La Casa Caliente stretches across a hilltop with unlimited panoramas of majestic mountains and valley. It is a natural building made from sand, clay and water, sun dried in Mexico into two-foot long Adobe bricks. The Mexican tile adobe roof was handmade to perfection. Despite its name, Casa Caliente would remain cool during the long hot Tucson, Arizona summers. The ‘hot house’ designation was a creation of my adman grandfather (Hott is his family name). Simply, La Casa Caliente is a mud masterpiece in the valuable tradition of Mexican homes and in Adobe structures that date back to some of the oldest existing buildings in the world. We will never know if the adobe walls silently archive the presence and the emotions of those who inhabit their interiors. What if the Adobe walls were able to speak? This is what you might hear if that were to happen..
Casa Caliente’s adobe construction has four bedrooms, seven bathrooms and separate guest’s quarters. Outside, there is a charming patio with pool, an ancestral olive tree, and a complete citrus grove. The colorful exterior vegetation includes: red bougainvillea, desert saguaros, ocotillos, yuccas, paloverdes, mesquites, plus a plethora of colorful desert plants and wild flowers.There are numerous free-loaders: resident bobcats (often with cubs), a hungry mountain lion, and marauding, serenading coyotes searching for a small dog or house cat.
The purpose of this blog is to open the channel of communication between writers and their fictional creations. It’s also a guide for falling in love with beings that have no existence until they are imagined and brought to life.
Believable human drama has one inalterable characteristic: the reader or viewer identifies at once with the lead character. For example, we’re on the edge of our seat when the starry-eyed lover pursues beyond rejection for one last chance to seize the love of a lifetime? Or we’re waiting with bated breath as the battered, beaten hero pursues beyond hope for the final chance for justice? We’re actually there in the story, cheering on the rejected lover and the battered hero, while fearing and hoping it will end happily. Could you ever imagine the author felt the same way?
Conversely, have you been disappointed with a romantic comedy the media hyped? Did you arrive with high expectations that fell totally flat when you realized there was no amorous chemistry between the lovelorn actor/actress? Seriously, the emotional charisma between a man and a woman is there or it isn’t. You can’t fake it, and neither can the characters in your narrative.
I confess I wrote love letters to H’s heartthrob while at the University of Colorado. It was love at first sight for H when he saw her at CU’s Norlin Library. H didn’t know her name, and when he did, he was too embarrassed to talk. So I volunteered to help. I never imagined the love letters I wrote for H would make their way through the entire sorority. It was a fairytale come to life.
Truly, H was special and the depths of H’s feelings for this woman were truly amazing, albeit he hardly suspected he would have to reveal his deepest feelings or the process would be ill fated. H agonized over the pathway to expression until he finally found the way to vocalize his most sensitive feelings. The moral of the story is that I had no idea I could help H influence the feelings of a young woman I had never met. H was desperate, and oddly, there was a similar desperation between writing love letters for H and needing to duplicate Paella from Valencia, Spain.
For background, I lived in Madrid, Spain for years, I went to school there, and I would still be living in Madrid save for an unexpected medical emergency that returned us stateside. As a family, we enjoyed life with dear Spanish friends, many of whom I had first known as a student at Complutense University.
January 1964. The cold permeated through the wool sports coat, the cotton shirt, the pullover sweater and the light wool slacks and sox, and I tugged the grey wool blanket more tightly over my shoulders. It would be hours before I could open the single window to the sun’s warmth. Warmth was not a consideration in a high-security lockup that was built by political prisoners for political prisoners.
I had spent the night reading by the light of a single glass bulb until I hunkered into a tightly drawn ball, where I spiraled downward in deep slumber until emerging back home in full color on a hot summer’s evening. I was about to share dinner with my parents and younger brother. Before me was a delicious charbroiled hamburger on a sesame bun with slices of Bermuda onion, summer tomato, and copious condiments. There were also ample servings of buttered corn-on–the-cob and Mother’s delicious potato salad.
In the other place, Moorish Trumpets blared and metal doors slammed against the wall in my corridor. The sound of military boots moved toward my cot. In moments, I felt the pressure of a boot pressing downward against my rump… ‘This could not be happening. I was safe at home.’ When I looked upward, there were green uniforms and a brown wooden paddle, inches above my face.
You’ve decided to write a novel, now where to begin?
The pathway to writing begins with desire. Imagery of glamour and excitement are only illusions, for creative writing is fraught with disappointment, rejection and continued determination. Just the setbacks in plot alone can render a writer helpless. Then there’s the bad secret awaiting around the corner when you have finished the first draft: It’s called rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until you can spit sparks across the room.
Desire to become an author is the first reason why a magnificently intelligent human being would ever take up writing. Before we go further, please forget the dollar signs. Definitely clear your mind of watching the cinematic version of your first novel at the Festival de Cannes. Today, the publishing industry is undergoing a dramatic change. Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest bookshop chain is up for sale. Borders Books announced Sunday evening (1/30/2011) that it was delaying January payments to vendors and landlords in a move to conserve cash. Or as John Steinbeck once observed, “The profession of book-writing makes horse-racing seem like a solid, stable business.”
Yes, there is money in writing novels. It comes from promoting yourself as a brand. This involves creative and aggressive strategies to achieve widespread recognition. Be assured: if you do not promote yourself, no one else will! More later in a subsequent blog post…
Praia da Luz, Algarve, Portugal is the setting for five (out of twenty chapters) in Rules of Engagement that I wrote between 2007 and 2009 and then published in 2010. However my history with Praia da Luz began forty years before I ever wrote Rules. The purpose of this blog post is to relate the uncanny events that occurred when I retreated to ‘Alec’s villa’ alone in 1978 for four weeks to write The Iberian Jaguar. Only much to my chagrin I was not alone in the villa.
In the late 1970’s, I seriously decided write a first novel. Previous attempts had routinely been diverted by a small child, an attentive wife and steady calls for social affairs from friends with a plan. To complicate matters I was a resident of Madrid, Spain and the friends dated back to 1963-1964 when we were all students at Complutense University in Argüelles, with little money and an overbearing desire to have as much fun as curriculum and pesetas allowed. Only now, most of us were married with children, and the Madrid friendships included their extensive families that resulted in unending social demands. Also disruptive were requests from our dear child who continually needed attention to play cars on the floor and to appraise his art renditions.
I was becoming frustrated with the writing attempts. Soon I had transformed into an ill-mannered grouch, when my wife insisted that I disappear for as long as necessary to finish the first draft of the novel. My first reaction was that my pretty wife had a boyfriend, which she denied and retorted with the absolute truth: I was becoming a miserable person to live with, and it would be best for the family if I left A.S.A.P and wrote the expletive-deleted book!
I did the math. I had written 30,000 words, and 50,000 words would complete the task, which amounted to 34-days at 1,500 words-per-day. The month was June, and Javea the seacoast village between Valencia and Alicante (also named Xabía) was selected for the writing retreat. This was my favorite favorite seaside resort in Spain, and I soon reserved a chalet in the urbanization El Tosalet with views of the Mediterranean for five weeks of goal-achieving results.