Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sacrifice Book Tour


Sacrifice is here!

When Mexican drug cartels fight for control along the border, Juarez becomes the murder capital of the world. In El Paso, Texas it's drug business as usual: a grifter sets out to buy her freedom, a car salesman runs drugs to make his fortune, a gang leader battles to rise among the ranks of the cartel, and a detective and his wife are ripped apart by a family secret. Everyone's fate lies in the hands of an old woman. Will she let the past die with her or take revenge the only way she knows how?

"Frankie entered the strip mall. Alicia had picked a bakery that served a casual dinner--sandwiches and soup for a casual dinner. When she waved him over, he saw his usual sitting on a plate across from her. At least he wouldn't have to wait for service. Frankie glanced up and blinked rapidly. A young man with a Mohawk had just done an about-face behind Alicia.

He passed right by Alicia's table and heard her ask, "Frankie?" His eyes locked on the white T-shirt in front of him. It can't be him. Manuel Ortega aka Rooster glanced over his shoulder in Frankie's direction.

How could he know they had Luis? As soon as he thought it, Rooster took off at a run. Frankie felt a tug on his arm. "Frankie, what's going on?"

He shrugged off Alicia and barked, "Stay here!" Frankie ran after the disappearing white T-shirt and  tried to dodge people in the strip mall, but a young woman stepped in front of him. Frankie sent them both skidding across the tiled floor.

"What the hell?" the young woman yelled at Frankie as she sat up.

Frankie held up his badge. "Police!" Scrambled to his feet and took off. He skidded to a stop at the intersection in front of him. A distant bang to his right caught his attention. He saw a tan, metal door swinging shut with a bright-red EXIT sign above it. Frankie sprinted down the short hallway, slammed through the door and found himself on the sidewalk outside the strip mall facing a large parking lot. He swung himself right and left, trying to determine which way Rooster had fled.

Movement on his left. He glimpsed a Mohawk disappearing into the night. Frankie ran after him, confident he could gain enough ground before Rooster got into his car. A figure slid over the top of a two-door sedan with a slight thud. The figure crouched on the driver's side.

Frankie drew his gun, holding it out in front. "Police! Rooster, stop right there." He almost reached the car when the door cracked open, allowing Frankie to see Rooster climb into the car. The car door slammed shut. "Rooster! Stop!" Frankie came running up to the passenger-side door as the car roared to life.

Rooster rolled down the passenger-side window, leaned over and yelled, "Fuck you, pendejo!"

Frankie didn't hesitate. He dove through the open window as the car backed out of the parking spot. He braced his hands on the inside of the door, trying to bring his gun up. The window tightened around his waist, pinning him.

"Rooster, stop, or I'll shoot!"

A grin slid over Rooster's face as he finished backing out and accelerated forward.

Frankie's feet skipped along the pavement as the car sped up. Losing his balance, he saw Rooster lean forward to reach behind his back. Screams flowed past as people dodged out of the way of the oncoming car. Frankie braced his right arm with the gun against the dash to right himself in the window while the tips of shoes dragged behind him.

When Frankie looked back, Rooster had a gun leveled at him. Time slowed as Frankie watched Rooster cock the gun. There was no way Frankie could swing his gun around in time.

The car hit something large with a heavy thunk, and it hurtled upward as both guns went off. When the car landed, the air from Frankie's lungs left him in a whoosh, but he kept pulling the trigger in the general direction of the driver's seat.

Frankie was thrown forward as the car veered to the right and crashed into several more parked cars, nearly pinning him between them. Click, click, click. Wet, gurgling noises were coming from the driver's side. Frankie's body strained for air.

He slammed his palm down on the window button. Lights did a jig in front of his eyes.  Frankie slumped to the ground and took two, long lungfuls of air before he could stand. Using the car for support, he made his way around and yanked the driver's side door open.

Rooster's eyes were wide, and his breath was coming in fast, shallow gasps. Blood was blossoming out from several places on his white shirt. Rooster's right hand swept along the car seat next to him. His gun was just out of reach.

Frankie pushed it to the passenger-side floorboard, grabbed Rooster by the front of his shirt until he was only a breath away from his face and said, "Don't you die on me, you son of a bitch!"



Coral Russell runs the blog Alchemy of Scrawl where she reviews Indie books/authors. She says, "By the end of 2013, I will have read close to 300 Indie titles. I can vouch that the quality and diversity of Indie authors is worth investing in." She also spearheads a radio show for authors and other creative people.

Ms. Russell won the 2003 McCaleb Peace Initiative which produced the non-fiction articles Peace on the Peninsula.


Don't forget to visit the other tour partners here!

Monday, March 25, 2013

More Snow

My sister and I just returned from England, where we buried our father. It was a trip that began with a sad raison d'etre and morphed into a lovely, warm reunion with family and friends we hadn't seen in years.

Hang on - let me back up - did I say WARM? No. It was anything but warm. Somehow we managed to choose a few really cold days to arrive; not to mention - it snowed the entire time. Goodbye to my carefully planned hairdo and frilly little travel suit. Goodbye to our planned expedition to Hilltop, Beatrix Potter's farm.

Hello to massive cardigans and endless cups of tea. We turned up the radiators in our hotel room (inside an old farmhouse) and planted our bottoms on them - that was, when we didn't go to sit in an old stone church for services - and those churches, while lovely, are not known for their heating prowess.

We flew back, and what do I see this morning? More snow. As my fellow author Ross Kitson said, it looks like Narnia outside my window.

A few words about snow:

1. When my husband and I were trying to get pregnant, we froze some eggs and went on with IVF. Two tries and several disappointments in, I got the last batch implanted and went home. A few days later I dreamt of snow, and I woke up KNOWING I was pregnant. Nine months later.... along came a little girl who just happens to love ice and snow. 

2. When I was in my thirties, my husband taught me to ski. Like Hemingway, I took to it right away. I'll never be a good skier - much the opposite - but I love skimming down snow-covered hills (Blue hills, thank you, NOT Black Diamonds.)
image courtesy of benchandloom.com

3. The first chapter of Finn Family Moomintroll is about the Moomins all getting ready for a long winter's sleep. They eat their feast of pine needles, crawl into bed, and their house is slowly covered with white. I've always loved that chapter.

4. The snowflakes out my window are large and fast. The ground is covered already. I fully expect to get a call from the school sending the children home early - will check back in to let you know if Bub arrived back in the bus. Which means wet snow clothes and snow boots are in my future, instead of that desperately-needed grocery run. Ah, well.

5. No, seriously - it's turning into a thick blizzard. Hm.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My To Be Read Pile

Image courtesy of Aprettybook.com
I finally finished The Night Circus - you can see my review here - so I'm heading back to The Sable City with a long sigh of relief. It's a wonderful book, and there are loads more in a series. So, yay!

I'm plop in the middle of Beautiful Creatures, and I think I'm going to have to call it DNF - Did Not Finish. I like the characters and the setting, but crazy things happen out of the blue - cough, family dinner and morphing characters, cough - and the locket flashbacks thing is getting old. If you loved it, let me know and I'll try again later on. Right now, though, I have to let it marinate.

Instead, I just picked up Wool by Hugh Howey. I cheated and started in last night, and it grabbed me right away. It's a post-apocalyptic story of humans who survive underground in a silo. Interesting!

I also got The Cloud Atlas. I have no expectations whatsoever for this one, except it looks very funky and different. We'll see. It's six interlinked stories that span the globe and go from the 1800's into the future, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the author, David Mitchell, does with it.

By the way, I splurged and got both of them in print. I'm flying to England this afternoon,* and I need something to read when you have to turn off the devices; heaven forbid I spend ten minutes without a book in my hand.

I also loaded up some new titles on my Kindle. Losing Hope is the second in a wonderful series by Johanna Garth about the Persephone myth and a modern retelling; I loved Losing Beauty, so I'm really looking forward to the next one. (I must admit that I cheated and started in, and Johanna hasn't let me down. Her writing is as compelling as ever. 

Forbidden Road is the next in the Tower of Bones series. Tower of Bones was a really exciting epic fantasy, so this will be a great read about a lifetime quest.

A lot of friends recommended Divergent, so I've loaded it as well. It's another dystopian book, and I see that it's written in present tense - first person. SIGH, not a fan of either. Still, it comes with such glowing reviews that I'll give it a whirl.

* Yes, I said Flying to England! I hope to get a few hours to go and tour Beatrix Potter's farm, so I'll return with pictures and a blogpost about that. In the meantime, look for a fantastic blog tour about Sacrifice by Coral Russell on March 24th, Sunday. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Tale of Two Books - The Night Circus

I may have spent a longer amount of time reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern than I did on the entire LOTR trilogy. The cover is gorgeous and I had read glowing reviews, so I excitedly picked it up in the bookstore. Alas, one glance showed me that it was written in present tense. I'm more of a past tense gal.

I put it back and later, when we were leaving for a journey, I loaded Night Circus on my Kindle. I began to read, and my eyes glazed over. This happened again and again.

It wasn't that Night is filled with bad writing - far from it. Morgenstern uses beautiful prose, words so lovely that some passages read like poetry. Look at this section:

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that... there are many kinds of magic, after all.” 

And this:

“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case....And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act?”

In the second selection, Morgenstern says, "Things keep overlapping and blur..." They do just that in this book, and luckily the chapter headings include dates to keep us on the right track. Both of the above selections are about story, however, and that's what kept tripping me up with the beginning 70% of Night Circus: there was no story. The language grew more and more gorgeous, so I was almost drunk with words, but at one point I had to stop and read The Stand just to have a book with a real villain, real body fluids, and characters who curse out each other. I needed a dose of filet steak after all that spun sugar.
image courtesy of deviant art

"Dessert consists mainly of a gargantuan tiered cake shaped to resemble circus tents and frosted in stripes, the filling within a bright shock of raspberry cream. There are also miniature chocolate leopards, and strawberries coated in looping patterns of dark and white chocolates." - The Night Circus


The characters all speak in the same, dreamy way, so I could hardly tell one from the other. What was the difference between Celia and Isobel, anyway? One does magic and the other reads cards and they both are attracted to Marco (who also speaks like both of them.)

At last I reached the final section of the book, and finally the story took hold. In the ending 30%, I wanted to keep reading - no longer was it a matter of slogging on through bogs of caramel and popcorn. At last, the competition between Celia and Marco became real and important. Moreover, the characters Poppet and Bailey took center stage, and they were vivid enough to catch my imagination and care about what happened to them, very much. I could envision a sequel about those two, in fact. 
image courtesy of guardian.co.uk

The Night Circus left me in a quandary. On one hand I loved Morgenstern's language and prowess with words - if the chapters had been presented as interwoven short stories, I might have enjoyed the first major portion of the novel more. On the other hand, the writing was so misty that I couldn't stand much more than a few pages at a time - even a scene where a woman walks in front of a train is told in the manner of a Degas painting. 

I have been told that Jim Dale narrates the audio version, and I think that might be the way to go with the book. Dale's own magic would instil the characters with their own voices, adding layers to the floating beauty of Morgenstern's poetry. Perhaps he could add a bit of irony to the conversations as well, so a comment like this: "I thought it might be easier if you doubted him. And I gave you a year to find a way for the circus to continue without you. You have not. I am stepping in..." might become more realistic, as well as the dreamy response. (If only Celia reacted by saying, "You know what? Go to hell.")

So this review is a tale of two books: the long beginning that I struggled through and the ending that gripped my attention and wouldn't let go.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lovely Age

After watching Driving Miss Daisy on a date years ago, I turned to the fellow who had brought me to the movies.  "You know," I said, "Jessica Tandy really is a stunning woman."

"What?" He was horrified. "But - she's old!"

Yeah, I broke up with him not long after that. 

I've been watching sucked into the world of Downton Abbey, and I must say that Maggie Smith looks better than ever. Her cheekbones are elegant, and she still exudes the air of old-world elegance.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the woman who, like Ms Smith and Ms Tandy, are truly gorgeous in spite of - nay, BECAUSE of - their age and experience.

1. Lena Horne: Killer smile.

courtesy Lena-Horne.com

2. Dame Helen Mirren: Simply not fair.

courtesy Huffington Post

3. Carmen Dell'Orifice - Making 80 glamorous

courtesy Huffington Post

4. Queen Elizabeth - Not a "beauty" (never was) but carrying her age splendidly and looking better than ever; in fact, she positively glows. Makes me want to wear hats, even though I probably never will.

courtesy royalgov.uk

5. Random lady I don't know: Love the scarf and the hair. She is beautiful.


6. Diane Keaton, wearing wrinkles with flair: SO much better than a facelift!

courtesy sodahead.com

7. Dame Judi Dench. Again, not classically beautiful, but DAYummmm:


8. I could never pull off the sari, but this lady is rocking it. Plus I love the look in her eyes:



Yo, dude who took me to the movies aeons ago - you are wrong. Age isn't something to fear or cut out with a scalpel, it is an accessory to wear with pride.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

All Through the Night




Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night

While the moon her watch is keeping
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping
All through the night
O'er thy spirit gently stealing
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling
All through the night

Though I roam a minstrel lonely
All through the night
My true harp shall praise sing only
All through the night
Love's young dream, alas, is over
Yet my strains of love shall hover
Near the presence of my lover
All through the night

Hark, a solemn bell is ringing
Clear through the night
Thou, my love, art heavenward winging
Home through the night
Earthly dust from off thee shaken
Soul immortal shalt thou awaken
With thy last dim journey taken
Home through the night


Friday, March 8, 2013

New Book in an AMAZING Series!

One problem I hear from many parents of advanced readers is that the books their kids enjoy aren't right for their age level.

Enter Karen Pokras Toz and her Nate Rocks series. The new book in the series is Nate Rocks the School, and here is an excerpt:

*****


Buildings collapse to the ground as the giant robot pushes its way through the
dark city streets. The road crumbles underneath the massive beast’s every move.
Frightened citizens have all been evacuated and are hiding inside City Hall’s
basement, normally a secure refuge during even the worst situations.

“Nate,” the mayor pleads with his hands on my shoulders, “you’ve got to do
something! The robot will be here in just a matter of minutes. He is ruining our city!
If you don’t do something, we will all be crushed! Please, Nate, please!”

“Me? Why me?” I ask, wondering why this powerful and strong leader would want
my help. Isn’t he the one who is supposed to protect us?

The mayor bends down close and looks me in the eye. “Why because you’re Nate
Rocks, of course! Now go! There is no time to waste.”

I look around to a sea of terrified eyes staring at me. Yes, I’ve got to do something.
Everyone here is depending on me. I run up the basement steps and out of the
building. Debris is flying all around as the robot turns the corner, taking out the
movie theater with a single swipe of its mechanical arm. He is still several blocks
away from City Hall, but moving closer by the second. The sound of his steps
combined with the destruction around me is deafening.

Halfway down the street I spot it ... the old train station that’s been closed for years.
The city has been working to restore it into some kind of historical landmark. The
front has been covered with metal scaffolding for months now. That’s it! I race down
the street, toward the train station and the robot, as fast as I can possibly run. I have
to time everything perfectly or my plan will fail.

As I reach the train station, I grab hold of the metal ladder and hoist myself up to the
first landing on the scaffolding. Not high enough. I jump up to grab on to the next set
of ladders and proceed to climb at a rapid pace until I am on the roof of the building.
The robot is just steps away. I crouch behind a metal beam to stay out of sight. As
the robot approaches, I leap from the roof onto the giant machine’s shoulder, just
as he knocks the train station to the ground. I swiftly slide to the back of the robot,
out of his line of vision, and lower myself carefully down until I find the square door.
Just as I suspected! I open the door to the control panel on his back. Different colored
wires hum as they power the robot’s every move. With all my strength, I pull the
wires, detaching them from the monster. I hold tight as he collapses to the ground
in defeat just steps away from City Hall. Silence suddenly fills the air around me, but
not for long.

Everyone comes running out of the building cheering. The mayor swings me
through the air as the crowd chants:

“Nate!”

“Nate!”

“Nate!”

“Nathan! Are you listening?”

“Huh?” I look up to see Mom standing over my shoulder.

“Nathan, why are you drawing pictures all over that permission form? You know
you have to return that to school today!” Mom takes the slip of paper out of my
hands. “Honestly, Nathan, now where am I supposed to sign? You’ve drawn robots
everywhere. Don’t you want to go on this trip?”

Of course I want to go! One of the perks of moving up to fifth grade is the trip in the
spring to New York City. Who wouldn’t want to go? Actually, now that I think about
it, I kind of remember my older sister, Abby, complaining that she didn’t want to
go back when she was in fifth grade ... something about not being able to bring her
curling iron. I guess she didn’t want anyone to see her without her hair done. Girls!
Although, I can’t say I really blame her there. I shudder just thinking about it. Oooh ...
maybe that annoying classmate of mine, Lisa Crane, won’t want to go either. All she
is going to do anyway is act like she knows everything about everything. That’s what
she does. I have to admit; it was kind of nice getting away from her over the summer
when I went to overnight camp with my best friend, Tommy. But now that we’re
back, and school has started up again, I feel like Lisa is everywhere I turn.

*****

You can get the book here:



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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Braces

Proving that braces CAN be cute...
Oh, the pain of braces ...

First the cost. It's very difficult to sign over a check that would buy a luxurious vacation over to a doctor for a few wires.

Second, the prep. Getting your kid ready to wear something that shows up in movies and TV shows on the "nerd" characters is even more difficult than writing that check.

Third, the actual procedure. You sit by one side as your kid's mouth is forced open and glue smeared on her teeth. Brackets go on the glue, and wires are threaded through the brackets.  She stays still, poor little mite, because she simply doesn't know what else to do.

Fourth, a ray of hope - The braces are on, and she perks up when she gets to pick out rubber band colors. Of course she chooses purple and pink - what else?

Fifth, the realization sets in that braces are going to hurt. Wax is applied, ibuprofen offered, and the nagging fear arises that those sleepless teething nights are back. 

But that all changes, eventually, as teeth are forced into position and a new smile emerges. From one who lived with buck teeth all her life, I can't sympathize with the feeling of braces, but I do understand the difficulty involved - on many levels.
Sporting a cute gap...

My daughter will have straight teeth, and the twisted teeth will settle into new formations. I suppose that's a good thing, although I've always secretly loved irregular smiles: gapped teeth, long incisors, overlapping canines and all.

Not to be melodramatic, but I wonder if those mothers fitting their young girls for foot binding felt the same way?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ode to Friendship

My daughter's best friend came over a few times this weekend. Kid has quite a few besties, but this one is The One. The BFFE. (or BFFL, or whatever it is.)
Art by Sinful Eyes

My kid and her best friend met each other when they were three years old. Since then they've gone to different schools, made other friends, and headed on different activity paths (dance versus acting) but they remain seriously tight.

They just get each other. They've had scraps and butted heads, but in the end when my daughter has had a bad day, there's only one person she wants to call and talk to about it.

You can't buy that. My kid, whether she knows it or not, has won the lottery. She scored the huge prize. She is set for life.

I've got quite a few wonderful friends myself. I've got my cousin, who was my first bestie, as well as the dance school friend, my sister - first my frenemy, now nothin but love for her - my high school friend, who designs my book covers, as well as other wonderful pals, both male and female, who have stayed in touch over the years.

I learned very early on that there is nothing more important than that. Even when I was caught up in affairs of the heart and OH MY GOD I THINK HE IS GOING TO ASK ME OUT - all of it meant very little, really, without a long phone call to chat about it all. Later on the chats were held over drinks, and sometimes we held each other's hair. 

My kid and her friend, I fervently hope, will go through the same thing, maybe without too much of the hair holding part. They'll text each other and drive over to each other's house. They'll have marathon phone convos and give advice. They'll go shopping and head out for Girl's Weekends. 
Image courtesy of Boston.com

Their friendship will deepen and mature, to the point where they'll just have to look at each other and know what the other one is thinking.

And at some point, someone will ask, "So, how do you two know each other, anyway?" And one of them can answer that they've been friends since they were three years old. 

And someone will say, "Hey! That's pretty cool!" 


And someone will be right.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Calling all 10 year-olds who love to read...

For those of you with kids (especially boys) who love series:

Nate Rocks is at it again!


The highly anticipated third installment of the Nate Rocks series is here! 


According to Nathan Rockledge, fifth grade has plenty of perks. Oh sure, there is more work and that know-it-all, Lisa Crane, is still around but, there is a lot to look forward to as well: a laser tag birthday party, baseball at recess, and even a cool Halloween dance. Of course, all of that means nothing without the biggest perk of all . . . the class trip to New York City in the spring. If NathanĂ­s class can raise enough money to go, that is.

Give Nathan paper and a pencil and watch as his imagination turns him into Nate Rocks, hero and fifth grade super star. With adventures abound, Nate saves the day time and again. But will Nate be able to save the fifth grade trip?

Join Nathan, his hilarious family, and his friends, as he rocks the school in another fun Nate Rocks adventure.


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Chat with Karen Pokras Toz today at 10:30 am  EST and then follow the Nate Rocks the School Tour for appearances by the author and characters, reviews, and swag pack giveaways!



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Friday, March 1, 2013

A Love Song for Valencia

I spent one summer in Sapin, taking classes at the University of Valencia with a group of students from all over the world. We arrived at the end of June, not knowing what to expect.

At the time, I was a shy Spanish major with a love of reading and a lot of social awkwardness. I moved my one suitcase of stuff into a tiny room on the sixth floor of the dorms, along with the other students. 

We found a city baking in the hot sun, filled with the odors of red wine, the nearby ocean, and a river bed, dried up after years of drought. There were the remains of Roman aqueducts nearby, as well as tiny cafes and fresh fruit bars in every street.

The food in the dorms was incredibly bad. We had wine on every table, but it was so vinegared that even a group of poor college students couldn't drink it. They rotated something that tasted like Alpo lasagna with stale cheese sandwiches.

It was a different story in the cafes. When we could scrape up enough money, we went and ordered tiny mussels served in a white wine and garlic sauce, so delicious that we drank the rest with fresh bread. The fresh fruit bars made drinks from squeezed grapes and tangerines, as well as Agua de Valencia, a combo of champagne and fresh orange juice that I can still taste, thirty years later.

And let us not forget the drink called horchata, a sort of soy milkshake. I had mine "granizada," blended with ice, with a "farton" (a long, sweet roll of bread) on the side. Yes, that was really the name.

July began, and with it came nightly fireworks. Valencian authorities didn't worry about safety regs, so the works exploded close overhead. Lying in the park and watching them felt like going into a live version of Star Wars.

Part of the month-long celebration was "La Batalla de las Flores", an actual battle where girls ride in a circle and the onlookers throw flowers at them. If you're wondering if flowers can hurt, the answer is yes, when you have hundreds of people winging chrysanthemums at your face. 
Those tennis rackets made good face protectors. Too bad I didn't pack one in my suitcase....

We took classes in the mornings. One was taught by a famous professor, on South American literature. I wish I had kept the notes from her lectures; she gave me insights into 100 Years of Solitude that I never considered before. At the end of the term, she had the class over for more Agua de Valencia.

The biggest lesson for me, however, was how to be outgoing. If I had stayed in my shy, awkward shell, I would have had a very long, boring summer. I had to meet people on my own terms, which meant going and talking to them out of the blue. 

I left a boyfriend behind, and I thought I would miss him, my family and my home. On the contrary, the summer flew by all too quickly. 

So I returned with a new fluency in Spanish, a better understanding of South American literature - and a new ability. I knew that if I was put in any situation on my own, I could meet people and survive it. It was a gift - a gift from Valencia.