Indie Book Promo is happy to welcome Penelope A. Brown to the blog. She’s here to share about her book, The Gatekeeper’s Forbidden Secret. If this book sounds like something you would be interested in reading, please find a buy link below and pick up a copy or two.
Indie Book Promo is happy to welcome Claudia H. Long to the blog. She’s here to answer some of our questions share about her book, The Duel for Consuelo. If this book sounds like something you would be interested in reading, please find buy links below and pick up a copy or two.
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Thanks for having me! I love to talk about The Duel for Consuelo!
IBP – How would you describe your book in 20 words or less without using the blurb?
Claudia – Two men, two faiths duel for Consuelo’s heart. Can she choose between duty and desire while keeping her darkest secrets?
IBP – How would my friends describe me in 20 words or less?
Claudia – Luckily my friends like me…. “She’s energetic, talkative, enthusiastic, sarcastic, funny, sharp-tongued, optimistic, opinionated, intellectual and over-committed. And a darned good cook!”
IBP – State a random fact about yourself that would surprise your readers.
Claudia – I’m the worst violinist in the world. No brag, just fact. My neighbors have taken up petitions…torches, even!
IBP – Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
Claudia – Oh yes! (See “opinionated” above…) One: Persevere. Don’t let anything stop you from writing. Two: Take a writing class from a good teacher. Everyone can learn something. Three: Read your work aloud. Does it sound embarrassing or clunky? Flat? Revise it! Four: Ask yourself, “Is this interesting to anyone but me?” The answer had better be an overwhelming “YES!” Five: Proofread, proofread, proofread. Get a friend to proofread. Make sure there are no grammar, punctuation or word-choice errors in your work before you send it out or self-publish.
IBP – What is your writing schedule?
Claudia – I have a very specific schedule, since I also have a day-job as a lawyer handling mediation of nasty employment and business disputes. I also have a family and hobbies (you know, violin playing etc… no, luckily I also have others!) so I have to use my time very wisely.
It takes me about 18 months to two years to write and polish a book.
I write the first draft in November during NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and the key is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I have done that almost every other year for about ten years. So for the first part of the year I research, and in September or so I start to outline. I’m a big outliner! Then I go back and research some more, because the outline shows me where I need more information. Then I revise the outline.
Come November, I sit down every single day except Thanksgiving and write. I write at work, I write after dinner, I write on the subway. I write my story, the one that’s in my head.
NaNoWriMo taught me not to think about the little censor that lives at my fingertips. (I wish it were a bit more active at my lips!) It’s the barrier, the one that stops me from writing what I want to write, for fear that someone might not like it. I just write. I write about 2000 words a day, without revising. I only read the work from the day before, just before I start the day’s writing.
Once November is over, I let the manuscript sit for a month. Then revisions begin. It can take me a full year to revise, because there’s so much work to do on the book: more research, unexpected plot twists that happened while I was writing, characters that have come to life and not behaved according to the outline. I love that about the characters!
Once it’s polished and gleaming, I send it to my agent, and then, the year starts over. Research, outlines, and November…
IBP – Did you do any research before start or during of the writing of the books?
Claudia – Oh my goodness, yes! I write about Colonial Mexico from 1690-1750 so it’s isn’t like I can just look out my window or open the newspaper to see what’s going on. I do a tremendous amount of research, about six to nine months’ worth, before I start writing. A lot of what I find never makes it into the book, but gives me the context to write in. I feel like I’m in the time and place, and even if I don’t outright tell the reader what the time is like, the way the characters act and live tells the story in context.
One of my favorite ways to research is through art and literature. Want to know what noble ladies wore in 1711? Look at portraits! Want to know what intellectuals talked about? Read poetry and plays.
Because I write about the Inquisition, I am especially lucky. They kept meticulous records of their trials and interrogations, so we know what their unlucky victims cooked, ate, dressed like, thought about, and how they tried to hide their secrets. It’s scary how much they found out about their subjects, and how carefully they noted it all.
IBP – How many books do you read/month?
Claudia – I read about 8 books a month. I’m insatiable! I read mysteries, literary fiction, old books, new books…I can’t stop myself. I read the book review in the paper every week, and see if there’s anything that appeals to me. I belong to a book club, so those books tend to take me out of my comfort zone or any rut I’m getting into. This month we’re reading The Mathematician’s Shiva, by Stuart Rojstaczer. Fabulous!
IBP – How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?
Claudia – Communication is a two-way street. My book goes out into the world, and my reader absorbs it. Her reply thrills me! If a reader messages me (usually on Facebook or on my Blog) I always answer. Message me, please! If you want me to Skype into your book club, or tell you about my process, or talk about a particular character, I’m there for you!
As to reviews, now that’s a little different. I do read all the reviews for my books, and they’re vital in getting the book out there, so readers: please, please, please post reviews, especially if you like the book. Tell your friends, post about it, talk about it. With all the books out there, your communication is vital to us in getting heard above the noise.
But I don’t write for the reviews, and if there’s a bad review, there’s nothing I can do about it. The book is already published! (I’m not talking about the trolls out there…definitely nothing anyone can do about them.) I write the story that I need to write, and hope the readers love it. Luckily for me, they usually do!
IBP – If you could write with anyone who would that be and why?
Claudia – If I could write with anyone, dead or alive? Gabriel Garcia Marquez! He is the absolute Master of Latin American Fiction, and if he were still alive and would allow me to sit at his elbow and watch him write, I would be in bliss. I doubt I’d be able to write a single word in his presence, I mean, who could live up to him? But if I did, and he read it, and would offer a word of advice, oh, I’m getting giddy!
IBP – How many more books can we expect in this series?
Claudia – At least one more. I have just finished the first revisions to Marcela Unchained. (Working title. See below!) It’s the third in the Castillo family saga, and takes place from 1720 to 1753. All three books, Josefina’s Sin, The Duel for Consuelo, and Marcela Unchained, are stand-alone books. You definitely do not have to read one to understand the other. But if you’ve read Josefina’s Sin you’ll get a tiny bit of spice to add to your reading of The Duel for Consuelo. And vice-versa. Each book plays a bit off the others, so it doesn’t matter if you read them chronologically or not.
One thing I would like to ask your readers, before we sign off: Each of my titles has a woman’s name in it, and the spellings are a little unusual. Does that make it harder or easier for you to remember the title? (For instance, in English Josefina is written Josephina. Marcela is written Marcella) What do you think? And what do you think about the title Marcela Unchained? What images does it bring up?
Thanks so much for having me here today. Please, definitely let me know what you think about The Duel for Consuelo, ask me anything, and keep in touch!
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Huge double doors fronted the building and one of the young men opened them, bowing her through. She took a breath and stepped across the threshold into a dark hall. Her eyes took a moment to adjust, and she made out wall hangings to the right, a set of tall windows, and an enormous staircase leading up from the left.
A grey-haired nun sat at a desk in the front of a grand hall, just inside the door. “Good evening, Señorita Costa. Bienvenida. Abelardo will show you to your room. Abelardo!” A young man about her age approached. “Take Señorita Costa to the nuns’ wing.”
He raised his eyebrows and looked her up and down insolently. “Come, sweetheart. Let’s go to your new home.” Consuelo stared at him. No one had ever spoken to her that way. “I don’t think you will
mind the nuns, they’re not too bad with girls of quality. And quality is what you are.”
“Mind your words,” she answered sharply. How dare he? She looked over at the nun at the desk, hoping for intercession. The old woman adjusted the monocle she was using to see the visitor’s book she held in front of her, but said nothing.
“Oh, come on, darlin’. Don’t go all prim and proper on me. You mustn’t have been so high and mighty when your boyfriend came around at night, huh? I can see how a piece like you could get in trouble, a long tall drink of tart lemonade!”
Finally the nun interceded. “Abelardo, that’s enough. I am sorry, Señorita. Abelardo, take Señorita Costa to the nuns’ wing now, and not another word out of you.”
“Yes, sister,” Abelardo said, not the least bit meekly. “This way, my lady.”
Consuelo lifted her chin and turned to follow him. They passed the tall windows, and the grand entry, open and cavernous, gave way to a smaller, stone paved hallway, with tapestries hanging on the whitewashed walls. There was a drifting aroma of candle wax and powder. They walked in silence past a set of tall double doors that stood open to a room with a pianoforte and comfortable looking chairs. “The music room,” Abelardo said, gesturing to the piano. The next set of doors, even larger, was closed. “The library,” Abelardo said. “More books than any one body should read.” They made another turn and the appetizing smell of tortillas wafted by. Consuelo’s stomach growled and she realized how hungry she was. She had consumed nothing but the cup of chocolate at the inn since breakfast.
“Got to feed the tummy, eh? Or are you still at the upchuck phase?” “Silence, Abelardo,” she said, as if to a barking dog. He laughed. “You’ll get plenty to eat, that’s for sure. These sisters know all
about eating for two. Soon you’ll be waddling down the halls, unable to find your embroidery needle under your big belly!”
At last they came to a curtain. “Hello, good sisters!” he called. “I’ve got your latest sinner!”
“Oh my goodness, Abelardo, you fool. Shut your mouth and get back to the gate. I am so sorry,” said a voice on the other side of the curtain. A hand reached around and opened the drape. A tiny woman,
perhaps as high as Consuelo’s elbow, with a grey veil and habit, looked up at her. “Señorita Costa?”
“Come in, my dear. Get out of here, fool!” she said to Abelardo. He winked at Consuelo and turned away. “Come in here,” she repeated to Consuelo. “Ignore him, he’s an absolute boor. Brought up by a footman from the era of the former Marqués. There’s no dismissing him, he’s a family servant, but he’s a vulgar piece of work. I am sorry he was on gate duty when you arrived. But now you’re here. Let’s make you welcome.”
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