Happy Birthday, Desert Jewel

This time last year I was celebrating the release of my second book, Desert Jewel. This book is very important to me for different reasons.

One of the reasons is that I absolutely poured my heart out building the world of Desert Jewel and its characters. In a way, Desert Jewel is my humble homage to Africa and its people. I spent a lot of my childhood and teen years in different places in Africa and I wanted to somehow honor the magic of a world where the modern mixes with the ancient and science mingles with myths and superstition. Princess Milenda and her ex-slave, Jaali will always hold a special place in my heart. I recently finished writing the second in the series and will be starting the third and last one very soon.

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The other reason–and likely the most important–is that the publishing of this book in particular saved me from a very dark place. I have struggled with bouts of mild depression off and on all my life, but last year I went through one of the worst ever. I had to literally drag myself out of bed every morning and couldn’t take pleasure in anything at all. In fact, the morning I received the email from my publisher offering me a contract for this book, I had done just that–dragged myself out of bed, already in tears for no apparent reason and sat down to look through my emails just for something to do. I was on vacation in the mountains with my husband, but my mood was so low I hadn’t been able to enjoy any of it.

That email changed my life that morning. I’ve never told this to anyone, not even my family, but the kind words in that message just brought joy back to my life, the life I was beginning to believe to be worthless. Which goes to show you never know when a kind word may make all the difference in someone’s life.

So today I celebrate the one year anniversary of Desert Jewel’s release and a professional relationship that has enriched my life and given me great joy (and a LOT of work, lol). So let’s hear it for Hot Tree Publishing (hoot and holler)!!!

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I’m running a celebratory giveaway in my Facebook page. Go check it out for a chance to win an autographed copy of the book.

P.S.- Depression isolates. When you’re depressed you feel all alone, which in turn prevent those suffering from depression from seeking help. Keep an eye on those you love for signs of depression–withdrawing, frequent tears, lack of energy, indecision…my family thought I was just being difficult, couldn’t read the signs, an all too-common reaction. Don’t just assume they are being a pain. Dig deeper.

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Hooray For The Characters

I recently had to write the acknowledgment page for my latest book and I realized that I have never thanked my characters. “What?” you may say. “Have you totally lost your mind?” Possibly, but in this case I mean it. I owe my characters a serious token of my undying gratitude.

Characters are more than made up people in a story, figments of an author’s fertile and often feverish imagination. Once created and developed into the pages of a book, they become real–real to the author who made them up and real to the readers who love them. Most of my friends growing up were fictional characters in books.

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Likewise, the characters I created in my romances are very real to me. I feel toward them with the same intensity that I feel toward flesh and bone people. Some I love, some I hate, and some may even leave me a little indifferent.

Marcy, the witch, from Blind Magic has carved a very special place in my heart. I’ve written about her before, about how she started as just a funny side kick on Loved You Always and developed such a big personality I had to write her story. Well, it is written. Blind Magic, which will be released in November, tells Marcy’s story.

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Marcy is at first glance very different from me, but if you dig deeper you’ll find that there is a lot of Natalina in the quirky witch. Like her, I was always the oddball growing up, even within my own family. I never wore the same type of clothes my school mates were wearing, admired artists who everybody thought were weird, and was always the one people came to with their problems. I was a good listener, a problem solver, and yes, I even liked polka dots just like Marcy. Believe it or not I even had strawberry blond hair when I was younger–and not from a bottle.

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Me aged eighteen.

Her man in the book, the dashing Oliver Dawson, reflects–without going into details so I don’t give up any spoilers–a deep, irrational fear of mine. One I still often have nightmares about. Writing it into the swoon-worthy and oh-so-brave detective helped me face and fight that fear.

I may just begin adding my characters to the list of people I often thank for their support because they so deserve it. They fill my world with friendly faces, something to look for, and they are the best therapists a girl could ever wish for.

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What do you think? Do you ever feel strangely attached to a fictional character and find yourself thinking of her/him as if a real person?

The Mystery Blogger Award

I was surprised and excited to be nominated for The Mystery Blogger Award! What an honor. Thank you to  Tamara Rokicki for nominating my blog.

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma. According to the creator “this award is for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.”

Mystery Blog Award

I was asked to share 3 things about myself. I hate when I’m asked to do that, lol.

A – I always say I’m a late bloomer because I seem to do everything much later than everyone else. I became a teacher late in life, a writer even later, and who knows if I will finally learn how to ride a bike in my golden years. Now you know why I picked the name of this blog.

B – I speak, read, and write in five languages in various degrees of fluency. In order of the most fluent to the least (mostly for lack of use throughout the years): Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, and German.

C – My first degree is in foreign languages and tourism and I started my adult life as a tour guide in my native Portugal. Challenging for an introvert like me, but I loved it.

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Tamara Rokicki

Now for Tamara’s questions.

 1. At what age did you realize you were a creative person?

Hard to say. I was dancing by the time I was three and writing by ten. I don’t thing I “realized” it as much as I was shocked to find out that not everyone was like me, lol.

2. What is the strangest food combination you’ve ever eaten?

When I first moved to the US I thought peanut butter and chocolate was a weird combination but I learned to love it. I would have to say it was the crunchy big butt ant I ate a few years ago as a dare (Colombian delicacy). It was not bad.

3. What is your favorite book genre?

Hard to say. I love paranormal, fantasy, realistic fiction, chicklit…but it has to have some kind of romance in it. I read YA, adult and sometimes even middle grade and children’s picture books. I just love a great story with awesome characters.

4. Who is your most memorable school teacher?

Her name was Gravata (which translated into Tie in English) and she was one of my highschool Portuguese teachers. She was very strict, hardly ever smiled, but somehow managed to make me love Portuguese lit. She also was amazingly cool under pressure as she proved it by staying super calm during an earthquake during class.

5. What is the one piece of technology you absolutely hate?

I don’t think I hate any technology. In fact I love it and always seem to have an easy time learning new gadgets. We live in an amazing time when our lives are simplified by all kinds of tools straight from an old episode of Star Trek. It’s more hating the way some people use the technology.

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Okoto Enigma

And now for some nominations and questions:

  1. Ailish Sinclair
  2. Books, Vertigo, and Tea
  3. Selma P. Verde
  4. Raine Balkera
  5. PerfectlyTolerable
  6. Unwrapping Romance
  7. Voinks
  8. Love Books Group
  9. Paula Harmon
  10. Austen Prose

Questions:

1.What made you start a blog?

2. Where would you travel to if money was not an issue? Why?

3. What is your biggest fear?

4. If someone was writing your biography what would be its title?

5. What is one thing you’ve never done but would love to to do?

My Best Posts (or those I liked the best, lol):

Romance Is Dead

The Angel

The Life and Tribulations of a Pantser

An Introvert in the Crowd

 

Again, than you Tamara for nominating me. Ciao!

A Shout-Out to Editors

Editors. Some writers love them, others dread them, some love AND dread them. I’ve been so fortunate to work with a few of the good ones. Yes, I’ve had the odd bad experience–like the time this second language learner knew more about sentence structure and grammar than the editor–but mostly it has been wonderful.

Not only do editors save a writer’s metaphorical butt by finding all those pesky little typos and grammatical mistakes the writer can’t see anymore because she is too close to the story, but they are also her pep-squad, and in some cases, the voice of common sense.

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I’ve learned so much from my editors, I’ll never be able to thank them enough. I find myself trying to remember all the mistakes they’ve pointed out, so I don’t make the same mistakes again. After all, writing a book is a team effort. Without the keen eyes of my editors, my books would be riddled with preposition mistakes (the bane of my existence) and too many useless words. Their encouraging words always make my day and are often my “gauge” to readers’ reactions.

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To those behind-the-curtain heroes, I salute you and thank you!

What have your experiences with editors been?  Do you love or dread them? I would love to hear about your opinion and experiences.

The Heart of Christmas

It’s Christmas again. At one point—for most of my life really—Christmas was my favorite holiday. My father was a true Santa Claus who just adored the holiday and was able to turn it into pure magic to us kids. I wanted to do the same for my boys but I think I have failed miserably. But that’s a story for another day.

This year Christmas sneaked up on me and found me totally and utterly unprepared. Never in my long-ish life have I ever got to December 21 without a single gift bought or a grocery run done. No cookies baked, no treats arranged artistically in bags for my students and colleagues, no Christmas music playing continually on the radio. If it wasn’t for my oldest son, his girlfriend and my husband we probably wouldn’t even have a tree up this year.

Depression brought on by total exhaustion of mind and body has left me without any energy or motivation to do any of the things I so loved to do. I did “adopt” a couple kids for Christmas, I donated some of my books for a good cause, and I was the secret Santa for someone at work. But other than that I have been a total humbug.

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So when my new team surprised me with a truly Christmas-y breakfast this morning I was floored and grateful. For the first time this season I felt the spirit take me to that place where magic and wonder still live. It was heartwarming and uplifting.

This is my feeble way of thanking them and gift them with the one thing I do best. You did my soul good this morning. Thank you.