Thursday, February 28, 2019

Sandra Cisneros and the Macondo Writers' Foundation by Juliana Aragon Fatula

"Macondo began in 1995 when author Sandra Cisneros gathered a group of writers, artists, scholars and activists around her dining table in her King William home to meet informally for rigorous writing workshops. As such we have very established traditions and expectations that include a formal application process aimed at professional writers of all genres, and the “Compassionate Code of Conduct,” a document drafted by a group of former Macondistas outlining the principles and ethics that govern our organization. We have over two hundred lifetime members, many of whom have been with us from the beginning. Macondo has grown and solidified itself as a space of intense artistic and cultural creativity where writers, artists, thinkers, scholars, and critics can come together and inspire and challenge one another in order to incite change in our respective communities." Reprinted from the Macondo Foundation website.

In July 2011, I travelled to San Antonio to attend my first Macondo Foundation Writers' Workshop with Sandra Cisneros and her Macondistas. Since it was my first year, I was called a Mocosa, but now that I've been accepted I can call myself a Macondista. I'm very proud to be part of this organization. Today I'd like to tell a story about how I met Sandra, applied to her foundation, travelled to San Antonio, Texas, and made a lasting impression on all who attended that year. 

I had just published my first book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City by Ghost Road Press in Denver. Later a second edition was published by Conundrum Press.  I met Sandra Cisneros when I attended an All Pueblo Reads Benefit Ball at the Rawlings Library. She had been a role model for me since I read her classic, House on Mango Street, in college. I brought a copy of my book to the dinner and handed it to her when she came to our table. I was sitting in the cheap seats, way in the back of the room. Sandra greeted her guests and worked her way all the way back to our table. I made the decision to give her a gift of my poetry book. No expectations. Just a gift. 

She asked me to sign it and I gladly obliged. That evening she returned to her hotel room and read my book cover to cover. It only takes about an hour. The next day we attended a reading she did at the library and she saw me sitting in the front row. I was sitting with friends and my college professors from CSU Pueblo's English Department and Chicano Studies Department. 

She told the crowd about my gift, my book, and how it had moved her and inspired her to write poetry. The crowd and I were dumbfounded. My professors looked at me like I was on fire. Inside I was ablaze basking in her praise of my book and my poetry.  She told the crowd that they should read my book because it was remarkable. I don't remember her exact words but she spent a good five minutes at her reading praising my work. Then she asked if I had any copies with me to sell along with her at her book signing afterword. I happened to have a small box in my trunk. 

She asked the library to set me up next to her and I sold copies of my book and signed them along side my mentor and Chicana Icon. I felt spellbound with her magnetism. She carried herself like a queen but treated everyone like they were old friends. There was nothing haughty about her. She gave me an excellent example of how to conduct myself at a book signing. 

We took photos together and she signed my copies of her books and whispered to me. Your poetry makes me want to write poetry. She told me to  use that to promote my book. I was stunned. Then she told me about her foundation the Macondo Foundation and invited me to apply for membership. She warned me that it was tough to get accepted and not to get discouraged and keep trying the following year if I didn't get in the first time. 

So I did as she suggested. The second year I was invited to attend my first Macondo Writers' Workshop in Texas at the Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. I bravely held a yard sale and sold my belongings to strangers to earn enough money for traveling and meals. 

When I arrived at the dorms, I realized I needed a few things from the store for my room. I walked to the nearest Goodwill and bought what I needed. I don't recall if I told the cashier that this was my second time visiting San Antonio, or if I bragged about why I was visiting. It's all a blur. But someone in the store may have heard me and realized I was a tourist and easy prey. Tourists have money, right. 

I returned to my dorm room set my purse down next to my laptop computer and stepped inside the bathroom to wash my hands. I heard a tremendous crash outside my door and when I peeked out the door, I saw a shadow rush out my room, down the hall, and down the stairs. I had been robbed. My wallet, with ID, credit cards, cash had been snatched along with my laptop. 

For a moment I thought I was being punked by the Macondistas as a Mocosa. When I realized I'd been robbed we contacted the police and I gave a statement to a very good looking Latino man. I felt embarrassed at my stupidity of not locking my dorm door when I returned. I left my door open hoping the other writers would realize I was there and wanted to meet them. I met them and soon everyone in the hall was introducing me as the chick that just got robbed. Nothing like this had happened before. 

Sandra was notified and contacted me immediately to be sure I was unharmed. She asked if my manuscript had been stolen with my laptop. I had my manuscript on a thumb drive in my make up bag. It was not stolen. She asked the other writers to help me with paying for meals and to take me out to dinner. One writer donated cash to me to help. 

I met some generous, wonderful people from all over the country. Writers of every marginalized society. Writers of color, LGBTQ writers, men and women with a common goal. To help other marginalized writers like them. 

At the end of the week, I attended a celebration at a local nightclub. Sandra was the guest and MC. She came on stage dressed as Glenda the Good Witch from the Wizard of OZ. She had a crown, a ballgown, a wand, and entertained as only Sandra can. She never mentioned me or my robbery. 

The next day there was a scheduled reading for the Macondistas at the University. Sandra explained what had happened to me without pointing me out to the crowd and asked everyone to bid on her Glenda the Good Witch costume from the previous night to buy me a new laptop. I had no idea of any of her plans. I was shocked when they raised enough money in about ten minutes to replace my stolen laptop.

The generosity of Sandra and her Macondistas has always stayed with me. The next time I attended Macondo was 2015? This trip we stayed at a hotel and worked out of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. My second visit I met another set of Macondistas and felt equally accepted into the fold. 

This year I'm unable to attend but plan on saving money for next year's workshop in July. However, I have been given the honor of being on the reading committee to select the new entries into Macondo for the fiction genre. I'm looking forward to reading all of the submissions and evaluating them for being accepted into the foundation.  I've done this previously for poetry for the High Plains Book Awards Festival in Billings, MT. I feel honored and excited to be included in this process. I look forward to meeting some of the new Macondistas when I attend in the future. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Perfect Ending

by Bethany Maines

Sci-fi season is done and I’m back to working on mysteries!  Yay!  Something I’m utterly comfortable with and totally know how to do.  Wait… how do you do this again?  I think I’ve got genre whiplash.  Can I just toss in some aliens at the end of this thriller and solve everything?

As I plug away toward the ending on my latest WIP (work-in-progress) I find myself struggling to find the perfect stopping point (that doesn’t include aliens). Some genres are more forgiving of ambiguity in an ending, but I think that across all genre’s the perfect ending is one that feels satisfactory to the characters. I’ve read many books where it was as though author just wandered off and their lead character is left twisting in the wind. (Grapes of Wrath, I’m looking at you.  Just because you couldn’t come up with more tortures for your characters does not mean you just get to quit writing Steinbeck.) I’m all for leaving room for character development and a sequel, but… uh… let’s have a little bit of satisfaction for the reader and character.

And an author probably shouldn’t subvert their genre too hard.  Hamlet is not meant to end with Hamlet and Ophelia riding off into the sunset.  Romances should definitely have the two main characters getting together and mysteries should solve the damn mystery.  Don’t betray the audiences trust just to be clever.  But that still leaves a lot of leeway.  Just HOW do I want my characters to get together?  What’s the perfect way to expose the murderer?  It’s like I’ve got a choose-your-own-adventure in my head and I’m the only one who can figure out if I’m supposed to flip to page 42 or 117. 

So wish me luck as I venture off to page 117.  Hopefully I don’t die.


3 novels, 1 low price
Welcome to the universe of Galactic Dreams, where fairy tales are reimagined for a new age—the future.
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery SeriesSan Juan Islands MysteriesShark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Location, Location, Location

By Lynn McPherson

The setting of a book is a critical part of a story. Location can determine the mood before opening the first page. A big city will feel different than a coastal village, or a domestic setting versus one abroad. As a cozy writer, my location is pre-determined since the majority of cozy mysteries take place in small, idyllic towns. But even within these parameters, there are several options.

In my Izzy Walsh Mystery Series, I chose a fictional small town in New England, not far from New York City. It was an easy decision. Every time I’ve been there, the warmth and beauty of New England captivated me. In addition, when I started writing the series, I was a new mom. Writing was a great escape for me, and part of that was going on a vacation to one of my favourite places every time I looked at my screen.

With the end of February approaching, I’ve been thinking of warm weather and beach escapes. It’s fair to say the springtime always makes me feel like it’s time for a quick jaunt. March break and the slow end of winter stirs up a desire to run away from the dreary end of the cold days and long nights here in my own small town, not far from Toronto, Canada. However, instead of physically leaving, this year I will be planning an escape on paper. I’m considering a short story, or possibly even a new series, that incorporates a beach or, at the very least, short-sleeve weather. I’m ready to soak in the warmth and bask in the rays of an imaginary sunshine.

Do you have any place, real or imagined that you like to escape to when you need a break? Do you have a favourite location or setting in books that you gravitate toward? I’m always happy to discuss beautiful vacation spots and let my mind take me there, even just for a few minutes.

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has two books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder.  

Monday, February 25, 2019

Book to Movie Adaptation

I love reading. I love mysteries. I love my imagination.

When I read a book, even though the author describes the characters and the scenery, it is my imagination that makes it a film playing in my head while I’m enjoying the ride. I hear the voices and their pronunciation. I see the outfit. I see them. It’s my imagination when they tilt their head this way and that. My film always stays true to the book that I’m reading.

I’ve seen TV-movies made of books that I enjoyed and have been disappointed in the changes they made to my film version and the book. Not a good sign for me.

Luckily if I see a TV-movie based on a book that I have not read, I’m more likely to enjoy the movie.

What say you? Have you liked TV-movie adaptation of books you’ve enjoyed?

--Dru Ann

Friday, February 22, 2019

What is Normal?--by T.K. Thorne

   Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

When I was writing my historical novel, Noah's Wife, I realized my central character had Asperger's Syndrome. At first, I rejected the idea, but a wiser part of my mind prevailed, and I let her be who she was. I added researching the condition to my digging into the ancient Mid East culture, geology, and archeological findings that shaped the background for my novel about the wife of Noah. 

Na'amah's disabilities turned out to be strengths I never suspected, and I wrote in the author notes that I thought it was possible we were looking at this condition from a prejudiced and skewed perspective. 

Maybe we all carry genes that can express these abilities and difficulties in various ways, and they are part of our evolutionary inheritance. I thought I was going out on a limb, so stumbling on this video (link below) about neurodiversity was of great interest. Maybe we need to take another look at how we define what it means to be human.


T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.  “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch. 

Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. 

T.K. loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. 

 More info at Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Copy Cut Paste

By Cathy Perkins

Have you heard about the latest scandal rocking RomanceLandia? A woman has been caught lifting sentences, paragraphs, pages from multiple (up to 20 and counting) authors and stringing them together into a new book.

Copy. Cut. Paste. 


I thought about this while I walked the dogs and see the following spectrum from the benign to the terrible.

The Same, But Different

How many times have we seen that phrase as to what an agent/publisher wants? It’s why tropes are so popular in RomanceLandia: friends to lovers; secret baby. The mystery world has its own familiar plots. The protagonist who races to save the world before the villain takes over/destroys it. The serial killer; can the hero stop him before he kills again? The small-town heroine who a body and must investigate to remove herself from the prime suspect position.
Shoot, I’m part of a Common Elements Project where we’re all given the same five required elements, and then told Go!
What makes all of these “work” is each author will tell the story in a different way, with their unique voice. 

So, the same…but different.

The Inadvertent

This may be every author’s secret fear. Or maybe it’s just mine.
I read. A lot.
There’s always the concern a story’s clever phrase has tucked away in a memory cell and will reappear in a similar fashion on my page. I can’t point to a particular phrase—if I recognized it, I’d change it—but I fear it could happen. I remember reading—somewhere—that this is more common than expected. Or maybe the point of the article was it happens a lot more than we realize. 

But, again, I stress it’s inadvertent.

And the Ugly

Stealing. Deliberately.
Plagiarism hurts authors at a deeper level than the whack-a-mole, steal-a-book in a “free” download sites. Those sites and the people who use them are stealing from authors financially. 

Plagiarism takes an author’s soul. Words we’ve sweated over, melded into scenes to convey action, character and theme are casually stolen with no thought to the crafting that underlies them.
And worse, it’s done with full knowledge of the theft.
One of the authors impacted by Serruya is a friend—Courtney Milan. She’s written a post about her experience and her reaction. Because the hurt is so personal, I won’t presume to tell you about it. Instead, I urge you to read her words.

Authors – Have you worried about the inadvertent? Found your work ripped off?
Readers – Have you read something you felt was a little too close to something else you’ve read?

On a completely different note, I put DOUBLE DOWN on sale this week because it’s my birthday and I like to share (legally). 

DOUBLE DOWN is the second book in the Holly Price series, written because readers wanted to see events from Detective JC Dimitrak’s perspective.Murder isn’t supposed to be in the cards for blackjack dealer Maddie Larsson. Busted takes on a new meaning when her favorite customer, a former Poker World Tour champion, is murdered. His family claims—loudly and often—Maddie is the gold-digging murderer. She better prove she’s on the level before the real killer cashes in her chips. 

If the victim’s body had been dumped five hundred yards up the road, Franklin County Sheriff’s Detective JC Dimitrak wouldn’t have been assigned to the Tom Tom Casino murder case. Instead, he’s hunting for suspects and evidence while dealing with a nemesis from the past and trying to preserve his own future. He better play his hand correctly and find the killer before an innocent woman takes the ultimate hit.

Find it here from your favorite store. 

And because I forgot to put it on my calendar, HONOR CODE is also on sale this weekend, with a group promo.

In a small southern town where everyone normally knows each other’s business, veteran detective Larry Robbins must solve the disappearance of eighty-year-old widower, African-American George Beason.

When evidence arises that Beason may have left town on his own, it would be easy for Robbins to close the case, but his gut instinct tells him more’s at stake. As he uncovers clues about Beason’s deceased wife and his estranged daughter, Robbins must untangle conflicting motives and hidden agendas to bring Beason home alive.

HONOR CODE hit #1 in its category at release and the most recent fraud alert says another 5000 people downloaded it off a steal-a-book site this month. You can pick up a copy here or here

Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Introducing Wallie MacGregor in AFTER YOU’VE GONE

By Kay Kendall

Last week my third mystery launched. My book’s birthday plus my own made it a stellar week. I can’t give you a piece of birthday cake, so here’s a song for you.
Fiona Apple sings “After You’ve Gone.”
The song was penned in 1918, remaining popular throughout the next several decades—especially during the 1920s, which is what I was looking for. Even in the last 30 years many singers have covered it. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Edie Gourmet, and many more. In truth, the song is fantastic. Singing styles change, but the song holds up. For comparison, here's a performance fro 1927 by a star of that era, Ruth Etting.
All my mysteries take their titles from popular songs. My first two are Desolation Row and Rainy Day Women. But because this new book takes place in 1923, I can hardly use another Bob Dylan song, can I?
Copyright laws don’t cover song titles, but lyrics are. While Dylan’s are still protected, “After You’ve Gone” is no longer under copyright. These words from the chorus fit the storyline of my new mystery.
After you’ve gone and left me crying
After you’ve gone there’s no denying,
You’ll feel blue, you’ll feel sad,
You’ll miss the bestest pal you’ve ever had.
There’ll come a time, now don’t forget it,
There’ll come a time, when you’ll regret it.
Oh! Babe, think what you’re doing.
You know my love for you will drive me to ruin,
After you’ve gone,
After you’ve gone away, away. 

After You’ve Gone (1918)
Music by Turner Layton and lyrics by Henry Creamer 

When you read my new mystery, you’ll see how many characters must carry on after someone has gone—someone very near and dear to them. The biggest loss of all kicks off the mystery, of course. But there are others—oh so many others. Just count them all up. You’ll see.

Author Kay Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries.  She lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Visit Kay at her website   or on Facebook