Language Barrier (Barrera Del Idioma)

In my last post, I told how I had a title (Death and the Deep Blue Sea) stuck in my head and how a story grew from that small seed.  Well that was not the only time it happened.  Another time this title got stuck in there, The Treasure of Arroyo Seco and again a story grew from that seed.  Unlike the last story, though, I know exactly where this title came from, more or less anyway.

I am a member of a group that helps preserve land in my town and now and then we also help clean up parks in the area.  One day we were working in Arroyo Verde park which is a large property full of hiking trails.  You can see the Pacific Ocean from most points of view since it sits up on a foothill.  It was hot and dry that day due to the Santa Ana winds being out in full force.  It was while I was chasing down a wild plastic bag that the phrase Arroyo Seco came to mind.  I had no idea what it meant, but it sounded good.  My mind wandered as I picked up the human debris left behind by careless picnickers and as it did it batted the phrase around and somehow the entire title came to me.  Now what to do with it?  It had a nice lilt to it and I know it was very similar to the great Bogart film The Treasure of Sierra Madre so I thought maybe it would make a nice story–of some sort.

At the time, Detective Anderson did not exist but I was writing a lot of romance stories so I thought that maybe I could do something with this title in that realm.  The idea of having the story set in the old west interested me since that would be a first for me.  I have read many volumes of Zane Grey’s work and as great as it all is, he never handled relationships between men and women very well.  So I thought that maybe I could one up the master in that area.

With that in mind, I set a lonely cowboy, who thought he was running from the law, on a wild ride south of the border to escape the perceived posses that were out to get him.  Along the way he stumbles upon a dying hombre and shares with him the last dregs of his water.  While the old man lay dying, he hands our hero a map and says something to him in Spanish which he did not understand.  When the man finally died, our hero buried him with dignity then set out to find water in a barren desert wasteland.

On the edge of death, he see a village in the distance, he thinks, so by laying on his trusty horse, he makes for it. Finally, he can go no longer and sliding from his saddle, he falls into a pit of darkness.  Of course, he wakes up, that part of the plot was a given, but what would he wake up to?  Would he find himself chasing a gold mine like Bogie did?  No, that would be plagiarism no matter how much I spun it.  So what would be the real treasure? Since this story was destined to be a romance, there could only be one true treasure and that would be love.

He wakes up to the stunningly beautiful face of Raquel Deseo which made him think he died and went to Heaven when he really was in a village called Arroyo Seco, which I later discovered meant “dry creek”.  So who is Raquel Deseo?  In the story, she is a peasant living in a town that is dying of thirst and she is the daughter of the man our hero tried to save.  In real life, she is my friend Raquel who is just as beautiful as she is described in the story.  Deseo is Spanish for “desire”.

I wanted to add some realistic touches to the story, so I thought I would start his awakening moments with a conversation between Raquel and her mother with the entire narrative being in Spanish.  My real life friend Raquel consented to translating my words and thus became the love interest of my lonesome cowboy.

In the end Raquel falls in love him him, they figure out what her father was trying to say about the map, and so they eventually save the town.

This story will soon be added to my collection of work, Angel and the Bear.

Incident in a small market…

This morning she was wearing a battered Levi Denim shirt–with silver buttons–just like the one in the Mary Chapin Carpenter song, This Shirt.  Her blonde hair fell on the turned up collar, her wrists protruding from the rolled up sleeves were unadorned, and on her hands she wore one small ring. She was looking at produce in the greens sections, seemingly trying to decide if the Kale was too wilted for her taste.  He tried not to stare, and failed, after all he had just seen her the night before.

She must have felt his eyes on her because she looked up, and smiled.  He smiled back then went about his business while wondering if she was who he thought she was.

The incident above is true, but it would not make much of a story.  I mean men look at pretty women all the time and nothing comes of it–unless you are a writer and you can make what you want of it just as I did as soon as I got home from the market.

Mistakenly, I thought the lady in the market was the same one I had seen just the night before playing the cello in a local orchestra. There were at least 50 other musicians on that same stage and though she was partially hidden by a violinist, there was no way you could not see the enthusiasm she put into her playing.  It was as if there were no other players, no conductor, not even an audience.  We were all irrelevant to the passion she put into each bow stroke.  She wore a simple black dress and one string of pearls; her attire showed that it was the music that mattered, not what she wore or how she looked.  I have always admired performers like this whether they were in Carnegie Hall or playing on the street corner for spare change.

This brief marketplace encounter turned into my story, The Right Note, which not only produced my biggest royalty check to date but was also published in one of the biggest literature markets in the world, New York City.

In the story, the lady is who the man thinks she is and he approaches her.  The first line in the story is this: “You play the Cello, don’t you?” and of course she does.  What plays out is a tender tale of two mature people from very different backgrounds finding love at a time when they least expect it.  When I finished the story, though formulaic,  I liked it a lot and so did everyone else who I let read it so I thought I would take a shot so I sent it to New Love Stories Magazine.  They bought it–on the condition that I make it longer!  That was a request I had not heard before.  Since I wanted to be in this NYC magazine, I looked at my story in an effort to add more words.  In this case it was surprisingly easy.

The original story had only two parts; the first section is where the two lovers meet in the market and the second section detailed how the man showed up at one of her concerts.  This lead to a budding romance.  So how do I add to that?  I had the beginning, I had the ending, people liked it, I liked it.  How do I make the editor like it?

I finally decided to add a third section in the middle of the story.  The female protagonist is fascinated by the good looking man who complimented her on her playing and since he gave her his name told her that he was a writer, and that he lived locally, she decided to try to find out more about him.  Taking to the Internet she discovers that he is much more than he seemed and after discovering this, she wanted to see him again more than ever.

This obviously was the solution the editor was looking for because he sent me a sizable check for the story.  Sadly, New Love Stories Magazine is now defunct but with its death, all the rights to the story have reverted back to me and you can read it in my collection, Angel and the Bear.

While doing so, you can listen to this song:

This Shirt – Mary Chapin Carpenter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbL1LptZ8Vc

Why I write like I do…

Unlike some authors,  I do not write in just one genre.  I let the story idea dictate which category it fits into so that way I do not force a hard edge sci-fi story like Life In The Fast Lane into a detective story such as A Notary Public Is Missing!.   

The late author, Michael Chricton, wrote the same way.  For example, would the theme of Jurassic Park fit into the storyline of Exposure?  That would be doubtful.  More than likely he, like me, had ideas about stories and wrote them in the genre that served them best.

Unlike this great author, though, I only write short stories.  I have tried to write novels but no idea will stick in my brain long enough to complete one.  I have to get stories out of my fractured mind before I forget what I am writing about.

One other thing about my writing is that I frequently create my stories and characters out of real-life situations and real people that I know.  I only change their names to protect me from the innocent.

For instance, the latest victim of The Prime Cut Killer in my story Tat is based on a real-life bartender who is every bit as beautiful as described in the story. When I showed her the final work, her only objection to it was that she was dead.  When I told her that she would be the lead supporting actress, and possible co-star, if the story were made into a movie, she dropped her objection.  Hollywood is waiting.

Not only that, the story Tat is based on a real-life incident that occurred in the very same bar where she works.

In this blog, I will be going behind the scenes of my works to reveal what lead me to write a story. I have given talks on this matter and people are often surprised at how little an incident needs to be to get me going.  Sometimes it is just a word or a sporadic action that lights the fire and, believe it or not, I never know in advance what it will be.

I will also be talking about the art of writing.  Not so much how to do it but how and where to find inspiration to do it along with examples from my life.  I will offer advice to new authors as well.