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Carmen Gray

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    Austin, Texas
  • Interests
    Meditation, yoga (I teach classes weekly), travel, gracefully hanging on by the seat of my pants through motherhood (my kids are young adults now). I've learned about cancer journeys (my youngest survived a rare cancer at 13), mental health, transgender issues and more throughout the years.

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  • About Me
    I am a Native Texan of Mexican-American heritage and a Dual Language (Spanish/English) teacher in Austin, Texas. In addition to being a teacher, I lead yoga/meditation classes weekly and am a freelance writer and contributing editor for Latino magazine. I've appeared 3 times in different volumes of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers. I've also authored both a femme fatale short story and a YA horror fiction piece published by Castle Bridge Media. My poetry can be found on walkersonthejourney.com. Based upon my heritage, my travels to Mexico and my many lessons on monarch butterflies, my novel is authentic and culturally sensitive. I would most likely catergorize it as Latine Gothic, but could also be speculative fiction.
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  1. Prologue (first 500 or so words) Dark clouds shifted in unnatural slowness as the sun disappeared behind the moon. Only a crescent of light seeped through and even that completely vanished in minutes. Seven young women gathered like songbirds in the dense forest, depositing their blood into a stone chalice held by a figure in white, at the base of the majestic fir tree that stood well over 100 feet tall. Itzel lifted her white headdress, revealing the aristocratic features of an Aztec princess. She took the contents in the cup and poured it into the gnarled roots of the sacred tree. All of the women, save her, who had no blood to offer, chanted together the Nahuatl poem of the butterflies as they surrounded the tree in the surreal midday twilight. It was neither day nor night as darkness descended upon them, everything falling into a hushed silence. An eerie stillness hovered in the atmosphere; the green leaves on the thousands of trees suddenly were static. The whistling wind quieted like a scolded child. Time and space moved in and out of one another, the past and future nonexistent. Mocel leaned in close to Itzel, who stood tall, her aquiline nose lifted up toward the sky. Placing a gentle hand over the hint of her sister’s curved belly, she could sense it was a girl. Would she be born with the striking looks of both the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés and her sister Itzel? She had watched Itzel become one of his favored concubines, with her divinely haunting eyes, dark as obsidian. He had not yet realized his seed had taken root. The sisters had been offered to him, along with several other women. Lavish treasures, gold and gemstones, had also been bestowed upon Cortés, welcoming him into the center of Tenochtitlan, as had been foretold. Only days before in Tenochtitlan, it became strikingly clear that Itzel’s concerns were no longer just her own. There was the life of her unborn child’s future to consider, in the midst of the quickly shifting powers transforming their day to day lives. She had devised a plan of escape to coincide with the coming lunar eclipse with the help of Coatlicue, the Great Mother, for the threats were mounting. Among the foreigners there was a slender priest who towered over the Spanish soldiers. Riding a sleek black stallion, he could be seen in a gray hooded cloak that lent a sense of apprehension to his overall presence. He was called Father Espinoza and he was especially ruthless to the women, whom he seemed to deeply resent. He had caught the sisters praying to Coatlicue, despite his rabid insistence that they worship a woman he called Mary, with skin so light, it could have been made of lime. Upon this discovery, he violently pushed the two of them to their knees and whispered in Itzel’s ear in the new language that her child would be seized and raised by the church. Under thick lashes, she dared lift her gaze to regard his stern black-bearded face and was unsettled by his exacting blue eyes, the shade of an infinitely clear sky. Never in her life had she seen eyes this color. She peered into them longer than she should have. A bony hand met her soft cheek with a hard slap. “Insubordinate woman! Keep your heathen eyes off of me! God punishes filth like you.” Itzel averted her eyes and kept them glued to a spot on the soft earth, wishing the Great Mother would devour Father Espinoza right then and there. “Alea, you don’t mean that, you’ll feel differently tomorrow,” he replied, trying his best disarming look on her. She crossed her arms. “Yes, I do mean it. Go.”
  2. I'm sure it is. And I love the clever names of the horses.
  3. Ooooh....the food, the music, the scene...I'm there. Mother/daughter coming of age-nice. I can't wait to find out what this baddass bitch is going to do with her new life.
  4. Ooh, I really love this. Intriguing setting and characters!
  5. Johnny is having a real bad day... can't wait to find out what happens next. Nice dialogue!
  6. I keep a dream journal by my bed because so many ideas come to me in my dreams and I have very vivid ones. I also am a yoga teacher and reiki practitioner. Yoga (and really any exercise, as mentioned) is extremely beneficial in shifting the mind's perspective. I also pay attention to the little things on a walk because nature is very good at placing good ideas right in front of you. Getting out of my pillow fort where I like to write is also crucial because meeting people and watching life unfold gives me fresh ideas on characters, behavior, situations and nuances I can add to my writing.
  7. Revise, revise, revise again! I'm anxiously awaiting all of the learning at NY Write to Pitch and I hope to continue perfecting my manuscript (on my 5th version) in addition to creating the perfect pitch! Cheers (or as we say in Spanish, Salud)! Story Statement The past calls to the future Antagonist El Búho, a hardscrabble survivor from Mexico City, works his way up to 2nd in command of the Los Hermanos drug cartel. He believes himself to be a macho womanizer, but finds himself magnetically drawn into a torrid affair with a transgender poet, Liliana, after he moves in with his socialite cousin in his younger days. This experience both haunts and drives him, as he is arrogant, brutal and ruthless. Deep down, he is a child who has been hurt. Unwilling to face this side of himself, resentment and anger guide his doomed path. He would rather be damned for eternity than be redeemed by love. He seeks guidance from a dark sorcerer who is able to conjure up Techlotl, a god of one of the Aztec underworlds. Titles Monarca The Oyamel Secrets Genre and Comps Mexican Gothic The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina The Vampire Lestat (with a Mexican twist) -latina horror, speculative fiction, women's fiction Hookline When Alea attends her grandmother's funeral in Mexico, she finds love and uncovers a dark secret that places her in danger but only she can summon the butterfly goddess Itzpapalotl to halt further destruction by the cartel. Tagline A potent feminine cocktail of sexy twisty mystery and magic set in Mexico Core Wound/Primary Conflict Alea Najar-Smith gets a phone call informing her that her grandmother in Mexico has died about the same time she discovers a lump in her breast which results in a break up with her boyfriend. Soon after, she travels from Austin, Texas, with her parents to the small Mexican village of Xochitlalpan (so-cheet-lah-pahn) to attend the funeral, keeping her recent cancer diagnosis a secret. While there, Alea reunites with a local young man, Julian, whom she's known from previous visits during her childhood. Together with Julian and a strikingly beautiful trans bartender, Liliana, she embarks upon a journey of self-discovery involving ancient family secrets that connect her to a powerful Aztec goddess, Itzpapalotl. This goddess has the ability to protect the monarch butterflies (their ancestors' spirits) from the imminent destruction of the trees where they roost. Julian's grandmother, Mamá Lulita, a curandera (Mexican medicine woman) and an unusual town priest, Father Maldonado, also reveal other secrets about Alea's mysterious grandmother. Alea finds out she is the chosen one from her descendants to summon Itzpapalotl and must choose whether to stay in Mexico to complete the tasks that she is called upon to do or to go back to Texas as soon as she can. Secondary Conflict There are dark forces at work in the butterfly sanctuary that threaten the very existence of the monarchs which migrate from Canada to overwinter each fall in the trees. Illegal loggers, protected by the Los Hermanos cartel, are cutting down the sacred trees for money. The cartel protects them as they use an area in the vast mountain sanctuary for their meth production operation. The cartel is run by Rico and his unlucky brother, Geraldo, otherwise known as El Búho. El Búho (The Owl) is named thus because of his association with Techlotl, one of the gods who guards an underworld, who is represented by owls. El Búho is in debt to Techlotl after an exchange he had with a sorcerer, Don Dario, in which he asks for an antidote to his obsession over Liliana, before his rise in his brother's cartel. Setting The story takes place briefly at the beginning and the end of the story in Austin, Texas. The majority of the story takes place in a fictional bucolic town near the edge of a monarch butterfly sanctuary on the border of the state of Michoacan, Mexico. This town is based on a real place, Macheros, where I have visited several times and seen the monarch butterflies migrate to annually. It is a setting full of delightful and sensuous descriptions of the mountains (and what happens in them), trees and beauty there and one that is full of magic, mystery and ancient history. Some of the story also takes place in distinct places in Mexico City: Coyoacán (where Hernan Cortes' home stands and where Frida Khalo's famous Blue House resides), a café across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a neighborhood adjacent to Chapultepec park and more. One thing I incorporate throughout my story is the rich history of Mexico and the importance of place. Readers who have visited these locations will recognize the specific settings and those who have not will yearn to visit these unique spots. Mexico is a land full of mystery, charm, magic and ancient dieties. PItch Name: Carmen Gray Title: Monarca 78,000 words Genre: Women's Fiction Comp: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Córdova Alea Najar-Smith, a single young woman living in Austin, Texas, lives an ordinary life, but the news of her grandmother's death sets in motion profound changes. She discovers a lump in her breast, breaks up with her boyfriend and soon after, travels to Mexico to attend her grandmother's memorial. While in the mountain town at the edge of a monarch butterfly sanctuary, Alea reunites with a childhood friend, Julian, now a handsome chef at her uncle's Inn, and meets the mysterious trans bartender, Liliana. They lead her to uncover ancient family secrets connected to a powerful Aztec goddess that can protect the butterflies from imminent destruction of the trees where they roost. Illegal loggers, protected by the Los Hermanos cartel, are wiping out the trees for money. The cartel, run by Rico and his unlucky brother, Geraldo, has claimed an area in the mountain for their meth production operation. Will Alea follow her ancestor's call to face this danger and protect the monarchs or go back to Texas to deal with her health crisis? Or do these two situations parallel one another? Bio I am a Native Texan of Mexican-American heritage and a Dual Language (Spanish/English) teacher in Austin, Texas. In addition to being a teacher, I lead yoga/meditation classes weekly and am a freelance writer and contributing editor for Latino magazine. I've appeared 3 times in different volumes of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers. I've also authored two short story pieces, (femme fatale and Y.A.) published by Castle Bridge Media. My poetry can be found in a variety of anthologies. My story was inspired by my daughter's cancer journey, my encounter with monarch butterflies on their way through Texas down to Mexico and my grandmother's curandera lineage. Blurb Alfredo Estrada, Latino magazine owner and and author of Havana, Autobiography of a City, says about this story, "it is a potent feminine cocktail of sexy twisty mystery and magic set in Mexico that will appeal to women of all ages." He helped edit my novel in its many stages. Katie Gutierrez, author of More Than You'll Ever Know, says, "the rich visuals and intriguing family lineage draw you in and leave you wanting to uncover more."
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