Adventure, Bicycling, Texas

And then there were three

As you know, this month I’ll be doing the last 120 miles of Texas by bicycle. I announced earlier that my friend Pixi will be joining me. But in a few recent posts, I let slip the possibility that there may be not two off us but three. I can now officially confirm that we have a third adventurer!

Joining us for the whole three day journey will be my friend Blake. I first met Blake shortly after I moved to Texas, and soon I had rented the spare bedroom in his house two blocks from the bay. Blake is a philosophy student and quick with puns. He also seems to have a natural way with living things, from his many exotic fish aquariums to his hand-built turtle pond and the bonzai and other plants in the garden he grew himself.

I think the three of us are the types who will get along on the road. This is the first section of the Journey that’s truly open to others, and I’m excited that two practical and easygoing people will be my copilots. Hopefully it will give me a chance to learn what exactly it takes to open this kind of trip up to everyone.

Of course, there are still two weeks before the big ride, which happens July 18-20. So if you want to throw your hat in it’s time to send me an email…

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Lúnasa Days, Writing

Why Won’t There Be a Sequel to Lúnasa Days?

Yesterday I detailed my writing plans for 2014, including announcing a new fiction project (with demons!). Several people have asked me if there will ever be a sequel to Lúnasa Days.

There will not be.

There are a number of reasons for this. The biggest is that Lúnasa Days was always planned as a stand-alone piece. I really don’t believe in taking a one-shot story and tacking on a sequel, even if the story is popular; I think too many bad sequels have been made that way. The finished novella would have looked very different if it was building up to a longer story arc. Instead, it ends on a purposefully open note with no implied next step for any of the characters. That was on purpose.

Another reason why I won’t create  a sequel is the nature of Lúnasa Days itself. I knew I was picking a difficult tale to tell. The main character is a polytheist on a bicycle, so I accepted that readers and critics would assume it was autobiographical no matter what. (It’s really not.) And since it’s a fairly humane, literary work I knew it would be painful to write and require many revisions. That also came true.

The result is that finishing that novella was very much a case of “art from adversity.” The book became personal and difficult to finish. I’d like to think that’s the sign of a good book, but it also means it reflects a moment in time which is now passed. Like all lost relationships, it’s best to move on.

Of course, I realize that this is little comfort to anyone who wanted more with the same characters. The only complaint I’ve heard about the book is that it leaves you wanting more. As a reader myself I can understand that pain, although for a literary work I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

So, as much as I like Bailey and eventually learned to like Emily, any future adventures of theirs—which would surely be separate and not together—must go unchronicled.

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If you haven’t read it yet, Lúnasa Days is available in paperback and on Kindle. Get your copy here.

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Writing

What I’m Writing These Days

Having released Lúnasa Days, a few people have asked me what I’m working on next. The answer is “several things,” but until recently I wasn’t sure which ones were priorities. A big part of my sabbatical in Mexico is focusing on my writing, and over the last few weeks I’ve not only written but assembled a clearer plan. So, while definitely still subject to change, here’s a rough idea of what you can expect next.

Fiction

While I have both fiction and nonfiction projects in the works, fiction is my first priority. I have many ideas I’d love to develop, but I had to choose one to painstakingly outline, storyboard, write and publish.

So I chose the one I’m most excited about.

The book starts with one simple question: How bad would things have to get in Medieval Europe before the Pope authorized demonic magic?

The answer delves into the lives of knights who have lost their faith, friars who renounce their vows, virgin warriors of the Church, damned tomes of ancient spells, and a supernatural enemy devouring whole kingdoms.

The first chapter wipes Portugal completely off the map. Things get worse from there.

This story will be told as a series, with each episode following the arc of one character or group of characters as world-changing events unfold. The first tale follows an underpaid soldier as he’s dropped, by the dark arts, far behind enemy lines—knowing that he’ll go straight to Hell if he’s killed before he can find a priest to confess his sins.

I don’t have a title for this series yet, but I’m wide open to suggestions. I want to finish three whole episodes before I send any to press, which I hope will happen by mid-2014.

Nonfiction

Increasingly I want to take my work in the direction of serious philosophy and the effects of real life adventure. At present that involves two projects.

1. Philosophy of Adventure

Last fall, I released a preview of my long-requested book about adventure. I received extensive reader feedback on that preview version, including dozens of responses to an online survey that closed December 31. Thanks to that robust feedback, I’m reworking and expanding the book.

Originally, the book was titled Heart of Adventure. I was never totally in love with that title. It seemed better than a troped Art of Adventure, but somehow not quite right. Now I’m leaning more toward a plain, simple The Philosophy of Adventure.

Again, I’m open to title suggestions or your votes between those options.

2. My Own Story

The other nonfiction project is autobiographical. It was pointed out to me that just the first leg of my Journey–bicycling the Mississippi River–is a huge adventure by most people’s standards, and that I have dozens of stories from those hazy months. It got me really excited about writing the story of that first leg as a standalone tale, leaving it open to sequels as I reach new milestones. I can’t wait to start outlining.

But I plan to try something new with this one. Instead of indie publishing it, for the first time I’m going to pitch a book proposal to the big names. I’m interested in getting a literary agent—nothing drains me more than handling the business end of writing myself—and I think this would be the ideal project to shop to agents. An agent would then, in turn, pitch it to big publishing houses.

The time frame for the nonfiction projects is less certain than the fiction series. I would expect the tale of my bike ride to come out if and only if someone has interest in publishing it; and the Philosophy of Adventure book to come out around the end of 2014. Both are much lower priorities than the fiction work right now.

Becoming a Professional Writer

I’ve wanted to be a professional writer since I was a kid. Slowly, that dream has been becoming real. But it’s not something I’ve accomplished on my own.

After the initial success of Lúnasa Days I wrote that much of my success was because of my readers. Early on, readers encouraged me that the idea behind Lúnasa Days was a good one. A number of readers stepped up as patrons and helped finance the creation of the book, and stood by me patiently as I dealt with numerous roadblocks. I don’t think the book would have succeeded without all of the reader support.

So, to all of you reading this: thank you.

And if you don’t have it already, feel free to snag Lúnasa Days yourself:

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Available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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Mexico, Texas, The Great Adventure, Travel

How I Got to Mexico and What I’m Doing Here

The morning after my kayak expedition I was a new man. When Ken had gone to bed I was shivering, unshaved, salty, soaked and smelling like expired barnacles. Now I was groomed, packed and dressed to travel.

“You’re a real quick change artist,” he said.

He made us a terrific breakfast and then dropped me at the bus station. Online, Greyhound offers a ticket from Corpus Christi, Texas all the way to the city of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. But in person at the ticket booth that line doesn’t exist. It makes me wonder what would have happened if I’d paid for the ticket on their website.

Undeterred, I just asked for a ticket as far as Brownsville, the border town. I’d already been assured by a Mexican bus company that I could pick up one of their buses the rest of the way (this would also turn out to be a lie).

Me above the Emerald Gates. Photo by André.

Me above the Emerald Gates. Photo by André.

I was in fair spirits that morning. It would have been nice to go the full distance on kayak, but I felt good about my decision. It was the best decision under the circumstances. Now I have a new mission to pick up from Riviera, Texas when I resume my self-powered adventure—either by kayak or bicycle.

And this is something that people don’t get about adventure. There’s this idea that adventure is about taking dangerous risks, the biggest risks possible. Maybe that’s true for thrill-seekers but to me adventure is about minimizing risk. You’re choosing to do something challenging and unusual that will require planning, determination and endurance—why make it even harder? It’s hard enough out of the box. An adventurer’s most important skill is risk management and risk avoidance.

When I got deep into south Texas I had to transfer buses to continue on to Brownsville. I really liked the station in Harlinged because it felt like I was already in Mexico, right down to the family vending street food inside the bus depot.

Finally I reached Brownsville. The station is a giant multiplex of different bus companies. I quickly found out that no one offered direct tickets to San Luis Potosí (or anywhere); you take one bus to cross the border and then you do your bus shopping on the other side.

Well, okay.

That went well enough. No one in this station—the Texas station—spoke English, which gave me a good preview of what to expect ahead (jokingly I wondered if that meant all the station attendants on the Mexico side would speak only English, in a kind of cultural cockblock exchange, but alas international relations have not evolved that far). I grudgingly stocked up on pesos, hating to pay exchange booth fees but not wanting to risk being penniless if there was no ATM on the other side.

And I ate a giant sub sandwich. It would be my last American food for some time, and my only food break before a very, very long bus ride.

Illegal Alien

Eventually we loaded up and went over. Crossing the border was very easy and low-key. So low key in fact that no one stamped my passport. I didn’t realize it till after we pulled away, and then it was too late. All that happened at the border station was we waited around while people said they would search our bags but, as far as I can tell, did not do so. When a guard saw my US passport (the only one in the bunch) he told me to get back on the bus.

This all felt like a weird repeat of Haiti, like I’m in a pulp series and my schtick is I never go through customs right. I’m now living as an illegal alien in Mexico, I suppose.

(I could easily get work teaching English here, meaning I’d also be stealing their jobs.)

Looking out the window at the border town of Matamoros really lifted my heart. I recognized Mexican brands like Oxxo, which flooded me with nostalgia; even better, I could see home-made things and craftsmen’s shops and street food cooked by grandmas and brightly colored cement walls everywhere I looked.

At the Matamoros bus station I quickly put my limited Spanish to work: No, no taxi, thank you. No, I don’t have a ticket. San Luis Potosí. What? Wait, what? What? Speak more slowly please. Oh, you do? How much? One please.

Several hours later I boarded an express bus which would make a single all-night run down Highway 101—the most dangerous highway in Mexico, the US Department of State assures me—with Narco country on both sides.

But at least they give you a snack on the way.

Bushwhacked

Sometime around 1 a.m. I woke up, probably because of the narwhale-like snoring of the man in front of me. Staring out the window, I admired the empty scrub desert in the dark. There are no towns out there, no light pollution. It’s pretty.

The bus stopped.

I tensed up. There was no stop sign out here, and no traffic. Not even police lights as far as I could tell. I rapidly consulted my dictionary for how to say, Take the snoring man, he is very wealthy.

Then the bus tried something I couldn’t have expected: it turned around.

Bear in mind this is a two lane highway with high embankments on either side. There’s no side road or turnabout to use. The bus just sort of ground one end into the embankment, made a rocky little pivot and zoomed back out of there.

I spent the better part of the next half hour wondering what had happened. Did the driver see something? Did he get word on the radio that there was trouble ahead? Worse, is he selling us out? And even if not—then where the heck are we going to end up?

We reached a junction with another endless two-lane highway and turned onto it. I realized, then, what had happened: the driver took a wrong turn.

Chaaaale.

Rogue Cellar

I made it to San Luis Potosí. My friend Cintain just finished building his new house, lovingly dubbed the Palace of the Emerald gates—a sort of Batcave for a Taoist Bruce Wayne. I’m renting a garden level room for April and intend to use most of the time to write.

My days are slow and pleasant. It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was burning 6,000 calories a day and paddling through squalls. But this is the rhythm my life has taken on: short periods of heart-racing adventure interspersed with weeks or months of quiet, peaceful creating.

That’s the life I’ve always wanted.

I’ll be exploring San Luis Potosí over the coming month, and doing my best to document it. What do you want to know about, or see? Is there anything about the city or my life here that you want to make sure I cover?

Also, I’m notoriously bad about taking photos when I find something interesting. Instead of reaching for a camera I just daydream about the stories I can tell (I’m a writer, not a photographer). But everybody loves photos, and honestly I do too. So this Friday I’ll post my first ever Photo of the Week… which hopefully will become a tradition every Friday from now on.

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My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. It’s about travel, adventure and magic. Get your copy here.

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Andre Sólo

Why I Changed My Name to André

Last summer I started calling myself André. That’s now both my pen name and my nickname in real life. I usually don’t use a last name, but in places where one is required I use André Sólo, which just means “only Andre.”

This is my permanent name now and I’m requesting that friends, readers and family use André going forward.

The name change has been surprisingly difficult. Last time I switched sobriquets was to “Drew” in 2010 or so. People really liked the switch, probably because it’s so informal compared to “Andrew,” my previous preference. (Oddly, I myself never liked Drew very much, as catchy as it is.)

But what really made that name easy was that I switched just as I transitioned to a new job. My new coworkers didn’t know me any other way, so the new name caught on fast. The same has not been true this time around.

The difference is that I’ve built a small amount of fame under my old name, and it’s not easy to shift that momentum to André. Of course, it would have been a lot smarter to make this switch before publishing Lúnasa Days last year, but I was advised against that.

To me, the name André is immensely meaningful. It’s a name that stands for everything I believe in, while emphasizing my pan-American dreams. It may not be what it says on my birth certificate, but it’s for more than just book covers: it’s my stage name, and I live it every day. I use it in person as well as on all my creative work.

So, although I know it’s hard to remember, I hope you’ll all indulge me by using André.

(And don’t worry, I’m not a stickler for the accent mark.)

I’ve already picked up nicknames. Aside from André Sólo, my Mexican friends have now dubbed me simply El André, and radio host Greg Berg took me up on my original naming invitation, consistently calling me André del Mundo. I like both of these, and I welcome other variations.

Of course, I won’t take offense if someone honestly forgets, but I really do only consider André to be my name. And I appreciate it every time someone remembers.

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My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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Lúnasa Days

The Lúnasa Days Paperback

If you don’t live on a bicycle like me, chances are good that you have have a shelf where you can place actual, physical books, and that you might enjoy doing this. So I have good news for you: my book Lúnasa Days is now available in paperback!

Now in paperback.

I always have a hard time answering when someone asks me what the book’s about, but after writing about 75 review requests, I’ve got at least a general idea of how to explain it: it’s a modern day literary fantasy about the search for a purpose in life. Lúnasa Days paints magic as a subtle, uncertain force that’s hidden in everyday actions.

There is also sex.

It will take a few days for the paperback to migrate over to the Amazon page (where it will join the Kindle edition) but you can be sneaky-sneaky and grab it anyway.

 

 

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Lúnasa Days

My first book is finally out

Lúnasa Days is my first professionally published book. I hope you’ll take a look:

Lúnasa Days is available now at Amazon

Now available

And here’s an excerpt:

The sun’s going. It’s July, and the corn doesn’t know it. It grows tall and green. The human heart knows. It stirs and it stirs.

There’s a dwindling late in summer, a sadness. And a loner on the roads.

He left a life that wasn’t bad. Everyone said he was good at his job, even his boss.

But when he was young he knew something. He had a fate, a reason to exist. He never quite found it, and every autumn it slipped further away.

He stopped one day for food. A gas station, like any other, but the man there was friendly. Bored. He liked the look of the young guy with his bike, and he spoke to him.

“Where you headed?”

It was a hard question.

“Well, what do you do?”

Vagabond. Can you say vagabond? Is that a career?

He looked aside.

“I cast spells,” he said.

The man had some work for him.

Please buy my book. You can grab the Kindle version here. It’s $2.99 and I promise you’ll like it. If you don’t like it, I’ll write you a new one with you as the main character, except it will be much shorter and seem an awful lot like an email criticizing your questionable taste. There’s also a paperback version forthcoming.

Once you’ve read it, I hope you’ll leave a review on the Amazon page. Reviews help Lúnasa Days gain more visibility, and they translate directly to more sales for your independent author. Okay, go buy it. Thank you!

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