Sunday, December 9, 2012

My New Cover- The Huaca

Here is the cover of my YA novel, The Huaca, that comes out in May 2013.

A huaca (pronounced waca) is an object that represents something revered. Huaca is a word from the Quechua language, a native American language of South America.

In my story, the huaca is an Incan artifact (depicted above).

Gabe De La Cruz has the huaca, and it has been passed down to him from his ancestors. Ellie Cummings wants to know who killed her mother. She turns to Gabe who claims he can communicate with her dead mother. Ellie takes a chance and discovers that the truth may be better kept a secret.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sports: How it has influenced my life and writing

As I write this blog post, I am driving across Texas on the way to New Mexico to watch the BYU Cougars football game. Yes, it is quite the drive for a football game, but it will be our first football game as a family. And, to be honest, I was looking forward to a long drive with my laptop, so that I could write.

Sports has had an overriding influence in my life since 1986. Prior to 1986, I cared little about sports. I was immediately smitten with the Mets, hooked as they won the World Series that year. I continued following them in the ensuing years and found my favorites were Gary Carter, Roger McDowell, and Lenny Dykstra. Through the rest of high school, I faithfully watched the Mets every game that was on WWOR. There were games on Sports Channel too, but it was a premium channel, so I couldn't watch those. I know some might find baseball boring, but I loved watching it. I focused on every pitch, every at bat. I went to a few games, collected baseball cards and memorabilia, and bought my #8 Gary Carter shirt that I still wear all the time.

My high school love of the Mets subsided a bit when I went to college. Outside of Jersey, there were few games carried on TV. I didn't have a television my first three years of college. And, there were too many other things to do besides watch baseball.

I soon found that I loved BYU sports. I got season football tickets and slowly learned what football was all about. I’d only been to one HS football game, never watched football on TV, and in my house football was known as soccer. So, it took me a bit to get acclimated to football and all its intricate rules, but I loved BYU football and went to as many games as I could. To this day, it is the only kind of football I’m interested in. I do not like any other college teams and will not watch NFL. So, if I am asked if I like football, my answer is: I like BYU football.

While in college, BYU sports became a dominant force in my life. My friend, Tami, and I used to go to BYU volleyball games, and it is at one of those games that a very important event took place. I saw my husband, Nolan, for the first time at a BYU Men’s volleyball game. They were playing Ball State. We saw each other across the Smith Field House, but didn't talk to each other until after the game at a dance on campus.

From that point, there were many more BYU volleyball and basketball games that we would go to together. Our shared love of sports drew us to each other and kept us going to many sporting events over the course of our marriage.

When the Salt Lake Buzz started playing minor league baseball, we went to a lot of games. It is at one of those games that another important event in my life occurred. It was the day after the Denver Nuggets historically beat the Seattle Sonics in the NBA Playoffs that we went to a Buzz game with a group of friends. During the seventh inning stretch, the Buzz announcer read off what was written on the scoreboard: Marcia Argueta, Nolan Mickelson wants to know if you will marry him.

We both loved the NBA, and early in our marriage, we started a fantasy basketball league with some friends. It was before fantasy sports really took off and way before the Internet was in everyone’s homes. We kept track of stats by reading the paper daily and entering the players’ stats on a spreadsheet to keep track of who was winning. We lived in Utah and went to many Jazz games. Nolan was an intern for a sports radio station, and I worked for a non-profit, so we went to a lot of Jazz games. Nolan is a Celtics fan, and I’m a Knicks fan, and neither one of us like the Jazz, but we loved the NBA, so we went and usually rooted against the Jazz. We got free Finals tickets when the Jazz played the Bulls, and that was a tough game because I don’t like the Jazz or the Bulls.

Sports has influenced my writing as well. My two books, Reasonable Doubt and Pickup Games, have basketballs on their covers. My character, Mick Webber, is a college basketball player and later a college basketball analyst and reporter. I loved doing the research in writing these two books, and luckily I had my sports-knowledgeable husband handy to answer any questions I had. My main character, Mick Webber, is loosely based on an NBA player I once heard speak.

   Reasonable+Doubt+Larger+Cover.jpg  pickup small.jpg

The theme of basketball runs through these two book, and they are heavily influenced by my love of basketball. However, I don't watch NBA anymore, and I only occasionally catch a BYU basketball game because other things have taken precedence over my love of sports. Writing and kids are my love now, and sometimes sports will find its way in, but I love that I have these two books of reminders of my one-time love of basketball. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So, what is your book about?

This often-asked question is sometimes hard for me to answer. I'm glad that people are interested in my book, but if my book is not complete, it's difficult for me to talk about because I still have unanswered questions and storyline details I'm not completely sure about. Once it is finished, it is a lot easier to tell others about it.

Even then, however, sometimes it's hard to describe the book in just one or two concise sentences. I'm never sure just how much to say so that there are enough details to explain it, but I don't give away too much. My publisher had me send them a blurb, and I think I definitely gave too much away in it. They tweaked it quite a bit.

Here is a simple, concise summary of my book:

The Huaca is a Young Adult novel. Seventeen-year-old Ellie Cummings is still recovering from her mother’s murder and weird boy, Gabe De La Cruz seems to know way too much about her dead mother.
Ellie turns to Gabe who claims he can communicate with her dead mother. In this haunting mystery, your heartstrings will be tugged as Ellie takes a chance and discovers that the truth may be better kept a secret.

The last sentence was added by my publisher.

Here is a link to where the book is listed and can be pre-ordered.

There is no image available yet. I saw a preliminary cover several months ago, but the publisher is still working on it. I am excited to see the finished cover once it is complete

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Inspiration can come from anywhere or... How I got scolded at The Home Depot

Inspiration for writing can come from anywhere, and I am always on the lookout for story ideas and characters. Sometimes a particular person, scenario, or conversation will catch my attention, and I will observe or listen for details that might inspire some future storyline, dialogue, or character. 

Some of my previous characters have been based on: a woman I saw at a local parade one day, a basketball player I heard speak once, an eccentric neighbor who used to live down the street from me, an overly-opinionated woman I used to know, a teenager who was an intern at a non-profit where I used to work.

Inspiration is all around us, and I'm very vigilant about those around me--almost too vigilant sometimes. So, I look around; I notice people around me. As Ferris Bueller would say:  "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." You could miss that spark of inspiration that might be the basis of the next  storyline, the next book.

Finding a balance is important though. You don't want to be found staring at someone as you try to figure out their deal or find how you might use them or their circumstance in your next book.

In September 2008, the approaching hurricane Ike caused residents of Corpus Christi to flood hardware stores such as The Home Depot in search of supplies. We were fortunate; we had wooden boards to cover our window. We were, however, in need of thick wood screws, so we ventured out to The Home Depot. 

There was a huge line of 20-30 people waiting for plywood to board up their windows. Many of them were in line for over 2 hours and could likely wait 2 more hours for the plywood to be delivered. There were trucks coming from other places (San Antonio, I assumed) to stock the stores in Corpus Christi.

As I was browsing for screws, I couldn't take my eyes off the long line of those waiting for plywood.  The line wrapped around the perimeter of the store. People were standing in line in desperate hope that enough plywood would come in time for them to board up their houses and evacuate. Thoughts ran through my mind--how might they be feeling? What are their circumstances? What's going to happen? I think that authors evaluate their surroundings and the people around them with a curiosity that is always on and never gets shut off. At least it is that way with me. 

And that is when.... I got scolded at The Home Depot. 

A man, standing in line, met my staring eyes and said: "What--do you think we're monkeys at the zoo?" I quickly tore my eyes away from the line, grabbed my screws, and shamefully headed for the long lines in the front. He was right. I was being rude, watching them in their time of discomfort. So, there is a fine line between watching the world around your for inspiration and intruding on the privacy of others. I am in constant search of that fine line, trying to make sure I don't cross it.

My curiosity of the world around me is always on. I am always thinking, thinking, thinking. I'm not a very talkative person. Some people might find me quiet, but that is because I'd rather be thinking than talking. I wake up in the morning with characters, storylines running though my head, and I go to sleep with those same thoughts running rampant through my brain. I know it might seem strange, but that is who I am.

So, if you find that you are in same position as I am, watching the world around you for character ideas and storylines, just make sure you find the right balance between "looking around once in a while" and getting scolded at The Home Depot. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Your Mother Is Always Right

It might take most of your life to come to the conclusion that your mother is always right. (Well, almost always) Many times, when mothers suggest or advise, we don't listen at first, but inevitably we conclude, that well, yes, they were right.

This was true for me almost three years ago. My kids and I were visiting my parents during a break for school and I was talking books with my mom. I had just finished writing a manuscript and was mulling over story ideas. She suggested I write a novel about the mythology of indigenous people. "Why don't you write something about Mayan myths," she said. My family is from Guatemala, and we are descendants of the Mayan people.

Right away I waved off her suggestion. I don't know why; maybe it's just what we do. However, it didn't take me too long to realize that yes, my mother was right! As I drove home that afternoon, I kept thinking about her suggestion. It is a two and a half drive home from my parents', so I had some great thinking time. I love to think when I drive. During that drive, I shut off any music or audio book I might have ordinarily listened to. All I wanted to do was think. And the ideas came full and fast. I could barely take in all the details that I had flying through my head, and since I was driving, I couldn't write them down. By the time I got home, I had the story mapped out in my head.

As soon as I got home, I wrote down some details, and then it was time for the research. I researched the mythology of several indigenous people before I settled on the Incas. Some of the Inca folklore seemed to fit the ideas I had been creating in my head during the drive. That is how my story was born--with one well-placed suggestion by my mother, a two and a half hour drive, and some Internet research.

As I delved further into the Inca mythology, I loved the idea of taking some facets of their mythology and adding my own invented ideas to that mythology.

That story idea was born almost three years ago. Now, my story is complete, and I am so happy that my YA novel, The Huaca, will be published in May. A huaca (pronounced waca) is an object that represents something revered. Huaca is a word from the Quechua language, a native American language of South America.

My story, of course, wouldn't exist without my mother's wonderful suggestion. So, remember, next time you are about to wave off your mother's suggestion, chances are she's probably right. Just listen to her.

In my next post, I'll answer the often-asked question:  "So, what is your book about?"

Monday, September 10, 2012

How Twilight Sucked Me In (Pun Intended only a little bit)

Let me tell you whyI like the Twilight books. My reason is not because of Edward. In fact, I really don't like Edward at all. It's also not because of the vampires and certainly not because of Bella. What really drew me to the series is the Quileute legends. The Quileute mythology portrayed in the novels, some of which is based on the indigenous people of Washington state and some of which was created by Stephenie Meyer, is what really sucked me in to the Twilight books. 

The Quileute mythology is just a secondary storyline in the novels, but it is what has kept me reading the books and watching the movies. According to the mythology, the early Quileute were changed from wolves. Meyer uses this facet of the mythology and elaborated on it, added to it as authors do. She created new and interesting facets such as having some members of the Quileute tribe transform into werewolves and imprint on others. What she did in adding to the existing mythology is so fascinating to me. 

The mythology of indigenous people is really interesting to me, and I love what Meyer did in creating the wolves. She did take certain creative liberties in adding to the existing mythology of the Quileute people, but that is what authors do. The idea of the 'cold ones' is not an actual part of the Quileute people, but rather Meyer's own invention. Members of the tribe phase into wolves to protect the tribe against the 'cold ones.' 

And so, Stephenie Meyer created Jacob Black, who at first she had not intended would play such a pivotal role in her novels. However, in writing New Moon, she realized that Jacob Black needed to be a greater character than she's originally intended. That is why New Moon is my favorite of all the novels. I love when Edward goes away for a long time and we get to see more of Jacob as he slowly begins to embrace the destiny that his Quileute origins require of him. 

Twilight readers all have different reasons for loving (or hating) the novels. This is my reason. The Quileute mythology and what Stephenie Meyer added to it is what sucked me in about the Twilight books. 

(wolf headdress-Quileute artwork)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gale or Peeta

In this blog post, I answer the age-old question- Gale or Peeta? In Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games books, Katniss Everdeen must choose between these two young men. It's not an easy choice as they're both honorable young men with good qualities. My answer: Date Gale, but marry Peeta.

Gale is the kind of guy you might want to date, but not the kind of guy you want to marry. He's good for some adventures when you're young and looking for adventure. However, once you're past the stage of adventure-seeking and ready to settle down, Gale is not your guy.

Peeta, on the other hand, is totally your guy. He's the one you can count on when you really need him. When you're pregnant and hungry all the time, Peeta will make you some yummy baked goods. Peeta is the kind of guy who will walk the floors with a crying baby in the middle of the night. Gale wouldn't be around in the middle of the night. He'd be off on some adventure. Peeta would be there though. He'd take the baby and rock her to sleep while you got some shut-eye.

Sure, Gale is good with snares and insignificant things like that, but Peeta is good in the kitchen. So, girls, remember when you're faced with such a dilemma, here is your answer. Date Gale. Marry Peeta.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What I'm Reading And Writing Now

In those two and a half years I have been blog-absent, my writing and reading tastes have changed. I have rediscovered my youth and have completely fallen for Young Adult novels. I've dabbled in reading YA in the past, but lately, it has consumed my reading and writing.

Maybe it's that YA makes me reminisce about my childhood and young adulthood when I fell in love with reading. It was Beverly Cleary, followed by Carolyn Keene, and then V.C Andrews. YA back then was a lot different than YA today. We didn't have full shelves full of just YA titles in Barnes and Noble and at the local library. We were lucky if there was one spinning shelves of YA paperbacks amid all the children's titles.

I honestly can't remember the last non-YA book that I've read. And, it has been nearly three years since I've been interested in writing anything other than YA. In fact, about three years ago, a YA author who critiqued my yet-to-be published manuscript suggested that I completely re-write it as a YA with my twenty-seven year old female main character as a young adult. At the time, I completely wrote off her suggestion thinking that she was saying that just because she's a YA author herself. But, as I have thought about it over the years, that is exactly what I'm going to do. I have not started the huge task of rewriting that manuscript yet, but it's on my to-do list.

In the meantime, I have finished one YA manuscript and am about 20,000 words into the next. Previously, I had written women's fiction, but I don't know if I can ever go back to that after experiencing the delight that comes with writing YA. 

So, that's another thing I've been doing over the past two and a half years--reading, writing, and loving YA. 

My Blog Is Back

Yes, my last post was two and a half years ago. It has really been that long since I've blogged. So, it's time to resurrect the old blog and start posting again. Maybe, it's because I'm such a minimalist that I've taken to Facebook and Twitter so much and have left the more wordy Blogger behind. So much can be said with just a FB status update or 140 characters on Twitter.

So, to recap those two and a half years, here are some of my favorite Tweets. Next post, I'll share some of my FB status updates to make up for the lack of blog posts over the last 2 and a half years. Then, we'll be all caught up again!


I wish the world could stand still for five hours so I could just write.

Just hit 20,000 on my word count.

Loved Amy Poehler and Will Arnett in The Secret World of Arietty.

Why does it feel like editing never ends?

listening to some smart boys talk about writing.

Having some major Stephanie Perkins withdrawal. Need to read some similar type YA books.

dessert is in the oven so now it's time to figure out what to make for dinner.

Picked up purple rubber lizard in living room and then thought I was picking up a green rubber lizard in the garage. Well, it wasn't rubber.

Had a wedge salad today and it made me think of that Modern Family episode.

Watching The Outsiders with my 12 year old. One of my all time favorite movies .

The new Great Gatsby looks awful.

City librarian wanted to know if Omar's mom was with him. I said I'm his mom. She looked shocked & said I thought you were his sister! NICE!

tortillas so good they're worth the hour drive to Beeville, Texas.

wearing my WNBA t shirt from 1997. I think that makes me a little old.

Failing miserably at teaching my kids to speak Spanish. Older Hispanic folks at grocery stores all over Texas look at me with shame.

Making my 10 year old practice piano. Tell me it will all be worth it one day.

Had a weird dream that John Green came to the elementary school where I teach to do a presentation and all of us teachers were like "Squee!"

Bought an 8 foot ladder, trying to reach some high places in living room & 6 foot ladder was not getting me there. Kinda scary up so high.

I seriously love Sheldon Cooper.

Listening to Spotify in the car. Everything from Annie get your gun soundtrack to Beastie Boys.

I'm listening to Jane Eyre on audiobook. Mr. Rochester is quite the jerk so far.

The kids are having breakfast at noon. I'm such a good mother. In my defense I did do 2 hours of yardwork this morning.