sense of failure, but as it turned out, I could go home again.

The move came with a whole new set of challenges. The difference was that I was given an unbelievable amount of help. Still, I mourned my losses, my days of plenty, and barely moved under the weight of the guilt I carried for uprooting my girls from the world and life they were growing into.
I nearly lost my wife while coming to terms with our new reality that wasn't always stark, but bleak days outnumbered bright ones.
I learned much, namely a whole new appreciation for pennies earned and kept. I might not have had much, but I had the time.
I had the time to repair my marriage, mend our family ties. I had time to become the husband and father I set out to be. I had the time to enjoy the closeness of my family for more than just a few stolen days a year. More than anything, I had the time, and the courage to take a step back to school.
From my first day at Porter and Chester Institute, something fell into place; some long-ignored piece that revealed itself when I needed it most. Each day I learned how to use another auto cad tool, I felt another drop of hope fall into my once empty spirit. Each high mark I earned, each encouraging word from my professor made me walk a little straighter. I found something in myself I didn't even know I had, even though it was in my blood all along.
In the name of that hope, I set a picture frame on my desk, a picture of the source of my strength and motivation: my smiling girls.
One day, I thought. One day...

That day came faster than anyone thought although for me, it took no less than a lifetime. I was hired as a computer aided drafting technician at Electric Boat. There's simply no adequate words to describe the overwhelming pride at being a small part of the group that builds the most technologically advanced submarines in the world.
The handsome architecture of the towers before me will bring a smile to my face for years to come.
The brisk air carries with it the promise of autumn laced the scent of the ocean as I present my credentials at the gate. I glance at the flags gently swaying in the breeze. One says home, one says hope, and the third one says "you are somebody."
I don't rush through the fourth floor connector. How could I when to the north, the sleepy New London skyline is framed by the I-95 bridge spanning the Thames River. The steel structure brings to mind Dad's days as a draftsman before the age of computers along with a sense of life coming full circle. Yes, it was in my blood all along. I just had to realize it.
To the south, the deep blue waters of the Long Island Sound are dotted with bobbing boats and dappled by the rising sun. It's impossible to walk past such beauty without stopping to take a longer look.
It's not the fact I'm not wearing steel toe boots, safety glasses or sooty clothes. It's not the fact that I don't have to bow to some racist store owner for fear of unemployment. It's not the fact I don't have to wear a respirator or hearing protection as I start my workday. It's not the pristine work station with the dual monitors and the comfortable chair. It's not even knowing that I can spend every weekend at home or that I will always spend my afternoons with my kids. It's not the fact I get to sleep in my bed every night after kissing my wife good night.
No.
It's a picture frame I set on the corner of my desk. I can return the smile now. It's the sudden realization that every bad experience I endured has finally been explained or justified.
I can live now.
I can breathe now.
I can hope once more.
I make a pretty good living.
I got a redo on my life.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Gaze, a novel, Genre: Women's Lit

Samantha Kay Reddick is a survivor and survivors don't overcome their trials unscathed. Samantha bares deep scars within and without. Regret and grief, and the pain from memories of a man she once loved, are the demons she hopes to escape in a bottle of vodka as guilt, real and imagined, tortures her heart.

For more than ten years, the maelstrom of her life grants her peace only in the emotions committed on a piece of writing the boy who changed her life wrote to the love of his life. In her mind, the way she felt while she was in his arms becomes the salvation she desperately needs and soon she's trapped into a fog of obsession that blinds her to the danger from a vindictive ex-fiance, who's sworn to destroy her.

In her quest to find Tony Amaya, Samantha finds that the girl behind his words still holds his heart. Through Gwen, Samantha inserts herself into Tony's life with the sole intention of stealing him. Her plan goes awry when Gwen opens the door to a friendship Samantha never thought possible and an inner battle ensues for Samantha's soul as her nemesis draws near. Will Samantha survive once more and if she does, will she become the woman she desperately wants to be or will she remain a woman who can't stand her own gaze?

The Gaze is a challenging read in the genre of Women's Literature. Written from the first person's point of view of the main character, the story unravels a series of revelations that slowly unveil the core of Samantha's conflict.

Based on real events, The Gaze is a character study of a flawed individual struggling to be a better person. Around Samantha, memorable characters lend their supporting voices and flavor to this intercontinental saga, none more so than her best friend, the incomparable Lewis Bettford. His role completes the spectrum of emotion that's bound to elicit strong reactions as the pages are turned.

The Gaze exposes darker facets of love, obsession, despair and addiction, the power of guilt and self-recrimination, and the unique brand of love found in the truest of friendships. Get ready for this roller coaster ride.

The Gaze is recommended for ages 18 and up due to strong language, sexual situations, and viloence.

Other stories comparable to The Gaze: Greg Isles Blood Memory - Alexandra Ripley Scarlett - T.K. Leigh A Beautiful Mess









Signed to:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

The lovely and talented Monica La Porta is not only a fellow author, but also a fellow immigrant familiar with what it's like to enter America as an outsider. Although we've both learned to thrive as we found the way to become a part of this great nation, where we raise our children and write our stories, we both carry fond and painful reminders of our arrival into a new culture.

We write our work from both coasts, Monica in Seattle, Washington and me in Clinton, Connecticut, and meet with our readers across the country. Despite the distance, we've forged a terrific friendship through tweets and Facebook writer groups, built on our sharing the woes of independent publishing and debating the what ifs of our stories.

Monica invited me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. She gave me a list of questions to answer and asked me to introduce a couple more authors, which I will be more than happy to do once I answer the blog tour questionnaire, so...


What am I working on?

As it's typical for me, I am working on several projects at the same time. Most would find it confusing but to me, it's oddly liberating and makes me more productive. At the time of this blog post, I'm working on an Action/Adventure, the sequel to My Two Flags, tentatively titled My Two Flags 2 All Men Are Created Equal..., and (yes it's true) I've began drafting a novel to follow The Gaze and The Next Chapter. No title yet. On top of that, my Untitled006 has become a major emotional undertaking that forces me to write in small doses. Lots going on and lots to write. In the meantime, I released an autobiography of sorts, although I like to think of it more as a piece of writing that may help people, parents in particular, to spot the little traits that make an author out of a child. Based on the blog series, i.Author is a short story that looks back on all the signs that pointed me in the direction of a life in writing.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?


I'm a big fan of character driven novels heavy with emotion. If I don't elicit a laugh or a few tears with one of my stories, I'll consider the work a complete and utter failure. My goal is to engage the reader so profoundly that my characters and their trials and triumphs take the reader's emotions hostage. Although I delve in Contemporary Dramas, YA, and I'm taking a step towards Action/Adventure, the emotion element is the driving force behind the characters' motivations, errors, and sacrifices. In other words, my work will make you feel. I want each story to be nothing short of an emotional roller coaster.


Why do I write what I do?

I enjoy just about every genre, but the novels closer to my heart are stories with a lot of plausibility. I can't relate to far off planets, alien environments, or ancient eras. I love to lose myself in the imagined scenarios and plots, but I just feel much more comfortable writing stories that take place in the here and now. Take The Gaze for instance. Friends of mine have visited London and messaged me to let me know they walked the same streets Samantha walked. That just warms my heart. It tells me they can see themselves in the story because they can relate to it. I love that kind of feedback. I feel it provides more of a connection with the readers and it certainly lends validation to my work. 

How does my writing process work?


My writing process is nothing extraordinary. When the mood strikes me, I sit at the keyboard and write. I'll have three screens providing me with imagery of places I've never been as I did for The Gaze and The Next Chapter, while another has all my research windows giving me needed data like I do for Untitled007 and my historical fiction. 

I may have George Winston caressing the ivories in the background, which usually becomes my muse in terms of emotion. I write at night while everyone else is asleep. I don't make a serious attempt at an outline. Often, I have a character in my head and he or she will introduce me to their circles as we advance through the pages. 

I tend to argue with my characters. Samantha (from The Gaze) and I engaged in some epic fights as she forced her story out of my brain, and that's when I know my mind is solely invested in fleshing out a novel. I may take long breaks in between as the voices in my head sort out an order before I get down to the keyboard but when I do, I've been known to lose entire days in front of the screen. 


I will not write longhand anymore. My writing is simply horrible. It resembles a hybrid of Chinese and Scandinavian runes with a hint of chicken scratch that only I can decipher...most of the time. That's why I love the ergonomic wave keyboard my wife Sheri got me for Christmas. It's probably my most priced possession



And now it's time for me to introduce you to more of us, Indie Authors.

First off, my dear British friend, Kaye Vincent whose creative powers are applied on the stage as well as on The Treeman, which was an utter joy to read because of all the different and complex relationships revolving around the main characters. She just launched her sequel in the Hanningdon Series with the very entertaining The River Girl.
I met Kaye through our mutual love of writing and she has been one of my greatest sources of support. She knows just what to say when I need it most. Her work delves in romance with a hint of magic. Her first novel was a joy to read. If you like romance in the style of your favorite daytime soaps, Kaye is sure to deliver with her unique brand of entertainment.


Secondly, a man who needs no introduction, the witty and hilarious Stacey Roberts. Ohio's funnyman finally compiled his memorable blogs in the form of Trailer Trash With A Girl's Name, a novel you simply must read to believe. We have critiqued each other's work, finding common ground from different perspectives. If you like quirky and funny, Stacey's novel belongs in your collection.
As always, thank you all for stopping by. I hope to entice you to check out our work and feel free to shoot any questions my way. I have yet to meet an author who won't share pieces of their lives or refuse to talk about their writing.

Happy Reading Everyone

Javier A. Robayo

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Epoch Ch4 Good vs Evil

Among all the millions of inhabitants sharing planet earth, humans are the only species capable of spirituality. Even those who proclaim themselves agnostic exercise a measure of spirituality.

Spirituality is not falling on your knees and praying to a supernatural deity whose existence you accept on faith alone.

Sharks, lions, and eagles do not pray. As I previously pointed out, their existence revolves around food and procreation. With humans, another force is at play, and that’s the pursuit of happiness according to a moral compass governed by spirituality. 

Regardless of religion or origin, every human confronts life with an individual understanding of right and wrong. The vast gray areas between these moral extremes raise questions that are best left to be answered by Yahweh, Jehovah, Zeus, Allah, Buddha, Ra, God, Jupiter, Shiva, Inti, Odin, The Sun, The Moon, and other forms of higher power humans deem worthy of worship and adoration and in some cases, omnipotence.

The universal mandate of each of these deities is to be a good human, but what exactly does it mean to be good?

The concept of good is not written in stone. It’s fluid. It’s interchangeable. It manages to justify extreme actions, and good is deemed good by the victorious side of an argument. Isn’t it?

Bad is the opposite of good, but it doesn’t mean it’s been defined any clearer. The concept of bad is also fluid, and much like good, it’s defined by the victorious side of an argument.

Allow me to better illustrate this concept. American soldiers are sent overseas to battle Nazi forces in the Second World War. The allies battle their bloody way into France through tremendous sacrifice and sheer determination. They kill thousands of Nazis and defeat them, eventually freeing France. The heroic triumph results in history bestowing the title of good guys to the Americans.

Now try switching perspective. 

German boys and men rush to defend a beach head to guard the Aryan ideals and secure the future of their nation. They gallantly defend their right to make France a part of the German dream, but the evil American war machine breaks through and chases the once mighty German Army back to Berlin.

Good and bad. Good and evil. Although every master of higher spirituality has commanded you love your brother as you love yourself, both combatants earn both labels depending on their place in history. The German people of the 1930’s regarded their Nazi troops as the good guys, and the opposition was the villain.

As it turned out, the Allied forces claimed the right to enter the annals of history as the good guys, and most of the world has acknowledged this fact.


Evil is a tangible phenomenon that has been demonstrated by every single protagonist of human history at one time or another. 

Hitler murdered hundreds of thousands, Russia wrote their history in blood through the deeds of their ideals and monsters like Stalin, the Spanish destroyed entire civilizations in the New World under the pretense of spreading God's word. Kofi destroyed the lives of countless children in his pursuit for a deranged army. An American President and his team of elite scientists left their mark in history through decisions that annihilated Japanese cities, and a crazed, hateful group of backward, bearded, zealots plotted the destruction of two famous towers, resulting in the death of innocents who did nothing more than go to work that September morning. As horrid as it is to contemplate, these protagonists of history are deemed heroes, depending on the way their contributions to history affected people. 

Oh how far we’ve gotten away from my initial purpose as a manuscript. My most sincere apologies.

However, some points demand an argument, and the subject of good vs evil and hero against villain is worth exploring from my point of view because of one undeniable truth: a manuscript such as myself, a compilation of pages incapable of taking a spiritual stance, cannot possibly bring you a story without the conflict of good versus evil.




















And thus, we begin.



to be continued...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Two Flags Foreword by Acclaimed Author Monica La Porta

Foreword

As seen on My Two Flags Vol. 1 I pledge allegiance...


Sometimes, what looks like the end of a journey is the beginning of a lifelong experience. Anybody who left their motherland for America, seeking betterment in life wears the emotional scar that comes with that decision.

After the spellbinding roller coasters of The Gaze and The Next Chapter, author Javier A. Robayo has delved into the depth of cultural alienation.



In My Two Flags, Tony Amaya, a teenager from Ecuador, leaves a wealthy life to move to America with his family, only to find himself the victim of endless acts of bullying. Unable to express his feelings and unwilling to burden his parents with the truth of what his life has become, Tony struggles to belong. 

Chilling at times and heartbreaking at others, My Two Flags will force you to reflect on social issues and what it means to be The Other when you are only thirteen, and can't speak a word of English.

Monica La Porta

About Monica La Porta
A quintessential modern renaissance woman, Italy's own Monica La Porta is a sculptor, an accomplished artist, as well as an author of Sci-Fi epics like The Ginecean Chronicles, a dystopian series set on the planet Ginecea, where women rule over a race of enslaved men and heterosexual love is considered a sin. Monica has published the first three books in the series, The Priest, Pax in the Land of Women, and Prince at War. She also wrote and illustrated a children's book about the power of imagination, The Prince's Day Out. Her latest published short, Linda of the Night, is a fairy tale love story celebrating inner beauty. Stop by monicalaporta.com to read about her miniature, sculptures, paintings, and her beloved beagle, Nero. Sometimes, she also posts about her writing. .







Find Monica's compelling work at: 

 AMAZON


Friday, April 4, 2014

Infuriatingly Funny: Trailer Trash With A Girl's Name

   Dr. Elizabeth Curry, simultaneously my tormentor and hero, graded my work according to her set of rules written in stone, indelible laws each of her students eventually learned to follow. Getting that coveted A+ was a minor detail. We wanted her respect, and believe you me, that did not come easy.
   
   The gaunt, lanky, snowy top, lady in the long monochromatic dresses and knee-high leather boots often reduced would-be-writers to shameful tears as she tore sub par essays and dumped them in her waste basket. I was victimized early on, we all were. Only half of the initial eighteen students finished her course but when we left, we attained an appreciation for voice, style, originality, and knowing how to compose words to show rather than tell.

   I would have loved to have her read Stacey Roberts' debut novel Trailer Trash With A Girl's Name, just to watch her shake her head or roll her eyes at Roberts' unorthodox dialogue format. She would've undoubtedly screamed redundancy at the character's labels, and she might have even given in to her harsh, hypercritical nature that drove her to tear up pages written in the blood and tears of the author, but I have no doubt whatsoever that my old nemesis would have laughed her butt clean off.

   Trailer Trash is written in a way that goes against a large part of my own training as a novelist. Despite the two voices in empty space sensation, the dialogue carries the scenes and mounts images that often called my own childhood memories into play. At times it was difficult to know whether the Ssssstace in the scene was a teen, a child or a grown man, but it didn't matter. Imagining the main characters at any age in any of those scenes is comical in itself.

   I did not have a Jewish mother who turned food into sorrow or the tears of an inmate in his first night of prison at lights out. My mom did not melt my corneas (and everyone else's) with onion chopping, and the times that she'd ask "What's wrong with you?" I'm sure I actually did something that warranted it, like jumping off a roof onto a serial killer's discarded mattresses.


   I despised the Mom character (whose image in my head is that of Theresa the Long Island Medium for some reason though with red hair). Hated everything she put this boy through, especially with her idea of what a good boy Layne the Favorite was. Had I left my sister behind with a concussion, I'd be unable to sit to this day, and don't get me started on her inability to retain names or the tonsillitis incident...you'll just have to read it. 

   If Ssssstacey would've turned into a bitter adult, he'd be well justified but instead, every page of Trailer Trash holds little resentment. In fact, just when I thought I had it and I swore I would push Mom into a fire, she redeemed herself if only for a moment.

   Typically, I resist funny. I do. As soon as a friend recommends a book, a show or a movie she deemed funny, I know I won't even smirk at it. My best friend adores Will Farrel. To this day I wonder why. I have not found the man funny, not once. Close friends of mine in PA talked up The Birdcage, Saturday Night Live, and Chelsea Handler but to me? Yawn...

   I feared reading Trailer Trash would be similar, that I would find nothing funny, and despite the many readers that swear they fell off chairs and their sides hurt so badly from laughing so much, it wouldn't even elicit a chuckle from me.

   I'm happy to report that wasn't the case. 

   The witty lines Stacey fired back at Marvin King of the Jews or Ted the Lightbulb Salesman, sure found my tickle spot and I laughed not only because it was indeed humorous, I laughed in celebration of the strong spirit of this kid, who teaches his buddy to appreciate a normal sandwich.

   Comedy suits Stacey Roberts' voice. All comedians draw their material from their own lives and those around them, along with that unique sense of self-deprecating humor that goes on to make them beloved characters and storytellers.

   Through all the humor, the unusual format, the sheer tragedy of growing up with the Mom person and her arsenic-infected logic, Roberts' reveals what Dr. Curry, my benevolent tormentor, would've lauded as the elusive "IT" she made her students strive for.

   "...the three of them stood together in the kitchen in a tight cluster, a coven formed around my lamentable incompetence and lack of foresight, awaiting one last unspeakable ingredient for their noxious cauldron..."

   Dr. Curry could've taught an entire week's worth of lessons based on that passage.

   Trailer Trash is a fun, quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone who was ever a fan of memoirs like A Christmas Story and The Wonder Years, where the narrative only adds emotional spice to the characters' perspective as their dialogue carries the story. 

   Download it, get the paperback, you will undoubtedly enjoy it. In my life I hold onto the notion that no matter how dark and hopeless one day may be, there will be another day when you'll think back on those moments and tell your story with a disbelieving chuckle. It's a testament to our own fortitude. We love to laugh, especially at our own tragic moments that eventually shaped us, and Stacey Roberts clearly knows it.

   Javier A. Robayo


 Find it on Amazon
Find Stacey Roberts' Trailer Trash With A Girl's Name at:
http://www.amazon.com/Trailer-Trash-Girls-Stacey-Roberts-ebook/dp/B00IX0MIAO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396614083&sr=1-1&keywords=trailer+trash+with+a+girl%27s+name



   

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Epoch Ch. 3 Crux





haven’t asked what you are. Think about it, is there a more impossible question than that? The answers are as broad as the question, but if we really pull away all the layers of what we think makes us what we are then it’s safe to say you are a human, and I am a manuscript. 

   There.

   Our natures have been defined.

   You see, it doesn’t matter what label we hope to attribute to ourselves or what label is attributed to us. 


   Take me for example. I am one of trillions of pieces of writing that will inevitably become labeled depending on my contents. It's a fool's errand, for a story, much like life itself, is composed of an array of facets from every genre simply because we must elicit an emotion. Whether a manuscript makes you laugh, cry, dream or jump out of your skin when the phone suddenly rings, we are given our label according to which of these emotions we produce, even when one of us can successfully evoke the entire emotional spectrum.
   

You on the other hand, you may be White, Black, Asian, Hispanic; you may be American, French, Sudanese, Russian; you may be a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, a transgender, gay, Catholic, lesbian, Jewish or any of the ever-growing number of labels that exist in an attempt to define what you are. Do you allow labels to define you? As soon as you let that happen, you limit your own openness of mind. Us manuscripts would not exist if it weren't for those brave souls that decided to question everything. Besides, when you strip all your learned doctrines, attitudes, and moral compasses, what are you? That’s right. You’re human.

   What does it mean to be human exactly? 

   Well for one, you’re more fragile than you may ever understand, but simultaneously stronger than you will ever truly know. You’re a virtual accident of creation yet perfect in design. How do I know? My brethren holds millions of accounts of bravery, strength, tenacity, and fortitude. Legendary characters like Alexander Dumas' Edmond Dantes, C.S. Lewis' Lucy Pevensie, Jane Austen's Lizzie Bennett, Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp, Suzanne Collins' Katniss Everdeen are just some examples of the millions of amazing characters who inhabit the pages of fiction, and just about every one of them was inspired by a real human. 

   Doubtful? Then I suggest reading biographies of great humans like Winston Churchill, F.D.R., Gandhi, and Princess Diana, just to name a few. 


   Based on this observation, you should feel quite proud of being human.  You are the only creature in full control of realizing an unlimited potential. You're not limited to life under water like fish. You're not a predator's prey like zebras if you don't wish to be. What you are is entirely up to you so don't sell yourself short. But getting back to our question, what gives humans the rule of the land? Intelligence? 

   By definition, intelligence is one's capacity for logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, memory, planning, and problem solving, but although you possess a tremendous reserve of intelligence, it's not what separates you from the rest of earth's inhabitants. You’ve seen rats solve mazes, chimpanzees employ sign language and to be fair, animals typically exhibit a much better connection with their natural instincts than humans. 

   So what separates humans from the rest of creation? The ability to communicate? 

   No. It’s been proven that animals communicate sometimes in more advanced ways than humans. 

   The rest of Earth creatures have two simple drives: to find food and to continue their species. At one point in time, humans were driven by the same directives. 

   In most parts of the world today, humans are driven by wealth, power, fame, and the continuous acquisition of possessions in the hopes of defining their place. In falling hostage of these forces, humans have left behind one of the things that elevates them from the rest of earth’s creations, and that’s spirituality. 
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   Although the term brings to mind chanting and praying, do not confuse it with religion. Religion is an ideology that has spurned some of the greatest conflicts throughout history. Each has written its history in blood for centuries, sometimes changing the course of events and other times impeding progress while offering comfort in coming to terms with your mortality. Religion requires a degree of spirituality, yes. But think about what spirituality really is. Spirituality is  a personal connection with the unseen, and that's what brings this chapter full circle. 

   Despite the fact that I can put images, sounds, scents, textures, and tastes in your mind, you can only see them in your mind the same way you see what your idea of paradise may be. Men and women of superb vision and talent have given us their representation of spirituality's goal through some of the most compelling artwork in history. But in the end, paradise is the result of your own, personal connection with the unseen. 
   


Are you with me so far? 

   What I'm trying to say is that since I will never be able to ascertain what you are in order to make a tangible connection with you, I can only strive to make a mental connection that borders on the spiritual. Not because you, with all your human intelligence and life experience, cannot see me, but because I can't see you.
   And herein lies my challenge, my friend. The crux of every page ever written. How do I, just a manuscript, manage to connect with at least one aspect of what you are in order for you to remember me?


to be continued...

Epoch Ch. 2 Whenever




ow that we have a where, and maybe even a who, we need a when.
   
   In most cases, a story has a rhythm that allows you to understand beginnings and ends. In your world, you travel from a first moment to a last in a one way ticking set of time measures, none of which you or the most powerful human alive can ever get back.

   I can exist anywhen. (Hey, I’m just a story and new words can be made under certain liberties if only to better illustrate a concept) But what will make a better connection from me to you?

    I can bring you back to the time of the dinosaurs and I can spring you far forward to an apocalyptic future full of uncertainty where the sun begins to die. I could even take you into a world where time holds no meaning whatsoever, and how enchanting would that be? 

   For me to guess where you are in time will be daunting to say the least. Lucky for you, I can tap into virtually every experience along that line. I mean, it's a great time to be a story. We have an affinity for recording our past, and your time has seen the rise of technology to the extent that allows glimpses of the future. My knowledge of time, human time, goes a bit further than that.

   I can tell you what it’s like to feel nutrients flow through new blood to shape limbs and organs. I can tell you what it’s like to try to move in the warm darkness of the womb, where the echoed voice of a joyful mother speaks of love and dreams, and sometimes of shock and regret.  

   I can tell you about the wonders of childhood and how that time frame teaches you everything you’ll need for the rest of your days. 

   I can show you the thrills of youth, the great list of first occasions that you will revisit in your golden years.

   I can show you the acceptance of the inevitable departure from life. I can make you feel the way your body loses its vitality, your mind loses its sharpness, and just how truly simple it is to say good bye to those you leave behind.

   So, when are you? Teen years? Roaring Twenties? Settling Thirties? Raising Forties? Discovering Fifties? Wise Sixties? Golden Years?

   It is something I can only guess, and makes my job of connecting with you quite the challenge.

   But let me start with this: whoever you are, wherever you are, and whenever you are, I can only hope you’ve achieved a level of happiness that keeps you believing and fighting. I hope your heart contains more forgiveness than wounds. I hope your mind contains more dreams than regrets. I hope when you close your eyes, you still see the light that surrounds you and makes you shine in the eyes of those who love you.

   More than anything, I hope I can offer something that you will always take with you, whoever you are, wherever you are, and whenever you are.


to be continued...


Epoch Intro





h, hello there. I’ve been waiting quite a bit for a pair of hands or the pad of a finger to open the cover. My guess is you’re looking for a story. My friend, depending on where you’ve walked in life, and what your attitudes may be, I can safely say you’ve come to the right place.

   Before we begin to venture into faraway lands or another place in time, let's take the time to get to know each other a little better.   
   You may be male, and so I must offer more than a touch of action, adventure, the valiant struggle and ultimate victory of the underdog and of course, the very sexy and willing heroine whose beauty has tested the creativity of the person who first entered all these characters upon these pages.


 You may be female, and so I imagine I must offer a whirlwind of emotions, love, hate, longing, and all that entails the essence of passion or at least, make an emotional point that will enrich your own life experience and leave you breathless for a fictional character you will forever wish he were real.

   Tough line to define from my perspective.

   You may be an old soul and someone who has lived, I mean truly lived. If so, the cumulative cynicism that blossoms as you come of age will set the bar pretty high in terms of entertainment value. I have shock and nostalgia at my disposal perhaps, but I know it's my mission to appeal to your heart of hearts.

   If you’ve just started down the road of life, I'll be overjoyed that new readers are not a dying breed. I know you  will most definitely wish to be drawn into a story within the first chapter or else you’ll go back to your texting, your video games or my old nemesis, the television. 

   I have no way to discern where you are on that scale, but I know who I am.  I’m a manuscript, a compilation of ruminations and ideas born in the mind of someone crazy enough (or courageous depending on your point of view) to let the words flow onto a page for no other reason than to quiet the multitude of voices and images inhabiting the confines of that someone's mind.

   I have the choice to take you into outer space, Victorian England, the wilds of Africa or good old New York City. Every story needs a setting but in this particular case, the setting is you.

   Like each of my new pages, your mind has a way of presenting an empty canvas, your own blank page if you will. That’s my playing field. It’s where I'll gain a voice, maybe even a face. Heck I can gain a body and use your own living experience as a set of guidelines with which to come to be. The images destined for that canvas are not stills meant only for your eyes or music meant for your ears alone. I have to touch all your senses. 

   Of course, now that you have the beginnings of a voice in your head as you read these words, your mind demands a face. Well, I'll tell you that I reserve the right to make my image extraordinary. I can be a boxer, a child with telekinetic powers, a female cop, an old wise man, and even a ghost, a vampire or a three-legged alien. I can be as ordinary as any stranger who fails to catch your interest. I can be anything, and that’s where the magic starts, for if I can be anything on the page you read, so can you, my friend. 





    That's the beauty of the written word. Now just imagine, what will you find on our next encounter?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Birthday My Two Flags


   When an athlete reaches the home stretch, the blood pumps harder, the heart beats faster, and every fiber pushes to the limit in order to cross that goal line. 

   In writing, you are barely aware of how fast the word count adds up. Your characters fight to be included in each chapter as the manuscript reaches its completion. Your blood pumps faster, your heart beats faster, and your mind will grant you no peace until that last line is written. That's where I am with My Two Flags Vol. 2 All men are created equal...
   
   In one of the chapters, the first line reads "What a difference a year makes." Glancing at the clock on the lower right corner of my screen, I caught sight of the date. 

   One year has passed since publishing a novel that took me over two decades to write. My Two Flags officially turns 1, and based on 19 wonderful reviews and a plethora of private messages, these series has enjoyed a warm reception thus far.

   My Two Flags follows the life of Antonio Amaya, a thirteen year old Ecuadorian kid whose lifelong dream of living in America turns into a nightmare as the stark reality of immigrant life crashes down on him and his family. 

   Through struggles with prejudice, ostracism, and bullying, Tony (Antonio) holds onto principles instilled in him by his parents, and ultimately finds the determination to belong and embrace his new life.

   Several 100 page composition notebooks filled with Spanish and English chronicles from high school life are involved in weaving this series. Virtually every experience of adolescence is explored through the eyes of the cast and each point of view is sure to make you look back on your own.

   I never sat down to map out a novel with a point to make or a lesson to teach. I just felt there was a story to be told. 

   Regardless of our path, we are each destined to go through something that's bound to not only touch someone else's life, but also change it, and change us along the way. 
   
   Life as an immigrant looking for acceptance is one aspect of the story. In truth, we all wish to be part of something. Especially when we are faced with obstacles and challenges that put our determination to the test as we fight for our dreams.

   You don't have to be an immigrant to have been ridiculed by your peers at one time or another. We've all been aggressors and victims. We've made fun or been afraid of people different than us, and we've all been at the receiving end of some cruel joke based on our origin, race, sex or age.

   But, there is always someone else wanting to be a part of your life. No matter how high you build your walls, someone will find a breach to touch your heart. No self-imposed isolation can keep you from falling victim to the feelings inspired by someone special, and we all inevitably meet that someone.

   I eagerly envision the next volume in the saga. I don't see the pages as much as I see the faces of those who carved their niche in my heart and mind to become the muse that drives me to the keyboard. 
   
 Reviews for My Two Flags
Click to see what people are saying about Flags
   So, happy birthday to Flags as some of my readers refer to the series. I know if you give it a try, you will find someone who reminds you of someone you knew; of something you lived; perhaps you'll find a reflection of you.

   As many of my readers have said, you will gain an understanding of what it's like to be The Other, and how crucial family values and good friendships are in shaping a young mind.

   I invite you to read it. Let me know what you think. I dare you to prove me wrong. Whether your high school experience was good or bad, it's sometimes irresistible to wonder back to those years through someone else's eyes.

   No author truly expects their writing to come to life and evoke an emotional response. It's the unspoken goal of every manuscript, but anything written from the heart has a chance to do just that. If I have a writing goal, it's to forge a connection with you that you'll keep for the rest of your life. And finally, it's my sincere hope you find something healing about Flags the way I have.

   Javier A. Robayo

My Two Flags Vol. 1 I pledge allegiance... is geared for ages 14 and up and weighs in at 320 pages. It contains some strong language. Published in March of 2013, My Two Flags has struck a chord among educators and anyone who are or know of someone close to them who's lived under the Star Spangled Banner, and their motherland's flag.
You can find it on Amazon at My Two Flags Vol. 1 and Javier's Website 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

About Writing and Self-Publishing

   Back in 2001 (Unreal how quickly times goes by...) I wrote a manuscript, a crime story based on conversations I held with college students. The story was okay, sub par in all honesty in every aspect. I wasn't vain enough to see it as a masterpiece at all. Still, I logged to my AOL account and browsed for publishing firms. I was surprised to find four responses and I chose one firm out of Pittsburgh.

   The woman I spoke to on the phone asked for the entire manuscript. I was at the Post Office bright and early the next morning with my package and sent it off. I don't think I slept much those three weeks until I received another letter. (note how we are not talking email yet. This was a time when people still wrote real letters.) This one hinted at a lucrative contract once the story went through the editorial phase. What's that involve? I asked. Then the woman pulled the rug from under my feet.

   "The editor will not be very nice and you are looking at about $3,500.00," she said. 

   When I didn't reply, she added "We can work out a payment plan."

   NO! That is NOT how a real publishing house works. Don't fall for it. Do what you can to curve your enthusiasm and keep your money in your wallet. As soon as some entity is eager to publish your book and make you into the next Suzanne Collins after you pay them fees after fees after fees, you're dealing with a Vanity publisher.

   Vanity publishers are quite common and you'll know it just by getting solicitations from perfect strangers who are head over heels with your writing. Why are they something you should watch out for? Because they'll create the illusion of establishing your writing career but once you dole out the dough, you end up with a box full of books and arrivederci you'll know what you'll do with them.

   
   Real publishing houses are so tough to break into because they have to be selective on the works they invest in. But before you sign that check and send it out to a vanity publishing firm, consider self publishing through a platform like Lighting Source or Create Space.

   The costs are low and the biggest advantage is that you, the author, own all the rights to your artwork, your title, your story. No one behind a desk will demand you add a vampire and several scenes of bondage and domination because that's what's selling in the present market.

   The disadvantage is that you are on your own as far as promoting your work and your brand. THAT is where the real work starts for a self-published author.

   If you're new to writing and you suddenly heard an angel choir at the mention of self-publishing at low cost, hold your horses. 

   Unfortunately, Indies carry a damaged reputation, the product of thousands of would-be-authors who spent little time honing their craft and offering a poor product. The book market is flooded with under-developed plots, thousands of pages full of typos, copycats bent on rewriting Twilight or 50 Shades, and countless other atrocities that pass themselves as book these days.

   Now, don't be discouraged. Nothing worth doing comes without a struggle. It's not a question of talent or promotional skills. It's a matter of gaining one reader's trust, then another, and then another. And that takes quite a bit of time.

   If you have your draft finished, congratulations. Now read it and be brutally honest with yourself. Have you made a good product? 

   Can the story be better? As my professor was so fond of saying "There's no such thing as good writing. There's only good rewriting."

   Is it presented in its best possible light? This is where you let your creative juices flow like the Mississippi. You have full control of what goes into making your book: the cover, the format, the font you use on the page numbers at the bottom, the title (yes, that's a big one, considering publishing houses are very fond of changing titles. Just ask Dean Koontz).

   Once you reach the stage where you're satisfied with your final proof, I'm sorry to tell you, but you've only rounded a bend, and the long road ahead of you disappears into a distant horizon. But you don't have to go it alone. This is where Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and others come into play. Forge connections. You'll be shocked at the reception you'll get from your "competition". I've never come across an Indie author who thought he or she were too good to give you a good word, advice, a LIKE.

   A word about competition: Unless a reader decides he or she will read only the same novel from author X forevermore, you have not lost. Books are limited affairs and remember, all it takes is one. One person to fall in love with your characters and gush about the plot with their friends. It goes from there. It takes time.

   You've written a piece of you. Don't just hand it out to anyone offering you the top best-selling spot on the New York Times. Be careful with your work and explore every option, and I mean every option. Don't discount traditional models like the painful submission and rejection process literary agencies impose on upcoming authors. Hey, Stephen King's Carrie was rejected HUNDREDS of times before making his career.


   
   Before you become overwhelmed keep this in mind if nothing else: It all starts and ends with how good of a story you bring to the readers. That demands more than the proverbial pound of flesh. Don't try to write like someone else. Write like you, and listen to those voices telling you that you can do better because you can. And if you want to reverse the perception trend of the Indie author, you must first make a commitment to giving a reader a story worth remembering.


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