Friday, August 28, 2009

Sea World Sleepover

Last Friday, I had a missing post, because my girl scout troop's long awaited trip to Sea World had finally arrived. The girls were excited not only for the chance to visit Sea World, but they were going to get the opportunity to sleep with the Manatees.

Not knowing how it was going to turn out, I didn't want to get my hopes up too high. I wanted it to be fun and educational, and an experience the girls and their moms would remember forever.

Sea World met and exceeded my expectations. It was an amazing night. The instructors kept the girls interested and kept them moving from one exhibit to the next. We were served dinner and breakfast, as well as snacks. And at the end of the night - close to midnight- they brought out our sleeping bags let us stretch out in the manatee exhibit.

The disappointing part of the whole experience came when everyone was free to choose where they wanted to sleep. The options were pretty much heads toward the manatee aquarium or heads toward the wall. I was completely surprised when a few minutes into set up, two troops (the moms) began to confront each other over where they were going to sleep, and actually argue about who chose the place on the ground first.

Now, as parents and girl scout leaders, aren't we supposed to set the example of how to behave? I don't get it. I'm forever surprised when adults act worse than children.

But if anyone out there has the opportunity to participate in one of Sea World's sleep over, I say go for it. It's absolutely worth it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interviewed by Latino Book Examiner Mayra Calvani

Evenings at the Argentine Club will be released next month! Can't believe it's almost September. Wow! Catch an interview to learn about this upcoming book today on Examiner!

Leave a comment or question below to win an advanced reading copy. Will draw a name at midnight California time tonight.

READ the interview.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Interview with Raul Ramos, author of America Libre

Today, I'm very happy to have Raul Ramos y Sanchez visiting us as part of his blog tour.

Cuban-born Raul Ramos y Sanchez began writing AMERICA LIBRE in 2004, with the input of scholars from Latin America, Spain, and the United States. Besides developing a documentary for public television, Two Americas: The Legacy of our Hemisphere, he is host of — an online forum for the U.S. immigrant community. The sequel to America Libre, El Nuevo Alamo, is slated for release in 2010.

I'm excited to get the interview started, so here goes:

Julia: Most of my readers are ladies, so I’m going to ask you some of the more emotional questions to get to know the real person behind the author. But I know you can handle it.

First, Manolo is a highly passionate man. Do you consider yourself like Manolo in this aspect? What are you passionate about?

Raul: I based Mano’s character on one of my uncles named Evelio. In fact, Mano’s last name “Suarez” came from the Santos Suarez district of Havana where my uncle lived. Like Mano, Evelio was drawn into the Cuban revolution by a misplaced sense of injustice. My uncle risked his life to bring Castro into power—and I suspect he eventually regretted it. (Because of our political differences, my mother and I have had no contact with our Cuban relatives since 1961.) Anyway, I only knew Evelio as child and to me he seemed very cold and distant. Years later, I learned from my mother that her brother Evelio had written passionate, romantic poems to his wife-to-be and was very sentimental. I never forgot that. Quiet people often mask very passionate feelings. As for me, my passions are much more evident. I’m very proud of my heritage but feel the Hispanic identity is grossly misunderstood. I wrote AMERICA LIBRE in large part to broaden public perspectives on what it really means to be a Latino.

Julia: You were Cuban born, but raised in America. Did this create any identity issues for you growing up or were you pretty secure about who you were? How did the way you saw yourself play into the type of writer you became?

Raul: I think my upbringing was fundamental to the point-of-view I bring to AMERICA LIBRE. I lived in Cuba until I was seven when my mother divorced my father after he became a partisan in Castro’s revolution. My mother and I eventually wound up in Miami where we preceded the huge Cuban exile influx by several years. At that time, our neighborhood was mix of Anglos, Puerto Ricans and other Cubans. Later, Miami would become a patchwork of ethnically-segregated districts. My high school in Miami was one of the first in the South to end Jim Crow segregation. Over half the students were African-American. At seventeen, my mother married again and we moved to the U.S. Midwest where I’ve lived ever since. So my path to adulthood brought me into day-to-day contact with a wide diversity of people. Each of those transitions was a lesson in the differences in culture. But they were never difficult for me. On the contrary, my experiences growing up have given me a sense of empathy for all people—and the realization that our cultural insulation is the prime cause of ethnic tensions. As a witness to Cuba’s revolution, I’ve come to understand that in every conflict, each side is convinced they’re doing the right thing. Evil is not what someone believes. It’s the violence they’re willing to commit when they’re convinced they’re right. I tried to make the characters in AMERICA LIBRE reflect this realization.

Julia: And I think you did an awesome job reflecting that, Raul, and you're so right about each side believing they're right. My next question is about relationships. Guys really love action heroes (well, okay women do too for different reasons), but you write relationship scenes as great as you do the action scenes. Do you find writing emotional love scenes any more or less difficult than other scenes?

Raul: The moments that make us feel most alive are usually intense experiences. An action scene and a relationship scene can be equally intense. They just trigger different emotions. I think a big part of being an author is putting yourself into a scene and exploring the emotions it evokes in the characters. That empathy I mentioned earlier is important here too. You must be able to get outside yourself and imagine how someone else might feel, even when that person is very different than you. Once an author has nailed that emotional authenticity, a scene will work whether it’s crash-bang action or an intimate moment.

Julia: What do you like to do for fun when you’re not busy writing action packed, thought-provoking novels?
Raul: To me, “work” is whatever you have to do when you wish you were doing something else. I’m very fortunate in that I love what I do for a living, whether it’s writing fiction or working as creative director at the ad agency I helped found in 1992. So I spend most of my waking hours working. For exercise, I play golf. (I walk instead of ride and carry my own bag.) I won’t call golf relaxation, though. Those who play it will understand exactly what I mean. My wife Kathy and I love to travel. We’re museum junkies and love movies. Oh, yes. At any given time, I’m usually reading about three books at once. I love to jump between novels and non-fiction.

Julia: I can relate to the three books at once. The last question involves no spilling of your guts. Many self-published or small press authors dream of being picked up by the larger NYC publishers, and yet it rarely happens. But you did it! Can you share how it happened?

Raul: I didn’t start out with the idea of self-publishing. After finishing the manuscript for AMERICA LIBRE in 2004, I set out to find an agent or a publisher. After months of mailing query letters, I went to a writers conference in San Diego and had three offers of representation in a single weekend! But finding an agent was only the beginning. She and I worked for nearly a year on the manuscript. After that, I hired a professional editor to polish our efforts. However, the genre-bending nature of AMERICA LIBRE seemed to leave a lot of editors puzzled about where to market it. Was it Latino fiction? Was it an action thriller? So it was my agent who suggested self-publishing. She’d never suggested it to a client before. But with my marketing background she felt I might succeed in garnering enough attention to make the publishers take notice. Turns out her instincts were pretty good. Five months after the release of the self-published edition of AMERICA LIBRE, I had been on 14 radio and TV shows, done three book signings – and had a two book deal from Grand Central Publishing. I’m happy to say that, like you Julia, I am a GCP author. Best of luck with EVENINGS AT THE ARGENTINE CLUB. I wish you continued success!

Julia: What a great success story! I'm thrilled for you, because AMERICA LIBRE is amazing. It doesn't surprise me that GCP saw the potential in you and the book and made an offer. Thank you for stopping by!

Raul will be making a number of appearances in California. If like me, you live out here, stop by and pick up a copy of AMERICA LIBRE, and meet Raul in person.

Sept. 21, 2009 – 7pm
Vroman's Bookstore
Pasadena, CA

Sept. 24, 2009 – 7pm
Mysterious Galaxy Books
San Diego, CA

Sept. 25-27
Southern California Writers Conference
Los Angeles, CA

Please visit his website for more information.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What's On Your Desk?

Every wonder what a writer's desk looks like? Usually, I wouldn't want anyone to see my desk, but chatting with my GCP publicist today, she mentioned that it would make an interesting blog. And after thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided that she's right. I've actually wondered at times if other authors' desks look as crazy as mine. Am I the only one that works buried under loads of junk? In fact, I think we ought to start a share what your desk looks like circle.

I'll start. As you can see from this picture. I have a variety of items on my desk. Some things you would expect to see on a writer's desk: a laptop, my current work in progress beside it where I've been editing a book that's due at the end of this month, pens, pencils, a phone, notes to myself on sticky papers. But then comes the "other stuff". Coffee cups and water glasses. You'll notice I have more than one. This is because I remember to bring them up to my office, but usually finish working way after midnight and don't take them back to my kitchen. The next day, I bring another. This goes on until I have not open stop to put a cup or glass down.

There there is a picture of my husband. Awe.

A journal I never have time to write in. Lego creations from my son. Ity, bitty beads from my daughter, piles of papers I WILL read someday, peach scented candle (very good!), a cashier's check I bought to give someone and I can't remember who - it's been on my desk for a year, no kidding. CD's, tapes, and cables, an Ipod speaker system, books about Wine for my current book, mentos, ear plugs for when the kids get too loud, my planner. Okay, you get the picture. I have my entire life on my desk.

Somehow, this seems to work for me.

So, do other authors have this much stuff on their desks? Come on guys, share your desk with me. I've got to know!


Friday, August 7, 2009

Meet Raul

Later this month we'll be treated to a visit from author, Raul Sanchez y Ramos. A little about Raul:

Raul was a long-time resident of the U.S. Midwest, Cuban-born Raul Ramos y Sanchez is a founding partner of BRC Marketing, an ad agency established in 1992 with offices in Ohio and California. Besides developing a documentary for public television, Two Americas: The Legacy of our Hemisphere, he is host of — an online forum for the U.S. immigrant community. Ramos began writing America Libre in 2004, with the input of scholars from Latin America, Spain, and the United States. After five months as a self-published edition, America Libre, was acquired by Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books). The revised version of the novel by Grand Central Publishing released July 29, 2009. Grand Central Publishing also acquired El Nuevo Alamo, the sequel to America Libre. El Nuevo Alamo is slated for release in 2010.

We'll learn more about Raul on August 17th, but for now, I wanted you to have his tour schedule in case you wanted to follow him to some of his other stops.


Aug 3 Musings

Aug 4 Chasing Heroes

Aug 5 Mama Latina Tips

Aug 6 Efrain’s Corner

Aug 7 Writing to Insanity

Aug 10 Sofritos for Your Soul Live radio Interview

Aug 11 Behind Brown Eyes

Aug 12 Latino Examiner

Aug 13 Unloaded

Aug 14 CaridadPineiro

Aug 17 Julia Amante

Aug 18 Queer Latino Musings on Literature