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Storyteller, Part 3

This post is part 3 of the Storyteller series, where I tell how the story began, as well as bumps and bruises along the way.

I can’t exactly remember when I started to write, “Saving Cruz”. I do know where the idea to write it came from, and how it came in the form of a question at first.

I’d been watching the local news and a story was featured about a couple who were involved in a car accident. The male driver had fallen asleep and his girlfriend was killed in the accident. It was an awful story, and it got me wondering….how would someone live with the knowledge that they had accidently killed someone they loved?

And that’s where Cruz’s story (and that of his siblings) began. I knew that Cruz was going to be a tortured man (having gone through something similar to the story I’d heard about), cold as ice, and hardened by his past. It was important to me to show his loyalty toward his family and to also see how his deep sense of loyalty in general turned him into the person we see in the beginning of the story.

Strangely enough, building the Moran family was easy for me. I come from a big Italian family, with strong family ties and undying loyalty, so it wasn’t hard to imagine the same for my fictional characters. I felt that it was important for Cruz’s family (like mine) to have a deep connection to their heritage. Cruz’s mother was born in Spain, and Cruz would often vacillate between English and Spanish when speaking to his mother (and eventually, Mia). That alone was a challenge for me, as I only speak one language (thank God for Google translate!). I was, however, careful to keep the language to a minimum, so as not to accidently offend any of my readers who speak fluent Spanish.

As I began to outline Cruz’s story, his family members came to life. Cruz, the eldest of five, would have a certain sense of patriarchy over his siblings. Each sibling would bring a certain something to his life and each would see varying forms of the real person he was underneath all his pain. The siblings in order are: Cruz, Marco (the player), Roman (nicknamed Romeo), Bella (independent and private) and Sophia (the baby, who strives to be independent).

Here’s the muse for my complicated leading man:

What a hunk…right?

His love interest needed to be tough enough to handle his gruff personality, but sweet enough to draw him in. She also needed to have a strong sense of family. I wanted her to be independent, have a nutty best friend (Amita, who is the heroine of book 2), as well as a certain fondness for her grandfather (I had the sweetest Grandpa too). I had no idea what I wanted her to look like, so I took to the internet for assistance. I wanted her to be born and raised in Hawaii, so in my search for Hawaiian models/actresses, I found her in actress Brandi Milloy. And here she is:

Creating my fictional families took most of my time during the outline process. I kept a strict timeline (to help me keep track of details as I wrote the other books in the series). In addition to all the research involved with this book, I made the decision to step away from AuthorHouse Publishing and publish this series on my own. I read a blog post from an author who detailed all the steps needed to self-publish and I embraced her advice 100%. And so it began….I created social media pages, a website, wrote weekly blog posts even though I didn’t really have anything to say. I’m literally the least tech-savvy person I know, so I asked for a lot of help from my husband and kids. I took all the Twitter advice from other authors to heart, believing everything they said and did. That’s not to say that I didn’t get some good advice, but over the years I have found that advice – like reading – is subjective.

Between my full-time job and writing the book, I marketed my book like crazy. At first, I put up posts every day. Then I found a scheduling program where you could pre-load posts and they would post them when you wanted. I probably spent as much time marketing my book as I did writing it.

I read a lot of books from popular authors, and felt their work was just the place where I could find an editor, cover designer, etc. I was so grateful to discover my editor, Max, through this process. She guided me through a real editing process (as opposed to the half-assed one I got through AuthorHouse) and really showed me how to be a better writer. I’m not going to lie to you…editing is a BRUTAL process. I cried over it. I had myself convinced she would think my work was trash. She didn’t. She encouraged me and walked me through the process, but never minced words, and I’ll forever be grateful to her for that. She opened my eyes and made me really look at the work I was putting down on the page. She taught me how to see the story in my head visually, rather than just the words. One funny side note….prior to sending “Saving Cruz” to the editor, I read through it countless times, as did my mom and cousin. And yet, one of the first edits I got back from Max was about the first sex scene, where she posed the question, “do you take your pants off before taking your shoes off?” I was like…what? And then I read back through the scene, where indeed I did have Mia taking off her pants and THEN her shoes. **slaps forehead**

All you really can do is laugh in a case like this, and Max and I did. She always kept her sense of humor while working with me and I can say without a doubt she made me a better writer.

I knew I would need professionals to handle the cover art and formatting. I probably could have done the formatting, but it would have taken hours and I simply did not have the time. I’m so grateful to Stacey at Champagne Formats for guiding me through the process. She was (and still is) an amazing person to work with. My cover art was created by Kari, who sadly is no longer in the business. She provided me with not only the cover art, but teaser art as well. As with Stacey, I will always be grateful for Kari’s guidance through this process.

In creating my fictional world, I wanted to set it somewhere real…a place I had never been (as a sort-of extra challenge to myself). The book is set in Miami, Florida and Cruz’s house is on Key Biscayne. I researched homes in the area…parts of Miami where Cruz’s business could be…areas where Mia would live. I researched restaurants and hotels and other venues. And I watched A LOT of live feeds (mostly from the beach). I wanted to submerse myself in Miami completely.

I had a tough time with Cruz’s profession. I knew he needed to be cultured, if you will; speaking multiple languages and having a master’s degree. It made sense then that he would inherit his father’s construction business and that he would be the CEO (with his two brothers working there as well). I have almost no knowledge of construction, so any mentions in the book of that subject are vague at best. I wanted him to be polished (and for Mia to eventually loosen him up a bit), so I put him in expensive suits and in a fancy car. His house ‘screams’ money too, and he fully embraces the minimalist sense of design (until Mia, that is).

“Saving Cruz” was released on October 4, 2016. I chose this date particularly because it is my dad’s birthday, and I wanted to honor him because he’s such a big supporter of my work (even though he, like my husband and son, have never read one word I’ve written). I sold a few books, received a few reviews, but after all the marketing I’d done I certainly expected it to do better. I offered gift cards to entice readers (as another author suggested I should). But the truth is…there are over 4,000 romance books published every day. I had some MAJOR competition. But that did not keep me from moving on to write book 2 in the series…”Taming Marco”. You’ll learn all about this hunky guy in part 4 of this Storyteller blog series.

"Saving Cruz" is available on Amazon (Kindle, Kindle Unlimited & paperback)

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