Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Larysia Woropay

Larysia Woropay is a lovely friend whom I was able to meet thanks to a shared love for writing, reading, randomness and yes, the marvels of Twitter. I enjoy her blogposts and short stories and am always curious as to what new adventures she’s up to in her native Canada. The thing is that I knew that in addition to a very kind friend, she had talent. It’s just that when I read the first chapter of her novel I saw how much someone can exceed expectations… and with basically the opening of a book I’m now at the mercy of literary agents making the right choice and picking her book up so I may read the rest of an as of yet unpublished novel…. Something that I am certain of will change sooner rather than later. I had some questions to ask her about her writing and her process and here’s what she had to say.
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Starting off, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to participate! These were some amazing, thought-provoking questions, J.D.! I appreciate the effort you went to tailor the interview specifically for me.

1. Who is Larysia Woropay and what can people expect when they read something by you?

I’m a Canadian Amazon from Edmonton, Alberta who believes in lifting, self-improvement, and writing. My day job is a telecom Assignor. I work with systems in regards to logical provisioning and assignment of wireline services.

With that said, I’m a huge nerd and bona fide geek. I love research. I could spend hours learning about politics, religion, history, languages, science, and more. The way I see things, it’s a massive world and beyond out there. It’d be a shame to not learn about and experience it.

Being a pop culture junkie I adore movies, videogames, books, comics, and music spanning across decades. I’d have to say my main influences are Sam Raimi, Dean Koontz, and Alan Moore.

When it comes to my writing, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi are my staple genres. With anything from over-the-top space mutants to wars fought against ethereal beings, I love the fantastical and outrageous. My dark, dry, and generally inappropriate sense of humour is embedded in my prose, too. Expect something twisted, fun, and appropriately dramatic when it comes to my content.

2. You have a finished manuscript for a novel called Lucidity. What’s it about?

High school senior Breanna Greer dreams of a warrior named Driad, Guardian of the Astral Plane. He heralds that the world of dreams exists, governed by him and his ethereal siblings. However, one of their own went rogue, attacking the plane of unreality. Using the transformational energy of the dimension, their turncoat sister has given Nightmares life, warping Dream into unspeakable sentient horror. But his sister won’t stop there. No, she’ll encroach on the real world, too. Maybe even others. It’s only a matter of time. To save their worlds, the Guardians enforce a draft. Anyone who can control their dreams has been selected. But they need leaders at the helm. They need Generals, the chosen few who will remember their dreams to keep vigil in both worlds.

Driad extends to Brea the offer of becoming a General. She accepts. It’s a dream, after all. It can’t be real. But soon Brea discovers a myriad of coincidences lining up with the dream world and her own. Is the trans-dimensional war actually happening, or is she just pulling from her subconscious? Who is the strange young man she sees in dream and consciousness alike? Most importantly, can she lead an army to victory against the greatest threat to existence the universe has ever seen?

3. You’re currently querying, how has that process been? What are some of the challenges you have found along the way and tips you can offer people?

Honestly, this question is worthy of an entire blog post! (Certainly an idea for the future!) However, I will just share an abridged version.

Querying has been a great learning experience and a test of my patience. The challenges are plenty. Let me rattle them off!

          A.     Finish your book. This includes editing! Common sense, but …
          B.     Write a great query letter tailored for each agent you’ve researched
          C.     Have a 1-2 page synopsis
          D.     Make sure your opening pages are enticing
          E.      Follow submission guidelines

All of that is a ton of hard work. If you’ve done those to the best of your availability, congrats! You’ve done everything in your power to snag an agent, but keep in mind that …

i.                    Agents receive hundreds of queries so wait time for a response can be high
ii.                  Agents may reject something that is well written if they don’t think it can sell
iii.                Generally, the rejection to partial or full request ratio will be much higher than you’d like
iv.                Even if you get those magical requests, that still doesn’t guarantee signing a contract
v.                  It may take a couple years (and manuscripts) for some writers to get signed

The most difficult part of querying for me personally is letting go of the fact that once I’ve done my part the rest is up to an agent to fall in love and want to sign me.

A plethora of variables I can’t control go into this, such as:

Does the story resonate with the agent? The industry is highly subjective, so what one agent loves another may not.

Is the manuscript right for the market at this time? Basically, will it make money? Publishing is a business, after all, and an agent’s livelihood depends on the author’s.

Has the agent just signed something similar? If so, that means that they probably won’t take on a project that’s closely comparable.

I’m sure there’s an endless amount of reasons, but those are the top.

So, I remember when I get stressed about things I can’t control is that it’s all a part of the process. Almost every single author has gone through it. The ceaseless waiting, rejections, and insecurities rearing their heads. I don’t stop writing. I keep improving.

When I get rejections and notice a trend, I’ll rework aspects. Like tweaking a query letter or opening pages. When I get antsy waiting for replies, I dig into another project. When I get down, I have supportive and encouraging friends to remind me to keep my chin up.

Work hard, adapt, and keep a positive (but grounded) outlook, are the best nuggets of advice I can offer. Besides, of course, be professional when you do get a rejection because no one likes a crazy snotty-pants bent on committing career suicide.

… Hard to believe that was abridged, right?

4. You’re from Canada, give us five reasons why we should visit your country.

i.               Canadians are a friendly bunch in a cultural mosaic. That means if you visit, we’ll be welcoming and if you don’t speak English (or French) well, there may be someone nearby to help you out!
ii.              With oceans, lakes, mountains, forests, plains, and even desert, there is endless beauty to be found in nature. I won’t even get started on the wildlife!
iii.            Food and drink! Staples like maple syrup, poutine, Alberta beef, BC fruit, seafood from any coast, multiple beers, and the great Canadian Caesar (my favorite cocktail) mean you’ll be wonderfully merry your whole trip.
iv.            Banff, Alberta. Seriously. Just. There.
v.              The Canadian accents! There’s the generic “no accent” accent found in most urban areas, the traditional Bob and Doug McKenzie accent found in the rurals and folks over 30, and the Newfoundlander “Newfie” accent which, frankly, is like an Irishman and Scotsman had an unholy union with Bob and Doug McKenzie.

5. On your blog, there are some videos of you doing commentary while playing Deadly Premonition. What is that like? What can people find when they check those videos out?

Walking Casino and I do joint vlogging on his YouTube channel by the same name. We film random updates on our lives and gaming commentary videos known as “Let’s Plays.” The idea is that the viewer watches us play a game and listens to us beak off. However, our commentary isn’t entirely fluff. We also share a lot about ourselves, discuss current events, and give shout-outs to talented folks. It’s another great way to get to know us better and discover other awesome content.

Now! As for Deadly Premonition

It is a horror game heavily inspired by David Lynch’s television show Twin Peaks. When the teenage Anna Graham is murdered, FBI Agent Francis York Morgan is called to the quiet town of Greenvale to investigate. The eccentric big city agent delves deep into the town’s secrets, discovering not only a sinister plot, but a supernatural one, as well. Along with the mysterious Zach, York tracks the killer.

It’s one of the strangest games around with quite a polarizing effect. People either love it or hate it. But most fans adore it for its peculiar nature, low-budget struggles, and off-key brilliance from its developer Swery. Definitely check out our Let’s Play of it at!

6. You often do videos with Walking Casino, if you guys were a wrestling tag-team, what is your entrance song and walk us through your signature move.

I’d have to say it’d be Queen’s Princes of the Universe.

The signature move would be “The Blood of Kings.”

WC and I would bounce and discombobulate the opponent against the ropes until he would close line them. Then WC would grab them, lift them up and hold them splayed open facing a corner I’d be perched atop of. I’d flip off it, land on the opponent’s torso and roll them into a full-body submission.

7. You have a beautifully intricate tattoo of the cabin from the Evil Dead series. What can you tell us about that? 

Thank you kindly!

The tattoo I have is of the iconic cabin in the woods from The Evil Dead franchise Sam Raimi created.

Now, this actually does have a blog post. 

See here for more:

But the TL;DR version is that it isn’t just ink featuring a demon-infested murder-cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s a cabin bathed in darkness, symbolizing the primal fear found in the woods that has inspired storytellers for generations. It’s my love for a genre that sparks my creativity. Most importantly, it’s the reminder that with hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm dreams can come true. (It won’t be easy, but that’s part of earning your stripes.) And, of course, that with great friends, anything is possible.

8. You are commissioned to coordinate a fine art gallery tribute to the kings of horror, name 3 pieces that would be in this exhibit.

For Sam Raimi – “Retreat”

A modern art take on the innards of the cabin. The walls and floor would be stark white with featureless mannequins torn apart. Lighting would be dark, allowing shadows to make haunting shapes. Rich crimson would be the room’s main colour, spilling off the designated platform and onto the floor. The only other colours would belong to a rusted chainsaw and sawed off shotgun propped up in the centre.

For H.R. Giger – “Mostly Mythical”

It’d be a statue of a xenomorph queen crossed with a winged dragon. It would be massive, fifteen feet tall, with the classic features of an Alien, except more reptilian. It’d have scales instead of being smooth, ridges of bone running down its back, and leathery wings.

For Clive Barker – “Versailles”

A mural of a beautiful and opulent ballroom. Rich creams and gold, but a sinister red is invading the picture around the kingdom’s queen, who is as demonic as she is lovely. Crown atop her head, she’s bound in white leather, marked in extravagant scarification, and holding chains belonging to every collar in the room. Every subject in her court is at her clawed fingertips as they writhe in pain.

9. You have your very own haunted house, gives us a walkthrough.

It’s a tall, violet Victorian mansion with a tower, veranda, overhanging eaves, and ornate windows.

Inside is a massive foyer with great ceilings and a wrought-iron candle chandelier. The living room is large and empty, except for macabre art hanging on the walls and faded Persian rugs on the floor. The kitchen is dimly lit and fully stocked with rotting supplies, contrasting with the scent of fresh baked bread in the air. Bathrooms have polished mirrors, clawfoot tubs, and cabinets with many a bottle of snake oil. There’s a wooden stairway spiraling up to the second floor.

A massive library is beyond oaken double doors. The room has heavy drapes, worn velvety couches, and enough books to last a lifetime. Whispered shushing can be heard. Bedrooms have four-poster beds with sheer canopies and dressers with perfumes and colognes adoring them. There’s full wardrobes and clothing from many lost eras.

The layout is straightforward until the house decides otherwise. Hallways will bend, rooms will vanish, and doorways will take you to where you don’t want to go—places impossible to reach by any logical means. It can become a labyrinth, the only clues of escape from long-passed former residents. Some will be helpful, but most want another guest. Never accept a drink from them, and stay away from the wine cellar, whatever you do. The residents’ subterranean shindigs can last an eternity… 

10. What plans are there in the future of Larysia and where can people read more of your work?

My poems, articles, short stories, book reviews, and more can be found on my blog LarysiaWrites.

As for the future, I am working on Transparency, the sequel to Lucidity. I’m also writing an adult urban fantasy novel, The Malebolge Plague. The story takes place when a voyeuristic office slacker spies a plague doctor in a back alley. Shortly after, he wishes he minded his own business.

Thanks again for the interview! Was a pleasure, J.D.!

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Thanks again to Larysia for her time and her in-depth answers. It was a delight to see another great writer really dig into answers and honestly, keep an eye out and you'll get to enjoy some great writing.

As is the case with my latest interviews, I also sent her a prompt for an upcoming collaboration. For those curious, here's the prompt: 

We are investigating a haunted mansion and we split up. When we see each other, we’re scared senseless. What did we see? 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Collaboration Nation: a Cause for Claus by Eric Syrdal and JD Estrada

A Cause for Claus

Tuesday night, at the local Bar
I never expected to find
Old St. Nick, The elf Himself
Sipping a bottle of wine

Now this was odd, unless I miss my guess
Christmas was days ago
But Here he sat, on a worn out stool
Instead of up North with the Ice and Snow

So I asked the Bartender, to get me a beer
and I took a seat next to “The Claus”
I had to find out, What this visit’s about
At least, could he tell me the cause?

The white beard is stained plum
While snow beetle eyes sparkle
A jolly man once, now so glum,
With a look on his face that gave you a startle.

With a beer in hand
And a question in mind
I ask: “What’s up man?”
And he replies with a sigh.

"Tis the season to be merry
Or at least that’s what they say
Yet the message ends up well and buried
And we’re short on good will to all men."

I offered a toast and I drank from my glass
I said very proudly I'd help him find said cheer
After all who's to say, that for help he can't ask
So I pledged My soul to his cause for next year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Collaboration Nation: A Rainbow for a rainy day - by Maricel Jiménez and JD Estrada

JD crossed the cobbled street to reach the safety of a small balcony overhead. The downpour had begun without warning and in just a few seconds he was drenched. ‘Great!’ he thought. ‘Just what I needed.’

As he reached the small dry space, he huddled next to an old man who appeared to be whimpering.

"Are you all right, sir?" JD asked. The man was hunched over and weeping. It was one of the saddest scenes he had witnessed in a long time. Even sadder than the scenes he'd come up with in his own stories.

"No," said the man with a trembling voice. "I am not all right." He looked up at JD with a set of bright blue eyes that made JD shudder.

"Why, hello Mr. Sky," said a girl with red hair that had popped out of the door behind them. "What brings you here today? It's not like you to be seen out in this rain."

"Yes, I know, Mary; but I am irreparably sad today. It's no wonder there's a downpour."

"What's wrong sir?" JD asked. He felt the need to help this man.

The old man bore into JD with his piercing blue eyes and said: "I lost my Rainbow.”

Then he hunched over and leaned on Mary's shoulder and began to cry. JD had never seen an old man cry like a 3 year old before. It made him feel all wrong. Mr. Sky needed his Rainbow.

“Do you know this man?” asked JD, himself fighting tears as he heard the man weep. Every time his slender body shuddered on the shoulder of the girl with the red hair, the wind whipped up and a sheet of rain seemed to drop on cue.

“Yes, Mr. Sky is a very good friend of mine. One hot day as I ate an acerola bar, this gorgeous rainbow appeared. It was so bright in the sky that everyone was looking. That’s where I bumped into Mr. Sky the first time.”

JD Looked on the old man and couldn’t help but feel a biting sadness over the sight. But still, how could anyone lose a rainbow? Moreover, how could anyone keep a rainbow? Just then, the old man turned to face JD with his impossibly blue eyes. He couldn’t help smile at how the bushy eyebrows looked like clouds looming over a kind blue sky.

“Don’t worry, mister. We’ll help you find your rainbow.”

At the mere sound of the young man’s words, the warmest smile broke through the cascade of tears. Next to the old man, the girl called Mary shone her own smile at the prospect of adventure. She motioned JD and Mr. Sky to follow her through the door and into a quaint little coffee and tea shop.

“Well, this is nice!” JD said. He’d never been to the Mad Hatter’s before, but Mr. Sky was a regular. Mary tended to him everyday just before sunrise.

“Would you like your regular coffee, Mr. Sky?” Mary asked as she took a position behind the counter. “How ‘bout you, JD? Coffee? Tea?”

“Some green tea with raspberry, please,” JD said. He was a sucker for some good ole tea. “So Mr. Sky, when was the last time you saw your rainbow?” he asked.

The old man looked out the window and up to the dark clouds overhead. “Yesterday,” he said in a shaky voice. It seemed the memory upset him because his eyes began to darken at the mention of the day. Then the lights in the coffee shop flickered several times. When they stabilized, the room looked different somehow. The wood seemed darker and had a navy blue hue. The lights were dimmer and the tint on the window glass looked bluish.

“What the…” said JD confused.

“Please, Mr. Sky; try not to be so blue,” Mary said. “We need to talk about Rainbow. Where did you two go yesterday?”

“We went to the beach,” said Sky.

“Which beach?” asked JD.

“Grey Beach,” said Mr. Sky somberly.

“Oh my,” Mary said out loud. “And Mrs. Grey was Ok with you visiting?”

The old man had a pained look on his face. “Well, it’d been so long since I’d seen Mrs. Grey, and she insisted she had some tea made by her grand uncle Earl. So we went. Last I remember, Rainbow was playing on the shore, counting sea shells and braiding her hair. I then got to talking with Mrs. Grey and telling her how lovely her beach was when I noticed I could only hear the waves splashing on the shore. When I looked back, there was no Rainbow. Only mist.”

JD looked on, quite worried at the prospects of where Rainbow could be. It was his nature to worry and if concern was a currency, he could pay off the national debt. Even so, he was at a loss for words. I mean, it’s not every day someone just vanishes while at the beach. Looking over at Mary for reassurance, he was surprised to see here smiling while sipping on her cup.

“I’m not so sure we should be smiling, Mary,” said JD.

She smiled back at him with bright eyes. “I think I’ll choose to agree to disagree.”

A bit confused, he had to ask. “Any particular reason why we shouldn’t be worried?”

“Plenty,” said Mary turning to the old man. “Mr. Sky, let me verify if I understand. You and Rainbow went down to Grey Beach, is that right?”

“Yes,” said the man gloomily.

“Aha… and you told me Rainbow was playing with seashells on the seashore?”

“Yes. She always enjoys playing with them.”

“I know she does, she always goes on about how much she loves seashells. But tell me, did you go to where she left her seashells?”

“Well, no. I sort of fell in a panic and me and Mrs. Grey split up to try to find her when I found myself checking her usual hangouts with no sign of her.”

Turning back to JD, she held her hands out as if presenting fool proof evidence of the obvious. “See? That’s why I don’t worry.”

JD’s brow creased so much he looked like a Shar-pei puppy. “I’m not following.”

“And neither did Mr. Sky,” she said matter of factly before turning back to the old man. “You said you saw her playing with seashells, right?”

“Why, yes. Yes I did.”

“But you didn’t see what she wrote with the seashells.”

A look of realization came over the old man’s face and a genuine smile came back to his face. A gust of wind blew into the Mad Hatter’s and any sense of blue that had tinged the walls was immediately blown away.

Mary smiled warmly and looked back to JD.

“So I guess we’re going back to the beach?” he asked.

“Wonderful deduction, my dear JD,” I’ll drive.

Mr. Sky, JD, and Mary hopped in Mary’s car and headed for Grey Beach. They parked next to Mrs. Grey’s dilapidated shack. The wood was so old it had lost all signs of varnish and just remained a dark, dull grey color with smudges of black humidity stains. As soon as they turned off the engine, Mrs. Grey’s silhouette appeared in the doorframe.

“Why’d you come and bring all these people here Sky?” she asked upset. The woman never liked company and was known to shoot at trespassers on occasion.

“My friends here are helping me to find Rainbow. You seen her?”

“No. That girl’s gone and disappeared. I spent all afternoon looking for her yesterday. Remember?”

“Did you check the spot where she was playing with the seashells?” asked Mary.

“Yes I did,” said the old lady. “Gotta hand it to that colorful little soul, she’s so cryptic.”

“Why do you say that?” asked JD. He got the impression the woman wanted to shoot at them right then and there. The shotgun in hand was part of the reason for that.

“Because,” she began, as she pulled some of her grey hairs away from her face, “she went and wrote a word with them shells and it made no sense; no sense at all.”

“What was it?” Mary asked.

“Bookmarks. That’s all it said: Bookmarks.” She raised her arms up in desperation like Rainbow’s clue was completely lost to her, but somehow Mr. Sky seemed to understand and he smiled, such a nice warm smile that even Mrs. Grey looked brighter.

“Bookmarks?” JD and Mary echoed in unison.

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Grey.

Mr. Sky looked at his two companions and smiled. “Follow me,” he said confidently. He led them to the back of Mrs. Grey’s house where there was an old tool shed that seemed to be falling apart. The door was closed shut, but there was no lock on it.

“You know I don’t like anyone going in there Sky,” Mrs. Grey complained.

“But isn’t this where you keep your collection?”

The old woman frowned so deep her wrinkles went exponential. “What are you thinking Mr. Sky?” she asked nervously.

Mr. Sky pushed open the door to the tiny shed. To Mary and JD’s surprise, the interior looked clean and well kept. The floors were hard wood and polished to a shine that would make a mirror jealous. There were rows and rows of bookshelves all lined up neatly with every single space filled. In front of the shelves there was a desk with a registration book and a glass case filled with a rather impressive collection of bookmarks.

“There,” said Mr. Sky pointing at the glass case.

The four of them rushed over to the case and looked inside. To Mrs. Grey’s surprise it had two brand new bookmarks in it. The bookmarks were her personal collection and each one belonged to one of the books in her library.

“Well, I’ve never seen those bookmarks before,” Mrs. Grey exclaimed. One of had an illustration of a girl with a purple shirt that appeared to be riding a strange boat. At the top, it said: “Pixie Piper”. The other had an eye of some sort and looked a bit mysterious and on the back the words: “Only Human”.

“Holy tea cups!” JD’s eyes opened wide and he almost lost his balance. “That’s my book!” he added incredulously.

Mary leaned in to take a better look and almost fell backwards herself. “The other one is my book,” she exclaimed.

“But those books are not in my library,” Mrs. Grey explained. “I’ve read every single book in here, and I can assure you, those are not here.”

JD smiled like a kid on Christmas morning. “Well I have a copy of mine in my bag,” he said triumphantly.

“And I have a copy of mine in the car,” Mary added.

They went back to the car, brought back their books, and handed them to Mrs. Grey. Her eyes lit up and she caressed the covers just like Mary had done when her book first arrived. “Impressive, my young padawans,” she said smiling. Then she opened the bookmark case and retrieved the two new ones, placing each inside the first page of its corresponding book.

Suddenly a gust of wind blew in from the beach. It had the distinct smell of salt water and sand. The breeze spun around the library, covering every corner and just as quickly as it came, it dissipated, leaving the library in silence. Then, out of the Fantasy section came a little girl. Her hair was aflame with all the colors of the rainbow and she smelled like flowers. Her smile was bright, illuminating the room. JD noticed how the shelves became more colorful as she walked past them. The spines of all the books took on a shimmer, like they had been re-printed brand new. “You figured it out,” she said smiling at Mr. Sky and the rest of them.

Mr. Sky rushed over to her and hugged her fiercely. He no longer looked old and frail, like he had that same morning. He was renewed, filled with energy and his eyes shined bluer than they had all day. “Where have you been? I’ve been so blue,” he told her.

“I found the bookmarks and was looking for the books here in the library, when the torrential rain began and I had to come here to stay dry. You know I don’t like it when it rains without sunshine. Makes me all dull and grey.

Mr. Sky just held her tight. “I thought I’d lost my rainbow.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Grey, almost shooing them. “Go on now. I have new books to read!” she added.

Since then Sky and Rainbow are often seen together. They visit the Mad Hatter’s and share a cup of tea with JD and Mary. Occasionally Mrs. Grey comes by. She’s been pushing for sequels from the writers. Every once in a while Rainbow goes missing in action on rainy day. But now Mr. Sky knows better. After all, what better way to spend a rainy day than with the company of a good book?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Eric Syrdal

For a long time, I thought Super Mario would be the only plumber I would think was awesome. Then along comes Eric, a brilliant writer who wears his heart on his sleeve and just so happens to be a plumber. I first stumbled across his writing through Twitter and brilliant entries in Friday Phrases. Already a fan of his writing, I was fascinated he had such passion and talent for words while also being committed to excellence in a service industry. As months have gone by my appreciation extended from his writing into who and how he is as a human. Here’s a more in depth look to one of the nicest guys I’ve come across in quite a long while.

1. Tell us a Little about yourself and if possible, tell us the reason behind your twitter handle.

Well, I was born and raised in New Orleans. That's pronounced, "Nawlins" by the way, I'm not sure where New Or-Leens, is. Went to college here and eventually got married and started a family. I live in a humble house in the suburbs with my wife and my two kids who are the center of my life. Writing has always been a hobby of mine! I hope one day that it might be my profession. But for now I am a mild-mannered Plumber who likes to write sonnets when he's not battling water leaks or clogged drains. 

My twitter handle, @blade4hire comes firstly from the main reason I started my twitter account all those years ago. Some friends of mine and I wanted to keep in touch and "try out this new twitter thing" there was an inside joke between us about me being a mercenary, so I checked out handle options, "@sellsword" was taken so I came up with "Blade4hire" and I've had it ever since. But anyone who knows me lately, can quickly tell you that I am in no way a "mercenary" when it comes to loyalty or support. So the Blade4hire moniker has mainly come to mean that if I love you, I'll lend my sword to your fight any of charge. 

2. When did you start writing poetry and why?

I was always a writer of some sort since I was very young. Poetry, for me, started somewhere around my high school years. I guess it originated from a need to explore emotions, mostly romantic, and to sort of organize and arrange those emotions into manageable ideas. Always on the wrong side of the "teenage power struggle", it helps to be able to express your emotions into a marble covered composition book...rather than doing something "stupid" about them.

3. You are a plumber by day, how does that influence your writing?

I'm not really sure how it directly influences my writing. But I can tell you, that having a job that allows you to get glimpses into the lives and attitudes of the general public can definitely influence the way I feel about humanity. I've seen just about every kind of living condition imaginable. I can tell you that I still find it horrifying how we will allow ourselves to live... and how we allow each other to live. Man's inhumanity to himself and his fellow man... a plot that never changes.

4. What life lessons has your job taught you?

So we have a inside joke that all plumbers tell new apprentices when they first start learning. "Cold is always on the right, hot is always on the left and don't chew your fingernails." I know, kind of gross, but I thought it was funny when they said it to me. I don't think plumbing has really taught me any lessons that can be made into a "lifetime special" or something to put on the hallmark channel but it has taught me an appreciation for not judging a book by it's cover. I come in contact with people all day long who have preconceived ideas about the way I will behave and speak because of the stigma we have applied to not only plumbers but men who work in "service' jobs in general. As a direct result of that, we (meaning service personnel) are dwindling in numbers here in the United States. We've taught our children that jobs, such as mine, are beneath them... and quite the contrary is true. It's hard work, doing things most people find disgusting... but without it, disease and pestilence run wild. It is a necessary part of life.

5. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve encountered in your line of work?

Weirdest thing? It has to be that people, no matter their origin... size, weight, eye color, background, skin color, religion...etc, still won't tell me the truth about how a plumbing fixture got broken/clogged so that I can diagnose it and fix it properly. Most of the time I have to explain to them that I'm not the police, and I only want to help. If it sounds funny, that's because it is.

6. You specialize in poetry but do you also dabble in other styles or genres?

I do. I write a lot of short stories, I guess you can call them "micro-fiction". Barely more than a page or so. Often times with a clear beginning, middle and end. It tends to frustrate people when trying to categorize it, because it might look like a poem in some parts and a story in others. I'm not even sure, exactly, what to call it. But I enjoy doing it.

7. If you had your own planet, what would you name it and what would be some requirements to be able to live there?

Requirements? You've seen it on signs and t-shirts before: Be Nice or Leave.

If we need a clear definition of nice, we can look to Wil Wheaton's law which states: "Don't be a dick"

8. You have your own band, what’s it called? What’s the title of the first album and share the track listing. 


"Through The Breach"

I have honestly tried to come up with a track listing... but that's taking a few more brain cells than I can squish together right now. So I'll say this. I'm fairly sure that the songs will contain the following elements:
  • Sword Imagery
  • Knight Imagery
  • Dragon/Daemon Imagery
  • Multiple references to Greek Mythology
  • Multiple references to Shakespeare 
  • Epic battles in Valhalla
(I don't know if I mentioned I'm of Norwegian decent)

9. Why do you say goodnight to so many people on Twitter and how long does it take you? I find it sweet though wondering where it came from and how long it’s been going on and whether there’s a story to it? 

That started actually from a few people saying, "goodnight/good morning" to me in the early days of my Twitter lifetime. Since then it's evolved into a tradition of sorts. It was a way for me to stay connected to people that I really enjoy talking to. Sometimes we might not interact for several days depending on work schedules and other RL issues. It just, sort of, allows me to say, "Hey, I'm still out here and I remember you and I hope you are well." 

A lot of people have come to expect it, and have even commented to me that they look forward to it. Sometimes the smallest clue that someone else in the world cares for you can make all the difference.

It takes me roughly 30 to 40 minutes. People have suggested that I try and use some sort of automated program to do it. Personally I believe that defeats the point. So I go through, one by one, and type it all in. If it brings a smile to one person's face, then by the rules of my heart... it's worth it.

10. Where can people read more of you and what are your plans in the future?

Right now the best place to read anything I've written is on my Blog. 

I've been working very hard there lately. Over the last two weeks or so, I think I've posted something just about every day. There are a few pieces about me and some things going on in my life. But most of it is my work. I try to keep the journal entries to a minimum.

If anyone wants to follow me on twitter, they can get a glimpse into my writing for the poetry prompts as well as my participation in the Friday Phrases prompt.

Thanks for this opportunity and honor, J.D.! I really appreciate your interest in Myself and My work.

Wishing you all the best, Good Sir.

* * * *
My thanks to Eric for his time and his wonderful answers. The honor was at the very least mutual and stay tuned, there’s a collaboration coming. Be sure to check out his blog and Twitter feed (especially on Fridays) and if you have a chance, be sure to say good night. 

Btw, If you’re curious, here’s the prompt I sent the Blade :D Cheers

Prompt: We’re at a bar and see Santa Claus depressed and having a drink. What words would you offer to console him?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Let us never translate Karoshi to another language

Karoshi can literally be translated into "Death from overwork". It is a Japanese term and unfortunately something that is commonplace to the point that they coined a term for the phenomenon.

Although I have heard of it happening, I learned of the term from watching the movie Happy. In the film, a woman speaks of how her husband worked nonstop, struggled to have some time with his family and that one day at his factory, there was a situation he needed to report. As he spoke to his supervisor, he collapsed on the spot and his heart stopped beating before they reached the hospital.

Working to the point of exhaustion is something that is uncomfortably common. Work-life balance is a topic that has gained much attention during the last several years and it's for one reason... there is an abundant lack of work life balance.

Some companies are very humane and watch out for their employees but that's not the case always. A lot of places expect the work to get done no matter what it takes and no matter what needs to get sacrificed. In other cases, the balance is thrown out the window because the person doesn't know how to disengage from work and push themselves to the point of exhaustion... or beyond it.

And it's not just one industry, it's something that is happening in way too many places across all departments. To boot, it's not like there's a sense of accomplishment at this and quite often the opposite holds true. People are frustrated and feelings of guilt also invade the scenario because people feel as if they're letting their life slip away. They're distant from their families, their friends barely recognize them and the only compensation is monetary.

The lesson is easy to state: money isn't everything. Professional success isn't everything either. In addition, evidence suggests that acquiring both of those isn't the path to happiness. Data shows that money will make you happy to a certain point and any salary above an X or Y amount is just a means to get more stuff and not more quality from life.

Plenty of people work past the limit of what is healthy... I've been that person on many an occasion too. Fueling these actions are pride, ambition, and worry in different expressions. Maybe some other emotions also have a say into insisting that this is a good option. But it isn't, and deep down and not even that deep down, we know this rings true. That's because success doesn't need a savings account for one simple reason: when it comes to time, the more we spend doing what we love and with whom we love, the richer we become. And that is a definition of success I think most of us can feel more comfortable with.

Peace, love, and maki rolls.

Friday, December 18, 2015

My favorite restaurant: Il Cuoco Restaurant

How can I recommend my favorite restaurant in a way to show just how much I love it. I could talk about the food, I could talk about the people, but instead, let me talk about history.

Il Cuoco restaurant and I go back a long way. Talking with the owner, I was able to conclude that I've been going to Il Cuoco for at least 15 years. When you take into consideration that I regularly eat there every two weeks at least, that's at the very least 26 x 15. So it's quite possible I've had close to 400 meals in the restaurant (390 if you used a calculator). During those close to 400 meals, I've been able to explore pretty much the entire menu and several sauces and dishes more than once and they ALWAYS deliver.

At 15 years, it's one of the longest relationships in my life and one that has always rewarded me. I say hello to everyone in the restaurant, they know what me and my wife order although they always make sure to check in case we're feeling
adventurous. But it's not just food, I have also celebrated in the restaurant several life milestones. I've had birthdays here, I've capped off a Comic Con weekend with comfort food and a glass of red at our favorite table. I also had my wedding rehearsal dinner here on the second floor which they use for activities (pictured). The reason for this is because this feels like my home and the people who work here and have worked here are family to me.

That's the thing, a great restaurant to me is more than great food. It's food and service. And Il Cuoco has wonderful service and friendly attention which is why I'm looking fwd to my next meal there.

In regards to dishes, pastas are made fresh and I do recommend the chicken stuffed sorrentinos or the
beef and mushroom agnolottis because they're deliciously different and both variations of stuffed pasta. For sauces, there are plenty of options as well. My favorite white sauces are the White Clam or Damian (a rich cheese sauce with pesto that goes fantastic with the agnolottis). For red sauces, the Puttanesca is gorgeous, the Frutti di Mare is wonderful (pictured) and the Al Amatriciana (tomato, garlic, and bacon) is fantastic with angel hair pasta. If you like Lasagna, theirs is spectacular and their Cuoco Lasagna surprised me with so much flavor, mushrooms, chicken and white sauce instead of your standard meat sauce. If you like eggplant parmesan, theirs is the best I've had to date. Another interesting dish I strongly recommend is the linguini Al Cartocho. Basically you take a savory red sauce and seafood, pair it with linguini, place it all into a foil cocoon and slowly cook to allow magic to happen. If you have a hearty appetite or want to split a plate, their Penne a la Plancha is magnificent: pasta on the skillet, rich creamy white sauce and churrasco (Argentinian steak); definitely a winner.

Which brings up the meat. Being Argentinian, one of the best options for churrasco in the San Juan Metro area is actually Il Cuoco. Sure, they love their pastas, but if you're from Argentina, meat comes with the territory.

For dessert, the crepes with cajeta are nice but I shall always be partisan to the Tiramisu, also one of the best I've ever had anywhere. There are other very worthy options, but I just can't seem to not order that dessert when I go.

When I asked myself how I could show my love for this restaurant, I did the only thing a writer can do. I turned to my words and who knows? There might be an appearance in one of my stories or novels.

So if you're in Puerto Rico and want to go to a place that cooks gloriously and feels like home, check Il Cuoco out and by all means, tell Jorge I sent you.

Peace, love, and sorrentinos

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Maricel Jiménez

Earlier this year, I was able to meet a fellow indie author at the Puerto Rico Comic Con by the name of Maricel Jiménez. I knew about her from a good friend whom I know from surfing together and he’d mentioned she wrote books. I remember being very happy at hearing that and telling him to tell her to go for it… and boy did she. 

I met her at her booth and was happy to buy her first novel, the Adventures of Pixie Piper. I read her book while my mom was undergoing surgery and it was thanks to her book and Terry Pratchett’s Disc World series that I was able to maintain high spirits and I’m thankful for having such a sweet read to help me stay focused on a positive wavelength. So when I decided to retake my Writer Wednesday Interviews, I definitely wanted to take the opportunity to catch up with her so we can find out a little more about her and what she’s up to. 

1. I met you at the Puerto Rico Comic Con where you presented your first book, the Adventures of Pixie Piper. What’s your book about and who do you think would enjoy the book?

My book is about a little girl who gets a visit from her fairy godfather and she discovers that she is actually a fairy. He takes her to the land of fairies where a simple adventure ends up becoming a life or death quest to save her mother from evil winter fairies. (In a nutshell)

2. How was the experience of writing Pixie? What was the inspiration for the book?

I wrote the first draft of Pixie several years back when my oldest son was just a little boy. I was re-reading Peter Pan and was consuming the entire Harry Potter series like a Thanksgiving dinner. Also, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. So all that fantasy inspired me. First I wrote a book that is yet to be transcribed and right after finishing that, I went straight to Pixie. I wanted to write fantasy that was a bit more lighthearted than what I had been reading. I think Pixie achieved that. 

3. You also have a blog. What can people find there and can you share a link?

I actually have 2 blogs. One is Unsuccessful Attempts at Brain Silence. That is my personal blog and you will find anything in there. Poetry, short stories, opinions, ideas to fix Puerto Rico, rants… anything. The other blog is Puerto Rico Yarari and that is a travel blog all about Puerto Rico. Other writers are welcome to collaborate on this one! (Hint, hint)

4. You recently went to the Miami Book Fair. How was the experience and reaction to your work? Would you do it again?

It was a great experience! The people are warm and everyone had a positive reaction to the book. There’s nothing like seeing a kid’s face light up when they see the book. Also, I did lots of Networking. Unfortunately because of the rain I did not get to look around as much as I had wanted, but the overall book fair was definitely worth the trip.

5. The Fairy Kingdom has a feast organized and YOU have to cater. Walk us through the menu.

Hmmmm… We’ll start with stuffed mushroom caps, topped with extra aged Aggio Faery Cheese (the best fairy cheese ever made!). Follow that with a tossed flower salad with cranberry almond vinaigrette and to seal the deal, the famous Faery Pot Pie baked by the one and only Bessie Treebark. For dessert, some Faery Brulée: a smooth cream topped with a crust of fire-hardened sugary fairy dust. WARNING TO HUMANS: Consumption of this dessert could cause uncontrolled elevation and floating, among other side effects.

6. What is your experience being an indie author from Puerto Rico?

So far the public has had a great reaction to the book. The book has received great reviews and ratings from readers and fellow writers and the kid's faces light up when they look at the cover. That's awesome!

7. What moments have touched you related to your writing?

I once had a very selective teacher review my poetry. She said I had the talent, but needed to work on my "oficio", meaning develop and hone my skills. This woman would tear your writing apart mercilessly if she thought it sucked. To me, her constructive praise was reassuring and motivating. She taught me that there is a need to practice your writing, not just write. In other words, editing is key!

8. Describe the feeling the first time you held your book in your hands.

I was nervous opening the box, then I see all those pretty blue covers and Pixie all live and beautiful and I believe there was a tear involved. Then of course I grabbed it, caressed the cover, looked admiringly at it for a few long seconds then lifted it up to my nose and took a deep breath. It smelled divine! Then I opened it, read my name on the inside title page and thought: Wow! I actually published a book. I am writer!!!! Not that I wasn't before, but now it was undeniable. I leafed it and smelled it some more. There is nothing like the smell of your very own book! Ahhh... I get excited just reliving the moment.

9. You sprout wings, what is the first thing you do and what would you do during your first day?

The first thing I would do would be to touch them. Make sure they are real. I'd look at my fingers to see if there was any fairy dust. If there is, I'd put some in a jar and then go fly! I'd fly to the top of a really tall tree and perch myself up there like a bird. It would be cool if I hung out with some of the Guacamayos that hang around my parent's house. They're blue and yellow and really pretty. Then I would try to see just how fast I can fly and how high I can go. I would presume there are limits. After getting used to my wings and getting to know them, eventually I'd build a tree house that could only be accessed via wings. ;)

10. What’s next for you and Pixie and where can people connect with you?

Pixie is bound to have lots of adventures! She just discovered she is a fairy so there's plenty to come, but of course, she has no idea what the rules are so you can bet she's gonna get into some trouble. And of course, eventually her mother needs to remember who she is!

To connect with me visit my sites: 


My thanks to Maricel for her great answers. As an added bonus, I'm inviting the people I interview to do collaborations and see what we can come up with. Each interviewee gets a custom made prompt and then we see what our collective writing can come up with. Below is the prompt I shared with Maricel as an aperitif for the story to come. By all means, check her out and stay tuned. Much more to come. :D

PROMPT: The sky is blue because it’s lost its rainbow. We put bookmarks from our books in our back pockets and channel powers from our stories to rescue the rainbow! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

I am not an immigrant

In 1980 I was born in Puerto Rico.

That means two things:

1. I am a US citizen.


2. I'm not an immigrant.

Being from Puerto Rico, I get to hear wonderful questions like:

"Where in Mexico is that?"

"How long does it take to drive here from Puerto Rico?"

"Do you have McDonald's?"

And one of my favorites:

"Do you know Ricky Martin?"

Off the bat, I need to say that although Puerto Rican, my favorite boxer is Juan Manuel Marquez who is actually Mexican. Apart from that, a love for Mexican Cuisine, and a well made margarita, Puerto Rico and Mexico only share language and certain parts of history, meaning Spanish invasions and plundering.

Also, Puerto Rico is not in Mexico and actually quite far from it. Puerto Rico is a small island in the Caribbean while Mexico is one of the largest countries in the world and has both Pacific and Atlantic Coastlines. It borders California, Texas, Arizona and a snippet of, you guessed it, New Mexico. but don't take my word for it, google both just to see the difference in scale and geographic location.

Secondly, until I have an amphibian car, I need to fly anywhere that isn't Puerto Rico.

Now the third question cracks me up. There's McDonald's in India and other NON BEEF eating countries, so trust me... yeah, there are McDonald's. To one up that, the highest selling JC Penney in the world is in PR, we sell the most Krispy Kreme donuts, and are second in consumption of Burger King only to China I believe. Not things to really be proud of in comparison to our rich history, but these are statistical facts. Being a US country, Puerto Rico is actually pretty americanized by Hispanic standards.

Lastly, and this one should be obvious, of course I know Ricky Martin. Everyone in Puerto Rico is some type of cousin to Ricky and we gather in big Martin festivals. :D That means no I don't know Ricky on a personal level, although I wouldn't mind meeting the guy. Wonderful showman and does a lot to promote good things in the world while helping put PR on the map.

So why do I bring this up now? Well it seems the Reverend Al Sharpton and various other people are of the opinion that Puerto Ricans should not be US Citizens. It's something that doesn't necessarily come as shocking to me because I've heard quite a few choice thoughts on behalf of other fellow US citizens. It doesn't matter that we pay social security and Medicare (not having full parity in rights by the way, but that's another topic). It doesn't matter that we have a US passport. It doesn't matter that countless thousands upon thousands of brave men and women of Puerto Rico have risked and given their lives in the armed forces. By the way, feel free to check out more information on the 65th infantry, which is actually only one example of that. But still, that's not good enough... with no logical reason for it, we aren't as worthy of the title of US citizen.

Heck, if our friend Trump gets his way, he'd revoke my US Citizenship along with the lovely plan he has for my muslim brothers and sisters.

The fact remains, due to strategic negotiations, treaties and federal regulations, Puerto Rico is a US territory and as such makes me a US citizen with almost all the rights that you can enjoy. I still can't run for president, but the Supreme Court, running for mayor and other government positions are fair game. You can thank Woodrow Wilson and the Jones Act for Puerto Rican's being recognized as US Citizens and yes, that does mean that in little over 2 years, it'll be 100 years since Puerto Ricans have been recognized as US Citizens.

I'd ask why the hate or resistance against Puerto Ricans, but seeing the news and some of the things that come about, I can't say I'm surprised. Disappointed that people still feel a blind hate towards us? Of course. It's only natural. But I'm not surprised and I'm not saying any of this condescendingly.

I've been subject to a bit of racism on a couple of occasions and to me it always cracks me up a bit because I think racism not only goes against the very foundations of the US, but because racism is just silly childish behavior from people who have a lot to learn, a lot to forgive, and a lot to learn about love.

So suffice for me to smile in retaliation. Besides, I know English may be my second language, but I think I do pretty well in getting my point across. :)

I'll be sharing a bit more about my lovely country during the next couple of weeks, but by all means, share your opinion about why PR citizens should or shouldn't be recognized as US Citizens, although one request: unlike the politicians who are blindly against it, I'd like some dialogue to happen and not just a shouting match. For now though?

Peace, love, and tostones