Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: LIFE OBSERVED: REALITY MEETS FICTION by Margo Candela

Who said a wife is obligated to have a passionate opinion regarding bedroom drapes? What do you say to a friend when you can't stand her husband? When is okay to encourage a friend to lie to her new boyfriend? Where is the line between being friendly and flirting? How do you prove to your parents that you really are an adult?

The who, what, where, why and how about friends, family, marriage and life in Los Angeles slightly fictionalized to protect the innocent, the not so innocent.







Reviewed by: Bela
Rating: 4 stars



Review: Funny and smart—two things Margo Candela once again delivers in this collection of short stories, anecdotes, and essays. Reading more like blog entries, like something out of a diary, I was still enthralled by the quirky bluntness of Candela’s “life observations.” She basically says the loud part quiet and the quiet part loud.

My favorite anecdote came from “Baby Steps: When Friends Ask Uncomfortable Questions.” In this one, Candela’s friend is uncomfortably walking on egg shells around a baby some co-worker brought in, and she asks if she should have a baby. Knowing her friend, Candela suggests having a plant or a pet first. Then her friend comes back saying, “If I do pop one out, I'll never bring it to work…I don't need to force people to tell me my kid is the cutest thing they've ever seen. Most babies are ugly or at least real weird looking.” [Life Observed: reality meets fiction. SugarMissile, LLC. Kindle Edition.] Not being a baby person myself, I totally agreed.

One question that stuck out at me was: Where does Margo meet these people? Even though I know “the characters’ names have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent,” as it says on the back cover, they are still based on people she knows. It seems to be that her life has a soap opera revolving around it, which makes for some pretty addicting reads.

Once again, I will keep an eye out for the newest release from Ms. Margo Candela.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: YOU ACT SO WHITE by Julie Prestsater

Gabby Fierro is a regular teenage girl. She worries about grades, boys, college and family. She's in the top 10 in her class and has everything going for her. If only it was so simple. Instead of concerning herself with where she is going to school and what prom dress to get, Gabby is getting it from both ends about her ethnicity. Between her best friend calling her a "wetback" and the annoying girl in her gym class harassing her about being "too white" Gabby is a confused ball of nerves. She is proud of her Mexican heritage but she also doesn't feel she needs to fall into one of the Mexican stereotypes. To Gabby she is an American with Mexican roots and doesn't understand why she needs to be considered one or the other. With the help of her family and friends Gabby has to look at herself and see what it actually means to 'act so white'. From the writer of the Double Threat Series and More Than a Friend Request comes a story of a girl just trying to figure out what it means to be herself with out any labels.



Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 4 stars



Review: Gabby is smart, driven, and tired of being ridiculed over who she is by BOTH sides of the equation. She is stuck between being called “white” and a “wetback.” Seriously, how’s a girl to feel? Where should she fit in?

If you were to define “Mexican-American,” are you more Mexican or more American? How can one tell? According to Reyna, being “smart” means acting “white.” So Mexicans can’t be smart? Being American means you’re “white”?

The best line came from Gabby: “What am I? That’s such a dumb question. I’m human. That’s what I am. What is he really asking? Where am I from? What is my cultural background? What does ‘what are you’ even mean?” (60)

It seemed like everything Gabby did she was offending someone. Well, most of us know what it’s like to offend people with your “existence” –and it makes it that much harder to be yourself. Well, screw ‘em, I say.  I really liked Gabby. She was funny, charismatic, and intelligent. She was definitely a sweet nerd I could relate to, especially when it came to boys. That’s why I was surprised that she let these people get to her. She should be who she is and not listen to anybody—words I offer to everyone.
However, as smart as Gabby was, she still had to learn something about her tormentors. At first, I thought Ally and Reyna were just mean, little girls; but then you take a closer look at them and realize that they are just human like everyone else.

The story was all about finding out who your real friends are and the kind of person you want to be.  It mostly read like an After School Special in that light-hearted “eat your veggies, brush your teeth” kind of tone. I also thought that the ending was a tad bit surreal; the way everything was resolved was very “Disney-esque” in which all the pieces seem to fit perfectly and merrily. It SO does NOT happen that way in reality. Still, this was a good YA book—quick and enjoyable.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Q&A with Felix Alexander



Felix Alexander (1976-Present) is a Mexican-born, American-raised novelist, and poet of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.

Acclaimed by readers for his poetic prose, his indie releases include: Dear Love: Diary of a Man's Desire, a collection of love letters and poems; and The Romantic, a novel.

After his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, he embarked on the long and arduous journey of a writer. Having made a name for himself during his tenure, serving his country, he vowed to himself and his fellow soldiers that he would answer his true calling.









1.       What inspired the idea for THE ROMANTIC?

I originally wrote the first draft several years ago, during my separation. It was an outlet for the myriad of emotions I felt at the time. Years later, after I concluded revisions on a different novel, I sat at my desk with the windows open. My home office overlooks a water fountain, and the new beginning simply came to me.

 


 

2.       What was your writing process like?

I began each day with a can of Starbucks Double Shot Espresso. I’d re-read what I had already written to recapture my momentum. Whenever I hit “writer’s block,” I’d simply read. At the time, I was reading the first Game of Thrones book, and I merely immersed myself in another story instead of panicking the way I had in years past.

 
 

 

3.       How did you come up with the character of Hadriel Alighieri?

In many respects, his character was a reflection of who I was. Although the name Hadriel was fabricated, the surname Alighieri was derived from Dante Alighieri, because of his epic poem. To a romantic, love is heaven. The absence of it—in the case of Hadriel—was his own personal hell. The story was his journey during the stages of his life. Until he reconciles his differences with God, and finds his angel. 

 

 
 

4.       How different do you think this story would be had you written from a female perspective?

I daresay that writing it from a woman’s perspective would have forced me to essentially face my greatest fear. What I mean by that is… in order to tap into the depth of such sadness—with regard to unrequited love—I believe I would have to see love through my daughter’s eyes, because my greatest hope, and my greatest fear is that she will find her true love.

 

 
 

5.       Do you consider this to be a romance story? How so?

Yes, because even though there are scenes that depict intimate encounters, the main premise of the story centers on the emotions that create conflict in our love life.

 


 

6.       What message did you want to convey with this story?

I believe the message I hope to convey stems from advice my dad shared with us growing up: When you love someone, take your time. When you love someone, get to know who he or she truly is. When someone truly loves you, they will show you. And when you have fallen in love, don’t be afraid to say it…because tomorrow is promised to no one.

 

 
 

7.       What do you hope readers will gain from this book?

I hope they will draw wisdom about love and relationships. I hope they will draw inspiration to tell their own love stories. I hope they will discover that Latinos are great storytellers, too!

 

 
 

8.       Do you feel your story is an inspiration to Latinos?

I hope it will be. Many of us know someone who migrated to America. Many of us have tasted love on foreign soil. Many of us feel deeply, and passionately about love. I hope that The Romantic will encourage more Latinos to read and write, so that we—as a community—pursue academic endeavors to raise the standard for future generations.

 


 

9.       What books do you like to read?

I love to read anything I can get my hands on! Fantasy; Romance (paranormal, contemporary, literary); Historical epics; Sci-Fi; Mystery and books on mythology/ancient civilizations.

 

 

10.   Are you working on any other stories?

I am currently working on a mystery novel. I am also waiting to hear back from a publisher about a fantasy novel, which will be the first in a series.

 
 


 

Purchase Book:

http://www.amazon.com/Romantic-Felix-Alexander-ebook/dp/B00MNM3K3M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1408901261&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Romantic



Friday, September 26, 2014

Review: TURN KEY CONDITION by M.L. Ortega

To make ends meet, Maggie, a divorcee with three sons, takes creative moonlighting to the limit. While cleaning a model home with her friend, Jane, she discovers a naked dead man with a donut over his genitals. The dead man is a married contractor who had once groped Maggie. 

 Maggie and Jane become caught up in the investigation to the annoyance of the police officer first on the scene. The Hispanic cop responds with pithy Mexican proverbs to Maggie’s sleuthing efforts. 


 Then Maggie’s ex rolls into town scheming to sell the family home out from under her with the help of an unscrupulous realtor, who is a suspect in the murder. When her sons pop up into the crosshairs of the killer, Maggie sharpens her survival skills to protect them and bring down the murderer. 


 TURN KEY CONDITION features a heroine who stares down danger with the humor and grace gained from an earlier detour into life’s darkness.





Reviewed by: Sandra L.
Rating: 2.5 stars


Review: What could be more fun than cleaning celebrity homes at night? How about finding a dead body—naked!? All he had was a donut over the genitals. By the way, I also thought that the “donut” was a Krispy Kreme donut—you know, the kinds you find Homer Simpson salivating over. I actually thought that would’ve been funnier. Oh, well.

Right off the bat, the mystery of the dead body is presented to the reader, but then it immediately deviates to the background information of the two main characters, slowing the pace of the story. In fact, I wonder if this was even necessary since we return to that very scene at the end of chapter 1.

Still, the reader will enjoy Maggie’s biting wit. What I liked best about her was the humor she had about the whole situation. There’s a dead man in the middle of the room and all she can think of is getting paid for the night. Well, yeah! And what’s the harm of taking a photo to possibly sell to the tabloids? Hey, easy money! The struggle to make a buck is something we can all relate to.

Moving on, Maggie could not shake the wonder of who the killer was. Perhaps she was obsessing a little too much about it, which then resulted in an in-depth speculation that included every minute character in the book. Who could’ve done such a thing? How did they do it? And, most importantly, why?

As we get down to the nitty-gritty of the case, I found my curiosity waning.  Perhaps it was the languorous details concerning the victim’s real estate entities. Then there was all this talk about the Taliban, KGB, CIA, and SEAL—nothing really that tickled my fancy. The austere approach of Officer Fortunado “Tuna” Rocha (the Hispanic cop) was a stark contrast to Maggie’s neurotic ingenuity. Did that make them a great team? Not necessarily. I felt that their chemistry was off-synch. Maggie and Jane were the dynamic duo, but, unfortunately, they knew zilch about solving crimes.

Overall, this was an okay read. I was allured by the peculiar fashion of the murder (in fact, the entire story centered on that hilarious anecdote) and entertained by the occasional quips between the characters, but I wasn’t completely fulfilled by the fatuous plot development and general flow.  


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Q&A with M.L. Ortega



M.L. Ortega was raised in the North by Southerners and thus learned to embrace dichotomy, which shows in her writing. With humor at the wheel, dark subject matter rides 'shotgun'.

Moving frequently throughout her childhood, her family finally settled in California, where she eventually married and had four children. The children have grown and moved away, leaving her in the care of a very patient husband and two independent cats.




1.        Where did the idea for TURN KEY CONDITION come from?
I work in a school office. One day my son came home from a college class dealing with human sexuality and told me a startling statistic on the estimated number of people who have been abused as young people. All staff members are mandated reporters, meaning they have to report even a suspicion of abuse to authorities. I wondered how someone with that kind of history would react to such a suspicion. Would it bring back terrible memories?

 

2.        What was the inspiration behind the main character, Maggie?
When I did research into the subject I was surprised at the number of very successful people who had survived that experience and wanted to present a character who reflected such resilience, living a regular life with a lot of humor.

 

3.        What do you think made Maggie, a cleaning lady, a suitable detective?
She’s not a cleaning woman, per se. This is a single mom who does any odd job that comes her way to support her family. That kind of hands-on attitude gave her innate qualities to solve whatever comes into her life and threatens her family.

 

4.        Can you briefly describe the relationship of Maggie and Jane?
Sometimes the most opposites of people make the best of friends. They seem to make up what is lacking in the other person and appreciate the traits they themselves don’t have. That’s why you often see a shy, introverted person becoming best friends with a gregarious one.

 

5.       Do you enjoy watching crime shows like CSI?
 I enjoy them but at the same time was frustrated by them. There were the gritty shows like Law and Order, Hannibal and Justified. Then, the odd misfit detective shows like Perception. British ones like the new Sherlock Holmes and the Agatha Christie ones aired on Masterpiece Mystery. But none that reflected the reality of many of the School Resource Officers I’ve met at school – many of them Hispanic.

 

6.       What was your writing process like when writing this novel?
I began on a spring break, set up an outline and set each chapter as the events of a day keeping a time frame that resolved the events in the book within about a week. For some reason, that kept the ball rolling. I go into more detail about this on an article on my blog entitled “My Writing Process” http://mlortega.wordpress.com/

 

7.       Who are the authors that you admire most?
Although there are many good women mystery writers, I’ve just recently found Desiree Zamarano, who’s a Southern California Sisters in Crime member and pretty good writer.

 

8.       What do you hope readers will gain from your novel?
More understanding of abuse survivors, interesting insight into Hispanic culture. A new TV network for Hispanics, NUVO, has just come on the scene and it reflects the bicultural experience I see in the friends I have and my co-workers. There’s a sense that hispanics/latino(a)s are neither fish nor fowl. They have their own culture.

 

9.       Do you feel your book is an inspiration to Latina readers?
Not exactly an inspiration but I hope the proverbs take them back to their childhood years where usually grandparents voiced these sayings. Full disclosure here: I am not Hispanic but have an outsider’s view into the culture through my fellow office workers and outside friends. It’s their thoughts and feelings I hope to express through Fortunado (Tuna) Rocha, one of the characters in Turn Key Condition.

 

10.   What is your next project?
Shampoo and Condition, Book Two of Conditions Series in which Maggie’s sister-in-law drops dead in a beauty salon called “Ro-Sham-Bo” and Tuna again buffers Maggie from the dangers of criminal investigation.


UP NEXT: A review for Turn Key Condition


Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: THE DAY THE WORDS WENT AWAY by Chritina Escamilla



Have you ever wondered why popular books keep giving us the same tired plot lines over and over again?

Peter sure does. He has a theory that there are simply no more original ideas left in the world. To prove his hunch right, he makes a bet with his best friend, Andy. Together, along with the girl of his dreams and his best friend’s wife, they set out on a zany adventure that includes escaping the clutches of an illegal street racing crew, a terrorist attempt, one creepy morgue attendant, and a near death experience at the wheel of a well-known celebrity.

Will Peter find out why all of the words went away or will this unlikely foursome just prove he is a terrible writer?






Reviewed by: Sandra

Rating: 4.5 stars

 

Review: Peter has a problem: he has a hard time writing something that doesn’t suck. It’s a lot more difficult than it seems, especially when everything has been done to death.

Without that best-selling novel, he won’t be able to make all those millions.  So how does he end up making a living?

“…well…I’m running an academic paper mill…Some people may take the moral high road on this. Thos people would find the thought of doing work for other people, such as lazy college students that are on a free ride through a sport scholarship, detestable, but I see things just a little bit differently. I’m poor. You’d be surprised by this, but a degree in English doesn’t stretch as far as it used to…Besides the whole not-being-able-to-get-the-teaching-position-I-wanted thing, I’m kind of soft. I can’t handle manual labor and I sure as hell can’t handle retail. Retail, with its exchange of money for goods or services, requires numbers and calculations and people yelling at you. Oh, God, the yelling.” (13)

There was also an interesting theory about the doppelganger. “Is this another one of your stupid theories? Like the whole thing about everyone on the planet having a doppelganger because there’s a limited number of human facial features that humans can have or whatever?” Mmmm…

Then comes the bet: Proving that creativity is dead. Fascinating!

Peter is a lovable, smart, frumpy nerd with a deep knowledge of pop culture and an incredible shyness toward girls—like the guys on The Big Bang Theory. Andy’s wife, Angela, is one scary, jealous Latina with her always yelling at him. No wonder Peter is afraid of her.

I loved the cholo fight that they all get into. What is the deal with the tear drop tattoo?

Full of in-your-face humor, this story incorporates many genres—action, romance, mystery, drama, horror, adventure—into one zany and enjoyable package. I didn’t quite understand how they all wound up at a terrorist war camp surrounded by dead zombies. Weird!

“What about artistic integrity? What about making something that is going to last, be memorable, mean something? Isn’t that why we do this? Why we create? I know I’m just some wanna-be writer, but I can’t be the only one who isn’t in it for the money. I’m in it because I want to share my stories with the world! I want kids to have a sense of imagination and adults have the book stay with them years after they’ve put it down…I want to leave something behind when I die.” (208)

It’s funny how Peter is trying to kill himself to come up with a unique story, not realizing that he was in one. Readers will wonder what Peter will learn at the end of this day. Will he finally come up with that original story? Or will he give up?

Funny and enjoyable every step of the way!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Q&A with Christina Escamilla


Christina Escamilla Publishing is a two-fold website.  First and foremost, the primary goal is to help me personally connect with other writers and readers by providing a plethora of engaging content and interactive fun.  Here, you’ll find everything from book reviews (which you can also vote on yourself) to advice and writing tips on a variety of topics.
 
Second, the site also allows me to offer up my books and stories for you to enjoy!  As much as I enjoy writing, I live for the moment where my worlds and characters get to live on through reader imagination.  I’m a pretty eclectic writer so I hope you find something that peaks your interest!
 
 
 
1.       What inspired the idea for THE DAY THE WORDS WENT AWAY?
A few years ago I entered my first Nanowrimo contest.  It’s basically a challenge to write a 50k word novel in month.  I sat down at my computer, completely eager to come up with something amazing…and then I couldn’t decide what to write.  So instead of writing an actual story down I simply wrote out my thoughts, which became the opening to the tDtWWA.  Last year, after releasing my first book, 64 Deaths, I knew I wanted my next novel to center on the concept of original ideas and writing tropes, but in a fun and humorous way.  I immediately thought back to that running stream of consciousness and how it felt to try to come up with something without making traction – so it all just escalated from there.
 
 
 
2.       What was your writing process like?
When I get a good idea for a novel, which usually comes by connecting a bunch of random ideas together, the first thing I do is start to map out what I have.  I flesh out characters, begin to come up with key scenes, figure out locations, etc.  Then, once I have a collection of notes, I draw up a synopsis and make a basic shell for the story, usually chapter by chapter.  Then I sit down and begin to write the first draft. From there on out, I let the story take me where it wants to go and after I’m done I edit, edit, edit, and edit some more until I hand it off. 
 
 
 
3.       How did you come up with the character of Peter?
Since the original story was just a collection of my thoughts, it was really easy to kind of throw in a lot of things that I liked, such as a lot of love for specific TV shows, books, movies, and other pop culture stuff.  However, I knew I wanted the story to have a male lead that is not your traditional protagonist.  To that extent, I wanted him to be kind of awkward, socially inept, eternally optimistic, and be sometimes unsure of himself.  So I tried to merge all of these aspects to make a sweet guy that means well, but doesn’t always meet his mark.
 
 
 
4.       Why did you write this story from a male point of view?
I wanted to use a male for two reasons: I thought it would be challenging to look at the world from a male point of view, and still have it be really realistic, and I wanted to use your typical book protagonist and make it completely the opposite of what is generally expected.  I had a lot of fun with it, and hopefully I did Peter’s character justice!
 
 
 
5.       Was there a reason you incorporated different genres into one book?
Since this book was not only a way to simply allow people a good laugh, but also a commentary on the writing process in general, I thought it would be a good idea to play around with different genres.  I wanted to make the book a Hodgepodge of the most popular concepts and common stereotypes to both poke fun at them, but also use them to help showcase how you can use these ideas and make them very much your own without worrying about whether or not your idea is “original” enough.
 
 
 
6.       Was there a hidden message for writers? If so, what?
Absolutely!  At the heart of the book is the bare bones reason that we write – because it keeps us alive.  It allows us to share how we see the world with our audience.  I think a lot of writers, especially new writers, make the mistake of trying to meet some kind of technical standard.  They think that they have to have that one spark of inspiration, or if they do x, y, and z in a specific order then they will have the perfect manuscript.  I’d like the book to show that writing is not about all that technical stuff, but it’s about the actual doing.  To get a good idea you don’t need to have a set a rules – you just need to go out and live.  The ideas will happen by default.    
 
 
 
7.       What do you hope readers will gain from this book?
First and foremost, I hope that people find it funny and get a really good laugh out of it.  Even if that’s all that happens!  But, I’d also love for people to get a general appreciation for life, and living and how the best inspiration comes from going on crazy adventures with the people you love the most.
 
 
 
8.       Do you feel your story is an inspiration to Latinos?
 
I believe it is, and that is definitely my hope!  As a Latina, I think it’s really important that we have a sense of community that also extends into the larger world.  Our cultures and customs should be treasured and also shared, whether that is in the sense of the broader spectrum or in a personal facet.  For instance, I wanted to include a feisty Latina woman who is roughly modeled after my sister and I also wanted to include a lot of the language.  Not just Spanish, but also a lot of the playful back and forth disses that are harmless and done in jest, but for someone like Peter it’s seen as threatening because he doesn’t understand it.  I really wanted to use that approach because it puts a mirror to the idea of the “us versus them” mentality that some folk have when faced with any culture not their own.  At the same time I liked the idea that Latinos would “get” some of the jokes and scenes, so I hope that the book is received well in that sense.
 
 
 
9.       What books do you like to read?
I read just about everything!  I write in a variety of different genres and that love of experimentation and exploration definitely factors into my reading choices.  You can find everything from romance to horror to children’s books and everything in between!
 
 
 
10.   Are you working on any other stories?
Yep!  I have two projects going on right now.  First is the sequel to The Day the Words Went Away, which will feature more crazy shenanigans, but will take place across much of Europe.  In addition, I am accepting submissions for my “Welcome to the Future” anthology.   The open call ends in September 15th and the book will be published around November.
 
For more information, log onto http://www.christinaescamilla.com
 
UP NEXT: A review for The Day the Words Went Away