In Survival Mode

In Survival Mode


As of last Thursday, I had a published novel (February 2015) and two manuscripts in the works. My first book, ‘A Decent Woman’ was doing well, still on several Amazon best seller lists, and I’d hoped to offer the completed manuscript of ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ to my new editor at Booktrope in a few months time. The sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’, called ‘Mistress of Coffee’, was to be published next. My kids were well, my best friend was visiting me from North Carolina, and life was good. By late Friday evening, my life was turned upside down. I was in a real panic, sick with worry, and heartbroken after reading the opening statement of an email I’d received from Booktrope:

“We are deeply saddened to share the news that Booktrope will be ceasing business …”

I am deeply saddened for all my fellow Booktrope authors and our supportive author community which includes editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and book managers, many whom are authors, who must now find jobs and are scrambling to find homes for their wonderful books. As am I.

You best believe I had a mini pity party Saturday and Sunday, while keeping in mind that Booktrope took a chance on me in 2014, and that I have one month before my book and ebook are removed from Amazon, except for third party vendors. I don’t have a lot of time. I have a lot to learn. I’m rewriting my query letters and researching publishers and agents.

My mind, body and soul are in recovery and regroup: survival mode.

Once again, I find myself facing a new mountain after hoping I’d found a home for two more books. God knows, I’m no stranger to mountains, but this learning curve is steep and the timing sucks. But maybe not. I’ve grown and learned important life lessons over the past years; maybe I’m due another life lesson. But anxiety is in place as I research other publishers and look into self-publishing. We shall see. I am not giving up. I will see my book republished and will publish more books in the future.

My deepest thanks to my fellow authors, writers, readers, friends, and family who have bought my book, read and reviewed, and shared with me during my writing/publishing journey. I am very grateful for your love, support, and encouragement. I am blessed to know you.

Best of luck to all my fellow Booktrope authors around the world. Any information about self-publishing and small press publishers will be greatly appreciated!

If you are interested in buying ‘A Decent Woman’ on Amazon, please do so before May 31, 2016. On June 1st, it will not be available, unless I decide to self-publish in May. I may wait to republish at a later date.

I don’t know what will happen after June, but of one thing I am certain–my writing career isn’t over by a long shot. I will keep you posted on my journey.

Thank you for reading!



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

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. 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, reads, 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 happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.


Guest Post: Writing My Heart

February Grace author photo

I’m very pleased to welcome my friend, February Grace, our first guest blogger at The Writing Life.

Writing My Heart

By February Grace

I’m always somewhat taken aback when people ask me why I wrote a particular story; but never before has it been more difficult to explain than it is with my fifth novel, published this month by Booktrope, called WISHING CROSS STATION.

You see, it’s a darker story than ones I’ve told in the past through my novels, and seeing that work, ‘dark’, in the description has given some people who are familiar with my work pause.

Why did I choose to write darker subject matter and tone than on previous projects?

Why did I choose to write a book about a time-traveling college student who gets himself into more than he ever bargained for?

After thinking of possible answers to those questions and especially the first one, “Why?” I realized the answer is incredibly simple.

I wrote my heart.

With each of my books I have written what was in my heart; and I know that’s not exactly what is in style these days, but it is the only way I can write. If I tried to write to market trends or predictions and forecasts then the magic of words; the power that the characters have to take up residence in my soul and dictate their stories to me, would be all but completely lost.

I know what they say about selling books, about branding, about… everything that authors are supposed to be paying attention to these days if they want to be successful.

That brings me to what I have, at the age of 44, come to define as success.

It is something different than I even might have thought it was a year ago; certainly five years ago, if you asked me what being a successful writer meant.

To me, now, being a successful writer is about telling the tales of those in my heart, wherever they may come from (whether from a painting I’ve done, as did Marigold in WISHING CROSS STATION, or from an event in my life that made me experience a certain feeling I needed and wanted to express in fiction in another way.) That way they have their chance at life, their chance to find hearts that will connect to them on a soul-level, even though they happen to be fictional people.

Often, I have found fictional people to be some of the most influential I have ever acquainted myself with.

Stories have power, beyond the words they are comprised of. When the characters really work together, when the strength and wisdom of one quietly offsets the youth and inexperience of another and yet both end up learning something; that is a story I feel is worth telling.

How we deal with life, loss and love in its many variations in life are the stuff of which WISHING CROSS STATION is made; and writing it was a deeply moving and also a valuable, freeing experience for me.

I can’t imagine how I would write if I didn’t write my heart.

It’s the same way when I pick up a paint brush, or a pencil to draw.

It’s the same way when I rearrange the design of my home (my poor husband has to do the actual furniture moving, but I digress) so that the cat can finally have that sunny spot by the small window he has been longing for since the day we moved into this apartment.

I decorate with my heart, just as I do all things.

It may not exactly always turn out to be the trendiest, forward-thinking creation, whatever I end up with; sometimes it may reflect times past in the way that only hindsight can; with perfect, crystal clarity.

Why did I write a ‘darker’ novel like WISHING CROSS STATION?

Because Keigan had a story that I needed to tell, and so did Marigold. Their existence, even if confined to the pages of a book, matters to me.

I hope that if you choose to read and come along with them on their journey, it will matter to you, too. That my heart will speak to yours, and in that one moment of human connection, we will have transcended time and distance itself, souls meeting on an equal plane, no matter who we are or what our place in life may be.

We will have shared something beyond a simple story. We will share, for a little while, the lives of people who came into being because my heart insisted they must; and to me, that is the very best reason of all to write anything.



February Grace is an author, poet, and artist from Southeast Michigan. In previous novels, she has introduced readers to characters with clockwork hearts, told of romantic modern-day fairy godparents, and reimagined a legend, centuries old. Now, in her fifth novel with Booktrope, readers will board the special at WISHING CROSS STATION and embark on a trip through time. She is more than mildly obsessed with clocks, music, colors, meteor showers, and steam engines.

Find out more about her by visiting or connecting with her on Twitter @februarygrace

A Decent Woman is Eleanor Parker Sapia’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia where she is writing her second historical novel, The Island of Goats.

Author Interview: E.C. Moore

It is my pleasure to welcome fellow Booktrope author,

E.C. Moore, to The Writing Life.

Liz Author Small

EC Moore is the author of INCURABLE, to be released by Booktrope Publishing July 2015. When Elizabeth’s not writing feverishly, you will find her out walking or sightseeing. She’s crazy about coffee, books, cooking, good wine, cairn terriers, miniature ponies, historical houses, tapas, and witty people.

She resides in a fifties bungalow in Southern California, with her creative-director husband, a yappy blonde dog, and one feisty Chihuahua.

What is your book’s genre/category?

Historical Fiction.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Los Angeles 1956Marilyn Palmer is a beauty with a deep dark secret. After a threatening blackmail note arrives with the milk bottles on the porch of the bucolic home she shares with her doctor husband and young daughter, she hires a private eye to keep her unsavory past hidden.

Incurable is a story wrought with impetuous and regrettable decisions made by a desperate young woman. Barely eighteen years old, and a gifted seamstress, she makes the ill-fated decision to run away from her Detroit home with a wily friend. Bound for Hollywood, and seeking stardom, the girls set out on an incredible journey.

This splendidly imagined debut explores the tumultuous life and times of a woman who suffered the ultimate betrayal as a child during the Great Depression. A tale of survival set against the backdrop of early Hollywood, misery on Hotel Street in Honolulu before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and heartbreak in Los Angeles during WWII. Incurable delivers emotional intensity with each turn of the page.

Incurable Cover Final

How did you come up with the title?

The Incurable title was pulled from an overall exploratory theme woven throughout the narrative, one’s struggle to understand our own mortality and that of those we love, has always fascinated me.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

The premise was born from a documentary I watched on the History Channel about sex practices during WWII. I was shocked to learn about military condoned prostitution in Honolulu before and during the war. I wondered how all those young girls ended up prostitutes, servicing sailors and soldiers—three minutes for three dollars—on Hotel Street. I immersed myself in researching their stories, and that’s how my protagonist was conceived.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I enjoy every step—working out the initial conception, flushing out the characters, devising plot twists and relationships, and most of all re-writing. I’m an odd duck because I’m into re-writing and editing.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

For me, the challenge is dealing with constantly being interrupted. I could write for hours on end, if only real life could be put on hold. I have a fantasy of renting a cabin in the woods and going off to pen my next book. But I don’t think that’s likely to happen anytime soon. I settle for taping a sign on my office door reading, KEEP OUT!

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

Hemingway, Anne Tyler, Larry McMurtry, Alice Munro, Truman Capote, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and John Irving, to name just a few.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My dad was a storyteller, the best I’ve ever seen. He could keep an entire room of people entertained for hours. As far as writers go, I have to choose Hemingway because when I was in high school I read The Three Day Blow, and that’s when I knew I wanted to strive to be the best writer I could be.

Favorite place to write?

Anywhere, coffee houses are a favorite. But mostly I write at home.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I was reading at the ripe old age of three. My mother said I just taught myself somehow, but I think it had something to do with having a big brother who was eight years older to mimic. He taught me to write out my long name in cursive, and when I first attended kindergarten and showed my teacher she couldn’t believe it.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

You must cut, edit, and proofread till your ears bleed. And good editors are hard to come by.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I listened to the stories my elders told. I transformed many of their accounts into fictional people in a fictional setting.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Never give up. Never stop writing and never stop trying. Don’t jump the gun and send subpar work to agents or publishers. The more you write the better you’ll get. And read, read, read. Someone who doesn’t love to read can’t possibly produce a great book.


Where can we find your book?

Incurable will be published by Booktrope Publishing July 2015.

What’s next for you?

My next book, Every Big & Little Wish will be out in the late summer/early fall of 2015. I am currently writing Insatiable, a follow up to Incurable, look for it in 2016.

Thanks for a great interview, Elizabeth! I look forward to reading Incurable, and wish you much success with the book!


About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A DECENT WOMAN available on Amazon

Author Interview with Dave O’Leary

The Writing Life is pleased to welcome fellow Booktrope author, Dave O’Leary.

Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. His second novel, The Music Book, is a collection of the writings O’Leary has done about Seattle bands for both Northwest Music Scene ( and the now defunct Seattle Subsonic. It is a fictional narrative wrapped around and within the actual music, a story about live music in Seattle and, more broadly, about the power of music in our lives. A CD of the music experienced in the book has been released by Seattle indie label, Critical Sun Recordings.


Photo credit to Stacy Albright

Welcome, Dave!

What is your book’s genre/category?

The Music Book is literary fiction. It’s the kind of stuff I most like to read, and I’ve always wanted to write something that could be considered in the same league as, say, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Music Book is a collection of the writings I’ve done about Seattle bands for both Northwest Music Scene and the now defunct Seattle Subsonic. It is a fictional narrative wrapped around and within the actual music, a story about live music in Seattle and, more broadly, about the power of music in our lives. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

What does music mean? Can it be more than the sum of its notes and melodies? Can it truly change you? Rob, a musician turned reluctant music critic, poses these questions as everything important in his life appears to be fading—memories of lost love, songs from his old bands, even his hearing. He delves into the music of others to find solace and purpose, and discovers that the chords and repeated phrases echo themes that have emerged in his own life. The music sustains him, but can it revive him?

The Music Book is a story of loss, of fear and loneliness, of a mutable past. But most of all it’s about music as a force, as energy, as a creator of possibility. What might come from the sound of an A chord played just so? Rob listens. And among other things, he finds surprising companionship with a cat; another chance at love; and the courage to step on a stage again and finally, fully comprehend the power of sound.

How did you come up with the title?

It was the working title for the book, but when I finished the manuscript I knew that it was the perfect title for a novel about the power of music.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

When I was finishing my first novel, Horse Bite, I was contacted by a music blog in Seattle called Seattle Subsonic. They wanted me to write for them since I’d had some music themes in my personal blog, and they liked the quality of the writing, but I was reluctant at first since I didn’t want to be a critic. In music, I’d always been the one on stage so I had a hard time imagining myself in the role of critic, being at a bar not to play or enjoy the music but to be a kind of judge of its merits. What I wound up doing then was insert myself into the writing. It wasn’t just about the music. It was about my experience of the music, and I found that doing it that way allowed me to really get into chords and melodies and lyrics, into what it was like to watch the band while scribbling notes and drinking a beer at the end of the bar. I also found that the bands quite enjoyed what I was writing. They enjoyed the perspective. The readers did too. Eventually, Stacy Meyer, singer for a band called Furniture Girls, told me one night she’d love to see a collection of those writings in a book. That was the genesis of it, but I knew the book couldn’t just be a collection of reviews about local bands in Seattle. What I did instead was take the themes that had shown themselves in the music articles and build a fictional narrative around those. The book is thus a blend of fiction and non-fiction. The bands and music are real. The story wrapped around it is fiction.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The best part of writing is that moment where the characters take over and say and do things that were not planned. That can apply to the narrator too. I guess it’s the moment when the story takes over and almost starts to tell itself. As a musician, some of my favorite moments on stage where the improvised moments, the moments unexpected things happened and all the musicians followed and created something magical. Those writing moments feel very similar. I’m still the writer, the words still flow from me, but they flow free and natural, effortless.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The most challenging aspect is making yourself write everyday. There’s this thing called life that can’t be ignored. There’s the rent to pay, the day job to maintain until writing can pay the bills. There are times when I’m tired or sick or I just want to have a few drinks on the deck with my fiancée. It’s hard sometimes to make time, but that’s what you have to do, and those who really want to do it, will make the time.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Virginia Woolf, Charles Bukowski, and Graham Swift, and those are all writers of literary fiction, but I’ve been influenced by a wider variety of stuff. I loved J.R.R. Tolkien when I was young because I was just in awe of the man’s imagination and his ability to create whole new worlds. I actually have a blog post about the books that have most influenced over the years:

Favorite place to write?

I have a writing/music room set up in my basement. It’s where I go to get away by either playing guitar or working on my next book. I love it down there. There aren’t any windows or pictures on the walls. I just have a few bookcases and my guitars and amps. It’s a room set up for the single purpose of creating music and stories. I even have a little refrigerator down there. The only thing its missing is a coffee maker.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I lived in South Korea for eight years. I went over there to teach English and see a bit of the world. The plan was to stay only one year, but that turned into eight as I discovered I enjoyed living overseas. Everyone should. It gives one new perspective. I’m a white male so living over there I was actually in the minority, and I did experience mild forms of discrimination, things like a taxi driver refusing to give me a ride. I know it’s nothing like what minorities go through in this country, but it opened my eyes for sure and gave me at least a tiny window into that kind of experience.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

The learning experience is that once the book is published there’s still so much to do, at least when working with small publishers as I’ve done. You have to become very good at managing your time between promoting the current book and getting started on the next one.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I took my time with it. I didn’t rush through the writing of it. I’m not one of those writers who feels the need to get a set amount of writing done each day. I try to get something written every day, but I don’t count words. I go by the content and the feel. Sometimes all I have in me on a particular day is a paragraph, but so long as that paragraph says everything I want it to then I’m OK. The Music Book took a couple years to finish for that reason. I didn’t force it.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Be patient. Don’t accept the first thing that comes along just because you’re in a rush to get published.







Where can we find your book?

The Music Book can found online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I know some indie bookstores have it in stock, and it’s also available in Barnes & Noble’s Seattle area stores.


Barnes & Noble:

In an odd way, I’ve received much more support from Barnes & Noble for both of my books than I have from the local indie stores. Hard to say why that is, but it makes me a B&N supporter.

Also since the music in The Music Book is real, we put together a CD of the songs experienced in the book, and the sales of the CD will benefit the Wishlist Foundation, which is a Pearl Jam fan-run nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Pearl Jam’s charitable and philanthropic efforts. The charity fit since Pearl Jam is in the book. The music is thus available on line so hopefully readers will take a listen and help support the charity.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on expanding a short story into a novella or novel length work. The short story is called Condoms on Christmas and was published in 2012 by The Monarch Review, but I’ve always wanted to expand it. If it ends up as a novella, then I’ll probably publish it as part of a collection of short stories, one of which, Valentine’s Seahorse ( ), was already published as an ebook by Booktrope. And yes, there’d be a holiday theme of sorts with stories that revolve in someway around a holiday.

Thanks for an interesting interview, Dave! Best of luck with your books.

About EleanorParker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon


Sometimes You Must Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, you must lose yourself to find yourself again.

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, an alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her 25-year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.


Interview with Ina Zajac, author of Please, Pretty Lights

Please, Pretty Lights



It is my pleasure to welcome Ina Zajac, author of Gritty Contemporary Fiction, Please, Pretty Lights.

Several of Ina’s childhood math teachers had something in common. They all seemed to think she should be a writer. She followed their advice, but didn’t initially consider fiction writing. Instead, Ina earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in psychology from Western Washington University. Later she earned a master’s degree in mass communication from Arizona State University.

Ina’s first gig out of college was as a newspaper reporter. She has a broad range of communications experience including media relations, event promotion, and crisis communications. A few years ago, she decided to pursue fiction writing full time.

Welcome, Ina!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Literary Fiction/Gritty Contemporary Fiction

Please describe what the story/book is about.

It’s September when good girl Via Sorenson stumbles into a Seattle strip club, drunk and alone on her twenty-first birthday. Matt and Nick—best friends, band mates, and bouncers—do their best to shield her from their sadistic cocaine-trafficking boss, Carlos. They don’t realize her daddy issues come with a forty-million-dollar trust fund and a legacy she would do anything to escape.

She is actually Violetta Rabbotino, who had been all over the news ten years earlier when her father, an acclaimed abstract artist, came home in a rage, murdered her mother, then turned the gun on himself. Young Violetta was spared, hidden behind the family Christmas tree, veiled by the mysticism of its pretty lights whose unadulterated love captivated and calmed her.

Now, desperate to shed her role as orphaned victim, Via stage dives into a one-hundred-day adventure with Matt and Nick, the bassist and drummer of popular nineties cover band Obliviot. The rock-and-roll lifestyle is the perfect distraction—until she is rattled by true love. As Christmas looms closer, her notorious past becomes undeniable. How will she ever untangle herself from her twisted string of pretty lights?

How did you come up with the title?

The main character Via says, “please, pretty lights” in the opening scene. For her, the pretty lights are charged with emotional and spiritual symbolism. Nick and Matt are musicians who perform on stage under their own kind of pretty lights. Nick gets off on the limelight, but Matt would rather hang back in the shadows.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I have been a writer for many years. I started out as a newspaper reporter and then transitioned into public relations. I have always wanted to write a novel, but the timing never seemed right. Then a few years ago, I started obsessing about a character (Via). I would daydream about her. It may sound crazy, but it’s true. At the time I wasn’t working full time, and so I turned my attention toward fiction writing. It has been the most emotionally rewarding work of my life.

What is your favorite part of writing?

There are days when I’ll wake up, get a cup of coffee and sit down to write. I’ll start typing away, and all of a sudden I will look up and four or so hours have gone by. I describe it as “when time turns itself inside out” because that’s what it feels like. I’ll look down to find a cold cup of coffee. I’ll have written several thousand words. Of course, these words aren’t necessarily perfectly strung together. Tweaking and re-tweaking is a must. Still, it’s a rush.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

There are other times when I get outside of my head by stressing or doubting the process. That doesn’t feel good. Too much attention to social media can mess with my mind. Reading “You Must Do these 10 things Right Now” blogs, for example. Also, the revision process can be grueling. It’s work. It’s rewarding, uplifting even, but it is still work.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have so many. First, I want to say that I respect all writers. All musicians. All artists. It doesn’t matter whether I personally connect with their work or not. Being a creator can be emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically taxing. It can be a lonely business. It can be scary putting your heart into something not knowing what the world will think about it. Vulnerability can be terrifying. Sometimes I think we forget that.

Growing up I read everyone from Laura Ingalls Wilder and Judy Blume to C.S. Lewis and Frank Herbert. I admire the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. I’ve read Anna Karenina a dozen times.

Since signing with Booktrope in January, I started reading more and more Booktrope authors. Wow, so many super talented writers. Some favorites include: Mary Rowen, Ruth Mancini, Arleen Williams and Tiffany Ems Pitts.

I recently read Marni Mann’s “Pulled Beneath” and just loved it. Mann’s vibe is dark and sultry, yet understated. I often talk about my love of “quirk and contrast” and her work offers both. As a reader, I connect with emotionally damaged characters. I want a hero who is more than a little messed up. I need the villain to have some soft spots.

Tess Thompson an exceptional storyteller. I get lost in her prose and forget myself. Last week I finished “Bill Purgatory: I Am the Devil Bird” by Jesse James Freeman. I had heard it was awesome. My expectations were high and it still wowed. It is wildly creative and clever. I haven’t read Jennifer Hotes yet, but she’s next on my list. Shari Ryan, Allie Burke and Eleanor Parker, as well. 

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

I’d love to mention my late grandmother, Louise Daney Roberts. The woman radiated pure love, so much so that I still feel it today though she’s been gone almost 20 years. I was so lucky to have had her in my life. I have based a character (Grandma Daney) on her. My grandmother was – and still is — such a part of me that I couldn’t help but include her in the book.

Favorite place to write?

I work from home and have dedicated office space, but like to mix it up. Sometimes I’ll sit at the dining room table or on the couch. When the weather is decent, I’ll write from the deck. I also like to write at my neighborhood bookstore, Third Place Books.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I would write whether anyone paid me to or not. While I would love praise and piles of money, writing is ultimately something I do for myself. I love it that much. Also, I often read my work aloud so I can listen for cadence. My dog Leland comes over and flops down next to me and listens. Maybe he’s just worried about me. I talk to my dog way too much.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I used to be a people pleaser. This is something I have dealt with my whole life. Be nice. Be a good girl. Make sure everyone around you is comfortable. It’s actually a theme I explore in Please, Pretty Lights. This past year I have become better at making myself happy first. Last year I sent an early out to seven beta readers. Two loved, four really liked. One did not. Initially, I was heartbroken. While I did consider her opinions, I didn’t change my story for her. I realized I could not keep all seven beta readers happy, so I revised as best I could. I stood my ground because it felt right at the time. Looking back, I’m so happy I did.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I turned off my phone, got off Facebook, and wrote my story. Of course, it wasn’t that simplistic, but I made writing a priority. Social media can kill precious writing time. For me, posting and tweeting and liking are pointless pursuits unless I’m doing the real work of writing.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Don’t spend too much time getting advice from people who aren’t you. What works for one writer may not work for another. Learn to trust your instincts. It’s so easy to get caught up in what trends are sweeping the industry. Write what you want. What do you think about when you’re zoning out in traffic or standing in line at the grocery store? Write about that. Then revise and write some more. Make it the best it can possibly be. Take a break from it and read some books on craft. Attend a writing conference or a seminar. Connect with other writers. Read people who you think are better than you are. Pick and choose the techniques that speak to you. Then get back to your book and make it even better. Repeat this process several times. Then send it out and let the chips fall where they may.


Where can we find your book?

I know you can bookshelf it now on Goodreads. It will be released mid July on amazon, b&, nook, hobo and carried in indie bookstores.

What’s next for you?

I have a few writing conferences this summer that I am super excited about: The Chuckanut Writers Conference in Bellingham, Wash June 27-29th, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference July 17-20h.

The Please, Pretty Lights launch party is at 7 p.m. Aug. 27th at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash. We’ll have food, live music and door prizes. It will be a good time. I am extremely fortunate to have a fabulous editorial team and an ultra supportive group of friends and family. I’m looking forward to thanking them all properly.

I am now working on the sequel to Please, Pretty Lights to be released by Booktrope in 2015.

Follow me on twitter @InaZajac

Thanks, Ina! I enjoyed your interview, thanks for the mention, and best of luck with Please, Pretty Lights!


The Next Level and Beyond

When I think back to 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 acknowledgments 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 an excerpt from my book on social media, 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 Master’s 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 blessed 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.