New Day, New Decade, New Books

Happy 2020!

Whether you chose a party with friends, a dinner with a loved one, or a quiet night at home with your thoughts and a beloved pet, I hope you enjoyed ringing in the new decade. However you chose to celebrate the last night of 2019, it was momentous. A new day has dawned. A new decade has begun and it’s exciting.

Last night, I heard someone describe the new decade as the roaring ’20s, which resonated with me. I feel a new blog post coming on, smile.

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“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.”
– Anaïs Nin

This quote rings true for me. I stopped making New Year resolutions years ago. Oh sure, I’ve joined a gym, all gung-ho to lose the extra pounds and by February 1st, I was done. The new running shoes and yoga pants became part of my daily uniform. I swear to quit smoking several times a year, tried e-cigarettes with all good intentions last year, and that didn’t work (cold turkey is the only way to quit). I vow to throw out, give away my hundreds of books to friends and strangers, but find it difficult to part with books. A few years ago, my daughter kindly gifted me a Kindle and that worked well for maybe a year, but there is nothing like holding a book. Some day, I’ll go through all my books and again gift some to my local library. Some day.

Writing and perfecting my craft is my long-range plan each year. I write full-time, so this makes perfect sense to me. I approach writing (and life) with a strong feeling, no, an urgency, that life is short. Unfortunately, life taught me with my beloved mother’s passing in 1992 that life can be short for some of us. So since 1992, I’ve tried to live each day as if it’s my last day on earth. My father developed Alzheimer’s in his early 70s and that also serves as a reminder not to waste time. I’m not saying I live in fear, mind you. No, it’s the urgency that motivates me to write as many books and poems as I can and to paint while I’m here.

This Christmas, I received three books on writing by A.M. Weiland, a beautiful journal for 2020, and I bought three books on plot and structure, dialogue, and creating character arcs by James Scott Bell, a new author for me. Six more books for my writing arsenal!

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above gray floral textile
Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

I’m not a Virgo who enjoys a strict routine of doing the same thing day in and day out. I’m not speaking about my writing routine, though. I’m talking about having my nails done every Friday or having a standing hair or medical appointment each month. Inevitably, I always reschedule. When I’m at the writing desk, I lose total track of time and my sleep schedule isn’t “normal”. When I’m in the writing flow, I’m productive and it doesn’t matter if the sun is coming up and I fall asleep at noon or 1 pm. I live alone, so the only one possibly bothered by my vampire hours, as I can them, is Sophie, my Chihuahua. God bless her wee little heart, as my Irish friend would say. The only routine I’ve stuck to for decades is my morning routine (whenever I wake up): stretching in bed, praying, meditating, drinking a cup of hot water with lemon, and writing in my journal, which I love. I write and let it go into the Universe.

What I will do this year is to be kinder, more compassionate, and gentle with myself. I will welcome mystery and the unknown. I will stop apologizing for this or that. Instead, I will release and remain grateful for the lessons. I will raise my vibration and reincorporate yoga into my life, maybe Tai Chi, who knows? My body, mind, and soul need all that on this new day, in this new year, and in this new decade. I will continue to listen to the urgency within and take more chances and risks in life and love, and in writing and art. Time waits for no woman.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, back to writing and editing poems. I crossed off several items on my bucket list in 2019 and traveled to Thailand and Florida with my children, which made me very happy. Now, I buckle down. I have books to finish and art to make.

May we speak truth to power in our words, deeds, and in our writing. May we always remember to honor and respect Gaia, the ancestral mother of all life. May we remember the forgotten, the marginalized, the lost and jailed children, the separated families at the border, and may we continue to fight against racism, the patriarchy, hatred, and world-wide violence against women and children.

I guess I do have a few 2020 resolutions. Welcome, 2020. Happy writing to you.

“What I love about now is that it is always a beginning.” – Byron Katie

Eleanor 

About Eleanor:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded 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. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses.

Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments, set in 1927 Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico. Look for The Laments in 2020.

BUY THE BOOK:

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

https://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia/dp/1941058876/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=a+decent+woman+by+eleanor+parker+sepia&qid=1576099888&sr=8-1-fkmr0

 

 

Holiday Newsletter with Coquito Recipe

Happy holidays to you and your family!

christmas tree coffee

What a wonderful whirlwind of a week leading up to the Winter Solstice and before I travel to Maryland to share Christmas with my family. Last week, I enjoyed sharing great meals with good friends, catching up with family and friends via newsy Christmas cards and long phone calls, and last Thursday, a thoughtful friend treated me to dinner and a magical Holiday concert at the charming and cozy O’Hurley’s General Store (opened in 1899) in my favorite West Virginia town, historic Shepherdstown. The concert at O’Hurley’s (new to me) was the highlight of my month leading to Christmas. I felt a bit overwhelmed as I entered the back room with the vaulted ceiling. I was misty-eyed, actually, as most everything I love–history; charming architecture; an enormous, freshly-cut Christmas tree; holiday smells of cinnamon and apple; a warm atmosphere complete with a huge potbelly stove; lovely music; good company; and rustic elegance–were in one place. Simply magical. And since it’s still a working general store, all your holiday gifts are there, as well. You’ll find hand-knit sweaters to scarves to decorative items for the home, Christmas decorations, and local jams, honey, and jellies. O’Hurley’s is truly a one-stop shopping experience.

If you’ve never visited charming Shepherdstown, make your plans now for next year.  Plan to stay at the gorgeous German-owned Bavarian Inn and Restaurant that overlooks the Potomac River, complete with an authentic Rasthskeller; enjoy a sumptuous dinner and a great wine list at The Press Room on West German Street, and then head to O’Hurley’s General Store for the 7:30-10:00/10:30 concert. Jay, the owner of O’Hurley’s, is a musician, who invites local musicians to play every Thursday, year-round. And the concerts are free. So make it a long weekend and include a Thursday in your plans.

Every year, I tell myself I will be super organized with all my gifts wrapped by December 18 and the Christmas Day grocery run will be done that week. Right. The truth is, every year like today, I have a gift or two arriving on 23 December and some Christmas cards will go out in January. Early this morning, I was at the supermarket picking up baking supplies and the ingredients for Coquito, our Puerto Rican version of eggnog. In my humble opinion, it tastes better than eggnog because I love coconut. My favorite recipe is at the end of the blog. You’re welcome, smile.

In 2020, I intend to stop trying to be (pretending to be?) super organized at home. It is what it is. Mind you, this is not a New Year’s resolution. Instead, I will embrace ME, all of me, to include my spontaneous, creative, messy, and fun-loving sides. I’m okay with my unruly, wavy hair, the stacks of books on each step of the staircase, and a few cobwebs here and there. My dining room table/writing desk is almost always covered with dozens of notebooks, reference books, candles, fountain pens, bowls of crystals, tarot cards (I’m a beginner), and my two laptops. My art supplies are close by in an antique Austrian chest and the Christmas tree might be up until March…or April. All that makes me happy and productive. Art is not for the timid and most artists I know enjoy a bit of organized clutter!

Despite waking up early every day this month with a determination to write, the impeachment hearings won out. What can I tell you? I was glued to my laptop and yes, I’m pleased. More than pleased. My writing muse had the same idea–it was historic and that was that. I’m happy it happened before Christmas.

Now, for those who find this time of year difficult, I send you a warm hug. During certain times of the year, I often feel nostalgic and sad as I long for my mother and dear relatives who’ve passed on. You are not alone.

As promised, here is my no-egg Coquito recipe, which is enjoyed from November to the end of January. There is nothing like a Puerto Rican Christmas, smile.

Puerto Rican Coquito

  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 15 oz. can Coco Lopez cream of coconut or Goya cream of coconut
  • 1 cup or 1 1/2 cups Bacardi or Don Q white rum (unless you prefer a virgin Coquito)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Pour all ingredients into a blender and mix well. Chill for 2 or more hours before serving. Sprinkle cocktails with cinnamon and/or add a cinnamon stick to each highball glass.

I would love to hear your comments if you decide to try this beloved Puerto Rican holiday drink. Happy holidays!

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded 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. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses.

Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments, set in 1927 Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico. Look for The Laments in 2020.

BUY THE BOOK:

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

https://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia/dp/1941058876/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=a+decent+woman+by+eleanor+parker+sepia&qid=1576099888&sr=8-1-fkmr0

 

Looking Back and Looking Ahead to 2020

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Tonight, on the eve before the Full Moon in Gemini, I’m looking back at the trials, tribulations, and lessons learned during 2019. I will be happy to close the door on the past year. Of course, along with the challenges of gall bladder surgery, other medical issues, and remembering why it’s good to be single, my family was blessed with many wonderful events, as well. In June, we celebrated my niece’s wedding; my daughter finished her Master’s degree and became a licensed Mental Health Therapist; and my son created an app that is doing so well that he welcomed a third major airline to his portfolio. Proud Mom moments!

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Hands down, the BEST part of 2019 was the epic, two-week family vacation I enjoyed with my kids in Thailand, where my son and his girlfriend have made their home. Did I mention it was epic? We love everything about Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao, and Koh Lipe, and we especially love the Thai people, the fabulous food, the stunning temples, the gorgeous beaches, the smiling monks, and the exciting night markets. Now that my son and his lovely girlfriend are working in Bangkok, which is very exciting, we will certainly return to Thailand next year. There is nothing like travel to open your eyes and grow your heart, soul, and mind, and that’s exactly what I needed. Thank you, Matthew and Anna Marie, for the life-changing trip!

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During the second half of 2019, my home was paid off, which was a major surprise to me (and an amazing story). Thank you, Sandy. As you can imagine, it was an incredible relief for this full-time writer! I’d sacrificed, penny-pinched, and managed to hang onto this old house and now I have the option to sell if I choose to move to my forever home for my golden years. Smile. West Virginia was a soft place to land after my divorce and I love this old house, I really do, but it’s never felt like my forever home. I don’t enjoy being landlocked, so I’m on the hunt. Where am I looking? Puerto Rico, the south of France, Portugal, and Spain. I’ve started a new vision board and during writing breaks, I look at homes and I dream. I’ve lived half my life overseas, so this is not a stretch for me; it feels very possible. It will happen.

On the writing front, as always, I’m as content as content can be. My second historical novel, The Laments, is progressing nicely and I’m pleased with the story and love my characters. I’ve had a few challenges in getting the story just right because I’m a Virgo nitpicker, but I’m there. In my humble opinion, my writing and editing skills have vastly improved, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. My writing mentor, the writing wizard Jack Remick, has kindly agreed to look at my draft manuscript in the Spring. I’m ecstatic and honored to work with him. Thank you, Jack, you are a true mensch.

It’s hard to believe I began writing The Laments in 2016, but that’s exactly what happened with my first novel, A Decent Woman, I took my time. I’m most definitely a slow, methodical writer and I always finish strong despite life’s hiccups and detours. I’m also working on a collection of poems, which I hope to see published next year, as well. One thing I learned this year is to stay mum about story ideas until the draft manuscript is in the editor’s hands.

Now, back to the Full Moon in Gemini, the last moon of the decade. This auspicious full moon will be visible on December 12 (the 12th month) at 12:12 am EST and will form a rare, triple conjunction with Venus, Saturn, and Pluto. 12:12:12:12. From what I’ve read, this moon opens a portal, which sounds spooky and fascinating. Some say the Gemini moon can be a turning point in our lives and there’s still time to turn it all around for January 2020!

Notes to Self on December 11:

Shed old skin by acknowledging, dealing with, forgiving, making amends, and releasing behaviors and reactions that no longer serve me. Remove toxic people and situations from my life, get rid of limiting beliefs, self-sabotage, and unrealistic expectations, and recognize that irrational fears hold me back from fully living and appreciating life. Be present. Own it. Speak the truth, always, even if it hurts. Quit hiding behind ‘polite’ behavior–some people will take advantage of that.

I will enter 2020 lighter, shinier, more present, wiser, open to new love, creative, courageous, bold, and ready for many new adventures.

And for God/Goddess’ sake, let us take up a whole lot more room in 2020, in everything we say and do, and assist those who are struggling. Protect all children, the elderly, and empower women.

Asi sea. Ache.

Happy holidays to you and your family. I wish you the best in 2020 and happy writing.

Eleanor x

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ABOUT ELEANOR:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded 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. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses.

BUY THE BOOK:

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

https://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia/dp/1941058876/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=a+decent+woman+by+eleanor+parker+sepia&qid=1576099888&sr=8-1-fkmr0

 

 

AM I EXPERIENCING WRITER’S BLOCK OR FEAR?

AM I EXPERIENCING WRITER’S BLOCK OR FEAR?

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Writers will offer myriad explanations for why we’re not writing, some are very creative explanations (guilty), and we usually attribute a dry spell to writer’s block. While I used to believe writer’s block was a real thing, I no longer feel that way. Here’s my story about writer’s block and a few questions to ask ourselves that may help to get to the heart of the matter.

After completing the fifteenth chapter of my work in progress called THE LAMENTS, I feared I might be coming down with the dreaded writer’s block. What I felt at that time had never happened to me before and I wanted to distance myself from that “curse”. The only way to describe the experience was feeling muddle-headed, a bit lost, but still hopeful. I was at a difficult place in the story, right smack in the middle, which is a tough place. There were two distinct story paths I could follow at the time. I was literally at a fork in the road and wasn’t sure which direction to follow, so I stopped to think for a few days, which is always a good thing. It turned out I didn’t write for a week. Not good for me.

(My next blog post will be about dealing with middle of the story issues).

Now, sometimes writers need renewed inspiration. We’re not robots. Writing a book is a grueling, mentally-challenging endeavor, and the more passionate (obsessed) we are about our story, the more unforgiving and hard we are on ourselves. And, let’s not forget the guilt that sets in when we’re not writing; it’s awful. The stress almost takes on a human form–a dark presence that never leaves us; always hovering over our heads or looking over our shoulders, asking, “Why aren’t you writing?”

We’ve created wonderful and complex characters, we’ve given them life, and we’ve abandoned them, often at a crucial point in their personal stories. We wouldn’t do that to a friend, would we? No, we wouldn’t leave them hanging! Yet, we leave our characters hanging. Why does that happen?

Julia Cameron (a personal hero), the author of the seminal book on creativity, THE ARTIST’S WAY, encourages us to take weekly Author Dates to recharge our creative batteries. My Author Dates have included museum tours, strolling through a city garden, visiting my local flower nursery, sharing coffee with a family member or a good friend, and shopping for creative and fun writing supplies. I did all of the above during that difficult time. I also connected with fellow writers, who could relate to the dry spell I was experiencing. They encouraged and supported me to hang in there; it was only temporary, they said. Well, a week turned into two weeks without writing a damn thing. I was lost. I thought it might be time for a vacation, but I’d just returned from vacation! What was going on?

I then recognized what I was feeling; it was pure, unadulterated fear. So, I put on my counselor hat and asked myself these questions, hoping to ascertain what was really going on.

  • Do I fear failure, judgment, too much exposure, or the fear of succeeding?
  • Am I afraid of sitting with and thinking about the story, the characters, or possible endings because that takes away from valuable writing time?
  • Should I rework my outline?
  • Am I really a writer or a wannabe?
  • Am I experiencing mental clutter, physical disorganization at home, or are there too many distractions in my life at the moment?
  • Am I focusing too much on research and not on writing? (This does not pertain to writers of historical fiction or writers of nonfiction).
  • Am I stressing about putting out a book a year for fear of losing readers or letting down my readers?
  • Am I comparing my writing journey to other writer’s journeys?
  • Is there a truth that needs saying or exploring in my novel, but I’m putting on the brakes for fear of hurting others or exposing myself?
  • Do I believe my second book won’t be as well-received and successful as my first book?
  • Is it true I can’t write today? Thank you to Bryon Katie, the fabulous creator of THE WORK.
  • Am I afraid of acknowledging I’m lost and in need of a good editor’s help?

Each item has one thing in common–fear–and fear can stagnate or stop the writing momentum entirely for any writer at any time…IF you give in to the fear. I answered yes to many of those questions and I took action. I acknowledged my fear and sat at the writing chair once again.

Yes, I’m putting it back on us and placing us back in our writing chair–where we belong. Readers need you. I need a writing community, and we all need more good books. Sure, there are harried and frustrating days when I don’t meet my hoped-for word count goal, and there will be frustrating days when I know my writing certainly isn’t my best. But I give myself credit and a pat on the back for showing up at the writing desk–that’s key.

Do what you have to do to get back to your story, no matter what.

Thank you for your visit. I hope this blog post helps, and don’t give up!

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and it was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses.

A writer, artist, and poet, Eleanor is currently working on her second historical novel, The Laments, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. When Eleanor is not writing, she tends to her garden, travels, dreams of traveling, and tells herself she will walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time before her hips give out. Eleanor is the mother of two amazing adult children and currently lives in her adopted state of West Virginia.

BUY THE BOOK:

https://amzn.to/2WjgXuC

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

 

 

 

Create Memorable Characters, Not Caricatures

when writing a character...hemingway

When I trained to become a counselor in Belgium, which seems like a lifetime ago, we were taught to check our emotional baggage at the door for the duration of our sessions. It was recommended we visualize placing a suitcase of our ‘stuff’ high on a shelf in the hope of entering clear-headed and open to receive. We were instructed to create a safe place for our clients, who came from diverse backgrounds, life experiences, and opinions.

I observed body language, tone of voice, mannerisms, and what people choose to share or not to share. I was conscious of not rushing or leading the sessions and found that with patience and time, a trust could be built. Sessions progressed, but only as far as the clients chose to go. It was a privilege to sit with clients and walk by their sides as they took their emotional journeys.

One lightbulb moment came during the writing of my first novel, A DECENT WOMAN–it was important to offer my characters the same courtesy, support, and patient attention I’d offered counseling clients in the past.

With that in mind, I created a brief outline and filled out 3×5 index cards for each character with their physical description, age, their back story, and a bit about their personalities; an in-depth character study. After my editor asked me to rewrite several chapters and add two chapters for clarity, the story changed slightly, and it followed that the characters also changed. It was then I wrote a detailed synopsis.

I followed the same basic technique with my work in progress, THE LAMENTS. I outlined the story and wrote a more detailed study of each character to include their weaknesses, deep fears, strengths, idiosyncrasies, physical ailments, and private goals. I included where they were born, who raised them, a bit about their childhood, and a deeper look into their personality traits. I created unique mannerisms, dislikes, likes, and what makes them tick. All that helped with writing natural dialogue, inner conflicts, and the resolutions if any. And since I’m a visual person, I found photographs from magazines to accompany the physical descriptions of each character and added them to the backs of the 3×5 index cards.

After ten chapters, certainly much earlier than with book one, I wrote a short synopsis and later, an eight-page synopsis that grew to ten pages. A week later, I reworked the outline and believe me, the studies of each character changed the interactions and at times, the story. I gave them a proper life and in my humble opinion, they are fully fleshed, complex, crazy, manipulative, lovable, adorable, and complicated characters. Heroes and heroines of their own private world.

You might think time spent thinking of each character is a waste of writing time, a cock-eyed approach, perhaps? Allow me to expand on this process: creating characters for a work of fiction is a fascinating process. Initially, I might have an idea of who they are, what their jobs are, and what they look like physically, but I don’t know how they’ll react to the other characters in the story, or how they’ll fare in the complicated, complex world I will build for them. Are they strong-willed, jealous-types, or haughty and arrogant, or empathic and kind-hearted? Are they good listeners, deep thinkers, or shallow individuals who can’t be counted on in a pinch? Are they honorable? Do they have deep integrity? A character’s deeper, more personal qualities aren’t always apparent until I begin writing the story. So the digging into a characters’ psyche is done before and during the writing to avoid writing flat, uninteresting characters and stories.

I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I lose interest if the character doesn’t ring “true” or seems too shallow throughout the story. We don’t always know a character well enough at the beginning of a story, and even if we think we’ve got them ‘pegged’ at the start, inevitably, disconcerting, interesting, and confusing facts can develop, which is key to good storytelling. Some facts may be downright distasteful or wonderfully surprising and both can be helpful to the story.

This writing technique tells your characters stories from their unique perspective.

You may have a different technique for creating interesting, memorable characters, and in that case, your comments are appreciated!

Happy writing and reading to you.

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and poet, Eleanor is currently working on her second novel, The Laments, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. When Eleanor is not writing, she tends to her garden, travels, dreams of traveling, and tells herself she will walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time before her hips give out. Eleanor is the mother of two amazing adult children and currently lives in her adopted state of West Virginia.

BUY THE BOOK:

https://amzn.to/2WjgXuC

 

Creative Manifestation: Where Do Ideas Come From?

Creative Manifestation: Where Do Ideas Come From?

If you’re like me, you’d love the opportunity to ask each of your favorite authors where their story ideas came from. Most authors, myself included, are asked the same question by readers at our many book readings and signings. My usual reply, said with a smile is, “Which book and how much time do you have?” The reason is that the creative process was surprisingly different for my first novel, A Decent Woman, and my work in progress called The Laments.

Heads up…I feel a long, rambling blog post coming on this rainy Tuesday in October! This is, after all, a blog about writing, and I am fascinated with ideas and the creative process of writers.

I liken the manifestation of ideas for stories to alchemy–the organic and complicated transformation and mix of ideas into words on a page.

In my experience and from what I’ve gleaned from other authors, ideas come to us in many ways–perhaps as an answer to a nagging question; a personal passion or interest; a curious dream; a story we’ve heard or an article that inspired or horrified us; a synchronistic event; through daydreaming; and sometimes, through random searches on the Internet. I believe coming up with ideas is a combination of our imaginations with heavy doses of curiosity, intuition, and inspiration, a beautiful concoction that at times, can seem divinely orchestrated. But are those ideas truly original or divinely orchestrated?

We all have flashes of ideas throughout our busy days, most of which we tend to ignore, put on a shelf for future examination, or we don’t follow through with the idea for myriad reasons and excuses. The British author Neil Gaiman believes writers and artists are particularly sensitive to the moment their attention lingers on a particular situation or idea. I agree with him. I feel an intriguing idea in my body like a pinch or a poke. It is highlighted in my mind, I draw a mental circle around it. Then the questioning begins, “What’s going on here? Why did this happen? What would happen if…? What happened next? And then? How did she react?” Writers run with an idea. We examine it intimately, up close, out of the box, and then we turn it inside out, which is the fun bit. If we deem the idea worthy of further exploration and thought, that’s when the real fun begins. If we happen to hit a roadblock or a brick wall in our writing, instead of stopping dead in our tracks, we build a creative side road or a detour around the problem with new ideas that will see the story to the end. Writers are persistent and we are in our heads a lot.

“Ideas turn up when you’re doing something else.” – Neil Gaiman

So let me throw in a wrench or at least food for thought about the wonderful world of ideas and thoughts. When I first heard the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle say we don’t own our ideas and thoughts, I scrunched up my nose and my brow furrowed. What? In another interview, he said our ideas come from the collective mind and our thoughts from the Ego. I understood the Ego part and while I loved the idea of a collective mind out there in the ether, I’d always believed my ideas were my own. Then Tolle further confused me by saying our ideas and thoughts are one and the same.

Allow me to share how the idea of my first novel A Decent Woman was birthed. Then I’ll share an experience that helped my understanding of Tolle’s interesting statement of the collective mind. I told you this blog post would be a long one.

A few years after my precious mother’s unexpected death at 57 years of age, my grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday. Despite still grieving for my mother, I decided to gather my memories for a tribute to my grandmother on her milestone birthday. Though I’d never written a tribute, I thought it could be a special gift to leave my children and my family for posterity’s sake. More importantly, it was my wish to show my mother and grandmother how much they meant to me and how much they’d influenced my life. As a child and throughout my life, I’d loved nothing more than sitting at my grandmother’s feet or at the foot of the bed with my mother, listening to their stories of growing up in La Playa de Ponce and later, about their lives in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Both women were superb storytellers, who instinctively knew how to captivate and hold an audience–a true gift.

After reading what I’d come up with, my then-husband asked me to write an outline. I had no idea why and he didn’t explain. By then, I’d been an exhibiting painter for close to 20 years and had written dozens of poems, but I’d never entertained the idea of writing a novel. When I presented him with a basic outline, he told me I had a story to write. I didn’t question a thing. I began to write all the stories I’d heard from my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother despite the pain caused by nostalgia and melancholy for my mother. Granted, there were lots of missing pieces and I needed tons of historical information to fill in the blanks (which looking back, should have daunted me), but I kept writing. I may have been an inexperienced writer, but I had a passion for stories, a love for my family, and for the island of my birth.

At the time, I didn’t understand the enormity of the decision to write a novel and all that it entails, nor had I read a single book on writing (which I believe was a blessing in disguise at that time). I had no fear of creating. I was a self-taught artist. I already knew the creative alchemy necessary to manifest and work ideas onto canvas and paper with watercolor brushes, pastels, and charcoal. Deep in my heart, I believed my story was unique. The longer I sat at the writing desk, idea A led to idea B, which led to idea C, and so on. I followed the general road map of my grandmother’s life and the lives of women she’d known or heard about throughout her life, or I invented characters gleaned from nonfiction or academic books written about life in turn-of-the-century Puerto Rico. When the manuscript started to resemble a book, ideas for descriptions and dialogue poured out. At times, I believed I was taking dictation from the ancestors.

The first draft manuscript was completed in six months. Now, the original manuscript bears little resemblance to the current book, but that’s for another blog. Thank you to my ex-husband for the idea, his encouragement, and for knowing I needed to write a book when it was the furthest thing from my mind.

Fast forward a few years. After I found a publisher for A Decent Woman and the manuscript went into editing, I selected the perfect image for the book cover–the gorgeous painting by Marie Guillemine Benoist called Portrait d’un nègresse, completed in 1800. The portrait, which hangs in the Louvre, depicts a beautiful black woman in a white turban, a tignon, which my heroine wore, as well. I was ecstatic when my publisher approved the image. I saw my heroine Ana Belén Opaku in this unknown woman and felt a strong connection with her. Below is an image of the original book cover.

USE THIS IMAGE OF BOOK COVER (NO NIPPLE! lol!)

A few weeks later, during a quick Google image search of this gorgeous painting, two book covers of novels popped up with the same image–The Book of Night Woman by Jamaican-born Marlon James, published in 2009, and Texaco by the French author Patrick Chamoiseau, who was born in Martinique. His novel was published in 1992. I was stunned. The award-winning books hadn’t come up in my original search. Yes, I was naive to think no one in the world would choose the painting for a book cover, but me! I’d never heard of the authors and had never read their books. (I’ve since read both books and I am now a huge fan of these authors). Of course, I was disappointed by this discovery, but not deterred. I’d seen book covers with similar or exact images reworked in new ways.

I immediately ordered the books. My jaw dropped while reading the first chapter of The Book of Night Women. Like my book, the story begins with a birth. And our heroines have green eyes, both were born into slavery, and they killed their rapists. I raced through the book, which is outstanding, by the way. Thankfully, the story is different from A Decent Woman. The story of Texaco is vastly different and also a wonderful, well-written novel. What a damn relief.

Marlon James The Book of Night Women

Patrick Chamoiseau Texaco

So, Eckhart Tolle was onto something with the collective mind (or whomever he got the idea from!)–our ideas and thoughts come from the collective mind with subtle differences. The story of A Decent Woman bears little resemblance to the novels, The Book of Night Women and Texaco, but we do share a strong connection to our respective Caribbean islands, and it appears the three of us (or their publisher’s art department) saw our main characters in the beautiful woman in the painting hanging in the Louvre.

Ultimately, we scrapped my original book cover and chose a photograph I shot of a statue I own of the Virgin Mary of Monserrat, which I love. A Decent Woman went on to be published three times. Yes, three times with different publishers, and of course, the book enjoyed three distinct book covers, but that’s another story.

Here is the current book cover. My thanks to Winter Goose Publishing for creating this lovely book cover with the image I chose; it meant a lot to me.

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

A special note of thanks to the Universe for not showing me those two award-winning novels until after my writing journey with A Decent Woman. Smile.

Next week, I’ll share a (shorter) blog post about creating memorable characters and using archetypes in stories.

Thank you for your visit!

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and poet, Eleanor is currently working on her second novel, The Laments, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. When Eleanor is not writing, she tends to her garden, travels, dreams of traveling, and tells herself she will walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time before her hips give out. Eleanor is the mother of two amazing adult children and currently lives in her adopted state of West Virginia.

BUY THE BOOK:

https://amzn.to/2WjgXuC

 

 

Sit with Your Story, Don’t Rush the Process!

Sit with Your Story, Don’t Rush the Process!

Have you ever felt rushed, pushed, or encouraged to publish your book before you felt ready and more importantly before the story was the best it could be? Are you feeling internal or external pressures to put out a book a year, every two years?

If you’re not a writer, you might have a project in the works that you feel unsure about or hesitant that it’s ready for public consumption. If this feels true for you, this might be the blog post for you. Allow me to share my experiences (and humble two cents).

By 2014, I’d been hard at work on my first novel, A Decent Woman, for over five years and had finally found a publisher. I was more than ready to become an author and with that contract came a fair amount of immediate pressure to publish the book in a timely manner. Along with my new publishing team, I decided on what I thought was a feasible and realistic publication date…despite a nagging feeling that my story wasn’t quite ready. Was it true the story wasn’t ready for publication or was I fearful of the unknown? Since I’d never published a book before, I felt my fears were valid. On the other hand, how could this story not be ready after more than five years of writing and research?

The nagging feeling persisted. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly where the issues lay in the story, I knew it in my gut. If only I’d given myself more time, I agonized. Was I being too much of a perfectionist? It was a stressful and confusing experience, and I was faced with the momentum I’d created and didn’t know how to stop—I had a set publication date. I felt I couldn’t back out and didn’t want to let my publishing team down but deep down, I knew moving forward would be a huge mistake for me and for my book.

Then I met Ally, a godsend, who’d joined the team after it hadn’t worked out with my first editor. Ally agreed to work with the original pub date and a few weeks later, we spoke—it was as I’d felt in my gut, the book wasn’t ready. She suggested adding a few chapters for clarity and a new ending as she felt the original ending would let readers down. I agreed with her.

Finally, I had a clear road map to follow. Now I had to inform the publishing team that the original pub date had to be scrubbed, which caused loathing and stress in my mind, body, and soul. But it had to be done. I realized then (and now because these patterns of behavior tend to repeat themselves) that if I’d spoken honestly with my team early on, the stressful situation might have been avoided. But then again, we only know what we know at the time and I hadn’t met Ally yet, right?

Ultimately, I stuck to my guns, knowing I might piss someone off and would mess up the existing publishing schedule. Ally supported me in her brilliant way and I’m forever grateful to her. I learned to speak my truths and protect/honor my writing process and my book. By being honest, I gifted myself a few extra months to edit, to rewrite, and to put out the best possible book. The newly-edited A Decent Woman was finally published in 2015 and went on to win two international Latino book awards, garnering close to 80 positive and lovely book reviews on Amazon. I gained hundreds of new readers, which was amazing. I learned that timing is everything in life, and working with a great editor, who gets you and your story is crucial.

So please, take all the time you need and don’t rush your project or book; it won’t be in vain. I can’t overstate how important it is to honor your writing process; don’t underestimate it. I’m not saying you should analyze the hell out of the story and your characters until you’re paralyzed in fear and afraid to turn in your manuscript. Not at all, though that has happened to me with poetry! I’m talking about giving yourself the necessary time to reread, to think, and if necessary, to rewrite portions of your book. Most importantly, work with a great editor to help you mine or add the gold to your story. Then read your work in progress with new reader’s eyes and do share the story with beta readers before publication.

At this time, I’m at the same place with my second novel, The Laments–sitting with the story and with my characters. I’m further exploring their darker sides and how that could affect their journey and their relationships with the other characters. I no longer rush the creative process. Sadly, Ally doesn’t offer editing services at the moment but happily, I’ve connected with a fantastic editor who I’ve wanted to work with for a long time. There’s not much that tops doing what we love.

In the next few days, I’ll be posting several blogs as I head to Thailand next month with my daughter to visit my son and his girlfriend who’ve made Bangkok their home. We are very excited and ready for a new, exotic adventure!

My next blog post explores where ideas for books and characters come from, which came up during Marsha Casper Cook’s fun and informative Blog Talk Radio podcast that aired in early October. I was honored Marsha asked me back and as always, I loved chatting with her and my good friend and brilliant writer, Jack Remick. So do check back and if you’re interested in listening to the archived podcast, please click this link:

http://bit.ly/2oG6Q3W

Thank you for your visit. Happy writing and reading to you!

Eleanor

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and poet, Eleanor is currently working on her second novel, The Laments, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. When Eleanor is not writing, she tends to her garden, travels, reads, and tells herself she will walk El Camino de Santiago a second time. Eleanor is the mother of two amazing adult children and currently lives in her adopted state of West Virginia.

BUY A DECENT WOMAN:

https://amzn.to/2WjgXuC