Fifty-seven Shades of Amazing

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On the eve of my fifty-seventh birthday, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, and incredibly blessed. Last night as I looked at old family photographs, I was reminded of the incredibly rich life I’ve enjoyed on this amazing planet of ours.

The tattoo on my back sums up how I’ve lived my life–it reads, ‘regrette rien‘, French for regret nothing. Even the darkest days afforded lessons and opportunities for personal growth necessary to forge ahead. I realize the older I get, the more feisty, fearless, and grateful I am for my life, and everyone in it.

The minute I signed the publishing contract with Booktrope for my novel, A DECENT WOMAN,  my life changed, and my world opened up. The quiet, solitary life of a writer was soon to change. My friend says my life blew open and she’s right! From writing alone for four years, and not speaking to a soul for days on end, I began working with an incredibly talented publishing team at Booktrope of editors, book managers, project managers, a cover designer, and a proofreader, many of whom are talented writers themselves. My experience with Booktrope has been rewarding and very enriching which is saying a lot as the road to publication is a tough, confusing road for many.

My writing brain cells were already perky and feeling the urgency when I signed my writing contract, and soon, my dormant business brain cells were woken up, challenged, and tested. Every day I’m a working sponge, absorbing large amounts of information, and putting what I learned in practice. Earlier this week, I tweaked and published a book trailer on Animoto for my debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, coming out this Fall. When I posted the trailer on my Facebook author page, a fellow author and new friend, suggested I upload it to YouTube for a wider audience. My eyebrows rose and I thought, why not? I certainly love watching YouTube videos, specifically book trailers, so why not put it way out there? Well, for one…I didn’t have a clue how to do it. Good reason.

So today, I took a lunch break from writing, and signed up for a YouTube page/channel. I clicked upload, crossing my fingers the book trailer would upload with no issues, and the time I spent wouldn’t be a total waste. Well, it couldn’t have been easier. In 20 minutes, my YouTube was up and running. When I went back to check my channel just now, I had seven views (four are my own!). Thanks for the tip, Alina Garcia-Lapuerta! Trust me, I’m not a computer savvy woman, this was a big deal for me!

Please enjoy the official book trailer for the debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, coming out Fall 2014. Please leave comments, I love hearing from you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EuTnfrMcEM

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Author Interview with Carlos Alemán

nuno_cover-Carlos Aleman

I’m honored to welcome to The Writing Life, the multi-talented, Carlos Alemán, author of NUNO. I was pleased to learn Carlos and I wrote epic tributes to one of our grandparents, and turned those tributes into novels. I think you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Carlos Alemán is a Cuban American writer, painter, illustrator, book cover designer, digital product artist/prototyper and web designer. An early e-book draft of this novel entitled As Happy As Ling, was a finalist in the 2012 International Latino Book Awards. In 2013, the release in paperback of Happy That It’s Not True was named one of the best novels of the year by the Latina Book Club. He is a judge in the 2014 National Association of Hispanic Publications’ José Martí Awards.  Carlos lives in Sunrise, Florida with his wife Jean.

Welcome, Carlos!

What is your book’s genre/category?

It could fall into the literary fiction or popular fiction categories.  Popular fiction may sound a lot less pretentious and appeal to more readers.  It would also belong in the historical fiction category since the story begins in 1945.    

Please describe what the story/book is about.

My novel, Nuno, which is about to be published, is the prequel to Happy That It’s Not True.  It begins in pre-revolution Cuba and follows the life of an army officer that falls in love with a woman who was once a childhood friend.  As the world changes and brings much adversity, the woman becomes the inspiration and hope that helps him to survive a dark adventure.

How did you come up with the title?

Nuno is the name of the main character.  When I first heard the name, there was something about it that I thought was unique and interesting.  When I researched the name I discovered that it was the name of a famous Portuguese general.  The mental association I made with the name now made it easier for me to describe the life of a military man.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

My grandfather, Francisco, was a political prisoner in Cuba.  As I researched his life and what he had to go through, I found lots of elements that I thought would work well in a novel.  The book started out as an epic tribute to my grandfather, in which I made him a type of larger than life figure.  Eventually, I thought the story fit nicely as the first book of a trilogy. 

What is your favorite part of writing?

I enjoy the actual process of writing once I have a vague idea of where the plot is going.  A lot of writers say that writing is pure torture and hard work.  I’ve never felt that way.  I love to write.  Perhaps the dark humor keeps me happy and in good spirits for the entire length of a project.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The hardest part for me in completing a novel is not having worked out how the next several chapters will unfold.  If I can picture some kind of sequence of events, this helps build up momentum and I can almost feel the finish line.  I suppose it’s like driving through the fog and you can at least see a hundred feet in front of you.  When you can only see a few feet in front of you — that is the most challenging aspect of writing for me. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

On the very top of my list are Haruki Murakami, Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In a separate list for poets: Pablo Neruda, Rumi, Tagore, Walt Whitman

What authors or person(s) have influenced you? 

There have been many people who have inspired and influenced me.  Some are polar opposites of each other, such as Carl Sagan and Billy Graham.  Others include Neil deGrasse Tyson, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Rob Bell, Eckhart Tolle, Pope Francis, the 14th Dalai Lama, Brian McLaren, Bono, Ramana Maharshi, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and many others.

Favorite place to write?

When I write, I lose track of where I am, so it doesn’t really matter.  The quieter, the better.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

As much as I share on social media, I’m not sure there would be anything about me that would be a surprise to know.  Those that follow my activities are aware of my love Chinese and Japanese art, my own attempts at drawing and painting, and my constant weight training and healthy living. 

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I’m fortunate to have a lot of control over my writing and I get to design my own book covers.  One of the advantages of having a small publisher is how much it feels like family.  I was expecting the publishing business to be strictly about acquiescing to commercial and practical realities, but since Aignos Publishing specializes in experimental literature, it’s been a very satisfying experience.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

My first two books took me about four years each to write.  There was a little bit of overlap as I polished them and made lots of changes.  My third book and the one I’m currently writing seem like short stories to me even though they’re full length novels.  I might be able to write one or two novels a year now, but I’m glad I took my time with my first two books.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Put the ego and emotions aside.  Expect years of rejection.  If you stay at it long enough, talent and opportunity will converge.  When the first novel gets rejected, start on the second.  To actually get published, submissions to literary agents may not be enough.  Try to get well connected and get to know as many people as you can that are writers or reviewers or in any way part of the literary world.

Website?

http://www.carlosaleman.com

Where can we find your book?

Happy That It’s Not True is available on Amazon.  Nuno, and the final book of the trilogy, Diego in Two Places will be released soon and also available on Amazon.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a coming of age story that takes place in the year 1980.  I’m also getting a series of paintings ready for an art exhibit in 2015.

Thanks for having me, Eleanor.

Thank you for a super interview, Carlos. Best of lDiego_in_2_places_cover- Carlos Alemanuck with your books.

Happy_TINT_cover Carlos Aleman

Author Interview, JT Twissel

 

CSIt is a great pleasure to welcome JT Twissel, author of the novels, FLIPKA and THE GRADUATION PRESENT. Some of Jan’s blog posts have me laughing out loud in quiet public places, and I loved FLIPKA. Jan is a wonderful storyteller and a people watcher which shows in her unique characters. I’m looking forward to reading THE GRADUATION PRESENT.

JT Twissel (Jan) was born in a small town in Massachusetts and raised primarily in Reno, Nevada, leaving home at eighteen to see the world.  Eventually she more or less settled down, living with her first husband in Chicago and then in the San Francisco bay area where she obtained a degree in English from UC Berkeley.  She worked as a newsletter editor, a secretary, a process analyst, project manager and technical documentation manager before becoming a full time writer.

Aside from her children, she’s most proud of the years she spent as a Make-A-Wish volunteer, interviewing children with life-threatening conditions and helping arrange their wishes.  Her later experience as a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate for at-risk foster children, inspired her to write FLIPKA. The necessity to take several long trips across the great state of Nevada – where wackiness is a virtue – created the setting and characters.

 

Welcome, Jan!

What is your book’s genre/category?

THE GRADUATION PRESENT is a coming of age, adventure, travel with some comedy and romance.  I believe it’s categorized on Amazon as coming of age.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

This review (which I love) pretty much sums up what the book is about: “A hapless hopeless romantic American girl called Riley O’Tannen heads for Europe to get a taste of the old world and instead encounters her drunken uncle who keeps a mistress, her randy aunt who keeps a gigolo, and a dead CIA man whose boss is a raving homosexual. On top of this she becomes an accidental fugitive hunted by the Swiss police. Oh, and she also finds love.”

How did you come up with the title?

The protagonist’s trip to Europe was a belated graduation present from an uncle she doesn’t really know very well.  To tell you the truth, we tried to come up with another title but just couldn’t think of anything.  I found out after the book came out that there’s another book with the same title.  Guess what genre?  Porn.  Whoops!

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I have so many memories of my time in Europe that I knew I had to get them down on paper in some form or another before they were all lost to time (or senility).   The hardest part was getting into the skin of a clueless, naive and overly imaginative girl.  I struggled with it for a long time, certain I’d never be able to do it.  And then a very special friend of mine was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  The last thing she said to me was “finish Oncle Boob!  The world needs to laugh” and that did it for me.  (Oncle Boob was one of the first titles the book had)

What is your favorite part of writing?

When a character really talks to me. Particularly if the person I based the character on has passed away.  I will often break down into tears over my keyboard.  It’s a miracle I haven’t been electrocuted!

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

For me, it’s plot development, time-line stuff.  The characters and scenes pop up without a lot of effort but where I put them on any particular timeline doesn’t always make sense – particularly for my editor!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I studied Victorian lit in college so I would say: Austen, Dickens, the Brontes, Trollope.  I’ve read and enjoyed so many contemporary writers that it would take all day to list them.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

The most influential person in my life was a lady by the name of Joellen Hawkins.  She was the model for the Fi Butters character in FLIPKA.  She opened my mind to so many things.

Favorite place to write?

I write in a slide rocker next to a window from where I can see the foggy, coastal hills.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I was once a department store living mannequin.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Oh golly, everything has been a big surprise and learning lesson!  I guess the importance of social media was the biggest surprise.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Luckily I was already familiar with blogging and web designer.  Having that knowledge saved me a lot of work, agony and probably money.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

A lot of writers I know who tried, but couldn’t find a traditional publisher have begun self-publishing and it seems to working out well for them.  One of them has even won a couple of awards!  Often they will self-publish a first book and then it is picked up by one of the hybrid publishers. Another piece of advice – don’t expect to become an overnight hit!

Website?

http://www.jttwissel.com

Where can we find your book?

The usual places!

What’s next for you?

I just finished a third book, as yet untitled, and sent it to my editor.  So I’ll probably take a break and then begin on Flipka 2.

Thanks for a great interview, Jan! Best of luck with all your books!CS

Heeding Roadblocks and Detours in Our Creative Lives.

THE LAST AND FINAL BOOK COVER!

This blog post is an update on what’s happening in my world. I’m happy to say it’s all great news, even if it took a bit more patience, perseverance, and new energy and vision to get here. I learned a few important life lessons in the process of preparing A DECENT WOMAN for the book launch in Fall 2014 which in turn, accelerated personal growth. My good friends and family know I’m all about learning, growth, and sharing what I learn along the way, and these lessons served me well. Perhaps you can relate.

Great patience has never been my best character trait, but solving problems, good listening skills, and perseverance are. If you come to me with a difficult situation, a challenge or problem, I’m your gal. I like solving problems and assisting others to get where they’d like to be. If you aren’t quite sure what you want in life, I’ll sit with you and help you figure that out. If you say you’re ready to get out of a toxic relationship, I am a great sounding board, and if you’re looking to make a change or achieve a goal, I’m a great cheerleader. If you’re running down a hotel hallway, trip and fall onto your backpack, and the front of your knee is impaled by a sharpened pencil, I am a cool customer. I don’t jump around screaming, I take charge. I’ll calm you down, won’t let you look at your knee, and I’ll hold a towel on your leg until the doctor arrives. True story. Yes, that really happened to my son on the first day of our last European tour when he was six. He’s fine, thank God. I fell apart after the doctor left.

But, would I follow my own advice when several personal and book  challenges arose? Not so much, at first. I was certainly on top of the sticky situations, but as turned out, I was too close to have good perspective, and the old ways weren’t working. My attitude was what my father, the Sergeant Major, taught me – forge ahead and make the situation work. Not always great advice for every situation, I learned.

I learned to trust that some road blocks and detours in life should be heeded, and are in place for good reasons. The old me was forging ahead with my eye clearly focused on the prize, forgetting the journey is as important as the destination. I would have missed the personal growth experiences and lessons by staying the course. Electing to remain steady and going around roadblocks, ignoring the available detour, can prolong an already long journey, and can cause us to miss the boat entirely. Maneuvering life is tricky.

I’m an optimist by nature with a good dose of reality which probably comes from my many years in counseling and social work. I’m not what my daughter calls ‘a Disneyland optimistic’ and she’s right, but I’m a nice person. I remembered that if it stinks, it stinks, and no amount of air freshener is going to help, but I tried to work my way around hurting others. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. Feelings will get hurt along the way if we are listening to our gut. I was reminded that our decisions will impact others and are often for everyone’s highest good like a wake up call or much-needed personal growth and awareness. But my path is my path.

I remembered that looking at a situation in a new way and seeing the big picture are necessary to get from point A to B with all our marbles intact. Well, it wasn’t easy and certainly put me out of my comfort zone, but boy, was the lesson important.

So, I’m working hard, staying up late, drinking way too much coffee, and rising early with A DECENT WOMAN. I’m in the darker corners of my mind and uncovering where more creative gold is hiding. I’m challenging myself to put the best book on those bookshelves this Fall. I’m in excellent hands as I move forward on final edits.

We hope you’ll love A DECENT WOMAN as much as we do when it comes out Fall 2014 with Booktrope Books.

I love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment, and please click on Follow and Like! I thank you in advance!

Ellie