Books, California Department of Corrections, Female Offenders, fiction, Latinas, Strong Women, Women in Prison

Meet My Characters: Orange is Not the New Black

1012013-orange-is-the-new-black
Piper, main character in Orange is the New Black, Netflix series

When people ask me “What’s your novel about,” I usually say it’s a teenaged Orange is the New Black –the Netflix version, not the book- featuring a naive 17 year old mother who’s an immigrant.

I’ve been asked, by YA author Evelyne Holingue, to talk about the characters in my YA novel. Her novel, TRAPPED IN PARIS, took me on an adventure through the streets of Paris.Evelyne continues to take me on an exciting jaunt  through her blog and now through the Meet My Character blog tour.

I’m so glad she asked me to join the tour.

In case anyone wonders, I began writing this novel in 2008 before OITNB was published. I wrote it based on my 28 years experience working within the California Department of Corrections.

Now, I’d like you to meet some of the characters in my novel:

1. What is the name of your character (s)? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Juana Maria Ivanov is the fictional main character. She frequently has a look on her face just like Piper in the photo above. The similarities end there, but the description gives people a quick picture.

Juana is younger, Mexican, and without Piper’s resources or language skills. And, she is not like the Latinas featured in OITNB.

The antagonist in my story is Jester, who is one of the gang leaders. Juana’s friends are two outsiders, one an idealistic protestor and the other a pastor’s daughter.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story is set within the twelve foot chain link fences of a correctional facility in California in the late 1980’s. This was the time of “Lock ‘Em Up,” laws and when there was little recourse or rights for teenagers in the criminal justice system. Sentencing laws and due process were different for young men and women under the age of 18 years old.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Sweet, helpful and unintentionally funny, Juana is basically an optimist. Sometimes these qualities don’t serve her. She thought she was going to be part of the American dream when she married her first sweetheart, nineteen year old Alek Ivanov, a first generation Russian American that she met while working in a border town. When she has her baby, they move to Los Angeles  where  she learns that he is abusive, more so when he is under the influence of alcohol.

4. What is the main conflict? 

After a beating, Juana runs away and takes her baby to her sister. When she returns she is arrested for Alek’s death, convicted of manslaughter and given a six year sentence. She is heartbroken over his death and leaving her baby, who she is certain will forget her. She desperately wants correctional staff to believe that she didn’t leave her husband to die, but she has no evidence except her word that he was alive when she ran away.When she finds out that her sister can no longer care for her baby and her mother-in-law files for custody, she has to find a way to keep her child.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Figuring out how to survive prison, learning whom to trust, how to find help and how to stay strong are Juana’s goals.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

STONG WOMEN GROW HERE is the working title of this fictional novel. To download a free 17 page excerpt you can use this link. SWGH is a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Semifinals are in late June 2014.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

There’s no definite answer on this one. If the story is picked up by Amazon it could be published within a year. If it’s not a finalist, I hope to find an agent to represent my novel.

 

Now I’m tagging Jennifer J. Chow, author of the award winning, The 228 Legacy, who is now typing away on her next novel.

Make sure you check out Jennifer’s post on June 16, 2014.

She has an adorable protagonist and I hope you will stop by to read about her story.

 

Books, fiction, Writing, writing conferences

Writing Tips and Diversity Points at the SCBWI Winter Conference

There’s not enough time or money to go to all the writing conferences one wishes to attend, however getting a participant’s viewpoint is often valuable.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has been a worthwhile organization for me to belong to because of their newsletters, booklets, and free market guide to publishing for children.

Here are several tips for writing contemporary and middle grade fiction from the SCBWI Conference.

Latinxs in Kid Lit

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

This year's SCBWI conference folder. Artwork by David Diaz, design by Sarah Baker This year’s SCBWI conference folder. Artwork by David Diaz, design by Sarah Baker

The Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in New York is kind of like a massive family reunion, with all 1,000+ people having a love of children’s literature in their  blood. It’s very cool for me to break away from my full-time day job as a middle school teacher and attend this annual gathering of creative people who all want to be published or work in some capacity with kid lit. While this love of children’s literature is the common denominator at the conference, the attendants are diverse people with myriad interests. Because of this, my ears naturally perk up when speakers address diversity in publishing.

The SCBWI did not have a specific panel or break-out session dedicated to diversity in children’s publishing, but speakers included Raul Colón, Shadra…

View original post 836 more words

Books, David Perez, fiction, Fifty Shades of Gray, Heidi Durrow, Kevin Powers, Summer reads for adults, The Yellow Birds, Wow: A South Bronx Memoirito

Finding F Books


June has been my lucky month for books. Not only did my coastal town reverse its usual June Gloom but the four o’clock winds also abated for most of the month. This all made for some great outdoor reading weather. 

I’ve also had luck with finding fascinating, funny, and fearless books for a fraction of the cost: (yes, that F thing was on purpose and I’m tired of it now too). Let’s proceed.

First the Fascinating Read: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and an African American G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. She does not remember much about what happened until later in the story, so I won’t spoil the ending.

As a young girl she is forced to move to a new city and largely African American community. With her light brown skin, blue eyes, and Danish upbringing she is the oddity among her peers. 

Rachel’s adjustment to the tragedy and her grief is heart-wrenching. Biracial identity, the mother daughter bond, the desire to fit in, and abandonment are major themes.    

The novel is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction as well as several other awards. Bought it for $10 and had it signed at a book reading by Heidi Durrow-she is one of the most gracious author I’ve met and gives a heck of a presentation.

The Funny: WOW! A South Bronx Memoirito of Boyhood and Catholic School by David Perez.  
  
Now this one was almost guaranteed to make me download onto my Kindle Fire. Latino in Catholic School and the South Bronx= Funny before I flipped the page. 

This is a memoir set in 1964. David Pérez is living in the Millbrook housing projects, about to be transferred to St. Luke’s Elementary School, where the Brothers of the Sacred Heart are about as scary as the baddest gangs. 

This “memoirito,” follows David trying his best to be cool in a neighborhood where being the smartest guy in school isn’t something to brag about. His trials and tribulations as he navigates through his ‘tests of manhood,’ altar boy experiences and his first date are laugh out loud funny.

Perez has a great way with detail, description, and dialogue. I was able to borrow this e-book from Amazon Lending Library, but I would have bought it for the 2.99 Kindle price if it hadn’t been available. 

The Fearless: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

“The war tried to kill us in the spring,” begins this breathtaking account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city.”

This book is due out on 9/11/12. A 20 page excerpt was in the free Book Expo America Buzz Books of the 30 top Fall 2012 titles. I was mesmerized from the first line to the last. Powers creates a setting that is both fearful and fearless.   The narrative is clean but descriptive of setting, emotive, and insightful. 

Powers  joined the army at the age of 17, later serving a year as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq in 2004 and 2005. He is currently a Michener Fellow in Poetry at the University of Texas at Austin, where he will receive his M.F.A. in 2012. 

I can’t say I’ve ever read a book about the Iraq War but from what I’ve read I’ll definitely be waiting for this one, which I’m sure will become a classic. 

A F not read yet: Fifty Shades of Gray  

My sister and most of the world raves about this book. She just finished the first two of the trilogy and lent the first one to a girl friend who said she couldn’t understand all the hoopla and the book was boring, so she’s getting it back and lending it to me to see what I think. 

I’m not holding my breath for the book,  it received 2,500 1 star ratings and 3,000+ 5 star ratings. 

July started out beautifully over here in coastal Southern California, but today it’s overcast, 68 degrees and humid. Forecast is the same all week. Doesn’t really matter to me, I’ll read most anywhere. I hope to fit in 4 or 5 more books this month.(Using another letter in the alphabet).

Any recommendations? 
Amazon best sellers, Amazon Kindle, Books, E-books, fiction, GoodReads., Indie bookstores, Non-fiction, Summer reads for adults, Summer reads for children

Seven Ways to Build an Inexpensive Summer Reads list


                                                                   “Summertime and the living is easy…” 

Remember that 1935 Gershwin song from Porgy and Bess. Well the living may be easy but if you are a book lover summertime may be expensive. The prices for most traditionally published print books have climbed. E-books and the costs for download compared to print version is almost the same.

Amazon announced its ten best books of 2012 (as far as chosen by its book editors) and all ten on the list were from big-six publishers who set their own prices for the e-books. None was self-published.

Random House published most of the books and all are priced at $10.99 or above for the Kindle edition, a price underscored on the Amazon sell page that was “set by the publisher.” The prices range from $10.99 to $19.99. The average price on the list is $13.79. For many of the books on the list, the Kindle price is ranges from .99¢ to $6 cheaper than the print price.

If you’re like most booklovers, you will read 24+ books a year. More than that if you are an E-Book reader.

The average American reader comes in at 3-5 books annually. Pew Research found that the majority of print readers (54%) and readers of e-books (61%) prefer to purchase their own copies of these books. Bottom line:

                            Ave. price of book (13.79) x 24 books = $330.96 per year

                   Let’s break it down per quarter. Six books purchased for summer reads: 13.79 x 6= $82.74


I’m pinching pennies for a while (I have a huge trip of a lifetime coming up soon) so reading has to come cheaper for the next year.

Here are 7 ways to get some good inexpensive reads this summer:
  •  Only Indie every new book starts at $0. The first 15 downloads are free and every download after that is a penny more, up to a maximum of $7.98, a number chosen by the site’s founders in response to what they see as too-high e-book prices at other retailers. If a book isn’t downloaded for 24 hours, its price begins to slowly drop per an algorithm designed to take 100 days to bring the price back to $0.
  • Shakespeare series for students and general readers alike. 
  • e-Libro announced more than 48,000 Spanish-language e-books are available on millions of smart phones, tablets, and other devices using ebrary’s dedicated iOS and Android™ apps with Spanish language interfaces. They digitize more than 800 titles every month. 
  • Amazon’s Kindle Top 100-Best Sellers. There are loads of e-books under $9. If you haven’t gotten around to reading Hunger Games and trilogy they’re $5. Many more well reviewed (4 star+ with 50+ reviews) e-books at $2.99. OrAmazon’s Top 100 Free e-books.  I found 3 pretty interesting books on the list.
  • Good Reads has a recommendations site that has some great looking books.
  • Free sites  such as E-Book.net. 
  • Used books: Almost every independently owned bookstore has a shelf or more of gently read used books. For not so gently read try the thrift stores.
 I know I did not list going to the library or swapping books with friends (both good choices, but each have their downsides) as these are given ways to reduce costs. 

There may be more sites out there to get quality reads, so if you know any, please contribute your finds to the list. Maybe we can get to “10 Ways…”

Oh wait,  I didn’t list my favorite way to find good inexpensive reads:

Clean out the bookself and re-read a favorite or find the one you missed. 

Happy reading!