Read that baby

My editor has made many “suggestions” like get rid of all the quotation marks I use (like that one), stop all the ellipses, learn the difference between using “the” and “my” (there I go again with the quotation marks) and many others (like not using the word many twice in one sentence). It’s a lot for me to ponder when all I want to do is get my story going and done! Impatience is one of my faults.

She revised my manuscript for Coney Island Siren and I not only received advice but mini-lessons regarding more incisive writing. One suggestion was to read my sentences aloud. Okay, I thought. I can do this. This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard it but this time I figured I would actually do it. Wow.

I’d finished all of her suggested revisions and then started reading it aloud for my daughter who listens to me when she visits from Texas. My spouse, goddess bless her, was in the room too. Half way through the page I realized I had no feel for the protagonist. Who the hell is talking here? My structure was off and sounded way too formal. No easy-listening rhythm here. Back to the drawing writing board.

This time around, I’ve read it aloud sentence by sentence. Would Maggie say this? Does Frank really sound like this? Am I letting my characters speak or am I speaking for them? It’s slow-going but fun. I’m pleased with the results. I’m accepting the fact that my revisions still may need more revising.

Recently, I read a few pages at Bluestockings with La Pluma y La Tinta. As Raquel Penzo puts it, I’m an OG. Vet of the reading force. We’d started that workshop group in my living room about eight years or so. I have lots of writing and reading experience but am always open to learning more about the craft. While my other two novels are good friends of mine, my new work requires nurturing of our relationship. No matter how long it takes.

This short video is me reading some of Coney Island Siren. See you on the boardwalk.


How not to sell a book.

As an author I have the terrific opportunity to meet other authors, writers, and artists. I love sharing notes on my phase of development in my writings and to hear others’ processes too. One of my favorite things to do is to buy books at events and have the authors sign their treasured works. I recently found myself in the situation where I was interested in buying a couple of books from an author and then changed my mind. The author really made it hard for me to support him and I’ll tell you why.

The author not only began telling me about his process, he basically steamrolled me and didn’t let me get a word in edgewise. He kept talking and talking. Whenever I did open my mouth to speak, I noticed that his eyes immediately went to the door to see who else was walking into the room. This was a clear indicator to me that he wanted to be sure to spot a more important customer than me. That’s not a good idea if you want to sell your book.

The rest of us exchanged cards. This guy gave me his card and had absolutely no interest in my card. When I began looking through his pretty wonderful looking book, he still wouldn’t stop talking. I was definitely turned off when he gave me the price (after I asked), looked at me, and added, ‘or whatever you can pay.’ Grrr.   What made him think I couldn’t afford his book? That type of thing, I understand, has nothing to do with me and all to do with him but I really didn’t appreciate it.

I’ve noticed the authors who never buy other authors’ books at events. I like to support. Maybe others don’t have the money. I get that. But not to even come over to a table to say hello, I just don’t get. So, this may sound like a rant and maybe it is. But how do expect the public to support our books when we won’t even support each other? Being part of the author community means coming out of one’s comfort zone and speaking with a stranger, maybe even someone that writes in an entirely different genre. It’s nice to stick to the members of an already established supportive writers network but we never know what a new one will offer us or what we can offer it.

These are just my musings, in other words, “Just wondering.” Maybe I should write to Dear Abby.


Writing: Me, a co-dependent author?

Suffice it to say that last week I’d been walking around in a cloud of free floating anxiety. I have no idea what other authors go through when their newly pressed novels take their places on public shelves but I can be pretty sure that everyone deals with this stress in some shape or form. My subject matter will soon be up for scrutiny… wait… it is already out in the world.

I can’t help but get consumed about ‘what will the neighbors think?’ or in my case, ‘what will my readers think?’, but censoring my characters would be a travesty to the development of their stories. There will be readers who get the characters, the stories, and the backstories and there are some who won’t. This all reminds me of a creative course I took where several students and teachers told me they ‘didn’t get’ my writing. That, I believe is a mask for the inability to articulate what may be ‘wrong’ with how a story is told. Maybe it’s the style or the POV that needs some fixing but it may be difficult for some people to utilize the tools of critiquing adequately. But truthfully speaking, I didn’t get the teacher’s, aka Editor for a Magazine, decision to encourage a fellow student to submit her piece for publishing. The story was about a couple who rolled down hills together in a deep pile of crunchy autumn leaves. Pretty, but what was the story? I guess I’ll never know.

It’s possible that a writer’s subject matter is taboo to certain people. Taboo- that’s not a word that I experience in my world often. Every day I’m made aware that the line in the sand is pushed a little further all the time and it is washed away by the waves of the Universe. We carry our personal lines in the sand deep within us. Many of us don’t allow others to witness how far we’ve ventured with that line on that stretch of sand and never will.

Reading is certainly not a passive act, it is an action. I cannot be fed by the author but if I open myself to what he or she wrote I may be able to identify and not compare and see the humanism in the story.  Just in the same way, I cannot expect my work to be all for everyone. That’s an impossibility but in the bigger picture, we are all more alike than different. I’ve read many books in my lifetime and I’ve loved many and not so many. Different readers will click with different types of writings. Hashing these thoughts and feelings out with supportive people has brought me to another place- one where I can be free of the anxiety of what others think to a place of enjoying the process that being a writer brings.

I’m quite taken with my new creative piece. When the box arrived and I opened it, I thought of how much I’d like to read it. The book is exactly one that I would pick up from a public shelf. A mystery, starring a Latina, who is full of zeal for life and the beauty it brings, is my kind of story. That’s what counts the most. Yes, I care. But I also know that life is large and what is today may not be tomorrow. That makes everything all right. So for today, I’ll stay in today. What a great place to be.


Writing: what’s your motive?

Memoirs seem to hit a nerve of mine- badly. I wonder about memoirs written by twenty year olds, without a trace of counseling or therapy, that seem to be done with the intent of hurting and exposing those individuals they feel have hurt them. That said, I’m creating a book of poems that is a memoir of my experience of my older sister’s death when she was fourteen and I had just turned eleven. It is my book of grief. While I didn’t have voice I had the power of listening and observation. I didn’t even have a squeak of a voice then but I do now and it speaks volumes.

Writing has given me a place to say things I never would have had the nerve to say years ago. I just didn’t have the ability to say what I would have wanted. Now that I’ve learned to articulate whatever I want, I’ve started thinking about whether what I am saying or writing is appropriate for the forum and deeper yet, what is my motive?

I’m not twenty, I’ve had years of therapy, and found myself writing poetry about that dark time without planning it at all. It just seemed to intuitively come to me that those dark times had to be written on empty pages.  Then, I remember being treated harshly by others and me toward myself. Today, I know that these writings are an opportunity to be compassionate toward myself.

Writing these verses have moved me tremendously on treating myself gently. I feel my heart opening and that allows me to be compassionate toward others, especially those I may have judged harshly regarding what I’ve considered their motives- whatever their motives.

For me, the timing for sharing these days of despair is coming and the place will be in a little book that I share. The light in all this is the healing that I’ve experienced. Light and dark dance to create a wonderful shadow world, one of the places in which I live.

Writing: developing minor characters

A writer not only develops a protagonist and antagonist, they spend a lot of time creating environment, credibility in terms of space in time, but also minor characters and their backstory,

In Nights of Indigo Blue, Daisy Muñiz’s Dad is named Octavio. It would be easy to keep the level of information simple. That’s important to the novel because we don’t want to detract too much from Daisy. But Octavio is rich with possibilities of, at some point, becoming a major player in the series. Octavio Muñiz is a Viet Nam veteran and he continued to suffer from the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder until something changed in his relationship his daughter and he finally agreed to get help.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is an illness that occurs for some people who have experienced one horrific traumatic event or a series. While we tend to think of major instances like wars or terrorist events, PTSD can also be suffered by persons who have lived having to cower under their beds when gunshots ring out in their neighborhoods or by witnessing the life of a mother who is in a domestic violent relationship. People have different levels of capacity for tolerating certain events so while one person may not be affected, another may need intensive therapy for healing.

All of this may seem to be on the outskirts of developing a storyline for a ‘cozy mystery’ but all characters should have depth. How much is revealed to the reader is up to the writer, to the story, and mostly, to the character!