It's the day before Halloween, the colorful leaves are mostly gone from the trees, and it's snowing. The brown oak leaves hang heavy on their branches, weighted down by the freezing rain/slush/snow mixture that's been falling all morning. It's a preview of the months to come, with the colors outside muted to grays, browns, whites, the occasional deep green of the fir and spruce trees.
Winter is not my favorite time of year, yet I am ready to accept the slowing down of life that occurs as we move into this colder season. It's been a hectic, stressful year so far, with several deaths of friends and family and the loss of life in Lahaina, Hawaii and in Lewiston, Maine. Plus, all the other mass shootings in the country so far and the wars in Ukraine and the Gaza area. It's a lot to process, so I am ready to retreat a bit from the world and work on writing, weaving, and surface pattern designs. I'll play with my grandchildren, read good books, and eat the food that I've stored from my garden that I'll turn into soups and stews and stir-fries. I'll bake cookies and muffins and pies and a loaf of bread or twenty and plan for the holidays and wish all my children could be home for Christmas.
I'll find ways to keep moving forward, physically, mentally, emotionally, while I wait for the days to stop turning shorter and darker and swing back toward the light, which gets noticeably brighter as we edge out of January and into February. It's months away, yet the time will go by quickly, just as this year has gone by quickly, too quickly.
Life is not a dress rehearsal, so celebrate every moment because we never get them back.
Stay safe out there on Halloween and remember to eat the chocolate first!
I am obviously not one who posts blogs very often, but sometimes we must change as the world changes around us. The recent events in America after the inauguration of Donald Trump as president prompted me to write this rap poem. Enjoy!
This Has to Stop
The disintegration of the nation
from ocean to ocean was set in motion
when one man made his declaration
to run for the highest political temptation,
his nomination and numbing election
birthed an earthquake of disbelief and major rejection.
Just days after his inauguration,
there’s now a Muslim registration,
defunding of every conceivable organization,
pipelines of destruction and construction
has begun on a multi-billion dollar wall
He’s been met with derision,
a sea of pink visions,
every fucking executive decision
raises yet another petition,
but signatures by the millions
won’t hinder his decrees.
We say this has to stop now
yeah, this has to stop now, yeah
this has to stop.
His transactions for the good of the republic,
beat like bricks on the backs of blacks,
Latinos, Asians, and whites, who fight,
protesting the drop-kick chain reaction
of having every progressive action
by the forty-four before him
fall to the ground.
Climate change no longer exists under this administration,
it consists of the twisted lies of scientists,
of particles and parts per million
and a lexicon of complexities
too intricate for him to comprehend,
because Make America Great Again
is the easiest message for him to send.
Hispanic deportations are next on the agenda,
say good-bye to Mama, Papa, and Abuela,
it’ll be years of litigation, and endless frustration
while kids walk the tracks from shack to shack,
waiting for their mom to come back,
but she’ll be in jail for being a wetback.
We say this has to stop now
yeah, this has to stop now, yeah
this has to stop.
His cabinet nominations,
swamp monsters of big corporations,
are placed in positions and situations
where they’ll shake the very foundation
of our Constitution. With little regard for restitution,
they’ll force Lady Liberty into prostitution,
selling her natural resources and sacred lands
to those with the biggest wallets and tiniest hands.
In his gold-lined room, he reclines and relaxes,
still refusing to release his taxes,
while his henchmen swing legislative pickaxes
at equality, liberty, and justice
he smirks and watches old reruns of The Apprentice.
Desperation, denigration, deprivation
make the US the prime destination
for the huddled masses yearning to be free . . .
yet when they see the newly elected in DC,
spreading lies through his “real” Twitter feed,
they’ll question what kind of crazyweed
Americans have been toking
that promoted this poisonous pokeweed
into the Oval Office.
We’re choking on the abuses,
want progression, not excuses.
It’s time to end the subjugation,
and pussy grabbing domination . . .
Congress needs to end the desecration
of the Declaration of Independence
before something of major subsequence
We say this has to stop now
yeah, this has to stop now, yeah . . .
y’all, this has to stop.
Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence & Captivating Readers by Barbara Baig (Writer’s Digest Books, $19.99, paperback 9781599639154, August 7, 2015)
In Spellbinding Sentences, Barbara Baig offers writers a new set of tools to improve their writing. She understands that the only way to use words precisely is to know them intimately and she helps readers gain the necessary skills through practical exercises. Free writing, vocabulary building, and the study of the dictionary and thesaurus are just a few of the many methods she employs to help readers broaden their language skills. She analyzes the quality of words, whether they are formal or informal, generic or specific, or abstract or concrete, and the subtle differences found in the connotations of synonyms. Sensory details are explored at length before Baig offers an extensive section on grammar. This is more than a refresher course for those who’ve forgotten the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb. Baig delves deeply into each part of speech and shows how they work separately and together as building blocks toward simple and complex sentences. Her analysis is similar to diagramming sentences, but without the pictorial framework which was always a part of that old-school task. Charts illustrating sentence patterns help break down the complexity of sentence construction, making it feel simple to plug in nouns, verbs, etc. to create compelling sentences full of modifiers or independent clauses. The author also offers numerous examples to illustrate her points. Baig’s methods are straightforward, practical, and highly achievable as long as one is ready to sit down and work. The book is not a quick read, but one that should be visited on a regular basis, like a school course, with each exercise building on the previous one. As Baig writes, “Mastery of diction and syntax enables you to wield a kind of magical power over the minds of your readers.” For those willing to set aside time to proceed through each task, the rewards will be found in controlling that magical power with ease and finesse.
Rainy days in the summertime make me want to curl up under the bed covers and sleep or snuggle under a blanket on the sofa, drinking warm tea and reading a good book.
Today is one of those days; it's raining, chilly, and foggy. I have a small fire going in the woodstove just to dry things out a bit. The paper lined up in my printer was beginning to stick to itself, so hopefully the fire will help. I don't have much energy to do anything, although I have a list of items that need to get done since it is raining and I'm forced to be inside. On good days, my computer sits idle more often than not because I'm out in the garden, mowing the lawn, or off picking blueberries and raspberries, which I pack away in the freezer for the cold winter months. So, today I should get a pile of tasks taken care of, plus return to the novel I'm writing, which languished for a bit while family was visiting from out of state. But neither the list nor the novel are really calling to me. Perhaps I should take a hint from the cats. Both are sound asleep, one on our bed, the other in the guest room at the opposite end of the house. Tea and a book and a soft sofa will probably win out.
How do you spend a rainy day in the summer?
Born in the Wayeb has been nominated for Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi novel in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards
My novel, Born in the Wayeb: Book One of The Mayan Chronicles has been selected as a finalist in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi category. These book awards celebrate worldwide achievement in Latino literature and are presented by Latino Literacy Now in partnership with Las Comadres Para Las Americas and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos, which is an affiliate of the American Library Association.
I feel so honored to be part of this award ceremony; even if I don’t win the title of Best, I still know I am a winner and that my work is respected by the large Latino population of the world. This announcement gives me encouragement to keep following my dreams of being a writer who specializes in Latino-based stories and memoirs. I am Latina at heart, my work reflects this, and my goal is to educate and entertain readers about the Latino community that I know and love, the people of Mexico.
This winter in Maine has been extremely long and cold. Most of the wood is gone, and several feet of snow still cover the yard. The few paths we kept open all winter with the snowblower and shovels are now down to mud.
I crave color. I look outside at the endless sea of white on the ground, the trees still showing their bare gray and brown trunks, and long for the brilliant yellows, purples, pinks, and greens of springtime flowers and grass. I hung a twenty-foot-long Mexican papel picado banner in the yard last summer, its intricate cutout designs a blend of flowers and Mexican motifs, but it now hangs tattered and torn from the trees, the pennants mere scraps of yellow, blue, red, and green, the patterns no longer distinguishable.
An e-mail from a yarn company arrived in my inbox this morning, and I sat for ten minutes just looking at the beautiful shades of the new yarns being advertised. The sight of those oranges, reds, yellows, heather-greens and mottled purples was a balm to my soul. Perhaps it’s time to take up knitting again!
Wishing you warmer days and brighter colors . . .
It's a cold and clear day today and the sun is sparkling off the four feet or so of snow that we have in the yard. It's difficult to remember that there are flower beds underneath it all!
I'm in the process of working on the first draft of my second book in The Mayan Chronicles series. Book two, Dance of the Jaguar Woman, picks up where book one left off and will continue the story of Na'om, Satal and the rest of the gang.
It's nice to be working on this book as the characters and their world have already been created, so I feel like I'm visiting old friends when I sit down to write. I have several readers who are anxious for this new book as they are eager to know what happens to Na'om.
It took me a few months to want to get to work on this book. I had high hopes for the launch of Born in the Wayeb, book one, but was pretty devastated when I received a bad review of it in a national book review magazine. Anyone who has read the book and also read the review feels the reviewer did not read the book before making his/her comments, which is too bad if that's the case. Being a book reviewer myself, I know it is critical to read the book before writing the review. One can't assume to know where a book will lead. I have found this time and time again in the more than 330 books I've read for review; I'm constantly surprised at the twists and turns that cam suddenly appear in a piece.
Anyone who writes for a living knows how difficult the process can be, but if the desire is in the blood, then one must write, regardless of the critics or the sales or anything else for that matter. In the end, these Mayan chronicles are being written for me because they are the type of book I want to read. I'm glad a few other people feel the same way.
Announcing a new release:
Born in the Wayeb will be on sale December 15, 2014.
The release of this book is a huge deal for me. I have been working on the novel for close to three years and am finally going to see it in print. It’s been professionally edited by Jennifer Caven of Mainly Words, who was willing to hold my hand throughout the process, and I am grateful to Brandi McCann for capturing the image I had in my head for the cover so beautifully.
For anyone who knows me, the Mayan culture has always been a source of fascination to me and the idea of setting a novel in ancient Mayan times has been a long-time goal. I am eager to start on book two, which will require a bit more research into the Mayan concept of the Underworld.
I want this novel to bring to life a bit of history and culture that is often overlooked in today’s society. I feel the Hispanic world is as rich a source of information for possible historical novels as those that are so aptly written based on European events. Plus, we need more diversity in books. I hope readers enjoy discovering the characters in this book as much as I had fun creating them.
In my first post on self-publishing, I talked about why I decided to self-publish rather than try to get my book, The Paper Trail: Useful Charts to Organize Your Writing published through a traditional publishing house.
Now I’d like to discuss the steps I took to get from idea to book-in-hand.
· First, I had the idea, which might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people try to write a book without having any clear sense of the book’s purpose before they start to write.
· Since I was already using many of the charts in the book for my own business, it only took a couple of weeks to brainstorm and come up with more ideas that other writers, doing other types of writing, might find useful. Creating the charts was actually the most enjoyable part of the whole book process.
· Once I had the charts made and printed out, I created fictional information or used work-related information to fill in those charts so I could use them as samples. This process was a bit time consuming, but I knew it was necessary for readers to have a full grasp of how the book charts could function in their writing.
· I started to play around with ideas for the cover design. Then I did a ton of reading on book cover design online, and then I started brainstorming new ideas. I learned far more than I probably needed, but I’m glad I did the research. The original design was far more complicated than the one I finally wound up using.
· I learned the very basics on how to use Photoshop, InDesign, and some of the other Adobe Creative Cloud programs. Much of the month of May was spent trying to understand it all by watching videos, reading tutorials, and reading a couple of books on the subject. The more I learned, the more I realized I still had a lot more to learn, but I finally got a cover design that I was happy with. For the next book I self-publish, I’ll probably hire a graphic artist to create the cover, as I’d rather be writing than scrabbling around learning new computer programs, especially when the programs decide to act wonky at times. Then the frustration really sets in!
· The one aspect of self-publishing that has turned out to be the hardest is the marketing of the book. I am still in the process of reading and learning how to launch a product successfully; the next book will be done with more intent so that more readers find it more rapidly.
If you have any questions, feel free to send me a comment. I’m happy to help new writers as they travel down this same road.
Once again, time has flown by, and I’ve been busy.
I've spent the past couple of months investigating the self-publishing process and I’m happy to report that I have successfully navigated through the steps of writing, editing, and creating a book cover and have a new book for sale on Amazon called The Paper Trail: Useful Charts to Organize Your Writing.
Why did I go the self-publishing route? There's been so much media coverage in the past couple of years on self-publishing versus traditional publishing that I was curious and wanted to figure it all out. Plus, I liked the idea of having complete control of the project from the original idea to writing the content to editing, proofreading, designing the book cover, and actually getting it out in the world. And I admit that I like the idea of receiving more money per copy sold for this book than my cookbook, which is sold at exactly the same price. And, I didn't want to wait 9-12 months or more to get this book to print. The traditional publishing route is so very slow, what with sending query letters, waiting for responses, sending more query letters, signing contracts, etc. etc. I wanted this information available to writers right away, so jumped into the idea with everything I had.
Over the next several posts, I’ll try to outline the steps I took to get to this point. I hope you’ll follow along and if you have
any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments. I have several other books I plan to self-publish, and I’ll keep you posted on those as well.
About Ditched the Niche
One woman's perspective on