Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why I Love the 70's

I love the 1970's not just because was I born in the era of disco, Nixon and bell bottoms. I love the opulence of the decade. The giant gas-guzzling land yachts known as cars. Wonder Woman, Charlie's Angels and Bionic Woman were prime-time TV and I had this thing for the Roll-O and Calgon commercials. The 70's was the decade when my parents fell in love and my mom carried daisies in her wedding bouquet.

So while I was supposed to be working, I found this video on YouTube and it just inspired why I love that decade. When I see Linda Ronstadt singing - yes, they actually sang on live, national television back then - and her back-up singer in a yellow jump suit, I just think that they were much more real than we are now. Music is prepackaged, manufactured and lipsynched. Back then, it was a girl with a voice, not much fashion sense and a tambourine at her hip.

Also, this is the song that I play whenever I sit down to work on Aracely Calderon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Just wondering...

It's not like I don't have other things to do but these questions have been bumping around in my head. Hopefully by letting them go, I can get on with life ... and be free of another excuse to procrastinate.

  1. Why are books titled, "The So-And-So's Daughter" or "The Such-and-Such's Wife"? Have you noticed there is a plethora of titles like these? Is it a new genre in which women are defined by the men they're related to? I tried reading "Ahab's Wife" and at about page five, I was thinking more about how to perfect my red beans and rice recipe as opposed to uh, Ahab's wife. So I hope that if the title, "The Ballad of Aracely Calderon," doesn't fly, my editor won't change it to: "The Mariachi's Daughter." I better knock on wood just in case!
  2. When a book is described as "a celebration of love and friendship" or something vaguely positive and uplifting, does that mean no one knows what the heck the book is about? Does it mean the heroine will learn she has cancer in the third act and die? And if so, why would I spent money on a book like that in this economy?
  3. And finally, what's the appeal of galoshes on book covers? To me they symbolize the inconvenience of exchanging your cute footwear for clumsy, sweaty, icky rubbers, as our British friends call them. To my friend, Margo Candela: I'm not bagging on your galoshes. You're taller than me. You can pull them off whereas galoshes on me would look like wading pants. However if they came in a wedge heel, I might reconsider my opinion.

Okay so there you have it. This is what happens in my head when I'm not writing, cooking, gardening or taking care of the Little Dude.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Literary Orange 2009

Literary Orange comes to UCI for the first time on Saturday, April 4, 8-5 pm, at the UCI Student Center. Presented by the UCI Libraries and the OC Public Libraries, Literary Orange is an exciting day for writers and book lovers. Attendees have the opportunity to hear from an array of authors, have their books signed, ask questions, and learn about the writing process.

The event features keynote speakers Stephen Cannell, best-selling author and TV producer; Ron Carlson, award-winning author and UCI fiction program director; and Sandra Tsing Loh, writer, performer and radio commentator. Over 40 authors will participate on panels covering fiction, non-fiction, journalism, mystery, poetry, science fiction, romance, children's books, horror, food, graphic novels, memoir, and young adult.

Tickets are $75; $35 for students with I.D. (walk-in registration $85/$45). Admission includes all keynote and panel sessions, book sales and signings; as well as a continental breakfast, sit-down lunch, and afternoon snacks. Limited seating; registration is first come, first served. Information and registration forms are available online at, or at all UCI Libraries and OC Public Libraries. For further information, or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please call (949) 824.4651.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Line Up Ladies

Yesterday I turned in the micro-mini mystery short story to the editor of OC Noir. Its now in his hands and my heroine, Danielle, lingers in the back of mind, impatiently tapping her toe and wondering when the hell I'll write her book. But first, I have a MAJOR revision to my mariachi book and then I head back to 1926 for the historical and then zip back to present day for the ghost story.

Don't worry Danielle, a revision is inevitable so our time is not yet over. But then you'll have to get in line with the other ladies.

Shifting gears from one story to another, for me, is a process. I want to jump right in and yet, I don't want any of the stuff from the first project to bleed into the next. Also there's the fear that the new project won't come out the way I want it to. Invariably it never does but I still hang onto this fear because ... well, I'm not sure why. But I'm working on it. Characters come to life, they whisper secrets in my ear or in my dreams. Or, they just take over the and tell me that's how it's gonna be.

Writers, you know what I'm talking about. Readers, you get to experience it on the other side when you suddenly lean in closer to the book and hold on with both hands to see what happens next.

I've been writing the mariachi story for oh, about three years now. Each revision is like peeling skin and then muscle and now bone. It's the book that is challenging me; it looks down its nose at me and says, "Come Castillo. Show me what you got, b!%(#." And I love it.

But first I step in. I review the notes I've collected over the past month while writing the mystery. I watch the mariachi documentaries I've collected from PBS (God bless them!), review my interview notes and then sit down with the manuscript without a pen or pencil and just let myself into the world. After a thorough read during which I make no marks but take notes in a separate notebook, I open up my working outline and then reread the manuscript with colored pencils and stickies. When that's all done, I'm in.

So here I go!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fight On

All you UCLA people should look the other way because this is a call to my fellow 'SC Trojans!

In the upcoming issue of the USC Mexican American Alumni Association newsletter, I had the honor of interviewing Frank H. Cruz, USC Trustee and former Chairman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (among other things, he also founded Telemundo and was one of the first Hispanic anchormen). USC MAAA will honor Mr. Cruz at the 35th Annual Scholarship Dinner on March 20th at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Now more than ever we need real stories of men and women who scaled the barriers in their paths and lived to tell the tale. If you'd like to receive the USC MAAA's newsletter, go here. And if you are a USC undergrad or graduate student, scholarship applications can be downloaded here.