Sunday, September 21, 2014

The End: 2014 A Year In Stories


After twenty-one months, the 2014 A Year In Stories project has finally wrapped up. The last three volumes (October, November, and December) are available for purchase and/or download. All twelve volumes--a volume per month, a story a day, 31 novellas--are now out.

Yay!

October (print, e-pub,
and for Kindle)
This project wasn't my first in print, but it was momentous in every other way, and not necessarily because of my inexperience, although I consider it a central milestone to my growth as a writer--as a person. Working with an editor of Matt Potter's caliber, on a project so broad, so ambitious, and interacting with the other authors, most of which felt to me like superstars--a walk-on wannabe on the stage with f*cking Humphrey Bogart, that was me.

Plus the writing itself, of course. This was my first long project to go to press. Although I consider myself a novelist, everything I've had published has been short; 1K words max, I think. I believe this is a good thing, starting with shorts. I believe proficiency in shorts--good shorts--is key to proficiency in longer works. (Otherwise you end up with those long-winded, never-ending novels full of extraneous detail that take fifteen pages to say what one good paragraph would--and with extra punch. I believe this, wholeheartedly. So I'm not complaining.

November (print, e-pub,
and for Kindle)
When you write shorts, you learn about economy of language. You learn to appreciate--and demand--the exact word; not just the right word, not just a good word: the exact word. You learn how to distinguish between the details that will give life to the story and those that will bog it down into best-forgotten. You learn about arcs--character, story, plot--and you learn how to recognize the tipping points. You learn how to make the most of these points, how to narrow down the narrative focus so they blot out everything, become everything. You learn pretty much everything that has an impact on brilliant narration.

Except how to sustain tension throughout a longer work.

And that's where the challenge was, for me, for the 2014 A Year In Stories project. Twelve stories, max 1.5K each (and believe you me, I used up every word in that allowance every month, even went slightly past it a couple of times); each story needed to stand on its own two feet in terms of arc and plot development, but at the same time the twelve stories together needed to form a single arc spanning the whole year.

Pfffff.

December (print, e-pub,
and for Kindle)
Am I satisfied with the result? Yes. Could it have been better? Yes. Of course. And that's another lesson learned here: like Leonardo said, art is never finished--only abandoned. I could've gone on tinkering with the storyline for months. Years.

Thank god for editors.

Bottom-line: this project was the best, the most challenging, of both worlds. It deepened my ability for writing short, punchy fiction. It forced me to think about the long-term (fiction-wise) consequences of each story. It made me deal with the impossibility of tying all those loose threads of narrative into a single arc, the conclusion of which would feel (somewhat) satisfying to the reader. And to me.

Brilliant project. Brilliant.

P.S. -- January through August volumes have a 20% discount.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Meaning of Cuernavaca

The city of memory, the city of nostalgia, of everything that's been lost, and found, forgotten, remembered.

We--my father, my mother, and I--moved from Mexico City to Cuernavaca in December 1975, when I was two months shy of three years old. I have fragmented memories of that December. For instance, walking around the pool wearing corduroy pants and a woolen sweater (yes, winters in the central altiplano of México can be cold), but my parents were wearing swimming suits, and I remember remarking on that, briefly, internally.

View of the house I grew up in, from the carport. The deep end of the pool is just off-frame to the right.
In the back you can see half of the sandbox I played in for hours, the tree where I had my treehouse
(long gone, rotted or something, before this photo was made), and a corner of the tennis court
(you have to look hard).
My father made this photo five months before he died.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A brief intro to my life in #Mexico

Visitors to this blog might wonder why Derain's "Bathers" get place of honor on the header of this blog. What do three nude women have to do with Quiet Laughter? For those familiar with fauvism, the connection might seem even more bizarre--or, maybe, not.

Neither the nude women, or fauvism--or even Derain--is the connection. This is a photo of the living room in the house where I grew up in. I just took it today. That painting--a copy, obviously--has been hanging in that spot for as long as I can remember--and we moved into this house when I was three. That painting--not even the original, but the copy--symbolizes this house for me, and everything in it: the memories, the drama, the fun times, the losses, the safe haven, the letting go. That painting is, at a profoundly personal level, my history.

One day, it--like me--will have to leave Cuernavaca (Mexico) behind and move to Curaçao.

We'll have to build it a special wall, though.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The House of Six Doors (a novel about Curaçao)

For eleven years, ever since I came--by accident--to live in Curaçao, I've been looking for books about this island's rich history and people. And for eleven years I found nothing. There's plenty in Dutch or Papiamentu, neither of which I read, and even if I did, most of it is non-fiction, drab and clinical, that doesn't come close to doing this magical, surreal place justice.

And then I found Patricia Selbert's House of Six Doors. The book has flaws--it is, after all, a debut novel--but richness of setting isn't one of them. Neither is emotional charge, which comes across clear and sharp, without drama, without falling into maudlin o-woe-is-me. I teared up twice, the second time uncontrollably (yeah, near the end). But I laughed, too.

And I learned so much about this place I've called home for over a decade.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Loss

Tina Downey, of Life Is Good, passed away last night. I knew her briefly, intermittently, but I always enjoyed her posts. Her family have posted a goodbye of sorts on her blog; if you can, stop by and leave a verbal handful of rose petals.

Much light to you, Tina, wherever you are. And thank you. For everything.
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