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.

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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, 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



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.


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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A call to say #CheersMamaEstrada

During the past few weeks, Mama Estrada has been having a rough time to put it lightly. Rest assured, she’s getting the love and care she needs to get her better. Both of my brothers continue to be the main support for her and have been phenomenal in managing situations I can’t begin to fathom. Our extended families are also offering beautiful support and it’s nice to see how much love Mom inspires and how much love people give during this challenging time. Nurses, doctors, and everyone involved are on board and also refer to her on a first name basis. That’s the attitude we’re bringing to the game. 

Although some days are good, some days could be better. We’re always trying to win an inch, win any victory, big or small. I’m writing this post not to share specifics, but to make a small request or invitation more so: to say #CheersMamaEstrada. Even though we welcome thoughts and prayers and we welcome all forms of support, we love a smile and she loves people having tea, drinking coffee, doing a shot, sipping on a margarita, eating cake, and the such, getting a buzz while sending positive vibes. Capturing a moment of happiness and sharing it with her. 

That’s Mom for you and we are all following suit. Keeping it positive and taking it one day at a time.

I’ll be posting #CheersMamaEstrada pics and creating a gallery on the Facebook Author page. You can send me pics or put them in the comment section. Want to include a poem, a joke, or a happy thought? Bring it. Want to share a prayer. They are welcome. Found the perfect puppy or cat video? Post below. We believe in the power of positive thoughts. We know how empowering a smile can be. We are in this together and we are thankful for everyone who continues to share smiles and positivity. 

Cheers to you and #CheersMamaEstrada

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Mother’s Day Tradition continues

For several years I have always kept a promise to mom that I’ll publish something on Mother’s Day. She didn’t ask for it, but it was something important for me to do as was the choice for my author name. 

I often get asked if there’s a reason for my pen name and I always have to say there are several. Firstly, my last name might be misleading to people looking for other type of literature. Secondly, my name is so unique that in high school I had 3 other people with the same name and it was always funny to try and figure out who had messed up. Thirdly, and most importantly, I take issue with the phasing out of one parent’s surname as time passes. I shall always love my dad and I’m proud of the name I bear, but I’m also proud of my mom’s side of the equation that is me. If you read my author name in Spanish, it reads “jota de Estrada”, or Estrada’s J. I make it no secret that I’m a mama’s boy and I’ll always freely say how much I love my mom because although I was taught to be the best man I can be, I was not taught to shut away my feelings. 

If you’ve read the Human Cycle, my daydreams, or Given to fly, you’ve come across Mrs. Fawn, a character inspired by my mother and one of the most important characters in the Human Cycle (wait til you read Book 3). I didn’t do it to be cute or to win brownie points or anything like that, I include her in my stories because she’s one of my favorite characters in the story of my life and I wanted to share a piece of her through my literature. She’s the favorite of a lot of people and everyone now knows that lemon cake is indeed a slice of home thanks to her. 

For this year, I’m doubling down on the motherly tribute as I bring my Blanc Comics project to book form so anyone can be able to be a part of it. Whereas I dedicate books and write poems about some people I love, for my grandmother, I want to take a different approach and create a concept as a tribute to her. My grandmother was visually impaired and had advanced glaucoma ever since I knew her, but that didn’t deter her from having amazing discipline in morning and evening stretches and exercises, a beauty regiment that was responsible for one of the most immaculately soft set of hands you could imagine, and she could tell a detailed story with lush descriptions even being blind. 

In addition to her talent for storytelling, two other things prompted this project. Firstly, a couple of years back in the Puerto Rico Comic Con they had talent scouts looking for comic book artists. If I’m not mistaken over 200 people (or close to that amount) tried out and only 2 or 3 got selected and there were a lot of people feeling pretty bummed out. Apart from that, I had wanted to do a project that would promote the acceptance of differing points of view to inspire dialogue rather than what we see daily from political parties and people who think winning an argument is better than finding resolution and who would rather bark louder than think before they speak. 

Enter Blanc Comics. 

I offer comic book panels, a fully fleshed storyline, special effects integrated in the panels, and a description of what goes in each panel… but as a story teller, I’m blind… and I need everyone’s help to see our story. I wrote these stories to entertain, to offer a canvas for artists to express their talents, to inspire people to look for varied points of view and instead of resisting, finding worth in a different perspective. I wrote these tales challenging myself in genres that were new to me and trying something new. I wrote these stories with several perspectives of love: for my family, for story telling for the graphic medium, for future artists, for mom, and for my grandmother. 

And I now share them with you. 

There are currently two titles:

What does a wizard have in common with an angel? A pet macaw and a detective agency. Let’s face it, too many crimes go unsolved and some people say you need a miracle to solve certain cases... or a little magic. 

It is the 19th century and zombies exist. Hundreds of attacks have been reported and for the most part, there are no survivors…. 

For the most part. 

A vampire has been battling zombies for over a century. 

A Native American was the sole survivor in a 500-mile radius.

A samurai’s village was eradicated.

An army of three shares one common hunger… Revenge. 

* * * *

It’s been a challenging year for mom healthwise, but she continues showing resilience, strength, grace, and beauty. So I continue writing and giving my best, because if she can do it with everything she overcomes, I find no reason why I can’t do the same. 

Thank you. Mom.

For love. For inspiration. For encouragement. For support. For life. 

I’ll be with you in a couple of hours to give you a banana hug. 

Peace, love, and Cheers Mama Estrada

Sunday, March 31, 2019

You have more time than you think

If there’s a common complaint nowadays it’s that people insist that they don’t have time for the things that matter to them… but it begs the question, is that true or are we just squandering our time in things with little or no value but that chip away at our time?

Working in advertising, odd workloads are common, meaning that one week you’re chill and then you forget what the sunlight looks like for 2 ½ months. But even so, there’s time to do what matters. 

The first things you have to take a look at might be at what time do you wake up and go to sleep? I ask this because I normally get up between 6:00 AM - 6:30 AM. This gives me at least an hour to do my “me things,” which go from social media, promoting events or my books, or writing. Other activities include contacting people to do blog hops, appear on their podcasts/booktube channels, etc. At night I rarely get many things done, but what I actually do is read books, my notes, plot points, or a to-do list so that while I sleep my imagination is going vroom-vroom-vroom… and yes, you should sleep with a notebook next to your bed.

Secondly, and VERY importantly, what do you do for lunch? For me, I’ve been able to write SO much during lunch hours that you’d be amazed how much of my published work has been written on salsa stained pages and sponsored by the second full meal of the day. You are forced to crunch in time to get at least one or two pages down and if you really get in a stride, you’ll be amazed at what you can do. By the way, I should add that I do most of my writing by longhand, which requires an extra level of editing when I transcribe but it really works for me, so I stick with it. 

And that’s just a couple of examples. I’ve known to go into the bathroom and lock myself in a stall with a notebook. I’ve also known to bolt out running because someone entered an adjacent stall and hadn’t been briefed on the kindness that is encompassed in a courtesy flush… that, plus some people might say that they feel dead inside, but other people smell as if that’s the case. But I digress. 

What I do want to focus on is the fact that I made adjustments and got creative in regards to writing times and capture tools for ideas, notes, or writing in general. I know people who take lunch breaks in their cars. I know people who have voice recognition and use their voice to write while doing house chores. I know people who pick doctor appointments at times that are full to make sure they have time to write. And like this, I’m sure you can come up with several ways to get more time to do what you want to do. 

Some extra tips though: If social media is taking up too much of your time, delete apps for a couple of days to not even have the temptation. If you find yourself progressing levels in smart phone games but not in your projects, delete the apps, hide them, or simply turn off the phone. Be honest with yourself in regards to the time it takes to do things and adjust accordingly. It’s possible. You can do it and I’ve seen a lot of people take all sorts of challenges and persist. You can too and it all starts with you giving yourself the best shot to do the most with the time you have… and finding time where you thought there was none. Hope this helps and hope you write up a storm. 

Peace, love, and maki rolls.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Writer Events: Broadleaf Writers Association - Self-Publishing Seminar (March 16, 2019)

Some things are so obvious that we forget to do them. I’ve lived in Atlanta for almost 3 years and I hadn’t been to writer events in all this time for several reasons including life, work, and mother nature derailing plenty of plans. Still, 2019 is up and running and if you read my assessment of the year, I mentioned the word “Breakthrough” and I’m focused on finally leaving a mark in the ATL and going for it in several new ways, which includes going to these events, meeting new people, and putting myself in a proper position to learn. 

Last Saturday, March 16, Broadleaf Writers hosted a Self-Publishing seminar with the participation of Lynne Hansen, Jeff Strand, Margaret Johnson-Hodge, Bernette Sherman, Bobby Nash, and moderated by Zachary Steele, Executive Director of Broadleaf Writers. Each of these creatives brings a different aspect and perspective to the discussion and I think that was a key to why I think it was such a solid event. 

Lynne has gone from doing any cover design she could get a hold of, to focusing on her genre of choice – horror. Jeff Strand is a hybrid author with over 40 books and a cheeky sense of humor. A peculiar thing to mention is that while many people post wide, he has honed all his efforts to focus on Amazon and KDP, dropping all other channels. Margaret Johnson is not a fan of Amazon, KDP, Createspace, Ingram Spark, or traditional publishing due to past experiences with each, that definitely offers a lot of food for thought. Her approach has been to connect with local printers, buy her own ISBN numbers, and focus 100% on physical books, something I hadn’t witnessed before, but refreshing to see. Bernette Sherman is a multi-genre author, has music out on CD Baby, and goes wide with her distribution. Her take was interesting because her fiction work has been quite uphill but she’s made it work through LOTS of effort… and then her non-fiction work resonates with people so much that with NO promotion, it still sells pretty solidly. To round out the panel, there’s another hybrid author, Bobby Nash, a friendly happy-go-lucky creative who is extremely keen in finding small, mid, and large events where he takes his books and makes it work. His approach was interesting because he had novellas that went out of print, got the rights back and sells them as standalones, compilations, and hard cover compilations.  

What’s curious is that although the crew was diverse, everyone was friendly, talkative, and engaging in their own way, offering honest advice and sharing raw experiences to show people what could happen, good and bad. The event started at 9:30 and went solid until 4:30 with a lunch break in between. Tea, water, and coffee was offered, which was actually a great place to chat it up with people. Funny how water alone doesn’t cut it, but when you add tea or coffee to it, magic.  Also, during the day, all authors participated in all the panels.

In regards to what was covered in the event, I’ll post the sections and my biggest takeaway from each panel. 

1. The Choice to Self-Publish: Why You Should (or shouldn’t)

Self-publishing is not an easy road. It has great things if you’re successful but success is something you have to constantly work at. But if you have the itch, then why not? Main thing to remember is to have a back-up plan because you won’t go from zero to Rowling in one published book. 

2. How Long Will It Take? The Process of Self-Publishing

Every single person will have a different answer to this and you have to be flexible enough to find what works for you. Also, don’t jump the gun. If you think it’s not ready, make sure. One of the authors published and pulled out a fiction work 3 times before they were satisfied with the end result. 

3. Putting It All Together: Editing, Cover Design, Interior Design, and More!

Do not skip the steps. In theory you can do it all… but be honest with yourself in regards to what you can do and what you can’t do. Cutting corners helps no one and the difference between success and failure is often in the details. 

4. Sell More Books: Publicity and Marketing Before and After Publication

If you don’t promote, you will not sell. Set a budget for this, ramp up enthusiasm, and remember that you need to maintain momentum. If you lose it, you pretty much start from zero again. 

5. Something Learned, Something Shared: Self-Publishing Success Tips and Tricks

Allow yourself to make mistakes, be realistic with your goals, and set milestones so you can progress your journey. Also, celebrate the victories, big and small, and use whatever means to stay motivated. 

* * *

Now for an overview. 

From the topics covered, it showed that the seminar was designed to touch on topics for people at all points of their Writer Journey, whether you are just about to make the decision to self-publish or if you’ve already done it and are curious to learn more to see what can apply to your experience. There were about 30 people in the crowd and it allowed for everyone to be able to ask their questions and to get to know each other with whoever you hit it off. 

The price for the event was $75 and I do think it’s a very reasonable price, since a LOT of what they shared could potentially save you a LOT of money. Simply put, people sharing the mistakes they’ve faced and the scams they’ve identified is worth the price of admission. That you get to meet fellow writers, get some valuable information, and later on access to audio files from all the conferences is just a major bonus. Each speaker offered their no-nonsense 100% honest perspective and answered every question they got from the crowd. Another valuable thing was to showcase just how DIFFERENT each of our paths is and that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. That was key throughout the day and I think it was very helpful for people who weren’t sure how to progress or what next steps to take.

The people at Broadleaf are very lovely and I’m sure that if you have any question they’ll be more than happy to answer. They answered all of mine and I had a ton. 

Thanks for reading and if you’d like to learn about my experience with the Atlanta Writing Workshop, click here

Peace, love, and maki rolls.