Category Archives: Read, write, publish

A blessing in disguise

As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I was having some pretty serious issues with my cover designer, who up until then had been one of my best friends. I freely admit that the whole ordeal left me feeling utterly miserable (and I still miss her, after all, a friendship of more than a decade is not built overnight, though it can certainly be torpedoed in an instant). The thing is that as I was wondering what to do, and how I could possibly re-imagine one of the covers she was supposed to do, I hit upon an idea. It was completely different from the one I had originally envisioned, but there was something about it that got to me… and before I knew it I had the beginnings of a brand new book. Will that story bloom? I don’t know, it’s too early to tell, but for the time being it seems to have taken root between my ears. Funny how these things tend to work out in the end

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.

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.

Borges said it best…

I just came across this quote from Borges:

Publicamos nuestros libros para librarnos de ellos, para no pasar el resto de nuestras vidas corrigiendo borradores

That translates roughly into:

We publish our books so that we can rid ourselves of them, so that we won’t have to spend the rest of our lives polishing drafts.

Considering how much time I’ve spent going over the same book lately, I can’t help but to agree.

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.

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.


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.

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.


A limited view of ‘unlimited’

And just a little update on my problems with my ‘unlimited’ host (that would be greengeeks). Since my site was taken off line for the better part of an afternoon with no previous warning whatsoever for using too many resources last week I have been keeping a closer eye on things (I had assumed that ‘unlimited’ meant that I could relax, or that they would let me know if there was a problem…I learned the hard way that that wasn’t anywhere near the case).

So far I have managed to get the number of spam comments being posted down to zero (the problem was caused largely by excessive spammer activity), but given that the site is already in those spammers’ databases, the fact that they can no longer post hasn’t really had much of an impact on my resource usage yet (and I don’t know if it ever will, as getting deleted from those databases is likely to be all but impossible). Still, the most interesting thing was a little tidbit I came across as I checked my resources usage statistics, as it made crystal clear just how ‘unlimited’ is defined: 256 MB per day.  I am including a series of screengrabs showing not just the limitation notice, but also some additional details about my data usage for the month (the site was restricted on the 12th).

Resource usage restrictions

Daily usage statsDecember stats

That means that, at least as far as greengeeks is concerned, ‘unlimited’ translates into between seven and eight gigabytes per month tops (as traffic varies from day to day, that would be if you reach the resource limit on a daily basis without ever going over it, and that’s not likely to be the case). Assuming that these restrictions are close to the industry standard, I have to say that it is a pretty rotten deal. In fact, with the exception of the most limited of starter plans, few metered packages restrict you to less than 10 GB per month… the problem is that most of the hosts that used to offer rollover bandwidth have either gone out of business, or they have converted to an ‘unlimited’ service… and yes, I am incredibly frustrated by this whole mess (and by the fact that while greengeeks  offers free migrations to entice new customers, it disables the ‘Backup Wizard’, making it that much harder for existing customers to move away, or even take the most basic precautions to ensure their data’s safety).

The problem with Spanish

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 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.