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 become 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 canceled. 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 canceled 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 bad, 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 book cover, 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 on 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

 

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

 

 

My Last Blog Post of 2014

matthew's 21st bday

2014 was a tough year for my family…2010-2103 weren’t cake walks, either. Now, I’m not saying wonderful things didn’t happen to us because they sure did, but boy, this year was challenging. With every dream come true and answered prayer, came much learning, new challenges and very steep learning curves. Yes, I can look back today and see how much we’ve grown. I am thankful for my lessons…well, most of the lessons. I’m tougher and more resilient than I thought possible, which is a good thing. I’ve bent, been flexible, and stood my ground when the ground was indeed pretty shaky. I did pray and ask for a little relief this year. I also asked for no tests in 2015; I get it, God. I need a little sitting on the plateau time; no more steep climbs and learning curves for me, please…and thank you.

I made it through another year, thank God. I’m grateful and thankful for what I have. I’m healthy, happy, and my precious children are, too. Thank God. I have a roof over my head, my heat turns on when I turn the heating dial, and I have clean water and food. I might not have a whole lot of money left at the end of each month, but I’m doing okay. I’m blessed to do what I love and am passionate about–writing books and painting on the side. I live a quiet, peaceful, and very creative life, which I love. I have a loving children, a wonderful family, and great friends, which includes my puppy, Sophie and Pierre, my cat. I pray for continued good health for myself, my children, my family and friends in the near year and beyond, and I pray my debut novel, A Decent Woman, is well-received when it comes out in Spring 2015. What a long road this has been!

I prayed for all these things last night, and then…

last night, I opened my front door and watched my quiet neighbors from across the street, a mother and her adult son, place everything they own on the sidewalk. It was a cold night and my heart broke for them. I already knew they would be evicted and had offered my help, but the son wouldn’t hear of it. I walked over and offered my help again. He thanked me and turned back to the job at hand. I felt helpless as I turned back toward my house.

The warmth of my home welcomed me as I opened my front door and my puppy, Sophie wagged her tail when I walked through. I had texts from my children and two phone calls to return from dear friends. I answered the texts and made the calls, but I couldn’t shake what I’d seen across the street. Around midnight, the sidewalk was full of boxes and furniture and there were no lights on in the house. Where had they gone? Would I ever see them again? We weren’t close; I barely knew them as they kept to themselves for the year they lived on my street, but I was sad for them and wished them well.

So, no complaints from me. I’m blessed. Amen.

I wish you and yours a blessed, happy, prosperous, and healthy New Year.

 

 

Author Interview with EJ Hanagan

SavingJason_finalEbookI’m very pleased to welcome EJ Hanagan, author of the women’s fiction novel, Saving Jason.

EJ Hanagan is a writer, fitness fanatic, obsessive reader and animal lover. She lives in a sleepy beach town outside of Boston with her husband, their new baby girl and their two giant Newfoundland dogs.

After spending four years in the Air Force, EJ put her fire for fitness to good use and worked as a personal trainer while going to college. If it weren’t for the amazing, brave people that she met while in the military, she wouldn’t have the passion that she does now, to focus on bringing awareness to veterans with PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Her hope is to bring the invisible scars of war to the surface through her writing and community involvement.

Welcome, EJ!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Women’s fiction

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Jason Barnes is a free spirit. But underneath his fun-loving surface lurks a severe case of PTSD, his personal souvenir from the war on terror.  After his young marriage breaks up, he bounces from girlfriend to girlfriend, never allowing himself to get too close, all while maintaining a friendship with his ex-wife, Samantha Colton. His short-lived relationships come to a halt when he meets Abby Jacobsen, a smart and sassy artist. With love comes jealousy, and Abby doesn’t stand for Jason’s cozy friendship with Samantha. Two hours after a heated argument causes Jason to storm out of their apartment in a fury, Abby receives a phone call from the intensive care unit of a New Hampshire hospital.

The hospital walls close in on Abby and Samantha as they are forced to make tough decisions while trying hard not to kill each other. The two form a rare bond when Emma Jane, Jason’s mom, arrives on the scene.

Three weeks after Jason’s accident, Abby is left alone and hovering over a handful of positive pregnancy tests.  During the nine months of her pregnancy, Abby works with Samantha to dig up clues of Jason’s past. As the truth is discovered, their lives are irreversibly changed.

An emotionally-moving look at PTSD and the intersection of three lives forever changed, Saving Jason is a riveting glimpse into lives intertwined, unexpected friendships, and the ripples we leave without our knowledge.

How did you come up with the title? 

Well, as I was in the middle of writing the first draft, I was so caught up in literally saving the main character both physically and mentally.  As luck would have it, I love the name Jason and it sounded best with “Saving.”

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I wrote Saving Jason because for years I had been struggling with seeing a good friend suffer from PTSD.  I knew that he was haunted by things that he had witnessed, and that bothered me because it was like he was stuck in his own skin.  So, while the story just took on a mind of it’s own, the characters developed as I went along.  I initially set out to write it because I wanted to bring awareness about how badly PTSD effects families and relationships. 

What is your favorite part of writing?

Creating and getting lost in a world that only exists in my head and being able to share it with everyone.  And I love developing my characters’ personalities-even the little habits and quirks. 

IMG_5795-Edit-2-3What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Writing!  There is so much that goes along with being a new author with marketing and putting yourself “out there,” that it’s sometimes hard to remember why you started.  Some days it’s hard to just sit down and write.  There is also an odd anxiety that goes along with it for me.  Sometimes I have too many ideas spinning around in my head and I stress about what to include and what to cut.  I luckily don’t have writer’s block too often, so that usually isn’t a problem.  

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, Jojo Moyes, Heather Huffman.  There are so many amazing authors out there.  And I love reading new authors too.  

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My manager, Heather Huffman has influenced me quite a bit.  Not only is she an amazing writer and practices what she preaches, but she is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met and she thoroughly believes in my writing.  I owe her everything!

Favorite place to write?

Gosh, I really want to say the adorable little writing nook that I set up, but I gotta admit, nothing inspires me more than writing in a Starbucks.  

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

While I may come off as outgoing and an extrovert, sometimes all I want to do is hide and be alone.  Oh, and I’m petrified of getting my blood taken.  I pass out nearly every time.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

It is amazing how much work goes into the creation of one book and how many people play a part in getting it out into the world.  I’m fascinated with the process and I love the passion in everyone on the team at Booktrope.  I think people are generally in this field because they love it, so it never feels like work.

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

Writing from the two different perspectives was a good decision because it allows the reader to see the two different sides of Jason.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

I know that this sounds so cliché, but never give up.  If you love writing, then keep working at your craft.  If you believe in yourself, you are bound to find someone who believes in you.

Website?

www.ejhanagan.com

Where can we find your book?

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Jason-E-J-Hanagan/dp/1620155125/

 What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on my next novel, Underwater Secrets, due to be released Spring 2015.  The story flashes back from today to the 60s and involves a mother/daughter relationship.  It involves a bit of mystery, a touch of drama and a lot of love.  Stay tuned!

 

It’s been great having you at The Writing Life today, EJ! Thanks for sharing your book, Saving Jason, and your writing wisdom!

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, 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 twenty-five 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.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

The Indomitable Miss Jeannie ‘Smith’

When we speed through our days, small gifts of heart-warming moments and meaningful life experiences can easily slip through our fingers. I was blessed with such a moment at my neighborhood Staples store this week. The Universe conspired with the Heavens the day I met the indomitable, eighty-plus year old, Miss Jeannie. I’m very glad I had nowhere to rush to that day.

I was waiting at the counter for my printing order when an elderly black woman approached. I was immediately drawn to her. She wore a short-sleeved floral blouse with a safety pin attached to one button, and a plaid skirt that hugged her calves. I noticed another safety pin holding her skirt together at the waist.

The young man helping me waved at her and asked if she had a little time to wait as he was working on my order. She smiled warmly and said, “I have all the time in the world,” to which he replied, “You’re the best, Miss Jeannie! Be with you just as soon as I can.”

“I come in here once a week,” she told me. I loved her warm energy. She told me she speaks at her church about health and wellness. I was impressed. I introduced myself and thanked the diminutive Miss Jeannie for her patience, adding I didn’t think it would take much longer for my order.

“No problem, honey,” she said with a beautiful smile. She inched over and placed a well-worn 8×12 collage on the counter. “I only need one enlarged copy and don’t mind waiting. What else do I have to do today? Nothing on my agenda!”

What a doll, I thought. She smoothed back her short gray hair with an elegant hand and asked my opinion about removing a specific photo she’d taped to the collage. I said the poster looked great and congratulated her on her artistic eye which made her giggle. Then, her dark eyes twinkled as if in anticipation of a big secret. “Watcha waitin’ on?”

“Oh! I’m waiting for a poster of my book cover, 500 postcards, and 500 business cards to hand out at a book festival I’m participating in on Saturday. I want to be prepared, Miss Jeannie!” She agreed and I immediately felt bad about having such a large order ahead of her.  I told the young man to wait on Miss Jeannie and I’d return before the store’s closing time to pick up my stuff. I surely didn’t want her leave on my account.

She held up her hand. “No, I will wait my turn. Tell me what your book.”

Now, I’ve written dozens of query letters regarding my book and I’ve blogged about my book for years. Do you, dear reader, think I could give this kind lady a brief synopsis about my book? Negative. Nothing and everything came to mind! In my urge to include everything, I came up with nothing. Why was I so nervous? So, I read her the short synopsis of my historical novel, A Decent Woman, as it was printed on the sample postcard:

‘At the turn of the century, male-dominated Puerto Rico was a chaotic, uncertain, and hard place for a woman to survive; especially one with a secretive past, which if discovered, threatens her future. With twenty years of slavery behind her, Afro-Cuban Ana Belén, is a midwife who reverently fuses Catholicism with her vivid ancestral Yoruba traditions. Ana forms an unlikely friendship with a Puerto Rican socialite that sustains them through years of parallel tragedies and the betrayals of men who want to rule them.

Spell-binding and insightful, A Decent Woman is a story of fate, choices, sacrifice and love. The combustive backdrop of 1900 Puerto Rico after the United States invasion of the island offers a provocative look into the complex lives of women of that era.’

“May I see the postcard?” I handed it to her. As she read, I wondered if she was surprised or confused by something I’d said. I didn’t know why I felt a bit anxious, but I did.

“You wrote this book?” I nodded. “Well, now.  A black heroine.” I nodded and she looked up at me with curious eyes. “Why did you write this story?” Despite her gentle and kind tone of voice, my throat seemed to close a bit.

“Well, I was born in Puerto Rico and the character of the midwife Ana was based on my Puerto Rican grandmother’s midwife who delivered my mother and her siblings.” I then showed her the image of the book cover from my cell phone. It all seemed to come together for her. Well, that Miss Jeannie lowered her reading glasses, looked at me intently and said, “Young lady, I’m going to buy this book of yours and can’t wait to tell the church ladies about it!” The church ladies! Oh, oh. My story has crime, punishment, love, sex, murder, abuse…

I moved in closer and said in a low voice, “Now Miss Jeannie, this book is kinda raw. It’s not a love story, okay?”

“Yes, I already gathered that,” she said, holding up the postcard, laughing. We shared a good laugh and I greatly relieved she might not hand the postcard back to me before leaving the store.

“The lives of  women in 1900 Puerto Rico were difficult and challenging, and the lives of Afro-Caribbean women were nearly impossible. Sometimes they got caught up in less than desirable situations because of what life threw at them.”

Miss Jeannie was thoughtful and then nodded. “Oh, I understand that. My girl, you were chosen to write this story and you tell the TRUTH, you hear?”

“I’ve told the truth, Miss Jeannie,” I answered with tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Why was I so emotional? “I’ve done a lot of research and spoken to many women with good memories, but it’s also a work of fiction.”

“I get it. You are giving a voice to the women who didn’t have a voice back then.” I agreed with her. I answered her questions about slavery in the West Indies and about African influences in Puerto Rican language, food, music and culture. Miss Jeannie seemed pleased with what she heard and then, we spoke about Puerto Rico which had been on her bucket list for years. “I’ll never get there, you know. I don’t have a passport anymore, so I’ll read your book and feel like I’ve just taken a trip to the islands!” Well, I wanted to adopt Miss Jeannie right then and there.

Through our conversation, I learned she’d worked as a nurse at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC for  over twenty-five years. We discovered we’re both ex-pats in our adopted state of West Virginia. She has three children, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. She beamed as she gave me the names and ages of every single one.  Miss Jeannie is sharp as a tack and a pure joy to know.

Minutes later, the young man handed me a box containing my postcards and business cards, and the poster of my book cover. I paid, thanked him for his super work, and hugged Miss Jeannie. I offered her twenty postcards to give out to her church ladies! She asked me to autograph a postcard for her which made me smile. When I turned to leave, I heard her say, “You know, I’ve changed my mind about enlarging this poster. I’ll see you next week, young man.”

Driving home, I smiled at how nervous I’d been giving her the synopsis, of receiving her feedback, and possibly of an early negative review from her! I think she enjoyed our conversation as much as I did. I will never forget Miss Jeannie. When my book comes out in the fall, I will return to Staples with an autographed copy of A Decent Woman for her as I didn’t think to ask for her contact information before I left. I hope I see her again.

Miss Jeannie was on my mind today and I wanted to share this story with you before the weekend gets away from me. Let’s remember to take the time to sit and visit with our elderly relatives, friends and neighbors. They have much to teach us. This kind lady tested me as a writer, a Latina, and as a woman. Thanks to her and the great experience I had at the Berkeley Springs WV Book Festival, I now have the short synopsis of my book memorized!

Thanks, Miss Jeannie! God bless you. XO

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

~Ellie