The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas and Joe Kennedy

Merry Christmas!

While having my coffee today, I watched the news -- a routine of mine.  I mostly tune out the clips that aren't all that interesting to me, but then a commercial came on sponsored by the Citizens Committee. This is an organization Joseph Patrick Kennedy, a former US Senator, is a spokesman for.

Mr. Kennedy is a scion of the Kennedy Clan, a powerful and rich, extremely rich, American political family.  I'm not going to go into the trials and tribulations of his life here, as we are all human and we all have had them.  Nor am I here to judge. If you're interested in reading all about it, check out the link I have provided. (Click on the title above to be re-directed).  That notwithstanding, I believe Mr. Kennedy represents a noble cause. Though a monied descendant, he has used his money and influence for the good of those of us who are less fortunate.

The world is in financial crisis. Large corporations and those elite members of the "10%", have gotten richer and more affluent on the backs of workers, our backs -- yours and mine. That raises the question: What have they done for us lately? We bailed out the banks that were too large too fail with increased taxes, only to have those in power turn around and grant themselves huge bonuses while the rest of us made do with less as we lost our homes and jobs. But I digress....

Gifts are given during the Christmas season. However, for Mr. Kennedy, every day is Christmas. Again, I stress, he has made his share of mistakes and he has made some bad decisions, but insofar as those who needed a helping hand for the most basic needs, he was, and still is, there to help provide for them.

We can all be like that. It doesn't have to be such a huge undertaking. A smile can make someone's day. It doesn't cost anything to be nice. I encourage, no-- I challenge you -- to offer someone a helping hand once in a while, a shoulder to cry on or maybe lend an ear and help someone sort out their problems just by listening.  Such small acts can be the difference for someone despairing between life and death.

My wish for this season, and for all time, is that we find the ability and the desire, to offer each other the comfort of friendship, love and maybe even that hand that will help lift up the downtrodden so that those who reached for that helping hand may pay it forward.

It's really not that lofty an idea, is it?

Happy holidays to all!!!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm Coming Back!

Happy December People!

Sinner here! Minnie's at work and when she's not at work, she's working with R.J. and Adina. Who are R.J. and Adina you ask? Oh, I've asked myself that question too!! Well, I'm gonna tell you, but I think I may have already spilled the beans on something she wasn't ready to talk about just yet! Aw well, my bad!

R.J. and Adina are from her new project, Divergent Lives. You thought I was crazy? Wait 'til you get a load of those two! Jeez!

But, anyway, this post is about me, right? I was beginning to worry about my relationship with Minnie. I mean, she hasn't really had much contact with me in a while and I thought she didn't care about me any more. So, what I did was, I waited until she was distracted with other things, you know, like family and/or work. And when that didn't happen, I thought she would get into the holidays. That wouldn't work either because I remembered, she doesn't do much until the last minute. I had no choice but to invade her dreams. And guess what I found out?  She does care! She thinks about me all the time AND I also found out that she'd been thinking of bringing me back. Better still, it's going to be a reality people!  I'm so happy! Now, you will all get an opportunity to learn something new about me. YAY!!

The down side? Yes, there's a down side...the down side is that I won't have center stage. She's bringing me back at the same time that she'll introduce you all to R.J. and Adina. At first I didn't want to be associated with those two crazies, but you know what? If anyone's going to do it, it will have to be me. Who else could do these two justice? Who else could bring Minnie's work to your attention? Unless....

Oh shoot! She's home early!  Damn!  I'll have to finish this later!!

Don't say I was here.....BYE!!!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Lesson Learned

I believe everybody is lucky to have a loved one, be it a human being or a pet, and/or a belief system or a creation that they would defend as long as they have breath in them. I'm one of those lucky people.

Over the last year, and particularly in the last few months, an invaluable lesson I thought I learned years ago has manifested itself in such a manner as to remind me once again not to forget it. The lesson being that things, and sadly very often people, aren't always as they present themselves to be.

As authors, our writings are akin to our children. With regard to Sinner's Ride, I have heard such hurtful things as "It's not going to be a hit, but it's a good story" or "I have a lot of respect for you, but this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ" and "It's a bit raunchy" (that last comment coming from someone who is in the midst of an affair with a married person, saying it with a scrunched up face as though something smelled bad).

All of the above coming from "friends". One of the above comments came on my facebook page that I deleted in an emotional fog followed by an angry email. That person is Christian and I am not. There are three things I do not get into debates about: Religion, Money and Politics. I can appreciate that everyone has strong beliefs and opinions as is their right, but so do I.

Sexual abuse, and any kind of abuse against any living being is no joke people. If it takes a "raunchy" story that is "not a hit, but a good read" or "not gospel-like" to get this issue to the forefront of people's minds, then I'm ok with being the face of this ugly monster.

After sleeping on this, I had the following epiphany:

This issue has riled up these people. Good, bad or indifferent Sinner's Ride has stirred some emotions. So what if it doesn't conform to your sensitivities? I've got you emotionally invested, and that is a good thing. Maybe it will move you to take a look around you; open your eyes to the ugliness we often encounter in this life. To all of you who have made these comments I say: "Now what? You've got your say. What are you going to do about it?"

Bottom line: you can not please all of the people all of the time. I don't have a problem being controversial. I will continue to write and I will continue to stir things up by bringing such controversial issues to the forefront; issues that should no longer be swept under the rug. My father used to say:  "You can't spit at the sky and expect to not get some on your face!"

I apologize to my Christian friend for reacting emotionally, but I refuse to apologize for what I believe in.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Summoning Your Courage to Challenge Something

If you summon your courage to challenge something, you'll never regret it. How sad it would be to spend your life wishing, "If only I had a little more courage." Whatever the outcome, the important thing is to take a step forward on the path that you believe is right. There's no need to worry about what others may think. It's your life, after all. Be true to yourself! ~~ Nichiren Daishonin

When I embarked upon my writing journey almost a year ago, I never imagined the road I would end up on once my book was published. Hell, I didn't even think about publishing it until after it was done and then I didn't think anyone would read it much less get people talking about it.

So much has happened since I blindly and naively sat down at my computer to write "Sinner's Ride".  I've met some really wonderful, diverse and interesting people -- artists in their own right. I've had the opportunity to work with sincere, intelligent and talented individuals. I have been fortunate enough to enhance my inner circle of friends. I am deeply appreciative of all their comments, support and consideration.  It has been a helluva ride!

With that said, I also have to admit that I've had to face some challenges; some of them inner challenges. And, I think I am a better person for it. I've learned to let go of some of the baggage from my past. I've learned to look at things differently, more positively and I've learned patience.

I have been off from work all week due to law mandated construction work in my kitchen. I thought I would spend this time working on my WIP while the construction workers banged away. Since there were some other personal things I had to get done, I scheduled those appointments. But, that's not my problem. 

When I began to think about my next project, I challenged myself to write a more complex tale and I put the onus on myself to write a better, fuller, more intense story than "Sinner's Ride." I had a good idea of what I wanted to write about and I thought I knew how the story would go, but I soon learned that was not going to be the case. This story was going to demand the right to take on a life of its own. I was merely a vehicle through which this story would develop and flow. So, I wrote my first and second chapters and then the third. When I went back to review/edit what I already had down, I didn't like it so I chucked it and started all over again. I had even sent the older version to my publisher. But. this new piece I liked much better. I then discovered that it would be a struggle to write specific plot lines for certain characters and I couldn't understand why. So I called a friend.

You see, I'm anal. Some would say "just write and go back to the areas where you have trouble later." I couldn't conceivably do that because the characters wouldn't let me. So I called my friend night after night after night. We talked about different scenarios and we tossed around ideas and we even came up with an idea for another story all together. But at the end of the day, it wasn't his problem. I had to figure out where my challenge was and why it was so difficult for me to write for these particular characters. 

The quote above very nicely wraps up this issue for me. I thought about giving up on this story and going back to my UF WIP, because that truly is when I started writing. But I'm not a quitter. If I give up on this story, then I won't evolve from what is holding me back. This story is proving to be a challenge for me because of noise in my own head and due to all of that ruckus, the words are slow in coming. I've had to stop and listen and try to make some sense of that noise and then let it die out. 

My friend is very spiritual. He sees messages from the universe in all challenges. Maybe he's right. Frankly, I think he may very well be. I, for one, believe that we are always exactly where we are supposed to be. I don't ever want to say "If only I had a little more courage."  However, this I know for certain: I might fail; this book may not be read by anyone except maybe my friends and family members whose throat I shove it down.  But I won't quit.

I am secure in knowing I won't be saying "If only I had more courage". I believe that this story for one, and my writing overall, is the right path for me.  I'm sure I'm not going to regret it, whatever the outcome.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/01 - 9/11/11

I write this against the backdrop of bells tolling for those we lost on 9/11/01. I don't think there is a soul alive who doesn't remember exactly what they were doing on that day. It is a day that will act as a marker in the lives of many.

When the North Tower was struck, my daughter was five and a half months pregnant. At the time, she worked at Penn Plaza, which sits over Penn Station. She sat in her office on the 34th floor, surrounded by windows. I was standing on the elevated platform of the 4 train at Fordham Road when my cellphone rang. It was my daughter calling and she was hysterical saying that a "drunken pilot flew into the WTC". I only half believed her, I mean really? Is that even possible? It seemed too farfetched to me. There had to be some other explanation for what she was describing.

My train pulled into the station, so I hung up promising to call her back when I got into my office. By the time I arrived 45 minutes later, the South Tower had been struck.  As soon as I reached my desk, I called my daughter and was talking with her when it was announced that her building was to be evacuated. She was in a panic because she was on the 34th floor and she believed that NYC landmarks were being targeted. She was afraid she wouldn't make it out.

I had just started working at the law firm I was working at just 3 months earlier, but I decided to leave the office thinking that if my daughter was right, I wanted to be with her. With that thought in mind, I headed out of my office on 57th Street and Madison Avenue to find her. At the time, my cellphone provider was Verizon, hers was Sprint. I hopped into a cab knowing that I would probably not be able to ride over to her location, but I also knew the driver would take me as far as he was allowed to go. I figured I would walk the rest of the way. In the cab, I tried calling my daughter, but could not get through. I called my grandson's father who at the time was working in Westchester County and told him what was going on. The cab driver got me as far West as he could and upon exiting his cab, I walked against the crowd to find my daughter. I continued trying to reach her on her cellphone, but couldn't. The closer I got to her office, the thicker the crowds became. I fought against those walking in my direction to find her. Two blocks away from her office, I was stopped by the police and was told I couldn't go any further.

To my right was an Irish Pub. People were spilling out of it. I spotted Kiernan, my daughter's co-worker. He was in a daze watching the unfolding events on the television screen just inside the threshold of the bar. I broke through the crowd and upon reaching him, touched his elbow, not knowing what to expect. He gave me a hug and I could feel him trembling. I pulled away and looked at him silently. He halfway turned and pointed at a bar stool. I looked over and there was my daughter staring at the screen. I think she was crying; I can't remember. I scooped her up and we embraced. I know I cried on her shoulder. We pulled apart to look at the screen just as the two towers disappeared in a horrendouse mushroom cloud. I grabbed her by the hand, pulled Kiernan along and headed to Friday's (a restaurant) in order to gather ourselves. My daughter needed to eat, and while she did, I called Dayne's father, my ex-husband in Puerto Rico, my parents and then passed my phone to Kiernan so he could call his elderly mom in Ireland. Afterward, we headed out and once we were away from the crowds, Kiernan headed toward Queens and my daughter and I began our trek.

We ended up walking to the Bronx border, jumping into a cab the rest of the way home as soon as we stepped foot in the Bronx. The whole time we walked away from Manhattan, I never lost my cellphone service. People in the street walked around in a daze. When we stopped to rest, I would offer my phone to strangers so they could call family members. It wasn't until the next day that it hit me -- people were making international calls on my cellphone. I was sure to get a huge cellphone bill, but knowing that I was able to help people, even in this small way, made it all worthwhile to me. I was never charged for those calls. Thank you Verizon.

Two months later, Dayne was born 8 weeks early. I knew all along my daughter was having a boy, but my first thought when he was born was of the Vietnamese War and the draft. I thought we would go into a long war and the draft would be re-instated. How weird is that? The love of my life will be 10 years old in November. 

My most haunting image of this day is the one of people jumping to their deaths from their office windows. Just the previous April, I had been on my first trip to Las Vegas. My then employer treated my team and I to a trip there as a reward for a job well done; allowing all members of the team to bring a guest. I didn't bring anyone because it would be a working vacation for me. I was the department head's secretary and he is a workaholic. We were putting together a trip to Singapore. I knew I would be working all hours during my stay due to the time difference. I knew I would be spending the bulk of my time arranging meetings with his colleagues overseas and other people he planned to meet with.

Phyllis, my co-worker, brought her daughter, Laura Gilly. Laura was an international flight attendant for the now defunct Tower Air Lines. She travelled all over Europe, Saudi Arabia and Asia. She absolutely loved her job. Phyllis worried about her constantly. She wanted Laura to give up flying and take a job on the ground because she thought she would be safer. While in Vegas, Laura and I would hang out, and though she loved to party, I stayed sober in case I had to go back to my suite to work. 

A month before the September 11 attacks Laura took a job with Cantor Fitzgerald. She died a grisly death in the attacks. For years afterward, on every anniversary, I would watch the roll call until I heard her name. In the earlier anniversaries, I would cry for hours afterward, but this year, I turned it off after I heard her name. 

I feel for all that we lost that day, especially those left behind. You can't help but relive that day on the day of the anniversary. The anguish I still see in the faces of those people is like a knife through my heart. Remembering all those lost souls is a good way to honor them, but an even better way is to go on living, helping and loving one another. It is our obligation to truthfully pass on the story of how we came together as human beings looking after one another in the face of adversity. What a beautiful legacy for the children that will come after us!

To all first responders: firemen, police, EMS and court officers who ran into both towers as people ran out, you gave your lives so others can live -- a heartfelt thank you!

To all those who worked at Ground Zero for so many months recovering body parts and momentos of lives wasted and clearing away debris: we know a lot of you are now paying with your health due to your sacrifice. Thank you does not seem nearly adequate enough to express the gratitude we all feel.

To our military, the men and women who fought and also sacrificed their lives for our freedom and safety, finally bringing down Osama Bin Laden: This country owes you a huge debt of gratitude.  Thank you!



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Confess....

I can't color within the lines. I don't know how!! I have ADD. Right now, I can't focus and I think I've figured out why that is.  I. Don't. Like. Feeling. Boxed. In. Man, I've tried. I really have, but I've come to the conclusion that I just can not do it. It's too inhibiting and it makes me crazy.

There! I've released it! You must be wondering what the hell I'm talking about. I'm talking about many things ... of course!!

First off, I am supposed to be working. I am physically in my office. Up to about a moment ago, my fingers were flying over the numeric keyboard calculating what was owed by my clients while I simultaneously compiled a list of names of people I need to call in order to collect outstanding invoices in anticipation of my firm's fiscal year end.  However, my mind keeps wandering. I'm antsy and if I didn't know any better, I would accuse one of my characters of demonically possesing me!

I've learned something new about myself though  I just CAN NOT focus on mundane things; particularly when I am in the middle of creating a story.  I had this very same experience when I was writing Sinner's Ride. I was up at 4 a.m. this morning writing down notes for an hour and a half, then went back to bed and fell asleep.  I woke up again at 7 a.m. -- late!!! So, now I had to skip breakfast and rush to work only to be almost a half hour late because of a train delay.  At lunchtime, I ran around in the hot, sticky, muggy streets of NYC to gather up the last few items I promised my daughter I would get for my grandson for his first day of school tomorrow.  And now, with just an hour and 15 minutes left to my work day, I've just received the latest batch of invoices to send out to clients.  Ask me if I care enough to get them out? I'll do it first thing tomorrow....  Procrastination has set in.

This situation is so bad, that now, my working title for this story, "Standing on the Precipice" no longer fits and the cover I envisioned will not do!  Yes, I did plot it, but even with all the work I put into plotting this story, it has evolved so much so that the original plot barely resembles anything like the direction this story is taking.  I plan to continue to refer to this story as "Standing on the Precipice" but I am 99.9% certain that this story will be titled differently when it is published. 

This is what I am doing with this story:  I write a chapter, then I sleep on it.  The next day, I will go back to it and edit it, then write the next chapter and walk away from that.  A day later, I will revisit it and re-read the whole thing and then edit whatever needs editing.  When I went back to my current WIP after the second chapter, I ended up writing and inserting a new first chapter and got all worked up again. 

Then, when I wrote the third chapter, I chucked it after sleeping on it and started it anew.  Though I am much happier with what I have so far, this is how the story morphed into something else completely!  I'm not going to fight it any more.  I've never been good at conventionality. I have always been a non-conformist, so, I'm just going to go with the flow and let the story write itself!

The problem with writing in this manner is that when I take a break, I will often come up with ideas for new stories borne of conversations with people or documentaries (I love documentaries!) that I may watch.  Sometimes, even something silly and mundane might happen and it will inspire a new story.  As a matter of fact, I've got this idea for a story. It came to me when I wondered about something while watching a documentary on TLC about dinosaurs......

The interesting thing about this new me is that it makes me think crazy thoughts.  About a week ago, I was talking with a friend and I told him that I was afraid of drying up.  He made a face and said:  "Woman!  You're not going to dry up!  Your mind is always going!"  I looked at him and seeing as he was convinced of what he was saying, I was convinced as well!  Nah!  I won't dry up!  That's just not going to happen!  LOL!!

Hmmmm.....about that idea; the one about the dinosaurs?  What if.........


Friday, September 2, 2011

End of Summer

Hello people,

Sinner here. This weekend is Labor Day Weekend in the States. This is the holiday that marks the beginning of the end of summer with barbeques and the final days in which the beaches are open to the public. Schools will re-open soon and people will be back on their regular routines. I thought this would be a good time for me to pop in and say hello while Minnie was away and chat a bit with you all f'or a bit.

I want to start by saying I hope you all had a nice summer. I worked really hard this summer on getting better. Oops! Have you all read my story? No? Why not? It's available right here!

Anyway, I have been working hard at getting better and I have made a lot of progress. As a matter of fact, there are things that I've realized about my reality and as part of my healing process, I think I want to share those things with you all. You know, a cleansing of the soul and all that? So, Minnie and I have been discussing the possibility of sharing that part of my story with you. Stay tuned for further information. Just thinking about all that's happened has my mind all jumbled again, so I'm going to have to take a step back again, and figure things out.

Oh, and just so you know, Minnie's got a lot on her plate right now. Things are going to heat up at work and she has put pressure on herself to get cracking on her next story...which by the way, she has not included me in! Frankly, I'm appalled, but I get it and I forgive her. So, remember, when she gets crazy, she tends to disappear for a bit to do what she has to do. Be kind to her when she returns from those "Minnie" vacations. She truly is very grateful for all her followers. In fact, she's honored and that's why she goes off on her own for stretches of time. She's wants to offer you the best work she possibly can and she's working hard at creating stories for you that you will enjoy.

So, with that said, I'm going to go back now.  But before I go, I want you all to know that I also appreciate all of your support. Thank you, for if it weren't for you, I/we wouldn't be here!! Thanks for visiting and come back soon!

If you're here in the States, then have a great weekend and be safe. If you're elsewhere, I hope you enjoy the weekend as well!

Good night all!!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

The last few days have been very hectic -- hell the whole week was.  During my lunch hour on Tuesday, while shopping at Sephora in Times Square, to quote Carole King, I felt the earth move under my feet.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a man.  (Am snapping fingers) :)  I actually thought it was the subway that runs underground right where I was standing rumbling through the undeground tunnels.  It wasn't.  It was the tremors of the aftershock of an earthquake in Virginia. 

Unfazed and totally unaware, I walked back to my office and as I approached the turnstyle to the elevator, a young attorney who was one of my assignments at our old location urged me not to go upstairs.  He's always kidding around and I didn't believe him.  He just kept saying it wasn't safe.  I looked over at the security desk in the lobby and no one looked panicked or even in the least bit stressed.  I chuckled and got on the elevator, ignoring him.  When I reached my floor, I got off, waved my card before the card reader and swung open the heavy glass doors walking through them and heading in the direction of my desk.  I walked passed the large, glass enclosed conference rooms and as I turned the corner, I could hear urgent chattering.  It's an office filled with women, and I paid it little mind, till I reached an attorney who sits near me and asked her what was going on.  She told me all about it.  Stunned I walked to my desk and im'ed with my daughter.  She was confused as well, so she called me, saying she did feel it and wanted to make sure I was ok.  Reassured I was, she hung up to check on Dayne who was at the pool with his day camp.  Obviously, he was ok.

A few days later, a hurricane watch for Hurricane Irene was announced.  It was barreling down on the East Coast and heading right our way.  I spent the rest of the week preparing: stocking up my refrigerator, making sure I had everything I needed for both Bosco and I.  By Friday, I was exhausted.  I showered then sat down to watch a little TV, but crashed on the couch.  I awoke to Bosco's loud purring and the weight of him trying to get comfortable on my chest at 1 a.m.  So I got up, shut everything down and went to bed. 

Almost immediately I fell into a deep sleep having two successive weird dreams.  First, I dreamt I was on Park Avenue, turning to go up the hill to Mount Sinai Hospital.  Why was I heading to the hospital?  I don't know; I wasn't hurt.  I was just strolling.  That whole area holds many, many mixed memories for me.  I used to hang out just up the block from there with my ex-husband and friends.  We regularly held block parties on that block and I always cooked.  I used to get requests for certain dishes.  My daughter was born at Mount Sinai.  But there are also lots of bad things I experienced in that general area.  So, I'm walking up the block, and who do I see but Christopher Meloni, the guy who plays Elliot Stabler in the SVU series of the Law and Order franchise!  Yep.  Not only that, though that is who I see, in my mind, I recognized him as my girlfriend, Johanna's dad!  It gets better.  I'm even addressing him by the name of an attorney in my office!  PLUS, he and his wife, who in my dream is really Johanna's mother, are walking these two, humongous, tan dogs.  And, to top it all off -- I was having perception problems.  I felt like I would faint at any moment and worried about the pain I would feel once I hit the ground if I fainted.

3 a.m.  I awoke with a pounding headache.  I got out of bed, got some water, and crawled back in, falling asleep again quickly.  (Did I sleepwalk??)  This time I dreamt I was sitting in a fancy hotel bar that looked very much like the rooftop bar at 230 Fifth Avenue ... one of my favorite places to go to during summer evenings because it's so beautiful there.  In this dream, it was extremely dark and I felt lost.  I thought my daughter was there, I mean, I could sense her but I couldn't find her.  I looked around the room, noticing that everything seemed -- I don't know -- wavy.  My perception, again, was off.  My eyelids began to feel heavy and I couldn't keep my eyes open.  I had also begun to have a feeling of urgency to get to my daughter.  I spotted her exiting the bar and rose to go in the direction she was heading.  The closer I got, the further away she got.  Did she even notice I was trying to get to her? 

Finally, I'm out on the street, in the middle of the neighborhood where I was born, and though I recognized where I was, I couldn't get a grip on my bearings and my perception was now becoming multidimensional.  My head was pounding, but I had to get to my daughter, and I had to keep my eyes open which was becoming harder and harder to do.  I jumped in a car .. just some car with some people in it I didn't recognize.  But I absolutely had to get to my daughter and that was the only way.  My heart was pounding.  I knew I was dreaming but I couldn't wake up.  I don't know how, but when I finally did wake up, my head was pounding even more than it had been earlier. 

It was 5 a.m. and too early to call my daughter.  I hoped she, Dayne and her boyfriend, James were ok.  I made a pot of coffee and drank some aspirin.  About an hour and a half later my headache began to subside.  I sat down to read tweets, email messages, blog posts and made a list of things I still needed to get in preparation for the storm.  At 10:30 my daughter called.  Phew!!  She was checking on me.  I told her my dreams.  She started laughing, saying: "Ma!  You dreamed what I was experiencing last night." 

Apparently she had been at a Hookah Bar and it was very dark.  Hookah Bars are popping up all over the place here in NY now.  I haven't been to one, but it's on my to do list.  She said she was feeling a little disoriented because of it, and didn't have a drink.  I don't know if she used a hookah.  Some of you may be wondering if I was in an altered state.  Let me assure you, I did not drink last night.  I find the whole experience somewhat surreal.

Now, I'm preparing for Hurricane Irene.  I've got all the essentials and I'm wondering if it's really going to get that bad.  Watching the news is unnerving.  I've shut off the television set and I am hunkering down with my laptop and my imagination to write.

Back soon!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Next Project

I've begun working on my next project, a story I'm calling "Standing on the Precipice." (SotP)  I'm not done plotting it, but already it has had several incarnations! 

Originally, this story was going to focus on a woman -- a child of immigrants with fractured ideas regarding what her path in life ought to be.  I thought I would write it much in the same way that I wrote "Sinner's Ride" (SR) -- stream of consciousness -- you know, just let it flow and let the characters tell the story.  But that's not going to happen this time around.  I've decided to do something different with this project.  Although I had done some research for some of the scenes in SR, it wasn't as intense as the research I have been doing and will continue to do for SotP.  (Here is a link to one entry on my blog over at my publisher's website, The Indie Author's Press for your perusal:  While you're at it, please consider becoming a member.  It really is a cool site!)

Another consideration I had to bear in mind was that I wrote SR during one short month last year as part of NaNoWriMo.  I've decided not to participate this year as I anticipate demands at work that will not be conducive to writing the kind of story I want to write.  Yes, I understand that I don't have to finish the story in 30 days - I just have to get in 50,000 words in that timeframe -- but I am anal that way.  Seriously.  Once I get my mind fixed on something, I have to finish it and I don't want to put myself under that kind of pressure because I don't perform well under those conditions.  I want to really spend the time it takes to organize, create and become intimate with the characters of this story.  As with SR, I want to grab a hold of my audience and not release them until the final scene is over. 

So, with all of that in mind, I have began using The Marshall Plan (thank you Jorge :}), and for that reason, I believe this story will be much more organized.  The idea is to feature three main characters as well as a villain -- all of their lives interwoven with one another and all as psychologically different from one another as possible.  The story will incorporate surprising twists and turns including my now favorite thing to do -- which is to include at least one "shocker" event.

I expect this story will continue to change as it evolves, so I don't want to go into any further detail about it, lest I engender expectations that may either fall short or disappoint, but the intricacies of this story present a huge challenge for me and to those of you who know me, you know how I love a challenge!

If you like what you've read, leave a comment.  Let me know what your thoughts are!  I would LOVE to hear them!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

"You probably from Spanish Harlem if...."

All I want to do is sleep.  I've had only a few snatches of sleep since Thursday night.  I spent a restless night stressing over my daughter, worrying about her pending surgery scheduled for Friday morning.  Needless to say, everything went well.  She's in a lot of pain but she's still herself enough to crack jokes. 

I've been holed up at her place since Friday except for two hours yesterday when I went home to feed Bosco then left to return to  make a Spanish stew for her -- SANCOCHO!!  Sancocho is a traditional Puerto Rican stew made with green bananas, plantains and other vegetables, chunks of corn on the cob and either beef or pork chunks.  It is sometimes served with avocado and white rice. I only made the stew; didn't make the rice and forgot to pick up an avocado.  Still in all, it was DELICIOSO!!

Between naps, I picked up my blackberry to catch up intermittently on the latest on Twitter and Facebook.  It was during one of those catch up sessions that I came across a page on Facebook called "You probably from Spanish Harlem if...." (  I read some of the postings, looked at the pictures posted by some of the over 3,100 members taken over the years.  I was thrown back to my childhood.  People, (the famous Popcorn), places (La Marqueta) and things (Skellies, jelly shoes, click-clacks) that make up large portions of the story of my life. 

With my daughter wincing in pain across from me, I read some of the postings to her and she began to relate some of her memories of being born (Mt. Sinai) and raised in Spanish Harlem herself.  I requested membership and within a couple of hours I was accepted into this group that held the colorful threads of the fabric of my life. 

Reading all those posts made me think about people long gone but not forgotten, events that were markers in my life and what the future holds for a neighborhood that I have a love/hate relationship with. The area where I grew up is now so gentrified it is unrecogniziable to me.  Now, there are high rise buildings; expensive co-ops and all their trappings standing side by side with government run housing projects.  I grew up in those housing projects and the tenement buildings before them.  I wonder if hardworking people who came out of those very same housing projects would be readily accepted as tenants into any of those new high rise buildings?  I doubt it.  They/we are/were pre-judged as stupid drunkards who fought and had no aspirations.  New inhabitants of my old neighborhood now pat themselves on their backs and talk about how cool it is that they live in Spanish Harlem.  I would venture to say that they can now enjoy the history of that rich neighborhood because of what we and the people who came before me went through. 

Indeed, as I mentioned, I left that neighborhood when my daughter was 13 years old.  It was the early 90's and the crack cocaine phenomena had risen in my home town like a monster out of the cracks in the concrete that make up the sidewalk.  The very same cracks that I jumped over playfully as a little girl chanting:  "Step on the crack; you break your mother's back."  Who wants to break their mother's back?  Not I!  But I digress...

When I left my old neighborhood, my daughter had just turned 13. I was a single mother working at the Waldorf=Astoria's Executive Office (I was the first person of color to work in the famed hotel's Executive Office) and I was living paycheck to paycheck.  I didn't want her to get involved with the bullshit on the streets.  Rather than go on vacations, which we didn't do, I would take her with me to work at the hotel, and introduce her to worldly clients; people who had money; people who had travelled the world, in the hopes that she could see that there was so much out there to experience.  I believe this is why she is who she is today.  Why she can crack jokes; why, even while in bad pain she can see that it's really not that serious.  With the proceeds of part of a settlement with my ex-husband and my small savings, I bought a co-op in the West Bronx.  I wanted to live someplace where there was a mix of people, but I didn't want to leave behind that gritty-ness you feel when you live in a place like Spanish (East) Harlem.

I am Puerto Rican -- yes, but more than that, I am a proud NuYorican from East Harlem -- SPANISH Harlem -- with all the juicy-ness that brings.  If you want to know what it was like, how we made something out of nothing to accomplish our dreams, visit this page and see where my nostalagia is coming from.

I will never stop dreaming dreams and accomplishing them.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ying Yang: Weddings and Amy Winehouse

Last summer, I re-connected with a friend from elementary school. Widowed for a while, she met a man who treated her wonderfully, and she was in the early stages of planning her wedding. That wedding is now a week away. 

Tomorrow, for the first time in NYC history, the first same sex marriages will legally take place and I am sitting here listening to Amy Winehouse warbling "Moody's Mood for Love".  You must be asking yourselves: "What do the two have in common?"

Well, here's my thinking:  Weddings are joyous events.  The bride is the center of attention and she is Queen for the Day.  Weddings bring about feelings of excitement and families get together in happiness; people become reacquainted; you hear songs of love, happiness and the future.  A new beginning is on the horizon.  The future is bright!

Funerals evoke feelings of sadness, hurt, pain that emerges from the abyss of your soul.  Unbearable pain.  Families get together embraced by and in a joint sorrow.  Conversations revolve around what could have been.  The deceased -- or rather-- the life led by the deceased is analyzed and solutions to the poor soul's issues are tossed around. It is the end of an era. There is nothing but darkness.  This is what I imagine might happen at Amy's funeral, as is common.  People just can't help themselves.

But what about that person who's life is being dissected?  Amy Winehouse was a tortured soul who just wanted to be loved.  Everybody wants to be loved, right?  But who really knows what goes on in a person's life?  Amy's soulful torch songs; her showy performance style and her lifestyle hinted at a search for something.  I believe all she wanted was to be loved and accepted as she was ... a la Billie Holiday.

I think it must be similar for same sex couples.  My friend's wedding got me thinking about all the same sex committment ceremonies I'd been invited to and attended over the years.  There is only one couple among them that will not legalize their union.  They are in the minority.  I am ecstactic that New York City has risen to the occasion!  It is wonderful to know that my hometown recognizes that love is love, no matter it's presentation.  It was a long hard road; one hard travelled.

Amy Winehouse, you WERE loved honey.  You just didn't see it.  Maybe you couldn't, but I hope your soul finds some peace.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Howdy people!

Sinner here!  So, did you miss me?    I missed you guys and I'm happy to be here because I'm getting better every day.  But I still don't know what's happened to my baby.....

Anyhow, it's been a very long while since I've visited.  I'd say too long, wouldn't you?  A lot has happened since I last spent some time with you all.  So, let me begin:

The last time I was here was May 15.  Wow!  Has it really been that long?  Well, I guess it has been.  OK. Well --  since then, Minnie's been to Puerto Rico to visit with her Mom for her 90th birthday in June -- but don't get it twisted people.  It was no picnic.  Minnie's Mom is very sick and bedridden, but she is alert and really enjoyed her birthday.  Her brother hired a band to serenade her with songs of her youth.  It was very emotional.  It was the first time in a long time she was able to sustain herself in her wheelchair for any length of time.

Just a few hours after arriving home after her trip, Minnie went and adopted herself a cat -- a 17 pound grey and white cat named Bosco.  He's a fat cat and she's put him on a diet! LOL!!

Then things started to happen!  Minnie started following this guy on twitter ... some guy named Jorge Salgado-Reyes.  He's a PI you know, but she followed him .. get it??  HAHA!!  Anyhow, this guy is also the founder and  manager of an indie publishing company called Indie Authors Press.  So this Jorge guy gets it in his head that he wants to put her under the spotlight.  I thought she committed some sort of crime.  I told her not to do it, but she did!  I was scared for her, but it turns out that it was for an interview series on his forum!! DUH!!  This is what happened:

Next thing you know she agrees to sign on with his company and write books for them!!!  Here!  Here's the announcement:

You know?  They also have a Writer's / Beta Readers Circle for you authors reading this.  Check it out:  It's a confidential forum, so if you want to participate, you'll have to join.  It's free!  So you should join!!  They offer blogs too .. for free!  It's all free on that website!  Cool, huh?

Anyhow, back to Minnie, here's her author page:

Her bio is here for those two people who still don't know who she is:  Those of you who don't know her -- what are you, living under a rock??

Good for her though!! I'm very happy for her and she's very excited about this deal.  And don't tell anybody, but this guy seems pretty cool too .. the thing is, like I said before,  come closer...HE'S A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR IN REAL LIFE!!!  Ssssh!!  She better watch her step!!  That gave me an idea!  Do you think he could help me find my baby?  Could somebody ask him?  Please?

So now she's all about her writing!  What's up with that??  She's forgotten all about me!!  Well ... that's not true.  She recently had a release party for my story and she read an excerpt that went really well.  Everyone sat in rapt attention.  I love it when that happens!  There were so many people ... some she never even met!!  And, my story is selling like hotcakes at her office after some executive decided to run a story on her in their company e-newsletter.  That is good for me.  Her company has offices everywhere!!  She's getting phone calls from people and she's talking to people she hasn't spoken to in a long time and she's happy.  I also think she is planning to make my story available right here on her blog, so look for that in the next couple of days.  And between you and I, I know she has copies at her home, so you can get your copy really quickly when you place an order for it here AND she WILL sign it!  I'll make sure of that! 

Oh! Oh!  Here she comes.  I'm going to go now.  I don't want her to be mad at me for being on her computer.  Be nice to her people!  Leave a comment or send her a tweet letting her know that you all encouraged me to write because you missed me, OK?

I'll be back soon.....


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pandora's Box Book Blitz -- Guest Post by Katie Salidas!!

Happy Release Day Katie!!!

It is my pleasure to have Ms. Katie Salidas as a guest blogger here today on the day of the release of her paranormal novel, Pandora's Box!!  I asked Katie to talk about the origins of vampires and their legends. 

Also, if you are tweeting about this event, please use the following hashtags:  #Giveaways, #PandorasBox, #KatieSalidas, #Blitz #VBTCafe, #virtualbooktours . BK (tour host) is tracking based on those tags. Her Twitter is @bk36 Katie's is @Quixotickatie

So, without further ado, here is Katie's guest post! 

What are the origins of vampires? While the word “vampire” is a relatively new term (circa 1800’s), the idea of bloodsucking undead has been around since the dawn of time. Some legends state that simply being buried improperly can cause a human to reanimate as a vampire, Slavic legends for example.  Other legends stat that one must have committed a heinous crime to become the undead. There are other legends about animals jumping over a corpse. Some popular ideas that have been adapted to fiction, have vampires as the children of Cain or Lilith. Still more involve demonic spirits and possessions.   If we seek far back into mythology you’ll find the Greeks and Romans believed in demonic spirits themselves and in many ways they were the prototype of the common vampire of today.
That hooked me! I love ancient mythology and happened across some very interesting similarities between creatures of the ancient Greek world and the vampires I wanted to create.

The Keres, in fact were dead ringers for what I had in mind. Daughters of Nyx, Greek goddess of the night, these creatures are described as winged female death spirits with an insatiable lust for human blood. Perfect!
According to my research they were also one of the evils released when Pandora opened the fabled box (You’ll find this link in my newest release, Pandora’s Box as well). While they sound fearsome and probably would be, they weren’t exactly evil. They existed in a murky gray area of morality. They were agents of the fates, also known as Death Fates.  They did not attack people openly or without reason. They did however; hang around battles waiting for someone to fall. That’s when they swarmed, finishing the poor dying man off, savoring their blood as they sent his soul to Hades. They essentially sped a person’s fate on to its course. If you were going to die, they’d be there to do it and drink your blood at the same time.

I fell in love, not literally of course, with the creature and knew I just had to base my vampire legend off of them somehow.
In the first book, Immortalis Carpe Noctem, Lysander explains to Alyssa the origin of the vampire species.  He tells her that the first “vampire” was created by a mating of one of the Keres with a dying man she encountered on the battlefield. The resulting child was immortal, like its mother, and carried the same insatiable bloodlust, but had the features of its father. Being a hybrid and the only one of its kind, Nyx (essentially Grandma) cursed it to the night so that she could keep watch and protect it.

The use of the legend doesn’t stop there however. As the Immortalis series progresses we delve deeper and deeper into the history. In Hunters & Prey, we are reminded of the fact that a human-turn-vampire is not a dead creature, they are “changed” but that change must happen properly. If not done correctly it will create a hideous abomination. In the third book in this series Pandora’s Box, we’ll delve even deeper into the legend’s origins and learn more about the first vampire and what became of it. Along with that, we also learn about other supernatural creatures and how closely they are linked to vampires.

Needless to say I really do love my vampires and the legends they spawned from and I hope you will too.  Please enjoy the Immortalis Series!

Now, before you go, participate in the giveaways!! It's going to be fun! Here's my post from early this morning with all the details:
And there you have it!!  Read 'em and enjoy!!


Pandora's Box Book Blitz - One Day Only!!!

The day has finally arrived!!!  Katie Salidas' third book in her Immortalis Series, Pandora's Box releases today!!! 

On June 27th I wrote a review and offered a giveaway (congratulations to Bryanna!) for the first in the series, Immortalis Carpe Noctem.  This is the link:

The following day I did the same thing for the second in the series, Hunters and Prey, (which no one has won -- why?).  Here's the link for that:

I am extremely happy to participate in this one day Book Blitz Tour for the release of Pandora's Box along with a host of other bloggers! There will be a bunch of giveaways and you could be the grand prize winner of a signed print copy of this exciting new release!  Katie will also be a guest blogger on participating blogs, including this one!  All you have to do is leave a comment on all the blogs that Katie visits and once you have, send me an email at and I will enter your name into the drawing.  Once it has been verified that you did indeed leave a comment at each pit stop, a winner will be drawn.  Everyone has a chance to win! 

A Meet & Greet along with the entire schedule will be live at at Midnight on July 12.   I've also listed all the participating bloggers below if it makes it easier for you to do it from here.  So let's get these comments in!

Here is the schedule:


Here is the schedule:

Meet & Greet at
Guest Blogging at
Guest Blogging at
Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Review and Giveaway at
Giveaway at
Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Review and Giveaway at
Guest Blogging at
Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Review, Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Guest Blogging at
Review and Giveaway at
Guest Blogging at
Review at
Interview at
Review, Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Review, Guest Blogging and Giveaway at
Spotlight at
Interview at
Spotlight at

Good luck everyone!!


Monday, July 11, 2011

My Book Signing Event - Musings


Friday night, July 8, 2011 was my first ever book signing event.  I woke early and while still in bed, read and responded to the emails, tweets, and facebook messages that had come in overnight.  An hour later, I got out of bed, said my prayers, had my coffee, showered and headed out. 

It was hot and humid and sticky and I was cranky!  I didn't want anyone near me so I disappeared into my own world with Meat Loaf, yea, Meat Loaf screaming in my ear from my iPod.  If I weren't out in public, I would have been singing at the top of my lungs scaring everyone away, cause I can NOT sing to save my life!  On my way home from running my errands something hot plopped on my bare shoulder.  A flying rodent (a NYC pigeon) had pooped on my shoulder!  Great!  I hoped that was not a sign of things to come!

I arrived home, showered again, dressed, made some phone calls then headed out to the site of my signing around 4:15 Eastern.  Everything seemed to be going on schedule, so why did the sky open up as soon as I got to my courtyard to meet my cab?  It began to pour.  I didn't focus on the rain, instead I fiddled with my blackberry and tried to not think about it.  Arriving at the site, I began to set up and about an hour later people began to trickle in. 

As people began to arrive, I began to relax.  I was so, so touched to see so many people come out in the rainstorm to support me.  My daughter, my sister and my brother in law; my good friend Miriam, who was my party-partner and room-mate when we were both going through divorces in the 80's arrived soon after, Johanna Pitcairn my co-worker, friend and collaborator -- was there as well. 

When my old friends, Carmelo and Belinda walked through the door, I almost lost it!  One of the attorneys I report to directly showed up with his wife; my co-workers, my daughter's co-workers.  When my cousin and her daughter, Tiffany -- who is my god-daughter and who impressed me so -- arrived, I was through -- I hadn't seen her in years and when I spotted her, we hugged so tight I thought we would both need CPR!!

There were new faces as well and some very interesting people.  I finally got it together and we proceeded with the reading, the raffle and signing. The grand prize was won by my "new cousin", Soly Nana, who wore a grin from ear to ear after winning!  She's so cute!!  Fun was had by all -- at least I hope so!!

During the signing, I loved talking to all my guests individually, but was really shocked to see so many people standing on line, patiently waiting for their turn so I could sign their newly purchased copy of Sinner's Ride!

Overall, despite the rainstorm, which caused us to lose our wifi signal, it was an awesome event!!

I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all those who have supported me all along and who joined me in this celebration as well as those who were there for me as I took this journey.  My sponsors, The Arctic Circle/Finns of New York and in particular, Kristina Anne Reilly, Nina and Harriet Kulmala who were instrumental in making this happen!  It was a pleasure working with them!!

I am excited about the way things have turned out and now that I've found my passion, I will continue working hard at weaving the kinds of stories that keep you interested, engaged and wanting more!!  The future is bright!!

Thank you!!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sinner's Ride - Book Signing/Release Party -- Update

It is 10:30 p.m. EST and I am exhausted!!! I haven't really slept all week except for a few cat-naps a couple of hours at a time due to anxiety.

I wanted to post an update to my last post regarding my book signing/release party tomorrow evening, Friday, July 8, 2011, before crashing as I suspect I will.

So here goes: As much as I wanted to stream the whole event, I won't be doing that as it isn't really practical. Instead we will stream my introduction, a reading from Sinner's Ride, a question and answer session followed by as much as we can get of the raffle drawing and the acceptance of the donation by the representative of the Safe Horizon Bronx District.

You can go to around 7 p.m. Eastern. Also, I will be recording this so that those that are unable to watch it live can do so at their leisure.

Again, if you are in the NYC area and would like to join us, please do! Though rain is forecasted for tomorrow, there is no need to worry. The Delancey Rooftop Garden has a retractable roof, so this event will take place rain or shine!

For directions to The Delancey:

168 Delancey Street
New York, NY
212- 254-9920

The Delancey is located on the North East side of Delancey Street between Clinton and Attorney, at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge.

By Subway:
Take the J, M or Z train to the Essex Street stop or the F train to Delancey Street stop. Please refer to for more details.

By Car:
From Brooklyn, take the first right off of the Williamsburg Bridge onto Clinton Street.

From Uptown Manhattan, take 2nd Ave. to Houston St., turn right on Ridge street, and right onto Delancey. The Delancey is between Attorney and Clinton Streets.
And for your viewing pleasure, here is a gallery:​/gallery.html
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Upcoming Sinner's Ride Event - Friday, July 8, 2011

This coming Friday, July 8th my sponsors, The Arctic Circle/Finns of New York and I will be hosting my very first Release and Book Signing Party! Can you say nervous? *laughing nervously*!

It will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern in the (now) trendy Lower East Side, here in NYC, at a place called The Delancey. We were lucky enough to secure the Rooftop Garden with our very own specially created drink - Sinner's Punch - for the occasion. I think that's hysterical! LOL!!

Here's a gallery:

The event will stream live on ustream and I will also be recording it for later viewing for those who wish to do that. I will post further details by Thursday here as well as on Twitter:  @Lahongrais

Yes, I am extremely nervous, I am anxious and I am petrified! But I've learned in life you've just got to put one foot in front of the other and keep it moving. My anxiety stems from the fact that there will be people attending who I work with (bosses - past and present; clients); family members I haven't had much to do with (two generations worth!) and friends, some of whom I haven't seen in decades but have been in contact with thanks to the internet.

You might already know that I have a soft spot for battered women and children. Therefore, the highlight of the evening, for me, will not be me or even the book for that matter. What I am MOST excited about is the potential for raising some money for a Women's Shelter here in the Bronx! We're holding two raffles. The rafflle tickets will not go for any set price. What I will do is ask people to donate whatever they could for each ticket, while I keep my fingers crossed they will be generous. All proceeds will be donated to the designated shelter with a presentation made to a representative of the Bronx District of Safe Horizon!

Cool! Right?

Then I'm going to drink!

So stay tuned....

Hasta pronto!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Interviews, and Writing and Events -- Oh My!

Greetings friends!

It's a very rainy day here in The Big Apple, and though I am EXHAUSTED I am exhilarated!  It's been a very busy week, filled with very satisfying happenings!

My week began with an "Author Spotlight" interview with my friend Katie Salidas on her blog (  Katie is the author of the popular Immortalis vampire series.

She also featured an excerpt of the first chapter of "Sinner's Ride", however, be forewarned, this is not a G-rated excerpt.  Continuing on, I participated in her Virtual Tour in anticipation of the release of the third book in her series "Pandora's Box" and wrote reviews for the first two books in her series.  That experience was really, really cool!

My work week went well, busy, but normal.  By the end of the week I, along with other authors (Michael R. Hicks and Paul Antony Jones) were being interviewed by Jorge Salgado-Reyes on the Indie Authors Press "Shining the Spotlight on .." series (  This one was really interesting.  It's on a forum where not only Jorge asks you questions, but so do viewers of the thread and you truly are virtually under a spotlight.  This is an ongoing interview and can take place over several days.  Also on the site, you can join to become a participant of a Writers/Beta Readers Circle and share ideas, support other indie writers/authors and do critiques.

Regarding ongoing work, I've slowly begun to focus again on my ongoing WIP,  "The Radocians" series and "Resurrection of Dead Dreams" which will be book one.  This one's much harder to write than "Sinner's Ride" was because it's so personal, but I think it is that personal touch that will make it interesting.

Things on the family side are fun too!  My grandson is now heading to the fourth grade and my daughter seems happier than I've seen her in a while.  The highlight was spending time with my nephew/son who was in town.  It's crazy when the three of those get together!  It was like having a house full of kids again!  They drove me crazy -- but it was a good crazy!  Today, I'm taking my grandson and his friend to see "Green Lantern", and a burger dinner afterward.  I'm telling you, I have had my fill of kids' movies!

And finally, my book signing event which is this coming Friday!  I am a little nervous -- not good being in the spotlight like that.  I am more the observant/in the background type.  But, I am extremely excited and I can not wait to see friends and family members I haven't seen in a long time.  Some of those people I haven't seen in decades!  So psyched!  So, for more info on that event, please go to  If you are in the NYC area on Friday, please consider joining us.  Lots of fun stuff planned, including a specially created drink just for the occasion is in store!

I can't leave this space without plugging my book :)  Remember, "Sinner's Ride" is available in e-book format, so why don't you download a copy before you go to the beach?

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!!


Thursday, June 30, 2011


I sometimes feel the need to stop and reflect on my life. I'm feeling that need today.

It amazes me that although I come from very humble beginnings, I am so rich in blessings. My daughter is grown, healthy and a productive human being. My grandson is thriving. My adoptive children are finding their way in this world.  

My Dad, although now gone has blessed me with so much love, insight, understanding and a vision. My Mom, now 90 and though pretty much bedridden is still spiritually vibrant. Her mind, well now, that's sometimes something else. But she's my Mom and she's still here; able to see and experience all that my children and I have experienced.  

I have been blessed to still be able to smile, laugh and love, even after years of struggle and hardship.

I have been blessed to be able to live the life I now live. Never did I imagine my life would turn out this way!

I have been blessed with the extraordinary gift of words; blessed that people who know better than me and are experienced in the fiction writing community respect and support me and are even interested in not only working with me, but also seeing more.

I am blessed to have the personal friends that I have because I know I can count on them. I am so blessed that there are too many to count lest I omit someone and offend them.

I am blessed to have a nice place in which to live; a nice place to go work to every day and I am blessed to have an awesome boss who is a sincere, supportive human being.

With gratitude in my heart, I can only pray that I can be reciprocal.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hunters & Prey -- Book Review & Giveaway!

Yesterday I wrote a review for "Carpe Noctem", the first in Katie Salidas' Immmortalis series   Her second in the series, "Hunters and Prey" picks up where "Carpe Noctem" left off.   I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for this installment and the finished product is absolutely awesome!

The story begins with Alyssa having just fed. Alyssa has pledged to only feed from criminals deserving to die; those who are like the men who nearly elminated her existence.  They have become her "prey" and she, in essence, has become their "hunter".   When she arrives home in the morning, she settles in to bed and falls into a restless sleep where she is dreaming about her nemesis, Santino, the vampire hunter working with the Acta Santorum.   She awakens with a start and Lysander, her mate and maker, attempts to soothe her to no avail. Unable to fall back to sleep, she pads to the living area and channel surfs looking for something to keep her mind occupied.   She stops on the local news channel when she is interrupted by her clan-mate Nicholas, who startles her when he answers a question she was mentally asking herself as to who might be the head of the Acta Santorum and whether or not Santino could be alive and whether or not the Acta Sanctorum might have something to do with the gory story that was running.

Nicholas is a news junkie and as he sits down to watch the news with her announces that he knows that Alyssa is looking for clues about Santino, (the vampire hunter we met in Katie's first installment), answering some of her queries after conceding, in a roundabout manner, that he had read her mind.   Later that evening, Alyssa goes out to feed and while she's out she encounters Santino.   With nowhere else to go, Alyssa jumps into a cab and goes to the cafe where she used to hang out.   She couldn't go home lest she expose her clan-mates and put them in grave danger.   Once at the cafe, Alyssa begins to have feelings of longing for her old life and just as she's about to turn away from the entrance door, it swings open with her friend, Fallon coming through it.   Now what to do?

Questions streamed from Fallon's mouth about Alyssa's sudden disappearance.   Alyssa, still concerned that Santino has followed her there, decides to go inside with Fallon figuring it was the safest place for her to be.   While hitting Alyssa with another barrage of questions, Fallon notices Alyssa's eyes and teeth, making the connection that Alyssa is now a vampire.   Awkwardly trying to reassure her friend, Alyssa tells Fallon the story of what happened the night Fallon stood her up, the night of her turning and what her life is like now.   After a while, Alyssa borrows Fallon's cellphone to call Lysander and explain to him where she was and that Santino was after her.   He's none too pleased and asks her to wait for his phone call while he discusses with the rest of the clan what should be done.   He is extremely upset that she has exposed their truth to a mortal.  When he calls her back and tells her to meet him at a casino, Fallon refuses to let Alyssa go by herself and as they head out, Alyssa notices that Santino is standing at the door of the cafe.

"Hunters and Prey" is action packed with an incredible story line filled with vampires, zombies, survival and acceptance. It is also a story of love, sacrifice and strength. I mean, let's face it, it takes a lot of strength to trust that which you fear.   Fierce battles ensue between the clan and the hunters after which Fallon is accepted by the clan as an "honorary" member.

Alyssa loves her friend so much that she fights her basic instinct to feed on her when they are held captive together and she is in dire need of feeding.   She teaches her clan-mates what it means to stand beside a loved one in war, no matter what life form they may be in. It is a lesson to be learned by all.   It is a known fact that I admire Katie, that she and I have a friendship, and it is because of that friendship that I feel the need to be totally honest.   There is nothing I can criticize here.   Once again, she has left me wanting more.   This tour is to promote her third story in the series, "Pandora's Box", which I have begun reading and believe you me, I wish I had a block of time so that I can sit down and read it in one sitting as I have all her previous works.   You will not be disappointed in this story and it will make you hunger for "Pandora's Box" which is available now in e-book and other formats come July 12.

A very generous Katie has once again agreed to offer a free giveaway of one copy of the smashwords edition of "Hunters and Prey".   This time, since 13 is my lucky number, the thirteenth person to post a comment on my blog will be the winner! Here is a sample for your reading pleasure:

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Katie and her work, here is her bio:

Katie Salidas:

The youngest of four children, Katie has always had a desire to entertain. Since, early childhood, she's dreamed fantastical characters and scribbled them into pages of various journals and notebooks. Taking an interest in vampires, she devoured every book, featuring those blood sucking creatures, in any genre she could find. It was only natural that a love of reading vampire stories, turned into a love to write them. Katie is also a Las Vegas native, having grown up in the famed City of Sin. She loves to feature it as a recurring setting for many of her stories.

Here is a link to Katie's blog:

Yes, I am featured this week :)

Finally, to tempt you just a litlle bit :), here is a synopsis of Katie's newest installment, "Pandora's Box":

Pandora's Box:

Alyssa thought, after a few months as a vampire, that she’d learned all she needed about the supernatural world. But all that will change when a mysterious package shows up on her doorstep - a Pandora's box. An ancient prison, created by powerful magic, the box was used to trap the most dangerous and deadly creatures on earth. Once opened, it releases an ancient evil, with an insatiable lust for vampire blood. Within moments of its release it the feeding frenzy begins. Alyssa must find a way to return the creature to the box. If she doesn’t, it will not only destroy her clan, but the rest of the vampires in existence.

And of course, I can not end this post without putting you on about the legal stuff:

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of The Virtual Book Tour Cafe' and a copy of this book was provided to me by the author. Although payment may have been received by The Virtual Book Tour Cafe', no payment was received by me in exchange for this review nor was there an obligation to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely of my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*

Thanks again for your support and for allowing me to share this with you!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Immortalis Carpe Noctem -- Book Review & Giveaway!

I first stumbled upon Katie Salidas' "Immortalis Carpe Noctem" a year ago on my Kindle.   I cracked open a bottle of wine, and settled in on my couch to read it as the sun set.   I read it in one sitting and to my surprise it was dark out when I finished it.   It had drawn me in and didn't let me go.

This story is the first in Ms. Salidas' "Immortalis" series and it begins with the main character, Alyssa waiting for her best friend Fallon to arrive at their regular hangout - a cafe near a college campus -- on the day she had lost her job.   When Fallon calls to beg off, Alyssa leaves the cafe deciding to take a shortcut home and encounters two seemingly harmless men who ask her for directions to the library. Grudgingly, she responds and is suddenly attacked.   As she lays on the ground close to death, her hero, Lysander appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and quickly does away with her attackers -- but not before he turns her in order to save her life. When Alyssa finally regains consciousness, she's not sure where she is or what's happened.   She's experiencing changes in her body that she doesn't understand and this is where I got wrapped up.   Katie's description of what Alyssa is experiencing is so vivid and realistic that you can't help but continue reading.   As a fan of the genre, I had never seen the physicality of "the change" described so clearly.  

The story continues with Alyssa's "maker" (Lysander) making some major adjustments himself. Lysander is a somber, introspective vampire -- the "strong, silent type", who when you first meet him you find out that he is a lone vampire.   He is not part of a clan per se at this point in the story but now that he's turned young Alyssa, he is responsible for her and this has his maker, Kallisto pretty upset.    Kallisto is also Lysander's former lover.   Her anger towards him stems from the fact that he has broken the rules set in place long ago for fledglings, and as the story unfolds you will see that she harbors a mean spirited jealousy toward Alyssa. 

When a travelling clan, The Peregrinus, which is made up of some of Lysander's "children" come to visit, they begin to bond as a "family" with Alyssa.  In addition, Lysander, Alyssa and their new clan members all have to deal with the Acta Santorum, a band of vampire hunters comprised of self-righteous vampires themselves who feed off animals .  They are working with the Vatican to eradicate vampires who are not like them. They consider other vampires evil.

As you become engrossed in the story, you will learn about Alyssa's new traits, strengths and weaknesses right along with her.   You will see age old myths and beliefs about vampires de-bunked. Alyssa struggles with her new self and as she learns to adjust, you see her inner self begin to mature. You will grow to love all of the characters. The unfolding story will break your heart as you experience challenges and losses right along with her and her clan-mates.

I see this as a story about inner growth and slow maturity; a story about love and family; although the blood ties that bind this clan are not biological.  This is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.   It is a great introduction to those who have not experienced the genre and those who have, will find that it is different from anything they've read before.

Full disclosure: Katie and I have an ongoing virtual friendship.   I am her latest interview featured in her "Author Spotlight" on her blog:

Notwithstanding all of that, I believe Katie Salidas is an author you'll want to keep an eye on, someone to watch.   Apart from that, she's just a wonderful human being, so visit her blog to see all that she's up to!

Oh, by the way, Katie was kind enough to offer a free giveaway for a smashwords copy of "Immortalis Carpe Noctem".   Since this was her first book and "Sinner's Ride" is my first novel, the first person to leave a comment on my blog will win a copy!   Here is an excerpt:

Here is a short synopsis of Katie's latest "Pandora's Box":

Pandora's Box:

Alyssa thought, after a few months as a vampire, that she’d learned all she needed about the supernatural world. But all that will change when a mysterious package shows up on her doorstep - a Pandora's box. An ancient prison, created by powerful magic, the box was used to trap the most dangerous and deadly creatures on earth. Once opened, it releases an ancient evil, with an insatiable lust for vampire blood. Within moments of its release it the feeding frenzy begins. Alyssa must find a way to return the creature to the box. If she doesn’t, it will not only destroy her clan, but the rest of the vampires in existence.

Here's Katie's bio:

Katie Salidas:

The youngest of four children, Katie has always had a desire to entertain. Since, early childhood, she's dreamed fantastical characters and scribbled them into pages of various journals and notebooks. Taking an interest in vampires, she devoured every book, featuring those blood sucking creatures, in any genre she could find. It was only natural that a love of reading vampire stories, turned into a love to write them. Katie is also a Las Vegas native, having grown up in the famed City of Sin. She loves to feature it as a recurring setting for many of her stories.

And now for the legal stuff:

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of The Virtual Book Tour Cafe' and a copy of this book was provided to me by the author. Although payment may have been received by The Virtual Book Tour Cafe', no payment was received by me in exchange for this review nor was there an obligation to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely of my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*

Thank you all for allowing me to share this with you.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Written in Blood: What Happens When Your Whole World is Turned Upside Down

Good morning!

Yesterday, Katie Salidas featured me on her blog as part of her series "Author Interview".   I hope you had a chance to read that.  If you haven't, here is the link:

Today she has excerpted chapter one of "Sinner's Ride".  If you haven't read "Sinner's Ride" and haven't seen my explosive beginning, then you might like to see it.  Go to Katie's blog to see what everyone is talking about!

Hope you like it!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Author Spotlight Interview

Greetings all!

This journey began for me in May of 2010. It was Mother's Day and it was the end of a beautiful day which I spent with my daughter. Regrettably, it ended way too early because she had to go pick up my grandson and I needed to do some housework. Once I got home I looked out the window at the beautiful sunset, and decided housework could wait. I walked over to my wine stash, picked out a bottle and poured myself a glass. Next, I grabbed my kindle and curled up on the couch to find something to read as the glow of the sunset washed over me.

While browsing, I stumbled across a piece by Katie Salidas, and finding the title interesting, I settled in for some urban fantasy reading, a genre I had recently become engrossed in, but more on that later in the week.

As a new author, I am learning so much that is awe-inspiring. I am just this simple girl from East Harlem with crazy ideas and I am diving right in what with the blogging, tweeting, networking in general, events ... who would've thunk it? I am having the time of my life encountering some really wonderful, supportive, talented people and I feel like I have just awoken in my heaven. Among these people, is Ms. Katie Salidas. I owe all this to her. She encouraged me and made me believe I could do this, and that people would be interested. So imagine my glee when she asked to interview me for her "Author Spotlight" series on her blog. This would be my first interview for the masses! I was thrilled!

Please peruse this talented author's blog and read about her books, her publishing/editing tips -- which by the way, were extremely helpful to me -- as well as an impressive array of previous author spotlights. You'll fall in love with her and her work just as I did!

And now, for your reading pleasure, I'd like to share my interview with Katie.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Since this post was originally published, I have gotten a lot of comments.  I know that as a writer, I am expected to have a perfect writing style.  Obviously, this is not perfectly written.  It is a literal translation of the original eulogy which was written in Spanish.  I decided to translate it literally ... though now, I'm not sure why....



I woke up thinking about my Dad this morning ... not that that's anything new. I have been waking up thinking about him every single day for the last 2,103 days. My Dad is my hero. In my eyes, he was Superman. I thought he just had to be! To me, he looked just like that guy on TV (George Reeves ... I grew up in the early 60's, and Superman, the black & white 50's era television series was running in re-runs). Because of this, I got into a fight in elementary school defending my truth.

It was probably my 7th or 8th birthday that was coming up and my parents were throwing me a birthday party. My Dad said I could invite anyone I wanted. I was elated. A few days later, at school, during our lunch period, I was telling a bunch of kids that my Dad, who was Superman, was throwing me a birthday party and that I could invite whomever I wanted. I added that he would be there as Superman. One girl said: "How can your father be Superman? Superman is white and your father is Puerto Rican."

I flew into a rage ... never mind that she made all kinds of sense! I was scared, but I rammed into her and we fell into a heap all arms and legs. No one cheered me on. No one but Dominick D. We are still friends today. Happy father's day Dominick!!

Today I want to honor "Superman"; my Dad, by sharing with you, the eulogy I wrote for him on September 18, 2005.

* * * * * * * *

September 18, 2005
Santa Isabel, PR
My Daddy

Pedro Juan **. He was a companion, husband, father, grandfather, great-granfather, brother, uncle, cousin, godfather, son and friend; born May * *, in Coamo, Puerto Rico. Son of Rosario * and Juan *. He was a good brother to Cornelio, Felipe, Claudina, Concepcion, Marcos, Baudilia and Jose Luis...better known as Guiso; as well as his adopted siblings Rolyn and Carmin. Husband and companion of Maria Mercedes for 58 years, raising four children: Raymond, myself, Papo and Cuca. Grandfather of Taina, Mimari, Peter and Ross; Rafael, Angel and Carmen. Great-grandfather of Dayne - the apple of his eye.

At the age of 24, he left PR to make a life for himself in NY, following his great love, making her his wife; his life companion. Learning English on his own and during more than 20 years, taking on menial jobs he never forgot his family in PR. Always remembering that maybe they were in need and always helping them the best he could even though he had his own ongoing struggle to raise his family.

If anyone in his family had a dream to live a better life in NY, my father, without reservation and without question opened his home giving more than 20 members of his family the opportunity to realize their dream and he was very happy when that dream was realized for that person.

My father loved it whenever someone in the family came to visit. But despite his struggles, he always maintained his faith in God, not only for himself but for those around him as well.

In 1979, he himself realized his dream to become the Sargent of Security for Rockefeller University in NY, retiring after 24 additional years of hard work. That was his dream job.

Pedro Juan * * was a man who lived for his family -- his wife and children. Any pain felt by us, you could count on him to give you sage advice and the strength to confront and resolve whatever it was that troubled you.

When he retired in 1993, he returned to PR and built his house exactly as he dreamed. He was so happy. He was happy because now he had the opportunity to be with his "other me" every day, all day and he dedicated himself to adjusting to his new life. Telling jokes, being mischievous, eating and giving orders. But all of that was done with love, a laugh and sometimes a toothless smile.

When my mother fell ill, that man almost died. Putting his faith before everything else, he would go to the hospital daily to take care of, comfort and show love to his companion-wife believing in God that she would rise from her sick bed. And so it was. Mami did rise and recuperated so that she could struggle with him.

My father suffered a stroke on June 22, 2005. My brother, Raymond, arrived there that same day. Supporting our mother, dealing with our father. While hospitalized, no one expected that he would return home. But he did.

My father died Thursday, September 15, 2005 at his dream house, with his wife at his side. But not before his last mischievous act ... he played with the water my mother lovingly offered him.

When his first granddaughter, Taina was born in 1980, that man was in the clouds. He didn't know what to do with himself. And when Tania was 27 days old, with his wife at his side, he took custody of his granddaughter, to begin anew in raising a family as if they were young again.

After Taina, my adored daughter, Mimari came. Mimari was the one that took him back to his childhood. Almost til the day he died, they spent time talking -- he counseling her and her telling him jokes. They got along like hand and glove. They would pull each other's leg, winding each other up.

Then came the boys ... Peter and Ross. His relationship with Peter was one of few words. Peter didn't speak Spanish well, but they learned to communicate with one another, primarily through their hearts. My father's only wish when it came to Peter was that even with all his travails, he finish High School. He knew that it would be hard for Peter, but he also knew that if Peter could achieve this, he would be "a man". Imagine his pride when the grandson he least expected, the one that everyone thought would be a failure graduated from high school. My father cried giving thanks to God. Peter wants everyone to know that his grandfather and grandmother, Mercedes could now be proud of him. Because they, my father and my mother supported him and gave him the strength and above all the love he needed to achieve this.

That was my Daddy.

When he did not expect any more grandchildren, Ross was born, Cuca's son. My father nicknamed him "Macho Man". The day that Ross was born, was the same day that our aunt, Saturna was to be buried. Ross is the grandchild of the future of this family.

That boy knows computers better than anyone I know. In the shadow of the pain of the death of our Aunt Saturna, the sun of the future of this family was born. Ross. My father recognized that in his grandson. He always spoke about him with love.

That was my father.

Pedro Juan * *

And you still ask yourselves why I called him Superman?

* * * * *

I now have a grandson who still remembers his great-grandfather and will once in a while mention that he is now in Heaven. He remembers laying on his chest listening to his heartbeat the way I did as a child.

I hope Dayne will grow up to be like his great-grandfather: A loving, good hearted man who did not shy away from showing his love to others.

Happy Fathers Day to all fathers, biological or not. And to all the single mothers playing both roles.