The Dream of Crossed Paths

 

Occasionally, I will post short stories to my blog. I hope you enjoy!

 

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The Dream of Crossed Paths

 

Although we are a people who have never seen the sun, we dream of it. In our dreams, the sun is bright yellow, sometimes red. From it falls an orange light, a soft warmth like a gentle fire on its last coals. We bask under it naked, with no fear of attack from the darkness. The light is everywhere. We are swimming in it. Immersed. But our dreams are fantasies of the light. We only have the image of the sun from ancient stories. We tell and re-tell our heritage. We speak of the sun and we dream of the sun and we ache for the light.

Continue reading “The Dream of Crossed Paths”

Anne of Grey Gables

About a week ago, I was writing an author interview and was thinking of my answer to the inevitable question: what is your favorite book? I don’t have a favorite book. I have many books that I love. Many books that I return to, many that remain with me after many years, strong, fierce books whose characters have etched themselves into my mind. When I was thinking about this, the book Anne of Green Gables came to me. I had been watching the new Netflix series “Anne with an E,” and it made me remember how powerful of a character is Anne Shirley. She is certainly one of literature’s most vivid characters, alive, imaginative, proud, and supremely decent.

That is why I wanted to take this time to forget about my own book and concentrate a little on a review of “Anne with an E,” the latest iteration of one of literature’s great creations, Anne Shirley. I want to start with the things I love about the show, and then talk about what I believe must change if this show is to be as good as it can be.

Continue reading “Anne of Grey Gables”

The Landscapes of Publishing

 

I’m happy to say that on May 17th, 2017, The World Without Crows went live on Amazon. It’s now available, finally. Over the past few days since then, I’ve been constantly writing, constantly clicking links, constantly trying to get the word out. I spent a blistering three days writing bloggers asking them to review the book. Now I’m settling back, thinking of what else I can do.

Writing is a good time, isn’t it? You get to know a story, your setting. You explore your characters, you get to wonder about the world, maybe discover a few things on the way. It’s like a hike in a wilderness that no one has ever visited.

Then there’s marketing the book. This is like going from a calm wilderness with calling birds and idyllic scenery to some vast, urban landscape, chugging away with pollution and noise, billboards flashing, people huddled together against the cold under blinking fluorescent lights. Into this landscape you walk, going up to strangers, saying, “Hey, read this,” or “Hey, this is only 99 cents.” And they shake their heads so you walk on, uncertain, maybe pulling your coat closer to your body. Then it’s off to the next group of people, trying to avoid the guys in trenchcoats, saying, “Hey, I can do that for you, only 50 dollars.” And you turn your face away and keep walking. It’s a jungle out there, baby. You’re going to die. Continue reading “The Landscapes of Publishing”

A Brief History of “The Island”

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I am launching my new book in a matter of days. I thought this would be a good time to talk a little bit more about the book here.

The World Without Crows started life with the working title “The Island,” a title I wouldn’t give up for a long time. “The Island” began as the confluence of several ideas that had been bouncing around my head separately for a couple years. I’d always wanted to write a book in which there’s a lot of hiking. That’s not much of an idea, and that’s why it just flitted around my head, not landing anywhere, just flying from one place to another. Another desire was to write a book in which the protagonist played pen and paper RPG. A gamer, of the old fashioned type. The kind of kids I knew growing up who argued over the rules of the game more than they played it. I never thought these kids had seen justice in print or movies. They are always portrayed as incredibly socially awkward. Some of them were, it’s true, but they were also very intelligent, curious, and were all around decent people. Now they are professors and lawyers and judges. I have no doubt that hidden in the back of the closet of more than a few influential people is a ratty old copy of the AD&D Player’s Handbook. I wanted to tell THAT story. The third major idea was something apocalyptic. These ideas just trotted around my head independently for a long time, like horses in different fields, happily chomping away on the grass without being aware of each other’s existence. Until one day I woke up in the morning thinking that each idea was no good alone, but together, they might have something to say. For some reason, while I slept, the horses all gathered in the same field. Continue reading “A Brief History of “The Island””

Total Creative Control

I am about a week away from the launch of The World Without Crows. I am also sick. Not real sick. Sick enough so that everything is a little more of an effort. And I get tired walking around the house. This isn’t the best of times to be sick, damn this cold, but as they say in Chile, es lo que hay—that’s the way it is.

So far work on the book has been a mixture of pleasure and annoyance. I really enjoyed designing the book, especially the chapter headings. At first I thought I might do a heading based on the red dotted line of a trail map, but it didn’t work out the way I hoped. I ended up with a plain, but very nice chapter heading. I also tried to get a nice design for the punctuation that marks a strong break in the prose, called, interestingly enough, a dingus, but in translation to the Kindle, the dingus was reduced to a dash. In the future, I think I will use a shrunken * for this punctuation, which I saw used in the Kindle version of Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars and thought worked very well. (Very good read by the way).

One of the things they always say about independent publishing is that you have total creative control. As if that’s a good thing. The secret is that some things I’d be quite happy in letting other people have some control.

Book design, while interesting, takes up DAYS of your time and also, because I’m not an expert, a lot of this time is wasted doing things that won’t matter, like, for example, picking the perfect dingus and ending up with a dash. I really respect people who design books. It’s not easy and takes an eye for detail, but, more than that, I think it takes a lot of experience. I’m happy with the design of the book, but I recognize it would have benefited from an expert’s touch. (If you want to see a screen shot of the first page, zip over to the Facebook page for The World Without Crows). In the future, if I have the resources, I will try to find a book designer who I like to work with. It seems a wonderful thing to be out of my control. Continue reading “Total Creative Control”

The Emblem of Solidity

I wrote this a year ago about the tsunami that struck Chile in 2015. I’m happy to report that many of the businesses and houses that were destroyed by the tsunami have been rebuilt, most of them better than before.

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A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations: the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet like a thin crust over a fluid; – one second of time has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would not have produced. Charles Darwin, writing about the 1835 Concepción earthquake

On the night of Wednesday, September 16, 2015, the parties for the Fiesta de la Patria had already begun in Chile, the thin country that stretches like a spine on the west coast of South America from Peru to Antarctica, bordered on the east by the Andes mountains. Chile celebrates its independence from Spain on September 18th. My wife and I were preparing for the party. The whole country gathers in different fondas, any place that hosts a party, to fly kites, wave Chilean flags, and eat grilled meat and sausage at asados, Chilean BBQs. My Chilean wife, Fernanda, had come home from her last day of work before the long vacation, and we were sharing a beer to celebrate and relax. The next day, early in the morning, we expected our first guests from Santiago. Our own fonda would start then and continue until Saturday. There was a fridge full of food ready to be consumed in concert with beer, wine, and pisco, a Chilean liquor made from distilled grapes. We had practiced the cueca, the Chilean folk dance that accompanies the 18th like ketchup on fries—or, to be more Chilean about it, avocado on hot dogs. There was a bag full of napkins, tablecloths, and banners, all a variation on the theme of the Chilean flag. The party would last several days. Chileans don’t mess around when it comes to their Día de la Patria. Continue reading “The Emblem of Solidity”

A Necessary Biography

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On January 1, 2013, I stepped onto a metal machine in Toronto and I stepped off it in Santiago, Chile. When I left Maine, there was a fresh covering of nearly a foot of snow. In Santiago, it was summer. Hot. I had to change clothes in the airport for the journey north to La Serena. I really didn’t know much about Chile. My Spanish was non-existent. And the landscape was like another planet to me. Cacti and stone and the occasional goat. We stopped on the way and I had my first of many empanadas in Huentelauquen, famous for its cheese. I really knew nothing about Chile or Latin American culture. Continue reading “A Necessary Biography”

First blog post

So this is a blog. More precisely, it is my blog. To be honest, I didn’t think people were writing these anymore, so I didn’t think I’d be writing one when I woke up this morning. My name is Ben (hence The Blog of Ben). Nice to meet you. I’m an independent author living in La Serena, Chile, and I’m planning on self-publishing my next book, The World Without Crows in the next few months or so. Continue reading “First blog post”