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a university-based imprint that shall go unnamed, specializes in fiction and non-fiction from both published and unpublished writers of Hispanic heritage, with a focus on all things Hispanic or Latino.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