Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Giveaway: THE WET WOMAN by Alejandra Díaz Mattoni

Magdalena "Magda" Amador is a killer-for-hire. Spending her teenage years in forced prostitution, befriending the pharmacist who lived next door to the brothel, and building up a steely facade made her the perfect candidate for the murder-for-money lifestyle. But now it's time to come home. Upon her return to Southern California, she attempts to fit into a family unit who doesn't understand what she's been through and suspects she's a psychopath-which may not be entirely incorrect. And they don't have much room to point fingers anyway. They're embroiled in a money laundering and people smuggling business, which is currently under attack. Magda, as recalcitrant as a mule, sets out to unmask the threat and serve her own brand of justice. She wants to protect her family, but what she needs is to make amends with her wrongdoings, face her past traumas, and finally find a place in the world where she can fit in. High stakes, cold blood, and dark humor spiral around this fierce, female assassin, whose journey takes her through Baja California, Barcelona, and suburban Los Angeles in a snarky combination of crime noir and chick lit. Magda's story is an action-packed and emotional exploration of taking responsibility for your choices and paying for those of your parents.


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Q&A with Alejandra D. Mattoni

Alejandra D. Mattoni lives and works in Los Angeles. When she’s not reading, her favorite way to relax is to put up her feet and write. You can find other stuff she has written at If you have questions about the book or anything else you think she might have an answer to, e-mail her at And, her twitter is @alediazmattoni.

Mattoni has a master’s degree in comparative literature and a master of divinity in theology. The Wet Woman is her first novel.


1.       How did you come up with the idea for the The Wet Woman and what was the development process like?
 I was driving down to Santa Barbara about two and a half years ago when I remembered something from my childhood. I’m not sure if this actually happened, or if it was a nightmare I had, but I remember that around the time I was seven I was eavesdropping on my parents and hear them discussing a friend. They were saying he wasn’t allowed to come into the house because he had lost a huge amount of money gambling and had, in order to pay his debt, handed over his stepdaughter.
 As an adult, the memory still terrified me, and in the following months I began to wonder, what happened afterwards? Was she still alive? If so, how did she get back home? How long did it take?
There was never any doubt in my mind that she survived whatever happened to her. The question was always centered on how her childhood forms her and how it affected her ability to live and love. About six months afterwards, I started writing an outline. Once the outline was done, I wrote every day for two hours before I went to work, and then would edit the book at night. In all, I revised the whole text 23 times.
2.       Was there any critical or philosophical meaning behind the term “Wet Woman” as it pertained to Magda?
Yes! I’m a big reader. (On average, I read about two or three books a week.) One of my pet peeves is that female leads are either “strong women”—women who are brainy, self-possessed, resilient, and don’t show a lot of emotional range beyond tenacity and rage—or “emotion” women (that is, women who cry and despair and lament the situation) who invariably need somebody else to rescue them. I also, not surprisingly, rarely saw adult Latino/Hispanic/Mexican-American female characters as main characters within mainstream literature.
And so, one of my goals was to write a main character who was clearly, non-negotiably Latina and who showed a full range of emotions. Because I think that resilient women, women who really do survive and thrive in our culture, do so not only because of anger and a desire to survive, but by wading through rivers of tears and carried by winds of joy. Another defining goal of mine was to embody that great Frida quote, “Intenté ahogar mis penas, pero las cabronas aprendieron a nadar.” And so, in that sense, Magda is “wet” because she’s swimming alongside that which would otherwise kill her. And yes, Magda is La Mojada because she is a transgressive person, she’s crossing borders she’s not quite authorized to. 
3.       There seems to be a great chemistry between Magda and Mike. Ever consider adding a romantic element with these two?
 Up until the 11th revision, Mike and Magda were lovers! Each time I revised, I would have a Pirandello moment. That is, my characters started talking to me, complaining about what I was making them do and why I was doing it. As I was revising, I realized that Mike (like most of the men I know in my life) wants a healthy relationship and actively seeks one. I spent a few weeks ignoring the niggling voice, but I finally realized that Mike and Magda were intimate friends, and possibly former lovers, but that he would be the one who would distance himself because, knowing her best, he would know better than to start a family with her.
4.       Magda has felt that she never fit in anywhere. Why do you suppose that is?
 I think her childhood experience—the brothel, the life abroad, and the negotiations/compromises she had to make in order to get back to California—has shaped her so that she is utterly foreign.  I believe her siblings want to bring her back into the fold, but her experience is too different from them and none of them, including Magda, have the emotional intelligence or stability to coax her back into the family fabric.
5.       Your book has a combination of crime noir and chick lit. What inspired this idea?
I struggled a lot with finding a steady, believable narrative voice that wasn’t dark or depressing. I think that one of the main traits of our culture is that we can face very dark things with laughter. We have perfected the art of black gallows humor. (Look at how festive our Day of the Dead is.) So, because of the plot and the themes, I think noir fiction was the only genre that was appropriate, but the voice demanded a chick lit element. And so, my mix of chick lit noir was born.
6.       What do you hope readers will gain from you book?
Here’s the deal. Magda is crazy, but her siblings love her and as far as they can, try to accept her for who she is. Magda herself, though she has trouble living with its effects, doesn’t deny any of her history. I’d like people to notice that. Each and every character in my book could easily be the villain in any other book. They are not good people. And yet, they are human with very universal needs. I’d like people to remember that, that even villains are human beings.
7.       What inspired you to be a writer?
I’m not sure it was inspiration, but instead a ceaseless need to communicate. I’ve written three other novels, but this was the first novel I decided to publish.
8.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
There is nothing quite as pleasurable (for me) as seeing the finished product. The worst part is the solitude. Writing is mostly a one-person journey with the occasional editor/beta reader dropping in for a writerly visit.  Because of this, I’d like to start a Latino network of writers. Something like a writer’s group where we would not only share and help each other with our writing, but also serve as a literary platform for each other. There is already groups out there, but they are not specifically Latino based. I’m looking to start one. (To that end, if you are a Latino writer, and want to participate, e-mail me!).  I think this is why writing groups and writing buddies are vital for any writer.
9.       Are you working on anything right now?
I’m writing another novel—it centers on a road trip an aunt and a niece take across California. And, I’m also starting to outline the follow up to The Wet Woman. How do the Amadors go about solidifying their empire once? There is a baby on the way—what implications does this have and what becomes of this pregnancy?
10.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
I want a Latino boom and I want to be at the forefront of it! I am joking, of course, and of course, I’m not. There are a few Latino authors who regularly enter appear on the New York Times bestseller list, and there are a few more that have been canonized into American Literature. However, there are many so many great Latino authors currently out there who are not read and much less discussed. In my dream of dreams, I would like Latino literature to enter the mainstream consciousness in the same way the Latin American book became popular and canonized worldwide.

A review of The Wet Woman is coming up next!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


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.



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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”


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