Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Goddesses, Every One

Happy Birthday to me!

I turned 56 years old today. I've heard that 60 is the new 50, so I'm not sweating my age today. I'm happy I woke up. That's a huge blessing right there. It's a rainy, muggy day, but I'm happy, grateful and content to be alive on this amazing planet of ours.

Women in their 50's, 60's and on up look great these days, don't they? We're eating better, we're more active, still outliving men (I think), and older women are just plain damn sexy. Just look at Helen Mirren, Suzanne Somers, Meryl Street, Julianne Moore, and Diane Sawyer, sexy and smart. How about Catherine Denueve, Jaqueline Bisset, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dame Judy Dench and Susan Sarandon? There are probably face lifts in that group, Botox injections and personal trainers, but who are we to judge? I'm not saying "no" to anything just yet, but I'm afraid of surgery, so I doubt a face lift is in my future. Botox? Maybe as a Christmas gift to myself one day!

I don't love turning 56, but I am healthy, happy and sane, all good things. My kids might beg to differ about the sane part, however. I'm sure I drive them bonkers and I believe that's my new role. I'm more outspoken now than when I was younger and I have a lot to say--much to their chagrin, believe me. So, my children adore that I write a blog and write poetry and historical fiction novels. I'm busy and out of their hair.

Joking aside, I'm blessed and I know it. I'm at peace with where I am in my life and I have a loving family and great friends around me. I love what I do and I'm fortunate to do what I love. What's not to love about all that?

When I turn 60, I'll smile that I'm not yet 70 years old and when I turn 70, I'll keep thanking God for that day and pray for more years with my family. Hell, I'm asking for a few more decades! It's all about gratitude, perspective and abundance, isn't it? There's plenty to go around.

Living a healthy life, being positive-minded and productive, and staying young-at-heart are key to a fruitful life and it's wonderful to have friends of all ages. Which I do. Early this morning, beautiful birthday wishes started rolling in on Facebook, followed by emails and texts from friends and family. I am blessed and very fortunate to have such amazing people in my life, some I've never met. They are my blogging buddies who I count as dear friends.

My friend's ages range from 21 to 78 and I love them all. My oldest friend looks like she's in her 60's. She runs her own real estate business and puts me to shame most days with all her running around and high energy level. We can be as different as night and day in many ways, but we share the same outlook on life--LIVE IT AND STOP COMPLAINING. She is one of my many role models.

Now, my friends and I do have our bitch sessions, don't get me wrong. We are great sounding boards for each other when discussing our kids, grandkids, and husbands if we have one. Boyfriends are always a great source of humor, heart and hugs, if we have one. It ain't over til it's over, I say!

All women are goddesses in my eyes, no matter what the age.Younger women would highly benefit from befriending an older woman--a mentor, a confidant and a cheerleader. I had my goddess mentors when I was growing up and again, in my 40's and now. Women who have taught me about patience, grace, forgiveness and life. For that, I thank my grandmother, aunts and my mother. I respect Marianne Williamson, Sonia Choquette, Cheryl Richardson, Louise Hayes, and yes, Oprah. I love Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Mother Theresa, Maya Angelou, SARK, and Saints Bernadette and Theresa, The Little Flower. I've learned from all these women and the list is much longer, believe me.

During the last couple of years, younger women have told me that they watch my comings and goings, my travels and my adventures. At first, I was surprised. I wasn't old or wise enough to be an older goddess! But now, I get it. Two of my favorite sayings are, "Be the change you wish to see", by Ghandi and "Lead and teach by example."

Take that chance, the risk, seize that opportunity, and always keep growing. Take your vitamin D, too.

Peace and love to you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Would Dona Ana Say?

Years after writing my first novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman, I'm still in love with my Afro-Cuban protagonist Ana. I've often joked that she is who I'd like to be when I grow up and I wish I'd met the midwife who helped birth my mother, two maternal aunts and my uncle. Dona Ana was my grandmother's comadre, her midwife.

There are no known photographs of Ana in my family photo albums, but from my grandmother's descriptions, I could see her clearly in my mind's eye--ebony skin, white turban, gold argollas (hoop earrings), and long, flowery skirts.  The stories I heard grandmother, my mother, Mercedes, and my Aunt Elena tell about this quiet heroine always stayed in my mind and heart. Ana was the perfect character for my novel, a composite of my grandmother, my mother and of course, little bits of myself.

If I were to describe my character Ana from the stories I heard, I'd describe her as a courageous, tough-as-nails woman with a heart of gold and a great sense of humor. A quiet champion for the rights of women and children, a pillar of her small community, the Playa de Ponce, a port town in the southwest coast of Puerto Rico. In my writerly mind, Ana was this woman, however, she had to harbor a secret or two and face a few challenges which are the reasons she fled from Cuba to Puerto Rico on a cargo ship in the early mornings hours. I added another secret in Ana's life that comes into play after she befriends and tries to protect two prostitutes from their pimp and a local Ponce policeman.

With the research I uncovered for my novel, it was easy to imagine Dona Ana as a spiritual woman who straddled two worlds--the world of an African slave who practiced the Yoruba religion brought by her parents from Nigeria to Cuba and Catholicism, the religion she was taught by the priests who took her in when she lands on the shores of Puerto Rico, la Isla del Encanto, the Isle of Enchantment.

If I had to describe Dona Ana in one word...I'd choose integrity. Throughout my novel, Dona Ana shows true courage and nerves of steel, with periods of self-doubt, fear and low self-esteem, mostly because of her slavery past and the treatment of workingwomen of color and mixed race in Puerto Rico in the early 1900's. After all, Ana was a woman of flesh and blood. Then and now, it isn't a stretch to relate to Ana.

If Dona Ana were alive today, I would sit at her feet as I did with my grandmother, Meme, when I was a child. I'd absorb and digest every story and her stories would never got old. My grandmother and mother were great storytellers. During every summer and holiday vacation to visit my family in Puerto Rico, we'd ask Meme to tell us about the old days and she never disappointed us. With a glint in her eye and a big smile, she'd begin and we were her rapt audience for hours, listening to vivid tales of Puerto Rico in the old days, and her cast of characters which often included Dona Ana.

I was especially interested in the birthing practices on the island in those days, more so when I was pregnant with my two children. I was fortunate and blessed to have Meme and my mother with me when I gave birth to my children. It now seems as if I was pregnant with Ana's story since I was a young woman and now, as a 56-year woman, it's time to birth this baby.

I've often said that I channeled Dona Ana as I wrote the first draft of A Decent Woman. I could see my characters and hear their voices in my mind's eye. I wonder what Dona Ana thinks of my novel? What would she say to me if she could?

I like to think that Meme, my mother Mercedes, and Ana, all passed on now, would be very pleased with me.

Peace and love,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writing Away the Pounds

This will probably be the last blog post I'm able to write until I receive my new power cord from Amazon. I hope it arrives this week. I have to return my neighbor's cord in a few minutes, so I'm taking this opportunity to write a blog post about the importance of exercise and down town between writing sessions.

In the time that I edited my novel, A Decent Woman, and got it ready for querying agents and publishers, I'd gained 20 pounds. You've read right. That's what I gained in two years and I know why. I was eating on the run and that meant fast food. I love to write and sitting in front of a laptop for eight to ten hours a day doesn't bother me, but it bothered my waist line! By the time summer rolled around this year, I couldn't zip up my shorts. I put them on and was surprised by the two inches that would have to disappear in order for me to zip up. If I'd gotten them zipped up, breathing was another matter altogether. I was forced to head to Walmart for new shorts in a larger size. Not good.

It didn't seem to matter that I worked in the garden last spring, cleaned my house and walked my dog, the weight kept creeping up. My dog is a cute, but lazy Pug and walking him is like a very s l o w stroll in the park, so that wasn't really helping matters. I needed to boost up my metabolism which isn't easy with menopause lurking around the corner and a lifelong thyroid issue, but it had to be done.

I needed motivation. I bought a new pair of walking shoes, started walking in town for an hour and then, a friend introduced me to Weight Watchers. She gave me her binder of WW literature and her digital point counter. I began reading up on what it all entailed as I've never done WW before and I was pleasantly surprised as to what I could eat. It was worth a try and I'm in the first week of my goal of losing 50 pounds.

Here are some of the changes I had to make in my life:

Plan to write for an hour or two and then, turn off the laptop. Take a long walk, plant a small garden, buy a step counter for my walks, walk up and down the stairs a few times a day, and walk instead of driving whenever possible. Drink lots of water. Look at my diet and take out as much sugar and caffeine as possible. Stop drinking soda. No more white bread, sugar or white flour. Blend my version of Green Juice and try it for 14 days. (My recipe below).

For mental and emotional downtime, read! Start a journal again. Make a dream collage. Paint again. Learn something new. Visit friends instead of calling and texting them, if possible. Connect with people. Volunteer. Teach a class. Join a dance class. Take neighbor and her kids to the zoo or a petting farm. Hug a tree. Take a walk along a body of water. Go fishing. Learn a new language. Start planning my next vacation. Call an elderly relative or neighbor I need to catch up with. Breathe and meditate. Pray. Visualize my published book in my hands as I read an excerpt at a book signing with a sell-out crowd :)


1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped up
bunch of spinach and kale
1 cucumber
juice of one lemon and one lime
handful of fresh mint
1 apple
1 orange

Blend. Should make three large glasses. Fruits and vegies are ZERO points on Weight Watchers.


Peace and love,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Going Solo and Taking Risks in Life

I replaced the power cord on my laptop last year and was back in business. This morning, my newish power cord didn't do the job. I'm borrowing my neighbor's power cord and had to apply plumbing tape just to keep it plugged in.

Ellie Unplugged. I don't like the sound of that, so my son ordered me yet another power cord. Thank you, son! I just pray it's not my laptop...that would suck royally.

I love new beginnings whether it's me, someone I love or a complete stranger. I love challenges, new experiences and new vistas and my children are no strangers to new beginnings. We started new lives in the United States after my marital separation in Belgium 2005 where we'd lived for 13 years. I taught my children by example to embrace new beginnings and take risks in life and they are certainly following my lead--my son is taking a three week "lone wolf" trek through Southeast Asia next month.

My initial reaction was a dropped jaw as I heard the news from my son on the phone this afternoon. But I know my son--he will research everything he can possibly research and he's travel savvy enough to know that he has to be careful and watchful. He has consulate phone numbers, train schedules and names of hotels on the way, but he's solo. I'm thrilled and worried at the same time. However, I raised fearless children and that makes me proud. I shouldn't be surprised that he is ready for this international trek.

My son invited his sister, my daughter, on this trip which really warmed my heart. But she is in graduate school and working part-time, not a good time for her. I'm PRAYING that she can go on one portion of the trip as she has always wanted to visit Southeast Asia. I think this would be a great trip for them both. My daughter is on her own adventure with graduate school and her new beginning will be when she graduates--she's a natural born therapist. I'm as thrilled for her as this is her passion in life and the happiest day will be when she graduates and my other happiest day will be when my son returns from this "lone wolf" trip!!

I joked with my son that I had time off and could go along on his adventure and knew that he'd laugh--he did :) It's not my place to go on this trip or any trip that my children go on these days. These are my children's life adventures and I'm thrilled for them. I did good with these two. I'm so proud of their life's achievements and their courage in the face of adversity when it has hit. I couldn't ask for any more from my children--they amaze me and I love them more than life itself.

Writing a book takes a lot of the same things that we're talking about here--risk taking, stamina, courage, resilience, strength of character, facing rejection and setbacks, and love of our stories and characters. Writing my first book, A Decent Woman, was a new chapter for me and seeing my book in print will be a whole new beginning and I'm more than ready for that!

Take the risk for your dream and passion in life--you'll never be sorry you did. Just put one foot in front of the other and walk toward your new beginning.

Peace and love,

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life and History on the Long Island Sound

I've just returned from a week's vacation in the Bronx or as my friends informed me, "da Bronx" which is the proper, local way to refer to the Bronx. We don't refer to Paris as "the Paris" or Atlanta as "the Atlanta", so I was curious as to why "the" is used when referring to the borough of the Bronx. My hosts for my fabulous vacation, Liz and Ron, both born and raised in the Bronx, told me why and here is Cecil Adams's answer from his website called The Straight Dope:

The name of the wealthy family was Bronck (sometimes spelled Bronk). The clan's patriarch, Jonas, settled on 500 acres north of the Harlem River in 1639 and promptly affixed his surname to various features of the local geography, notably the Bronx River.

As one of his descendants explained, "The termination of `x' merely indicates the possessive case. Instead of writing Bronk's River or Bronk's farm, the Dutch took the phonetic short cut and made `x' do duty for the fusion of `k' and `s'; extremely simple, and a space saver too. Thus, when Jonas impressed his own family nomenclature on the region he settled, the Aquahung River became Bronk's River — the Bronx, as it remains today, correctly expressed in Dutch."

As far as Cecil can tell, the name "the Bronx" didn't signify the entire area now known as the Bronx until late in the 19th century.

In 1874 about 20 square miles of mainland Westchester county was annexed to New York City. This region was known thereafter as the Annexed District of the Bronx, in apparent reference to the Bronx River, then the district's eastern border.

In 1898 the Annexed District became part of the Borough of the Bronx — presumably still referring to the river. After a while, however, people forgot about the river and began casually referring to the entire borough as "the Bronx." The use of "the," in other words, is simply a historical accident."

So there you have it. Before my trip to the Bronx, all I knew about the Bronx was what I'd seen in old black and white photographs of tenement buildings, Art Deco-style apartment buildings, corner stores, fire escape ladders, and front stoops that doubled as front porches for the residents. I'd seen photographs of kids enjoying gushing water from open fire hydrants on hot summer days and as a kid I thought that was awesome, certainly better than our measly water sprinkler in the front yard. The children's faces radiated pure joy and looked to be of diverse racial groups, all playing together. I always thought how beautiful that was knowing that the residents were probably of German, Dutch, Italian, Irish, African American, Jewish, Puerto Rican and Polish decent to name a few.

So when my friends drove me to their home, I half-expected us to pull up to a gorgeous Art Deco apartment building in the city. Not so! We pulled up to a pretty red brick house with a front yard, complete with a flag pole flying the United States flag and the Marine Corps flag which didn't surprise me as my friend is a proud Marine Corps veteran. Wait a minute, where we were exactly? In Throg's Neck, NY in the borough of the Bronx to be exact. Throgg's Neck to the locals and don't ask me why they add the extra "g" because I don't know. Some things are what they are and you just accept it.

After I'd unpacked, we walked half a block, passing what used to be private summer cottages where people now live year-round. We made a left at the corner and I saw the water down at the end of the street. I needed a map to get my bearings! Ah it made sense. The Long Island Sound. Moments later, we reached their waterfront beach club. Beautiful and not what I expected. Waterfront communities and several member-only beach clubs, who knew this little gem existed? I certainly didn't and was pleasantly surprised.

My friends have owned a boat as long as I could remember and I was happy to hear that they still had it. I should have known that they would have retired by the water. I found out that their beach club, the Manhem Club, had been part of their lives since they were young. The original members had been of Scandinavian or Nordic decent and it was evident when I was introduced to some of the members--lots of blondes with light eyes with names like Sven, Carl and Lars. My friend's mother was of Swedish origin and is now the President of Manhem Club, his wife, the First Lady of Manhem Club, is of Puerto Rican decent. I've always had a love of genealogy and history, so I found all this fascinating and couldn't wait to do a little research on the great borough of the Bronx when I got home.

My friends and the members work hard for their Club, hosting events throughout the year, but their busy season is obviously summer. Hurricane Sandy had destroyed many of the club's piers and my friend's also lost their locker building. They rebuilt in two months just in time for the Interclub Races between the different clubs. I joined in the fun and in the spirit of volunteerism, I learned to paint signs, tend bar, and make Jello Shots and Malibu Sea Breeze drinks. I had a blast. I wondered how I could become an honorary member of Manhem Club and pondered taking a bar tending course for extra money!

To become a full-fledged member of Manhem Club, one must have a Scandinavian bloodline in the family of which I have not a drop of. Seasonal members are voted in by the board which is how I also met people with names like Maria, Giovanna, Eleanor, Joe Pizza and Tommy Mustache, no lie. I spoke to people whose parents were original members. They'd been coming to Manhem Club since they were born and now, their children are enjoying the summers like they did when they were young--I found that interesting and quite unique.

Also unique and interesting to this Puerto Rican-born Army brat was the Bronx accent I heard everywhere I went. I was told that I sounded like a Southerner which I found funny. I've never heard that, but compared to the Bronx accent, I guess I did!

I'm returning to New York in early October for the Second Annual Comadre and Compadre Writers Conference in Brooklyn, just in time for Manhem Club's Members Dinner Dance. How fun is that?

Peace and love from West Virginia.


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Cruise

I had just received my email confirmation for the 2nd Annual Comadres and Comadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn, New York on Oct 5. This will be my first writer conference and I'm psyched! I don't know what to expect, but I am sure it will be an awesome experience. I will love being among fellow Latino writers from all over the United States and abroad and of course,  making new friends and literary contacts.

So, to get myself in a New York frame of mind, I emailed my good friends, Liz and Ron, and asked when I could visit them in Throg's Neck, NY and their very gracious reply was "ASAP!" We met in Brussels, Belgium where we were stationed in 1994 and hadn't seen other in 11 years. The old adage that with some friends, you pick up where you left off is true for my friends and I. We didn't miss a beat, I'm so very happy to be here with them--they are fantastic hosts and great friends.

As well-traveled as I am, I've only been to New York one time when my kids and I visited three years ago right before Christmas. We had a ball doing all the touristy things, so when my friends asked me if I was interested in a tour of NYC during this visit, I bowed out. I wanted to get acquainted with the Bronx, specifically Throg's Neck where my friends live and with Long Island which I've wanted to visit for decades.

I am a nature lover with an affinity for any body of water and my friends have a boat, so can we say perfect? The weather couldn't have been better and the company was awesome. We left the marina and headed into the Long Island Sound and I pinched myself--I thought of how fortunate and blessed I was to be alive at that very moment. The seagulls called out to us and the breeze was luscious as we sailed under beautiful old bridges and passed throngs of people enjoying the day in parks at the water's edge.

When the water got choppy, my friend told me we were passing through Hell's Kitchen, the area where the East River, the Harlem River and the Hudson River with the Bronx on the right bank. As my friend veered the boat to the left, the Manhattan skyline came into hazy view. I now understood what was so awesome about the skyline and why artists paint it over and over.

We sailed past the Chrysler Building, the United Nations Building and the new Freedom Building where the Twin Towers stood and fell on September 11, 1992. I didn't know anyone who perished but my friends did. I doubt you could live in the city and not have known people who were forever changed by that time. I said a silent prayer as we passed.

Then, off in the distance, the Statue of Liberty came into view and I could feel my excitement build. I was really going to see the Statue of Liberty up close and personal in all her French glory after a lifetime of seeing her in print and on the television. I was not disappointed. The statue is magnificent and as beautiful as I thought it would be.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Lady and her city from the water--it's a totally different story from the river. Now, I had tons of questions. I wanted to know about the history of New York City and the cast of characters who built and founded this great city. My girlfriend said she had three books by Lloyd Ultan written in collaboration with the Bronx Historical Society, I can't wait to get stuck in.

I am in love with the Long Island Sound and all the wonderful communities I've seen. I have added this area to my short list of places to really retire. I say really retire because I'm fully retired at the moment. I have an historic house in the downtown area of my city and a river property on the Potomac River. My goal is to combine the two one day--an old house on the water. I have a new goal and I love the hunt. Search and research are my two middle names. More tomorrow...

Peace and love,

Monday, August 5, 2013

You Bugger, Discovery Channel.

Very interesting. In my last blog post, I wrote about blog traffic sources and mentioned that I had one "lonely reader in Latvia". This morning, my traffic sources 'tell' me that I had 90 Latvian readers last night! I didn't even use Latvia as a tag. I merely mentioned Latvia in my blog and BINGO--new readers. Impressive.

I read several blogs a day and I swear, I canNOT remember who said this, but a blogger mentioned that India has the largest number of blog readers. I'm not surprised, actually. I wasn't saying that Latvia doesn't have a large number of blog readers, I was merely stating the statistics I received from Blogger on that day.

Welcome Latvia and a warm welcome to all new readers, wherever you are!

So, Shark Week began last night. For weeks, I'd watched the commercials for Shark Week and of course, the commercial about the little seal who has been nursed back to health only to be swallowed up by a Great White Shark as he is lowered into the water. I was roped in just like thousands of others and couldn't wait for 9 pm last night when the first episode would air. I had my television set to the Discovery channel all day Sunday and I wouldn't have left my home if Brad Pitt himself had invited me out for dinner.

Super job, Discovery. You had me hook, line and sinker. Even when I realized this show was bogus (an hour in, I'm embarrassed to say) and although I know full well that Megalodon, the prehistoric shark, has been extinct for over 2 million years, I STILL wanted the damn shark to be found and tagged by the three marine biologists! I reacted the same way with the Discovery channel mermaid episode a while back. Can we say glutton for punishment and gullible? Guilty as charged. I've always been a sucker for a mermaid story and I love sharks. They scare me silly, but I love the stories.

I was rooting for the characters in this work of fiction called Shark Week. The whole time I watched the two hour show, I was entertained and this morning, I marvel at the Discovery channel's fantastic marketing and PR departments. Now, I'm trying to figure out where fact left the building and fiction took over and left wondering if the marine biologists really are marine biologists and not actors. Who knows?

The show opens with some homemade footage of a fishing trip off the shores of South Africa. We see happy, young people and some guy reeling in some big mystery fish which he fights with for over two hours before he loses it. I love fishing and have done a bit of deep sea fishing, so I was totally taken in. Then, something hits their boat. Something large. I am glued to the set as the camera rocks and rolls and we see a woman laying face down on the deck of the boat. Next, a newscaster is telling us that the boat was lost and the crew was never recovered. What?! It's Shark Week, so we KNOW it just has to be a shark--most probably a White Shark which I thought were always called Great White Sharks but, that's not here nor there.

Now, the marine biologists are showing us footage of dead whales off the coast of Chile with their tails bitten off in one bite and footage a Chilean boy is watching when he spots something huge swimming by. Then, we are shown the fin and dorsal fin of an enormous shark in a black and white Nazi era photograph. What are we to think? Huge shark. My mind is racing. Could it be? Megalodon alive and well?

Global warming, polar ice caps melting, whales disappearing, several catastrophic tsunamis later and we have--Megaladon, the prehistoric shark swimming around our oceans at depths that reach over 65,000 feet. Holy moley. It could be, right?! Wrong. Now, I remember the mermaid episode that I also believed hook.line.and.sinker. What a putz I am. I've fallen for it again and I loved every second.

Damn you, Discovery channel. But, kudos on the most enjoyable, exciting, nail-biting episode yet :)

Fiction, ya gotta love it. I'm taking good notes and can't wait to go fishing again.

Peace and love,

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Google Blogger for Dummies and Social Media Questions

Good morning, world!

I enjoy checking my blog statistics and traffic sources before I sit down to write a blog post. I'm funny like that. This has become a daily habit since I discovered that I have dozens of fans in Russia, China, India, Australia, Germany and one lonely fan in Latvia (today). I check my reader's locale, what search words they've used to find me and just this morning, I discovered that I must be in the book, Google Blogger for Dummies. This is quite an honor if indeed this is true.

Just a little while ago, I clicked on my TOP search and I was referred by to a page where I can buy the book, Google Blogger for Dummies. Smile. Not bad, people. Well, of course, I'm curious, but I'm not buying the book nor the scam if that's what it is. What's the deal with so many 'readers' in Russia and China??

It could be a situation where my blog is used as "What not to do when writing a blog!" Wouldn't that be a hoot :) My friend K says that my blog is probably used in foreign universities, in English as a Second Language classes, and I think that it may be that my blogs are read in classes on foreign social media. I imagine my blogs are read aloud in classes all over the world as THE MODEL for writing a blog. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek. Highly doubtful, but my numbers don't lie! I've had over 5,400 page views since I started The Writing Life, not a bad number, eh?

So, what do I do with this information? Not a whole lot. I change my blog password quite a bit and I just keeping writing and blogging. I will keep checking traffic sources and continue to query agents, small publishers and the biggies in NYC. 

If there is a publishing company that is interested in me and publishing my book, A Decent Woman, make yourself known! My passport is up-to-date!

Have a nice day :)

Peace and love,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tips on Finding Your Unique Writing Voice

All jeans are not made alike. You have bootcut, flared bottom, low riders, jeans with Lycra and Spandex, and old fashioned Levis. Most people have a favorite style, I know that I do.

That's the way it is with writers, as well--we're all different with very different voices. And, that's a good thing. There's no one size fits all in jeans, writers or readers for that matter. We like what we like. We write what resonates with us. We should write what we know or are interested in learning more about.

What does voice mean in writing and how does a writer find his or her own unique writing voice? When I wrote my first novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman, I just wrote it. I didn't know what voice was other than I knew I sang bass in school and badly at that. I didn't know about branding or building a platform and I'm kinda glad I didn't. I might have been overwhelmed! Here are a few tips that worked for me.

Think about why you like to read what you read.
What genres appeal to you and why?
Examine why you like a particular author. Is it the story content, the style of writing or the book's settings and locales?
Get to know yourself through your blog or journal.
How would you describe yourself in a couple of words?
What did you like to do or read as a kid?

I was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico to a Puerto Rican mother and an American service member (yes, there's a difference, although we are American citizens). I was brought up in a bilingual family. I'd always had a love of classic Puerto Rican literature like La Charca by Manuel Zeno Gandia (considered by many to be the first Puerto Rican novel) and Dr. Manuel A. Alonso who write El Gibaro. My Puerto Rican grandparents owned two farms in Puerto Rico which I LOVED visiting. I also loved my Spanish classes and my yearly summer vacations on the island with my family. My Polish grandmother and my Puerto Rican grandmothers were great storytellers and I was a great listener. I am very family-oriented and at one time, I researched my family tree on both sides of my family--Polish, Russian, Italian, Canarian (Canary Island) and Puerto Rican. I love great adventure and reading about great adventures, the ocean, the Caribbean islands, history, historical fiction, and family sagas. I love crime drama, am a bit of a feminist, and always thought little girls needed a heroine. As a child, I loved to talk, draw and write stories and songs. As an adult, I worked as a bilingual social worker, a counselor and an alternative medicine practitioner. My sister and I love extreme weather.

Is it coming together for you? It was no big surprise that I would write an historical novel/family saga set in Puerto Rico in the early 1900's, based on my grandmother's lifelong friendship with her midwife. My protagonist Ana was a strong woman, an advocate for women's rights, a mystical and spiritual woman, who explored the idea of decency in early Puerto Rican society. The extreme weather aspect? My first chapter opens during a hurricane. Hurricanes and tropical storms are a way of life on the islands :)

I hope my tips help you explore and find your writing voice and, if not?
Just WRITE! Figure out your voice later. Your unique writing voice will come through writing, reading and writing some more. Good luck!

Peace and love,