Sunday, January 30, 2011


2020 Visions has been out a while, and the reviews are coming in. Some writer's dread this. I look forward to it like a bullfighter urging the bull to charge. After all, isn't this all about the paso doble with the dangerous universe?

Yeah, I know, sometimes reviewers, or “critics,” (it depends on their pretensions) do things besides declare how brilliant you are -- but remember, no matter what they say, they are providing publicity. Any press is good press, as they said in the low-tech past. As long as they spell your name right and give the information that will help the reader buy your work, they are doing you a favor.

Besides, as a self-promoting writer, it is your right, and in fact your duty, to exploit them.

I've been doing it ever since I used the fact that someone had put down my first published story as an excuse to disrupt an interview with Norman Spinrad on KPFK's Hour 25. It's easy. It's fun.'s Josh Vogt did me a disservice by not mentioning Radiation is Groovy, Kill the Pigs in his review of 2020 Visions. Maybe he's one of those “If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all” guys. Guess I'l have to try to be more offensive in the future.

Josh did day some good things about my wife's story, “If the Sun's at Five O'Clock, It Must be Yellow Daisies.” He did feel the need to warn that is was, “Not for the squeamish, or anyone who gets nervous around insects.” A great quote! Em, honey, ya gotta use that!

I remember the days when science fiction was all about getting upclose and personal with things like Bug Eyed Monsters. What happened? When did the wimps infiltrate the nerds?

Harry Markov in Rise Reviews also praised Em's story – he also devoted a paragraph to Radiation is Groovy, which he enjoyed even though he found it flawed. He's obviously used to following stories at a safe distance rather than hopping on and hanging on for dear life through the wild ride. I will make use of his “It crossed boundaries, went down the rabbit hole and provoked an emotional reaction.” Also: “. . . an insane pacing, and insane plot . . .”

An “emily” via goodreads didn't like Radiation is Groovy at all. It “. . . almost made me give up on the book . . . Yikes.”

I posted the quotes about my story on Facebook right away. Interestingly enough, it was “emily's” putdown that got a reaction: Jetse de Vries, editor of the Shine anthology, and DayBreak Magazine said, “That kind of comment makes me want to read your story!”

Face it, these days anybody can set themselves up as reviewer, or even a “critic.” Use them, abuse them, distort the meaning of their words. They are just another piece of equipment in your writer's toolbox.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Arizona has been taking a beating lately. Between immigration laws and mass shootings, people have asked how I can stand to live here. The truth of the matter is, I love it. After all, this is the burning desert that I crossed to find my true love.

My wife sung the state's praises in her blog. Once again, she's inspired me. She concentrated on the state's natural beauty and wonders. I'm gonna be my usual perverse self and concentrate on things unnatural.

Sitting on top of the geological chaos, with botanical madness growing through, as meteorological fury blazes above -- all that inspired Percival Lowell, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, and me to dream of Mars -- there's all kinds of stuff in Arizona that is the result of human beings living in a place that stresses their bodies and does bizarre things to their brains.

Influences of the outside world – I'm talking California and the Midwest (Mexico is Arizona on steroids) – threaten to cover over this weirdness in corporate/Hollywood franchised plastic-flavored blandness. Em and I used to eat at a place called Pancho's that was across the street from La Cucaracha and Ammo For Less. We used to live near an intersection that had a three-story tower of toilets and a pink building with the word TOPLESS in fat, black letters across the front. Sadly, those are gone.

There are still sections of Phoenix where colorful, hand-painted signs blend with murals and graffiti, clusters of stop-lights arc over complex intersections in displays of naked technology, while freight trains chug past mounts of glittering scrap metal.

Atlantis Mariscos is still around even though the night club that twenty years ago had a mural with flying pyramids is long gone.

Getting away from the Metro Phoenix Area and the ancient Hohokam canal system, roadside weirdness abounds, from wild datura jungles, to curious encampments with fences made from discarded car hood and doors. The roadkill gets hard to identify: Sasquatch? Chupacabra?

Route 66 takes you through some true Americana that Norman Rockwell never painted. The land of cowboys, Indians, hot rods, and UFOs beckons. Keep a look out for the chipping, decaying hand-painted billboards advertising businesses that may or may not still exist. There's eccentric architecture from Arcosanti to the Mystery Castle. And ruins from cultures that traded with the Maya.

And there are those who would like to sell it all to developers so they could dynamite down all the hoodooistic mountains, then fill the desert up with tract housing and shopping malls with the same stores from more civilized parts of America, so the immigrants from Back East can feel at home.

Of course, they'll have to do something about the temperature.

Meanwhile, I am happy to live here in Aztlรกn, the Aztec homeland, as a proud citizen of the Seven Cities of Cibola.

I put my trust in the ancient Thunder God who still rules the Superstition Mountains. I'm sure the messages along the Hieroglyphic Trail assure us that the traditions going back until before the Ice Age will continue.

Besides, how can corporate Americarama compete with the mutant Gila Monsters?

Saturday, January 22, 2011


This time Chicanonautica is a special report for La Boga from Arizona, in response to the tragic shootings in Tucson, and offers a glimpse at things not yet explained by modern science. Here at Mondo Ernesto, I'm offering extras to change the mood, and maybe provide some healing.

Question Mark and the Mysterians have some hoodoo that can help, but in all due respect, 96 tears may not be enough:

Next, let us turn to the wisdom of that great Twentieth-Century philosopher, Popeye the Sailor, for his take on conflict resolution:

And finally, this masterpiece of the ridiculous and the sublime, to help us all take that next leap of faith into an uncertain world:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


My career as a commercial artist began with Mr. Velasco's Haunted Psycho House. He was a Spanish teacher at Edgewood High back in West Covina, and an old-fashioned Mexican American who took the word Chicano as the insult it was originally intended to be. He loved to exploit his students. The Haunted Psycho House was his way of doing it around Halloween.

As the cartoonist for the school paper, I was suggested to him to design the ad to appear in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Oh boy! My first professional art job! And he promised to pay me ten dollars! I did everything thing according to Mr. Velasco's specifications, including the skeleton with the axe through the skull and the visible fangs on the bats. I was trying to be as pro as I could be.

It was a thrill seeing my art in the local newspaper. But weeks went by, and no sign of that ten dollars that Mr. Velasco promised me. When I approached him in the hallway about it, he said he was busy, in a hurry . . . I began to wonder if I would need to borrow a switchblade to get my money.

Eventually (without a switchblade), I cornered him in his classroom, blocking the door.

Uh!” He patted his own pockets. “I don't have my receipt book!”

I need the money now!” There was a science fiction convention that weekend.

He found a piece of scratch paper, hand wrote an impromptu receipt, and had me sign it. Then, he pulled out his wallet, fished out a dogeared, moth-eaten ten dollar bill, and handed it to me.

I felt cheated.

Later I told this story to fellow student. Instead of being sympathetic, he beamed and blurted: “Wow! You got ten whole dollars just for drawin' a pitchur!”

For years afterward, I tried like hell to become a successful commercial artist. I had some minor success with some cartooning and illustration, but found that, in the long run, most clients were a lot like good ol' Mr. Velasco when it came to paying for artwork. Some of them were even worse.

I put it all on a back burner for a couple of decades, and just did surrealistic psychograms for my own amusement -- and to keep my chops.

Recent technological developments have made self-publishing more viable than ever before. I'm getting into that because I have all these books and stories lying around. Being an artist/cartoonist can come in handy – I don't have to hire myself.

Then a friend pointed out that a lot of writers who are getting into epublishing are having a hard time getting cover art and illustrations.

It took a while for it to sink in, but soon I realized that there is a growing, viable market here. And one where I have lots of contacts.

If I could figure out a way to quickly generate usable images, using a method similar to the way I create my blog illustrations, I could sell the rights at reasonable rates.

You like this monster drawing I scanned from my sketchbook? I could put the title of your book and your name right there! You want bats with visible fangs, too? Sure, why not? Why don't we throw in a skeleton with an axe through the skull, too?

Of course, if the authors want me to peruse their entire manuscript, meditate on it, and come up with an elaborate Work of Art, that'll cost more . . . but if I can knock something out in day or so, and get payment comparable to what I get slaving away at an infernal corporate bookstore . . .

There goes my brain, rushing off again. I better get to the laboratory, and do some experiments. Bwoo-hoo-hoo-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


This time, at La Bloga I do a Chicanonautica remembering the Digital Divide and encouraging the Electronic Revolution.

And what better for Mondo Ernesto extras than a salute to those original technophiles and mad scientist/artists of the barrio, the lowriders?

Kind of looks like an updated Aztec fiesta only with mechanoid madness and booty shaking instead of blood letting and human sacrifice, eh?

Today's lowriders are into hiphop, but I remember when they listened to stuff like this:

There was a time when you could tune to KRLA and get a recombocultural mix of Motown, the British Invasion, and vatos like Cannibal and the Headhunters.

These sociotechnological experiments need to be encouraged, so that maybe someday we'll all be driving cars like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth's Mysterion.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


This century hasn't been bad for me as far as getting published is concerned. Especially the last few years, when I got involved with social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Back in the year 2000, things looked pretty grim. I got a full-time job at BigBoxBookstore, and put writing on the back burner. Writing didn't work as profession, but I was too addicted to completely stop – this stuff keeps growing in my brain, be glad it doesn't happen to you.

You often hear Samuel Johnson quoted that, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” The truth is all writers are blockheads. We strive for the mad dream of professionalism, but something drives us to write -- even if it doesn't do us any good. We will write even if it eventually kills us.

And often it does.

Still, I found that I could get publishe, just about as often as as I did back in the days when I was busting my ass trying to get my stuff out there. A story or two of mine would see print every year. I'd get emails, saying “Hey, Ernie, I'm doing this anthology, could you send me some of that weird stuff you do?”

Once I plugged into the social networks, I found these emails coming more often. I also got in touch with magazine editors who were also interested my work. Last year I published four stories, Hindenburg's Vimana Joyride, Doctora Xlibaba's Datura Enema, Plan 9 in Outer Space (co-written with my wife, Emily), and Radiation is Groovy, Kill the Pigs, and this year I already have two more coming out Death and Dancing in New Las Vegas in Analog and The Great Mars-A-Go-Go Mexican Standoff in Tales of the Talisman.

Seems that getting published is bad habit I've gotten into. I don't think I could write a how-to article about it. At this point, it's part of the way I live. I might as well see if I can make it profitable.

I know, famous last words. Stop laughing.

What I can say about this is, the world of writing and publishing is changing. Revolution is probably a mild way of putting it. Traditional formats are changing or dying. BigBoxes are collapsing. The mass market paperback probably isn't long to this world – but then sixty years ago it didn't exist. Things don't last forever, get used to it.

A lot of the experiments we see these days will probably fail. No matter. If you never fail, you aren't trying.

And getting published is a social activity. Hermit writers tend to pile up manuscripts in isolation. You have to go out into the world, interact with people, makes deals. The new technology is simply providing a new platform for this activity.

In 2011 I've decide to do it all more aggressively. Another experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


What? Another year? Seems like we're always crashing into another one. This time, as usual, I'm facing a pile of unfinished business that I'm going to have to do -- and I'm exhausted from doing my humble dayjob. Arrgh!

The Apocalypse/Revolution in the book/publishing/writing world is slamming into full-tilt boogie. I have a front-row seat to the turmoil, mayhem, and hopefully, a little progress. I'll report what I can as soon as it becomes safe to do so, both here, and Chicanonautica at La Bloga. It'll be . . . interesting . . .

I've also realized that it's time for me to stop thinking of writing and art as a weird hobby, as I've done for the last decade, and start considering it to be a business again. What the hell, I've been selling stuff, getting attention -- besides, it looks like we all are going to have look into different ways of making money, and soon.

So, if you need any writing, drawing, and/or cartooning, or even have some good, honest all-purpose stooge work, I'm here.

Meanwhile, I've some projects to finish. Just wish I wasn't so pooped.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year!