I’m all set for…
I’m all set for…
As of 1:15 a.m. Central Standard Time U.S. this past Tuesday, November 5, the Chief turned 56. It’s not necessarily as big a deal as, say, turning 55. And I remember years ago thinking that, once somebody reaches the half century mark on life’s odometer, ensuing birthdays don’t really matter. But I’ve learned every birthday matters. It’s another year forward and another chance to improve oneself. I feel I’m doing that with my writing, as well as more practical moves, such as joining a new gym.
This year’s birthday was rougher than expected. I got sick – again. Allergies that usually plague me with the change of seasons (the summer to autumn transition is generally the worst) hit me harder this time around; thus prompting a visit to my doctor for a trio of anti-microbial, germ-phobic medications. My eyes showed the wrath of the usual culprits: ragweed and mountain cedar. I confirmed my sensitivity to them some 15 years ago with an appointment to an allergy specialist. Visits to the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets and local stores had long proven ineffective. Ragweed and mountain cedar ranked at the top of my allergy reaction list, along with other suspected villains – oak and cat dander. I’m also allergic to stupid people, but aside from working outside the home and driving, there’s no definite test for that.
But my eyes looked as if I’d been ambushed by a swarm of killer bees or came out on the wrong end of a boxing match. Still, the drug cocktail – which did include the ubiquitous screwdriver – eased my angst. And then, the little microbial fuckers resurfaced, like dental appointments and property taxes. They assaulted me with their ecological mainstays: watery eyes, congestion, coughing and the tendency not to use Spellcheck. Misery! Misery, I tell you, dear readers! Joining that gym last month was a much-needed lifestyle change. Since the late 1980s, I’ve pretty much been a gym rat. I even wrote about it six years ago. However, when I signed up to this new place, it had been roughly eleven months since I’d been to a gym to lift weights. Note to the wise and health-conscious: do NOT take nearly a year off from lifting weights and expect to be back to normal in a single session. But, at that last gym a year ago around this time, one of the senior staff apparently had an issue with my attire. I wore an old sweat jacket – one I only wear to the gym. Admittedly, I’ve had it since high school. Some 35+ years ago. Okay, it’s a man thing! You wouldn’t understand, unless you bear that rare Y chromosome! The zipper is twisted, and it’s shrunk. I often keep it unzipped during workouts. No one had ever had a problem with that. Until November 2018.
The man – either a lost Viking or an intense Grateful Dead fan – literally got up in my face and ordered me to “zip it up.” He then walked away. And so did I. I re-racked a curl bar and left; canceling the membership once I got home.
This new gym has no such qualms about ratty, decades-old sweat jackets. It doesn’t cater to GQ cover models or suburban soccer moms – no offense to suburban soccer moms! It’s an old-school gym – where men can go shirtless, women can wear sports bras, and dogs run around the front office. Literally, the owners have 2 massive and very friendly canines practically greeting people when they enter. As a certified Wolfman and canid aficionado, I love the idea of dogs almost anywhere!
I was determined to visit the gym on my birthday, as I’ve done with just about every birthday for as long as I can remember. I even did so last year – before the Sweat Jacket Incident. But I just couldn’t make it this past Tuesday. Again, those allergies. Or maybe the flu. Or I’m being punished for not completing my second novel by now, as promised. Perhaps internalizing all those angry sentiments from work and driving had finally caught up to me. But then again, I never was too keen on the idea of being a serial killer. That doesn’t look good on your Linked In profile.
But other distractions arose, particularly with this aging house. Bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs, foundations and various and sundry attributes boast large repair price tags. I relish the thought of living in the house where I grew up. I don’t have to fight for parking space, deal with noisy upstairs neighbors and getting rent paid on time. I have the joy of dealing with aging bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs and foundations. Aaah – suburban life!
So this birthday wasn’t the best. But I made it to another year! I’m always thankful for that. The alternative is not pleasant.
The other day a friend posted a drawing on Facebook of someone hugging what looked like Jesus Christ with the verbiage: “The best part of going to Heaven.” I thought, if there is such a place, the first person I’d want to see is my father, who passed away 3 years ago and who I think of and pray to every day and night. Nearly 5 months later, when my dog died, I fell into a mortal depression. When I marked my 53rd birthday that year, I honestly felt I wasn’t going to make it much longer. I was ready to give up. I still truly believe my father returned to get my dog; in part, because he absolutely loved that pint-sized, four-legged monstrosity, but also because he simply wanted the dog to be with him. I could understand my 83-year-old father’s demise; he had been sick off and on for years with gastrointestinal problems. His body could no longer take the punishment. But then, he came back to take the dog?! Oh well…such mysteries are not for this world to understand.
Yet, as morose as I felt at the end of that year, I realized I had so much I wanted to do. I still hadn’t published my first novel and I have other stories I want to write. I realized I couldn’t give up. It certainly wouldn’t be fair to the people who care about me, but it wouldn’t even be fair to me. I’ll die, and the sun will still rise in the east the next morning. Some people I’ve known actually think it won’t, if they die!
So, here I am at the ripe slightly-passed-middle-age of 56! I’m still writing and still fighting! Now, I just need to find a new way to assassinate these allergens and get back into the gym.
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
Wow! I’m 51 today. That’s more than half a century. So, what? I feel pretty good. I’m certainly glad to make it to this age. The alternative isn’t pleasant. I think of the few people I know who died well before 51 and I certainly can’t be thankful enough that I’ve lived this long. Each day I wake up gives me another chance to make my life better.
I do have a few simple wishes:
Okay, maybe getting my novel published now is a bit of a stretch. But who says we can’t dream extravagantly?
I don’t know why I’ve made it to this age, nor do I know why I’ve gone through all the crap I’ve experienced. I’ll find out one day. But it’s brought me here. And my life isn’t done yet. I don’t know how much longer I have, but I want to make up for all the lost years of being terrified of the future. Here’s to more time on Earth with the people I love and care for the most!