Holiday Greetings!

christmas tree coffee

Holiday greetings to you!

The time has come to reflect on the past year and to acknowledge events in my writing life and my personal life. There have been challenges and setbacks, and plenty of wonderful surprises and great book news with my first novel, A Decent Woman, and my work-in-progress, The Laments. I am grateful for it all!

Book News:

In early 2018, I finally “broke into” my Belgian writing desk with the missing key and discovered more than 30 poems I’d carefully stashed while finishing my first novel. It was a thrilling moment for me. Now I have a fun writing project in the wings, which I will tackle in 2019. I didn’t cause much damage to the keyhole, but the letter opener is kaput—a small price to pay for a stash of poems!

At the beginning of March, my second publisher, Scarlet River Press, closed their doors. I was thrilled for their new adventures but sad that A Decent Woman was no longer for sale on Amazon. Luckily for me, a friend and fellow author kindly offered me a tip and by August, I’d signed with Winter Goose Publishing. I’m happy to say they will republish A Decent Woman in early 2019 with a new book cover (my third).

winter goose publishing logo

I enjoyed rereading A Decent Woman and getting it ready for the editor. Although I didn’t make any changes to the story, I was grateful for the opportunity to fix typos and finesse sentences, and for visiting with my beloved characters, Ana and Serafina. I’m grateful Winter Goose Publishing will also publish my second novel, The Laments, in early Fall 2019. I look forward to receiving the editor’s changes and suggestions, as well as thinking about the new cover, which is always exciting. I very much look forward to working with WGP in the coming years.

Now, if you’re a writer and you’re like me, you’ll appreciate that while I was extremely happy to sign with a third publisher in such a short time, it was a stressful, anxious, and distracting period of time. My second historical novel, The Laments, still a work-in-progress, had to be put on hold a few times while things were sorted out. At that time, the WIP was two-thirds finished, right at the point where the words were flowing nicely, the research nearly complete, and I was getting into the writing groove. Unfortunately, I’ve never been great at multi-tasking when it comes to writing—when I’m writing, I’m writing. I write best with blinders on and distractions give my inner child a chance to binge-watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Guilty as charged. I’ve now finished Season One and Two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Goliath, and I’m excited for The Crown to begin in January. It’s historical fiction, so I put that under ‘Research’.

HistoricalFiction Centro de PR image

In October, the Center of Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY, kindly invited me to sit on a historical fiction panel. Despite a heavy downpour that evening, there was a full house and wonderful discussions about reaching/teaching new audiences for historical fiction; in this case, Puerto Rican history. I was proud to participate and happy to share the table with two talented and enthusiastic Puerto Rican authors–Dr. Virginia Sanchez-Korrol and Dr. Vanessa Perez-Rosario, who moderated the event.

From the flyer — “Two authors speak about their books using historical fiction to relate the female narrative in the 19th Century (one in NYC and the other in Puerto Rico). Dr. Virgina Sanchez-Korrol’s newest book “The Season of Rebels and Roses” is a historical novel for teens which follows women’s involvement in the nineteenth-century independence movements to free Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spain.  Eleanor Parker Sapia’s first novelA Decent Woman”, a 2016 & 2017 International Latino Book Award winner, is set against the combustive backdrop of 19th century Ponce, Puerto Rico. The book explores the battle of two women from different backgrounds who defend their dignity against the pain of betrayal in a male-dominated society resistant to change.”

Personal News:

In April, I spent two fabulous weeks in Puerto Rico with my sister. We enjoyed three wonderful days in Old San Juan without our rental car being towed (very limited parking in OSJ!), and finally, I made it to Isla de Cabras, the setting of my second book, The Laments. What a thrill to explore the ruins of the old leprosarium, walk the islet, and to speak with an older gentleman, who shared fascinating historical tidbits with me, “For the book!”

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Sadly, the after-effects of Hurricane Maria were still evident on the islet and on the mainland as we drove along the coasts and through mountain towns with non-working traffic lights, piles of debris, abandoned homes, and hundreds of blue FEMA tarps. Everyone we met had a story. We listened with constricted hearts and tears, but there was also hope for better days and joy as we swam in beautiful waters and enjoyed wonderful meals. We made new memories with family and friends in Ponce, and as always, we missed Puerto Rico and our family as soon as we boarded our flight back to the DC area. It’s a horrible feeling to leave mi isla. I feel as if I’m leaving my mother, grandparents, my family, and ancestors, all over again, until the next visit.

In August, my intrepid son and his girlfriend decided to travel throughout Asia for a few months. They managed to escape the monsoons and heavy floods in India and two major typhoons in the Philippines and Taiwan before returning to Thailand, where they intend to stay for three more months. While I’m happy for them and I love the photographs and stories they’ve shared of their adventures, the stress levels are a bit higher than usual at home, smile. Before he left on his adventure, my brilliant son developed an app he says I won’t understand and still owns an IT company, so I know he won’t starve.

In a few months, my daughter, a brilliant therapist who lives and works in Northern Virginia, will receive her licensure after years of study (a Masters degree in Mental Health) and hard work. She is well-deserving and we couldn’t be happier for her or more proud of her. Her clients and supervisors love her and of course, I already knew they would, smile. My daughter is happy and in love, so the world looks rosy and hopeful. We look forward to our first trip to Thailand next year to visit my son and his girlfriend. I’m one proud Mama!

After seven years of living in this old house, I’m painting again, walls, that is. I’m tackling one room at a time and I stop when my shoulders tell me to quit. It’s slow going, but I’ll get there. And with winter in full swing and writing full-time, let’s face it; it’s the only exercise I get! My Chihuahua named Sophie still snoozes in a chair next to me as I write. I can’t imagine life without her.

Dear Reader, I wish you and your family a safe, happy, and blessed holiday season and all the best in 2019. This time of year is tough for many, so please reach out to others who might need a smiling face, a little conversation, or an invitation to share a holiday meal. I’ll be doing the same in my neck of the woods.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the “new” edition of A Decent Woman and the release of The Laments. I hope you’ll like my books as much as I enjoy writing them.

A tip: If you subscribe to my writing blog and my website, you’ll get new book news much quicker, smile. Thank you in advance.

Happy Holidays!

Eleanor x

Leary, But Hopeful New Year Musings

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The Capacon River, West Virginia

What a year.

2016 was a roller coaster of a year, chock full of ups and downs, perilous and hairpin turns, sad and surprising, exhilarating moments sprinkled about, all the way to the ball dropping in Times Square.

Earlier in the evening on December 31, I joined my sister and a good friend in filling our champagne flutes with 2016 water (our Puerto Rican family custom), which we would throw out at midnight (throwing out the “bad”), and refill with bubbly to ring in the New Year. We were so DONE with 2016. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically spent at the beginning of the evening, we nervously looked toward the new year with hope, lots of lovely and all-important hope–may we never lose hope–but, I certainly prayed all those celebrating the end of 2016, at home and abroad, would remain safe.

Minutes before midnight, we muted Kathy Griffin’s voice and Anderson Cooper’s giggling for the fourth time, rolled our eyes over Mariah Carey’s concert walk out, and through our own giggles and raised eyebrows, wondered if a certain CNN anchor would have a job in the morning after many televised tequila shots and other interesting shenanigans, which included an on-camera ear piercing. At midnight, I popped the champagne cork (which I hate doing, but sister and friend declined!), and held my breath that nothing else would happen as we toasted each other–a knee-jerk reaction to 2016, I’m afraid. I then spoke with my beloved children, who stayed home (thank God) to celebrate with good friends, enjoyed my sister’s fabulous New Year spread, and we learned of the massacre at a Turkish club in Istanbul. We prayed for the victims, for Betty White (whom we adore), for our children, for everyone, in the tumultuous days before and after Trump takes office as President of the United States. God help us all.

Just before falling asleep on January 1, 2017, I wondered if Prince William will take over when Queen Elizabeth passes on because I can’t imagine a Queen Camilla, and pondered what would happen to the business of the monarchy if Princess Diana resurfaced alive and well, with a daughter born of her marriage to Prince Charles before their marital separation. I still miss her. I know, I know. But I’m a writer, an historical fiction writer; I think of stuff like that late at night. A story needs twists and turns, and all the complications imaginable to work well, right?

Although I know it’s not good for me to fall asleep with worries, fears, and negative thoughts on my mind, but baby steps with feeling hopeful and all rah rah optimistic in 2017. I’ll get there. All I can muster at the moment is cautious optimism. And thank God for the Bed Time Fan app my daughter told me about. I slept like a baby and woke up very happy to be alive, craving a Mimosa.

On the creative front, here at The Writing Life blog, we will continue posting our Tuesday Author Interview series, starting next week. So stay tuned! I’m now back at the writing desk with my second book, The Laments of Sister Inmaculada. No personal blog posts until then. I’ll be on social media sparingly, and by spring, I hope to send the first draft manuscript to my editor. Fingers crossed and prayers said. I love this new story and my characters, who will keep me company this winter. I hope you will love them, too.

I wish you and yours a blessed, safe, happy, healthy, prosperous, and creatively uplifting 2017. May all your hopes and dreams be realized this year.

I am happy to share some words from Neil Gaiman, which I highly encourage you to follow in 2017.

Eleanor x

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

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, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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

Urgency in Getting it All Down

I believe we all have many stories to tell that should see the light of day. I believe that many of us will never write those stories down and that saddens me because I want to read those stories. At funerals, I’ve often wondered if the deceased accomplished what he or she set out to do in life. I think of all the wonderful untold life stories that go with that person.

We all wake up, most of us get ready for work or school, we spend our day doing our jobs and if we have families, we come home to make dinner, do homework with our children, talk to our significant others, perhaps eat it in front of the television and fall asleep. We wake up and do it all over again. That’s not all we do, of course, but you get the picture-we live our lives. We live the lives we’ve been taught to live or we do our own thing. Most of us follow routines that make our lives and the lives of our loved ones manageable and for some of us, that is enough and we are happy. Others, however, develop an urgency deep inside that whispers, “Time waits for no one, do that thing.”

Only you know what “that thing” is. That thing for me turned into two things–to write books and paint in between my books.

I believe that fear, excuses and our busy lives stop us from writing our stories. I am of the belief that you should fake it until you make it. Just write it all down. Write a daily journal, blog, keep a notebook with you at all times, or type out the stories of your life. Don’t worry about grammar or the right words, for now, just write.

As the granddaughter and daughter of oral storytellers, I had a wealth of information, details and story lines by the time I was in my 30’s. My memory and the repetition of these stories kept them alive for me as well as telling my kids the stories, but I didn’t write them down.

Soon after my mother’s death in 1992 at the young age of 57, I began to keep a journal. Her death shook my family and her friends to the core. Again, I wondered whether my beautiful mother had left things too late. Had she left unfinished business and did she live all her dreams? Or even one? She was the epitome of a great mother and grandmother, but I wasn’t sure.

My mother’s death was the kick in the pants and in the gut that I needed. I began a journal, written long-hand for over ten years in beautifully bound, unlined books. I took those bulky journals everywhere I went. I wrote during trips, vacations and even on walks because my entries also included photographs I’d taken along the way and small drawings done in interesting places. I wrote down pieces of conversations I heard on the Metro, in small cafes and on ferry boat rides. I jotted down descriptions of people, of corner bodegas, and the tiniest flower. I began to see and write down what I saw and heard and how it made me feel. I also kept a notebook by my bed to record dreams.

During those years, the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron arrived as a Christmas gift from my father’s new wife, Rebecca. That was when I started my journey toward doing “that thing” and her book changed my life. I read the book alone, did the homework and went out on my Artist’s Dates and soon, I was sharing the book with girlfriends. We met once a month for a year and soon, another group was formed and I was facilitating. I began to write poetry and a year later, I wrote my book, A Decent Woman.

It is not surprising that through helping others with their creativity, I found my own.

Blogs have long replaced my journal. Julia might not agree and I understand that she may be right. I might go back to writing in my journal, just maybe…

Ellie

The Social Media Merry-go-round

I joined NetworkedBlogs last night and I love it. I can now view all my favorite blogs in one place and save the blogs I want to read later which will free up my email inbox. What will they come up with next? That is tongue in cheek, of course. “They” have and will come up with tons more and I would like it all to slow down a bit. Please.

Social media. Gotta love it and sometimes, it’s a royal pain. I get it, though. I’ve used it for years, building my author platform and it really works, but new sites come up all the time. New and improved. As soon as I learn a new site or app, there are ten to take its place. My adult children are computer wizards. “Mom, try this. It’s right up your alley.”  Okay, thanks! Yet another site that I have to look into. Groan. Just let me work with what I have for a little while, I want to say! It’s second nature for the younger generation, but it didn’t come easy to me.

Take my maternal grandmother for instance. She was born in 1900 in the coastal town of Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico, just outside the colonial town of Ponce. When she died in 1994, she had seen and experienced the horse and buggy, the telegraph, trains, cars, land line telephones, victrolas, radios, tape recorders, television, airplane travel and computers. My grandmother had a cell phone when she was 90 and watched me write and do research on a computer when I visited her. I remember her amazement at the information available to us by simply typing words and phrases in little Search boxes. She took it all in stride and went with the flow, as I must do.

But, you don’t understand. I still happen to think it’s pretty amazing that when I fire up my laptop, I am instantly connected to our world and beyond. No joke. I truly am. To a non-computer, tech-savvy person such as myself, I marvel that when I log on, it all works. I am instantly connected with my favorite authors, blogs I love, and I can keep up with what my favorite authors and artists are doing through their posts on Instagram, LinkedIn, NetworkedBlogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

I’m doing all that, as well and I know there are sites that I should be using and I will. Just give me time. It takes up a whole lot of time to maintain a social media presence. On good days, it’s a lot of fun. I normally tackle this blog in the mornings and then, post it onto my various sites. I read the news of the day online and midday, I post again. In the early evening, I check all the sites to see who read what and who followed or liked me. It is then that I answer emails and respond to comments. In between all this, of course, I’m writing and trying to figure out what I can eat in my pantry so that I don’t have to go out. Once a week, I read the blogs I follow and I comment. I love that day and learn so much from writers, authors, publishers and agents. I make a pot of tea, grab my afghan and away I go into someone else’s world. In the late evenings, I read books, the news online, and very often, I fall asleep after a chapter of my current book. I wonder why?

When I write, the Internet can be very distracting. I’ve been known to write a paragraph of a novel and then, stop because I’ve just written something that I must research.This happens all the time. With a very innocent sentence such as, “Isabel leaned against the palm tree…”, I am stopped dead in my tracks. Palm tree. Is that correct? I know Puerto Rico has palm trees, but what type of palm tree, what variety of palm tree? Did that variety exist in 1901 in Puerto Rico? See what I mean? It’s constant but, at times like that, I thank God for the World Wide Web and for my BFF Kristine who immediately Googled palm trees and uncovered the Royal Palm!

Social media is never far from my thoughts. I know very few authors, writers and artists who don’t “do” social media. Even Pinterest has become a place to market and sell books. I cannot get onto Pinterest if I have any chance of writing. That is my one addiction. I must have 30 boards and of course, I have a board for my novel, an inspirational board, and a board of the books I want to read, to include the ones presently on my nightstand. It’s SO addicting.

Most authors have a Facebook account for personal stuff and one for each book of their books. I love that idea and that’s what I did, as well. I don’t have a website yet, but I’m working on that. I know a woman who maintains 12 personal websites. I can’t even keep my ten usernames and passwords straight from various websites and I never remember a birthday (except for my children and immediate family) until I see it on my Facebook feed.

I just don’t have that much space left in my brain…or do I?

So, if you had the idea that writers do nothing but write and sit around in cafes, discussing the world over vino while smoking Havanas, think again. I tried that. I went to my neighborhood bakery shop that has WiFi to spend the whole day writing. It was fun, but I didn’t get a lot done. I drank way too much coffee, had way too many Zuzu cupcakes, watched the patrons come in and out, and I talked with the owners. Back home I went. I write better in the company of my animals where the coffee is basically free and I can listen to my favorite music uninterrupted. I still visit the bakery shop, but just not to write. I do, however, never leave without six mini Zuzu cupcakes.

Has anyone written a blog about how not to gain weight while writing a book? Let me know. I’d read that blog 🙂

Happy writing to you.

Ellie