In Survival Mode

In Survival Mode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading!

ABOUT ELEANOR

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 refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.

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

 

On Characters: I Resemble That Remark

How much do characters in novels resemble the writer and the writer’s journey?

Before and after the publication of my novel, ‘A Decent Woman’, I accepted many kind invitations for written interviews to introduce and market the book. One interview question provoked much personal introspection about my character Ana Belén, an Afro-Cuban midwife born into slavery, who lives and works as a midwife at the turn of the nineteenth century in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The interviewer, a fellow author and good friend, emailed the questions and added a smiley face after this question, “How much do you resemble the character, Ana Belén?” My long time friend knows me well, so the jig was up. A few weeks later, I sent her my responses, and wrote this next to the smiley face, “I resemble that remark in more ways than I feel comfortable owning up to at this time!”

Of course, the character of Ana is like me, in many ways. How could she not be? I created her and the world she inhabits from my imagination and a few family stories. But. I’m not a statuesque, Afro-Cuban midwife born a slave, living in Puerto Rico at the turn of the nineteenth century. I’m a five-foot tall, green eyed, Puerto Rican-born writer, currently living in West Virginia. How much could I possibly have in common with Ana?

As it turns out, we share many common traits: feistiness, courage, bluntness, loyalty, a fierce love of family with a strong commitment to protecting the rights of women and children. Was it in my genetic make up or life experience (when I was writing the book) to respond and behave in similar ways to threats, happy circumstances, and impossible challenges the way Ana did? No, not in every circumstance. Tough as nails and compassionate Ana is my heroine, but we are all survivors of something. I had a few life experiences to draw upon during the writing.

Along with a few positive traits, I share a couple negative traits with Ana, such as stubbornness, sensitivity to unfair criticism, impulsiveness, and at times, short-sightedness, especially when I think I’m right. In my story, Ana is forging a path in a difficult, new world; a world I was discovering and exploring through writing, research, and my imagination. A bit or a lot of ourselves is bound to emerge in our characters, but it was only after the book was published that I realized how closely related our journeys were and where they overlapped.

For the rest of 2015, I journaled about that question, and like the author of ‘The Artist’s Way’, Julia Cameron says, after the midway point of journaling three pages in longhand, the truth came out: I’d been working through stuff while writing Ana and Serafina’s stories, even the men’s stories, and I hadn’t realized it. Here’s what I discovered.

In 2010, I pulled out the draft manuscript I’d begun in 2005. After two years of a difficult separation and divorce, a few more years of working in an entirely new field, having my heart broken, and finally, moving to a new state, I was ready to write again. My world had been continually rocked with so many unknowns that it made my head spin during that time and even now as I think back to what we went through as a family. Between 2006 and 2010, questions plagued me at every turn: What will turning 50 look and feel like? Will we be safe and will I find work? Where will I live? Can I support myself while writing full time, and if not, what the hell will I do to make that happen? Will anyone hire a fifty-year old woman with an old resume? Should I go back to school and find a new career? Are my kids okay? Will I find love after divorce? Will this book ever be published?

I survived and so did my kids. We’ve grown and flourished where we were planted, but it was a tough road. My kids graduated from college, found good jobs, and in 2011, I bought an old house in West Virginia. At the next fork in the road, I gave up sending out resumes that I knew would never be answered—I would write full time, which was a huge gamble and risk for someone living on a small budget. The decison was made. I sat down to write and soon discovered Ana’s story had to change. I had learned many valuable lessons and developed new skill sets, more than I’d ever dreamed possible, that had enriched my life as a woman and mother. The original Ana was merely a skeleton of the woman she was meant to be; it was time to put meat on those bones. I rewrote the story, worked with two editors, and sent out the manuscript. The book was finally published by Booktrope Editions in February 2015.

Ana’s journey of learning to read and write, and moving from La Playa to Ponce when male doctors entered the birthing room for the first time, threatening her livelihood, were born only after I was reborn. It makes perfect sense–I had gone back to school and moved from Virginia to West Virginia. What I did not realize until after the book was published was that Ana embodied everything I’d needed during the difficult years after marital separation and divorce: a protector, a loyal friend, an advocate, a mom. Serafina, the young, motherless widow in the story was me, a motherless child, as my beautiful mother had passed away in 1992, and I missed her terribly. The characters I created, my heroines, mimic and embody the internal and external life struggles I experienced and helped me through a difficult time. All my characters gave me the courage, guts, and tenacity I needed during the writing and publishing journeys, and later with marketing the book, which continues today. I might not have all the answers, but I am leaps and bounds ahead in my journey.

Writing ‘A Decent Woman’ was a journey and as it turns out, a quest toward wholeness. I believe in starting your journey, whatever it might be, from where you are standing, and I believe in paying attention along the way.

Fast forward. I am currently writing a second novel called ‘The Lament of Sister María Inmaculada’, featuring a young Puerto Rican nun, an old Franciscan friar from Spain, and a young Protestant minister sent to Puerto Rico from the United States in 1920. The characters, most definitely from different worlds, find themselves living and trying to work together on a barren islet, The Island of Goats. It is a challenging, joyful, gut-wrenching, and empowering story to write, set in a new, unknown world to me, and I am loving the process. And I am including male point of view in a story for the first time.

A new, unknown world…is it really?

We shall see. I am excited of what I’ll learn and discover through these new characters, and already, I have discovered something amazing: I didn’t think it was possible to love a new character as much as I love Ana Belén, but I do. Her name is Sister María Inmaculada.

About Eleanor

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 refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.

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

 

 

 

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

 

Author Interview: Sally Cronin

The Writing Life is very pleased to welcome the lovely and talented Sally Cronin, author of the short story collection, ‘Tales from the Garden’.

Sally CroninSally Cronin spent a number of years in each of the following industries – Retail, Advertising and Telecommunications, Radio & Television; and has taken a great deal of inspiration from each. She has written short stories and poetry since a very young age and contributed to media in the UK and Spain.

In 1996 Sally began studying nutrition to inspire her to lose 150 lbs and her first book, Size Matters published in 2001, told the story of that journey back to health. This was followed by another seven books across a number of genres including health, humour and romance. These include Just Food For Health, Size Matters, Just an Odd Job Girl, Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story, Flights of Fancy anthology, Turning Back the Clock and Media Training.

EPS: Welcome, Sally! Thanks for visiting with us.

SC: Thank you Eleanor for inviting me over to visit today. As with any writer the opportunity to talk about my work is always very welcome!

Tales From the Garden small- CoverEPS: My pleasure! Sally, what is the genre of ‘Tales from the Garden’?

SC: Tales from the Garden is a fantasy short story collection for all ages.

EPS: Please describe what Tales from the Garden is about.

SC: The collection of stories is about statues, fairies and other magical beings that live in a garden and come to life at night when the humans are asleep. There is the usual mix of evil, beautiful princesses, and heroes with love stories and adventure; of course a wicked witch.  There are stories about Roman Eagles and a Last Emperor, The Fairy Kingdom of Magia in the roots of the old magnolia tree and stone guardians in various forms who protect the humans as well as their fellow garden dwellers. There are 80 illustrations which I hope will be enjoyed by younger readers as well as fairy tale lovers of all ages.

EPS: I love the idea of including illustrations! How did you come up with the title?

SC: The simple answer was that the working title, Tales from the Garden, seemed the most appropriate. I checked the title out and did not get too many hits and most were about horticulture rather than fiction.

EPS: What inspired you to write this book?

SC: We have our house for sale here in the mountains to the north of Madrid. We arrived here 16 years ago and although I have spent time away from the house for work; it is our main home. The garden is large and we inherited several stone statues that the previous owners had bought but could not take with them. We kept finding more of them as we explored the various nooks and crannies of the garden and spread them around so that they could be seen. With the prospect of leaving this garden and knowing that most of these statues are too heavy to take with us, I decided to take their stories with us instead.

EPS: Wonderful story. What is your favorite part of writing?

SC: My favourite part of writing is the pre-keyboard process when it is still all in my head. Usually when I am swimming, walking or listening to music, which I do any chance I get, I get the basic idea and then start playing around with various scenarios until I create a solid storyline. I enjoy getting all the segments in a row and then swapping them around until I have the sequence more or less right. Then I sit down at the computer and blast it out without editing until I have something concrete to work with.

EPS: What have you found is the most challenging aspect of writing?

SC: I would probably say the final editing stages when you read the story or book through and put yourself in the reader’s position. What seemed logical to you can often have a step or two missing for the reader because they have not been through the same thought process. I am a very fast sight reader and this means I have to really slow down by reading aloud to ensure that the flow is right.

EPS: I am a fan of reading aloud for the same reasons. Who are some of your favorite authors?

SC: I bought my first Wilbur Smith when I was 11 years old. We had just come back to England after two years in South Africa and I loved everything about that wonderful continent. I have every one of his books, many in hardback. The second is Jean M. Auel who wrote the Clan of the Cave bear and then the rest of the series about Ayla, set about the time the ice was receding and there were still some Neanderthals left. Riveting but you need patience as there is often years between books because of the amount of research that Jean does for the novels. Apart from that I love a good crime thriller or historical novel that has been thoroughly researched.

EPS: What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

SC: Apart from Wilbur Smith there have been one or two teachers who allowed me free rein with my imagination. Although it was 57 years ago, I still remember my first teacher at primary school, who realising I could already read reasonably well thanks to my two older sisters, gave me more advanced books to read than the rest of the class. Her name is Mrs. Miller and I can still see her face today.

EPS: Do you have a favorite place to write?

SC: I love the office I share with my husband David. It is useful since he is a book designer and he is on hand when I need some advice. It is also our snug with our television and I have all my music and books to hand. It has shown us that when we downsize, our priority is to have a room that is big enough for us to share and surround ourselves with those good things in life.

EPS: Please tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

SC: I think I have probably given away most of my secrets by now in the posts on my memories, but perhaps one of my regrets would surprise most people who know me. As I mentioned, I love crime novels and when I was eighteen and considering whether to take my dental nurse training further as a Royal Naval nurse, I also thought seriously about joining the police force.  I was offered a place with the Royal Alexandra Nursing Service, so I turned down an interview with Hampshire Constabulary.  As it turned out, life intervened and I did neither. However, in hindsight I wish that I had taken the police career more seriously.

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

SC: I learn something new every time, and I think that is mainly down to the evolving nature of Indie publishing in general, but also the support system online offered by other authors. When I wrote my first book in 1999, it was a difficult process and not much easier for the second. Certainly in the last year or so it has become clear that as a writer you do need to be online with a blog and on social media as there is a vast pool of knowledge and experience on offer as well as support.  I really do not think that most mainstream authors have caught up with that yet. Their marketing is done by someone else and whilst they might have lots of followers on social media I don’t believe that they interact with them to the same level as we do. I am sure that the combined efforts of indie authors to create a strong presence online will continue to drive the evolution of the industry to a point where it works more efficiently for us.

EPS: I would agree with you. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

SC: This is the first book I wrote on my blog first. It gave me a chance to gather feedback on the individual stories and try out various themes before committing to the book. The comments that the individual stories received gave me the confidence that there is a market available for the stories and I am doing the same with my next book with a short story every week that will end up being two collections at the end of the year.

EPS: Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

SC: Your book needs to be as polished as any that has gone through a number of professional hands. That is tough as it costs money but if you feel that you do not have a particular skill then try to find a work around.  For example, give the book to people you know who are avid readers of good books and also anyone you can find who has an English Language degree.  Advertise at the local university or college. You may have to pay a small fee to a student but I have found that they appreciate the chance to work with an author. There are a number of computer programmes that can help. Spell check is an obvious one but there are more sophisticated ones that will also highlight grammar edits, as well.  Finally, read and read again. It can be wearing, but leave gaps between reading and do something completely different and come back to it.

If you cannot afford someone else to design and format your book then take advantage of the free blog posts and also the very inexpensive books available with step by step guides to the complete process.

Tales From the Garden small- Cover

EPS: Website?

SC: I have my own website for the book which is attached to the main publishing site. This enables me to  sell my books at a substantial discount.  http://moyhill.com/tales/

EPS: Sally, where can we find ‘Tales from the Garden’?

 

SC: The book is available on Amazon and the quickest route is through my author page.

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/author/sallycroninbooks

All my books can be found on Amazon or smashwords.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

EPS: What’s next for you?

SC: I am really into short stories right now and two anthologies will be out by this time next year. I also have a People Management Development programme that is finished and is ready to go in the New Year. I will be using that as part of my training consultancy. I also have a WIP in the form of a book on care for the elderly in the home. I love a good plateful!

EPS: You certainly keep busy! Thank you for visiting, Sally. I enjoyed getting to know more about you, and I wish you continued success with your writing.

SC: My thanks for this wonderful opportunity to talk about Tales from the Garden and this wonderful, crazy world we inhabit as writers.

EPS: True words about the wonderful, crazy world of writing. Thanks again, Sally. Best wishes and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Sally’s Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/

Social Media Links:

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
https://twitter.com/sgc58
https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
https://www.facebook.com/sallygeorginacronin
https://plus.google.com/+SallyCronin/about

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 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. Eleanor is the mother of two 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: Apollo Papafrangou

The Writing Life is pleased to welcome Apollo Papafrangou, author of the upcoming novel, Wings of Wax.

Apollo Papafrangou is a writer from Oakland, California, where he pens novels, short stories, and, occasionally, poems. He is a 2010 graduate of the Mills College Creative Writing MFA program, and the author of “Concrete Candy,” a short story collection published by Anchor Books in 1996 when he was just 15 years old.

His debut novel WINGS OF WAX, the story of a shy, young artist seeking to reconnect with his ladies’ man father in Greece, will be published in March, 2016 by Booktrope.

HBO Films optioned the movie rights to his story “The Fence” from 2000-2004, and his fiction has appeared in the 1998 Simon & Schuster anthology entitled “Trapped. Apollo’s work has appeared in “Voices,” a collection of works by Greek writers published in 2013 by Nine Muses Press, Quiet Lightning, among other publications.

Apollo author pic

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome, Apollo.

WingsofWaxcoverWhat is your book’s genre/category?

Wings of Wax is literary/contemporary fiction.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Wings of Wax is the story of Angelo, a shy, young artist seeking to reunite with his estranged father in Greece and to learn the mysterious ways of the kamaki: the classic Mediterranean ladies’ man.

The novel takes place in both the San Francisco Bay Area and in Greece. In many ways, it’s a travel narrative, an odyssey of sorts, both in respect to Angelo’s physical journey, and his interior transformation.

 Apollo, how did you come up with the title?

Wings of Wax is a nod toward the Greek myth of Icarus–the boy who gained flight via mechanical wings attached with wax, but, in failing to heed his father’s advice, flew too close to the sun. Icarus serves as a metaphor in the book as flight is a central theme, as is the often tumultuous relationship between fathers and sons. 

What inspired you to write Wings of Wax?

Many things, but perhaps above all else, the desire to join the ranks of Greek-American writers who are mining the terrain of our collective experience through their fiction. I feel that the Greek-American experience–in all its complexity and variation–has been largely unexplored in contemporary fiction. Of course we have Jeffrey Eugenides, one of my literary heroes, but we need more voices.

My heritage is pretty important to me. Through my stories I want to share its richness with others.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the process itself. It’s tedious at times, but I imagine building a story is like crafting a sculpture–you chipaway long enough, and you’ve got something. I also like exploring the interior experience of my characters. Fiction is the only artistic medium through which we get into other people’s heads. Stories show us we’re not alone in the world.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Starting, whether it be a new project or a continuation of yesterday’s work. When I sit down to write each day, I spend a lot of time looking over what I wrote over previous days to get back into the flow. There’s a lot of staring at the white space, but then something inevitably clicks, and I’m able to find that groove again.

I write five days a week, generally, Monday through Friday. I try to get five-hundred words a day; sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but consistency is the key. I put in the time five days a week because I treat writing like a job. 

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

There are so many. Of the classic writers I like Steinbeck, Faulkner, Baldwin, Nabokov, Tolstoy. In grad school I was introduced to some fantastically underrated writers like Bruno Schultz, Italo Calvino, Fernando Pessoa, and Anne Carson. Favorite contemporary authors include Jennifer Egan, Victor Lavalle, Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, Susan Straight, Paul Auster, Jonathan Lethem, Cormack McCarthy, George Pelecanos, and many more.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Other than the writers I’ve already named, Nikos Kazantzakis has been a big influence, of course. He is the quintessential Greek writer. His prose is so lyrical and rich without being flowery. I’m also influenced by the great contemporary Greek poets, as Greece is a land of poetry–George Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Odysseas Elytis.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write on a desktop Mac in my bedroom. I can’t get with the writing in a coffee shop thing. Too many distractions. I’d like to have a little writing studio someday. 

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

It’s not so “personal,” but an interesting fact is that I had my first short story published in Zyzzyva magazine, a pretty well known journal here on the west coast, at the age of thirteen. Another bit of trivia: before committing to English as my major back in college, I thought I would earn a degree in Child Development. I’ve always been interested in the way children learn and adapt. I work with kids now at an after-school program as my “day job.”

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

One big lesson I gained from this process is that next time around I need to send out blurb requests much further in advance! It takes a while to corral those endorsements from other writers and public figures.

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

Going to grad school for creative writing at Mills College was a great experience. I grew so much as a writer, and I began this novel during my second semester in the program. Soon after graduation I had a completed draft and now, several years and drafts later, I’ve got a published book! 

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Not much beyond the old cliches of keep writing and pushing your work out there. When you’re tired of pushing, push some more. It’s standard advice, but I’ve found it to be solid.

Website?

http://www.apollopapafrangou.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/Apo_Papafrangou.

You can find me on Facebook, too.

Where can we find your book?

Wings of Wax will be released in March, 2016 from Booktrope, and will be available via local bookstores, Amazon, and other major retailers.

What’s next for you?

I’m almost finished with a first draft of my next book, a currently untitled novel-in-short-stories about twenty-somethings in the Oakland art scene trying to make a living outside of a traditional nine-to-five. The stories feature Greek-American characters, as the Greek community has a lengthy history in the Bay Area, and the culture is obviously my point of reference. It’s an interesting time to be in Oakland, with all the gentrification going on, and I hope, this book reflects that.

WingsofWaxcover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for chatting with us, Apollo. I enjoyed getting to know more about you. Happy writing!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

elliePuerto 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 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, Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Book club members across the United States have enjoyed the story, as well. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two awesome adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

Writing in Winter: Going Inward

coffee

This morning, I watered the yellow potted mums lining the brick steps that lead to my front door in a cotton sweater against the crisp air. Later I mowed the lawn, wondering whether that would be the last time this year, which led to realizing I need to think of more ways to burn calories over the winter months. Writing and winter equal hours upon hours of sitting, which isn’t good for my mind or body, not to mention my mood. The garden has always been my preferred way to exercise, and after pruning the plants and grape vines in late November, early December–it’s back to the gym.

I enjoyed a superb summer this year with many road trips with family and friends in West Virginia and Virginia, and I participated in several area book festivals and book signings. I visited mi familia in Puerto Rico for two wonderful weeks in August, and in October, I visited with great friends in the Bronx, met lovely readers at a book reading at La Casa Azul Bookstore in Harlem, and enjoyed time with new friends at Las Comadres Writers Conference in Manhattan. It was a busy year. I enjoyed meeting many people I now call friends. I can now cross off, ‘drive to New York City’ from my list–I made it!

Early winter is the time of year we straddle the inside and outside world, and begin looking inward with shorter days. Much like a pregnant woman near her delivery date, I begin nesting the week before the equinox. I wash out the red crock pot, air out my favorite cotton sweaters, and bring out heavier blankets for my bed and for naps on the couch. I prepare my garden for winter by putting down heavy mulch and leaves, and bring delicate potted plants inside. It’s a cozy season, perfect for writing—my favorite season. My garden doesn’t need me as much in the fall, and I sure enjoyed watching the changing leaves from my writing desk in the dining room with windows that overlook my side garden.

My river place, one of my favorite writing spots, is closed up for the season and I will miss it. We don’t have a generator at the river, and although it’s beautiful in the fall, chattering teeth aren’t conducive to good writing. I’ll enjoy my city home and am looking for a fire pit for my patio for cold, crisp nights when I sit outside with friends over a nice bottle of Bordeaux.

I plan for less distractions and more writing time during the fall and winter months. My winter calendar will include a few blog posts and author interviews, and except for Thanksgiving and Christmas with my precious family, I will be pretty much missing in action.

In February 2015, I birthed my first book baby with A Decent Woman, and she is well on her way. I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of how well readers have received Ana and Serafina’s journey. I am currently writing my second book. Now is the perfect time to settle down and finish the new story with characters I’m already in love with.

This blog post serves as a final chapter of sorts, as we near the end of the year, and I am blessed. I continue praying for peace, tolerance, and an end to violence in the world.

I wish my American friends a happy and blessed Thanksgiving with their loved ones.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

elliePuerto 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 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, Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Book clubs across the United States have selected and enjoyed the book. She is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. 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.