Author Interview: Manuel A. Meléndez

Welcome to our Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I am very pleased to welcome Manuel A. Meléndez. 

Manuel A. Meléndez is a Puerto Rican writer, who was born on the island and raised in East Harlem, N.Y.  He is the author of two mystery/supernatural novels, WHEN ANGELS FALL, and BATTLE FOR A SOUL, five poetry books, OBSERVATIONS THROUGH POETRY, VOICES FROM MY SOUL, THE BEAUTY AFTER THE STORM, MEDITATING WITH POETRY, and SEARCHING FOR MYSELF.  Two collection of Christmas short stories, NEW YORK CHRISTMAS TALES, VOL. I and II, and IN THE SHADOWS OF NEW YORK: TWO NOVELETTES.  The novel WHEN ANGELS FALL, was voted by The LatinoAuthors.com as the Best Novel of 2013, while BATTLE FOR A SOUL was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards for Mystery Novels.  His short story A KILLER AMONG US was published by Akashi Books in SAN JUAN NOIR anthology.

New Manuel Melendez

Welcome, Manuel!

Which book are we chatting about today, and what is the genre?

The book I would like to talk about is a collection of supernatural/mystery short stories I’m currently working on called “Wicked Remains”. The supernatural genre is one of my favorite genres not only to write, but to read, as well.

Please describe what “Wicked Remains” is about.

The collection is an assortment of tales, from the typical old fashioned werewolf and vampires stories, to the demons who invade your dreams, turning them into nightmares.  And then, to the twisted, criminally insane killers.

Thanks for sending the illustration by Henry Simon, which will appear in your short story collection.

Manuel Melendez photo

How did you come up with the title?

I played with many different angles to come up with a title I felt was able to capture the many themes of the book and its eclectic collection of stories.  “Wicked Remnants” is what haunts you after the nightmare.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Yes, many of my characters have some of my DNA twisted somewhere in their personalities.  You can’t help it.  I’m sure many writers use their own experiences, pain, laughter, and tears to blend into their fictional creations.

So true; it’s hard for most writers to not weave something personal into their character or story. What inspired you to write this collection?

Even though the majority of my writing involves poetry and novels, short stories have always been the format I’m most drawn to.  The challenge of creating rich tales complete with conflicts has always fascinated me.  I believe to quickly deliver the full arc of the story to the reader makes you a better novelist…and poet, as well.

I agree with you. What is your favorite part of writing?

Taking a deep breath, having an idea that will launch a story and give it flight, and then allowing the voices to take over your creativity. Then just let it flow. Forget the basic concepts of grammar, spelling, run-on sentences—just write and write non-stop.  Those voices are not going to stop because you want to refer to your reference books…that comes later. At the beginning it is all freestyle. It’s like a street fight with no rules or referee!

That’s a great description! I research my book idea for a few months, write furiously for six months, and then the rewrites and deeper research begin, which can take up to two years. The first few months are very exciting.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Coming up with something new, something that has never been done or written about.  Which seems impossible, but creatively makes you dig deeper, or soar higher, it’s there you just have to find it or expose it.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes”, the first of a trilogy.  I’m a big Stephen King’s fan, and the interesting thing about this book is that it is unlike most of his books, which are supernatural. This one is strictly a detective story with a team of three very diverse characters.  Very enjoyable, not one of his best, but still a good read.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Too many to put on paper, but obviously Edgar Allan Poe must lead the parade.  Followed by Stephen King, Piri Thomas, Pete Hamill, James Clavell, Frank Herbert, Vicente Blasco Ibañez, to name a few.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Edgar Allan Poe for introducing to me the short story format.  Stephen King for teaching me how to developedbelievable characters, and Piri Thomas for allowing me to dream at the age of 13 that Puerto Ricans from El Barrio could be writers, as well.

Puerto Rican writer Esmeralda Santiago inspired me to try my hand at writing after I read the now-classic memoir, “When I Was Puerto Rican”. Like you, I love Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Any place I get inspired, but my favorite places are the subway trains, parks, and a place that I discovered to be a beacon to my creativity, underneath the elevated tracks of the subway line in my neighborhood.  I need the chaos and noises of the city. If you put me in a quiet place, like up in the country, my voices refused to speak!

I find it so interesting where people write and find inspiration. I need total silence in the country for my voices to be heard.

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

Two of my favorite things are drawing/painting and cooking.  The activities allow me to relax and think about the plots or characters I’m working on, and it’s a form of meditation.

Very true. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

Writing can be very liberated. Through my writing, I have an outlet for my emotions; regardless if they are happy, sad, angry, or even mean-spirited.  The publishing process is too much of a business that I’d rather not get involved in, but it’s also part of the game. I need to work a bit more on the publishing process. One thing for sure, do your research before signing anything, and especially do your work before agreeing with promises, that may be broken and not fulfilled.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

To be entertained.  To be moved, to be afraid, and sometimes to be informed about things they never knew. Lessons may be learned through stories.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

The writing part is actually the easiest. Somehow the plots, characters and situations come pretty easy and are extremely rewarding.  The marketing aspect is what I need to work on, especially being a shy person who’d rather let his words on paper be his voice.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Well, it’s not so much what didn’t work, but more of what I need to do to make it work, and that’s to be more involved and let people know I’m here with a lot of stories and poems to share.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

First work on that story, and don’t be lazy.  Revise that book as much as it needs to be revised.  Get an excellent editor, not a friend, but a real editor, who is not afraid to tell you what works on the story and what doesn’t.  If you write 400 pages, don’t be afraid to cut down as many pages as you need to cut.  Don’t fall in love with a whole paragraph or even a sentence, or a character because if it doesn’t move the story, but rather slows it down, you need to delete it. After your book went through every cycle, and it’s the best thing you have written, then it’s time get it out there.

Good advice.

Website and social media links?

www.manuel-melendez.com

Manuel A. Melendez’s Books on Facebook

Where can we find your book, Manuel?

Amazon.com, or feel free to contact me if you’d like an autographed copy.

What’s next for you?

For the second time, I’m doing the 30-30 Poetry challenge.

I’m also working on two novels, one is a supernatural tale and the other one a more crime/human drama.  And, I have two other stories, which I wrote about 20 years ago that must be revisited.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Manuel. I wish you continued success with your writing! 

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. 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 1920 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

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Author Interview: Linda DeFruscio

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series. I love introducing readers to authors across genres, which makes Tuesday one of my favorite days of the week.

Today, I am pleased to welcome Linda DeFruscio, memoirist and author of the children’s book, Ginger and Moe and the Incredible Coincidence, which releases today, March 7, with Brown Publishers.

Linda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. Her writing career began years ago, when she was invited to write a series of skincare articles for a national magazine. Linda’s fascinating memoir, Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him, published in 2015 by Twilight Times Books, will be featured at a later time. So do check back with us.

linda-defruscio

Welcome, Linda. Tell us a little about Ginger and Moe.

 

Ginger and Moe is a true story, about two sibling cats that I adopted, only to find out later that I was allergic to cats. I was determined find them a new home with someone who, like me, would never want to see them separated. My commitment to these wonderful cats turned into a journey, for both them and me, that I could never have imagined. 

How did you come up with the title?

Ginger and Moe and the Incredible Coincidence was a title I came up right away, on the very day I began to write the story. Ginger and Moe were the real names of my cats, and the story is about the coincidence that resulted in them finally finding a home after being nomads for a while. “Coincidence” is a hard concept for children to understand. My hope is that my book will illuminate the concept in a straightforward manner. It made sense to include the word in the title so parents buying the book will know what to expect.

What inspired you to write Ginger and Moe?

Ginger and Moe was a story that lived for years in my heart. I didn’t need boxes of notes to be able to write it. All I needed was a little time to reflect on the ways in which those cats touched and changed my life.

linda-df-books

You are the narrator in your story. How easy was that for you?

Yes, I appear as the narrator in both Ginger and Moe and Cornered; in both cases I sacrificed anonymity in order to tell the truest story I could.

For Ginger and Moe and the Incredible Coincidence, this only required that I talk about my allergies.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

Great thoughts sometimes find their way to me when I’m in an environment that is not conducive to writing them down. I have been known to scribble on Post-its, paper napkins, and even checkbook registers. I have also been known to run out of my office, ostensibly to use the ladies’ room but really to have a moment’s privacy to write down a thought before it slips away. The worst is when great thoughts come to me late at night. Since I have a day job, I need to get a good night’s sleep. But I know I will forget all about the great idea if I don’t get up and write it down right away. So I get up, which leads to challenges the next day.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I came to writing more or less by accident. Years ago a magazine publisher asked me if I would write some skincare articles for her. And, a doctor asked me to contribute an article to a publication called the Annals of Dermatology. I found, in both cases, that writing is an engaging process. If it requires research, so much the better. Now I’m working on my third book, and I’m collecting notes for a fourth book. I’m so glad I discovered writing. It has become my way of exploring the world.

Linda, what was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth by Grace Anne Stevens may be one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read about what it means to be a woman. The ironic thing here is that Grace started out as a man. Another title I loved was Joan Heartwell’s memoir Hamster Island, which is about growing up dirt poor with two disabled siblings. You can see I gravitate towards memoirs, mostly about people overcoming great emotional obstacles. I also read a lot of spiritual books.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Besides Grace Stevens and Joan Heartwell, and off the top of my head, I enjoy Jennifer Boylan, Keith Ablow, and Jeanette Walls.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Marissa Lynn is the magazine editor who, the first day we met in her office, asked me if I would like to try to write an article on skincare. I went home and poured everything I knew about skincare into a first draft. Then I took it in to show Marissa a few days later. She read it, and, to my horror, she ripped it up. She said, “I don’t want this!” I was stunned. I started to cry. “This isn’t how you write!” she continued. “This sounds like a text book. Tell me real stories about real people with real skin problems. Tell me what you know from experience, not what you studied in school.”

My inclination was to tell her nothing, other than that I wasn’t interested in working with her after all. But I took a minute to think it over and decided that would be a mistake. She was offering me an opportunity to reach many potential clients. She opened her drawer and took out a tape recorder. She said, “Take this and start talking. I’ll type it up later.” So I pulled myself together and told her a story about a man who had the beginnings of folliculitis barbae—a rare but serious bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin and subcutaneous tissues—and how we determined the cause of his infection and how we finally got rid of it. Marissa loved it. That was how it all began.

You experienced tough love from Marissa, which is often necessary to dig deep with a story. I’ve experienced similar tough love from editors, which I appreciated very much.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Because I have my own business and work long hours, I don’t have the option of writing whenever or wherever I want. I write notes, as I mentioned above, wherever I am, as I think of things. Most of them I never look at again. But sometimes I realize I have the makings for a manuscript.

Linda, can you share something personal that people may be surprised to know?

I am a yoga fanatic. I do yoga very early in the morning, as many mornings a week as possible. I am also a closet eater of candies and other sweets that I know are not good for me. My favorite indulgence is York Peppermint Patties. So, something healthy and something not, that’s one surprise about me—though there are others.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you?

Yes! I learned so much about myself through the writing of both books. Loyalty is not something I ever gave much thought to before, but as it happens, it became a major theme in Cornered, and to a lesser degree, even in Ginger and Moe. I am a loyal person; I didn’t even know that before. And that’s just one example. Writing is a way of living; for all that it seems like such a passive activity, it results in lots of experiences and insights.

linda-df-books

What do you hope readers will gain from your books?

As far as Ginger and Moe, I think there is a lot to learn in that little book. There are lessons on caring and commitment that might be valuable for parents as well as for the children they read to. And of course the big thing is that children reading the book will learn about the concept of coincidence, maybe for the first time. I’m especially hoping that teachers will see the value of using the book in the classroom. You can stand up and tell a roomful of little kids that a coincidence is “a remarkable concurrence of events without apparent casual connection,” (as one dictionary has it), or you can read them Ginger and Moe and let them see that the “remarkable event” at work in the book has a name. Which one do you think will ultimately be more memorable?

Experiential learning usually works like a charm. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market these books?

I stuck with it. In these times it’s not enough to find a publisher and hope your book flies off the shelves. You’ve got to accept every interview invitation that comes along, every opportunity to talk about your work, and not just right after the launch date. You’ve got to keep at it. It’s been difficult for me, because I work so many hours. But I do as much as I can and I plan to continue to do so.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up. Go after your dream. Persevere. The rewards for me have been huge, even though Cornered is not a best seller and Ginger and Moe is barely out at this time. Not only did I accomplish what I set out to do, but in the process I discovered answers to questions that had plagued me for years.

linda-df-book

Website and social media links?

www.lindadefruscio.com

www.thecorneredbook.com

www.gingerandmoecatbook.com

Where can we find your books?

On Amazon and other online sites, on my website, and in libraries and stores.

What’s next for you?

I’m completing a wonderful book about individuals in the transgender community. Because I am an electrologist, and because I was introduced to people from the trans community early on, a great number of my clients are transgender. And because every transgender individual works with a variety of healthcare professionals, I know lots of people peripheral to the transition process. Over the last two years I worked with an assistant to interview several of my trans clients. Their stories are all different and all fascinating. Now I’m in the process of adding a preface and some back matter, and deciding on a title.

The book I’m just starting is about my sister, who suffers from MSA, or Multiple System Atrophy. As you might guess, this book will describe her personal journey, and mine as well, with the context of our relationship as sisters. Again, I have boxes of notes, some of which are my sister’s ideas and insights. I can’t wait to get started.

Both books sound wonderful and very close to your heart; not to mention timely. I wish you the best of luck with your books and your works in progress, Linda. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.

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 currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

Author Interview: Liz Doran

Happy Election Day to my fellow Americans! VOTE!

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview Series, my favorite day at The Writing Life. Please check back with us next Tuesday for another fascinating interview. Today I’m very pleased to welcome multi-talented Liz Doran, author of the women’s fiction novel, “Where She Belongs”.

Liz Doran is an Irish writer, who lives in Germany.  She has also lived and travelled extensively in the U.S.A. and spent several months living in London and Italy. She loves colour, art, books, film, design, and travel. A lifelong interest in metaphysical and spiritual matters has taken her on many interesting journeys. She trained as a Heilpraktiker in Germany, specialising in classical homeopathy and colour puncture. She also loves nature and animals, and enjoys a good laugh. She has been married to her German husband since 1984 and has two grown sons.

barbara-doran-rogel

Welcome, Liz!

barbara-doran-rogel-book

What is your book’s genre/category?

It’s women’s fiction.

Please describe what “Where She Belongs” is about.

“Where She Belongs” is about a woman’s transformation as she decides to be proactive by leaving her unhappy marriage in Spain and move back to her homeland, Ireland.

How did you come up with the title?

Ah, the title! Well, the book is all about belonging and I think it reflects the theme pretty well. I was struggling with a title, but then a friend suggested I might like to look at the last line of the book. And there it was, snuggled into the sentence. 

What inspired you to write “Where She Belongs”? 

I was writing a different book and got stuck in the plot. Then I decided to write Where She Belongs. I didn’t have a plan, but liked the idea of taking my character on a journey to see what would happen.

Taking my characters on a journey often turns into my characters taking me on a journey. My favorite part of writing. What is your favorite part of writing?

I’ve taken courses in hypnotherapy and have conducted and taken part in creative visualisation courses. Writing, when I’m in the flow, is similar. I see the scenes in my mind’s eye, and I can orchestrate the characters in a certain setting, or I can let the images flow through my fingertips onto the page.  

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Yes, I suppose she does in some ways. She can be indecisive, hates injustice, gets bored easily, loves adventure and travel, and is creative.

Liz, what do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I really do have that dread of the blank page, especially when I’m stuck in a difficult plot. Because when I’m stuck, I know that everything I write in the next few pages should be moving the novel forward. It’s like facing a fork in the road and deciding which of the myriad paths to take. Then there’s the aspect of remembering that one’s goal is to entertain people. You have to try to create twists, inject the unexpected. It’s all about pacing too, getting the dialogue right, creating believable characters.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

That’s a difficult question because I usually read a few books at a time. I know that’s a bad habit. Blame the e-book reader for that! I like to support other Indie writers and often buy their books and dip in and out of their works according to my mood. I do usually finish them though. There are so many talented writers out there, both Indie and traditionally published. I also love going to my local book shop, which has a pretty well-stocked English section. So I’m reading The Harder They Come by T.C.Boyle, Purity by Jonathan Franzen, Anne Enright’s The Green Road.   But I ramble. I think the last book I finished was 80: A Memoir by Pauline Bewick. My sister told me about it and I started it when on holidays in Ireland in summer. It was so engrossing, what a life! It included sketches of some of her paintings and I thought, I recognise her art. Then I remembered: I have a little book called Irish Tales and Sagas by Ulick O’Connor. The illustrations by Pauline Bewick are fantastic. Every time I read a few pages of her Memoir, I felt inspired.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I don’t really have a favourite author. But I’ll mention authors who have left their mark. Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever, Stephen King’s The Stand and On Writing, The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan, Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and Anne of Green Gables by Maud Montgomery. An eclectic mix, right? Too many to mention. I’ve also read several Indie books this past couple of years by members of a most supportive Indie Writing Group, IASD, which was initially set up by Paul Ruddock and is now run by Ian D. Moore. The genres range from sci-fi to supernatural, thrillers, romance and everything in between.  

I agree with you, IASD is a very supportive group. What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

See above. I think I’ve been influenced by so many authors over the years. Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever is so cleverly written. Her sense of pacing, her humour and her historical details inspired me to try something similar one day. Then an Irish writer, Joseph O’Connor, who wrote Star of the Sea about a ship of famine victims, an American journalist and several members of the upper class emigrating to a new life in the U.S. It’s a great read with an exciting plot. He uses information from newspaper cuttings to lend historical accuracy to the times and really transports the reader into the story. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read? 

I prefer to read in bed or in a prone position. Usually I write in the living room, looking out onto my garden. I can watch the little robin that hops by my window when he decides to visit, or the pigeon with the white speck on his forehead, and the prowling neighbour’s cat who is usually up to no good, but he doesn’t know it.  Then there are the faces in the hedges that watch me while I watch them. I can write pretty much anywhere once I’m not distracted. I don’t think I could write well in a café. I’d be too busy people watching.

Faces in the hedges…oh, I like that. Can you tell us something personal about yourself that people may be surprised to know?

What would people be surprised to know? Hmmm. Let me think.

I trained as a Naturopath here in Germany and had my own practice. My mind is very open to the weird and wonderful. I used Light and Colour therapy, constitutional homeopathy and foot reflexology to treat people holistically and have a passion for inspiring and helping others. But I’m not a good business person. There’s a Memoir of sorts coming out soon about my journeys, my penchant for astrology, tarot, psychics, guiding dreams, if I don’t get cold feet. The book has been sitting on my computer for a few years now.

You know I love the weird and wonderful, good luck with the memoir! Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I’ve been writing for years, keeping journals, writing on snippets of paper back in my twenties when I was doing a lot of travelling and waiting at train stations, or sitting in cafes. But writing a novel is a whole other thing. I’ve learned perseverance and not to take myself too seriously either. Ah, the publishing process. I’d informed myself for years about the publishing world and many people were saying how hard it was to get an agent, write a synopsis, and that query letter. Once I’d finished my first novel, I didn’t have the patience for all of that. I decided to do it my way, with a lot of help from my friends. There’s a certain amount I can do myself, but I need to create an alter ego. who helps me with time management and marketing.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book, Liz?

I’ve already had positive feedback from other writers, both men and women, who have told me my book helped them to make a decision to transform their lives and find their place. That’s pretty amazing and certainly gives me a boost.

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That’s awesome. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I’m not sure about the marketing aspect. I haven’t done very much in that regard. My plan is to keep writing more books and hope to gain visibility that way. I find it easier to promote others’ books than I do my own. The good decisions I’ve made were finding a professional cover designer and a good developmental editor, who helped me see the big picture.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

I should have given my two main characters different names as they are difficult to pronounce, and I should have done some pre-publicity for my book. Perhaps I should have had the patience and sent out query letters to agents and publishers, especially since I am not good at promoting my own work.

Agents and publishers can help with publicity, but I find most of the work still falls on the author. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up on your dream. If you love to write and want to see your book in print, stick with it, learn as much as you can. Read a lot and write every day. If you choose the traditional publishing route, do what I didn’t do and write a synopsis and a query letter. Practice getting it perfect. Writing the synopsis, even before the book is finished, can be a very helpful way to figure out where you’re going with the plot. Get the Artist’s Year Book and check out the agents and publishers who specialise in your particular genre. There is so much information available on publishing. There’s nothing original I can say on that score.

Please share your website and social media links.

I’m working on setting up a website, but I want to do it right.

I do blog occasionally. Here’s the link:

www.eclecticwrite.wordpress.com

Twitter: @DoranRogel

Where can we find your book?

It’s available on Amazon, both as an e-book and as a paperback.

Here’s the link: https://amzn.com/B01D6X71PE 

What’s next for you, Liz? 

I’m working on my next novel. It’s also set in Ireland and is a fictional story loosely based on a true historical event. Part contemporary, part historical, I’ve woven the story to encompass the event which was set in the eighteenth century. Think haunted house with an air of mystery and suspense.

Sounds intriguing! Thank you for chatting with us today, Liz. I’ve enjoyed learning more about you. I wish you the best with your books and writing.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who 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 and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: SJ Brown

Welcome to The Writing Life blog and to the Tuesday Author Interview series. I will be showcasing authors well into May 2017, so please check back in.

This week, I’m very pleased to chat with wildlife photographer, memoirist, and author, S. J. Brown.

Prior to pursuing wildlife photography, S. J. Brown describes living an average life in New Jersey. She discovered her love of writing in high school, and her love of photography began on a whim with an inexpensive 35mm camera, a few rolls of film, and an appreciation for the natural world. For over 15 years, she has traveled extensively throughout the eastern United States in pursuit of wildlife encounters. Much to the dismay of her spotter, this often involves trekking through thick brush, muddy trails, and secluded locations, and on rocky seas. S. J. says the interaction with wildlife makes it all worth the effort.

S. J. Brown’s books include, Close ups & Close Encounters: A View From Behind The Lens and Adults Gone Wild Coloring Book, and for little ones, All The Birds I See, Clancy’s Catnap, and Wild Animals Coloring Book. I am a fan of this creative lady’s beautiful, sensitive photographs.

Welcome, S. J. Brown.

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What is your book’s genre(s)?

Close Ups & Close Encounters: A View From Behind The Lens is a mix of nonfiction, memoir, and photography.

Please describe what Close Ups & Close Encounters is about.

The reader goes into the field with me to see what photographing wildlife is really like.  There is more to photography than just clicking the shutter button.

That’s a unique approach and very true about photography. How did you come up with the title?

I played with several titles, which I sent to friends and family for their opinion.  Most of them loved Close Ups & Close Encounters. They felt it accurately captured the feel of the book.

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What inspired you to write this book?

A fellow author overheard my conversation about one of my photographs. He later said, “Girl, you have to write this shit down.” I went home that evening, put aside the project I was working on, and began Close Ups.  Everyone has heard the saying every picture tells a story.  Well, there is a story behind getting every wildlife image.

Within the pages of my book, I share the learning experiences in the field, my close calls, and my failures and successes.

I love that your book combines photography with memoir, which helps the reader to learn about and connect with you, the person behind the camera.

I’m still smiling about your friend’s comment. So true about the importance of getting it all down. What are your favorite parts of writing and photography?

I love sharing my love of wildlife and ultimately, sharing my images and experiences with readers. The time I spend with students and adults presenting and discussing my photographs hopefully inspires others to explore their creative side. Whether it is through photography, painting, sculpting, or sketching, I believe there is a little bit of artist in everyone that often just needs to be nurtured a bit to bring it to the surface.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Punctuation, I really suck at punctuation. As the book evolved, many pages were put aside, which at first was hard. However, the book slowly took on another feel and showed things from a different perspective, which I liked better.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

I Have MS. What’s Your Superpower. It is a very informative book for people with MS and for their loved ones. I am fortunate to not have MS, and now I have a better understanding of how the disease affects people.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Most of my favorite authors are people most people may not have heard of. They are authors I have met, hung out with, and consider friends. Sally Brinkman, Victor Banis, Kirk Judd, Lisa Combs, R. G. Redding, Tracy Ball, Eleanor Parker Sapia, Cheryl Grogg, Diana Pishner Walker, and M. Lynn Squires.  Of course, there are many more, these are just the top 10 that came to mind. They are not only good authors; they are good people, as well.

Thank you kindly, SJ, for including me in your list. What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and as a photographer?

That list is long. Every time I read a book that captivates me, I want to write better to capture my audience.

My family has played a big part in encouraging  me to continue both my writing and photography careers.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write at my desk in my newly-completed office. I write mostly at night when the house is quiet and there are no distractions; however, I tend to get lots of ideas and will take notes almost anywhere.

As for where I read, that varies; it might be in my car, in an office, on the couch, just about anywhere I can find a few minutes of quiet.

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

A couple of things: I don’t like water, but I will get into a canoe or a boat if it means there is a chance to get a few critter photos. I’ve owned a small business and have explored sketching and working with stained glass and ceramics. And lastly, when I first began submitting my photography to publishers, most of the submissions were returned unopened. I knew I was choosing publishers that would be interested in my work, but they weren’t looking at the images. Once I began using my initials, publishers began opening the submissions. No, they didn’t all buy my work, but they were  looking and some were buying. It turns out that most publishers I approached assumed a woman couldn’t get the kind of wildlife images they were looking for, so they just returned them unopened.

To this day most publishers assume S. J. Brown is a man and often write the check to Mr. S. J. Brown.  Yes, I enjoy enlightening them.

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I can imagine you do enjoy enlightening them after you receive your check! Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

The final version of Close Ups & Close Encounters is nothing like the original draft. Along the way and as the book evolved, I  spent a lot of time with fellow authors. The evolution included adding entire chapters, while deleting others.  Writing a book is a process and the end result can be surprising.

As for the publishing process, I still have a lot to learn. However, I now know that I need to consider each submission carefully, and if I  have doubts, that might not be the right place for my work. 

I absolutely agree with trusting our gut. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

A love and appreciation for nature along with a better understanding of just what it takes to get that perfect shot. I also hope this book encourages people to follow their passion wherever it leads them.

That’s awesome. I’m also a big fan of encouraging others and following our passions in life. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

Getting input from fellow authors is invaluable. I was fortunate to have a varied mix of authors weigh in on my work. A lawyer is going to offer a different perspective than a children’s book author or someone who writes sci-fi.

As for marketing, I am still learning and I have a lot more to learn. 

What didn’t work?

Marketing. Publishing with a small publisher was a mistake for me. A larger publisher could have guided me through the marketing process and helped me to find the right market for Close Ups & Close Encounters.

I always say I write full-time along with a part-time job in marketing. Marketing isn’t easy. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t rush things. It is better to publish one good book than to publish several so-so books. Take your time. A book is your baby, nurture it. When you are ready to let it go, make sure you find the right home for your book.

Website and social media links?

Website www.sjbrown.50megs.com

FaceBook  https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Google+ https://plus.google.com/107089848958196015385

Linkedin  https://www.linkedin.com/in/s-j-brown-40667b47?trk=hp-identity-name

Where can we find your book?

Amazon   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Close-Ups-Encounters-View-Behind/dp/0985726784

Create Space  https://www.createspace.com/4228022

Autographed Copies available at www.sjbrown.50megs.com

Barnesandnoble   http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/close-ups-and-close-encounters-s-j-brown/1115678349?ean=9780985726782

What’s next for you, SJ?

I just completed a memoir that I co-authored with my sister.  Now it is time to find a publisher for it.

While that hunt proceeds, I am working on a project I have wanted to do for a while. Time after time, readers have commented on the images in Close Ups & Close Encounters. Many admitted they never actually read the book, only looked at the photographs, so I am ready to tackle a coffee table book of just images. The real challenge with this project will be finding a publisher that is willing to handle a project with so many images.

Thanks for a fun interview, SJ. Best of luck with Close Ups, your new memoir, and the coffee table book. I look forward to catching up with you soon.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

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Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Well-traveled Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport, and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

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

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

Author Interview: Gabrielle Mathieu

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life.  I will be interviewing authors every Tuesday until the end of November, so please check back in next week. Today I’m pleased to welcome Gabrielle Mathieu, author of The Falcon Flies Alone.

Gabrielle Mathieu lived on three continents by the age of eight. She’d experienced the bustling bazaars of Pakistan, the serenity of Swiss mountain lakes, and the chaos of the immigration desk at the JFK airport. Perhaps that’s why she developed an appetite for the unusual and disorienting. Her fantasy books are grounded in her experience of different cultures and interest in altered states of consciousness (mostly white wine and yoga these days). The Falcon Flies Alone is her debut novel.

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Welcome, Gabrielle!

What is your book’s genre/category?

It’s a fantasy adventure firmly grounded in reality.

Please describe what The Falcon Flies Alone is about.

It’s the beginning of a series following Peppa Mueller, an orphan and chemistry geek who survives a gruesome experiment with a psychotropic plant, and tracks down the villains behind the plan.

How did you come up with the title?

Peppa meets a half-Asian priest she falls in love with. At one point, he says he’s never met someone like her before. The title also reflects on Peppa’s loner tendencies. 

Gabrielle, what inspired you to write this book?

The novel itself is actually based on a nightmare I had many years ago, in which a dangerous group of scientific conspirators tricked everyone into drinking a poisonous concoction. But basically, I just write to stave off the boredom of routine.

 What is your favorite part of writing?

The first draft, when everything comes to life. Even though I’m now using an outline as preparation, I’m still surprised by how the novels evolve once I start writing.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

I’m eccentric as well, and I prefer to rely on myself. If I had an animal totem like Peppa, it would be a predator, though not a falcon. 

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Translating all the information in my brain into something people can follow.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

I just finished Unholy Night, by Seth Grahame-Smith. On one hand, I could see why an agent would drool over representing him. The snarky quick dialogue and the original idea make it an appealing story. On the other hand, the moral nuances of the tale were muddied. The protagonist is driven by vengeance, which we are lead to believe is a failing. Yet, violence is never renounced as a method of concluding conflict. Since the story is woven around the narrative of Jesus’ birth, I think Grahame-Smith failed to address some central themes. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I actually like authors like Elizabeth George and Gillian Flynn for their suspenseful plotting, but too many thrillers, and I get depressed. I enjoy a good character arc, where the protagonist has changed (for the better) over the course of the book. I’m very picky, so I don’t currently have a favorite writer. 

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Tolkien was a huge influence. I read him in 1972 at the age of eight, and was transported into another world. More recently, I was intrigued by George RR Martin’s convoluted plotting and amazing world-building, but the continual rape and torture is a turn-off.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

We have a three-bedroom apartment in Switzerland, which we can afford because it’s a walk-up under the eaves. I have one room set up as a writing study. I read all the time, and carry my Kindle with me, so I don’t have just one place to read.

Gabrielle, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m addicted to afternoon naps. It’s pure luxury to crawl into bed after lunch, and have a deep refreshing sleep, followed by a cup of tea. Even though I’m not British, I love hot tea with milk and honey. 

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

The writing process was a surprise, because at first, like many writers, I failed to recognize the level of craft involved. As time went on, I realized how marginal my first attempts were. The publishing process was even more of a surprise. Since most beta-readers binge-read The Falcon Flies Alone, I expected I’d find an agent sooner or later. I hadn’t realized the very originality I was proud of would prove to be the problem. Luckily, I had the opportunity to join the women of Five Directions Press, a publishing co-op. I can honestly say this was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my writing career. Courtney J. Hall designed fantastic covers for the series, and C.P. Lesley has been a mentor, as well as copy-editing and formatting my manuscripts.  Ariadne Apostolou, who I met through the co-op, has a good eye for story development, but she’s become a good friend as well. The new members are lovely too. 

What do you hope readers will gain from The Falcon Flies Alone?

Primarily, I want them to be entertained, but I hope some themes will speak to them. I write about themes on my website blog as well. What is the importance of the natural world in our neurophysiological make-up, for example? Plants and animals are not just there for our physical nourishment. Our millenia of evolutional are intimately tied up in the natural world which they share with us. I’m also interested in the role of anger in the women’s lives. My first novel is set in 1957. At that time, in movies and literature, women didn’t defend themselves. They stayed in safe situations. How stultifying that life must have been. Someone like my heroine, Peppa Mueller, who is a scientist, would have felt like an outsider, even without a falcon totem that she has to keep hidden from the world. 

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

Well first of all, I have to say this to all aspiring writers. Please, please, learn the basics of grammar. You can break the rules once you know what they are. I am very conscious of grammar and sentence formation.

It’s helpful to find readers, even if they don’t perform literary criticism. You want to know whether people can follow your story. Do they find it interesting enough to finish? Those are two basics. Positive feedback from my beta-readers kept me going through some hard times, before I found Five Directions Press.  

What didn’t work?

People may get annoyed with you or your book. Personality quirks can put other writers off, and sometimes they cross the line when they offer you a “helpful” critique. (Especially if you see their e-mail was written late at night, in which case you may assume some libation was involved). It’s painful when that happens, but perhaps I should have seen it coming.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

You have to give some thought to what direction you want to go in. If you’re still hoping for an agent and a traditional publisher, think like they do. Decide on a genre, read the best-sellers in your genre, and then write something similar enough to be marketed, but something different enough so it’s not a blatant rip-off. If you want to remain true to your creativity, start making contacts now, so when the time comes, you can get your work properly edited and formatted. Don’t just push your first effort out into the internet, “to see what happens.” Join an organization like The Alliance of Independent Authors, and take your work seriously. Write multiple drafts, and learn your weak and strong points. You probably won’t make money, but you’ll have the satisfaction of creation.

Website and social media links?

www.gabriellemathieu.com, https://www.facebook.com/gabriellemathieuauthor, @GabrielleAuthor on Twitter. Our publishing co-op is http://www.fivedirectionspress.com/.

Where can we find The Falcon Flies Alone?

It’s on Amazon world-wide, both as an e-book and as a paperback. There were also a few copies at BookPeople in Austin and Imagine Books and Records in San Antonio. (Both cities are in Texas).

What’s next for you, Gabrielle?

This fall I will be doing some additional research for the third book, The Falcon Soars, as I travel to Nepal on a hiking adventure. Then I’ll return to the second in the series, The Falcon Strikes, to streamline and polish the narrative.
November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) month, and this year I plan to power through a first draft of my dystopian police-buddy novel, Shangri-la Apocalypse, featuring Ivanka Trump as the president of the USA. How’s that for dystopian?

Shangri-la Apocalypse sounds intriguing! Best wishes with your writing and safe travels to Nepal! Thanks for chatting with us today, Gabrielle.

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Sixth Street River Press. Her debut book, which garnered an Honorable Mention in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Well-traveled Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

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

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

A special thank you to Beth Raps and Raising Clarity for the kind invitation to share my journey.

A Decent Woman Reinvents Herself and Her Situation: A Guest Post by Eleanor Parker Sapia

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OK, beloved readers, I have a treat for you: a true inspirational story that just happened to someone we know!

This interview was conducted with our soul-colleague Eleanor Parker Sapia about the life of her first book, A Decent Woman. Eleanor is an author and then some. She embodies “what goes around comes around”; she consistently highlights other writers’ work in her blog, The Writing Life. She is into her heritage and (as each of us is when we embrace who we are fully) universal. Her bio follows at the end of her interview for us on a recent challenge and her amazing turnaround. Blessings to you who read this and may they flow on Ellie for sharing hers with us!


Late last month, my family and friends joined me in celebrating a new publisher for my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman, after my first publisher unceremoniously announced they were closing their doors. My kids asked, “Mom, how did you find a new publisher so quickly?” Well, it didn’t happen quickly, and I had one month to turn an awful experience into a happy ending. I had no idea how in the world I would make that happen, but I couldn’t give up on my book.

I’m of the mindset that we attract people, places, and situations by what we think and believe. What we perceive as negative can often be for our highest good, with lessons usually not far behind, if we care to investigate and learn from the negative experiences. Those beliefs would soon be tested.

I won’t lie; mind-numbing, stunned disbelief overshadowed a fun weekend with my best friend when I received Booktrope’s fateful email on April 29, 2016. By Monday, I was spitting mad. Another dream come true had dissolved. Did I have the energy to gather my wits, listen to my gut, and act without fear while my stomach was in knots? Did I have a clue what to do next? “No” to both questions.

Months before learning about Booktrope’s closing, I revamped my query letter. I don’t know why, but I was thankful I had listened to my gut. By the following Wednesday, I’d sent out two query letters to small publishers, even before the full details of Booktrope’s pending demise became available, which as it turns out, didn’t reach us for a week. I’m sure you can appreciate the stress induced by an uncertain future of an already-published book, a bestseller. Add to that the stress of not only having my book yanked off Amazon on May 31, 2016, but the potential of losing 74 wonderful book reviews in a month’s time. If I did nothing, by June 1, 2016, it would look like my book had never existed.

Well, the weekend was brutal for all Booktrope authors, their families and friends, for creative team members, and for Booktrope staff members, who despite losing their jobs, tried to answer our many, many burning questions. It was a tough situation all around.

I did make a few early decisions which served me well. I decided the reasons Booktrope was folding weren’t helpful to know; it just hadn’t work out. The publishing model, while interesting, unique, and hopeful, had failed. I don’t enjoy or see the merit of going around and around in circles with the “why” something has happened…okay, except for dating the wrong man…in the past, which has caused me to go around and around, trying to figure out what went wrong. Right or wrong, these days, I prefer asking “why?” once and moving on.

The second decision was not to get involved in the myriad heated discussions on social media, and not joining in when the name-calling, bashing, and the legal threats started on Facebook. Now, don’t get me wrong, at times I felt unreasonable and childish, and wanted to give certain people a little piece of my mind, but I knew that wouldn’t have been helpful or useful for me. Instead, I followed only useful, positive Facebook threads started by Booktrope authors and creative team members, who offered helpful information about moving forward and finding new homes for our books.

It was very tempting to sit on my river porch with a wine bottle, tearfully watching the boats sail by. I thought of going on vacation, burying my head, doing anything, anything, but restarting the tedious query process. I knew if I sat passively on the sidelines, I would hurt myself, my book, and my writing career, but it was tough to move.

Some situations require action and others require gathering information, thinking, and sorting things out before moving forward. But I, we, 639 authors, didn’t have the luxury of time…correction, Booktrope hadn’t given us much time. We had one month to sort ourselves out, get over the pity party, and find new publishers for our books or self-publish. Sink or swim time. I had to preserve my sanity AND save my book that had taken me years to write and see published.

So, as much as it pained me to step away from the great momentum I’d reached with my current work in progress, I set it aside. Regaining my footing was crucial as the initial shock wore off, before my emotions careened out of control due to paralyzing fear, self-doubt, and a loss of self-confidence. Worrying was fruitless. Being proactive helped me regain my balance and composure, and believe me, Booktrope’s announced closing ranked right up there with the time I dropped my only laptop on a concrete sidewalk. The hard drive had shattered and I’d lost most of my documents and all of my photographs. I began querying publishers before something worse happened.

Interestingly enough, starting the odious query process gave me the time and breathing room I needed. Baby steps made me feel more in control of my life, and reading the weekly emails from Booktrope, turned out to be far more appetizing and easier to digest than one huge info dump. While waiting for replies from publishers, I learned what I could about self-publishing from generous fellow writers, editors, and cover designers, who’d either helped put together a self-published book or had self-published themselves. I contacted a few trusted author friends, who like me, had never self-published, and a few who’d self-published several successful books. My friends replied with gracious information and assistance, if I decided to go that route, and most importantly, they offered the emotional support and friendship I desperately needed. I also reached out to a few Booktrope authors who I knew were struggling, hoping to be helpful and supportive. I am very grateful to all of them.

To keep myself clear and balanced while I waited to hear back from publishers, I practiced self-care. I didn’t isolate, but I sure thought about how my foundation had crumbled under my feet…again. I’d survived a financially devastating divorce after 25 years of marriage; I’d left my dream home in the south of France to move back to the US with my kids; and I’d survived on very little money as a single, working Mom of two college-aged kids. I’d graduated from massage therapy school at age 50 (trust me, it’s a pre-med course), and had reentered the dating game at age 50, which wasn’t easy! I’d bought a house in West Virginia, where I didn’t know a soul, and I decided to write full-time, which meant many, many sacrifices. Yes, it all worked out, thank God; much better than I’d ever dreamed possible, but it was tough going for a few years. How was I back to reinventing myself? Why?

I’d turned struggles and challenges into goals met in the past. I could do it again. Life was good, I’d tell myself in the morning, only to feel overwhelmed again by the afternoon. I continued writing out my blessings until I felt better. It became a mental game—a combination of being my own cheerleader and “fake it until you make it.” But Ego kept a good grip by reminding me of all I’d given up for writing, and then whispering, “It’s not worth it, Ellie. Too hard, too hard.”  Yes, there were many sacrifices to living the writing life. I’d accepted the solitary life of a writer with its myriad publishing woes because I love to write. I didn’t have much of a social life and wasn’t traveling as much as I like, but I was happy. My kids were happily thriving; my health was much improved, and then BAM. I found myself on my knees, yet again, at 58 years of age. The negativity reentered. Whatever happened to enjoying my golden years in peace and tranquility? Wasn’t it my turn to breathe free and easy for a while, after years of strife and heartache?

Well, I spent the first week in April licking my wounds, enjoying daily naps and lots of movies. I gardened, read, and followed the Booktrope story on social media, which wasn’t looking pretty. We were now called the Booktrope survivors and had a hashtag, which felt like a label. I used it once and disregarded it, but it was true—we were publishing orphans in a tough publishing world. We were frightened, angry, and lost, but I knew we’d survive.

My fears were temporarily assuaged by joining a Facebook support group page started by Booktrope authors. The members offered answers, hope, support, and information. I kept my hopes up, but it seemed the more I knew about the publishing world, the worse I felt. I started to feel unbalanced and a bit out of sorts again. How in the world would I find a new publishing home for my bestselling novel by May 31, 2016, Booktrope’s final day? Enough already!

To keep my sanity and clarity, I continued my regimen of self-care in the forms of prayer, meditation, and practicing Usui Reiki on myself. I gathered the ancestral, spiritual arsenal available to me and went quiet. I protected myself and blocked out the confusing, outside world of too much information coming at me from too many directions. I was still. I listened. I prayed. I waited. I walked and listened. I protected myself.

I rewrote my list of blessings and meditated on them, remembering how blessed I truly was despite the new bump in the road. I practiced gratitude and reconnected with family and friends. I gardened to my heart’s content and reconnected with friends on social media. I lit candles and recited prayers of protection and for guidance. I prayed the right people would enter my life.

Two weeks after the publishing fiasco, I emerged stronger, more in balance, and open to receive. I was clear enough to sift through and recognize good, useful publishing information and advice. I was ready to receive the blessings I knew were coming, and when I felt fear nudge me, I physically swept it away from my mind, body, and soul with Reiki. And then new blessings came to my life. Synchronicity and serendipitous events happened left and right. I was ready to act. I’d managed to see my book, A Decent Woman in print once; and I would do it again.

Well it turned out, unbeknownst to me that the fabulous editor of my book, Ally Bishop, had started a small publishing press called Scarlet River Press, which is now an imprint under Sixth Street River Press. When I told Ally I planned to self-publish my book, she sent me an email and an open door. A week later, I signed a publishing contract with Sixth Street River Press.

Two weeks later, A Decent Woman was selected as a Finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now.

In one month’s time, my book, which had been in danger of turning into a ghostly relic of the past, became an award-winning book. I can’t honestly tell you how that happened, but I can say I was open to receive and I didn’t give up on my dream. I also entered the competition in February 2016. We do have to act!

Each of us is on a personal journey, where some paths are straight and narrow, others are wide and curving. Up the mountain and low in the valley we go; it’s life. Sometimes we hike up, reach the goal, and sit on the plateau for a good long time. Other times, it seems there is no rest in sight, but the momentum is good, so we keep putting one tentative foot in front of the other.

I believe it is necessary and useful to reinvent ourselves several times in one lifetime. While I didn’t plan on reinvention, I’ve done just that several times since 2006. Last month, while awful, wasn’t life-threatening, although it sure felt like it. I have faith and hope that all will go well.

Blessings to you and yours.


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Award winning Puerto Rican-born novelist Eleanor Parker Sapia was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s career paths as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s award winning novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn-of-the-nineteenth century Puerto Rico, is published by Scarlet River Press. The book is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now! Eleanor is featured in the award winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Musesedited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reading, gardening, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, and the sequel to A Decent Woman. Find her on Twitter @eleanorparkerwv and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia . More information about her, her work and the blogs she writes for are athttp://www.elliesbookz.wordpress.com.


PS: I asked Ellie about the image on the cover of the book. It’s of a wooden, hand-painted statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, which Eleanor purchased while volunteering at the Catholic shrine of Lourdes, in France. The statue is made by Artisanats des Monasteres de Bethleem de l’Assomption de la Vierge et de Saint Bruno and Heather Parker, Eleanor’s daughter, is the photographer.