Tuesday, June 28, 2016

All About Reading Tag

I was tagged to do the “All About the Reading” tag by the lovely Christie Stratos. Answering these questions was so much fun! Learn what I hate in a book, which book should be required reading for everyone, and which books (if any) I re-read. All those questions and more are answered in this video. Check it out!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Linz the Bookworm's Review of Strange Luck


"This book managed to take me from going "Oh this is a cute adventure" to "Wow, this is kind of dark" in a very short amount of time. I'm actually kind of impressed by that. Most of the story felt really upbeat, and then in the crucial parts it got pretty dark. It was a nice change of tone to set the scene...I didn't feel there was a dull moment in the story."

I'm so thrilled that Linz the Bookworm enjoyed reading Strange Luck. I love it when people tell me that they read my book in a day or two because they couldn't put it down. Best feeling ever! :D

Linz will also be reading The Nightmare Birds, so be on the lookout for that review. I'm ecstatic that she chose The Nightmare Birds as her first ever cover reveal on her blog. Check it out here! 

Read what else Linz the Bookworm had to say in her awesome review of Strange Luck.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mapping Strange Luck


Did you know that all of the places described in Strange Luck are based on real-life places in California? It's true. I'm a California native and the fictitious town of Sea Salt is actually based on some of my favorite places in CA - Half Moon Bay, Loma Mar,  La Honda, and Pescadero.

Explore these real-life places by clicking this interactive map. You'll also get to read fun excerpts from the book about each location. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

TBT Writer - The Story Graveyard

Yippee! It's Throwback Thursday (TBTWriter)! Time to share something I wrote back in the day, accompanied by some fun pics. 

All of my posts so far have centered around something I wrote in elementary school, so I thought I'd change it up a bit by posting something I wrote a little more recently...like 10 years ago. Something from my "story graveyard." What's a story graveyard you ask? It starts with a story I began to write and then for some strange reason I abandon it, then completely forget about it. Months or years later, I'll rediscover the abandoned story and curse myself for casting it aside (this is actually how Strange Luck came to be written by the way). The stories that don't get an ending are banished to my story graveyard (*sniff), aka a big folder on my computer.

The events of this particular graveyard story are actually all true.

I really did get made fun of for being too pale by a bunch of old toothless French women.

I really did visit this little quirky little town in France.

And, I really did see a woman who looked just like my grandma who had died several years earlier.  Her appearance and mannerisms were identical to my grandma's and I kept staring at her, thinking at some point that she would turn towards me and say, "Hello, Amie. Where have you been?"

I titled the story The Wax Paper Baker because whenever I baked anything with my grandma, she always mixed the ingredients on wax paper with a spoon. I always thought that was kinda neat...and weird. My original thought process when writing this story was something about how no one ever really died, like my grandma. I don't really know where I was going with it. Anyway, here's the first and only chapter of the story. I hope you enjoy it :)

Cimiez, France

The Wax Paper Baker 

It looked as though I had bathed in silver glitter, but my skin sparkled for another reason. The salt from swimming in the French Rivera was clinging to me, only flaking off when I scratched it. Steam rose off the tiny streets in the hot sun as cars zoomed along the windy turn. From where I sat, I could see the aquamarine ocean peppered with swimmers, rafts, and tiny boats trolling through the calm waters.
            I had taken two crowded metros and a bus to the top of the hill, but I still had a long way to go.
            I sat alone on the park bench waiting for the next bus to arrive in twenty minutes. There wasn’t a tree, scrap of shade, or gust of wind, and I felt my shoulders roasting like pink game hens under the sun. It was the first time I had sat all day and my tired feet ached.
            I had never been to Cimiez before. Many people had told me what a charming city is was and that I would meet the man of my dreams there. My friend Julie accompanied me, but, the sun had zapped her strength too, so she decided to nap at the hotel for the afternoon. The only thing I had wanted to see in this town was Henri Matisse’s grave. I had already been to Emile Durkheim’s, Simone de Beauvoir's, Jean-Paul Sartre’s, and Oscar Wilde’s tombs.
            I looked at my wrist watch. Thirteen more minutes left sitting in the inferno for the bus to arrive. Tempted to just give up and go back to the hotel, I stood up to look down the skinny road, hoping to see the bus. Just as I did so, two old women wearing matching white dresses made their way down the road.
            I grew nervous. I barely spoke any French, and I was in a place where only the locals lived. I politely smiled and lowered my head, hoping they wouldn’t say anything to me. I listened to them speaking to each other in French, clucking like hens. They were both at my side now, grinning with toothless smiles. One of the women suddenly grabbed hold of my arm, which startled me, and she began hysterically laughing.
            She said something rapidly and pointed to me. She continued smiling and laughing, her belly rolls jiggling like a jello mold.
            My smiled widened. What was this old loon doing?  Of course I had no idea what she said to me, but I assumed she was complimenting me on my dress.
            “Excuse me, I don’t understand,” I said in a friendly tone. “I don’t speak French.”
            I looked at them and started to chuckle, realizing at once how awkward the situation was. The old woman was laughing so hard she released my arm and was bending over now.
            Her friend joined her in laughing.
            “What is it?” 
            “She says you are too pale…ha ha ha…You need more sun!”
            I shook my head. Two old French women were making fun of me and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. There weren’t any other people around for miles and I was stuck waiting for the bus with them. They continued laughing, and I took a few steps away from the bench and peered down the road again, cursing under my breath. I crossed my arms, and examined my skin secretly from behind my sunglasses. Sure, I was pale, but not that pale. What do you expect when you’re from Washington?
            Finally, their obnoxious laughing subsided and the bus arrived. I sat near the front, and away from them. It took several minutes to get to the top, passing a cathedral, ruins, and busy villagers. I arrived in front of the Matisse museum and immediately sought refuge under a knotty tree while I got my bearings. An old sock rested at the trunk. I could see how the town of Cimiez was beautiful in its own way, but with all of the heat and frustration, I vowed I would never return.
            My map was ripped in the middle, covered in coffee, and had been folded and unfolded so many times that it barely held together as I examined it. I needed to get to the Musee Franciscain-Eglise et Monastere de Cimiez, which was a short walk down the road. I checked my bag for water, and quickly noticed that I barely had any left. I decided not to drink it quite yet, for I still had a long commute back to the hotel in Nice.
            I walked down the sweltering path, careful to walk on any scrap of shade possible and found myself in a park, where I collapsed on a bench. I needed to regain my energy if I was to make it the rest of the way. Children on skateboards glided past me with curious smiles, whispering to each other in French. I had a perfect view of some archaeological ruins in front of me. I peered through the iron-gate, imagining the culture that had once flourished there.
            Some type of insect loudly buzzed above me. I went to look for it, but only found yellowing leaves. The sound made me want to go insane—sharp, loud, quick, and furious. No one else seemed bothered by the noise, and for a moment I wondered if it was a sprinkler nearby that was making the noise and not an insect. Several people came and went from the park bench a few feet away from mine—a couple, a young thin woman, a few children, another couple. My attention turned to the children skateboarding in front of me, staring at me as if they knew I was not French.
            Then, I saw her out of the corner of my eye—a woman with short black curly hair and glasses. She was reading something, mimicking the words with her mouth. Her jaw was slightly droopy, and her eyes were bright and full of life. She reminded me of my grandmother who had passed away two years ago. I smiled thinking about her and how funny it was that this woman sitting next to me exhibited nearly the exact same characteristics my grandmother once did.
            The buzzing lowered a notch. I stretched my feet, preparing them for the walk ahead of me. I turned again to look at the woman, and she turned to look at me and smiled. Full, slightly yellow teeth, and kind.
            I would have recognized her smile anywhere. There was no doubt in my mind that the strange woman in front of me was my grandmother.     

Re-reading this story again made it very clear to me that I was still trying to find my voice, and genre, which is why I think I ultimately abandoned it. Nevertheless, it was a neat experience visiting Cimiez and seeing my grandma again in some weird twist of fate.

Here's me overlooking the French Rivera on my way to Cimiez.
One of my favorite artists.
Here's me with my grandma, grandpa, and brother.
If you're a writer, I invite you to share something you wrote way back when and/or a pic of yourself. Bad stories happen, like the one above. It's all part of the journey of becoming a better writer. Whether you wrote a bad story when you were eight or forty eight, embrace it. Don't forget to use #tbtwriter when you post so we can all enjoy your story. If you're a reader, I hope you enjoyed another TBTWriter post. If you haven't checked out my others, you'll love these:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Don’t Write For The Market - Guest Post by J.D. Estrada

I'm excited to share a new guest post by the very talented J.D. Estrada. Communications specialist, Public Relations strategist, creative copywriter, translator, brand strategist.... these are all terms used to describe J.D. Estrada in his day job setting. The fact is that these are all masks he has worn at some time to earn a living and he's done pretty well for himself, focusing on results rather than awards. Yet still something inside him begged for attention... the desire to write... not functionally or strategically but creatively. 

After years working in advertising, J.D. decided there were better ways to write fiction. Where some people choose to invent new products, he has chosen to invent worlds through words. He has since published multiple books in the fantasy/sci-fi vein. 

J.D.'s post below chronicles his quest to remain true to his writing and to himself. Hopefully his words will inspire you to do the same. 

Don't Write for the Market

You know that job you hate, the one you do just to pay the bills? The one that sucks your soul? If you’re in high school, do you know that class you are FORCED to take? That feeling of helplessness, of doing something that’s not worth the time or the effort?

That’s what it means to write for the market.

Or at least that’s what it means to me.

People have often said I made a smart move by including vampires in my book because obviously vampires sell like hot cakes. This line of commentary has led me to clarify that my novels aren’t vampire books, they simply have vampires. Might I add that they are not your typical vampires because I focus much more on the character traits that make them unique rather than the unifying elements of blood drinking and other vampire specific themes. To be honest, the vampires I write about are as heterogeneous as they are disparate, two seeming synonyms that imply different things. To me, the main thing that unites vampires is the drinking of blood. The Human Cycle is a lot more about the aspects of humanity and how they manifest in different races and species and ends up being an intense mashup of sci-fi, fantasy, philosophy, etc. It is also one of the most personal works I will probably pen in my life, even being full on fiction. That’s because I wrote for me, obeying the vision I have of my exploration of humanity and the human aspect.

The first book (Only Human) is 164,000+ words long and the second (Shadow of a Human) is around 89K. When asked about the difference, my answer is simple: the story is as long as it has to be. Period. I’ve been told the first one is too long and although I can see why some people would think that, a lot of people haven’t minded and it allowed me to set the stage to do exactly what I want to do.

I know people who are writing something in the vein of [ENTER WELL KNOWN NOVEL OR SERIES HERE] because they want to make it big. Although I’m of the mind that everyone is entitled to their path towards happiness, let me be the one to say that this method will more often than not lead to misery instead. This happens because writing became a means to an end, rather than a true passion.

Every writer wants to make it big. Every single one. Some people write something that sells and on occasion, some people meant for that to be the case. But when you look at JK Rowling, look at how many times she was rejected before she was given a break. Tell me Neil Gaiman’s trajectory makes any sense and you’ll need to bring some hard evidence to support that because it is as crazy a journey as I think you can imagine. That’s because in both examples, they write from the heart, what they believe in, their vision, what drives them. They weren’t thinking about likes, hits, or bending their story to fit to what sells.

So why not you?

Why do you have to settle for writing the next Twilight, the Next 50 Shades of Gray, the Next Lord of the Rings? Why can’t you just write the next great novel? YOUR great story.

By the way, the reason why I suggest this is far from altruistic. (altruism: (n) the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism).

It’s actually the opposite.

I suggest you write with passion and what drives you because if you depend on external validation, writing will be a brutal road and odds are you won’t make it. Many a day I need to lose myself in my work, hoping beyond hopes that I am true enough, unique enough, and genuine enough for people to give me a chance and possibly find something they like. But I don’t write thinking about them. I write following what my heart compass dictates and walking that path, whatever it may bring and wherever it may take me.

I am well aware at how blessed I am at the luck I’ve had that my work either appeals or resonates with people, but that wasn’t intentional. I didn’t say, “let me do this so people enjoy.”

I wrote for me.

I write for me.

I will write for me.

I do this because by doing so I guarantee myself that even on the tough days of life, writing will be something I love and enjoy. It means I won’t have to push through something I hate to get to what I love, because the act of writing itself is what I love so much.

I am far from a point in my life where I can live off of my writing alone… but I am also in a point in my life where writing has become such a part of my genetic makeup, that I have basically guaranteed I’ll write for the rest of my life. So I wish upon you to do the same in spirit if not in method or route. Be true to yourself. Write to what speaks to you. Dare to dream and then dare to capture that dream on paper and share it with us.

Peace, love, and maki rolls.

J.D. Estrada's obsession with the human aspect of who we are is deeply embedded in all his work and his first book is no exception. Though still starting its journey towards the top 100 Amazon books, Only Human is the first link within the Human Cycle, a three book exploration of humanity through fiction.

He recently released his second installment of the Human Cycle, his first bilingual compilation of essays, poetry and short stories, and his first Spanish poetry collection. He is currently working on a sci-fi novella and a young adult adventure of a boy who dreams of flying. In addition, he consistently puts out free material on his blog (jdestradawriter.blogspot.com) and rants with zest on Twitter via @jdestradawriter. He also has instagram and youtube if you want to see what he’s getting up to or what delicious cuppa tea he may recommend.

It's extremely important that authors write for themselves, to remain passionate about their art; otherwise, what's the point? As soon as I stop thinking about what I think I should write, and write what I want to write, all the pieces fall into place. Just let it go. Seriously...Let it go. Now. You won't be sorry.

Thank you for sharing such an inspirational post, J.D.! I wish you, and all writers out there, success with your writing career.