“Sometimes you got to hurt something to help something. Sometimes you have to plow under one thing in order for something else to grow.”
Tag Archives: literature
I’m excited to announce that a global literary and free speech organization, PEN International, has established a new chapter in Dallas, Texas. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International has a very simple mission: preserve literature in all its forms and ensure everyone can engage in free speech and freedom of expression. These are core elements in any truly democratic society, but they are constantly being challenged and even threatened by self-appointed guardians of writing, journalism and speech; people who seem to think they have the right and the power to determine what the rest of us can say and read. It’s a never-ending battle and, sadly, it never will be won. Those of us who advocate for a free press and free speech will always have to confront the oligarchical bullies who feel they – and only they – are blessed with inalienable rights to speech and literature.
Pen International felt the need to establish the Dallas / Fort Worth chapter in the wake of the fraudulent 2016 U.S. presidential election, which has given us an arrogant, foul-mouthed, womanizing, reality TV star in the White House.
“At a time of exceptional threats to free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the country to the next level,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, as well as others around the U.S. will be vehicles for “pushing back against the breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and encroachments on press freedom.”
This shouldn’t be a surprised to anyone familiar with U.S. politics. I’ve noticed over the years that, any time a conservative Republican lands in the White House, free speech and freedom of the press come under attack. They have no problems loosening gun laws and sending our military to fight stupid wars (as if there’s such a thing as a “smart” war). But, when it comes to education, health care and even voting, conservatives suddenly feel the need to debate the matter.
Regardless of how hard we have to fight to ensure the rights to free speech and freedom of the press, we will always take up the torch of liberty and justice.
Everyone has a story and everyone needs to be heard.
Once again, it’s time for “Banned Books Week” – the annual event where we free speech advocates and other enlightened souls are forced to counter the anger of the holier-than-thou crowd who somehow feel imbued with the power to tell everyone else what they can read and see. Help support literacy and education. It’s they’re the best tools against ignorance and arrogance. This is a battle we’ll never win. But it’s always worth fighting!
Here’s a list of the most frequently challenged books, categorized by year and by decade.
“The writing is — I’m free from pain. It’s where nobody tells me what to do; it’s where my imagination is fecund and I am really at my best. Nothing matters more in the world or in my body or anywhere when I’m writing.”
“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