Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Sheila Bliss

I really, really enjoy questions. Answering and asking, and recently, Sheila Bliss was kind enough to ask me a series of questions and posting them on her blog. I decided that although not weekly, I’ll be doing interviews on and off of the lovely people I meet so that anyone who enjoys reading here can have the chance to meet someone new with something else for you to read.

That said, Sheila asked me ten questions, so I asked ten right back. Hope you enjoy the interview.

1.     What’s your book Choices about and what inspired you to write it?

Choices is about a woman at a crossroads in her life. It’s not a story for everyone. For me, I see it as a love story, a re-connection to one’s self as well as a re-connection to another human being that wants what’s best for you without emotional manipulation. It’s real with flawed characters that maneuver the best they can through difficult situations dealing with alcoholism, infidelity, lies and betrayal.  It’s not a pretty story, but learning life lessons the hard way usually isn’t pretty. Choices deals with another theme of sacrifice vs. self-preservation; when is enough…enough? In a marriage with an addict, who do you save when survival is at a premium? There’s a bit of a twist too, one that keeps you guessing!

I wrote Choices because I had this crazy idea for the story ever since I was in high school. I always thought if I wrote a book I wanted to write a story that was somewhat taboo, with real struggles, and a crazy insane twist at the end.  Speaking to those struggles, I wrote Choices as a testament to the people in my life who have surmounted some incredible obstacles, and I wanted to pay homage to their struggle. Their struggles weren’t pretty and the lessons learned were painful, but rewarding. Choices is a tribute to their struggle. It’s also a tribute to the bonds of friendship.

2.     If you could cast anyone for your book, who would you choose and why?  

Oh, that’s so exciting! I love to cast characters in my head when I read. I visualized my characters, but I never pictured a specific person. Last year I did receive a request to cast my characters, and I decided Henry Cavill for Brandon with his swoon-worthy hair and eyes. Paul was immediately Aaron Eckhart with his rugged features. With Julia Roberts’ massive red hair and illuminating smile, she embodies the physicality of Laurel’s character.

3.     When’s your favorite time to write? 

I’m a morning person. I love to write first thing in the morning. Usually after a good night’s rest, my head is bursting with all sorts of ideas, dialogue and plot points. I have four different journals on my nightstand ready and waiting. Sometimes, my thoughts can’t wait until morning, and I jot down dialogue in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I just skip the jotting down in the journal part, and immediately head to the girl cave to click-clack away. My characters can be so loud and demanding that jotting down on paper alone, isn’t satisfying.

4.     What do you wish to accomplish in the next 5 years?

If I could compare my life to cooking dinner on Sunday it would look like this…on the front burner… graduate number one from college, assist number two in college and prepare number three, and myself for driving! On the back burner…teaching the little people. What I’d like to serve on the table would be everything I learned about writing from my readers, other authors and editors I’ve meet along the way, formulated into delicious stories that are satisfying, but leave my dinner companions hungry for dessert.  I love to feed people when they are hungry!

5.     What 3 changes would you like to see in society to get along better?

Being a teacher, I would love to see children empower one another, especially young girls. I would love to see young girls learn to build each other to the greatest heights instead of demolishing and destroying by jealousy, fear and misunderstandings.

I’d definitely like to see more patience in society. Everything needs to be accomplished…yesterday! What’s the rush? We seem to always be looking for our next conquest instead of taking the time to bask in the reward of an accomplished project. We seem to measure our productivity by quantity instead of quality. I’m guilty of this myself, at times, and I need to remind myself to slow down.

Rushing to judgment without all the facts, without the entire story grates on my last flinching nerve! In the classroom, and at home, I’m constantly reminding my students and children to ask questions first before you start accusing people. I encourage my students and my children to be an individual, a leader, do what feels right, ask questions, gather your facts instead of attacking someone blindly because everyone else is doing the same thing. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to stand up for what you know is right, instead of playing it safe and falling in line with everyone else.

6.     Tell us some of your passions.

I’m very passionate about reading to children.  It builds a strong foundation for a child’s growth and builds a life long learner and reader.  I encourage all parents to read to their children, anything─comic books, magazines, newspapers, street signs; as long as you’re reading you will improve their oral language skills as well as phonics and comprehension. I can’t stress enough the importance of reading to your children.

Watching my mother suffer a heart attack right before my eyes due to her two-pack-a-day habit, I’m pretty passionate about the consequences of smoking. And, last one…chocolate! I’m pretty passionate about that, too, and being a neat freak.

7.     What other projects are you working on?

I’m currently finishing the sequel to Choices. I have about six chapters left to complete. I have an entirely new teaching schedule so my writing time has been affected due to the changes, but every spare second I get I write. I also have three other stories carved out on the writing docket. One is a college romance dealing with a theme of superficial vs. substance─what’s pretty isn’t always safe or the best choice, and sometimes what you need is usually right under your nose. I’m also working on a romantic thriller set against the rocky coast of Maine. I have goosebumps just thinking about this one, and can’t wait to really sink my teeth into this storyline. This romantic duo wakes me up at night. Caleb is very insistent. The third storyline is about an amnesia patient who wakes from her extended sleep wondering if her once in a lifetime love was real or just a dream.

8.     You are trapped in one of your stories armed with a pen, what’s going on and how will you escape?

Hmm…let’s see…if I was in the lighthouse in Maine and the fire was blazing, the flames scorching and the air thick and acrid, I’d probably scream until my lungs burned, my throat raw, and my hands bled from breaking the window at the very top of the lighthouse. I probably would contemplate jumping even though I wouldn’t survive the fall. My thoughts of never seeing my beloved Caleb again or my little boy Ollie would consume and distract me from my terrible fate. Just as I was ready to jump…oh, darn it, my pen ran out of ink. I hate when that happens!

9.     If you could make your own ice cream flavor, what would it have and what would you call it?

I’m not a fan of ice cream. I’m going to take artistic license and change the question to cake. Now, we’re talking! Of course it would have to be chocolate; chocolate cake, chocolate frosting. The cake would melt in your mouth. Dry cake is a travesty and should be against the law! My cake would melt in your mouth, luscious and gooey. The frosting would be smooth, creamy and not sweet like candy, but rich and robust like dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants so my cake would be healthy, of course, so you could eat it everyday if you’d like without fear of high cholesterol, diabetes or weight gain; everything a woman fears when she feels the tines of the fork on her tongue instead of focusing on the pleasure of the chocolate itself.  I’d call it Chocolate Abandon.

10.  Where can we find your work and when will more be coming along?

You can find Choices at Amazon and Smashwords  My goal is to have the sequel to Choices, titled Forgiveness, ready for consumption by the first of the year.

So there you have it. Click on the links, explore, discover and get to know a lovely friend. Her book is on my neverending queue and 



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chapters and waves

 In a year of many firsts, two weeks ago had plenty of them for me. It was my first book signing and the first activity that is exclusively for my work. It was the first time I read my writing in public and only the second time I read poetry in public, the first being a first place in college in a poetry competition. It was also the first time I participated in a book festival and saw my books standing next to countless other titles.

Friends offered me genuine support and I never thought I’d hear so many people say they were proud of me. Honestly, the thought of the kind words so many people have shared makes me choke up a bit because it means the world to know that people read, enjoy, appreciate and support.
I saw my mom gushing and I was able to finally inspire in her at least something that nears the pride I feel for her. I had my wife with me, presenting me and moderating the Q&A. Both of my brothers were there and they asked wonderful questions that made me think on the spot and gave me ideas for my writing. I had friends from all chapters of my life there, countless others sending blessings via text message or online and even got to meet a few new ones (Hi Madeline, Alexis and Yelitza).

It was a wonderful experience and I am very thankful to Luis Ángel Oyla and his team at The BookMark. They were super easy going and accommodating to the point where they invited me to their booth during the weekend at a local book festival called El Festival de la Palabra. Although scorchingly hot, it was another lovely experience from which I learned so much.

People keep asking me how everything was and now that I’ve settled down a bit, I can process the events and truly talk about various aspects.

Talking about what I do and why I do it 

While some people specialize in one genre, I’m in love with the written word and all its forms. Being fixated on what makes us human and the roots of humanity, Only Human was definitely the perfect way to begin my career because it is the perfect vehicle to explore multiple topics and weave it all into one tale. Reading the Prologue and first Chapter out loud though.... that was a very rewarding experience because it was then I rediscovered the story and saw it in a whole new light. So in a nutshell, let’s just say I might test myself in regards to how much of a Do it yourself artist I am. And yes, that does mean me trying a few chapters in audiobook version.

Living the poetry

Although it may not seem so, part of me is pretty shy to share my work and reading my poetry was fascinating because I’d never done this so in detail and for the first time reading poetry, I didn’t hold anything back. I used inflection, emphasis and all I could to color the poem. Plus, how often can you grant a request from your mom? (She asked me to read the last poem in the book called Jane Genie).

Seeing my book up on a shelf

This seems silly, but seeing my books on a shelf have me a huge sense of satisfaction a further confirmed that this is my path and I will walk it.

Book Signing
I enjoy being able to give a personal dedication to my readers. I don’t repeat messages and everyone seems to enjoy this (even if my handwriting borders on chicken scratches – hey, at least it’s legible). Does it take more time? Sure and so do the better things in life.


I had a few prepped questions and was luckily greeted with various that I actually hadn’t scripted. More than half the questions came from the audience and I think it was a great opportunity to be put on the spot and speak my mind. Oh, and one of my nephews asked me why I began writing poetry in the first place... the answer? To impress girls I had a crush on. :D

In the end, I think that was the best part of all of this. I presented my work how best I understood I should present it and this is work solely made by me. To have friends and fans there was wonderful and all I can say is that this is just the beginning.

So thanks for reading and joining me on this chapter and this wave.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The slow decay of better conditions

People die waiting for the ideal conditions. Dreams need action to live on and come into reality and although sometimes you need to wait, there’s things that need active effort to move along.

We’ve all faced moments where we thought it’d be better to wait a bit, but for each of those, there are several where waiting got us nothing.

If there’s something in your life you wish to improve, take active steps to do something about it.

If something bothers you, DO something about it.

If something CAN be better, MAKE it better.

Otherwise, you run the risk of ALWAYS waiting… and although those perfect conditions may eventually come, they may delay.

So ask yourself, what will you do until they arrive?

Wait or do?

It’s up to you.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reading is alive and well in Puerto Rico

This coming October 15th, a local writer wants to remind people of the simple beauty of a book. Starting at 6:30 p.m., JD Estrada will hold his first book-signing event for his first two works at The Book Mark in Guaynabo.

Only Human is the tale of one reporter who is abducted in the subway. Once he comes to, he realizes his kidnaper is a vampire convinced that he’s the key to saving the world. The first book of the Human Cycle, Only Human poses the question, how much would you be willing to sacrifice of your humanity, to save humanity? Likened to several well known fiction writers, reactions have been extremely positive for Only Human.

“This isn't a standard any other kind of story. Only Human is skillfully seductive.”  – Cate Evans

“You'll find humanity at the core of the story, which offers equal parts Tolkien world building and Herbert's philosophical exploration.” – Max Santiago

On the poetry side of things, Between the Tides is the first collection of verses by JD Estrada. 44 poems explore human emotions to express life through rhyme.

“This is a breathtakingly beautiful book. Poetry that is poignant and heartfelt. Filled with eloquent imagery that speaks volumes about the human experience.” – Kahren Ohren

“This collection showcases the author’s incredible ability to observe even the simplest things and describe them in ways that capture the imagination and the heart”- Amanda Armstrong

The Book Mark is located at San Patricio Plaza, crossing the bridge from the Food Court. Opened in 2013, it is one of the fastest growing literary stores in Puerto Rico, with a growing collection of international authors and a sizable local author section.

The event will start at 6:30 p.m. sharp. For one hour, Estrada will read samples, answer questions and be more than happy to sign your copies of Only Human and Between the Tides. Who knows? There might be a surprise or two for people who swing by.

Born in Puerto Rico, Estrada has a background, which includes studies in psychology, marketing and advertising and over 12 years’ experience in the Communications field. A prolific blogger, Estrada’s first novel took 7 years to complete and his first collection of poetry comes as a direct result of reconnecting with his love for writing in verse.

To schedule an interview or request a book copy for review, email