As a writer, I’ve often fancied myself the most popular book in the library and love it when people thumb through my pages!
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It’s great to know the e-version of my debut novel is now on sale at Wal-Mart – right next to the cheesy romance stuff. But hey, a writer has to start somewhere, right?!
Juan Miguel thought of his great-aunt again and suddenly recollected another death even further back – one of his parents’ friends. He’d never met the woman, but watched his mother, Marisol, become overwhelmed with grief; an unusually emotional response from a woman who’d driven herself to the hospital during evening rush hour, when she thought she’d gone into labor with him.
She and some other old friends had gathered shortly after the rosary – another long-ass rosary – to reminisce about their younger days and quickly found themselves laughing in the sanctity of the funeral home.
“Like I’ve said before,” his father, Armando, interjected, almost philosophically, “you need to get together.”
And everyone agreed. They needed to get together; reconvene under more pleasant circumstances and relive the best parts of their lives. They promised to call each other and do something; have lunch or dinner – anything! Just stay in touch before it was too late. Then they left – and his parents never heard from anybody.
Until someone’s name popped up in the obituaries.
James paused before stepping onto the patio. Juan Miguel followed.
A crescent moon hovered above. He heard voices – and music. He looked around, as the voices became louder; people talking and laughing, while gathered along the walkways in the yard. Then, he noticed the orbs of light amidst the trees – lanterns. Along with the moon, they lit up the area. The chatter and laughter continued, as the orchestral music grew stronger.
“She’s out there,” James said. “She’s waiting for you. She loves you.” He receded into the house and dropped into a chair. The blue-eyed cat hopped onto his lap. He began caressing it, as the animal laid its head upon its paws.
Juan Miguel peered into the foliage through the opaque light of both the moon and the lanterns. The laughter – it sounded so good. Nights made for lovers. He smiled, as floral aromas swarmed around him, and light winds cavorted with the trees.
Remember, my debut novel, “The Silent Fountain”, is available in both print and e-versions. It’s the perfect gift – birthday, Christmas, retirement, a month without a road incident – for anyone on any occasion, especially those who like their romance a little on the creepy – I mean, surreal! – side.
“You never really stop loving someone.”
“Just grass,” Juan Miguel mumbled. Just flowers. What kind of flowers?
Yes – lilacs. I don’t know much about flowers. Lilacs, orchids… He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Love that scent – fresh grass – lilacs – her. Her scent, her soft skin. He opened his eyes, as sunlight spilled through a gap in the ceiling and bounced off her auburn hair.
“Ay, que simpatico,” she crooned, as if seeing him for the first time.
He grinned modestly, realizing how he must look: half naked and sweaty with matted hair. “Gracias,” he finally chirped, feeling like an awkward teenager – again.
“Es verdad.” (It’s true.)
He didn’t know what to say. How did she manage to do this to him? Her dark green eyes still bore that strong sense of love and admiration – and hurt. Why? Why do you look so sad? What hurts so much?
The print version of my debut novel, “The Silent Fountain”, is now available. The e-version has been out since December 21, 2018. Today, January 14, 2019, also happens to be my father’s 86th birthday. That wasn’t by design, but I also don’t believe it’s purely coincidental either.
As always, thanks for your continued support, my good followers!
“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.”
– Washington Irving (1783-1859)
Image by J.L.A. De La Garza
“You never really stop loving someone.”
The hours moved quickly: midnight, one o’clock, two o’clock… Why can’t I sleep? He flipped the pillow again, sighing heavily, and closed his eyes, determined to keep them that way.
Then David’s smiling face sprinted through his mind. “Oh, God!” he hollered, more out of irritation than sadness, his hands slamming onto his forehead. “Not now! I’m too tired!” His arms flopped down on either side of him. “I’m just too damn tired.”
David’s quirky grin disappeared, but the same guilty sensation settled back into him. He sat up, face buried in his hands. “It’s not fair,” he whispered. “It’s just not right. Why, God? Why David? Why’d you do that to him? I’ve asked you again and again, and you still won’t tell me.”
“You shouldn’t be afraid of death,” Juan Miguel’s paternal grandfather once told him and his brothers. The old man actually admired death. “It doesn’t discriminate. It takes whomever it wants: young, old, anyone.”
But as Juan Miguel now let his body convulse in quiet sobs, he had to disagree; it does discriminate. It takes the young, when it should take the old. It takes the good, when it should take the bad.
The e-book version of my debut novel, “The Silent Fountain”, is now available. And what better Christmas present than a story of someone in a gigantic old house filled with colorful characters and strange sounds?! Aside from me in a Speedo with a bottle of wine…no, wait! That was in another life. Never mind! I told you people when I started this blog nearly 7 years ago I was weird! Like you needed more proof, right? Anyway, thanks for your love and adoration, my good followers!
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
Image by J.L.A. De La Garza
The Chief is happy to announce the upcoming publication of my first completed novel, “The Silent Fountain”, courtesy of Book Baby – an independent firm based in Pennsauken, New Jersey. It will be available in both print and electronic versions by mid-December 2018. Once I confirm the actual publication date, I will issue another formal announcement.
To family and friends who have known of my literary dreams for decades and heard me speak of this for so long (too long actually), yes finally, it is now becoming a reality! Following what seems like a lifetime of promises, it IS happening. Now, aren’t you glad you waited!
After some two decades of writing and rewriting; plotting and planning; submitting and getting rejected; hoping and praying; and slaving over hot pencils and hotter keyboards, it is all coming to fruition. It took a while (to put it mildly), but I have kept my promise to all of you.
“The Silent Fountain” is best classified as a paranormal romance – emphasis on paranormal. I don’t do romance very well – either in literature or real life. I came up with the story idea around 1996 and first submitted it to a traditional publisher in 2001. The publisher, a university-based imprint that shall go unnamed, specializes in fiction and non-fiction from both published and unpublished writers of Hispanic heritage, with a focus on all things Hispanic or Latino. The company stated in their mission that they strive to combat stereotypes about Latinos and to give a voice to a group that has otherwise been ignored by the mainstream press and the literary world.
I felt “The Silent Fountain” met that criteria. As my blog followers should know by now, I am definitely of Hispanic heritage. I’ve been fighting stereotypes about Latinos my entire life. Most of the characters in “The Silent Fountain” are Hispanic; yet don’t fit the Hollywood mold of how we behave and what we look like. They’re not gang-bangers or low-riders; they’re not violent, alcoholic, dim-witted and sexually-obsessed cretins; and they’re not illiterate fools who snuck across the U.S. border in the middle of the night with a handful of clothes stuffed into plastic bags.
The people in my novel are educated, smart and possess the amazing ability to speak perfect English. Most are native-born Texans who own and operate a real estate conglomerate; live in a large, century-old, well-appointed home; listen to classical music; and wear nice clothes. They are much like my own relatives and other Latinos I’ve known and worked with over the nearly six decades of my life on Earth.
But that university turned it down, giving me the most classic of all literary rejections: it didn’t meet “their needs at this time.” I got the same response from the seven other publishing houses where I submitted the novel. One editor actually returned the manuscript with a note declaring the “characters are too implausible” because of their wealth and Hispanic ethnicity. “The average reader won’t believe that,” they told me. I replied with a letter to that editor (which I know sounds childish and unprofessional) telling them I write for smart people anyway. They didn’t reply.
After taking a closer look at the type of books and essays the university imprint publishes and distributes, I realized why they turned me down. I’m not some pathetic wetback who made their way to the U.S. via a harrowing journey across vast expanses of deserts and mountains atop an aging train; thus, neither are my characters. I don’t know many people like that anyway. I’ve spent my life avoiding people who are illiterate and don’t care about the sanctity of U.S. law. My book also isn’t a saccharine-laced tale told in a first-person narrative by a young child who grew up in huts with no shoes and little schooling; yet still has the ability to comprehend everything that’s going on around them and are subsequently able to offer their elders sensible explanations on how to deal with critical issues. This is not a children’s picture book with verbiage sweet enough to give you cavities. In fact, there are no children in my novel. Moreover, it’s a paranormal romance with some sexual activity and foul language. So, while they look for Hispanic-oriented literary works by Hispanic authors that defy mainstream stereotypes, I feel they essentially created a stereotypical classification for themselves. And, as usual, I didn’t fit into it. But that’s okay. People have always tried to place me in a box to make themselves comfortable with who they think I am or should be and ended up failing. Such as happened in this case.
Upon starting this blog in 2012, I had to sit back and reconsider where I wanted my writing ventures to go. Did I want to attempt the traditional route again? Go through the same decades-old procedures for contacting a publishing house? Between 2001 and 2012, it seemed the list of book publishers had dwindled. Publishing has fallen victim to the same corporate evil as banks did in the 1990s and IT firms did in the last decade: mergers and acquisitions.
By 2012, however, self-publishing had become a more popular route for average writers. In fact, self-publishing has come a long way from the vanity press market several years ago; the last resort road for luckless writers. Growth of that beloved monstrosity known as the Internet gave storytellers a more direct path to seeing their words in print. And thus, I made my decision. And here I am.
Below is a synopsis of the novel, which is the verbiage that will appear on the back cover.
Juan Miguel de la Montana lives a quiet life as a single man, spending his personal time reading, exercising, listening to music and drinking white wine. But his carefully-structured routine is interrupted when he learns of the death of an old college friend. He attends the funeral and planned to return home quickly. He didn’t expect to encounter another college friend at the grave site, much less strike up a conversation and then meet him for dinner. He certainly didn’t expect the man to invite him to a nearby ranch estate where he’s vacationing with friends, much less accept the offer.
Yet, once there, Juan Miguel feels pleasantly overwhelmed – and begins to enjoy the company of the estate’s owners, the Santiago family, and their colorful friends. Black orchids, a blue-eyed cat, lilac perfume and a long-dormant water fountain slip into his subconscious and initially mean nothing to him. But, just as Juan Miguel falls in love with his new friends and the ranch’s bucolic surroundings, he’s unprepared to fall in love with Esperanza, a Santiago relative.
And, it doesn’t seem to matter that she died sixty years ago.
I’m dedicating this book to my parents, George and Guadalupe De La Garza, who tolerated more from me than most reasonable people would have. My father especially helped me with the Spanish translations; we’d spend an hour or more on the phone. My biggest regret is that I didn’t make a more concerted effort to get this thing published before he died in 2016. And my mother’s mental health has deteriorated to the point where she probably doesn’t remember me talking about it much.
So, if there’s one piece of advice I can give to anyone, it’s NEVER put off what you can do as soon as possible. I always said that life got in the way. But I finally realized life wasn’t getting in the way. I was letting it get in the way. My writing and my dreams have always been a part of my persona. But I kept putting them on hold to take care of other stuff. Don’t do that! Your best dreams can never die, but the people you love the most eventually do.
Image by J.L.A. De La Garza
Many social movements begin with the simplest of acts. In the fall of 1975, a group of parents called Parents of New York United complained to a local school board that school policies on library books were too “permissive.” Among the offensive tomes were Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” and Langston Hughes’ “Best Short Stories by Negro Writers,” which, the parents moaned, were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.” In response, the school district removed the books in February of 1976. But a senior high school student, Steven Pico, and four classmates challenged the board’s decision; claiming the books were removed simply because “passages in the books offended [the group’s] social, political, and moral tastes and not because the books, taken as a whole, were lacking in educational value.” Other libraries and free speech organizations filed briefs on the students’ behalf, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 as Island Trees School District v. Pico.
While many parents surely were upset that a group of high school kids had the audacity to circumvent their authority, the more significant issue was the school board’s actions. And, on a grander scale, who has the right to determine what is acceptable and unacceptable?
As the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once declared, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”
Shortly after the SCOTUS reversal of the aforementioned school board’s decision, “Banned Books Week” was founded. Since then it has grown into an international event with the goal of ensuring that true freedom begins with our ability and the right to read and see pretty much whatever we want. There’s a reason, after all, why the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is first.
Like any legitimate scribe, I strongly support the right to free speech and free expression. We in these democratic societies don’t often appreciate the importance of it. But speak with anyone who grew up in a totalitarian state – where people are told what to read and how to think – and you’ll realize the value of it.
Sadly this battle will never be won. We will ALWAYS have to combat those who feel that, since they’re offended by something, no else should have access to it either. In the current chaos of extreme political correctness and assaults on the media by a deranged American president, none of us should have to tolerate the narrow-minded choices of others.
Keep writing and keep fighting!
Banned Books Week runs this year from September 23 – 29.
Hi, my name is Alejandro, and I’m a bibliophile. And damn proud of it, too!
Yes, of all my curious habits, book collecting is the most pronounced. A gatherer of literature; a captive of scribes; a hoarder of tomes. Don’t try an intervention on me, though! Your picture might end up on a milk carton.
My fascination with books goes back to my toddler years, when my parents bought a slew of children’s literature – mainly the classic “Little Golden Books” – and set me down in front of them. Their determination to instill a love for reading in me stemmed from their own upbringing. They come from a generation where a high school diploma was enough to get through life. But, while it took me more years than I wished to complete my own formal education, that love for the written word was embedded into my brain at that young age and has never faded. I still have all those “Little Golden Books.” They’re aged and crinkled – practically falling apart – but they’re mine. And they’re just as valuable as the rest of my vast cache of reading material.
I recently did a comprehensive inventory of my books and have counted 459. This gallery doesn’t include my equally grand collection of magazines, such as “National Geographic.” Some neighbors, a childless couple, bought my parents and I a gift subscription for Christmas 1975. I fell in love with the magazine and have maintained an annual subscription ever since. Over the years, I’ve collected a number of older “National Geographic” periodicals; some dating back to the 1920s. Other magazines include “Archaeology,” “International Artist,” “Smithsonian” and “The Sun.”
But it’s the myriad of books that harbor the essence of my cerebral interests. I don’t have enough shelves for them, so – as you can see from the photos below – I’ve merely stacked them wherever I can. Among my prized tomes are first editions of Edna Ferber’s “Giant” and Jacqueline Susann’s “Once Is Not Enough.” I have a 50th anniversary edition of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” from the Folio Society and “The Multi-Orgasmic Man.” (No, it’s not erotic fiction.) I have the complete works of both Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov; Leonardo Da Vinci’s notes compiled into a 3-volume set; almost every Agatha Christie murder mystery; and Geoff Mains’ “Urban Aboriginals,” a comprehensive guide for leather fetish aficionados.
Two items from Taschen, “Circus Book: 1870 – 1950” and “Magic: 1400s – 1950s,” go beyond qualifying as coffee table books – they practically are coffee tables! They’d also qualify as deadly weapons and – in a state like Texas where education is virtually an elective – I might be committing a crime in owning them.
It’s not unusual for me to be reading two or more books at once. Currently, I have three going: “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700,” Robert Ludlum’s “The Aquitaine Progression,” and Tom Bianchi’s “Fire Island Pines.” “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700” is so called because of a mysterious series of tsunamis that struck Japan’s eastern coastlines in January of 1700; an orphan in that no local seismic activity had been noted. Scientists finally made the connection between that “orphan” and a powerful earthquake that rocked what is now the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
My love for dogs matches my love for books. The two merge in Catherine Johns’ “Dogs: History, Myth, Art,” Bruce Fogle’s “New Encyclopedia of the Dog,” and “Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives & Evolutionary History.” The latter is very much like a text book, but it’s the best one on the canine species I’ve ever read.
My collection ranges from the practical – Charles Schwab’s “Guide to Independence” – to the whimsical – H. Jackson Browne’s “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” the smallest-sized item in the group.
Although I’m no longer a practicing Roman Catholic, I have Steven Runciman’s “A History of the Crusades,” which is a triptych piece: “The First Crusade,” “The Kingdom of Jerusalem” and “The Kingdom of Acre.” “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” is an in-depth analysis of the possibility Jesus Christ survived crucifixion and went on to get married and have children. Conversely “The Day Christ Died” is Jim Bishop’s intimate retelling of Jesus’ purported final days before his death. Malachi Martin’s “Hostage to the Devil” is an account of five cases of demonic possession the late Irish-born Jesuit priest attended. Martin gained notoriety several years ago when he claimed Satanism had been practiced within the Vatican. I once offered to lend Martin’s book to a close friend, but he vehemently refused. “That’d be scary to read something like that,” he told me. He’s the only person I’ve ever known to be terrified of a book.
Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised that my preoccupation with the macabre and supernatural manifests itself in Ann Arensberg’s “Incubus,” as well as “Ghosts,” a collection of short stories compiled by Marvin Kaye, and Mary Higgins Clark’s “Where Are the Children?” But I also like to view the so-called supernatural from a practical lens, as is evident in Nicholas Roger’s “Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night.” Before my parents saw “The Exorcist” at the theatre, my mother read William Peter Blatty’s book of the same name. We had moved into a house in suburban Dallas more than a year earlier; an area that had once been farm land. Displaced mice and scorpions often turned up in the home. Reading “The Exorcist” one night after I’d gone to bed and my father had returned to work for a short while, my mother was startled by faint scratching sounds coming from within the walls. (If you’ve either seen the book or read the movie, you know what I’m talking about.) ‘We need to get this house blessed,’ my mother thought, as we were still devout Catholics. But an exterminator later told us the noises came from confused mice, trying to get out. Or – so he said.
My fascination with Earth’s natural elements shows up in Erik Larson’s “Isaac’s Storm” and R.A. Scotti’s “Sudden Sea,” each about two of the deadliest hurricanes to strike the United States in the 20th century. The National Geographic Society’s “Realms of the Sea” is as much a study of the world’s oceans as it is a photographic collage. Simon Winchester’s “Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded” details the 1883 eruption of the notorious Indian Ocean volcano that altered the planet’s climate, even into the 20th century, and became a synonym for all types of global cataclysms.
History has a firm place in this array: Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror: the Calamitous 14th Century,” Edmund Morris’ “Theodore Rex” and A. Scott Berg’s “Wilson.” I believe Jared Diamond’s “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” and “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” should be required reading in schools. Together they explain a lot how the world has come to exist in its current condition. Neither is told from a strictly Euro-Christian viewpoint, so that would be the first obstacle to overcome in getting them into the hands of grade-school students. But it’d be worth the trouble.
I’m also not the only writer in the family. One of my first cousins, Richard De La Garza, PhD., co-authored “Cocaine and Methamphetamine Dependence: Advances in Treatment.” A guide for psychiatrists specializing in drug addiction, it’s just one factor in Richard’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the damage caused by substance abuse; mainly cocaine and methamphetamine.
Aside from “Giant” and “The Day Christ Died,” one of my oldest books is Lareina Rule’s “Name Your Baby,” published the same year I was born. I’ll search through it sometimes, as I name the characters in my stories. I still have some actual reference and text books, such as Reader’s Digest’s “Family Word Finder,” which I still use religiously for my writing; the always indispensable “Chicago Manual of Style (6th ed.)”; and Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think,” a guide for the Internet age. Of my three dictionaries, “The Living Webster: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language,” is the oldest, as well as the largest. It wouldn’t qualify as a coffee-table; it’s more of a small-lamp end-table type. One of my mother’s work colleagues had bought it for me as a birthday present in the 1970s. That woman knew I liked to write stories and felt it would make the perfect gift for me. She was right. My mother had said the woman’s son had been killed in Vietnam and had become so distressed by it that she’d periodically tell people at the office she needed to call her son…before realizing he was dead. Now I watch helplessly as my mother’s own memory keeps faltering. That mammoth dictionary still ranks as one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
I’ve tried to share my love for reading with other people. In July of 1998, I was surprised to get a notice in the mail from some friends announcing the birth of their daughter. I rushed out to buy a gift certificate and a large book of children’s nursery rhymes. In 2005, my then-supervisor and his wife adopted a baby boy from Guatemala. I did the exact same thing: bought a gift certificate and a large book of children’s nursery rhymes. Get that kid into reading as soon as possible!
I’ve heard more than a few people say that reading is a waste of time. To them, I politely say, ‘You’re an asshole.’ More directly: an illiterate asshole. Many of them are the same ones who consider TV guides and beer bottle labels reading material. Others have told me the Christian Bible is the only book they’ve read front to back or are reading at that moment. In that regard, I consider Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” on equal grounds, since it’s also filled with violence and erotic imagery. (Yes, I have that one, too, and find it more plausible than the Bible.)
If people spent more time reading, they’d learn more about the world around them and wouldn’t have much time left for fighting or fucking. Fewer people would get killed and / or get sick.
Literacy is such an integral part of civilization I can’t understand why someone would find it boring. Societies with high rates of literacy and education generally have lower rates of violence and are more politically and socially stable. Nations such as Australia, Israel, Japan and Norway boast some of the highest standards of living in the world, which correlates to their equally high rates of literacy – almost 100% in each case. People who can read and write spend more time contemplating the mysteries of the universe and how to make the world better for everyone. Yes, sometimes they misuse that knowledge to harm others. But, then again, there are people who view education itself as dangerous; a detriment to the structure of the society they’ve carefully designed for themselves. An educated populace is composed of people who can think for themselves. They have the audacity to question authority and wonder aloud why things have always been done a certain way. Such boldness upsets the oppressors, but it’s a measure of true spiritual freedom. For me, freedom comes in all shapes, sizes and colors of the written word.
Top image courtesy of “Must Be This Tall to Ride.”