Friday, October 13, 2017

Q&A with Chad Vega

Chad Vega is the author of Sex, Drugs, and Corruption: Welcome to Peru.

This is the adrenaline filled story of two carpenters from California who end up taking on the Peruvian government. Faced with losing their property in the jungle to corrupt officials, they start growing medical marijuana to make ends meet. This keeps them in the fight, but it puts their lives at risk. As the court case progresses, they accidentally uncover an unprecedented amount of corruption. Join them on this dangerous journey as they frantically search for justice…  

  1. What inspired you to write Sex, Drugs, and Corruption: Welcome to Peru?
I was inspired to write this book after being in Peru for ten years. Living in the jungle and going through court cases gives you a unique glimpse into a different side of Peru. It’s completely different from what most people see, so I wanted to highlight it.
  1. What was the development process like?
After my son went to school I would make coca tea, sit in front of a laptop and let it flow naturally.
  1. What was the ultimate goal of the two carpenters?
Faced with a grim reality in America, they wanted to make their dreams come true in the Amazon jungle. They tried to escape poverty in California and create their own oasis in Peru. Max found the ideal place in the jungle and managed to purchase the land at the perfect time. Unfortunately, just because a place is beautiful doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. They accidentally stumbled upon a hotbed of corruption, but they had no choice but to keep fighting.
  1. What did they gain in the end?
On top of life experience, they learned the importance of family. Being thrown into stressful situations has a way of making people unite. Max got closer to his family, and the main character ended up finding his.
  1. What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
I touch on a lot of issues that many Peruvians face every day. The main focus is on corruption, since it affects everyone. Peru is an extremely resource rich country that has everything going for it, but it’s so poorly run that it barely works. This blatant abuse of the people was built into the system by the Spaniards, but there’s still hope.
Now that everyone has a smartphone, things are coming out that used to be routinely stifled. The ex-president and his wife were recently thrown in jail, and three other presidents including our current one is under investigation. For too long politicians have been selling out Peru’s resources with impunity, but now they are starting to go to jail.
If the biggest offenders can start being held accountable, Peru has the potential to break free from this vicious cycle. This is why I wrote the book, since it’s based on things I saw happen to other people. With education comes the possibility of social change, & I would love to see that happen in Peru.
  1. What inspired you to be a writer?
I always enjoyed writing as a teenager, but I didn’t make time for it unless someone paid me. For years I wrote articles for clients, but I didn’t write for myself until my friend published a book. This showed me that it was possible, so I decided to start writing recreationally.
  1. What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
Being able to express myself is amazing, but spending hours sitting down isn’t.
  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?
I always loved Michael Crichton & David Sedaris, but Hunter S. Thompson became my favorite author as a teen.
  1. 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 could see Benicio del Toro playing Max, and Matthew McConaughey playing the main character.
  1. Are you working on anything right now?
Yes, I just finished writing the sequel to this book. It should be completely edited by the end of October! At the same time, I am also translating this book into Spanish. It’s pretty tedious, since I learned to speak Spanish by ear. But it’s an interesting experience, so I will happily do it so everyone in South America can read my book.
  1. And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
I think it will continue to grow. Nowadays many of the main barriers for authors have been removed. You don’t have to rely on a big publishing company hiring you to make it. Self-publishing has been streamlined, so it will open doors to people who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten noticed. This platform is open to everyone, and the time is right for Latino authors. Millions of people around the world speak Spanish, so Latinos in any country can participate and reach a large audience.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Alexandria Moreno--clever, sexy, ambitious and, at times, self-destructive. She blazes a path from Texas to Los Angeles at the dawn of the 1980s to make her dreams of becoming an A-list Hollywood film director come true. She and her best friend arrive in Los Angeles with little more than hope and the determination to make it big. Alex, a beauty as dark and mysterious as her scarred heart, stands at the bottom of the Hollywood mountain looking up, fighting for her chance to climb to the top. Will her quest to live fast and take no prisoners on her way to success destroy her in the end?

All That Glitters is a women's fiction Jackie Collins-type saga that introduces a strong, driven Latina heroine at the center of a rags-to-riches story spanning a decade of action. Along the way, Alexandria walks the fine line separating ambition and self-destruction, and discovers that some sacrifices will cost her everything.

Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 3.5 stars

Review: Alexandria Moreno is a renowned Hollywood starlet with everything a girl could ever dream of—fame, money, and a hot stud. Unfortunately, behind all that glitter lies a patch of dark shame and sadness. Suddenly, the charade of the glitz and glamour becomes too overwhelming for Alex as she begins to ponder what keeps her going and how she came to this meaningless lifestyle.

Then the story rewinds to when it all began when Alex and her friend, Elly, journeyed the road from Texas to Los Angeles to make something of themselves. Together, the girls contend with crummy motels, dead-end wages, and leery men while mesmerizing over glowing beach sunsets grazing over Pacific waters. Story is a compilation of parties, sex, drugs, and shady business—it’s Hollywood, after all!

As the girls get caught up in the hype of beauty, fame, and money, they soon realize that the life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At times, the story takes on a humdrum quality as repetitive aspects and various characters come into play, which causes a lag in the flow.

Well-written and captivating, this story takes the reader on an enrapturing ride through the ritzy glamour and sordid underbelly of Hollywood.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Q&A with Liza Treviño

Liza Treviño hails from Texas, spending many of her formative years on the I-35 corridor of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. In pursuit of adventure and a Ph.D., Liza moved to Los Angeles where she compiled a collection of short-term, low-level Hollywood jobs like script girl, producer assistant and production assistant. Her time as a Hollywood Jane-of-all-trades gave her an insider's view to a world most only see from the outside, providing the inspiration for creating a new breed of Latina heroine.

    1.       What inspired you to write All that Glitters?

I’ve always been a reader and a writer since I was a kid. I loved – LOVE – all kinds of genres: horror, suspense, romance, but Jackie Collins, in particular, always held a special place in my heart. I adore her work and all Hollywood fiction.  I gobbled it up when I was a teenager.  Eventually, I was re-reading one of my favorites of hers while I was in grad school in Los Angeles, and it hit me.  Where is a Latina Lucky Santangelo? I wanted to read about a badass character like Lucky Santangelo, but I wanted her to be Latina. And that’s how it started for me. I began thinking about the popular stories I liked to read and decided I was going to create those kinds of stories but put a Latina at the center of the action.  That’s definitely something I wanted to read. I couldn’t find it, so I started writing


2.       What were Alex and Elly’s ultimate goal in their journey?

Alex and Elly, strangely enough, are on similar journeys. There are three key relationships in the book, and each of the relationship highlights different but complimentary themes that overlap. Themes that include the redemptive nature of loyalty and friendship, the destructive power of giving into your worst impulses, facing your demons, learning to love yourself, self-acceptance and trust. Both Alex and Elly come up against these questions and they each have to figure out these answers for themselves.


3.       How did the main characters evolve in the story and what did they find in the end?

Over a span of the ten to twelve years, we follow Alex and Elly as they each grapple with heartbreak, love, envy and ambition.  In the end, each woman learns their true nature only by going through similar di the nature of the way they each deal with difficult situations.

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

The main socio-economic issues tackled in this book are sexism, gender inequality and the masked yet innate racism/prejudice all ethnic others face.  My story is about this Latina, Alex Moreno, who decides to set her sights on filmmaking as her life’s work. This is what she wants more than anything else in the world.  She is an outsider and she wants to break in and take a seat at a table in one of the toughest businesses there is. Given that Hollywood is a notorious guy’s club, this book had to take a very particular look at gender and sexism through the lens of this most glamorous business.  And, while Alex doesn’t experience overt racism, prejudicial slurs toward her surface when others are threatened by Alex and her success.  By tackling these issues this way, I hoped to bring to light prevalent inequalities that existed and continue to exist at every level. I get no pleasure considering how relevant these issues are today, when the book’s setting is nearly three decades old.


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

I hope readers enjoy the book, first and foremost.  Also, I’d love for them to feel like they gained a new Latina hero; someone who is both recognizable and larger than life.


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

Best: Finishing a story and knowing the ending feels right. It literally feels like a weight has lifted and the story is out of me and into the world. And the satisfaction that I did it.

Worst: Just before starting a new story or project. I get racked with insecurity that I’ve forgotten how to write.


7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
     Jackie Collins and Joan Didion are my absolute favorites. I'm also a big fan of Carlos Fuentes, Carrie Fisher, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King.

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.) 
This used to be a very difficult question. While writing, there were different actresses I could see aspects of Alexandria Moreno, but none were quite her. Recently, I saw the Latina actress Adria Arnoja in NBC’s Emerald City. She definitely is the best fit for Alex Moreno. No doubt about it.


9.       Are you working on anything right now?
     Yes! All That Glitters is a 3-part series, and I’m working on the second installment. I just finished a Christmas-time romantic comedy set in San Antonio, and I’m developing a true crime, detective story also set in San Antonio, Texas.


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

My sincere hope is that Latinas are recognized for the avid readers they are! I think the “Diverse Books movement” is going to result in the providing Latino stories across an array of genres. While the immigrant narrative will always be a part of Latino literature, the future will move beyond the immigrant narrative and expand and spread out among all the popular genres. We all enjoy these pop genres, but what’s missing is the Latino representation. And making Latinos the protagonist, the center of the action is long overdue. That future is here.

 Find out more at
Coming up: A review of All that Glitters


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: ANGIE by R.A. Rios

This is a story of young love and personal prejudices during the 1950's and 1960's. This is an interactive book giving the reader a whole new perspective when reading short stories.
When Angie the daughter of a Latin family meets Frank a young man from China sparks begin to fly as family conflict forces Angie to lie and go behind her parents back in order to cultivate their romance. As you join us on this real life experience you will find yourself rooting for Angie and Frank.

Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 2 stars

Review: Upon first impression, I assumed that this book was a story about Angie. But when I started reading the first chapter titled “Are You Alone,” which was written in the 1st Person POV, I started to question it because the voice sounded male. So I was instantly confused.

As I read on, I found out that the guy’s name was Robert, a freshman in college that meets a girl named Angie during Spring Break. Then Angie begins to tell a story about a Chinese man and his love for a Latin girl. From then on, the whole thing turns into a monologue, taking the reader to 1950’s Colorado and the musical reign of Rock n’ Roll.

Reading through it, I often wondered what the whole point of this story was. I didn’t really get it. And the typos didn’t really help any, even though I usually try to overlook them as long as it doesn’t deter from the story. But this story didn’t really hold any interest. It almost felt like reading a series of run-ons, with no periods and no pause for breath. It just didn’t suit me.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: PACIFIC REAPER by Carmen Amato

Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz confronts a death-worshipping cult in PACIFIC REAPER, the fifth novel in the series that takes you inside Mexico's drug wars with a fearless style and an unforgettable woman.

Imagine if you were the first and only female police detective in Acapulco, investigating crime in a city both deadly and breathtaking. Mexican drug cartels battle for control and politicians are bought with blood money.

Gang warfare rages across Acapulco.

Murder victims are sacrificed to Santa Muerte, Mexico’s forbidden saint of death.

Will you investigate? Or be cursed?

In the remote Coyuca Lagoon reserve, Detective Emilia Cruz Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio find an elaborate altar to Santa Muerte next to the body of a known gang member. Prayers to the so-called Skeleton Saint curse the deity’s enemies.

Another murder victim is hung from a billboard. Soon it’s clear that a new gang has moved into Acapulco looking to grab a share of the lucrative meth trade.

Focusing on the Santa Muerte angle, Emilia’s investigation is soon a maze of unholy clues. At the same time, everyone close to her has a brush with death. Bad luck? Or is the Skeleton Saint’s curse coming true?

The closer Emilia gets to the truth, the worse things get. When she goes undercover as a Santa Muerte worshipper on the eve of the Day of the Dead, her life will be stripped of everything she holds dear.

Her family.

Her lover.

Her job.


Reviewed by: Celia
Rating:  3 stars

Review: For Detective Emilia Cruz, sometimes the danger can be too much.

I enjoyed the Latina flair against the backdrop of a luscious beach resort masquerading as a Mexican battleground for crime and drug lords. The story line sounded interesting and the mystery could certainly send a thrill to crime-loving aficionados, however, I wasn't that enticed. Let's put aside that I'm not a big crime buff. I just thought the plot was too complex. I was almost lost at times.

Although well-written, the story felt besieged by a variety of characters, even though they carried great dialogue. It felt crowded and overwhelming.

I applaud that there is another book dedicated to a strong Latina character, but I just felt lukewarm about the story.



Friday, September 8, 2017

Q&A with Carmen Amato

Carmen Amato the author of romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. She's the first female police detective in Acapulco and the series has been optioned for television by a major US network.

Carmen loves to travel and Mexico and Central America provided the impetus for her writing career. Her books live at the tangled intersection of risk, power, and corruption.

Every month, she shares the Mystery Ahead newsletter with thousands of mystery readers and writers. Together they explore what makes for a compelling mystery with writing protips, author and publishing insider interviews, books reviews, and Q&A from the Mystery Ahead mailbag.

Visit her website at to get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library and subscribe to Mystery Ahead.

1.  What inspired you to write Pacific Reaper?

Thank you for hosting me! Pacific Reaper is the fifth book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series set in Acapulco. She’s the first female police detective in Acapulco, which over the last 10 years has gone from tourist mecca to one of the most violent cities in the world, thanks to drug violence. The first four books in the series established Emilia as a fighter but also as a woman trying to have a love life and a successful career amid the machismo, drug smuggling and official corruption. But in Pacific Reaper, her carefully built life comes unglued.


2.  What kind of research did you do, if any?

Early in the book, Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio discover an altar to Santa Muerte, the folklore saint of death, next to a murder victim. Soon they believe a gang is invoking Santa Muerte to intimidate a rival. I first became interested in developing a Santa Muerte story line after finding a booklet of scary prayers to Santa Muerte at an outdoor book fair in Mexico City, but really had my eyes opened by Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut in his book, Devoted to Death. The colors of Santa Muerte artifacts, the type of item left on altars, and the intersection of Santa Muerte beliefs and law enforcement all provided important details that appear in Pacific Reaper.


3.  Did you relate to the main character, Emilia Cruz, in any way? If so, what?

I get asked this question a lot. Emilia and I are both Catholic and were raised by single moms. We both know how to take action and get things done. That being said, I’m more polite than Emilia and have more shoes. She’s much quicker on the draw and lets her mouth get out of control. Also, I’m into yoga and she’s a kickboxer. That, more than anything, illustrates the difference between us!


4.  What was Emilia’s connection to Las Perdidas and what was her purpose with it?

One of Emilia’s friends disappears in Made in Acapulco, the prequel collection of short stories, and she began to collect information about women who have gone missing in the Acapulco area. She calls the missing women Las Perdidas—the Lost Ones—and has a binder of names. Most of the cases are cold and Emilia is the only one still looking. Thousands of people have gone missing in Mexico due to drug violence in the last 10 years, plus I drew on reports of the decades-old mystery of missing women in the Juarez area and desparacida notices in Latin American newspapers to build this part of Emilia’s world.


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

The Detective Emilia Cruz series is grounded in contemporary Mexico. It was important to me to make the series as authentic as possible—this isn’t Baywatch with Emilia running around in a bikini. Starting with Cliff Diver, the series pits Emilia against gender inequality, income equality, human trafficking, and official corruption. The setting of Acapulco forces Emilia to live with one foot in the deluxe tourist locations that ring the bay and the other in the impoverished and violent barrios far from the water’s edge. Pacific Reaper stayed true to Emilia’s world, but added the complexity of dark religious beliefs.


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

First, I hope readers are entertained and want to read more Emilia Cruz! The books are mainstream police procedural fiction. Mystery lovers are my main audience. I hope they get a better understanding of the issues that Mexico faces right now and see Emilia as hope for the future.


7. What inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve always loved the art of arranging words on a page and finding new ones in a thesaurus. I got my start as a novelist, however, writing an aviation adventure series for my son when he was in third grade. He adored airplanes and while there were plenty of non-fiction books, we couldn’t find an age-appropriate action story. I wrote two novels in which a young teen always winds up in the cockpit of historic aircraft, The Secret Blackbird and The Pacific Ghost, but never published either.


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

I love the editing process but hate typing in a first draft. I’m always so impatient for what’s in my head to get on the page! I also love that my dog sleeps on a fur blanket next to my desk whenever I sit down to work. I’m never alone; he’s like Velcro.


9.  Who are some of your favorite authors?

When it comes to mystery, I love books by Robert. B. Parker, Jo Nesbo, Louise Penny, Susan Spann, Tana French, and Ann Cleeves. For dialogue and humor, no one does it better than P.G. Wodehouse and I’ve learned much about pacing and flair from his Jeeves series. When it comes to craftsmanship, I’m in awe of Carlos Fuentes. The Eagle’s Throne was a tour de force.


10.  If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character?

Believe me, I have thought of this! Last year I signed an option contract with a major US studio for a television series based on the Detective Emilia Cruz series. I don’t know if a series will ever become reality, but I think Gina Rodriguez would be terrific as Emilia Cruz, with Salma Hayek as Carlota Montoya Perez, the self-absorbed mayor of Acapulco; and Benjamin Bratt as Victor Obregon, the crooked head of the police union. I’m not sure who should play Franco Silvio, Emilia’s cranky partner in Pacific Reaper, or Kurt Rucker, her hotel manager boyfriend. I’m open for suggestions!


11.  Are you working on anything right now?

I’m working on 43 Missing, Detective Emilia Cruz #6, which was sadly inspired by the true disappearance of 43 students from the town of Iguala, not far from Acapulco, in September 2014. Emilia will find out what happened to them in a powerful conclusion, but of course it will be fiction. In reality, it’s been three years and I’m not sure anyone will ever know the truth. 43 Missing is slated for release in early November.


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

A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts for and have been happy to see the steady growth in Latino books for children. But when you get to adult reading material, I think Latino literature is mostly associated with literary fiction. There are wonderful books by Latino authors in this category, but the reality is that the most popular fiction genres for readers worldwide are romance and mystery. Latino literature needs to expand more aggressively into these categories.

I appeared on NPR’s Alt.Latino show with Felix Contreras last year and we discussed the Detective Emilia Cruz series and other Latino mystery series. Compared to Nordic noir, there isn’t much. Colorado-based Manuel Ramos has been tremendously successful. Leighton Gage’s Inspector Silva series set in Brazil was a role model for me when I was told books with all Mexican characters would never sell. But there is room for much more.

Thank you so much! Readers are invited to get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library at

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Q&A with Phyllis H. Moore

Phyllis H. Moore is the author of the Sabine Trilogy, Sabine, Book One, Josephine's Journal's Book Two, and Secrets of Dunn House, Book Three. She also has written Tangled, A Yarn and Opal's Story, A Novel. All of these novels are written in the Southern Gothic style. Phyllis calls them Texas Gothic. They are set in her home state, Texas.

She is fond of reading authors like Fannie Flagg, Rebecca Wells and Kathryn Stockett, stories of dysfunctional families with a touch of humor. She is also fond of the non-fiction of Rick Bragg and Jeanette Walls.

Phyllis is a self-published author, retired social worker, avid gardener and loves to travel. She lives on a small ranch in South Texas with her husband and their adopted terrier, Ollie Bubba. She has operated a haunted bed and breakfast and has stories to tell.

1.       What inspired you to write The Bright Shawl?
 I lived in San Antonio and a couple of smaller towns around San Antonio many years ago. I love the culture and atmosphere there. I spent most of my childhood near Corpus Christi and in the Rio Grande Valley and most of my recent years have been in Galveston. The setting is what inspired me initially. I worked as a social worker when I lived near San Antonio and I met so many young girls who ran away from home and got themselves involved with people who took advantage of them. I didn’t want to romanticize the runaway, but I fantasized about what would happen if a strong female character was being led by her own goals and dreams. I believe in Karma and positive attraction, and I wanted Bella’s positive attitude to draw support to her. I also wanted her to be able to be inspired by the spirit of her mother. I believe that our guardian spirits are always trying to get our attention and we don’t always recognize it. That’s why I called them tender whispers. They are subtle hints to follow our dreams. The bright shawl is a symbol of Bella’s mother and all the possibilities are woven into the colors. It is her spirit wrapping around Bella as a reminder of what she can be and do, a cocoon, a shelter, and a vision.

2.       How did you manage to weave the individual story lines of the characters into one?
Sometimes the characters tell me what to do. I know their strengths and weaknesses and I place them in a situation. I’m often surprised by what they choose to do. For example, initially, I thought Manny, Bella’s younger brother would flounder and get involved with drugs, or a gang following her departure. However, he surprised me, as young men often do. His tough, don’t care attitude was all show, and his desire for his family overrode his need to conform to his father’s lifestyle. I wanted him to survive and there were times when I didn’t think he would. I was also surprised by his love of animals and his desire to have a dog.

I didn’t know Lenny was going to show up and when he did I had to give him a reason to be at the shop. It was only natural that he would be able to make beautiful sea shell jewelry. I know so many people like him. They come to the surface when I’m writing and ask to be in the story. Slade and Gina were inspired by siblings I knew when I was a social worker. Their parents were extremely religious and adopted a bi-racial child, then when the child became a teenager, the first time there was a marijuana incident, they disowned the child. That’s where I got their attitudes and Slade and Gina’s disgust with their decisions. It’s almost two or three stories that I take bits and pieces of, but I often think I could go back to the parents of Gina and Slade and write a novel about that situation.

My other novels are similar, I’ve noticed. I often have two characters with different stories going on in alternate chapters, and in the end they have a common bond and come to a resolution.

  1. What is the significance behind the "colors, scents, and textures" of the shawl?
I suppose I am constantly aware of all my senses. I do needle work and always loved embroidery, crochet and weaving. The texture of fabrics excites me. I can’t keep my hands off. I’m a child of the ‘60’s. The original hippies are the current Boho look. I love it, especially the clothing and jewelry. I must have been a gypsy in another life. I always have about three dresses from the El Mercado in San Antonio in my closet. It’s like comfort food for me. They remind me of my childhood. I knew that is what Bella and Rosa would remember from their childhood, the simple pleasures in their backyard, the colors of the flowers, the smells of the food and garden, the feel and warmth of the worn shawl. That shawl would have been something their mother would use daily, especially in the evening when everything settled down and they relaxed. It was the constant that reassured the children that everything was okay. When it was hidden in a drawer, it was as if that comfort was not available. Their mother wasn’t even allowed to choose the décor for the house to make it comfortable.

  1. What roles did Bella and Slade play for each other?
Bella was Slade’s reminder that he had set his dreams aside. She was the catalyst for him to realize he was stuck in grief. Bella was the breath of fresh air and adventure that pushed him off dead center and enabled him to dream again. Slade was Bella’s model for maturity and business sense. He was her example of the possibilities that were open if you follow your passion. However, neither of them would have known each other if it wasn’t for Gina, the distracted psychic. She knew two people who she loved, saw their dilemmas and matched them perfectly.

  1. Could you please explain "the whispers" of Mirabella and Petra?
For me, in this story, the words whispers and sprit are interchangeable. The spirits of Mirabella and Petra are the guardian angels of the girls. Their essence is constantly around them and for Mirabella it was the same for Manny. Her spiritual energy whispered around them. There may have been no words, but there were memories, scents, visions, values, and symbols reminding the children of their true family. It never leaves a person, but not everyone pays attention to the spiritual influence around them. When they do, anything is possible.

  1. Could you please describe young Manny's journey in this story?
I ended up loving Manny and wanting to take care of him, but he did just fine for himself. He became resourceful, independent and strong in character. His mother’s influence won out and he made all the right choices. He could have made all the wrong choices, but he allowed his tender heart to prevail. He grew to recognize the weaknesses of his father. I want to say that I also have a soft spot for the father, Manuel. I’m certain that Manny also saw Manuel’s frailties and that is probably why he thought he could help him by staying close to him. Everyone has a past. We all make choices as to how we react. The reaction is what determines character. Manny evolved to be a person with character and I believe his sisters and his mother were the main influences. He could feel the difference in the home and see the neglect of space and character his father allowed.

7.       What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
Bella, Rosa, and Mirabella came to recognize their simple lives in the Valley were preferable to the fancy house they occupied in San Antonio. Their closeness to Petra and her husband, the small, friendly atmosphere of their house and the simple things they enjoyed gave them comfort they could not find in the mansion with Manuel. In that large, fancy house there was deceit, secrets and maybe even murder. Character and strength have nothing to do with money and everything to do with decisions and values.

Manuel had an extremely neglectful childhood. He took responsibility at a young age for his brother on the streets on Monterrey. He was street wise and for him, the symbol of family was the house and material things, but he always looked at those things from the streets. He had a hole where the heart of the family should have been. He couldn’t fill the hole up no matter how he tried. I know so many unhappy people who live this way, judging things by how much they cost and not the spirit and comfort afforded. It’s no wonder Manuel grew to adulthood without developing some values and character, however he also toughened himself so he wouldn’t be hurt and that alienated him from the people who could have helped him. Things were more important than people. In a culture that stresses family, Manuel was not the norm, and he probably felt that difference also. I just think that’s an interesting thing about our society, and still we judge success by a person’s house, car and clothing. We continue to miss the point.

I wanted the natural beauty of Bella and Lenny’s jewelry and Slade’s clothing to be the material thing that could show there could be a luxury of richness and an abundance in natural substance, seashells, color, texture, and scent. Those things are not used up. They exist always. Those things speak to the natural abundance we all have access to. However, in quest to get the bright and shiny, we sometimes overlook the things around us that are even more appealing.

The family that Bella finally accumulated was multi-racial, of different sexual identities and various economic backgrounds, and this includes Lenny. I dream of the day this diversity will define who we are as people, not the “them versus us” mentality we struggle with sometimes today. No walls, you know what I mean?

8.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope readers can identify the simple pleasures of their childhoods and seek ways to reincorporate those things into their lives. It was would be wonderful if they could recognize big houses don’t make comfort and joy. It’s the simple things, and keeping true to values that make people happy. Embracing diversity of all people and recognizing their strengths is one of my goals, no matter their physical/mental abilities, background, race, religion or status.

9.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
I love the chance to be creative and jump out of bed in my pajamas and write. I like the challenge of getting to know the characters and I love it when they start telling me what they’re going to do. It’s like meeting someone new and discovering new things about them every time I talk with them. For me writing is a new experience, so I like being a beginner. It’s a challenge and I think everyone should push themselves to be a beginner at something. It keeps me fresh and alert. I also make many mistakes. That’s part of being a beginner and somehow, I find it refreshing. That’s a little weird when I say it, but it’s true.

Being a beginner makes me vulnerable. I ask myself daily will anyone want to read what I write. Is it any good? Will people think it’s silly or a waste of my time? This bothered me the most when I first started writing. However, when I got the first acceptance email that a journal wanted to publish what I had submitted and one of my short stories was accepted for an anthology and I actually got a little check in the mail, I decided someone would want to read something I wrote. I read my reviews and I love to hear the good ones, but the negative ones make me feel a little unworthy. I try to take any nuggets of wisdom and improve. If the review seems to be negative just for the sake of such a thing, I try to put it out of my mind. That’s not easy to do. We all want everyone to like us. However, I know that’s not possible. I think creative souls are especially vulnerable to that desire to please.

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
      think Demi Levato would make a great Bella. She’s a little quirky and I think she’s beautiful. A younger Eva Longoria could be Bella’s older sister, Rosa. I would love to see Lenny Kravitz as Lenny

11.   Are you working on anything right now?
I just published the story of my mother-in-law’s childhood, And the Day Came. It is the true story of a girl orphaned by age 12 and separated from her five brothers and sent to boarding school in San Antonio. She knew there was a secret being kept about her father, but she didn’t discover what it was until she was in her seventies. Despite her difficult childhood, she became a strong, independent woman and mother to nine children. She was the mayor of the small town where I grew up and went to school.

I have also started a book entitled, The Ember Months. I hope to have it ready for publication in October. It’s about a woman I met when I was a social worker who had three females in her care who all had Huntington’s Chorea. She was one of the most creative, loving people I have ever met, but the community she lived in had no empathy or understanding and offered little support for her. Her name was Bessie and I’ll never forget her.

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

I think stories are how we make sense of our past and our futures. They are what we carry that weigh nothing. I would never have believed that in this day and time we would be considering walling ourselves off from the people who remind us every day to be humble, family-oriented, creative, hospitable, spiritual and damn good looking. It makes no sense. Stories of all cultures and back grounds should be celebrated as a way to introduce differences and acceptance. Our borders should be reduced instead of strengthened. We should be the globe and not a continent, island or state. Literature is one vehicle to spread the message of culture and spirit of inclusion. Stories can cross a border no matter how high the wall and they will float on the air in the tender whispers of a Bright Shawl.


Bella Rodriguez has decided it’s time to leave her step-father’s home. Her mother has been dead for three years and her older sister, Rosalinda, has disappeared. Bella fears she is next unless she makes a plan of her own. However, she struggles with what will happen to her younger brother, Manny. 

While Bella plans a journey to a new life, Manny is left to face the unraveling of the only home he has ever known. Without Bella, his father’s motives and instability is obvious. He is torn between the loyalty to his father and the dependability of his step-sister. The siblings experience whispers, guiding them to follow their instincts, but sometimes these messages are clouded in their own uncertainty. Will they cling to the known, or strike out and shape their own futures, and if they do, how will they ever know a family? 

Bella encounters a self-proclaimed, distracted psychic, Gina, who introduces her to new possibilities, but is it too good to be true? Gina and her brother, Slade have been marking time, waiting for acceptance and the passage of grief to embrace a bold lifestyle in a new place. Will all their dreams and plans be woven together in a new tapestry of adventure, or will their lives unravel, leaving them floundering, struggling to redefine what the future might be? 

Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 4 stars

Review: Bella Rodriguez is a young girl trapped beneath the stringent confines of her controlling and abusive stepfather. But what made living with him worse were his gang and drug affiliations. That wasn't a life for her. "Home could not be a prison where strange men gathered in the kitchen, waiting with clenched fists and narrowed eyes." (10) A voracious reader, Bella longed to travel to foreign places. "Instead, she was like a caged animal, peering out in quick glimpses, seeking recognition in the faces she saw." (11)

With her mother and older sister gone, her only hope was to escape his clutches and start fresh. "Bella thought  it was the best time to begin a new life away from Manuel and Manny. She feared that, if she stayed until graduation, an arrangement would be made. Bella did not know what it would be, but she suspected it would happen like it had with Rosalinda: a disappearance and no further contact." (21)

So, with nothing but a backpack and her mother's bright shawl, she hits the road, never looking back. The reader follows Bella on a fretful journey, battling loneliness and fear, through the dark trails of the unknown.  That niggling concern that her stepfather would come looking for her weighed on her because, even without his foreboding presence, "he was the barrier between her future and her freedom." (36) The fact of the matter was that he had pre-arranged for Bella to be "sold" to marriage, and, if he didn't get her back to fulfill that arrangement, he would be out a lot of money.

Passing through town, Bella meets Gina, a "distracted psychic," who believes Bella's impromptu arrival was a charted destiny.

Story is a dramatic tale of strength and adversity. It's a beacon of dreams for those with the courage to go after them.

Well-written and captivating.