Wednesday, June 6, 2018

1 day 'til ISLAND OF BONES Release Day!

What makes a young adult and romance author drop everything and write horror?
 Island of Bones Cover

When I first began in traditional publishing in 2002, I'd written a ghostly middle grade novel called FREDDIE AND THE BILTMORE GHOST about a group of kids who break into a famous abandoned Miami hotel, wreak havoc, help the restless spirits find the ever-after, and learn deep dark secrets about their families. It didn't have much conflict, but it was a great first effort. Most importantly, it would encapsulate a repetitive theme for me--characters who love haunted locations, are a little witchy, seek out ghosts, and learn deep dark secrets about their families in the process. 

Freddie didn't sell, and the voices of YA novels were starting to appeal to me in my writing critique group, so I wrote BACKSTAGE PASS, a young adult tale about the daughter of a famous rockstar trying to remain incognito at her high school while her dad's band was in town recording a new album. It got Disney interest, we whipped up option paperwork, and the contract fell through. A year later, Disney came out with an eerily similar concept called HANNAH MONTANA about a young country star trying to remain incognito at her high school. I'll pause here while you groan...

*nods solemnly*

Fast forward 16 years. I've since written 7 YA novels, ghostwritten over 40 novels for private clients which include bestselling authors in all genres, published 4 romance novels under a pen name, and sat around doing a lot of thinking about what I really, truly want to be writing. And the answer is: ghost stories about characters lured to abandoned places, witches who help restless spirits and discover deep dark secrets about their families. 

Nothing has changed, y'all. Nothing. 

WAKE THE HOLLOW, my 6th YA novel, followed this theme. Even my YA time-travel romance, SUMMER OF YESTERDAY, followed a similar theme. My first love has always been and will always be...GHOST STORIES. Since I was little, I've loved creepy tales of things that go bump in the night, of moaning specters looking for closure or to drive the living insane, of family secrets blown wide open by curious protagonists, and of eerie, romantic Gothic settings. One thing I always had a hard time finding, however, were more Gothic paranormal tales set in Florida. I'd devoured all of Anne Rice's Southern Gothic books about witches, but I wanted more. I wanted Miami witches and ghosts, Key West witches and ghosts, the Everglades, the keys, and all the spaces in between. 

So I set out to write them myself. 

I present to you this 8th day of June, 2018 a dream come true--my Haunted Florida series! Book 1 is ISLAND OF BONES set in 1950s and modern-day Key West. It has all the elements I've always loved--the ghosts, the old abandoned house, a creepy innkeeper, modern-day pirates, lost treasure, secrets, secrets, and more secrets. And it's scary, you guys. And a little gory, too. 

Here's the blurb:

A haunted Key West resort. Murder off the Havana coast. Pirates. A deadly hurricane.

When Ellie Whitaker leaves her dead-end job and ex behind to spread her grandmother's ashes in tropical paradise, the last thing she expected was to face more ghosts of the past.

But darkness lurks inside her grandmother's former home turned resort. Ellie's presence stirs up its energies. As a hurricane creeps closer to the island, she must hurry to discover long-buried truths.

About her treasure-hunting grandfather's death in 1951.
About the curse her grandmother left behind.
About the innkeeper next door with an evil secret.

And the spectral visions she keeps having. Some there to help her. And some to make sure Ellie becomes a ghostly resident of haunted Key West forever.

This is only the beginning. I'm finally where I've always wanted to be. Book 2 in the Haunted Florida series will be RIVER OF GHOSTS, set deep in the Everglades featuring the Miccosukee tribe of South Florida, and Book 3 is CITY OF SPELLS, about my hometown of Miami featuring, you guessed it...some good ol' Cuban santería. 

Life's a journey, and mine has been a winding rollercoaster of one. I hope you enjoy ISLAND OF BONES

Friday, September 2, 2016

Hollow Book Trailer!

Guys! I'm so excited because my BOOK TRAILER for Wake the Hollow is done! Talented animator Curtis Sponsler created it by putting together a stylistic vision of equal amounts creepiness and badassery! Check it out, and please SHARE!

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Wake the Hollow BLOG TOUR Begins Today!

Hello, my darlings! Today is the first day of my blog tour for WAKE THE HOLLOW! (*insert wild applause*) Just in time for FALL (it's Fall in my head; don't spoil it)!

Below is the schedule for every stop I'll be making between August 29th - September 11th. Some blogs will post reviews, some will feature a guest post from me on any number of topics, and some will feature author interviews (and sometimes my characters!). Hope you'll share and stop by!

The Tour:

August 29th
Positively Book Crazy – Promo Post
Never Too Many To Read – Review 

August 30th 
Kimber Leigh Writes– Guest Post
Book Wish – Review

August 31st
A Literary Potion – Review
YA Reads – Author Interview

September 1st
A Leisure Moment – Character Interview
Books, Dreams, Life– Promo Post

September 2nd
The Book Beacon– Review

September 3rd
Literary Meanderings – Promo Post
Ginger Night Owl– Review

September 4th
Bookish Escapes– Review
Pandora’s Books – Promo Post

September 5th
Daydreaming Books – Review
Roxy's Reviews – Promo Post

September 6th
Reader Girls – Review
The Book Cellar – Promo Post

September 7th
Just One More Chapter – Promo Post
Book Lovers Life – Promo Post

September 8th
RoloPoloBookBlog – Promo Post
Bookish Wanderlove – Review

September 9th
With Love For Books – Review
Elizabeth Delana Rosa – Promo Post
Read Love Blog – Review

September 10th
The Broke Book Bank – Review

September 11th
Books are Love– Review
Dana’s YA Bookpile – Guest Post

Thursday, August 25, 2016

4 Reasons to Love a Good Retelling

When it comes to movies, I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a fan of remakes. If a film became a blockbuster hit back in the day, won awards and much critical acclaim, then to me, there’s no reason to remake it. Why should I watch the exact same story retold the exact same way? Because special effects are better now, you say. So? Because there’s more budget for better costumes now. So? To me, those things aren’t what made the story great to begin with, and as anyone who enjoys reading, watching movies or TV knows—STORY IS KING. 

However…what if we changed the story a bit (or a lot, depending on how you like your retellings)? Ahh…now you have me interested. Now I won’t know exactly how a story will unravel, because I’ve never seen this version before. Even Walt Disney loved retellings, which explains why his happy-ending versions of fairy tales are so different from their grim originators.

So, here’s a list of 4 reasons to love a good retelling, one that doesn’t simply regurgitate the original but presents something creative echoing of the classic but highlighting new, engaging plots:

4. FUN WAY TO INTRODUCE A CLASSIC (if you’re not familiar): Let’s be honest, not everyone has read The Count of Montecristo. Or Huckleberry Finn. Or Jane Austen. I know, stop gasping before you choke. But it’s true. As a mom, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve found myself telling my kids, “Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not good!” What is this allergy to classic music and books? I guess it’s a teen thing. But no worries, because this is where a good retelling can CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I can’t tell you the number of reviews I’ve read of my newest, WAKE THE HOLLOW, where the reviewer has said, “I never read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow before, but now, I’m so going to!” A good retelling can spark interest in the original tale. When you present the characters and plot in a modern or creative setting, readers who otherwise would never have read the classic tales will now suddenly be dying to read it. Suggestive sorcery from this former teacher? Maybe. J

3. FUN TO SEE OLD TALE IN A NEW LIGHT (if you are familiar): If you’ve read the original tale, then it’s highly entertaining to see how things can change in a retelling. Maybe the villain becomes the hero, and the hero becomes the villain. Maybe the story is now set in modern times or even the future. Maybe it’s not a romantic comedy anymore but a horror novel. The possibilities are endless! It’s like taking your beautiful mother and sitting her down in a chair, changing her hair and makeup, then dressing her up in fun cosplay threads, revamping her into a new beauty. She’s still your mom, still familiar to you, only now…she looks so freaking cool!

2. COMFORT OF THE FAMILIAR: I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for nostalgia. Every fall, I transform my home décor into my “Fall Palace” and make caramel popcorn. During Christmastime, I’ll pretend like it’s cold outside and bake cookies, filling my house with sweet smells that remind me of childhood, even though where I live it’s 100 degrees outside. One Halloween tradition is to sit and watch “The Adventures of Ichabod Crane” (Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). I also love watching Young Frankenstein and carving pumpkins, same way I have all my life. My book, Summer of Yesterday, was essentially a love letter to my childhood vacation place, Fort Wilderness in Disney World. There’s something comforting about reliving the things you love, but if you add something new into the mix, you’ll get a whole new experience. Such is what happens with a good retelling—it’s enjoying your favorite book all over again, only you get a new story along with it.

1. YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW EACH TIME: If you watch a movie enough times, you’ll discover little fun tidbits that make good trivia. With a retelling, you might learn something new about Mr. Darcy, or Anna Karenina. You might get the whole point of view of the Big Bad Wolf or Ichabod Crane or Brom Bones. You might learn something about the authors themselves, as in Wake the Hollow. Maybe this is the teacher in me again, but my favorite lessons were always those that took boring or difficult topics and dressed them up in ways that were exciting and entertaining for students, because one thing I’ve learned about teens, kids, and even adults over the years, everyone loves to learn, it’s just HOW the material is presented, and a good retelling won’t just entertain you, it’ll have you dashing for the source material to learn more.

So, there you go! If you like retellings and you love YA books, a few good ones out this month are:

-       Olivia Twisted and Olivia Decoded (Oliver Twist), by Vivi Barnes
-       All the Broken Pieces (Frankenstein), by Cindi Madsen
-       Such Sweet Sorrow (Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet), by Jenny Trout
-       Finding Perfect (Pygmalion), by Kendra C. Highley
-       Red (Little Red Riding Hood), by Alyxandra Harvey
-       How Willa Got Her Groove Back (Pride & Prejudice), by Emily McKay
-       Nexis (A Sci-Fi Cinderella), by A.L. Davroe

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Monday, August 1, 2016

5 Ways I'll Celebrate My Book Birthday

I've been pregnant for 96 months. Yes, the average gestation period for humans is nine months, but I'm not human, and neither are most authors. 

Oh, you thought I was talking about baby-babies?! Ha, ha, no...those are easy. I'm talking about writing a full-length book filled with historical references and getting it to traditional print publication, the longest gestation period ever, all before my life ends, silly goose! And because my latest and 6th YA novel, Wake the Hollow, releases tomorrow and rings in at the longest road to publication ever for me (8 years), longest length ever (304 pages), and longest trail of tears ever (the blood and sweat kind), I am celebrating this puppy tonight da la gana. English translation: I FREAKIN' DESERVE IT.

Because my big release party for Wake the Hollow is next month in Miami, tonight I will be celebrating quietly, but most triumphantly. Here's how:

1. WATCHING THE DISNEY SHORT THAT STARTED IT ALL: In 1949, Walt Disney Productions was winding down from their war effort by creating short films meant to boost patriotic morale, so they weren't releasing full-length features and instead focused on a series of "package films," or short movies instead. The last of these included "Wind in the Willows" and "Ichabod Crane" adapted from Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and later became known as "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad." 

As a kid, I became totally enamored with the Ichabod part of the tale. Here was this poor, lanky schoolmaster who came to town and fell in love with the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, only to be spirited away by The Headless Horseman, who looked suspiciously like Brom Bones, Katrina's jealous boyfriend, without a head. I always felt sorry for the schoolmaster and thought he was the nicer, more educated gentleman of the two, and have spent the rest of my life showing the film to anyone who'll watch it with me to see if they'll agree. To that end, if you've never seen it, YOU SO HAVE TO! First of all, it's voiced by the enchanting Bing Crosby, so right there--WIN. Secondly, it's funny, because--surprise, surprise--the original Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a romantic comedy, if you can believe it, with a little supernatural spirit thrown in. 

Anyway, I've made my students watch it over the years, and now I make my kids watch it, and they totally hate me for it, but I insist. It sets the perfect mood for the fall season, so even though it's only August 1st and I usually don't watch it until September, I'm watching it tonight. Because inspiration deserves its day, and that day is tonight. 

2. BUY BATH & BODY STUFF: You might say I have a weakness for Bath & Body products. I don't know what it is...wait, yes, I do. It's those delicious scents of warm vanilla sugar, toasted marshmallow pumpkin, pear and brown sugar goodness that fire my synapses and I just can't resist! Just look at my bathroom shelves, and this doesn't include the ones hidden in all my purses. I try to stay away from this store on the basis of losing all my money whenever I do, but because it's Book Birthday Eve, I splurged! That's right--body products were Buy 3, Get 3 Free, PLUS I had a $10 off coupon over $30, so you can't blame me, right? AmIRite? 

3. BURGER & MILKSHAKE: Another guilty pleasure of mine is this deadly combo right here, and because I've been eating gluten-free and really healthy for five months now, I totally dragged my ass into Red Robin and ordered an ACTUAL blue cheese burger on ACTUAL bread (gluten-free bun) with sweet potato fries AND a salted caramel milkshake. Hell, yeah! Guys, guys, eyes rolled into the back of my head, and they're still rolled back as I write this. I'm typing with voice-activated dictation or some other techy sounding fake explanation. I'm hoping tomorrow they'll be rolled down again, as I have to get back to work.

4. LISTEN TO EVANESCENCE: In 2003, the band Evanescence released a song called "Bring Me to Life" which was featured on the Daredevil soundtrack. From the moment I started writing Wake the Hollow, I envisioned this song as the soundtrack for Micaela's life. She's so closed up inside, hasn't felt anything real in so long, and from the moment she arrives back in Sleepy Hollow, her empty hollow core awakens long-repressed emotion. Hence the lyrics, Wake me up inside...wake me up me from the nothing I've become.. I can hear it a thousand times and always imagine Mica walking through the row of maple trees on her way to visit her abandoned childhood home. Gives me goosebumps every time. Evanescence - Bring Me To Life - YouTube

5. THANK MY MAMA: I have many people to thank over the last 15 years of publishing, but tonight I'm calling my mom and letting her know how instrumental she has been throughout my writing career. My mother is a tough nut to please. Imagine Gru's mother, played by Julie Andrews, in the funny film, Despicable Me. "Hey, Mom, do you like this chapter?" "Eh." "What about this story idea? Do you like this one??" "Eh." But when my mother was done reading Wake the Hollow, she put it down and said, "Wow, muy bueno." I almost died. I probably cried. No, I definitely cried. Not that my mom is the last word in YA fiction or anything, but I'd finally written something she truly loved, and because of that, I didn't abandon the manuscript like I almost did. I thought no one would get it, no one would care about this plot or these characters, and I was wrong. Turns out I'd written my first real mystery thriller after years of writing romantic teen comedy. Turns out it wasn't half bad. 

So there. That's my To-Do List for tonight. HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO ME! Hope you'll join me online to celebrate tonight, tomorrow, and many more.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Hey guys! This has been a long time coming. I started this book in 2008. 2008!!!!! That's the year I joined Facebook, for crying out loud. The story went through several versions, countless revisions, and has finally pulled itself together, and now I get to share this amazing cover with you. Isn't it insanely gorgeous????!!!

Like most of my covers, I wasn't sure what to think at first. Me being a Halloween Queen, I probably envisioned the headless horseman with a pumpkin or some such, but it only took like 5 seconds for this interpretation to grow on me, and now I love it. It shows my Latina main character (#WeNeedDiverseBooks), it shows the creepy forest in the background, and the title is nice and BAM!

Here's a description of my modern-day Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

Forget the ghosts, Mica. It’s real, live people you should fear.
Tragedy has brought Micaela Burgos back to her hometown of Sleepy Hollow. It’s been six years since she chose to live with her father in Miami instead of her eccentric mother. And now her mother is dead.
This town will suck you in and not let go.
Sleepy Hollow may be famous for its fabled headless horseman, but the town is real. So are its prejudices and hatred, targeting Mica’s family as outsiders. But ghostly voices carry on the wind, whispering that her mother’s death was based on hate…not an accident at all. With the help of two very different guys—who pull at her heart in very different ways—Micaela must awaken the hidden secret of Sleepy Hollow…before she meets her mother’s fate.
Find the answers.

Unless, of course, the answers find you first.

I hope you like it and will share to let others know to look out for it. If you'd like to pre-order, click here!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

SUPERHEROES - And Why It's Time to Let Go of Them

Superheros. We love them. We're obsessed with them. And by "we," I mean everyone I know, except me.

Why are "we" so obsessed? Just today, CNN gave us this headline: "Meet your new Aquaman." Why? Why do I have to meet my new Aquaman? If I remember correctly, I liked Aquaman for about 5 seconds when I was a kid watching Super Friends on Saturday morning. Now he and Wonder Woman will be appearing in the "new" Batman vs. Superman movie, and I have to ask, "Who fucking cares?" Why is it that we keep recycling Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, waiting to see who'll be the next actor to succumb to the harsh judgment of millions of hardcore, purist, aging comic book enthusiasts out there? Have you even SEEN a kid reading comic books lately? No, because they don't. Why are "we" so obsessed with these old characters from an outdated, bygone era? Are we so afraid to let go of our childhood? Are we so afraid of new characters to love? Shit, if this were the case, then they should've made at least 16 new Snoopy movies for me to enjoy, because that was my childhood hero.

We don't just need new superheroes, but new characters, PERIOD. But is there room for new faces? We're a country with a huge film entertainment industry, and all we can come up with is, "Did you like the old Superman or the new Superman? Old Spider-Man or new Spider-Man?" Dude, has anyone noticed they're still the same superheroes over and over, even if played by a new actor? Why are we splitting hairs? As they say in Spanish, "Hasta cuando??" Until when? Come on, people. IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON!

Time for RISK-TAKING! There are thousands of writers out there, poised on the edge of a new creative renaissance, writers struggling to be heard, seen, read. Thousands of them, creating all sorts of unique characters for people to fall in love with, fascinating characters who explore new worlds, yet we keep dumping millions of dollars back on Stan Lee. Newsflash: Stan Lee doesn't need any more money!!! He's old, decrepit, getting more and more stinking rich on the business of recycling his old shit, while some young writer is struggling to pay his bills and feed his family with his fantastic new story lines, if only someone would look at them! Let's start letting in some new blood, new worlds, new civilizations, and I don't mean by making 5 more Star Trek movies. Yes, I love Star Trek, but it's 2014!!!! We do not need to see how Kirk and Spock would look and talk as played by yet more new actors. They're still Kirk and Spock! How will we fall in love and keep evolving as lovers of art if we are always looking at the Mona Lisa as painted by 5 different artists?? It's still the Mona Fucking Lisa! Please, I'm begging you...stop going to see these movies. It isn't until you stop paying for them and start demanding new ideas, new faces, new talent, that the film (and book) industry will evolve into the 21st Century.

Look what happened when someone decided to take a risk with Harry Potter, a new character 20 years ago--LOVE, EXCITEMENT...that's what happened. Young readers were so thirsty for something refreshing and magnificent that they fell in love with JK Rowling's "new" creation, and right they should! But now we need more. Please, editors, directors, producers of book and film entertainment...let's please put these superheroes and other old tropes to rest. They accomplished what they set out to do. They boosted morale pre and post wartime, and they united the country, and all that. Yay. Awesome. But now it's 60 years later, and it's TIME. Go see a movie you've never heard of before with actors you've never heard of. Pick up a book by someone you've never heard of, and if you're a writer, don't stop trying to be heard. Don't stop knocking on those doors. Be better than your competition. Eventually, you'll catch their attention, but we need help. We need for readers, viewers, consumers of visual storytelling to please give originality a chance. Let go of the old superheroes. And go find some new ones.

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