Summer 2019 Update

Happy Summer to you, dear reader!

Me at the wedding June 2019

June was a special month of much joy and long-awaited reunions with my family. In early June, I enjoyed six fun-filled days with my daughter, my son, and his girlfriend in Capon Bridge, WV after their year in Asia. We kayaked and fished on the Great Cacapon River; cooked together and enjoyed Portuguese wines (courtesy of my son and his girlfriend); laughed and hugged, and made new memories. 🧡

Last week, I spent four fun days in Maryland with a cousin and my sister before her daughter tied the knot, and this past weekend, our family members and friends traveled from MA, OH, GA, MD, and VA to share the joy at my niece’s beautiful wedding ceremony and fun-filled reception at Celebrations at the Bay in Pasadena, Maryland with breathtaking views of the Bay at sunset. It was magical. My Polish/Russian and Puerto Rican clans sure can party and party, we did!

Last night, my son and his girlfriend flew back to Asia. Of course, as a mom, I have mixed emotions about that, but they are happy, so I am happy for them. My daughter is thinking about new adventures herself, especially about joining me in visiting my son and his lovely girlfriend in Thailand this fall. We are excited to see them again!

So life goes on, and I do what I always do—take off enough time during the summer months to enjoy life and my loved ones. And to make sure my second book, The Laments, (published next year) is the best novel possible, I will be working with someone special, with whom I’ve wanted to work with for a few years now. More details about that later!

Enjoy your summer and your families, my friends, and keep calling your state representatives—No more family separations at the border! Reunite the families!

Note to self: Learn how to apply lashes before the wedding day 🙂

Be well and be happy.

Eleanor x

Wise Women, Fierce Sisters, Spiritual Healers

la receta y cosas de la botanica

Historically, women have moved in the world of spirits, remedies, healing, and protection for themselves and their loved ones. When their lives became difficult or frightening, and especially when their children’s future seemed threatened, they leaned on each other in prayer, tradition, and rituals. Women were in charge of hearth and home, but had little personal power outside the home in many male-dominated societies, and tragically, the same holds true today for millions of women around the world.

Women’s reliance on and connection to nature’s free pharmacy and the wisdom imparted from mother to daughter throughout the ages were a natural way of life. Many women employed an arsenal of spiritual armor against evil, danger, and the unknowns of the world in the form of prayers, the evil eye, and communion with God, goddesses, the Virgin Mary, and other deities. The spirit world and spirituality were ways in which women dealt with life’s uncertainties.

My maternal grandmother was a wise woman. Meme was a spiritist and a healer, who had a very close connection to the spirit world and to nature. She was an elegant, tender-hearted, fierce defender of her family and loyal to her many friends, who still speak about her with kind words and a smile. She had a quick wit, a ready smile, open arms, and she was a beauty. Meme’s mystical connection to the spirit world began at the tender age of nine when her beloved mother, Amancia died. As a Catholic, Meme was accustomed to the spirit world of the martyred saints and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who interceded on her behalf to keep her mother’s spirit close by, so it wasn’t a stretch to welcome spirits into her life.

My grandmother and my aunt, who married my mother’s brother, happened to have a lifelong friendship with a medium by the name of Doña Pina, whom I visited until her death. Pina, a kind-hearted, diminutive, dark-haired woman with the most piercing black eyes I’ve ever seen, had inherited her spiritual gifts as a child from her mother, another renowned medium in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I grew up hearing their stories, told in exquisite detail, of the spirit world and of those who inhabit ‘the other plane’, which exists near the world we know; kind of like the family who lives one flight up in your apartment building. Some you liked, others not so much. Some stories scared me witless, others offered comfort. I know now that many of the scary stories were meant to keep me on the straight and narrow path, and to keep me safe, alert, and aware as a child and as a young adult.

Thanksgiving and PR trip 2012 155

New Age spirituality was nothing new to Meme. She spent her life being watchful, alert, and sweeping the negative energy, spirits, from her home. She even swept a few unwanted female friends away from my grandfather, but that’s another story. Meme knew which plant, flower, and herb to use for certain ailments and was quick to send you on your way with a recipe and a little bag of plant cuttings, so you could grow your own ‘pharmacy’. She could tell you the best method for sweetening up a stale love life, how to read people, and especially, how to get rid of unwanted visitors. And what to do if you found a rotten egg in your front yard, which she said was clearly an hechizo, a curse,  from a jealous neighbor. Meme imparted much of her wisdom to her daughters and to the granddaughters who would listen, as I’ve done with my own daughter, an intuitive from a young age. My son just rolls his eyes when we broach the subject, but he listens to my dreams and stories of synchronicites because they happen in his life, as well.

My girlfriends from Iran, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Virginia, West Virginia, Greece, Jamaica, and El Salvador, have shared similar stories with me told to them by their mothers and grandmothers. When I shared my friend’s stories with my grandmother, she just nodded. When I told her about Deepak Chopra, the third eye of intuition, and Eckhart Tolle, she grinned and said, “Ay nena, eso no es nada nuevo”, meaning “My girl, that is nothing new”. She was right, of course.

Meme’s stories fed my already vivid, childhood imagination and pushed forward, full throttle, my love of oral and written storytelling. Although a few tales of spirits frightened me, I couldn’t get enough of Meme’s stories. They are with me when I write my books about humble, yet extraordinary women doing extraordinary things in difficult times.

I’ve been known to cleanse a home with Catholic prayers, sage, and incense. I still say the rosary with a lit candle. Much like my ancestors, I perform these rituals in faith, for they are a personal source of comfort and clarity during times of personal and familial troubles, and global unrest.

Peace to you.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA

ellie

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

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, is published by Sixth Street River Press. The book is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the award-winning anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani.

When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reading, gardening, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. She adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is at work on her second novel, ‘The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ and thinking about the sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’ titled, ‘Mistress of Coffee’.

http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

 

 

 

 

Why Do These Things Happen To Us?

In 2010 I left Northern Virginia where I’d worked as a Spanish language Family Support Worker with 27 clients and their beautiful children. It was a rewarding and busy job, but tough in that I was required to make home visits once and twice a month to each family. As you can imagine, driving around the DC area and getting caught in lunch time and rush hour at the end of the day made for a stressful job. I practically lived in my car. Not to mention the enormous binders I had to keep updated for each of the children of my 27 clients, which included their shot records, school and medical information, and a detailed, written account of each of our home visits. I felt I could never catch up.

Our manager Nancy was a wonderful, kind woman who understood when I told her I loved my job, but I’d decided it was time to return to my creative life as a painter and a writer. Nancy, a jewelry designer in her spare time, supported my decision wholeheartedly, and my co-workers also understood, despite their personal fears about what I’d be living on monetarily in the future. I didn’t care. I’d felt like a round peg in a square hole for years. I needed my creative life back.

Two months later, I bought an old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia and three months later, I moved to a state I’d only visited once in my life. It felt like I’d jumped off a cliff, but I trusted myself and the Universe, and never once have I felt I made a mistake. I finished writing my first novel, it was published in 2015, and here we are today. I’m still happy with my decision–the only decision for me–to paint and write full time.

Taking control of my life, adapting to new situations, and remaining flexible is nothing new to me as I grew up an Army brat, who moved and thrived every two to four years until college. I raised my kids abroad for 13 years, traveled extensively, and I took control and easily adapted to becoming a 50-year old single mom. I sacrificed until my children graduated from university and found good paying jobs, and then moved to West Virginia. It was an easy decision. I knew it was time to focus on ME for the first time in my life.

So, fast forward to 2016. When my step-mom Rebecca, a lovely woman who has cared for my 84-year old father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s, called me in early January with an invitation to visit them, I jumped at the chance. Rebecca was concerned that my father wasn’t interested in eating and that his roommate’s death a few days earlier would negatively affect him; it was important to fly to Florida. I knew we’d be busy, so I decided to leave my laptop at home to concentrate on my family. Rebecca graciously paid for my airline ticket and my sister was able to get a week off from work, so off we went to offer moral and physical support, where we could. For five days, we visited with my dad, who now lives in a wonderful assisted living home, and enjoyed our time with Rebecca, who treated us to three days in Key West, Florida near the end of our visit. We had a great time, enjoying the warmer weather and each other.

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Then we heard the news: a blizzard in the Washington, DC area which would also affect my adopted town in West Virginia. We watched the Weather Channel every few hours and on late Wednesday, Jet Blue called us–our Saturday morning flight was cancelled. I’d survived the back to back blizzards in Northern Virginia alone with my dog in late December 2009, and knew this could be bad. Here I was thousands of miles from my house built in 1907, and my next door neighbor was pet sitting for me. I had visions of my old roof caving in, of frozen pipes, and a leaking roof, which I know didn’t help my nerves. Then I realized that my neighbor and her husband would be shoveling for me, as well. I felt just awful. Thinking we’d avoid the blizzard by flying a day earlier than our scheduled Saturday flight, we changed our tickets to Friday morning. I called my neighbor to let her know. She told me that my Friday flight would never leave the ground. She was right–late Thursday evening, Jet Blue called about the cancelled flight on Friday. And the representative informed us that the next available flight out of West Palm Beach Airport or Ft. Lauderdale would be Wednesday. Six extra days. Wow, we couldn’t believe it. What could we do?

Now, I’m a firm believer of not freaking out about such things, as I believe things happen for a reason, but…it was glaringly obvious my poor neighbor and pet sitter and her husband would be in deep kimchi with their own home and trying to shovel 35 inches of snow to get to my animals. I called my neighbor with the bad news, but she didn’t miss a beat. She was several steps ahead of me. If the power went out, she’d take my Chihuahua and cat to her home, where she lives with two large dogs and two cats, and two kerosene heaters. I felt badly, but there wasn’t a thing I could do. I thanked my neighbor profusely, and promised to give her my firstborn…who is now 30 years old! That’s what I call true friendship from a woman I’ve only known four years.

The weather reports were correct and for once, hadn’t exaggerated–my West Virginia town had 35 inches of snow by Sunday. And since I’d expected to be home by Friday, I now had an interview with The Center of Puerto Rican Studies to finish by Sunday evening, and I had no laptop. Rebecca graciously offered me her brand new Apple computer, which I wasn’t familiar with, and then I realized she didn’t have word processing capabilities. I didn’t want to fool with that, so I finished the interview in an email and did the best I could to find copies of my author photograph and a copy of my bookcover, which were on my cell phone. It all worked out, but not without the fear that I’d lose the interview because the server kept shutting off. Lord, what a headache. But I got it done and was never so happy to press, ‘Send’.

As a full time writer and blogger, I really missed working on my second book during my winter vacation. It was tough to put my new characters on hold, but it was a great time and opportunity to put pen to paper and write out scenes longhand. Sitting on the beach on our last day, I told my sister about my second book, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and received good feedback. She loved the story. It was the first time I’d spoken my story out loud and it really helped in discovering weak links and missing information. I was newly inspired and anxious to get back to writing, but I also knew this visit could possibly be the last time I’d see my father. I vowed to enjoy every minute. Every day, I tried to remain in the present and not sweat the snow or my lack of a laptop.

Wednesday morning, we headed to the airport and the flight took off during a thunderstorm, which is NEVER my idea of a good time. The captain informed us that the extreme turbulence would most probably last the duration of our flight–two hours. I can’t tell you how terrified we were with the plane dipping, shaking, and careening left and right. I laced my arms through my sister’s arms, we prayed and kissed our butts goodbye. At one point, my sister asked me to please stop repeating, “Ay Virgen, ay Virgen” because that frightened her more, which I understood! But I guess all that fear bottled up inside was more than I could handle and I began to cry. The young woman to my right rubbed my arm and asked me what I did for a living, probably to distract me. I laughed and replied, “When I’m not crying on flights from hell, I write books!”

We landed safely, the Metro was working, and miraculously enough, the spot where I’d parked my car before we left for the airport had received enough sun because my car was entirely clear of snow! I drove right out of the spot and decided to park closer to my sister’s townhouse. When I reached a cleat parking spot, I turned off the engine and made my way inside. When I returned with my luggage, my car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t believe it! I don’t know where the hell I keep my reserves of patience, but I found it. My poor, long suffering neighbors would have to add one more day of shoveling and caring for my home and animals, and my sister had to put up with me for one more night. Luckily, my area didn’t lose power, and I drove home Thursday morning. I was happy to see the mounds of snow around my house. I love snow and had hoped I’d see a bit of it. Well, I wasn’t disappointed–there was at least 30 inches in my front and side yards.

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I will never be able to repay my awesome neighbors for their tremendous kindnesses, and I am blessed to know them. My furry kids were happy to see me and my home was toasty and warm. I do wonder, however, why the Universe chose to preclude me from experiencing Blizzard 2016. I guess some experiences are meant to be, and it isn’t until much later that we see the Great Plan. It is often later when we realize the ‘why’ and are able to nod our heads and say, “Oh, now I get it.” I believe that to be true, but I’ll never leave the house without my laptop again.

Stay warm out there, my friends.

 

 

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican 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 a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, 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, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. 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, 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, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is a mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

First 2016 Author Interview: K J Dixon

Happy Three Kings’ Day!

Welcome to The Writing Life and our first author interview of 2016!

Today I am very pleased to welcome the lovely and talented Kristen “KJ” Dixon, author of the newly released novel, ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’.

Profile pic Karen Dixon

Originally from Atlanta, Kristen “KJ” Dixon-Barnes was born the youngest daughter of a school teacher and a social worker. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, she began working in the field of one of her many passions-women’s health. Her experiences while taking care of others during their most fragile and vulnerable moments taught her to respect and appreciate the many different paths and perspectives that help to grow, shape and sharpen women.

It wasn’t until she completed her Master’s program in Public Administration from Troy University and began writing policies and procedures for health care agencies and facilities that she started to write fiction.

To family and close friends, it’s no surprise that KJ Dixon began writing The Trouble With Red Lipstick after being inspired by several discussions with women through book clubs, women’s groups and personal friendships. Although it is a work of fiction, its themes surrounding self-love, mother-daughter relationships and self-actualization in the black community are familiar to many.

In her spare time, KJ Dixon actively participates in outreach events sponsored by her beloved sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated; hosts Tiny Tales (a book club for children developed to promote and improve children’s literacy rates); conducts events for underserved health care populations; and tries anything else she finds fun and rewarding. She lives in Atlanta with her family and is busy at work on her next novel.

Welcome, Kristen!

the-trouble-with-red-lipstick

What genre/category does ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’ fall under?

I know this is supposed to be an easy question but I still struggle with it! By most folks’ standards, ‘The Trouble With Red Lipstick’ is probably best considered Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The main characters in this story are black women but their issues, challenges and struggles are universal. It definitely has some elements of both humor and chick-lit too.

 

Please describe what your story/book is about.

It’s about a mother and her three adult daughters—so four women in total—and all of them are attempting to fix their brokenness. They’ve always done everything they believed they were supposed to do, and they’re now trying to figure out what’s still missing and why happiness continues to elude them. Then throw in a family secret that rocks everybody’s world and voila! The drama unfolds!

Oh, those family secrets! Love it. How did you come up with the intriguing title?

That’s a funny question. I wrote the whole book without even having one. Then I sat down and read it one day and I realized how much a particular line—one including the book’s title—was central to the entire book’s theme. I tried it and it just worked immediately. Besides, I love red lipstick. And maybe I like a little trouble, too.

Your catchy title makes me wonder what the trouble with red lipstick is! What inspired you to write this book?

Both everything and nothing. I started writing a scene one day with Karen—one of the book’s main characters—where she was falling in love with Tim, the truck driver. I wondered what would happen once Karen realized that she wasn’t feeling love at all—but that she was really just in need of a good orgasm and was confusing the two! Then I realized that Karen had a mother and a couple sisters and before I knew it, they were begging me to write their stories too.

I love when a character leads me into their inner world. It’s exciting to become a voyeur to their secrets and inner struggles. What is your favorite part of writing?

All of it. It’s thrilling for me to explore issues that I don’t fully understand by writing about them. It reminds me of solving a math problem. It might not make sense in my head at first, but as I start to work it out on paper the answers begin to slowly unfold. Real life is tricky like that sometimes. These characters have problems that they’re trying to solve just like everyone else.

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

Editing. Enough said. But wait. Let me erase that period and replace it with an exclamation point.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Maya Angelou may be my absolute favorite. I’m also obsessed with James Patterson and John Grisham. Michael Connelly, Terry McMillan, Steven King and Amy Tan are pretty high up on my list as well. I’ll read anything by Mary B. Morrison, Lee Child, Dan Brown and Dr. Suess. And then Eleanor Parker Sapia stole my heart with A Decent Woman…

Great list and thank you for the mention, Kristen! I’m so pleased you enjoyed Ana and Serafina’s journeys.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

As a writer? That’s easy. Angelou. Patterson. Maybe even Beverly Cleary from my childhood days of reading Ramona books for all those hours at a time. As a person? There really are too many to name. Let’s say my family, my friends, and a dash of everyone else on planet Earth.

I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence. Do you have a favorite place to write?

My kitchen table. Don’t you dare laugh.

No laughing here! The kitchen is the most important place in the home; it’s where a lot of living and sharing happens. Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I had four or five moles as a child and now I’m up to nine, plus a new set of freckles across my cheeks. I’m terrified of spiders. And I never thought I’d end up a writer. I loved writing stories as a child, but I took several detours on my way here. Before going to college, I sold shoes and perfume, did make-up, was an actor in local plays, and tried several other things that seemed really exciting. At least they did at the time.

Our paths to the writing life are always so interesting to me. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Prayed really hard.

For real, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get this book published because I did everything right. I just tried my best to listen in the characters’ voices in my head and to write their stories down in a way that most women could identify with. I’m surprised each time someone tells me that they’ve purchased and read the book. It’s hard to believe that anyone can take a story from their head and place it in the mind of someone else who they’ve never even met. It’s an amazing gift for which I’m very thankful.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Keep writing until you get good at it. Stay true to yourself and to your characters. And as much as this part is always much easier said than done, try not to get discouraged when people tell you ‘no’. You persevere, you get better, and eventually you get matched with the person or group that you’re supposed to have your book baby with. It works out better for you in the end.

Great advice. Website?

Of course. Please hit me up at www.thekjdixonexperience.com. I love interacting with readers and other writers.

Twitter: @Dixon01K
Facebook: K.J. Dixon
website: www.thekjdixonexperience.com

Where can we find ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’, Kristen?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s online website, iTunes and a few local bookstores. If you don’t see it, please ask for it!

What’s next for you?

Another book. It’s untitled right now too, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun so far. Stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting with us at The Writing Life, Kristen. I wish you a world of happiness and happy writing in 2016!

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican 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 a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, 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, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

Holiday Newsletter: Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

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Before I share my Holiday news, I’d like to wish my wonderful family, friends, online friends, readers, and blog subscribers a blessed Holiday season and all the very best for 2016!

Thank you for your support and friendship during my writing journey that ended with the February 2015 publication of my first novel, ‘A Decent Woman’, which continues to be a dream come true. I’m excited to share that my second novel, ‘The Island of Goats’ or ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ (can’t decide on a title) will be published in 2016! I love this new story and characters as much as I love the story and characters of ‘A Decent Woman’.

Holiday Newsletter

For the first time in four years since I moved into this old, quirky house in West Virginia, I am hosting my family for Christmas dinner. We will come together, minus my son who lives in Holland, which makes me sad. We will sure miss Matthew, and thank God for our plans to meet up in New York City in early 2016!

Since I am the only one who lives out of state, and to make it easier for my loved ones, I drove to Virginia and Maryland for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, however, I put my foot down and insisted my family come to me 🙂 Now, I’m the Christmas spirit! Most years I didn’t bother putting a tree up and decorations were at a minumum in my home, but this year my home looks and smells amazing. And the rush is on to finish wrapping gifts, send out Christmas cards, and get the house ready for my family. Get the house ready. OMG…I forgot how much work and preparation are necessary to host a family dinner!

Looking around the house on Monday, the to-do list from this year (and last year, and let’s face it…the year before that), stared at me in the face:

An empty fridge; the wooden steps I was delighted to discover under the horrid blue shag carpeting I removed immediately upon moving in, need white paint and wax; the twelve door frames (including two closets), 16 windows, and wide, wood floor boards in every room that I meant to paint white last year; the two paneled walls in the dining room still need painting; the laundry piled high on the washer and dryer in the laundry room; and the two guest bedrooms still need painting. Thank God I painted my bedroom, kitchen, laundry room and bathroom last year.

Whew! Well, there’s nothing like inviting the family to Christmas dinner and hosting a New Year’s party for friends and family to get a girl’s butt in gear. Yes, why do all this work and NOT host a NYE’s party? I’m going all out this year!

So on Tuesday, I decided on my holiday menu, went food shopping, bought cream-colored poinsettias, white candles of every size, and more Christmas decorations for my tree and wreaths. On Wednesday, I polished silver, found my baking dishes, and simmered my mother’s wonderful holiday concoction that makes your house smell like you’ve been baking for a week, and bought two gallons of white paint!

Holiday Simmering ‘Potpourri’

To a saucepan add:

2 cups water, 2 tablespoons vanilla, ten cloves, grated orange peel, a handful of fresh cranberries, 2-3 cinammon sticks, nutmeg, all spice, and pumpkin pie spice (or 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice, which has it all!), and simmer. Make sure to keeping check the water level and add more water as it reduces. Enjoy!

Late last night, I decided to concentrate on the downstairs and finished painting the staircase, a window, and two doorframes. Today and tomorrow will find me painting, and on Saturday, I’ll pack up my piles of writing supplies, books, and notebooks until January 2, and…

I’m adding Christmas lights to my laundry piles 🙂 Why not add a festive touch to a chore I won’t realistically get to!

Happy Holidays from my old, quirky home to yours! I wish you all the very best for 2016: love, peace, good health, and prosperity.

Holiday love,

Eleanor

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

ellie

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 a refugee case worker, inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer for Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, 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, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season. Book clubs across the United States have enjoyed A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a short story collection.

http://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47WI/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: SAHAR ABDULAZIZ

I am very pleased to welcome author, Sahar Abdulaziz, to The Writing Life.

Abdulaziz strikes again. Her characters are the gal and guy next-door, masked in smiles, yet cloaked in secrecy. She challenges topics of family and marital discord, and the need for emotional survival. She skillfully lures the reader into her stories without being extensively graphic or sensationalistic with hard-hitting, uncomfortable subject matter. Fascinating glimpses into her characters’ internal talk that not only engage the reader, but challenges them to question the status quo, identify the issues as they truly present, all while exposing human frailties, and stripping away the forced facades and ambiguity. Abdulaziz traces the triumphs and tragedies of families torn apart by decades of betrayal, familial domestic violence, and sexual abuse. She also explores the human desire and need for renewal, closure and finally healing.

Sahar author picSahar Abdulaziz graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology before going on to earn her master’s degree in health and wellness promotion and administration. She holds a Certification as a Domestic Violence Counselor/Advocate as well as in community health. She uses her writing platform and voice to advocate for the underrepresented, the disenfranchised and/or maligned. Her multidimensional characters have been described as having “substance and soul”.

Author of The Broken Half, as well as the recently published novel, As One Door Closes, Abdulaziz again demonstrates that those who have suffered abuse are not victims, but survivors.

What is your book’s genre/category?

The Broken Half falls under the genre/category of contemporary fiction.

Sahar book cover

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Broken Half is the story of a young American Muslim woman, Zahra, whose marriage from the very start has been anything but peaceful. When faced with the difficult and dangerous choice to either stay in her abusive marriage or leave, Zahra soon realizes that each step she takes towards freedom is riddled with risky and uncertain repercussions, making her feel trapped and vulnerable. Danger within the marriage continues to escalate, and the clock is ticking. Zahra knows she is running out of both options and time.

This story traces the triumphs and tragedies of how families can be torn apart by domestic violence, and sexual abuse, as well as the human desire and need for renewal, closure and finally healing.

How did you come up with the title?

Often we will hear someone introduce their partner as their, “better half”, but in this story, my character’s marriage is severely damaged, hence the term – the broken half.

The question is, can the relationship between Zahra and her husband be fixed? And if so, at what cost, or is there nothing left worth fixing making escape the only answer? I felt that for many women facing domestic violence and abuse within the confines of their homes and marriages, the title, ‘The Broken Half’ would resonate.

The title, The Broken Half was also used to illustrate how domestic violence and sexual assault are not limited to one isolated punch or slap, but often manifested in a series of convoluted life conditions that are permitted to exist through apathy. The title is also a stark reminder of how critical a functional family core is to the individual as well as to the community at large, and how quickly both can unravel if these conditions are not adequately addressed.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I wanted to use my writing platform to advocate for the underrepresented, the disenfranchised and/or maligned, especially to help others clearly understand exactly how someone—anyone, given the right circumstances and vulnerability—can be held captive emotionally, physically, spiritually, and even financially by an abuser. I wanted this story to dispel many myths and stereotypes concerning domestic violence and sexual assault. At the same time, I wanted to illustrate precisely how, “Just leaving” isn’t always a readily available option or resolution.

Again, although the story is fictional, The Broken Half sets out to realistically and candidly challenge topics of family and marital discord, the false perceptions of domestic violence and sexual abuse within a marriage, and bring to light the need for emotional survival.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I run the gamut of emotions when preparing to write. I think for me, the most agonizing aspect of writing is that period of time right after I finish writing a book, and just before starting on the next unknown project. It’s the ‘unknown’ that drives me, and the people who live with me insane. However, once I figure out what my next story will be about, I become energized, animated, and ready to jump in full force. The realization that I know exactly what I want to write about has got to be my most favorite part of writing -beyond thrilling. Mapping out how the story will start and finish in my head [and in my $1.99 lined notebook] becomes electrifying. New characters are born, their nuances are threaded into their personalities, and the real work begins.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I have found that there is a fine line between being explicitly sensationalistic for the sake of shocking your audience and realistically describing an event that by its very nature is appalling and uncomfortable. When writing my books, because of the complicated and often uncomfortable topics, I try to lure the reader into the story without becoming extensively graphic while still providing hard-hitting, and sometimes difficult subject matter.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I enjoy many different genres of reading, much like I enjoy various types of food. Singling out any one specific or a few specific names feels impossible, so I guess by genre I would have to say I really enjoy the work of Mitch Albom, whose inspirational and faithful stories have always held special meaning and solace for me.

Janet Evanovich’s contemporary mysteries, which feature her highly entertaining character Stephanie Plum, the failed lingerie clerk turned Trenton, NJ bounty hunter is ridiculously comical. I cried tears filled with unbridled hilarity while reading her series. Evanovich nailed it.

In terms of classics, I am a super big murder mystery fan, or what I like to refer to as, ‘polite murders’ so all of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot’s detective books are mega-big favorites of mine. And, of course, without a doubt, all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes mystery novels are all-time favorites as well.

J.K. Rowling, Harlan Coben, Christina Baker Kline, Anthony Doerr, Erik Larson, Liane Moriarty, David McCullough, and Gillian Flynn are only a few of the artist/authors I deeply respect and admire for their skills.

What is your favorite place to write? 

I do most of my most dazzling work while at airports while waiting for my flights to board. For some strange reason, I have the uncanny aptitude to zone out the world around me and focus on my writing voice the best as I sit in loud, bustling, and terribly intrusive atmospheres.

I believe my mind-numbing training came from mothering my six children. I found that while raising my brood, if I had any intention of getting any cohesive brainwork done, I had to learn how to block out the lunacy and foolishness that I lovingly call my family. Now my compromised brain simply doesn’t know how to handle too much normalcy and quiet.

Could you share something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have Crohn’s Disease. It’s a debilitating, painful and incredibly intrusive chronic illness associated with inflammation of the digestive tract. Because of the severity of my disease, I am often unable to physically leave the house, often too weak or in pain. Thank goodness as an author/writer, I can work from home.

Unable to sit at my desk for extended periods of time, I wrote most of my first book, But You LOOK Just Fine in bed. There I was propped up with pillows, sipping hot tea, herb bag on a distended belly, surrounded by research, and tapping away on my laptop. Fun times.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

The Broken Half is my fourth book and in all honestly, I am still at a loss when it comes to the publishing process. There is so much to learn and explore. I found that with each new book, there have been also new approaches that had to be implemented. Within each new project, goals naturally had to be transformed and tailored to meet those required changes and expectations. Unfortunately, with change also comes the ever-widening potential for unsuspecting errors to occur, so I have found that staying focused, determined, and committed become highly advantageous. Large pots of tea, and ample supplies of chocolate, as well as an account with Netflix, are also compulsory.

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

The biggest thing I think I did right with The Broken Half was in making sure that I honored all of my characters, including the antagonist by allowing their individual back-story to bring depth and empathy to their plight as well as to their actions and choices.

I did this because I firmly believe that it is important to remember- no one does anything in this life without prior experiences or because they lived safely tucked away inside a bubble. Therefore, it became necessary to make sure each one of my characters exhibited both nuance and history. This in turn helped to highlight where their individual motivation, rationale, and choices came from.

I also tried to include many facts about domestic violence and sexual assault without necessarily preaching or info-dumping- (I hope!) My intent was to stay as realistic to the content and platform of the story as fiction would allow.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

I am going to sound like a redundant, broken record here, but my advice is to read. Read everything. –AND DON’T limit yourself to one particular genre just because you prefer to write in that style.

Kick your assumptions and opinions to the curb. Open up your mind to the richness of other authors’ works. I read everything from magazines, cookbooks, novels, blogs, the backs of cereal boxes, and telephone books. You name it -I read it.

Become a serious people watcher- not stalker- but a watcher. Observe, absorb, learn, listen, and most of all, respect. Respect the human condition that others must live and survive in so when you write your stories, no matter what you are writing about, you do so from a place of authenticity and genuineness, tempered by empathy, but never-ever dictated by apathy. Writing is a powerful tool, so use it wisely and judiciously.

Website?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSaharAbdulaziz

Blog: http://saharraziz.wix.com/sahar-abdulaziz

Twitter: Sahar_author

Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Sahar-Abdulaziz-MS/e/B00J9P5KNE/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Where can we find your book?

All my books, including, But You LOOK Just Fine, As One Door Closes, The Broken Half, and my children’s novel, The Dino Flu, can be purchased on Amazon, iBooks, nook, kindle & Kindle app, B&N online.

What’s next for you, Sahar?

More writing. Booktrope Publishers is publishing a second edition of my book, As One Door Closes, this summer with a wickedly prolific new cover, and some additional tweaks inside. I’m also working hard on a new novel now. Another fiction. I am hoping to create a story that brings readers on yet another incredible journey. If possible, I would also like to write another book in the Just Fine series as well.

It has been a pleasure chatting with you at The Writing Life, Sahar. I wish you much success with your writing.

 

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 tells herself she 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 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 novel, The Island of Goats.

 

 

 

The Dreaded Blank Page

Merry Christmas you filthy animals

Early this morning, we were blessed with cloudless, blue skies and a warm sun.  There is an inch of snow on the ground with a fine layer of ice beneath, and the winds are still blowing like crazy. Normally, this type of day energizes me and puts me in a good frame of mind, but today I closed all the curtains. For self-preservation, I will become a hermit for a few days, nursing what January usually brings me–feelings of joy mixed with nostalgia. My negative feelings and emotions can’t be helped, so I allow them to wash over me today.

You see, my son was born in California on January 14, 1988, and my mother passed away on January 22, 1992. My son is moving to Amsterdam on January 16, 2015. Yes, in a week’s time, I’ll be driving him to the airport, and I don’t know when I’ll see him again. He has been coming and going for years now with work-related travel, and a three-month stay in Thailand, but this is different. He says he’s not coming back. It’s not that we’ve quarreled or that he’s running away from home, nothing like that–I raised my kids overseas. What did I expect would happen? One or both of them were bound to travel extensively and live abroad; it’s what I hoped for.

Well, it is what it is, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. My daughter and I send him off with much love, admiration, and enough hugs and kisses to keep him warm in Holland until we visit. Maybe we’ll return to Holland for a Spring visit, in time for the tulip festivals, as we did during our many years of living overseas. I try to look at the bright side of returning to Europe with my daughter for family visits with my son, but today it was hard to see the silver lining of his decision. I wondered how many decisions I’d made as a mother that caused my children the same pain.

So, after taking a week and a few days off to celebrate the precious Holidays with my beautiful children and my wonderful family, I sat at my desk this morning. I opened the new journal I bought in early December–one hundred and twenty blank pages of journal, to be exact, and closed the book. I’d vowed to begin writing on the morning of January first, but I couldn’t. I knew it would help me tremendously as I’ve journaled for over twenty years as an advocate of keeping a journal, but every time I sat down to write–I froze. There was too much swirling, swishing, and slopping around in my brain to get it down on paper. I’ve felt overwhelmed this first week in January. What a pain in the ass. It’s not like I have tremendous burdens on my shoulders, we are all happy, safe, and healthy. I am looking forward to my novel, A Decent Woman, coming out this Spring, my daughter started a great new job as a therapist, and we three are embarking on personal journeys, but life is changing. Our family dynamics are changing and deep inside, I don’t like it one bit.

What did I do after closing my journal? I prayed hard. I cried even harder. I released. I counted my blessings. I shoveled my sidewalk, laughed at my Sophie’s Chihuahua antics in the snow, and I stroked my cat, Pierre. I made a tough phone call, one that I’ve been avoiding since early December, and I called to check on a new friend who just found out she’s in stage four of lung cancer. Please pray for my friend, Myrtle. Then, I sat with my unopened journal and realized I hate blank pages. I’ve experienced this fear of getting back on the creative horse before with my painting, after a long holiday. I’d sit in front of the easel, staring at my full-size, D’Arches, hot press, watercolor paper stapled to the board, hating the whiteness of it. The blankness of it. And I’d stress the mistakes I was sure to make as watercolor is such an unforgiving medium, but to which I took to like a duck to water. I like a challenge.

Bite-size pieces, I told myself after lunch. Own it and just do it for God’s sake. But, the words didn’t come. As much as I hate routine, I am a stickler for routine. My usual routine is to pray, meditate, journal, and write long into the night with breaks for walking the dog. What the hell was I so afraid of? That I might start writing, crying, and never stop? Was I pissed I hadn’t followed through with my plan of starting the journal on the first of January? It’s a Virgo thing. Was I grieving the past…again? Enough.

I gathered old magazines, found a glue stick, and created a mini-vision board for 2015 on the inside cover, which includes the cover my book. I thought of crossing off the numeral one I’d written in anticipation of starting the journal on January first, but instead, I changed the one to a seven. I christened the journal. I added the weather and temperature in the right-hand corner, as I’ve done for years, and I wrote three pages of my thoughts, hopes, and dreams. I added St. Michael’s prayer and the Memorare for protection, which felt great, and I closed the journal until tomorrow.

No, 2015 didn’t start exactly as I’d hoped, but that’s okay. I will celebrate my daughter’s new job in Northern Virginia; I will celebrate my son’s birthday and new life in Holland; I’ll cry for my mother on the anniversary of her death; and I’ll wave goodbye to my son as he disappears through airport security with tears in my eyes. I will continue celebrating and honoring life, and continue counting my many blessings, which includes my creative life. I look forward to launching my book, holding it in my hands, and sharing it with the world.

I tackled the beast today. No more will the blank page cause me anxiety and fear. Eff it; I’m stronger than that–I wrote a freaking book.