WIP Wednesday

Writing Process

WIP-OOP-070313

Orphans of Paradise is OFFICIALLY FINISHED. I thought this day would never come and if it wasn’t for a few dozen slices of birthday cake and a little soul searching, it wouldn’t have. But here we are. It’s done. I’m finished (well except for some last-minute formatting issues) and it’ll be available for purchase this weekend!

WIP-BG-070313

Moving on—thank God—to book 3. Notes from my beta readers are slowly trickling in and I have to say I’m pretty ecstatic about the feedback. Relieved would probably be a better word since it’s a genre I’m not used to writing in. I was nervous that it wouldn’t translate well, that people wouldn’t be able to connect. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about my strengths as a writer, capturing just the right emotions is sort of my biggest one.

Sometimes I struggle with plot and pacing and all of the structural things that make up a story but the thing is, I know people. I get people. I get why they do things and feel things and want things and to me, that’s what makes a good story.

I really can’t wait to jump back into the fourth draft of this project, which should happen within the next three weeks. I’ve got a lot going on this month. My mom is coming to visit, as well as the BF’s family, and on top of all of that I’ll be preparing for another cross country move. A lot of changes are happening but definitely all good, and with projects like book 3 and 4 in my queue, I’ve got a really good feeling about what the end of the year may hold.

WIP-S-070313

Speaking of book 4, I’ve just finished those dreaded re-writes. Draft three should be complete after one final line edit and then it’s off to my alpha readers. This one was also way out of my comfort zone. It’s mature YA with a hint of magical realism and I just hope people don’t think it’s stupid. Because that sometimes happens with fantastical ideas, especially involving romance—a popular formula for the kind of cliché story that I spent months writing about the South American drug cartel trying to avoid. Because that is one of my worst fears—being cliché. And I know that probably sounds pretentious and ridiculous but it’s true. I want to be unique and I want my work to reflect that. And after one last bout of revisions, here’s to hoping it does.

Advertisements

Chicken–It’s what’s for dinner

Mental Health, Writing Process

Alright, alright. So I have a confession to make. Orphans of Paradise was supposed to be uploaded and ready to go this weekend but then I sort of had a panic attack (figuratively but painful nonetheless) and I kind of chickened out.

It was mostly caused by all of the usual fears. You know: rejection, failure, disappointing the people I care about, being heckled by strangers, poverty, being forced to do those timed math trials for the rest of eternity or to only use public bathrooms, sharks, ghosts, tornadoes. It just sort of all piled up at once and I couldn’t hit upload.

But then I realized, besides the sharks and the tornadoes, all of those other trepidations are pretty much ridiculous. Not to mention inevitable the longer I prolong publishing my second book (well maybe not the math). Because isn’t stalling a form of failure in and of itself? It’s not quite quitting but it’s not quite finishing either. It’s the dreaded in between, a place in which I never wish to become comfortable. Because nothing happens there. Dreams don’t come true there.

Dreams come true when you get shit done. When you finish. So I am. I’m finished with the self-doubt and I’m finished with this story. And whether or not I can bury the fear under enough chocolate and cheesecake, it will be available this weekend. So keep your eyes peeled and please enjoy the final teaser from my second novel, Orphans of Paradise.

In the dark, sounds swelled and took shape—grating across Camilla’s skin, sliding cold down her back. Her ears burned, twisted beneath the blindfold pressed tight to her face, and then all she could hear was her pulse. The knot dug into her hairline, a few strands caught in the fabric and she rubbed her neck along the back of her seat trying to rip them free.

Someone placed a hand on her knee, his thumb pressed hard to her bone as the paved road gave way to a manic emptiness. They pulled to a stop, a hand reaching for her arm, gripping her tight. She stumbled out after them, her hand sweeping across some frozen grass, the dew burning cold against her fingertips. She was pushed forward and then she felt the cold, dank darkness pouring over her.

They threw her against the wall and she slumped to the floor. They ripped off her blindfold but it was still dark, their silhouettes lit only by the small glow of a cell phone as they searched for the light switch. Suddenly a flame swelled from the center of the room, cutting the space in lucid shards. It burned and Camilla closed her eyes, trying to hear past the buzzing of the breaker box.

Soiled colors peeled down the walls in long petrified drips. Her hands bound behind her were numb, her head spinning as something slid to her throat, thick and dry at the back of her tongue. That smell still hung on the edge of her lips. But there was a fervency to it, something raw and wild.

A dark ribbon cut between her legs, spilling into the cracks along the floor. And there was so much. There was too much. Camilla leaned forward, heaving, trying not to look, to breathe. But in the corner of her eye there was a shadow slumped against the wall, the girl’s arms wrangled in the same position.

She turned her face, meeting Camilla’s eyes, letting her see her. And Camilla didn’t want to see. She didn’t want to count the bodies, she didn’t want to know. But then, against everything inside her, she turned to the mangled mess on the floor and looked.

Orphans of Paradise Cover Reveal

Self Publishing

It’s finally here! After months of waiting and stressing and debating on whether or not I should delay the project indefinitely for fear of failing, the cover is finally here—a proclamation to that little voice in my head that yes I am doing this. I’m taking the plunge, once again, and I’m sharing this piece of me with the world. And I hope you like it.Oprhans of Paradise

Every day hundreds of women smuggle drugs across international borders. Rani’s sister was one of them, muling drugs from Colombia and earning enough money to buy her family’s freedom to the States. They’d had a plan. Nadia would make one final drop in Boston, her siblings following her on a separate flight, leaving behind the shanty towns and the ashes of a territory war that had taken everything from them, including their parents.

Only Nadia wasn’t waiting for them when they landed.

Now it’s the middle of February and Rani and her siblings are forced to brave the cold alone, traversing a city they’ve never seen before on foot, searching for not only their sister, but for shelter, food; all of the trappings of a better life that they thought they’d find in the U.S. Until Rani finds her sister’s compass—the Hancock building—jutting up over the city, always just a glance away over her right shoulder, and she uses it to find the cartel’s local hideout as well as a boy who knows more than he’s letting on.

Jax is the heir to the largest drug operation in Boston, every officer and city official in his brother’s back pocket. But when their mother leaves, abandoning not only her sons but a lifetime’s worth of turning the other cheek, of being afraid, Jax decides to leave too. He’s seen enough. Done enough. And all he wants to be is numb—alone and frozen as he trades his mother’s old apartment for an abandoned lifeguard stand near the harbor.

He’s almost mastered it too, until he’s attacked one night by a girl he’s never seen before. Though he knows those eyes, those tight lips—the same one’s belonging to the mule that got away, the girl who ran with his brother’s money, the girl his brother would find, though this time without Jax’s help. Because Jax wasn’t just looking for a way out, he was looking for a way to make amends. To be the son his mother could love again. To be the son she could forgive. But as Jax helps Rani find the things she’s lost, she helps him find something even more precious than redemption—a reason to live.

Gritty and raw, Orphans of Paradise isn’t just a dark exploration of the underground drug trade, but it’s the story of two broken people, their pieces so intensely tangled, trying to assemble what’s left of themselves into something new.

Add the book to your to read list on Goodreads!

WIP Wednesday

Writing Process

Wait. It’s June? Already? Well let me crawl out of this black hole/editing purgatory I’ve been living in for the past thirty days and take stock of my WIPs.

WIP-OOP-060113

First things first. Orphans Of Paradise has officially entered into that stage where I can barely open the word doc without vomiting in my mouth a little bit. I always hate this part. You fall in love with something and then you tear it to pieces. Again. And again. And again. And you’re on your final copy edit and all you want to do is shoot someone in the face, usually your lead character, sometimes your spouse.

This is always the hardest part for me. Apparently a few of my beta readers have fallen off the face of the earth so I didn’t get as much feedback on my most recent draft as I wanted to and on top of that I’ve read the thing so many times that I can’t tell if it’s terribly boring and predictable or if it only seems that way because…well I wrote it and have been reading it over and over for the past two months. I am crawling through these last two hundred pages but that’s better than nothing I guess. And at least I came to a decision about the companion novella.

I’ve scratched it. Instead I decided to break the book into parts. This actually helped my pacing issues a lot and as far as adjusting the style, well it’s making this final line edit torture to say the least. But it’s getting there. Is it perfect? No. Will it be? No. But I have to be ok with that. I refuse to be one of those writer’s who’s so gun shy they end up working on the same manuscript for years. That’s insanity. And why shelve a story for its mild imperfections when it could possibly have the potential to still resonate emotionally with people?

On a more positive note, I’ve just finished the 3rd draft of book 3. Good news is I’m still pretty infatuated with this one and I’m hoping my beta readers will be too. I’ll be sending it off to them this weekend.

WIP-BG-060113

And in the meantime, after I’ve finished the final edits for Orphan Of Paradise, I’ll be jumping back into the next draft of book 4.

WIP-S-060113

2nd and 3rd drafts are always beasts. For me they’re usually total re-writes and my word count usually jumps significantly. It’s the draft where I finally get a good handle on my character’s motivations—who they are, what they want. All of the essential ingredients start to fall in line and the story takes it’s true shape. It’s exciting and it’s confusing and it’s one of my favorite parts about writing. I like putting the pieces together, re-arranging them, seeing how they fit. And I love finding that subconscious synchronicity because I’m always surprised at how incredibly clever I am.

I’ll also be toying with a novella for book 3. It’s been simmering for a while and I’ve written about 10k but I’ve recently found a new starting point. A stronger one and I think this time it’ll work.

WIP-NGTGL-060113

Scanning over this post, I’ve obviously got a lot of things in the works right now. But that’s a good thing. It means I’m growing. It means I’m making progress and it means that my dreams aren’t all that far away from coming true.

Why I Write What I Write

Writing Process

During a brief period in high school I thought I’d wanted to be a journalist. I hadn’t really gotten serious about writing yet. I knew that I liked it but I didn’t do it enough to know which avenue I preferred. But I knew that I’d always wanted to travel. I liked the idea of having an adventure—of seeing things and doing things that most people haven’t. It sounded exotic and dangerous and terribly exciting, everything an introvert like me would spend hours fantasizing about but never actually gather the gall to do.

I’d also been a really socially conscious teenager—at least I liked to think so. That combined with my mild self-righteousness and know-it-all attitude made me the perfect candidate for future congresswoman or UN Ambassador. Except without all of the smiling and hand shaking and general pleasantness that accompanies public figures working in the humanitarian field. I was more of the overzealous, angry variety. To me every injustice was an outrage. I cared about the fate of humanity to such an extent that the only emotion I could manage most days was anger. Yes I was a very strange kid.

I thought I was going to become this big time journalist working for National Geographic covering political prisoners and terrorist groups and the plight of the poor and I’d live out of a backpack and I would save the world. I mentioned I was self-righteous right?

But then I went to college and I took a news writing class and it was absolutely tortuous. There were too many rules. And while I understood that writing for a newspaper was not my ultimate goal and that there is room for narrative in journalism, I just knew that there was absolutely no way I’d survive that rite of passage let alone subject myself to it as an unpaid intern.

I was also taking Creative Writing courses around that time. I hadn’t declared it as my major yet but I was getting there. I had some amazing teachers. One in particular wrote both fiction and non-fiction and we really connected over the social bend to the pieces I was turning in. I was obsessed with South America and the drug war and all of the conflict in that region. I was writing about The Dirty War in Argentina and drug mules in Chile and the people living in the Andes whose native tongue was almost extinct.

There is something just so haunting and supernatural to me about Latin culture and there’s something terribly romantic about the way it clings to its traditions so fiercely, the past so intertwined in the present. Every Latino grows up knowing at least a few parables and old wives tales by heart, even ones as Americanized as me. It’s a culture built on stories. And what writer wouldn’t be drawn to that?

But I wasn’t just drawn to the subject by birth. I’ve always struggled with my identity. My mother is Hispanic and my father was white. My grandparents only spoke Spanish in the house when they were trying to hide something from their children. And even though my mom learned it anyway, she never spoke it with me—maybe because my father wouldn’t have been able to understand, maybe because she was trying to distance her new family from something I wasn’t quite aware of yet, or maybe because she just didn’t think it was important. But that cultural void was always there.

Growing up I was the only Hispanic girl in any of my AP classes. All of my friends were white. I was basically shunned by the other Latinas because apparently I thought that I was too good for them. Not only that but I didn’t speak their language. Something that I still feel a deep-rooted shame about to this day. The truth is people look down on you in the Latin community if you’re not fluent in Spanish. It makes you seem like you’re trying to distance yourself from your culture, like your ashamed of it somehow. And that makes them ashamed of you.

But even though I grew up, on the one hand feeling abandoned by that part of my culture, there always has and always will be this insatiable desire to feel like I’m a part of it.

That is the real reason why I’m so obsessed with writing about Latin culture. Because I just want to feel like I belong to it somehow. And when I started writing fiction and I realized that I could explore that same culture and those same social issues without following all of those ridiculous AP style guidelines I knew I’d finally found the right path.

My first book uses the backdrop of the Dirty War in Argentina to explore family, racism, and the concept of identity. My next book, set to debut this summer, delves into the complexities of family responsibility, good vs. evil, and the quest for redemption. But that’s not really all they’re about. Every book I’ve ever written, every book I ever will write is also about love. And while these two books may be violent and dark they are also about two broken people, their pieces so inexplicably tangled, trying to assemble what’s left of themselves into something new.

I’ve talked about broken characters before, about their importance, and about our draw to them. But when I talk about wanting to make readers feel recognized and connected, it’s much more personal than that. Because I want to be recognized too. I’m looking for a connection with my readers just as much as they are with my characters. Two books down and I’m still just looking for a place to belong in this world. Whether that’s within a culture with a sordid and seductive history, within a family that’s still drifting, our anchor lost three years ago this month, or in a community of pixelated strangers, all of us shouting into the void that is the internet, waiting to be heard. I’m still looking, waiting, and that’s why I keep writing. Because I’m still waiting to find where I belong.