Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to my friends and more so, comrades, (I feel comfortable calling them this, not thinking of them as amazing writer acquaintances): Adam Gottlieb and Eric Allen Yankee. They are the writers and artists I want to be, so I really appreciated their wisdom and philosophy on writing. Their feedback on my writing, of course, put me over the moon. In short, we had a great discussion about our craft and what goes into it.
Adam, for example, had really insightful things to say about my use of folklore and curanderismo in my short story collection Down South where the Water is Warm (he hasn't read "La Bruja del Barrio Loco", yet!). We also discussed the concept of cliches in poetry, and he said something I had never heard before but was something that was taught to him, "You have to rescue cliches." We had a conversation about the roles of cliches in poetry, which I teach my creative students to add a twist to or flip. To do something new with the cliche that still focuses on the beauty of what a cliche offers like love or eternity but that adds something refreshing. I love the idea of rescuing a cliche.
We, also, had a discussion about the mixture of indigenous and Catholic beliefs and my personal stories of when that shit actually worked. I think it's a mind-belief thing when those limpias work or as my friend Lau says, "I am living magical realism." Besides, most of those rituals are mixed with prayer, and prayer is powerful. Wrap your head around that.
I was floored to find out that Eric is reading my novel draft! He said, "It's like the Hunger Games," which it is and isn't--Yes, that was a compliment. But, I started working on this novel when I was an undergraduate, and it really borrows more from 1984, Kurt Vonnegut, and every dystopian piece of literature I had read up to that point. Stephen King's Talisman also had a huge impact on that piece as well as other science fiction writers. In truth, there is nothing new about the novel, just how you arrange old elements to tell a new story. In many ways, it's also a boy meets girl story, which can be a cliche in and of itself. Regardless, I am pleased with how this re-write is shaping up.
Eric is also writing a novel, which I hope to read, if he wants an ideal reader. He too is stretching his limits, going beyond smut and all, and I am sure it will turn out beautifully because he's got the itch to write a long piece.
Well, I have to get back to it, that siren call that wakes me up at 2, 3, or 4a.m. I made a different writing choice in where I split the last Ashley chapter, where I was originally going to solve the mystery, but decided not to, yet. So, I'm off to let that plot line develop as it must. I am at a point in the writing, where despite my planning, the characters are taking on a life of their own. Which needs to happen sometimes and can lead to more beautiful places.
Here's to going on new writing journeys and sharing writing ideas with writing masters. Yes, writing masters. #Resist.
I know I write a lot of serious fiction, and magical realism, horror, etc. I try to capture realism, even when I write non-serious fiction. However, since I am stretching my limits with a mystery sub plot as part of The Harvest: A Novel (Draft), which I posted more of, I was thinking, "Why not take a shot at a romance?"
I used to read paperback romances all the time, and found the historical ones to be really fascinating. Now in the wake of Kindles, I suppose romantic short stories are becoming more popular. So, I am going to write one, take a chance, but I will most likely publish it under a pseudo name like Hope or Horizon or something I actually won't write here if I use it. I suppose I should scope out other romance pen names. I want mine to be somewhat cheesy.
Dude, I got it. Ha ha ha. I have it on my sticky.
Well, the other pen names like T. S. Ryder and Christy McKellen are equally goofy. Though, the first one is somewhat cool, though Ryder could be sexual.
Anyway, we will see. I guess screwing billionaires and step brothers is in. That must be that romance that almost crosses the smut line. What are people reading these days? Good lord!
I don't want my story to be quite that bad, but I do want the romantic hook up elements in it. Otherwise, who would read it?
Here's to taking romantic risks, but not "porny", chances. #Resist
I posted more of the novel draft, and am still grappling with how to find this traitor: The Harvest: A Novel. Mysteries are no joke, and I am finding this sub-plot development to be a challenge. Plus, since my girls, my characters, aren't necessarily PI's, I may have them find the culprit by accident. Maybe. I had a thought about the team they just competed against having the enemy in their ranks, like the long-haired girl. Also, I want to amp up the tension between Jackie and Ashley, and possibly have an irresponsible sponsor leak that a rebel has infiltrated the candidacy process. (Which the Dean is lying about and has happened before. That will be a small twist.) If you're like, "What is Jesú talking about?" consider reading the draft of the novel.
I was also struggling with what to call the Dean. I wanted a name that meant power, so I picked Amaranda. I am still working on that choice. I also need to rethink Vye and Lisa because even though they have different qualities, I keep confusing Vye with Lisa as I write. Lisa needs more qualities because she's kind of bland, so I may backtrack in the writing process and draw them and write down their qualities and characteristics.
Anyway, these last few weeks I have been thinking about Octavia Butler, may she rest in peace and eternal creative joy. One of my indulgent goals this summer is to read all of her long works, none of which I have read. I started with The Fledgling, a vampire novel, and I believe her last long work that she printed before her early death. I love her style of writing and admire her writing choices. I am writing the Ashley section in first-person, present tense because I want the action to be "real". That makes sense, right? The Allen sections are in third person because he is less of an agent in society. I made those point of view choices deliberate.
Butler wrote The Fledgling in first person, past tense. What?! Seriously, who does that and creates engaging prose that sucks the reader straight in? That takes real craft, and I love how she splits up her dialogue, which I am emulating in some of my "he says" or "she says" sections. Wow, I hope some day, I will be that good!
Until then, I am still pecking along, trying to finish my novel and let it end, when it ends. It's not that I don't have a deadline in mind, but today, which would have been a great day to write, I am rereading the short stories I want in my syllabus. I start teaching next week. I decided as I was drafting my syllabi not to keep the same stories and in that order.
I also have to write a report that will take all of my brain power, and I need to focus. Ergo, the kids are out of the house. See, it would have been a great day to write, and I will, just not my novel. (I did write this morning for an hour and read over past segments.)
Today will be a strange day of reading dystopian short stories and political economy, but stimulating.
Stimulate your brain and hang onto your dreams like babies. #Resist.
Today, my family and I are staying in most of the day. The temperature has dropped 20 degrees, thank goodness. It's a perfect day to write, cook, and clean, in that order.
Guess what we are having for breakfast? We got a flat or pallet of strawberries for a dollar at Stan's Fruit Market. Some shoppers were filling their carts with pallets. We froze some of the containers, and I plan on making strawberry ice cream with the kids. The thought of making jam appeals to me, but I have no idea how to do that. I don't have the jars anyway.
Anyway, back to this perfect day. This morning I managed to edit and write a few more pages of The Harvest: A Novel.
I am taking a stab at a subplot, a mystery, in the Ashley story line, and I want to add a twist, but not disrupt the main character's team. I thought about having one of the team members betray her and the whole system, but nothing in the characters' development has pointed to that. I will most likely make someone on Lister's team be the traitor. I am not sure.
Anyway, the kids are up and running around. I think they are having a spectacular pillow battle by the sound of all the crashing noises. I won't be able to write for much longer anyway. Plus, I mentioned pancakes, and they all got super excited. I didn't tell them that we ran out of bacon and will be frying hot dogs, or they'd be at my apron's hem ordering me to hurry up. Kids.
Here's to Strawberry Saturdays and twists and turns in your novels. #Resist.
I am taking a brief reprieve from grading. Right now, I am going through a pile of fantastic poems by my creative writing students. I already workshopped them, twice in most cases, so the grading is going easier. I just have to say grading poetry is really fucking hard.
Anyway, I posted The Harvest, the draft of my ongoing novel with edits. Yesterday on my way to work, I gave the new sections a good read and found a bunch of typos. That time, my husband actually asked thoughtful questions, which I have forgotten now, but I am sure helped me clarify ideas as I was making corrections. Still, some of the questions he asked clearly indicate that he has not read the full draft. :(
I may have to create an audio file for him. No, not you, just him.
Here is to fantastic poetry by others, which you had a hand in, and catching vile typos. #Resist
First, of all Happy Mother's Day to all Godmothers, Mothers, Teachers, Aunties, Sisters, Spiritual Guides, Nurturing Creatures, yes, even, stay at home Dads! Without you, society would simply collapse.
I haven't blogged in a while because I have been grading and reading placement essays, but I have a mom victory. I have been writing like a fiend, and I am well past 1/3 of the novel draft, The Harvest. I am posting the draft in a bit, and hope to read it on my way to my Mother's Day surprise destination, which will more than likely be a park where we will picnic, far, far away from Chicago (if I know my clan).
On a hilarious note, my seven year old wrote this in my homemade Mother's Day card: Dear Mom, I love you very much. Even though I get made at you deep down inside, I will never hate you. (Heart), Antonio. I am so proud of his writing abilities!
Here's to the unconditional love we give to our kids and artistic creations. #Resist
Today, I am crashing an hour early from my night-owl-writing, so I will make this post brief. Despite my punking out at 3a.m., I did manage to produce more pages of The Harvest and introduce a new conflict for Ashley and her team. I am working in a mini-mystery, partly because that is one genre I have not written in. I tried writing a mystery once, but the story turned out to be ridiculous, and I never really finished it.
I mostly write serious fiction, but have also dabbled in science fiction and horror, but I am up to the challenge. I also have never written any smut or romance, and the romance appeals to me to a degree. The literary porn, not so much.
That is all I have for now.
Oh, yesterday I forgot to FaceTime the presentation on publishing digitally, but I hope to narrate the steps in a post, in the near future. I learned a lot of about Smash Words and how Barnes and Nobles is actually more welcoming of any genre in its digital publications. Amazon, apparently, is a prude when it comes to some content. Go figure.
Today, stretch out your writing wings. #Resist
Yesterday, I was reading the last two sections of my novel draft The Harvest out loud to my husband, since he never has time to read my drafts. I love reading to him because he gives me really great advice and encouragement, and I get to listen to the rhythm of my work, even though it is fiction. Rhythm and flow are key.
We were in the car on my way to work, and the funny thing was that as I read the draft my daughter who is 2 kept asking, “Mommy, what ya doing? Mommy, what are you doing?” It was so adorable, and I kept telling her, “Mommy is reading her novel to Daddy,” and that response had a lovely tone to it. Some day, I hope to read to her, too. My son, who is 7, of course, loves to give me feedback, and is particularly fond of all the expletives from Strike (which my son is absolutely forbidden from repeating; we’ll see). However, despite these opportunities to read out loud and get feedback from a captive audience, the quest for the ideal reader continues.
I actually have stopped looking and have told the universe to Fuck Off because I have been so desperate trying to find that special someone to read my work and give it a critical eye. But that lingering desire is still here. Nevertheless, I still keep writing every day, and giving my work the same compassionate, yet useful, eye I would to a fellow writer, and will do so for any writer I connect with.
Enough literary angst.
Today, I am bringing a gem of a writer, my friend and soon to be editor of my longer prose Eric Allen Yankee. He is going to teach my creative writing students a step-by-step process of how to publish digital works on Amazon. I also asked him to talk about how he prepares to perform, which he does beautifully. I am planning on Facebook Living that session, and linking it here. Here is the previous talk he did where he addressed the pros and cons of digital versus print publications and threw down some rad ass poems: https://www.facebook.com/eric.yankee.90/videos/10213283231220953/.
Well, that is all I have because it is 2:30a.m. (I have to write in the wee hours, when my kids are sleeping or produce in the car, when they are strapped into their seats.). The novel is calling me because I have to devise a new challenge/test that Ashley and her team of girls need to beat.
Here is to looking for readers in the wrong places and telling the universe to Fuck Off, when you can’t find them. #Resist
New roads need to be explored. Often, when my husband and I travel, we explore uncharted roads, even if for me, there is that fear, that hesitancy, of traveling the unknown. Or meeting the unkind stranger. What will that person do to me, my husband? To my children? And even though I love humanity, this new political context has made me a little paranoid of strangers. Still, new roads need to be explored. New people need to be met to remind us that we are all made of the same human spirit and from the same Creation energy.
That is where I am at with my novel: The Harvest. I am going beyond any chapter I have written in the past three versions of this work. I am meeting new characters that are shaping up nicely, though I wonder if I am giving the side characters too much depth. My main characters, Allen and Ashely, are meeting challenges and growing. Still, I need to visit here more often and sit with these creations, even if for a few minutes, because the end of semester leaves little mental space for these tourist visits.
This week, that is my writing goal. To visit this world often and detail the characters, all of them, and learn something new about them.
Go down that writing road. #Resist (Congratulations France, for standing up to global fascism. Let’s keep it up and imagine a new world where everyone’s needs are met and dystopias like my novel will only remain on the page.)
I woke up earlier than I intended and thought it would be a great time to write. Then, the mystery started. Where the hell was my laptop? I couldn't remember if my husband brought my work bag in the previous night.
You see, we had all been at a great Kentucky Derby Party (don't ask), and someone, had a number of delicious shots of tequila. Someone.
Well, as it turns out, my son stayed up watching The Walking Dead on my laptop, until midnight. It was nestled in the covers.
Now, I am slowly pecking away at my novel. I am embarking on new territory with the plot, so we will see. I will post more of the draft, as soon as I can. Yes, it is a draft.
Oh, wait, I had a revelation/epiphany regarding my ideal readers which I can't find. Yes, I have editors, but I need my ideal readers to go over my full drafts.
Anyway, when I was in college, I was always looking for love in all the wrong places. One day, I said fuck it to the Universe, and started doing what I loved and taking care of myself. Once I stopped looking, I found my true love. I think desperately searching for the ideal reader may be the same thing. I keep putting myself out there and asking people to read my work, and no one has time.
So you know what?
I don't want YOU to read my work or make substantive comments and offer constructive criticism. Here or here or here!
I can do just fine on my own, Universe.
Today, tell the Universe to suck the tip of your pen. #Resist (but not like these posers claiming to be part of the resistance, like Hillary.)
Dr. Jesú Estrada,