My Last Blog Post of 2014

matthew's 21st bday

2014 was a tough year for my family…2010-2103 weren’t cake walks, either. Now, I’m not saying wonderful things didn’t happen to us because they sure did, but boy, this year was challenging. With every dream come true and answered prayer, came much learning, new challenges and very steep learning curves. Yes, I can look back today and see how much we’ve grown. I am thankful for my lessons…well, most of the lessons. I’m tougher and more resilient than I thought possible, which is a good thing. I’ve bent, been flexible, and stood my ground when the ground was indeed pretty shaky. I did pray and ask for a little relief this year. I also asked for no tests in 2015; I get it, God. I need a little sitting on the plateau time; no more steep climbs and learning curves for me, please…and thank you.

I made it through another year, thank God. I’m grateful and thankful for what I have. I’m healthy, happy, and my precious children are, too. Thank God. I have a roof over my head, my heat turns on when I turn the heating dial, and I have clean water and food. I might not have a whole lot of money left at the end of each month, but I’m doing okay. I’m blessed to do what I love and am passionate about–writing books and painting on the side. I live a quiet, peaceful, and very creative life, which I love. I have a loving children, a wonderful family, and great friends, which includes my puppy, Sophie and Pierre, my cat. I pray for continued good health for myself, my children, my family and friends in the near year and beyond, and I pray my debut novel, A Decent Woman, is well-received when it comes out in Spring 2015. What a long road this has been!

I prayed for all these things last night, and then…

last night, I opened my front door and watched my quiet neighbors from across the street, a mother and her adult son, place everything they own on the sidewalk. It was a cold night and my heart broke for them. I already knew they would be evicted and had offered my help, but the son wouldn’t hear of it. I walked over and offered my help again. He thanked me and turned back to the job at hand. I felt helpless as I turned back toward my house.

The warmth of my home welcomed me as I opened my front door and my puppy, Sophie wagged her tail when I walked through. I had texts from my children and two phone calls to return from dear friends. I answered the texts and made the calls, but I couldn’t shake what I’d seen across the street. Around midnight, the sidewalk was full of boxes and furniture and there were no lights on in the house. Where had they gone? Would I ever see them again? We weren’t close; I barely knew them as they kept to themselves for the year they lived on my street, but I was sad for them and wished them well.

So, no complaints from me. I’m blessed. Amen.

I wish you and yours a blessed, happy, prosperous, and healthy New Year.



The 2014 Joy/Happiness Jar Challenge

#JoyJar #HappinessJar 2014

Do you like challenges? I always like a good challenge that doesn’t involve alligator wrestling, bungee jumping off a bridge or sticking my hand in a bee hive. If you like those sort of challenges, good for you. I’ll fearlessly root for you at a safe, dry distance with the first aid kit. I’ll remain poised, ready to punch in the numerals, 9, 1, 1 on my cell phone, and I might even take a photo or two for posterity’s sake. But then my fingers wouldn’t be poised and ready to punch in 911, would they? Scratch that then.

In late December 2013, I accepted a friend’s Facebook invitation to begin a year-long Facebook challenge to keep a Joy/Happiness Jar for 2014. The instructions were to begin writing little notes on January 1st and continue throughout the year with our joyous life events, and dropping them in a jar or container until the following January. I loved the idea and being an optimist, I found a larger-than-normal Bell jar at Walmart and couldn’t wait to begin filling it. I went a step further—I bought beautiful papers at the craft store on which to write. I cut the 11×14 sheets of paper into one-inch squares and away I went. I’m a Virgo. We do things like that, but I didn’t decorate my jar, which many friends did. I was proud of my restraint as I remember the year I decoupaged everything in my home that didn’t move. Trust me…everything.


January 2014 was the perfect year to begin my joyously, joyful Joy Jar as many lovely things happened to me, my family, and our friends. The previous year would have been okay, but the little notes would have included more personal wishes than joyous occasions as I was still waiting, waiting for many projects to take flight and situations to unfold. There were engagements, weddings, graduations, new babies, reunions great trips and road trips, new adventures, and my publishing contract with Booktrope Books in February. After many years of quering agents, my historical fiction novel, A Decent Woman, was accepted for publication! A huge blessing. It was very easy to think of joyous, surprising, and amazing occasions this year, for which I am thankful. When nothing newsworthy happened that week, I wrote that I was happy to be alive, healthy and safe as were my kids and my family.

Yes, we experienced a few disappointments, some sad moments, confusion, major delays (my book), frustration, a big fright, and a bit of anger, but that’s life. I lost my beloved Pug, Ozzy. RIP, buddy. We must take the good with the bad. Thankfully for my family, the negative moments were short-lived, and many of those moments unveiled hidden blessings for which we are extremely grateful for today.

So, I have less than ten days to finish filling my Joy Jar, which is nearly full. This afternoon, I wrote ten joys on ten little squares of paper and dropped them in the jar. On New Year’s Day 2015, I will empty the contents, unfold the notes, and read back over the year. I am thinking of having some type of ceremony–a symbolic burning of the small, folded pieces of paper as an offering of thanksgiving for all our many blessings in 2014, along with prayers. That sounds good to me and appeals to my spiritual side. After the ceremony, if I don’t catch the house on fire, I will go out and ring in the New Year with friends and family.

Christmas blessings to you and yours. x

Historical Novel Blog Tour Travels to Puerto Rico!

Welcome! I am pleased to be part of this Historical Novel Blog Tour today! Every week you can follow the tour to other historical fiction author’s blogs to get to know them and their books. I’ll be taking you to turn of the century Puerto Rico.

My special thanks to author, Tiffani Burnett-Velez, for inviting me to participate, and my thanks to author, Meara Platt for a wonderful introduction!

IMG_3760Who you are, where you’re from, your writing credits.

I am a Puerto Rican-born novelist, poet, and artist, raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. My life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire my passion for writing and are evident in my novels. My wonderful, adult children live in Virginia and Holland. When I’m not writing, I facilitate creativity groups using Julia Cameron’s seminal book on creativity, The Artist’s Way, and I always stop for photo opportunities. I live in a quirky, 109-year old, historic home in Berkeley County, West Virginia with a very friendly cat and an adorable Chihuahua. I collect antiques, old books and old maps. Set in 1900 Puerto Rico, A Decent Woman is my debut novel, and I am currently writing my second historical novel, Finding Gracia, set on the medieval pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St. James, in Spain.


What is your latest historical fiction piece?

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014My debut novel, A Decent Woman, is coming out Winter 2015. Here is a brief synopsis:

Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in town.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal, and preserve Serafina’s honor, her new marriage, and her place in the world.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

Why did you choose to write it?

A Decent Woman began as a five-page tribute to my Puerto Rican grandmother, Eloina, on her 90th birthday. I was the kid who sat at her knee, urging for more stories, and she had many fascinating tales of growing up in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I know my grandmother’s stories by heart and as a kid, I could always tell when she embellished or left out juicy details. It was important for me to record her stories and very quickly, the tribute turned into a novel.

I love introducing readers to Latina(o) and Hispanic characters because it’s in my blood; I spoke Spanish before I spoke English. My mother, her siblings, and my maternal grandparents, now deceased, were all born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the setting of A Decent Woman. I love history and my favorite books are those set in exotic places, especially stories about people who are often overlooked or ignored by society, which is how the protagonist of A Decent Woman, the Afro-Cuban midwife born into slavery, Ana Belen, came about. I believe my life experiences have influenced my writing in a unique way.

What about that era appeals to you?

Everything about that era appeals to me! I love Puerto Rico and have always been drawn to our folklore, African traditions, music, food, and the colonial architecture of Ponce, the setting of my novel. Puerto Ricans are proud, strong and resilient, which they exhibited after the United States invasion of the island, the destruction of the coffee and sugar industries, and after Hurricane San Ciriaco, one of the worst hurricanes in history, devastated the island.

Are your characters real or fictional? If they’re real, how did you fictionalize them?

My mother and her siblings were delivered into the world by a local midwife, comadrona, from Playa de Ponce named Doña Ana. No one remembers exactly where Afro-Cuban Doña Ana was from, but my mother and grandmother remembered she spoke with a foreign accent, wore a white turban, and smoked a cigar after every birth. The elder women of my family spoke about the midwife with respect and reverence, so I knew she was a special woman. I added Ana as a secondary character in the story and very quickly, I gave in to her whispering the story in my ear–she became my heroine.

I fictionalized Ana’s troubled past as a slave in Cuba, who fled to Puerto Rico under mysterious circumstances and I wrote dialogue as if I were being dictated to. I still feel a strong connection to her. I gave Ana life on a page and she in turn, gave me life as a writer and author.

What kind of research is involved in writing your novel?

I traveled to Puerto Rico to interview several women born in the early 1900’s and back in the United States, I interviewed a Professor of Latin American Studies at American University, and two midwives. I also interviewed a psychic in the Dominican Republic, a medium and many healers in Puerto Rico, which was fascinating. The deeper I delved into the complex lives of women in turn of the century Puerto Rico, the richer and more interesting the story became. I read everything I could get my hands on about Puerto Rico. I love researching for novels as much as  I love writing novels, and I now have quite a collection of books on the Caribbean.

How do you organize the fictional aspects of your writing vs. the historical facts?

I wrote the first draft of the manuscript and then went back to fill in the blanks with historical detail. As I rewrote and edited the second draft, I continued to research and flesh out the story. Just last week, I found a fascinating bit of history and added it to the novel. I allow the novel to evolve and I love when the characters lead me to interesting places.

How does the historical timeline move your plot along or influence the actions of your characters?

My novel is about the friendship of Ana and Serafina from 1900 to 1920 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I stayed true to the historical timeline, which includes major hurricanes, the US invasion of the island, the aftermath of hurricanes, and political unrest. In 1918, an earthquake practically leveled the city of Ponce. The timeline influenced and shaped my characters 100%, which drives the novel forward.

How do you feel about writers taking creative license with historical facts? Or, does it bother you when facts area changed to fit the story in a movie or a book?

I don’t mind reading novels where the author has taken creative license with historical facts; we’re artists. However, I don’t enjoy watching films of classic novels that have been altered the point where I no longer recognize the work. I guess I’m a purist when it comes to the classics. I especially love novels written about an ordinary person with a close relationship to an historical figure, which gives a new, fresh perspective on that figure and the era.

What’s next for you after this present work?

A Decent Woman comes out Winter 2015 with Booktrope Books and I’m very excited.

I am currently writing my second historical novel, Finding Gracia, set in Spain, on the medieval pilgrimage route of El Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St. James. I walked El Camino with my children in 2005, after my marital separation, and kept a journal on that walk. I am excited as the story unfolds and I see where my characters are leading me. I plan on writing a sequel to A Decent Woman called Mistress of Coffee.

Thank you for joining me and my special thanks to Tiffani Burnett-Velez!

You can find me at:



Next on the Historical Fiction Novel Blog Tour!

I’ve enjoyed reading the blog posts by the authors before me, so please make sure you check them out. If you are looking for something different than what you usually read, this Historical Fiction Novel Blog Tour is for you!

A David Singh is an emerging author whose historical fiction centers on the worlds of kings and legends. Even medical school and a neurosurgical residency could not distract him from his love of writing and his enduring imagination. David first became entranced with The tales of King Arthur and The Man in the Iron Mask as a teenager, and he’s currently working on fiction that moves in that direction. Check out his blog, to read more about his work and his writing technique. His most recent piece is about a personal hero, Julius Cesar. “[He] was a giant of a man, with qualities both good and terrible. It amazes me how such varying qualities can be embodied in one individual,” A. David Singh.

Julius Caesar and his Rome

How I Got Rid of the Holiday Blues

Could I be any more behind this holiday season? Is my current situation any different than last year, the year before or the year before that?  The answer is no. No, it isn’t. If you compared me to when my kids still lived at home, you’d be shocked…or not. I bear little resemblance to the woman I was four years ago. I am a disgrace to the Virgo astrological sign–I’m supposed to be super organized. I used to be! What changed? What happened to me? Is this change a good thing? Read all the way to the end to find out!


I was the woman who had two fresh family Christmas trees up on Thanksgiving Day with fresh garlands of greenery on the staircase banister, along the fireplace mantle, and holly and ivy everywhere you looked. The trees had different themes, of course, and they matched every pillow in the room, to include the drapes in that particular room. And I only used white lights, much to my children’s dismay, who loved the primary colors of our neighbor’s Christmas tree lights. Not in my house, thank you very much. Every year of my 25 years of marriage, I wrote a family newsletter, complete with photos (friends, please forgive me for those), which I stuffed in no less than 125 Christmas cards to family and friends. I bought gifts for my family and friends, wrapped way ahead of most of my friends, and prepared a sumptuous holiday meal for my family, friends and my favorite priest, Father Vincent, when he could join us. As a family, we visited Christmas markets from Germany to Holland, where I bought special ornaments for the trees…for the following year. Yes, I already knew what I wanted for next year’s tree as I decorated that year’s tree. I volunteered for holiday church events, participated in the Angel Network, and Toys for Tots. I still ran out of batteries for toys and gadgets on Christmas Eve, but doesn’t everyone?

After 25 years in a traditional marriage, I separated from my husband and moved from Belgium, back to the United States. We divorced, I went back to school and worked, but I still hung onto our (my?) holiday traditions like a woman clinging to her fading beauty. My kids were at were university in Washington, DC and Harrisonburg, VA, so we enjoyed four Christmases in our rented home in Northern Virginia with one fresh Christmas tree. I sent out less than 50 Christmas cards and we celebrated the holiday season with new friends and family. I hadn’t spent a Christmas with my single sister and her children in 13 years. My sister hosted us for Thanksgiving and I, newly single, hosted her family for Christmas dinner. We did this for four years and had a ball creating many happy, wonderful memories together. My son is the official turkey carver of the family for both holidays and my daughter is the most creative gift-giver. My job is to cook, take photographs, and enjoy my beautiful family, which I do! I’m good at that.

November and December 2013 140

In 2010, I decided to quit renting in Virginia and bought a great, old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia, two hours from my children, who’d graduated from college and were working in the Northern Virginia area. By the time Christmas rolled around, I still had boxes to unwrap and several rooms left to paint. The house wasn’t ready, but I longed to host my family in our new home. Was it really our home or my home? My kids were in their early 20’s now and very independent. I lived alone with a dog and a cat. We ended up spending Thanksgiving with my sister and her kids, which was great, and my daughter, who’d moved in with her boyfriend, offered to host Christmas dinner for our family and his mother. It was wonderful and let me tell you, my daughter was excited about this coming of age moment. I recognized it, too. She prepared our family favorites and decorated a beautiful tree. They had a huge kitchen versus my tiny kitchen, so it made sense, and we had a great time. No one had to drive two hours to my home and I didn’t have to wash sheets, towels, buy groceries, put up extra beds, and…decorate my home. For the first time in forever, I didn’t put up a tree. Why bother? It didn’t make sense as I was spending four days away from my home.


Now, although I’d prepared myself and I understood I wasn’t ready for company just yet, it was tough for me. My mother’s heart grieved for the past. I tried hanging on with our changing family dynamics, and as much as I hated to admit it, I was afraid of my future as a single woman. I’d never lived alone. I’d left a good job in the city and now wrote full-time in a new city. There were many sacrifices to make, but I kept my focus on the prize–a published book. I moved where I could pursue my dream. I wrote every day, researched every day and soon, the house was ready for Christmas. I was ready! But…it didn’t happen. My kids were now working, my niece and nephew were in college, and our schedules just didn’t work out. I acquiesced and did the right thing–I drove to Virginia for the holidays. When would we ever spend Christmas at my house? I was bummed, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy doing very little to prepare for the holidays. I didn’t have to stress, clean my house from top to bottom, cook from sunup to sundown. I prepared one side dish, bought a pie (hello?), and away went down the road with my dog, Ozzy, as my co-captain. Not bad, really. I didn’t go home with holiday left-overs, but I went home with the turkey carcass, which I used for turkey soup for future cold, wintery days.

May 10, 2011 019

Fast-forward to 2014. My daughter is no longer with her boyfriend and is living with a good friend until she finds a one-room apartment in Northern Virginia. My son is back from Thailand, where he lived and worked for three months, and he’s leaving to live and work in Amsterdam in January.  We spent Thanksgiving with my sister, had a great time and she has graciously offered to host us for Christmas. Sigh, I know. I could do that, right? I could ‘make’ everyone come to me, but I won’t this year. It’s much easier for one person (me) to drive to the family instead of messing with their schedules. No one can take much time off work right now; I get it.

In February 2014, I received a book contract from Booktrope Books and I hope to see my historical novel, A Decent Woman, in print around that same time, next year! It’s been a wonderful, but challenging year, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Will my kids and I ever enjoy the kind of Christmases we used to enjoy when they were little? I no longer have the big house, where everyone gathered for the Holidays, and I don’t have extra money to rent a large cabin for the Holidays, which I’d love to do one day. It’s just not in the cards. But this year, I purchased a five-foot tall Christmas tree from Big Lots. I decorated that sketchy little Charlie Brown tree and my home with garlands of greenery from Michael’s, and I put a wreath on the door. But I won’t send out Christmas cards. Facebook is awesome for that and no more nauseating holiday newsletters, either! I was feeling good last week, but then began thinking about my non-Currier and Ives Christmas. What a pain. I tried keeping busy to get my mind off the past and then I visited two neighbor down the street. I sat listening to my friend as she dealt with her first holiday without her precious son, who died last year. I sat and listened to my other friend, who described how she’d crammed 13 people for Thanksgiving in her home, which is the same size as mine. Family, good health, and love; that’s all that matters.

What I learned: Never again feel sorry for myself during the Holidays. Forget the Christmas pasts, not the people mind you, only the things that I thought made Christmas because they really don’t. Embrace, kiss and love my family again! Thank God we are happy, healthy and together. And…prepare everyone NOW for next Christmas because we’re cramming together at my house for dinner and an overnight!

Christmas 2010 027

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays to you and your family! Much love from me to you. xo

Author Interview with Rachel Kambury

I met Rachel Kambury in November at Historical Fiction Night at the KGB Bar in New York City, hosted by Monique Lewis, the founder of At The Inkwell. Rachel and I enjoyed each other’s readings and I knew then, I’d invite this talented writer to The Writing Life blog.

rachelk_7 small Born and raised in Oregon, Rachel Kambury developed a love for writing at the age of five. She decided to become a novelist after reading Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, when she was eleven.

Rachel self-published her first work of WWII historical fiction, GRAVEL, in 2009, two months before she graduated high school in her hometown of Ashland. Following a six-week battlefield tour of Western Europe that summer, she moved to New York City for college with her first novel in tow.

In September 2010, Rachel began her second work of WWII historical fiction, The War Bound, writing the entire first draft and part of the second while in school. The novel is currently in its third draft stage undergoing rewrites.

Rachel graduated from Eugene Lang College – The New School for Liberal Arts with a BA in Literary Studies in May 2013. She lives in New York City.

Welcome, Rachel!

What is your book’s genre/category?

The War Bound is historical fiction.

TWB Mockup copy (1)

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Six days before the Allied invasion of France, Sebastian, a Nazi Lieutenant along with his young brother Jürgen attempt to escape Europe while their father Christoph, a Nazi Colonel, hunts them down for desertion.

As events unfold, the story’s more vulnerable underbelly becomes exposed, revealing what is at the heart of the novel: an intimate family drama about loyalty, trauma, free will, and sacrifice set within the horrendous conflict of World War II.

How did you come up with the title?

I knew I wanted the word ‘war’ in the title, for various reasons: it’s a word that people notice straight away and are drawn to; it’s also a very heavy word – when you see it, you have an almost instinctive understanding of its meaning, if only in a very general sense. I didn’t come up with the whole title on my own, though: I had a conversation over text with my dad and my sister where we bounced variations around to each other, things like “The Bonds of War” and “Bound by War” and things like that. Eventually we struck on “The War Bound,” and after a cursory Google search to make sure it wasn’t already taken as a novel title*, I decided that was it.

*The only other thing with a similar name is a group of MARVEL characters called “The Warbound,” which if anything is rather fitting given my love for MARVEL superheroes.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

There are so many, and frankly I could probably write a thesis paper about this.

I started writing the book because an idea came to me in class one day, but I’ve kept at it because in the four years since, I’ve discovered so many things about these characters and their interior lives and the world they live in and can’t give it up. I care so much about this history and the stories that have come out of it (and those that haven’t). As tasking as it is to write a long novel about Nazis, it’s also hugely rewarding.

It was important to me to delve into what it would mean to abandon the only life I’ve ever known for the sake of survival, which is a story that resonates with so many people but takes on an entirely new dynamic when it’s a story, however fictional, about the lives of Germans during WWII. I realized halfway through writing The War Bound that my groove, so to speak, is taking fictional characters and inserting them in very real historical contexts in order to get the audience – and myself – closer to the events and hopefully that much closer to a deeper level of understanding. Fact plays a very large role in my work, but so does the human aspect of what is a singularly human endeavor.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The buzz is nice; that creative high that keeps me coming back time and again. But more so it’s the characters themselves, especially after a good amount of time has passed and they’ve gone from being stick figures in the back of my head to fully realized people always hovering in my peripheral vision; they come to mean so much to me and writing the story they belong to feels like the only way to not let them down. I’m also a total sucker for that moment when a reader comes up to me and tells me how the story affected them. I’m seem to have a real knack for getting people’s tear ducts working…

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Sitting down and doing it. When I was in high school and college I had the luxury of having demands on my time that made me want to get around to writing as quickly as possible. As writing more and more becomes the center point of my life, I find it increasingly difficult to just do it. If we’re talking nuts and bolts, the hardest part for me is POV control. World building and detail? No problem. Dialogue? Sure! But hell if I can’t pick a POV and stick to it.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

J.R.R. Tolkien and Kurt Vonnegut; William Shakespeare. Michael Chabon, Haruki Murakami, and Jane Austen; Jonathan Hickman and Frank McCourt. John Le Carré, Sebastian Junger, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley, and Charlotte Brontë are also choice.

Can you tell I was a lit studies major in college?

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

This is one of those Pandora’s Box questions – I could go on for days. Kurt Vonnegut made me want to be a writer and Tolkien taught me how to write, and like most writers I’ve learned to create my own voice by reading novels by a lot of different writers, but the people I’m influenced by vary widely and change often. A lot of people in film and entertainment, definitely; Charlie Chaplin, Steve McQueen, Robert Downey Jr., Ruth Wilson, Kathryn Bigelow, Peter Jackson; George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard…

The men of Easy Company (of Band of Brothers) are hugely important to me, too. Perhaps most of all.

Favorite place to write?

The lobby of the Ace Hotel in NYC, or in my room with my cat snuggled on my lap; there are a number of other coffee shops I’ve come to love over the years, both in NYC and elsewhere. I like places with lots of activity, a warm atmosphere, good music, and spectacular coffee.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have four tattoos (and have plans for many more)!

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

It’s amazing how important the little things are. It could be a missed comma here or too much white space there, but every time I flip through my first novel, I see something – a formatting mistake or a typo or a missing word – that pulls me up short. They’re the kinds of mistakes I know would make me put down a novel by another writer, and so I’m extremely aware of them now in my own work, especially since that kind of stuff can make or break me in the submissions process.

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

I listened to my mentors and readers. When a friend who works at a high profile literary agency told me “You need to work on your voice,” I took it to heart along with the line edits a former professor of mine sent along. Another friend mentioned that the manuscript was overly long and that one or two characters needed some fleshing out. I live for that kind of feedback, and it all makes each draft stronger than the last. Having people who provide unbiased constructive criticism as well as words of encouragement is absolutely invaluable, and I’ve only come as far as I have because of people who do those things for me. I am beyond lucky.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Be patient. Give the manuscript the time it needs to settle before you go around putting it in front of people’s faces. GRAVEL could have easily gone through another one or two rounds of edits before its publication, so now with The War Bound, I’m taking a lot more time to be diligent, to edit thoughtfully and carefully; the worst that can happen is that I start sending out queries later in the year instead of right at the beginning.


I’m also on all major social media channels as “rkambury”

Where can we find your book?

GRAVEL can be purchased online on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu (for the ebook). Links are available on my website! And you can follow me on Twitter to get updates on my progress with The War Bound.

What’s next for you?

I’m gearing up for my first-ever crowdfunding campaign with Pubslush beginning January 1st! The goal is to raise enough money to give GRAVEL a second chance at life, so to speak, with a once-over for line edits, formatting, a new cover, a marketing campaign, and a whole slew of goodies for people who donate (signed copies, free ebook editions, posters, and more)! Be sure to check it out – click “Become a Fan” and be among the first to know when the campaign launches:

I’ll also continue working on rewrites for The War Bound, which is proving to be a rather daunting task considering I’m having to rewrite the first half, more or less. Just have to keep reminding myself that all good writing is rewriting, and each new page is a step in the right direction. Here’s to making some big strides in 2015!

Thank you for a great interview, Rachel. Best of luck with The War Bound and the crowdfunding campaign for Gravel!

Author Interview with EJ Hanagan

SavingJason_finalEbookI’m very pleased to welcome EJ Hanagan, author of the women’s fiction novel, Saving Jason.

EJ Hanagan is a writer, fitness fanatic, obsessive reader and animal lover. She lives in a sleepy beach town outside of Boston with her husband, their new baby girl and their two giant Newfoundland dogs.

After spending four years in the Air Force, EJ put her fire for fitness to good use and worked as a personal trainer while going to college. If it weren’t for the amazing, brave people that she met while in the military, she wouldn’t have the passion that she does now, to focus on bringing awareness to veterans with PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Her hope is to bring the invisible scars of war to the surface through her writing and community involvement.

Welcome, EJ!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Women’s fiction

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Jason Barnes is a free spirit. But underneath his fun-loving surface lurks a severe case of PTSD, his personal souvenir from the war on terror.  After his young marriage breaks up, he bounces from girlfriend to girlfriend, never allowing himself to get too close, all while maintaining a friendship with his ex-wife, Samantha Colton. His short-lived relationships come to a halt when he meets Abby Jacobsen, a smart and sassy artist. With love comes jealousy, and Abby doesn’t stand for Jason’s cozy friendship with Samantha. Two hours after a heated argument causes Jason to storm out of their apartment in a fury, Abby receives a phone call from the intensive care unit of a New Hampshire hospital.

The hospital walls close in on Abby and Samantha as they are forced to make tough decisions while trying hard not to kill each other. The two form a rare bond when Emma Jane, Jason’s mom, arrives on the scene.

Three weeks after Jason’s accident, Abby is left alone and hovering over a handful of positive pregnancy tests.  During the nine months of her pregnancy, Abby works with Samantha to dig up clues of Jason’s past. As the truth is discovered, their lives are irreversibly changed.

An emotionally-moving look at PTSD and the intersection of three lives forever changed, Saving Jason is a riveting glimpse into lives intertwined, unexpected friendships, and the ripples we leave without our knowledge.

How did you come up with the title? 

Well, as I was in the middle of writing the first draft, I was so caught up in literally saving the main character both physically and mentally.  As luck would have it, I love the name Jason and it sounded best with “Saving.”

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I wrote Saving Jason because for years I had been struggling with seeing a good friend suffer from PTSD.  I knew that he was haunted by things that he had witnessed, and that bothered me because it was like he was stuck in his own skin.  So, while the story just took on a mind of it’s own, the characters developed as I went along.  I initially set out to write it because I wanted to bring awareness about how badly PTSD effects families and relationships. 

What is your favorite part of writing?

Creating and getting lost in a world that only exists in my head and being able to share it with everyone.  And I love developing my characters’ personalities-even the little habits and quirks. 

IMG_5795-Edit-2-3What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Writing!  There is so much that goes along with being a new author with marketing and putting yourself “out there,” that it’s sometimes hard to remember why you started.  Some days it’s hard to just sit down and write.  There is also an odd anxiety that goes along with it for me.  Sometimes I have too many ideas spinning around in my head and I stress about what to include and what to cut.  I luckily don’t have writer’s block too often, so that usually isn’t a problem.  

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, Jojo Moyes, Heather Huffman.  There are so many amazing authors out there.  And I love reading new authors too.  

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My manager, Heather Huffman has influenced me quite a bit.  Not only is she an amazing writer and practices what she preaches, but she is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met and she thoroughly believes in my writing.  I owe her everything!

Favorite place to write?

Gosh, I really want to say the adorable little writing nook that I set up, but I gotta admit, nothing inspires me more than writing in a Starbucks.  

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

While I may come off as outgoing and an extrovert, sometimes all I want to do is hide and be alone.  Oh, and I’m petrified of getting my blood taken.  I pass out nearly every time.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

It is amazing how much work goes into the creation of one book and how many people play a part in getting it out into the world.  I’m fascinated with the process and I love the passion in everyone on the team at Booktrope.  I think people are generally in this field because they love it, so it never feels like work.

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

Writing from the two different perspectives was a good decision because it allows the reader to see the two different sides of Jason.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

I know that this sounds so cliché, but never give up.  If you love writing, then keep working at your craft.  If you believe in yourself, you are bound to find someone who believes in you.


Where can we find your book?


 What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on my next novel, Underwater Secrets, due to be released Spring 2015.  The story flashes back from today to the 60s and involves a mother/daughter relationship.  It involves a bit of mystery, a touch of drama and a lot of love.  Stay tuned!


It’s been great having you at The Writing Life today, EJ! Thanks for sharing your book, Saving Jason, and your writing wisdom!

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

First Advanced Reader Copy Review of A DECENT WOMAN

One of the most terrifying and exhilarating experiences for a debut author is the first review. My hands trembled as I emailed the PDF advanced reader copy of A Decent Woman to my wonderful early readers in October, and I literally held my breath as I read the first review in my Inbox in late October.

My deep thanks to Yma Johnson, short story writer and journalist, for her generous, in-depth review. I am taking her comments to heart as I give A Decent Woman one more look…and then another look.

“The only thing that prevented me from reading Eleanor Parker Sapia’s A Decent Woman cover-to-cover in one sitting was that I started it at 11:30 at night. The novel begins in 1899 with an evocative description of Hurricane San Ciriaco which leveled the island of Porto Rico – Parker Sapia uses the old spelling of Puerto Rico. We meet Doña Ana Belen, a midwife working in Ponce after fleeing a troubled past in her native Cuba. This lovable heroine is an important fixture in the lives of local women, and through her eyes we are granted entrée into the intimacies of the birthing chamber with its attendant joys and tragedies, its revelatory moments about a marriage’s true status. The detailed description of medicinal plants, spiritual rites, and turn-of-the-century traditional practices and instruments grounds this novel and will appeal to historical fiction lovers.

Above all, A Decent Woman is the story of the evolving friendship between Doña Ana Belén and Serafina, a woman the midwife meets when she delivers Serafina’s first child at sixteen in the poor neighborhood of La Playa. A Decent Woman embodies the genre of women’s fiction in the most complete sense of the word exploring the lives of women – young and old, dark- and light-skinned, poor and rich.

Doña Ana finds her livelihood eroded by male-dominated, hospital-based birthing practices and edges toward poverty as Serafina’s marries into an elite family. Dramatic juxtapositions particularly in relation to class dynamics amplify the intensity of each woman’s position and drive the novel forward. A Decent Woman is a feminist commentary on turn of the century health care, Parker Sapia exposes and explores the process by which midwives were displaced by male doctors along with misogynistic and racist attitudes towards impoverished sex workers without being preachy or overbearing. This layered tale also hangs on deeply-seeded tensions between love, friendship, and family versus isolation, loneliness, and despair. Doña Ana, as a devout practitioner of Santeria, finds herself targeted by Catholic priests while she herself is able to seamlessly blend both religions in her spiritual life.

Parker Sapia’s prose is generally lucid and simple. She deviates from that style only in relation to her generous landscape descriptions which describe the tumult and unpredictability of the ocean during hurricane season in a manner reminiscent of the gothic tradition. There are moments when the story feels a bit rushed, and the reader would like to languish longer in the emerging plot points, scenes, and emotional life of the characters. But on the whole, this is an outstanding read and an important book about a little known corner of women’s history.