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
 
 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Spotlight: CHUNKY & FRIENDS

Chunky is a 10-year-old boy who finds out that he is in danger of becoming obese. With his vivid imagination he confuses what was discussed during his doctor visit and believes he will soon transform into an “O-BEAST.” Can Chunky make sense of it all and stop the O-Beast from taking over?

Now available: CHUNKY AND THE O-BEAST





Joseph Vivens is the author and creator of Chunky and Friends.  Born in Port-au-Prince , Haiti and raised in the Washington, DC area.  Joseph has been writing for over 20 years but In 2008, he had an enlightening conversation with his wife about the state of children’s health.  Driven by the desire to start a business that would make a difference, he decided to become a published author and create characters that would inspire children to make healthier choices and develop self-confidence.  Subsequently he released the children’s book Chunky and Friends: Chunky and the O-Beast in 2013 and the coloring/activity book Defeat The O-Beast in 2014.  Joseph conducts live interactive book readings & healthy writing workshops for children ages 4-16.  He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife and son.

 

Jose Dominguez was born in El Salvador and has been drawing and Illustrating since 5 years of age.  He’s been with the Chunky and Friends Team since 2009 and this book series is his first illustrated comic.  Jose is most motivated as the Chunky and Friends illustrator by the book series remaining non-judgmental.  He explains that many heavy set characters in entertainment tend to be clumsy, foolish and never really get that moment to shine or show their greatness. In contrast, Chunky is the character that does shine and show his greatness through his intelligence, imagination, hard work and resolve.  Jose currently lives in Frederick, Maryland with his wife and two sons.

For more information, log onto http://chunkyandfriends.com/


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Q&A with Desiree Zamorano



Désirée Zamorano's  newest novel is about four women linked by birth, separated by secrets of sex, money and death. Look for The Amado Women from Cinco Puntos Press.
 
She  delights in the exploration of contemporary issues of injustice and inequity, via her mystery series featuring private investigator, Inez Leon. Human Cargo was Latinidad's mystery pick.
Modern Cons is a story of psychological suspense where she explores the reverberations of being raised by a con artist.
 
A Pushcart prize nominee and award-winning short story writer, Desiree is also proud of having co-authored with her sister two plays commissioned by southern California's Bilingual Foundation for the Arts. "Reina" and "Bell Gardens 90201" received Equity productions and toured for a total of eight years.
 
 
Welcome, Desiree!
 
 
1.        What inspired you to become a writer?
When I had all the sophistication of a third grader who read anything in front of her, I knew way back then that I wanted to be a writer—it just seemed like fun! As I grew older I realized that I wanted to do was to be able to captivate a reader, to hold her interest, to provide a place apart from the din of real life.
 
 
2.       How did you come up with the story of THE AMADO WOMEN?
I wanted to write about women like me who I call invisible Latinas-Latinas who are professionals or struggling to be successful. I also wanted to write about a group of women who were deeply different from each other, and the best place to find that is a family.  Like many writers, I hope to take seeds of truth and transmute them into a story with a plot and resolution.  That’s what I have attempted in The Amado Women. 
 
 
3.       Which character did you relate to the most?
All of my characters have bits and pieces of me, even the men! Fortunately the challenges the women face are very different from my own—I am unsure, or perhaps unwilling to out myself here with which character I most identify ;)
 
 
4.      How is your writing different than all the other books in this genre?
The majority of published novels, including family dramas, skew heavily white.  The obvious difference in my novel is that this is a Mexican-American family, which I hope I have cast against expectations.  In terms of the story itself I believe it is the depth of characterization and relationships that set this novel apart from others in its genre.  My stories are all about displacement: how we long to belong.  In our lives we may wonder are we in the right family?  Will they accept the shameful parts of us? Can we survive with or without each other?  I hope, gentle reader, you will recognize yourself, your struggles, your successes, in at least one of these Amado Women
 
 
5.       What is the best thing about writing?
The most wonderful thing about writing is its capacity for creative self-expression, no matter the form!  My greatest challenge in writing is shaping what I want to say into an engaging story, making it palatably entertaining without being didactic. 
 
 
6.       What is the most challenging thing about writing?
Being sure that no one sees the sweat.
 
 
7.       What is the one thing readers want to know about you?
Readers love knowing which of the secrets in this novel are my own.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.
 
 
 
8.       Do you feel your book is an inspiration to Latinas? How so?
It is up to the reader to tell me if they find this novel inspiring; I just hope I have shared a facet of ourselves in a way of changing the mental landscape of so many people who have an exceptionally limited perception of who we are, of our roles and our language abilities.
 
 
 
9.       Do you have plans for an upcoming book?
I am always at work on the next novel! I love my private investigator, Inez Leon, and am puzzling out another adventure for her.  I also have another domestic drama in the works, fingers crossed that my publisher will like it.
 
 
10.    What books are on your book shelf?
On my bookshelf: Cristina Henriquez’s The Unknown Americans, Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State, Wendy C Ortiz’s Excavation.
 
 
For more info, log onto www.desireezamorano.com
 
 
 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: NO NEED TO ASK by Margo Candela

When it comes to making sure a room looks effortlessly perfect, Jillian Winters is the one to call. She loves her job as the set decorator for a hit TV show, she and her ex have come to mutually beneficial arrangement and her dream of launching her own decorating business is closer to becoming a reality.

And just when things couldn’t get any more perfect, everything goes in the opposite direction. Her ex proves to be just as untrustworthy as always, her boss makes it clear as to who will be taking credit for her work and unexpected expenses shrink her nest egg to hummingbird proportions.

When recently divorced Ethan Marshall gives her carte blanche as well has his credit card to turn his new and very empty loft into a home, she finds herself falling in love with it and the man she’s creating it for.



Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 4 stars



Review: As always, hilarious! I simply can’t get enough of Candela’s snarky, smart-ass humor.

Jillian is someone most of us can relate to—she’s broke, she gets sick of her job sometimes, and love couldn’t be further away for this strung-up divorcee. What’s even more interesting is that she’s also in this twisted love affair with her ex—a pompous, pig of a man. What’s even more twisted is that she claims this is something she’s just doing for “fun.”

Sparks rapidly fly as soon as she meets Ethan Marshall, and then, suddenly, it seems that she’s never been happier….until the ex shows up and (of course) ruins it all.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Q&A with Renata F. Barcelos plus Ebook Giveaway



Renata F. Barcelos lives in Brazil with her teenager daughter, Maria, constantly complaining about the heat and dreaming of moving somewhere snowy.

She has a Law Degree, but promises never to use it. She prefers to study and teach languages and to write. Facing a three-hour daily commute, Renata uses this time to listen to audiobook after audiobook, plot, and write. Sometimes she hurts herself walking and writing at the same time–forgetting to look where she’s going.

Her characters usually don’t respect her wishes, taking the stories to places she never imagined they could go; she loves it when that happens.

Renata is always working on a new novel, and so far has published the books Mean, My Sore Hush-a-By, Merge, and the Myself in Blue series. For more information, log onto http://renatafbarcelos.wordpress.com/


Welcome!


1.       What inspired you to become a writer?

Well, I’ve never felt like being anything else, my whole life. Ever since I learned how to write I had a notebook with me, and was writing some story there. It’s just an undeniable urge to tell stories, I suppose.

 

2.       How did you come up with the story of MYSELF IN BLUE?

When I first heard about the Japanese Internment Camps in the United States during WWII, I knew it was a part of history that should be more explored. Then the name Sunday Morning came up to me one day, and it all started to build up. I love history and Psychedelic Rock, and I actually was a hippie for a while and traveled a lot, so it was a pleasure to write this novel and use things I’ve learned and places I’ve seen.

 

3.       What attributes did you come up with when creating the character, Sunday Morning?

Sunday is a great character. She is a bad girl trying desperately to be good, but has seen and gone through so much that it’s not easy for her to become better. She is smart and independent, but has a lot of issues to deal with. I guess her best attribute is that she is ‘normal’, as in she’s not perfect, and wants to learn.

 

4.       Can you please describe the relationship between Sunday and Scott?

Sunday and Scott meet almost by accident, but this will change both their lives forever. Without spoiling readers, I can say that Scott is a great guy. He’s a decent, respectful human being, and he certainly has a lot to teach Sunday. But she will make him see life under new lights too, showing him a new reality he had never thought possible.

 

5.       How is your writing different than all the other books in this genre?

I put a lot of my soul in this novel, and I expect readers will see that and feel inspired by Sundays’s misadventures and her seek for redemption. Especially because she doesn’t believe she deserves it and Scott represents her only chance to find a way to mend things. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that’s the message I wanted to transmit in this novel.

I don’t know what makes my writing different, except that each writer delivers their stories in their own peculiar way, leaving a bit of them in each word, in each page. All I can say is that I work like crazy to deliver the best story I can, in the finest form I find possible.

 

6.       What is the best thing about writing?

As I said, I love telling stories. I’m not capable of telling the short version of a joke, for example; I have to add descriptions, colors, and a whole scenery before getting to the punch line. So, every time someone tells me my writing moved them, there’s no way to explain how content it makes me feel.

 

7.       What is the worst thing about writing?

Editing. Man, that’s exhausting! Going back to the same thing over and over again, trying to make it as flawless as possible. By the time you and your editor(s) finish it, you want to take a long vacation. But then, of course, another story starts forming in your mind and when you realize it, you’re trapped again!

 

8.       What is the one thing readers want to know about you?

Well, maybe the most interesting fact about me is that I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), so I can’t do just one thing. I have to keep the part of my mind that wanders occupied, so the other part, the one that wants to tell stories can write them. I always write while watching TV, listening to music (with lyrics), walking, talking, etc.

 

9.       Do you feel your book is an inspiration to Latinas? How so?

I believe it can be, given how Sunday spent 5 years in Brazil, and learned a lot about that culture. She tells some to Scott, and readers will have the opportunity to learn how things are in Brazil. People often forget Brazil is a Latin country too since we don’t speak Spanish, but we are. There’s a lot of Latin culture here.

 

10.   Do you have plans for an upcoming book?

Yes! Actually, Myself in Blue is the first in the ‘Myself in Blue’ series. I’m working in the next 5 books of the series right now. The next one, ‘Many Kinds of Unforgettable’, will be a novella, and it’s half-written already. It should be published soon.

The next books in the series are: Wake Me Up Inside; Maybe You’re The One; Must Remember, Must Let it Go and More Than I Can take.  They can all be read as standalones, but will focus in characters from the previous books, so it might be better if you read them in order.



Romance, redemption, and psychedelic rock in 1989.
Sunday Morning is nineteen and recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma. She finds it fair: a deathly cancer to pay for her sins.
The fourth of five daughters, Sunday could never overcome the jealousy she felt for her sisters, especially the youngest and her Rett Syndrome with all the attention she required. She knows her resentment and rebellion as a wayward teen brought tragedy to her family, but never learned exactly the extent. Self-exiled in Brazil living a hard life of penitence for five years, she finally feels it’s possible to come back and try to mend things.





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