Sometimes a visit to crazy town is necessary.

Earlier this week, nearly twenty days after my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman was published, I set about creating a to-do list that included, answering emails, writing articles for ezines, replying to author interview questions, and trying to keep up on social media sites I’m part of. The list of what I needed to accomplish post-publication seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t expect to feel new, strange emotions–I was a bit disoriented, and felt flustered and overwhelmed. The book I’d worked on for five years was no longer in my hands–it was in readers’ hands. All I could do was stand on the sidelines and watch my protagonists, Ana and Serafina, take over–it’s their story. At this point, my book, the story, must stand alone. I just happened to write it. But, of course, I got in my own way.

When A Decent Woman first came out, I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and joy, much like a parent when their firstborn goes off to school. I was grateful to Booktrope Publishing for taking a chance on a historical novel about an Afro-Cuban midwife, who lives and works in Puerto Rico and thankful to my publishing team, who were a dream to work with on this project. I was thrilled and grateful when readers left wonderful comments and reviews. I was humbled and felt dizzy. Much like my experiences when my adult kids left the nest, who are doing wonderful things in the world, by the way, I knew post-publication that it was time to get a life.

I realized I had to write another book, but how? I couldn’t concentrate, and in the first ten days, I obsessively checked Amazon, looking for new reviews so I could thank the kind reader (if I knew them). Checking my rankings on Amazon was a daily ritual, which I didn’t know how to do until my marketing guru, Anne told me where to look. Then, I realized being a best selling author is an hourly thing, and I soon gave that up. I now look weekly and hope that stops. During the first ten days, I found it difficult to have ‘normal’ conversations, and discovered it was extremely difficult not to mention my debut novel to the mailman, the guy at the post office as I mailed out copies of my book, and to the guy behind the deli counter, who loves historical fiction. I went a bit nutty reminding my very kind and tolerant family members and friends not to forget to post an honest review for A Decent Woman on Amazon. Sheesh.

I was sick of me, and this isn’t me. Although I know how important social media is, and how very important reviews are to an author, I lived alone for five years, writing and rewriting a story that loved. In the pre-publication days when I was writing, I wouldn’t speak to a soul for days on end, save for a quick phone call, emails and texts to family and friends to catch up and let them know I was alive. I did talk with my cat and my Chihuahua, Sophie, who as it turns out, is an extremely good listener if you don’t mind her licking your face. I knew how to do all that. I just didn’t know how to be humble and a social animal, when all I wanted to do was write more books. Life is all about balance, and I wasn’t feeling particularly balanced right after publication.

So, I wrote an email to my friend and writing mentor to many writers, including myself, the master storyteller, Jack Remick. Sensing that I was experiencing, as he calls it, “Firstitis”, he kindly wrote back with a diagnosis that was spot on. He gave me the definition of this curable illness and the cure–get back to writing. Immediately. He was absolutely right. It was sage and timely advice from an incredibly talented writer and a composed, generous man to a discombobulated, but well-meaning, new author.

Thank you, Jack. The craziness has diminished. I’m getting down to the business at hand-writing on my second book–and I’m at peace. I should have written sooner, but I learned valuable lessons, and I’ve always learned the hard way.

Ana Belén, you are on your own, my love. I’m onto The Island of Goats, my second historical novel set in 1920 Puerto Rico and Spain. I’m getting to know my characters, Alta Gracia and India Meath, and accessing my experiences on the medieval route of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, The Way of St. James, in Spain, which I walked with my then-teenage children.

But, I’ll see Ana and Serafina again when I get to writing the sequel to A Decent Woman called Mistress of Coffee.

Sometimes, you must visit crazy town to find peace and sanity again.

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, an 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.

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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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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