sábado, 29 de octubre de 2016

Chile's amazing desertic landscape

Chile: An underrated destination for lovers of the backdoors:

This brief post is a bit off-topic from The Ominous Book series but a lot of scenes from my series are inspired by the Atacama Desert. It is not only the driest desert in the world (although most of the tourist spots have some rain a few weeks a year) but it has a lot of amazing places to visit among Andean flamingos, salt lakes (albeit not as amazing as the ones in Bolivia they are still great), impeccable stargazing, sandboarding tours, the tallest geysers in the world and even a lagoon where you can float in it just like the Dead Sea in Israel. San Pedro is just a 45 minute bus ride from Calama which is a 2 hour flight from Santiago.

More related to my book, the second book from my fantasy series "An Ominous Book" is finally online and as an exciting gesture that I finally have the first 4 books online on KDP Select I'm going to keep the first book at only 0.99 dollars.

See the first book here!

Happy traveling!

martes, 25 de octubre de 2016

If you're ever in Kyoto go to Nijo Castle

One place that really stroke me when I first went to Kyoto in 2012 was Nijo Castle. Perhaps it has a little something to do with the fact it was my first destination when I miraculously managed to withdraw some cash from the only Post Office ATMS in town that open on a weekend. If you haven't been to this city before, the Post Office is right next to the JR Kyoto station and Nijo Castle is a merely 8 blocks north from here. Technically it isn't even a castle to begin with despite the protecting outer walls. The main complex is only one level with a confusing array of narrow dark wood hallways with various meeting and visitor rooms. Visiting rooms have lateral sliding doors for samurai to eavesdrop on visitors whereas the private dormitories have wider open spaces. All of the rooms of this mega residential complex have views of perfectly pruned gardens.

This is where the Ieyasu Tokugawa shogunate lived in during a good portion of the restless Edo war era and gave me a lot of inspiration in my books.

When I first arrived to Nijo in 2012 the main entrance was being repainted and the finished project was clearly worth the wait. The photo above is the recently restored entrance when I came back in 2014. Intricate gold artwork to the point of ostentatiousness adorns the door with the ever familiar Chrysanthemum shogun emblem.

Nijo Castle unfortunately has two huge letdowns: The first is that you are staunchly forbidden to take photos inside and security personnel standing guard make sure nobody even takes a cellphone picture. It is indeed a huge letdown because the gorgeous artwork inside was something that left me literally speechless. Gorgeous ancient masterpieces of pheasants, storks and carp adorn the rooms. I probably spent a good three hours admiring the castle's inner artwork that complimented with the spaciousness of the otherwise bare rooms.

Before you purchase your ticket to Japan hold it right there. The second letdown is that in 2014 the castle has begun a huge remodeling overhaul that is long overdue. The wooden supporting beams are riddled with cobwebs and dust; some wooden beams are fully cracked. In 2014 all of the castle's precious paintings were removed to be fully restored and copies that don't even remotely replicate the beauty of the palace were placed instead. I am not sure if that part of the restoration project has been completed but I'm certain they will close specific sections of the castle to fully restore it. Chances are the castle won't be returned to its full splendor until the 2020 Olympics.

Is Nijo Castle worth it despite the remodeling project?

A lot would depend on how many days you plan of staying in Kyoto and if huge sections of the palace end up being closed to be repaired. The gardens are lush and mind bogglingly beautiful. When I visited the castle in 2014 the gardens lost some of their splendor from a recent hurricane and the gingko tress had become prematurely bare. What a huge letdown when I paced across a flurry of golden leaves in 2012!

One thing that I really enjoyed about this particular castle that I didn't explore in my books was the floors. What is so special about varnished wooden beam floors? Well, basically they squeak... a lot. The castle was designed on purpose to thwart surprise attacks from ninja and back in those days making your hallways obnoxiously noisy on purpose was just as well as a camera security system. I managed to pace across the designated path without making a lot of noise. I don't know if it's because I only weigh 44 kg or because I have innate hidden talent to be a ninja.

domingo, 23 de octubre de 2016

Happy Doctor's Day to all mexican doctors!

Perhaps it's a tad bit off-topic from the themes of my book series but as a physician it's always great to enjoy that one day of the year where my country commemorates the difficult tasks we do with the lack of medications, equipment and some of us literally risking our lives by working in crime-ridden areas. I also wish to pay my respects to the physician and odontology student that were brutally murdered out of the endless wave of senseless violence just a few weeks ago in Ecatepec, arguably the most dangerous municipality in the entire nation for overall crime (Acapulco still takes first place in homicide).

I probably write a little too much about medical themes in my series but characters overcoming devastating injury scenes have always attracted my interest. Arguably one of my favorite scenes from Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring is when Elrond heals Frodo as best as he can from whatever vile curse he suffered when he was stabbed by a Mordor sword and how quite possibly whatever remained of the curse expedited the effects of the spider's venom. I always felt a sort of admiration that one seemingly minor wound that didn't puncture any vital organs debilitated his health sufficiently to convince him to leave Middle-Earth at the end of Return of the King.

An Ominous Book contrasts two very different medics and despite a very brief interaction they both garner completely opposite reactions from Spaulding. The first medic we meet is Ciedel who is unusually tall, corpulent, keeps his black hair cut very short and seems to have a rather dry personality with a short temper. All we know about him is that he's an air mage that runs the infirmary of Tindenfarel and is vastly knowledgeable. None of my books ever delves about his personal life except for his long-lasting friendship with Trevilin. The scenes where Trevilin begins to recover from the third degree burn on his neck are never shown but I can imagine Ciedel's awkward position where an elf he has always known as a peculiar friend has now become his own patient. It's never easy treating someone you personally know because the emotional bond you share with that person can cloud your decisions yet it's clear that Ciedel manages to set his emotions aside to save Trevilin's life. I think Spaulding doesn't give Ciedel the credit he deserves and merely dislikes him in the beginning because his phantom beast managed to keep him trapped inside of Tindenfarel against his will. It isn't until Froylan confesses Ciedel's curse is the sole reason why the guard didn't bring him to National Palace for Salman's entertainment that Spaulding begins to harness a certain degree of respect for the medic. Ciedel's role as a recurring minor character brings him back in book 6. Brash, opinionated but still respectful of the Äimite guard, he is trusted with the impossible goal of healing the mentally unstable Tioja. Whether Ciedel has any noble lineage and actual combat abilities could be open for debate.

The second medic Dezan becomes a recurring secondary character. A member of the Naganim Clan of the central mountain plains and uncle of the current clan leader Lord Himijra, we know that he has noble blood relatives but we don't know if he was born a nobleelf. Always wearing his medium length black hair tucked inside of a hat, he seems like Ciedel's polar opposite: excessively polite to a point that Froylan constantly remarks he's a coward, pale, thin and wears small spectacles. Dezan reveals he is a water mage in the second book who can summon a Sarin. When Spaulding told Richard in the first book that some water mages have the misfortune of summoning beasts that are dependent on water Dezan proves that the defect of his water serpent doesn't hinder his abilities as a medic. Because the bodies of living animals are 70% water he has the powerful ability to study the organs of patients and even read their current thoughts. Little is known about his prior life except that Salman had his predecessor beheaded for some unknown motive and he became appointed as the king's personal medic, arguably the most important job position of a healthcare worker in the entire nation.

Due to this heightened position and the relative improbability that Salman as a healthy immortal would ever become ill one would believe he has the cushiest desk job in the nation. However the first book already hints the palace infirmary takes care of prominent citizens that suffer devastating injuries. Between badly injured Äimite guards, high ranking nobleelves and the occasional ranger Dezan seems to always be busy. His knowledge is put to the test both in the second book when he attempts experimental blood transfusions and in the fifth book for a reason I don't wish to spoil just yet. The fact that the nation doesn't have a Secretary of Health per se means any massive plague or medical emergency falls on his hands and he is partially responsible for sharing his knowledge with other medics in the nation. Utterly kind to the point of ridiculousness, he is a sufficiently capable mage to briefly impress Froylan. While Dezan rejected Lord Garain's offer to begin the initial Äimite training maybe he is capable of becoming a guard. Although in the unlikely case he begins the training I'm certain he would flunk on purpose.

Dezan nearly exclusively is seen dressed in his uniform but it's enjoyable to see him wearing Naganim heraldic travel robes during the endless journey in the third book. I wouldn't fully agree with everyone's opinion that he's a coward either. Dezan is one of the only characters in the series that ever dares contradict Froylan's opinions without any fear of reprisal. Either Froylan deeply respects him or everyone misjudges just how bold Dezan really is.

I love it how medics have different personality traits and want to have their opinions heard. Medicine isn't some kind of one size fits all cookbook and many sources of fiction (be it television, film, animation or books) seems to think everyone has a flat personality that follows medical advice like every disease was a cookie cutter. Medicine isn't in real life so blatantly obvious. While 90% of your cases will be common horses the remaining 10% will be zebras that fall into two categories: common diseases with a rare symptoms or a rare disease with common symptoms. Making things more difficult, the hospital you rotate as a med student can have a vastly opposing viewpoint on how you manage cases. Go to a tertiary super center to see breakthrough treatments of the rarest diseases and you will come out believing everything is a zebra. On the other hand expose yourself to a general hospital without all of the equipment or staff and get used to delegating anything out of your comfort zone to someone else.

Is it right that the Elf Kingdom seemingly has such advanced medicine in an otherwise primitive world? I think it is possible. Take away the diseases related to aging and have a society where everyone eats a healthy vegan diet without overt signs of an obesity epidemic and add the fact that you could very well practice medicine every day for 800 years in the prime of your health and it would be little surprising that you would dabble some of your free time on experimental medicine. Injuries, sepsis and varied surgical emergencies (varying between a vast array of pathologies that could happen to young people such as appendicitis or volvulus) would be the focus of your care. Immortal elves have no need to give birth to large amounts of children so the nation would expend larger amounts of resources in trade rather than education.

Could another cure for the life-threatening pathology that Trevilin contracts in the third book be discovered someday? I wouldn't be sure but I like thinking about countless scenarios that for time constraints cannot be explored in the novels.

sábado, 22 de octubre de 2016

Just a reminder of the kindle ebook URLs

Foolish old me! I've written two posts for this small blog for my book series and haven't even taken the annoyance of placing a link for the first installmenet of the series.

viernes, 21 de octubre de 2016

Yesterday's internet crash means tonight's publication

Unfortunately my hopes of uploading a mere 500 kb file yesterday were a futile failure. Internet speeds in the boonies this week have been miserable and two weeks of unappeallingly worse cellphone signal from the Telcel monopoly has once again reinforced my mindset that I'm not being narrow-minded because I still own a 6 year old Nokia phone with a green screen and a flashlight. I feel proud that I spend less than 5 USD a month buying prepaid cellphone credit sparingly over wasting 20 USD on a monthly plan for a service that doesn't work half of the time. I know I'll have to get a smartphone before February 2017 but let me enjoy my ignorance of fiddling with Whuts Upps or whatever that blasted messaging service everyone and their dog uses.

Today was a doozie. After reaching Toluca I once again forgot to ask the driver for change from a 200 bill and got off the bus without enough cash. I can't deny my disdain for Toluca. Google Maps never gets any address right causing me nearly hysterically annoying detours walking around gigantic avenues in circles, the taxi drivers always dump me in oddball places (more than once my taxi driver has asked me to tell him how to get to my destination. I guess nobody there stores a map in the cab and dumping clients in weird places just to get rid of the problem is common courtesy). I still can't remove from my head how I once got off a bus halfway between hell and a yard full of goats named "La Bombilla" even though I specifically asked the driver to drop me off on a stop before the bus terminal. I had never been to that city before, only had 60 pesos in my pocket which was barely enough cash to reach home and the cream of the top after getting stuck in that muddy road filled with cornfields and suspicious looking street dogs was a freak rainstorm... without an umbrella.

After my hate/hate of the dozens of times I've gotten lost in Toluca, we can add unexpected closure of ATMs in major avenues in that list. Walking 16 blocks halfway to Metepec for an ATM carrying all of my luggage and trying my earnest not to get hit by cars (stop lights and walking on the right part of the road doesn't deter drivers from trying to ram you over to reach their posh homes 1 minute sooner) at least accomplished my mission to go back home albeit 40 minutes later than I would have wanted.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't forget your change on the bus next Friday.

jueves, 20 de octubre de 2016

Book 3's cover is now ready!

I finally got the gears going despite my hectic job schedule and finished the cover for the third book of my series very, very late last night, If only this snail speed internet in the boonies were a tad closer to 500 KB per second... I am not greedy, I don't need 1 MB por second on a weekday, but please, please, please upload the file already!

Okay, ranting the daily dosage of crummy internet speed and appaulling cellphone signal out of my system for today I do love the facial expression of Froylan on my drawing. Even the layer without all of the shadowing seems to reinforce how I always imagined him to be in the books.

Now if only I could get the crude drawing from the cover of my 2nd book aligned once and for all I would have the first 4 books on the Kindle before I go on a very much needed vacation. I have been cruising on some blogs and see a lot of new authors try to dabble in short stories. I have never done such a thing before but it would be fun to write some backstories of various characters of my series. Jamarnid's story would definitely be up my list. I'll think about it.