Friday, December 21, 2007

Blogging versus Writing: Time Wasted or Time Well Spent?

As with anything worth having, there is always a load of work involved and for a writer that usually entails hours and hours of research, proofing and editing apart from the freeform creative flow we so readily enjoy. This is (naturally) time worth investing in our literary careers and time well spent in establishing credibility for ourselves as authors and as time has proven, even bloggers. But in the end some might say this is also time lost doing the one thing we are supposed to be doing: writing. Right?


Okay, I know what you are saying and I have read many other perspectives on the matter and one argument is this: If we are blogging then we are writing. And that is absolutely true. And the other side of the spectrum says: if you spend all your time blogging (like I am doing right now) then you aren’t truly writing at all. Naturally this argument is based on the notion that when an author is writing we are (supposed to be or at least should be) working on new material—a character sketch, an outline, a draft for our next short-story or novel—not talking about what we are supposed to be doing, but doing what we say we do. But this isn't always the case and in my opinion if you find yourself stuck in a rut so to speak with your current project, then why not slay the mental block and press onward by simply veering off course in a manner of changing topics and keep the creative wheels turning until you stumble upon that word or phrase you may have been looking for?

Here is my take on the topic. I think if you are not working on any new material at the moment--short-story, novel, screenplay, etc--then blogging is beneficial in the sense that you are putting your writing skills to practice. One of the hardest habits for a writer to instill within themselves is the practice of writing in some form of routine. I have two friends, both of which have been influential within my very young writing career--Britta Coleman, author of Potter Springs and Candace Havens, author of the Bronwyn the Witch series. Both of these authors are extremely talented and both very adamant about this very topic: "Writers write." That's what they say and that's what I believe.


Being that I (try) to write new material everyday when I am consumed with my latest project, I believe you lose valuable time in developing a story if you dedicate too much time to "talking about writing" or blogging. But yet still, even that concept isn't entirely true. I believe if you share enough about yourself—such as your experiences (with your latest project perhaps) with the blogging community—then you are indeed working to maintain credibility and hopefully a readership by simply identifying with an audience and allowing them to partake on your writing journey as you work to complete your next story. I think you do have to learn to cut back on your time dedicated to journaling/blogging and use that time towards working on your current project whatever that might be. It is easy to get side-tracked and even easier to lose a creative streamline of ideas if you allow yourself to be pulled into too many directions at once, as blogging requires one format for writing and creating a novel an entirely different approach.


But in defense of my journalistic side, my inner-blogger if you will, I say blogging is highly beneficial in the sense that if you maintain a consistent ritual for posting informative and sometimes creative blogs, then you are at the very least writing...and in writing and working to maintain some credibility, you have to implement some of the same literary tactics as you would when creating a new story, like research, editing, proof-reading to name a few examples. Take this article for instance. I read a posting from April of this year entitled, "Blogging is About Writing" written by Lorelle VanFossen. In this particular blog the author details and highlights some thirty points to consider when drafting your next blog and one of them (the one that caught my eye while researching the draft for this particular blog) was: “Blog writing is about editing.” I thought this concept was perfect because like myself, each time I post a blog—and they aren’t nearly as habitual as those more practiced bloggers on the web—I spend an ample amount of time re-reading and reviewing my material before I finally submit for post. Another point to consider is number four on her list: Make Your Point in the First 200 Words. How many times have we read this when reviewing or skimming articles and guidelines posted by editors within publishing houses? If you can’t capture your audience's attention in the first chapter, page or (worse) the first paragraph, you are in a lot of trouble.


This particular blog posted by Lorelle VanFossen is extremely helpful and it proves my argument that unless you are working on a new project, then blogging can become beneficial to your writing career if you utilize some of the same tactics for creating a blog as you might a new story. Coming into your own practice of writing is critical in setting the foundational pieces for becoming (essentially) a writer. Like my friends Candy and Britta say: writers write. You are what you believe you are…and you are because you do it. You may not have your next story on the tip of your tongue (or pen for that matter) but you would be surprised to discover how much more the creative juices will trickle and flow when you put the concept of writing on a daily basis to a test. I currently have five first chapters written, in draft form for what will eventually become my next five novels. Now, it may take me fifty years to finish them or maybe ten, or perhaps even less, but the object of the game is to participate and learn and you cannot learn how to write more effectively unless you practice.


So, do I believe blogging is an effective form of practice for the would-be writer? Yes of course; but I also believe that you should reduce the amount of time you dedicate to articles and how-to’s if you are presently involved with your latest story. Stop every once in a while and share some details and insight into the thought process of what you are doing with your audience and readership. We readers love to know the inside scoop of how an author came to the decisions and conclusions for creating their literary masterpiece. But you must be careful not to get caught in the trap of talking about writing more than you are in actively creating new material. If you have ambitions of becoming a published novelist or career writer, then you're just going to have to silence the world long enough to breathe, medicate, think and eventually write.
Do what you were born to do. Do what you believe you can do. Now is the time to stop talking about doing it and just...do it...


Right? Let me know what you think....


Sincerely,
Bobby Ozuna author of Proud Souls www.BobbyOzunaOnline.com

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Ladder of Success: One Step at a Time

I apologize if this comes across as mass solicitation, but I felt inclined to share some insightful, astounding and yet educational news.

Like many of us, I am a writer and I am passionate about books and all things literary—literally (no pun intended). Like some of you, I have struggled in coming to terms with a decision, one surrounded by mass controversy within the literary realm--and that was the decision to self-publish and promote my own writing or hold out until I landed a deal with a traditional (and larger) book publishing firm.

I wrote about my decision to release my first title under my own imprint earlier in the year in a blog entitled “
To Publish or Not To Publish.”. I felt inclined to share some information about how I was feeling more than what I thought the decision would do to my writing career. Needless to say, since then, I have learned quite a bit and on many-a-night, while working to review blogs, post query letters to fellow writers/reviewers, etc, I can honestly say there are times I wish I held out—at least a few moments more. But in the end, I wouldn’t trade it for anything; isn’t it the thrill of the ride, the sudden drops and breaks and loops that keeps us coming back for more?

Hindsight is 20/20; at least that’s what dad always said. I am sure we would all go back and do (some) things differently if we had the chance. But this isn’t a letter about how I feel after not holding out but rather a reminder to each of us that the pursuit of a dream can be a lifelong chase and we shouldn’t measure our successes by whether or not we become the next great author, well, overnight.

I read an article earlier in the summer in Writer’s Digest about an author who had previously published titles to her credit with a major publishing house but yet couldn’t find success with her present release. (At the time of the article naturally this particular book was published…more on that later). She, being a previously published author, described some of the same feelings as many of us writers who were yet to taste our first moment of bliss with mass publication and a large publishing house. She shared the same frustrations and doubt. I thought that was pretty interesting. Here I was battling with my own decisions, worrying that I might somehow ruin my career as a writer—a career mind you that I may still never fulfill—and here was this traditionally published author struggling to find a house, even her own previous house, to take on her next project.

So…what did she do? Good question.

This artist took it upon herself to study and learn the industry, not from a writer’s perspective, but from the business angle of writing. If you are in the midst of releasing your own titles, then you know that is no easy task. The headaches and sleepless nights and lost feeling of being discovered by the world as some would-be, wanna-be author, posing as a legitimate writer somehow behind blogs and banners and how-to articles, can be harder than the re-write process and even harder still than the day you decided to take up the pen and write your first draft.

Earlier this year I made my decision and my life hasn't been the same since. Like the author mentioned in Writer’s Digest I have created my own imprint--Ozuna Publications, owning full rights to the ISBN, copyright and all things related to my novel, "
Proud Souls." I have worked the past two years to polish, edit (and have edited) my story, along with countless hours of research to essentially learn the other side of the literary business--the business aspect of writing. I have studied marketing books and blogs, collaborated ideas with other writers in person and via the web and I have even taken a grass-roots approach to marketing and publicizing my work. I can say this: If I were one inclined to "rush to the top" with overly zealous ambitions of becoming an overnight success or (or even a) best-selling author, publishing under my own imprint would have been the WRONG decision. But spending the past few days reviewing some “top” notch blog sites and review columns, etc, I have to say I was a bit taken in by this sudden rush of personal accomplishment. In the words of others I could traces of my own footprints in the sand behind me, telling myself that I may not be far down the road but I am indeed moving forward.


The ladder of success in the literary world is a long narrow path in which only a handful may ever testify to what is actually at the top of the steps. But looking back now, let’s say 2 years ago to the summer of 2005 and knowing that I took the pen to the paper in July of that summer and wrote the first 60,000 words of my novel within a three month timeframe. And then looking back further to the summer of 2003 when I wrote the first fourteen pages to a potential short-story that I couldn’t end and looking at myself today, four years (+) after my initial attempt at writing the “great American novel” we all so desperately wish to produce, I am honored to say that I may never reach the top of the stairs, but at least I am high enough to look back and see the first step. And I think it’s something we should all do, so as not to become burdened by our own inabilities and shortcomings but rather toot our own horn and pat our own backs and give praise to our accomplishments because in time, with collaboration, research and a little effort, we are moving our way upwards, one rung at a time.

It hasn’t been easy and everyday is a challenge, a challenge to write a new query, working to doctor a poetic plea of those more professional online bloggers whose reviews and opinions and criticisms have obtained an honest online following, hoping that somehow they might say, who is this writer and what is this story and what about them (this man and his story) are worth my time and feedback? There is the challenge of maintaining a website with (hopefully) some content worth reading. There is the challenge of collaborating ideas and networking with fellow writers, all working and racing one another for the ultimate prize—the title of published or at least noteworthy author.

No, it hasn’t been easy and I would never persuade a fellow artist to consider the path of self-publication unless you could find it within yourself to assume the role of marketer, publicist and agent, not to mention Public Relations coordinator and lastly (and most importantly gopher. I have managed to obtain my own imprint, with all categories and documents and stamps approving my “house” as the official owner of my (only) title, Proud Souls. With sweat and blood and time I have managed to register my novel with Ingram and obtained a Library of Congress Catalog Number and I have landed (at least thus far) one bookstore in the Fort Worth, Texas area willing to carry my title. I have some radio interviews lined up for the spring, a major one being with Linda Bagwell, host of the Books-N-Authors and All That Jazz radio feature, compliments of Weatherford College. There are more and more locations where I have practically shoved my foot in the door, slowing giving way to a window of opportunity, all for five minutes of glory. At times I feel like an actor on a stage play, struggling to see the faces of my critics, knowing if I don’t say the right words in just the right time, it will all be over and someone else will fall in behind me as the cycle of try-and-try again progresses ever onward. I do the blog thing but not as often as many others, but I try when I can to provide some form of inspiration and insight into my methodical process of creating my story, because as you know when you are involved in a project as important and as personal as your own book—there isn’t much else to discuss. We become boring and flat over time and “nerdy” for lack of a better word. Once upon a time I was animated in my willingness to discuss the Dallas Cowboys or pickup trucks and maybe even girls, but today I hoop and holler when someone says the words ISBN or barcode. Yes, the life of a writer is a lonely life indeed. Whatever friends you may acquire, if they don’t pass out with boredom by hearing you talk about the same thing over and over again, you should cling on to them with your Kung-Fu grip and put them on your Christmas list for surely they are a friend indeed.

I have learned a lot and struggled a lot more and I have come to appreciate the finer art of the publishing business and the credit those authors who have “made it” with all manner of credit they deserve. Nothing in this world comes free and you know (even if you we’re touching the topic of money), it isn’t worth having unless you have earned it. Do I want riches? No. I am a family man and during the day I pose as a modern day superhero—the network administrator—infamous and evenly mysterious with my PING’s and packets, the double-click’s and the dual core processors that maintain the very websites that may never publicize my work as a novelist. I am a family man who after cooking dinner and brushing teeth and validating homework assignments and green’s or red’s or yellow stars on the daily folder, stresses and worries that I won’t get to bed in enough time to be worth a darn the next day, knowing that I have to write the article, to tell the world, that I am no longer on the bottom looking up, but rather I am on the ladder, pressing forward one step at a time and with each The End and query letter, blog or newsletter blast I am one step closer to letting the world know that I am a writer—an author—a herald to the characters that are borne within my imagination. I look upon my name and my book on the Amazon.com storefront and say oh yes Bobby Ozuna, you are no longer sitting at the bottom of this literary ladder but indeed on a path towards accomplishing a personal goal. Amazon.com is not the finish line but merely another step towards personal achievements within this harsh and cruel and wonderful literary world.

In time there will be more reviews (from some of you I hope, my colleagues and fellow brothers and sisters at arms with pens and journals and metaphorical poeticism.) I am hoping to hear from you, those who wish to take upon the challenge of rating the would-be writer and his work, “his heart’s blood” as W. Somerset Maugham so eloquently put it. No desire of my own will ever surpass the validation of the true literary critics—you—the reader, the homemaker, the network administrator, who searches and longs for a place of solitude to escape the burdens of diapers and call centers—and relies upon our creativity to take them there.


So say to yourselves my friends and colleagues: I am a writer because that is what I am. It is the essence of my soul and neither prize nor admiration will ever make my story less than what it was the day it came to my imagination and it will never feel better than the day I fought to bring it to life.

I can’t wait to hear what you say….


~Bobby Ozuna

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Proud Souls" Chapter 1

This is the Introductory chapters, the Prelude and Chapter 1, to my debut novel, Proud Souls.
I don't know why, but I can't stand the sound of my own voice, as if reading my own work wasn't hard enough...now I have to read it!

MP3 File

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bobby--Unscripted

Welcome to the official Audio Blog for writer/author, Bobby Ozuna, powered by Hipcast.com

MP3 File

Writing Dialogue: You Play The Part

Last night I was talking to some family and friends about my book, because naturally, when your passion is your art—well quite honestly—there isn’t anything else to talk about. One of the topics of discussion was the concept of dialogue. Primarily, they wanted to know how I created the conversations between characters. Now, for anyone who has attempted to write a scene, you know as well as I, dialogue can be one of the hardest parts of crafting any good story. Oftentimes when we are writing freehand or pounding away at the keyboard, what we interpret as clean, smooth dialogue, actually reads as choppy, blocked and essentially “fake” interpretations of how people actually interact with one another.

I remember years ago while Proud Souls was still in infancy form, running into this same scenario. In my mind I could see my characters interacting and it was as smooth as any scene on television. And to make it worse, after re-reading it (within MS Word), it still seemed to flow magically. Later, like I always do, I printed out my draft and later at night, when everyone would fall to sleep, I would read it aloud, again and again and the more I read the worst it sounded. I had fallen victim to the ever-present trap of formulating dialogue based on the concepts of good grammar and proper English. Needless to say I was stumped for lack of a better word and discouraged—more so than I already was. I stepped away from the scenes for a moment, continually taking mental notes however, preserving them within my mind for a later date.

One Sunday however I got my break. I have happened to become a fan of a show called Inside the Actor’s Studio, hosted by one James Lipton. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend it. In an audience of Master’s Degree students, Mr. Lipton sits in a one-on-one session (so to speak) with many of the great actors of our generation. The environment is relaxed, allowing the guests to smoke a cigarette, have a glass of water, sit on a nice comfortable chair or by the end of the show, have a seat at the end of the stage, where they become readily accessible to the vast array of students and their inquiries. Knowing my passion is for writing and not acting (though I have been told to be something of a character myself) I realized something within the concepts detailed by many of the actors being interviewed. When on the subject of character development, and how so many great actors seem to take on the role of an entirely different person, insomuch that we believe wholeheartedly that they are indeed that person being portrayed on screen, many of the actors had a common approach to formulating and in essence taking on these roles. The answer was simple and I understood what I was missing within my writing.

When these actors are accepting their roles, based entirely on the producer/director’s concepts and visions and later a screenplay, many of the better actors shared how they immediately took on the role of their character, more importantly off the screen. The common consensus between these professionals was this: If they were to truly portray another human being, they would have to become that person for a moment in their lives, to see the reactions of the world around them and better understand their points-of-view and their prejudices, interests, likes and dislikes. And when they did this, they in turn, became that person they were asked to portray from the moment they accepted the role, thereby creating absolutely real fictitious characters.

And that was it! I understood then what I was missing in my own dialogue. If I was to create realistic scenes within my own fiction, I had to—in essence—become the characters themselves. Like these actors on the show, I accepted my role within the various characters of my story. And like an actor, I found a quiet room within my home, took my script or draft in my hand and with a pen, I began making corrections like a screenplay writer or director in a film and acted the scenes as they would appear on a stage. For instance, when the story opens with our hero Justin, sipping his whiskey on his porch swing, watching the darkness envelope his cabin, that was me. I waited for the sun to go down and I sat in a chair in the back of my home and I remained still and quiet, until all that encompassed me was darkness and solitude. In the scenes where Justin is interacting with Tessa Jameson, or with Reverend Polk or Ralph Parison, I took turns playing each part, studying the movements of my own body and natural idiosyncrasies while I spoke and relayed their dialogue. When I did this, I found a multitude of mistakes in my dialogue, much less artificial movements within my characters that indeed made my dialogue “fake.”

Take this example from Proud Souls. Without spoiling anything from the story, here is a scene where our protagonist Justin has his confrontation with the town pastor, Reverend Hillard Ray Polk. What I tried to capture within these few simple lines was not only voice (dialogue), but movement and internal thought process.

“You came here tonight for a reason son. I just want you to talk to me,” Polk said, searching for Justin’s face with his eyes. “Just talk. That’s all.”

In that example, Reverend Polk is addressing Justin in words easily interpreted as how one might talk. But if you notice, with the simple phrase “searching for Justin’s face with his eyes” it is easy for the reader to envision Reverend Polk possibly bending forward or moving his head side-to-side while he searches to make eye contact with Justin.
In continuing with this scene…

“I don’t know what to say,” Justin said. “Or where to start. I have so much anger running through my mind right now that I don’t know where to begin. I feel like I can’t see straight anymore.” He [Justin] ran his fingers through his long greasy hair and then scratched at his beard. “I don’t want to do it anymore.” I’m tired.

In this particular example we can [see] the character running his hands through his hair and then scratching his beard while he explains his feelings for the present situation. This particular passage ends with Justin thinking or saying to himself “I’m tired” allowing the audience to get inside his mental state to better understand the words he was [trying] to convey, being more than a simple I quit attitude, but actually an I give up state-of-mind.
And this state-of-mind is reiterated in a follow-up scene when Justin reaches a point where he wants to convey a message of potential suicide without ever saying the words And this was setup by the internal thoughts, movements and dialogue from previous scenes. Justin stood to continue his plea, waving his arms and hands in a manner of exclaiming his point. “They are dead! You understand that? I had a wife and a son and they are dead. Do you hear what the hell I am saying? They are dead and they left me alone here in this God forsaken world, to rot away, alone in some dirty cabin!”

Now I may never become a master artist at creating dialogue, but I do believe I have grasped a concept that is easily understood and can easily be applied by anyone wanting to add more depth to their interactive scenes. Besides that, when you are in the middle of a tough scene, working to find the right words to get over a particular hump, taking a moment to act out the scenes of your own story is one heck of a way to lessen the stress and quite simply laugh…
I’d love to hear what you think.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"All I could say was...Wow!"

Today I was met with some incredible news. You know that feeling you get, when you’re almost positive something is about to happen in your life, but you are not absolutely sure what it is? You know that feeling you get when you can’t quite tell whether that nervous anxiety is related to something bad—as may be the case if you are one accustomed to more negative news than positive—and then caught debating with that other part of you that wants to believe it’s something great? Well, that is exactly how I felt today and I am pleased to announce the outcome (this time) was a tad bit on the brighter side. And I say that with a smile.

I knew my Amazon.com release date was coming and I just posted a newsletter to my friends and family telling them how anxious I was to know that day was within sight. But I had no idea—when I logged into Amazon.com this morning—that in doing a random search of literary fiction, there, to my amazement was my story—my novel—my passion on paper and my first thought (and first thing and only thing I said) was WOW!

I cannot begin to explain the range of emotions I felt after seeing my novel on the Amazon.com storefront. Now understand, Amazon.com isn’t the end-all finish line for would-be writers, but if you consider the ladder to success, and the numerous steps an author must make when they are trying to first find their niche and secondly, make a name for themselves in a market bombarded with roadblocks and setbacks and the all-too-common question: Are you a real writer or a self-published author? Getting a face on Amazon.com and being able to sustain a presence, is quite a feat.

I am anxious to see how my book will fare with the names of those literary greats and breakthrough authors, those more traditionally published. I know I am only dreaming when I say, I hope my book is a success. I keep my feet planted firmly on the ground, though I have childlike tendencies to let my imagination run free and dream, as if somehow, someday, my work, my writings, my stories, the essence of my very soul, might become a voice many readers long to hear. Step one in the publishing industry is to produce something worthy of being published and there are many aspects that must be conquered prior to getting to the second phase and for me that step is getting to a point, where I can compete and market my own talents in the one place anyone in the world might stumble across my name and my stories: Amazon.com.

This next phase will be tiresome no doubt and I am sure (with as much time and effort as I have put into learning the literary industry) one that could break an author as quickly as the re-write stages of manuscript editing. I have no doubts however, that I will take these next steps with confidence knowing first hand that of the few books I have sold, my feedback has been positive and the few readers who have dared to give “Proud Souls” a chance have not been disappointed. I have received many compliments to my debut novel and some pretty impressive reviews—not by the corporate giants who bear the signatures of literary grandness—but from the people who write the only reviews that should matter to a writer: the readers.

Yes, there will be as many challenges up ahead as were getting to this stage, but I take them with a grain-of-salt and I welcome the would-be critic. I am sure I will hear things that will make my very soul cringe with grief, but at the same time, I am honored to say, I chose to walk within the water and drink from the cup instead of staring from the shores and asking what it felt like to taste the quenching of man’s thirst. I look forward to your responses and I welcome them with an open mind, as I know, writing is not like a sport or even aspects of education, where you can master particular concepts and skills and become crowned “all knowing” or “the best” within the game, but instead it is a craft that takes time to harness much less develop, and the most important step is to abandon all fears of criticism and imagine yourself a herald in a more uncivilized age, captivating the minds of an audience, who aren’t there to determine whether you end a sentence with a preposition, but instead to see if you can challenge their minds and teach them something new or perhaps introduce them to far off worlds they will never see or empathize with an aspect of humanity they never dared to consider.

Before I go to sleep this night I will take one more look at my art as it is proudly displayed within the Amazon.com storefront and instead of saying, it isn’t this or isn’t that or hasn’t done this or won’t be considered for that…I will simply say again: Wow!

Bobby Ozuna author of “Proud Soulswww.BobbyOzunaOnline.com

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Oh, if I had but one night"

I often ask myself, if I could sit down in one evening, and disregard my own parental duties and even those of the more responsible post "cavemen era" beings---you know, the little things like shaving, brushing my teeth or even bathing--could I sit down within total silence and pour my soul onto an empty literary canvas and create in one sitting, in one night, a completed masterpiece? Well, exclude the word masterpiece if you must, but the question remains the same. Could I honestly sit down in one night and lasso those floating figments of my imagination, the ones that have me answering my own questions in line at the grocery store while I ponder over magazines to give the impression that I am busy reading some tabloid headline and create a single, raw, completed work of art?

This is a seemingly important question to me, as a writer, as daily, sometimes minute-by-minute my mind is racing in a thousand directions almost at once. I see visions of my next work, my next great story and then bits and pieces of the broken puzzle that will one day become my next story. And on top of those images, are the images of other images on top of those, which are nothing more than broken sentences, fragmented words or phrases that probably won't ever amount to anything more than a grocery list or email I was supposed to write last week. But either way, they are there, and any good writer--real writer that is--not someone who waits for the literary gods to place the stamp “oficionado” on their desk that thereby from this moment forward allows it to be known that they are indeed a writer, but those who pick up the pen on a daily basis and wrestle the demons within their mind to create words and then sentences and lastly stories. I mean those writers.

See, I start writing one thing and it leads to another and I totally forget what I was arguing about in the first place. But back to purpose of the title henceforth called from this day, in the year of our Lord 2007, "Oh, if I had but one night." Yes, if I had but one night to sit down and disregard life and the world around me, the very life that burdens our existence and makes it hard to get out of bed each morning and in that moment did nothing more than sip my ice-cold tea, minus the ice, and write my next story in full. Could I do it? Could anyone do it?
I have written short-stories in a matter of days, but they don’t count. Short-stories are a beautiful part of literature and essential learning keys and moral templates for sharing the lessons of life or chariots by which authors take readers on journeys to unknown realms or chambers within the halls of the mind. But the novel, that dangerous and self-absorbing demon, is a beast entirely to itself. I know they are in they, you know they exist and they haunt our minds and they torment our sleep. Novels.

So, I remain still in bed, hours after everyone has fallen to sleep and I sweat and fidget in bed, knowing an entire story is ready to be written, it is there on the tip of my tongue—but I am scared, afraid, worried that once I start, I will become nothing but a lunatic, strapped to my own desk, wearing my pencil down to the nub as I slay that literary beast and bring it forth to life. But its impossible. I can’t do it. It wouldn’t be worth it anyhow. The beast has a cousin—the re-write. Curse the editorial process!

Come on, what do you say? Would it be worth creating a completed novel in one night, or is the joy we receive from finishing our novel no different than the euphoria a smoker gets taking a drag of a long prepared cigarette break? I don't have the slightest clue. So until then, I write....one word....one phrase.....one chapter at a time...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Cowboy critics...you need not say anymore..."

This article was written in response to the Cowboys defeat of the defending NFC Champion Bears on Sunday the 23rd of September.

read more | digg story

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"The Other Side of Glory"

Dear friends, family & fans:
After careful consideration and many restless nights, I have selected the story which will become the follow-up novel to "
Proud Souls." It is a story I have attempted to write on several occasions in the past; it is a story that comes with great pains as the depths of each character weigh heavily on me and as I have experienced each of the four times previously, oftentimes too much to continue and complete.

Backdrop:
"The Other Side of Glory" is my tribute to the men I served with during my time in the Marine Corps. It's an honorary (and fictitious) salute to those who have lost a part of themselves in the foul stench of reality known as military politics. It will be a written memorial for those hard-chargin' tried and true Marines who know what it means to "eat crow", those who suffered the fate of a lifelong dream to become a "lifer" and saw it pass before them with the drying of the ink on their first "Page 11." It will not be a story for the faint of heart. It will be controversial. It will be sad. It will be trying and heavy on the soul at times and during other moments, uplifting and high-spirited. It will incorporate several facets that comprise the emotions and reality of being away from home, serving your country in a peace-time environment. This will be no war-time story. There will be no chapters of bravery where men charge a hill to advance a forward area. It will constitute the basic human condition as relayed by the souls of those men (and their women) who have pleaded with me for many years, in expectance of seeing this story brought to life. You will find friendship...you will find hate. You will witness adultery...you will witness love. You will remember what it means to support a friend....and you will despise the moments you have turned away from those you proclaimed to have loved. "The Other Side of Glory" is fiction and as I have mentioned before, this will be my fifth attempt in nearly a decade at creating this story.
I do hope you enjoy it....and I look forward to introducing you to the souls of my past. Stay tuned to read about the developments of the characters, the plot and emotion which will become, “The Other Side of Glory.”

The Call:
I am calling all artists! Ozuna Publications will host a contest for the best cover-concept design for this next novel. So, if you know someone who (preferably) paints, send them my way. Below I have summarized a sense of emotion I am hoping to capture within the cover to this next book. Think about it...become it...sleep on it (if you can) and draw my picture. I will host and post this contest any and everwhere I can on the Internet. I will hold no prejudice...I don't care if you are the next DaVinci or the kid in the corner everyone doubts, I want your art. The winner receive a complimentary copy of the finished novel, a t-shirt depicting their artwork and a small monetary prize.

If you're looking for that break, a place to showcase your work...this may be the contest for you!!!

Stay Tuned For Further Details!


The Vision for the Cover:
I am looking for a cover that portrays the duality of the human condition and understanding that each facet of our world has a complete opposite. We have light; therefore, there is the darkness. When there is death, we also witness a birth and newness of life. This story will take place in a military setting, during peace-time. The five major themes to this story will be an introductory section which introduces the reader to the characters and who they are. A second section of the book will establish their daily routine and lives within a Marine Corps setting. The third will cover one of the most controversial and powerful aspects of military life—women. The fourth section of the book will cover concepts of loss and hatred when battled against the willingness to do what is right, in a world where kindness is trampled by the wiling to dominate. The last and most significant section of this book will bring the story to a close and somewhere, hopefully, a peace to the hearts and restlessness which stirs the lion every Marine must battle within his/her mind at night, when the entire world is asleep and hopeful to the concept of peace.

Sincerely,

Bobby Ozuna
Texas Writer/Author
“Drawing Stories…With Words”
www.BobbyOzunaOnline.com


Monday, August 6, 2007

Creating "real" fictitious characters: Part I

Creating "REAL" fictitious characters, Part I: "Identifying With The Audience

Since releasing "Proud Souls" I have been asked many questions relating to my ability to create fictitious characters which appear very "real" and "life-like." As ironic as that might sound, I felt inclined to share a few tidbits of information and methodical rituals I partake in to create my characters.

When creating a new story, I never delve into the task "blindly." That is to say, I always have a general idea of how the story might turn out, but unlike many writers, I'm unclear as to how the story might end. I feel this is important considering we as artists should never limit our creativity. Let's take my story, "Proud Souls" as an example. I began writing the story and originally titled it "the Cabin" and I wrote the initial pages on a trip home from Seymour--the setting to my novel. I wrote approximately 14 pages and 90% of those pages were setting, with no character created. I had idea at the time of the draft if the hero of the story would be male or female and I wrote the setting and drew the initial opening to the story with a clear point-of-view. I did this because I didn't want to limit the story to a particular targeted audience. For instance, most romance writer's write from a female perspective, for females. This is not to say a male could not appreciate the emotion and storyline anymore or less than a woman could, but generally speaking, the greater customer base for romance novels is female.So, when the time came to begin compiling a draft for my story, I had to consider the audience and the make-up of the story, as a male character would have different emotional aspects associated with him as would a female. Now, I did write a female, who played a serious role in the life cycle of my protagonist Justin. Her name was Tessa Jameson. I will use Justin Olerude Bower as my example in this lesson however.

Step1: Identifying With the Audience

The first and most important aspect of drawing (as I like to say) or creating real characters would be creating characters the audience can identify with. I write character driven stories, not plot-based, therefore it was imperative that I create true human form on paper, and almost immediately, if I wanted to keep my audience interested and turning pages. I knew right away I would have to draw on basic human emotions that anyone could identify with, if I was to keep the potential reader interested—and I had to do this right away. Now, for those who have read my story (and I promise not to give too much away), you will notice I put lots and lots of emotions within the first opening chapters, which not only helped establish Justin as a character, but these emotions also helped lay the foundations for the theme to my story. "Proud Souls" is a story of loss and in order for me to establish a change within the character, one that will allow him to grow, I had to first draw the character at one spectrum of the character scale, in order for you to see growth and change later, which in turn helps push the story forward.

When I create characters I focus on emotions that are common to most readers. I have often said, a good fiction writer is one that has tasted the water from the well. You can't write about love, until you have had the courage to love someone more than yourself. You can't write about loss, until you have suffered and you can't appreciate victory, unless you yourself—the author and creator of the story—are daring enough to take up the call and challenges of life. Now, does this mean we should write stories that are targeted to particular audiences? Some experts will say yes, but I say no. To do this means you are restricting your own abilities. The stories I write, are the stories that have come to my heart and mind. But, a key element in any good story, again, is emotion. For instance, we (generally speaking) can all relate to love. In some way or another, even the strongest and boldest of men and women have loved someone or something in their life. So, to draw a character that is passionate about someone or something is easily relatable and the art or trick is to create vivid emotion on paper (that is another lesson). We have all experienced love or hate, sickness and health, financial accomplishment and debt. When I begin creating my characters I make sure to touch the senses, those of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. For instance, let's say you have a character that is standing on the porch, overlooking some passing cars and watching the rain.

You could easily say, "He was standing on the porch when the rain began to fall, nodding hello to the passing cars. That is simple and easily understood, but another approach might be one that captivates and entices more than one sense—more than just sight. Let's say we tried the same approach but this time wrote instead:

"He was standing on the porch when the rain began to fall, waving at the passing cars. As the storm moved in he closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, appreciating the cleanliness that comes with an evening rain. He smiled, feeling the first drops spray against his forehead."

In that example, we touched on sight (seeing the storm coming & passing cars), smell (cleanliness of the rain) and touch (drops against his forehead). Now, what I see for a character at this point in the story may be completely different from the next reader, but the commonality will be the senses, as we all can remember the feeling of raindrops on our forehead—for some this might remind them of a bad day when they were caught in a storm and for others a childhood memory when they played in the weather as kids. Either way, you have begun to draw on common emotion, and this my friends, is what readers relate to when getting to know a character.

For my part and "Proud Souls", Justin as did Tessa Jameson, both shared numerous emotions common to us all. Justin is a bitter man, with a hardened heart and he seems to wear the memory of the loss of his family around his neck like a heavy chain. Tessa is sensual and in tune with her more sexual side, something many people might relate to. Some of my readers won't identify with Justin, as they themselves have never lost a family member, much less a spouse or child, but they have known moments where life seemed hopeless and all remained loss, and if they substitute Justin's situation for their own, they will soon find the emotions that come with loss are similar, just weighed and measured on a different scale.

Practice this with your characters-in-progress. Review the scenes or opening chapters and ask yourself, despite the individuality of my character, what emotions does he/she have which can relate to my audience? Remember, you don't want to isolate yourself to any particular group of readers, especially if you write fiction. I myself love fiction of all sorts and when I hunt for the next great read, I try to taste water from the various wells along the bookshelf, not remain isolated to one row. You should always keep an open mind and consider not only yourself and your immediate target audience, but the followers of your genre in general. What emotions do we all have in common? What characteristics are common amongst the various nationalities and groups or sects? Try it… I think you will be surprised how much more "real" your fictitious characters become.

~Bobby Ozuna www.BobbyOzunaOnline.com

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"Project PS" Part I: The Summer of 2003

This Blog is the first part in a series of blog’s, which I have entitled “Project PS” or Project Proud Souls. I felt inclined to share the actual process of creating a novel, from initial thought, to draft, to completed manuscript and in doing so, I hoped it might help encourage others who too have wrestled with the idea and notion of writing a book. This is the story of the idea that became the thought, which became the dream and became the novel, “Proud Souls.”

Part I: In the Summer of 2003



As I have explained before, the stories I create are formed out of the creativity within my mind--either from a dream, a thought, a whisper or an actual moment I have experienced--and from those instances have stemmed the foundational pieces that have become many of my stories. There was a moment in my life I actually thought I was crazy, tormented by the sounds and voices within my own mind, the images within my own head. It took many years and lots of praying to understand and appreciate those things I felt were haunting or plaguing my existence were actually instead, the silent sounds of my own soul. It was whispers of my own creative mind which manifest into something real, expanding and growing until I reached a point where I worked to understand the essence of my own soul. Whether I would ever become a "best selling" author was now irrelevant for me. My greatest challenge would be learning how to understand and utilize this gift, dream, passion and pain, which has become my creative art form.

Now for "Proud Souls", this particular story began in the summer of 2003. It was a chance trip to a small city called Seymour, off Highway 199 westbound towards the Texas panhandle where I wrote the opening chapter to what has now become my debut novel. A very close and personal friend of mine and brother within the Marine Corps--Ralph Ponce of Abernathy, TX--and his family own a small cabin just off Lake Kemp in Seymour. He asked me to visit with him one weekend that summer and I accepted the invite. I took my wife Michele and two of my children and he took his and we spent that entire weekend fishing, drinking, talking, laughing and sleeping out under the stars. Oh and naturally, we watched the Cowboys play that Sunday afternoon. Missing that game or any Cowboy game for that matter would have really been "roughin' it." It was as primitive as it was peaceful. But something more significant happened during that trip, or actually on the way home.

When it was time to say good-bye and leave, I fell silent. I have always had the tendency to become overly quiet and distant when saying good-bye. I suppose that has to do with the fact that I have had SO MUCH practice over the course of my life, saying good-bye to friends and family when I left for bootcamp in San Diego and then saying good-bye each time I came home to visit. I have had to say good-bye to my oldest son Lazaro, each time we have been fortunate to see one another and I have had to say good-bye (for the moment) to my children, when my wife and I separated and then divorced. I had to tell my brothers good-bye within the Corps and I have said good-bye to loved ones and friends who have passed away. It was on the return home from the cabin that I wrote the initial pages to what would become my first novel, "Proud Souls." I remember being quiet and attentive to my surroundings and working hard to draw this mental picture of the events of my weekend, under the stars, with a fishing pole and then with a drink, as if somehow the moments between then and again when I would see my friend next, wouldn’t tarry if I could somehow memorize the moment.

I remember the solitude of the moment, the quietness of the world surrounding the cabin and I remember spending the entire trip home, some 2.5 hours back to Ft. Worth, visualizing the scene that would become the opening chapters for my novel. When we finally returned home I wrote the first 14 pages to ths story and when I was done, I put a title on it: “The Cabin.” I wasn’t sure what I was writing, only that I was indeed, writing. I opened the story with a faceless character, not even sure at the time if that person was male or female, and since I wasn’t sure what the story would be about at the time, I personified the cabin, making “it” as real as the human who would one day occupy its setting. I drew this amazing mental picture, with fine detail, describing every aspect of what I just experienced just days before. When I reached the stopping point, which is essentially the end of Chapter 1, I put it down and wouldn’t touch the story again for 2 full years.


to be continued...

~Bobby Ozuna
www.BobbyOzunaOnline.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Proud Souls"--July 11th, 2007

Every Book Deserves A Cover (Artist)


In the early part of 2007 I was very fortunate to have found the cover art and artist for this project, "Proud Souls." I knew what I wanted for a cover concept but finding the right image and then yet still, finding something unique was proving early to be a daunting task. I envisioned an image of a tree, but not just any tree on the front cover. I chose a tree for various reasons, the first being the more obvious to those with a keen eye for what my English teacher, Mr. Kenneth Polito of North Side High would say, symbolism. Trees have always played a seemingly important role within the mythological history of a vast majority of the world's cultures. They most commonly signify life and death, which is a major theme within "Proud Souls." Christians know the story of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life; the ancient epic story of Gilgamesh tells the tale of his search for the symbolic tree of life. In Norse mythology, the sacred tree Yggdrasil was said to run from the north pole of the earth to the south, whereby each end of the tree (ends) represented either Life or Death. And with such symnbolism I wanted not only a tree which juxtaposed my antogonist--Justin Olerude Bower--but the look and feel which paralleled the essence of his character throughout the opening to the journey within "Proud Souls."



Enter my new friend, Maria Sanchez of SandiaFria.com:


During my search and with the help of my very close and personal friend, Jeff Sneed, we spanned the Internet for hours, working to find the right image, not just one that represented the vision I had within my mind, but one that was unique and would truly represent "Proud Souls" in the fashion I felt the story deserved. Jeff being a digital guru, even went as far as to create a digital image based on my vision for the cover. But in the end I ran across a tree painted by an artist based out of California--Maria Sanchez. I wrote her a brief yet descriptive letter, telling her about my project and my vision and she cordially obliged my request, authorizing me the right to use one of her arbol series paintings as the possible cover to PS. But like any good computer geek--Jeff and I--went to work and essentially, for lack of a better term, destroyed her art and tried to make it our own. We altered the colors the imagery, etc. and in the end, I could sense in Maria displeasure.




I thought about that moment for a while and I tried to put myself in Maria's shoes--the artists' shoes--and although I am not a painter, I am an artist nonetheless. I knew how I might feel if someone asked for permission to use my work, perhaps an excerpt of my novel and then alter it to fit their needs. I did apologize to Maria and I called her and explained the vision for the cover. I sent her a complimentary copy of the first 3 chapters to "Proud Souls" and as if it were yesterday, I remember Maria's response.




She told me she was in love with my writing and had a vision herself for the cover. On a Wednesday night she emailed me and told me she was working on a new painting, just for the book and a couple of days later it was done. The "Proud Souls Tree" is what she called it....and it was perfect.




~Bobby Ozuna
"Drawing Stories...With Words"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Proud Souls"--July 10th, 2007

Never Judge A Book...

The most interesting aspect of being a self-published writer comes with dealing with all the headaches of the business aspect of writing. See, being a writer is hard enough. First you have this great and wonderful idea for a story and naturally being optimistic and creative you are almost certain EVERYONE will love the story. You begin writing the draft, and for me this means writing roughly 90% of the story on paper. As I have mentioned before, I write on paper to allow the free-form creativity to flow without hinderance of spell or grammar check within a word processing application. Once this initial draft is completed I begin the painstaking process of transferring the story to typed text. From there comes the meticulous order of correcting punctuation, grammar, sentence flow, etc. Next comes the re-reads and then the re-reads and if you weren't sure when the re-read process begins, this is it! Naturally, anyone can write a story, as we all have the means to share or create a tale that will easily be identified with most people. But the trick to creative and drafting a well written story isn't always knowing when to use a comma and/or semicolon. There is a fundamental process of storyflow that can only be learned in time, by reading other "quality" stories and studying the art of crafting a well-rounded story. Now please, don't get me wrong. I would NEVER say there is a set rule for creating a story because to take that approach would kill the ideal that writing is indeed an artform. But I will say, ask any painter and they might agree with the following statement. Anyone can put paint on a canvas but not anyone can paint a picture. There are minute details critical to the artistic process, such as shadow, perspective and texture. These techniques can only be learned in time with hours of stressful and yet satisfying practice. The same applies true to writing.

Now, where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember, the never judge a book concept. Now with all this said, I can say I have worked as hard I could, with the tools and abilities I had at my expense to create the best FIRST novel I could produce, not only for myself--because an artist and professional owes it to themselves to be as true and honest and as capable as possible--but for those who would ever invest time or money with my story, "Proud Souls." And this is my official Bobby Ozuna stance on the content within "Proud Souls."
I DO NOT WRITE SMUT. I write literature.

Okay Bobby, are you saying, a novelist who writes erotica is not producing literature? No way, I would never say that. There is a difference between raw, pornographic (storytelling) and erotic literature. Remember at the very basis of writing all novelist are still nothing more than story-tellers. We are entertainers of the written page who try (as hard as we can) to allow our reading audience to partake on a written journey somewhere other than their common, everyday world. And as novelist we are responsible to produce the best possible story we can. An author who writes erotica works no less hard at producing realistic characters and realistic emotion as would someone who writes within my classification--literary fiction (no genre). And with this said, you have to understand that each writer is responsible for locating and targeting their market readers, agents, publishing houses, etc. Now for me, as an independent publisher, this means locating the right partners to work as distribution means and the right printing partners to produce the best (possible) book for our reading audience. I thought I found that....but recently that has changed....

For the sake of ethical business, I won't drop names, but I will say this. Recently, my printer (partner) has bailed on me and more so, on "Proud Souls." We had a verbal agreement to do business together. We, Ozuna Publications created the novel and the cover content and they were hired to produce the actual completed product. Well, for reasons beyond my understanding they have decided to "wash their hands of Proud Souls and its author" to quote them. Apparently their business owner (says he) read "Proud Souls" and after doing so, decided to drop me and my book. Now I appreciate their honesty and their right to defend their own business and ethical beliefs, as they were a "christian company", but they are also a business with NO disclaimer or customer/partner survey or documentation to say they will bind/print books ONLY if they are written to edify or glorify the kingdom of heaven. This wasn't clarified up front and because of that, I found myself in a position of having to look elsewhere and hurriedly find another business partner. Now, as a publisher, I know I shouldn't necessarily offer this information because as a good friend of mine once said, what happens between vendors is NOT the customers problem. But as a writer I felt obliged to share this burden because my goal within my blogs were to offer advice, helpful tidbits of information, etc, to you the audience.

Do not fret however, "Proud Souls" is available for purchase because we did get our first run completed. I can't say how it will affect you as the reader, whether it will upset you because of your own pre-determined expectations or shock you because it has a bad word here and there. What I can say is this, it has stirred its own controversy without my help. It has made people cry, laugh, even aroused a reader or two. So, before you are quick to say I wont read it, remember the old saying, "never judge a book by its cover." Or for that matter, don't judge the author by the content... remember we are merely story-tellers and nothing more.

Sincerely,

Bobby Ozuna
"Drawing Stories...With Words"
www.BobbyOzunaOnline.com

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"So Much To Say"

“So much to say”

It has been a while since I have posted a blog and I have already fallen short with one of my personal goals for this year—to post a blog at least once a week. So, for those of you who have been avid readers of my weekly gibberish, I do apologize.

So, now where do I begin? So much has transpired since I wrote last and I have so much to say, I honestly, don’t know where to begin. Hmmm. Okay, I got it! How about I start out going backwards since the better news is the more recent?

Well, for starters I landed my first contract with a “brick & mortar” bookstore, as they say in the literary world. I met with Peggy Turner of “Connections Bookstore” in Ft. Worth and after a 30~45 minute meeting we agreed to “do business” together. Peggy has agreed to stock and order a small (baby-steps small) quantity of “Proud Souls” under the stipulation that should we sell them, we can order/distribute more. It was an amazing feeling to shake hands, sit down in a comfortable relaxed environment (I mean, come on now…we were in a bookstore) to discuss the business aspect of publishing that up until now I had only read about. I consider myself very fortunate and very lucky to have met Peggy. I allowed her to take control of the meeting and let her dictate the questions—and she had many of them—questions about my publishing company, my legitimacy, the distribution means and some questions about the book and more questions about me.

Now, I noticed in Peggy something I have begun to see in my readers (even those who are yet to actually read “Proud Souls”). She wanted to hear enough about the story, to feel as though it deserved to be read, but cared to know more about the man behind the story—me! Her final words to me before that meeting concluded were this. “I like you…I’ll buy from you.”

The best way I could possibly describe this emotion—amazing! Purely amazing! This entire process has been both overwhelming and rewarding. I have gone from secrecy (with regards to my passion for writing) to full exposure. I have taken the concept of a story, a daydream and a thought, and in (almost) exactly two-years later I have produced—what I consider to be—a pretty darn good story. I am honored that “Proud Souls” has earned the respect it has thus far from those few people who have read it. It seems with every reader of this story, is a fire within them to share the story with someone else. I have been held at such high regard—not personally, but professionally—because of this story. People EXPECT the story to do well. They expect me to try harder than they might push themselves, not for my glory and honor, but for Justin and Tessa…for Ralph Winslow Parison and Reverend Hillard Ray Polk. After all, as much as this novel was my story, my baby and a part of my own soul, it has taken on a life of its own and become their story—all of them—each of the characters produced within the imagination of my mind.

You will find that “Proud Souls” can touch almost anyone, as this story touches on the senses that are common to us all. There is bitterness in my hero, Justin Olerude Bower, borne from the loss of his wife and son. There is arousal, spewing from Tessa Jameson, as she touches and caresses and watches her own self within the soft lit lighting of her restroom mirrors. There is regret in Ralph Winslow Parison and it is hardened with each sip of his whiskey and shooed away with the church house pamphlets from Sunday morning worship services. And there is reason within Reverend Hilliard Ray Polk. Remember, its just a story, one that I created between various moments within my life. I am honored to see it on a bookstore shelf and thankful to those who have purchased and will, not so much out of the kindness of their heart, but in their faith in me.
Sincerely,

~Bobby Ozuna
“Drawing Stories…With Words”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Okay people, here I am, working diligently to set the initial foundations for the “Open Doors” project…all for the students…the youth…the future leaders, mothers and fathers of our community and in the background I am thinking of my son, Dominic. For those who don’t know him, Dominic is my clone—Mini Me—and he loves his father almost as much as I love him. And today was a special day for him. Why? All weekend long my son relayed the information that was presented in his (Kindergarten) class: Today was the Awards Ceremony and with this moment marks the passing of my son to the ever so tough, First Grade!

Now I understand and appreciate an elementary school graduation ceremony such as this doesn’t mean as much to adults because over time we lose interest, not because we became less humane, but more so because Life has a way of interfering and “getting in the way.” But try to image yourself 6 years-old again, sitting in an auditorium filled with your friends and classmates and family members and people you don’t know. Now picture the stage. Remember how big it was? Can you see it?Remember how exciting and terrifying it was to be called across that mass theatrical juncture, thousands, maybe millions of people watching you walk towards the principal with your best clothes on and hair that never stayed together as well as it had in the morning before you left for school? Remember what that felt like?Remember how good it felt to receive an award you could hardly read, except for possibly your own name in bold letters? Remember what it felt like to present that small token of your accomplishments to your parents? Of course you do. You remember because it was real and it was yours and for one small moment the world watched and sat silent as you walked across a stage.Remember that?Remember that feeling?Remember how good it felt to be included?

Now imagine yourself a 6 year-old child again, sitting amidst those same friends and classmates, curious and inquisitive, wondering what grand scheme the school may have concocted to honor those students who have obtained the essential knowledge to call themselves First Graders. See yourself there? You are sitting with all your friends and one by one each member of your class is called. They are smiling and they are waiving and one of them may trip and fall and the other is nervously biting their lip or fingernails, holding their head down so as not to be seen. You remember that moment. Now picture the ceremony coming to an end and as you realize this, you notice each of your friends has a paper in their hand, some special document written especially for them, possibly argued and debated by some special committee of scholars over the course of many days, writing and determining the right words to present as gifts of academic achievement. Then, as each student is called, one by one they file out of the row, their names shouted through the school intercom and microphone system and between each is a thunderous applause from bystanders and other would be scholars and spectators, for this is truly a grand event. But something happens then, an odd feeling overtakes you and you become somewhat uncomfortable. Out of place. It is then you realize and taste your first sip of bitter water from the well of life and understand that you have been overlooked, your name had not been called and no academic paper shall be passed into your tiny hands. You have ceased to exist as part of the grand scheme of honored scholars and academic achievers and instead you have slowly faded away until your face mingled in with the crowd and you became nothing more than audience.You have been excluded. You have been ignored. You receive no reward; no ten cent photocopy shall be presented to you, letting the world know that someone is proud of you. Nope…you receive nothing. You have to face the look of your friends and the questions you don’t wish to answer. The, “where is your award?” and “why didn’t you get one” question that hurt to much to answer.

Yes my friends, as I work to prepare the foundation for what will become a short-story anthology, designed to honor the future writers, poets and artists of my community, in a small school in North Richland Hills, my son sat in an auditorium today and received nothing….
As a parent it is hard to explain the feeling. The adult side of you wants to rationalize and say, oh well, it’s a stupid ceremony for Kindergarten that in the long run means absolutely nothing. And it’s true…we don’t become a success or failure based on accomplishments at this age nor do we fail to succeed because we may have had difficulty coloring inside the lines. But that is not the point. The point is people, you never exclude a child regardless of rules or agenda or budgets or time limitations. If we are to truly love our children and understand them, then often we have to put ourselves in their shoes and remember what it felt like to be left out. Remember what it felt like to “achieve” and be honored for trying our best before we ever understand as adults that sometimes, our best isn’t good enough. We owe that to them. We owe them the chance to believe.

My wish and hope for you parents, grand parents, uncles and aunts is this: During this time of celebration, when our children pass on from one grade to the next….don’t be so quick to overlook the little things that honor their accomplishments. Because as well as we know and understand one day they will be adults….we can appreciate what it feels like to have our efforts go unnoticed…and be just another child in the crowd watching our friends receive something we did not…

For my son Dominic and his little empty hand……and for his sister Elizabeth and his brother Lazaro who both now pass on to the 6th grade…and to his baby brother Damian who is yet to understand the simple degrading acts of those less willing to pay attention to the tiny voices within our lives…This is for you.
Daddy loves you and I am PROUD of each of you!!!

"Open Doors"

It has been at least one week since I posted a blog and during this time my mind has been racing, trying to determine and isolate which moments within my days I want to share. So much has transpired within the past two weeks, I honestly don’t know where to begin. So, to get off the subject of my writing for a moment, I would like to share something new and exciting with my fan base—the Ozuna Publications “Open Doors” project.

Last week I had the privilege of meeting students from Fort Worth’s Tech and North Side High School. A vast majority of these students were graduating seniors, a week away from taking their first steps into adulthood and Life. With the help and support of Ms. Priscilla Lancarte (Tech High School) and Mr. Kenneth Polito (North Side High School), I was able to meet over 100+ students and discuss not only my novel, “Proud Souls” but the concept of pursuing and following dreams. I am a firm believer that everyone has a gift, a special characteristic or trait unique only to them. I also believe that once we discover this gift, it is our responsibility to offer it back to humanity for the betterment of those around us. And I believe if you dare pursue that dream, and attentively listen to the whispers of your own soul, you will be amazed at the support, the encouragement from those around us who long to have something good to believe in and the amount of doors that begin to open. To quote one of my favorite authors—Paulo Coelho—the universe will [begin] to conspire in your favor.

So, what’s my contribution back to humanity??? Great question! The “Open Doors” project will be my gift back to those who have a passion for writing and creativity. I have already taken the initial steps in contacting the appropriate people to help spread the word and stir enough curiosity and enthusiasm about this project. With the vast array of material our students are now responsible for, I believe a creative break is in order. With the help of people from the Fort Worth Independent School District and (possibly) other creative and supportive groups, I will publish an anthology of short stories, created entirely by students of the Fort Worth ISD high schools.

My vision is to have every (high school) English teacher within the ISD announce the contest in the early part of the next school year (‘07/’08) and then press the students and encourage them to submit their would be winning submissions to me on or before the winter break. I would also like to see the same support from the art instructors, as the cover design will be a painting or drawing, also done by a Fort Worth high school student. Then, I will rally supporters and volunteers to help read the submissions, narrowing the finalist down to somewhere between 15~25 students. It is then I will call upon more volunteers, those with a knack for editing and critiquing documents. We will publish the winners and honor them with a certificate of achievement, a t-shirt depicting the cover art and list of authors and stories on the back, and one free copy of the anthology. My hopes are to provide a ceremony where the award winner authors can read their submissions before a crowd of supporters—family and friends—and receive enough encouragement to continue pressing onward and offering their creativity, talents and skills back to the world.

Please stay tuned, as I will publish more information about the “Open Doors” project on my website, including contact information for those people local to Ft. Worth and the surrounding cities, looking to offer their time to see this project through to completion. I will make donations possible via snail mail (directly to my PO Box) or on the web using PayPal. My long-term goal is to see this project gain enough momentum and excitement to encourage neighboring school districts to jump on board, because if we truly believe the children of our communities are the future, then we must do what we can to encourage creative thought, not only in poem and prose, but in voice, in action and in love.

Sincerely,

~Bobby Ozuna

Sunday, May 6, 2007

"And just like that...a new story"

Lately I have realized something--I am becoming a bore! I noticed the other day, after talking to a very good friend of mine, that I have NOTHING to talk about, that's worth discussing, apart from my book!!! I have become so consumed with "Proud Souls" that I honestly have nothing new to bring to the table, apart from writing (and the publishing process).

So, I thought I would share the news (naturally, it's about writing as well) that I have reached the final steps in publishing "Proud Souls" and I have picked up the pen to begin my next story, one that I will call "Tin Boxes."

I thought this would be an excellent opportunity (to talk about writing Bobby???) to talk about HOW I actually create a novel length manuscript. This is not the only way to create a story, but the manner in which has worked for me so far. As I have said, the final leg of the race with regards to publishing "Proud Souls" is here. On Sunday the 13th I will get together (one final time!!!) with my web-developer and graphic artist to finalize the cover to "PS." We will make sure the back cover photo is properly aligned and the ISBN/barcode are formatted within the appropriate specifications and review the text one last time, to make sure it's catchy enough to make people (YOU) want to read it. Then, it's all a matter of waiting...waiting on a scheduled date for my first Podcast interview...my first radio interview this summer on 95.9 The Ranch...waiting on confirmation that I do have a location to hold my first book-signing...and then waiting (as patiently as I can) for July 1st to roll around as "Proud Souls" then becomes available to the mass market via the Internet.

So, since there is almost NOTHING left to do, apart from waiting...I thought I would write.

I won't share too much information (right now) about the personal insight into this new story, one that I presumed originally would be nothing more than a short-story, but has ALL the tendencies to become a full length manuscript. What I will share is this: I believe this next story will be the VERY story I can use, to incorporate some of my personal experiences growing up in the North Side of Ft. Worth, Texas and my wonderful relationship with my father, Robert Joe Ozuna. I have been very fortunate in my life to have a father as strong, loving and committed to his children and family as my dad. I have always wanted to write a story about my relationship to my father and life within the neighborhood where I was born--without actually writing a story about my relationship with my father or life within the neighborhood where I was born.

See, I have said many times before, all fiction stems from some form of truth within the author. And in order to capture and captivate true human form on paper, a writer has to study humanity, the characteristics within all life and the flaws that make each person an individual, whether they are emotional, physical or spiritual. And to take that concept a bit further, I believe a writer should experience those aspects of humanity, incorporate those flaws within his or her life and allow themselves to be used, abused and forgotten, so we can better write the pains of our lives within the characters of our pages. That is where I believe "Tin Boxes" will take its readers. It will be a character driven story, one that presses the story forward based on the emotions and reactions of the characters.

Now, to answer the question of how do you take the concept of a story, and make it a full length manuscript???

You have to commit to writing, first and foremost. I get a one-hour lunch, the same as most people. I go home because I live so close to my job, but you could easily go to a library, a quiet break room or bookstore and do the same. I write ALL my drafts for stories on paper first, then after I have the basis of the story, the creative portion down and out of my mind, I then begin the grueling process of transferring that information to typed text. It is then that I begin backfilling the story with history's of each character, add more depth to the scenery and start acting out the dialogue to ensure it flows true. But, until then it’s all about the handwritten draft. You have to first let the story develop WITHOUT killing your creative flow by editing your mistakes and proofreading grammatical and structure flaws. Just write!

I started "Tin Boxes" at the end of April and already I have over 20 pages of text. The story is beginning to grow within my mind; as I sleep and drive down the road or sit quietly alone, I discover more and more about each character. Everyday I go home, write anywhere from 2~4 new pages of free-flowing draft and at this pace, by or before September 1st, I will have close to a novel length draft. It will take me anywhere from 1~3 months to type up the text and add more "fluff" to the story and another 6 months to proofread, edit and critique. And the finished product, some 12 months from now, will be a second novel.

So, no more excuses...get out the paper, find 15 minutes to yourself and write! I PROMISE, if you commit to this simple task, you will amaze yourself by what you have accomplished and what you have completed, all before school starts in the fall.
~Ozuna

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Tired"


If I had to sum up how it feels, to be now only 62 days from releasing my first novel, in a word it would be: tired.

The whole process of self-publication has been a roller-coaster ride, one that I would honestly do again, even if I had to cut in line. It still amazes me though, when I find time to slow down long enough to recap the series of events as they have transpired in my life these past few months (much less the past two years spent finalizing this project). I am amazed at all that has come from the idea of a simple short-story and the many great people I have met along the way and the amount of doors which have begun to open, all in the name of a story. I can say that if I were to be asked some two years ago, if I ever envisioned half the things which have come to pass with the near release of this book, I would have said it was impossible. I would have said it couldn’t happen and I would have asked (as I did) how could I ever do it?

Now I am on the last lap, as one good friend recently reiterated, the final stretch and with each passing day, I am dotting more I’s and crossing more T’s to ensure I produce the best book—the best product I can—within my abilities. I would lie if I said I didn’t want “Proud Souls” to be successful, but I would be just as honest to say, the simple fact that the story has come this far is amazing in itself. AND, it hasn’t been released yet. The number of people who have actually read the entire manuscript can be counted on one hand. But, let me be quick to say—for those of you truly wishing to embark on such an adventure, now or in the future—the entire process has not been an easy one. It has been trying, a testament to my willingness to believe and see my dream become a reality, and it has been a struggle to learn countless amounts of information in a very short period. These past four months alone I have had to learn more web code than I care to know, more about the publishing industry in general than the overall writing process and more about marketing and salesmanship that I would dare to discuss at parties. I can go into more detail, and I will under the title, “Project PS” on my website, but for now, let’s keep it brief.

I would encourage anyone willing to set out on such a course, to give the self-publication route a fair and honest review. I would research, research, research the industry and markets and the entire process in general and then when you think you are ready, I would do it again. I have been fortunate to have a series of very close and personal friends endure this misery with me. They have been excited, oftentimes more so than myself and they have become just as frustrated and burnt out as I, and they didn’t write the book! I hope to complete the “Project PS” portion of my website (
http://www.bobbyozunaonline.com/projectps.php) before the release of my novel, and in doing so, allow others more options and ideas for self-publication because the feeling is bliss—the control, the direction and the schedule, all there in the palm of your hand—not to mention the conversation piece alone.

It has been great, wonderful, exhausting and down-right mentally draining. I have written half the draft to a new short-story, all in the midst of finalizing this novel, and it has killed me mentally to not find the time to just write and complete that draft (for a writer I am); instead I am busy, working on cover art, corresponding with the ISBN and barcode agencies and busy selecting costs, cover types, radio interview schedules and other online and physical venues for the novel. I am preparing to meet with students in the Ft. Worth ISD to encourage them to chase their dreams, embark on crazy and less likely to achieve goals, all in the name of aspirations and I am doing it, with little or no time to lay down long enough to dream myself. But I press on and I hope that someone reads this blog (or my series of blogs) and finds the encouragement to chase their goals and fulfill their dreams of writing and seeing their work in print, whether they sale one copy or one-million (okay, that is me dreaming). Because, in the end, we are writers and writers write, whether we become famous or not; we do what we do, because that is what manifests from within our souls.

I am tired people and I am so consumed, when I am not spending time with my children, with the book that I have nothing new to bring to a table for conversation. I have become a bore and a walking encyclopedia of information on writing, editing, publishing, marketing and sales and I don’t even have the finished product in my possession to sleep with under my pillow at night. I just want the book to be the best it can, not so much for myself, but for those who believe in me…those who will give my novel a chance…and those who find themselves saying, I can’t, when in their hearts they want to.
You can.
And I am here to help…but first I must sleep…and dream…and draw stories…with words…

~Bobby

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Sometimes it is better to receive"

Everyone is comfortable and familiar with the old adage, it is better to give than receive. I can’t say whether that conforms to the natural selfish tendencies of humanity or whether it simply glorifies the overly misused Christian context and philosophy on giving [to others]. What I can say is this: for many years that simple philosophical mindset has been the justification behind my pride, my unwillingness to take one ounce of help from anyone, believing [that] if God wanted me to make a way for myself to survive in this world, He would do so without having me humble myself with my hat in my hand and a collection plate.

In dealing with the sudden growth in curiosity and the ease with which so many doors have begun to open since formally announcing the release of “Proud Souls” I can say that I have been humbled in this experience and I have done it by letting loose of that philosophy of receiving help and I have taken on a new mindset: Sometimes it is better to receive (so long as you give something back in return as appreciation for those who have and are willing to invest something of themselves in seeing your dreams fulfilled).

There is something about my writing career that many people don’t know and that is once upon a time, when I came upon the realization that writing was indeed my gift, I had previously produced some written works and even self published an early work entitled, “Why Wear The Cross?” That story in itself is a long one, but I will summarize that story here.

For those who can recall, on March 28th, 2000 a tornado hit downtown Fort Worth. The twister came without warning and it was one of two that hit that day, the first being in the cultural/historic district and the second [actually] striking the heart of downtown. Not but a few days after the storm, I was washing clothes at a Laundromat in the North Richland Hills area. I had been battling an already brewing storm within my mind in trying to determine this sudden unction and urge to “do something” though at the time I couldn’t pin-point what this newfound desire was. All I did know is that whatever this restless feeling, it was keeping me awake at night and making life unbearable for me emotionally as I didn’t feel comfortable with telling anyone, apart from my wife at the time, about this sudden craze and whispers I felt stirring within my soul. I honestly felt I was crazy. I remember the first time I heard what I thought were voices and I panicked, woke my wife and almost started crying, fearing I was actually losing my mind. I spent days in prayer, trying to figure out exactly what I was going through. I have to say it was more frightening than enlightening (looking back now seven years later).

Anyhow, back to the Laundromat. I was working as a truck-driver at the time and I had some time off from work to help take care of things around the house. I took our laundry and a book (as I have always been an avid reader) and started washing clothes, something I truly hate doing in public places. It was there I met a woman whose name, I am terribly sorry to say, I can’t recall at this time. She was sitting on a bench inside the Laundromat, minding her own business, though I felt her staring at me intermittently. Knowing now that I hate doing laundry (and for those who know my temperament) I began to feel uncomfortable. I finally turned to her and she waved me over and told me to have a seat. For reasons beyond my comprehension, I didn’t feel upset or bothered after seeing her wave me over, instead, I agreed and I sat down and she initiated conversation. I remember telling myself at the time, oh my God, she’s one of those people who talk you to death in uncomfortable situations (like doing laundry). I was polite and I shook my head a lot and then she started saying something very significant.

This woman, whom I have never met prior to that moment, told me that she was in town on business because of the tornado. She said she was in the insurance business and had to settle lots of claims, etc. That is why she was in the Laundromat at the time and she then started talking about God and gifts and talents and following our dreams. Whatever my initial thoughts of her, they quickly subsided and I was completely attentive to what she was saying. Something inside me told me to listen, to pay attention and those feelings of uneasiness and restlessness I had been carrying for weeks were now beginning to go away. I felt as if my body had suddenly begun to relax and my mind was easy and I had no difficulty focusing on her words and the things she was trying to convey. She talked and talked until finally she said the words that struck balance within my heart and put my soul at sudden ease. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life and without thinking, without consciously preparing my response I looked to her and said, “I want to write.”

I remember how excited I felt when I said those words and how quickly my response came out and how much everything I had to say just made sense to me. I talked and talked about stories (stories I had not yet begun to write) but stories I had already begun to see within my mind, the same ones I had already begun to piece together while I fought my sleep at night. I talked so much this woman almost started to cry, as if somehow my acceptance of this gesture justified her own reasons for following one’s heart. The last thing she said to me, as she dug deep into her purse was “Bobby, you need to write!” This lady from Denton, Texas pulled out a small composition book and a pen from her purse and smiled at me and said, “Bobby, you are a writer.”

I used that small composition book to piece together my first book—“Why Wear The Cross?” and it was terrible! I mean, the content was okay and the sincerity I tried to convey within the text was pure and honest, but the formatting, the physical book itself and my ability (or lack of) to market the book was a total failure. I tried to do it all myself, believing we are supposed to use our gifts for the betterment of the world and do it entirely alone. I was so discouraged after producing that book that I trashed every copy, keeping only the original and I also discarded 6 small booklets I produced with intentions of binding into one complete manuscript.

From that moment, up until only a couple of years ago, my writing was my private passion and it wasn’t until I announced the release of “Proud Souls” earlier this year and I learned to say YES to the people who have come to my aid, believing in my talent and my gift, have so many doors opened, doors I recall pleading with the masters of the universe to open in 2000, that wouldn’t budge.

So I say, it is a wise philosophical mindset to learn to give to others before you take, but at the same time, when it comes to something pure from within your heart, it is also just as wise to learn to bend and receive as often as you wish and hope to give in return. For I (now) believe if you learn to accept help and support (by any means necessary) from others who believe in you and your dreams, you are giving just as much in return when you offer that gift wholeheartedly to the world, for anything that comes from the heart, is truly a blessing to humanity.

By the way, I haven’t stopped writing since receiving that small composition book. I still own it to this day.

~Bobby

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