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Monday, October 28, 2019

Holiday Creative Mandate

Halloween is coming and we are busy at the house (this begins the busy season around these parts with candy making and baking goes into overdrive). And while I may be a little scattered right now, I'm still trying to get a little writing done. 

I am considering doing NaNoWriMo this year -- it has been quite some time since my last one. I still have no idea where the story is going, or rather I have no idea what the story is. I'm discovering the character through vignettes. But at least this is the only story dancing in my head, so perhaps there is a modicum of focus in the chaos.

"Dressing Barbie" is turning into a story about belonging and family (the ones we're born into, the ones we fall into and the ones we create for ourselves). And I am getting to know Trixie through little snippets of her life.

Perhaps I need to let go of the idea of a specific structure and let it come to me in dribs, rather than force it. It looks like I’ll be building her world and then track her journey through life.

As a writing exercise it sounds interesting. The trick is to make it interesting enough for others to read. I know where her story begins and where it ends, now to fill in the gaps…

So far, I understand some of her quirks and where they came from. But I’m thinking that I need to write it all in the order it happens and then do flashbacks. And somewhere along the line, I’ll need to find he story arc because I have no basic idea.

The other thing that keeps eluding me is the timeline. When does her coming of age happen? Is she an ‘80s kid or a ‘90s kid? Would dating the story really make a difference in her character? It would inasmuch as there is technology in the story that places it in a specific range.

But then, it looks like she grew up in a bubble of sorts. It’s not clear if liberates herself from that lifestyle. But there are lows and highs in her life, that much is clear; and she experiences some ridiculous contrasts—so part of the story will have to be how she deals with these changes.

The growing collection of sketches will feature into the story somehow, but I still have not worked it out yet. Will they be part of the story itself or an online companion in the form of a flipbook? These are little details that require some consideration, and it will be an adventure to get it going.

So as we enter the holidays—from Halloween to the Epiphany—I have my creative mandate. Of course, I’ll keep you posted!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Creating is an International Thing

I can't retire on my current royalties, but I still get a thrill every time I get a notification of a payment by any of the booksellers and distributors I work with. Lately, the books getting the most play are the series on infidelity.

The few copies, I always assume are friends and family members, but eventually, strangers start buying my books. Book buying is largely an anonymous activity, but reports can give me a snapshot of at least where in the world the books are going.

The infidelity series seems to attract an English-speaking readership. The Mistress has made sales in the US, UK and Australia. Sins of the Father and He Done Her Wrong added sales in Canada. Three continents seems like an awesome accomplishment to me. I'm not pulling Stephen King numbers, but it's still fun and exciting and rewarding.

But then all my other titles have made their way around the globe too! Over the years since I decided to self-publish, my books have sold in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru; in Spain and Portugal, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany; in Turkey, the Unite Arab Emirates, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan and China.

Imagine that? My words are better traveled than I am!

My next goal is to have my words go into space. It may sound ridiculous, but why not? Anyone going to the ISS any time soon?

Of course, I am grateful for every sale. But it was never really about royalties (it was a little about royalties, I just meant that was not my main focus).

And if I won't be retiring any time soon and live off my royalties, I know that some of my stories have a life of their own and, if I did my job just right, little moments--passages, phrasing, scenes--have touched the hearts of some of my readers. That makes the effort, and the torture, all the sweeter.

Monday, May 20, 2019

La Chancleta: Revisited

A few years back, I intended to tighten up the chapters in the story, La Chancleta. In between, I ended up in the hospital, and then stuff I don't care to dwell on happened. I was sure I'd finished the task, but it turned out it awaited my action...

Finally, I did finish the paperback version, and it's available exclusively at Amazon. The cover has changed slightly to this:

I keep getting distracted, but I finally finished the e-book version as well and it can be found for sale at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and the Apple Bookstore among others.

For those new to the little book, it is the story of a young Latina who runs afoul and her mother's reaction to the situation. There's a chancla (a house slipper for you unfamiliar with the term) involved and, well, it's got humor and horror.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Cheating is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

I have been away for far longer than I intended—the lament of the lazy or inattentive blogger. But I suppose this where I inject Carnegie to explain myself, but you know my brain is a maze of connections that sometimes defy logic...

Three things come to mind when I hear the name Carnegie. Not necessarily first, but there’s always the old joke:

Q. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
A. Practice, practice, practice.

Then, because my inner child is a foodie too, the late Carnegie Deli pops in my head and memories of gigantic corned beef and pastrami sandwiches.

And finally, these words from Dale Carnegie: 

And there’s the rub! At first, I put the blog(s) aside as I focused on getting healthy and regaining my strength. I had a few creative spurts, but the longer I did not write the harder it became to string a sentence together.

Worse yet, I’d start a story and then drop it halfway through. The morgue file for the last project has more stories than the ones include in the book. Editing was torture! But somehow I managed to put a volume together.

Sadly, my first attempt fell a little short, but Lindsay Muir helped me revise the volume and publish the book I intended to begin with. Of course, if there are any errors left in the book, it'd be because of my own shortcomings--because my lovely editor did an extraordinary job!

Volume two of the Bloody Trail of Disenchantment, He Done Her Wrong also explores the aftermath of infidelity—both real and perceived and not all inflicted on a mate.

While writing the stories elements kept creeping up from story to story. Not exactly redundancies for common threads that I realized after I put the stories together added to, what I hope, is a universal theme—that even under the guise of fantastic storytelling there is a truth we have all lived or witnessed.

The stories in He Done Her Wrong are not meant to form a judgement on the subject, except what the characters themselves have to say (and some are conflicted about it).

My wish is that at the end of the last story that the reader has laughed, gotten angry, sad, or even a little nostalgic. I hope that tiny bits of these stories—the little details—not only ring true but also stick in the heart of the reader long after the close the book.

He Done Her Wrong will be available in the next few days at several online book retailers, including Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, and Smashwords (you can download a free sample or use code ZG73R at checkout for 25% off—offer good through May 23).

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Make Festivities Great Again

It’s that time of the year again, when we start making plans for family and friends gatherings. And as it has been in the last three years, some of these events are tense and contentious—mimicking the macrocosm in which we all live now. Our new normal isn't.

Time was when politics did not enter into the holidays, but those days are long gone now. And as much as we all want peace and love and goodwill to all humanity, tribalism and partisanship have turned every conversation into a potential minefield.

Getting through Thanksgiving dinner used to be temporarily traumatic for dysfunctional families, but now it can cause PTSD in what once were happy ones!

I could call for unity, but the truth is that I will be spending the holidays with the family I love (Mom) and skipping people. You can’t attempt to rip somebody’s head off if they don’t piss you off… But, let’s face it, that’s not realistic for most of you.

So my gift to you is this: a new and expanded Insatiable Gourmet Word Search puzzle book. This is the third edition and it was fun to curate the old list. The categories are based on cookbook chapters—with topics such as appetizers, breads, cheese, grains, rice, seafood, and vegetables.

Of course, the book also offers modern and fun categories—like aphrodisiacs, cookies, sushi and sandwiches. The third edition expands the offerings—adding cocktails, condiments, pastries, pizza, salt and pepper, utensils, vegan staples, yummy (a category dedicated to words used to describe an exceptional meal), and famous chefs (a few names, some first names only, of the professionals who inspire foodies, gourmets, and gastronomes).

Especially at the heels of the midterm elections, 2018 has been a long, stressful and contentious year, fraught with ugliness and a myriad of tragedies – not to mention lies and insinuations best left unspoken in polite society.

So these holidays, as you gather with your family and friends, when, and if, the conversation turns to unpleasantness of the political nature: don’t engage. Forgive. But if you can’t, don’t bite your tongue. That just hurts and will make your food taste of blood, rage, frustration and bitterness. (And remember that violence is never the answer, no matter what the snowflakes say!)

Don’t huff away in a snit, that’d be rude and answering rudeness with further rudeness is the foundation of a vicious cycle. Instead, grab a pen and engage in the escapist joy that is puzzle solving. Be a good guest and stay. Nicely. Peacefully. Maybe even learning new words that do not describe colorful ways to self-gratify…

The Insatiable Gourmet Word Search is available now exclusively at Amazon and it can save your next family gathering, your relationships, maybe even your life! 

Get your copy today.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Several Faces of Tragedy

Almost four years to the date of my last hospital stay, I spent about a week in the hospital earlier this month. In the intervening years, the hospital lost its religion (used to be Lutheran) and became NYU Langone. For this NYU alum, all that purple felt comforting.

My first roommate was out of for a procedure when I was admitted and for hours afterward. When I first noticed she was in the room, I had awoken in the middle of the night, and she was slumped over the bed – she fell asleep watching some animated film and the TV operating instructions were playing on a loop, inexplicably in Spanish.

The next morning we introduced ourselves and we talked and laughed for a couple of hours. Then her husband came and we had an animated conversation. She let me use her cell so I could call Mom and put her at ease that I had a good night and sounded better. I even got to chat with the lady’s daughter on the phone for a minute. The laughter was easy and plentiful. It was joyful—a shared bliss in meeting the sun another day.

Then they released her and, tragically, I was all alone…

Soon another roommate came and she slept as a man and a woman hovered over her and spoke to each other in Greek. The woman, a tall and lanky blonde, seemed just a little angry all the time and spoke to the man with unveiled contempt.

After they settled the sleeping beauty, the blonde left and only the man remained. Hovering. Lost in sadness and anger. At the end of the evening, he kissed the patient’s forehead and left. The next morning, the man was back, with the same pained look in his eyes.

We nodded. Soon we were exchanging pleasantries. I asked if the patient was his mom. To my horror and embarrassment, he replied, “No! That is my wife.” He looked at her lovingly and added, without a trace of rancor, “We’ve been married for forty years.”

Apparently, having put a foot in my mouth further depleted my oxygen saturation and I got stupider, and instead of apologizing—or better yet STFUI doubled down on the stupid: “Oh, I guess I thought the bossy blonde was your wife.”

He looked at me for a moment, thought about it and, after a long pause, laughed. “Yeah, that's her sister and she’s always like that… She thinks she is everybody’s boss. But it comes in handy with all the doctors. Nobody talks down to her!”

He soon forgot and, having Brooklyn and this hospital stay in common, we were soon being sociable and forgot my faux pas. And soon, just as some of my neighbors, he was able to ignore my vague ethnicity and began to spew all sorts of racist crap, which I politely ignored because I realized he had bigger problems…

The love of his life was wilting before him and after forty years, I suspect his bravado and denial masked anger, sadness, and fear.

I can’t write romance, but I could visualize a tiny Greek beauty fresh from the old country taking his breath away and how she still does; and so she still believes she is that pretty young thing (plus she is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s). Their love affair is slowly turning tragic because he is losing her: her body is failing her, her mind is failing her, and he believes he can bring her back by reminding her about what their life has been. And he thinks he can care for her on his own because no care facility cares more than he does... (This may be partially true but also will be his undoing, and realistically will lead to more tragedy.) He doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to. Her sister calls her a "survivor" and does not see that her sister is deteriorating. 

And again I find myself staring at wounded love broken by this illness and reminded that I wanted to write a story of a mind trapped in it. I may still do it, but staring directly at that face of tragedy requires a courage I have not mastered yet.

Monday, May 14, 2018

There's Two Kinds of Self-Publishers

I always resented the “there’s two kind of people” trope because, especially as the result of multicultural marriages, it relies of the low-hanging fruit of extremes but ignores the more interesting middle--where things mingle and things get juicy. That proverbial gray area is a lot more colorful than people give it credit!

Sure, I understand the “gray area” was born of a combination of the “black and white” of the trope – because nothing in life is truly, purely black OR white. Still, many will argue this, of course, and consider it fighting words that you’ll want to add any relativist value to dilute the absoluteness of their message…

But I digress. What I wanted to say, though I resent putting it in this simplistic way, is that there are two kinds of self-publishing authors: those who are fast to publish and those who can’t seem to reach that finish line.

Of course, there’s nothing quite that simple! Writing a book can be a complicated process. Once the book is written, there are numerous steps to be taken. But my point is that some authors can hand over their project and launch it. They let it go (to print, to sell, to the critical eye of readers and such).

There are authors who can’t let go that easily. And we all understand that some books—especially the first one we toil with seriously—are hard to give up. I’ve read some writers describe the process like childbirth and having strangers yank your baby out of your hands and then throwing it out into the cold, harsh world were readers and critics live!

As a freelancer, I have grown accustomed to working with self-publishers who let go and launch relatively quickly. I have worked with writers who can’t, just as well. A client who subcontracts my services seems to attract this type. Of the three biggest projects that I spent months (years collectively) working on getting the books to market, not a single one is done to date.

It’s not her fault, of course. The writers are not ready to let go yet, there is always something off here or there. And, no, I am not suggesting that any author publish something imperfect for the sake of getting it out there—but every book can always use improvements; short of glaring mistakes there is a phase for revisions and new editions.

I seem to be stuck right now in a cycle comprised of several slow launchers—and I don’t mind working at other people’s speed, but it curtails the work I can take on because now I live in Schrödinger’s Project where I work or wait to work as the client’s interests, fears, or sudden memories of “ooh and another thing!”

Of course, some books move faster than others--and you learn never to discourage the client from improving their book (that is their prerogative, always!). And with one exception, I have stayed with my clients from the beginning till the end of the process (and sometimes on to additional editions). Clients that work with you on more than one project gain confidence in their method and your collaboration, and pick up a little speed--but don't rush them.

Rushing is the enemy of excellence.

Of course, I am grateful for every bit of business I get. But when surrounded by slow launchers, I am left to sit for long periods of time, seemingly forgotten. And I can’t give in to my own creativity because I just know they will all want to finish off their projects the same week and then I won’t sleep for days!

What can you do but adjust? In my world there is only one kind of client: the paying kind. So you adjust and help them get across that finish line in any way you can. It’s just that sometimes it is a  r e a l l y  slow process.

Some weeks, that's the speed of freelancing.