Friday, July 31, 2015

My love letter to JK Rowling

Joanne:

I’ve stayed up enough nights and dreamt of your worlds often enough to be on a first name basis, even if you’re not aware of who I am, which is fine. I know you’re busy, and like many other readers, I smile when I know you’re busy. I just wanted to write a few words to say thank you and send plenty of love for your birthday.

As a muggle, I’m still happy to report that I’m a proud Gryffindor at heart and were I to find myself on the quidditch field, I’d be a chaser. My favorite spell would possibly be lumos for its simplicity, to bring light forth. When I visit the Wizarding World, I'd always have two rounds of treacle and pardon me if I’m a bit generous when it comes to butter beer… although now that I’m in my mid thirties, I wouldn’t mind a splash of fire whiskey once in a grey moon.

I’ve seen the movies, preferred the books, and jumped like a kid when I went to the Wizarding World. I was able to go to two midnight sales and there are no other books that have inspired more random conversations on the subway than your books.

You, my dear Jo, are magnificent. You embody elegance, perseverance, and keep quite humble for however much praise you receive and success you attain. You are one of the people I most look up to because of that. Because you also reach out. Because you dreamed and damn everything, you wouldn’t let go of that dream. As a writer, I see this behavior and know that when we have words we believe in, letting go is not an option. Better to be tied to the mast than to drown in the ocean away from our charge. You are generous with your time, your wealth, and your attention.

How many nights I’ve stayed up perusing through your mind, your fears, your scars – lightning bolt shaped, or not. I haven’t read your other books and for that I apologize. My only excuse is that I have been getting acquainted with other lovely literary friends. Neil, Stephen, Douglas, Frank and only recently Terry… How foolish I feel for having discovered him only recently. Still, I was lucky I discovered you at a time in my life where magic was sorely needed and your stories provided it in spades.

Yes, yes, I do apologize I got to know your world initially through film, but we can’t all be perfect, and when I saw that film, something in me transitioned. I had just switched colleges and the transition was initially very unpleasant, dad was ill, finances weren’t the best, that sort of thing. Then I saw the film and felt like I’d just pushed through platform 9 ¾. Next year I saw Chamber of Secrets, and in 2004 I was in New York for a summer internship when I read the first two books, Saw Prisoner of Azkaban and went to a bookstore to buy three titles, Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, The Mystified Magistrate and other tales by Marquis de Sade and The Prisoner of Azkaban. As you can imagine, the clerk looked at me crooked and rung me up as if I were in a pharmacy and had bought chocodiles, an action figure, a length of rope and some ointment for muscle pain. But I didn’t care, that was me, and still is. I loved all three books for different reasons, although yet again, I felt most love for the Harry book… your book.

As a writer, I look to you for the humanity you captured in those tales, for the imagination, the creativity, the textures, the sights, the flavors, and showed me just how much magic a word, a page, and a book can hold.

So on this birthday, I say congratulations. For beauty within and beyond, for talent and grace. For humanity, for talent, for cheekiness, and for you.

Much love, luv and a very happy birthday to you.


A smiley, grateful, muggle who wishes only the best for a master of wizarding words.

JD

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

200 Steps


A while back I was alone at the beach and I decided to take 100 steps with my eyes closed. It was a frightening, albeit beautiful experience. My grandmother was blind for most of the time I knew her, yet the detail with which she told stories always amazed me. Every step I took was frightening because I was just asking to step into an urchin, a pocket in the sand or heaven forbid, a shard of glass. 

But I did it and it was an oddly gratifying experience. If you take 100 steps right now, it’s no big deal whatsoever. 

Try it with your eyes closed. 

Last weekend, I was at my local spot, there were no waves, wind was quiet and no one was around. I was so thankful for that space and time because everything I spoke was either for me, for nature, for life, or for a higher power. 

I sat down and meditated for a bit. I stretched, I looked both ways and I decided to try 200 steps.

Different than the last time, I took a real good look at where I was going. I studied the contours and the route, I closed my eyes, and I started walking. 

It had been quite a long time since I’d done this, but it was interesting to note how much easier it was on this occasion. Before long, I had already taken 50 steps and wasn’t even nervous. The waves crashed to my left and nothing sounded to my right. My breathing was normal, 70 steps already. This is going to be a breeze. 

The hesitation didn’t begin until step #90. I was 10 steps away from my original effort, but only halfway… and suddenly I realized how long I had to go. I felt as my breathing became more jagged. The temptation to open my eyes began around step 120… and it was something I had to fight for the next 80 steps. 

At 140 steps I shuddered when I stepped onto seaweed. I slowed my pace but I didn’t stop. Even if this was something trivial to anyone watching, it wasn’t to me. At 150 steps, more seaweed. I cringed my teeth and I kept walking. 

170 steps in, my breath was shallow again and I had to remind myself the proper way to breathe. First comes in then comes out. I smiled at my silly little mind game, but it worked. 190 steps.

For those last ten steps, I gave thanks for all the things in my life. 

My wife and family

The people who love me

Nature and all its blessings

The people kind enough to read me

The success I’ve had.

My mother’s health.

The health of others I care for deeply.

The means to provide for the people I care about and to help with my actions and words. 

The trials and tribulations in life that invite me to be better, for however hard they are. 

The steps I have taken…... 

I opened my eyes and the brightness of the morning sun only slightly stung. I was able to smile, relieved, happy, thankful. I looked back and could see how far my steps were when I started this little walk… it wasn’t so little this time. 

The wind picked up lightly and I felt it kiss my cheek. Another gift from life. 

Then I closed my eyes again… 

and I ran. 


Photo by JD Estrada

Saturday, July 25, 2015

There is poetry in life

Whether good or bad, there is poetry in everything, because it’s within us to seek out, discover, polish, and share poetry. A leaf falling from a tree can be insignificant or monumental, it all depends on how you look at it. 

People still ask me why I keep releasing poetry collections. I find it interesting because maybe they’re herky jerky from me going all George RR Martin with The Human Cycle, or maybe it just doesn’t speak to them. 

To me poetry has helped me appreciate life a whole lot more. It’s allowed me to take the rougher moments in life and apply emotional alchemy to do something that I and fortunately other people find beautiful or that it resonates. Quite often my poems are written in one sitting. Maybe some light editing, but for the most part, it’s a raw emotion that’s been captured and shared. 

I like that because in essence, it’s a pure emotion, unaltered. Sometimes I think deeply about something although most times, lines just flow. As a teenager I made so much sense of what I was living through thanks to poetry and as an adult, it’s helped me do the same. It’s helped me stay more focused, positive and thankful even for the hardships. 

Another aspect is that since I keep it rather true to its essence, it’s like a diary I’m keeping. I browse back old poems and remember where I wrote it and why I wrote it. I smile at some of the metaphors and smile wider at hidden messages waiting there right between the lines. 

It’s like capturing a picture in black and white. Some parts of the image come into definition while you take away others. You simplify at the same time you complicate. And that’s something I’ve always found appealing in poetry which resonates with life. Sometimes we insist on complicating things, other times we need to simplify. The funniest thing happens when both happen without you noticing. 

And that my friends, is what poetry is all about. 

Before you know it, it’s happened. 


Peace, love, and maki rolls

Monday, July 20, 2015

Taking a stance value 4: Gun laws need to improve

How many more shootings have to happen for there to be change? 

I am well aware people will quote their constitutional right to bear arms. It is our right, but seriously, acting as if there isn’t a massive problem borders on lunacy.

Don’t you dare touch my guns!

I need these guns for protection!

Guns don’t kill people!

I keep hearing the broken record of this tune and it worries me.

A lot.

People keep protecting guns with a fevered passion that I just can’t wrap my head around. I have family in Texas and they have guns of their own. They hunt and they have the right to enjoy it.

I’m not saying I like the concept of hunting. I’m saying I get people that are into hunting and want to have a gun. I'm even going as far as saying that I'm related to people who enjoy these things and I still love them. I’m not on that bandwagon, but I respect people’s interest in both these things.

Now that we got that out of the way, can we please address the issue of gun laws and how maybe there’s a better way to distribute guns and control who has them and how many?

We’re not talking electric guitars you collect. We’re talking about a weapon that can easily and swiftly end a life. I’ve seen some people with weapon caches that border on the worrisome… enough to arm a small military force.

At the security risk this poses, I wonder if there should be a cap on how many guns and how much ammunition a household has. If this is a bad idea, I’d like to hear why that is a bad idea. Why can’t there be a limit of rounds per person or per household?

Then I see people on social media blatantly brandishing weapons and although I could focus on the really worrisome people shooting at posters of actual people and putting captions like “Got im” or even handling weapons around babies, I’ll instead focus on the people who consistently show off their weapons. Could those pictures also be flagged as inappropriate? I ask because it’s a bit odd to see it is so easy to report obscene pictures of breasts and booty yet it’s utterly normal to point a gun at a camera.

I brought that up because the media and social media do shape part of our collective consciousness.

Which also begs the question whether there should be parental features that filter out gun content.

Actually, I’m not for this at all. I grew up with GI Joes and have seen plenty of violent movies, even as a kid… but I don’t own a gun and at the very least, I think it’s an interesting question to bring up to hear the reasoning for and against it if only to understand the larger issue at hand a bit better.

Then there’s the question about selling weapons.

You want guns? Perfect.

Take a psych test to determine whether you’re capable and competent enough to handle weapons responsibly. That's for starters.

After that, we’re going to do a background check for violent offenses, any disciplinary actions taken against you and verification that you are not currently taking any medication that may induce mood swings, violent behavior or emotional instability. Drug check is mandatory as is record of alcohol abuse. After that, a 30 day waiting period. Hell since we all like a deal, if you wait an extra 30 days for a 60 day total, you’ll get a 10% discount.

If any of that sounds ridiculous, then how does it sound when I tell you that right now in certain places I can get a gun off a rack, two or three cases of ammunition and pay in cash without an ID?

Moreover, if you had to choose a world where everyone had a gun and a world where there were no guns, which would you prefer to raise your kids in?

Now returning to the point. Some people want guns, others don’t. We all have the right to bear arms… although I should quote the constitution in full:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of the free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Two things I’d like to focus on:

  •        Well regulated militia
  •        Necessary to the security of the free state



Last I checked, a lot of people who own guns do not serve in the military but that’s just me nitpicking. The other bit I would like to focus on a bit more. By the statement established by the constitution, it is in fact expressed that we have the right to bear arms, but it also establishes the need to regulate such a right. So here’s to the constitution and enforcing it in full.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Calling all Frands

Although I’m not one for asking for charity, I am one for looking a goal in the eye and saying, let’s do this. As an indie author, there is no advertising budget and no media tour. We do most everything fueled by determination and the momentum readers are kind enough to contribute to.

So I have a few goals I’d like to share, if you don’t mind and what I’ll do once we achieve them:

Twitter Followers: I recently hit 3,000 followers which is awesome, though why stop there? Help me get to 3,500 and I’ll do a video talking about what it’s like to be an indie author and for every new hundred followers, I’ll take requests for new videos.

Google Plus: Currently, 397 followers. If we get to 500, I’ll take requests to read some of your favorite blogposts on video.

Facebook: Currently 383 likes. Help me get to 450 and I’ll read the Prologue to Only Human.

Reviews:

Only Human: currently 8 reviews. Help me get to 15 and I’ll read the first chapter for you guys. Help me get to 25, and I’ll read the first two chapters.

Between the Tides: Currently 3 reviews. Help me get to 10 and I’ll read the Sea, one of my favorite poems from that collection. Help me get to 20 reviews and I’ll read Stumble, another favorite.

Dark Strands: Currently 2 reviews. Let’s get to 10 and I’ll read all of the micro poems in one go. Get to 20? And I’ll read Rats in the Dark by candle light.

Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore: Currently 1 review. Let’s share the dream and get 10 reviews. If we do that, I’ll record the first daydream. If we get to 30? I’ll record a short daydream that will only exist in video form.

So what do you say guys? Are you in?

Cheers,

JD

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My wishlist

As a writer, there are so many ways to fill out such a list. Success and relevance are obviously high on there, but that’s too obvious. So here are some of the less obvious entries on my wishlist.

I wish to have enough success to have the means to print my books in hardcover with beautiful illustrations in them.

I’d like frands to enjoy my work so much to create and show me fan art or maybe even do a cosplay of one of my characters.

I dream of having a work animated by Studio Ghibli. Sure, a live action film would be fantastic, but to see an animated daydream… ah how I wish. Or one of my next books. 

I wish to collaborate on music and have someone listen to one of my tracks while driving with their windows down and volume way up.

I want people to pick favorites with my characters.

I want to hear someone notice little details I've hidden in my works and call me out on them. :D

I want to make someone cry from reading a poem.

I dream of people having nightmares about my darker material.

I wish for more time to do what I love and connect with more people.

I want to write scripts for several video games.

I dream of being good enough to write a Dr. Who episode.

I wish for the opportunity to bring one of my works to script form to make the movie based on my vision.

I want to be the reason for several people to dream of being a writer.

I wish to be successful enough to visit distant places and meet all the kind people that read me and with whom I’ve connected all around the world.

I want to be eating an ice cream sundae and see a kid texting with a t-shirt of one of my works. Not fond of the texting part, but I have to be realistic :D

I wish for my books to be part of a school curriculum and to have the opportunity to hear an English professor get it totally wrong.

I'd love for Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling to read one of my works and enjoy it thoroughly just to give a bit back from all they've given me.

I wish to jot down a list of songs for a soundtrack for one of my films, to meet those artists with their reps and make that soundtrack happen.

I wish to write my best in different genres so that a librarian can often point to one of my works to recommend because they enjoyed it.

I hope the guys from Pearl Jam enjoy a book I'm writing using one of their song names as the title of the book. Who knows, wouldn't mind throwing caution to the wind and singing a song with them one day, even if it's by a campfire. :D Still, part of me would like for them to enjoy that work enough to give their blessing because that song means enough to me to want to use it as the title of a book.

I wish to see someone reading a paperback version of my book on a subway... and missing a stop because they were enjoying it so much.

I wish for a project I'm working on to make a difference in the education system.

I dream about reading to a bunch of kids and seeing their eyes sparkle eager to visit the worlds I create.

I want to make people laugh until it hurts.

I want someone to be destroyed by something I write in a book, finishing the chapter in tears and cursing me for making them cry, while at the same time thanking me. 

I dream of being worthy, interesting, inspiring and significant enough to be called for a commencement speech.

I dream… I wish… and I write. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Taking a stance value 3: Bullying has to stop

There have always been bullies and it’s a sad way for humans to cope with their insecurities, but it happens.

The thing is that now that it has a name, a label, and intense exposure, you’d think it’d be dealt with better… and somehow it feels as if it’s gotten worse and more out of control.

Some people might say that it all has to do with media coverage and they might have a point, but there does seem to be something else at play. We’re not talking “gimme your lunch money” bullying, we’re not talking knocking books to the floor bullying, we’re talking striking with a bat, pulling out a switchblade bullying. We’re talking about terrorizing and torturing. I'm not saying this never happened before, mind you. I'm not saying that it was never this bad. All I'm saying is that it's becoming very common and when things become common, we run the risk of getting used to it. 

As a topic, I think it is one of the saddest things that can happen because childhood should be a time of learning, sharing and growing. Instead, there’s an increase in children researching and asking for home schooling because they honestly can't cope with the abuse. It’s gotten to the point that since things aren’t handled, they take matters into their own hand by opting out of school systems… another choice reflects a very sad state of affairs, there’s a higher incidence of teen suicide. Things aren’t getting any better and the topic isn’t going away.

Ok… so what do we do?

In an age of connection, it’s amazing how many people are disconnected from this issue. Sure, they know about it, but they think it has nothing to do with them or their kids.

Now, I’m all for standing up for oneself, but things are often going too far and worst of all, there are often witnesses… silent witnesses at that.

Therein lays the problem and the solution.

No one likes a tattletale, I get it. I really do. But I’d more likely prefer a tattletale than seeing another tragedy unfold.

I’ve seen bullying or picking on someone, hell when I was a teen, I said some things I’m thankful I was confronted with, forced to talk over and was very lucky to be able to properly apologize and modify my ways. I was even bullied on a couple of occasions and yes I did have two fights that I didn't even get to finish. But we’re not talking about name calling, high school fights, or something on those lines... we’re talking about intense and violent harassment for which people would get arrested if they did stuff like that after they turned 18.

The two main problems in regards to this are blindness and silence. So it begs the question, if you see something, will you “mind your own business” or keep at least one tragedy from the news?

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Storm it Brews

Self doubt is a bitch.

It is also something that happens.

Sometimes the oily voice of doubt is so seductive.

Look at your numbers, look at your web views… look, little writer. 

Look. 

Relevance is but a unicorn and your self righteousness, it is A-DO-RA-BLE. So you did another blog post? So you did another interview? So you finished another project? That’s nice. That’s very lovely in fact. How many reviews did you say you have? How many stars? How many mentions? Here’s a pat on the back right before we invite reality over. How are those sales doing? 

That’s what sometimes goes on in my mind.

Some people say, oh it’s good that you have done so much with a hobby. That’s nice to have on the side. Cheers for such a good effort put forth. It really is commendable. Sometimes patronization is soaked in every syllable as you’re invited to go back to your day job. Other times people really do wish you well. But still, some others look at you as if saying "Do something worthwhile with your time."

You pause long enough to take a breath in to re-calibrate.

You ponder. You wonder.

And then a spark ignites…

Then you look at the stories in progress.

Then you see what you’ve written and shared with the world.

You say, it is not the numbers that matter… it never is. Numbers distract from what matters. The stories, the words, the message... those are what matters.

Suddenly you hear that voice again, the voice of self doubt… it is tangible. You can grasp it… it is within your hand. Peering down, you see it for the vile and evil thing it is, but it fits inside your hand. It looks up venomously and spits in your eye. You smile. You start closing your hand and you feel that little voice struggling to be heard. You squeeze… you feel the brittle notes of its snakesong start choking. You squeeze tighter.

Low numbers?

Squeeze.

Low web views?

Squeeze harder.

I should do what?

Squeeze until you hear a crack and wipe the dust off your hands.

I see the projects I am working on… a storm brews… and I am its maker.

So I’m still not heard, am I?

Then let me take a deep breath before I share my next storm.

The storm of self… my self… hold the doubt.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Willow Whisper

Willow whisper

Green grin of willow's mane
Gently sways past windy vein.
Partly cloudy, chance of rain,
Nothing lost, all is gained.

The root of the problem rarely stems from a leaf
Yet willow weeps in waltz of grief.
A silent tear creaks in the wind,

As willow whispers a dream to sing.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Taking a stance Value 2: Free love

Since history continues to be made, I had to rewrite this post.


It is now legal for gay couples to get married.

And that’s a good thing.

I fully support equal treatment to any and everyone who happens to be human. In the case of marriage, here’s the thing; there is no logical argument I can find to be against gay people getting married.

Am I saying you have to love it?

No.

Am I asking you to be gay?

No.

Does gay marriage harm anyone?

No.

Is it bad for the economy?

No.

No one is being asked to even like people with a gay orientation. What is being asked is to respect their rights as a human and their desire to get married.

But let’s dig deeper. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Let’s talk about gay marriage… in the context of religion.

From what I learned as a child and what I hear from deeply religious people, God is generous and quite often kind. I have heard that God is all knowing and all wise. I have also been told that God is forgiving.

I believe all those things to be true… which is why I have a hard time grasping the concept that not only does God hate gay people, but that God loathes the concept of gay marriage… which can be referred to now as what it is… marriage, without the label.

As justification, people quote scripture to me and no doubt we may read a few of those quotes from someone who writes to voice their opinion and I welcome them.

My question then is: why all the anger?

And I’ll follow that up with another question: is someone’s orientation enough to curse them to hell?

I’ve heard people insist that homosexuality is unnatural, vile and against the nature of man and woman. Somehow though, I’ve seen texts that indicate that there have been gay people as far back as we can see in recorded history. Check under Ancient Greece and homosexuality and see what you find. By the way, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m saying it’s something that’s been around for a long time.

I’ve heard that homosexuality threatens the sanctity of marriage and once again, I fail to follow the logic. Based on that thought, I’d think it is the perfect opportunity for straight marriages to show gay people how it’s done.

Instead, we get fear and hate as a response. And by the way, might I add that it’s LOUD fear and hate at that.

Here’s the thing, although I admire conviction, volume and intensity have nothing to do with conviction. I just hear hate… blind hate at that. Which begs other questions:

Does God operate based on fear and hate?

Is God’s love suddenly conditional?

Is God’s love exclusive more so than inclusive?

I understand some people may be uncomfortable or even repulsed by the concept of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender people and the prospect of them getting married. I don’t agree with such a sentiment, but I can understand it. As humans, we have impulse reactions which we can’t understand. Illogical fears that began lord knows when. A fear of mice, a fear of cockroaches, a fear of a number… and yes, a fear of homosexuality.

But guess what? We can overcome those fears, but it won’t be easy.

Do not be fooled by this landmark change. There is resistance, there will be resistance. It wasn’t a landslide win… this decision came about by one vote… one single swing vote that allowed millions of people to formalize their love.

But guess what? One vote was enough.

Is there resistance?

INTENSE resistance at that. But one vote in favor of love and understanding was able to conquer this challenge… and I think with a little love and understanding, we can conquer other topics that divide and distance rather than unite.

So here’s to union and all the ways it is expressed.

Cheers.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Deep in the friend zone



Here’s a more interactive post. At some time or another, we know someone who has landed in the friend zone. More than that, I know people who seem to have a mortgage going on in that zone.

I’m talking about smart, lovely, attractive people that are often relegated to chat friends rather than a relationship or hell, even a carnal interest of some kind.

I mentioned above this would be a bit more interactive, so here we go:

Why do great people land in the friend zone?

How can they avoid it or get out of it?

How many people do you know who consistently roam the friend zone?


What advice would you have for someone who always seem to make a great friend, but doesn’t get to the next level?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Honey

Honey
Honey whispers, slow and sweetly,
Amber tides, flavored neatly.
Honey slides and flavor swing,
For in a cuppa, tannins sing.

A steep steeping, until flavors meet.
Then smooth and wonderful,
Like gentlest sleep.

Honey sings and taste buds listen,
With each sip of tea,
Until empty.

The cup does glisten.