Posted by: tierratemplada | April 17, 2013

Tierra Templada – excerpt from the book

Hooray, my first ebook has finally made it to Amazon. Ah, the privilege of being among thousands of wannabe authors. Anyway, for those of you who enjoy decent poetry: Tierra Templada is a collection of poems ranging from the surreal to downright zany, an artistic commentary on life, death, tabboos, sexuality, religion, the greenhouse effect and more! Still interested? Well, it sure is your lucky day! Here’s a juicy freebie for my trusty followers: the first three poems from the book, including the titular Tierra Tiemplada. That’s more than you can view on Amazon!


We have become our skin,
shedding pulp like a bad memory.
This is the age of dermis lives:
hiring make-believe artisans
to conceal nothing;
inking into grey matter
Easter egg palettes
that one day wear thin
and shatter,
baring mummified yolks
and stained glass shards strewn pell-mell
like an orphaned puzzle.

Amputating identity,
we choose prostheses,
piling layer upon layer of indelible pigments
and calling it self-expression
which is like pouring from an empty cup
or screaming in vacuum.

Raped by needle flock mentality,
we are a legion of lesion-addicts;
sado-maso stigma species,
self-proclaimed Christs
for a nominal fee crucified
by sterilized, disposable
But though the ink of the Bible fades,
it is fertile and we no more:
a dead-end generation
of parched pupas pretending
to be butterflies.

The Baptism of a Butterfly

An iridescent butterfly
flapped into a fury,
lighting a million jack-o-lantern eyes
with lifetimes of glitter
but the primer prematurely faded,
and the wings wept zinc.

In the evening I heard a shudder
and bowed down to discover,
lying by my feet, a mummy.
Its fury and fire
had been unwrapped, exposing
a gray skeleton.

It’d been gray all along.
A birthmark
beyond surgery. Silly thing,
must’ve bathed in paint
and gasoline and set itself on fire
to bask in my gaze
or avoid that of others.

It made me question
the integrity of mirrors,
so today I ran a cold bath,
plugged in the radio
and weeping in tune with the static,
took hold of the pumice.

Tierra Templada

It’s a glacier life out there.
Leave it to the good people of this age
to freeze fire for better best-before
and sell it by the cubic meter.
No salmon odyssey for you Mr. Snowman:
popsicle fingers, frostbit dreams,
late-night howls, secrets, confessions
drowned in liquid nitrogen and rimed to neat
cube-of-life compression: eyes half-open,
lips aquiver, crystal tears and congealed blood
bonds as if some self-proclaimed operator
ran commercials, disrupting live exodus.
Global warming is a witch tale
to scare little icicles.
We’ve thrust boys and fat men overboard
and hanged Prometheus.
Having gone through Hell,
we dare not venture Heaven and bury roots
in Tierra Templada.

Enjoyed the poems? There is more where it came from. You can get the full book (20+ poems) for the price of a coffee:




Posted by: tierratemplada | April 13, 2013

Thou Art NOT the Boss of Me

One of the myths about the life of a freelancer is that you have no boss; no one to order you about, tell you what to do and how to do it. Sadly, that’s a bunch of hooey. You do have a boss. In fact, you have potentially a dozen or a hundred bosses – the customers/clients/agencies/publishers. So what if they don’t have an employment contract to blackmail you with. They have the money. They get to pull the strings.

In a sense, it’s even worse than having one boss. At least with him/her, you know where you stand. For me, each new client is a potential source of unreasonable, or just plain silly, demands. I can’t even count the number of times a guy with kindergarten-level English simply insisted, time and again, that I change a word in my translation, no matter how hard I tried to convince him that Google Translate is not always right (a huge euphemism, obviously). Often I end up spending hours on pointless conversations with people who have no idea about translation or a given language – hours of my life I will never get paid for.

In fact, here’s a tip to all you bosses out there – cut your workers some slack. I find it baffling how so many employers fail to realize the fundamental truths about human psychology – in the long term, positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement. Or, plainly speaking, the carrot is better than the whip. I work for a guy who thinks running a business is all about being tough and ruthless and strict. He’s always pouncing on people, beating them to death with his words, handing out arsenic invectives and acid threats like they are candy. The result: he loses employees. I only do occasional assignments for him, but my friend, who had worked at his company in-house, told me she quit last month because she simply couldn’t stand being treated this way. It was too much for her. She is a really skillful translator and has already found a great job. Thanks to his slave-driving methods, that man lost a good employee.

It isn’t all that bad, though. The good thing about working for multiple clients is that you are not exactly indentured to any one of them. You are not a slave. “I don’t need your money”, you can say to the tyrant. “There’s more where it came from.” Good old Capitalism.

Professional life isn’t that different from romance. It’s actually good to play hard to get sometimes. Make it known that you are sought after, that you are hot stuff. Pull those jealousy strings. Demand higher rates. If you are really good at what you do, they will bow before you. You are in the stronger position. You can afford to resign. The more clients you have, the more aggressive you can be. And if they refuse to meet your reasonable demands, if they blow you off, it’s their loss – they don’t deserve you. And hey, they aren’t dumping you. You are dumping them.

So no, being a freelancer doesn’t automatically entail you are free. There will always be tyrants looking to bully you into thralldom. But as a freelancer, it’s your job to have the cojones to stand up for yourself, to take control of your life and, for once, be your own boss

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 10, 2013

Repeat after me: I’m a translator, not editor

/rant mode on/ Some employers think a translator is an orchestra-man, translator, editor, proofreader and designer in one. So today I got a really serious scolding from my agency, almost threatening to break co-operation altogether, because the translation was not good enough. I looked over the corrections they made and there were no errors per se. They were cosmetic, stylistic changes, many of them simply “beautifying” the original, which was a horrid mess. The editor basically rewrote some sentences, completely straying from the original text. I don’t blame him/her, but I don’t get paid to edit the original – I’m supposed to faithfully render it in the Target Language. When I pointed it out to my employer, he said that since the text looks better after editing, clearly it was possible for me to improve it even more. Here’s the thing: a translation is never perfect. Perfection is the unattainable ideal. You can improve and correct a text to death, and still find things to correct. But that’s the job of the editor/proofreader, not the translator. /rant mode off/

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 9, 2013

Translation: The Art of Staying Invisible

Translation is essentially the art of staying invisible. Don’t expect praise or international fame. If you are in it for the glamour, don’t bother. Because a translator is only good when (s)he does not exist to the reader.

I like to use the metaphor of the window. When the window is clean, no one takes notice of it. But the smallest speck of dust or dirt stands out like a sore thumb. The case is similar with translation: when it’s perfect, no one even realizes it is a translation, let alone praise the translator. It’s the writer who gets the credit. But make one single mistake, a typo, a slip in style, and the readers/editors/translation agencies pounce on you like a pack of angry wolves.

I work with numerous translation agencies, and they hardly ever say so much as a good word about my services. In fact, the only time I was “praised” by a company was when I messed something up and was told that they would continue to use my services only because “they trust and respect me as a professional translator”. Kinda makes me feel I should mess up more often.

So here’s my piece of advice: if you expect praise and glamour, try a different profession. Because a translator gains fame only by committing a serious error (say, one that costs a company millions), and the error will most likely be your last one. In order to survive in this line of work, you have to be satisfied with the feeling of a job well-done and, occasionally, a paycheck.

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 8, 2013

The Joys (and Sorrows) of Freelancing

So it’s Sunday – finally I get to relax, chill out, forget about work. WRONG. For me, and countless of other poor souls out there, Sunday is a day like any other. These are the joys of being a freelancer.

I’ve always wanted to be a freelance translator. Somehow, as a teenager I was never forced into a real job (i.e. hamburger flipping or leaflet delivery), so the thought of taking one up, of getting up at 7 AM and sitting in a dusty office or greasy kitchen, was enough to make me wet my bed. Truth is, I was never meant for a day job. I get up at 12 PM and stay up till 3-4 at night. It’s in my nature. I’m an owl. I’m also a sloth – I’m determined in what I do, but I do it slowly….very slowly.

So the idea of freelancing, working at home, being the boss of myself, really appealed to me. It seemed like the way to live. It was difficult to establish myself as a freelance translator, but after some time and effort I am now more or less established and able to support myself without leaving my apartment.

Frankly, it’s a love-hate relationship. I adore the free in freelancing. But also I yearn for stability. Humans are lovers of routine. We like to plan ahead, to always know where we stand.

In freelancing, every day is terra incognita. Bold explorers, we march into the dark, knowing not whether to expect glory or misery. Tip: usually, a little bit of both.

Each morning I wake up with a gnawing sense of anxiety. Will I get a new job? Will I receive a complaint? Will my debtors finally pay me? Let’s put it his way – freelancers cannot complain of boredom.

Most of my friends have regular jobs with regular working days and hours. They know exactly when and where they will have to work. I have no such comfort. I never know when I will receive a job offer I can’t refuse, often with a deadline “for yesteday”. When I schedule a friendly beer or an evening at cinema, I face the risk of having to cancel, or else jeopardize my career. After all, clients don’t care about your personal life. To them, you are just a machine, a tool. If you refuse, they will go elsewhere. Business is business.

Paying is another issue. When you have an employment contract, you can expect to be paid on a semi-regular basis. Not so much in freelancing. Many of my regular translation agencies have now owed me big money for several months. Sure, they’ve paid before and they will pay eventually, provided they don’t go bankrupt. But in business there is a general consensus that “payment deadline” does not exist. Go on, point out to a big company that their payment is overdue. Well, duh! We’re working on it, we’re going to pay, they will promise. Right. I’m  currently in the proccess of preparing a lawsuit against a client who has completely ignored my requests and pleas and queries for the past few months. In fact, when I finally did reach him lately, he claimed he’d been in England for 8 weeks. I was speechless. With sound excuses like that, you simply cannot argue.

But then there are the good times. When, having worked my head off day and night, I finally finish a project and have enough savings to afford lazing around for weeks or months to come – then I begin to appreciate my profession. And pull punches at my day job friends. Sadly, sometimes these moments are far too rare. Especially since translation rates are going down and down due to students who offer services for laughingly low fees. Why pay X, if I can pay less to that bloke? Some clients simply do not understand that price = quality. I’ve recently lost a big account this way. This is especially pronounced in Poland, which my university lecturer once called the China of Translation. No offense to the Chinese.

So is it worth being a freelancer? There is no easy answer. As everything, it has its pros and cons. Still, as I find myself entering legal feuds and hunting debtors 24/7 simply to receive pay for my hard work, I begin to consider taking up a stationary job. Perhaps then I will see what it’s like to have the Sunday off.

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 6, 2013

The Gambit (2012) – an honest review


Today I watched the Gambit starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman. Despite some stinky ratings on Imdb, I found this remake of a 1966 comedy to be an amusing con flick. Certainly, it is far from revolutionary, but the humour is amusing enough, especially if you throw in a glass of wine or, preferably, vodka. In fact, there is only one gag involving flatulence – a significant improvement over Ted, a movie that redefined the term “stinking” (and, perhaps for the very same reason, scores 2 points higher on Imdb). Back on topic – judging by the reviews, I was expecting Gambit to be truly horrid. In fact, I watched this solely on the basis of the Coens brothers’ writing. And it seems so did the reviewers. Don’t make a mistake – this is no Coens movie. Doesn’t come close even to Intolerable Cruelty, which was already waaay far off the quality of Big Lebowski and Fargo. I think the Coens were simply paid for their names. Nevertheless – a decentish comedy, with almost no gas expelling! If you’re tired of black and white foreign movies whose plot is told in reverse, and just looking for a light flick and a few good laughs – you are in for a treat!

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 6, 2013

The Dark Side of Ebook Publishing


Gone is the age of intermediaries. As the market share of ebooks increases and the readers’ preference shifts to electronic formats, the role and power of traditional publishers diminishes. Thanks to this digital revolution, the authors are regaining full control over the fruits of their sweat and toil. Niche writers, whose work could never find a print publisher, can finally enter the market. Voices that would otherwise go unheard, can finally find an audience in the cyberspace. Finally we are witnessing the flowering of Indie in the books industry. But enough said about the benefits of the ebook revolution. Now is the time to focus on the downsides, and ways to fix them.

Two words: quality management. E-publishing enthusiasts often talk about traditional publishers as if they were pure evil, a legion of greedy vampire-businessmen hellbent on bloodsucking the author dry out of profits. It is true that print publishers take a lot of margin for themselves, but they also serve as guardians of quality. Armies of editors toil to ensure that the published work is up to standards, rooting out nasty typos and polishing the text. Beautiful covers are designed by professional artists. All this is, of course, entirely selfish and money-driven, its sole purpose being to boost sales. But by taking out the middle man, we essentially expose the consumer to amateurish, poorly edited or just plain crappy works that should never have seen the light of day. Sure, there are extremely talented authors, jacks-of-all-trades who do the editing, marketing and designing on their own, outputting high-quality, professional books. But for each professional ebook, there are hundreds of low-quality, worthless, poorly edited monstrosities that eclipse the quality products out there.

This situation benefits no-one. The readers are in danger of wasting their money and time on trash, while the talented writers find it harder and harder to distinguish themselves from the masses. So what indicators of quality are there? Reviews, of course, but what if those are missing?

Well, one can always judge the book by its cover. Superficial though it may seem, the fact that the author has spent a good deal of time and effort to create an interesting front design, shows some level of commitment on his or her part. A blank page with the title written in a generic Comic font, or a few lines jotted down hurriedly in Paint, are major red flags.

Then there are of course samples – a few pages from the book to showcase the quality of the product. But there is no certainty that the sample’s quality is representative of the whole book. While the first few pages might be fine-tuned and edited to draw in the reader, it may not be the case for the remainder of the work.

So how can the reader be confident that he or she isn’t being cheated, that the money spent, even if it is just $0.99, will not go wasted? Sticking to tried and trusted authors is one way, but what if one wants to explore a world beyond Amanda Hocking? What about those writers who haven’t had the chance to prove themselves, but may very well be diamonds in the rough? One way to solve this problem is to bring the publisher back into publishing.

Though this may sound like the ebook industry shooting itself in the proverbial foot, we need a brand, a label of quality that will allow talented fledgling writers to be recognized in the vast cyberspace. By introducing strict quality assurance, ebook-centric publishing houses will help authors gain the recognition they deserve, as well as establish and cement the ebook’s status as a legitimate, professional medium of expression.

Of course there are many self-publishing companies seeking to cash in on the digital boom, but unlike traditional publishers, they aren’t picky about their authors. They are content to take the hopeful writer’s money, even if his or her work is completely unfit to publish. Unlike traditional publishing companies, they aren’t concerned about the success of the book, or their reputation. They thrive on dreams, not readers.

We need true e-book publishing companies which prioritize quality over quantity. With time, these companies will develop into widely recognized labels that will help readers in segregating junk from quality products. These may be commercial affairs, taking a small margin for themselves, or networks of enthusiast authors who edit and review each other’s work in an effort to develop and maintain a common label that readers know they can trust.

I’m working on the publication of Tierra Templada, my upcoming poetry ebook, with one such company. Ouroboros Independent Books ( is a group of literature enthusiasts dedicated to the development and marketing of quality fiction in the ebook industry. The staff is very supporting, helping me edit my ebook so that it meets high industry standards. They also help me with the marketing and cover-designing. Here’s an example of the cover for Tierra Templada we’ve whipped up together:


Ouroboros Independent Books is a pioneering organization that may well revolutionize the ebook market. This, and other emerging ebook publishers, commercial or otherwise, can bring quality assurance back into e-publishing, while maintaining the freedom and variety made possible due to the non-existent production costs.

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 1, 2013

On Trust and Paranoia

A Man Deprived of Trust

A man deprived of trust:
eyes that never sleep
turning this way and that
to spot the phantom thief
or betrayer of the heart
that dares beat for no one.

7 days it took me
to earn a tendril of belief,
the benefit of doubt.
And while we sat there soaking in the tube,
I shaved his beard with a straight razor.
He traced the motions of my hand,
knowing well I could slit his throat,
and judging by the eyes –
suspecting as much.
And yet
he did not flinch…

This poem is inspired by a friend of mine, who refuses to trust anyone. Let’s call him Michael. He rents a room and not only does he lock it every time he leaves, he actually locks the door when he is sleeping! He has scolded me on numerous occasions for failing to cover the ATM keypad with my whole body, lest someone sees my PIN. In fact, he advised me not to carry a wallet at all.

But that’s not the end of it. Once, when we were out waiting for a friend of his, who was being fashionably late, he actually said to me that he’s afraid the meeting was staged only so his flatmate could break into his room…I mean, how paranoid is that?

I’m not naive. I know more than anyone that this world is full of crooks. I run a small translation company and in my experience, everyone is always trying to cheat you in one way or another. And yet…in everyday life, I try to keep my paranoia to a healthy minimum. There is a point where a line must be drawn, and Michael here has long since passed it.

What is it with our pathological failure to trust? Precautions are one thing, but in my humble opinion, installing more than one lock on your front door is not only paranoia, it’s a total waste of money. If a thief has the time and skills and audacity to deal with one lock, surely one more won’t stop him/her? Locks appear to me silly, anyway. They are psychological tricks to fool us into a false sense of security. Sometimes they do more bad than good. For instance, my parents always make sure to lock the front door and cover the windows of their summer house. Well, what did the thief do? He broke the door open with brute force. Simple as that. If there weren’t any locks, no doors would be harmed in the process. And he didn’t take anything, anyway. Apparently, he just slept in my parents’ bed. Not much of a thief, was he?

Let me make this clear: I’m not a virgin to being victimized. I’ve been cheated and burgled numerous times. Some cheats I saw through, some I did not. But I still grace people, strangers or otherwise, with the bare minimum of trust. To me – it’s a neccessary risk. Because without trust, we will spend life staring behind us, rather than looking ahead. Sometimes it’s better to just relax and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 1, 2013

Those lazy ducks


Remember the previous post about us being too lazy to break with routine, reach out and get what we want? Well, today after Easter breakfast I went with my family for a walk. There is a pond in a park (well, a patch of grass, really) where ducks have made their habitat. I was somewhat surprised to find them here in this “lovely” spring weather. I mean, unlike us humans, they can just flap their wings and fly to any tropical country of their choosing. What’s stopping them? Well, apparently they’ve gotten so used to being spoon-fed by people, that the natural urge to migrate died down. They settled down. Why move, when you have a all-year-round fast food restaurant right by your noses (well, under bird standards, anyway)? Just wait and watch as they grow too fat to lift themselves off ground. God made Man in His image, and now Man makes the Animal into his…

(Photo taken from:

Posted by: tierratemplada | April 1, 2013

Why tierra templada?


What is tierra templada? It’s a climatological term which, loosely translated into English, means “the temperate land”. Temperate means moderate, neither here not there, hot nor freezing, heaven nor hell: a limbo of self-imposed mediocrity. I chose this for the title of my blog because I want to write about the world that surrounds me and the more I look, the more I think we are all willingly trapped in this land of in-between, afraid to climb lest we fall.

In an episode of “King of Queens”, Carrie wants her husband, Doug, to score some points with his boss. Here is what he answers: “Carrie, it’s how I survive: staying nameless and faceless. Not too good, not too bad. Right on the cutting edge of mediocre.”

I think Doug speaks for all of us out there: we all have an urge to stay in the safety net zone, just hide our head in the sand, huddle in the sterile bosom of sweet routine. I suppose a Freudian would say that we want to crawl back into the warm succoring safety of the maternal womb.

Sure, we crave money, fame, recognition, but we’d rather it fell into our hands. We are too lazy and/or scared to get out of our comfort zone and get it ourselves. Instead, we play the lottery. We gamble. Some of us try to cheat our way: stealing, prostituting ourselves. I talked to a male whore once. He said he was just saving up money for tuition, that he wants to be a math teacher. I hope he succeeds, but here’s a thought: doesn’t cheating your way to the top sort of eliminate the point of it all? If you take a helicopter and just fly to the peak of Mount Everest, will you gain anything? A cool Facebook photo asides, nothing will change. Life is a hurdle race. If you just walk straight to the finish line, what’s the point? Why waste your breath?  It’s like taking an autostrada all the way through Italy and never once stopping to take in the sights. A waste of an increasingly precious fuel.

Truth is, mediocrity is in our nature. We are essentially average creatures. We are ground-huggers. Afraid of heights. Afraid of water. These are all instincts encoded in our brains millenia ago to keep us from falling off cliffs. And yet by some miracle of determination, or foolishness, we have made it all the way to the Moon and back. What drives us? What makes us special? I say it’s the capacity to dream. The audacity of hope.

We dare imagine the unimaginable. We think beyond the here and now. We take fantasies and make them real. There are cells in our brains which make this happen. They’ve grown fat and sluggish with Big Macs and beer, but they are still there, somewhere. I say we whip them back into shape. You don’t have to aim high. Take small steps, one after another. Throw away the remote. Stand up and change the TV channel manually for once. It’s possible. It’s been done, believe me!

Sure, we’re all cowards by definition. I remember a time when I was scared shitless just going out on a date. Or for a beer. I was one of those kids who’d rather spend their whole lives in the safety of their rooms and computers and video games. Well, I’ve made some progress. I’ve been on dates. Not all of them ended well. In fact, some turned out to be a different gender than I’d thought. As Tim Curry sang: Don’t judge the book by its cover…But the point is, I conquered my fears. I tried. That’s more than can be said of many. The other night, my friend said he felt like writing a poem. I said, so write one. And he said: I can’t. My answer was: so do it anyway. Trial and error…

If you’ve managed to read this far, congratulations and as a token of my gratitude, here’s a poem from my upcoming book titled, you guessed it, Tierra Templada. Enjoy!

Tierra Templada

It’s a glacier life out there.
Leave it to the good people of this age
to freeze fire for better best-before
and sell it by the cubic meter.
No salmon odyssey for you Mr. Snowman:
popsicle fingers, frostbit dreams,
late-night howls, secrets, confessions
drowned in liquid nitrogen and rimed to neat
cube-of-life compression: eyes half-open,
lips aquiver, crystal tears and congealed blood
bonds as if some self-proclaimed operator
ran commercials, disrupting live exodus.
Global warming is a witch tale
to scare little icicles.
We’ve thrust boys and fat men overboard
and hanged Prometheus.
Having gone through Hell,
we dare not venture Heaven and bury roots
in Tierra Templada.