Saturday, October 31, 2015

Live Interview All Weekend! #MIRACLEtour via @Desertwriter

This is a tour stop like no other... Author Bob Sanchez is interviewing me, live, all weekend. Take a hop over if you get a chance, drop us a question, and help me get the conversation roaring to thank Bob for his generous hospitality (and his creativity! LOVE this idea!).

Happy weekend!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The First Dozen (A Love Story)

3 houses lived in.
8 dogs adopted.
10+ dogs rescued.
13 puppies raised.
3 puppies adopted. (By accident, sort of.)
100+ books read.
6 companies worked for, combined.
3 serious fights.
3 beautiful reconciliations.
7 amazing trips.
Laughter, far too prevalent to measure.
Love, in bucketfuls. 
And loving every moment of it.
Oct. 30, 2003 - Oct. 30, 2015

The story of how it all began is up at Vidya Sury's wonderful blog today,
Would love to see you there.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We're celebrating! (With a Tour in Blogs)

THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is, finally, available as an e-book—and, to celebrate, we're going on tour.  And the inaugural stop is TODAY! Yep, right now, actually. At Sam Redstreake's blog, where we will:

  • share the e-book links (!);
  • talk about the potential music unlocks in fiction (yes, we'd love to hear your thoughts!);
  • announce Sam's newest brainchild, a flash-fiction contest inspired by MIRACLE!

So. See you there?

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Listing Hop!

Happy Monday, and bon siman! 

(That's 'happy week' in Papiamentu, the language of Curaçao—and if you ever do come to Curaçao, make a note: all your greetings on Monday need to be accompanied by that... Under penalty of being classified as another rude foreigner ;) )

Today's the day for Bish Denham's
Make a list. Any list. Sign up at Bish's page and join the fun. Here's mine:

Top ten twenty-two fifteen pieces of writing advice
(in no particular order)

Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

No. 6 in Neil Gaiman's 8 Rules of Writing

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

No. 7 on Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Tips to Write a Great Story

Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

No. 4 in Zadie Smith's 10 Rules of Writing

Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

No. 10 in Zadie Smith's 10 Rules of Writing

Writing is a little door. Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won’t come through.

From Susan Sontag's thoughts on writing

A writer, like an athlete, must ‘train’ every day. What did I do today to keep in ‘form’?

From Susan Sontag's thoughts on writing

Have moral intelligence — which creates true authority in a writer.

From Susan Sontag's thoughts on writing

You cannot write the pages you love without writing the pages you hate.

Exaggeration is not a way of altering reality but of seeing it. 

Mario Vargas Llosa, History of a Deicide, speaking about Gabriel García Márquez 
(my translation from the Spanish)

Ordinary language is an accretion of lies. The language of literature must be, therefore, the language of transgression, a rupture of individual systems, a shattering of psychic oppression. The only function of literature lies in the uncovering of the self in history.

From Susan Sontag's thoughts on writing

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

No. 6 of John Steinbeck's 6 Tips on Writing

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

No. 2 of John Steinbeck's 6 Tips on Writing

You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

No. 7 of Margaret Atwood's 10 Rules of Writing

The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.

No. 8 of Nietzsche's 10 Rules for Writers

The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything — the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments — like gestures.

No. 5 of Nietzsche's 10 Rules for Writers


Hooked? Here's a fabulous compilation of writerly advice, via Brainpickings.

Speaking of writer wisdom, tomorrow I'll be over at Sam Redstreake's awesome blog sharing a pearl of my own on how music helps with writing... 
(With some outrageously wonderful music, of course.)
AAANNNDD — drum roll, please — also to celebrate the e-book release of
Come on over tomorrow and help me thank Sam for hosting me.

Want more lists? You'll find the complete list of Listing Hop List-makers at Bish's page... Hop on over and pay them a visit.

What's your favorite piece of writing advice? Inquiring (list-making) minds would love to know. And I looooove comments :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Patricia... And the disaster it promises

This is Patricia. As seen from the space station. Somewhere under there is Mexico.

She made landfall this evening at around 6:00 pm, as a category 5 hurricane (190+ mph winds), on the southwest coast of Mexico (Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta). Its eye was 10 km (6 miles) across... Very small, very dangerous.

Since landfall, it has already weakened to a category 4... But the danger is a long way from being over. It's not about the record-breaking ocean surge, or those 200+ kilometer-per-hour winds. The main concern is rain.

In 48 hours, the area could receive 40% of its yearly rainfall.

And then there's that cold front coming from the north. Which will barrel right onto Patricia as she moves inland.

By all calculations, this is going to be a major, horrible disaster. Because once this monster gets past the coastline, it's going to slam into a huge mountain range (the Sierra Madre Occidental). There will be landslides. There will be floods. There will be whole towns swallowed by mud.

So here's the thing. Mexico appreciates your prayers, and your light- and love-sending. Really, they do. But if you're of the more—uhm, practical kind of mind, please do prepare to help in more realistic ways: contact relief organizations and animal shelters (why is it no one thinks of the animals when cataclysm hits?); contact your local Red Cross and donate blood and whatever supplies you can; organize your community to collect water and non-perishables that can be forwarded to the affected communities; contact authorities to inquire about (and maybe organize) relief actions...

The world is a village. We need each other. Over the coming weeks (hopefully not months), Mexico will need you.

Easy ways to help:

And, on behalf of all Mexico, muchísimas gracias.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

#BoTB Results: The Saints Are Coming (U2 & Green Day vs. Skids)

And yet another super-close battle, guys. Got to say, I was not expecting this result:

U2 & Green Day: 10
Elliptical Man

Skids: 9

I wasn't only not expecting it, I was—more and more fervently, as the days passed and the votes kept coming in—really hoping against it.

Because, you see, at some point during the Battle, I made up my mind to vote for Skids.

Don't get me wrong; I love the U2/Green Day version. I love each band alone, and I love them together; I love that they got together for this song, and for this purpose (Katrina hurricane relief)... and I will listen to their version over the Skids' any day, any time.

So why Skids?

Because it's the original. Aaaand because that original isn't, as several of you pointed out, all that different from the 2006 U2/GD cover. I really do feel that the original didn't get all the love it deserved back in 1978—why doesn't really matter. The song is fantastic, the lyrics are rich and well-crafted, and the music is a great composition.

The question for me boiled down to this: if Skids hadn't composed this song, would U2/GD have produced something similar for their Katrina benefit? I'm forced to answer No... I'm a believer in the magic of artistry and originality.

But what clinched it for me was the fact that two extraordinary bands got together to record something special for a worthy cause and not only chose an existing song but decided to use, basically, the original arrangement as well. I believe that means that both bands respect the Skids version.

Which is why I vote Skids.

And which brings this Battle to a tie.

Well played, Skids. Well played.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

#BoTB: The Saints Are Coming!

Get your earplugs ready, turn the volume down—or up: a good, hard, punk rock song for today's Battle of the Bands!

Most of my generation knows The Saints Are Coming from the U2 / Green Day cover of 2006, recorded to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina relief. But the song is much, much older. It's an original of Scottish punk-rock band Skids, featured on their debut album back in 1979. In November 1978, when the single was first released, the song hit #48 on the UK charts. In 2006, the U2 / Green Day version went all the way up to #1. Was this a belated recognition to an until-then underestimated song? Or did Bono, Billie Joe, & Co. really do it so much better?

Today, YOU decide.

First up: the 2006 #1 hit by U2 and Green Day:

And here is the original Skids version:

It's been just over 10 years since the Katrina tragedy in New Orleans, and just under 17 years since the original single hitting its top spot at #48 on UK charts. Who does it better—or less worse? Is the U2/Green Day ensemble worthy of that #1 spot? Are The Skids deserving of only #48? What do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts, and come back next week (22nd) to check the final results (along with my own vote).

Other epic Battles are being fought on these blogs. Take a hop over, get your music fix, help decide the face-offs with your vote!

As always, HUGE thanks to Stephen and FAE for their ongoing efforts in keeping BoTB going strong... You guys are wonderful.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The NYC Chronicles: About the Book Launch

It went great. Really, really great — no thanks to me or my novice-ness and general lack of prepared-ness, no. This landmark moment and its success was due entirely to two groups of awesome people:

Dedication page,
The ones who helped make it happen: 
  • fabulous publisher
  • fabulous dushi, to whom the book is dedicated,
  • fabulous Curaçao expats living in NYC who a) invited all their friends and basically shepherded them to the event, and b) introduced me to 
  • fabulous La Casa Azul bookstore owner & staff, and
  • fabulous PR people at the office of the Dutch consulate in NYC, who were beyond instrumental... Let me put it this way: without the DCNY, we would've had a book launch without books; and
  • assorted sites who shared the event, among them an ultra-flattering mention in NYC's Village Voice.

But what's an event—any event, but especially a book launch—without an audience? And we struck gold there.

Our beyond-wonderful audience.

  • friends who came in from as far away as Boston and Texas—and even Curaçao! And exclusively for the launch! Man... oh, man. Thank you doesn't even come close to beginning to cover it...
  • decades-long friends who, having read zero-zilch-nada of my work—and who, given the distance in time, had no real investment in supporting me—showed up anyway, all smiles and enthusiasm and good wishes;
  • ex-colleagues from that other life I once lived in the financial industry—and their friends, from as far away as SPAIN!
  • aforementioned Curaçao expats—a director at the Huffington Post, a director of Sugar Hill Children's Museum, an anthropologist professor at NYU, and a marketing strategist—some of whom showed up with friends, and even visiting Curaçao family;
  • perfect strangers who, somehow, heard about this book launch by an unknown author and not only gave it a shot but participated wholeheartedly in the conversation about this mystery island called Curaçao.

A blast, I tell you. No debut author has a right to expect a show of support at this level.

And then there were all the people who couldn't be there but wanted to, and sent awesome vibes of goodwill and confidence through the airwaves. I'm convinced all those positive thoughts conspired to create a bubble in space/time where nothing could go wrong.

Or, okay, not much could.

We had a moment of panic when the train we were on skipped the 103rd Street stop (a hundred meters from the bookstore). Maybe we got on the wrong train, we thought. The local vs the express or something. So we went on to the next stop (116th), crossed the tracks, and got on a train going back to 103rd — after double-checking this one did, actually, stop at 103rd.

Outside the Dutch consulate
after picking up the books.
(We were still on track, time-wise,
which is why I look so relaxed.)

Instead, 103rd zoomed past our windows while a blurry voice on the intercom said, "We've received confirmation there will be no stops at 103rd due to ongoing construction. The next stop on the line is 86th street."

Shit. Shit.

86th street is seventeen blocks away from 103rd. And it was 5:15; no way we could walk that (even if we hadn't had a suitcase with 50 books to roll along) and make it to the bookstore before 6:00—and even if we did, I certainly wouldn't be in any condition to give a speech—or even say Welcome—before passing out.

(Oh, man. The Speech. Well, we'll get to that.)

So we did the only thing we could: the four of us—my Super Dushi, my friend from Texas and my other friend from Curaçao—piled into a taxi (only later we'd realize how lucky we'd been to find one at 5:15 pm on Lexington... Like I said, good vibes make a huge difference) and high-tailed it—as it were, given rush-hour traffic—to 103rd. Good we knew exactly where we were going (thank you, phone GPS—how did anyone ever get anywhere without you?) because the taxi driver spoke enough English to say thank you and yessir, but not much more.

So we made it, roller suitcase chock-full of books and all, to the bookstore at about 5:40. (Instead of 5:00, as I'd originally planned... What's that saying about plans and god and evil cackling? Yeah.)

And people were already there.

So instead of having a nice moment with Aurora, the bookstore owner, to meet and get to know each other a little bit, or to meet her staff—or even, dammit, to take in the beautiful space and the shelves packed with amazing Latino authors—it was a rush-rush "Nice to meet you. Where do you want the books?" "Yeah, me too. Do you have the consignment form?" "The price's missing." "Where do I need to sign?" "What genre do you want these listed as?" And in between people kept arriving; people I had only traded emails with but never met face to face, people I didn't expect to see, people who had come a long way—whether through time or distance, or both—to support me. So of course that turned into a mass session of interrupted catch-up and introductions and ICAN'TBELIEVEYOU'REHEREs and photos and group hugs...

One of the amazing Curaçao People photos—with, unfortunately, a couple of main players too far back
in the shadows to see properly (and with the Curaçao flag held the wrong way around... we were that excited).
Publisher Matt Potter of Truth Serum Press is the gorgeous guy on the left, back row.

And then Aurora gave me a nudge. "I think it's time."

To Be Continued.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

#BoTB Results: The First Cut Is The Deepest

Wow... Another close one. Judith van Hel (aka nose-ring tattoo princess) started out with a clear, if surprising, advantage, but after a flurry of last-minute votes, The McClymonts caught up. For a while there, it looked like my vote would be the one to either break or make a tie, which I was not looking forward to, haha. This is the tally, sans my vote:

The McClymonts (11)

Judith van Hel (9)
Elliptical Man

My vote goes to Judith; her deeper voice totally did it for me. That would bring her count up to 10, versus The McClymonts' 11. The McC girls won, fair and square, and well deserved; like several people pointed out, the sound they achieved with only three voices and an acoustic guitar is well deserving of this victory. Too sweet, maybe (depending on your taste), but certainly a musical achievement. Congratulations, girls!

See you next week (15th) for another awesome Battle! In the meantime, I leave you with some more saccharine sweetness from the champions... Treat or torture depends on how you voted, I guess :D

Thursday, October 1, 2015

#BoTB: The First Cut Is The Deepest

Welcome back to another session of Battle of The Bands!

The song is probably one of the most well-known tunes in the world: Cat Stevens' The First Cut Is The Deepest. Cat is, of course, NOT in the running, but I found two obscure versions (okay, obscure to me) that sound kinda worth putting up for a face-off. The first interpreters you might actually know, although I didn't — The McClymont girls.

Challenging them is a total unknown singer to me. Straight from The Voice of Germany, I present unto you: Judith van Hel.

Both versions are different from the original, certainly, and in that they're similar, but I thought they brought enough variation between each other to warrant competition. What do you think? Who cut you deepest, the McClymonts or Judith? If you had to put one of these versions on your iPod, which one would you choose? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to get into the ins and outs of why the version you'd choose is better — or less worse — than the other.

When you've done that, hop on over to the other Battles!

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