Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: IN THE DUST: THE THUNDERBIRD CHRONICLES by Amy Quick Parrish

When the bullet pierced her father’s heart and he crumpled to the floor of his convenience store, it changed Janey Santiago’s life forever. At first she wasn’t even sure if she was alive or dead as she watched a strange blue light shift from his body to hers. In his final moments he handed Janey his mask, confirming her suspicions that he was indeed the vigilante fighting the local cartels.
Janey felt a surge of energy and knew it was her time to carry on her father’s work. With the guidance of Augusto—her father’s mysterious, young right-hand man—and enigmatic parallels from her favorite comic book series, Janey must learn how to use her mysterious new abilities to fight back against the gangsters that killed her father and threaten to overtake her town.
This is the first in a series—The Thunderbird Chronicles.



Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 3 stars

Review: 17-year old Janey lives in two worlds: the world of her comics and the real world. And danger lurks in both. Living on the U.S./Mexican border can be quite frightening with all political rage and warring cartels. How can you live constantly standing by and dropping ground at the sound of firing bullets? Janey lived in fear, but she also had hope that Zarco and Zara would stop the bad guys and save the world. But this wasn’t a comic book. Or…was it? The talk on the news reports a masked vigilante resembling the hero of her comics. To Janey, the vigilante was brave and smart; to everyone else, he was an old fool bound to get himself killed. Could the vigilante really be Janey’s father, like in the comics?

The book kicked off with a compelling start. Gangs are fighting over the town. You don’t feel safe walking the streets and you don’t know who to trust. But it would seem that there is some nefarious force of goodness out there. Janey’s father is like Batman. How cool is that! Soon, Janey realizes that she has become a Walker of Two Worlds. What?! Suddenly, she is bestowed by a mystical force of power, knowledge, love, and confidence. Now she must finish what her father started.

A quick read from start to finish, story has a combination of mystery, fantasy and adventure. It jostles a hope that the masked avenger is real and safely at your side. Janey possesses a quiet strength and a fierce determination. She’s courageous, smart, and a quick-study. 

My only quibble was that Janey was not an active fighter. I guess I was expecting more Buffy, vampire slayer, rather than Sitting Red Bull, dream weaver. I guess that was to be expected since this is the first in the series, which introduces Janey as she discovers these powers that she doesn’t understand. The first book basically explains the origin of the story, which is mostly passive, and I hear Janey becomes more active and settles more into her powers as the series continues.

Dreams seem to play an important role in the book. My excitement kind of wore off with the lack of fight scenes. I mean, I was expecting a final showdown with the gangsters. Additionally, there was some confusion between all the realm-hopping. One minute, Janey was in the cemetery looking at her dad's tombstone, and, the next, she's with Augusto in the mountains. Weird. 

It started off fast-paced with an interesting premise, but then it slowed down dramatically midway. 


Overall, I felt the story was much more subdued than I originally thought and it could’ve definitely been more exciting. But it was an okay read and suitable kick-off to the series. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Q&A with Amy Quick Parrish


Amy Quick Parrish is the author of Into Dust: The Thunderbird Chronicles, the first in a new young adult series. The story is based on a web series she wrote and directed while teaching high school Spanish in Texas. A graduate of the University of Michigan, her writing has been published in The Atlantic and her films have screened in festivals around the world. She won the Spirit of Moondance Award at the Moondance International Film Festival for her feature screenplay, The Court of Lions, and an Indie Award of Merit for her short film, Hokey Smokes! Frank Allison and the Odd Sox. She now lives in New England with her husband, teenage son and two cats. 



1.       What inspired you to write Into Dust: The Thunderbird Chronicles?
I received a CD for my birthday (back when people received CDs.) There was a song called “Pistolero” by Juno Reactor. The song didn’t have any words, but it gave me a vivid image of a girl flying over the desert. I listened to it over and over and couldn’t get that image out of my head. I had been dealing with grief — both of my grandparents had died recently — and had just spent a lot of time in Arizona and New Mexico. Once I moved to Texas and we traveled to Marfa and saw the Marfa lights, the whole thing started coming together. I first wrote it as a screenplay and it made it to the second round of consideration at the Sundance Screenwriting Labs. When it ultimately didn’t win, some friends encouraged me to shoot a few scenes. One thing led to another, and soon I had created a three-part web series, which premiered on a local Austin TV channel and was later invited to screen at the LA Skins Fest, a premiere Native American Film Festival in Los Angeles. I wrote it as a feature screenplay, a web series and a TV pilot but never was quite satisfied with the story, so I took the elements I liked of all of those and then wove them together into a YA book series.



2.       Did you relate to the main character, Janey, in any way? If so, what?
I relate to Janey in nearly every way. We’re both shy comic book geeks, my dad also died – although he died when I was very young and he had cancer. We both speak Spanish and when I wrote it, I was living in Texas. And just before I wrote it, I had two close relatives die, so I was thinking a lot about grief and loss. We also both have turquoise and silver Thunderbird necklaces, but so far mine hasn’t glowed blue or anything…



3.       What was the logic behind being a Walker of Two Worlds?
The original idea was that Janey was walking between two worlds — between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and that was what gave her the abilities she has. That, of course, ties in to the idea that she is constantly balancing two cultures: as a Mexican-American and as a Mexican (although later in the story it comes out that Janey and her family are ex-pat Mexican-Americans living in Mexico so that her dad can do his vigilante work.) In addition, she has her real life and her undercover life. So it can mean a lot of things, depending on how you want to interpret it. But originally it was about the inner world where the magic exists vs. the “real” world where it doesn’t. There’s also a tie-in with the comic books Janey obsessively reads and her reality — what’s the line between reality and imagination and why do the comic books she loves to read parallel her life so much? (Find out in book two!) ☺



4.       What role did Augusto play in Janey’s life?
Augusto plays a huge role in Janey’s life. Probably more than he should, I’ll admit. Janey probably should be a more independent character, but she does depend on him because he understands the abilities she’s learning she has. He worked with her father and her father made him promise to look after her and train her. So in a way, he’s a bit of a mentor figure, but also a love-interest.



5.       How did Janey evolve throughout the story? Did she become a hero, like in her comics?
This first book in the series is really an origin story — Janey gains her abilities and learns about them. She does some heroic things, but not in the grand traditional sense that Superman or Spiderman might. But throughout the course of the series, she learns to wield her power and makes some bold moves. She’s still a teenager, so she’s still learning, but she’s able to act more heroically. But the story will always be more of an introspective love story than a true Marvel or DC–type story. It’s about character.




6.       What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
I didn’t intend to explore any, but I guess I did. There is a difference between Leticia’s family and her friends and Janey’s family and friends. I sort of hate those teen TV shows where everyone’s rich and living in this gorgeous luxury homes. It’s not reality for most people. Janey’s father does vigilante work and owns a convenience store. They’re not poor, but they’re definitely not wealthy. I am heavily influenced by John Hughes, and I guess Leticia and her friends represent the “richies” that Hughes uses for conflict in movies like Pretty in Pink and others. I think it’s important to portray people as real, ordinary, authentic people and I probably created some flat people in creating the snotty girls with the fancy clothes, but there ultimately is a good reason Leticia doesn’t like Janey, and it comes out later. When I added in Leticia, I had recently moved to a very wealthy area. As a teacher/writer who grew up qualifying for free lunch at school, I found myself incredibly irritated with these girls who flaunted their Vineyard Vines and Burberry in front of students (and teachers) who couldn’t afford those kinds of things. I guess I felt that Janey should be a “regular” girl, whatever that means, so I tried to make her someone audiences could identify with. I know TV often takes the theory that teens (or any audience) want to see the fancy clothes and houses that they don’t have, but it just seemed better to me to make her more ordinary/middle class. I grew up in a small town with a low SES. Small town, low SES families are just as underrepresented as Latinos in books and TV.


7.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope that Latino readers will have a Latino superhero — a girl they can look up to and identify with. I hope non-Latino readers can gain a little insight into the Latino world. As a Spanish teacher, I’m amazed by friends and students who have no understanding of Chicano history (not that there’s any in this book) or think of people they refer to as “Mexicans” as recent immigrants, not understanding that some Mexican-Americans’ ancestors have lived in what is now the United States for over three hundred years – again, it’s not in the book but I’m hoping to have the kind of effect Will and Grace had on perceptions of gays, the effect of The Huxtable family on perceptions on black families. This is Janey Santiago. She’s a regular girl from a border town and she’s got some cool abilities.

Most of all, I want girls to have someone to look up to or relate to. I grew up with Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, we had positive role models like Nancy Drew, Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Mighty Isis, Jayna of the Wonder Twins, and later Salt–n-Peppa and the Go-Go’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars. For a while, I couldn’t find (hardly) any positive role models for girls, but now I love CW’s Supergirl and Jane the Virgin, Marvel’s Ms. Marvel, and Brian K. Vaughn’s Paper Girls and Eleven from Stranger Things. I hope people will keep creating cool female characters that girls can hang out with and have as role models.



8.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
I love writing! I love creating a new world and hanging out with my characters and getting to know them. I love the escapism.



9.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
I grew up loving YA authors like Judy Blume, Lois Duncan and S.E. Hinton. In college some of my favorites were Sandra Cisneros, Pam Houston, Charles Baxter, and Tim O’Brien. As a screenwriter, I love Quentin Tarantino, Shane Black, Terry Rossio and comic book writers like Brian K. Vaughan. I’m also a big Harry Potter/JK Rowling fan. I wish I had a long list of sci fi writers – I’m heavily influenced by people who are heavily influenced by Philip K. Dick and those sorts of writers: Richard Linklater, Charlie Kaufman, JJ Abrams. I also love Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom, who create some really vivid, real characters in the TV show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.



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.)
Well, in the web series I shot, an actress named Erin Taylor played Janey. I hesitate to imagine another actress in the role unless it was a situation where a TV executive was standing over me, making me decide and they had a list of A-listers to choose from. (You can see Erin as Janey in the trailer on my website, amyquickparrish.com)


11.   Are you working on anything right now?
I am putting the finishing touches on book two in the series and working on the third.


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

I think the future of Latino literature is bright. As a Spanish teacher, I’m well aware that Latinos are the fastest growing population in the U.S. So whereas writers like Rudolfo Anaya, Luis Valdez or Sandra Cisneros were pioneers of Chicano/a literature – maybe partially because it took a long time for publishers to understand that there’s a difference between Spanish literature in Spanish from Spain or Latin America and the experiences of people in the U.S. Now, there’s less expectation that in order to appeal to a Latino market, it needs to be 100% in Spanish, and conversely, that things don’t have to be 100% in English, either. It’s now more acceptable for characters to speak Spanglish – because people do. And it’s now more accepted to have characters who happen to be Latino but live in the US, or who happen to be Latino but aren’t doing anything specifically Latino. Anyone can be a superhero – why not Janey Santiago? I think with movies like Spy Kids in the 90s paving the way, now they have movies like Legends of the Hidden Temple on Nickelodeon that happen to have Latino characters… Jane the Virgin is on the CW, where the abuela speaks Spanish and Jane answers back in English. El Rey Network has shows like From Dusk Til Dawn where many characters are Latino and occasionally speak Spanish, although the show is in English and the network targets English speakers. So I think there’s a bright future and hopefully there will be more Latino authors writing books and getting staffed on TV shows so that their experiences can be reflected in media. I see a lot of creativity coming from my students, so I think their generation will step up and be the change they want to see in the world. 


For more info on Amy, visit www.amyquickparrishwriter.com


Up next: A review of Into the Dust: The Thunderbird Chronicles

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.