Monday, February 20, 2012

A NEW BOOK that will make you think twice before checking FACEBOOK

As a kid I used to love reading books. As a matter of fact, I would enter reading contests at my local library where I won various prizes (pencils, erasers etc.) for reading the most amount of books in one summer. I loved escaping into books like "James and the Giant Peach" or "Little Women" and expanding my possibilities and my immediate reality. As I became an adult and  went on to college I started to associate reading with "studying" and "finals" ... so I fell out-of-love with it.  But last summer as I was about to lay out near the pool, I picked up Christopher Herz's first book "The Last Block in Harlem" so I could have something to read while I caught some sun rays.  I was hooked. Not only did it bring me into the story as if I was one of the characters in the book, but reading the book made me re-fall in love with the art of "reading". Chris made me remember that there are a lot of great novels, memoirs, and biographies out there that can take you to diverse places, different cultures and a world outside of your own. Now thanks to my IPhone, I read a book every night before I go to sleep. Here is my interview with Christopher Herz about his newly released second book "Pharmacology".
1. This is your second book, was it easier to write than the first one?

The first book (The Last Block in Harlem) kind of came through me - it was told by the block I was living on and I was just the medium for which it was told. The second book (Pharmacology) was interesting in that, I had the ending first, and then worked backwards. It took me a while to find the voice to tell the story in, but when I found Sarah Striker, things just started moving from there. The first one, I really had no idea what I was doing. With the success of that one, I guess there was a little more pressure on me to deliver, both from myself and from the publisher. I guess it's kind of like having children - Though you have one and know the pain and stress that's coming, it's still the same pain and stress, but the joy is just the same. My brain has stretch marks.

2. talk to us about what the book is about?

Pharmacology takes place in early 90s San Francisco just before the world made the final switch from analog to digital. It's told by Sarah Striker, who herself is a young girl going through transitions that cannot quite be defined. It's been interesting visiting with book clubs and reading the reviews - some people enjoy the look into how the pharmaceutical companies used advertising to create diseases, while some enjoy the "vampires" and other characters throughout the story who are all real life folks that I either lived with or knew during my time in San Francisco. For me, it represented how we all, in some way, have been "drugged" by the internet and our dangerous dance into looking into iPhones and checking emails 24/7. I hope it's a wake up call.
3. you are male but decided to make the protagonists voice female, how did you accomplish that?

My last book was so heavy and ego driven, so I felt that a woman character would be able to give the wide lens that was necessary to tell this story. I think woman have the ability to withstand and move through hardship and pain in a different way that men do - and I felt that all the things that were happening around the main character in the book needed someone to be able to stand strong among all of the madness. Sarah actually came to me as I was writing the story - she was screaming out to be the one to tell the story, so eventually, as usually happens with my characters, I let her take over. As far as how I wrote as a woman, I guess I spend more time paying attention to women than I do men - I find them more interesting and more complex than men in real life, so why not play that forward in a novel?
4.what do you hope is the take away for readers ?

For me, I'd like to have them realize how addicted they are to their electronic devices, and look critically about how they are medicating themselves. I think many of the addictions we have now are self-inflicted or just digested - by that I mean that much of what we do now is not natural.  There was a big switch in the way we live - in what we digest around us. We are distracted and consumed by things that, let's say 10 years ago, didn't exist. How many times do you check your facebook everyday? How many Words with Friends Games are you playing? What kind of medication are you putting your children on? What was that point in your life that you gave up what you believed in for what others told you was important to believe in? This book has a lot going on beneath the words, so I'd like readers to take the time to watch what's happening. I think that it could be an illumination for how everyone is living right now.
5.tell us how social media, self-publishing, and technology have helped young writers like yourself.

That's an interesting question. Though I have a publisher now, I self-published my first book before it got picked up. Actually, I sold it on the street for half a year before a publisher noticed it and offered me a contract. However, with the Kindle and Nook and other electronic reading devices, I think it allows writers the ability to put their work out there for everyone to see. When that happens, you can get honest feedback from folks who are not your friends or don't have a vested interest in seeing you happy. You can get honest feedback, and that's important.

As for technology and social media, I've used Skype to go into bookclubs all over the world - from Dubai to Alabama - and because of that technology, I have been able to sit with people from all different cultures and talk not only about my books, but about how the stories relate to them and their lives. It's amazing how similar we all are - and I think that's what I'm after with these stories I'm telling. I like to lift up the hood and see what's making this whole crazy thing run - and it turns out, we're all running on the same things: Love, fear, desire, confusion. I think novels have a way of working all of that out in a way that doesn't preach, but exposes.

Social media is an interesting tool because it's so new. At the onset of my use of social media, like all people, I was very self-promotional. This can work in the short term, but in the long term I believe that the inclusion of others in your story is the best way to use social media. After all, who wants to go to a party where one person is always talking about themselves? I've been working with some school kids around the world using Skype to develop a global writing workshop - it's been highly rewarding. That's in the first stages right now, but it's been pretty amazing.
6. whats next for you?

The writers workshop with young people around the world is something I am very interested in. Currently, each kid is creating a character and uploading that to a database. Then, other kids take characters from that database to create a story. I've done it in Australia, and am looking to expand that. So far, so good.

As for book #3, I'm grinding away on that right now. The characters are fighting for me to let go, and once I do, it should turn out just fine. After all, the writer, after awhile, has very little to do with the book when it's done. If the characters are right and the story is good, the people inside the words will take care of everything. All the writer needs to do is stay up late at night and nurse them to health. That's the exhausting period and it's kind of where I'm at with the next book.

Author Christopher Herz

 If you are interested in buying any of Chris Herz's books you can find them on Amazon, just click on the following  link: AMAZON CHRISTOPHER HERZ AUTHOR

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Surprise!....I got the Baby! Now time to pay up on "Dia de Candelaria"...

I got the Baby (a plastic toy baby) on January 6, during the "Dia de Reyes" !

"Dia de Reyes" or "The Day of the Three Wise Men" is Mexican tradition celebrated every Jan. 6th. Family and friends gets together, have a meal,  and eat a delicious "Rosca de Reyes" cake.  The oval shaped cake is very colorful (yes we love flava!) decorated with red, green, and orange dried fruit slices . Statues of the Three Wise Men are placed in the middle of the cake  Hidden inside the cake is a plastic baby!

Rosca de Reyes
 The baby represents the plight of Jesus, fleeing from King Herod's wishes to kill all babies since the prophecy predicted that one of the babys born in that era  would grow up to be the Messiah.

As I cut my slice and placed it on my plate, I noticed a small white plastic figurine snugged inside my piece! I got the baby! They say its good luck to get the baby! The fun part of this tradition is that whoever gets the figurine has to throw a party for all  family and friends the following month on February 2nd called "Dia de la Candelaria" or in English its called Candlemas Day. ! The tradition is to bring  Tamales to all.

partying on Dia de Reyes with a live BANDA!
after some "Happy punch" we decided to pretend to be cheerleaders! 
I love my Mexican heritage. We always use any excuse, to get together, have a great meal, and enjoy time with friends and family. What do you love most about your culture?