Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Avon Romance Blog Today

Hey everyone, I'm on the Avon Romance blog today!

Since I've been on "vacation" the last week, I've fallen back into my addiction to historical romances. Those crack dealers at Smart Bitches Love Trashy Books introduced me to Loretta Chase and today a 30% Borders Rewards coupon arrived in my email. (Sigh) Last night, I finished Lisa Kleypas' Mine Till Midnight. Thank God the next book in her new Hathaway series won't be out till 2008 or 2009, or else I'd never get anything accomplished.

Now I'm reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. It's very literary so that means I'll get bored while reading and my subconscious will start working on my new book. (I always did my best thinking while half-listening to some of my college professors or my bosses at meetings.) Some may call it disassociation; I call it my creative process.

And now I'm going off-line to dip biscotti in chocolate and pack up my holiday goodies!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Blockbuster with a Heart

Last night, Ryan and I went out to see I Am Legend. I expected to be bored out of my gourd as movies, lately, just haven't been doing it for me. But this movie took me by surprise and I wonder if it was because Oscar-winning screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman was one of the producers as well as one of the writers.

Anyway, there is a scene that really struck home for me as to what we writers do. Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, routinely goes into a video store to pick movies that keep him company during the long nights he's barricaded in his home. Inside the store, he has arranged mannequins to talk to because his only companion is Sam, the German Shepherd. Later in the story - and I'm trying really hard not to give anything away! - Robert returns and begs one of the mannequins to say hello to him.

By the way, if you don't think much of Will Smith's acting, you might change your mind after this scene.

I Am Legend is about our need to connect with each other. As the last guy alive in Manhattan, movies give Robert that necessary connection to other human beings. Have you ever thought it odd that when we're among each other in the mall, or in our cars driving through the streets, that we humans get so impatient with each other? We flip off the dude who cuts us off, or quicken our pace so we get to the check-out line before the other lady does. (And don't get me started on what we do to our family and friends!)

But when we watch movies or read books, we connect to the make-believe people who inhabit those stories. We cry when they're hurt, or laugh at their follies. We cheer when they deliver justice, and sigh when they find The One they're meant to be with. Sometimes I wonder if it is story that keep us civilized. Without us writers, what would this world be like? Thoughts?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Top Latino Books of 2007

On Friday, the Top Latino Books of 2007 appeared in the New York Daily News. Chica power!

In other news, I've not written one word since La Familia Orihuela. I should just accept that the holidays are here and there are gifts to wrap, cookies to be baked and people to see. However, it's the perfect time to do very important research. I get the best stuff for dialogue, conflict and characters at holiday parties. If I were you, keep your meshugas at home because there might be a writer lurking in the corner!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Between the Pages With Frederick Smith

I remember the first time I saw Frederick Smith. We were in Miami for the Chica Lit Fiesta sponsored by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez and Fred walked into the room with Patrick Sanchez and Erasmo Guerra. In a conference of women, they were the three lone rangers but having read their books, they are some of the most talented writers I've ever met.

Two weeks ago, when Fred sent me a copy of his book, The Right Side of the Wrong Bed, I made a terrible mistake. It was the last stretch of NaNoMo and I cracked open the first page and in that moment, I was hooked by the story of Kenny Kane, a successful thirty-something who has been betrayed by the love of his life and has to start all over again. He meets Jeremy, a gorgeous, charismatic twenty-one year old who attracts him like a bee to honey. And that honey traps Kenny into a relationship that threatens his professional life as well as his heart.

By the way, it wasn't a terrible mistake (it just sounded more dramatic) and I finished NaNoMo at 30,000 words!

Anyway, Fred took the time to talk with me about his new book.

Chica Lit: What inspired the story of Kenny and Jeremy?

Fred: I started writing this novel on the day I got dumped by someone I was dating. He said he was no longer interested in me and had started dating someone I thought was a friend of his, but was actually more than just a friend. My intuition had told me one thing about their "friendship" while we were dating, I'd chosen to not to follow it, and I wondered how I'd been so stupid. Instead of continuing to put myself down, I decided to channel that energy into writing. And while this story isn't a play-by-play of our relationship, the real life breakup inspired the creation of Kenny, Jeremy, and all the fun and not-so-fun situations the characters face in the novel.

Chica Lit: The thing I took away from The Right Side of the Wrong Bed was the issue of integrity. Kenny has been a victim of a dishonest partner and he has so many reasons not to trust Jeremy.

Fred: Integrity and intuition are two areas I think are important to relationships. Sometimes, though, we're blind to or choose to ignore signs that tell us that the person we're with may not be the right one for us. We do it for a number of reasons. For the character Kenny, he doesn't want to appear to have failed at yet another relationship. He also fears to some extent that at age 33 he might not have another shot at meeting someone as young, exciting and attractive as Jeremy, even though in his heart he knows they shouldn't be together... and even though deep inside he knows he can find someone else who's more compatible. Those same factors might influence us in real life to ignore issues of integrity because we're acting out of fear rather than out of genuine love of self.

Chica Lit: Looking back on your two books, what is a common theme and why?

Fred: I tend to write characters who are culturally-empowered, meaning they're not ashamed of their ethnic or class backgrounds, and aren't looking for validation from majority culture per se. This is important to me, because sometimes young people of color who decide to come out but don't get affirmed immediately by their families/communities, may search for acceptance from people and communities that don't necessarily have their interests at heart. They feel they have to choose sexual orientation over ethnicity. But these characters navigate all their labels and communities well and have a strong sense of identity.

Chica Lit: What was your process in writing this book? How long did it take to complete?

Fred: This book came so quickly to me. Partly because I had so much energy from the break up, and also because I absolutely loved all the characters created in the book. They were fun to write, so full of life, and really leaped off the page for me in the creative process. I generally get up around 4:30 or 5 in the morning and write for a couple hours before going to my day job. I finished the first draft of RIGHT SIDE in about three and a half months, and my agent and editor thought it was in pretty good shape, though I did do some extensive revision work. I wish I could go through a break up every year and maybe it would help my writing productivity, lol.

Chica Lit: Which authors and books have inspired you?

Fred: I was inspired when Terry McMillan and E. Lynn Harris came along on the fiction scene. When I discovered their work, while in my late high school and early college years, in the early 1990s, I knew that one day I could write a novel that might one day be published. They opened so many doors in publishing, and I always have credited them for giving me hope that I could realize my dreams in fiction writing. Other authors I admire for their works or their career paths are J. California Cooper, Eric Jerome Dickey, Alisa Valdes Rodriguez, Lorrie Moore, and Tayari Jones.

Chica Lit: What are you reading now? What was the best book you read in 2007?

Fred: Right now I'm reading two books: Them by Nathan McCall and Boston Boys Club by Johnny Diaz. The best books I read in 2007 weren't written in 2007: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller and Chasing Destiny by Eric Jerome Dickey.

Get to know Fred or order your copy of Frederick Smith's The Right Side of the Wrong Bed at:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tu Ciudad's Book Blog & Why I'm a Big Idiot

Check out how Tu Ciudad's new book blog treated my girl, Margo Candela and her new book, Life Over Easy.

To read the blog click here.

And in other news, I am officially a big idiot. Yesterday at the Gypsy Den, I wrote 15 pages on my AlphaSmart. But when I went to transfer the file onto my PC, I deleted the file. Fifteen pages, people. FIFTEEN! Gone. Forever.

So I had to rewrite them. I have to say, they're better. But I'm still pissed.

Okay, not really. I have no hope of meeting the NaNoMo goal of 50K words unless I write 150 pages by midnight on Friday. Not gonna happen because I'm reading The Right Side of the Wrong Bed by Frederick Smith and nothing is tearing me away from that book! (Darn you Fred for writing such a juicy story!)

You'll meet Fred on the blog soon.

The Little Dude calls!

Night night,


Monday, November 26, 2007

Mary's Favorite Things

If you have a writer in the family or among friends, I've got some great ideas! Pens are great but more than likely a writer has her favorites in bulk. Journals are cool, too, but a writer has very strong preferences as to the size, paper type, etc. Yes, we're a picky lot, which is why I started this list that ranges from $12 to $40. Stay tuned for more ideas because if you're like me, you'll be shopping at the last minute!

Whether you write by hand or keyboard, a writer's most precious tools are her hands. Ulta's Rescue Hand Cream smells like lemons (you know, to invigorate the senses) and it melts into your skin so you don't get that sticky, icky feeling. A little goes a long way! The Warming Hand Mask is great if you have achy fingers and wrists. Slather it on and you're treated to a gentle warming sensation (ahh!). Rinse off and you'll swear that Madge herself worked on your hands! And if you buy it now, Ulta is having a 20% off sale!

When I need some inspiration or words of wisdom, I crack open my trusty copy of Pen On Fire. Each essay is maybe two or three pages, tops, but the content will illuminate the mind and refresh the heart.

I've had The Observation Deck for almost 8 years and it always helps me out of a jam. Basically you grab the deck, shuffle the cards and pull one at random (kind of like tarot cards for writers). A handy guide contains writing exercises and stories about legendary writers.

Stick this warming scarf from Bed Bath and Beyond into the microwave and viola, the chills are gone! I have a neck warmer that I would take to work when I was a reporter. We worked in a building from the 1920's and when a brisk wind swept off the ocean, it funneled through the swiss cheese walls, turning my desk area into a mini-fridge. Even if your friend doesn't work in such primitive conditions, this is a great treat because it also helps alleviate neck and shoulder aches, the malaise of all desk-dwellers.

When I'm in deep writing mode, I have a tough time leaving my book at my desk. But a girl (or guy) needs to relax every now and then. The Umbra Aquala Tub Caddy allows you to read through your manuscript or a book without wetting the pages. There's a handy slot for your wine glass and a place for your tea or coffee cup. What more could you want?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bethany Hiitola Guest Blogs

A frequent reader and fellow blogger at Mommy Writer, Bethany Hiitola has guest blogged at my other blog, My Best Friend's Baby. She tells it like it is in her essay, Motherhood is a Bitch. But it's not all bad; she shares how her friends were her lifelines during and after her first pregnancy.

More than likely this will be my last post for the week. I'm hosting Thanksgiving so there are floors to clean, china to wash, pies to bake and much eating to take place. I hope that all of you are surrounded by the ones you love, even if they're with you in spirit.

Much love and thank you for all your support!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Friday Night at Cantera

Alas, I have no photos to share. I thought the camera was in my bag but it was on my desk!

We raised a lot of money for YWCA's Wise Place and I think there are plans to do it again so I'll keep you posted.

One of the coolest things happened to me. A woman came upstairs where I was hanging out and I noticed her look at my table and then walk away to talk to her friends. She did this a couple of times and even though I smiled, she kept wandering away. So finally, she walks up to me with her friends on either side and says with her voice shaking, "I have all your books. I'm a big fan."

Dude, I almost cried. (But I didn't!) I just stood up, shook her hand and said thank you because honestly, I had no idea what to say. (By the way, what should one say in this situation? I always imagine it should be something elegant and inspiring but I was floored.) Many moons ago, I did the same thing to James Elroy. I wanted to go up to him and yet, I was so intimidated that I couldn't. Finally he picked up a book, signed it and handed it to a guy to give to me.

So it was very cool to meet a fan of my own! (Fan? I have fans?!?! I still can't get over it.)

Anyway, I've been up since 3 a.m. today because someone who shall not be named decided he wanted milk and chips. One day when he's seventeen and sleeping in till 1 p.m., I will be merciless in my vengeance!

But I'm still in NaNoMo mode so I have pages to write. I think I cracked the first 100 pages of the new book. This weekend I stopped keeping track because it was driving me nuts, so I'll update my stats tonight.

I wasn't going to do this but I can't stop myself...

This is the house that is inspiring my new book! I grew up not far from this street and I always asked my parents to drive me by the Victorians (there's a huge mansion across the street from this one) because there was something about them that got to me.

Finally, after twenty odd years, I'm writing a story set in this house. I'm so giddy that I'm annoying myself! So I'll go now.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Woman Who Became Jane Austen

A few months ago, I read a book that made me cry. In public. While I enjoy many of the books I read, many are passing fancies. As a I writer I've learned a trick or two and I can see plot twists and character revelations a mile away. But The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James swept me up and made me forget all about writing. After crying on a flight to Phoenix while reading the book, I emailed Syrie with the hope that she'd agree to a Q&A for the blog. She did and I hope after reading this interview that you'll enter to win a copy of this amazing book!

Chica Lit: When did you come up with the idea for The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen? Has this story been an idea in your head for a long time?

Syrie: The germ of the idea first occurred to me seven years ago, right after watching (for the umpteenth time) the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee movie, Sense and Sensibility and the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth—followed by Shakespeare in Love. I’d read and loved all of Jane Austen’s novels, some many times over, and I remember thinking: what about a love story for Jane Austen? Why hasn’t anyone done that? The idea evolved from there. I started reading every Jane Austen biography I could find. I poured over all of her existing letters. I was disappointed to discover that—according to historians—this brilliant woman, who gave the world such wonderful and romantic stories, never fell in love herself. I simply couldn’t accept that. Wasn’t it possible, I thought, that Jane Austen had a love affair that no one ever knew about?

I was also intrigued by the idea of Jane Austen’s genesis as a writer. According to her sister Cassandra, Austen wrote early drafts of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice in her twenties; how much, I wondered, did those manuscripts change when she revised them years later for publication? What part did real life events play in the development of her stories? When I decided to write this as a novel, I knew the story (since it was a secret romance) had to be told from Jane’s point of view—in her own words—so it became Jane’s journal, recently discovered—The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I spent an enormous amount of time researching and developing my story before I felt ready to write it.

Chica Lit: Were you intimidated to become the voice of Jane Austen? What did you do - using an actor's term - to get into character?

Syrie: I was definitely intimidated at first! I knew that, in order for this novel to be perceived as Jane Austen’s memoirs, I had to not only sound like her, but to create a story that was Jane Austen through and through, peopled with her unique roster of characters, and filled with her wit and sense of irony. To “get into character,” I read dozens of Jane Austen biographies, so that I’d know her life story inside out. I researched her era extensively. I watched all her movies. I even took English Regency Country Dance lessons! To “become her voice” (and the voices of her characters), I studied her letters in minute detail, reread her novels, all her juvenilia, and all her unfinished works, over and over and over again. When I finally started writing, her voice seemed to come naturally to me.

Chica Lit: I cried when Jane sees her dream of becoming a writer come true. Were you moved to tears and laughter as you wrote the story?

Syrie: Having suffered myself through all the usual rejections that come with the writing profession, it wasn’t such a huge leap to get inside Jane Austen’s head, and to imagine how she must have felt when her lifelong dream at last came true. I often find myself speaking my characters’ dialog aloud as I write; there were many times when I couldn’t help laughing or crying. Even now, every time I reread the book, my eyes well up with tears when I get to the end.

Chica Lit: Tell me about your career as a writer. You're a working screenwriter. Has your work been produced?

Syrie: My very first screenplay was quickly optioned, and I was hired to write several episodes for a lovely, heart-warming TV series called “Starman.” After that, my screenwriting career took off; I sold nineteen scripts (movies and one-hour dramas) in a variety of genres to Tri-Star Pictures, Fox Family Films, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX TV. Hollywood typically develops a huge number of scripts that are shelved or put into turnaround. My experience was no exception, but I had a great time writing them, worked with some fascinating people, and five of mine actually got produced; my favorite (in addition to the “Starman” episodes, which have developed a cult following) is the movie “Once in a Lifetime” starring Lindsay Wagner and Barry Bostwick, which first ran on NBC, and now airs annually on the Lifetime Network. (My husband and I even have a cameo in the film.) My favorite script that didn’t get made was a Dolly Parton movie musical entitled “Heavens to Betsy.” I had such a fantastic time working with Dolly on that project!

Chica Lit: How did you select the supporting cast for The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen? Jane Austen-philes will recognize shades of her most famous/infamous characters in your story.

Syrie: Since most writers tend to write about what they know, I looked for ways to project traits and characteristics from the “infamous” characters in Austen’s fiction, onto the people in her real life, as well as the characters I created. For example: based on repeated references in Jane Austen’s letters, her mother was a hypochondriac; Jane created several whiney hypochondriacs in her novels, which gave me a great model to follow. I knew I had to have an odious clergyman, a well-meaning but interfering matron, and a flighty, insipid, self-involved young woman; the fun was deciding when and how to use them.

Chica Lit: What's next?

Syrie: I’m busy maintaining my website at … and I'm researching and writing my next book for Avon: a love story for Charlotte Brontë (another one of my favorite writers.) As you can imagine, I’m having a fantastic time “being” Charlotte!

ATTENTION BLOGGERS: If you would like to review The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen on your blog, email Syrie, mention the name of your blog, and she'll draw the name of the winner! ***Mary goofed and should've told you that the deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Just when I thought that I was out ...

...they pull me back in."

Which Godfather movie did that line come from? I don't have a prize. You'll just look really smart in the comments section.

But the spirit of its sentiment applies to me now as I've put the NaNoMo book aside to polish up the mariachi story. My agent read it, loved it, had a few comment here and there and you think that would be good enough for me. But oh no. As a neurotic writer, I had to go back and make sure that its perfect or as close to perfect as it can get.

So if I'm a good girl and quickly wrap up this post, I'll be back to the NaNoMo book on Thursday.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Working Two Jobs with Maria Canals

Photo credit: Disney

Actress Maria Canals likes to think that her role on Wizards of Waverly Place is preparing her to parent adolescents. Her alter ego, Theresa Russo, is the mother of three wizards-in-training. The three teens are trained by their father until one is chosen to be the next wizard of the family. Although Theresa is not magically inclined, she helps them navigate the "normal" challenges of teen life.

"This show is a complete blessing to me on so many levels," Canals said. "It's a funny comedy and as an actor you get all kinds of material that's not very funny. It's a kids show at a time when I have kids."

When she first watched the show with her two daughters, ages four and two, she feared her oldest might get jealous of her on-screen "kids."

"I told her that I'm the pretend mommy and that's my pretend kid," she explained. "I totally underestimated power of pretend, which is what kids do all the time. When she visited set she'd say, 'that's the pretend big kid!'"

Canals began her career when she won a scholarship to the University of Miami. As she went from high school plays to paying roles, she realized acting was something to she could do for a living.

In 1993, she booked a role on the TV series, Key West and moved to Los Angeles. Unlike Hilary Swank, Canals never had to live out of her car.

"I got a great agent and when I moved to L.A., I was prepared and trained," she said. "This business is unpredictable. I was very, very blessed to have worked steadily and there have been wonderful projects – some came and went. You have to love the work."

Married to actor, David Barerra, Canals admits that its tough continuing her twenty year career in acting while raising a family. Recently, she brought her girls and her nanny with her to Toronto where she filmed Camp Rock, a teen musical that will be released in summer 2008.

"My husband and I have the same priorities: we love our work and committed to it but it's not our identity," she said. "I don't want to be one of those people who missed out on this."

Watch Maria in action on Wizards of Waverly Place Friday nights at 8:30/7:30 Central on the Disney channel.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Supporting The Writers Strike (An Eva Peron Moment)

Although I'm not a screenwriter, a writer is still a writer and I support the men and women of the WGA on strike.
There would be no shows, no movies nor the trendy "webisodes", without writers. And yet you don't hear of any who get $20 million per picture. That kind of money goes to the guy who memorizes the lines and walks the red carpet.
Authors have their complaints as well. In my experience, it takes months for a contract to be drawn up, signed and then a few more months later - to add to the suspense - I get a check. I wonder how many people work jobs that compensate them six months to a year later?
Furthermore, what's up with the used book thing? I realize books are pricey but does Amazon have to put the used book price in bold print over the regular price? For TV or movie writers, if a piece is re-run, everyone gets a residual. Authors don't make residuals on used copies of their books because there is no system to track those sales. I agree with the striking writers that they deserve a cut from the advertising dollars a network makes when a show is downloaded and watched online. Too bad, something can't be done for those of us who write books.
By the way, if you support writers, don't watch TV shows for free online. And if you can help it, try not to buy a used copy of my book. I'd much rather you check it out at your library because at least they bought it and give it a good home.
Also, when an author writes a book and then jumps through all the hoops to get it through copyeditting, etc., the publisher doesn't advertise it. Have you noticed that? All the major brands advertise in magazines and on TV, but publishers don't, which is probably why editorial book coverage space is really small if non-existent in most magazines. Occasionally you see an ad for a major New York Times best-selling author but what about all the other writers who are future best sellers? I would think that as a business, a publisher would want a maximum return on every dollar spent to acquire, produce and distribute all of its products.
I'm lucky in that Avon has one heck of a publicity department with professionals who love books and authors. Also, we're backed up the editorial team who have created the Avon Romance blog, which allows us writers to brag about ourselves.
But I'm really, really lucky in that I have a PR, web writing and journalism background and can do a lot of my own promotion. Until I'm at the level of Nora Roberts (who by the way, worked darn hard for the last 26 years to get where she is and deserves every perk she can get!), you won't see me in a commercial between segments of Oprah or Good Morning America. But one day ... oh yes, one day you will!
So now you know how I feel about the strike. But you should also know that there is no other job that gives me greater pleasure than writing. (In other words, I'm one lucky bee-yotch!)
How do you feel about the strike?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Last Night at the East Los Angeles Library

Last night, the East L.A. Public Library hosted a chica lit panel moderated by Margo Candela. I had the honor of sitting up with the likes of Reyna Grande, Sylvia Mendoza and Lara Rios. The place was packed and even though many students received class credit for attending, I could see their excitement and energy. (And yes, we signed tons of books so THANK YOU!)

Hopefully in a few years, I'll be in an audience listening to them talk about their work and their paths to publication!

Me (probably making a bad joke), Margo, Sylvia and Lara. (Reyna was off to the side eating the fabulous sandwiches they had at the event!)

Sylvia Mendoza and Lara Rios

Reyna (hey wake up!), Evita - I mean me! - and Margo.

If you're in San Diego, come on down to Bay Books in Coronado on Thursday, Nov. 8th from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for Switchcraft and the Spicy Mexican brownies!


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dia de los Muertos

A year ago, Mom brought over a box of my old stuff. Like I need more stuff in a house that looks like Toys R Us stocked for Christmas! But inside were some outfits that my Grandma Nana had made for me. They're stained, terribly out of fashion and smell like moth balls and I have no where to store them. But I couldn't throw them out.

So this morning when I read Kathy's post about Dia de los Muertos, she really got me. I've been thinking about my Grandma Nana a lot lately.

Eduvijen Holguin Melendez was a very quiet, simple woman. She wasn't one for calling attention to herself. During Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter she mostly spent her time in the kitchen. She'd be the last to sit down for the meal, still wearing her apron and jumping up to get what anyone needed.

She was also a very talented seamstress, making extra money by sewing wedding and quinceanera gowns. My Grandma Margie remembers how she'd buy a bolt of cloth and then work through the night making matching dresses for her three girls. I can imagine Grandma Nana's sewing machine whirring with the steady pressure of her foot on the wrought iron pedal. Outside the street would be dark, except for the light of her room glowing againt the mammoth Eucalyptus trees that lined her yard.

If you've read Hot Tamara and remember Senora Allende's shrine with the glow-in-the-heart Jesus statue, that was inspired by the santos Grandma Nana had in her sala behind the TV. When we'd spend the night in the pull-out bed, Grandma would sleep on the lumpy couch so we wouldn't be lonely. But I'd stare at Jesus' heart, wondering if it would start beating like the animatronics in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

Even though my Grandma Nana died when I was 11 years old, I still miss her chicken soup and I can still feel the tortilla masa between my fingers. I wish she could've lived to see the Little Dude in action because she would've just adored his big personality. Actually, I know she does love him because I can feel her when she's decided to pay a visit. I bet she still covers her mouth when she laughs at his antics, like she used at mine.

Today, I'm starting a new book and I have her picture on my desk. There's a little sadness in my heart as I write this but there's also a lot more love and gratitude to have had a Grandma Nana like her and to still have her in spirit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

The sidewalks are shadowed with damp and the air crisp with the smell of fallen leaves and wet grass. Pumpkins smile grotesquely from porches and front windows while skeletons and ghouls creep up from the grass. Ghosts dance under the trees, their gowns whipping in the breeze. A waning moon lingers in the western sky and giant spiders busily take down their webs after a night of patient hunting.

Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year when you dig out your sweaters and boots. A cup of coffee or tea warms your fingers as you get to work or school. It's my favorite time of the year ... Halloween!

Before I don my kitty ears and take Little Batman trick or treating tonight, I want to thank all of you for taking the Chica Lit Halloween Tour and thank my fellow authors, Berta Platas, Sofia Quintero, Caridad Pineiro and Kathy Cano-Murillo for a week of freaky and fabulous stories!
If you haven't read these amazing stories, don't miss out!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Blog Tour: Necessary Evil

"I can't do that!"

"Well you're gonna have to unless you want to look like that forever." Adrienne waved her hand in front of her nose. "Bel, I swear I had no idea it would really work."

"I'd believe you if weren't trying not to laugh," Bel replied.

Adrienne covered her mouth with both hands, tears welling in her eyes as she stared at what she'd done to her best friend.

"I practically let you live here for free!" Bel burst out.

"I know," Adrienne said. "I just thought- Well, you're not the girl I knew."

Bel glanced at her reflection in the mirror. Just a few minutes ago, she'd woken up and then hobbled from her bed to the bathroom, thinking she'd over done it at the gym. But oh no. Her sanctimonious friend and soon-to-be ex roommate put a hex on her and Bel had woken up like this.

Gray skin rotted off Bel's face and neck. Her mouth was ripped wide and through the flap of skin she could see her teeth. Her right ear was missing and scraps of her normally blonde hair stuck out of her scalp in white patches. Adding insult to injury, she stank like a piece of maggoty beef.

But now that she knew Adrienne had done this on purpose, her blood raced through her veins and she could hardly keep her breath. "I can't go to work, I can't leave the house- You have to fix this!"

Adrienne shook her head. "But-"

"Who are you to tell me what I should do? I'm not telling Melanie that I slept with her boyfriend. I told you because you've never judged me and now I-"

"The Bel I once knew and loved would never have done something like that."

"But I-" Bel's insides curdled as she remembered that night when she stumbled in the ladies room with Rick. It had been such a naughty thrill to tease and taunt him after the way Melanie treated her in the office. But the fun was all over when he hoisted her up against the wall and pulled her panties aside. Bel had gone cold through the rest of it; disconnecting herself from her body.

Bel shut her eyes, trying to block out the memory. She hadn't been with another guy since; as if her abstinence could make her clean again.

"You're going straight down a dark path, Bel. I thought that if you could see what you're becoming you'd-"

Bel looked into Adrienne's earnest, saintly brown eyes. "I don't need your voodoo mumbo jumbo crap. Just tell me what I have to do to turn back."

"I practice curandismo."


Adrienne sighed impatiently. "The spell lasts as long as you want it to."

Bel rolled her eyes. "So you don't know? What about your guru or whatever she's called?"

"I could ask Maestra Luz but she doesn't know that I did this."


Adrienne squirmed, breaking eye contact. "It's technically against the rules for a curandera to hex someone but I thought this was an emergency."

Bel's skin crackled like paper as her hands curled into fists.

"Clear your conscience with Melanie or else, I'm not sure Maestra Luz can turn you back."

Bel stood up. "You can take your altars and all that voodoo crap and get the hell out."

That Halloween morning, Bel tried everything but confess to Melanie to undo the hex. She brought Sprinkles cupcakes into work, hoping if she got the good stuff instead of the crap from the grocery store that she'd earn extra points. No one at work touched them because of the lingering dead meat stench.

Then she had to explain to Melanie that she looked like an extra from Dawn of the Dead because the make-up wouldn't wash off. Dressed like a cat with whiskers glued to her face, Melanie believed her and Bel couldn't look her in the eye.

At lunch, Bel volunteered to cover the phones so everyone, including the loser receptionist could go to the office's Halloween Costume Parade.

Bel even called her mother. But because they got into a fight when Mom roasted Bel again for not attending her grandma's rosary – hello, a senior account manager at a firm like hers didn't take off seven days to pray much less go to Tahiti – Bel's other ear fell off.

The next day - All Saints Day – Bel still looked like one of dancers from Thriller and then lost the tip of her pinky finger when she ripped her design team for the crappy work they'd done on one of her biggest accounts. For the first time, she saw the hatred in their eyes.

And then on the day after All Saints Day, Bel made an altar to her Grandma. She didn't so much as touch the cap to the bottle of Cazadores, her Grandma's favorite tequila. But Bel cried when she set out the package of Virginia Slims, remembering how her Grandma would slip her a five to get an ice cream for buying her cigs.

For that, Bel went to bed without losing any more body parts.

The next morning, Bel went into Melanie's office.

"I have to tell you something," she said, leaving the door open because the rotting body stench could suffocate them both.

"Don't you think you're taking this whole costume thing a little too seriously?" Melanie asked.

Like being forced to eat her own vomit, Bel almost couldn't do it. Maybe she should become a freelancer and work from home.

"Your boyfriend, Rick, is a cheating bastard," Bel said, deciding to lie by omission.

"Excuse me?"

"I know this because I-" Some of Bel's skin fluttered to the floor like dead leaves. She sucked in a chest-full of air and then choked on the smell.

"I, uh. Well, I slept with him. In the ladies' room so we weren't really sleeping together but-"

A high-pitched yelp popped out of Melanie's mouth. She didn't leap over her desk to bash in Bel's head with her stapler. She didn't even cry. But with one look into her eyes, Bel knew she'd just yanked the rug out from under her.

"Look, I know I can't work here anymore because everyone hates me already so I'll just leave and-" Bel stood up out of her chair. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry for what I did and I hope you'll- Okay, I know you'll never forgive me but maybe you'll be better off knowing."

Later, as Bel walked out of the elevator carrying her stuff in a cardboard box, she had no idea how she'd pay the minimum monthly payment on her credit card, much less next month's rent without her job.

Adrienne had been right. She couldn't undo what she'd done with Rick. But by telling Melanie the truth, Bel didn't get that squishy feeling in her stomach when she thought about what she'd done. That must be the self-forgiveness kicking in.

An agonizing pain snatched her breath away and the box fell to the ground. Bel's knees skidded on the rough pavement. She wrapped her arms around her middle, as if to keep her insides from breaking through her skin. But then just as quick as it consumed her, the pain vanished.

Bel wasn't sure if she had the strength to stand. Her bones shaking, she placed her hands on the box and then realized the skin was normal. Frantically touching her arms, her neck, both of her ears and her face, Bel realized the monster was gone.

Relief rained over her like cold clean water.

"I knew you'd do it," Adrienne said when Bel walked through the door. "I'm really proud of you."

"You didn't move your stuff," Bel said, putting her box on the floor by the door.

"Do I have to?"

Bel shook her head. "But you'll have to pony up more money for the rent."

"Its money well spent to have you back."

© Copyright 2007 by Mary Castillo

For more Halloween chica lit...

Saturday, 10/27 Berta Platas!

Monday, 10/29 Sofia Quintero!

Tuesday, 10/30 Kathy Cano-Murillo!

Wednesday, 10/31 Caridad Pineiro!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Southern California Wildfires Volunteers & Donations

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. The last Mom heard was that my dad was back at his station. The fires are still going so there's a chance his strike team will be deployed.

I also received the following list from the Las Comadres network and wanted to share this with everyone.

To make a cash donation: Your donation can help organizations obtain goods and services locally to issue assistance to victims.
  • American Red Cross: Support their Disaster Relief Fund which enables them to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster
  • San Diego Humane Society and SPCA: Help to rescue and evacuate pets
  • Volunteer San Diego: Support their Disaster Program which allows them to meet volunteer needs locally
  • San Diego Foundation: Support their After-the-Fires fund which will provide food, shelter, housing and address healthcare needs of the victims.
To offer non-cash donations (blankets, food, etc):
  • Please call a special hotline set up by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to offer your non-cash donations, 1-800-750-2858
  • To volunteer: Search for ways to volunteer at
  • You can visit also : to give and receive help.

Here's a link to help out in Orange County:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

While I'm Stuck in the House...

I wanted to share what I'm doing while the Little Dude sleeps.
By the way, the sunlight is tangerine because the sky is a smutty pink gray. Everyone has been told to stay inside and after a brief venture with Rascal the Pug during his morning constitutional, I'm taking it seriously.

Also, my grandma and uncle were able to go home this morning. But they're ready to leave if the winds change. My dad and his team were called to the fire near Jamul but were then sent back to the station. I think he's bummed because like all fire fighters, he wants to put out fires.
I'm watching:

I'm reading my new favorite author:

I'm also wrote the first scene of my new book that I wanted to start on November 1st for NaNoMo but couldn't wait any longer!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Update on Mary's Dad

First, thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers yesterday. I think it's making a difference as the winds are very calm out here in Costa Mesa and down in National City where my family live.

Yesterday, my dad was at a high school fire set by two idiots who apparently were unaware that all of Southern California is burning. Luckily no one was hurt and the fire crews took care of the fire. Last night my grandma and uncle left Spring Valley and today, there are evacuations fo Spring Valley and Bontia.

It's a very serious situation and I feel a bit helpless checking the updates. I think I'll go through our stuff to set aside for donations.

If you want to stay on top of the news in San Diego, go to

For new in Orange County, go to the OC Register.

In the Wings With Kikey Castillo

At the Catalina Magazine party last month I met Actress Kikey Castillo. (Isn't she goregous?) It's not often I meet another Castillo and when I do, we always wonder if we're related.

Kikey will co-star in Virgin Love, a production of the new Ricardo Montalbán Repertory Theatre Company. Virgin Love is a musical Commeda set in the 1700's on the fictional island of Latinia.

Chica Lit: In your bio, you said that you were on your way to becoming a CEO. How did you get into acting and what did your parents think?

Kikey: It's true. I always envisioned myself a corporate career woman in suits. Senior year in college I took an elective course, "Intro to Acting" and really liked it. From there I pursued plays and got bit by the acting bug. I remember thinking: "I'm a month away from graduating college and all I want to do is move to LA and pursue acting. My mom is gonna kill me!" I think she was a little disappointed at first (though she may never confess to this) because she wanted me to have a better life and more opportunities than she had. And I can understand that, but when she saw that I was actually good at acting and that I was making money and appearing on TV, movies, and print then she really started to believe in me and now she's my rock and my biggest supporter.

Chica Lit: Talk about your role in Virgin Love. What were the challenges of your character? What do you love about that character?

Kikey: I play Franceschina, the jeweler's wife who loves jewels more than her husband and consequentially ignores him but is having an affair with the town bachelor (who is also having affairs with several women in's a comedy).

A big challenge for me was that i couldn't sing and the play is a musical commedia! I was very nervous about singing and didn't want to sound terrible in front of anybody, even my cast mates, so I hired a voice coach -- thank God! She's really brought me a long way.

I love my character Franceschina. She has an air of prim and proper about her but yet she has this youthful spirit about her. I found it really easy and fun to step into her shoes.

Chica Lit: How do you keep up the energy night after night, rehearsal after rehearsal?

Kikey: Energy? What is that? :) The rehearsal process has been very physically tough at times. We have been rehearsing five nights a week for the last three months but it's all worth it in the end. Our opening night is Friday, October 26, 2007, so high energy is definitely going to be required during our run. But for me that's usually the easiest part. I can keep going and going during performances...there's something about performing live that always gives me lots of energy.

Chica Lit: Where did you grow up? If not L.A., how did you adjust to becoming an actress in the Hollywood?

Kikey: I grew up in very small town in Eastern Oregon. My family were migrant workers and the work was good up there and we all stayed. Growing up in a small town was very nice, apple pie kind of nice, but I always wanted to live in a big city. So LA was an easy adjustment for me and I really love it. However being an actress in LA has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears...but it's my passion, my dream and I wouldn't dream of doing anything else.

Chica Lit: What struggles have you encountered in Hollywood?

Kikey: I think I've encounter the typical actor struggles here in Hollywood the whole "my agent doesn't send me out enough", "Getting good representation is hard", having to constantly get new headshots, feeling like you never work enough and thinking to yourself why didn't you know about that audition for the TV show, commercial or movie you just saw. Now saying it here makes it seem so comical but trust me, these are serious topics for an actor :) LOL.

Chica Lit: What's next after Virgin Love?

Kikey: I have a few projects in the works. I'm shooting a national Chevy commercial this month; I'm in an indie feature film called The Broken Hearts Club which shoots in December, more on-air hostessing projects and a webisode project. And si Dios quiere, a lot more!
For performances and ticket information, go to the Ricardo Montalbán Repertory Theatre Company.

Monday, October 22, 2007

California Fires

It's a bit scary out here today. The Santa Ana winds whip fiercely through the trees and you can see ash flakes and leaves tumbling in the air. The air is stripped dry and it hurts your eyes and throat to breathe outdoors. We're supposed to have these winds till tomorrow.

Would you mind if ask you for a favor? My dad has been sent out on a strike team today to fight the fires in Southern California (we don't know exactly where he'll be deployed). Would you take a moment to think or pray or send blessings to the fire fighters out there, as well as the people whose lives, homes andbusinesses are in danger?

Thanks so much!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Outting Myself

If J.K. Rowling outted Dumbledore, than I'll out the fact that I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. I even have a profile! So for the next two weeks, I'm focusing on a short story for the blog, my adaptation of Switchcraft and all the pre-writing for my NaNoMo book.
If you want to join me, become my buddy here.
Truthfully, I'm a little nervous. I've never committed to 50,000 words in one month and with a nanny-less two year-old and Thanksgiving looming ahead, it'll be a real challenge. (Not to mention a real kick in the ego if I don't make it!)
But for the last three weeks or so, I've been in promo mode for Switchcraft, which has been a life of writing press releases, stalking bloggers and reviewers and setting up events. It's been great but I miss writing and I'm starting to crack up. For example, in my non-writing interests I initially wrote "booking" when I meant "cooking!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Crafting with the Chica: Fabric Collage Dream Journal

My friend, Kathy Cano-Murillo taped some webisodes for Lifetime and in this segment, she demonstrates how to create a fabric collage dream journal. For every book that I've written, I've also kept a notebook. In them, I jot down lines of dialogue or those little spurts of inspiration that pop in my head when I'm no where near my computer, or when I need to be away from my computer and refocus on thoughts.

Today, I'm baking and preparing for my event tonight at Calacas but on Saturday, I'm going to create a journal that will accompany me as I write my new book!

Thanks Kathy!

Also, check out Kathy's book!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Taking Note

This Saturday I went to my first Orange County Chapter of RWA meeting in a looong, looong time. Best selling author, Robert Crais spoke about his childhood - he grew up behind a drive-in theatre reading comics - and his adventures in Hollywood and publishing. He did a good job, signed a ton of books and in all, I think everyone was happy.

As a member of OCC RWA, I've seen quite a few big-name NYT best-selling authors take our stage and realized that the only difference between a little fish like me and a guy like Mr. Crais is that he makes a lot more money than I do. So perhaps the true secret to success in publishing is to wait for the big fish to die or retire.
However, here's my list of what I have in common with a New York Times best-selling author:
  1. No matter how many copies of books in print and sold, authors still count and remember their rejection letters.
  2. Even if their latest book debuts high up on the NYT list, best-selling authors still envy writers whom they think are (a) more talented than they are or (b) get more money and attention from their publishers.
  3. Best-selling authors always talk about how during their childhood, they were the family mutant. Only when we succeed do our families look at us in a different light. (Usually to see if we used them as a character in the book, or if we've made enough money to spring for lunch.)
  4. Best-selling authors always walk into the room looking a bit bewildered by everyone's awe and reverance. Wait, that's not true. Jackie Collins once paid a visit to OCC RWA and she made an entrance. Then again, Nora Roberts struts around RWA National like she doesn't notice everyone staring at her so maybe it's a guy versus girl thing.
    Moving on...
  5. Most best-selling authors - actually I should say that the ones who are still good and aren't paying other writers to write their stuff - never lose that sense of awe that they get paid to make stuff up.
  6. No matter how many millions they've acquired (and that their publisher will fly them first-class and not put them up in a haunted hotel), best-selling authors still want us to feel sorry for them when they tell us how they struggled in the early years.
Hey man, I feel your pain. So when are you thinking about doing something else?
(Me, bitter? Nah!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oh What A Night

This Thursday, Oct. 18th, I'm having a Ladies Night at Calacas Inc. in Santa Ana from 7 to 8:30 p.m. There will be treats, prizes and copies of all my books including, Switchcraft!

If you have copies of my books already and would like them signed, come on by! No book - unless it is written by someone else because that would be rude - will be turned away!

All the details are here.
P.S. I have no idea why the flier has that block of gray.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

On The Radio: Hot 92.3

Early this week, I taped an interview with Hot 92.3's Josefa Salinas as part of her celebration of powerful Latinas. The fun part is that I forgot that we were doing an interview so it's a very personal, fun talk about my books and what it means to me to be a Latina.
So if you're interested - there's a pretty cool contest that I wouldn't miss if I were you! - tune into Hot 92.3 FM, Sunday, Oct. 14th at 7 a.m. Pacific Time. You can also listen on your PC.
Thanks for your support!

Image from Art. Com

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the Kitchen with Chef Daisy Martinez

Last month I was happily flipping through my copy of Everyday With Rachael Ray magazine when I happened upon a new column by Chef Daisy Martinez. My first thought was: that recipe sounds good! My second: I have to have her on the blog!

Seven years ago, Daisy's husband told her over dinner that he was sending her to the French Culinary Institute as a birthday gift. Litte did they know that she would transform from a full-time wife and mother to host her popular PBS show, Daisy Cooks!, publish a best-selling cookbook and this year pen "Mucho Gusto," a regular column in Rachael Ray's hugely successful magazine.

After Daisy agreed to a Chica Lit interview and I sent off my questions, I decided to try her recipe for cazuela baked apples; a rich dessert made of butternut squash, sweet potato and apple served in the shells of red Rome apples.

However for me, it was a harrowing lesson in proper prior preperation prevents piss-poor results. I had forgotten to buy heavy cream and then realized that I had run out of cinnamon. But I'm a Capricorn and true to my nature, I presevered. I used Chinese Five Spice and then added just a touch of cream cheese with some low fat milk. Triumph!

But then my baked Rome apples fell apart because in my zeal, I forgot to let them cool down. In the end, when I served it on a graham cracker crust, my husband pointed to it and said, "I can get seconds because this has vegetables in it, right?"

¡Que rico! We each had seconds and then the rest for lunch!

First, read the interview with Daisy and then check out the recipe!
Chica Lit: You've had a really interesting path to becoming a chef. What inspired your husband to sign you up for the French Culinary Institute (which is one of the most romantic stories I've read!)?

Daisy: My husband knew the pleasure that I gained from entertaining friends and family, and he would often see me, wistfully looking through the ads in the back of the cooking magazines. In appreciation for all the energy that I had devoted to raising my family, he wanted to reciprocate, and offered me the opportunity to be totally selfish and immerse myself in an intense culinary program at the French Culinary Institute.

Chica Lit: Were you intimidated? I ask because I've considered culinary school and with my humble cooking background, it's a bit scary!
Daisy: Intimidated? I don't think so. I was SO eager to learn the classic technique that I never gave thought to my ineptness...I was there to learn, and the faculty at the FCI always rose to that challenge, so I felt very supported.

Chica Lit: Are your kids cooking, too?

Daisy: All of my children cook. I am the very proud mother of four incredibly fantastic kids, which range in age from 25-12 years old. They can all carry their weight in the kitchen, which has made the boys very popular on campus!

Chica Lit: How did you meet Rachael Ray and what is it like to work with her?

Daisy: I met Rachael at a New York Times event which was hosted by Amander Hesser, and which featured Rachael, Dave Leiberman and myself, on a panel discussing food and the direction it's going. One would think that all that energy would be too much for one room, but Rachael and I share a very similar sense of humor, so it worked really well together. We stayed in close touch and became fast friends very quickly. It is always fun to work with Rachael because of her thirst to learn about Latino ingredients and cooking.

Chica Lit: What misconceptions about Latin cooking do you want to dispell?

Daisy: Latin food is NOT Tex-Mex, as great as Tex- Mex is! There is incredible diversity within the cuisine of any Latin country (think Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru, etc), not to mention the diversity with the Caribbean, Atlantic South America, Pacific South America, Andean South America, Incan South America, Spain, etc. We are an exercise in diversity, passion, flavor, heat, and spice!

Chica Lit: My great grandma was the cook in my family and unfortunately, many of her recipes were lost to us because she refused to share her secrets! Do you share all of your family recipes or are there some that you keep for sentimental reasons?

Daisy: YES!! I share my secrets, because this is the inheritance and legacy I leave to my children. I am a firm believer in the "you don't know where you're going if you don't know where you came from school". When I teach my recipe, you can be sure that they are completely and genuinely reproducible...what kind of a teacher would I be, if they weren't?

To read Daisy's column, check out Mucho Gusto.
To learn more about Daisy, her show and her book, please visit her website.

Or heck, order Daisy Cooks!

Thanks Daisy!

Someone Has Juicy Mangos!

Phyllis L. of Victor, ID was drawn from the hat and will recieve her copy of Juicy Mangos! If you'd like to get your hands on a juicy mango (okay, sorry but a dirty mind is too precious to waste!) then order your copy today!

Also, come back later today for a new profile. I'm sorry I didn't have it posted this morning but someone who shall not be named didn't take a nap yesterday! But he did help me decorate for Halloween.

If you're in the Orange County area, I have two book-signing events coming up. This Saturday I'll be at the birthday bash for Orange County Chapter of RWA and then next Thursday, I'll be at Calacas serving up signed copies of Switchcraft and the spicy Mexican brownies! All the info is here. Oh and if you already have Switchcraft and would like to have it signed, stop by Calacas where I promise no book will be left unsigned!

See ya later today!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Still Got It, Baby

I hesitated to post this because I thought that you might think I was getting a bit big for my breeches. Then again after my weekend of gluttony, I've got some serious muffin top over the waistband if you know what I mean!

But then I remembered how hard it was to write Switchcraft and how, for so long, I thought I'd failed in capturing my vision. So here's a really great review from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel and in the spirit of my conversation with Jen as we drove to Glen Ivy last Friday, I'm gonna celebrate a job well done.

And then go right back to work!

Two best friends find themselves switching lives in “Switchcraft” by Mary Castillo.

Aggie is living the single life, running her own clothing store and debating on whether or not to strike up a romance with her friend, Kevin. Nely is the former business manager turned stay-at-home mother who is fighting for supremacy in her marriage and daughter’s life against her meddling mother-in-law who lives right next door. Aggie thinks Nely has the perfect life and Nely envies Aggie’s freedom. A weekend retreat with a spirit guide leads to the two switching bodies. Now Nely is Aggie and Aggie is Nely until the next full moon.

Nely soon finds that Aggie’s business is in trouble, a property manager is stalking her, and Kevin doesn’t want to take no for an answer. Aggie learns Nely is being mowed over by her domineering mother-in-law, taking care of a toddler is not as easy as it looks, the local mommies group is headed by the ultimate mean girl, and her husband is feeling neglected. Sometimes it just takes someone else to sort out your life, which is exactly what Nely and Aggie do, with hilarous results.

Nely and Aggie are both highly relatable characters you can’t help but cheer on. They both are tough in the face of adversity and go for exactly what they believe their friend would want for their life.

This book is a fun love letter to all women and the bond of sisterhood that is best friends.

“Switchcraft” is published by Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins. It is $13.95 and 282 pages long.

Photo from!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More Tease Please!

The following is a semi work-safe excerpt from Sofia Quintero's novella, "Sensually Yours" from Juicy Mangos!
The second Steve appeared on the landing holding of lilies and a bottle of wine, I knew he liked what he saw. I hope the skeezer across the hall saw it, too.
“You are so good!” I said as I reached for the wine and flowers. This goes perfectly with what I have planned tonight. Come in and see.”
I led him into the living room where I had a picnic set up on the carpet. The centerpiece was one of SY’s latest additions. The Lovers’ Throw. It was a blanket that also served as a game board. Steve and I lowered ourselves onto the blanket’s silky center. I fed him strawberries while I explained the game.
"It’s simple,” I said as I handed him the palm-sized red pillow. “You’re red, and I’m white. Start here.” I placed both pillows on the starting square which reads Kiss each other good luck.
Steve gave me a loud smooch that tickled my cheek. After I stop giggling, I said, “We take turns rolling the foam dice and moving our pieces forward. . .”
“Doing whatever the square says,” Steve said as he uncorked the wine.
“And whoever makes it to the end first is the winner.”
“And what do I win?”
I giggled again. “The winner chooses the first position.”
Steve huffed. “Hell, if we’re not in the first position halfway through the game, send the damn thing back.”
I loved it! I was definitely going to use that line in my presentation. I give you my money-back guarantee. I handed Steve the foam dice. “You go first.”
He rolled a four, advanced his piece forward and read the square. “Eager to please. Advance three spaces.”
“My rotten luck,” I teased. I sipped my wine and a little dribbled down over the glass and landed on my thigh.
Steve counted forward three spaces. “Maybe not,” he said as he read the square to himself. Kiss erogenous zone of lover’s choice. “So. . .”
I leaned back on my elbows and bent my knee, sending the wine trickling down my thigh towards my crotch. “Would you mind getting that?”

Enter to win a signed copy of Juicy Mangos by emailing me with "Juicy Mangos Contest" in the subject line. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, Oct. 10th! Enter now.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Between the Pages With Michelle Herrera Mulligan

When I was in college, a friend of mine told me that her mother would say to her and her sisters that when it came to sex, they had to sit like they were holding a dime between their knees. My mom never put it that way, but it was understood that I would die if I came home and told her that I was pregnant before I got married.

Even though us Latinas are portrayed as spicy sex-kittens who render men powerless, most of us walk around with the specters of our disapproving parents looming over our shoulders. When I saw the cover for Juicy Mangos, my first thought was: what would the authors' mothers think?

So I had to ask the editor and one of the contributors, Michelle Herrera Mulligan about her experience.

Chica Lit: You write in the Editor's Letter that Johanna Castillo approached you with the idea. How do you know each other?

Michelle: Johanna contacted me because she liked the work I'd done on Border-Line Personalities, a new generation of Latinas dish on sex, sass and cultural shifting. The anthology had a raw, honest sexuality, and I think she liked it and wanted to tap me to edit Juicy (not to mention the fact that she heard I was a slavedriver editor!).

Chica Lit: How did the story of "Juan and Adela" come to you?

Michelle: Juan and Adela came to me as I started reflecting on characters I hadn't seen before. I started to visualize this woman who fascinated me, a complex, sexy older woman who hadn't had the opportunity to realize her dreams, someone like my mother. I wondered what would happen if her world got shaken up by a younger man. I experimented with a lot of voices for the narrator that would tell her story and once I had that down the rest just flowed.

Chica Lit: Did you have any fears about writing erotica? How did you overcome those fears?

Michelle: my fears about writing erotica were that one: my work wouldn't be taken seriously and two: people would judge or speculate about my sex life personally. I definitely had the subconscious Catholic bad girl fear thing...I was so worried about what my family or my boyfriends family would think if they found out. Ultimately it was doing good work that got me over those fears. When you write good sex scenes, it is hard work and it was a great challenge to my writing.

Chica Lit: How did you find the contributors?

Michelle: We found the contributors by seeking out diverse authors we admired. We didn't look for "erotica writers"; we wanted incredible authors who made sex and sensuality pivotal parts of larger works. We wanted the sex to reveal something deeper about their characters. Once we had a small list of people we wanted to target, it was surprisingly easy to get people to agree--the writers were really excited to write about sex in an unexpected way.

Chica Lit: What were the challenges you faced while editing the stories?

Michelle: The editing challenge was for all of us to find the patience to go through many drafts together--these were erotic novellas and I wanted the stories to be really strong on their own, without the sex. I really loved doing the anthology and the challenge of writing amazing love scenes. I would consider doing another--but when my schedule frees up some day! (I don't want to give my agent a nervous breakdown!)


Enter to win a signed copy of Juicy Mangos by emailing me with "Juicy Mangos Contest" in the subject line. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, Oct. 10th! Enter now.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Trick or Treating

Crafty Chica Kathy Cano Murillo just announced that her jewelry is for sale at Target's Red Hot Shop today through Oct. 6th. I can't decide if I should get the Day of the Dead bracelet, or the Our Lady necklace ... dang that Crafty Chica for being so good!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Essence of Latinas Party in L.A.

Me with Actress Eva La Rue of CSI: Miami. Believe it or not, I'm wearing five inch heels and I'm still short!

Me again with Actress Lidia Peres, starring in Ladrón que roba a ladrón.

After getting a new do, I drove up to L.A. to sign stock and attend Catalina Magazine's Essence of Latinas party in West Hollywood. (hosted by Deloitte, Volvo, Southwest Airlines, Eden and Exxon Mobile). Last year ,I was showing some major chunk in the arms, but after checking out these pictures, my workouts at Curves have paid off!

Leaving the Little Dude at home with the hub, I relived my L.A. youth by getting a bowl of red beans and rice at the Gumbo Pot in the L.A. Farmers Market. I then had a tarot card reading by Pauline at the Tea Garden on Melrose, across the street from the Bodhi Tree bookstore and Urth Cafe. (She pulled a lot of success and money cards ... woo hoo, the Little Dude may go to college yet!).

But the one thing I'd forgotten about L.A., or at least on the west side, is that everyone seems to be dressed in costume. There are the hipster guys with tats, snappy attitudes and names like Fritz. Women in velvets, lace and spangles with dramatically curly hair piled atop their heads, or shoved under news boy caps. And everyone has some "project" they're putting together.

Anyway, if you're looking for a copy of Switchcraft, I left signed copies at Barnes and Noble at The Grove. A big thanks to Jameson who tracked down my books and then took them out of the boxes for me to sign. Us authors love booksellers like you!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Between the Pages With Mindy Klasky

Last year at around this time, Selina McLemore gave me a copy of Girl's Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky. I started reading the book while waiting to board my flight home and finished it just before we flew over the Grand Canyon. I've been dying for the sequel, Sorcery and the Single Girl ever since! But as of yesterday, Switchcraft and Sorcery are bookshelf neighbors and to celebrate, Mindy tells us all about her series!

Chica Lit: Wow, book eight ... does writing get easier or harder with each new story?

Mindy: It gets easier *and* harder... It's easier, because I know that I can play this game - I've figured out the time management aspects, and I know that no matter how much I hate, hate, hate the middle chapters, I'll get through them, and it will all work out in the end. It gets harder, too, though. With each book, I meet more great people and I want to spend more time at conventions, and online chatting with people, and building my presence as a writer. (And when I win the lottery, I just might follow through on those desires! :-) )

Chica Lit: This is the second book in the series. Did you know what was going to happen to Jane over the course of three books when you sold the idea to Red Dress Ink, or did she refuse to go away after book one?

Mindy: I sold the first book, Girl's Guide to Witchcraft, on a three-paragraph blurb (not even a synopsis - it didn't include the ending!) We negotiated a contract that called for a total of three books. As I wrote Girl's Guide, I discovered the strands that could be pulled into Sorcery. By the time I had completed my outline for Sorcery, I knew the full, complete story arc, which will conclude in 2008 with Magic and the Modern Girl.

Chica Lit: What aspects of your heroine frustrate you the most and what makes you like her?

Mindy: I love the fact that Jane Madison refuses to stay down, even when the world around her is falling apart. She may have her bad days -- days that can only be redeemed by fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and/or mojitos -- but she never believes that the bad times are going to last forever. That said, Jane can be a bit too wrapped up in some details of life -- most notably, fashion. (I'm nowhere near the makeup fiend that Jane becomes under the expert tutelage of her familiar!)

Chica Lit: What's next?

Mindy: I've finished drafting Magic and the Modern Girl - it will go into production over the next year and appear in bookstores in October 2008. My next writing venture starts a new series - The Sisterhood of the Flame. In the first volume, a stage manager discovers a magic lantern when she's cleaning out the prop closet. Nothing in her theatrical background prepares her for the show that her genie is about to stage!

Chica Lit: How did you get involved with First Book and would you tell us more about it?

Mindy: I discovered First Book when I started looking for a good cause -- a charitable organization to which I could donate 10% of my profits from the Witchcraft books. First Book - - is a non-profit that gives underprivileged children their own books to own forever. I remember the joy I took in reading, from a very young age, and I'm thrilled to find an organization that is so well-run and so dedicated to helping children throughout the country.

Visit Mindy's website or just go for it and get her books today!

Between the Pages of Switchcraft

It really does feel like yesterday and yet, it seems like a different lifetime ago.

I was just a few weeks pregnant when I was hit with the idea for my new book, Switchcraft. I was on the phone with my friend in New York, turning just an envious shade of green at the tales of her dating adventures. But then I wondered what would happen if we switched lives.

Initially the idea was too crazy. I mean, who would read a book like that? Convinced that my agent and editor would laugh at me, I went back to working on the sisterly drama story I was writing at the time. (Which then became a comedy: "Till Death Do Us Part" in Names I Call My Sister.)

Anyway…where was I? Oh yes. The characters of that nutty switcheroo idea—one a single entrepreneur and the other a suburban mom—wouldn't shut up. Frankly, they ganged up on me when I was slaving away at my sisterly drama, washing the dishes or sleeping. Worn down and frankly, intrigued by these women I sat down and wrote their story. When I proposed it to my agent; we had a deal the next week.

But conceiving the idea was easy compared with writing it.

I wrote the first draft during the second half of my pregnancy, and then revised it after my son was born. At the time it seemed like a great idea: I'd write while he slept. Bwah ha ha ha! (So young, so naive…)

It turned out that the Little Dude was easier to deliver than the book! If it wasn't for the two wise grandmas, Baby Einstein videos, and nights out with my girlfriends (after all, there's nothing more grounding than a martini and sympathy), I couldn't have finished Switchcraft.

No one ever admits to a favorite book or that their book is even good. I have no such pretentions in proclaiming that Switchcraft is my favorite because it was inspired by real emotions: envy, anger, frustration, loss, and, most of all, love…love between friends, a man and a woman, and a mother and her child. And in Switchcraft, love truly does conquer all. I cried when I wrote the final chapter because those two characters went through alot to get their happy ending. (And no, it wasn't because I wrote it at 4 a.m., hopped up on Pepsi and chocolate during a 24-hour writing spree!)

Now that Nely and Aggie are out of my head and are on the pages, I hope you'll enjoy reading their adventure as much as I loved writing it.

Order the e-book!