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

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"I Am"

Today I received a copy of the short-story anthology, "Mind Trips Unlimited" and written within its pages was the first of my (hopefully) many publications to be celebrated throughout my writing career. There on page 123 is the opening lines to a story I wrote last year--"Corrido"--my tribute to those people in this world who ever pondered their significance and purpose and ever doubted the silent whispers of their soul as it pleaded with them to stand out, be different and utilize their one special gift given to them on the day of their birth. To hold a copy of that book, as ironic as this may seem, made me feel like a writer! And feeling that way today, reminded me of the very question of doubt that plagued me internally—my heart and my mind—until I somehow awoke one day to accept and realize what I already was—a writer.

I learned of Corrido’s acceptance for this anthology in January of this year(2007) and still somehow, the realization that I am indeed that which I already proclaim to the world, hit me new again as if the information was delivered in that small manila envelope with the copy of that book. I remembered how much I struggled with that small facet of identification over the years and how I, like countless others, felt as though the ability and right to dub oneself with the title—author—writer—had to be passed down in some ritualistic ceremony by some ancient monk in a brown cloak, or by a unanimous vote on the Jedi Council or perhaps by another writer, like a knight might do so for one of its scribes. It is funny how we choose to allow ourselves to believe in our own abilities, based on our right to bear a title; but silly or not, that is reality and I know the same struggle to have the courage to stand up before the masses and proclaim myself what I already chose to believe in my heart, applies and holds true for many others like me. It was not easy…but the sense of power and control in my own life heightened the day I chose to accept that which I already was.

I say the best time to introduce oneself as a writer or a painter or a sculptor or a singer—or anything else for that matter—is not when an organization or group of professionals or other member of the class in which you would love to partake says so, but when you choose to accept the pains that come with bearing the gift and believe in your heart that you are indeed, who you are.

Faith in oneself is one of the most important aspects to success. I say you should never measure your life by what others judge or say or by any stipulations people might put on you, but rather by what you see and feel and believe within yourself. If you cast aside foolish ambitions of wealth and riches, and instead choose first to be wealthy in blessings that come by way of giving back to the world, that which was given to you at birth, I believe you will feel a power that cannot be measured on bank statements and financial reports. You will earn by right of passage the confidence to believe that anything is possible and in doing so, your light will shine as a guiding beacon for others…others who live their lives day-by-day without ever considering Hope and all its glory.

Yes, it felt good today to see my first work in print. And it felt so much better when I excused myself from the world, stared myself down in the mirror and allowed myself the freedom to smile. It was in that moment I reminded myself again…that I am…indeed…beyond any measure of doubt…a writer.

~Ozuna

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"The BIG Question"

Moving forward with "Proud Souls" and the many questions posed by friends and loved ones, I felt it was time to address a seemingly popular inquiry, one that (I confess) I have overlooked and down-played. And as we get closer to the release date of my first novel and the word is spread and more and more people contact me to share their enthusiasm and excitement for the "big moment", the more I am pressed to address this one important and particular question. It is one that I must say--as I write the draft for this blog on paper and in within my mind--sounds almost as amazing as it is ridiculous.

And what's the big question Bobby? Well it's simple and still somehow complex: How do you write?

That’s it! People want to know how I write…how does one write…how does Bobby write…how do we write? How do you write?

Well honestly, every author has their own methodical process and practices for creating stories and if you like to do research on the Internet, you can find hundreds of how-to guides that tell you the best means for preparing a story, whether it's creating an outline (which I am totally against) or performing what is called a Fast Draft, or writing your first draft on paper (freehand) or beginning the task of creating character sketches, yada...yada...yada... Now, I am not going to fall into the trap of writing the Bobby Ozuna How-To Guide to creating stories and pose myself as an expert on the creative process, but instead I would rather share my ways, both conventional and non-conventional, and let you do with the information as you choose. Fair? Here goes it...

For starters you must allow yourself the freedom to be creative. Writing is an art form, not to be put into a box or constrained with guidelines by how-to experts. Watch children when they finger-paint or color your sidewalks with chalk, they do it freely without ever knowing the "consequences" for not following a particular set of rules and in doing so they are free to become as creative as they wish. If you pay especially close attention you will see something in them that is lost by us as adults...it's called a smile...and it comes with being free to live with what's inside you. Ask two entirely different artists to paint you a picture of an identical tree and you will get two entirely different images, because each painting or drawing represents a portion of the creativity within the artists mind. That is the beauty of art, whether it is in paints or chalks or charcoal or with the written page. Writers are artists too, responsible for creating imaginative worlds and romantic dialogue and hero's that remind us of the greatness tucked away within ourselves and villains that remind us why we choose to sleep with night-lights. They are poets that help sustain the brokenness of life and heralds that mark the second coming!

Now, as I step down from my soap-box, I will say this. NOT just anyone who picks up a canvas and paints can create a work of art or anything seemingly close to what a normal class of society would call art, period. There are techniques that must be learned--contrast, shadowing, size and perception--these are tactics that must be studied, practiced and then applied, in conjunction with the natural flow of creativity, and the end result we can freely dub--art. The same stands true for writers. My initial stories some eight years ago were funny and creative and if I stood amidst the masses in a room or party and shared them, they were just witty enough (in both dialogue and approach) to capture a room's attention. When I put those same stories on paper however, they were a bore and I quickly lost my chances of gaining a fan base. But in time, after studying a better quality of writing by reading a better quality of books, paying attention to the details of humanity around me and listening to the sounds of my own soul as it beckoned me to use my gift, I learned to create a better structured story, with a flare of creative quality all my own. And that is what you must do, if you wish to learn to write.

Okay Bobby, you might say. Now we understand we simply need to write…but HOW do you go about writing? Another great question....

Now, many of the ideas for my stories come from somewhere within my head; some are thoughts and others are portions of dreams I have pieced together over a series of days or weeks or months, as I am a regular dreamer. Some of them are pieces of my own experiences, things I wish to share of myself and the places and people I have met along this journey called life. Others are portions of ideas for stories that I felt would make a great story, something I completely conjured from within my own imagination. But a vast majority of the time, the stories I create begin as thoughts, and then a voice, and then a dream, and then an image I cannot brush away from within my mind…once the characters introduce themselves—their history, their lives, their desires, and their emotions—the images do not go away until I do them justice by creating their world on paper. I know the story is over, when the voices go away and I am at peace enough to get a good night’s sleep.

I can work on more than one story at a time, so long as I am attentive to the voices and understand and learn not to overextend my focus on a particular character (as all my stories begin and end with characters as opposed to setting or action) because in doing so, I might try to force a character into creation, during a moment where my soul is listening to the shouts of another character for another story. (This is that whole “don’t cross the streams” thing from the 80’s…)

I always write my drafts on paper. I have a perfectionist tendency to DESTROY my creative flow when attempting to type my drafts on a computer’s word processing software because each and every time I see a red or green squiggly line below a word when I am typing too fast to try and keep up with my own thoughts, I have to stop, as if that red or green line is SHOUTING and reminding me that I have just committed a typo, an error, a flaw. With every stroke of the Backspace key, more and more creative juices are lost, spilt over my keyboard and ruined. Therefore, I write my drafts on paper, in handwriting so bad I can hardly interpret my own words the next morning. Luckily, I know the story as it is built within my head, so I seldom need to read my drafts in a line-by-line fashion, rather I just watch the story unfold within my mind and I begin typing. It is during this portion of the creative process that I begin filling in “gaps.” It is here that I begin to learn the characters and see them for who they are and allow them to introduce themselves to me. I try to walk like them, and talk like them, and become them, like an actor on a stage play, for only a moment, allowing myself to capture the true essence of their nature on paper. When I write dialogue, I act out the scene. When I draw a moment, I try to show it from the character’s point of view, because naturally, the writer should not and does not exist within a story.

After I have completed one full draft, start to finish, I begin the grueling and painful process of re-writing, editing and proof-reading. This is the part of writing, no author enjoys (at least I couldn’t imagine how they might). It is here I take a physical printed format of my story or chapters or portions at a time, and begin reading it aloud, so many times, that eventually I can’t “see the forest for the trees” anymore. When this happens, I hand the story off to one of my handful of closest friends and confidants and ask them to read the story, each one giving me a different take on the story, whether it’s perception, point-of-view, characters, settings, emotions. I do have to force myself to step away from the story for a few days, take in what criticisms and critiques have been offered by my friends and colleagues and then I finalize the story.

Remember, writing is an art form, not to be boxed in or constrained with guidelines, although there are rules for writing like there are rules for anything in this world. Take some time to study the craft, read better quality material (and that’s an argument entirely to itself) and make writing a part of your life, your habit and your daily routine. In time, as with anything else, you will get better and as you work to critique your own work, you will better understand how to develop the stories before the first words are ever put on paper.

~Ozuna

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