Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Love From The Love Coach

Listed among the 50 Best Chick Lit Blogs is:

Chica Lit. Mary Castillo blogs about various novels with an emphasis on her peers’ accomplishments. Keep up with the latest in Chick Lit that might not be front and center at the chain book store.

Thanks, Love Coach!

A Writer in the Kitchen

When I found out I was pregnant, every single mom I knew told me not to wish for anything more than ten toes and ten fingers. They advised me that I'd get what I got and I'd love the little stinker anyway. Well, the Little Dude has proven them correct. He, and this is so painful to admit, is a picky eater.

My brother is a picky eater and if you've read Hot Tamara and remember her brother Memo, you can see why this is disturbing. So I have to be clever in the kitchen to get my Little Dude to eat protein. He won't eat chicken; an occasional McNugget is as daring as he'll go. He might nibble on a cheese burger. Good thing we're not kosher because the only meat he'll eat is bacon, ham and other pork products and as we all know, too much of that and he won't fit through the front door. But strangely he loves broccoli and spinach. The rub is that if I offer broccoli too much, he'll get tired of it. (Hmm and I wonder why I feel like a hostage sometimes?)

Recently at my brother's celebration lunch (he graduated from the Federal Fire Department Academy), the Little Dude discovered miso soup with tofu, seaweed ... the works. He ate my bowl and my grandma's bowl. Giddy with the discovery that we had one more item that was acceptable to his palate, I made miso soup for him a week later- the packaged kind but with real tofu pieces and spinach to replace the seaweed. He refused it without even tasting it.

Yesterday felt like a real fall day. The leaves tumbled across the lawn and the air was fuzzy with the dust and dirt kicked up from the wind. As we were putting out a "fire" in the garage, the Little Dude asked for soup for dinner. This was a really big deal. He never makes requests for dinner. Remembering the miso soup disaster, I asked if he'd like scary, slime soup. He's all about Halloween and my gamble paid off when he eagerly threw down his fire helmet and ran to the kitchen. With that in mind, I tried Straciatella soup from Giada de Laurentiis' book, Giada's Family Dinners">Giada's Family Dinners. It's basically Italian style egg drop soup. As the Little Dude and I donned our aprons, I told him a story that the Blob's mama makes him this soup so he stays blobby.

A quick aside: The Blob is one of his favorite "bad guys" from the book, The Monster Museum. Unfortunately, this really cool children's book is out of print but if you can find it, get it!

So we got cooking. The Little Dude pulled out some baby carrots for me to cut and saute with one finely diced shallot. (This isn't in the recipe but when I can, I put as much veggies as I can into his food.) He watched me pour in the chicken broth into the hot pot and then carefully he selected three eggs, which we then whisked with parmesan cheese, basil and parsley. One of awesome things about cooking with a three year-old - aside from the mess - is how ordinary things become extraordinary. As I poured the egg mixture into the simmering broth, his eyes sparkled and he made his ghostly, "whoooo!" sound as the eggs transformed into transparent sheets. We then renamed it, "ghostie soup."

Sure enough, he ate two bowls of ghostie, blob soup. He even had me make a bowl for the Blob and Sally (his imaginary friend from The Nightmare Before Christmas). With the sky turning violet and cars driving home after work, I ate one of the best soups I'd had in a really long time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This Is Why

I "cast" Joan Collins as Isa's guardian angel in In Between Men. This picture says it all!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Between the Pages with Lorraine López

One day Selina McLemore asked me if I'd like to add points to my karma. Who can say no to that? She sent me a copy of Lorraine Lopez's book, The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters. I made a grave error of cracking open the book when my husband was away because once I started it was very hard to put it down to play fire fighter with the Little Dude. (When you've played fire fighter as much as I have, dude, it's cruel and unusual.)

Anyway whether I get good karma points or not, I'm really happy to introduce you to Lorraine and her beautifully written story of three sisters who are each gifted with a power by their late housekeeper, Fermina. This story is not what you'd expect and so without giving too much of the story away, please enjoy my Q&A with Lorraine.

Chica Lit: How did you learn of the story of your grandfather?

Lorraine: We always knew that our paternal grandfather was adopted. For as far back as I can remember, my mother talked about this, but she never disclosed the circumstances of his adoption. It wasn't until I was an adult, with children of my own, that two of my aunts told me who he was and why he was adopted in response to my questions about him. No one discussed this openly with me before this time, but I knew there had to be a story here. By the time I asked about his origins, things had relaxed some with regard to notions of propriety, and people were more open to acknowledging, even taking pride in their indigenous roots. My aunts readily told me that my grandfather, their father, was the biological son of his adopted father's brother and a Pueblo woman who worked as a servant in the family home, something they would have never dared to admit a decade earlier.

Chica Lit: Did you know that it would inspire a novel?

Lorraine: In the moment, I didn't necessarily see this information as inspiration for a novel. It took me a few years to think this over and to think about the woman who had given birth to him and to his sister before I could articulate the information in a fictive way. It was the women--his mother and his sister--who moved and inspired me. My grandfather was extremely lucky to have been adopted by this childless couple of some means. Due to an accident of birth--because he was born a male--he lived a life of relative privilege as the son of property-owning Hispanos in Central New Mexico. Unfortunately, his mother and his sister had very different lives.

Chica Lit: Also, what happened to his sister?

Lorraine: I was told that she was sent to an asilo de huerfanos, literally an asylum for orphans, or an orphange, though in those days, these institutions were more like asylums than sunny places where childless couples found children to adopt. Basically, they were warehouses for unwanted infants and children.

Chica Lit: Do you feel that Latinos will always be at odds with our indigenous ancestors?

Lorraine: I believe this is changing for the better. I think it's a good sign that people who once considered the circumstances of my grandfather's birth and adoption to be too scandalous to discuss can now speak candidly about such things. That my very conservative family is ready to dismantle the denial and finally honor the complexity of our heritage is a terrific step in the right direction.

Chica Lit: You're published short stories in literary journals and with small presses. How different was it to work with a large publisher?

Lorraine: Working with a large publisher certainly has its advantages. My book is more accessible than my first two books ever were. Friends and family members are calling and writing to let me know that they're seeing it in bookstores. Whereas, unless ordered on-line, my earlier two books were and still are challenging to find. Nevertheless, I miss the intimacy and personal connection I had with Sandy Taylor of Curbstone Press. Sandy, who passed away last winter, was a great man. He was resourceful, imaginative, talented, and extremely well respected and well loved in the independent publishing industry. I'm certainly grateful for the benefits of working with a large press, but in my heart, I'm still a Curbstonista, and I miss Sandy terribly.

Chica Lit: Please tell us how you sold your book.

Lorraine: I responded to an on-line call for book proposals sent out by an editor of what was Warner Books. She liked my proposal and asked to see the manuscript, which she also liked, but she urged me to find an agent. With the help of my friend and fellow writer, Tayari Jones, I found an agent at Dystel and Goderich, and the deal was made. Of course, this is the short version that leaves out the two editors, two agents, two publishing houses (Warner was sold to Hachette Book Group USA--Grand Central Press), and the three years it took from the time the manuscript was first accepted until the book came out this month.

Chica Lit: What are you working on now?

Lorraine: Right now, I'm at work on a first-person narrative about a Latina woman named Marina who is on a quest for spiritual enlightenment and inner peace, despite the fact that she has no affinity for enlightenment and no aptitude for peace. Her goal is akin to a tone deaf person's desire to become a concert musician. I am having a great time writing this voice. It's bawdy, outspoken, indignant, funny, and sad. I like when a character acts out in startling ways, and I'm discovering that Marina is full of surprises.

Chica Lit: The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters makes a great book club read! For a sampling of questions and an excerpt, go here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Prop 8: Something Wicked This Way Comes

"Go Gay Hair Spray" from

Is it something in the water? Or, is the economy really driving people crazy? I don't know but I have to get this off my chest.

Here in California we have Prop 8 on the ballot which if passed, will ban same sex marriage in our state. Recently, I've seen commercials in support of the bill showing parents awkwardly dealing with their school age children coming home and asking about men marrying men and women marrying women. The supporters of this bill are terrorizing gullible parents - who must really believe that all gay people live in San Francisco - into thinking that Prop 8 will force public schools to teach children about same sex marriage.

Here's the thing: schools have already been teaching kids about same sex couples to combat discrimination. If you don't believe me, read this article.

But listen up because a greater wickedness this way comes - and its not that your kids will turn gay because they talk or read about it in class - it is that one in four kids will not graduate from high school. Statistically under our current education system, your kid stands a greater chance of not graduating than you did. Check it out.

But conservatives would rather focus on the non-issue that children will somehow be contaminated by the legal acceptance of same sex marriages. Mark my words if Prop 8 passes, it will become the most anti-American, anti-civil rights law in existence. It will be on par with the Jim Crow laws that in some states forbade people of different races to marry.

I grew up with a gay aunt and a gay uncle. I remember their partners coming to Thanksgiving and Christmas and it wasn't a big deal - at least not to me. In fact, the only difference I perceived was that instead of children they had small dogs. I grew up to be an educated, tax-paying, Fourth-of-July-flag-waving American. To the date, the only crime I've committed was that I smoked a cigarette in my grandma's bathroom and as much as I wish I could blame that on someone else, I can't fault my gay aunt or my gay uncle.

I hope that people will calm down and really think about what they need to protect their children from. Rather than fret about what people are doing in the privacy of their own homes, why not evaluate your child's education? Or, God forbid, sit down and help them with their homework and thereby show them the value of an education?

If you don't agree with me, oh well. If you do, fight on.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Project Reina

If you click on the video you will see the face of HIV and AIDS. The CDC reported in 2001 that African-American and Latina girls, ages 13-19, accounted for 84% of AIDS cases; women ages 20-24 account for 78 percent.

I'm a very proud hermana of Project Reina, a group of Latina and African-American women who are dedicated to keeping our younger sisters free of HIV/AIDS. Founded by Gina Ravera, who co-stars in ER and The Closer, Project Reina has one mission and that is to get the following message to girls everywhere: Cherish and protect yourself and you will save your life.

Today is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day and I hope if you have daughters, nieces, sisters or god daughters (Latina or not) that you'll remind her every day of how special she is and how much she is loved. It's not enough for us to preach condoms or abstinence; we need to continually build up their self esteem from childhood through adolesence by reminding them how much they matter to us and to the world. And then we need to show it.

When I was in the third grade, some boys chased me into the girl's room, threatening to rape me or squeeze my tits. Not only was I terrified but I also didn't get to finish my lunch.

The next morning after I asked my mom what rape meant and then spilled out what had happened, she took off work and marched her way into the Principal's office. I saw my mom grow ten-feet tall and breathe fire and smoke when that unfortunate man accused me of being at fault. She then got those boys suspended for a week - oh it was beautiful -and thrown off their swim and Little League teams. I didn't know it at the time, but she was sowing the seeds of my self worth. Sure, I went on to make some pretty dumb mistakes and frankly, when I read the current statistics of STDs and HIV/AIDS I realize how easily I could have accounted for those numbers. But I've never doubted that I was entitled to success, respect and dignity through dedication and hard work and I credit my mom, my Grandma Margie and the many female role models who came into my life at various times. (I also never cried in public or at work but that's another story.)

You know I'm not big on waving my politics for all to see. In fact, I've been accused of complacency because I don't talk about politics on my blog. However, I think we can all agree - conservative and liberal and irregardless of gender or race - that our little sisters are worth taking care of.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fires in CA

I'm interrupting our regular programming to ask for your thoughts and prayers to go out to the fire fighters who are battling the blazes out here in California. My dad is on-call and my brother, who is now with the Federal Fire Department, may be deployed if more fires break out. Last night, the Santa Ana winds died down, but its still hot and dry out there.

Thanks for your time and energy and now please enjoy my Q&A with Diana Rodriguez Wallach!

Between the Pages with Diana Rodriguez Wallach

I think it was the end of spring when Diana Rodriguez Wallach contacted me through MySpace and told me about her upcoming YA release, Amor and Summer Secrets. This is not just her first book but it's also the start of a whole new life for this former business journalist.

Chica Lit: Please tell us about your series starting with Amor and Summer Secrets?

Diana: When I started this series, I wanted to write a multi-cultural novel from the perspective of a girl who didn’t quite identify with either of her parents’ cultures. My main character, Mariana Ruiz, is half-Polish and half-Puerto Rican, like I am. But I don’t think it really matters what your specific background is in terms of enjoying this series. In my opinion, Amor and Summer Secrets speaks to all people (and specifically teens) who can relate being torn between two very different ethnic groups. It’s a very American story.

That said, Amor and Summer Secrets tells the story of when Mariana’s father ships her and her brother off to Puerto Rico for the summer to live with relatives they’ve never met. She doesn’t speak Spanish, nor does she appreciate the culture. All she wants is to be back in Philadelphia celebrating her best friend’s Sweet 16.

And though the trip wasn’t what she wanted, Mariana does eventually open up. She makes friends with her cousin Lilly, she helps plan a quinceanera, and she meets her first love. All this while unleashing a secret her family hid on the island more than 30 years ago.

Chica Lit: When your wrote your first book, how did you transition from business reporter to novelist?

Diana: I actually don’t think the two fields are that unrelated. Having a job where you write all day, every day can only help improve your skills—whether you’re writing about business or for children. Additionally, in journalism you’re taught to be succinct. You don’t bury your lead, and you don’t add in a lot of purple prose. I find writing for YA to be somewhat similar. We’re trying to maintain the attention of teenagers, so you often don’t find a lot of long-winded passages. Not to mention, when you work for daily publications, you learn to write a lot of copy very quickly. This definitely contributes to the speed and ease in which I write today.

Chica Lit: In your bio, you said your agent signed you right away but that book has not yet sold. Were you disappointed and how did you overcome it to write Amor and Summer Secrets?

Diana: Of course. I was incredibly disappointed. Who wouldn’t be? But, truthfully, that initial submission was a whirlwind. I started querying in June and by July 4th, I had signed with an agent and my book was on submission. The day after it went out, we got a call from an editor (I won’t say the name, but I still remember it) swooning about how much she loved it. My agent thought it was a done deal, and then the whole thing fell apart. Apparently, the publisher didn’t feel the same way.

But I think I needed that to happen. Rejection is a part of the game, and every author has to learn how to take her lumps. But we keep writing. That’s the point. I didn’t stop when the success wasn’t immediate, and if I had, I would have never written Amor and Summer Secrets and I wouldn’t be published today.

Chica Lit: Please tell us about where you were when you got "the call" that your book had been picked up by Kensington?

Diana: I love sharing this story! Amor and Summer Secrets sold quickly. It was submitted to Kate Duffy at Kensington on a Thursday, and by the following Tuesday, I got THE CALL. It was Fat Tuesday. I was at Mardi Gras.

My husband, Jordan, and I had spent the morning catching beads from parade floats in New Orleans. We stopped into our hotel room for mere minutes (to dump the 50 pounds of beads we were carrying) when my cell phone rang. It was my agent.

I was wearing a sequined mask with feathers and my favorite strings of gold, purple and green beads that I had caught during the trip. (On my website, there’s a photo of me on the phone with my agent during the exact moment I got the news.)

Let me just say that there is no better place on Earth to be when you get good news than Mardi Gras. There was an actual parade going on outside of my hotel room. I hung up the phone and spent the rest of the day dancing in the French Quarter with hundreds of costumed strangers and drinking hurricanes at Pat O’Briens. It was amazing.

(Editorial note: for all the details click here!)

Chica Lit: Now that you're writing full time, what challenges do you face? (I ask this because when I started writing full time, I wasn't as disciplined with my time and then I had a baby!)

Diana: That’s an interesting question, because truthfully the biggest challenge I’ve faced is from friends and family thinking “working from home” means I don’t have a real job. Seriously. I wrote three books in one year, and I still have people who ask, “What do you do to fill your time now?” They think I sit around watching soap operas.

The reality is I’m a workaholic. I work much harder now than I ever did when I had an office job. Those jobs ended at 5 o’clock, whereas my writing process can go until midnight. It’s a rare day I turn off my laptop off before 11 pm. Whether I’m writing, editing, promoting, blogging, setting up events, updating MySpace, etc., there’s a lot of work that goes along with this profession. But the beauty of it is, when you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work. Plus, it’s nice to wake up and be in charge of deciding what I’m going to do that day.

(Editorial note: Amen to that!)

Chica Lit: Do you enjoy being a writer?

Diana: I love it. I write a lot on my website about how I didn’t always know I wanted to be an author. And that’s true. But the entire time I was working as a journalist, I had a nagging feeling inside me that there was “something else” I should be doing; I just hadn’t figured it out. When I sat down to write my first novel, it flowed naturally, it didn’t feel like work, and I knew I had finally found “it.” Everything clicked.

Chica Lit: What's next and what are you working on now?

Diana: The sequels to the series, Amigas and School Scandals and Adios to all the Drama, will be released in November 2008 and January 2009, respectively. I think readers are going to be really happy with how the story plays out—at least I hope so!

Also, I’m currently working new YA project. It’s a complete departure from what I’ve done in the past—lots of spies, suspense, fight scenes and, of course, a love triangle. I’m really excited about it. Plus I get to travel because I’m setting some scenes in Europe. The character is a lot of fun—all about girl power. I hope to have it ready for the publishing world soon!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thank You Phoenix

Here I am with Kathy Cano Murrillo (the fabulous Crafty Chica) at the booksigning event last Friday at the National Hispanic Women's Conference. We shared, we laughed and I made sexual references in my speech about the power of a writer ... you had to be there.

Thank you to the organizers of the event for not just having us, but also for gathering 2,500 Latinas under one roof to inspire one another. Also, I send a very heartfelt thank you to our bookseller who sold our books with enthusiasm.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Portrait of an Author Who Should Be Writing

To those of you diligently return to this blog even though I haven't updated it in like a week or so, thank you. I don't know why you put up with me. I must be funny or sexy. Or, maybe you enjoy laughing at me versus with me.

Anyway, the Little Dude murdered my laptop last week when he picked up it (the kid's strong, I tell ya) and then threw it down on the floor. I had to do the mental equivalent of stop-drop-and-roll to keep from drowning him. The wireless card was busted and the bus drive that housed it was knocked off the motherboard and y'all know what that means. Best Buy happened to be having an awesome sale and yesterday, I picked up a brand new HP laptop with a case and wireless mouse for $700. (See, there's a silver lining to our world's financial crisis.) Never mind that I really could've used that $700 to buy things like oh ... groceries, gas and the Little Dude's pull-ups; I got a great new laptop!

Even though I haven't been blogging, I have been writing. For the first time I'm drafting the synopsis of a new book before I write it. Usually I dash off an outline and plunge in and then rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. But since this story takes place in 1926, I kinda need to know the lay of the land. This new character is really pushing me to get started and her circumstances have infected me to the point where I have to sometimes stop myself and remember that I'm me and she is make believe. I tend to have this problem with all of my characters but this one is "special." Next week I'll be starting on page one and won't stop till I get her out of my head, or to the end ... whichever happens first.

By the way, did I mention that I've lost 17 pounds since I started working out in April? I have biceps and best of all, the muffin top has vanished! Unlike someone we won't name, it took me three years to get back to my size six jeans. I have this woman to thank:

If you're looking for a safe way to lose some extra lbs and upgrade your well-being, this works, mija. The best part is watching your body get strong and your clothes get bigger. At first the weight just dropped off (I lost eight pounds the first two weeks of using the video), but then I noticed the weight loss slowed down while my extra waistlines disappeared. Also, I don't have shoulder and lower back pain like I did before I worked out.
So that's all for now. Tomorrow I fly out to Phoenix for the National Hispanic Women's Conference. I'll be doing a panel thing with Alisa Valdes Rodriguez, Kathy Cano Murillo and Ann Marie Gonzalez at 2 p.m. and then a booksigning afterwards. If you're going to the conference, or you work by the Phoenix Convention Center and want to step out for a coffee, come on over and say hey!