Thursday, November 25, 2010

Selena's Thanksgiving

After Thanksgiving dinner, the men sprawled on the plastic-covered chairs in Comadre María’s living room swigging beers and yelling at fútbol on TV while the women chattered loudly over the stove and sink in the cocina. Handing each other plastic containers, they were putting away the leftovers of traditional American fare – turkey, celery and cornbread stuffing, mashed garlic potato, green bean casserole with onions, corn with red bell peppers, yams with marshmallow, and cranberry relish. Papá had always insisted that his children fit in and be acculturated, but not assimilated. Selena couldn’t help but smile at the fact that all the traditional “American” foods were indigenous to Mexico, except for the cranberry.
Lorenzo’s two kids pulled out a Serpientes y Escaleras board game on the parlor floor and argued about who should go first.
“Hey, none of that!” Lorenzo barked. “Los niños hablan cuando las gallinas mean.”
Selena and her brothers had heard it often: Children speak when hens pee. And everyone knows, pues claro, hens don’t pee.
“The chipotle and chive cornbread was yours, wasn’t it Selena, dear?” asked Auntie Big Hair, who was stuffed into a satin dress two sizes too small for her.
“Sí, that was mine,” Selena said. “New recipe.” She got it from Latina magazine.
“Delish-io-sho,” Auntie said, mouth full. She licked her fingers and glossy nails. “At last you are learning to cook. Why aren’t you cooking for a man yet? ¿Cuando te vas a casar? When are you going to settle down?”
“I’m trying to establish my business,” Selena said.
“What would your mother say?” Auntie Big Hair said. “Do you want to end up like la Cucarachita Martina?”
It was a familiar fairy tale – the little girl cockroach Martina finds a nickel and after much thought uses it to buy powder to look pretty and find a husband. She refuses the proposals of the dog, cat and rooster because they bark, hiss and crow “Aqui mando yo,” I give the orders here, when asked what they will do on their wedding night. Finally Perez the mouse wins her amor by his caring and gentle demeanor, because Latinas at heart desire a gentleman like that. But as Cucarachita Martina is making a stew for the wedding feast like a good wife and una buena mujer should, Perez gets impatient and while trying to taste it he falls in the pot and drowns. Lesson: el destino will take you away from the good man you hoped for and you’ll have to settle for a man driven by machismo.
Auntie Giggles bare-shouldered her way into the conversation, floral taffeta swishing. “What’s this I hear? Hee-hee! Selena is going to settle down? You found a man at last? ¡Que milagro!”
“It’s – it’s not like that,” Selena struggled.
“So there is someone,” Auntie Big Hair gushed. “Who is it? Tell me. Does he have a car as nice as yours?”
“I’m not seeing anyone right now,” Selena said, wishing that Reed, chivalrous, chisel-chinned and smart, were here to take the pressure off her.
Auntie Giggles pouted. ”¿Qué pasa? A curvy chica like you still sola?”
Selena firmed her lips. Every Latina knew that an unmarried and childless woman hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the familia.
“I guess I want Señor Right, not Señor Right Now,” she said. It was a ragged cliché, but it might stop the women’s badgering.
Her brother Lorenzo belched wetly and called out for more black bean dip. His wife Elena scooped some from a plastic bowl into a decorative dish.
“And another beer!” Francisco hollered. Then a player muffed a kick and both brothers stood with Uncle Hairy Nose and Uncle Baldy and three cousins to shake their fists and shout insults at the TV.
Elena grabbed four beer bottles from the fridge and closed the door with her knee.
“They’re big boys, Elena,” Selena said. “They can get their rumps up and get their own beers.”
“I’d answer for it later,” she said quietly. “Excuse me.”
“Hey, that’s not the one I want,” Lorenzo complained. “The Corona Light. And put a little wedge of lime in it, ok?”
Francisco shook the chip basket. “We need more chips, too. Those blue ones.”
Elena set down the dip. “Sure. Right away, mi vida.”
Selena crossed her arms. “My brother is a lazy slob,” she told Elena when she re-entered the kitchen. “You’re encouraging him. Make him get up now and then. Why serve him hand and foot?”
“Your Mamí did,” she said, brushing past her. “All Mexican mothers do. You know that. Or maybe not.”
Comadre María asked Selena to step aside so she could wipe the counter top.
“Oh, let me do it for you,” Selena offered, uneasy about Elena’s snippy remark.
“No, no. I’m fine,” Madrina said. “You relax and enjoy. There’s plenty left over. Take some home.” She squeezed Selena’s arm. “Still so skinny. Take it all home. If only you weren’t so far away. Why be so far away? You have to drive all that way in that old car. And it sounds worse than the last time you were here. Maybe you can have the mecánico de auto look at it before you leave.”
Selena smiled. How could she explain that it was supposed to be loud? “Madrina, it is best for everyone that I live where I am right now.”
“Your mother felt the same way as me. Why so far? Living alone in that big house? How can your brothers protect you when you are so far from the familia? We just want you to be safe.”
Lorenzo belched again and Francisco laughed like a burro. “It is best for all of us that I am far away,” Selena repeated.

(That's because she's on a drug dealer's hit list! VIPER is due for release March 25, 2011. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

VIPER has ISBN, price, sort-of release date


John J. Desjarlais

ISBN: 978-1-933184-80-7

256 pages

5.5 x 8.5 trim



Available Spring 2011 (I'm hoping by "Love Is Murder" in February)

Monday, November 15, 2010

first VIPER review

by John Desjarlais
Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2011

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

In the book of Genesis, it is written “I will make you enemies of each other: You, serpent, and the woman. She will crush your head and you will strike at her heels.” (Genesis 3:15) That quote serves as the inspiration for John Desjarlais’ latest work of Catholic fiction, “Viper,” a compelling mystery that will keep readers in suspense.

Selena De La Cruz, a woman with a fondness for expensive footwear, is an insurance agent trying to forget her past as a drug enforcement agent. When her name shows up on a short list of people to be murdered, she is forced to face her demons – both literally and figuratively. Meanwhile, Jacinta, a young Latina, has been seeing visions in a cemetery of a “Blue Lady” many believe to be Our Lady of Guadalupe. “The Blue Lady calls for prayer and repentance, and then announces judgment upon those who are victimizing her children and bringing shame upon her people.” The individuals on the hit list have been killed one by one within forty-eight hours of when the visions occur.

A man known only as “The Snake” is the primary suspect. All of the targets, including Selena when she was working undercover, have had dealings with him. His calling card is the snake venom left in his victims.

“Viper” is rooted in Latin culture and religion. Selena is a woman trying to live in two worlds and not finding a home in either one. This is a classic who-done-it, but it is also a story of Selena’s evolution as a woman. Desjarlais has woven a highly-readable tale that mystery lovers or fans of Catholic fiction will greatly enjoy.

(photo: Selena checks a clue)

FREE copy of BLEEDER, VIPER for bloggers

If you are a blogger who writes book reviews, you can get a free copy of BLEEDER (and in January, VIPER) by filling out the form at this URL, below:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Final cover art for VIPER?

This might be the final cover art - or close to it. There's a blue aura behind Selena, the gun-hand is female (the other was a man's hand with the nails painted red) and the gun is different, and the serpent-smoke is lighter, more subtle. Now for the back cover, which will probably have a story tease and a blurb.

Monday, November 8, 2010

VIPER view from Jeanne Dams

"Non-stop action, nail-biting suspense--and enough genuine compassion to warm the coldest heart. A winner, start to finish."

Jeanne M. Dams, Author of the Dorothy Martin and Hilda Johansson mysteries

Sunday, November 7, 2010

MWA approves Sophia Press

I got news Friday that the Mystery Writers of America Board designated Sophia Institute Press as an 'approved' publisher, which means I can change my membership status from 'affiliate' to 'active' (full) and take part in Midwest Chapter promotional events, such as Printers' Row Book Festival in Chicago. I really feel like I belong to 'the club' now. Thanks, Sophia Press, for submitting the paperwork, and thanks, MWA, for the approval.

MWA 'approves' publishers who put out a certain number of titles per year and pay their authors a minimum of $1,000 for an advance. Only books from the approved list of publishers can be eligible for awards (such as The Edgar) and be listed in "The Third Degree" newsletter when they're released.

Speaking of...

Sophia Press tells me that VIPER should be out in early January now instead of before Christmas, as first hoped. Staff in the office, as well as the out-of-house proofreader, had illnesses and family emergencies, delaying the release date. The editor, who also assists in this process, delivered a new baby into the world a couple weeks ago (congrats, Regina and Andrew!) and so she's been preoccupied as well. At least the book will be out in time for the February "Love is Murder" mystery conference in Chicago.

I began outlining the third book in the series last night. I suppose having the extra hour after changing the clocks motivated me.

(photo: Selena De La Cruz returns in - well, I don't have a title yet. I guess it should end with -ER to match BLEEDER and VIPER).