Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays from West Virginia!

Happy Holidays from West Virginia!

I took a sabbatical from writing and blogging as I do every Holiday season and will return on 31 December with a blog of my favorite highlights of 2013. I hope you've been well during my blog absence and that you are enjoying your Holidays, so far! Ozzy, Pierre and I are well, thank you :)

Taking a break from writing is necessary for me so that I am fully present during the Holidays with my family and friends. I was able to attend to the pesky tasks at home that I'd neglected that help my home run smoothly and even had time to tackle stripping and sanding the steps on my staircase with my DIY buddy...which turned out to be a monster of a task. I need more time to finish the steps and will return to the job after the Holidays. How many layers of paint, stain and varnish can be applied to 108-year old steps? Tons, we found out! Can you say Icy Hot and Ben Gay?

The Holiday wreath hangs on the front door with berries and pine cones, the white twinkly lights light up the front window and the mantle is decorated with fresh greens and dried roses from the rose garden next door. I didn't steal...that's called pruning :) My home looks festive and cinnamon and evergreen candles offer Holiday aromas. No holiday tree this year, however. I'm traveling to Northern Virginia to spend Christmas with my children and family and will return before the New Year. I will be glad NOT to have to take down the tree and put away ornaments when I return!

I'm blessed and so very grateful for this day, albeit rainy and gray. Our 11 inches of snow came too early in the year and it doesn't look like we're going to enjoy a White Christmas. I'm not bothered with that, however. I'll soon be with my family and that's all that matters to me. 

Family, love, friends, peace, good health, prosperity, and joy. That's what on the menu this Holiday season.

Merry Christmas to you and yours! Yes, I keep Christ in Christmas and send my blessings to you.

Ellie xo

Monday, November 11, 2013

Desire and Destiny

I've been causing myself a bit of anxiety lately by trying to do too much. My biorhythm is lower in the Fall, going into Winter, so I'm listening to my body. I'm going into semi-hibernation mode. Do you do that?

My house is warm and toasty and I've taken out the warmer quilts and comforters for my bed. I have a warm blanket on my couch for naps and I've already made a pot of chicken soup that lasted me three days. Comfort foods and creature comforts are on the menu these days.

During this time of year, I don't accept many invitations and I enjoy my home. The river park is closed for the season and my car doesn't leave the lot as much. I stay close to home except for the Holidays which are fast-approaching. I love my home so this is a non-issue for me. I've lived alone for four years, so this isn't something that takes getting used to. I'm always busy and I enjoy the solitude at this time of year.

As for writing, I continue to edit my first novel, A Decent Woman. Seems hard to believe, doesn't it? Well, my new book on writing and editing the best novel I can, has inspired me. I know my novel is interesting to agents because I've had more than a dozen agents contact me for sample chapters over the last year. I've decided to give my novel a modern twist and this seems to be great for my historical novel. I'm not taking out a thing, only starting the book with a granddaughter who goes back for her grandmother's funeral and finds her journal which tells the story of Ana, the midwife. I am enjoying the process and I believe this will make my novel current and more commercial.

Agents have told me I'm a wonderful writer, that they enjoy my writing style and that my story intrigues them. The only negative thing I've heard from them and I don't think they're being kind to save my feelings, is that historical novels are difficult to sell. Well, adding the modern day element should fix that. I'm excited about going forward!

In my free time :) I decided to paint a portrait of Ana, the midwife. My Afro-Cuban, former slave will come to life. I've always wanted to paint Ana as I see her in mind's eye for my book cover. I am starting today. I haven't painted a portrait in two years, but I know I am ready. That part of my creative life has been missing and it seems like the time to start when I'm close to home.

This morning, I started Oprah and Deepak Chopra's 21-Day Meditation-Desire and Destiny; actually it begins tomorrow, but I wanted a head start. I enjoyed 20 minutes of relaxation sitting in my chair and I must have been very relaxed because I didn't even know that my cat, 
Pierre, was snuggled in my lap. Nice. I love meditating and the clarity and peace it affords me.

I desire to continue to write and my destiny is that of a writer and an artist. I'm blessed to do what I love and am passionate about.

Happy Veteran's Day to you. I honor my father today along with men and women who have served and still serve this country with honor, pride and sacrifice. I also honor their families and the sacrifices they all make.


Friday, November 8, 2013

When Do You Know When Your Novel is Finished?

Good morning! It's a beautiful day in West Virginia! The sun is out, it's a bit breezy and although it's partially cloudy, I'm enjoying my morning. The day could be better, but I'll take the sun peeking through the clouds any day. It rained all day yesterday, so I'll take partly cloudy.

Yeah, I've got ideas about what the "perfect" day looks like, but I'll take what is given to me. What choice do I have, any way? Today is what it is. I'll take it. Hey, I woke up. That is good enough for me.

I'm accepting about many things that happen and have happened in my life. I believe in going with the flow and finding the silver lining in every situation, no matter how difficult it may be or feel like. If my house feels cold and I realize that raising the temperature will result in a huge gas bill, I put on another layer and thank God that I have a roof over my head. It's all about how you look at things.

The only situation that I refuse to settle on, however, is my novel. Yes, the manuscript is finished and I've had my novel professionally edited, but is it really finished? I can't answer that question this morning.

I'm asked this question all the time--"Is your book finished?" I usually answer, "Yes and no" to which I get confused looks. Yes, I've written a book and it's saved on my laptop and I have a physical copy of the manuscript sitting on my dining room table. So, yes. But, every time I buy another how to write a novel book...I second guess myself which opens the door for self-doubt and worry. Is my book really finished? I hate reading a book and finding a typo. It makes me so sad for the author!

I know many writers who experience this. I've also had this experience in painting. When do you know when you're really finished with a work of art? It's a tough one! Maybe...

you know you're finished when you've read and reread your book and don't find any typos.
you know you're finished when you've exhausted every known avenue of editing.
you know you're finished when you've written the best book you know how to write.
you know you're finished when you've handed your manuscript to a couple of readers and  they don't find anything.
you know you're finished when you just can't bear reading your novel one more time!

I was at that sweet spot until I bought yet another book on editing last week. Crap. No more! I'm reading this LAST book on how to write a breakout novel and no more how-to books!!

My book, A Decent Woman, is ready and when I'm asked if my book is finished, I shall ask the person to cover their ears and I shall yell, "Hell, yes!!" 

Happy weekend to you all :)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

There's That Word Again.

Boy, do we play mind games with ourselves when we're in the creative seat. I sure do, anyway. I tend to teeter between writing my head off and being blocked a couple of times a month. Excuses, excuses, I know. Normally, I can work through most things, but my Inner Child is alive and well this week.

I'm looking for any excuse not to sit my butt down and write today. Are you like me? Is it all or nothing for you? I get in those moods. It's either write for nine or ten hours a day or nothing at all. If anything on my to-do list crosses my mind, it can break the creative cycle. As it has today. 

I love and hate lists. Mine never seem to end in this old house. There's always something to do and I have to remind myself that I do it alone. I give myself a break because I just can't do it all. I realize those are excuses, too. But, how realistic are they? They have to get done, right?

I have to clean. I have to put the Fall wreath on my front door. I have to throw out clothes. I have to find the perfect winter walking outfit. I have to walk Ozzy more before it snows and we have icy sidewalks. I have to lose weight before winter sets in. I have to do a deep cleaning before the days get shorter. I have to and I must organize my documents. NOT.

There it is. That word. Organize. I really hate it or is the word documents that I hate? Both cause me to scrunch up my nose and go clean my toilet.

Here's the weird thing--my house is organized. Okay, that's taking it to the extreme. The lower level of my house is organized-ish. If you come to my house, you'd see a nice living, a very nice dining room, a cute kitchen, clutter-free steps and semi-clean windows. As clean as 107-year old windows can be. My bedroom is pretty and the bathroom is adorable.

This is me trying to pat myself on the back for things that I have done! But, the list continues...

Other things on my mind this morning and I'd better get them down because they're driving me bonkers already:

I need to color my hair before the Holidays. There it is. That word. Holidays. Sheesh. I stayed home all weekend and wrote like a fiend and was SO happy. And then, I saw a holiday commercial, complete with Christmas music. What?

A friend told me how many Saturdays we have until Christmas...are you kidding me? Well, that just made me come to a screeching halt! Immediately, I had this sense of urgency and anxiety started creeping in. I could feel it. And, just as I was at 3,000 plus words on novel #2!

What else do I need to do before I can sit and write without interruptions, distractions, and delays? I need to wait until January 2014. Could that be true? The same thing happens to me in the Spring time when the plants are peeking through in my garden and I am dying to get my hands dirty.

What's the solution?! 

Just write through it ALL. Steal an hour or two to write and don't give in to the censors in your head. I'm telling myself that, by the way. Just write when you can and don't stress yourself out.

Okay, I feel better now. My Inner Child is happy again. I don't have to pull my hair out and stress my hair, the holidays, my house, my documents and my semi-organized house that could look better. 

All I have to do is show up when I can and write. So simple. It's ME who was complicating it all.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

How I Crave You

My lips are still burning and I want more of you. Hot. Hot. Hot. That's what my night was. Juicy fingers, liquid dripping down my chin and I couldn't wait for more. I think I want some more today. Are you available, Anthony? I'll make that phone call and we'll settle on a time and place, most probably my living room. I'll eat you right on the coffee table and the only light in the room will come from the TV.

Bring extra napkins, please.

As much as I've tried to stay away, knowing full well that you're not that good for me, I just can't resist. Your spice, bite and tangy flavor when you're well done. Just the way I like it. I'm so addicted to you.

When you're around, there is nothing else I need. Please answer your phone and come quick.

SO, how was your Friday night? Mine was awesome.


Ha ha ha!

Have a beautiful day, everyone! I'm headed to NaNoWriMo to get my write ON!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yes, You Can!!

Could you write a thriller?
How about a zombie apocalypse novel?
Perhaps romantic vampire or sci fi fiction?

Yes, you can!

Tomorrow is the first day of
National Novel Writing Month!

Get writing


Have fun and be safe out there!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Seasons of Life

This morning I'm listening to Amelie: Comptine d'un autre ete and it has me thinking of my father and other summers with him.

* I'm not sure if the video will show up and if not, I'm sorry about that. I'm still learning.*

Alzheimer's disease. Dementia. My father has Alzheimer's. Not full-blown where he doesn't remember his daughters or his second wife...but I know that day is coming which makes me sick to my stomach. He is still at home, but needs 24 hour care from his wife who is exhausted. My father forgets that he just ate and what he did five minutes ago, even if he expressed joy in the activity. It's such a frightening disease.

My father walked into the bedroom where my sister were sleeping and asked what we were doing in his house. We told him that we were visiting and he was happy and ten minutes after we put him to bed, he returned to ask what we were doing there. 

There is a new urgency to my life, more than before my last visit. Time waits for no one.

My father is a reminder to me that time is passing and with the passing of time come many changes in our lives and bodies. My face shows signs of aging; light wrinkles around my eyes when I smile and feathery lines at the edges of my smile. My belly and thighs are softer than in my 40's and I now tire after walking up a steep flight of stairs.

Thanks to my gracious step-mother, we enjoyed a wonderful visit in sunny Florida with her and my father, creating memories that we will keep and treasure. But, my thoughts are on my mind and all that I have left to do in my writing life.

I've written a novel and am writing a second which keeps my mind active. I do research for my novel and I travel quite a bit. I'm keeping my mind healthy because we never know what's coming down the pike for us...sometimes at warp speed.

The mind. What a beautiful and complex mystery.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You Know You're An Historical Fiction Novelist When...

I recently enjoyed a cup of coffee with a new friend who asked me lots of questions about my first historical fiction novel, A Decent Woman. That's fun for me because if the person is interested, our time spent together can often turn into a mini interview. Good practice for my future as a published author, I thought.

Well, the "interview" reminded me that I still don't have my mini synopsis down pat...what a pain. I wrote a book and have begun writing novel number two, but telling you what my first novel is about in one sentence is tough. Not an easy feat for a wordy woman such as myself. 

You know you're an historical fiction writer when a simple walk to the corner store turns into a short story. That's me. I'll tell you what streets I was on, what I saw and experienced during my walk, and the cast of characters I interacted in and around the store. I might even tell you the history of that store and may even have a little story about the owner(s) to set the stage so you can experience the walk with me. That's me and my close friends can vouch for that.

I've worked on my novel synopsis for a year. I know that seems nuts, but trust me--it isn't easy to write one sentence about your book. An historical novel has so many parts to the whole. You write about the past, present and future of a time and place while telling the story through the eyes of single a character or many characters.

How can I whittle down a 7,800 word plus novel in one sentence? I have to, so I plug along! Here's what I've come up with and for the moment an happy with...until I'm not happy with it.

A Decent Woman is the story about Ana Belen, born of Afro-Cuban slaves, who lives in 1900 Puerto Rico where she fights society for the rights of women and male doctors for the right to continue practicing midwifery, while striving to survive as a proud, but poor, uneducated woman on a Caribbean island ceded by Spain to the United States by after the Spanish-American War.

That's my novel in a nutshell. A large coconut of a synopsis when I need a walnut-size synopsis. Sheesh.

What do you think? Does that work and would you read this book?


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Happy Fall to You!

Happy Fall to you! Here are a few photographs I took at a local Apple Harvest Festival!

Get on out there and mingle!

Have a super weekend, everyone! Ellie

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's NaNoWriMoTime!

It's that time of year again! It's NANOWRIMO time! 

National Novel Writing Month is fast approaching--1-30 November 2014. 

It's time to gear up and write that novel in one month!

Do you have an idea for a novel?
Have you already started writing a novel and then, left it?
Are you ready to write your novel and share it with the world?
Do you just want to write your story to share with family and friends and not publish it?

NANOWRIMO could be for you!

If you're like me, there have been days where I've lacked the discipline to write and keep my butt in my writing chair. This writing program was very helpful to me in that it gave me a goal and made me accountable to ME.

I began writing my second novel, Finding Gracia, in November 2012 with NANOWRIMO and I'm excited to finish it next month. I know that sounds nuts, but bear with me. I'm going for it! Again. Why not? My story is a story worth writing and sharing with the world. I do love a challenge, so I'm signing up.

Through joining NANOWRIMO, I learned to write and not worry about content. I wrote and wrote and knew that after November, I could go back and worry about the bits that weren't great. It was quite liberating and most of what I wrote wasn't bad, either!

Join me, won't you? Your story is worth getting out there! This could be your breakthrough year. I double dog dare ya :)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Which Leads Me To...

I reread my last blog post and have to tell you that unless a writer has super powers or a clone of themselves, a writer just can't get it ALL done and STILL write a novel that's worth a dime.

Okay, that's a bit dramatic. It IS done and the reality is that I don't know how writers manage to raise well-adjusted children, keep a spouse or romantic partner happy and still have the time to write, publish and market a novel. These writers tend to pay their taxes on time, run for PTA positions, hold a full-time job and run a cottage industry at home.  How in the heck do they do it?

Yes, I realize that organization, focus and discipline are key here. These authors still have time to make basil butter, tend an organic garden and exercise every day to keep up their amazing bodies (tongue in cheek here)...but, that writer isn't me. Unfortunately, when I write, I write all day long. When I garden, I get all into it and when I research, the world disappears for me. I seem to be an all or nothing writer. Or maybe not.

Blogging seems to be the only activity I can do for an hour and leave well alone. Then, I read other blogs. That seems to be the issue here. Not that I don't enjoy reading author and agent blogs, I do, but...

I read author blogs which lead me to their websites which leads me to their books which leads me to research what they've written about which leads me to Goodreads which leads me to their agent's page or blog which leads me to researching the agent which leads me to rewriting my query letter which leads me to sending said query letter to said agent if they're interested in my genre of historical fiction which leads me ordering the 2014 Writer's Digest of Literary Agents which leads me to checking out other books that Amazon has recommended because of my buying history which leads me to wondering why my most recent book hasn't arrived which leads to me checking the mailbox which leads to checking out new mailboxes because mine is getting old which leads me to Home Depot where all bets are off. I'm now into home decorating and simplifying my life by throwing out things that no longer serve me which leads to good feelings which lead to thinking of my manuscript that I haven't touched that day.

Does this happen to you?

THAT is the reality of it, folks. Some days, I lack focus...and this day is no different. I feel distracted and pulled in many directions, mostly what I need to get done in my personal life so that it runs smoothly. I now realize that I accomplished much more in one day when I was married and had children at home. Why? Because I had to. I had limited time and I knew it. I made great use of my time and got so much accomplished. Now that I have all the time in the world as a single lady with no children living at home...not so much. Unless I'm totally immersed.

What's wrong with this picture? I need a DAILY PLAN OF ACTION for writing and other sundry stuff that seem to be as important as writing some days! I need a list and I need to stick to that daily list. And, God knows how much I love writing lists. Another distraction :)


Monday, October 14, 2013

Can You Write a Blog? Yes, You Can!

When I'm asked what I do for a living, I say I'm a blogger, writer, poet and photographer. The word blogger usually generates interest and creates dialogue. Here are a few questions I've received about my life as a blogger:

What's your blog about?
What do you blog about?
How and why did you start a blog?
Do people follow your blog?
Do you know who reads your blog?
Do you give out personal information?

and lastly,

How can I start my own blog?

Here are my answers and a little information about me:

What's your blog about?

My blog, The Writing Life, is about the writing life aka my life as a writer.

What do you blog about?

I blog about my life's experiences as they relate to writing and living my dream of being a full-time writer. I blog about the challenges, perseverance, joys and hard work it takes to write a novel, query agents, write and edit, query editors and publishers, and market a blog and first novel. I wrote an historical fiction novel called A Decent Woman which I see as a published book.

How and why did you start a blog?

I began blogging anonymously in 2007 on about the dating life of a 50-year old divorced Mom of two college-aged kids--me. My son introduced me to blogging and I think my kids encouraged me to blog because they thought Mom needed an outlet/creative outlet. I also believe they were tired of listening to me :) I journaled long-hand, every day for over 15 years and blogging felt very natural. I took to it like a duck to water.

I started this blog, The Writing Life, because I learned I needed an author blog as a platform for my novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman. I discovered that new authors must have an established platform before they publish their first book. Blogging keeps me writing and working on my novel when I think I can't read or write another word! Writing a blog is a discipline that I love and can't imagine not doing.

Do people follow your blog?

I enjoyed a large blog readership/following on and have met six fellow bloggers over the years which is great because that blog no longer exists. I'm thrilled when someone adds my blog, The Writing Life, to their reading lists and I love receiving comments! I always reply to comments, it's just good manners.

Do you know who follows your blog?

According to my profile, I have nine followers which doesn't compute with the 6,000+ page views that seem to grow every day. I'm grateful for my nine followers, but I don't know every person who reads my blog. Making friends wasn't why I started my blog, however, I would love to connect more with my readers. So, please make yourself known :) I love the kind comments I've received and would love to know more about my readers who seem to live around the world.

Do you give out personal information?

No, I don't. I'm a writer living West Virginia, originally from Northern Virginia, born in Puerto Rico. I'm the mother of two fantastic young adults no longer living in my nest. I'm also Mom to a Pug named Ozzy and a Maine Coon cat named Pierre.

While I may blog about my writing adventures, road trips, false starts, and life's goals, I don't give out personal information, i.e., my address, phone number. I never use the full names of my friends and people I come into contact with, either.

How can I start my own blog?

Just start right where you are today!
Think of a catchy user name or title for your blog. 
Research your favorite people, authors or artists and peruse their blogs.
Take a great pic and upload great pics for your blog.
Write about what interests you. 
Write about your dreams, struggles, joys and/or travel adventures.  
Write what you know.
You may be an expert at something, share your gifts!
Be real and allow yourself to be vulnerable.
If you write novels, poetry and/or have wonderful creative gifts, definitely start a blog!
Show and share your work within reason.
If you have an unpublished manuscript, do not upload the entire document. Try a sample chapter instead to share with readers.
Leave comments on your favorite blogs!

What do I still need to work on? 

The last entry--Leave comments on your favorite blogs! 

I'm still learning to organize my time so that I have time to read, write and edit my two novels. I read two books at the same time and I read at least a dozen author blogs a day. I don't always have time to comment on other author blogs and I need to fix that! No. I need to fix that-I don't MAKE time to comment on other author blogs and I need to fix that! That's better.

I can and WILL make time to comment on other author's blogs, especially those in my genre, historical fiction. I will also begin to review books, especially those in my genre.

Done :)


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Roughing the Elements

Yesterday, the words wet, soggy, misty, cloudy, drizzly and annoying described the day. Despite the lousy weather, my friend and I were determined to attend the opening day of the annual Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

My friend and I had circled the weekend on our calendars a month ago and I knew I couldn't let him down. This is his birthday weekend and I was determined to get him to the Festival, even if for an hour or two.

We found parking on a side street and immediately joined thousands of other intrepid souls huddled under tarps, umbrellas, baseball caps and hoodies with their children and soggy dogs on leashes. An hour or two of walking in the rain and dodging other umbrellas and strollers by isn't my idea of a good time, but we rolled up our jeans and I kissed my smooth hair goodbye.

The luscious smells of pumpkin, apple butter, cinnamon and sugar lured and led us directly to a food truck with a huge sign out front that read: Funnel Cakes. The long line of people told us this was the place to be. Despite sidestepping each other's umbrellas, everyone seemed to be in a great mood. I bought two pumpkin funnel cakes and we headed to the relative safety of a small tree to sample the amazing concoction. I'd eaten my first funnel cake when my kids were in elementary school and this was to be my second experience. After the first scrumptious bite of heavenly Pumpkin Funnel Cake with powdered sugar on top entered my mouth, I shut my eyes and for a second, I forgot where I was. My hair frizzed up and a raindrop rolled down my cheek, but I didn't care--I was in heaven!

Perseverance and a positive mindset are what's for dinner. The ultimate rewards of sticking to the highs and lows of a writing project (or any difficult project) and coming out of the valley can be pure magic. If you stick to it. Those of us who left our warm homes on a chilly, rainy day to brave the elements were rewarded with great memories of a fun Fall day in beautiful and historic  Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

I left a job and the DC area to write full-time and although I don't always see the rewards of my sacrifices every day, I'm getting closer. I can feel it. Roughing the elements is tough at times, but the experiences have been well-worth my efforts and I know the end will be beautiful.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

That Important Last Read

How many times have you read your novel-in-progress from start to finish? Can you read your novel without wanting to change every other sentence you read?

I have a hard time with this! I've read individual chapters...oh, I would say about 100+ times and I've read the complete manuscript four times. It's time to read my novel again and today is that day.

It's a rainy, grey morning in West Virginia.  A perfect day for writing and reading; tomorrow promises to be as gloomy a day as today. Strange, right? Well, I always write well and am able to stay in my seat longer when the weather is nasty outside. I figure no one is doing anything fun outside, so I'm not missing anything! 

The temperature outside is right around 66*, so I feel cozy and warm inside with my sweats, sweater, socks and fuzzy boots--my favorite writing outfit. Actually, that's my favorite Fall outfit when I'm home! I've made necessary phone calls, emailed two friends and yes, I checked Facebook. I have a personal FB page and an author page which I keep up-to-date. I even tweeted a few lines to keep current and refer readers back to my blog. All necessary!

This morning, I've decided to read the novel-length manuscript of my historical novel, A Decent Woman, like a new reader would. I'm putting all markers, pens and pencils away and I'm turning off the cell phone. I will make a pot of tea, draw the curtains closed and sit on my couch with my fuzzy blue blanket over me to read my full manuscript...before I make any changes. That's a tough call for me at this point in the life of my book. I immediately see things that I could reword, improve on and explain more clearly! Argh! But, I'm holding back this morning.

I've hired the editor, done the rewrites and then, rewrote some more. I've taken out chapters that weren't helping with story momentum and fleshed out my protagonist even more. I've done all I can humanly do at this point, so all that's left is to reread my story from beginning to end.

Stay warm out there! I'm headed to 1900 Ponce, Puerto Rico in my mind and mind's eye...see ya on the flip side :-)


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wrapping It Up - Las Comadres Writers Conference

Second Annual Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference, Medgar Evans College, Brooklyn, NY.

In one word, awesome. From the beginning of my trip from West Virginia to New York City and back home last night, my experience was awesome. If you are a writer, I highly recommend any writers conference if you've never attended one!  Since this was my first writers conference, I had nothing to compare it to, but from the feedback I received from fellow writers and my own experience, this writers conference was a class act. From beginning to end.

Months before the Conference, I already felt like I was taken into the fold by Nora Comstock, President and CEO of Las Comadres para las Americas. You won't find a warmer, more beautiful human being than Nora. She kept us all in the loop on transportation, the 1 on 1 agent/editor sessions, and when needed, Nora put writers into contact with other writers who were looking for hotel roommates. I was very pleased to meet her in person. She was as lovely in person as I thought she would be.

After an easy registration, the participants were offered a great breakfast and time to meet new friends and mingle with long-time friends. We were welcomed by the four dynamic women running the Conference: Nora Comstock, Adriana Dominguez, Marcela Landres, and Dr. Brenda Greene, Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evans College, where the Conference was held. Kudos on a job well done to everyone involved, including the volunteers!

This fast-paced writers conference was worth every penny. I met fellow writers in every genre, published and non-published, and enjoyed listening to keynote speaker, Reyna Grande who spoke about her humble beginnings and how she became the author of a memoir and three novels. Reyna was open, gracious and a wealth of information to those attending the writers conference.

I especially enjoyed listening and meeting Karen E. Quinones Miller, a presenter who spoke about self-publishing. Karen is who I will remember most when I think back to the Conference. This woman stole my heart with her vibrant energy, raw courage, tenacity and accomplishments in the publishing world from her beginnings as a self-published author. Amazing woman!

There are those among us who enter this life destined to be life teachers and mentors for others. Karen is that teacher for me. I knew it instantly. Myself and several other writers practically begged Karen to continue her presentation on self-publishing in the cafeteria and she graciously and enthusiastically shared with us. Seven of us sat around Karen as she took us step by step from creating a book cover to downloading our images for the back cover and book spine. I was like a sponge to her knowledge and information which seemed to have no end. I also enjoyed meeting her assistant, Brenda, a kind, soft-spoken woman who lovingly attended to Karen's needs and our own, as we listened and furiously wrote down every word Karen uttered. I look forward to seeing Karen in November in Philly for her self-publishing workshop. I also look forward to keeping in touch with the many wonderful writers I met on Saturday, now friends and mis comadres.

In my life, I've encountered two types of creative people and teachers: those who guard and keep their learned experiences in a sealed box only available for their personal use and gain and those who freely offer of themselves and what they've learned to others. The women I had the pleasure of meeting on Saturday fall into the latter category. I was blessed to meet them.

Over the years since I wrote, A Decent Woman, my historical fiction novel, I have been fortunate to befriend many beautiful women and fellow creatives who have loved and supported me, my children and my writing. Adding a dozen more new friends to my comadre circle this past weekend has enriched my life beyond belief.

My warm thanks and gratitude again to Mayra C., Irene H. and Junior for helping me get to NYC! I love you all.

Ellie xo

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It Takes a Heavenly and Global Village

How many girlfriends and a male friend does it take to get a writer of historical fiction novels to NYC for the Second Annual Latina and Latino Writers Conference that starts Saturday morning at 9:00 am?

Three girlfriends and my pet sitter who is also a good friend! That equals four AMAZING friends who helped make my dream a reality. I have lots of dreams, but attending my first writers conference was one was the most urgent and recent. It's happening in Brooklyn, NY this Saturday. Yep, in two days!

I couldn't see my way forward this week for many reasons and had cancelled my spot at the conference yesterday, hoping someone else could take advantage of the experience. I wrote my blog yesterday and this morning, I had a call and an email:

"You're going. You need to go! What can I do to help?" I'm pretty teary-eyed at the graciousness, kindness and love I received from my friends this morning, but not surprised. Wow. And, wow. I've been blessed with many, many friends who have stepped forward since my divorce and for them, I am SO very grateful.

Since I'd cancelled, I didn't know if my spot was still available. I called this morning and when Nora Comstock of Las Comadres said that my name was still on the list, I was surprised. It was then that I realized that I might still be able to make it to the conference!

Paying it forward, beautiful people, and pure love are what I experienced today and I am humbled and completely blown away.

My pet sitter is available to take care of my babies and my friend Irene is picking me up (we both live in West Virginia, so you can see that this is no simple thing!) and driving me to the train station in Washington, DC for my unbelievably early trip to NYC which my friend Mayra (who lives in Belgium) offered to pay for. I'm leaving and returning the same day. What a whirlwind of a day that will be, but I'm going for it!

So, you see what I'm talking about? It truly took a global village to get me to NYC. Amazing :)

I didn't understand what God had planned for me yesterday and today, my way is clear. I had a talk with God yesterday and put it all at His feet. I removed myself and got out of His way. He and my forever friends moved that mountain for me. Thank you!

The mountain wasn't a life or death situation to be sure, but it felt like a mountain to me this week. My comadres and compadres came through for me today. I'm blessed to have them and all my friends in my life. I'm feeling the love today.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

You Bet Your Sweet Ass I Am!

This morning, I wrote my "Conversation with God" blog post and when I reread it, I decided to delete it. You, my beautiful reader, were invited to insert God, Allah, the Universe, or Mother Earth, anything that resonates with you, into the blank space...or not.

I found the writing very cathartic and I meant to share the blog post with you, but I was afraid I would come across as whiny and ungrateful. I am not that person, however, it felt great to vent and question God and the Universe as to why my dream has yet to manifest itself when to the best of my knowledge, I'm doing all I can to see my novel, A Decent Woman, published.

My blog was a blog that many writers and authors could relate to--the frustrations of the world of publishing in 2013. 

From the many blogs I read every day written by writers, authors, agents, editors, and publishers, I've come away with:

Most editors, agents and publishers feel badly about publishing today and wish they could help more writers become published authors.

The business is what it has morphed into--a fast-paced, ever-changing and Internet- complicated business.

Historical fiction novels are difficult to sell (which surprises me as that's what I love to read!)

More than ever before, the writer is responsible for building a platform, branding, marketing and more marketing.

Most major publishing houses still frown upon self-published books.

Some agents will not represent you if you are not already a published author, but...if you self-publish, this doesn't seem to count for much. Self-publishing seems to be viewed as the poor relation to its traditional publishing sibling.

It seems that writers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Very frustrating. So, since I like to see the big picture in most situations in my life, I've decided to take a good look at self-publishing. I'm going to research this avenue because I feel it's a smart move and a timely decision. I'm not getting any younger at 56 and I have all my brain cells at this moment in time...okay, most of my brain cells.

So, this afternoon, I opened myself up to the Universe's wisdom and listened for answers. I deleted my blog and then, sat on my yoga pillow and just sat.and.sat.and.sat.

I'm toying with the idea of incorporating my second novel, Finding Gracia into my first novel, A Decent Woman. My novel will remain an historical fiction novel set in the early 1900s in Ponce, Puerto Rico with the characters Ana and Serafina and alternate chapters will be written in the present. The present day protagonist will be Serafina's granddaughter, Gracia, who has traveled to Puerto Rico for the reading of her grandmother's will after her divorce in the United States.

Gracia discovers that she is the sole heir to her grandparent's coffee farm in the mountains of Puerto Rico and after moving to the farm, she finds her grandmother Serafina's photo albums and documents. These papers and photographs introduce Ana, the Afro-Cuban midwife, who was the attending midwife at Gracia's grandmother and mother's births.

From the grave, Dona Ana and Serafina help Gracia navigate her new life by sharing Puerto Rican history and folklore, traditional healing methods, and their views on spirituality and religion. Gracia will come full circle as she returns to her Puerto Rican roots and becomes the woman she was meant to be.

Worth a try. Then again, both novels could remain stand-alone novels, as well.  Hmmmm. Nice to have options, right?

Do you think I'm talking myself into a positive state of mind in this blog post? You bet your sweet ass I am!

Ellie xoxo

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Seriously Bummed Out!

Well, life sure does throw us curve balls at times, doesn't it? Sometimes, I understand what's going on is for my highest good and other times...I just don't get it. This would be one of those times. My heart understands this decision, but my Inner Child is having a tougher time.

I was one of the first writers to register for the Second Annual Latina/Latino Writers Conference in Brooklyn, NY on Oct 5, 2013 and boy, was I excited. I was staying with great friends in the Bronx after the one-day conference and was to attend a volunteer dinner dance with my friends that evening in honor of all the people who helped their beach club, the Manhem Club, get ready for Inter Club races after Hurricane Sandy destroyed their pier. I volunteered a teeny bit during my last visit and was looking forward to seeing them all again.

Everything was planned and the green light was on until this past weekend. By Saturday evening, the green light was amber with a twinge of red after I spoke with my step-mother. By Sunday evening, red was the predominant color and I couldn't see my way back to green.

You see, my 82 year old father suffers from Alzheimer's disease and his wife, my step-mom just had back surgery. They both need a break and when they asked me to visit them in Florida in late October, of course, I said yes. My father and his wife haven't had a vacation in three years and I know that caring for my father and his illness isn't easy. I don't know how many years I have left with my father and I couldn't afford both the conference and NYC weekend and a trip to Florida. So.

For me, it was clear--I had to give up the writers conference, my first writers conference. I was very bummed, but I knew Florida was the right choice for me.

So, I offered my paid conferee spot back to Dr. Nina Comstock of Las Comadres Organization who is hosting the writers conference and I'm hoping someone can take my place for free. In the scheme of life, not going to the conference is small potatoes. Family has always been very important to me and well, I can only do so much with what I have. I understand all this rationally, but...I'm not always rational :) I'm still bummed out.

What I'm left with is to continue to query agents and publishers and continue writing my second novel. The Conference just wasn't meant for me at this time. I wish all the participants and conference organizers a wonderful Second Annual Latina/Latino Writers Conference!

Felicidades y buena suerte a todos! A la proxima!

P.S. I had a little honest conversation with God this morning and that blog post will appear after this one. Writing out my feelings helps me understand difficult situations!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Squash the Censors and Naysayers

When I left Northern Virginia and my job as a bilingual (Spanish) family support worker with a great non-profit, I had a plan and a dream--buy a small house and write full-time. I moved west where I could afford a home and finished my novel. I accomplished both in a very short period of time because I was motivated and probably a little bit nutty.

It has been three years since that moving truck pulled up to my new life. Was it easy? Yes, it was once I decided that was what I wanted to do. I was committed to my plan and the pieces fell into place very easily and very quickly. I decided and the Universe conspired with me to make my dreams a reality, but there were pros and cons

As I was renting, buying was a smart move although I live on much less than when I was working full-time. I've adjusted and it has been a steep learning curve as I'd never bought and financially managed a house on my own. I moved two hours from my adult children which was very painful, but I only saw my children twice a month and they lived ten minutes from my home. I loved working with my clients, but I was tired of running around with 27 client families and the paperwork...was just awful. I felt like a hamster in a wheel most days and creatively, I was stifled. There was little time to write and paint which I've done since I was in my early teens. I needed a creative life. Moving was the best decision ever and I've never looked back. There were sacrifices to make, however.

Is it still easy? No, it's not. I live retirement pay check to retirement pay check and tax season is always stressful, but with God's help and being creative and frugal, I manage. I still see my children once or twice a month which is great and I have met new friends in my new town. I try to take a road trip per month to visit friends and family which I love and my social life can be active if I choose. I love my home and I'm still working on this old house and garden which give me a lot of joy, satisfaction and peace.

The difficult parts of sticking to my plan are: sticking to my plan when money is tight and keeping the faith and my dream of seeing my historical novel, A Decent Woman, alive. I've looked into part-time jobs in my town, but they are either not available or the money is too low for the amount of time required. I want to write, period. To go backward and work full-time isn't an option for me. I've already lived my dream for three years, there is no going back in my hard-headed brain. I will make ends meet because I want this life and I must persevere. Worrying won't help. I must remain steadfast and confident about my novel and my historical novel-in-progress, Finding Gracia.

The most difficult part I've experienced is actually staying the course when rejection letters arrive and when I meet people whose faces seem to say, "Get a real job" when I say that my book hasn't been published yet. When I tell them that I'm working hard on getting an agent and a publisher the traditional route, I imagine that they're thinking how irresponsible I am. I 'hear' their thoughts out loud, "Time to give up on that dream, Ellie. Self publish your book." It's like a brief instant of pity crosses their faces and they're thinking how delusional I must be to continue to go after this dream of seeing my book in print, the traditional way. Of course, I have no clue what they're thinking, but it's like I hear those words. My censors are alive and well some days. 

There's nothing like meeting new people to shake your firm foundation a bit and it's even harder with friends and family who know you well. Of course, this doesn't happen often, but when it does, it seems that all the good wishes and support instantly fade away. That's when I begin playing mind games with myself. I remind myself WHY I moved and WHY I must write. I believe in my novel and I love my story and characters. I have to silence the censors and naysayers in my head! When this happens, I take a walk or a short drive to clear my head. I remind myself of the difficult roads for all authors, including best selling authors. I visualize myself signing a stack of my books on a book tour and signing the contract for my second book. These tricks usually work and before I know it, I'm writing again.

I remind myself about how fortunate and blessed I am to do what I'm passionate about. I'm grateful for the opportunity and gift of writing full-time and very blessed to have a roof over my head. My children are happy, healthy and successful and I live alone with little or no distractions.

NOW, if I could just win the lottery...


Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I don't have time to blog today, but I do want to share some of my favorite quotes about writing with you. They keep me going!

Happy Wednesday to you!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Publishing and Sharks Have in Common

This morning I'm thinking of the 12 people who went to work at Building 197 in Washington, DC's Navy yard yesterday morning who will never return to their families and loved ones. Events and tragedies such as this one boggle the mind. We just never know when it's our turn. Even with a strong faith, we have a hard time understanding it all, especially when children are involved. I have a hard time with that.

We're left with many questions. Was this merely their time? Did any of those who perished have a feeling that they should have called in sick that morning? Is there a rhyme or reason to life? Why do good people die and why do others escape within an inch of their life? How does it feel to be next to someone who loses his or her life and you escape? I don't know the answers.

While taking a break from swimming in the waters of Cape Hatteras two weeks ago, I watched a black Lab try very hard not to follow his master into the surf. He or she had a hard time remaining in a sitting position, but ultimately obeyed his master who repeatedly told him to sit and stay. The Lab continued to wiggle his bottom and wag his tail in anticipation for the call from his master that never came, so he remained on the shore. When I caught this shot, the Lab raised a paw as if he were begging to join his master. I could feel his nervousness and see his jittery actions from where I was sitting in my comfy beach chair with a cold Dos XX beer.

Minutes later, a few yards away, a surf fisherman caught a Black Tip shark in three feet of water. I knew he was reeling in something large and 15 minutes later, I saw the shark's fin. Holy shnikies. I shuddered to think what could happened to the dog's master or the dog had he gone into the water. My friends, their children and I swam in that very spot earlier in that morning. Wow. I didn't want to think about that, either. Needless to say, everyone on the beach remained close to shore or swam in the tide pool that afternoon with no life guard present.

Life. We just never know what's coming down the road for us, sometimes at warp speed. Did the dog know the shark was out there? Did he want to protect and warn his master? Who knows.

Ever since the release of the movie, Jaws and watching Shark Week religiously for years, I've remained in waist high water and very vigilant in the ocean. Murky waters and I don't go in. But, I remember that it bugged me that I couldn't force myself to go in deeper that morning. The waters were crystalline blue and I was excited to ride the high waves with my friend's children on their boogie boards. And then, voila. There was my worst fear realized--a damn shark.

I felt conflicted as the shark was reeled in and flopped around on the shore. My emotions went in so many directions. I love nature, animals and here was this majestic shark with a huge hook in its mouth. I fidgeted on the beach and called out to hurry up and remove the hook. I wanted the fisherman to lead the shark back into the water as soon as humanly possible which he did. I didn't want the shark to die and yet, I wanted that shark out of the water because I wanted to swim and ride the waves and for people to be safe!

I ended up going back into the ocean the next day with a fishing rod and blood worms as bait (should have used squid or shrimp). I surf fished for the first time in waist-high water. I loved it. I was taking a risk, but that's what I had to do. I had to get back into the water, but I wanted to be distracted by fishing which I love. I don't get it either, so don't worry if you're not following my thought processes. We're all more complicated that we realize! It was the only way I could return to the ocean.

Since this is a blog about the writing life and I'm a writer, of course, my thoughts go to my novel, A Decent Woman. I dove into clear waters by writing my book in 2006 and wasn't worried about the future. I had no clue about the writing business or how difficult it would be to see my novel in print. I had to leave my manuscript a year later when my marriage fell apart and I left Europe where I'd lived for 13 years. The waters quickly became murky and I didn't touch my novel for four years while I worked full time, saw my kids through university, and went back to school. I jumped back into the writing waters in 2010 and with editing and querying agents, have swum against heavy currents since then with the publishing business as it is today. Some days, the waters are crystal clear for me and others are murky as hell when I want to chuck it all and self-publish.

Would I have started writing my novel if I'd known how frustrating and 'dangerous' to my emotions and mindset writing and the publishing world can be when you're trying to sell your book? Yes. I love the ocean and writing and yes, I have a fear of sharks and never seeing my book in print. What can you do, but protect yourself as much as possible and continue living and writing which I intend to do.

I've just had to develop thicker skin and remain committed to my novel-length manuscript and second novel which I'm presently writing. Don't wait to write if you feel that urge. Just do it. Jump in and swim.