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.


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

Regional Creature Cover

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”