Author Interview: Apollo Papafrangou

The Writing Life is pleased to welcome Apollo Papafrangou, author of the upcoming novel, Wings of Wax.

Apollo Papafrangou is a writer from Oakland, California, where he pens novels, short stories, and, occasionally, poems. He is a 2010 graduate of the Mills College Creative Writing MFA program, and the author of “Concrete Candy,” a short story collection published by Anchor Books in 1996 when he was just 15 years old.

His debut novel WINGS OF WAX, the story of a shy, young artist seeking to reconnect with his ladies’ man father in Greece, will be published in March, 2016 by Booktrope.

HBO Films optioned the movie rights to his story “The Fence” from 2000-2004, and his fiction has appeared in the 1998 Simon & Schuster anthology entitled “Trapped. Apollo’s work has appeared in “Voices,” a collection of works by Greek writers published in 2013 by Nine Muses Press, Quiet Lightning, among other publications.

Apollo author pic






Welcome, Apollo.

WingsofWaxcoverWhat is your book’s genre/category?

Wings of Wax is literary/contemporary fiction.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Wings of Wax is the story of Angelo, a shy, young artist seeking to reunite with his estranged father in Greece and to learn the mysterious ways of the kamaki: the classic Mediterranean ladies’ man.

The novel takes place in both the San Francisco Bay Area and in Greece. In many ways, it’s a travel narrative, an odyssey of sorts, both in respect to Angelo’s physical journey, and his interior transformation.

 Apollo, how did you come up with the title?

Wings of Wax is a nod toward the Greek myth of Icarus–the boy who gained flight via mechanical wings attached with wax, but, in failing to heed his father’s advice, flew too close to the sun. Icarus serves as a metaphor in the book as flight is a central theme, as is the often tumultuous relationship between fathers and sons. 

What inspired you to write Wings of Wax?

Many things, but perhaps above all else, the desire to join the ranks of Greek-American writers who are mining the terrain of our collective experience through their fiction. I feel that the Greek-American experience–in all its complexity and variation–has been largely unexplored in contemporary fiction. Of course we have Jeffrey Eugenides, one of my literary heroes, but we need more voices.

My heritage is pretty important to me. Through my stories I want to share its richness with others.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the process itself. It’s tedious at times, but I imagine building a story is like crafting a sculpture–you chipaway long enough, and you’ve got something. I also like exploring the interior experience of my characters. Fiction is the only artistic medium through which we get into other people’s heads. Stories show us we’re not alone in the world.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Starting, whether it be a new project or a continuation of yesterday’s work. When I sit down to write each day, I spend a lot of time looking over what I wrote over previous days to get back into the flow. There’s a lot of staring at the white space, but then something inevitably clicks, and I’m able to find that groove again.

I write five days a week, generally, Monday through Friday. I try to get five-hundred words a day; sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but consistency is the key. I put in the time five days a week because I treat writing like a job. 

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

There are so many. Of the classic writers I like Steinbeck, Faulkner, Baldwin, Nabokov, Tolstoy. In grad school I was introduced to some fantastically underrated writers like Bruno Schultz, Italo Calvino, Fernando Pessoa, and Anne Carson. Favorite contemporary authors include Jennifer Egan, Victor Lavalle, Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, Susan Straight, Paul Auster, Jonathan Lethem, Cormack McCarthy, George Pelecanos, and many more.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Other than the writers I’ve already named, Nikos Kazantzakis has been a big influence, of course. He is the quintessential Greek writer. His prose is so lyrical and rich without being flowery. I’m also influenced by the great contemporary Greek poets, as Greece is a land of poetry–George Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Odysseas Elytis.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write on a desktop Mac in my bedroom. I can’t get with the writing in a coffee shop thing. Too many distractions. I’d like to have a little writing studio someday. 

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know? 

It’s not so “personal,” but an interesting fact is that I had my first short story published in Zyzzyva magazine, a pretty well known journal here on the west coast, at the age of thirteen. Another bit of trivia: before committing to English as my major back in college, I thought I would earn a degree in Child Development. I’ve always been interested in the way children learn and adapt. I work with kids now at an after-school program as my “day job.”

What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?

One big lesson I gained from this process is that next time around I need to send out blurb requests much further in advance! It takes a while to corral those endorsements from other writers and public figures.

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

Going to grad school for creative writing at Mills College was a great experience. I grew so much as a writer, and I began this novel during my second semester in the program. Soon after graduation I had a completed draft and now, several years and drafts later, I’ve got a published book! 

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Not much beyond the old cliches of keep writing and pushing your work out there. When you’re tired of pushing, push some more. It’s standard advice, but I’ve found it to be solid.


You can find me on Facebook, too.

Where can we find your book?

Wings of Wax will be released in March, 2016 from Booktrope, and will be available via local bookstores, Amazon, and other major retailers.

What’s next for you?

I’m almost finished with a first draft of my next book, a currently untitled novel-in-short-stories about twenty-somethings in the Oakland art scene trying to make a living outside of a traditional nine-to-five. The stories feature Greek-American characters, as the Greek community has a lengthy history in the Bay Area, and the culture is obviously my point of reference. It’s an interesting time to be in Oakland, with all the gentrification going on, and I hope, this book reflects that.










Thanks for chatting with us, Apollo. I enjoyed getting to know more about you. Happy writing!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia


elliePuerto Rican-born 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. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Book club members across the United States have enjoyed the story, as well. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two awesome adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.


November Featured Cases: Honoring the Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Reblogged via

Throughout history, writers, from Dostoevsky to Wilde, have been imprisoned in an attempt to silence them and their ideas. Though over a century has passed since these authors were writing, the imprisonment of writers by governments to stifle them and stymie any advocacy on their behalf continues. To keep these writers’ stories and hopes for release from fading, PEN American Center honors the Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15 by featuring three cases from around the world that represent the dire situation imprisoned writers face.

Source: November Featured Cases: Honoring the Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Why Should I Read Your Book?

A week ago, I thumbed through my historical novel, A Decent Woman, looking for passages for a three-author book reading, my second reading in New York City. I knew what I had to do–select a few passages from my novel, practice reading, and hope to make it to seven minutes. Sounds easy, right? Not as easy as you might think.

Speak slowly, make eye contact, don’t read in a monotone voice, engage with the audience, and try staying within the allotted time so you don’t hog the microphone. Those things I could do…though I still get nervous when I’m handed the microphone. I’m great with Q&A sessions after the reading, but ask me to read from my book and my nerves begin, my cheeks flush. I’ve been the first and fifth author to read–it’s still tough, but deciding which passage to read is a lot tougher.


Why should I buy your book? This question kept popping into my head as I read passage after passage of my book. I didn’t know who would be at the book reading, and I certainly didn’t know what would appeal to the audience, so trying to find the perfect passages, something for everyone, was virtually impossible.

The event was to be held at a popular bookstore in East Harlem, La Casa Azul Bookstore. They showcase Latino literature, and their online bookstore features books by authors who have don’t write in the Caribbean or Latin American fiction genre. I realized I couldn’t count on an all-Latino audience that night. Nor could I count on an audience comprised of mainly women who might be interested in midwifery and women’s issues. Would there be history buffs or historians in the audience interested in the history of Puerto Rican women? And Hurricane Joaquin was due south of New York. I could very well end up with people walking by and dropping in to get out of the elements. It wasn’t as easy as thinking, “Who is my target audience?”

I knew the themes of my story were important, and who my character was as a woman. But which readings would I choose? Was it best to select a passage that described the setting, turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, or the protagonist, Afro-Cuban midwife, Ana Belén? Perhaps a passage with beautiful prose and descriptions, showing my writing style and voice? A passage that clearly demonstrated I’d done my research?

I settled on three short paragraphs from the Prologue, which describe 1900 Puerto Rico, where the story begins. I set the stage for my audience. I didn’t plop potential readers right smack in the middle of a dialogue between two or more characters they didn’t know. Potential readers need a beginning point, a grounding, and then they will usually follow you anywhere. My friends know to tell me a story with some background or I will stop them mid-stream with many questions. I’ve been to many book readings, good and bad readings. To me, when the author sets the stage with an introduction to the story, a brief synopsis, or by reading a passage that will ground me as a listener–I’m all theirs.

The second group of passages I selected were of my protagonist Ana’s inner dialogue, which included a memory of a priest from her past she didn’t care for. The passages described a bit of her personality, her grit and humor, and it showed her distrust of people, mainly men. I made it clear Ana had secrets, but didn’t give away the plot. Leave enough mystery for your reader to want to read your book and find out what happens!

‘La Negresse’, Marie Guillemine Benoist, Musee du Louvre, Paris

The last passages described Ana, standing in ankle-high ocean surf, preparing her ebó, the offering to the Yoruba gods and goddesses for the safe delivery of her client’s first child, and for keeping them safe during a tropical storm that threathened the little house at the edge of the Caribbean Sea. As a former slave, Ana is devoted to the Yoruba traditions of her childhood and to the Virgin Mary, who was introduced to her by the priests of her new parish. This gave the audience a vivid description of Ana,  the duality nature of her life, and a few inner conflicts as a woman and a midwife.

I have no clue how long my reading went for (my watch stopped), but I felt confident I’d introduced my story, the setting, and my protagonist well enough to stop. And I didn’t want to go over my allotted time so my fellow authors had enough time for their readings. When the event was over, we had fifteen minutes to spare. Lesson learned–buy a new watch.

My advice for authors preparing for a book reading: don’t put all your apples into one basket, and certainly don’t pick only the green apples–it’s a delicate balance. Leave enough time to interract with the audience during the Q&A session after the reading. This is a golden opportunity to share with and reach your readers, who love getting to know authors, the story behind the book, and what makes authors tick.

Why should I buy that author’s book? Because I connected with the characters, the story, and especially because I connected with the author.



Puerto Rican-born 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 social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A Decent Woman is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback.

La Casa Azul Bookstore    143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029




New Anthology: Latina Authors And Their Muses

Latina Authors and Their Muses

Final book cover Latina Authors and Their Muses

Eleanor Parker Sapia is honored to be featured in the new anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. The anthology, which highlights 40 respected Latina authors, …”is a celebration of creativity, the writer’s life, the passionate quest for spiritual and artistic freedom.”

Enjoy an excerpt from Eleanor:

“In many descriptive passages in the book, I see where my painterly eye took over. Knowing the ins and outs of painting, and understanding the necessary patience and discipline helped me with writing—like already speaking the local language when you visit a new country. Building layers, focusing on details, always the details, and highlighting the nuances, light, and dark parts in a painting, are a lot like writing.”

The ebook version debuted September 25th, 2015 through Twilight Times Books. The paperback version will be available in December 2015.



Puerto Rican-born 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 social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A Decent Woman is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback.

La Casa Azul Bookstore    143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029


Author Interview: Juliana Barnet

Today I am pleased to welcome mother and daughter authors, Juliana Barnet and Sophie Barnet-Higgins, who co-wrote Rainwood House Sings, a social justice mystery for youth and adults.

At the end of June, my cousin emailed to say she’d met an author at a US Social Forum in Philadelphia who knew who I was, but she’d forgotten the woman’s name. Today, Juliana emailed to say she’d met my cousin at the conference, but had forgotten her name. Today, the mystery was solved. Small world!

Juliana and Sophie pic

Juliana Barnet is a lifelong social justice activist, artist and writer with grassroots movements in Mexico City and in the DC area. Rainwood House Sings draws on her own experiences and those of comrades from the diverse worldwide tribe of social justice agitators and activists, including the considerable number who lent their assistance to the creation of this book. Her daughter Sophie loves stories and drawing, especially Japanese-style comics.

Welcome to The Writing Life, Juliana and Sophie!

cover image-Juliana Barnet

What is your book’s genre/category?

Rainwood House Sings is a “social justice mystery” for youth and adults, painting a truthful yet mildly magical picture of activists tackling mysteries large and small with creativity, humor and collective action.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Rainwood House, lightly haunted by local civil rights struggles, rampant houseplants and musical plumbing, is home to University of Maryland groundskeeper Marlie Mendíval and her bat- and book-loving granddaughter Samantha. Marlie rents a room to Demetrius, a good-natured radical horticulturist, unaware that prior to knocking on her front door Demetrius has been hiding from the police in her basement.

Marlie battles mounting bills, bellowing pipes, a lecherous boss, her ex’s scheme to evict her from Rainwood House, isolation, decay and self-doubt, as Samantha becomes embroiled in playground culture wars. Demetrius wanders through Rainwood House’s shuttered rooms pondering how to beat accusations of cop-shooting and terrorism while remaining incognito under Samantha’s friendly but sharp-eyed gaze. Increasingly entangled in each others’ lives, the characters join glamorous union shop steward Laranda Moss and a lively crew of supporters to launch a friendship club, a campus workers’ movement, a neighborhood people’s history museum and a present-day Underground Railroad stop.

How did you come up with the title?

Rainwood” is a fictional community based on three small towns right next to one another on the Eastern border of DC, named Brentwood, Mt. Rainier (the town I live in) and North Brentwood. The story draws on the history and ambiance of these towns. The first working title was Rainwood House, until a friend suggested that active titles were better. I added “Sings,” and ended up deciding that the book was actually a trilogy. The second book is titled Rainwood House Burns.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

As a lifelong social justice activist and a lifelong fiction reader, I became increasingly frustrated at almost never seeing activists depicted in novels, other than occasional appearances as one-dimensional (and generally negative) stereotypes. Even though I know activists to be adventuresome, funny, fascinating, smart and at times heroic people who take on all kinds of issues and activities that lend themselves to mysteries and other exciting, active stories—the kind I most like to read—novels with sympathetic activist protagonists are extremely infrequent. So I ended up following the old adage: if you really want something to happen, you have to make it happen.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love having ideas pop up, and then following them where they lead. It is thrilling to follow an idea and see it open up like a glittering underground cavern as I explore its branches and possibilities.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I find writing a first rough draft difficult, not so much  because the words don’t come—I tend more to the opposite affliction, which in Mexico they call “verborrea!” Afterwards, of course, you have to pare and select, a process I enjoy but at the same time I find it hard to contend with the chorus of internal voices pelting me with putdowns, advice and rude comments that what I’m writing is boring or nonsense or whatever. When I do expository writing, I find it challenging to decide that something is finished, rather than wanting to go on and on perfecting it. So far, though, the most difficult hurdle has been learning the process of putting my writing out in the world in circles wider than folks I have direct contact with. That is the challenge of this moment, for me.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Here’s an off-the-top of my head, arbitrary, not-in-order and incomplete list of fiction authors I’ve enjoyed—in other words, I’m not making any judgment about how “deep” or transcendent they are, but include them because I’ve read—and in most cases reread—more than one of their books, often numerous times, for fun. I know I’m leaving out quite a few. Robertson Davies, Jean Auel, Chimamanda Achibie, Leo Tolstoy, Ken Follet, Anton Makarenko, Laurie King, Terry Pratchett, L.A. Meyer, Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Moseley, Barbara Neeley, Meredith Tax, Jane Austen, George Elliot, Alexander McCall Smith, Carl Hiassen, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Kingsolver, L.M. Montgomery, Douglas Addams, Katherine Ann Porter, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Laura Esquivel, Paco Ignacio Taibo, Jules Feiffer, Lewis Carroll. A.A. Milne,  Caroline Dale Snedecker, Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters), Kurt Vonnegut, Miguel de Cervantes, Chinua Achebe, Kazuo Ishiguro, Tarquin Hall, Sherman Alexie, Sara Peretsky, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Octavia Butler, Joseph Heller, Dave Barry, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, Clyde Edgerton, Elizabeth Peters, Dorris Lessing, Judith Viorst…(stopping because of time and space considerations, not because I’ve run out of authors!)

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Barbara Kingsolver, Makarenko, Lenin, Engels, Ruth Benedict, Franz Fanon, Paolo Freire, Margaret Meade, Claude Levi-Strauss, Augusto Boal, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Silvio Rodriguez, Nacha Guevara, Mario Benedetti, Atahualpa Upanqui, Victor Martínez, Assata Shakur, Anne Tyler, Mumia Abu Jamal, Noam Chomsky, Rebecca Solnit, parents Ann and Richard Barnet (both writers), many political bloggers and journalists, teachers and companer@s in Mexico and the U.S. And that’s just a smattering of writers, political folks and musicians off the top of my head. The full list would be much longer!

Favorite place to write?

Outdoors, on my back porch, or other people’s porches if they have a nice view of trees, sky and other restfully beautiful things.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I lived for sixteen years in Mexico City, becoming immersed in a large community and social movement with people who became close friends, comrades and family. Among other adventures there, I played keyboard and sang for a dance band that performed rock and Latin music at parties and events and in nightclubs. And I participated in a popular education movement, including living for several weeks in the building of a democratically run school housed in an abandoned munitions factory. Also, Rainwood House Sings is part of a larger project I am working on called Life in the Liberated Zone, which is about raising awareness of the culture of activists. Another part of this project is working with others to write fun and imaginative fiction that focuses on folks working together to tackle social issues. In June a group of third graders and I published Zombie Elementary, which is a children’s companion book to Rainwood House Sings, and deals with kids and zombies overcoming the fear and prejudice they feel towards one another in order to work together to save their school and friends.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Publishing pundits always say it is after the extremely challenging work of writing and publishing your book that the truly challenging work of putting it out into the world begins. Intellectually it’s not a surprise to find myself proving them right, but it still feels surprising to be continually discovering how complex and multifaceted this phase of being an author is! As far as learning, it was great to learn so many cool things associated with creating a book, reaching out to folks with and through the book, and to be in the process of learning how important it is to have help!

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

I took my time—both to write and edit, and to learn other skills like research, working with graphics on the computer, and formatting; got input and info from plenty of helpful folks; developed a good way of working my young coauthor—my daughter, who worked with me on it from age 10-15; had enough passion and decision to carry me through the process.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Persist! And choose the avenues that are most interesting to you. The process is arduous so enjoy it as you go along!

Website? ,, (under construction. This latter site will unify all the work alluded to in this interview, once it is online.)

Where can we find your book?

You can order the print book through the website or at and other distributors. Order the ebook at the website or at, and through other ebook distributors. Purchase signed copies directly from me at book events, or by writing to More information and sample chapters available at

What’s next for you?

  • Writing Rainwood House Burns, book 2 of the Rainwood House series.
  • Developing Rainwood House Sings book events focusing on activists, both locally and elsewhere, as well as online, starting with folks I know and reaching outward.
  • Collaborating once again this coming school year with children from the local elementary school to promote and sell Zombie Elementary, and to write another collective novel with them.
  • Developing Life in the Liberated Zone, in particular the website and zine (blog) of literature and essays about activist culture.
  • I’d love to hear from any other writers out there who are writing or thinking about writing fiction featuring activist characters! We are planning to start a writing group with this focus.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Juliana and Sophie. I enjoyed getting to know you both and wish you much success with Rainwood House Sings.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born 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 social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

On Memory and Tips for Writers

writing at the river 015I don’t understand why I had a bad memory as a child, but I did. My head was in the clouds a lot. I was the kid running home as the sun set because I’d forgotten how long my mother had given me to play with my friends. Yeah, I know–those days are long gone for many kids today;  I watched my kids like a hawk.

As a kid, I forgot many doctor appointments, until I saw my mother’s face at the classroom window. I’d pack up my books, and have to explain to the teacher why I had to leave, and she wasn’t always pleased. I still remember the day my mom looked through my coat pocket and found the crumpled envelope that held my piano lesson money. I think it was five dollars. The money was taken out of my meager allowance for missing the once a week  piano class. The following week, I hid in the school bathroom after school so I wouldn’t have to face Sister Rosela’s wrath. If you knew Sister Rosela, you would have hidden, too. She was a stern, dour-faced nun with lots of chin hairs and an unusual amount of black hair peeking out from under her veil. In my forties, I realized the nun was probably going through menopause. God bless her. I’ve long forgiven her for being so scary. Sister, I get it; you were old and tired. When I told my mom that the nun had pulled my ear (a lie), I never went back to piano lessons. I was never musical, anyway.

My first Algebra teacher wrote this in my middle school yearbook, “Eleanor has the attention span of a butterfly on a flower.” He drew a little, daisy-like flower beside his name, and I remember wondering if he was a closet artist. It makes me laugh to think of that today, and he was right–I was interested in everything and anything, but Pre-Algebra. I love reading and history, and always had my nose in a book. See there, I’ve forgotten that teacher’s name, and I really liked him, too. In high school, I ran from class to class after the bell rang, and many times, I’d sit down at my desk and cringe–I’d forgotten a homework assignment or a quiz we were having on that particular day. Believe it or not, I had above-average grades in high school, lots of friends, and received awards for English Literature and Chemistry. I was shocked by the Chemistry award, and to this day, I believe my teacher made a mistake. There is a chemist out there today, still pissed off that they were overlooked that year. I’m sorry. If I’d known who you were, I’d have given it to you.

Today, I appreciate and need lists in my life–the ones I write in the hope they will help my life and writing life remain organized. They are meant to keep me on task and on schedule as a full time writer, as my head is often in the clouds and in exotic lands. I can easily lose four or five hours a day to writing and yes, I still miss doctor’s appointments, much like I missed piano lessons, but I understand that I don’t really want to go. I prefer staying home to write or paint.

As my historical novel, A Decent Woman, heads to layout very soon, and as I write and research for my second historical novel, Finding Gracia, my lists include:  book reviewers and book bloggers; historical fiction bloggers; writing websites; literary competitions; and links of websites and blogs of favorite authors. For researching my second book, I keep lists of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela websites; links for backpacking sites; maps and books of El Camino routes; and a running list of novels written about El Camino. AND I must write my lists long-hand; I don’t type store them on my cell phone or in my laptop–I keep them in notebooks. Yes, I’m old school! I have separate notebooks for each topic, and I always have a notebook in my purse and one in my car. Always. I have a stack of papers, folders, books, and notesbooks from researching colonial Puerto Rico, the history, culture, and timelines of the island, all used to write A Decent Woman. I will keep them as souvenirs of a long road to publication, and as a reminder for days that I’m feeling lazy, that I am tenacious, driven, and focused on what I love to do–write.

These days I keep several running lists: future day-trips; independent book stores; small art museums; easy hikes, local flea markets, and farmer markets; books to be buy and read; ebooks to buy; and local periodicals, radio and TV shows who might feature a debut author like me. I do not, however, make grocery lists. I live alone now, and I seldom cook for a crowd except for holidays. I eat what’s there, order in, and only shop for food when I’ve eaten everything in the house. I make some crazy concoctions, too. Some have worked and tasted great; others were thrown out immediately.

I keep lists of writing tips for authors written by authors, and lists of quotes, which inspire me. I attribute this love to a very inspirational high school English teacher who asked us to collect quotes, write them in journals, and add art work to accompany the quotes. We did that in my junior and senior year.  Here are a few favorite quotes on writing:

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” – Anaïs Nin

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” – Stephen King

And my favorite, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

Happy writing to you!

A Decent Woman is coming soon! We are hoping for late March-early April–a Spring book baby.

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My Writing Process/#WeNeedDiverseBooks Blog Relay 2014

Welcome y bienvenidos!

My special thanks to Claudia Long for tagging me in this blog relay! You can connect with Claudia and her amazing books at 

I’ve enjoyed reading the blog relay posts by the authors before me, so make sure you check them out! If you’re looking for something different than what you usually read, then this blog relay is for you.


Currently, I’m waiting for the edits of the last ten chapters of my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman and trying hard to resist the temptation to touch Chapter One yet again! My book will be published Summer 2014 with Booktrope and I’m excited!

While waiting for the edits, I’m writing my second novel, Finding Gracia, set in Spain onthe medieval pilgrimage route of El Camino de Santiago. This book will be women’s fiction…if my characters don’t change their minds and take a detour.


I love introducing readers to Latina(o) and Hispanic characters because it’s in my blood. I was born in Puerto Rico and spoke Spanish before I spoke English. My beautiful mother and my maternal grandparents, now deceased, were all born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the setting of A Decent Woman. As an Army brat, I grew up in Europe and the United States, and spent summer vacations with my family in Ponce and San Juan.  By the age of 18, I had lived in four countries.

My jobs as a Spanish language Family Support Worker for immigrant families in Northern Virginia and a Spanish language case worker at a refugee center in Brussels, Belgium have influenced my writing.  Favorite books are those set in exotic places, especially stories about people who are often overlooked or ignored by our society which is how the protagonist of A Decent Woman, the Afro-Cuban midwife, Ana Belen, came about. I am passionate about women’s issues and I believe my life experiences have influenced my writing in a unique way.


For A Decent Woman, I worked with an outline, did the bulk of the research and then, wrote the novel in six months, editing as I went along.  I still manage to find sentences that can and should be tweaked, so it’s a tough phase. For this book, I interviewed Caribbean friends and a Professor of Latin American Studies. The second version of the manuscript turned out richer and far more interesting as I delved deeper into the complex lives of women in turn of the century Puerto Rico. What surprised me about the writing process was how my secondary character, the midwife Ana Belen, pushed her way to first chair. I soon realized that my tribute to my Puerto Rican family was in fact, Ana’s story to tell. I followed where she led, remained open and I believe the book is richer for the experience.

With my second novel, Finding Gracia, I’ve followed the same path–outline, research, write like crazy and write some more, editing as I go along. I walked El Camino with my children in 2006 and kept a journal of my walk, so I don’t need as much research as the historical novel. What I love most about writing is allowing my story and characters to lead me to places I might not have considered at the beginning. Although I have an idea of how this story ends, I remain open to surprises, twists and new challenges for my characters.

Thank you! You can find me at:

Thanks again, Claudia and the best of luck with The Duel for Consuelo!

Next week, be sure to visit the next two bloggers I’ve tagged for the blog relay, Mayra Calvani and Lorraine Ladish. You will enjoy reading about these talented women!

Mayra Calvani, bilingual award-winning author, has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. Her latest book, YA fantasy, The Luthier’s Apprentice, has just been released!

Lorraine Ladish, bilingual author of 17 books, writer, editor, speaker & social media maven. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty! a bilingual community that celebrates being 50+.