2017 International Latino Book Award Finalist – A Decent Woman

LLN combined logo

Buenos días!

On this beautiful morning, I was humbled and happy to learn my debut novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, is a finalist in the 2017 International Latino Book Award and Latino Literacy Now for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book. I’m beyond honored, blessed, and proud to introduce readers, through my books and book events, to Latina/o characters and to Puerto Rico, the beautiful island of my birth.

I am forever grateful to my readers and blogger friends for their continued support and friendship as I meet so many on my travels and during book events. A huge thank you to Latino Literacy Now and everyone at the International Latino Book Award organization for their untiring, brilliant work in bringing Latino literature in English and Spanish to readers in the US and around the world.

A special thank you to my children, my loves, and my family for their unending love, encouragement, and support. I am truly blessed to do what I love–tell stories from long ago. I honor my ancestors and my family, on both sides of my wonderful family, for their love and support, and for continuing to listen and tell stories at the kitchen table and around the fire for the younger generation as we did last month at a recent Sapia family reunion in Ohio. A very special time for all!

Now, I must confess. I really miss my Tuesday Author Interviews series with my fellow authors, which I began in 2014. I’m excited to begin a brand new author interview series in January 2018, and in the meantime, I am hard at work on my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. I am in love with this new story and my new characters, who are whispering their stories in my ear. I hope you will like this new story as much as I do.

I will share the complete list of the 2017 International Latino Book Award finalists as soon as I find a good link. Congratulations to all the finalists.

Be well, be safe, and enjoy your summer! ❤

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, is a finalist for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book in the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book also garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

decent

 

Advertisements

The Writing Life: Signing A Creativity Contract

The Writing Life: Signing a Creativity Contract

By Eleanor Parker Sapia

My novel ‘A Decent Woman’ turns one-year old on February 20, 2016, and you best believe I will be celebrating with champagne, just as I did the evening my publisher emailed to say, “Your book is live on Amazon.” I drank the entire bottle–no wine glass–and yes, I was alone! That day ranks right up there as one of the most thrilling days of my life.

I am currently writing my second book and thinking back to my experiences on the road to publication. I am happy. Every setback, challenge, and joy, and each little miracle with my first book reminds me that choosing to live a creative life at age 50 was worth it all!

In looking back, I’ve come up with a writing contract for myself for 2016. I’d love to share it with you. Whether you’re a writer or a reader, I hope you’ll glean a little encouragement to live your life to the fullest, and do what you love. If you don’t write, replace ‘writing’ with whatever you like to do, or simply think of the sentences as they pertain to life.

What I will do in 2016:

  • Continue to tell stories that matter to me, with characters who do extraordinary things while leading simple lives during extraordinary times.
  • Remind myself how blessed I am to do what I love when writing becomes difficult.
  • Push myself to write every day. When I don’t think I can write another word, I will stand up from my writing chair and take a walk in nature. Or write a blog post. Call a good friend. Knit. And return to my writing chair.
  • Connect with friends and family on Sundays, and take days off when I feel the need to rest my mind, body, and soul.
  • Treat my writing (and marketing my books) like a job because it is.
  • Remember that my writing life is my writing life.
  • Learn more about developing my craft; read more; and keep writing to the best of my ability.
  • Maintain writing excellence.
  • Continue connecting with my readers, who are awesome. But limit Facebook time 🙂
  • Encourage more fellow authors by buying their books and writing more reviews.
  • Pay it forward with my fellow writers on social media, and continue offering them author interviews at my blog.
  • Pat myself on the back for a job well done after a good writing session, and remember that it’s not life or death, even though it feels like it!
  • Keep writing about what is deep in my heart; whether it’s popular or not.
  • Silence my inner censor–I can write another good book.
  • Pat myself on the back for a job well done after a ‘bad’ writing session–I showed up and put in the hours.
  • Keep writing!

What I won’t do:

  • Follow the literary trends of writing books in the popular genre of the month. I write what I’d like to read and hope my stories resonate with readers.
  • Obsess about reviews, positive or negative (a tough one for me). My writer friend says that what readers say about my book is none of my business. We all filter information through our life experiences. The book is no longer mine.
  • Push myself to the point of mental exhaustion. I can play with my animals, read, sit in the sun, or daydream for 30 minutes to refresh and regroup. Or take a nap.
  • Compare my writing to other writers, whether they’re in my genre or not. I’m on my journey and path. They are on their journey and path.
  • Become impatient with myself. The words will come.
  • Sweat what I don’t know today. The journey is as important as reaching the goal.

What can you do as a good reader and fan of your favorite writers?

  • Buy their books, books, books.
  • Soon after finishing a book, write an honest review and post it on social media and on Amazon while it’s fresh in your mind. We truly appreciate your reviews.
  • Interact with your favorite authors on social media. Writing is a lonely business.
  • Keep reading! Who wants an empty Kindle or bookshelf?

What would you add to my creativity list? I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you!

Happy writing.

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is a mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

Rainy Day Update

A DECENT WOMAN is scheduled for publication in July 2014. At this time, my Booktrope Team and I are heavy into the editing and marketing phases of the book. I am fortunate and blessed to work with such talented folks!

This week, I’m finalizing the email to family and friends about joining my Book Launch Team. I’m also putting together a list of local book stores and hope they are open to me coming in to do a book reading. Local in this area means I’m looking at book stores in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and possibly, Washington, DC. I’ll be happy to drive an hour or two to do a book reading. But when I think about reading from my book, I get butterflies in my stomach. Not the good kind. I begin worry. Will I ever get to the point where I feel confident that I’ve sent out the best possible version of my book?

Lighting another’s candle from the flame of our candle does not diminish our flame in any way.

On Saturday, I met 10 awesome authors at the Chocolate and Book Festival in downtown Martinsburg, West Virginia. Half of the authors live in my town which was exciting to learn. I enjoyed visiting with them and with my favorite Queen Street store owners who graciously hosted the authors for the annual event. It was a fun event, the chocolates were amazing and I am excited to join the book festival next year! The authors and I shared information about our books and the issue of butterflies in the stomach during a book launch came up. I realized that my butterflies and I aren’t alone. The consensus was that sending a book out into the world with complete confidence is a goal! Gaining more confidence comes with experience, learning as much as we can about writing and, of course, continuing to read great books by talented authors.

I am extremely grateful to authors who share their writing and marketing expertise through classes, workshops, blogs, and books. I am a sponge at this point in my life which seems pretty amazing given that I’m over half a century old 🙂 The authors I met on Saturday very kindly shared what they’ve learned about marketing in this area and offered me several great tips on who to see about printing bookmarks, postcards and banners for my book launch. In June, I will be giving a brief presentation on reviewing books at the Berkeley Springs Book Fest in beautiful Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. I’m looking forward to meeting more local authors on that day!

In the middle of all this excitement, my son moves to Europe in a week. His move is never far from my thoughts. This past weekend, I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with my children and family in Northern Virginia, celebrating my son and this happy milestone in his life. It is looking like London will be my son’s new home. Two companies are willing to sponsor him and that’s great news. I only had to excuse myself once from the dinner table. I thought that was pretty damn good. I managed to hold it together and will try to keep it together at the airport next week. I can’t promise, though…a dear friend will accompany me to say goodbye to my son. He will keep me focused on making it back to West Virginia through DC traffic in one piece and has promised to remind me that the future looks great because it sure does.

All in all, this will be a busy week for me. I hope you are well where you are!

This Friday we will be interviewing Patricia Mann, author of the women’s contemporary fiction novel, IS THIS ALL THERE IS?. I hope you will enjoy this talented writer as much as I do! Please join us.

~Ellie

THE OPENING SCENE

Never open your story by describing a character looking out a window at the turbulent sea, watching the clouds, the rain or standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

Over the years, I’ve read countless blog posts by authors and agents who say that this type of opening scene is the kiss of death for any writer. I’ve always thought it sounded romantic and moody, but I’ve also read that some agents admit to not looking beyond the first paragraph of a new manuscript if the story opens with a scene similar to what I’ve described. Hmmm.

Well, I beg to differ.  Not because I am feeling ornery this morning, I’m not. I just believe that some writing rules, when it helps your story and story line to break them, should be broken. BUT! Please, if you choose to describe your opening scene like this, for goodness sake…describe the window!

So, let’s say the year is 1901 and you live  in the seafaring coastal town of Barrio Playa de Ponce, on the outskirts of the colonial city of  Ponce, Puerto Rico. You survived the United States military invasion of your homeland and miraculously, you survived the longest and most devastating hurricane in recent history-Hurricane San Ciriaco that claimed the lives of 3,400 men, women and children across the West Indies.

Early one evening, you hear the distant rumble of thunder, the winds pick up and rain begins pinging off your tin roof. I’m guessing that you and every member of your family run to the nearest window in five seconds flat. I know I would. I’d be checking the skies, the clouds, the mood of the rain and wind. I would check the horizon for any sign of more military vessels. I would also recheck my house, specifically, the roof, to make sure I am ready for whatever may be brewing out to sea. Just in case.

My historical novel, A DECENT WOMEN, opens at the beginning of a tropical storm. This opening is very natural to me. I was born on the island of Puerto Rico and I’ve experienced many tropical storms. Hurricanes, tropical storms, tempests, cyclones and storms are a way of life on the islands. Hurricane season, from June to November, is a genuine threat and taken into consideration when planning weddings, anniversary or birthday celebrations but then again, you can’t stop living. I never consider scheduling my flights to Puerto Rico and the islands only in the spring or winter months, so that I am certain to miss a hurricane. If I have the opportunity to travel, I go ahead with my plans.

Since I wrote the first outline for A DECENT WOMAN, I visualized my novel opening this way.  Because life can be random, at times chaotic and unpredictable, I chose for a child to be born during a lesser storm and have a midwife standing sentry. Not unusual and not rare. The midwife is my protagonist, Ana Belén and the child, Serafina Martínez, grows up to be Ana’s loyal, trusted and beloved comadre.  They are trapped inside a small wood house at the edge of the Caribbean Sea, but life goes on in the islands despite the weather and what Mother Nature has planned.

I continue with the forces of nature throughout my novel. There is an earthquake in the middle of the story, the highest part of the story arc, because it is historically accurate . At this point in the story, everything seems lost.  It is a fitting climax and right after, the rebuilding begins for the city and my characters. A cool aguacero, a passing rain shower, closes my story with healing and cleansing in the mountains of Yayuya.

Mother Nature is an important character in my story and if I’m honest, she is the main protagonist of A DECENT WOMAN.  The weather can set the mood of your story and can be the harbinger of things to come. It is the musical accompaniment to your scene or chapter. Symbolically, the comparisons between nature and life seem endless to me. Go for it.

 

sanciriacoedit

Life’s Challenges, Surprises and Joyful Moments

Big sighs on this beautiful Spring morning. My son has decided to pack it up in Northern Virginia and move back to Europe.  Not an easy decision for him. What did I expect? I live in West Virginia where I’m growing roots, originally from Northern Virginia where my parents retired after my Dad’s Army career and before that, I was a citizen of the world. I understand my son’s feelings very well. I was an Army brat and later, an Army wife. It is a life I know and understand, living overseas and starting over. I’ve lived in five European cities in my life. Back and forth across the Atlantic. I just didn’t think my son would return so soon to start a new life in Europe, but it’s in his blood-travel and living the ex-pat life.

My kids were raised in Europe during our tours of duty. We lived in Brussels, Belgium for 13 years and that is home to them, but it doesn’t take away the heartache I feel this morning. My youngest is moving overseas. I tell myself that he isn’t going off to war, only moving an ocean away where we know he will be happier, but all that is little consolation this morning. I went to my neighbor’s house at 8 am this morning. She opened the door, gave me a hug, put the coffee on, and let me talk. It takes a lot for me to cry in front of others. I didn’t have a problem this morning. I hate appearing weak which I know is poppy cock. I can be strong during adversity and can hold it together for friends going through challenges and hardships but, I don’t give a rat’s ass about being strong this morning. My friend has said goodbye to two military sons who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, welcomed them home only to have them leave on another tour. This went on for years. I knew she was the person to speak to this morning and I am grateful that she was up early!

So not only do I have my historical fiction book, A Decent Woman, to publish this summer, frenzied marketing after the release,  my daughter’s university graduation in May and her wedding next Fall, I now have one month to spend with my son before he moves this May. Good Lord. All great opportunities, joyful celebrations and blessings, but sheesh. All at once.

So what do I have to do? How am I going to get this all done and still have my marbles in the end? How am I going to say goodbye to my son in one months’s time and again when my daughter and son-in-law get into the limo to start their new lives? With a smile and lots of tears and prayers.

I will do this and more by putting one foot in front of another. I’ve raised my children and they are going off into the world. As it should be and how I’ve always hoped and prayed. I couldn’t feel more proud, loved and grateful to be their mother. They are awesome young adults. So, it seems my life will change drastically in the coming month and there’s nothing I can do about it. I must continue moving forward and remember to be in the moment. I’m actually happy for the distractions of planning a wedding and getting my book ready for publication this summer. I will take it one day at a time and the future looks good. I am choosing joy.

I welcome, encourage and thank you in advance for following my author blog, The Writing Life.  April will begin with my first book review ever of Jack Remick’s fantastic book, Gabriella and the Widow and there are two author interviews in the works for you, as well.

So please put a smile on my face (you know I need it), follow my author blog here, find and friend me on Facebook Pinterest, LinkedIn, Goodreads and also on Twitter. I would love to hear from you and if you can relate to this blog post, please let me know. I could use some friendly comments, suggestions and advice! Thanks in advance!

Ellie

 

 

 

Unexpected Blessings and Lessons

This is Sophie, a six month old Chihuahua, I adopted last month. I wasn’t in the market for a baby to add to my brood of furry children. It just happened. In the past, when I’ve sent photos of puppies to my children, I’ve received texts that urged me to resist the temptation, put the puppy down and slowly walk away from the puppy in question. I love animals, what can I say. I’m glad we welcomed Sophie, however, she has brought a lot of fun, joy and good lessons in ways that this writer never expected.

My life has been an exciting blur of positive activity and blessings since my historical fiction novel was accepted for publication by Booktrope in February. A puppy? I didn’t need a puppy at this time in my life! For a writer who lives alone with a friendly cat who seems to think he is a writing critic and an equally friendly Pug who lives to eat, the thought of bringing another pet into our lives seemed nuts. I’m helping to plan my daughter’s wedding next year and my son hasn’t decided whether he will move to London for his job. There are so many wonderful things happening to our family and I couldn’t be happier or feel more blessed. It’s a busy time, but I am learning to go with the flow because the momentum is in place and life goes on.

I thought I must be nuts to consider adopting Sophie, but I didn’t hesitate when I got the call and offer from her former owner. You see, I saw first met Sophie as she sat in a shopping cart in Walmart eight months ago. She was this tiny two month old and I fell in love right on the spot. I had never seen a puppy that small and instantly, my motherly instincts took over. I couldn’t help myself. I gave the man my card and told him to call me if he decided to breed her. He called last month to say that he couldn’t keep “Baby Girl” and had remembered me.

My good friend was visiting me with her Bichon Frise, Ruby, and we jumped up and down! Two grown women with plenty going on their lives couldn’t wait to meet this baby. Sophie came home with us the next day. As we drove home, Sophie on my friend’s lap, I vacillated between how nuts I must be to adopt another dog, a puppy no less and how excited I was. We just couldn’t resist her. Look at that face. Could you?

Sophie has reminded me that although I might be pulled in many directions at this time, it’s important for me to play, take a nap when I need one, get fresh air, and take writing breaks. Ozzy is nearly seven years old and he spends most of his day snoozing as does Pierre. They are used to my writing schedule which includes hours upon hours at the laptop. I take walks with Ozzy and play with them, but lately, our play dates have been few and far between. Sophie has changed all that. She takes cat naps and as a puppy, I have to be alert to her outside bathroom breaks and need for quality cuddle time. It’s like having a baby all over again and there is a new schedule to keep.

All my worries about Sophie disrupting the harmony of my home have disappeared. As I write this blog post, Sophie and Pierre are sleeping on the back of the couch in a sunbeam and Ozzy is snoring nearby. Ozzy and Sophie now sleep in the same doggie bed and morning time means tussling and wrestling for the baby and the cat.

Although I have a great group of friends who I wish I could see more often and I do when time permits, I was becoming a writing hermit. An author with her nose in social media, related online news, books and my manuscript. For example, I called a New York City office yesterday to ask about securing the rights of an image for my book cover and the kind gentleman told me that I had indeed found the right place and that it was possible. He also gently asked that I call back during normal business hours–it was 6:38…pm. See what I mean? I lose all track of time these days.

A cold wind is blowing today, but I’m off to walk the dogs. I need some fresh air, but first I need lunch and a bathroom break.

Ellie

Character Study-Ana Belen from A Decent Woman

Somehow, my cat Pierre knows when I’m editing my book. I don’t know how he knows this. When I’m doing my bit on social media, he is nowhere to be found and as soon as I settle in with a mug of tea and pull my novel up on the laptop, the cat is there in minutes. Here he is looking all smug and critical. I caught that smirk, Pierre. He doesn’t think I’m working hard enough today. I can tell and he doesn’t approve of social media. I tell him it’s necessary for writers and authors, but he says, “Get back to your book, Eleanor.” A real slave driver that cat is.

I’m looking forward to spending the whole day with my book. As I write this, it is snowing. Again. Actually, I like to write and edit when it rains and snows. No one is out and about on my street and it’s very quiet, save for the CD I bought for inspiration. Soft music in the background and a mug of hot tea are very conducive to writing and thinking about what my characters are getting into.

Have I introduced you to Ana, my protagonist? Here’s a little information about Dona Ana, the midwife.

When my story opens in 1900 we meet Ana Belén, a 40-year old Afro-Cuban midwife who grew up as a slave on a sugar plantation in Cuba. At 20, she was hidden by her father in the bowels of a steamer ship and arrives in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico in the middle of the night. She has no family or friends on the island, and yes, there is a dark secret. A secret that Ana fears will ruin her, her reputation, not to mention, her business as the only midwife in the Playa de Ponce.

Ana’s positive qualities – Ana is a hard-working midwife, tough as nails, and tender and loving with her clients and their children. Despite always hoping to appear stoic and serious, she has a fun side that is shared with a select few. She is highly intuitive, courageous, a loyal friend, and she recognizes that she needs good working relationships with the male doctors and obstetricians who have entered the birthing room for the first time. She is a spiritual woman who practices the Yoruba tradition side by side with Catholicism. Ana becomes a fighter for the rights of women with no regard for social class when she realizes that men, society, and the Church regard her as an indecent woman.

Although Ana understands that Ponce is male-dominated and knows her place in society, she fearlessly forges ahead with her work and her unlikely friendship with Serafina, a member of Ponce society. Her friendships later in life include prostitutes and women, white, black, brown, mulattas, creoles, all labeled as indecent by society. She is a teacher and a mentor to younger women, but doesn’t realize that until later. When Ana lets down her emotional walls, she becomes naive, hopeful, more trusting, and she finds love.

Ana’s negative qualities – Ana was born on a sugar plantation in Cuba, and this makes her secretive. She has trouble trusting, assumes she knows it all, and doesn’t make friends easily. She is leery of the men she meets and has no use for male doctors, which could cost her if she doesn’t learn the game and play it. She is judgmental, stubborn, opinionated, and a bit naive with friendships and men. Ana is cautious, rebellious and at times, can appear unfeeling. The love of her life could cost her dearly and in the end, she could make the ultimate sacrifice for a dear friend who has betrayed her.

My historical fiction novel, A Decent Woman, will be published in March by Booktrope. I see Pierre lurking around the corner… Ellie