Ricardo Estrada Takes Readers on a Compelling Journey of Young Adult Character and Resolve in the Summer of 1978

16156026_Front Cover.4182965NEW YORK, NY February 28, 2014 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) –Young adults’ lives are often filled with uncertainty about the future. That’s why author Ricardo Estrada has launched his second novel “Gratuity not Included” (ISBN: 978-0979-675539), which tackles this universal theme. It’s the inspiring story of three restaurant servers, and the season that bears rewards for heroism, the bliss of romantic love, and the despair of insanity.

The story opens to find childhood friends Marcelo and Barry after quitting college, waiting tables at the popular Vineyard Restaurant in St. Petersburg, FL. A year earlier, they’d made a pact to save and open their own restaurant, but Barry’s wasteful spending had derailed those plans. One evening Barry is captivated by Emily, a new waitress on vacation from her studies at Miami State, but her eyes are set on Marcelo….

“Gratuity not Included” will strike a chord with every reader who has questioned his best-laid plans, has been inspired by love, or has been bound by loyalty.

Marcelo’s world is tossed upside down when his act of heroism propels him into the limelight. For his good deed, St. Petersburg showers him with cash for the business and the chance to return to college. He wonders if Barry was ever a good choice for a business partner, as Emily catches his eye.

Emily’s and Marcelo’s romance blooms. And she ignores the reason for her summer in St. Petersburg: to pressure her widowed grandmother into a retirement home. Emily struggles to gauge her mother’s agenda against her grandmother’s right to run her life.

Barry, delusional and hallucinating, spirals into darkness. He flees the scene of a car accident, and the next day he is horrified to find out a teenager had died. Bewildered, he leaves town and goes into hiding. Consumed by madness, he longs for the life he left behind.

The novel is a dramatic, yet humorous read that brings levity to the serious topic of mental illness. It’s sure to compel the reader from beginning to end. “Gratuity not included” demonstrates that destiny is a myth, that people build their own prisons, and that they hold the key to their future.

Ricardo was born in Lima, Peru and grew up in St. Petersburg, Fl. His inspiration for “Gratuity not Included” came from his restaurant work while attending college and from his experience as a psychotherapist. Ricardo lives in New York City where he is writing his third book.

“Gratuity not included” is available in paperback for $15 and in e-book version for $4.99 at Ricardo’s website Visit him there for contact details, review copies, photos, and author bio.


                                      “GRATUITY NOT INCLUDED”                                                        The Novel                                           

DSCN0197“Gratuity not Included” was inspired by my experience working my way through college as a restaurant server in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. This story will strike a chord with anyone who has faced adversity while finding their way in the world.

“Gratuity Not Included” is unique in that it opens a window into the day-to-day lives of three young restaurant servers, Marcelo, Barry, and Emily. When I worked as a server, I met many others looking to make their mark in the world. Many of us had big dreams while others still searched for direction. We were aspiring singers, actors, and college students who delighted in each other’s triumphs and supported one another through disappointments.

“Gratuity Not Included” is different from other novels in that it takes place in St. Petersburg, Florida, rather than in a major city such as New York, Paris, or London. Though those places are great settings for stories, I wanted readers to remind themselves that interesting stories with dynamic characters are unfolding in lesser known places. And that everyone everywhere has a story to tell.

The main characters Marcelo, Barry, and Emily are people readers could run into on any day of the week and, perhaps, identify with them. They are not secret agents, Wall Street tycoons, or savants with exceptional God-given talents. Marcelo, Barry, and Emily could be the neighbor next door, a close relative, or the reflection staring back in the mirror. Yet, they are dynamic and intriguing.

“Gratuity Not Included” opens a window into a St. Petersburg of the past, which is reflected in local spots of the time, as well as the dialogue slang, the music played, and the current events. It’s a young adult novel of character and resolve—a coming of age story—a universal theme that takes place in the summer of 1978 and rings true today.



Ricardo Estrada

DSC00465Ricardo Estrada was born in Lima, Peru. When he was eleven years old, his family moved to St. Petersburg Florida, The Sunshine City. Ricardo soon joined Boy Scout Troop 207 and worked delivering newspapers before attending St. Petersburg High where he wrestled in the school team. After he graduated from St. Petersburg Junior College, Ricardo moved across Tampa Bay to Tampa, The Cigar City, and attended The University of South Florida. He worked as a server in restaurants while attending college and earned degrees in psychology, rehabilitation counseling, and education. Ricardo worked as a psychotherapist and rehabilitation counselor in the Tampa area before he moved to New York City in 2002. Currently, he is self-employed in the rehabilitation field. Ricardo spends his free time at the gym and writing, sometimes until the crack of dawn.

Because of his education and work experience, Ricardo’s novels depict individuals facing adversity and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. The inspiration for his first novel Sticks of Fire: The Turning Point, a Tampa-based novel of recovery and redemption, came from his work in the alcohol and drug addiction field. The inspiration for his second novel Gratuity Not Included, a novel of friendship, love, and loyalty, came from his experience in the restaurant business.

Contact Ricardo at Tel. 212-289-1312;;



Ricardo Estrada

BooksWhere did you get the idea for this book?

I had worked in restaurants in St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida while working my way through college. I found it to be fascinating work with real people, some with big dreams and, too often, with obstacles in the way of those goals. I have not found a novel which tells this story, and I thought it was one that I needed to tell.

What traits and other tidbits do you share with your main character, Marcelo?

Marcelo and I both wanted to better our situation being the summer of 1978. As Marcelo, I thought about opening a restaurant before I returned to college. I am also a hard worker and a loyal friend as is Marcelo. But I was not as straight-laced during that time as he is.

Did any of your inspiration for this book originate in your real life experiences?

Yes, to some degree. Marcelo and I both came to the U.S. in 1967, both worked in the restaurant business in St. Petersburg in 1978, and both struggled to find our way in the world. Using those similarities, I could get into the character and the story. But Marcelo’s story is not my story, maybe in general but not specifically. The events that unfolded for Marcelo in the novel did not happen to me but to other individuals I’d met during my restaurant work. Marcelo is a composite of people I worked with during that time.

What made you decide to self-publish?

That started with my first novel titled “Sticks of Fire: Turning Point”, a novel of recovery and redemption. I had spent years writing it, and I wanted to see it in print. I think I sent out six query letters to agents and nothing came of it. Then I found out it could take years to see my book on the shelf at the local bookstore, even if I found an agent and she found a publisher. I also found out that even if I found an agent it did not mean that the agent would find a publisher. That’s why I decided to self-publish. I wanted to hold the book in my hand, now.

Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book?

I like classics works such as “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Of Mice and Men”, “The Old Man and the Sea”. My work is not in the same category, but I can identify with them because their characters are everyday people as are mine. They are not secret agents, Wall Street tycoons, or savants with exceptional God-given skills. I like the dramatic writing style of George Steinbeck and the succinct writing style of Charles Hemingway. There are many others, of course.

Do you have another project in the works? If so, what is it?

I do have another idea on the works for my third book. The third work will be different that the others in two ways: It will be a non-fiction book and it will not be self-published. I want to go the traditional route for that book. I believe it’s the right book for the time. That’s all I’d like to share on that at this time.

When you self-publish, do you do it all yourself?  

No, I couldn’t. I attended writing groups to receive feedback from fellow writers while the book was being written. Then I contracted book critique and book editing services. There are many companies who assist an independent writer with publishing services. I’ve used two different companies for each of my two novels. They also assisted with the book layout, the book cover r design, as well as the e-book conversions. Those houses work with printers and distributors who offer my books on online bookstores. There are also book publicity services for hire, but I’ve decided to do the publicity myself.