dos lunas


Here’s what I was concerned about on March 23, 2011. I never posted this, don’t remember why now, but came across it while cleaning up my hard drive. This is still something that concerns me, still a valid question to ask myself, but my life is so much more complicated now—and my creative life so much on hold—that it has slipped down the list of worries.

I have no idea when the Dos Lunas saga will see the light of day, although a member of my “fan base” was inquiring about it last week. I use “fan base” ironically for those who don’t get the quotation marks. When I was generating a lot of these DL stories I had a dedicated band of local readers who really liked them and always asked for more. One of them contacted me Friday to find out why I hadn’t e-pubbed them. I explained that time is not my friend these days and why.

Yet I still hope to do just that one of these days.

And so, last year’s concerns:

So. I’ve got this contemporary fantasy novel that I wrote about a mythical Southern California county by the name of Dos Lunas. I’ve been writing about this place for years, a bunch of short stories, and this is the first completed novel (though I’ve started and hope to finish others). Some of the vast cast of characters who inhabit Dos Lunas are Indians from a tribe called the Kintache, a tribe as mythical as the county they inhabit. I have for some time felt rather sensitive on the subject of cultural appropriation, as in this post, for instance. That’s why, with notable exceptions, I’ve tried to write from the outside in, rather than in the POV of my Indian characters. Being a middle-class white girl, I knew I couldn’t do justice to an Indian POV.

Now, I do have one character, JK Montmorency, who is three-quarters Irish and one quarter Indian. He’s been raised mostly as a middle-class white boy, privileged, taking his life for granted, so I’ve felt comfortable writing from his POV. And I’ve written in this special protection for the Kintache, a mother goddess who walled their valley off from the rest of the world through most of their history in order to protect them from the negative currents of history. They missed out on the Holocaust that visited most of the California Indians when the white men invaded their land in the late 18th century. They observe it happening to the other tribes, and they mourn for it, but they have stood somewhat outside the sweep of history. It’s been my hedge, you see, because most of the Dos Lunas stories are semi-comedic. With serious undertones, sure, but comedy-dramas, and the Holocaust isn’t really a suitable subject for comedy (Roberto Benigni and a different Holocaust notwithstanding).

I thought I was writing something I knew, this serio-comic place called Southern California with its goofy and eccentric ways. But like many things that are silly, there’s a vast reservoir of serious, tragic things just below the surface. I thought I was doing a decent job of reflecting that, too, but I’ve never been without doubt about it.

These days doubts are blossoming and growing, like the wildflowers in Dos Lunas, where it’s springtime at this writing. Reading Sherman Alexie, whom I love, has me feeling desperately inauthentic—and even disrespectful. Above all, I want to be respectful to the real suffering of the real native people of California. But I worry about it constantly. I think I’m being respectful, but what if I’m deluded?

I can only keep on, I suppose, and hope others let me know if I’ve stepped in a big pile of dog shit. Hopefully, with the same care and consideration I’ve tried to have in these stories.

Some of you who have known me for a long time, and read my stuff for a long time, may remember Hortensia Bustamante. She’s the strong-willed sister of the Bustamante Brothers of Dos Lunas County, the first white settlers to invade the Kintache Indian homeland.

Ever since I finished Venus in Transit, my Dos Lunas County novel, strong-willed Hortensia has been bugging me. “Where my novel?” she’s been asking.

I’ve explained patiently that I’m working on other things now, to make a change from Dos Lunas, but Hortensia has never been one to listen to the reasoning of her writer when she’s made up her mind about something. “Where’s my novel?” she repeats at every chance.

I staved off her insistence some time back by writing a 30k plus novella, but—although she liked it quite well—she’s informed me that it isn’t sufficient. Her story deserves expanding and exploring. I have been thinking along those same lines myself for some time and even had several ideas on how to do that, but I hadn’t thought of taking on that challenge at this juncture.

“It’s time,” Hortensia insists.

I find myself sighing fatalistically a lot these days. My imagination ping ponged all last week between chapter two of the Carmina novel and a short story, and I’ve been considering that maybe it’s time to start the rewrite on Venus in Transit. All the while Hortensia kept crooning in my ear: “It’s time. Where’s my novel? It’s time.”

I pulled the novella out today just to, yanno, look at it. Hortensia squee’d with glee. I told her not to get her hopes up. She scoffed.

So I don’t know what I’m working on now. Perhaps Hortensia would be the antidote to my restless. I’m sure Venus would be. Maybe I’ll let Venus and Hortensia and Carmina and Sea Eyes from the short story fight it out amongst themselves. Just let me know when you’ve figured it out, gang. Only, don’t start sending me tweets advocating for yourselves. That would be one step too far over the line.

The heroine of my novel Venus in Transit has been named Marian St. Cloud for at least ten years, ever since I first started working on the beginning inkling ideas for the book. Now this movie comes along and I’m thinking the whole St. Cloud family of Dos Lunas might have to have their names changed. I’m not going to do that now, because that name is so entrenched in my consciousness, but I assume that everyone will assume that I stole it from the movie.

It looks like a fairly paint-by-the-numbers, dorky movie, too.

Of course, I still have to finish the read-through, the time with betas, the hardcore rewrite, then the marketing of this novel, so considerable time could elapse before even the possibility of a publisher or readers seeing it. Maybe ol’ Charlie will have faded from memory by then. Or maybe it will become a huge freaking hit, what with soulfully blue-eyed Zak Efron drawing in the sighing crowd. I don’t know.

Names and titles. They’re tricky business in the fiction game.

In other but related fictive news: Titles come to me out of the ether on a regular basis, often without a story attached. I keep a file just for those. Sometimes they’re so suggestive that I have to come up with a story to go with them. It becomes an obsession. Blood Geek was one of those. Ironically, sometimes the name that gets me to write the story becomes obsolete with the writing and has to be changed. Charged with Folly was like that. It became A Rain of Angels. Changing titles like that can be painful.

I’ve got another title that popped through the ether the other day. A drumbeat has started in the center of my body. Good stories begin in my brain, of course, but the ones which have to be written always eventually migrate to my core, to my second brain: the heart. I have no idea what this story is about, but it’s already migrated.

We’ll see what comes of that.