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Guest post: “My Inspiration behind ‘The Saint of Santa Fe'” by Silvio Sirias

Sirias - Cover - 9781937536565.inddEvery June 9, the Republic of Panama mourns the anniversary of Father Héctor Gallego’s disappearance. More than forty years after the crime, his case still remains a source of deep, national pain.

While researching The Saint of Santa Fe, I spent a considerable amount of time in the mountains of the province of Veraguas, where Father Gallego served as parish priest. I had lengthy conversations with people whose lives were deeply affected by this noble Colombian. Among them were Jacinto Peña, the lone witness to Father Gallego’s abduction; Father Raúl Rodríguez, Santa Fe’s current parish priest; and Edilma Gallego, Héctor’s sister who first came to Panama in September of 1999, when it was thought that her brother’s remains had been found. Edilma Gallego, a person every bit as courageous as her older sibling, has chosen to stay in this country to continue his work. And she and her family still have hopes that one day they will learn the truth about what happened to Héctor.

The stories and comments I heard while in Santa Fe were both inspiring and heartrending.  “He was the angel God sent to liberate us,” an elderly campesina said to me.  “To know him was to know Christ,” said Eric Concepción, for whom Father Gallego obtained a scholarship so he could study agriculture. At the time of our conversation, Eric was the president of Panamá’s organic farmers. “He was a prophet,” Father Rodríguez claims. “And sadly, as history repeatedly demonstrates, prophets meet a tragic fate because the truth they speak threatens the established order.”

And Father Héctor Gallego did speak the truth. As the first parish priest in the four-hundred year history of Santa Fe, he helped bring an end to the exploitation campesinos had been subjected to for centuries. Sadly, the truth offended the local strongman—a first cousin of General Omar Torrijos—and this cost Héctor his life.

Who kidnapped Father Héctor Gallego; on whose orders; how did he die; and where are his remains are questions that several former members of Panama’s defunct military can answer.  Yet in writing The Saint of Santa Fe I believed readers deserved to learn the story about the extraordinary things this saintly man did in life.

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Silvio Sirias is the author of Bernardo and the Virgin (2005) and Meet Me under the Ceiba (2009), winner of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel, and most recently The Saint of Santa Fe.  A native of Los Angeles, he spent his adolescence in Nicaragua and currently lives in Panama.  In 2010, Silvio was named one of the “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).”  He has a doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona.  He has also published academic books on Julia Alvarez, Rudolfo Anaya, and the poet Salomon de la Selva.  In addition, he has a collection of essays titled Love Made Visible: Reflections on Writing, Teaching, and Other Distractions.  The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature lists him among the handful of authors who are introducing Central American themes into the U.S. literary landscape. For more information, visit his website at / Twitter: @silviosirias

Liberation, Book One of the Andrusian Chronicles – author interview – Maria Lucia

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Born in Havana, Cuba, and having immigrated to the United States in 1960, Maria possesses a true and in-depth understanding of the power and unlimited potential of evolving and beginning again. A University of Memphis education graduate and a professional musician and vocalist, Maria moved deeply into the study of music and launched a very successful musical career in 1984, which included experiencing music on the performance level with a world renown jazz assemble and on the educational level as well. Her experience includes programs for gifted children in the public school system and creativity seminars for musicians at the university level. She has been a musical director for church programs, composer of music, and a producer of concerts. In 1997, Maria launched her first school focused on spiritual heart studies and became a full time spiritual growth teacher. She has traveled nationally, performing and delivering seminars for more than twenty years.  She is the author of “The Heart’s Unraveling,” a guidebook for her current school and is working full-time on her writing and the launching of her new book, “Liberation: Book One of The Andrusian Chronicles.”!/pages/Liberation-Book-One-of-the-Andrusian-Chronicles/103113219738367?ref=ts


Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Maria.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

A: This is not my first book but it is my first novel. I published a hand book for my school a few years ago and plan on doing several more before all is done.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

A: It’s called The Heart’s Unraveling and it was published and helped a lot of folks with the information it contains. It will be released again in the future.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

A:I self published it right off the bat because I didn’t want to wait for someone to pick it up. It takes way too long for the process and I felt the information in it needed to be out there for folks. After I published it and agency did pick it up and shopped it and it was rejected five times because it was in a manual form.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

A: It confused me and almost made me shut down. I still don’t know how I’m going to deal with getting the school information out to the masses other than doing it myself. I have learned that no one takes better care of you than you! You are the one who is going to give yourself the promotion and attention you deserve. My experience has been that the huge corporations that make up the book world both traditional publishing and the vanity presses basically want your money and seldom if ever give you the attention and marketing you deserve unless you’re a big name. So for those of us that are new or starting at it, it really does pay to take yourself on and self publish and market yourself until you are recognized strongly enough by the readers to catch the attention of a major publisher or in my case a major distributor. If you go to the right places and set yourself up professionally then that can happen. I have found that there are many resources out there to help to do that.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

A: Trafford and my school published it. I chose Trafford because my editor and later agent suggested it as a reputable place. Now it’s been bought by Author’s Solution a major self publishing firm that houses about five huge presses. It was a good experience. I chose to have the cover and layout done outside so I could have more control over how it looked but loved that Trafford took care of everything else. But I didn’t know how important my involvement in the marketing process was and I’ve learned since then. You have to take on your own marketing if you use a vanity press, a reputable one like Author’s Solutions, and you have to take on the professional look for your work. It has to be professionally edited several times and the cover and layout are extremely important to the success of your book. You have to save up and go the best for that, the best opinions and vendors to support you.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: I don’t think I’ve really celebrated yet. I feel like I’m waiting for my work to reach the masses in a successful way to do that. So when it does come I will have to celebrate for Liberation, Book One of the Andrusian Chronicles and The Heart’s Unraveling!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

A: I don’t remember exactly when it was. It was around 2005. But as I mentioned, I had an erroneous belief that Trafford was going to do it for me and that somehow their posting it on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles and sending the word out would do it. But it didn’t and I felt lost and bewildered by the misconception within myself. Even though the book looked good and was professionally edited it wasn’t enough and I really didn’t know which way to go until now. I have a much better sense of the truth about publishing a title and have surrounded myself with folks that are doing it. But they want to be paid and that is an important factor. The vendors have to make a living at what they do.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

A: Yes and no. I know now that publishing myself is a stronger way to do it. But the experience with Trafford was really helpful in that it taught me that I was way more serious about publishing my work and getting it out there than I realized then. I have all of me behind me this time.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

A: No I haven’t been published since then and I haven’t really tried to be. I have learned that my goal isn’t to get published but to tell the story as genuinely as I know how and to get down as correctly as possible, then to get it out to the masses. That’s my goal and I don’t need a publisher to do that necessarily, just a selective and powerful distributor at this point.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

A: I feel the biggest mistake that I wish I could of avoided was believing that someone else was going to give me the attention and promotion I wanted. These publishing houses have thousands of authors to deal with. I learned that I was just one among thousands. Sometimes I would call Trafford and not ever get the same person twice. It was like getting lost in a river of authors. They did a great job delivering the book but I was the only one who could have promoted it and I didn’t know it.  I was very naïve about big publishers and vanity presses.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

A: I feel my personal biggest accomplishment has been to believe in myself again and in the fact that I have the ability to do it successfully even though it’s my first novel. I have people investing in the future of this work. I have people offering to promote it without me asking. They love the story and how relevant it is to our times. Liberation is about the worlds of love called Andrusia and a race of love who have the blueprint for pulling earth out of destruction. It has deep American history within its pages and a powerful paranormal and spiritual bent. Its an amazing tale.  My biggest accomplishment is that I got the story down effectively and that its super relevant to what’s happening in our world today, but most of all I succeeded in presenting it in a way that the readers really feel that and get involved themselves. That feels great to me.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A: I have several professions rolled up in one. I can’t limit myself so I write, I teach and I still love music.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

A: I have combined it! And it feels really fulfilling. George Lucas did that with Star Wars and Tolkien did that with Lord of the Rings. Lots of writers combine their deepest desires and abilities into their writings.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

A: Extremely successful in the art of bringing to form the beauty of the worlds of fantasy, and galactic spaces of harmony and depth through writing, teaching and composing for children of all ages. I’m a sucker for this and I know a lot of adults who are too. It enriches our souls somehow.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A: Don’t wait. Do it now. There are vehicles out there right now to help you make your writings a book. Do the research and find them. They may come in a form of free lance editors, stories about other authors and how they did it, vanity presses, friends of friends. Just do it. Get serious about your work and stand behind it and don’t wait to be published by someone else. Take the step and do it for you! If you are destined to be noticed you will be. But find out how to do it professionally and save your money to back yourself. There are folks out there who can help you design a cover that sells, a layout that’s professional and edited and a back cover that contains the right words. There are folks out there who can walk you through the process, step by step. They’ve done it for me. Look for the companies that do the entire thing and save your money. The smaller ones will have more time for you. And don’t forget that after you have produced your book you will have to promote it. The internet is the best and fastest way but not the entire gambit.  Get HELP. Find the experts and accept HELP. You are worth it.

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