Friday, December 14, 2012

Open Letter from the Massacreist

by Debra Mares

Tragedies try to harden us.  But the worst tragedy of all is when they succeed.  Like the rest of the world, I am deeply saddened by today's Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  I'm even more saddened than when I wrote this almost identical post relating to the Batman Movie Massacre earlier this year. My sadness runs deeper because of the magnitude of this shooting and the innocence and vulnerability of the victims.  It has been called one of the worst in the nation's history, second to the Virginia Tech Massacre, where the gunman killed 32 people before killing himself.

Today, 20 year-old Adam Lanza, a Connecticut resident, opened fire at a Connecticut elementary school killing 27 people, including 22 children who were as young as five years-old. He had just left his mother's house, after killing her too. Lanza was found dead at the scene, carrying three weapons, including Glock and Sig Sauer pistols and an M4 .223 caliber rifle, all registered to his mother.  He was wearing military fatigues and a bullet proof vest.

Massacres like this are reminiscent of the Batman Movie Massacre earlier this year, the 1999 Columbine High School Massacrethe 2007 Virginia Tech Massacreand the 2011 Tucson shooting where U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was injured. They spark old debates over gun control, bullying, prescription drug abuse, social outcasts and the effects of violent social media. They move us to push for answers, seek justice and demand social change. But at the end of the day, blame properly lies with one person - the Massacreist himself.  And today, it is Adam Lanza.  

Inspired by the writing technique seen in Al-Anon's "Open Letter From The Alcoholic," I share again this fictional help letter as a tool to bring awareness to the issues surrounding massacres. Feel free to share it, debate it, or rewrite it to include your own views.


Open Letter From The Massacreist

Dear Victims, Friends, Family & World,

I’m an anti-social psychopath.

I’ve had a pattern since childhood of disregarding others, even though you didn’t notice.

I could never keep a friendship going, because I didn’t care about people’s feelings.

All I care about is me, even though I hate myself.

I can’t stand being frustrated when something doesn’t go my way, so I deal with it using violence.

And I don’t feel guilty. I don’t even know what that feels like.

To rationalize my actions, I believe my problems are everyone else’s fault, even when they’re not.

There’s nothing you could have done to stop me, because I don’t respond to punishment.

It will take me decades to come to terms with what I did and understand what caused it. Don’t waste your time trying to make sense of it, because I won’t be.

I don’t even know what remorse or empathy is. I may never understand how to put myself in someone else’s shoes.

Don’t blame my family. They raised me the best they could. And they’ll carry the guilt from my actions for life.

Do pray for them along with my victims and their families, because I won’t be. I’ll be feeling sorry for myself and thinking how the world is still against me.

Do tell them to forgive me; not for me, but to free themselves from the prison I've sentenced them to.

Don’t blame the lack of security at the venue I chose.

No matter what measures could have been taken, there will always be a place for me to carry out my anger against society. Malls, schools, trains, buses, libraries, churches, airports, open markets, theaters, stadiums - I would’ve picked one.

Don't blame pharmaceutical drug companies and doctors.

Even if prescription drugs weren't on the market, I could have gotten my hands on street drugs.

Do write your lawmakers about regulating pharmacies, drug companies and doctors. The lack of oversight in the system made it easy for me to abuse it.

Do take serious anyone who has a drug problem and seek professional help. Many massacreists abuse drugs before carrying out their attack.

Don’t blame the gun manufactures.

Even if these guns were outlawed, I could have gotten my hands on other means to accomplish my goal. That is the cost of living in a free society.

Do write your lawmakers about regulating firearm and ammunition purchases online, because that’s where I got most of mine.

Do communicate openly with kids about guns. Do take serious a child’s interest in guns and encourage safety, responsibility, and training.

Do try and identify people like me and get us the proper treatment. And do look for warning signs.

Do take serious anyone who jokes, talks, or fantasizes about a planned attack to carry out a shooting. Do report them to police.

Do take bullying serious. Do educate yourself about it. When kids discuss bullying with a parent, they are usually minimizing it; so assume it’s worse. Many massacreists feel bullied, persecuted or injured by others before they attack.

Do take serious anyone who has a problem with anger, depression or suicide. Many massacreists have considered suicide in the past. We have problems dealing with loss and failure.

Do know what your child is viewing on the internet. Pay attention to the level of violence in the video games, YouTube videos, music and movies they download. These things desensitize kids to violence and can increase aggression.

Do speak openly with others about what I did and pay attention to their reactions and opinions.

Do look for signs of anger towards society by visiting our homes, looking at our blogs, social media, journals, and snooping through our rooms. Most attacks are planned out months in advance.

Do carry out the maximum appropriate punishment against me under the law. It honors what our society stands for - life, liberty and happiness - what I took away from my victims.

The best place for me is in prison. But even there, I’m capable of harming the people around me and the people in charge of taking care of me. Consider seriously the death penalty.

And to those thinking about carrying out a massacre, get help NOW. The pain I’ve caused is irreparable. Your deranged thinking is like earwax. You can’t see it, but it’s a problem, and I’m telling you it’s there. Trust me. Do something about it.

From,

Your Massacreist


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/nyregion/gunman-kills-20-children-at-school-in-connecticut-28-dead-in-all.html?hp&_r=0

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Amazon Strikes Back Against the iPad Mini: Has this turned into another campaign war?

by Debra Mares

When I recently opened the main page of my favorite online retailer Amazon.com, I was disappointed to read its bashing of the iPad Mini.  Amazon is striking back at Apple, claiming that the Kindle Fire HD tablet is superior to Apple’s iPad mini.  Reading this, I was left feeling the same way I do about our upcoming election -- upset, deflated and torn.  Afterall, I am a swing voter in our American Marketplace.  I am in that binder full of women.

Over the past couple years, I’ve grown to love Apple as much as I do Amazon.  And for the past few months I’ve been anxiously awaiting the iPad Mini.  For my recent birthday, my family gifted me with a Best Buy gift card to help make this happen.  Afterall, I’m a newly self-published author and have been looking forward to reading The Mamacita Murders, my debut novel ranking #2 in Amazon’s Legal Thrillers, on a tablet.

My choice to purchase the iPad Mini comes by no other reason than the quality of Apple products.  Anyone who knows me, would say I’m the last to conform to the masses or jump on the Apple bandwagon.  But it started when I bought the MacBook Pro to write my first novel.  I was sold on its resistance to internet viruses and long battery life.  Then admittedly, I got sucked into the Apple monopoly.  I wanted all my electronic products to sync without issue.  Next, I bought the iPhone after my trusted service-provider Verizon partnered with Apple.  Then, I bought Apple TV to reduce my cable bill.   

Like Apple, Amazon has equally provided me with a user-friendly platform, but in a different way.  Using its Kindle Direct Publishing services and Create Space partner, it enabled me to self-publish and distribute my novel The Mamacita Murders, garner 36 reviews and make it to #2 on Amazon's Legal Thriller list.  Amazon.com has also provided me with an easy way to shop online.  

The part I find most ironic about Amazon’s Apple bashing is that Amazon works directly in conjunction with Apple.  In early 2010, Amazon released a "Kindle for Apple Macintosh” application as a free download.  It allows thousands of books to be read on Apple devices in color, with no Kindle unit required.  E-books can simply be purchased from Amazon’s store.  

So what’s behind all the hypocrisy?  Money, politics & power of course.  It’s really no different from our upcoming election.  Earlier this year, five big book publishers conspired with Apple in an attempt to force Amazon to stop charging discounted prices for new e-books.  Coupled with the iPad Mini on the brink of its debut, it comes as no surprise that Amazon strikes back.  But it's still annoying and hypocritical.  It’s no different from politics.  Viva Apple!  Viva Amazon!  Viva 2012 Election!

What do you think?  Should Amazon have reacted so harshly to the debut of the iPad Mini?  Is it worth turning off swing customers and publishers like me?  I’d love to hear your comments.  Email me at Debra@DebraMaresNovels.com.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top 10 Mamacitas - #2 Christina Aguilera

by Debra Mares


I recently watched Christina Aguilera honored with a special achievement award at the NCLR Alma Awards.  I also recently watched her on The Voice, a singing television show where she’s one of the judges.  Considering I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, I was taking in a whole lot of Christina.  As a young Latina, I was enchanted by her voice, which I was first introduced to in 1990 on Star Search, when I was 15 years old watching a lot of TV.  
And now as an adult, I’ve remained a fan.  So I had to ask myself why.  The answer became clear.  Christina is one super Mamacita.   She’s a 31 year-old proud and successful artist, mother, and humanitarian.  And she’s bi-racial - half Irish and half Ecuadorian.  Christina’s confidence and pride in being a Latina is important to bi-racial women like me.  Being half German and half Mexican wasn’t easy growing up.  I grew up dancing Ballet Folklorico to Mariachi singers I couldn’t understand.  I looked Hispanic to my white classmates and white to my Latino classmates.  My Nana was frustrated I didn’t know Spanish.  And I was frustrated I couldn’t fit in.  
When recently asked by Latina Magazine to comment on criticisms of not being Latina enough, Christina replied, “I’ve dealt with that my whole life. I don’t speak the language fluently. And I’m split right down the middle, half Irish and half Ecuadorean. I should not have to prove my ethnicity to anyone. I know who I am.”  As a teen, I remembered following the similar struggle of Selena Quintanilla, the Tejano singer who didn’t know Spanish.  And today, the truth is that I’m still muy sensitivo to this issue.  
Recently, I was reminded of not being Latina enough when I read a review on The Mamacita Murders.  It criticized the Spanish translation portions of my novel.  I became discouraged.  I regretted allowing a friend handle the translations.  I should have hired a professional.  Or I should have learned Spanish.  I’ve come to learn this is the ongoing saga of many bi-racial Latinas.  Several months ago, I was filming an interview at UCLA and I met a bi-racial Latina who shared her similar experience.  I began to understand it was a common thing.  We didn’t speak Spanish at home.  Our families encouraged assimilation.  We are the product of American history, migration, and multi-cultural upbringings.  But it doesn’t make us any less Latina.  And it doesn’t give me any less determination to write Latina legal thrillers.
Today, I feel the same as Christina who recently commented about her Spanish albums.  She said, “All I know is no one can tell me I’m not a proud Latina woman…I dove headfirst into a Spanish-language album for that reason and I’m planning another one even though I don’t speak the language. I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with some people.”  Maybe I should follow her advice on how to handle reviews.  She said, “I don’t read them. Ever…Why read what people are saying—good or bad?”  The truth is that I do care, especially about my Spanish speaking readers.  I want them to be proud of the artists in their culture, including me; so I hired a Spanish editor to review my novel.
I can only hope for Christina’s feisty Mamacita attitude; which no doubt comes with her success.  She has earned a Golden Globe, four Grammy Awards, one Latin Grammy, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she has sold over 17 million copies worldwide of her first self-titled debut album Christina Aguilera, and is a currently a judge and host on The VoiceBut more than that, she is a mother to four year old Max and a humanitarian.  
Christina has used her voice to bring awareness to world hunger.  She has filmed a public service announcement for world hunger, which benefits the United Nations World Food Program and other relief agencies.  She has brought awareness to domestic violence, being an abuse victim herself.  And she has raised money for Amnesty International.   It’s no wonder why Christina ranks #2 on my list of top Mamacitas.  
What do you think?  Does Christina deserve a seat on my list of the Top 10 Mamacitas?  Send your comments to Debra@DebraMaresNovels.com.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 10 Mamacitas - #1 JLo


by Debra Mares

I recently saw Jennifer Lopez perform at Staples Center in Los Angeles during her 2012 Dance Again World Tour.  I was forced to ask myself why I was so enamored by JLo, a superstar born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents.  Afterall, Gaby Ruiz, the main character in The Mamacita Murders comments in the first paragraph of the novel that, “Some say we all look the same, but my curves and dance moves may remind some jurors of Carmen Miranda, while others of Jennifer Lopez.” Yes, JLo’s choreography, stage sets, costume changes, dance moves, and singing was off the charts.  But there was something more I couldn’t immediately put my finger on as I watched her saunter around the stage in a skin tight body suit and belt out Jennie From the Block.  It didn’t take long to realize what it was -- JLo is one brave Mamacita.  

By 43 years old, she has lived out the American dream which makes for a perfect fairy tale.  She is living proof that with hard work and some luck, anything is possible including a $250 million net worth, a set of twins, her own Lopez Family Charity Foundation empowering women and children, a perfume line, a clothing line, seven albums which have sold 11.8 million copies in the U.S. and 70 million worldwide, and countless Grammy, Music, Billboard, Dance and Amnesty awards.  You name it and she’s either won it or done it.

What makes her a top Mamacita is that from a young age, JLo listened to her intuition of what her purpose in life was.  And she has always pursued it with fearlessness and strength.  While attending her last year of high school, JLo auditioned and was cast in My Little Girl.  She played Myra, a young woman at a center for at-risk girls.  After she filmed her role, JLo knew that she wanted to become a “famous movie star.”  So she shared her dream with her parents who told her it was a “really stupid” idea and that “no Latinos did that.”  Could you imagine if JLo tossed her dream to the waste side?

But instead, she forged ahead.  She defined her authentic-self and unleashed who she was at her core.  When I mentor young at-risk women, I encourage them to understand who they truly are before friends, family and society tells them who they are or who they should be.  Still today, JLo has the bravery to be true to her authentic-self.  She resigned from American Idol and announced she will be focusing on her film career.  She has stated, “I do miss doing films. I feel like the last two years with Idol, I've really, really focused on, you know, my music. ... It was all kind of very synergistic, it worked really well together. But (film) is something that I really loved, it's how I kind of started in this business, and it doesn't leave you. I am an actress, I need to do that, too.”  Heck, maybe she’ll even star as Gaby Ruiz in The Mamacita Murders movie some day.

It hasn’t been all happy endings for JLo.  She is going through her third divorce after splitting from New York City born Puerto Rican singer Marc Anthony.  But sometimes it’s the journey that provides us with the most meaning in life, not the endings.  JLo’s marriage to Marc Anthony produced a set of twins.  She honored her son and daughter during the concert, projecting home videos of them.  She commented that her children have helped her know true love.  And indeed children help us experience the purest form of love -- the unconditional kind. 

It saddened me to see a quote flash on the projector towards the end of JLo’s concert.  It stated, “I still believe in love” and I still want “a fairytale ending.”  It reminded me of a recent blog article I read, The myth of Psyche by Paulo Coelho.  Coelho writes, “Will we never be allowed to discover the face of love? It was necessary that many years passed below the bridge of my life, until I could understand that love is an act of faith in another person, and her face shall stay covered in mystery.”  Undeterred by failed relationships, JLo continues on her journey for love, constantly putting faith in another person.  This year, it’s her 25 year old former back up dancer and boyfriend, Casper Smart.  Hopefully JLo realizes it is in the journey and faith where we find love, not the fairy tale ending.

What do you think?  Does JLo deserve a seat on the Top 10 Mamacitas list?  Email me at Debra@DebraMaresNovels.com and let me know.  


Stay tuned for the rest of the Top 10 Mamacitas.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Open Letter From The Massacreist

by Debra Mares

Like the rest of the world, I am deeply saddened by Friday's Santa Barbara Massacre by Elliot Rodger.  I'm even more saddened then when I wrote this almost identical post relating to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Connecticut and also the Batman Movie Massacre in 2012.  My sadness runs deeper because of the randomness of this shooting and the undercurrents of violence against young women, college sorority students and innocent bystanders in a nearby college town hours north of where I live.

On Friday, 22 year-old Elliot Rodger, a Woodland Hills resident and Santa Barbara City College student, opened fire in Isla Vista, a small college town near Santa Barbara, killing seven people, including himself.  He stabbed three students at the apartment he shared with them, before embarking on a shooting rampage leaving three more dead and 13 injured.  His parents alerted law enforcement a week prior once they became concerned about Elliot posting videos threatening suicide and killings.  After being alerted by Elliot's therapist about a 144 page manifesto he emailed detailing his intentions shortly before his mass murders, his parents alerted law enforcement and rushed to Isla Vista, but it was too late.

Massacres like this are reminiscent of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Connecticut, the Batman Movie Massacre, 1999 Columbine High School Massacre and the 2011 Tucson shooting where U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was injured.  They spark old debates over gun control, mental health issues, bullying, prescription drug abuse, social outcasts and the effects of violent social media.  They move us to push for answers, seek justice and demand social change.  But at the end of the day, blame properly lies with one person - the Massacreist himself.  Tragedies try to harden us.  But the worst tragedy of all is when they succeed.  

Inspired by the writing technique seen in Al-Anon's "Open Letter From The Alcoholic," I share again this fictional help letter as a tool to bring awareness to the issues surrounding massacres.  Feel free to share it, debate it, or rewrite it to include your own views.


Open Letter From The Massacreist

Dear Victims, Friends, Family & World,

I’m an anti-social psychopath.

I’ve had a pattern since childhood of disregarding others, even though you didn’t notice.

I could never keep a friendship going, because I didn’t care about people’s feelings.

All I care about is me, even though I hate myself. 

I can’t stand being frustrated when something doesn’t go my way, so I deal with it using violence.

And I don’t feel guilty.  I don’t even know what that feels like.

To rationalize my actions, I believe my problems are everyone else’s fault, even when they’re not.

There’s nothing you could have done to stop me, because I don’t respond to punishment.

It will take me decades to come to terms with what I did and understand what caused it.  Don’t waste your time trying to make sense of it, because I won’t be.

I don’t even know what remorse or empathy is.  I may never understand how to put myself in someone else’s shoes.

Don’t blame my family.  They raised me the best they could.  And they’ll carry the guilt from my actions for life.

Do pray for them along with my victims and their families, because I won’t be.  I’ll be feeling sorry for myself and thinking how the world is still against me.  

Do tell them to forgive me; not for me, but to free themselves from the prison I've sentenced them to.

Don’t blame the lack of security at the venue I chose.  

No matter what measures could have been taken, there will always be a place for me to carry out my anger against society.  Malls, schools, trains, buses, libraries, churches, airports, open markets, theaters, stadiums - I would’ve picked one.

Don't blame pharmaceutical drug companies and doctors.

Even if prescription drugs weren't on the market, I could have gotten my hands on street drugs.

Do write your lawmakers about regulating pharmacies, drug companies and doctors.  The lack of oversight in the system made it easy for me to abuse it.

Do take serious anyone who has a drug problem and seek professional help.  Many massacreists abuse drugs before carrying out their attack.

Don’t blame the gun manufactures.

Even if these guns were outlawed, I could have gotten my hands on other means to accomplish my goal.  That is the cost of living in a free society.

Do write your lawmakers about regulating firearm and ammunition purchases online, because that’s where I got most of mine. 

Do communicate openly with kids about guns.  Do take serious a child’s interest in guns and encourage safety, responsibility, and training.

Do try and identify people like me and get us the proper treatment.  And do look for warning signs.  

Do take serious anyone who jokes, talks, or fantasizes about a planned attack to carry out a shooting.  Do report them to police.  

Do take bullying serious.  Do educate yourself about it.  When kids discuss bullying with a parent, they are usually minimizing it; so assume it’s worse.  Many massacreists feel bullied, persecuted or injured by others before they attack.

Do take serious anyone who has a problem with anger, depression or suicide.  Many massacreists have considered suicide in the past.  We have problems dealing with loss and failure.

Do know what your child is viewing on the internet.  Pay attention to the level of violence in the video games, YouTube videos, music and movies they download.  These things desensitize kids to violence and can increase aggression.

Do speak openly with others about what I did and pay attention to their reactions and opinions.

Do look for signs of anger towards society by visiting our homes, looking at our blogs, social media, journals, and snooping through our rooms.  Most attacks are planned out months in advance.

Do carry out the maximum appropriate punishment against me under the law.  It honors what our society stands for - life, liberty and happiness - what I took away from my victims.

The best place for me is in prison.  But even there, I’m capable of harming the people around me and the people in charge of taking care of me.  Consider seriously the death penalty.  

And to those thinking about carrying out a massacre, get help NOW.  The pain I’ve caused is irreparable.  Your deranged thinking is like earwax.  You can’t see it, but it’s a problem, and I’m telling you it’s there.  Trust me.  Do something about it.

From,

Your Massacreist




Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Man Book: Why Women Gift Books To The Men They Love


by Debra Mares

I’ve been in love three times. (Warning: this may include illusions!).  I’ve dated many others; but interestingly, these three men are the ONLY men I have ever gifted a book to.  So I’m curious; what is behind women gifting books to the men they love, a.k.a. The Man Book?  
A book lasts forever.  It tells a story that stays with you.  It can help you.  And motivate you.  Books can shift your thinking.  They can help you relax.  And escape reality, stepping into the shoes of another.  Books inspire you.
The books I gave to these three men were from entirely different genres; almost as different as the men were from one another.  But all the books were gifted to inspire and fuel a passion within them.  Indeed, each of these men had moved me; and I wanted to move them.  

The first book I gave was to my now ex-husband.  We'll call him Music Man.  The book I chose was This Business of Music by Krasilovsky, Shemel & Gross.  Music Man was struggling to follow his dream and make it big in the music industry.  Those in the business know it’s a lot of hard work to get to the top.  Executives all start in the same place - the mailroom.  There’s no short cuts and no free passes, regardless of who you are or where you came from.  I was moved to gift this book to motivate, inspire and educate him.  He read from the book a couple times. And ironically after we parted ways, the book was left behind (in my bookshelf); as seemed his dream. 

The second book I gave was to my now ex-long-term-boyfriend.  We’ll call him Superman.  Our relationship was budding at the time.  I wanted to give Superman something that would be useful and drop a hint of my interest without being too obvious.  A book seemed like the right fit.  So I scoured the store bookshelves looking for that perfect one.  I chose Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America, a cookbook by Jose Andres.  It suited his passion and showed my affection for him.  His love of cooking flourished throughout our relationship.  Superman even grew a garden.  He cracked the cookbook open a couple times to whip up tapas dishes.  And it stayed on his bookshelf after the breakup.

The third book I gave was to a man I went on a handful of dates with.  We’ll call him Fifty Shades of Grey.  Without him even knowing, Fifty Shades inspired much of my personal growth in the recent past years.  He became one of my writing muses.  I browsed Amazon for the perfect book for him.  I chose Lance Armstrong’s Comeback 2.0: Up Close & Personal.  Fifty Shades had a passion for cycling.  And like Armstrong who had inspired the cycling world through his battle with cancer, Fifty Shades had shifted something in my Universe.  He eventually became Somebody That I Used To Know; so if I ever bump into him, maybe I’ll ask him if he ever read or kept the book. 

Testing my theory why women give books to men they love, I asked my thirty-something single friend if she had ever gifted a book to a man.  She responded, “Yes, once.”  I knew exactly who she was talking about - an ex-boyfriend she cared for deeply.  We'll call him Fisherman.  She chose The Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told by Lamar Underwood.  Fishing for the next big Tuna was his passion.  She said she gifted it not only to inspire him to fish more, but to read more.  She's an avid reader herself.  Fisherman kept, read and enjoyed the stories.

Sharing stories with those we love, including men, is one of the greatest gifts; at least from a woman's perspective.  Because we love to motivate, inspire and move ours truly.  
What do you think?  Have you ever gifted a book to someone you love?  What was the genre or subject matter?  Why did you pick that book?  Has anyone ever gifted you a book?  What feelings accompanied you giving or receiving?  Men! ...what do you think of women gifting books to you?  

I'd love to hear your comments at Debra@DebraMaresNovels.com.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Latina Lawyer's Perspective on "Why Women Still Can't Have it All"



by Debra Mares

I was recently intrigued by the debate on “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”  Arguments and articles have surfaced after Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article was published on the topic in The AtlanticSlaughter, who once worked as the director of policy planning for Hilary Clinton had been warned against admitting that being a top professional and a mom was a constant struggle.  Slaughter admitted that she helped blame millions of women if they could not “manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”   
Since the article broke, many have reacted.  Some argue women can have it all, just not at the same time.  Other’s argue women can have it all if they do things like find a spouse willing to share the duties.  I’m invigorated by the debate, regardless of what opinion is taken.  The dilemma reminds me of the annual New Years brunches I’ve been having with my two dear friends over the past five years.  One of my girlfriends is a stay-at-home mom and the other is a never-been-married lawyer, who has spent a good share of her career working her way up the corporate ladder.  I am a divorced lawyer that was on her way to having it “all” (husband, home, career, kids) before it was cut short six years ago by a divorce.  
It never fails that I leave our annual get-togethers with the reminder that “the grass is always greener on the other side.”  I listen to the stories of my married girlfriend who has a young son.  She envies our education and careers.  I in turn envy her role as a wife, her perfect husband and remarkable son.  I always leave with a fresh perspective - that you can’t have it all.  I’m forced each year to ask myself - what is my purpose in life?  Is it to be a wife, mother, family-loving, career-driven, community-serving woman, or all the above.  
It’s important to ask ourselves not whether we can have it all but rather, what is it that defines us at this moment of our lives.  Today, my purpose is to be a community serving, family loving and creative driven role model, to my thirteen year old niece and the young women I mentor.  Two years ago, that wasn’t who I was.  I was striving to be a career driven prosecutor climbing to the top of the ladder.  I was awarded top prosecutor of the year twice and managed a team of attorneys.  
As women and professionals, we cycle through phases of life and career.  Last year, community service, mentorship, and creative writing became more important to me.  So I left the “ladder” to excel in the others, just like Anne-Marie Slaughter left Washington to focus on her family.  “Having it all” is being in control of your decisions and honoring your future-self and your goals.  “Having it all” is nourishing your passions and goals, whether they are being a devoted wife, mother, sister, student, writer, athlete or career woman.
Once a year, I make a vision board.  On that board, it has everything I will strive for over the following year.  Last year, I cut out letters from a magazine and posted them to my board to spell out “Author” and “Novel by.”  Over the year, I made decisions to honor the goal of publishing a novel.  Sometimes those decisions dictated how or with who I spent time with.  Making a new vision board every year is critical because we are constantly growing as women and as professionals.  Our passions evolve.  Having it all means having a choice to pursue your dreams, whatever they may be at any given moment. 

What do you think?  Why can't women still have it all?  Or can they...at the same time? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Too Sexy for Community Prosecution?

by Debra Mares

What if police officers and prosecutors put their law books and police reports down to focus on preventing crime? Instead of arresting and prosecuting people, they would intervene early and steer a slipping individual back on track. Does this make for a good story? Or a good movie? Gaby Ruiz, the main character and Latina prosecutor in my debut novel, The Mamacita Murders seems to think so. Gaby Ruiz runs The Mamacita Club, a community outreach effort, from her chrome vintage Airstream motorhome. Gaby travels in the Airstream with her angel friends to different trailer parks in the fictional Tuckford County. They host interventions and meetings to help women, who are at risk of becoming victims of crime or committing crimes themselves. Gaby’s special angel powers help her see who needs help. Plus her gut intuition tells her. In real life, this is called community prosecution. Attorneys, paralegals, police officers, and probation officers go out into the community and bring awareness about crime and how to prevent it. They monitor youth and come up with strict programs to get them back on track.

But community prosecution is rarely depicted in the media or crime novels. Traditionally, the prosecutor is depicted in the courtroom, not the community. The detectives are seen out in the street solving crimes, not preventing them. Why is that? Is community prosecution not sexy enough? Is it not as juicy as a crime scene or interrogation? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. It’s a facet of the criminal justice system that the public should be more aware of. Community prosecution is a proven method at reducing crime rates; it’s just not frequently used. The media has the power to move people and motivate social change, and indeed community prosecution is a sexy enough facet of the criminal justice system worth moving. It can make for good story telling as well. Take for example Freedom Writers, a film starring Hilary Swank grossing over 43 million dollars based on the New York Times Bestseller The Freedom Writer’s Diary. This movie portrayed the real life story of school teacher Erin Gruwell and Room 203 at Wilson High School in Long Beach. Gruwell transformed her classroom made up of “rejects” into motivated graduates, many who went on to college. It was all because she believed in them and intervened early to help steer them back on track. Gruwell’s creative education wasn’t boring on the big screen or in Room 203. Perhaps it was the real-life story of Erin Gruwell combined with the stories of her students, which made it the success it was. Regardless, it made for a great story. And it transformed education. Teachers today employ Gruwell’s lessons and students everywhere are still motivated by them.

Following similar suit in the context of a crime fiction, The Mamacita Murders tells Gaby Ruiz’ story. She goes out into the community to help troubled women, which has always been Gaby’s mission, at least since she was twelve years old when her mother died and became the angel on her shoulder. Gaby Ruiz’ story and The Mamacita Club is not that far off from what real life community prosecutors do today. And it’s not very different from what heroes like Erin Gruwell have done. So what do you think? Does community prosecution make for a good story? Is it sexy enough for crime fiction and the big screen? Does it work in The Mamacita Murders? Would it work in non-fiction? Email me your comments to Debra@DebraMaresNovels.com. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Angel On My Shoulder, But In The Courtroom?

by Debra Mares

Television has no problem allowing angels and witches to work their magic in classrooms or at crossroads. Touched by an Angel, which ran for over 200 episodes, brought angelic messages of hope to individuals at a crossroads and gave them guidance. The Secret Circle unites teens at a high school, who descended from witches, and hones their magical powers. But shows like Law & Order and CSI have nothing resembling angels, ghosts or witches in the courtroom or in the crime lab. And proponents of writing traditional detective fiction advocate crimes should be solved by natural means. Since the reader must match his wits with a rational detective, not a world of spirits, angels are thought of as taboo. But fiction, by its definition, is a literary work whose content is produced by the imagination. So what should a crime fiction protagonist do when she has an angel on her shoulder? Ignore it? Or liberate it?

The Mamacita Murders incorporates angels into courtroom drama. Latina sex crimes prosecutor, Gaby Ruiz, is strapped with an angel, namely her deceased mom. She is sent messages and given guidance, even in prosecuting her own cases. And Gaby’s angel is certainly allowed in the courtroom. Some would say having an angel on your shoulder when dealing with crime scene investigation and courtroom drama is not a far stretch from reality. Surviving family members of real life crime victims have reported seeing warning signs and premonitions of the impending tragedy of their loved one. Other times in losing a loved one, the survivors turn to spirituality looking for answers.

Some would argue the criminal justice system is fraught with angels who protect and guide human beings. Everyday, people go the extra mile to solve a crime in the pursuit of justice. Persistent investigators work tirelessly to solve cases. Judges make rulings to protect the public. Prosecutors guide jurors to the truth. Defense attorneys protect the rights of their clients. Victim and witness advocates use their own tragic pasts to offer strength to surviving victims and next of kin, sitting next to them in court and letting them cry on their shoulder. Young abuse victims muster up the courage to come forward and testify, something most adults can barely do. The jury comes together to reach a decision holding someone responsible. It’s a miracle and a mystery that the criminal justice works as it does.

No one can deny a big part of real life crime investigation and courtroom strategy is good old fashioned gut intuition. It’s an age old friend that is no different from an angel. When at a crossroads in making a decision, an investigator, prosecutor, defense attorney or judge has to tap into their gut. This happens when deciding whether to cut a defendant a break or predict future dangerousness. It happens when deciding whether to trust a jail house snitch or whether someone is telling the truth. Defense attorneys listen to their gut when it tells them their client is innocent. In most instances, gut intuition is supported by cold hard facts. But sometimes it comes from no other place than deep within you that resonates when sitting in quiet silence -- no different from listening to that angel on your shoulder.

What do you think? Do angels have a place in crime fiction? Or in the courtroom? Does The Mamacita Murders effectively incorporate angels into a courtroom drama? Email Debra @DebraMaresNovels and let her know what you think.

The Latina Writer’s Perspective on Cartagena

by Debra Mares

The Mamacita Murders is partially set in the fictional Walled City. The chapters were written over my five day stay in Cartagena, Colombia back in 2011. Little did I know when I was walking through El Caribe Hotel that six months later, U.S. Secret Service men would be caught there allegedly hiring female escorts.

The U.S. Secret Service scandal has been downplayed by government officials in Colombia. The mayor of this Caribbean city has wondered what all the fuss was all about. Mayor Campo Elias has said, "it doesn't bother people at all,” pointing out, “first, because adults were involved and, second, because here, it's normal.” But I’d disagree and so would many others. Mayerlin Vergara who directs a city shelter for sexually abused adolescents and child prostitutes has said, “sexual tourism degrades Colombia and its women.”

Sex tourism runs the risk of degrading the tourist’s experience. Not every tourist that visits this culturally rich beach destination is looking for sex. In fact, some are trying to avoid it. During the evenings of my brief stay in Cartagena, my female friend and I were approached by men at bars. They weren’t looking for sex, but rather were confirming we were not sex workers. The male tourists complained about the women they were meeting would unsolicitedly discuss the price of their services. Talk about killing the romance!

Some believe the country must continue developing the infrastructure and attractions that keep a tourist entertained. A tourist should return home telling stories not about the sex, but about how beautiful the colonial architecture is, how friendly the people are, and how overwhelming the culture is. And indeed, Cartagena did just that for me. My attraction to Cartagena is three-fold -- as an American tourist, a Latina, and as a writer.

As an American tourist, my attraction to Cartagena was the beautiful Caribbean, the culture, the history, and the food. It is no different from what attracted me to other countries in South America. Walking along the cobblestone streets of El Centro, the historic part of Cartagena, flashed me back to the past. Hearing the clip clop of the horse driven carriages through the streets took me to a time I can imagine when cars didn’t exist. It’s a slower pace of life, where street vendors peddle their handmade goods and locals mingle on restaurant patios. The quaint historic hotels, churches, illustrious balconies decorated with flowers and the vibrant casitas are the same things that attracted me to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The colonial architecture is visually stimulating. And outside the Walled City sits the warm water of the Caribbean, which is far different than the cold Pacific Ocean.

The attraction to Cartagena for me as a Latina was the music and romanticism. Salsa dancing and the Caribbean inspires flute melodies that would drift me away each night. Even after experiencing the Salsa culture in Los Angeles and Puerto Rico, the live music in Cartagena filled my heart on a new level. It was so common within El Centro to stumble upon a bar and find the most beautiful sounds. The romanticism came not only from the music, but from the people I met along the way. It varied from the driver of our horse-ridden carriage to the man who serenaded me with his guitar on the side of the cobblestone street, to the Spanish tourists who we shared a drink with overlooking the Caribbean. The romantic spirit is undeniable.

The attraction to Cartagena as a writer is my favorite attraction. The mystery of the Walled City becomes a character in The Mamacita Murders. The huge stone wall, which engulfs the entire town, reminds main character Gaby Ruiz of her own walls she has forged in her love relationships. When Gaby meets her mother’s love interest Señor Santiago-Borges in the Walled City, his compassion helps Gaby deal with a past that still haunts her over her mother’s death. My attraction as a writer to Cartagena is no different from that which inspired writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The parrots still flock inside the infamous Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel, which still attract Hollywood starlights during Cartagena’s Film Festival. Although I stayed at the lower priced Hotel Monterrey outside El Centro, it’s interior lush garden provided a similar experience. The streets of Cartagena inspire film scenes from Gabriel García Márquez’ epic novel Love in the Time of Cholera. Like Gaby’s love for Investigator Dylan Mack in The Mamacita Murders, García Márquez’ novel tells the story of an unrequitted love. Florentino, rejected by Fermina, his young lover, waits for over half a century for an opportunity to win her heart again. Cartagena won my heart as an American tourist, Latina and writer. And hopefully it captures the heart of the reader of The Mamacita Murders.

What do you think about the Walled City in The Mamacita Murders? Does the writing capture the spirit, beauty, culture and people of the Walled City? Let me know by emailing me your comments to Debra@DebraMaresNovels.com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.