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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Remember how on my recap of 2013 I mentioned that I had one book being revised? Well, that one is the third book of the Citlalli series and, if everything goes according to plan, it should be out in the last week of July/first week of August!
I have to say that the fact that it is in a readable form and with a possible release data clearly established is a relief because that is one that did give me quite a bit of trouble. In fact it is nowhere near what I thought it would be when I first started toying with the idea a few eons ago!
Oh, and i case you were wondering, chances are that Citlalli is going to be a tetralogy… or maybe it would be more accurate to describe is as a trilogy with a twist.
Another year is behind us and in hindsight I have to say that it was a good one.
- I published six books (one revision, three translations and two new ones).
- I began work on three new ones (one of those is being revised, while the other two are in the rough draft stage, though they seem to be coming along nicely).
- I read 126 books.
- I did my best not to forget three languages.
- I allowed my curiosity to get the best of me at times.
- and best of all, I adopted a dog (or maybe I should say he adopted me)
No, it was not the year in which I found commercial success (in fact that was one of the things I didn’t even try for), but in the end that doesn’t matter.
Lately I have taken to translating my shorter books into Spanish… and that in turn has gotten me thinking about the blasted thing.
As is the case with all languages, it has some things I like, and some I don’t. I love the fact that it makes sense from a phonetic perspective and that it doesn’t share English’s well known allergy to anything remotely resembling a subordinate clause, but verbs and accents drive me crazy, as does the rampant abuse of innocent adjectives. Still, my main objection is not so much to the language itself as to the way in which the powers that be have allowed a bunch of snobs not just to hijack it, but also to try and fossilize it. I am talking here about that hallowed institution known as the ‘Real Academia de la Lengua Española’ (Royal Academy of the Spanish Tongue).
Sure, all languages have their snobs who seem to be determined to tell others how to speak. As far as they are concerned just being able to communicate is nowhere near enough, in fact it doesn’t even seem to be a major consideration, but even though those snobs seem to be required by law, in the case of Spanish -and French- there is actually a centralized power that controls which words are worthy of being added to The Dictionary, and which words are not… and that power seems to be not just allergic to borrowing from other languages, but also to anything remotely resembling modernity. The purity of the blood may have gone out of fashion, but you are going to have to pry the purity of the tongue out of those particular PTB’s cold, dead hands.
The way they see it, language worked just fine in the good old days, and there’s no reason why they should have to keep up with the times, or put up with the demands of this newfangled century, goddamnit. As for the fact that some words they look down on are an integral part of the everyday language of hundreds of millions of speakers, well, there’s no reason the speakers should be taken into account, whose language do those ordinary folks think it is anyway?
Okay, so maybe I am over-dramatizing a little, and there are other aspects that have to be taken into account, like the fact that, given the complexities it entails, editing a dictionary takes time… an awful lot of time. In fact a quick trip to the rae.es site will reveal that The Dictionary was last updated in 2001, which given the impact of technology on language since is pretty close to the dark ages (and that particular problem is then compounded by the fact that that 2001 date is in itself misleading, as words that had recently come into use in 2001 are not included). That means that anything remotely related to the internet is listed as a proposed addition to a future edition, and that’s only if you are lucky.
Of course, out in the real world people are not exactly waiting for the academy to make up its collective mind or to catch up with the times. In fact Spanish speakers demonstrate the same ability everyone else does to keep up on their own, so that the only thing the ‘proper forms’ do is separate the educated from the uneducated by providing snobs with a yardstick they can use to beat everyone else on the head with. It is only publishers, editors and teachers insist on going by their dictums (or dicta, if you insist on the proper latinate form)… the question is, should they? Personally I believe it’s time for speakers to start thinking about a revolution, and tell their snobbish overlords what they can do with themselves.
No, language does not belong to the snobs… in fact the snobs are the ones who insist on holding language back, and the bottom line is that, as long as we understand each other, we should be just fine.
When it comes to English the situation is nowhere near that dire, as there is no such centralized authority, and there is a greater respect for the different local varieties, but that doesn’t mean that there is much interest in the upper echelons of the literate world to question the power of the almighty dictionary, and while I will be the first to admit that dictionaries can be extremely useful, the use we make of them, and the power we grant them, is part of the problem.
Long before the advent of dictionaries Shakespeare coined hundreds if not well over a thousand words (the official count stands at around 1,700, but some of those have been called into question). That is one of the things he is revered for, but the thing is that, if dictionaries had been around in those days, they would have denied him that freedom.
I confess: when it comes to automated translations, I am a hypocrite. As a reader, I have turned to them on a couple of occasions. They are clumsy, and at times almost unreadable, but I admit I find them useful as a last resort. As a writer (one who does some translating on the side and is used to agonizing about each and every word), on the other hand, they make me cringe.
Yay, I finally managed to get the third book of Citlalli into some semblance of a readable form… of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have half a dozen rounds of corrections to look forward to, but for the time being I’m aiming for a late July, early August.
That’s a little later than I would have liked, but nowhere near as late as I had feared it would be.
Keyboard shortcuts are a wonderful invention. They allow us to integrate common tasks into our typing without really disrupting its flow, and for the most part they follow rules that are more or less consistent. We have that ‘i’ is for ‘italics’, ‘b’ is for ‘bold’ and ‘o’ is for ‘open’ all of which seem reasonable enough, but then we have that ‘x’ is for ‘cut’ and ‘v’ is for paste, simply because no one else would have them, and because they are stuck on either side of ‘c’, which is for ‘copy’ (that, and because ‘p’ is for print and because, with copy already hogging the ‘c’, cut is out of luck). So far, so good… well, more or less.
The problem is that we are just as likely to make mistake when typing a shortcut as when typing anything else, and our keyboard layouts can give rise to some rather dangerous clusters, such as (U)-I-O-P and B-N. While underline is not much of an issue, this means that all of a sudden you may find yourself being presented with a dialog window helpfully asking you which file it is that you would like to open when what you all you are trying to do is italicize some text, or with a print dialog when you are trying to open a file (though that is nowhere near as annoying, as in both instances you are expecting a dialog window to pop-up and ask for your input)… and that is only if you don’t find yourself suddenly in front of a brand new file when all you are trying to do is add a little emphasis.
No, these shortcut typos that bring up an unwanted dialog window don’t happen often enough to be a major issue, but I admit that, when they do, they tend to get on my nerves (especially because, at least in my case, they become more frequent when the juices are flowing, and I’m typing a little faster than I should). The good news is that this is a situation can be addressed by remapping or disabling some shortcuts either throughout your system, or for any given app. The bad news is that, if you go that route, you are likely to have to make some compromises.
If you want to shift a shortcut on a system wide basis you have to make sure you are not going to be creating a conflict with some obscure shortcut used by some app, meaning that the alternative shortcuts are likely to be less than intuitive. If you want to modify your shortcuts on an app by app basis you can avoid this problem, but then you’ll have to remember which shortcut goes with which app. As far as I’m concerned, neither one of these options is worth the hassle.
A more realistic solution that can be applied on a system wide basis -but one that does take some getting used to, and will drive anyone who happens to borrow your computer crazy- is to have bold and open switch places. That way you get one cluster with underline, italics and bold, and a second cluster with new and open. Of course, if you do this, then print becomes more of an issue, as -just like open-it brings up an unwanted dialog window.
The easy alternative is simply to get rid of ‘open’ and ‘new’ in your main writing apps. That way you don’t have to worry when trying to use bold or italics. Unfortunately that means that you are giving up some functionality, as you are then stuck selecting those options by hand.
Anyway, if you want to remap your shortcuts you can do it from from the system preferences on a mac (go to ‘keyboard’, select ‘keyboard shortcuts’, and then click on the plus sign to bring up a window where you can remap your shortcut). If you are running windows I think you need a specialized program to do this, but there seem to be a few of those out there.
As for me, for the time being I am still trying to implement the other choice I have when it comes to this particular issue, but I admit hasn’t been easy: I’m trying to learn to own up to my mistakes, quit whining, and become a better -or at least a more careful- typist.
I have a confession to make: I have an aversion to adjectives. Not all adjectives, but rather to that tendency to attach three of the blasted things to each and every noun (though I suspect Tolkien used to be believe that five was the absolute minimum). In fact one of the things some have mentioned about my books is that they feel lost because, unless it is relevant to the plot line itself, I tend to leave descriptions of people and places to my readers’ imaginations. If you see the characters as being green with purple polka dots in your mind, more power to you, and if you want me to tell you where on earth a story takes place, well, that’s just too bad. Add to that that I don’t particularly care for action or romance, and you will soon realize that my books can probably be described as ‘weird’.
Is this a problem?
Well, I do realize that some people don’t like it, that it doesn’t meet their expectations, and this tends to throw them off a bit, but at the same time I think there is a freedom to not having the book predigested. It can also lead to some pretty amusing reactions because people keep reading things into my books that I never really put there… I’m either smarter than I thought, or the book they are reading is surprisingly different from the one I think wrote.
Still, I love creating new worlds, bringing them to life… and then allowing my readers to do the same, and to do it in their own terms. You’d be surprised at just how unlike each other’s our worlds can turn out to be, and that’s the beauty of it.
I’m currently working on the first readable draft of book three of Citlalli, and I have come up against three stubborn chapters. I knew this was coming, of course (after all, it’s not like they were all that agreeable the first time around), and I also know why it is that they are giving me so much trouble (in fact I freely admit that I brought this on myself), but that doesn’t mean that dealing with stubborn chapters that refuse to be written is one of the most annoying aspects of this whole writing thing. Still, we have to come to an understanding somehow…
Like too many people, I spend hours a day sitting in front of my computer. For the most part I do what I’m supposed to be doing, but being a writer I freely admit that at times the line between work and play can get more than a little blurry. I may be writing a story, and all of a sudden I realize that, to keep myself from looking like a fool, or like more of a fool than I usually do, I need to do a little research. Having the ability to do that almost without giving it a second thought is awesome. I type a few characters and, more often than not, the answer is there, before my eyes. The problem is that once I’m done I often find myself going off on some sort of tangent, rather than getting back to whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing, and to be honest most of those things are a waste of time… the kind of lumber that accumulates in our minds, and winds up clogging everything. That’s the downside of having the world at our fingertips.
In the ‘old days’ if I wanted to do some research I had to reach for a book (if I was lucky… otherwise I had to go to that daunting place called ‘the library’); if I wanted to catch up with the news I’d have to either buy a newspaper or turn to my trusty old TV (either way I was stuck with one, or maybe two, points of view); if I wanted to watch a movie chances were that I’d have to leave my house altogether, either to go to a theater or to a video store. Today I don’t even own a TV, and books, music, news and movies are all a click away (as for games, I refuse to install any, not because I’m not interested, but rather because I know I’m too easily distracted, and I know that if I happened to get hooked on a game I’d never get anything done). In other words, as our gadgets converge our activities too become intertwined. For the most part that is a good thing, as many of the divisions that are being torn down were artificial (research may involve a news-former-paper article, a book, a documentary or a lecture, and being able to jump from one of those to the next, to say nothing of having them immediately accessible, is most definitely an advantage), but then there is the problem of our ever shrinking attention spans… or maybe I should say ‘my’ (hence my reluctance to install a single game).
I freely admit that, while I shake my head at my own inability to concentrate, the idea of doing research the old fashioned way terrifies me. I have gotten used to the convenience of having everything at my fingertips, but at the same time there is a problem with the fact that, as walls are torn down, and everything is at my fingertips, that is bound to include, well, everything, and that is where I tend to get in trouble. Put a kitten or a puppy on my path and all thoughts of doing what I’m supposed to be doing fly out the window.