Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Review: DAYS OF THE DEAD by Felicia Lee

When is it terrifying NOT to see a ghost? 

Los Angeles Alternative reporter and political activist Elena Guzman knows. She sees dead people –all the women in her close-knit Mexican-American family do. They only stop seeing the dead shortly before they die themselves. And right now, Elena’s failing to see a ghost that seemingly everyone else is seeing—the mysterious wraith seen abducting Graciela Hernandez, a young immigrant housekeeper. 

But Elena has plenty to distract her from her possibly impending death. Her loyal but unstable best friend Mona is growing dangerously obsessed with her abusive ex-boyfriend. Graciela is still missing, and Elena is determined to find her and return her to safety, even if the police aren’t. 

This means doing exactly what she fears most: tracking down a ghost she can’t see. But Elena must power through her dread to find Graciela before it’s too late…for both of them. 


Available on Amazon



Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 5 stars

Review: Elena Guzman is your average run-of-the-mill snarky Latina with an addiction for Brazilian coffee and a knack for speaking to the dead.

When a Latina maid goes missing, Elena thinks there’s more to it than meets the eye. After all, “the girl is undocumented. And Mexican. Cops here, newspapers here, most people here don’t think she’s worth investigating. Why bother? They can always get another poor Mexican to scrub their toilets.” (11) Elena tells it like it is.

Being a hard-working Latina from the wrong side of the tracks would definitely make you stand out in a ritzy, privileged neighborhood, which was were the woman was last seen. But, hey, duty calls—and so do the dead.

Could a ghost actually be the culprit behind this strange disappearance? But the thing was that Elena didn’t fear the ghosts. Rather what she feared was not being able to see them. After all this time, could she be losing her “gift?” And I guess this wouldn’t be such an ordeal, except those before her came to their death once they lost their “sight.” Oooh!

Story was well-written, witty, and relatable. Being Latina, I related to the traditional comfort of Spanish food, old Mexican sayings, and the drama of familia. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was home.


A wonderful Latina mystery! Loved it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Q&A with Felicia Lee


Many members of my family have seen ghosts, but I haven't, and am not sure I want to...so instead I write about them. When I'm not writing about ghosts, I'm writing non-creepy web and promotional copy for businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies or writing non-fiction essays (some of which have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Salon.com).

I'm also a near-native of Los Angeles, the setting of the Days of the Dead series. I arrived there from my birthplace in the mysterious east (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) at the age of the 3 and earned two degrees in English from Stanford and a doctorate in linguistics from UCLA. After 10 years as a university professor and researcher (and writing unintentionally terrifying things like my first book, "Remnant Movement and VSO Clausal Architecture: A Case Study of San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec"), I returned to my roots as a writer. I've never looked back.




1.       What inspired you to write Days of the Dead?

A couple of things. One, I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts and by stories of people who claim to have actually seen them (like some members of my family). Thus, I wondered what life would be like if that were a normal state of affairs. The second inspiration was my background growing up in Los Angeles—while I’m not Latina myself (I’m Chinese-American), many of my classmates were, and if you live in L.A., it’s impossible to go through the day without hearing someone speaking Spanish, even if you’re just sitting at home flipping through TV or radio stations. Also, in my previous career as a linguistic researcher, I did most of my research on an indigenous language of Mexico (San Lucas Quiaviní Zapotec, spoken in central Oaxaca), and luckily for me, many speakers of the language had emigrated to the US and lived in Los Angeles. I got much of my data from them, and learned a lot about what they had experienced personally as new immigrants trying to fit in and build new homes in a sometimes hostile country.


2.       What were Elena’s ultimate goals in the story and how did they reflect on her?

While Elena is a journalist by profession, she is primarily interested in social justice – for her, reporting is a way of speaking truth to power and defending the exploited. So when the housekeeper, Graciela, goes missing, Elena’s goal is not just to passively report what happened to her, but to find Graciela herself. As a result, she tends to take her stories very personally, which is not always a responsible or healthy quality in a journalist. So Elena’s passion for doing the right thing is both a strength and a weakness.



3.       Can you describe the relationship between Elena and Mona—two women from two different worlds?

Theirs is definitely an “Odd Couple” type of relationship! I guess Mona, being a bit needy, is drawn to Elena because she is so strong and independent and because she is so patient and (mostly) non-judgmental. And while Elena knows that Mona is a bit of an emotional basket case with a flair for bad decisions, she values Mona’s intelligence, kindness, and loyalty, as well as the fact that Mona knows her well enough to fully accept her without judgment, warts and supernatural gift and all. 



4.       What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

In Days of the Dead, Elena’s primary goal is fighting racism, especially against Mexican Americans, and promoting economic justice issues such as a living wage and ensuring the justice system treats rich and poor Americans equally. I chose these issues because they seemed to make sense to me in light of Elena’s character—she’s driven by her passions, and her passions are driven by her personal experience. Given her ethnic and family background, these seemed to be appropriate causes for her. While I do believe these issues should be taken more seriously, my goal wasn’t specifically to promote them, but to give Elena her “why”.



5.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Above all, I hope they will enjoy themselves! But if readers also come away with an added appreciation of L.A.’s cultural diversity and start to think a bit about what it means to be a member of a minority group (or a white person in a majority-minority city like Los Angeles), all the better. I didn’t write Days of the Dead to teach anyone a lesson—L.A.’s mix of cultures just felt natural to me since that’s what I grew up with, and I was just following the old advice to write what you know. But after workshopping the story with my writing group in rural Florida, where I live now, I realized that for many Americans, this mix seemed terribly exotic and strange, and the story may be an opportunity to show them another part of the “real America”.



6.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

What I like best is having a healthy and constructive outlet for my random thoughts, fears, and passions. I write a lot of horror stories (I’m a member of the Horror Writers Association) because I have an unfortunate tendency to fantasize worst-case scenarios, so I write stories about them instead of internalizing them and wrecking my life.  I’m also really into birdwatching, so as a favor to my local Audubon society, I submitted an article on a rare local sighting to our local paper. Not only did it get published there, it also got picked up by NPR, The Weather Channel, and the Washington Post, among other outlets. (And I didn’t get one red cent for my efforts. Pfft.)

And this brings me to the downside of writing: It’s generally not taken very seriously as a profession. Writing is also my day job—I do web content writing and ghostwriting and have years of experience writing for Fortune 500 companies and governmental agencies, but my main competition is always some random dude with a spell checker who does half-assed work for pizza money. And alas, the only difference a lot of prospective clients see is the price.



7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

They’re all over the map! I wrote my college honors thesis on Virginia Woolf, whose writing is just breathtaking—I used to cry myself to sleep wondering why I couldn’t write like that. Stephen King is always fun to read and always comes up with interesting premises for his stories. Junot Diaz does neat and original things with language. Carl Hiaasen can weave political and environmental issues into his fiction and educate readers while making them laugh, which is not an easy thing to do…the list goes on.



8.       If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)

Good question! I don’t watch very much TV or see a lot of movies, so I don’t have a lot of candidates in my mental inventory. Elena’s definitely not a real sexpot, nor does she care a lot about her appearance, although I imagine her being attractive enough, so not someone like Jennifer Lopez. Maybe someone who’s good at making strong, unconventional characters sympathetic and human – I liked how America Ferrara portrayed her character in Ugly Betty; maybe she’d be a good choice.



9.       Are you working on anything right now?

I’ve already completed a draft of the sequel to Days of the Dead, which I’m now revising, and starting to draft the storyline for the third book in the series.



10.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

My hope is that in the future, stories with Latina/o protagonists are no longer pigeonholed as just Latino literature, and that people of all backgrounds will be attracted to them and recognize some common ground with them. I also envision seeing more Latinos and other peoples of color playing prominent roles (as writers or characters) in mainstream genre literature (horror, mystery, romance, speculative fiction, etc.) – this is already starting to happen. It will be a great day when a Latino/Latina or other person of color could write about people and themes reflecting their background and be recognized not just as a great Latino/African-America/Asian-American writer, but a great American writer, period.


Up next: A review for Days of the Dead


Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: SANGRE: THE COLOR OF DYING by Carlos Colón

Nicky Negron is dead, or more accurately put, undead. And since he must take the lives of humans to feed on their blood and survive, he is very selective of who he thinks society can do without. Bronx-born Nicky was raised in a middle class Puerto Rican family until tragedy tore them apart. Years later, Nicky would put himself through school where he would meet his future wife Stefanie. With a happy marriage, two healthy children and a successful career as an insurance agent, Nicky seems to have it all, until in ends in a blood-spattered room at the New York City Ritz-Carlton. Since he was last seen going in there with a mysterious red-haired woman, the case is sensationalized by the press as a sex scandal, leaving deep wounds of humiliation with his family and tainting the memories of their lives together. Nicky is a man who has lost it all, twice. Such a fate could make a man bitter. But even with all that has happened, Nicky resists taking the lives of innocents. Having lost his own life, Nicky appreciates its rewards and prefers feeding on those that lower the quality of life around him. So if you are a sex predator, a domestic abuser, a child murderer or a drug dealer you may want to stay out of Nicky Negron’s territory. He doesn’t feed much, which means he is always hungry.




Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 5 stars

Review: Nicky Negrón is dead. Well, really, he’s undead. He’s a vampire.

A rogue vigilante, he feeds on the scumbags of society—prostitutes, rapists, murderers. You might call him a hero or possibly a grim reaper, but, in actuality, he’s just a conscientious vampire. He can’t fathom to feed on the innocent, yet he prefers to drink blood that is free of drugs and disease, because that would make him sick.

“My projection to those around me is the handsome Nicky (if I may say so myself) that died twenty seven years ago. To me that face is a memory from photographs. On the occasions when my projection is not present, like when I’m feeding or when my emotions take over, the only version I get to see of myself is that of my death face—the face that belongs six feet under.” (23)

This is the story of a vampire cursed to live out his immortal days with the memories of his past life and a heart for the innocent souls. Flashbacks of his childhood and family interject as he prowls the night in a wandering blood lust.  On the outside, he’s a fiendish monster; but the inside shows a sensitive and vulnerable creature. You can’t help but feel for him as he hovers near the presence of the family he left behind.

The book is a delectation of raw and powerful words that bring the story to life. The story line, as well as its soulful imagery and beauty, is reminiscent of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which follows  a vampire named Louis as he relays his 200-year-long life story to a reporter. In Sangre, Nicky Negrón tells his story. He recounts his birth into vampirism and correlates it with the color red, which is the last thing he saw. Typically, red is “a color that humans connect with love—red roses, red cherries, strawberries, lipstick, hearts…it’s the primary color of Valentine’s Day, the color of love.” (90) But at the time of his transformation, when everything he loved was being taken away, he indicates it as the “color of dying.” Not only is this book poetic and insightful, but the author kicks it up a notch by adding his own Spanish flair with cultura and barrio phrases, settling the reader into a prideful comfort as if you were sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by tamales and familia.


Colón is a talented and witty writer that has reinvented the dark genre with candid prose and lucid expression. His knowledge and compelling fascination with vampires enabled him to craft a well-written story that you can sink your teeth into.  A remarkable tale!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Q&A with Carlos Colón


Carlos Colón is a Bronx-born Puerto Rican singer/songwriter. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY with a degree in English Creative Writing. His play "Jerome" won Honorable Mention for the Jacob Hammer Memorial Prize in 1979. Since then he has spent most of his years as a local musician, most recently as the charismatic front man for Retro Rock n’Roll band The Jersey Shore Roustabouts, one of the most in-demand entertainment acts of the Central and Southern New Jersey/New York/Philadelphia area.


   1.       What inspired you to write Sangre: The Color of Dying?
It was well over twenty years ago when I first got the idea of using the symptoms that created the vampire legend as a disease in modern day society. At that time, the hero of the story was Dominic, the NYPD detective. But then I realized that the real story was in Nicky, the one suffering the condition. Nicky may have been a threat to civilians walking the streets, but he was also a victim. He didn’t ask for this.

   2.       What differentiates your book from other vampire novels?
I’m glad you asked that because in today’s literary climate, the thought of another vampire novel is usually greeted with a roll of the eyes. Sangre: The Color of Dying is really two novels in one. First we have what is essentially an autobiography of someone that grew up in the Bronx during the 1960’s, who overcame a devastating family tragedy and was able to rebuild his life after meeting Stefanie Torres, a brainy puertorriqueña that would later become his wife.  Secondly, we have a current day tale that treats the condition of being a vampire with a realism and believability that blurs the genre lines so well that the reader doesn’t know where the reality ends and the paranormal begins. Think of The Exorcist back in the seventies. The fact that it felt so real is what made it so scary.

3.       What are the struggles that Nicky goes through?
Nicky struggles with the fact that he needs to take lives to exist. There is not enough access to alternate sources of human blood to keep him moving forward without doing so. That’s why he feeds on criminals and lowlifes. But the bigger struggle for Nicky is the ongoing love that he has for his wife Stefanie and his children. His inability to let go, now that he is not among the living, results in him performing misguided, well-intentioned acts that hurt them even more. He is also haunted with guilt over a tragic accident that he felt responsible for. Yeah, Nicky’s definitely got some issues.

4.       Would you classify Nicky as a hero character? Why or why not?
I would classify Nicky as a flawed and dangerous hero. While Nicky’s heart is very much in the right place, he also has a judgmental quality and a cruel sense of humor that can be unbecoming. He judges Veronica’s promiscuity while overlooking his own lustful behavior, he makes homophobic remarks to his gay friends, Travis and Donny, even though they’ve done nothing but support him, and he is forever taking cheap shots at his brother-in-law Dominic about his weight gain. And then there’s that other thing about feeding on humans. 





5.       Do you feel Nicky changed in any way at the end of the story?
One of the qualities readers love so much about Sangre is the emotional journey that Nicky has taken from the first page to the last. Readers love that he often demonstrates an ability to recognize his own, sometimes, questionable judgment and his own prejudices. By the end I think it’s safe to say that the reader will witness an emotional growth and maturity in Nicky that wasn’t there at the beginning of the novel.

6.       What are some of the main themes and issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
One of the things that I am so proud of, that makes this book so different, is that it is a psychological character profile that explores grief, guilt, and uncontrolled desires. I love how three Latinas, the most important women in his life, play a big part in forming Nicky’s personality; his mother, who took the love out of his life, his wife Stefanie, who brought love back, and his friend, Veronica, who is trying to teach him how to love again. The reader will find that the novel carries many allegorical passages that address issues like lust, adultery and divorce.

The reason I explored these themes and issues is because I did not just want to write a pulp, genre piece. I wanted to take that kind of genre and make it as real as possible. The more real and universal the themes are, the more the readers can identify with the character, and the more willing they are to go along in their journey.

7.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I am hoping that my description doesn’t sound like a too-deep, analytical character piece that can be a chore to read. The story is intended to be an entertaining and refreshing effort to mix reality with the supernatural. Rather than pursuing the vampire legend from the gothic angle, I take a scientific path to make the story more real. The emotional depth of the characters is also something I emphasize in the tale. So many horror or action pieces treat the killing of characters as collateral damage without showing the toll that is felt when they are lost. That does not happen in Sangre.  Readers will find that when someone dies in this story, they will feel the loss along with the surviving characters.

But don’t for a second think that this book is a self-serious downer. All of the fun stuff is there, too; the stakes in the heart, the hypnosis, the not being seen in mirrors, etc.  Why write in this genre if you’re not going to have some fun with it? And for the not-to-squeamish, there are also a couple of sex scenes that are sure to be conversation starters around the water cooler.

With that, I hope that readers will gain an acceptance that, even when they think they’ve read all they’ve cared to read in a particular genre, there is still some writer out there that could have the ability to surprise them.


8.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
There was a wonderful meme going around in Facebook, which was a quote attributed to Victor Hugo. It goes, “A writer is a world trapped in a person.” Man, that says it all. There is a world inside you and writing gives you the access to bring that world out.  Very often writing is not something you set out to do. More often than not, it is something that you have to do. It just comes out like a bodily function. I’m sorry if that sounded disgusting.

As for what I like least, it’s the time that the writing process can take. So often you are excited about something you’ve written and you just want to get it out. But that’s the worst thing that you can do because it is probably not ready. That’s where the grueling process of proofreading comes in—and what a painful process it is.

9.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
I guess it would come as no surprise that Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorites, but I’ve also enjoyed John Irving in the past. I think that readers will find some very Garp-like qualities in Nicky.

10.   If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.) I can see either Gael Garcia Bernal or Lin Manuel Miranda as Nicky. Those two need to read this novel; either one of them would be perfect, although I lean towards Miranda because he’s Nuyorican and that’s a big part of the story. As for Stefanie, I think Gina Rodriguez would capture her beautifully.

11.   Are you working on anything right now?
So many are surprised that I never intended on the Nicky saga continuing. They talk about how the ending begs for a sequel. Well, actually, I think the ending is perfect because it leaves what happens next up to the reader. That being said, popular demand has won over and I am about a third of the way through in completing Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow. This one is going to focus more on Nicky’s upbringing in the Bronx in the 1960’s, while the current-day tale goes into the consequences following the events of the first book.

12.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
I think right now the vast majority of Latino literature has a lot of educational qualities that explain our culture and who we are. So much of the world knows so little about the Latino experience that the outside interest lies primarily in that category. But we are more than that. In the many ways that we are different, there are also many other ways where we are the same, we like romance, humor, pulp, gothic, paranormal, science fiction and so on. I think the key to exposing more Latino Literature out into the general public is to demonstrate our versatility and combine our efforts to show the riches of talent that the Latino community has to offer.

UP NEXT: A review of SANGRE: THE COLOR OF DYING

For more info on Carlos Colón, visit http://www.sangrethenovel.com/

Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: A COURTROOM OF ASHES by C.S. Wilde

Santana Jones never thought she’d fall in love with a dead guy, but that was before she met John Braver, the incredibly charming and incredibly dead politician on the other side of her mirror. 

When an evil spirit drags Santana’s soul across the mirror and into Purgatory, she’ll need all the help she can get to return to her body. With John by her side, nothing can go wrong. But Purgatory is a dangerous place for a lawyer with a pitch-black past. Santana has always wondered if she’d go to Hell for defending rapists and murderers. 




Reviewed by: Magda
Rating: 3.5 stars 

Review:  You’re staring at your own reflection and you realize that your image is smiling…but you’re not. A mirror with a mind of its own? Or perhaps a trickery of an over-worked mind? Or a warning from beyond the grave?

For sensible and intelligent Santana, this could only be a dream or a lucid imagination. Until she realizes that the haunted mirror is a portal that connects to Death, a purgatory that is neither bad nor good. Just Death. Freaky!

But it seems that a dear friend of hers is trapped somewhere in Death, and Santana will stop at nothing to find her. Santana soon finds herself caught in a cryptic maze of darkness and horror. She finds herself trapped in Death.

Could this dark prison be her penance for her ruthless ways as a conniving and deceitful lawyer, freeing criminals into an unsuspecting society?

Yet, as her soul traverses the land of Death, she comes to realize that the spirits lead perfectly normal lives, more or less. “The Home is a sanctuary where people can go through the afterlife together.” (102) Of course, some of the details might sound trivial and they can be quite perplexing, especially when the story is taking place in the worlds of both the living and the dead and Santana simultaneously exists in both worlds. That can be a little confusing. However, they don’t steal from the core plot of the story: locating a spirit and returning Santana’s soul to her body before it’s too late. Before the devil takes over her body and begins the apocalypse. Chilling! But the more pressing question was: What happens when you die in Death?


Story is a wonderful and well-written tale of mystery and psychedelic intrigue. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Q&A with C.S. Wilde


C.S. Wilde wrote her first Fantasy novel when she was eight. That book was absolutely terrible, but her mother told her it was awesome, so she kept writing.
Now a grown-up (though many will beg to differ), C. S. Wilde writes about fantastic worlds, love stories larger than life and epic battles.

She also, quite obviously, sucks at writing an author bio. She finds it awkward that she must write this in the third person, and hopes you won't notice.

You can find her at: www.cswilde.com
On Twitter: @thatcswilde
Or on Facebook: thatcswilde







   1.       What inspired you to write A Courtroom of Ashes?

Someone once told me a joke about a lawyer going to hell, and I was all like, “Hmm, interesting.”



   2.       What was the concept behind the land of Death and how does it compare to a courtroom?

In the world of Death (Purgatory to those who haven’t read the book), your worst enemy is your own mind. So Santana acts as her own prosecutor and defender, and ultimately, as her own judge. When Heaven and Hell break into this scenario, Purgatory becomes a courtroom in a very literal sense, because those are the final destinations, the final sentence per say.



3.       How would you describe the relationship between Santana and John?

At first, Santana sees John as this perfect guy who can do no wrong, but as things progress, she realizes he’s far from perfect, and that he has his own demons, much like her. So it’s a very simple relationship at first, and then it becomes a little more complicated.




4.       Do you feel Santana changed in any way at the end of the story?
I would certainly hope so. In the beginning, Santana kinda ignored her dark side, so she couldn’t really repent for something she barely acknowledged. Once she accepts the fact that she caused pain to a lot of people, she can finally start making up for the things she’s done.



5.       What are some of the main themes and issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

How we shape our own reality and our own image of ourselves is by far the biggest theme, I’d say. It’s a fun theme to explore, pretty easy to bend and break too. Another interesting aspect of the story is her mother’s suicide, and how the resentment Santana has toward her helped shape Santana’s personality.



6.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

An entertaining read and perhaps some food for thought? J



7.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
BEST: My readers. They make everything worth it.
LEAST: The technical aspects of being an author nowadays (stablishing platforms, running giveaways, Facebook ads, mail forwarding, etc etc).



8.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

Machado de Assis (did Capitú really betray Bentinho?), Junot Díaz (The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is simply flawless), Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind, my favorite high-fantasy-ish book), Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is my favorite book of all time), to name just a few.



9.       If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)

Either Alice Braga or Olivia Munn.



10.   Are you working on anything right now?
I’m working on a sci-fi romance called From the Stars, which is basically outer-space Romeo and Juliet. Find out more here : D https://cswilde.com/from-the-stars/



11.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?


A freaking lot. Latino literature has provided some of the most thought provoking stories out there, and we’ll keep doing that. Nowadays, we see more and more examples of Latinos making it big in the arts. Guillermo del Toro, Carlos Saldanha, Junot Díaz, Julia Alvarez, Justin Torres, to name just a few.  So yeah, people can expect greatness from us, as they always should. ; )


UP NEXT: A review of A Courtroom of Ashes. Meanwhile, check out the chapter preview from the book.





1
Last week I had a mirror wall installed in my bedroom. Call me a narcissist, but watching myself full scale in a mirror feels pretty great. I can check the results of my Pilates classes and the effort is certainly paying off. Just look at those legs!
I’m still getting used to the mirror, though. It doubles the size of my room, and although I love the fake sense of space, it seems overly…empty. Well, ‘lonely’ is the better word. This might sound weird, but sometimes I have the feeling of being watched from beyond the mirror, that it’s not just me and loneliness around. But it only lasts a second.
Complete nonsense. I’m sure this will stop once Craig and I become more intimate and he starts coming over.
Craig is a cute Wall Street broker I’ve been going out with—wait, just ‘cute’ isn’t right. Craig looks like a freaking Adonis, with perfectly defined muscles and a flowing black mane suited for a shampoo commercial. We’ve had two dates so far, but things are looking good.
Not to sound like an obnoxious, self-absorbed ass, but I’ve earned the right to a guy like Craig, and the mirror wall, and my fancy apartment near Times Square. When you’re one of the biggest criminal lawyers in New York, you deserve the sweet cosmopolitan lifestyle that comes with the package.
It’s not all fun and money, though.
Last week, I won three pro bonos that made some families in need very happy. I didn’t get a dime, but that’s okay. Giving back to society is enough. A part of me wonders if that’s because I’ve wronged it so many times…but it doesn’t matter.
No one cares.
After checking out my perfectly Pilates-shaped body one last time, I drop over my bed. It’s been a hard day’s work, like any other.
I spread my hands over the silky purple sheets, and my reflection does the same: that honey-eyed beauty with black hair tied into a long braid that cascades over her chest.
Seeing myself in a T-shirt and sloppy shorts is unnatural, though. I spend so much time at the office that anything other than business clothes feels out of place. But something else is wrong…
Something is off with my reflection. She stares directly at me, but I’m not staring directly at her. She widens a long smile and adrenaline shoots through my body, because my reflection just smiled. I didn’t.
The woman in the mirror keeps staring at me with a crooked smile that isn’t mine.
What the hell is going on?
I’m alone. With her. Cold sweat beads on my forehead. The muscles in my legs tighten, but I shouldn’t run. This is a hallucination, it has to be. I raise my hand and arch an eyebrow. My reflection follows my actions, as it should. She doesn’t smile, because I’m not smiling.
Obviously.
That was weird…I must be too tired; anyone would be if they worked a twelve-hour day. I should spend less time at the office.
Seeing things in the mirror can’t be a good sign.
Perhaps a good night’s sleep is all I need. Falling over the comfortable sheets and wrapping them around my body, I doze off as easy as counting one, two, three…
“Santana Banana, wake up.” The whisper cuts through the darkness, but I ignore it.
“Banana,” it insists.
Banana?
My best friend Barbie used to call me Banana. As kids, teens, and then Ivy Leaguers, we were inseparable. But when she slept with my boyfriend five days before graduation, well, that was it. We never spoke again.
I blink at the mirror. My reflection stands, but I’m pretty sure I’m lying in bed.
Rubbing my eyes, I mumble, “What on earth?”
“You know, I really like dreams,” she says with my voice. “People are less rational when they dream.”
“What do you mean?” I sit up straight.
“You’re talking to your reflection. Doesn’t that seem strange?”
“Huh?”
“My point exactly.” She giggles. “You’re less resistant, less aware.”
I try to understand what she means and what’s happening, but I can’t think straight, like there’s this wall in my brain and I can’t climb it. “You mean I’m dreaming? Right now?”
She nods, eyes shining with excitement.
I scratch the top of my head. “Was I dreaming before? When you smiled?”
“Nah. I figured it would be better to do this through a dream. It wouldn’t freak you out as much.” She rests her hands over her hips. “Bad thing about dreams is that you usually forget them. Could you try to remember something?”
“I guess?”
“Catch me if you can.”
She starts running through her room like a manic bee. I jump from the bed and try to fetch her, following her moves as if her world and mine are one. I’m giggling like a six-year-old, because I’m Peter Pan, chasing his shadow in Wendy’s room.
“I can’t catch you, silly! I’m on the other side of the mirror!”
“Catch me, Banana!” my reflection says.
The scent of wet grass fills my nostrils and sunlight floods the room. Suddenly, I’m running through the backyard of my first home. I’m six, maybe seven.
“Catch me!” Barbie says as we play tag.
My tiny fingers almost reach her golden locks that shine under the sun, but she speeds up, adding distance between us.
This whole situation is so familiar…
Mother soaks us with the hose as we run around the yard in our flowered bikinis, but I barely notice her. I need to catch Barbie!
“Stay still, Barbiiiie!” I stop to suck in some air, but soon I’m running again.
Grown-ups grill burgers and chat in the background, the sun blessing them. The smell of grilled meat wrestles with the scent of wet grass and wins. My best memories have these glorious summer weekends as scenery.
“Come on, Bananita!” Barbie shakes her bottom mockingly in front of me. The lace of her pink bikini swings left to right. “Or else I’ll be gone baby, gone!”
I stop and squint at her. This is nothing new; it’s a memory.
Shaking my head, I’m back in my grown-up body, standing in my room and peering at my reflection. Her bright blue eyes stare back at me as if they’re deciphering my thoughts. But I don’t have blue eyes. Barbie does.
“Catch me,” she says in a voice that’s not really mine. Then she speeds to the mirror and stamps her hands against the glass with a rascal smile.
I wake up gasping for air. I’m in bed, heart beating in my ears. I free myself from the duvet and step toward the mirror. Sliding two fingers down my cheek, I watch Mirror-me do the same. I show my tongue and so does she. Of course. It’s only my reflection.
It was a silly dream, that’s all.
Calming down, I study the room in the mirror. There’s nothing different between her room and mine. Dark brown dressers match perfectly with the dark brown bed frame and stylish wardrobe behind me, all contrasting with the white from the walls. Flawless. It didn’t come cheap, of course. My designer is one of the best in Manhattan.
The alarm clock over the mirror-dresser shows 00:L0? Shit, it’s seven a.m.!
I run to Pilates, finish at eight, shower, and after bumping into five people to catch my train—which I almost missed—I arrive at work at nine. My hair is messed up like a cuckoo’s nest, but after five minutes in the bathroom, Santana Jones, junior partner and rising star, is ready for another day.
Five seconds after I enter my office, my intern, a guy who could be handsome if he didn’t look fifteen, knocks on the door and lets himself in.
“Morning, Miss Jones. Mr. Baker has requested you to review the file on Chase Mayhew.”
Checking the papers on my desk I say, “Already did, Jim. Not taking the case.”
“But…”
One raised eyebrow, that’s all it takes, a silent message saying, I’ll deal with Mr. Baker. “Anything else, Jim?”
“Of course, I apologize, sorry,” he stutters, then clears his throat. “Bob from Bingham Associates called. He’s offering seven thousand.”
“Oh really?” I pick up the phone and dial. “Hi Bob, Santana Jones.”
“Morning, Santana.” He’s gloating, I can tell from his tone. “Did you hear about my offer?”
“Yes, I did.” My red nail polish is chipping, so I add a mental note to schedule a manicure.
He lets out a happy victory laugh. “You’d have to be crazy to refuse it, huh?”
“Well Bob, your client accused my client of theft and battery, when all he tried to do was help. Now my client has been proven innocent and your client is filthy rich.”
He’s silent for a second. “Let’s not get carried away now, I think—”
“I smell countersuit here, Bob, and I know I’ll get more than seven thousand if I go ahead. So save us the trouble and give me an offer I can consider.”
He waits for a while.
“Fine. Ten thousand.”
“Oh, that’s very generous. Fuck you, Bob.” I slam down the phone.
My intern stares at me.
“What?” I ask, but the phone rings before he can tell me. It’s Bob’s number. “Santana Jones here.”
“This is a pro bono for Christ’s sake!” he barks from the other side. “What’s in it for you?”
“I’m still going to fight for my client even though he can’t afford me.”
Bob is silent for a while. “Fifteen thousand, that’s the last of it.”
“Let me check with my client. Send my regards to Jill.” I hang up.
I turn to my intern and wonder for a second if baby face could ever grow a beard. Probably not.
“Jim, tell Mr. Trotter that we got three thousand more than we had discussed. I think he’ll be very happy.”
Jim nods, but before he leaves he turns back to me, mouth half-open. He wants to say something but for the life of him, he can’t.
“Yes?”
“Nothing Miss Jones.”
I like Jim. He’s always ready to help and eager to learn, but he’s scared of everything. He has zero self-confidence. It puzzles me how a guy like him manages to survive in the concrete jungle.
“Jim, you can ask me.”
“W-was it wise to curse at another attorney?”
A snicker comes out. “Definitely not.”
“Then why did you do it?”
“Because I know Bob is a gentlemen’s club kind of guy. He likes his whiskey dry, his cigars Cuban, and his women in the kitchen. He won’t respect or fear me unless he sees me as one of his peers.”
Jim’s lips shape an ‘O.’ “Meaning you know how he ticks?”
I wink at him. “A fine skill for a lawyer, Jimmy-boy.”
He glances at the ground, a tiny smile curling on the left side of his face. “Mr. Baker said you can read anyone like a book in only two minutes.”
“Not nearly as fast as Mr. Baker himself.”
Jim nods and excuses himself before going for the door, leaving me alone.
He looks up to me and I wish he didn’t. I’m clearly not the best role model. Then again, it’s not my fault that two psychopaths walked. The system was built to protect my peace of mind: The judge ruled the sentence, the evidence was lacking, but the lawyer? She was doing her job, that’s all. She’s not freeing scumbags back into society. The system is.
So why does the idea of someone looking up to me sound so wrong?
 I shake my head, sending the thoughts away, but they land somewhere else: the phone, its keypad, and Barbie. I was chasing her in my backyard, and I was chasing her in my room. In that crazy dream, Barbie was my reflection.
What does that tell me?
I lean back in my chair, and a tiny part of my brain that hasn’t fully evolved yet, tells me that there must be a reason for the dream. Even though that’s nonsense, my right hand hovers over the phone.
I know we all make mistakes, God as my witness —wherever He is, if He is— but Barbie’s was catastrophically big. Ending our friendship felt like cutting off my right arm, literally and metaphorically, but what was I supposed to do? Best friends don’t sleep with each other’s boyfriends. Besides, what would I say after all this time? Hey, had a dream about you yesterday, and, um, yeah…that’s it?
Perhaps I’m overthinking it. Maybe calling her will shut up this irrational little voice that tells me it’s the right thing to do.
I pick up the phone and dial the numbers I’ll always know by heart. I’m faced with eternal ringing, then a perky voice says, “Hi, you’ve reached Barbara Townsend. Leave your messa” I hang up.
There. She’s not home. I did my share of the bargain.
Three seconds later the phone rings and my heart stops.
“Santana Jones.”
It’s a work call about a case that will hopefully increase my quarterly bonus by ten percent: a famous football player caught selling cocaine. I forget all about Barbie for the rest of the day.