Monday, September 30, 2019

Atlanta Comic Con 2019: Lessons Learned and Fun Had


Earlier in the year I had my best show ever at the 2019 Puerto Rico Comic Con. I sold out a couple of titles, I saw a lot of familiar faces, and I also met a lot of new ones. It was good to shake off the rust before my first event stateside since I hadn’t done an event since 2017, but even then I knew my experience in one event should never be used as a realistic gauge for another, especially since these were uncharted waters. I mainly wanted to prove I could do it, do it to the best of my ability, and enjoy myself… and for the most part I did… I just didn’t sell that many books.

When you try something new, by the very nature of the situation, odds are highly in favor of you learning a thing or three. In my case, all of that held true. After Puerto Rico, I was well aware that I had to manage and lower my expectations because it was my first show stateside and I knew better than to be lulled into a false sense of security since I’m not at all that known here in the ATL. So I made sure to keep expectations “realistic” but I quickly learned that the term “realistic expectations” changes from context to context… and so do buying habits.

Card readers are a must.
If you take anything from this blog post, please take that sentence and apply it to yourself. Life, work, and several other situations had meant I was doing last minute things before the Atlanta Comic Con, which should have included buying a card reader and setting it up… which takes all of 15 minutes, if that. I did not do this until Saturday evening where lost opportunities demanded that I go to my nearest Apple store to remedy the problem. Seriously, it’s super easy and it was an oversight that cost me a couple of sales, but you live, you learn, and you keep on keeping on. A lot of people do not want to carry cash and although this sounds like a no-brainer, it’s best to repeat out loud for the people in the back not paying attention. In short, have as many sensible and secure ways to receive payment. If not, you’ll bang your head against a wall and you’ll find plenty of other challenges that you’ll have to face.
 


One of many.
In most major cities, there are quite a few large events you can attend as a vendor. People also have the same variety of options so they are selective in regards to the events they go to and what they buy at each event. Being a large city, that also means there are a LOT of vendors. Both of these factors were not unknown to me, but after one weekend, it became clear that to be successful at an event you have to do way more than just show up and know your stuff. There are so many ways to set up your booth and in the end, you have to set up in a way where you’re visible, comfortable, and in control. You also have to know how to make a sale where there isn’t one to begin with. I definitely picked up a couple of tips and pointers in regards to what I should offer and how I should offer it and I also saw quite a few things not to do, at least in my opinion. And yes, a lot of what goes into your exhibitor includes you.

Smile for the camera.
You’d be surprised how many long faces I saw at this show. Trust me, I learned how it felt like to have a bust of a show, but even so, I was always friendly, always had a smile on my face, and quickly learned that the more I enjoyed myself, the better the learning experience would be. Some people could only talk about how slow sales were and how much of a bust it had been. It’s not to say I don’t understand where they’re coming from. After all, if you drove or flew, paid for a hotel, and invested in inventory for it to not sell, then I get why you’d be upset. But for me, if you look pissed off, it’s not exactly appealing to engage you… and in a show with so many exhibitors, it’s amazingly easy to not stop at a booth with funky vibes coming from it. And speaking of funky vibes…

Be kind to people’s sense of smell.
I’ve always been of the mind that you should be pleasant to the senses in any context and one of the most important ones is the sense of smell… I won’t name names, but during the show, one or two particular booths were borderline unapproachable and I swear I’m not exaggerating. I interacted with people who were setup nearby these booths and you could see in their faces that they were struggling and even so, they were chatty, friendly, and pleasant smelling. Seriously, I wish I were exaggerating, but if onions had arm pits, I smelled a couple after they had run a 5K through a field of steamed broccoli. Fortunate for me, both of my neighbors were pretty cool, pleasant smelling, and they were actually a big part of the weekend being as fun as it was, because when it comes to events, sales are nice, but…

Connections are priceless.
When I say connections, banish the word networking from your brain, if only for a moment. That’s not what we’re talking about and although that’s also extremely nice to have, there’s nothing quite like connecting with people for real. This happened on a couple of occasions and it just goes to show that during your journey, you end up finding your tribe. On the one hand, one of my neighbors and her husband were some of the nicest people I’ve ever been next to at an event. Katie Olivia White and her husband David were all sorts of lovely, as was the quirky and awesome Proton Factories, the uniquely artistic Triple7Sp, the talented and humble lover of Hollow Knight - Studio Penpen, the super kind guys and gals at Incubator Comics, the quirky and kind Daniel Kozuh, and the nonstop JH Glaze, who gave some great pointers and support and had a solid show, to mention but a few. There were also some nice people who swung by my booth Apart from nice people, there were also some really nice surprises.

Some people DO know me.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a kind reader coming along and saying, “Oh, there you are.” They had actually looked for my booth and had kept from buying the book beforehand to buy directly from me and I happened to be their first stop. They’d also had Only Human on their wish list for some time and I can’t even begin to say how happy that made me. Sure, it was only one person that was on the lookout beforehand, but that’s one more than I had before and I’ll gladly take it. Also, by the end of the show I was referring and having people refer people to my booth. That’s because if someone is looking for a genre I don’t write in, odds are someone does and when you meet that someone, sending them over costs you nothing. This is something I do at every show and a reason why I take the first day to check out exhibitor halls. You never know who you will see that you know or who you will meet.

Lessons learned and plans to adjust.
In terms of sales, it was a slow show so I do have leftover inventory. I could see this as a failure of sorts or an invitation to get creative and if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that it’s up to you to choose the lens with which to see what you experience. I learned a LOT during the event, but here are the top 3 lessons from my first event stateside.

1. Get a card reader! Didn’t you read above????? Lol. Seriously, it’s quick, easy, and will be invaluable.

2. Finding the right event is not about size. I chose the Atlanta Comic Con because I thought it was the most prudent choice for an event stateside. Although fun and I met nice people, I don’t think I was the right fit for this event or at least this year. Being selective means taking more risks and trying different things, but large size does not a good show guarantee.

3. Have fun. Although I’m always about having fun, on this occasion I had to learn new ways of having fun and to take it all in stride.


So here’s to having fun, learning, and keep on keeping on. If you have anything else you’d like to ask about the Atlanta Comic Con, by all means, drop a comment or contact me via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and I’ll be happy to answer anything you have in mind.


Here are some more pics though feel free to check the entire gallery on Facebook :D













Thursday, September 12, 2019

#Humans4TheBahamas

I’ve been meaning to post this for some time, but after Hurricane María, if I learned anything it’s that you want to make triply sure that whatever you support is the best option possible. I’ve asked openly for people to refer me to good local causes that will do their best to distribute aid, food, water, and supplies in the best manner possible and some people still choose the Red Cross and other large entities as their organizations of choice. After seeing what the Red Cross has done (or hasn’t done) in Haiti, Mexico, Africa and several other places, I do not feel comfortable donating. To me, it’s like the Susan G. Komen Foundation… the intentions are right, but I don’t like the things I’ve seen in regards to how they allocate funds.  Then I've seen how the American Cancer Society uses money in initiatives and I feel much more comfortable supporting them. It’s not to say it’s the perfect option, but if you see how the ACS funds research, helps patient cases, and even offers housing for patients undergoing treatment at their Hope Lodges, I see way more efforts being done right and having a positive impact. 

Seeing our Bahamian sisters and brothers going through the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, of course I want to help and I think it’s all about timing with the relief efforts they need. The Bahamas are a large archipelago southeast of Florida and the midpoint between Puerto Rico and the mainland. It includes over 700 islands and cays and although most of the Bahamas were hit by Hurricane Dorian, the ones that were honestly decimated were Grand Bahama and Abaco. Abaco was basically wiped off the map and Grand Bahama looks like a giant tornado went across the island, which is what a hurricane technically is. These people withstood hell for 30 hours and I simply can’t even imagine what they went through and what they’ll need.

Seeing the response, at this time I’m putting my money on Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen. Some people may argue he does this for profit because of the contracts he got from FEMA. Other people might not like how he criticized FEMA and the federal government in general. Some people may question his intentions with these efforts. I’ve read and am aware of all of these… but I saw how he helped people in Puerto Rico, I saw how hundreds and thousands of people were fed, and I saw how his presence injected hope into people… and at this time I think those are the two things that the Bahamas need the most, food and hope. Infrastructure will come later, supplies are needed but until I see people handling the distribution in a way that directly helps the population instead of wasting resources I'll keep looking. Seeing the situation in Puerto Rico, it took people to load private jets and go to where help was needed and then have people there to ensure people get what they need. Even then, people had to be onsite to make sure supplies got to where they had to. It’s a sad state of affairs but more than to ease my conscience, I want to help, and for now, this is the best option I’m finding. 

So for the next month, I’ll be taking any money I make off my books and donating to World Central Kitchen. I dropped the price to $1 on all eBooks and will also be matching each book sold up to $300. If you don’t think this is a worthy cause, that’s completely fine, though I do ask that you look for an option to help people out. Even with all the divisiveness we are seeing in so many places, I truly believe that we’re all in this together. 

So to my sisters and brothers from the Bahamas, sending much love and sending some help. If anyone knows of any efforts being conducted by individuals, feel free to write me via direct message on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with any information you may want to share. I’ll also be looking into donation efforts here in Atlanta and share any information that may be useful to anyone who wants to help. Below is a screenshot from my first donation to get the ball rolling. It was $25 (plus covered processing feels) and of course I'll be donating more. If you'd like to bypass my books and donate straight to World Central Kitchen or another worthy cause, go for it. This isn't for me or my books, it's to show that the love my Island got when we needed help goes around to people who need help. Kindness is paid forward, never forgotten.

Much love. 

JD


Monday, September 9, 2019

Books for Miles

Someone’s encouragement can make all the difference in the world. I’ve been there. Trust me, I know because a kind message has more than once offered me the push I needed to get things done, which is why it’s so important to me to encourage people as much as I can. 

For me, it’s often been in regards to sticking to my guns where my writing is concerned. The “keep on keepin on” messages have landed at the perfect times and I’ve also been lucky enough to encourage some pretty amazing people and recently, I was happy to suggest something to a good friend.

Enter Brad Womack. 

Brad is a sock brother from the Sock Family who has an amazing sock collection that puts mine to shame, is a stylish dresser, and also a very nice guy. He’s also on a fitness journey because he wants the best for himself and I shall always encourage that for good people. 

He recently shared a pic and I commented with a bit of encouragement and his response was “I’ll need all the support I can get.” So here’s the deal, from here until October 9, I’ll be doing Books for Miles. Inspired by his journey, for every 3 miles he walks, I’ll gift any of my eBooks to whomever he wants to gift it and when he gets to 100 miles, I’ll send him a free Estrada Crate… And you’re invited to join in and invite anyone you want along for the ride. I won’t put a limit to eBooks I send out but I can only send 5 Estrada Crates to the first 5 people who reach 100 miles.

The requirements are simple, have an app that records your walking stats and share screenshots online with the hashtag #BooksForMiles. Also, tag me to ensure I find out you’re participating. Keep a tally and when you reach 100 miles, let me know to send you or someone you care about an Estrada Crate. I’ll be including 3 books in the Estrada Crate, along with personalized letters and post-it poems, as per usual. 


This effort is in part to encourage people to lead healthier lifestyles and to also invite fellow bookworms to join the fun. So here’s to healthy habits and voracious reading. 

Peace, love, and walk on.

JD

Ps.: This is one of his posts :)


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Mi última gira de los 30

Treinta y nueve es una edad comiquísima porque muchos preguntan sobre qué se siente tener casi cuarenta y a muchos se les olvida que me queda un añito de mis 30. Y es que se siente raro hablar de los 39. Es como cuando eras nene y te preguntaban tu edad y decías seis y medio o alguna bobada así. Sin embargo, es una excelente lección para no adelantarnos a los hechos. Casi tengo 40; pero si decimos casi chocamos, eso significa que no chocamos y lo mismo aplica a la edad. 

Ya mismito, pero todavía. 

En una secuencia de años curiosos e intensos, este último no ha sido la excepción con varios eventos de vida que ciertamente marcarán dónde estoy y a dónde iré. Cuando falleció Mama en junio, el cantazo dio duro por cuan esperado haya sido. Fue un alivio por un lado y desgarrador por otro y en estos dos meses luego de su partida me he dado cuenta cuánto tiempo pasaba conectado a la chica de alguna manera u otra. Fuese un mensaje de texto, un post que le gustó y compartió, palabras de consejo y aliento con esa paciencia eterna que la caracterizaba o nuestras llamadas de la mañana y la tarde, siempre estábamos pendientes el uno del otro. Por eso la veo en tantos detallitos. Por eso me canta a través de cosas tan microscópicas, que sólo sirve para demostrar que un corazón lo ve todo, lo escucha todo… y también lo siente todo. De la misma manera, me ha enseñado mucho de quién y cómo soy, de lo que importa en mi vida y que soy la única persona responsable por asignar jerarquía e importancia a lo que vivo… y aunque nunca me gusta generalizar, en este caso me parece que sí nos aplica a todos.

Siempre he tenido momentos de introspección tratando de calmar el carnaval que hay en mi cerebro para buscar cordura en la locura y hacer lo que tanto amo. Escribir siempre me ha venido bien y hoy por hoy es esencial a mi salud emocional, mental, física y espiritual. En el último año me ha ayudado a superar un sinnúmero de cosas y a enfrentar retos de vida, incluyendo a Mama. Durante el día que falleció, estuve escribiendo algo para ella y se lo leí a la noche. También le leí poemas que he escrito y otras cosas que he publicado. Como escritor, las palabras para mí cobran múltiples significados y roles y me parece que esa relación continuará evolucionando. Siempre doy lo máximo por ser un hombre de mi palabra y un hombre de palabra, o más bien, palabras. Llevo escribiendo por años y aunque he cumplido algunos logros, todavía tengo muchas metas por cumplir, cuentos por capturar y palabras por compartir. 

De las lecciones más valiosas que he aprendido en el último año es que no importa los retos, no importa lo triste que estés y lo mucho que duelan ciertos eventos, siempre podemos sonreír, siempre podemos dar lo mejor de nosotros y siempre podemos definir cómo manejamos lo que vivimos. En algunas cosas me queda muchísimo por aprender y crecer como ser humano. En otras, estoy feliz de cómo soy más que nada porque he puesto en práctica varias cosas que aprendí de mi madre y lo que quiero que me identifique como hombre, profesional y humano. 

Mi más sincero agradecimiento por todo el cariño y todo el apoyo que me expresan continuamente. Los mensajes de felicitaciones por el cumpleaños, por cosas de los libros y los mensajes de apoyo y cariño a la familia son regalos y bendiciones al igual que las sonrisas que inspiran. Gracias por un excelente año y a ver qué más inventamos antes de la nueva década. 

Un abrazo,

JD

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Three times 13 and a step away from 40


I’ve done these birthday posts for years and I think this is the hardest one to write yet. It’s not just because of what I’ve lived in the last year, it’s that I’m not sure how I want to frame it or what I want to capture. The last couple of months haven’t been exactly easy though I have gotten to know more of who I am through written and meditational introspection than possibly at any other point in my life. I think more than anything that I am able to see what’s important in life or at least in my life. Let’s not get carried away and think my opinion and my feelings apply to everyone… even if there is a chance you can agree with me here and there. 

Age is a number and although it is tied to life, experiences lived, and things we’ve gone through, it’s also an attitude and I think it doesn’t have to be a constant. For certain things, I’m a wannabe sage and it’s a miracle I don’t grow a long beard to stroke as I share whatever experiences I’ve gone through if only with the hope that it helps other people to see what they’re going through in another light and maybe find something that’ll help them make sense of the madness that is life. Then I see a banana, get an idea, and act as if I'm 13. Some people might argue I need to grow up while others giggle along and join in on the madness as I take my inner child out for frequent strolls. 

I watch cartoons, I like candy and sugary cereals, but I know the value of balancing it out with good nutrition, exercise, and tough decisions. Life isn’t one thing and requires a varied skillset to be truly enjoyed… good times or bad. Having Mom pass away two months ago wasn’t a shock in the sense of it being a surprise. We knew it could happen and unfortunately complications were able to overcome her will, which is quite something since Mom shall always be synonymous with the word perseverant and quite often seemed indomitable, yet in the end, she was human... and remarkably human at that. It was a shock in the sense of how hard it’s hit me, which is anything but a surprise.

I think about her often and it’d be disingenuous not to talk about her as I write about my birthday, since she’s the reason I’m able to celebrate a birthday in the first place. I’ve had two months to come to terms with her passing and I know it’ll take many years as I continue to understand and share how much she means to me. Yet even missing her intensely, I’m able to talk to her spirit, smile at big things and small, joke around, laugh, and live. Part of her lives on through my brothers and myself and I’m amazed at how present she is in the smallest things. When she passed away, I felt equal parts helpless child and old man. It took the weight of worrying about her and replaced it with the weight of missing her and although we could speculate about how much each weighs, I’d rather focus on the fact that I will always be happy to carry her with me.

I’m 39 and I don’t know how long I have on this Earth… but I do know I have the beauty of choice in my life, as we all do. Life is about choice and it’s never been more apparent in my life. We can zoom in on the people who disappoint us, or we can invest our time in thanking and encouraging those who bring light into our lives. We can choose to focus on what hurts and what makes us sad or we can focus on what we can do to give our best while finding as many smiles as we can on the journey. We can be anchored to a moment, a memory, a pain, or a victory, or we can keep walking, occasionally skip, frequently dance, and possibly fly. 

So here’s to flying, my friends. Thank you for the love, the laughs, and the maki rolls. To much more of what makes us smile and to sharing our best, whether the weather is fair or we dance in the storm.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Creative Connections – Voice Actor George Hoctor



One thing that’s always been important to me in life is to connect with people and help others connect. Knowing the right artist, accountant, masseuse, doctor, chef, caterer, stylist/barber, mechanic, and any trade can make a huge difference and if you know someone who can help someone else, then why not connect them?

That’s the main purpose of Creative Connections. To interview creatives and all types of professionals that offer services that might help you.

First up is George Hoctor, a voice actor I met at the Puerto Rico Comic Con who is based in Tennessee and ready to lend his voice to bring your stories to life. As an added bonus, I’m including the audio for his interview so you can also hear what he has to say, in case you’re not in the mood to read :) if you'd prefer this, go to the end of this interview.

* * *

1. Hey there, George. So nice to have you here. What can you tell us about your voice work and your experience so far as a voice actor?

What I feel I could bring to a group voice-over project or even a solo voice-over project is a sort of energy that I make sure to put into each of my recordings. Even if it's something as simple as me going "The Call of the Flame" or "This and that and this and that." It's an energy that I make sure to get out through the microphone and sort of make sure it gets embedded into that recording because that energy is what's going to cause audiences to sort of perk their ears up and really pay attention to what's going on.

2. Without too much tooting of thine own horn, what do you think you can bring to a project as either a solo VO or part of an ensemble? 


Well of course there must be a little horn tooting, I mean if you do work, you do it with pride! If it's something you enjoy, what you love, then you do it and you toot your horn as much as possible, as long as it doesn't make the other people sick.

3. What are some projects people should check out?

Well as I said before I have a fantastic podcast project that I've worked on called "The Call of the Flame" and we're currently working on the next chapter for that but I believe we're up to 9 or 10 chapters so there's plenty of lead in for you to be able to enjoy of the narration done and even then just all of those people are so fantastically talented and of course I am most proud of my work with PShattuck Productions on YouTube. You can find me as such voices for fan comics as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (It movie 1990) or Sans the Skeleton (Undertale videogame) from Undertale, I've done Cuphead (Cuphead videogame) for the Cuphead series and so I'm really most proud of those because they are comics that have been done with such love and care by other artists that we wanted to bring life to them with our unique voices and I must admit I do have so much fun working with those nut jobs; they really are the best people I could ever hope to work for.

4. If you had a top 5 projects you’d like to work on, which would they be?

If I had a Top Five Projects I'd like to work on? Well definitely audiobooks, audiobooks are fantastic because it gives people who may not have the advantages of other people, whether it be a type of dyslexia or some other disability that makes it so they can't really enjoy books like other people do, it gives them a sort of bridge to help them get across that small boundary they may have, whether it be mental or personal, it lets them enjoy the book, it lets them really get into it. I suppose another project I would love to get into would be video games, though I've been told those are abit challenging and quite demanding as well. Honestly, if I can get the chance just to go "Double Kill, Triple Kill, Overkill" just a few times in one videogame I believe I would be quite happy. And animation as well. cartoons have been a profound part of my life. it's been a big part of every voice actor's life in some way or another and in cartoons anything is possible. I would love to be able to have the chance to pull a mallet from a giant burlap sack or just place down a whoopie cushion underneath the villain (or hero's seat) just to sort of have the last laugh.

5. Have you ever done VO work for animations or video games?

I've not done work in animation or videogames as of yet but I feel like I could definitely try, try and succeed, and even if I don't succeed the first time that doesn't mean I'm going to give up! I'm going to keep on doing take after take until we have what is needed.

6. What tips can you give up and coming people would like to do voice-over work?

What tips would I give a younger voice actor who's just now starting? Keep yourself in the best shape possible, of course the weight and diet and exercise and good foods, those are all very important. but also keeping yourself internally good, keeping yourself mentally aware and happy because in the end if you're going to do this job you need to make sure you love it. You need to make sure that you have this small tingle going down the back of your spine when you step up to a microphone with your script in hand, thinking "My God, I get the honor of doing this!", even if it's something as simple as just laughing out loud like an insane clown.

7. Do you have equipment ready to go in case of quick project?

I actually have two kits, ready and raring to go, and one is a USB Studio Kit with an Audio Technica 2020USB+ microphone and cables and wires and a nice studio headset and another kit which is not full because it actually would house my studio equipment that I am currently using. Right now I am using a Focusrite Scarlett Solo XLR Interface with an Audio Technica 2020 XLR Cardioid microphone and I could be able to pack all that up, have that ready and if scheduling permits, which most of the time it's pretty permitting (I have open weeks) I could get down to Atlanta, or wherever needed, as fast as possible.

8. Where can people get in contact with you if they want your talents for their project?

People may get in contact with me through my professional voice acting email, gmhoctorvo@gmail.com. They may get in contact with me through my twitter, @georgehoctor404.


* * * *


It was great to meet George at the Puerto Rico Comic Con and it was so random he'd fly down for that, but just goes to show how solid a show it is :D Anyways, for your audio enjoyment, here's the interview in audioform and for his reel, click here

Cheers

JD




Saturday, August 3, 2019

Puerto Rico Comic Con 2019: Books, Smiles, and Camaraderie


I’ve been going to the Puerto Rico Comic Con since 2014 and every year has been a wonderful adventure. The first year I had one book, one poetry collection, and my Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore were handmade by my family. Every year I meet more people and the genuine enthusiasm over what I do and how I do it is fuel to keep going and giving my best. 

This year I had 13 books and sold out of two of them. I also had the best year in terms of sales, with 118 books sold over the weekend. This happened with me being away from the booth most mornings while I was with Mom at the hospital and the Captain held down the fort at the con. Throughout the event, a LOT of people came by to offer support, see if she needed some help, and always asked me how Mom was doing and shared plenty of positive vibes I passed along to her. 

Over the weekend I saw a lot of new faces, but I also saw a lot of familiar faces and all of them made me smile so much. I truly do love writing and connecting with people and if this year has taught me anything, it’s that people who go to the Puerto Rico Comic Con want to connect with you. I talked to hundreds of people, offered advice to writers of all ages, and in true me form, I dedicated each book with my awful handwriting to capture the joy I experience at an event like this. 




Every year has a particular feel to it and this year, there was a LOT of joy and kindness. People who met me were genuinely thankful for me answering all the questions they had. Then there were the people I’ve been seeing since 2014. Among the nicest things someone said was that they had missed me last year and were happy to see me back at the PRCC. That meant a lot because it validated that at least to some people, seeing me and catching up is a highlight… which it already was for me, but to know the feeling is mutual… that’s quite wonderful to be honest. 



Another highlight for me was to see that Atlantic College from Puerto Rico held a contest to choose several artists to let them have a booth there. In front of me, 6 booths in a row had young, kind, and extremely talented artists showing off their art and as a creator, it was refreshing and lovely to see them have such a solid weekend. Some were a bit shy and learned to come out of their shell during the weekend, while other young artists glowed with enthusiasm. This is the type of effort I support 100% and if anyone from Atlantic reads this, I'd love to help out any way and who knows? Maybe we can collaborate one day, but I'll write more about this in an open letter soon. 

I also saw artists from the states who had taken a gamble on this show and time after time I heard how good of a show people were having and that they made their booth and covered their expenses before the halfway mark of Saturday. Some even sold out of inventory (see the pics below). I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, fans of the Puerto Rico Comic Con are some of the best because unlike other major US cities, San Juan and Puerto Rico in general for that matter aren’t spoiled with event after event after event. In addition, since autograph sessions are pre-sold, that means people have more to spend the day (or days) that they go. 





As per usual, cosplayers were showing off their skills and my highpoint was a magical unicorn (pictured below). I stood next to her and could not find one flaw in the craftsmanship of the suit and SO MANY of the cosplayers brought their A+ game. I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I wanted, but definitely brought a smile to our faces and the Coraline and other Mother cosplay just had me grinning from ear to ear. 




As for the books, Only Human sold out early Sunday morning as did Black Tie Affair. I am always happy every time a book title sells well and I promised a ton of people that I’ll finish the Human Cycle for next year, so hold me to that. Given to Fly also sold pretty well as well and only left a handful of copies left over and everybody loved the concept of a boy who dreams about flying. I’ve already read some new reviews from readers and that’s also something that encourages more than people know. 


In terms of quirky stories, I got the visit from Eric AKA Average Joe on Instagram, a super nice guy who blogs and shares tips on how to save money and make more money. It took a couple of attempts, but we finally met and he was a super nice guy. Also kind enough to take a couple of books and I gifted him an extra one, not because he's always on the lookout for a deal, but because he passed by not once, or twice by the booth, but five times until we connected, so it was the least I could do. 

In addition, a fellow Puerto Rican with a comedy channel on YouTube called Alex Manuel also swung by. He was actually cosplaying as the ex-governor of Puerto Rico, Ricky Roselló and even took pics and recorded a get-well video for Mom. He passed by each day and asked how she was doing and like many other people, kept in touch after the con to see how things were going. If it wasn't clear by now, I think it's obvious that the fans of the Puerto Rico Comic Con are some of the nicest and most genuine in the world and although I always get a lot of love, this particular year was very special and people outdid themselves in offering love and support. 



So all in all, it was a lovely show and even with the challenges my family was facing, we had a great show, a lot of people sent love to Mom, and we even got some videos recorded by people in character. It was a weekend full of joy, happiness, kindness, quirkiness, geekness, support, and enthusiasm. Some people might say it was even a little bananas :) I’m thankful to each and every Geekrican that passed by my booth and all my fellow writers, artists, and creators. I’m proud to know you and call you friends y los quiero de todo corazón. 




Til next we get our Geek on. 

Peace, love, and maki rolls

Ps.: for more pictures from the comic con, check my facebook page.  

Friday, August 2, 2019

2019 B-day Wish list

 
It’s been several years since I’ve re-learned to celebrate my birthday. For the longest time, I had a hard time celebrating during the month of August because 3 family members have passed away in this month. I used to be mopey and not the best company. But a while back, I decided to retake birthday celebrations and have since had some pretty fun outings to say the least.

I’ve also developed the habit of putting out wish lists because who knows? Maybe some of those wishes can come true. So here’s my wish list for birthday #39.

1. If you want to get me anything, make a donation using the hashtag #CheersMamaEstrada. At the end of the year I’ll probably do a #Humans4Humans effort in her honor, but for now, if you want to channel her spirit through your good will, I can think of no better way to celebrate.

2. Tell people about my books. One of the hardest things as an indie author is to get the word out. If you’ve ever read anything by yours truly and you think someone would enjoy it, talk it over coffee or tea.

3. If you know any booktubers, readers, podcasters, blogger, or fellow authors in Atlanta (or anywhere in the world actually), let me know. Always love getting in touch with good people and wouldn’t mind making an appearance in their shows, blogs, or bookshelves.

4. Whether you loved or hated something I wrote, drop a review. Although a rating is nice, a review is 1,000 times better in making a case to read or avoid a book. Reviews also happen to be one of the hardest things to come by and so you know, the magic number on Amazon is 50. With fifty reviews, I start appearing in more searches and recommendations thanks to how their algorithm works. Otherwise, I’ll be someone’s favorite barely known author. :)

5. If you see a post of mine that you enjoyed on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook, like, share, and comment. A like is good for morale, a share is amazing to reach more people, and a comment works with those pesky algorithms that make being an indie creator so challenging.

6. Get someone an Estrada Crate. I have books, I have boxes, and I’d love to be on more bookshelves. So if you know someone in the US or Puerto Rico who loves books AND you’d like to support me, you can make two birds happy with one book… or a couple.

7. If you are or know any English teacher that would like me to do a chat for a classroom or think your students might enjoy one of my books, drop me a message. One of the most important things to me is encouraging people to read and write. In addition, if you have Hispanic kids or teens you’d like to encourage to write from the perspective of a multicultural and bilingual hooman, I’d love to help in any way I can.

8. If you are or know any librarian and think one of my books would make a good addition to your collection, please let me know. I dedicate books to patrons and am always happy to help out.
9. If you are or know an artist who’d love to share their vision, get in contact. I recently released the book version of my Blanc Comics and although I’ll write more about this later, right now what I want is to take the next step with this project. More on this later, including a YouTube video or two.

10. Join me in saying #CheersMamaEstrada. Through all the month I’ll be toasting to Mom. It’s my way of celebrating her and keeping her near me and share the brightness she is in my life. You can toast with tea, milk, juice, ice cream, wine, milk shakes, soda, beer, sushi, soup, cocktails, or whatever you want. There are no rules except to smile when you toast. And if you have anyone you know who is going through a rough time, let us know so we can say cheers to them as well.

And I’ll leave it at a cool 10, because if not, who knows what else I’ll ask for? My thanks to you for reading and supporting in so many ways and bringing a smile my way so often. My best to you and til next time…

Peace, love, and maki rolls.

JD

Thursday, August 1, 2019

31 Day Salute - #CheersMamaEstrada

 
Earlier in the year when Mom was dealing with her health issues, a former Puerto Rico Governor passed away and the country had 30 days of observance. In her eternal cheek, she said that she wanted 31 when she passed away. We celebrated her between June and July but didn’t really make it official.

This will be my first birthday without Mom and August has 31 days in it, so why not celebrate her the entire month as well as my birthday? First off, the artwork you see here was commissioned by one of my best friends and script writer/developer Andrew Horng. It’s a beautiful gift and I think the colors and artwork capture a good chunk of Mom’s essence. She was a bright light in the lives of many and she continues to shine on.

This month I’ll be doing several things in her name, including writing, music, videos, and other stuff, because why not? The #CheersMamaEstrada posts and gallery shall continue although a little more frequent this month, rather than the scheduled weekend posts I’m actually doing.

To all the beautiful friends and family who have reached out and sent love: thank you is much to brief a way to express the gratitude we feel. Regardless of the challenges though, we continue to share her light and cheer and that shall always be the case.

Stay tuned here and on my social media including facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for more of the celebration.

Peace, love, and #CheersMamaEstrada

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Cheers 4 Life


When you lose someone you love, finding your bearings is the first step and depending on who they were and what they meant to you, it’ll be different every time. Although I already wrote about Mom, I did it in Spanish and since I live my life bilingually, I need to process things in both languages, so here’s another post. In addition, although there were those lucky enough to know Mom in real life, others got to know her through me and my writing. So part of me feels like she’d like me to write to those people who knew her from my stories.

I’m also writing this because my blog has always been a platform to try and have a positive impact. A lot of what I write comes from what I need to process in my life and this most certainly is something I’m processing and shall continue to do so. I don’t know if reading this will help someone else, or maybe it’ll just help me sort feelings and thoughts via words, as is the case usually. Regardless, the words are written with kindness and love, which is always a worthy way to start any endeavor.

It’s been an odd two weeks where I catch myself picking up the phone with no one to call. It took a Category 5 hurricane to bring down communications in Puerto Rico, a cruise trip where there was no cell reception, health complications, and now Mom having passed away to not talk with her on the phone every day. It’s not like her passing hasn’t sunk in, but so much about love can seem like muscle memory and reflexes. So now the challenge is to find new ways to love and express and communicate my love for her, which is something that takes a little getting used to. Rather than big things, I find myself remembering her in the most random things and although it does make me tear up a bit, I still catch myself smiling through tears, because even now she can make me smile. Like I said, muscle memory.
 
Some people deal with the bereavement process by talking to their loved ones and I count myself in that bunch. So much of what I shared with Mom were conversations. Long, winding, meandering, random conversations about everything and nothing. There were no taboos and we always spoke honestly and like lifelong friends. When I was about to come into this world, her doctor told her she had to hold on for a while, because another mother was in labor, had placenta praevia, and if they didn’t see to the woman, her and the baby could die. So for about 40-50 minutes, we “stood there,” minding our own business and I suspect she talked to me and asked kindly to sit tight and just give her a couple of minutes. So even before my entrance to this world we were talking and she was thinking of other people before herself. The other baby was delivered, happy and healthy, and then at some time past 6 PM, I was born. During those first few nights, nurses wouldn’t come into the room, because they heard her talking and thought she had someone visiting. She didn’t. It was just me. And we were just talking.

So I see no point in stopping a good thing we had going for so long.

I am all about traditions and sticking to the ones that enrich our lives; so in my morning and afternoon commutes, I talk to Mom. One of the biggest differences is that I don’t have to worry about dropped signals or low battery, so those are some pluses.

A couple of days ago, someone said something on the lines of: “Well, this is the last #CheersMamaEstrada.” I gave a little smile when I read that because last I checked, I’m still breathing, she still lives within me, and we still have positive vibrations to share with the world. I have a gallery on Facebook called #CheersMamaEstrada (Click for the link) and I will continue posting to it during weekends, because she was too big to be handled in just one day or one tribute.

As for her journey, she definitely faced countless challenges. However, time and time again I was fortunate enough to witness some of the best things humanity has to offer, and not just from her determination. Sure there were scary moments, frustrating moments, and sad moments, but the moments of light, where people shared their best, unconditionally and selflessly, were quite a few as well. Doctors who didn’t have to visit yet came by every day to check up on her, nurses who came from other offices because they had the gentle hands that didn’t leave her bruised when taking blood samples, caregivers who in so many ways cared for her SO much more than just a patient, family members who came by and visited after years of being out of touch and chatted with her as if they hadn’t seen each other in a couple of weeks, and people the world around who would toast to her good health. Seriously, she loved the thought of people getting a buzz in her name. She always welcomed and appreciated thoughts and prayers, but she shall always be a being of smiles, and to know that someone would smile while thinking about her made her day each every single time. Even better if it was with their beverage of choice. So again, why stop a good thing?
 

As one of her three sons, I was also able to witness true greatness in the love we share as brothers for the same woman. What needed to be done got done. Period. It was never a problem. It was never an issue. It was our duty and our shared honor to show her pure love, selfless love… the type of love she taught us and raised us with and the type of love we have gotten from our wives, our families, and our friends. Where everyone was hurting but chose to smile, to toast to life and joy and love, and to keep going forwards.

Going back to May, I actually did go to the Puerto Rico Comic Con, because I knew Mom would insist and I wanted to bring her some happy news about my adventures. I was alternating between being at the hospital and being at the Convention. Among the many amazing things I got to see first hand, it was that if anyone had any doubt about why they call my wife the Captain, it got dispelled handily. She handled the booth and countless other situations being so much more than just a Captain that she might get a promotion in Book 3. She also gave me my space and endless love and patience to express and feel whatever I had to feel. In short, she was essential in me being able to give my best to my Mom, my brothers, and our family. Then at the convention, everyone had a kind word to say. Both of our booth neighbors and several other people offered help and support and were truly wonderful in so many ways. Seriously, there were so many bright moments shared by people and kindness all around, with nothing but positive vibes. And I took all of that to Mom when I went to the hospital and every time I toast in her name.

So we shall continue to toast to her and share good vibes for those who need them. Because if we have received kindness, love, and support, the right thing to do is to pay it forwards. On my part, if you have someone you’d like to toast to their health, let me know and we’ll toast to them as well, because we’re all in this together. I shall also pair #Humans4Humans Efforts with #CheersMamaEstrada because I want good deeds to carry her name forward as well and because if I say we have to do our best to give our best, this is the perfect opportunity to show that regardless of what we live through, we can help others and have a positive impact.
 
Lastly, a little bit for those who have read or will read my work. You don’t know Mom as Mama, Tata, Marietta, or Doña María… but you will know her as Mrs. Fawn. There are several people I include in my works and Mom is one of them. If you haven’t read the Human Cycle series or Given to Fly, I won’t offer spoilers, though just know that her role is as essential as it was in my life and she shall always appear as Mrs. Fawn, with the exception of one story to be included in a future collection that will be her as I saw her. Mom was definitely consistent in who and how she was as a human, and the same will go for Mrs. Fawn. I wrote her with kindness, with love, with wisdom, and with lemon cake… because that’s my Mom and that’s how I will always see her.

My thanks for reading, for caring, and for joining me for a toast or four.

Peace, love, and #CheersMamaEstrada

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Contigo Siempre

Apenas han pasado dos semanas desde que nuestra Mama Estrada logró descansar. Aunque parece que ha pasado un siglo y un suspiro a la misma vez, creo que es de esperarse. Es raro no llamarla por la mañana y por la noche. Sin embargo, la siento conmigo. Esta es la primera vez que escribo al respecto desde ese fin de semana y pues, el camino a seguir dando lo mejor de nosotros es único y por mi parte quería compartir palabras que incluimos en su recordatorio y algunas notas que escribí para cuando los tres hermanos hablamos de Mama. 

Comparto esto para los que no pudieron ir a la misa de Mama o vernos en Puerto Rico porque creo que a Mama le gustaría que la gente leyera esto para que sigan brindando y sonriendo. 

Primero el recordatorio:

“Marietta, Mama, María, Tata

Aunque son muchos nombres para un ser humano, cada uno inspira una sonrisa por quién fue y cómo fue con cada uno de nosotros. 

A La Marietta le brindamos diciendo lo siguiente: La vida no te debe nada y nada le debes a la vida, excepto las gracias por poder vivirla y compartirla contigo.

“You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold.”




Luego de su misa, todos tuvimos la oportunidad de compartir algunas palabras sobre nuestra chica. Cuando me tocó a mí, empecé por preguntar una de las cosas más importantes para cualquier persona que tuvo la dicha de conocerla, ¿quién nos hará los bizcochos?

Mama nunca fue de mantenerlo serio y pues, soy hijo de mi madre al igual que mis hermanos porque los tres tuvimos nuestro momento de decir algún chiste. Ella siempre conseguía sonrisas y risas y era pícara y media porque esa era su naturaleza. El detalle es que ahora que ya ha dejado este plano terrestre, nos toca vivir un momento en donde podemos ser egoístas y decir que una parte de nosotros murió o podemos escoger ser un mejor tipo de egoísta y decir que una parte de Mama vive en cada uno de nosotros.

Yo siempre escogeré la segunda porque Mama se dejaba querer y quería sin medirse. Aunque a veces le traía dolor el ser así, siempre fue genuina y cuando te amaba, lo sentías en cada átomo de tu ser. Aparte de eso está el hecho de que si la conociste, es muy probable que aprendiste algo de ella y hasta más probable que fueron muchos “algos”. Si me preguntas a mí, eso es vida. Eso es un cantito de ella. Una semilla. Hemos llorado y de seguro seguiremos llorando de vez en cuando. Nada cambia el hecho de que nos hace y hará mucha falta.

Por mi parte, siempre haré lo máximo por llorar con una sonrisa en la cara, con orgullo en el alma y con copa/taza/vaso en mano porque me acostumbré a brindar por ella y por todos los que necesitan vibras positivas y risas. Eso la haría feliz y por cuanto yo viva seguiré haciendo todo en mi poder para que siga sonriendo.

Por 70 años fue una luz en la tierra y por sus acciones nos mejoró la vida. Ahora brilla en el Cielo mientras sigue siendo parte de nuestras vidas, porque así fue y así siempre será.

Se les quiere y brindamos por ustedes también