Monday, August 4, 2014

REAL LIFE LATINA HEROINE: Maria Cervantes

My romance stories feature strong, smart and successful Latinas in search of their Happily Ever Afters. But while my characters may be make-believe, the women I'll introduce you to in this new column are definitely real.

These Real Life Latina Heroines are the authors of their own success stories. They are inspirational role models who are committed to making a difference and making an impact in their community, culture and career field. 


MARIA CERVANTES

Who is she?
Maria is the Director of Community Relations and Outreach for the MIND Research Institute, a nonprofit based in Irvine, CA dedicated to ensuring that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world's most challenging problems by revolutionizing math education through visual learning. 

On her career path...
"Going through Santa Ana Unified School District (in Santa Ana, CA) and growing up in the hood, I didn’t even dare to dream. Education meant nothing to me, although grades were never an issue.  I never learned study habits or enjoyed reading, yet I was able to pull good grades somehow. My mind and spirit were always at home watching over my younger siblings, cooking and cleaning. If you asked me back then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would've given you a blank stare and said, "Besides a great wife and a loving mother? What else is there?"  

After dropping out of college to get married and join motherhood, I had an emptiness in my life. The day I saw my son with his little cap and gown posing for his kindergarten graduation picture, it clicked. I decided to act on what so many people had seen in me: the potential to become a professional. I didn’t want to be another statistic. I earned my education and no one can ever take that away. I owe that to the great mentors and empowering role models I had.

In the year 2000 I wanted to see what volunteering was all about so I went through training and was offered a job. There I met one of my first professional mentors who took me under her wing and taught me the career basics: how to dress, proper handshakes, email etiquette etc. She also taught me to be a professional “Pedishe” all for a cause I believed in.

I started helping with special events and began my career as a fundraiser. At MIND I was able to help develop our first gala that went from raising $130,000 to over $700,000. Then they challenged me to start fundraising through relationship building and grants. I went from raising $50,000 the first year to $800,000 last year."

On her passion…
"My passion is to provide resources and guidance to our low-income families and to give them the encouragement to dream and make those dreams a reality.  I love talking to parents about the possibilities available to them. I want them to break out of the cycle of just sitting and waiting around for an opportunity to fall onto their laps. I help them go out and seek those opportunities."

On being a Latina…
"I'm a Mexicana born in Zamora, Michoacan. Although I came to live to the states when I was very young and went through the school system here, I needed to communicate with my parents and grandparents, so losing my language was not acceptable. I am very grateful for having been taught to think, read and express myself in Spanish. I also was taught values, respect and humility above all, and also how bright colors and great music can bring up your spirit.  I can be asking for a million dollars in the morning and then come home to cook frijoles de la Olla to feed my son and fiancĂ© before going to soccer practice. I am an educated Latina -- scholastically, culturally and ethically.  My favorite hashtag is #OrgullosaLatina.

Being a Latina to me represents having an in-depth impact in my community.  You can speak and understand two languages and two cultures; it means that you can take the best of two worlds to make a better one. It also reflects the hard work and the sacrifices our parents went through to make sure we kept our culture, while adopting a new one. I am a proud Latina who honors this country for the opportunities provided to me, my family and those who have dreams."       

On her worries and fears…
"One of my biggest worries is wondering what kind of human being my son will grow up to be.  For many years I was so stuck on making sure he was academically smart, but at some point I realized that I was only focusing on what society wanted from my child, not what I wanted and certainly not what he wanted. By supporting his passion I have been able to gain his trust and respect, and he can see where my passion has taken me.  Once he tested my reaction by telling me that when he grew up he wanted to be a "paletero" (someone who sells ice cream on the street). My answer to that was, "As long as you can wake up each morning smiling and know this is what gives you the lifestyle you are happy with, then go out and be the best paletero out there."  In reality he wants to be a professional soccer player so he can get a scholarship to UCLA and then work for Nike's marketing team.  I believe he will do that.”

On the idea of Happily Ever After…
“It means standing up for your beliefs and the reasons that make you smile. At the end of the day, it is those who can bring out that smile during the rough times who will be the ones to find their happily ever after.”

On her own love story…

"I was an educated Latina and single mom making it on my own who became friends with someone who had no academic education, but had the purest love for life. He gets up each morning whistling, talking to his plants and thanking God for his health and his job as a landscaper. He taught me how to live in the moment, cherish family and laugh out loud. After almost four years of being together, I will be marrying my #1 cheerleader and motivator. Many people, including my family, may make faces and comments, but guess what? This is my happiness, and my son has found a friend he can trust and share his dreams with. The three of us respect and support one another and balance each other out."








Special thanks to Maria Cervantes for my being my first profile! 
If you or someone you know would like to be featured as a Real Life Latina Heroine, please contact me at 2sabrinasol@gmail.com

Friday, August 1, 2014

What I read this summer...and loved!

My kids go back to school next week. Crazy, right?

So that means my summer is technically over. It was a good summer overall, especially since we were able to spend some time in Chicago with my sister and her family. As I was thinking about other things I did over the summer it dawned on me that I actually read some books!

I've done a summer reading list before, so I figured I was due for another one. Here are my favorite reads from the past three months and I've also included what I loved best about them...

A Duel With Death - Louisa Bacio
Amazon buy link
I actually had the chance to be a Beta Reader on this one. When it was officially published a few weeks ago, I decided to read it again! It's the third of Louisa's 1Night Stand series of novellas for Decadent Publishing. I loved this one for many reasons -- great romance, hot sex scenes and a paranormal twist. Plus there's a Latina heroine! All in all, this was a definite page turner. I highly recommend!

The Best Man's Baby - Victoria James
Amazon buy link
This book has the best scene ever involving a pregnancy test stick. I read this on the flight to Chicago and laughed so loud that one of my fellow airplane passengers looked up from his laptop and gave me a look. Ha!

Veggies Not Included - Christine Leo
Amazon buy link
Christine is a fellow member of OCC RWA -- my local author group. During one meeting, she received recognition for self-publishing this book and the background behind why she wrote it peaked my interest. It's a memoir of her unconventional journey to losing 130 pounds. It's a fascinating read, especially if you've ever battled with weight loss yourself. I applaud Christine for sharing her story.

Baiting the Maid of Honor - Tessa Bailey
Amazon buy link
Tessa Bailey has earned a reputation for writing some sexy, dirty-talking heroes. She just has a way with words -- or rather her characters do! It makes for a fun read and I've definitely become a fan.

FAT - Saranna DeWylde
Amazon buy link
Saranna was a guest speaker at an OCC RWA meeting and that's where I learned about this book. It's the first in her "Labels" series and is about exactly what the title says. I thought Claire Howard, the book's plus size heroine, was awesome. I wanted to be her friend, buy her clothes and just hang out. I don't know what else to say except that I loved this book. A lot.




Friday, July 11, 2014

Vacation (It's all I ever wanted)

I'm officially in countdown mode. In just a few more days, I will be on V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N...for almost two -- TWO -- glorious weeks.

Sigh...

We'll be visiting family in Chicago for most of the time and then we'll hit a local amusement park and maybe a movie or two once we're back home. I always try to build in some "vacation from the vacation" time whenever we go away on a trip. That's because the days leading up to the vacation are some of the most stressful, right? Then when you're on your trip, if you're like me, you have an informal itinerary to make sure you do everything you came there to do. It's fun, but it's nonstop fun.

Or maybe that's just because I have kids? I'm always on the search for new experiences and new memories for them. Plus, I'd probably tear my hair out if any of them ever said they were BORED on a vacation!

Maybe one day, I'll take a real honest-to-goodness relaxing vacation. You know, the kind where you don't have to wear a watch because time stands still and the only thing you have to worry about is when you're getting your next cocktail.

Sigh...

Anyway, I'm especially looking forward to this year's vacation because I think I've earned it! The day job has been extra busy and I finally finished my full-length manuscript. Content edits are just about done and I'm planning to send it off to my copywriter friend for one last review. Hopefully, if all works out, when I return from my trip, my book will be perfect and ready for submission!

Yep, I've definitely been working like a crazy woman. So time away from the office and our hectic every day schedules, will be greatly appreciated.

Also, when I get back, I'll have a new feature starting on the blog. I'm very excited about it and can't wait to unveil it. So check back in a few weeks!

Until then, have some fun in the sun. I know I will.

Besos,

Sabrina


Friday, June 27, 2014

When The End is really just the beginning

The End.

Every writer loves typing those two words. They mean you've accomplished something, that you've actually, finally finished writing your book.

It's a good feeling.

I know, because I just did it!

I'm proud to share that I finally finished writing a book I started writing fourteen months ago. Now, I wasn't working on it all that time. In fact, I probably wrote 80% of it in just the first two months. Then life happened and I stopped and didn't start back up again until about six weeks ago.

So now it's finished. Phew.

But, hold on! Just because I've typed The End doesn't mean I'm done with the book just yet. I'm editing and rewriting and editing some more. When that's done, then I submit it to the specific publisher I'm hoping will accept it.

The journey of sharing this story with all of you has only just begun.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Writing contests: Why you win even if you don't

I entered my first writing contest this week. I did it on a whim after seeing an announcement on Facebook. Of course, it would be awesome if I won. But I did it more just to say that I did it and because I'm looking forward to getting feedback -- the good and the bad.

See that's the thing about contests. Whether you get a prize or not, you can get other things just for participating.

If you're unpublished, here are some other benefits to entering contests:

- A firm entry deadline will give you an incentive to finish your WIP once and for all.
- Your manuscript will end up in the hands of editors, agents and future readers/potential fans.
- If you do end up winning or placing -- bragging rights!

Sounds tempting, right? Are you ready to take the plunge and try out a contest?

Luckily, I know of a great contest for unpublished writers that's taking entries now!

The Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers, sponsored by the Orange County Chapter of RWA, is one of the longest-running and most respected contests offered by an RWA chapter. 

Click here for more information about the 2014 Orange Rose Contest sponsored by OCC RWA

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you to my friend Louisa Bacio for tagging me in this blog tour. 


1) What am I working on?


Perhaps a better question might be, what am I NOT working on? It seems like I'm always juggling multiple stories both on my laptop and in my head.

First, I just started a new short story I'm hoping to submit to a Mothers' Day anthology by the end of the month. Her Sweet Seduction is about a single mother who is romanced by a former lover who uses chocolate and other sweet surprises to prove he's interested in more than just another fling.

Second, I'm wrapping up edits on a story that was actually my first ever submission to a publisher. The editor sent it back with "Revise and Resubmit" notes...two years ago. My friend Louisa was actually the one who nudged me to dust it off and get it ready for submission again. But I learned so much from that first editor's notes, that I decided to make major changes to it -- including changing the title and increasing the word count by another 10K. Romancing Her Rival will hopefully be ready to see the light of day again in a few more weeks.

Third, I still need to add about 15K words to my first book-length story. Then it will go into edits and beta reading. I'm hopeful this one will finally be done by this summer. 


2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, I am the Romance Chica. LOL. This means that all my stories feature Latinas who are looking for their happily ever after. I've always been a romance reader, but honestly it was rare to find heroines who looked like me or the women in my family. When I decided to become a romance author, I also decided that I would do my part to promote diversity in romance. So while the heroes in my books may range when it comes to skin color and heritage, my heroines will always be Proud Latinas.


3) Why do I write what I do?

I love love. It's as simple as that. 


4) How does your writing process work?

I don't really have a "process" which may be the reason why I'm juggling three stories right now. For the most part, I'm all over the place. I don't write chapter by chapter or use much of an outline. Usually, when I get a story idea (sometimes inspiration can come in the form of a dream or even a submission call), I try to write out a few paragraphs right away. Something similar to a synopsis, but it can be very general and full of question marks. I let the idea sit for a few days in my head. I'll think about key scenes while I'm shopping or driving and then as soon as I get on my laptop, I'll write them down. I've been known to write end scenes and sex scenes way before the first chapter.

When I'm ready to start writing the main chunk of the story, I'll make a playlist on my iPhone. I always write to a playlist that's been created specifically for the book I'm working on. It helps puts me "in" the story and in the minds of my characters. Plus having headphones on when I write helps to block out  any background noise and also lets my family know that I'm in the zone. I usually end up with the majority of the story written after a few weeks and that's when it's time to go back and fill in missing scenes or tweak the plot.

The trick is being disciplined enough to focus on finishing the current story before a shiny new idea pops into my head.

Yeah, I'm still working on this part of my "process."



Thanks for visiting today! The Writing Process Blog Hop continues next Monday, March 17 with Skylar Kade. So make sure to stop by and say hi. Besos!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Lovers' Day!

It's Valentine's Day! This is a national holiday for us romance lovers -- readers and writers alike. Because what could be better than a day set aside to celebrate L-O-V-E?

Not much in my humble opinion.

But let me clarify. My idea of Valentine's Day isn't an expensive bouquet of roses that will just die in two days, or a box of assorted chocolates I'll feel guilty for eating or having to wait two hours for a dinner reservation at some trendy restaurant. My perfect Valentine's Day is more about the simple, but creative, ways you show your love to others and vice versa.

In fact, my favorite Valentine's memory is from 16 years ago. My husband and I had just started living together and I was pregnant with our first daughter. I was also horribly sick but had gone into work that day anyway. Halfway through the day, my boss ended up sending me home and as I was driving I realized I had forgotten to get him something. I felt awful, but there was no way I was going to go shopping at the mall. Still, I didn't want to come home empty handed. Plus we were dirt poor in those early days, so it wasn't like I could spend a lot either. Finally, I decided on the one thing I knew he would enjoy that wouldn't cost that much.

When I got home, I knocked on the door and when he opened it, there was a heart balloon tied to a 12-pack of Pepsi. To this day, he says that was his best Valentine's gift ever.

Even though I was sick and couldn't even tell you what we did the rest of the day, it's my favorite Valentine's Day memory because I still remember the look of pure love on his face.

Sigh...

So, in following my tradition of offering creative Valentine's gifts, I have one for you. It's a sneak peek at my WIP that I'm currently revising and polishing for submission. It's a friends-to-rivals-to-lovers story and the scene I'm sharing is about the first time our heroine admits to herself that there may be something more to this affair with her ex-boyfriend's brother. I hope you enjoy!


As he entered her, they both gasped. He lowered his mouth to her neck. “I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you,” he said between kisses.

Gabriela didn’t respond with words. Instead, she arched her hips so her body could welcome him back fully. They moved together, first slow and languid, finding their rhythm once again. Then their pace increased. Frantic. Wild. Desperate.

Her climax came quickly. She knew it would. Just like she knew that this—whatever this was between them—would be over soon too.

She pushed the thought away though as Josh collapsed on top of her, heaving hot breaths against her chest. When he finally moved and looked into her eyes, she lifted her head to kiss him. The moment her lips found his, she lost herself in their warmth. He kissed her back with such gentleness that she couldn't help but sigh. There was no urgency. No hardness. The kiss was soft and sweet. The complete opposite of what they’d just done. Yet, it rocked her to her core so much more.

She broke away to find him smiling at her. “That was nice,” he said.

“Uh, I think that was a little more than nice. Nice doesn’t make you sweat.” She laughed and wiped his forehead with the back of her hand.

“I didn’t mean that. I meant the kiss.”

Her chest tightened. “Oh, that. Yeah, I guess it was. Why do you sound so surprised?”

“I don’t know. I guess because we’ve never kissed like that before. I liked it.”

“I liked it too.” That was an understatement.

“Let’s do it again,” he whispered and leaned into her.

Internal warning bells sounded their alarm. But it was too late. Gabriela didn’t care. She shut them out, closed her eyes and surrendered to the sweetness.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from "Romancing Her Rival." I'd also love to hear your favorite Valentine's Day memories! Comment below and I'll enter you into a drawing to win either a copy of REUNITED (e-book only) or a copy of the SINSPERATIONALLY YOURS anthology (e-book or print). Deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 16, 2014.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day! Besos!