Author Interview: Jonisha Rios

Welcome back to the Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog. I’ll be chatting with authors every Tuesday until the end of November, so please do check back in.

Today I’m pleased to chat with my first guest Jonisha Rios, author of Curse of the Blue Vagina.

Jonisha Rios is an accomplished screenwriter, author, director, and actress who currently resides in California. She teaches Solo-show workshops to adults and kids.
Jonisha Rios
Welcome, Jonisha!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Women’s Fiction /Humor-Empowerment, I guess.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Curse of the Blue Vagina is a collection that includes two short stories and a one-act play. The stories are about women. The first is a story about one woman’s journey to break a curse that keeps her from attracting the love that she desires.  

How did you come up with the title?

I was sitting next to my husband and we were talking about the concept of “Blue Balls”, you know when a man is left feeling physically in pain when he is not sexually satisfied. I never gave him those, by the way.  But there we were chit chatting about it, and then I told him that women go through the same thing.  Only for us, it’s more of an emotional rather than a physical pain. For us, the Blue Vagina occurs when the love we want isn’t reciprocated. 

What inspired you to write this book, Jonisha?

What inspired these pieces were three distinctly different things. For the first story I wanted to explore the dynamic of first time love.  My aunt who had cancer inspired the second story.  I was blown away by her incredible faith despite her unfortunate diagnosis.  And the third inspiration was a night out with the girls whose vivid conversations had stayed with me long after our night of hanging out was over.  I remembered each story had a life of its own and a clear voice.  So if I had to summarize in one word, I would say unshakeable, amazing women inspired my book. (Okay, that’s three words.)

What is your favorite part of writing?

The freedom to use my imagination.  I love to get away and create scenarios that make me laugh out loud, and also make me feel empowered and even romanced. 

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

Just making the time to sit with no interruption is a challenge. Between shuffling my son around to various classes and working part-time as a nanny, by the time I am done running around with three kids, I am too tired to write.  But, I do it anyway. When you are a mom and a writer, oftentimes you have to write when the kids go to sleep. Other times you have to write when there are countless interruptions. Whether you are tired or interrupted a million times, your brain can feel like mush.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Honestly I’ve read so many books I don’t really have any specific favorites. I genuinely get into whatever I am reading, so that whoever wrote the book I am reading in the moment becomes my new favorite author. Right now my favorite book is “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying” by Marie Kondo. I have her second book “Spark Joy”, and it’s a great companion piece to go along with the first. I just love those books. You see, I used to teach classes in Feng Shui and this book has been so much fun for me to read. Your outside world is often a reflection of what’s going on in your inner world.  I also love books on Homeopathy and joke books.  Pretty much anything on Kindle Unlimited!

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City), Chelsea Handler, Woody Allen (his early years), and Alisa Valdes, (Dirty Girls Social Club).

Do you have a favorite place to write?

The bathroom or the closet.  These are not fancy big spaces but they are all I have to escape to when I need to write.  Because I live in a loft, it’s just one open space with no one place for me.  So I decorated the closet as my own little hideaway nook. I put some Christmas lights up and added a meditation matt. If it is too noisy during the day, then the bathroom is my number 2 spot, (no pun intended lol). 

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I not only teach Feng Shui workshops, I do live blood analysis and provide guided healing counseling sessions – check out Eyezikchat.com. It’s a gift I have. I believe having the ability to meditate allows you to tap into a stream of consciousness that opens up imaginative pathways to creating whatever you desire.

What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?

Learn how to format or hire someone who can handle it easily.  Make sure you tell them to give you a version you can correct.  Even after having had my work professionally proofed several times, I found that once the book was formatted, errors jumped out at me that I didn’t notice before.  I was lucky enough that my formatter allowed me to fix these things, but it was a very expensive lesson.  So I guess even before that step, make sure you have your manuscript proofed no less than 5 times. And in the end, if it’s still not perfect, let it go. As long as people connect with the story, that is all that matters.

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

I completed it.  I took it from A-Z and once I did that, the floodgates opened for me. That was when a team of supporters magically arrived to support me. I love my agent Leticia Gomez, manager Marilyn Atlas, and most importantly, my editor Elizabeth Lopez. These people were instrumental in the completion of this book.  I’d also like to thank my husband for giving me my blue vagina! lol

And I thank my son Iysaac. I raced to finish up this book before he woke up at night. That was the fire under my ass I needed to get it completed. Mama got it done.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

If you don’t have a team of people out there to help you get the book to where it needs to be, I would suggest you go about completing the book from start to finish on your own.  That needs to be the goal and the team will arrive. If not for your first book, then for the second one, for sure. My friend did that recently and got himself on Amazon and other sites. He had a goal and made it happen. I think that is the key.  If you want to get published, go about having a plan to publish yourself as you are sending out query letters to different publishing companies and agencies.

Website?

www.Curseofthebluevagina.com

Where can we find Curse of the Blue Vagina?

The above website works.

What’s next for you, Jonisha?

My next book and some web shows and pod casts are in the works. Follow me on Facebook to see what is coming up next.

 

Fun interview, Jonisha. Best wishes with Curse of the Blue Vagina!

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.

http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

Sacred Writing Spaces

I know many writers who are quite content to write in coffee shops and diners, and between their kids’ dental appointments and soccer games. I know a few who can write on the bus, subway, or in between meetings. I am in awe of them. I’ve tried writing outside the home and it doesn’t work for me. The inevitability of major distraction is a fact: I need a sacred writing space.

I recently read two blog posts written by male writers, who said that the idea of a sacred writing space is pure hogwash, ridiciculous. I disagree, and I’m not a diva, thank you very much. The only sounds and images I want to hear and see whilst writing must come from my imagination; directly from my story and characters. How can I hear what my heroine is saying amidst singing baristas, crying babies, and people who can’t seem to speak in low tones in small spaces? And that’s just inside. Add to that, sirens or disgruntled drivers honking car horns. I can’t, but I’ve sure tried because sometimes I need human interaction as much as the next writer.

pierre on my laptop 002

Here’s what happened the last time I tried to write at one of my favorite coffee shops on a cool summer morning. I sat at my favorite table, plugged in my laptop and began to work on a chapter of my WIP. I was the only customer for an hour until a man entered the coffee shop wearing a trench coat on a summer day. Yeah, a trenchcoat. Like in the movies. He mumbled something to the owner and I began to panic, looking for the nearest exit, which was behind me. As far as I saw, he didn’t buy a thing, and when he left, I asked the owner what he’d wanted. The man was looking for work, she said. I breathed a sigh of relief, and sat back down, irritated at myself for being afraid. Then, I remembered all the shootings and bombings around the world and gave myself a break. I tried to figure out how I could add the man to a short story I’m working on, and then remembered I was there to work on an important chapter in my work in progress, a novel.

Fifteen minutes later, I became irritated by a young woman who yanked a crying toddler off the floor by his arm. Memories flooded in to when as a young mother I’d dislocating my young daughter’s elbow by pulling her up by the arm as she stepped off the curb, deadset in crossing the street alone. God, I’m so glad my kids are grown! That incident was followed by watching a woman sitting outside feeding her tiny puppy bits of an Everything bagel, and wondering why she’d do that. None of my business, I know, but I am a people watcher. I watch!

When I’m writing, I must live as a cloistered nun, sequestered from the world in a convent atop a Himalayan mountain.

I need the solitude, tranquility offered by nature while still feeling part of the world, without the crowds. It’s fortunate I live alone, so no one is bothered by my late night/early morning writing binges, which is the best time to write as far as I’m concerned. There are few cars on the road, and the only sounds I hear are the click clack of the keyboard, early morning birdsong, and the distant sound of freight trains whizzing past. Heaven.

Alone with stacks of books, notebooks, myriad stray pieces of paper with scribbled notes and quotes, a dictionary, and a thesauraus that litter my oak dining room table turned writing desk, I’m in nirvana. At this moment, there are two empty coffee cups (one from yesterday), one water glass, hand lotion, a small lamp, Chapstick, an ashtray, photos of my kids, assorted pens, pencils, and highlighters, and my cell phone, which is on mute. That’s how I like it. Oh, and a chopstick to put up my hair.

Christmas 2013 012

Last holiday season when gifts, Christmas cards, and rolls of wrapping paper took over the dining room table, I was forced to write upstairs in my bedroom–the coldest room in the house. Most days, I wrote in bed with a cold nose and a toasty body under two down comforters. The following Spring, I moved back to the dining room with a view of the garden, and by summer’s end, I’d finished the draft manuscript of my first book at my river lot on the West Virginia side of the Potomac River. With no Internet, TV, and only one radio station out there, it was perfect tranquility and silence during the week with a river view I adored. Weekends brought the ‘crazies’, the loud party people, who I tried to avoid unless family or friends were visiting. Then, of course, we joined in the merrymaking. By the following autumn, I was writing at the dining room table again.

cropped-vscocam-photo-1.jpg

I’ve since sold the river property, and my dining table has become my #1 sacred writing spot. Christmas 2017 will find me wrapping presents on the living room floor–I’m not moving all that stuff again. I happily write at the cluttered dining room table/writing desk, situated right smack in the middle of my house where I can easily get to the front door to receive packages from Amazon (books, of course). I have a beautiful view of my garden from two windows, and in ten steps, I’m at the kitchen. When I hit the lottery, I’m having a bathroom installed downstairs because as it it now, the only bathroom is upstairs and that’s a major pain. But…as it turns out, besides gardening, climbing the steep staircase of my old house is a good workout since I write for many, many hours on end.

So, if you come for dinner, my writing gear will be safely tucked into two French wicker market baskets, which I’ll hide in the armoire. You’ll never see my clutter as we wine and dine, and I’m a good cook. But I can’t promise I won’t bore you to tears talking about writing, or the book I just finished, or about my new story, book #2, and my awesome new characters.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Lily Pulitzer Reading Glasses and Getting Older

20150405_160228Last night while eating dinner, I realized my reading glasses were still perched on the bridge of my nose. I lifted the reading glasses and looked at my dinner plate. Fuzzy. My tuna salad looked like a green, congealed mess with flecks of black and red. I lowered my reading glasses and voila–tuna salad on a bed of crisp, green Romaine lettuce with bright red tomatoes and black olives. I looked across the room, out the window, and spotted my neighbor’s daughter, the one with curly brown hair and cute dimples. My reading vision is getting worse, but my distance vision is 20-20. Now. But that wasn’t always the case.

In 2004, I decided it was time to look into laser surgery for my failing vision–I had -7 vision in both eyes, which put me in the legally blind category. My vision was so bad that without my eye glasses or contact lenses, I couldn’t see the nose on your face if you stood three feet from me, and if I lost, broke, or misplaced my eyeglasses, I couldn’t drive home even if I was the designated driver that evening. My life with eye glasses started in the third grade after a teacher noticed I was squinting at the black board, so believe me, by 2004 I was ready for laser surgery.

I contacted a highly recommended eye surgeon who lived near my home in Brussels, Belgium and made an appointment for a consultation. Sadly, he informed me that I wasn’t a candidate for laser surgery because my corneas were too thin. I was so disappointed. But as it turned out, he was one of five eye surgeons in the world at that time who performed lens implants–quite a new procedure. Now, the idea of having my eyeball cut and a foreign object placed inside my eye gave me nightmares. What if his scalpel slipped? Then where would I be? Completely blind. Well, it took me two weeks to decide if it was worth submitting to this extremely delicate procedure. I made the appointment. One of the perks was that in Belgium, this type of surgery wasn’t considered cosmetic. Hallelujah. My insurance would cover it. The only issue I might encounter, said the doctor, was a bit of trouble driving at night, and that I’d probably need reading glasses, which at that time, I didn’t need, but had always thought were very cool. No problem.

As I sat in the surgeon’s waiting room, I was given a Valium and on the operating table I went. The worst part was the apparatus to keep my eye open, but the lovely Valium helped a bunch. The procedure took thirty minutes per eye, and when I sat up, I was handed dark sunglasses to protect my delicate eyes. The surgeon asked me to look out the window and I could see. I mean, I looked out the window and saw the narrow stripes on the store awning across the street AND I could read the signs all around his office. I cried like a baby and hugged the surgeon and both nurses in the room. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. In a day or so, I was able to remove the dark glasses and he was right, I soon needed low-prescription reading glasses. My first pair was a black pair like Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo wore, who happen to be some of my favorite actresses. I loved those glasses. Then, an addiction reared its’ ugly head.

I became and still am addicted to reading glasses. I know, it’s nuts. I’m owning and admitting it. I have reading glasses in light aqua and brown (stolen from an old boyfriend), brown, turquoise, tortoise-shell, black, silver, and gold, and I used to own a pair of reading glasses in Lilly Pulitzer colors. Remember her preppie, pastel-colored vacation clothes? Yuck. I must have been insane to wear those clothes in the seventies. I gave that pair away. Well, I’m always on the lookout for a new pair of reading glasses. When I travel, I look for new colors and must pack at least three pairs because there’s nothing more irritating or unseemly as trying to read a Washington, DC, Paris or London subway or street map with your face all scrunched up. Lately, I’m craving a lavender pair of reading glasses.

As a writer, I can easily sit at the laptop for eight to ten hours a day and in that time, my little reading glasses rarely leave bridge of my nose. Every now and then, like when I run to the kitchen for a cup of tea or coffee, let the dog out, or take a walk, I take them off, but pretty much, they’re on my face. I have reading glasses in my car, by my bed, in the bathroom, near the couch, by my laptop, and in several purses. Actually, I should leave a pair at my son and daughter’s houses, too. I can think of no other item that I have as many duplicates of…well, okay…I have a helluva lot of shoes.

Twelve years on, thank God my vision is still 20-20, and I still drive at night with no problem. I’m adapting and accepting my age. I’m getting used to my fluctuating weight, creaking knees, gravity, and my more than taut than muscles that need constant stretching, but my eyes are special. I take good care of them. So since I know I’m never giving up writing and blogging, or wearing reading glasses, I’m enlarging the font and getting on with it!

This week I might check out the mall for reading glasses. Maybe they’ll have a lavender pair that come with a cute case, and maybe it’s time for an eye glass chain. Look, the way I see it, because I was brave, I saved money on what I would have otherwise spent on contact lenses, eye glasses, and opthamology appointments, and I spend $10-20 a month on my addiction–reading glasses. See what I mean?

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

http://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47W

 

 

 

The Writing Life in 2016: Slow Down Already!

The Writing Life in 2016: Slow Down Already!

by Eleanor Parker Sapia

I don’t know about you, but I am experiencing the unsettling urgency of a new year like nobody’s business. I woke up today and realized the date was January 6, Three Kings’ Day. Where did the first week of 2016 go?

Honestly, the last time I truly felt organized was New Year’s Day, which I spent washing and putting away a small mountain of plates and glasses, thinking back to the fun party I’d hosted the night before. We had a great time. I drank a gallon of orange juice and popped 400 mg of Motrin twice that day for a banging headache that wouldn’t let go. I’d also enjoyed hosting my family for Christmas Day dinner, which was a lot of fun. It was one of the best Christmas holidays I can remember, except for missing my son who lives in Europe. We will see him soon, though! But back to feeling disorganized.

This morning I sipped my coffee and realized the last blog post I’d written was posted a few days before Christmas Eve. And I hadn’t touched my work in progress in two weeks. This startled me. I’m an organized person. I’m a writer. I write for a living! Then I remembered: this scary scenario happens to me every January. I felt a bit better because I always make up for a slow start to the new year by working hard during the year, and ending the year with a bang. But January 6 was staring me down. I opened the closet door and dragged out three wicker baskets that contain my WIP; several bulky notebooks; the research material for my second book; a short pile of envelopes (read, December bills); and my 2015 calendar, all hidden away in the closet, so we’d have enough dance floor space on NYE.

I ripped ‘December 2015’ off my calendar and squinted at the tiny January 2016 calendar on the next page. No good, I couldn’t read it, but I did see where I’d written ‘Nothing due this week’ on the side. Thank God. But where was the 2016 calendar I’d bought before the holidays? Everything was a blur. I remembered buying a calendar, but couldn’t be 100% certain. What a mess. Thank goodness I hadn’t let anyone down with a promised guest post, an author interview, and I didn’t have any meetings or appointments this week. It was a major relief, but that early January shock to my system was jarring.

Unlike a lot of folks, I’ve never enjoyed putting myself through the tedious, annoying, and potentially humiliating process of writing down my new year resolutions that I damn well know I’m not going to keep…for long. Who likes to revisit the list, say in March, only to realize you accomplished and crossed off one or two items? If you’re anything like me, you resent the items you’ve written almost immediately because you hate routine and yes, you’re a bit on the rebellious side. I’m not going to stick to a list of resolutions. I know myself very well, so no.

Instead, I wrote a simple list to keep me on the straight and narrow because I didn’t like the emotional, disorganized, fast-moving train I was on this morning—a train I was ready to abandon before the next stop, which I wouldn’t be prepared for because I didn’t know what the destination was, or how much time I had. Clearly, I was in a bit of a fog. I needed to slam on the brakes and get it together. I made a large pot of coffee and made a decision. I needed a list for this week. Yes, I liked the sound of that. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Once a week, preferably Sunday evening or Monday morning, make a list.
  2. Stick to and update the said list.
  3. Say no to all social invitations.
  4. Remain in writing seat until the book is finished.
  5. Cancel Netflix.
  6. For goodness sake, buy another 2016 calendar.

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 caseworker, 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

 

 

 

 

 

What NOT To Do in a Podcast Interview

Today was my first ever Podcast interview with Ally Bishop of www.upgradeyourstory.com. My interview airs on September 28, 2014, and I hope you’ll join us. My thanks to Ally for having me on her super show!

As an author, I’ve been interviewed by fellow authors at their blogs, but the idea of this interview going ‘live’, being aired, and the fact that I couldn’t edit out dumb things I might say, kind of messed with my mind a bit this morning. Now, I’ve been told I’m well-spoken, and I enjoy public speaking, but boy, you couldn’t tell any of that on my first two takes today! I’ve listened to many of Ally’s awesome Podcast interviews, so I knew I was in her kind and very capable hands, and needn’t have worried. Ally always puts me at ease, and after a few funny false starts–me getting tongue-tied twice, and our dogs barking in the background–we were off and running. It was a fun conversation/interview once I relaxed.

Of course, we spoke about my debut novel, A Decent Woman, set in 1900 Puerto Rico coming out December 12, 2014, my second novel, Finding Gracia based on my walk on the medieval pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago in Spain, and Mistress of Coffee, the sequel to A Decent Woman, which picks up the story in 1928. Among Ally’s great questions were: how I came up with my protagonist, what my writing process is, what research I did, and why I started writing novels after 25 years as an exhibiting artist.

One interview question that sticks out in my mind tonight as I write this blog, and has me laughing, was this question:

‘What is one mistake you’ve made as an author?’

Well, I drew a complete blank. In that moment, I was thinking author/writer, and not about selling books, marketing, and social media, because I’ve certainly made early mistakes in those arenas. But, I couldn’t come up with an actual mistake I’d made in the writing of A Decent Woman beyond finding typos, and a weak sentence here and there in my draft manuscript.

The answer I came up with after the Podcast, of course, was I wish I’d written a very detailed outline of A Decent Woman at the beginning because when my awesome editor, who happens to be the awesome, Ally Bishop, asked me to send her a detailed outline, I immediately saw where the story needed more tension, and where the arc in the story really should have been. That has all been fixed!

And then as a newbie to ‘live’ interviews, I made what is possibly the faux pas for an author – I fumbled when I recited…er, tried to recite my author website. Yes, I did. The ONE thing I needed to state clearly for all to hear and remember, and I messed it up. Don’t ask me what I was thinking! I eventually got the web address out, so here it is in case you don’t catch it in the Podcast interview. All I remember in that moment was not remembering whether or not I’d bought my domain name, and I had. Stage fright!

www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Ah, the writing life.

** Don’t forget to listen in on September 28 for my Podcast Interview with Ally Bishop at www.upgradeyourstory.com ** You have my permission to giggle at the end when I fumble with my website address!

Thanks so much.

Ellie~

Has Mercury in Retrograde Left the Building?

So, Mercury came out of retrograde on July 1, 2014.  I was happy to hear this because June was a tough month for almost everyone I know, including me. Delays, challenges, problems, and a little bit of chaos flavored June. I don’t read my horoscope on a daily basis and I know next to nothing about astrology, but Mercury in retrograde got my attention. I wanted it to leave and never return.

By July 1, I was ready for peace of mind, a bit more tranquility, and some forward movement in many areas, but Mercury was dragging its heels and not going out gracefully. On Tuesday afternoon, my small city in West Virginia saw some of the worst winds, sheets of rain, and long-lasting thunder and lightning we’ve experienced this year. I sent a text to my neighbor asking if we were in a tornado watch or warning–it was that bad. My Pug and Chihuahua followed me, whining from room to room as I made sure all the windows were closed. They hate thunderstorms. I turned off my laptop, unplugged my phone, and waited for the beast to pass. It lasted an hour. My yard was beyond saturated. I shot a video of water coming from the house behind me, flowing over the retaining wall that resembled a waterfall. It was crazy and kind of cool.

Twenty minutes after that, I watched two enormous branches break off my neighbor’s tree and land in my yard onto my flower beds. My jaw dropped. With thunder and lightning practically over my head, I ran outside and managed to pull the lower branches onto the grass and off my flowers. They survived and so did I. I love my flower garden.

I called the owner of the rental next door informing her that this was the second time her tree had wreaked havoc in my yard. It’s not a sturdy tree, not an oak, maple, nothing like that. It was a weed that grew into a weak tree.  I’d already cut down one such tree in my yard when I bought my house and cut lower branches of her tree that shade my flower garden. In June, we agreed the tree had to go…last month. Nothing happened. As of this writing, I still have two enormous branches killing my grass. Patience, Ellie 🙂

Happy 4th to you! I’m headed to a neighborhood BBQ, and fishing on Saturday!

Have a safe and fun weekend!

How’s Your Feng Shui Doing? – Comedy in Gardening

beautiful rainbow at the river May 2014On Sunday, the weather was perfect at the river. I enjoyed the gorgeous breeze, sunny skies and an impossible array of green. Subtle greens, fluorescent yellow-green, deep emerald, all beautiful. The forsythia bushes have dropped their yellow blooms and bright yellow-green leaves are budding on the stems. The lilac seedlings I transplanted last summer are doing well; the shock of moving away from the mother lilac bush has eased. I hope they continue to thrive. Summer is quite a show at the river.

As I waited for my river co-owner to drive up from Virginia, I sat outside thumbing through a local magazine. The monthly magazine features local businesses, restaurants, inns, shops and farmer’s markets, and an article on the art of Feng Shui caught my eye. Now, I know very little about feng shui and can’t give you the history of the ancient art, but I do know the positioning of items in home, office, or property is key to achieving balance and good “chi” which means, energy.  The author of the article, a Feng Shui business owner, wrote, ‘In feng shui, heaven, earth and humans work together to be in sync with the natural order of things.’ I am a Reiki practitioner, so I understand ‘chi’. I would describe good energy as a feeling of balance, happiness and tranquility. A place with good energy is where you feel good, are creative, at peace, and productive. My home and garden have good feng shui, except sometimes in the area of finances and my love life…maybe I should move my bed.

I read about planning a garden while respecting and honoring ‘the lay of the land’ and working with what’s there – the wind, the sun’s path and the presence of water. I agreed with the author about collecting rain water in a barrel, having a compost pile, installing bird feeders, and using no chemicals in the garden. Our river property supplies food, shelter and water to birds, bees, river critters, and feral cats that usually tear through our garbage bags if we leave them out.

‘Of the five elements used in feng shui, water, wood, and earth are abundant. I looked around me. Gurgling, moving river, check. Fire pit, check. I’m a Virgo, an earth sign. Earth, yep I’m on the earth, check. Well, it’s no wonder I love it at the river – we have PERFECT feng shui there.

I am excited to begin planting by the waning and waxing moon because it sounds cool and I love anything to do with the moon. I will try to garden naked as the Feng Shui suggested…yeah, that might not happen. So, when my river co-owner finally arrived, I was excited to tell her about the article.  She immediately laughed. ‘Fung shuee, what?’ I corrected her pronunciation and proceeded to tell her about all the great energy we have at the river and how we should wait for the waning moon to plant certain flowering bushes.

She listened patiently, lit a cigarette, and when I finished, she said in her throaty accountant voice from Cape Cod, “Get the hell outta here! That’s pure horse crap!” So much for feng shui!

We laughed until our sides hurt and I was again reminded of how different we are. I’m the creative, spiritual one and my good friend deals with facts and figures every day. Our feng shui, energy and personalities are pretty different, but we share a fierce love of gardening. I told her that in regard to our river garden – I have enough feng shui for both of us!

I will miss D when she moves back to Cape Cod and our river property sells this year. We’ve enjoyed a great four-year river adventure with lots of memories to share when we’re old and gray. I mean really, really old and gray.

And you’d best believe I moved my bed for a better feng shui position.

Unexpected Blessings and Lessons

This is Sophie, the six-month-old Chihuahua I adopted last month. I wasn’t in the market for a baby to add to my brood of furry children. It just happened. In the past, when I’ve sent photos of puppies to my children, I’ve received texts that urged me to resist the temptation, but the puppy down and to slowly walk away from the puppy in question. I love animals, what can I say. I’m glad we welcomed Sophie, however, she has brought a lot of fun, joy and good lessons in ways that this writer never expected.

My life has been an exciting blur of positive activity and blessings since my historical fiction novel was accepted for publication by Booktrope in February. A puppy? I didn’t need a puppy at this time in my life! For a writer who lives alone with a friendly cat who seems to think he is a writing critic and an equally friendly Pug who lives to eat, the thought of bringing another pet into our lives seemed nuts. I’m helping to plan my daughter’s wedding next year and my son hasn’t decided whether he will move to London for his job. There are so many wonderful things happening to our family and I couldn’t be happier or feel more blessed. It’s a busy time, but I am learning to go with the flow because the momentum is in place and life goes on.

I thought I must be nuts to consider adopting Sophie, but I didn’t hesitate when I got the call and offer from her former owner. You see, I saw first met Sophie as she sat in a shopping cart in Walmart eight months ago. She was this tiny two-month-old and I fell in love right on the spot. I had never seen a puppy that small and instantly, my motherly instincts took over. I couldn’t help myself. I gave the man my card and told him to call me if he decided to breed her. He called last month to say that he couldn’t keep “Baby Girl” and had remembered me.

My good friend, who was visiting me with her Bichon Frise, and I we jumped up and down! Two grown women with plenty going on their lives couldn’t wait to meet this baby. Sophie came home with us the next day. As we drove home, Sophie on my friend’s lap, we vacillated between how nuts I must be to adopt another dog, a puppy no less and how excited I was. We just couldn’t resist her. Look at that face. Could you?

Sophie has reminded me that although I might be pulled in many directions at this time, it’s important for me to play, take a nap when I need one, get fresh air, and take writing breaks. Ozzy is nearly seven years old and he spends most of his day snoozing as does Pierre. They are used to my writing schedule which includes hours upon hours at the laptop. I take walks with Ozzy and play with them, but lately, our playdates have been few and far between. Sophie has changed all that. She takes cat naps and as a puppy, I have to be alert to her outside bathroom breaks and need for quality cuddle time. It’s like having a baby all over again and there is a new schedule to keep.

All my worries about Sophie disrupting the harmony of my home have disappeared. As I write this blog post, Sophie and Pierre are sleeping on the back of the couch in a sunbeam and Ozzy is snoring nearby. Ozzy and Sophie now sleep in the same doggie bed and morning time involves tussling and wrestling between the three.

Although I have a great group of friends, who I wish I could see more often and I do when time permits, I was becoming a writing hermit. I became an author with her nose in social media, related online news, books, and my manuscript. For example, I called a New York City office yesterday to ask about securing the rights of an image for my book cover and the kind gentleman told me that I had indeed found the right place and that it was possible. He also gently asked that I call back during normal business hours–it was 6:38…pm. See what I mean? I lose all track of time these days.

A cold wind is blowing today and I’m off to walk the dogs. I need fresh air, but first I need lunch.

Ellie

Prayers Answered. Now What?

I don’t have any writing advice for you this morning or any great writing quotes from the Masters. I know this an author blog and it is also a blog where I write about the writing life–my life as a writer. This morning, I have to get this off my chest or I won’t be able to write. Thanks for reading my stream of consciousness writing! I’m not going to bother checking for typos or catching grammatical errors. I’m just going to write it, so I own it and move forward today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ellie

The Social Media Merry-go-round

I joined NetworkedBlogs last night and I love it. I can now view all my favorite blogs in one place and save the blogs I want to read later which will free up my email inbox. What will they come up with next? That is tongue in cheek, of course. “They” have and will come up with tons more and I would like it all to slow down a bit. Please.

Social media. Gotta love it and sometimes, it’s a royal pain. I get it, though. I’ve used it for years, building my author platform and it really works, but new sites come up all the time. New and improved. As soon as I learn a new site or app, there are ten to take its place. My adult children are computer wizards. “Mom, try this. It’s right up your alley.”  Okay, thanks! Yet another site that I have to look into. Groan. Just let me work with what I have for a little while, I want to say! It’s second nature for the younger generation, but it didn’t come easy to me.

Take my maternal grandmother for instance. She was born in 1900 in the coastal town of Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico, just outside the colonial town of Ponce. When she died in 1994, she had seen and experienced the horse and buggy, the telegraph, trains, cars, land line telephones, victrolas, radios, tape recorders, television, airplane travel and computers. My grandmother had a cell phone when she was 90 and watched me write and do research on a computer when I visited her. I remember her amazement at the information available to us by simply typing words and phrases in little Search boxes. She took it all in stride and went with the flow, as I must do.

But, you don’t understand. I still happen to think it’s pretty amazing that when I fire up my laptop, I am instantly connected to our world and beyond. No joke. I truly am. To a non-computer, tech-savvy person such as myself, I marvel that when I log on, it all works. I am instantly connected with my favorite authors, blogs I love, and I can keep up with what my favorite authors and artists are doing through their posts on Instagram, LinkedIn, NetworkedBlogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

I’m doing all that, as well and I know there are sites that I should be using and I will. Just give me time. It takes up a whole lot of time to maintain a social media presence. On good days, it’s a lot of fun. I normally tackle this blog in the mornings and then, post it onto my various sites. I read the news of the day online and midday, I post again. In the early evening, I check all the sites to see who read what and who followed or liked me. It is then that I answer emails and respond to comments. In between all this, of course, I’m writing and trying to figure out what I can eat in my pantry so that I don’t have to go out. Once a week, I read the blogs I follow and I comment. I love that day and learn so much from writers, authors, publishers and agents. I make a pot of tea, grab my afghan and away I go into someone else’s world. In the late evenings, I read books, the news online, and very often, I fall asleep after a chapter of my current book. I wonder why?

When I write, the Internet can be very distracting. I’ve been known to write a paragraph of a novel and then, stop because I’ve just written something that I must research.This happens all the time. With a very innocent sentence such as, “Isabel leaned against the palm tree…”, I am stopped dead in my tracks. Palm tree. Is that correct? I know Puerto Rico has palm trees, but what type of palm tree, what variety of palm tree? Did that variety exist in 1901 in Puerto Rico? See what I mean? It’s constant but, at times like that, I thank God for the World Wide Web and for my BFF Kristine who immediately Googled palm trees and uncovered the Royal Palm!

Social media is never far from my thoughts. I know very few authors, writers and artists who don’t “do” social media. Even Pinterest has become a place to market and sell books. I cannot get onto Pinterest if I have any chance of writing. That is my one addiction. I must have 30 boards and of course, I have a board for my novel, an inspirational board, and a board of the books I want to read, to include the ones presently on my nightstand. It’s SO addicting.

Most authors have a Facebook account for personal stuff and one for each book of their books. I love that idea and that’s what I did, as well. I don’t have a website yet, but I’m working on that. I know a woman who maintains 12 personal websites. I can’t even keep my ten usernames and passwords straight from various websites and I never remember a birthday (except for my children and immediate family) until I see it on my Facebook feed.

I just don’t have that much space left in my brain…or do I?

So, if you had the idea that writers do nothing but write and sit around in cafes, discussing the world over vino while smoking Havanas, think again. I tried that. I went to my neighborhood bakery shop that has WiFi to spend the whole day writing. It was fun, but I didn’t get a lot done. I drank way too much coffee, had way too many Zuzu cupcakes, watched the patrons come in and out, and I talked with the owners. Back home I went. I write better in the company of my animals where the coffee is basically free and I can listen to my favorite music uninterrupted. I still visit the bakery shop, but just not to write. I do, however, never leave without six mini Zuzu cupcakes.

Has anyone written a blog about how not to gain weight while writing a book? Let me know. I’d read that blog 🙂

Happy writing to you.

Ellie