The Next Level and Beyond

When I think back to the time before my book was accepted for publication, I realize that those days were easy peasy. While I certainly knew that preparing a book for publication and the marketing to follow would be time-consuming, I had no clue how much my life would change.

At this time, two months before my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman, is launched into the world, life is a blur. I eat, drink and breathe this novel and my daily routine is unrecognizable. I wake up earlier, fall asleep much later and as soon as I am up and about, my brain is focused on my book and marketing on social media. Gone are the days when I puttered around my house and garden after a couple of hours of good writing and editing. Now during my writing breaks, I’m on Goodreads, LinkedIn, Twitter and my author page on Facebook and trying to think up new ways to reach readers of historical fiction, Caribbean literature, and women’s fiction. It is non-stop.

I’ve sent emails to favorite authors whose book reviews and blurbs I would be honored to include in my book and on my book cover and the writing of acknowledgements to family, friends and new friends who have been instrumental in the writing and publication of A Decent Woman has begun. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their constant love, support and encouragement. The list is long and I count myself a very blessed person, indeed.

I’ve learned a lot about myself during this process, mostly that I have the guts, nerves of steel (not always) and an insane amount of determination. I realize that although I knew very little about publishing and marketing a book when I started out, I’m learning and I’m a quick study. But, the most important thing I learned during the writing and marketing of my novel was to ask for help. Not easy for me!

The life of a writer can be lonely and every time a family member and friend reached out to me, shared the excerpt of my book I posted on Facebook and came forward with help that even I didn’t know I needed, I again realized how fortunate I am. I am blessed to have such amazing people in my personal and author corner which at this time in my life, is one and the same.

My daughter sent letters to every major television talk show host, introducing me and my novel to them. I had no idea she had done this and when I read what she wrote about me in her email, I cried buckets. Of course, I love her to pieces and was very touched by her words. In between studying for her Masters finals, planning her wedding and working her internship, she made the time to write this tender, touching and thoughtful letter. My daughter is a beautiful human being. How lucky I am.

Amazing friends have walked my dogs, cleaned my kitchen, printed out copies of my manuscript, helped edit and fed me emotionally, spiritually and physically since February 14, 2014 when Booktrope contacted me about publishing my book. I am eternally in their debt. My Booktrope Team members and fellow authors have taught, inspired and nudged me to the next level and beyond. They have opened my eyes and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. No lie! I am blessed to work with such incredibly talented and professional men and women.

It truly takes a village to publish and market a book! I hope I make them all proud.

~Ellie

 

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Prayers Answered and Now What?

I’m sorry that I don’t have any writing advice this morning nor any great quotes from the Masters to share. I know this an author blog and it is also a blog where I write about the writing life–my life as a writer. This morning, I have to get this off my chest or I won’t be able to write. Thanks for reading my stream of consciousness writing! I’m not going to bother checking for typos or catching grammatical errors. I’m just going to write it, so I own it and move forward today!

In January 2014, I began a Happiness Jar. I’ve kept journals for prayer requests from friends and family to remind me that if people pray for me, I must reciprocate and I’ve also kept journals of blessings in my life. I don’t know who started the Happiness Jar idea, but I got the idea from on Eat Pray Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page. I was immediately on board!

By February, my jar was 1/4 full and I worried that I’d bought too small a jar. Wonderful things were happening to me and my family that needed to be included. No matter, I decided that I would press the little folded pieces of paper down if I had to, I am going to reach the end of this year in the same jar. On Valentine’s Day morning, I received an email from Booktrope. My historical novel, A Decent Woman, had been accepted for publication. I was stunned and very, very excited! My first thought was, I have to add that to my Happy jar and so, I did.

Later that evening, my beautiful daughter called me in tears. “I’m engaged!” “But, those are happy tears right, Sweetie?” I asked. A mother hears tears and usually thinks the worst, or at least I do. My first thought was how I wished I’d told her and the world about my book being published the next day! Actually, my first thought was how incredibly happy I was for her and her long-time boyfriend, now fiance. Then, I wished the day had been all hers, but c’est la vie. That’s life! Well, it was easy to write on the little scraps of paper that day! I must have added twenty thoughts on how happy I was for my daughter, her fiance, my family, myself and for my book. My daughter went back to school, doing her Masters in Counseling and finally doing what she is passionate about. She has found her niche as have I. A February to remember. My daughter and her fiance will be very happy and I am ecstatically happy that she is marrying her best friend. Not as excited that they plan on moving to Wilmington, NC in a couple of years, but that’s a long way off yet! I’m not dealing with that yet. Yes, denial is a beautiful thing.

So Spring is here, kinda sorta and plans for the 2015 wedding are gearing up. All good! We’ve visited great venues for the wedding reception and at the same time, I continue to edit my book and try to secure permission to use the image of Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s painting for my book cover. My Booktrope Creative Team was formed and we are on a roll with my book. I’m fortunate and blessed to work with such a fantastic group of creative people. The children are busy, I’m busy, and it seems my friends are just as busy doing fun and wonderful things.

NOTE – I wrote a letter to the Louvre, where the painting hangs, had it translated by my good friend and sent it off to the Louvre. This morning, I was directed to New York City to the company that handles all that stuff. Back and forth, across the Atlantic I go in search of this permission for the perfect book cover for my book! I’m on it!

Great things are happening this month and I started thinking that perhaps I need another large Bell jar and hope they wouldn’t stop making them! So last night, my handsome son called. I don’t give out details about my children, so let’s just say that he works with a fantastic company, makes the bucks, and is very highly thought of. He wants to make a change. A huge change. I support him and he was shocked when I told him that I supported him moving to London…………………………………….. you see those dots? Those are the rapid beats of my heart as I was telling my youngest child that I supported his move overseas after I listened to him give me the pros and cons. I told him that I was okay with him starting a life in London Town. My son confessed that he hadn’t told me of this plan for fear that I would collapse and have a nervous breakdown. He was stunned when I sounded excited about the new prospect. I was and I told him that his happiness meant more than my sadness. My daughter’s, as well. We lived overseas for 16 years, what did I expect? They have the travel bug as bad as I do.

I didn’t collapse or break down, but, after we hung up, I sure did have a good cry. Happy and sad tears, all at once. It’s a happy time and I prayed that God would help my children find their way in life and be happy. I just hadn’t thought about them leaving to be happy 😀 I had to write those little papers, but I couldn’t do that until this morning. Today, the skies are blue and it’s beautiful. My heart is happy for my children. I raised them to think for themselves and they know that all I want for them is their happiness. My family, friends and I would be thrilled for him if this is what he wants to do. It’s exciting as hell. My daughter’s wedding will be beautiful and we are thrilled for her and her fiance. My sister and I texted back and forth last night, planning which English pub we’d hit first, second and third.

This morning, my best friend sent me a text that reads:

“Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to ponder upon. Such is life…kids going on into adulthood..he has foreign opportunities in his blood. You did it to him! As I have done to my kids…you opened up a huge world as I did, now we pay…heartache for sure.”

Well, that sums it up, folks. God did indeed answer all my prayers for myself and my children. I just didn’t think it would all happen in the February-March timeframe! Ha! Thank you for all my blessings, God. Now, I please send me some calm and a clear head to make this all happen 🙂

Warmly,

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

An Interview with Eleanor Parker Sapia

When I sit down with a new novel, questions pop into my head. Questions such as:

Who is the author? How did their story come to be? Why did they choose those particular characters? Are the characters based on real people, and if so, who were they?

I would like to introduce you to my historical novel, A Decent Woman, and my characters. Since I don’t have anyone to interview me at the moment, I thought I would interview myself.

Your novel is about Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. What is your connection to the island?

I was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. My mother, now deceased, was from Ponce and my father is from Peabody, Massachusetts. The banker’s daughter met the crazy, handsome American GI at a party at the Hotel Meliá in Ponce during his tour of duty. My parents lived in Ponce until I was a year old and we returned to the island for two more Army tours when I was five and again, at 17 years of age. I graduated from the Liceo Ponceño where three of my cousins, my mother and an aunt also graduated. I spoke Spanish before I spoke English. I LOVE Puerto Rico and although I’ve lived in five European countries and have traveled extensively, my heart is Puerto Rican. I am Boricua. I’ve worked as a Spanish language case worker for a refugee center in Brussels, Belgium and as a Spanish language Family Support Worker with a non-profit in Falls Church, Virginia which helped keep my language skills sharp.

How did your historical novel, A Decent Woman, come about?

A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico is very close to my heart and my family as it is based on my grandparents and their midwife Ana. The birth of my novel began as a five-page tribute to my Puerto Rican grandmother, Meme, on her 90th birthday. I was living in Belgium at the time with my husband and two children and couldn’t attend her birthday party, so the tribute was  my gift to her. When I called Meme later, she said, “Me oistes, nena.” You heard me, my girl.” I could see her big grin in my mind’s eye as we spoke. I had no intention of turning the tribute into a novel until my now ex-husband read it and asked me to write an outline. When he finished reading the outline, he said, “You have a story to write.”

It was impossible not to hear Meme. She was a master storyteller with a wicked sense of humor and a great laugh. Her energy was sublime. You were warmly invited to sit as close as you could and your mind was opened to a world of love, betrayal and the cast of characters in her life have never left me. My sister, cousins and I sat at Meme’s feet, urging her and my mother (another great storyteller!) for one more story. We knew all her stories and always caught and redirected her when she left out juicy details or forgot a piece of the story. I also taped an interview with Meme several years before she died. I still have that cassette tape.

Tell us about your main protagonist, Doña Ana, and the characters of Isabel and Serafina.

My mother, Mercedes, her siblings Josefina and Guillermo, and my aunt Elena were delivered into the world with the help of a local midwife, comadrona, from la Playa de Ponce named Doña Ana. No one remembers exactly where Doña Ana was from, but my aunt and grandmother remembered she had an accent, wore a white turban and smoked a cigar. Meme thought she was Cuban and my aunt Elena thinks she was from Martinique.The elder women of my family spoke of Dona Ana with respect and reverence and we have very strong women in my family, so I knew she was a special woman! Ana was always a fascinating mystery to me and I had to add her as a secondary character in my story.

Just before the birth of my first child, Meme proudly presented me with a rag doll she had made. I immediately knew who it was–it was Doña Ana. Meme fashioned the doll’s body out of black cotton fabric, used white fabric for a turban and a white peasant blouse and a bright floral print for the doll’s billowing skirt. My grandmother added white buttons for eyes and even added tiny gold hoop earrings, argollas. I still have that doll and used to wonder if Meme, who was very spiritual and had healing powers, had given me an enchanted doll.

The characters of Isabél and Serafina are based on my grandmother, Meme, who grew up poor in the Playa de Ponce, a small coastal town near Ponce. Meme lost her mother at nine years of age and raised her three younger siblings in the house of a strict Aunt. I always thought of my grandmother as Cinderella. Her life could have been viewed as a Puerto Rican fairy tale as she married a wealthy banker and while it is true that she married well, her life was also laced with pain, loss and sadness. It came as no surprise that two of my two protagonists were based on my grandmother. She was an awesome woman. The character of Ana, however, came as a surprise to me.

So, Ana, the midwife, was a secondary character who became the main protagonist. How did that happen?

As I wrote the first draft of my manuscript, Ana became more interesting as a character until finally I gave in. I began researching the lives of women in Puerto Rico in the 1900’s and discovered the mistreatment of women, especially trigueñas, on the island at that time. Through my research, I came across a book, Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico, 1870-1920 by Eileen J. Suarez Findlay. Mrs. Suarez and I corresponded before I left Belgium with my children and finally met in Washington, DC in 2005. We cried when we saw each other and I thank her very much for opening my eyes to the reality of the lives of women in Puerto Rico in the same time period of my novel. I owe a lot to her.

So you see, Ana had to be the main protagonist. I kept the first draft and wrote a second draft of the story to include more of Ana and my imagination of her past as a slave in Cuba. At times, I felt as if Ana was whispering the story in my ear. I wrote the second draft in six months and wrote dialogue as if I were being dictated to. Although I never met Ana nor are there any known photographs of her, I feel a strong connection to her and the image I hope to use as my book cover. I gave Ana life on a page and she in turn, gave me life as a writer and author.

The commonalities Ana, Isabél and Serafina shared made them comadres, in the literal sense of the word, and in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, their unlikely friendship posed many challenges, obstacles and hurdles.

When will your book be published?

A Decent Woman is scheduled to debut Summer 2014 with Booktrope. I am honored and blessed to be working with a talented group of Booktrope members. I’m very excited to hold my book for the first time!

What are you working on now?

I’ve written four chapters of my second historical fiction novel, Finding Gracia on El Camino and I’m putting my thoughts together for the sequel to A Decent Woman. I’m always writing and have so many story ideas that it makes me dizzy sometimes! Ha! At this time, however, my main focus is working with my awesome Booktrope publication team and seeing my book in print this summer! Social media also takes quite a lot of my time and I love writing my daily blog.

Thank you for visiting me and for all your lovely follows and likes! This way, I meet you, as well!

Ellie