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They say time heals everything and in the case of award-winning author Alisa Valdes-Rodríguez, her 2011 holiday season will be much more pleasant than 2010. A year after going through a very public battle for the film rights of the popular THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB, Valdes-Rodriguez announced this week on her blog that Encanto Productions, the company headed up by  Ann Lopez (George Lopez’s ex-wife), did not renew the novel’s rights.

Alisa Valdes-Rodríguez

As Valdes-Rodríguez writes:

Two weeks ago, the option expired. The production company had the choice to buy the rights forever, for next to nothing. To my great surprise, considering the bad blood among all the people involved, they did not. I’d half expected to get a check at midnight, just to put me “in my place” for objecting to what they’d done to my work. But they did not.

They gave me back the rights.

This was huge.

People close to me know that I had all but given up on ever seeing the rights again. But now, here I am, in full possession of them again, and much better prepared to move forward.

Happily, the story is still in great demand for the big and small screen. I’m fielding calls from big names on it. This time, I’m taking my time. This time, I’m doing all the homework that needs to be done before moving forward with anyone.

This time, we’ll be doing this my way, and it will be beautiful, and it will succeed.

I am grateful for the hardships and conflicts of the past year. I would never have learned so much without them. I am also grateful to the production company for doing the right thing and giving me my book back. It was a grand and gorgeous gesture, and one that won’t be forgotten. I suspect this year hasn’t been hard just for me, but also for the head of that company, who has gone through hell for her own reasons. I wish her well, and sincerely hope for blessings and happiness to come to her.

Things are moving quickly. I’ll keep you all updated. We’ve been waiting a long time for this to happen. Eight long years. But this time, it will.

Watch.

xo Alisa Valdes

 

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God bless @mskittyalvarez. Not only is she an amazing Twitter and Facebook friend (even though she went to Penn), she is one of the most positive angels who has entered my life.

Kitty is the real deal and she is one of the most smart and engaging online peeps in our universe. Today, Kitty came up with an AMAZING IDEA that will make the #LatinoLit community even better. This is what she tweeted out:

So, Kitty, we are SO IN! What book should be read first?

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Originally from Los Angeles, #LatinoLit Silvio Sirias is the true definition of the bilingual, bicultural author who weaves his words through many worlds. Sirias, whose novel MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA won the 2007 Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel, has written several novels based in Central America, a region that has influenced him even since he lived as an adolescent in Nicaragua. We had the chance to chat with Silvio about how he uses social media to promote his work and the advice he would give aspiring new writers.

 

Silvio Sirias

 

JRV: Has social media helped you promote your books and increase your book sales? What experiences have you had with social media?

Silvio Sirias: Social media—primarily Facebook and Twitter—played important roles during the virtual book tours of my two novels, BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN (Northwestern University Press) and MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA (Arte Público Press). Both Facebook and Twitter helped spread the word regarding the schedule and the host websites. With the assistance of Condor Book Tours—and I highly recommend authors sign-up with enthusiastic publicists, such as Nilki Benitez—our efforts translated into larger audiences and, of course, momentary spikes in sales.

Regarding my experiences in social media, I’m far more adept at attracting attention—positive, I hope—on Facebook. Twitter is still somewhat of a mystery to me, even though I have been participating for more than two years. I think this is because the discourse in Twitter is slightly encrypted, and the vast amount of useful information that travels over this medium overwhelms me. Nevertheless, I’ve met many kindred spirits on Twitter—a Latino and Latina literature niche-group, as you would say, Julio—and this alone has been worth the effort. What’s more, Twitter has helped educate me—and substantially—about the world of publishing.

JRV: Everyone is saying that the self-publishing movement will eventually become how every book is published. Will large publishing houses become extinct? Why or why not?

Silvio Sirias: I’m jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon myself with a collection of essays entitled LOVE MADE VISIBLE: ESSAYS AND REFLECTIONS ON WRITING, TEACHING, and OTHER DISTRACTIONS. The reason I’m going this route is because, although a fun read, I think, Love Made Visible would prove difficult to place with a traditional publisher. As a result, rather than spending months sending the manuscript around looking for a home, for this project self-publishing makes sense. I’m hoping that readers who have enjoyed my writings in the past will support me on this solo venture.

I don’t think, however, that the monumental surge in independent authors constitutes a death knell for traditional publishers. Undoubtedly, publishers were asleep at the wheel when the tidal wave hit them. But at the helm of the book industry are creative, quick-thinking people. After they recover from the shock they will redefine their place in the market and carry on. That said, though, the absolute dominance they had in the industry is already a thing of the past. The present situation in the publishing world, and the freedom it now allows authors, reminds me of the Spanish proverb: “En río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores” (There’s good fishing in troubled waters).

But the problem I foresee with self-publishing is that there will be an almost crushing amount of chaff. As practiced gatekeepers, traditional publishers have an advantage: their ability to choose what they consider to be wheat. (And in the major publishers’ view of the marketplace that means what sells, regardless of literary quality.)

JRV: What is the best advice you would give new authors about promoting your works and using social media? What works? What doesn’t?

Silvio Sirias: I bow to your expertise on this matter, Julio. I’d urge them to follow you on Twitter (@julito77). Other than that, I feel that the best writers can hope for is to make readers aware of their work. Convincing readers to make a purchase, that’s a different matter. What authors need to keep in mind is that in the developing world of social media one has to be persistent, astute, yet very, very judicious. Social media will help sell a few books, but only great writing will keep readers coming back.

To Become a Fan of Silvio on Facebook: Click here.

To Follow Silvio on Twitter: Click here.

 

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Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Great news for my dear friend and award-winning author Raul Ramos y Sanchez. The author of HOUSE DIVIDED and AMERICA LIBRE will be on CNN en Español today, February 23, at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

He will be interviewed by CNN en Español anchor Juan Carlos López.

Juan Carlos López

You can watch the interview on DirecTV Channel 419 and Dish Network Channel 859.

¡Enhorabuena, Raul!

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The latest installment from FRANKY BENÍTEZ: A Story of Love, Pain, and Hope from San Juan to Boston:

All rights reserved by ARCHIVO HISTORICO Y FOTOGRAFICO DE PUERTO RICO

 

The torrent of clouds raced over the rays of the Caribbean sun, blackening the colonial port of San Juan within seconds. Holding his only possessions in a leather satchel made by a fat Moroccan from Seville, Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón, the great-grandfather of Franky Benítez, sprinted past africano porters dragging steamer trunks in the Puerto Rican mud and Spanish nobles opening black umbrellas to find cover from the impending downpour.

Octavio Antonio, seventeen years old, his dark curly hair dangling over his green eyes and olive skin, opened the wooden door of a café at the very moment thousands of tropical rain drops splattered onto the port.

He looked around. The café’s scents of crusty bread and espresso steam held the criollo merchants heading back home from Spain to the island, new arrivals with labor papers in hand, two sugar speculators from New Orleans, three crying babies with their mothers, and two priests reading from a Bible and crossing themselves every time they whispered Jesus from their lips.

“What would you like, young man?” Octavio Antonio heard the voice of an elderly man from behind the café’s glass display of guava pastries, caramel flan, and cheese turnovers.

“Nothing, sir. Just trying to get out of the rain,” Octavio Antonio said as he took his handkerchief from the breast pocket of his only ditto suit, whose sack coat was starting to wear from the long voyage across the Atlantic, and wiped the sweat beads from his brow,

“If you are not buying anything, please leave my café,” the man said.

Octavio Antonio nodded. “Yes, sir.”

He walked back out onto the cobblestone streets of the capital city, the rain soaking his clothes and drenching his boater, which he bought in Huelva the day before his trip with the last reales his father Don Antonio Octavio had given him. The city, if he could call it that, had narrow, winding roads that made walking slippery in the middle of a downpour. Octavio Antonio, not knowing where he was, kept walking, and at times stopped for cover under the bottom of a pastel-colored balcony that formed part of the city’s colonial structures modeled after the houses of Andalusia.

After thirty minutes, the drops vanished from the sky and the sun crept through the remaining clouds, imparting a late afternoon light onto the soaked city. Octavio Antonio noticed he was not far from the city’s central plaza, the Plaza de Armas on San José Street. His meeting place. He took out his handkerchief to dry his eyes and cheeks, as he strolled to the plaza’s main area. Before he reached the plaza’s pigeon-filled fountain, a voice shouted behind him.

“The American ship exploded in Havana! U.S.S Maine destroyed! Read all about it in this afternoon’s edition! El Mundo has the story! American ship exploded! Hundreds dead!”

It was a boy with skin as dark as molasses. He wore no shoes, yet he was able to hold a stack of newspapers under his left arm as he shouted the headlines from the afternoon edition. Octavio Antonio watched as the boy started to run past him and heard towards the plaza. Soon, the island’s merchants would saunter out before their late afternoon coffees with steamed milk and buy a newspaper from the boy.

Octavio Antonio knew this voyage had its risks, but when he had received the letter from his uncle Rogelio six months before to help with Benítez & González Sugar & Rum Company, S.A., all Octavio Antonio could think of was how quickly could he escape his town of Lora del Río in southern Spain and book a steamer ticket from Cádiz to San Juan. His father urged his son to stay, but Octavio Antonio had adventure in his soul. Among the olive trees and frisky bulls that others in his town raised and trained, Octavio Antonio would spend days dreaming about his fortune, his destiny, his freedom. His father was born to cultivate olives. Octavio Antonio was born to lead men, like the Moors who had owned his land centuries ago.

So, convinced that Puerto Rico was his future and ambition, he wrote back to his uncle Rogelio to inform him that he would indeed go to Puerto Rico once he had enough money for the voyage. Octavio Antonio then worked any task he could muster from his fellow neighbors, picking olives until dusk and cleaning stables until dawn. By November of 1897, Octavio Antonio had enough money to purchase his one-way ticket. He celebrated his last Christmas in Spain drinking sherry and confessing his sins.

In late January, just a few weeks before his departure from Cádiz, Octavio Antonio received a letter from his uncle that only confirmed his decision:

15 December 1897 A.D., Juncos, Puerto Rico

To my dearest nephew:

May the Lord grant you blessings, prosperity, and happiness in the blessed new year of our Christ. My joy of your potential arrival was recently overshadow by a even more momentous occurrence: several of my fellow partners have heard through their contacts in Madrid that the Spaniards have granted this island of Puerto Rico autonomous rule! Puerto Ricans will now be able to govern themselves and begin to free their chains from their Spanish brothers. There is talk that a government will be formed on the island before the summer solstice of 1898.

This is indeed wondrous news, since it will allow Benítez & González Sugar & Rum Company, S.A. the opportunity to export its rum without the impositions of the Spanish government. The years of struggle for our independence and freedom have begun to dissipate. When you arrive to this beloved island, it will be active with anticipation. I cannot think of a better place for an industrious young man to earn his fortune. I long to be your age again and not the old man that I am, the one who had first through that the original scream for revolution in Lares over twenty years ago was mere childish folly. Yet when I did finally decide to emigrate to this lush, green island, I discovered quickly that Puerto Rico could become the commercial pearl of the Caribbean and eventually all of Latin American. Like Rodó’s Ariel, it would swirl into a world of profits. And when I began to read the accounts of Betances and others who had committed to a free Puerto Rico, my heart became more attached to my new home each and every day.

Can you imagine it, my nephew? This former Royalist and lover of the Crown joining hands with fellow Puerto Ricans last year as we heard of the news in Yauco, where the first Puerto Rican flag had be flown by patriots, although to Spain, they were dangerous rebels? That day, I grabbed a hammer to one of my finest barrels and let the drink overflow into the mouths of my fellow friends! It was a celebration that had taken decades to occur, and to some whose families lived on the island since the early Spanish governors, the wait has lasted centuries. When the authorities stopped the Yauco liberation, hope still lingered in our souls, since we had already devoured the taste of freedom and of money. We were determined, and our brave leaders ensured everyone that the Spanish Primer Minister, the very enlightened Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, would indeed be granting autonomy to the island.

We did achieve it, and as I take time to pause between another Christmas celebration, I felt the urge to write this to you and inform you that yes, my nephew, you are indeed wise for your desire to live on this island as a free man. Of course, we will not change much in terms of who we are, we still speak Spanish and my accounts on the continent will not vanish once Puerto Rico meets its destiny. Once we are free, we will all be rewarded with riches never seen on this island before!

You are like the island, my dear nephew, you are as bright as the sun that shines on Puerto Rico each and every God-given day. If the Lord is willing, I see a future that will propel you to be able to not only live on the island, but also bring you back to Spain on regular holidays to enjoy the family you will leave behind as well as the country that was your first home. Now, your home will be with me in Juncos, and eventually you will grow to be prosperous, powerful, and mighty.

With this I must leave you to attend to the guests who will soon be arriving. Remember, my nephew, Puerto Rico will be yours and yours will be Puerto Rico. I urge you to come to this island with a mind to challenge our colonial mentality, which has kept us shackled like the africano slaves of Loíza. You represent the island’s progress and what it will become: a country that the whole of Latin America will exhibit as a model testament to the free enterprise markets, political stability, and human dignity.

I wish that our Lord protect you on your journey and bring you to me prepared and at the ready to form our own empire of sugar and rum, not unlike the Crown I used to defend when I was young and thick-headed like you.

May the Lord bestow you blessings. Your loving uncle,
Rogelio

PS Please write to me with the final details of your itinerary so I can make sure to arrange one of my laborers to meet you at the Plaza de Armas near the end of day when you arrive. He will ensure that a private carriage will be made available for your long journey into the mountains of Juncos, where I will be waiting for you at our company with open arms of anticipation and love.

PPS Please share my affection to my brother and sister-in-law. I long for the day when I can return to Spain and visit them. I can assure you that the recent developments will allow me to achieve this goal successfully before we enter the next century. Can you fathom how close we are to a new age? The Pearl of the Caribbean, the Isle of Enchanment, will soon be real!

As he waited for the carriage to arrive in the plaza, Octavio Antonio could still recall the words his father shared with him upon listening to the details of his brother’s letter.

“Fortunes are for dreamers, Octavio,” his father said. “Rogelio has always claimed that such fortune will be found in Puerto Rico. He has been writing the same letters ever since he left us. That is why he had never returned. He cannot pay back his debts.”

Near the plaza’s fountain, another voice began to snuff out Octavio’s memories. He look up and saw a younger man, with skin as mixed as his own, signaling to him.

“Don Octavio? Don Octavio Benítez Aragón?” the voice said.

“Yes, that is I,” Octavio said to the man.

“Your uncle has sent me to find you. My name is Rafael, Rafael Castro of Juncos. I am one of your uncle’s supervisors. The carriage will arrive shortly. It will be a long ride, but you will be provided with all the comforts merited to a young man who has traveled so far to get here.”

Octavio Antonio smiled. Rafael appeared to be a few years older than him, and his mustache smelled of rum. The same rum that Octavio Antonio had battled a bout of seasickness and stale bread so that he could learn from his uncle and become a master merchant.

“I am ready, Rafael. I am ready to go to Juncos and see my uncle. I have never met him since he had left my family before I was born.”

“He will welcome you with an embrace only family can recognize, even those who have never had the pleasure of meeting before. Let us go.”

“Yes, Rafael. Let us go to find my life.”

Three months later, in the very same place where Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón had arrived on a steamer from Cádiz, a dozen American ships led by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson bombarded San Juan. The city’s residents were in a panic. A month later, the Americans blockaded of San Juan harbor. The month after that, General Nelson A. Miles landed in Guánica, on the southern part of the island, along with over 3,000 American soldiers. The resistance to Nelson’s landing was sparse and weak. By the end of August, Puerto Rico was a colony again, this time under a different master, and Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón was mourning the death of his uncle and the loss of Benítez & González Sugar & Rum Company, S.A., due to a bankruptcy ruling.

Each night, it was told many years later that the residents of Juncos would hear the wailings Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón every night at around three in the morning, when the local tavern had closed and he had nowhere else to go.

Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Check

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Ok, we were fooling around tonight with Klout since there is a very cool possibility that Klout CEO Joe Fernandez will soon grace this blog since we wanted to do an interview about Klout and online Latinos. So just for fun, we checked the Klout score for @julito77 (61). That account has been around Twitter since October, 2008, and it’s pretty solid score. Then we checked @fbnovel, the Twitter account for FRANKY BENÍTEZ and after just joined on January 2 of THIS YEAR, already has a Klout of 55. And it’s a book! Go figure.

Anyway, to honor the “old Twitter” and the “new Twiter,” we decided to add the following follows and amazing Twitter accounts to follow. The “old school” list is the original group of people who made Twitter so wonderful for us in late 2008, early 2009. They will be forever known as The Posse to me, my first REAL friends on Twitter (btw, I have met them all in person). The “new school” list recommends some great new profiles that we have met through @fbnovel.

 

“Old School” Profiles Profiles to Follow from @Julito77

  • @ginidietrich: Oh, Gini, life without you would be like Martin without Lewis Simon without Garfunkel and Donny without Marie. Enough said. There is no one funnier, spunkier, savvier, or smarter than you on Twitter. Follow at @ginidietrich.
  • @justinthesouth: The most giving person I know on Twitter. Justin is family. He also loves the Red Sox, and there is no one nicer online. Simple as that. Follow at @justinthesouth.
  • @adriandayton: I will be honest with you, Adrian had like 18K followers when I reached out to him.  I had like 100. I am go glad I did. Adrian is so intelligent, authentic, and knows social media. We have also been to a football game together and one of my dearest friends. You can follow Adrian at @adriandayton.
  • @EOCMello: The first time Jeff tweeted me, it was love at first Red Sox. Not only do we share a love for the Pats and the Sox, Jeff has always made me laugh and he truly understands the transparency that is social media. One of the best on Twitter. Follow at @EOCMello.
  • @sarahrobinson: She makes me laugh and she made me think about how best to use social media to be yourself. I love her Southern charm and wit. Follow her at @sarahrobinson.

“New School” Profiles to Follow from @fbnovel

  • @Eva_Smith: Eva has quickly and authentically become a loyal supporter and reader. Yeah, she is on the dedication page. By the way, she also knows social media well. Very well. Follow her at @Eva_Smith.
  • @M_Gideon: I love following new writers who are starting on twitter and this writer also has a very good story to share. Some very poignant prose. Follow at @M_Gideon.
  • @charlievazquez: Yup, this NY Boricua (WEPA!) is the co-prophet of #LatinoLit and his support and passion for what he does is a model to us all. Psst, he is also a GREAT poet and write. Follow at @charlievazquez.
  • @tcravet: Another part of the #LatinoLit literati, I am fascinated by this very talented Latina. Here’s to good books! Follow at @tcravet.
  • @chela816: An old Twitter friend who is a new Twitter friend and loyal reader and supporter of the novel. Like her bio says: she is a conquistadora. Good to have her on our side. Follow her at @chela816.

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So we spent the last week crowdsourcing our cover for FRANKY BENÍTEZ, a story of love, pain, and hope from San Juan to Boston. We received 28 entries in five days and have chosen our three favorite covers. For those who gave us feedback before on our social media sites, thanks. Now it’s just a question of typefaces and fonts. Please take a moment to vote below.

COVER 1

COVER 2

COVER 3

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