Of growth and cringing

I am currently getting ready to tackle the last two rounds of corrections of the third book in the Citlalli series, and one of the things that entails is going over books one and two one more time to ensure continuity. The problem is that rereading them is incredibly frustrating, as I keep finding things I would like to change, but have no choice but to leave as they are. Yes, on a rational level I know, the fact that I can’t help but to feel that the earlier books are missing something is a good sign, I know it shows that I have grown since then, and so on… but I still cringe when I read them, I just can’t help it. Here’s hoping that when I go over book three a year from now, I won’t find it as cringe-worthy… or maybe I should hope that I will.

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Blogger’s block

Okay, I’ve heard of writer’s block, but this is getting ridiculous. Yes, I know I should try to post something (other than excuses for not posting, that is), but for whatever reason I can’t seem to think of anything, and posting for the sake of posting is not something I’m too keen on. Yes, I’m still writing, though I’m having a bit of trouble with my stories as well, but I think one of the things that’s bothering me is the amount of pointless information people post online, that’s one of the reasons I’m not on Facebook or anything like that, but at times I fear that this blog is turning out to be just as self-centered.

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Reading tomorrow’s paper

Okay, I know it’s silly, in fact I know this is something I’ve been doing on a daily basis without even realizing it for years, but earlier today, as I was going over the reactions to the ICJ ruling about whaling I decided to visit some English language Japanese news sites, just to see how they were framing it (for what it’s worth, they seem to be trying to actively minimize it). The thing is that when I opened the page I was greeted by tomorrow’s date. As I said, nothing different or unusual, on a rational level I know that, but on an instinctive level the notion that tomorrow’s paper is just one click away does feel more than a little weird.

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A rather odd realization

As I begin work on the fourth and last book of Citlalli I have come across a rather unexpected realization: I don’t know where the story ends. Oh, I know what the book is about, I know most of what’s supposed to happen, in fact I have known that all along, but seeing how this is the final book in the series I have a degree of freedom I didn’t have in any of the previous installments. I knew how, book one had to end if I wanted book two to make sense. I knew how book two had to end for book three to make sense, and I knew where book three was going because it had to set the stage for book four. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t countless changes to the original plan, but for the most part the rough outline of those stepping stones had to remain, well, carved in stone. When it comes to book four, however, all bets are off. I can do whatever I want. It is such a relief… it is also oddly terrifying.

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On the ‘loneliness kills’ myth

And here we go again, with another round of headlines on the negative impact of loneliness on health. According to the latest research loneliness can disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells and increase depression and lower overall subjective well-being. It all sounds very scientific and extremely disturbing, but while I realize that there is likely to be something to all these studies, there is one rather obvious factor that I suspect plays a critical role that is hardly ever mentioned, maybe because it can be hard to quantify: the simple fact that in case of medical emergency you sometimes need someone else to call for help (and this is likely to be particularly true when it comes to the elderly who are not only more likely to find themselves facing a medical emergency, but also less likely to be attached to a smartphone or even a cell phone).

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Feeling kind of meh…

Yes, I realize that things have been kind of quiet lately, but the truth is that I’ve been feeling kind of meh in these past few days. I know, not exactly a technical term but…

No, I’m not depressed, not quite, I guess adrift would be a more accurate description,  or maybe it’s just that I feel like I’m in limbo. The thing is that I’m about to take my yearly break, and I feel like I’m neither here nor there. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate having a chance to hang out with friends and family, recharge, or unwind, or whatever it is you want to call it, in fact I realize that taking a break every now and then is something I actually have to do, but at the same time there’s no getting around the fact that having a couple of weeks in which I have almost no time to write is something I find kind of unnerving. I know it’s silly, I know most people can’t wait to get away from their jobs and so on, but I enjoy what I do on a daily basis, and even though there comes a time when I start feeling like my brains are about to start dripping out of my ears, I can never quite shake the fear that once I get back to my daily routine I am going to have a hard time reconnecting with my stories, that they will have faded into the background and won’t seem quite so vivid any  more. That is more than a little scary… and to make matters worse there is also the fact that, seeing how I’m usually working on two projects at a time, I can’t really hope to line things up in such a way that the break comes at a time when I don’t feel like I’m stopping in mid-sentence in at least one of them.

Well, there is nothing I can do about it because I know I have to take a break at some point -that is a must- and I think I have timed this year’s as well as I could have hoped to, but the truth is that even though I am looking forward to having a chance to unwind, there is also a part of me that is itching to get back to work already.

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In defense of Woody Allen… sort of

I have to admit that my first response upon reading Dylan Farrow’s open letter was a rather inappropriate one: I found myself thinking ‘who does she think she is? Bush?‘ As I said, not the most appropriate, or charitable, of responses under the circumstances, but the thing is that while I have no way of knowing whether or not her allegations are true, I found her attitude of ‘if you are not with me you are against me’, and her assumption that the fact that one of the most influential filmmakers of the past half century -a man who is fast approaching eighty, and who was never charged with a crime, let alone convicted- was being presented with a lifetime achievement award was all about her to be more than a little jarring.

No, I’m not denying that her hurt is real, nor am I denying that she is convinced that what she is saying is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In fact I’m not even denying the possibility that the events may have unfolded just like she says they did. I wasn’t there, so I can do nothing but speculate. What I do know is that our memories are seldom as reliable as we like to think they are, so I can’t help but to feel that her story -a story I personally feel has a few too many holes to be entirely believable- shouldn’t be enough to damn the man… especially not in light of the climate of hatred that is likely to have permeated the Farrow household at the time, a climate of hatred that seven-year old Dylan wouldn’t have had the means to recognize, defend against, or escape. Continue reading

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One month, zero accidents, and a shaken-up worldview

All my life I had been told that homeopathy was little more than quackery, and even though I had never really tested that claim, well, the assumption did seem commonsensical enough… and then my thirteen-year-old dog started developing a number of health issues. As a responsible dog owner I took her to the vet, and when a new problem developed I took her back again, and again, and again. In short, I was receiving a different diagnosis each week as the vet vivisected her diagnosing what was wrong with this organ and with that one, utterly forgetting the fact that there was just one dog. It was frustrating, so much so that in the end I decided to contact a homeopathic vet. No, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of treatment, but I needed someone who would look at the whole dog and at least try to see if all those issues had a common cause… one that might enable me to go back to my vet and maybe get her to treat the underlying problem.

The vet came and went, leaving behind a diagnosis for a hormonal imbalance and a couple of remedies I didn’t particularly trust. Still even though I was rather skeptical, I decided to give them a shot.

Anyway, one of my main concerns had to do with the fact that she had become incontinent. Seeing how she’s usually with me as I write, that was a problem, especially because I didn’t want to punish her for being sick by kicking her out of what had always been ‘her spot’ (though I didn’t particularly relish the idea of sitting on a poodle of pee either). It was, in short, a symptom that was incredibly annoying, readily apparent and easily measurable… notice the past tense.

Yes, to my surprise the thing worked like a charm. It’s been one month and two days since that visit, and one month since she last had an accident (they used to happen a couple of times a day before). I don’t understand why it worked, I know common sense says it shouldn’t have, but no matter how I look at it I can’t deny the evidence of my own eyes, nor can I attribute the changes to a placebo effect because the bottom line is that she has no way of knowing that the treat she gets a couple of times a day has a few drops of a homeopathic remedy added to it. She’s a DOG for crying out loud!

In other words, it’s a puzzle, one I can’t quite make sense of, but at the same time I have to admit that I am incredibly grateful for how things turned out, and by the fact that I was able to preserve her quality of life without sacrificing mine.

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Lucky

I was reading an article about the importance of balancing things we have to do with things we want to do, things that bring us pleasure and things that give us a sense of accomplishment. The thing is that the article treated these as a sort of dichotomy, and that felt so alien. It may be a little thing but it was enough to make me realize just how lucky I am because the truth is that I don’t have to seek that balance, as writing brings me pleasure and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. No, it’s not the most financially rewarding of jobs, but it sure pays in a different way!

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Technical difficulties may cause some delays

ARGH! Okay, so I had said that we had a tentative release date for book three of Citlalli, and that that date was late July/early August of this year, now it looks like that may have to be pushed back to March of next year. The book itself is coming along nicely, but this is due to some circumstances beyond my control. I am doing my best to remedy the situation and find some sort of a workaround, if I can things will probably go back to their original schedule, if I can’t I will probably wind up publishing a whole bunch of books simultaneously, as Citlalli is not the only one that would be delayed.

What can I say, human stupidity just got in my way.

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Professional… sort of

A couple of days ago a friend pointed out that this blog is getting to be a little too personal, and that I should at least try to keep things professional. In other words, it was a ‘can the dog talk’ kind of advice. In a way I can see where she’s coming from. I realize that this blog is supposed to be about promoting my books, and that some of the things I’ve been writing about lately do little to add to my professional image, but there’s a reason why I called this blog ‘Message in a Bottle’ and the subtitle reads ‘random thoughts cast into a sea of voices’. As I’ve said countless times:

yes, I would love for my books to sell -and I won’t deny that getting the word out about the fact that they actually exist is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place- but the bottom line is that I write because I love writing, because there’s a story stuck between my ears itching to get out… and because I want to be able to read how that story ends.

In other words, if things seem a little unprofessional to you at times, I’m sorry, but this blog was always meant to inhabit that odd in between space, and I really don’t see that changing any time soon.

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Do I really want to take charge?

Er… yes… this blog seems to be going to the dogs, or at least to one dog. A rascal that came into my life a few months ago, and seems to require a lot of attention, to be accurate. I am a long time dog owner, and while up until now all of my dogs have been rescues, this little fellow is different in that he wasn’t born a stray. Oh, we are getting along great, but I will be the first one to admit that he can be a bit of a handful. There are some bad habits I’m trying to break, but I admit that there is a point in which I am hesitant when it comes to discipline, or maybe I should say obedience.

The thing is that I acknowledge that my dog is a living, breathing being with a will of his own, and I don’t want to do anything that would change that.

Sure, I would love to have a well behaved dog and all that -especially when we are out in public- but at the same time I realize that dogs don’t have an on off switch, that the price I would have to pay for a well behaved dog in public is part of the spirit of the dog I fell in love with in private… not to mention that some of the advice seems to make no sense, not to me anyway.  A perfect example of this is the expected walk etiquette. They tell me that my dog should walk sedately by my side, if not behind me… and that he most definitely shouldn’t be on the brink of dislocating my shoulder whenever he catches a glimpse of another dog. Good luck with that!

The thing is that, as far as I am concerned the whole point of taking him out for a walk is to give him a chance to enjoy himself, to sniff around, lift his leg and so on… not to mention that the normal walking speed of most dogs is greater than a human. In other words, getting him to behave like he is supposed to would defeat the whole purpose of taking him for a walk in the first place. It would go from something I do for him so that he can have a chance to act like a dog and interact with others of his kind, to being just another excuse for me to assert my control over him, his own needs be damned.

Oh, I know in the end we’ll work the kinks out of the system, that eventually he will come to understand when he should listen to me, like my other dogs have, but the bottom line is that even though he likes to challenge me, he is playful, full of energy, smart and he enjoys outsmarting me, I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

No, he is not going to be winning any obedience contests any time soon, but even though I’ve been told time and time again that some obedience training will do him a world of good, and make him a better pet, the one thing I can’s stop thinking about is, if at the end of the day I don’t agree with that statement, will there be a way for me to undo the damage? What can I say, I’d rather have him kill the occasional shoe than be responsible for crushing his soul.

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… But I want you to play with me…

So here I am, trying to write something for my blog -a blog that’s been feeling kind of neglected- but staring up at me is one of my dogs, the sad remains of an old shoe in his mouth, looking at me as if saying  ‘but I want you to play with me’. It is a familiar scene (one that may have something to do with why my blog’s been feeling so neglected in the first place), but I can’t help myself. Yes, the pros say I should be in control, that I should establish myself as the pack leader, that I should decide the day’s activities and so on. The problem is that, truth be told, I’d rather be playing with him too, it’s just that I have this silly notion that tells me I should be doing something else.

I look at my dog once more, decide that he’s the one that’s got his priorities straight, so I type a few words, and chase after him.

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