Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Just Another New Years Eve

***Lyrics from a song by Barry Manilow***

Well, so far I haven't failed my NYR (New Year's Resolution for those who are acronym challenged). Although it's not actually the new year....semantics.

After my complaints about 2009 in yesterday's post, I came across a post today by Brett Battles at Murderati . In it, Brett talks about the good things he came away with during the year. Like most of the posts at Murderati, it got me thinking. Unfortunately I can't think of anything about 2009 to be thankful for, but in his post, Brett mentions how nervous they are about his son making the transition to high school in the fall. His son has Down Syndrome.

In today's day and age you can't help but worry about your children and how they'll handle moving from one stage of life to the next, especially if they're handicapped. My daughter is handicapped. She has Cerebral Palsy, Scoliosis and Type One Diabetes. Her CP isn't as severe as some, she's ambulatory (meaning she can walk, no wheelchair or assistance needed). She's smart as a A/B student and takes regular classes, although some are c0-taught. She has difficulty speaking (because of a tongue thrust) and she has difficulty with her gross and fine motor skills (she needs assistance getting dressed sometimes and brushing her hair). But, the thing about Manda that touches everyone she meets is that, she doesn't think of herself as handicapped (and she doesn't like the lable). She's always ready to greet you with a smile. She's happy and friendly to everyone she meets (although she can instantly dislike someone if they're rude or mean).

She's a typical teenager-- goes to the mall, hangs out with friends, chats on Facebook and even has a job as an usher at the local movie theater. She's a senior in high school and is planning to attend the Art Institute in Arizona this fall, to be a pastry chef.

Like any normal teenager, she has goals and a plan of what she wants to do with her life. As her parent, it's my responsiblity to make sure her goals are realistic (like, sorry baby, you can't be a ballerina or a singer--although she has great tone). I've always tried not to shield her from too much, because I know how cruel the world can be and over the course of her life we've been very lucky in that she has never had any problems with bullies. Of course that could also be because from day one in kindergarten I made a point to be at her school regularly and scare the bejeezus out of anyone who dared look at her cross-eyed. haha

Even today there are a lot of kids in her class who will go out of their way to make sure she is protected and that no one bothers her. It says a lot about society and how we've changed from calling the children with handicaps "freaks" to saying they have "special needs" and treating them as equals.

So, if I have to say something good about 2009 it will be that even with the diagnosis of Type One Diabetes and knowing she will be insulin dependant for the rest of her life, Manda stayed strong and focused, she took the punch and got up, dusted herself off and continued to live.

She never let the CP define her and she doesn't let the diabetes. She's going to make her mark in the world and I can't wait to see what she does.

Okay, so this post had nothing to do with New Years Eve, but I warned ya yesterday, I'll be rambly. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You Say Goodbye and I'll Say Hello

**For those of you who don't usually follow my blogs (here or at MySpace) I tend to title them with a song title or lyrics. =)
Only two days left of 2009 and I can't tell you how glad I am to see it finally end!! It's been such a crappy year altogether! I won't even go into all the horrible things 2009 tossed at us because I try to never dwell on the past, it happened, it's so yesterday, and now you can look at it as a learning experience and move on. Suffice it to say, we survived intact.
Okay, to be honest, a lot of the personal crappiness of 2009 is partly my fault. I let the fact that I haven't had an agent since July 2007 get to me. But, how could I not? I mean, finding an agent (twice) was validation that yeah, I can have a career as a writer, but, unfortunately, that agent didn't deem me worthy enough to stick with me through the ups and downs. She didn't fight hard enough to get my work to an editor and she didn't believe in me enough to know I could give her more work to sell. Initially, when she dumped me, I was pissed off, then depressed, then determined. I sold my novella, the one an editor (now at Simon & Schuster) requested I write and I returned to work on my third novel. Of course my momentum died when 2008 ended and I still didn't have another sale or agent and my e-books sales were practically obsolete.
So, I spent 2009 in a funk...not really writing, getting more and more depressed that, although I was getting requests for fulls on my first book Forget Me Not and I got awesome feedback on my second book Dark Obsession from the amazing author Lauren Baratz-Logstead who totally loved my book (she even did the copy edits) I wasn't getting any offers. The eighteen months of rejections totally killed my spirit and I let the depression fester for so long I completely lost sight of the pot of gold that is writing. I let down my family, my friends and my (limited amount of) fans. And, I'm sorry.
Now I'm not normally one to make a New Years resolution because....I don't know why, I just don't. But this year I'm going to give it a try. So, here goes:
  • On December 31st I'm going to flush 2009 down the drain, clear my mind of the self-doubt that became my prison and I promise to sit butt in chair and write--non-stop---for two hours a day!
  • I will complete not one but two novels this year.

  • I will find an agent and an editor by the end of June!!

  • I will market myself better than I have been by posting a blog daily---be forewarned, they could be dull and rambly. =)I might add more as the days go by, but for now, there ya go.
So, Goodbye and Good Riddance 2009.
Welcome 2010!

So, what are your resolutions for the new year?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Guest Blogger Lucha Corpi

Today I'm honored to introduce to you a very facinating woman. Lucha Corpi.
Lucha is a poet, novelist, and children's book author. As a woman, a Hispanic, an immigrant and a mother, she has always found herself breaking down barriers in both life and literature. Her art has always meant activism.
In 1970, she received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship for poems later included in Palabras de mediodia / Noon Words (Fuego de Aztlán Publications, 1980; bilingual edition Arte Público Press, 2001). Her first collection of poems appeared in Fireflight: Three Latin American Poets (Oyes, 1976), and a third poetry collection followed: Variaciones sobre una tempestad / Variations on a Storm (Third Woman Press, 1990).

In 1990, Corpi was awarded a Creative Arts Fellowship in fiction by the City of Oakland, and she was named poet laureate at Indian University Northwest.
She was a tenured teacher in the Oakland Public Schools Neighborhood Centers Program for over 30 years.

An Essay by Lucha Corpi

I spent the first eight years of my life in a small tropical community that fostered the creation, performance, and appreciation of music and poetry, in addition to storytelling. Located in the southern part of the state of Veracruz, my hometown, Jáltipan, had a population of about two thousand when I was born.
Although we enjoyed the use of electricity, we lacked other modern conveniences. Since there was no tap water, for example, people caught rainfall in large drums for washing and bathing. Folks who could afford it paid water carriers to bring cans of drinking water to their doorsteps from the natural springs outside town.
Twice a week, Tirso, the water carrier, brought the spring water to my grandmother’s house. Sometimes Tirso would let my brother Víctor and I sit on his mules while he carried the cans inside. Water carriers were famous for being among the toughest and most foul-tongued men in the region. Our Tirso was no exception. But unlike other water carriers, he delighted in teaching the children in town some of his favorite colorful expressions. Víctor and I were only five and three years old, but we were Tirso’s star pupils.
Being a great deal more cautious than I, Víctor did not use this kind of colorful language in front of our parents, and he suggested I follow his example, a warning that I, naturally, didn’t heed. I filled up with those forbidden words, as if they were mangoes or guavas—meaty, sensual, sweet. Encouraged by my aunt’s and cousins’ chuckles, I practiced my newly acquired vocabulary quite often.
During one of those practice sessions, my mother heard me. “I’ll wash your mouth with soap if I ever hear you use bad language again,” my mother warned then added, “I promise you.” I gave her innumerable opportunities to keep her “promise,” and she did. That year I was the three-year-old with the cleanest, though not necessarily the purest, tongue in town.
Despite the two-year difference between us, my brother Víctor and I were inseparable, but he was already six years old and he had to begin school. Despite promises and threats, he refused to start school without me. I was four years old. The only way I could attend school was by permission from the principal and the first-grade teacher.
Whenever people became too nosy about each other’s private affairs, my mother was fond of saying that a small town can be a big hell. But one of the advantages of living in a “small big hell” is precisely that people know one another well. In my case, this proved to be a blessing since my parents knew Professor Martínez, the school principal, well. My father took Víctor and me to see him. My father explained the reasons for his unusual request. The principal agreed but warned, “You understand that even if she stays the whole year, she will have to start the first grade when she finally reaches the legal age to attend.”
My father and I agreed. Two days later, Víctor and I began school. I was given a desk in the back of the classroom. I liked sitting in a corner, thoroughly fascinated with the subjects we studied. During the next two-hundred school days, I sat in my little corner quietly content. Quietly also, I learned to read and write, to add and subtract, to tell fruit from flower, clock from calendar, caterpillar from worm, dolphin from shark.
At the end of my first year in school, naively, I asked if I could participate in the cultural program or if my drawings could be included in the students’ art exhibit. But I was refused. Everyone liked me and the teachers admired my tenacity and constancy, but I wasn’t even a name or a file number on the school roster. I was four, free to go to school or stay home, but I was also an illegal student. I was invisible. The next year, nonetheless, no one objected to my returning to school. So my brother and I started the second grade. At the end of the year, everyone was pleased that I would be legally attending school the following February. But it was decided that I was too young to go on to the third grade, even though I passed every test with only minor errors. So I was asked to repeat the second grade. I loved going to school so I had no objections.
On the first school day in February 1952, my father and I walked into the second-grade classroom. The teacher showed me to a student desk in the front row, close to her desk. But I wasn’t happy there and I got her permission to sit at my usual place in the remote corner of the room. Because I already knew the subjects well, I was often asked to tutor other students. The following year, trying to keep me challenged, my third grade teacher began to instruct me in the recitation of poetry. She taught me how to deliver an impeccable line by sensing the rhythm of the poem, in the same way that my piano teacher later helped me to understand musical phrasing.
Because by age seven, I could read well, my father asked me to read to him from any section of the regional newspaper, except the crime page—la pagina roja. He pulled it out and folded it to dispose of it later, but he didn’t tear it up. I always found it and read it. After awhile I tired of reading about brawls, knifings, bloody accidents, but began to get interested in the kind of crimes, in which someone plotted to kill, rob, kidnap, or defraud someone else, and in the cops or the amateur detectives who conducted the investigation of the crime. This is basically the detective story. That is the kind of mystery novel I write and love.
Death at Solstice, out this year, is the fourth of the Gloria Damasco series. It joins Eulogy for a Brown Angel, Cactus Blood and Black Widow’s Wardrobe. Each of the novels deals with the history and culture of Mexican Americans and Latinos in the U.S., elements that are integral to the plot without sacrificing any of the conventions of a good fast-paced crime story. If I’ve done my job well, these will be of interest to you and your readers. Gracias for inviting me to share my story and my work with you and your readers today.
About the Book
Chicana detective Gloria Damasco has a ''dark gift,'' an extrasensory prescience that underscores her investigations and compels her to solve numerous cases. This time, the recurring vision haunting her dreams contains two pairs of dark eyes watching her in the night, a phantom horse and rider, and the voice of a woman pleading for help. But most disquieting of all is Gloria's sensation of being trapped underwater, unable to free herself, unable to breathe. When Gloria is asked to help the owners of the Oro Blanco winery in California's Shenandoah Valley, she finds herself on the road to the legendary Gold Country. And she can't help but wonder if the ever-more persistent visions might foreshadow this new case that involves the theft of a family heirloom, a pair of antique diamond and emerald earrings rumored to have belonged to Mexico's Empress Carlota.
Soon Gloria learns that there s more to the case than stolen jewelry.
Mysterious accidents, threatening anonymous notes, the disappearance of a woman believed to be a saint, and a ghost horse thought to have belonged to notorious bandit Joaquin Murrieta are some of the pieces Gloria struggles to fit together.
A woman's gruesome murder and the discovery of a group of young women from Mexico being held against their will in an abandoned house send Gloria on a fateful journey to a Witches' Sabbath to find the final pieces of the puzzle before someone else is killed.
Corpi weaves the rich cultural history of California's Gold Country with a suspenseful mystery in this latest installment in the Gloria Damasco Mystery series.
Find more interesting stories about Lucha at her Red Room Author's Page You can also find her at these sites during her tour.

Death at Solstice Book Tour
Dec 3 Lara Rios Julia Amante Author's thoughts on her previous books
Dec 4 Ana The Sol Within Indept and soul-searching answers
Dec 7 Misa Chasing Heroes Author's seeking Heroes
Dec 8 Monie Reading WithMonie What are her writing achievements
Dec 9 Carol Book-lover Carol Part One: How Series came to be
Dec 10 Tasha Heidenkind's Hideaway Part Two: How Series came to be
Dec 11 Nilki Musings Author writes on her theories of writing

As you visit each blog on the tour, leave a comment with your email addy and be eligible to win an autograph copy of Death at Solstice.
Also the author is offering a Grand Prize of a set of all her books in the series to the person that visits and leaves a comment and their email addy at the most blogs during the tour.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Blogger Anjanette Delgado

It’s always a pleasure for me to host guest bloggers, especially debut authors. Today’s blogger is Anjanette Delgado, whose debut novel The Heartbreak Pill is available now.

Please help me extend a warm welcome to Anja Delgado.

Thank you so much for hosting me Terri. It’s a pleasure to be here.

It isn’t often that contemporary “chick-lit” concerns itself with research-based, scientific theories of love. For that matter, it isn’t often that Time Magazine delves into the field of romance novels. So when the issue of love and pain pops up in both, within weeks of each other, we might wonders if the apparently shallow topic of romantic heartbreak may not be quietly entering the realm of current events, as relevant to the future of society as the centuries-long, global trade wars.
In an age where people still have safety concerns about having a “potentially-emotional” woman president, my novel “The Heartbreak Pill,” tells the story of a professional in the cusp of her career as a scientist, who loses her bearings in the midst of shocking betrayal. She then uses her knowledge of organic chemistry, and her position as head of research at an upstart drug company, to create a pill that will eliminate the pain of love for all mankind; all while (initially) sidestepping FDA watchdogs and using herself as a guinea pig.

Notwithstanding the literate humor of this debut novel’s ensuing Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde scenario, or the irony and the surprising depth of the heroine’s arguments for her actions, the fact that it’s not a fantasy or sci-fi novel, presupposes that this premise is actually possible and, even more controversially, that it is needed.

I believe it’s absolutely possible. There’s a fantastic amount of scientific proof, readily available in everything from popular magazines to scientific journals to prove that love is indeed in our brains and that we could, and should, at least attempt having a say in what it does to us. In fact, the nature and depth of a person’s love for someone can already be confirmed by viewing the changes caused by the direct correlation between feeling and the chemical imbalances of certain substances in our brains. These are the substances that Erika is wreaking havoc with in the novel.

When I talk about scientific proof, I'm referring to modern-day love doyenne, Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University Anthropologist who’s written books such as “Anatomy of Love” and “Why We Love” to both critical and popular acclaim. According to Fisher, “perhaps no single phrase in all of literature so clearly captures the essence of passionate romantic love (better than): a state of need.” Fisher, who has conducted wide-ranging studies on humans over a period of time using advanced brain-scan machines such as FMRIs, writes "that human need for emotional union with their beloved is so intense that it is capable of blurring the lover’s sense of self.”

But, getting back to the quest at the… uh, heart, of “The Heartbreak Pill,” how lofty a goal is eliminating growth-inducing heartbreak? We’re playing with fire when we say to people, ‘you’ll get over him or her.” It’s one thing to eat like a pig or make prank calls after a breakup. It’s another to suppose that that’s the extent of how deep it can cut. We have only to look at the numbers of people killed by previously-stable, non-violent partners, or at the statistics for leading causes of suicide among the widowed and the divorce. These are not all emotionally-immature people losing their minds all of a sudden. There’s something going on in their brains. Something they’re unable to deal with. That’s the heartbreak Erika’s trying to cure.

Anjanette Delgado is an Emmy award-winning writer and producer with over eighteen years of local and network news experience. She has produced for CNN, NBC, Univision and Telemundo, among others, producing extensive coverage for events such as the 1991 Gulf War, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the present war with Iraq, which she executive produced for Telemundo in 2003. She won her first Emmy for her human-interest series “Madres en la lejanía,” about the plight of Latino mothers who leave their own children behind and come to the United States to work illegally... as nannies.


Erika Luna is a thirty-something scientist living and working in Miami. When her husband of seven years; the very successful, very smart, very good-looking, founding partner of one of Miami’s most successful Public Relations firms falls in lust with another woman, their marriage spirals to hell and Erika’s practical nature leads her down the strangest of paths.
What’s a scientist to do when slapped with pain so deep it interferes with breathing? Try to cure it, of course! This is the premise of Emmy award-winning writer and producer Anjanette Delgado’s delightfully funny and touchingly poignant debut novel, THE HEARTBREAK PILL (Atria Books; April 2008).
To learn even more facinating things about Anja, you can find her at her website:

Anja will be stopping in all day to answer your questions, so please feel free to ask her anything. Also, while Anja continues her tour, all who leave a comment will be placed in a drawing to win a copy of her other works.
To find Anja’s other stops, check the list below.

Heartbreak Pill Book Tour

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Celebrating Veteran's Day and a Shout Out to the Spouses

When I was a kid all I cared about when Veteran's Day rolled around was--NO SCHOOL!! During that time the Vietnam War was going on, but because we didn't watch TV (or the news) and didn't know anyone in the service, what I heard about the war I heard after the fact--when it ended and our town was one of the many on the gulf coast saturated with refugees looking for a new life.


When I met my husband he was a third class petty officer in his eighth year in the Coast Guard stationed in Sabine Pass, Texas. Of course my first thought when he told me he was in the Coast Guard was....they're part of the military?? And, don't deny it, that's your first thought too.

Many people don't know this, but the Coast Guard has been around for over two hundred years and was founded by Alexander Hamilton, who was a founding father and the first secretary of treasury....okay, he's that scary looking guy on the $10 bill. Although founded in 1790 they didn't become part of the Armed Forces until 1915.

Anyway, while thoughts and prayers go out to the men and women giving their lives to the service, no one really thinks about what their spouses and families go through. The separation anxiety is just as hard if not more difficult, and when the children are small and don't quite understand it's up to the single parent to keep them feeling safe and leading a "normal" life. And it's even harder on both parents when the military spouse comes home and is a stranger to his/her children. This actually hit home for me when we were stationed on a small island in Alaska. We only had two children at the time, Adam-6 and Amanda-1. Matt had been gone for a month, their cutter had to go to the 'yards' which was in Ketchican--a whole other island away from our island, and when he came home our daughter was totally scared of him. In fact, one night I went to meet with some other wives and left the kids with Matt. During the night Amanda was about to get into some mischief and Matt told her "no". The kid totally freaked out and ran to her big brother, clinging to him for dear life. Adam thought it was amusing and got to play protective big brother while it took my husband the rest of the night to convince his daughter he wasn't going to harm her. They say it takes a strong person to be married to someone in the military, I think we passed that test in Alaska.

Though my husband spent almost all of his twenty year career on land, aside from the two years in Alaska (where he was gone 70% of the time) we were only separated one other time before he retired in 2000. He had to spend his final year at a station in Raymondville while the kids and I lived in Port Arthur--long story short, we'd bought a house in PA because he was supposed to finish his term there but then got send to Raymondville. Finances and no housing forced the kids and I to move back home while Matt finished out his tour.)

Anyway, when he retired (which was pretty uneventful, although we had a big party at our home in Port Arthur) I received a letter of accomendation from the President thanking me for my service to our country as well. Pretty Cool, huh? I have to admit, getting that letter really surprised me, I mean, I didn't think I did anything special. And maybe I did, maybe I didn't but I do know it's true: it takes a strong person to be married to a career military man and I'll add, anyone in law enforcement.

So, while you're out celebrating our vets, take the time to thank their families as well.

Give your Shout Outs here!

I'll start: Jennifer Ratcliff and her two children Coral and Thomas!! Thank you for sticking by your man, (Ret.) Senior Chief Bryon Ratcliff! ;-)

To learn more about the US Coast Guard visit them at their site: US Coast Guard

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We are Family

Today I'm participating in a mass blogging!

WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We're celebrating the release of Therese Walsh's debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy. (Random House, October 13, 2009) It’s the story about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers.

Visit The Muffin ( to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit Therese's website ( to find out more about the author.

Families can be a complicated thing sometimes. No one ever really understands what makes one family close while another is totally dysfunctional.
I grew up in a large family. On my mother’s side alone I had eighteen aunts and uncles, twenty-six cousins and of course my own six siblings—and we were all very close. Growing up it was more like having eighteen moms and dads and thirty-two brothers and sisters. Okay, I'll admit at times my family was a bit dysfunctional, but I love being from such a large family. It was like having you're own little community. I even wanted to have a large family of my own, at least six kids. Unfortunately I had to stop at four….to which my daughter Becca is very grateful….not always, but sometimes.

I can almost understand her feelings since my older brother was the same way. He hated that there was so many kids and so little money. But…such is life. My mother had to struggle to make ends meet after the death of my father. It wasn’t easy being a single mom, especially back in the seventies. It didn’t help that we were minority and poor as dirt, but we managed. And when she suddenly passed away, her siblings rallied around and took us in, even though money was tight for them too. We were a very close family and still are. I’ve lost a few of my aunts and uncles over the years and I often wonder if they knew how much I appreciated what they did for us, the support and encouragement they continuously gave.

Because I know what it’s like to lose a parent at an early age, I try to teach my children to understand the value of family. I try to instill how important it is to stick together and take care of each other. Being kids, they balk at the thought, but I know they take it to heart. My oldest daughter, Manda, was born with Cerebral Palsy. It’s a mild form, but it still limits her from doing certain things. In January of this year she was also diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. When she was little we never treated her any different than we treated the other three kids, and they didn’t treat her any differently either and they still don’t. While Manda is very independent (don’t dare tell her she’s disabled), she is also aware that she may not be able to live independently. Her siblings understand this as well and often joke about who gets to “keep” her. But, their jokes aside, I know they’ll do right by her and each other.

But, telling my children about family isn't the same as showing them. Before moving away from home, I made a point to get together every birthday, holiday and summer vacation with my Aunt Minnie and my cousin Michelle. Minnie was like a second mother to me--although technically she's only 13 years older-- but she was always very maternal and my sister, Becky, (my bestest friend) and I lived with her and her family for a short while, so Michelle has always been like a little sister to us. We grew very close when I moved back to Texas (in '87) and she was still in high school. She used to call me every Thursday night (during Knot's Landing-haha) to help her write her essays for AP English. (Oops, now you're gonna get in trouble for cheating on your assignments!)
Anyway, Michelle was also one of my best friends. She used to babysit my kids when I needed her (she was even there for a couple of the births). I had the honor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding (and even helped her with the wedding plans), and I did my share of pacing the halls during the birth of her kids--she has four, like me...the copycat! Although our children aren't close in age, they're very close in relationship...even with the twelve hundred mile distance and two hour time zone that separates us. I miss seeing and talking to her and her mom on a regular basis. (yes, I admitted it, Michelle.)

My children are getting older and within the next five years will all have left home. You’d think this would make me sad, and I’m sure when the time actually arrives I’ll cry my tear ducts dry, but I know regardless of where life takes them, they will always know they have a family to go home to.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Scribbler Award!!

A special Thank You to Jo Ann Hernandez at BronzeWord Latino for recognizing me with this special award.

As a recipient I too would like to honor some blogs. Each of these blogs that I honor are asked to do the same. In other words, here are the ground rules:

• Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.• Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

• Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

• Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

• Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

So, here is my list of The 5 Recipients of The Scholastic Scribe’s Superior Scribbler Award:

I hope you enjoy them as well.
  1. Murderati

  2. Murder She Writes

  3. STET!

  4. Killer Fiction

  5. The Scruffy Dog Review Blog

Congrats to all!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How far into your reading list are you?

I've been on a bit of a tear lately...uh, that's the expression, right?
Anyway, while I wait on my son to finally move out and give me back my office--(that sounds bad, but the kid is almost 22 and has no life) I decided to tackle my "To-be-read" list of books. I have a lot of them, some a couple of years old that I've just totally forgotten I had because I buy new books from my writer friends as they come out and add them to the stack. Yeah, I know, I should start my reading with the bottom of the pile, but, I don't.

Anyway, in the past couple of weeks I've read
Girls Just Wanna Have Guns (book three in the Bobby Faye series by Toni McGee Causey)
Natural Born Charmer --Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Kill Her Again--Robert Gregory Browne
Kiss Her Goodbye--Robert Gregory Browne (although I read this one last month)
Fatal Secrets--Allison Brennan (also read Sudden Death last month)
Say Goodbye--Lisa Gardner
Chasing Darkness--Robert Crais
Two Minute Rule--Robert Crais (my son read it too and was disappointed it wasn't an Elvis Cole book..hah)

I'm getting ready to read Black Lightning--John Saul
I love his work but haven't read anything in a while, so I'm looking forward to being creeped out. hah

On Friday the local library had a book sale (1/2 price) so I went to pick up some books I had once planned to buy but forgot about. So, yeah, instead of my list getting shorter, it's getting longer. (not that I'm complaining.) =)

I've always been a reader, even when I was a kid. I think I developed the love of books from my mother (and I hope she'd be happy to know she passed on something good to me) she was a fan of books. She used to go to the library every couple of weeks and check out up to ten books at a time. Mostly Barbara Cartland, at least those were the ones I noticed on her dresser. No, I didn't pick them up to read (I was only 11--but I did sneak one of her books once and it scared the crap out of me because it was Helter Skelter.) lol I think that's why I later became a John Saul fan...

Anyway, I suspect my mother's love of reading (like my own) came from a sort of lonliness and despair she felt at being a single mom of seven. I even suspect she planned to die at an early age (40) so she wouldn't have to be lonely (the mind can be a powerful tool).

Uh, anyway that's a post for another time (or couch) hah

Although my inital love of reading came from my need to 'escape' my life (as a teen), over the last ten years I've started using my love of books as a training tool. I'd always had stories in my head and occasionally I would write the stories down, sometimes in screenplay form (not that I knew how to do that..again, I was a teenager), but I never really thought to pursue the dream of being a published writer. It was a fleeting thought sometimes, but I never had enough faith in myself to go for it. Shortly before I turned 40 I decided it was time to do something about that dream...part of it was because I was nearing 40 and so far it looked like I'd surpass the age. (that's another 'couch' blog)

Okay, if you're not totally dizzy with this rambling post, I'll get to the point....whatever that was. ;-P

I guess I just want to thank those writers out there who had the courage to bleed onto the page and send those stories out there to be published. Without their knowledge and talent (and encouragement from many I've had the pleasure to meet--some of whom are listed above) I wouldn't have jumped on the bandwagon too. Their words not only entertain me for hours on end, they also teach me how to entertain others.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

National Hispanic Heritage Month--and Reminiscing

This is actually a repost from last year. But, since today marks the first day of National Hispanic Month, I thought I'd put it up again...hence the word repost. heh

From September 15 to October 15 the nation will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. I'm not sure when the holiday started or rather, when the nation decided to acknowledge it, but for as long as I can remember, there was always a celebration in my hometown, Port Arthur, Texas.

Every third weekend in September my family (and I mean everyone in my family) would attend a three day "Mexican Fiesta" held by the Mexican Heritage Society in Port Arthur. At that time, it was held in the parking lot of the local strip mall, Jefferson City (I remember only because last year someone commented and reminded me. She also remembered the Woolco department store that used to be on the corner...Geez, how old does that show my age or what?)

Anyway, the festivities would start on Friday evening and consist of mostly food booths....what better reason to go to a fiesta, I ask?? The food was so totally awesome! made by local families and parishoners from Our Lady of Guadelupe Church and the money raised for the Heritage Society and the Hispanic community. They also had a pagent to crown a queen (done on Saturday evening), mariachi players, Calpulli dancers, tamale eating contests (which my brother Dave won once) and a street dance (literally since we were in a parking lot) with bands from Victoria Texas or Corpus Christie and other towns. Most of the people attending either sat on the gates of their pickup trucks or brought lawn chairs to sit on, circling around an area designated the 'dance floor'. My brothers and sisters and cousins and I used to jump in when the band played The Cotton-eyed of the few dances we could do without a partner. Occasionally we were allowed to work a food booth or drink cart...always fun when you're a kid. (and on a side note, I had my first kiss at the fiesta, but I won't say who he was or my age at the time.)

Nowadays the fiesta is held at the Port Arthur Civic Center and (imo) isn't the celebration it used to be. It's lost a lot in it's transition (mostly the tradition). Last year Hurricane Ike forced the cancelation of the celebration, but it came back strong over the weekend. One of these years I'm going to make it back home for one of these celebrations.

Anyway, if you've never been to an actual Mexican Fiesta, you should go. Aside from the one in Port Arthur, Brownsville also holds a week long celebration called Charro Days. It's held yearly at the end of February, and celebrates the sister cities of Brownsville, Texas and Matamoras, Mexico. I've never had the opportunity to attend this party, but one of these days I will. Especially since I've introduced it in my current WIP, House of Cards (soon to be sold...uh...once I finish it.)

So, how do you plan to celebrate Mexican Independence Day and National Hispanic Heritage Month? I know....why not curl up with a hot Latina Romance?

Today only I'm giving away copies of my novella, Her Will His Way to everyone who leaves a comment. Just send me your email info.

Her Will His Way is a romantic love story set in the Rio Grand Valley, Texas.

After her husband’s infidelity ends their ten year marriage and allegations of fraud send her interior design business into bankruptcy, Anita Perez is more than happy to take over her late grandfather’s flower shop in the Rio Grande valley. However, she has a problem–she doesn’t speak Spanish, which is something her grandmother’s sexy neighbor, Antonio Hernandez, feels the need to remind her of on a daily basis.
Antonio has loved Anita for as long as he can remember, but the only attention she’d give him was in willful response to a dare. Now that she’s returned to the valley Antonio will stop at nothing to win her heart.
But Antonio’s plan may backfire if Anita finds out that he made a deal with the devil, and he used the flower shop to lure her into more than just his bed.

Antonio’s lips curved into a sexy grin. “Are you still afraid of me, Anita?”
The amusement in his eyes stopped her from answering. He was baiting her again. Well, two could play this game, she thought smugly.
She moved her hand to the V of his shirt, skimming her finger over his chest. The warmth of his skin shimmered through her, charging every nerve in her body. She’d never seduced anyone before, but maybe it was time she did. After all, she’d moved to the valley to start a new life. And taking what she wanted, when she wanted, was the best way to do that.
She sent him a feline smile and gripped his shirt. “Maybe it’s you who should be afraid of me,” she said, pulling him into a kiss.

**For those of you who stopped by today (9/19/2012) get a copy of the book Her Will His Way or one of the other books of your choice (since there are three now...and one on the way.) Just email me at

Monday, September 07, 2009

Guest Blogger Mayra Calvani

Today I’m honored to host Guest Blogger Mayra Calvani.

Multi-genre author, reviewer and animal advocate Mayra Calvani hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, playing the violin, and interviewing other authors for her blogs and newsletters. She’s a member of SCBWI and the Latino Books Examiner for, as well as a regular contributor to Suite101 and Blogcritics. Visit Mayra at:

For a special treat Mayra has posted one of her short stories.

Déjà vu
By Mayra Calvani

Amanda stood on the sidewalk overlooking the sea. The splash of the waves against the rocks below resonated in the air. She could taste the salty tang sharply on her tongue, feel the cool breeze tousling her hair. She hugged her arms to stop the goose bumps.

Tonight Old San Juan vibrated with a magical quality. Twinkling multi-colored lights and shimmering garlands adorned shop windows and balconies. Christmas trees glowed from inside the flats that lined the street.

Amanda admired the sea a little longer; it was late and she had to go home. She and her husband were giving a party. They always did on Christmas Eve. She was stalling and she knew it, though she didn’t know exactly why.

Abruptly someone bumped into her. She turned to see a little boy running down the street. She froze for a second before realizing what had happened—he had stolen her handbag.

“Hey!” she said, running after him. “Come back here!”

A sensation of unreality grabbed her. She saw the little boy running in slow motion, his dark curls floating behind him as if there were no gravity. An intense feeling of déjà vu shook her to the core. She had to catch up with him. She had to stop him!

“Stop!” she shouted, breathless.

Everything happened in a matter of seconds. The boy glanced behind his shoulder just as he tried to cross the street. A fast approaching car was coming in his direction. Amanda reached for the boy’s shirt and pulled him harshly to the sidewalk and away from the street. The boy struggled against her, but she held on, a wave of relief flooding through her.

“Stop that. The policeman will see us,” Amanda said, her eyes on the strolling officer across the street. Oddly, he looked bored, as if he had not noticed anything unusual.

The boy relaxed under her grip and for the first time she had a chance to look into his face. He had shoulder-length curly hair and large brown eyes surrounded by thick lashes. Under the streetlight his chestnut curls glowed. He couldn’t have been older than eight. In spite of his arrogant attitude, he reminded her of a cherub.

“What do you think you were doing? Trying to get yourself killed? That car almost ran into you!” she said.

“Are you going to have me arrested?” he said, lifting his chin.

Amanda glanced at the officer, who was now far away. She sighed. “Are you going to give me back my bag?”

Looking oddly calm, he gave her the bag.

“Thank you,” Amanda said drily.

“Can you let me go now?”

Amanda realized she was still holding on to him. Confusion and fear filled her being. She didn’t want to let go.

“I’m not going away,” the boy said enigmatically.

Their eyes locked momentarily.

“Oh… all right…” She let go. “What’s your name?”


“Why did you try to steal my bag?”

His small, thin shoulders lifted in a shrug. “Why do poor kids steal rich people’s bags?”

She decided to ignore his wisecrack. “You should go home. It’s late. Your parents must be worried.”

“Nah, they never worry.”

They began to walk side by side.

“Let me bring you home.”

“I don’t want to go home. There’s always too much fighting in there.”

“It’s Christmas Eve. I bet your mom is preparing a nice meal.”

“I don’t want to go home,” he said coldly, stopping her in her tracks.
Amanda looked at him. She was not ready to say goodbye. “Well, do you want to come to my house? We can have something to eat together.”

“Do you live in a mansion?”

“You could say that.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“I have a dog,” Amanda said.

His expression brightened. “What’s his name?”

“Noah. Well?”

Felipito seemed thoughtful as he stuffed his hands inside his pockets and resumed his walk. “I’d like to meet Noah.”


At Amanda’s home the party was at full swing. Guests in sophisticated attire were gathered around the pool with drinks and cigarettes in their hands. Some couples danced. Others ate by a long buffet table. Holiday music poured out of hidden speakers.

Amanda led Felipito to the back of the garden and towards the back door of the kitchen.

“Do you know all these people?” he asked.

“Yes and no.” She halted momentarily to look at the guests. “My husband is an important man. These are mostly his co-workers.” Her voice had turned sad, bitter. “ I’ve always been sort of a hermit.”

“What’s that?”

“I like being alone.”


“My husband is a very important man.”

“So you said.”

They looked to the kitchen as a large blond dog stormed out the door and dashed into their direction.

“Noah!” Amanda said, smiling for the first time that night. “Come here, boy! Let me introduce you to someone.”

She bent over to stroke him and scratch him behind the ears. Felipito laughed as he joined in the petting. Noah whimpered as if he couldn’t have enough of Amanda’s affection.

“Let’s go inside,” Amanda said.

She led him to a table at the far end of the kitchen, while the servants continued their duties on the other side of the room. After bringing an assortment of food and pastries to the table, Amanda sat across from Felipito. Noah lay at her feet, his tail still swaging from contentment.

“Go ahead, eat,” she said.

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

“I’ll just have a drink,” she said, lifting a glass of wine as if in toast.

Felipito studied the servants in the kitchen, then turned to Amanda. A dark cloud crossed his features; he appeared infinitely older than his years.

“Do you have any kids?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I’ve always wanted kids, but I can’t have them.”


After Felipito finished eating, Amanda said, “I probably should bring you back now. It’s late. Your mom must be worried.”

Amanda leaned over to stroke Noah, who had started whimpering again as if sensing her parting.


Amanda and Felipito stood by the door of the small house which was his home.
Felipito looked somber. Amanda was about to knock when he stopped her and said, “Don’t. Let’s just go in.”

Inside the small living room there was no Christmas tree; no lights or garlands or poinsettias.

A woman sat alone in the dark, her back to them. She had something in her hands.
Felipito took Amanda’s hand and together they approached the woman until they stood over her shoulder.

Felipito sighed. “Don’t cry, Mami,” he whispered.

“What that in her hands?” Amanda asked.

Then she saw it. It was a photo of Felipito.

Amanda turned to him, the floor shifting under her, the room swirling around her. She opened her mouth, but no words came out.

“I died one year ago,” he said calmly.

Amanda took a step back. “No…”

She moved away from the crying woman and away from Felipito. His big eyes shimmered with emotion as he extended a hand towards Amanda.

“Come. I’ll show you,” he said.

“You can’t be dead. You’re here, with me, talking to me. You just played with my dog, ate at my kitchen. You can’t be…”



In the late hour the Old San Juan cemetery was cold and windy and Amanda could hear the waves crashing against the rocks below.

“Where are you taking me?” she said.

Now it was his turn to hold on to her. “You have to know, Amanda. You have to let go.”

She shook her head, tears flowing down her cheeks. “You’re going to show me your grave, is that it?”

His small hand pressed tighter around hers, his nails digging into her.
“There,” he said, pushing her in front of a tombstone.

She read the name engraved on the stone and covered her face with her hands, while all her life, all the memories rushed through her mind until that last very moment. “No! No! No!”

“Why is it that no one can see or hear us—no one except Noah? How do you think we moved from here to your house without a car?”


“You have to let go,” he said.

“No!” She fell to the ground, wallowing in the knowledge, guilt and pain.

“You’ll be here forever without freedom or peace until you forgive yourself. Look at me, Amanda.”

Her sobs weakened as she looked up at him.

“It was not your fault that I tried to steal your handbag. You had to run after me. It was not your fault that I got ran over by that car. You’ve punished yourself enough, drowning in alcohol and pills. Why did you take so many pills that night?”

“It was an accident…”

“I know.”

“I never meant to kill myself!”

“I know.” Then he said, “I forgive you, Amanda. This is why I’ve come here. Tonight.”

They were quiet for a long time. Amanda stood up and looked around her. Would she smell the sea again? Play with Noah? She felt scared and lost. “What now? Where do I go?”

Felipito took her by the hand. “Let me show you the way.”

The End

More of Mayra’s works ::

The Magic Violin
By Mayra Calvani
Illustrated by K.C. Snider
Guardian Angel Publishing
Tel: 314 276 8482
ISBN: 978-1-933090-49-8
November 2007
Paperback, 32 pages, $10.95
Picture Book, Ages 4-8

“This is a beautiful book with lyrical text. Vivid descriptions make Melina’s
emotions tangible. The accompanying illustrations are a perfect match.
They give a charming view of 19th Century Europe. A lovely addition to any
child’s bookshelf.” --Julie M. Prince, YABooksCentral

“Filled with old world charm, children will find this book has a distinctive foreign flavor. Illustrations are reminiscent of earlier days and the story itself conveys an old-fashioned feeling. The magic of a European Christmas Eve comes to life through text and pictures in this gentle tale for music lovers. Young violinists may discover their own dose of self-confidence in this unique picture book.”
–Nancy K. Wallace, VOYA reviewer
Order Here at

by Mayra Calvan

iIllustrated by Anna Pylypchuk
Guardian Angel Publishing
ISBN: 1-933090-54-5
April 2008Paperback, 32 pages, $10.95Picture Book, Ages 3-6

Join Marcelo as he learns to care for his brand new—and very peculiar—puppy and sets out to choose the perfect name for it.

Find out more about Crash here

Check out the Spanish edition, Chocalin:

In a bazaar in Istanbul one evening, ten-year-old Alana Piovanetti glances into the shadows to find a man watching her. He smiles, and over time she convinces herself that it was just her imagination that placed sharp fangs amongst those flashing teeth.
Twelve years later, Alana is surprised when she is chosen to manage a new restaurant opening in her home city of San Juan. She has neither training nor experience to justify her success. But La Cueva del Vampiro has the kind of ambience she adores, for Alana has always had a penchant for horror and the dark side of life. Yet she is also plagued with dreams of dark sensuality, dreams that take on shattering reality when she meets the stunningly handsome, charismatic Sadash.
For Sadash is the man she saw in the shadows so many years before...and Sadash isn't human….


"[Embraced by the Shadows] is a superbly written, deftly balanced story of love and death and twisted loyalties that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end. More importantly, it will make you think and perhaps take a closer look at the shadowed corners of your own psyche.” –The Blue Iris Journal

"Mysterious, intriguing and somewhat unsettling at times, this novel is a must for all vampire reading fans. A rich, twisting plot and a surprising ending awaits you."
--The Midwest Book Review

"[Embraced by the Shadows] is a wonderful tale of a woman torn between a love she can not resist and a life she does not understand. Alana is a character to fall in love with... Mayra Calvani did an exemplary job in weaving this story of passion, love and betrayal. Once the reviewer started the prologue she was hooked and could not put this book down. This is a must read for fans of paranormal!" –Love Romances

“A dark brooding novel, Calvani takes us on a journey into the darkest corners of our hopes and desires, especially the desire of all humans to somehow survive and how far would we go if we were given the chance to live forever...This is a must read for all fans of vampire romance novels.”
--Murder & Mayhem Book Club

"...For any of you female readers that have always had the fantasy of your masculine vampire following you all through your life and not revealing himself until he thinks you are ready, this book is for you. This was an excellent read."--ParaNormal Romance Reviews

Embraced by the Shadows
By Mayra Calvani
Twilight Times Books

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
By Mayra Calvani & Anne K. Edwards
Twilight Times Books
Twilight Times Books
Trade Paperback
188 pages, $16.95
Foreword by James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review
*2009 ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award!
*EPPIE Finalist
*Next Generation Indie Finalist
*USA Book News Award Finalist
Ebook ISBN: 1-933353-89-9, Available on Fictionwise
Trade Paperback coming in October 2009
Visit the author’s website at

Are you passionate about books? Do you have the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers, yet are unsure about what makes a good review? Are you curious about the influence reviews have on readers, booksellers, and librarians?
If you’re an experienced reviewer, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will serve as an excellent reference tool and amalgam of resources. If you’re a beginner, this book will show you how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review. It will also teach you:
· How to read critically
· How to differentiate the various types of reviews
· How to rate books
· How to prevent amateurish mistakes
· How to deal with the ethics and legalities of reviewing
· How to tell the difference between a review, a book report, and a critique
· How to start your own review site
· How to publish your reviews on dozens of sites and even make money while you’re at it, and much more

If you’re an author, publisher, publicist, bookseller, librarian, or reader, this book will also bring to light the importance and influence of book reviews within a wider spectrum.

Visit: and
by Mayra Calvani
Zumaya Publications
Release date: February 2009
Print ISBN: 978-1-934841-18-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-934841-19-8
Parody/Satire/Women's Fiction
Available on Amazon and as ebook from

Visit: for reviews, excerpt, etc.

Daniella, a naive and deeply sensitive architecture student who feels herself surrounded by carnivorous creatures from the Mesozoic Era.
Zorro, a deranged criminal running rampant on the streets of San Juan, terrorizing women who wear miniskirts.
Tony, Daniella's boyfriend, smug and selfish and demonically handsome, who seems oblivious to everything about him except to his own obsession with fame and LSD.
Ismael, Daniella's ex-husband, as cruel and innocent as a child, an art critic whose fantasies of revenge will force him to do something that will shock the entire island.
Irene Carlier, Ismael's new wife, better known as Lady Dracula, a ghastly rich woman who collects torturing devices and in whose penthouse apartment something utterly dreadful will be discovered.
Set in steamy San Juan, Puerto Rico, these and other crazed, eccentric characters swirl together in an intriguing, warped, darkly humorous world where not even Turkish cats are safe from marijuana smoke.

Mayra’s tour continues thru September 18.
Find out more about her at these wonderful blogs.

8 Roxanna SpanglishBaby
9 Silva Martinez
11 Icess Fernandez
14 Efrain Ortiz Jr.
16 Christina Rodriguez
17 Ricardo Lori
18 Misa Ramirez Chasing Heroes

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Six years ago I wrote and completed my first two novels. Both romantic suspense although two completely different sub-genres. Forget Me Not, which is a romantic suspense I dubbed an Hispanic version of The Bodyguard and Dark Obsession, which is a supernatural romantic suspense I never came up with a logline for.

Shortly after completing both books--which, by the way, only took me a total of four months consecutively (that's what happens when you enjoy what you're doing and have no worries about getting published or meeting deadlines)--but before I completely lose my train of thought let me get back to what I was saying.

After completing the books I began working on my query letters. Now, being very very green I was mold...I started seeking out help from a variety of "self-help" books and writing websites such as Writer's Net and Absolute Write. Unfortunately, when you join writing sites, not only do you open yourself up to ridicule you also invite unwanted "stalker-ish" types of people...those who want to see you fail and do everything in their power to make you feel like you'll never make it. Needless to say, that's what happened to me on both of these sites. But, I also met some very, very wonderful people who were the total opposite of these "trolls" as they were called.

Anyway, one of the WN members, Roy Abrahams (RIP) decided he'd had enough of the flamers and decided to open up his own writers forum. It was a private room and by invite only and although he's since passed on, the few of us who originally attended the forum are still there (I am also the moderator). Our main goal is to help each other as best we can to get published (and some of us are, I'm proud to say).

Shortly after Roy opened his room, two more writers who'd had more than enough of the problems at the other sites decided to open their own site as well. And, thanks to Christopher Graham and Karen Dionne, Backspace was born. I'd like to say I've been with the room since conception, but I was actually invited by my friend Brenda Birch a few months after it opened...although Karen says she invited me at the beginning but my email bounced back. ;-) (I like to tease her about that.)

Anyway, getting back to my original post...see, told you I lose my train of thought.

Backspace is also, more or less, a private forum. Anyone can join, for $30 a month and participate in the active rooms...chatting up such bestselling authors as Kay Hooper, Allison Brennan, Robert Gregory Browne, Sara Gruen, even Karen Dionne herself...just to name a few...and believe me, there are a lot more than a few! but, the rooms are also 'locked' so you can't come in unless you're a member and you can't read the posts...which is a good thing because a lot of members...myself included....will often post chapters of our WIPs for pleasure or critique...mostly critique because Backspace is like a giant critique group.

Now, while I've gotten some really great feedback on my posts/query letters at Backspace I have to say, sometimes it becomes a bit too much.

As we all know, and have been told ad nausem, writing is a very subjective business. What one person doesn't like another will. Even the agents and editors who frequent Backspace agree to disagree about certain rules and guidelines.

So, is it a good idea to post your work in a room for others to critique and give feedback on, or should you work it out on your own?

Well, to be honest, sometimes you need that additional help to point out what you're doing wrong or what you're not doing correctly (sounds the same, but it's not). However, don't get hung up on all of the comments/advice because sometime too many opinions will take away from what you originally planned for your book. And writing a grabbing query letter is, again, subjective.

What I've learned from my dear friend Rhonda (who thinks I'm stubborn and don't always listen to her..heh) is, look at the query letter from a marketing standpoint. You're selling a product...two and your book. So you're going to have to think along the lines of that. What can you say to grab that reader by the collar and pull him into your story and have them beg for more?

In fact, here is exactly the advice she gave me:
    • Choose words in your query carefully. You only have a few sentences to make an impact with.
      -Start with something exciting.
      -Make the blurb sound as active as possible.
      -Remember you are trying to break into a BUSINESS. That
      means they are looking for selling points when they read your blurb. Selling points that they can mention to their bosses, the marketing department, the book stores, the customer...

And, trust me, Miss Rhonda knows what she's talking about!

Admittedly, I've yet to master the art of query writing, but I still try and I still seek advice. Granted, I don't always follow it, but I do listen to it. =)

So, what's the best or even worst advice you've been given?
And, what advice do you have for those still struggling with their own attempts at writing a query letter?

Come on now, don't be shy. =)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Interview with Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Debut novelist Raul Ramos y Sanchez has been making the rounds promoting the release of his novel America Libre and he graciously stopped by to answer a few questions. If there are any questions you'd like to ask him as well, step on up to the podium. He'll be more than happy to answer. Not only that but he's also going to give away a signed copy of his novel to one very lucky commenter.

A long-time resident of the U.S. Midwest, Cuban-born Raul Ramos y Sanchez is a founding partner of BRC Marketing, an ad agency established in 1992 with offices in Ohio and California. Besides developing a documentary for public television, Two Americas: The Legacy of our Hemisphere, he is host of — an online forum for the U.S. immigrant community.

Hi Raul. Thank you so much for visiting.

For those just tuning into your book tour, tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Raul: I think every writer begins as a reader. In fact, I don’t have any memories of learning how to read. I’ve known how for as long as I can remember. That was in Spanish, though. I do recall learning to read English. I was seven at the time and it began with the word “January” on a calendar in our apartment in the Bronx. I pronounced it “HAN-nu-a-ree.” I’m not sure at what point I decided to be a writer. I started my career in graphic design. Before long, I was writing headlines for the ads, then the body copy. Eventually, my writing was more in demand than my design skills. Looking back, I feel I’ve made a living from words. Whether it’s arranging words on a page as a designer or creating them myself, words have paid the bills in my household for most of my life. My career in fiction began about five years ago when I was able to step away from the day-to-day work at the ad agency I help found in 1992 and devote myself to projects that meant more to me personally.

This story seems to have caused some controversy. Were you worried, when you wrote this story that it would cause a negative impact or backlash?

Raul: Unfortunately the negative impact and backlash are already here. The number of hate crimes against Latinos has surged 40% since 2004. The Ku Klux Klan openly brags about the increase in its ranks thanks to the backlash against undocumented immigrants. In the last two years, several young Latinos have been brutally attacked simply because they “looked” Hispanic. What I have tried to do with AMERICA LIBRE is show the potential consequences of this xenophobia and violence.. I always intended for the premise of the novel to be provocative. A cautionary tale needs to create a worst-case scenario to be effective.

As a writer, I know how difficult this profession can be. So, what would you say has been the most rewarding part for you so far?

Raul: Hearing from readers has been the most satisfying part of being published. A writer and a reader share a unique bond. It’s something like telepathy when you think about it. A writer’s words enter the mind of the reader through the printed page and the reader enriches the narrative with their own experiences. This mind-meld goes on for hours--longer than a movie or a play and certainly longer than looking at a painting. So when I hear back from people who have read my book, I know we’ve shared thoughts for an extended time. To learn the experience was entertaining--and perhaps enlightening—is very gratifying.

When you’re in the zone and writing, is there a “must have” to keep you focused? Such as music or background noise of the TV?

Raul: I find it very difficult to write dialogue when I can hear people talking. Whether it’s folks at the office or a TV set, it disrupts the conversations going on in my head. For that reason, I usually write at home. Even then, I prefer working between 3 and 6am when it seems the whole world is quiet. This makes for some odd hours, since I still go into the office almost every day.

It’s said you can learn a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your work area look like?

Raul: The laptop computer has liberated me from a regular work area.. The room I once used as my home office is now a catch all for correspondence and reading material. I work all over the house and change locations regularly.

What about hobbies? Do you have any other outlets besides writing?

Raul: I enjoy taking photographs and occasionally put together multi-media presentations with the photos. These are mostly of family and friends. I also play golf when I can spare the time. It’s always good to do something for which you have no talent so you can appreciate the things you do well. Golf is very good at keeping a person humble.

Tell us something about yourself no one else knows.

Gosh, it’s hard to think of something about me that my wife or family and friends don’t already know. I’m not a real mysterious guy—although sometimes I wish I was. Hey, I think I just answered your question!

What's the one question you've never been asked that you wish someone had asked you?

Raul: OK, here’s a question I’ve yet to be asked and would like to answer: Do you consider AMERICA LIBRE to be “Latino fiction?” I think there is a perception in some circles that there is a Latino literary style, almost as if it were a genre. I think AMERICA LIBRE breaks with that tradition. Although the novel’s content is very much about the Latino experience in the United States, it reads like a commercial fiction thriller. As one of the nation’s major houses, Grand Central Publishing is taking something of a risk with AMERICA LIBRE. They’re betting that both Latino and mainstream readers will find the book a compelling read. As its author, I’m doing everything I can to help GCP make this kind of cross-over novel successful. I hope Latino readers will too. It could help pave the way for other Hispanic writers to achieve wider marketplace acceptance.

That's a great question...and answer.

Thank you so much for spending your day with us.

To learn more about Raul visit him at his website

And if you want to follow along with the rest of the America Libre book tour you can find him here:

August 13
Ricardo Lori

August 14

Caridad Scordato

August 18
Charlie Vasquez
Queer Latino Musings on Literature

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Your writing doesn't have to be perfect, but it should at least be close.

Over at the Murderati Blog, J D Rhodes talks about the "writing rules" and a debate between two other writers as to why you should or should not follow them. One of the writers had posted a "Do and Don't" list after slogging through a bunch of short story contest entries. I won't give the play by play, just go read JD's post.

Last year the website, along with Penguin Putnum (I think it was them) hosted a crime fiction novel contest. Contestants were to put up the first chapter of their conpleted novels for review by the general public. The readers would them comment on the pieces and give a vote of one to ten stars. The top twenty five vote getters moved onto the semi-finals and posted chapter two. The top ten went onto the finals, which were sent to "professional" judges (published authors and such.)

Anyway, the contest was pretty much about popularity...who could get the most votes. Now, that's not to say some of the entries weren't good. I didn't enter the contest, but I had been in the previous contest for the Romance category (I made the second round and finished tied in the top ten, but I didn't do enough spamming for votes I guess.) Anyway, during the romance contest I kind of made a name for myself as (as one person put it) a hardass when it came to critiques. I didn't hold back any punches, didn't sugar-coat to make the writer feel good, I stricktly pointed out what I felt was wrong with the piece and how I thought they could fix it. Only one or two contestants spewed insults at me, the rest thanked me for my candor.

When the Crime contest started I posted a notice saying I would not be reading/rating the entries unless they were sent to me via personal invitation. But, before accepting any invitations I posted a caveat for everyone to read so there would be no misunderstandings where my comments on the work are concerned.

For me the hardest part of the contest was commenting on an entrant's story, because in no way did I want to discourage or hurt anyone with my opinion. However, for anyone who "knew" me, knew I also prefer to be honest in order to help the writer improve.

Now, something I noticed during the contest. The guidelines state that the chapters can be up to 10K words. Well, it appears several of the contestants (at least from what I read) decided to combine a few chapters. Their reasons, I assume, were so the reader would have more to read and get more drawn to the story.

Well, for me, for the most part, having to read such a long chapter only put me off a lot of the stories. Why? Because, aside from the time constraints, it made the chapter feel overwritten.

Like with anything in writing, there are no clear cut rules on chapter length. Your first chapter should be as long or as short as you want it to be...but it should also grab you within the first few pages and end with such a cliffhanger that you have to turn to next chapter.

I understand, more than anyone, no writer is going to have a perfect first or second or even thir draft. There will always be edits for grammar or punctuation. doesn't mean you should toss your manuscript "out there" and hope no one notices or cares that you misplaced all your commas, or even used too many.

On an entry (I didn't particularly care for because of the amount of edits I felt the story needed) someone (who's work I didn't care for either) posted this comment in regards to my critique:
Yes, we all know that there will be revisions and more editing; however
sometimes we need to look past that and just read the story

Uh....No. Agents and editors aren't going to look past bad writing so they can find out where your story is going. If you can't grab them in the first few pages your story is doesn't matter if it's the best thing since microwave popcorn! (um...I love mircowave popcorn)

Now, I read close to a hundred of the entries because for some crazy reason people wanted me to....their reasoning being, they wanted to learn and I'm known as the resident Hard ass where my comments are concerned and I tend to give detailed feedback (when I can), without sugar-coating. I didn't set out to get such a reputation, but I do know, if you can't take it from me (when I'm trying to help) how are you going to take it from an agent or editor??

So, here is my advice to new writers based on what I've read of the entries and the comments I left on the works I felt aren't quite there yet.

To those who chose to write in first person...and for some reason, thriller and/or crime fiction newbies seem to think they're supposed to...I would suggest, unless you've read and studied works by the pros who know how to write first person exceptionally (i.e.; Lee Child, Robert Crais, Rick Rhiordan, and love her or hate her--Patricia Cornwell)...don't try it at home.

The mistakes I see a lot of new writers make with first person are they tend to spend too much time in the narrator's head, explaining the who's and why's of everything until it becomes monotonous to read. Granted, with first person your main character is telling you the story....but the reader doesn't need to know the background of every single thing that affected the character's life....because it's really not that important (and if it is, it can be woven in as secondary character's are introduced. But at a minimum. Less is more.)

Don't write a whole passage about how John met Jane twenty years ago at the vet when they were waiting for the free rabies shots given each year and the dogs fell in love so it was natural they would too but it didn't quite work out because...blah blah blah! None of that has anything to do with who the character is as a person or why the reader should relate to him/her. All it's doing is taking the reader out of the story. And once you do've lost your reader because (unless they're related to you) they aren't going to want to go back and read to figure out what the heck you're talking about.

With first person, you have to tell the minute details as they are happening to you (the MC) because you want the reader to have the same pieces of the puzzle so they can also try to figure out who dun it...assuming it's a mystery you're writing...but regardless, with first person, you don't want the reader a step ahead of the character.

Now, I would never claim to be an expert (in anything) but over the years I've learned a few things, so I'm going to pass along my Do tips for writing scenes. (And several Don't's). It's kind of a mishmash of tips, so try to keep up. heh

First and foremost, make sure the scene you're writing is necessary to the plot.

  • Don't throw in a description of the scenery for the sake of trying to tell the reader you character is now standing on top of a mountain. In other words don't open with a panoramic view of your setting just to introduce your character sitting in his study smoking a pipe by the fire.
  • Don't give a history lesson on your setting (saying when the town was founded, or who founded it, unless it plays an important part in the story.)
  • Don't overdo your prose by using too much descriptive narrative or exposition-such as going through the minute details of the character's everyday mundane life (she went home, made a cup of tea, put on some opera and went to bed--y a w n.)
  • Don't do a prologue (there's a lot of debate about this one, but most agents and editors really hate them!)
  • And Don't open in present day with something exciting happening, then jump back in time to explain how the character came to that part. It's not only annoying, it's intrusive. When you do that you're basically doing this:
... Jane stepped off the curb, the street vibrating under her feet. She barely
had time to register the danger before the truck rammed into her. She flew
through the air, her last thoughts of Jacob as she landed with a heavy thud
against the concrete. But, wait....let me tell you what happened first....

  • Don't describe your characters through their own eyes, build them through someone else's eyes. (meaning, when you're in Jane's pov she could describe John's traits...and so on)
  • Don't start sentences with THEN, FINALLY, SUDDENLY (because nothing ever really happens suddenly).
  • Don't use too many AND's or THAT' don't want your sentences reading like a grocery list of action.
  • Don't use any of the following words or variation of these words--see, hear, feel, taste, smell---to explain what the characters saw, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled...SHOW it.
  • Don't introduce too many characters in one scene. If each of the characters are integral to the story, introduce them in their own chapter and in a way that shows how they're affected by the incidents that have happened so far (meaning, how are their lives changed by what happens) And again, don't give the everyday mundane actions they go through each day.

For any novel (regardless of genre), something has to happen immediately. Usually something life-changing for the main character. You can not spend the first ten pages introducing a character and giving us his/her life story (as it was or is now) because you will bore the reader (especially this reader). Just give the minimal facts that are relative to the character (who s/he is/what's his/her job/what type of personality s/he has) and weave the rest in as you go to further develop him/her...but do it in a way that isn't TELLING. In other words, don't say, John is a cop. Instead, show what makes him a cop....maybe open with him at work. Don't say Jane has a soft heart for stray animals, instead show her sneaking a can of tuna fish from her mother's cabinet and leaving it in the bushes for the cat that's been prowling around at night.

When writing your dialogue try writing it as you speak (unless you're writing historical or period pieces of course.) Don't have your characters constantly say each other's names when speaking to them.

"Hi Jane."
"Hi David."
"How was your night, Jane?"
"It was fine, David.
I went to a movie."
"That's nice, Jane. What did you see?"
"Well David, I
don't remember because I fell asleep."

Annoying huh.

Another thing to look out for in dialogue are your tags. If your writing strong dialogue, it isn't necessary to use a tag to identify how the character is speaking. You don't need to say...

"They're coming back," she proclaimed!

The dialogue and the previous action should convey the emotion in the character's voice.

When starting a novel, figure out who your main character is and write from their POV. Show everything through their eyes as they see it unfolding. Otherwise, your story will read like an article in a magazine with no real emotional connection for the reader. And, don't talk at your reader. As a reader, I want to be pulled into the story, I want my emotions challenged...not my intelligence (which is what I mean by talking at me, like you're trying to explain everything.) You don't need to hold the reader's hand. As Dave King states in his book SELF-EDITING FOR THE FICTION WRITER, resist the urge to explain! Because, really, if you have to explain the who's and why's of your story...then you're not doing your job.

Here are a few more tips from the comments I made on entries in regard to what to look out for when writing.

  • Don't put thoughts in quotes. Quotes are for actual speaking dialogue only. Thoughts should be in italics.
  • Don't use adverbs when a stronger verb will work.
    She pleadingly looked around the empty city
    How do you look pleadingly? Show it better.
She searched the empty streets, her heart pounding, searching for someone,
anyone who would help her.
  • Watch out for too literal descriptions (sometimes referred to as flying body parts...rolled her eyes; threw up her hands, etc)
    For example:
    She ducked into an alley, pushing herself up against the wall as far as she
    could go.
    Try saying she ducked into an alley, pressing against the wall...etc)
  • If you plan to start your story with a dream, make sure it's there for a reason. Otherwise it's like a tease and can really piss off a reader. They think something exciting is happening only to find out it's a dream.
  • And one more very important thing: READ! Read everything...fiction, non-fiction, graffitti on the bathroom wall...(heh...just kidding..unless it's really good. ;-)) The point is, if you don't read, you can't learn.

Here are just a few more (nitpicky) things to look out for when you're writing:

Passive voice.

Sentences starting with AS.

Sentences that read like a grocery list (this AND this AND this know?)

Watch out for too much exposition--meaning too much back story too soon (or worse, going into backstory to explain what happened previously)

Show don't tell other words, don't use the words: saw/heard/felt/smelled/tasted...just say what it was. (instead of this: She heard the beep of the answering machine and hung up. Say, she hung up the phone when the answering machine clicked on. It's not necessary to say it beeped since that's a given on all machines. And sometimes you gotta give the reader the benefit of the doubt to know what you mean. Like, don't tell them someone closed the door after they opened it. In other words, don't hold the reader's hand.

Another no-no with exposition is putting it all in dialogue.

"Leave John and come away with me."
" You know I can't do that. I own him. He
is the one who made it possible for me to attend law school. Before he
showed up
I had to work long weekend shifts. I was almost ready to give up
the crazy idea
of becoming a lawyer while working as a stripper so that I
could give my mother
and Johnny a decent place to live. Now John is about to
go to college and Mom
doesn't have to work so hard as a maid in order to pay
for everything because
her arthritis is so bad."
"Yes, I know. You told
me this a zillion times."

This is called info dump through dialogue. Never have one character say something to another character that they already know. If any of this is important, feed it in later.

Another thing I noticed during that contest is sometimes writers will chose to use their first chapter as an introduction to the story, then tell the reader, "but wait, the second chapter will explain everything." Well, I'm sorry but I have to reiterate...unless you grab the reader in the first few pages of the first chapter they aren't going to bother looking for the next chapter!

Okay....I'm done. :)

I hope those of you who made it to the end have found something useful to consider when going back to your work. Feel free to leave your comments or writing pet peeves.

Regardless....I wish you only the best in you endeavors.

As an aside, come back August 11 when my guest blogger will be Raul Ramos y Sanchez, whose debut novel America Libre is in stores now. Stop by with questions and comments and one lucky poster will win a copy of his book.

Hope to see you then.

The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews