Friday, June 29, 2012



BOB DIAMOND: “Being from Earth, as you are, and using as little of your brain as you do, your life has pretty much been devoted to dealing with fear.”
BOB DIAMOND: “Well, everybody on Earth deals with fear. That’s what little brains do.” “Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything: real feelings, true happiness, real joy. They can’t get through that fog. But you lift it, and buddy, you’re in for the ride of your life.”
                                                            —Defending your life, 1991, Albert Brooks.


As a writer, I have faced two kinds of fear:


Who am I to write a book? Why would I want to share it? Do I have talent? Do I need credentials to make art? Do I have the courage and the energy that involves artmaking?


Do I care about what others think about my work? What are they going to think about me? What if people say they don’t like my work? What if they disparage my work?

Soon an artist comes across these dreadful questions like an alpinist facing snow-avalanches. Along the way, there are many lessons an artist should learn. They are all reflected on their work.

I’m sharing with you the lessons I’ve been learning:

·     Don’t sell your freedom to make your own art. 

·   Don’t push others to like, understand, or value your work. Every piece of art that comes from your heart will need time [1] to be understood. In either case, if people say good things about your work, say thank you. If people say bad things about your work, say thank you. If people ignore your work, say thank you.

·     Sell your cleverness, buy bewilderment.’—I stole it from Rumi.

·   Don’t get lost in the world of perfectionism. Good work doesn't mean perfect work. After all, perfection calls for stagnation, paralysis. Even it applies in science, as Albert Einstein put it "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

·     Expect nothing; your work is your guide. 

·     Get rid of your labels, and you’ll meet yourself. Don't identify yourself with your own work. Doing and Being are two different verbs.

·     And never, never, never give up. No matter what. Sing the song of your heart! 

[1] Sometimes, it needs centuries. 

Copyright © 2012 by THE PYTHAGOREAN STORYTELLER. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 22, 2012







So here I was with this dilemma.

A couple of weeks ago, I launched my novel ‘Deconstructing INFATUATION’ in paperback, and as a self-published author—do-it-all-by-yourself, doncha know?—, I had not a publishing house making all the decisions, like a commander-in-chief.

So, after the long walk alone, I was touched by having a sample of my book in my hands. I stroked it, smelled it, and embraced it. No, I did not kiss it but almost. Above all, I looked backward, thinking that I was proud of myself. And although once I thought it was difficult, if not impossible, to achieve it, it had already came true. As Paulo Coelho says, ‘When you want something, Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ It felt satisfying, but the process had not arrived to the end.

It was time to get some distance from my precious work, suit up, and label a price on it. In order to price my novel, I took into consideration the following hints:

1)  The law of supply and demand dictates the price of items. So one should do some market research—target audience, genre books, your book design, and print specs such as trim size, page count, paper weight, and so on. For instance, if a paperback novel goes between $6.99-19.99, it means that the market cannot bear higher prices[1] for this good.

2)   Partially excludable and rivalrous goods.
Although a novel is rival—in economics, it means that the consumption of the novel prevents simultaneous consumptions by other consumers—, it is partially excludable: we cannot avoid someone copying it, despite copyright laws. In addition, one should take into consideration that the production of a novel requires a high initial cost, much higher than marginal cost of producing additional units.   

3)   Between the tyranny of the low price and the vanity of the high price.
I sell my books through Amazon, which means I set my retail prices, the same price for everybody. However, if I were selling them on a market stall, be sure I would go on giving different prices to whoever came by.
You, $50; you perhaps $10; and you, for you, it’s absolutely free.

[1] Fortunately for the inheritants, once the author dies it can.

Copyright © 2012 by THE PYTHAGOREAN STORYTELLER. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2012



LAST WEEK, SCI-FI AUTHOR RAY BRADBURY DIED. So last Friday I was ready to share with you part of the interesting interview1 I had read on the Paris Review long time ago when I received some mail from a young lady, and I thought Mr. Ray Bradbury could wait. Unlike the media, I always give priority to the living being.

So here we go.


Why do you write science fiction? 


Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.
Imagine if sixty years ago, at the start of my writing career, I had thought to write a story about a woman who swallowed a pill and destroyed the Catholic Church, causing the advent of women’s liberation. That story probably would have been laughed at, but it was within the realm of the possible and would have made great science fiction. If I’d lived in the late eighteen hundreds I might have written a story predicting that strange vehicles would soon move across the landscape of the United States and would kill two million people in a period of seventy years. Science fiction is not just the art of the possible, but of the obvious. Once the automobile appeared you could have predicted that it would destroy as many people as it did.


Does science fiction offer the writer an easier way to explore a conceptual premise? 


Take Fahrenheit 451. You’re dealing with book burning, a very serious subject. You’ve got to be careful you don’t start lecturing people. So you put your story a few years into the future and you invent a fireman who has been burning books instead of putting out fires—which is a grand idea in itself—and you start him on the adventure of discovering that maybe books shouldn’t be burned. He reads his first book. He falls in love. And then you send him out into the world to change his life. It’s a great suspense story, and locked into it is this great truth you want to tell, without pontificating.
I often use the metaphor of Perseus and the head of Medusa when I speak of science fiction. Instead of looking into the face of truth, you look over your shoulder into the bronze surface of a reflecting shield. Then you reach back with your sword and cut off the head of Medusa. Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. So you have a ricochet vision, a ricochet that enables you to have fun with it, instead of being self-conscious and superintellectual. 


How early did you begin writing? 


It started with Poe. I imitated him from the time I was twelve until I was about eighteen. I fell in love with the jewelry of Poe. He’s a gem encruster, isn’t he? Same with Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Carter. I was doing traditional horror stories, which I think everyone who goes into the field starts out with—you know, people getting locked in tombs. I drew Egyptian mazes.
Everything went into ferment that one year, 1932, when I was twelve. There was Poe, Carter, Burroughs, the comics. I listened to a lot of imaginative radio shows, especially one called Chandu the Magician. I’m sure it was quite junky, but not to me. Every night when the show went off the air I sat down and, from memory, wrote out the whole script. I couldn’t help myself. Chandu was against all the villains of the world and so was I. He responded to a psychic summons and so did I.
I loved to illustrate, too, and I was a cartoonist. I always wanted my own comic strip. So I was not only writing about Tarzan, I was drawing my own Sunday panels. I did the usual adventure stories, located them in South America or among the Aztecs or in Africa. There was always the beautiful maiden and the sacrifice. So I knew I was going into one of the arts: I was drawing, acting, and writing. 


You’re self-educated, aren’t you?


Yes, I am. I’m completely library educated. I’ve never been to college. I went down to the library when I was in grade school in Waukegan, and in high school in Los Angeles, and spent long days every summer in the library. I used to steal magazines from a store on Genesee Street, in Waukegan, and read them and then steal them back on the racks again. That way I took the print off with my eyeballs and stayed honest. I didn’t want to be a permanent thief, and I was very careful to wash my hands before I read them. But with the library, it’s like catnip, I suppose: you begin to run in circles because there’s so much to look at and read. And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone. When I would see some of the books my kids were forced to bring home and read by some of their teachers, and were graded on—well, what if you don’t like those books?
I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school. 


You have said that you don’t believe in going to college to learn to write. Why is that? 


You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time. A lot of the people whose work they’ve taught in the schools for the last thirty years, I can’t understand why people read them and why they are taught. The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself. 


But your books are taught widely in schools. 


Do you know why teachers use me? Because I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember. The great religions are all metaphor. We appreciate things like Daniel and the lion’s den, and the Tower of Babel. People remember these metaphors because they are so vivid you can’t get free of them and that’s what kids like in school. They read about rocket ships and encounters in space, tales of dinosaurs. All my life I’ve been running through the fields and picking up bright objects. I turn one over and say, Yeah, there’s a story. And that’s what kids like. Today, my stories are in a thousand anthologies. And I’m in good company. The other writers are quite often dead people who wrote in metaphors: Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne. All these people wrote for children. They may have pretended not to, but they did. 


How important is it to you to follow your own instincts? 


Oh, God. It’s everything. I was offered the chance to write War and Peace for the screen a few decades ago. The American version with King Vidor directing. I turned it down. Everyone said, How could you do that? That’s ridiculous, it’s a great book! I said, Well, it isn’t for me. I can’t read it. I can’t get through it, I tried. That doesn’t mean the book’s bad. I just am not prepared for it. It portrays a very special culture. The names throw me. My wife loved it. She read it once every three years for twenty years. They offered the usual amount for a screenplay like that, a hundred thousand dollars, but you cannot do things for money in this world. I don’t care how much they offer you, and I don’t care how poor you are. There’s only one excuse ever to take money under those circumstances: If someone in your family is horribly ill and the doctor bills are piled up so high that you’re all going to be destroyed. Then I’d say, Go on and take the job. Go do War and Peace and do a lousy job. And be sorry later. 


Do you keep a tight work schedule? 


My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this. 


Where do you do your writing? 


I can work anywhere. I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time. Later on, when I wanted to write Fahrenheit 451, I went up to UCLA and found a basement typing room where, if you inserted ten cents into the typewriter, you could buy thirty minutes of typing time. 


Have you ever used a computer? 


Up until my stroke, I used a typewriter. An IBM Selectric. Never a computer. A computer’s a typewriter. Why would I need another typewriter? I have one. 


Most would argue that a computer makes revising a whole lot easier. Not to mention spell-check. 

I’ve been writing for seventy years, if I don’t know how to spell now . . 

For the complete interview click here: Ray Bradbury's interview.

Bon voyage, Mr. Bradbury! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

1 The interview, or better said, the answers are truly compelling and educative, but I’d like to mention that at the end the interviewer brought up a silly, if not disrespectful, comment about computers. 

Copyright © 2012 by THE PYTHAGOREAN STORYTELLER. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 8, 2012



PAUL KEMP: “I want to make a promise to you, the reader. And I don’t know if I can fulfill it tomorrow, or even the day after that. But I put the bastards of this world on notice that I do not have their best interests at heart. I will try and speak for my reader. That is my promise. And it will be a voice made of ink and rage.”
 —The Rum Diary, 2011, Bruce Robinson.


A very young lady wants to write her first novel and asks me for advices, tricks, and short cuts. She also inquires if she needs to have a college degree.

‘So… you want to write novels, huh? Take two aspirins and go to bed. If the next morning you get up and still feel like writing a novel, then, I guess you have no alternative. Exceptions included.’

For a bunch of reasons, I decided to delete these words, and I wrote a quick response that I will expand here.

Three hints for writing a novel:

First, read, read, and read. After that, read more.

What should I read? Everything. Classic books, genre books, essays, pamphlets, billboards, magazines, Fortune Cookies, cereal boxes’ nutritional information… Whatever.

I feel I haven’t explained myself well enough. You MUST read. Just read.

Second, LIVE! You say, ‘I’m living.’ Wrong! By living, I mean the art of being fully aware of what you see and observe, what you hear, what you say, what you feel, and what you reflect on. Your senses must be turned on 24/7.

And no, my Dear Reader, you don’t need to get a college degree. You don’t need a Masters of the Universe or an Honorary degree from the University of Timbuktu either. But if you’ve got a degree, at the time of writing, please take your diploma down and replace it for this one.

Can you still become a great author? YES! William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, and so on, never got a college degree.

Third. Inquire. Imagine. Discover. Steal, if you will.

And then, and only then, you can sit at your desk and write. Delete. Write. Delete. Write. Delete. Write. Delete. Write. And perhaps delete again. And write…and so on.

Should you ask for the three golden rules to write a novel, alas, I’d be pleased to share them with you.

Take a pen and a notebook. Ready?!

So here we go.

There are three rules for writing a novel.
Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
—Courtesy of Mr. W. Somerset Maugham.

The best of lucks!

Copyright © 2012 by THE PYTHAGOREAN STORYTELLER. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2012



Today I share with you an interview I got invited to participate by Destiny Allison—Award Winning Sculptor, author of Shaping Destiny, A quest for meaning in art and life, and managing partner of La Tienda at Eldorado. Thank you so much, Destiny!

Comments are welcome!

From where do you draw inspiration?

My writing stems from the discovery and reflection of the great questions of life. So basically the analogy of my experiences plays a great role. Other sources can be a conversation, a phrase in a book, a piece of art, etc. Life itself is a great source of inspiration, hence I totally agree with Thoreau’s quote, ‘How vain is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’

What is the hardest thing about your creative process?

As in life, trust is the hardest thing. Once I wonder about a subject, and some fitful images and/or dialogues between characters come to me, all I need to do is to trust. Having confidence in conveying my discovery and my reflections in a funny, witty, and thought-provoking story.

Do you work everyday, or only when inspiration strikes?

Yes, I sit down at my desk everyday, even if I have to stare the blank screen the whole morning. I couldn’t agree more with Albert Einstein, ‘Creativity catches you when you’re working’, though I always carry a notebook with me. Just in case. He discovered e=mc2 when he was taking a bath.

How do you feel about the current art market/art climate?

In the book industry, I feel the Internet is the invisible hand—the invisible power that guides the free-market—that Adam Smith talked in The Wealth of Nations. So fortunately the invisible hand along with the new technologies have opened the publishing market to self-publishing authors, who are already not at the mercy of the publishing industry and can participate in the Long Tail without needing the validation from anybody. True enough, the open door gives room for more background noise, the opportunists who do not follow their passion, but only chase down the large event.    

If you could change one thing about the art world today, what would it be?

As in life, there’s a lack of awareness. I sense there’s no understanding, value, and respect for the art world, unless your name sets in lights on billboards. To give you an example, not long ago, one guy laughed in my face when I told him I was a writer.

Talk a little about your current project and why you decide to embark on it.

It’s been a call of discovery, like the rest of my projects. My third novel is still an embryonic project, and all I can tell is that it reflects the dichotomy between time as a human dictation and time as a dictation from nature.

How does being a woman impact your work?

My two novels are character-driven, so it doesn’t surprise me the two main characters of ‘I sayWho, What, and Where!’ and ‘Deconstructing INFATUATION’ are women.

If you had the chance to address a group of young girls, what would you say to inspire them?

I would not give them a lecture, but would share my experiences. They would be free to take them as a source of inspiration or leave them apart.


The above interview is a literal transcription of the post Powerful Woman Mercè Cardús on ShapingDestiny: A quest for meaning in art and life.

Copyright © 2012 by THE PYTHAGOREAN STORYTELLER. All rights reserved.