The book Cenizas del Cielo / Ashes of the Sky

Thank you loyal readers and new visitors all, for your interest in my newest book, to be released on March 20, 2018, by Random House Publishing, New York, NY, USA:

Cenizas del Cielo (Ashes of the Sky), is my latest dramatic literary work. It is a story of how the mind can turn in the grips of shocking poverty. The story (the working title of which had been Cerca de la Línea), recounts the surreal experience of passing through the mud villages of out-back northern Guatemala, with their scanty straw shacks, barely shielding rain, and their barefoot families sliding down steep, long mud slopes from their huts, to meet the commuter bus and push the most meager wares ever sold, laid tidily on their little blankets, along the edge of the mud road.

Only the next scene a few miles further into the country makes appallingly clear how relatively well off the mud villagers are to have those huts. Because, beyond that hideous settlement, so much worse off are the cave dwelling families, tucked together in limestone holes dug out of the faces of the sheer vertical, jungle-covered mountains, towering over the road.

The indigenous families are seen languishing in those cave openings, with their feet and lower legs covered with snow-white limestone dust, and but a home-spun blanket insufficiently covering the opening. They watch the real world pass by, carried in the old retired US school busses below, all repurposed for Guatemalan cross-country commuter transit.

The tale finds a self-absorbed, entrepreneurial Mexican husband and his bright, supportive wife seeking to make some exorbitant profits by hopping over the border from San Cristobel, just for a few days, to make some deals on indigenous art and craftworks, for the latest of his small business start-up schemes.

They experience dealing with the ominously sketchy officials the Talisman passport checkpoint shack. They then take the military truck-bed ride for the mile-long ride through the jungle to the first Guatemalan bus stop. The shifty escort riding with them in the old truck-bed comments twice that he likes the wife’s hat, grinning and nodding oddly at the hat.

Uninitiated into this new realm of human handling, she comes to face its realities all-at-once on the five-minute ride, and intuitively hands over the hat without debate. The armed escort, unblinking, pops the hat onto his head and owns it, grinning more broadly now, amused at the effectiveness of his powers of suggestion.

But, after a bus crash that sends their belongings flying down a cliff late that night, it will not be so easy to negotiate personal safety in the days that follow, nor in the weeks that drag into months, stranded and penniless in the outback north of Huehuetenango. Lost in some of the world’s most stunningly exquisite and shockingly perilous mountains, filled with desperate natives branched off from destitute abandoned villages. It is among a pocket of expatriated lunatics from the white north, battling the unthinkably treacherous monsoon weather conditions in a deep mountain crevasse, that the heretofore good, but unenlightened and aimless husband finds the depths of his courage, and compassion even for the hardened souls of the animalistic survivors and their oppressed children. Awakening to his own entitled thinking, in the harshest of realities, he finds his redemption. But, is it too late?

Only when a raging fire, set by a multi-national with corporate interests in the area, sweeps away the jungle habitat of makeshift grass hovels, ravaging the toothless adults and their sickly children, does the husband fully appreciate the heart-wrenching spectacle. As he lifts his face to the sky, glistening with the glitter of ashes, falling like an evil yet strangely beautiful snow, what had been only a weird and terrifying odyssey, is now a place of deep obligation, if not belonging.

But, when the smoke clears, will anyone at all be left alive? Don’t assume that there will be. Tellers of such tales may opt for a brand of dramatic perfection that can only be obtained by suspending their better angels from overtaking more honest endings.

In other words, it won’t do to give away too much here. And, I only hope that you will enjoy the adventure of reading Cenizas del Cielo as much as I enjoyed telling this poignant and inspirational story.

From here — I invite you to have a look at the About page here on the website, which contains a brief profile of my personal and professional history. The biography has been reprinted from a recent profile, kindly written and published by Time magazine’s Editor in Chief, Clarence Howard. I do not think I could rightly be so generous to myself in accounting for my accomplishments as Mr. Howard has been. But, I humbly offer his account of the milestones of my life, as the chronology of events it provides is accurate, and so eloquently presented as to serve my purpose for it better than I might.