Rainy Sunday--It's Raining Words
I love the rain. I can watch it and listen to it forever. My first wife never believed me when I said that. She thought I was a poser, trying to look sensitive. Maybe she didn't notice me watching wrestling. I wasn't posing--I grew up in San Diego and Tijuana. Rain? To quote one of my relatives: "Are jou joking me?" We didn't have a lot of rain. Now, I can just drive around and watch it fill gutters. Last year, when we had floods looming, my little girl and I had demented catastrophe drives so we could watch the river leap its banks & make a waterfall into the local rock quarry.

Today, it rained. It rained, and I worked on polishing Hummingbird's Daughter's sequel all day. I have 200 killer pages. Killer. I didn't think I could get there again. Well, to tell you the truth, I didn't have to get THERE. All you shamans will know what I mean. I can't take it anymore--the ghosts and the visions and the strange dreams and the apparitions. But this book is about Teresita grown up and in the US. I can get to that stuff.

It's funny--the paperback of Into the Beautiful North is about the be released (June). And I have the new graphic novel coming in May. (Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush, artwork by Christopher Cardinale.) I have a lot of miles to travel, and I hope I'll see some of you out there. We'll post the whole schedule here when it's ready.

It begins next week, though, in Tucson. Tucson Festival of Books. See you there!

Funny, anyway, because my books seem to inspire such divergent responses. When I got a big award for The Devil's Highway, a generous mentor told me that Across the Wire was the better book--regardless of my award and my nomination for a Pulitzer. It was, in fact, one of the great books of the century. I asked, "Where were you when I needed you?" So now, the split decision on Beautful North seems to be either: A) hilarious, moving, I loved the characters, or B) well, it's no Hummingbird's Daughter. (Honestly? The Hummingbird's Daughter is no Hummingbird's Daughter--if you could see the book I was trying to achieve...sigh.)

But here's the thing, if you're me. You will write what you need to write. When you need to write it. And you'll trust your readers to trust you. We are, after all, in this together.

I love Beautful North, and of course I appreciate the many many people who write to me about it. I am amused by reviewers who feel that the Mexican portions of the book have "too much Spanish." (I gave them a Twitter hash-tag: #RUStupid?) I don't think it's perfect, and I don't think it's in any way Hummingbird Part 7. Those of you who know me know that it is Hummingbird that is the anomaly. That li'l monster is sui generis, it's a phenom unto itself, and twenty years of suffering, work, travel, fear, dread, exultation, miracles, shock, love, divorce, tears and hunger dictate that it stands alone. Most of my other fiction, though, is picaresque and shaggy-dog in nature. In Search of Snow, Six Kinds of Sky, ITBN, Mr. Mendoza--even, egad--large swathes of Hummingbird. (My editor gave me a ew rule: only one fart scene per book. Damn.)

Here's the deal, though, on the process, since I've been talking about process lately. Into the Beautiful North taught me how to write Hummingbird's Daughter II. I use each story or book to take me higher. I wanna take you higher. Baby baby baby light your fire. I am Sly and the Family Urrea. Boom shaka-laka-laka. (Book shaka-laka-laka?) I am moving through the degrees of my black belt training.

How do Teresita and Tomas become immigrants in the USA? Nayeli, Tacho, Chava Chavarin and Atomiko taught me how. If you see beyond the 2 funny 4 my own good trappings of the adventure, I don't think it's shallow. And, to tell you the truth, after Hummingbird and Devil's H, I could use a laugh. So I wrote it so I could laugh out loud every day.

For people doing term papers, the book is about interpersonal borders (political, geographical, cultural, sexual, age-related, language-related, economic, and aesthetic). The theme of pan-cultural inter-penetration is all through the book. It's also, and here comes the Teresita angle, about grace. About the sacredness of the quotidian day. And it's a love-song to Mexico and the US.

Frankly, I thought that the garbage dump scenes would get me a lot of Steinbeck citations in reviews, and I was happy when they came.

So. It's raining, and the Oscars are on. I feel so good right now. Tired. Burned out a little. facing 400 more pp of the big book. But I am certain, finally, I can get through it with fire in my back pocket.

Lord, I'm shining.

Can't wait for my comic, and can't wait for my paperback. Nayeli will be a movie--just watch. I am proud of her and wish her well. And I thank those of you who keep suggesting more books about her.

Oh, if you get the chance, check out the new PHOENIX NOIR anthology. I have a story in it called "Amapola." It was nominated by the Crime Writers of America for an Edgar Award. Best Short Story. BOOM-shaka-laka.

We're having tacos tonight.

I Am Atomiko,

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