Category Archives: It’s my life

When a book is poisoned

Okay, as you may have noticed there have been a few delays when it comes to the third book of Citlalli. The truth is that the book itself is done and even formatted, but I’ve been having some issues with its cover. Without going into details, I got into a pretty big argument with my (former) cover artist a couple of days ago, and to make matters worse that cover artist was also one of my closest friends. The problem is that this situation hasn’t just left me in the lurch when to comes to this book’s cover (that’s not such a big deal), but also left me feeling like the whole series has been poisoned. Right now I can’t even think of this project without remembering the fight we had, and I think I need some time to regroup. So where does that leave me? Well, I’ll probably wait a few weeks and then I’ll try to find  a new cover artist. After that I will probably finish the first draft of a different book that is more that half-way done anyway, and then I’ll turn my attention to the fourth and final book. In other words, while there are going to be some additional delays, I am not abandoning the project. I have too much effort invested into it for that, but for the time being I do feel the need to take a step back.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know just where things stood.

No, I don’t like the idea of missing a deadline, not even if it is a self-imposed one, but unfortunately under the circumstance I honestly believe that this is the lesser evil.

No need to freak out, a bite of chocolate won’t kill your dog

Yes, I know, chocolate is bad for dogs, very bad, in fact it can be deadly, but that is in relatively large quantities, and while it is good for dog owners to be aware of that fact, the awareness of that toxicity has been driven to some pretty ridiculous extremes. Under those circumstances I think a little perspective is in order so, to begin with, let me say that I have fed my dogs chocolate… and I did it deliberately. For the most part I did this before the internet came along, and before I knew it could even be an issue. No, I never fed my girl a chocolate bar, or anything like that, but when I went for an ice cream I routinely let her finish it off… and more often than not that ice cream included chocolate in one way or another. At home we also allowed her to lick the carton clean, and she even got the occasional square (what can I say, those puppy eyes). For her chocolate was always a very special treat. This, I suspect, is also what most people envision when they think of feeding chocolate to their dogs. Anyway, in case you were wondering, that dog lived to be seventeen. I have another one, who is currently fourteen and still going strong, and up until a few years ago she used to get the exact same treatment.

Of course, that was then. Fast forward a number of years and now I have one of my friends frantically rushing her dog to the vet because -horror upon horror- a child had dropped a chocolate chip cookie and her dog had gotten to it before anyone could stop him. Rather than set her mind at ease by telling her that she had nothing to worry about, that there’s no way a single chocolate chip cookie is going to do serious damage to her dog (which is a large dog), her vet commended her for taking him in. That was what finally got me to write this post.

Yes, I realize that this woman’s reaction was a little extreme, and I can also understand why is it that vets are not exactly trying to talk you out of overreacting. As far as they are concerned getting humans to ‘err on the side of caution’ and ‘take their dogs in just to be on the safe side’ is free money, but the fact that vets don’t seem to be inclined to be the voice of reason doesn’t mean we should let the paranoia run rampant.

So how big a threat is chocolate? Well it depends on two things: the dog, and the chocolate.

One thing you have to keep in mind is that chocolate is packaged in human sized portions, but most dogs are not exactly human sized… in fact their size varies greatly, and so does the degree of caution you should exercise. If your dog is a six pound Chihuahua you have to be fairly vigilant because in that case an errant chocolate bar can pose a serious threat. If your dog is a fully grown mastiff or a St. Bernard, on the other hand, a normal chocolate bar, while not exactly healthy, is unlikely to be an issue.

The second aspect is that not all chocolate is created equal. The toxic agent here is theobromine (a close relative of caffeine), and the darker the chocolate, the higher the content of that particular stimulant. Baker’s chocolate can have up to ten times the theobromine content of milk chocolate, while white chocolate contains at most trace amounts of the blasted thing. In other words, baker’s chocolate can be dangerous even for an average sized dog, while white chocolate is no threat at all.

When it comes to milk chocolate a rule of thumb is that a lethal dose would be around one ounce per pound of body weight (for a St. Bernard that could translate into something 140-260 oz, or more than 15 pounds/6 kilograms, but keep in mind that that would be a lethal dose, toxicity would only take a fraction of that amount).

In other words, while I’m certainly not advocating feeding chocolate to dogs, and I usually try to avoid it, I think it’s important for dog owners to educate themselves beyond a simple chocolate=bad equation. Yes, considering how readily available chocolate happens to be, awareness of the fact that there is a potential problem is a good thing, and owners of mini-toy dogs should be extremely careful, but at the same time I suspect we have now reached a point in which the threat is seriously overblown, and unfortunately there are some vets that are not above exploiting, and even feeding, those fears.

And finally, keep in mind that the fact that something is chocolate flavored doesn’t mean it is chock-full of chocolate. A good example of this fact are Oreos. Those may be chock-full of chemicals that are far from healthy, but the amount of chocolate they actually contain is basically nil.

On the POD comparison’s future

From day one the comparison of POD publishers has been one of this site’s most prominent features, and for years I updated it on a yearly basis. For the most part this got me a lot of abuse from publishers and quite a few thank you notes from would be authors (I saved each and every one of those), but the thing is that as time went by, and the publishing landscape changed, the comparison became less and less relevant. The way I see it, it has been reduced to a quaint relic of a bygone era, where small players could make a difference and e-publishing was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. It is also a relic of a time when personal websites were truly personal. For better or for worse, that web is gone. That is one of the reasons why I didn’t even bother to update it this year (the other one had to do with the fact that real life has been pretty crazy). That brings me to the question of the comparison’s future. I am not going to delete it, and if I can I will try to update it sometime next year, but at the same time I am enough of a realist to realize that, given the changes we have seen both in terms of the web and the publishing industry over the past twelve years, it will never regain its former relevance. It was a good project, one I am proud of. It is also one I’m not willing to let go of just yet, but for the time being, I am willing to tuck it in and kiss it good night.

eReading and dyslexia

So about a month ago I finally took the plunge and bought myself a tablet. I had been reading on my phone for a while and I admit that, unlike most people, I didn’t have much trouble with the size of the screen. Still, I was looking forward to having a more reasonably-sized page.

One month later the takeaway lesson is that while the bigger screen is great for watching movies, reading comics and getting some work done, for reading I’ll stick with my phone, thank you very much. Simply put I hadn’t realized how much that little screen was helping me to focus, or what kind of a difference having shorter and fewer lines to contend with at a time  made. Yes, I can read on the tablet’s screen, and I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a struggle, but it is more of a chore and I also finding far more tiring.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but if you are dyslexic, and you enjoy reading, you may want to give that ‘annoyingly little’ screen a chance. You may be surprised by the result.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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.

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.

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.

… 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.

And we have a (tentative) release date for the third book of Citlalli!

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.

And in the end 2013 was a pretty good year

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.