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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting My Groove Back

The day job included some grunt work last week as well as working with invoices that translated to thousands of dollars and require monastic focus to make sure no details are missed when finalizing each step of the process.

Some people find the fact of a day job to the very description above a creativity killer. In my case, it’s a means to an end (it pays the rent, for the most part). Last week, it created an indirect funnel for creativity.

Work itself was not the inspiration, mind you. Being at work and having to adjust to both projects to complete them led me to the path of inspiration.

The grunt work required no intellectual capacity, it was automaton work. I can do that and do it like a robot! If you break it down something, a production line style, you can rely on muscle memory to move from step to step and create a rhythm – so that when you deviate from the rhythm, you can stop, back it up, and fix whatever went wrong.

How does this help creativity? It frees your brain to wander any fantastic realm it wants to inhabit.

Some would use this freedom (from reality and responsibilities) to push the envelope on repressed sexiness. Some would use the opportunity to imagine comebacks to situations they’d lost control of earlier in life. Some can fantasize about things they may not yet have found the courage to do in real life.

But to build these mindscapes in which to operate and manage these reveries, one must be in the right state of mind: It’s a studied meditation of sorts.

For me music sets the mood. It can relax you, it can evoke color, texture, flavor, and it can suggest so much more. To me music is tied to specific memories and emotions and these affect the stories and landscapes in which these stories exist.

Music may also suggest dance, and in turn also affect how the characters interact.

It was music that took me out of the mud and propelled me to write two stories last week.

They are unrelated short stories, and the first is awfully dark. Content is not the object, but that I was able to sit and knock out a couple of short stories.

The second is well-rounded; the first is a rough draft. Ultimately it’s the simple act of writing that, the facility of having words follow other words, sentences turn into paragraphs; characters speaking to others and dialogue flowing; things happening…

It was the creative kick, after weeks focused simply on getting well and getting back to normal.

There are only a couple of stories and there is no particular project plans for it. I wrote. The Muse hasn’t left me. (I need to get back into my RPG but that has been a little more challenging.)

Now, to create a routine until writing feels instinctual again. 

It was a song that got me started on Because She Was A WomanSo, let the music play! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What I Did This Summer

Sometimes I question my sanity.

Then, it is the nature of humanity to experience moments of uncertainty and to wonder if we have what it takes to endure.

But sometimes it is unclear whether I can attribute my reaction to things as strength or the fact that I am a sociopath. Okay, I know that's extreme! I am my worst critic, and besides I do have a conscience.

My concern is more about my emotional health.

I just told somebody I spent three weeks in the hospital and the abject horror in their eyes left me a little confused.

No, everything is okay,” I reassured them.

But it wasn't okay, was it?

I went into the emergency room, voluntarily (a rarity in itself). They admitted me because they were not sure what the hell was wrong with me. For a better part of two weeks my condition was a mystery!

There was a steady stream of specialists coming through my room, each trying to determine whether my malady was part of their collective font of knowledge. 

They poked me every day, bled me daily, they changed my diet three times, they X-rayed me, threw me into a CAT scan machine, then confined me to an MRI machine. And I lived in those hospital gowns that leave your butt exposed.

In the meantime, because I just started this new job, I was missing work and not getting paid at the same time as my insurance was about to end.

And yet, I had no nightmares. I cried exactly twice: the night I was admitted (because I had promised myself that I'd never spend another night in a hospital for as long as I lived); and at the 28-minute mark I found myself trapped in that damned MRI. 

In the first instance, I teared up and felt a great sadness and some fear; in the last, I broke down because even if you are not claustrophobic, the experience is likely to freak you out. It's loud, cold, restrictive, and alienating.

I either took it really, really well, or I am better at compartmentalization than even I suspected.

The only way I could manage was to focus on the immediate problem before me and only on whatever I could control.

You'd think that the potential for drama, comedy, tragedy, quirky behavior and bigger than life personalities would get the creative juices running. It's all there! People in pain, relieved, terrified, overjoyed, at their best, their worst, their most vulnerable...

I managed to read a book, which was about as much escapism as I could handle. My own creativity took a back seat. I am not sure that I will be able to look back at the experience without a jaundiced eye and extract story material.

I am not that strong. But I am good, physically. Mentally and emotionally, I kept it together because I have a stupendous support system and because I couldn't allow myself to fall apart. Other than that, I haven't given it much thought except to question my sanity.

Is there a mini-memoir in that? Probably. 

I haven't put it all in perspective, I've just kept moving through and past it. I'm also not quite ready to look terror in the eye so close to the metaphorical abyss--because the terror was in not knowing and now that we solved the mystery and fixed the problem, there's no emotional baggage to drag around. 

Beyond this, it seems especially important to preserve the privacy and dignity of those who went on the journey with me (some because they wanted to, others because their path traveled through shared roads).

I did take notes for myself, but that required more honesty than creativity. Are these mutually exclusive? I'm not sure, some days they are.

The question is whether I can get back to writing and other creative pursuits. My head isn't in it right now nor is my heart. I want to, but there are other priorities that call to me.

Big girl decisions need to be made and action must be taken.

And that is what I did this summer! And that is where I am headed!

Friday, July 4, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: Justified

Justified is a crime novel with a dark humor satire screaming to come out!

Purchase the e-book at
and the paperback at

There is no mystery: we know what has happened from the very beginning, even if not all the characters share in this knowledge.

There is a crime committed, but as is the case in real life these days, the crime becomes secondary to the reality of media coverage. 

The truth becomes sound bites and the faces of the talking heads giving credence to the facts they want to assume are in evidence.

No crime in the 21st century is truly complete without a media tour and a spokesperson.

Justified offers all that plus a road trip that transports the freak show from Brooklyn, NY under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, to Los Angeles and then San Francisco, under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Justified also offers a diverse cast of characters from the Colombian sexpot, to the angry African American lady, to the queer anti-hero and the Israeli commando with the faint Southern drawl… 

The book also savages two special cameos by media stars (both old and young), and how we treat crime stories differently on a generational level—but always in the interest of selling soap and bigger ratings.

Is morality dead or does it manifest differently to accommodate the ridiculous times we live in?

Race, religion, and politics all play a role in the story Justified tells, but it’s the characters that will stay with you: from the police detectives investigating the story, to the opportunist lawyer trying to cash in on the action, and especially Edmond Styles, the protagonist, who is a whole lot more than the quiet, aging civil servant everyone assumes him to be.

What makes this good summer reading? The scandal! 

The raw element of reality (as well as our own guilty pleasure and our part in the conspiracy as we follow the details, the blood trail, the facts that lead to the inevitable end). 

And it is an inevitable end, because at heart, Justified is a conventional story of the good triumphing over evil despite our basest instincts.

Sex, murder, violence, and objectionable language: it’s all there! The only thing missing is a car chase, but there is a scene in a crazy cab in San Francisco that fills in for it. 

More than that, Justified has heart, passion, and laughter. And in the end, you'll also learn what a manly haiku is all about.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paperbacks are Here

These are the choices from Amapola Press to start your summer reading: a collection of vignettes of a dozen women taking the reins of their own destinies or the story of a queer man from humble beginnings to a life of civil servitude in Brooklyn, to a life of crime and a road trip and instant fame... Slices of life, rolling out of the pages and inviting you into a dozen different worlds, or one strange trip. Short stories or satire.

Of course, the Kindle version is also available at Amazon, but some people have a pathological need to lick a finger to flick a page and to dogear the corner of a page. Some people get a special satisfaction to carrying a small paperback with them to the beach or the pool or a lake... And their predilection for paper is okay.

In fact, if I could get myself doodling again, I was thinking of putting together a coloring book for the bored.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Relaunch 2014

Summer 2014 we are relaunching Amapola Press.

Justified, the crime drama that follows unassuming Edmond Styles after an incident at gun point. He quickly becomes a household name and a media sensation. He goes on a road trip and his private life becomes part of the nation's vernacular. Part parody and satire, part pulp, this is all about murder and mayhem and manly haikus.

BecauseShe Was A Woman is a collection of a dozen vignettes, a quick read but certainly not a simple one. Each story introduces a new woman living as best she can in a variety of situations.

The second editions are different in different ways. Justified was edited for further clarity. BSWAW was also edited for clarity, but mostly it was improved by adding “A Quiet Stroll” – a moody little story – replacing “The Next IT Couple” (which sadly was the weakest of the original vignettes.

To celebrate the Summer Solstice, Amazon Prime subscribers may obtain these titles for free and there will be promotional pricing in the US and UK until June 21.

In an effort to improve the online catalogue, several titles have been unpublished (or placed in that “out of print” limbo were its glory remains in yesterday but no more).

In the Culinary section: The Food Goddess is available as the combination Volumes 1 and 2.

In Fiction: the first edition of Justified and Because She Was A Woman, are no longer available at Amazon. Putting May to Rest will be discontinued as a stand-alone story.

(Smashwords and other retailers will soon follow; retailers such as Sony, Kobo, iBooks may carry these titles a little longer).

The Amapola Press website will reflect these changes.

Paperbacks will be similarly revised and updated in the next few weeks. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New and Relaunched

Summer is rapidly descending upon us and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to clean up the old offerings and relaunch them as second editions.

The second edition of Justified is a tighter story and I fixed a couple of errors that no one else noticed but nagged at me.

Because She Was a Woman is losing its weakest story and gaining at least one new one – which I suspect will be a trimmed version of Magic Stilettos.

Scent of Honeysuckle probably requires no tweaking, but as I am in edit mode I probably will give it a glance and decide whether to revise it.

One Night with B.B. has done very well and introduced many to my writings. I may revise it slightly (if nothing else to update the back matter).

Some titles will disappear as stand-alones and will now be part of anthologies only (such as Putting May to Rest/El Velorio de Maya).

Kali: The Food Goddess cookbook series will become one volume and it will include new entries from the new Food Goddess blog. Individual volumes will be discontinued.

A Quiet Stroll may make it into the BSWAW anthology of short stories as the baker’s dozen and it may also be produced as an audio book (a test). The stand-alone version will remain a freebie.

Any e-books that go into a second edition will also be released as a second edition as paperbacks (for continuity).

Why relaunch? To keep things fresh. The basic premise of each book and story will remain the same, but as I hone my craft, I can revise and make the writing tighter. This also serves to recognize some of the stories that need not become part of a back-catalogue. A relaunch makes your final product better because it seeks to offer excellence to your readers.

This is a good thing.

Stay tuned for more news about our relaunch! There will be an opportunity to obtain free and review copies for those who’d like to upgrade your previously purchased versions of my work.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

RIP, Maya Angelou

Quotation in this post are all Maya Angelou's words.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”

I once told my Mother, “Ugh, I hate jazz!” and I even made a face. She rolled her eyes, but she was more annoyed than horrified. She later told me she knew I'd fall on the right side of reason because I am, after all, her child...

I do love jazz in many of its styles. Moreover, despite my childish rejection of it on that one terrible occasion, the truth is that under the right kind of questioning it turned out that I had been exposed to and already liked a great variety of jazz styles – it's just that I had been under the false impression that this music was “something else.”

And it was not cool. Nope! Anything but cool.

At some point, I was indoctrinated into believing that “jazz” included ragtime and avant garde styles – but irrelevant without context and not as sexy as bebop or Latin jazz, and completely oblivious of fusion forms.

I tend to make the same noises about poets and poetry. “Ugh!” and the face.

That tends to be crap too. The biggest killer of a love for poetry is the education system in this country. I don't mind admitting that I got suicidal during an extended reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I wanted to jump into the pages, shoot the albatross and beat the old guy with the dead bird (half to death and drown him!). 

It was not my finest scholastic moment.

A good poet has an expert understanding of words, and music, and color and texture and taste, of language to a degree that it evokes the divine.

Poets aren't necessarily good writers beyond poetry. I note Canadian dynamo Margaret Atwood as an outstanding example of a great writer. Even as she can weave an interesting yarn, what I remember most about reading one of my favorite books, The Handmaid's Tale, was the cadence.

So expert at writing poetry, her sentences were short and packed with meaning, and as you read, their delicate simplicity invited you to read faster to meet the story sooner until it left your brain and soul breathless and dizzy, thirsty, hungry, and exhausted!

Then there was Maya Angelou.
If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.”
She was a youthful kinda of 86 in an old-soul package. I cannot say I loved every piece of work the woman produced, but I appreciated the loving craft she put into every word she shared. There was something almost divine in the way she treated words.
Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style.”

My introduction to her work, of course, was “I Know What the Caged Bird Sings” – it was a rite of passage in many ways.
Poetry is music written for the human voice.”

She lived a remarkable life (good, bad, spectacular, dramatic and tragic); and I hope that her legacy has the endurance the work and the woman truly deserves. To her, with her, in her existed a certain magic in her use of language, she loved word so that every one she spoke and each word she wrote she created and delivered with a metaphysical caress.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”

She released her words with love, pure and unadulterated love. Sometimes there was passion, and sometimes wisdom, some humor, the odd moment of regret; but above all, there was love: of life, of learning, of being a woman, despite it all!
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.”
An artist may finish a piece and its beauty is plain for all to see, on their own terms. And so the finality of death completes the artwork of one life. But much like art, the beauty of the piece is rarely immediate. Beauty depends as much on endurance and environment as it does on those admiring it. And therein lies immortality. That is where she exists now...
If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”

Good night, you honey-tongued ebony queen!

And finally, words that I feel deeply:
There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”

In response, as I mourned the passing of one of our literary living legends, I wrote 339 words in three acts (morning, mid and late afternoon). My words may never reach the quality of some of her best work, but I aspire to greatness and will rise to the challenge every time. I cannot compete, but I can learn from her passion.