Monthly Archives: April 2012

Guest Blogger: Exploring the Morales Dictatorship in Plant Teacher by Caroline Alethia

Caroline Alethia is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, on radio and in web outlets. Her words have reached audiences on six continents. She lived in Bolivia and was a witness to many of the events described in Plant Teacher. Plant TeacherYou can visit her website at www.plantteacherthebook.net. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Amazon Kindle Store | Official Tour Page

ABOUT PLANT TEACHER

Hailed by Huffington Post contributor Joel Hirst as a compelling and powerful story, Plant Teacher begins in 1972 when a hippie in Oakland, California flushes a syringe of LSD down a toilet. Thirty-five years later, the wayward drug paraphernalia has found its final resting place in Los Yungas, Bolivia, the umbilical cord between the Andes and Amazonia. Enter into this picture two young Americans, Cheryl Lewis, trying to forge her future in La Paz and Martin Banzer, trying to come to terms with his past in the same city. The two form an unlikely friendship against the backdrop of a country teetering at the brink of dictatorship and revolution. Bolivia sparks the taste for adventure in both young people and Martin finds himself experimenting with indigenous hallucinogenic plants while Cheryl flits from one personal relationship to another. Meanwhile, the syringe buried in the silt in a marsh in Los Yungas will shape their destinies more than either could anticipate or desire. Plant Teacher takes its readers on a fast-paced tour from the hippie excesses of Oakland, to the great streams of the Pacific Ocean and to the countryside, cities, natural wonders and ancient ruins of Bolivia. It reveals­ the mundane and the magical, and, along the way, readers glimpse the lives of everyday Bolivians struggling to establish equanimity or merely eke out a living during drastic political crisis.

Exploring the Morales Dictatorship in Plant Teacher

By Caroline Alethia

 

I happened to be in Bolivia from 2007 to 2008. If you haven’t kept up with your modern Bolivian history, this time period was when President Evo Morales exerted his first heavy thrusts toward consolidating power. Within an armed encampment, and underwritten by only his supporters, Morales amended the national Constitution to extend his term limit. Thousands of people marched the streets in protest. Three of these protesters were shot and killed. City centers were crippled for weeks by hunger strikes. A governor spoke out against a disingenuous plan to federalize the government and was promptly arrested.

 

In the meantime, the North American media continued to report on Morales as a popular and populist leader. Brief months before the U.S. ambassador was expelled from the country, I buttoned up my educational project and returned to the United States, knowing that I needed to write about Bolivia.

 

The novel that followed, Plant Teacher, explores the lives of an expatriate community living in Bolivia during this troubled time. In my early forays into writing the novel, and as I fleshed out the different characters, my initial impulse was to write the story in the first person, told from the viewpoint of a young American of Bolivian descent, Martin Banzer, who travels to La Paz to explore his roots.

 

It soon became clear to me that there was much about Bolivia that could not be exposed through Martin’s limited impressions. To begin with, there was the country’s rich history with its indigenous and its colonial roots which Martin would have known very little about. I wanted to color Plant Teacher with native folklore and traditional narratives: the Inca creation legend; the Amerindian trichotomy of inner Earth, outer Earth, and the celestial realm.

 

Deciding to switch to third person in order to bring in these traditional and historic elements immediately also freed me to develop a pantheon of characters, each seeing the upheaval in Bolivia through his or her own perspective prism. I was able to delve into the fears and confusion of an orphan overwhelmed by the loss of his mother, and into the banal and very realistic life of a cleaning lady concerned mostly about staying healthy and, thus, being able to keep her job. The mestiza waitress at the tony coffee shop was able to feel roused by the president’s weekly radio address while the omnipresent cholitas—Bolivia’s bowler-capped Amerindian women—could worry about their loss of sales and the disappearance of tourists.

 

Additional expatriate characters also came to life with the freedom of the third person. Initially intended as the main character, Martin soon had to share the stage with two other Americans. Cheryl, a young woman drawn to Bolivia for the adventure, grew into a full-fledged main character with her own peculiarities (agnostic on religion but with a religious fervor for Austrian depth psychiatrist, Alfred Adler). Her sparring partner became Gus, an older missionary with more of an interest in economic development projects than in saving souls.

 

While I planned for these characters to tell the story of a Bolivia in upheaval, I found, as I progressed in my writing, that something very different happened. Like the real people I came to know during my time in this South American country, the characters in Plant Teacher come to develop an almost schizophrenic approach to life. While marchers and hunger strikers and rioters occupy the streets, Martin and Cheryl and Gus drink cappuccinos, go fishing, and write poetry. Humans, I have come to understand, need normalcy, and they will create it even—perhaps especially—under the most trying of conditions. The third person narrative allows Plant Teacher to explore individuals, communities, politics, history and culture. And, in so doing, it allows the book to tell a story that is unusual, if not unique, but also deeply real and deeply human.

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Guest Blogger: What the World Needs Now – Authentic leadership by Andreas Dudas

Andreas Dudàs has more than 20 years leadership experience gained in top executive positions in over 25 countries. Visionary entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker & expert on authentic (life) leadership, he is the author of Do You Dare To Be Yourself? Learn more at www.andreasdudas.com.

What the World Needs Now – Authentic leadership by Andreas Dudas

On the one hand, never throughout the entire history were human beings offered such a bewildering array of opportunities to foster personal growth, accumulate wealth or build great nations. Each time I leave the new airport in New Delhi, for example, I am overwhelmed with the rapid change of the environment driven by a mind-boggling growth rate of the economy. On the other hand, never has humanity faced so much misery: A rising number of armed and violent conflicts, water and air pollution, congested highways, a rapid shift in weather conditions and the exploitation of natural resources without considering even the most basic environmental regulations.

Many scholars claim that the dramatic challenges we witness are mainly driven by two key factors: a sudden and startling surge in human population and a fast acceleration of the scientific and technological revolution, which has provided us with a sheer unimaginable power to affect the world around us. Some scholars tend to assert that new technologies, genetic engineering or other innovative products will be the keys for coping with our pressing problems. I completely disagree! Only a new leadership paradigm will remedy the current havoc.

For nearly 2000 years, the worldview has been driven by a leadership paradigm based on autonomy, separateness and control. These have also been the root metaphors influencing religion, business and science mainly in the Western world. This traditional archetype supports not only autonomy and freedom, but also control and manipulation. Nothing was wrong with such an approach, up to a point, for it was the basis for an enormous technical advancement on earth. But at the same time, this old paradigm has led us into a disaster and is now in big trouble not just that it relates to the environment, but across many fields such as politics, education and business. Already in the early 1990s, many renowned personalities emphasized that the shortcomings of command-and-control management were becoming apparent. The hierarchy of bosses organized in ranks with each superior exercising authority over subordinates who do exactly what their boss wants, has long been dominant. Many companies underwent a drastic paradigm shift in their leadership style over the last two decades. However, daily news on “poor management” suggests that not a lot of things have really changed.

What our planet needs now is a drastic shift towards a leadership paradigm embracing values such as interrelationship, cooperation, integration, balance, holism and especially love. These are exactly the values found in individuals living authentically. Such people have learned to act in accord with their core values, preferences, and needs as opposed to acting merely to please others or avoid punishments through playing a role. Such individuals have found the power of speaking up and lending a caring hand to our planet by reaching deep into their hearts. Only a huge investment of self-awareness and self-respect has nurtured their immense power to show respect for others and for the earth as a whole.

The sad news is that business, politics and education are not rewarding authenticity yet. We all are growing up in a command-and-control society, which nurtures our constant fear of not amounting to anything or loosing praise and recognition if we dare to live up to our innate principles and values. Furthermore, success in our society is still measured against the amount of money we accumulate or how fast we advance in our career, which spurs an ego-rooted rather than a heart-centered behavior. It often favors competition rather than cooperation. However, the greatest leaders of all times have set a stunning example of what one can achieve through leading from the heart. At the time of Mahatma Gandhi’s death, his personal possessions were valued at less than two dollars. His power and strength was derived from internal depths of his soul. Gandhi showed that the human heart is a source of tremendous power holding the capacity to change the course of history. We all have the birth right and even obligation to live up to our authentic self, which in turn feeds the power of living up to values so much in need, such as cooperation, appreciation and balance, and supporting a sustainable development of our planet. Since most of us stuck in the “comfort and fear zone” we need strong leaders empowering us to live authentically and promoting the strength to value respect for others. Reach deep in your heart, stand up for your true self and become one of the future leaders empowering others to reclaim their authentic presence!

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Interview with Susan Spence: ‘Online writing communities are great sources of ideas’

Today’s guest is Susan Spence, author of the historical fiction, A Story of the West.  You can visit her website at www.writing-ranch.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Susan. Can you tell us what your latest book, A Story of the West, is all about?

My book is about early day ranching that began down in Texas. During the Civil War a lot of Texans went to fight for the Confederacy, leaving their cattle to run wild. Unmanaged, their numbers quickly increased and they soon over-ran their range. After the war ended, huge herds were driven north and so began the cattle industry as we know it today. A Story of the West tells the story of one family starting a ranch in Montana Territory during this time. It is also about greed and destroying other people’s lives to have it all.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

My characters are based on people who settled the frontier. Matt Daly and his father see an opportunity when they arrive in the empty grasslands of the northern prairie. They, like others of the time, start grabbing land in an effort to control it for their own interests.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters are based on people who could have lived during the time. I may have borrowed certain traits, but basically they are from my imagination.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

This is my first novel and I was consciously aware of the choice my main character had to make, but I wrote and rewrote to figure out the body of the story. My second book is different because, instead of an event that I’m writing the story around, it’s more of a concept I want to get across.

Q: Your book is set on the prairie of Montana.  Can you tell us why you chose this place in particular?

The plot of my book revolves around cattle ranching in the American West. During the 1880s, the cattle industry was taking off as the grasslands filled with cattle brought up from Texas. Back then it was the “in” thing to invest in and people made a lot of money fattening cattle to ship back east.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The setting plays a major part in my story. Just like any get rich scheme, where greed causes people to behave unscrupulously, early cattle speculating brought out the same behavior. Back then, on the frontier, there was practically no law enforcement, so it was a free for all.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

John Daly, Matt’s father, is out checking cattle to see how they are wintering. While struggling through a snow drift, his horse is injured and he is forced to walk home, leading the limping horse through the snow, as night falls and the temperature drops.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Jake and Ed stopped their horses at one of the saloons, hoping to find a man who wasn’t yet drunk this early in the day, and that they could convince to take the job. Since they lived in primarily cattle country, it might be hard. If they had been running a cattle outfit, there would have been a line of men all the way down the street seeking work.

Matt rode up just then. The sheep men quickly looked him over before the foreman asked him, “You ever tend sheep before?”

“Nope, and I’m not lookin’ to.”

“Fifty dollars a month and keep.” The ranch owner knew his only chance of replacing the deserter was to offer the next guy more than he could make on a cattle ranch. It was a lot of money, something Matt needed.

“Will you stake me to new clothes?”

The old ranch owner looked Matt up and down again. Glancing at his boots, he could see the cowboy in front of him needed more than clothing. This fellow was definitely down on his luck. “Okay, I’ll give you a month’s wages in advance, and I expect you out at the Circle J headquarters by this evening. We’ll need to head out first thing tomorrow.”

As Matt agreed, Jake nodded to Ed. The foreman took out a wallet and handed Matt fifty dollars cash. “I’m Jake Judson and this here’s Ed Markus.”

Matt took the money. It was more than he’d seen in quite a while. “Thank you. My name’s Bill.” The men shook hands before Matt headed once more for the saloon door.

“Let’s see if we can’t find you a pair of boots.” Jake and Ed got on either side of him and steered him towards a ready-made clothing store down the street. Matt was going to get a drink first, but the two sheep men were smarter than that. Jake wasn’t going to just hand over his hard earned money to a stranger. As usual they both wanted to see that they got their money’s worth.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

When I can’t find the words or the plot fizzles in a particular spot, struggling never helps. I avoid becoming frustrated by hitting enter a couple times and moving on. Then I come back later with a clear mind and fix it.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Go outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather we’ve been having.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

Something like All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren would be a trip to write. To have the skill to write that in depth of a novel, one that holds the reader’s attention to the very end, not to mention the focus needed to see it through, is the ultimate achievement as a writer.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

Persevere. I got discouraged and gave up for a while as it became overwhelming. I have found that the online writing community is a great source of ideas and a lot of writers are willing to share their experience.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Susan.  We wish you much success!

You’re welcome. Thank you for the good wish.

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Interview with Barbara Lampert, author of ‘Charlie: A Love Story’

Barbara LampertBarbara Lampert is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in relationships. She’s been in private practice in Brentwood, California for over twenty years. She considers her work a calling and loves what she does. She has a doctorate in medical sociology and two master’s degrees – one in psychology and one in sociology. Barbara has adored dogs her whole life. They’re her passion! She notes that for a lot of people, their dogs are their best friends. She loves helping people know that’s ok – that a soul-satisfying relationship may be found with any being and needs to be treasured. Besides her love of dogs, Barbara is an avid gardener and finds herself gardening in much of her spare time. She sees her garden as a work of art. She loves being in nature – the miracle of growth, the ever-changing landscape, its beauty. Today Barbara lives happily in Malibu, California with her husband David (married twenty-eight years!) and their six-year-old Golden Retriever, Harry. Barbara hopes that Charlie: A Love Story will be a tribute not only to a magnificent dog but to all dogs everywhere. You can visit her website at www.charliealovestory.com.

Website | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Official Tour Page

ABOUT CHARLIE: A LOVE STORY

Charlie - A Love Story 2Charlie: A Love Story tells of the beautiful love between Charlie, a Golden Retriever, and the author, Barbara Lampert. It takes place in Malibu, California. When Charlie turned eleven years old and started having some health problems, a journal Barbara was keeping about her garden quickly became mostly about Charlie. Charlie: A Love Story is an intimate look at an incredible connection between a canine and a human. And as a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, Barbara brings that sensibility and understanding to Charlie’s story as well. Charlie was Barbara’s loyal confidante and best friend. He was indomitable, had a zest for life and an uncanny emotional intelligence. Charlie: A Love Story is about devotion, joy, loss, and renewal, about never giving up or giving in. But mostly it’s about an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary relationship.

Thank you for this interview, Barbara. Can you tell us what your latest book, Charlie: A Love Story, is all about? And how did you come up with the idea for your book?

Thank you so much for having me on your site! I appreciate this opportunity to connect with your readers and to talk about my beautiful dog Charlie and how his life story turned into a book.

Charlie: A Love Story came to be in a very unusual way. I had no intention of writing a book. I’d been keeping a gardening journal while landscaping almost an acre of land at my home in Malibu, noting what I had done each day, what needed to be done, what plants to buy, and so on. But when my eleven-year-old Charlie, with whom I’d been extremely close all his life, began having some health problems, that journal quickly became mostly about him. I wrote about Charlie because I was so upset about what he was going through. But what really caught my attention was his Buddha-like attitude about his life and troubles. He would literally bounce out of one situation after another with what appeared to be a smile on his face and a renewed energy, ready to live each day to its fullest and leave the past far behind. I started taking my cues from him, and knew I was in the presence of a very special being. I could not not write about him.

So my book is a journal of Charlie’s day-to-day life after he turned eleven, with a number of reminiscences of his younger years and a few anecdotes about his pack members. But mostly it’s a story about how Charlie conducted himself when he got older, about our very close and deep relationship, and about what it takes to have a good life, no matter what is going on. And as a psychotherapist specializing in relationships, I bring that sensibility to Charlie’s story. Though there are many mostly subtle messages in Charlie’s story, my book is mainly about a being unlike any other I’ve ever known.

What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?

I was going to say that I didn’t do any research for my book, but that’s not quite accurate. Let’s say I didn’t do any formal research. But I did and do read almost every dog memoir that comes out, not as research but because I just like reading them, because I passionately love all dogs. So I am very well-versed in the dog memoir world. Most of the writing of Charlie’s story was finished in 2003, long before the plethora of dog memoirs came out, but reading other dog memoirs has given me a valuable perspective about my own book.  For one thing, I know that Charlie’s story is different from any other dog memoir I’ve ever read.

Another aspect of my book that I researched involved my garden. Because Charlie’s story comes out of gardening journal, and because I mention a variety of plants and what many of them need, I asked an extremely knowledgeable horticulturist at the local nursery where I’ve purchased a great many of my plants to read my manuscript, to make sure I had my gardening and plant facts straight. Incidentally, this horticulturist’s main love is of animals, for whom he devotes the lion’s share of his energy, in many wonderful ways. I also called a well-known horticulturist who specializes in grasses about the care some of my grasses need.

If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?

That’s a difficult question, only because implicit in my book are so many messages. Actually, I recently did a fifteen-minute online radio interview on Conversations LIVE! in which I discuss the many messages in Charlie’s story. The link to that interview is:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/middayconversations/2012/03/15/author-barbara-lampert-tobin-blake-on-conversations-live#.T2HCpdb53js.facebook

Nonetheless, here are some of the more important messages in my book:

  • Hold dear any good relationship, whether it’s with a human, a dog, a cat, a bird, or any being. Relationships can comfort and heal. It’s the connection that’s important in life. Try to connect with beings who are good for you. For animal lovers, take pride in your good relationships with your pets. Those can be as important as the relationships you have with humans. And for some people, maybe more important.
  • Have hope, no matter what. Because you just never know: there’s so much that’s out of our control.
  • Forge ahead, try as hard as you can, and don’t give up until it makes total sense to do so.

Can you give us a short excerpt?

Here’s an excerpt, from my book’s prologue, that describes Charlie:

“Charlie’s a big dog, not just physically but in every way. He has a big heart, a big smile, lots of courage, a big appetite, and a great, big, generous spirit. Charlie’s the emotional core of our family, the most solid being I have ever known, and wise beyond his years.

Charlie and me. It’s a great love affair, a once-in-a-lifetime connection.”

In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it?

Yes, it’s unreasonably hard. How did I do it? Basically, perseverance! But here’s a little more detail.

The route I took is probably similar to that followed by a lot of authors, particularly first-time ones like me. At first I attempted to get an agent. I had a few bites, but from my perspective no one was a good fit. Then I tried to get a publisher interested without using an agent. I found a traditional publisher and was just about ready to sign his contract when I got a funny feeling about him and his publishing business. So I decided I did not want my very special story to be in his hands – I would have lost almost complete control over how my book was produced. I withdrew right at the very last minute and am so glad I did.

I continued looking for a small press publisher, this time focusing on one who would allow me to retain some control. I sent letters to a number of them, and a few were interested, but I was impressed with the flexibility of Langdon Street Press. They first asked for a chapter and then later for the complete manuscript. While they had a number of editing and cover design requirements, I appreciated their openness to my thinking about many aspects of my book that were most important to me. And I now can say that those requirements proved to be very good for my book.

What’s a typical day like for you?

As I said above, I’m a psychotherapist specializing in relationships. Very often before I go to work, I spend some time with Harry, my six-and-a-half-year-old Golden Retriever, mostly playing ball. I think I love the ball game almost as much as he does. I love seeing how earnest he is about it. Our game’s simplicity is beautiful (most of its rules were developed by him), and it means so much to him. Needless to say, he can play endlessly. I have to stop the game when I see him get too out of breath.

Every morning, I go for a one-hour brisk walk along the beach. And then if I have time on my work days, I’ll garden. If I’m in a writing mode, I’ll generally do that in the afternoon in my office, between patients. If I write at home, that can be at any hour.  But by nighttime, after seeing patients, I usually just want to relax and do mundane chores around the house.

What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m so busy promoting my book that I’ve not given much thought to what’s next. I do know that I have to have a passion for something before I can write about it. I have to need to write in order for the next book to happen. I love dogs and do love writing about them, and I also love gardens and gardening, so who knows. I also love the work I do as a psychotherapist – it’s my calling – but so far have not felt the need to write about it.

When the need to write strikes again, there will probably be another book!

Thank you so much for this interview, Barbara. We wish you much success!

My pleasure! Thank you so much on both counts!

 

 

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Guest Blogger: Blueberries and Bowls by Kim Antieau

Mmm blueberries.  When I think of blueberries, I think of blueberry pancakes.  Or piping hot blueberry muffins.  Mmm…mmm.  Today our guest is Kim Antieau, author of Her Frozen Wild, who has written a piece about blueberries and…bowls.  Enjoy!

Kim Antieau has written many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s SF, The Clinton Street Quarterly, The Journal of Mythic Arts, EarthFirst!, Alternet, Sage Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She was the founder, editor, and publisher of Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales. Her work has twice been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and has appeared in many Best of the Year anthologies. Critics have admired her “literary fearlessness” and her vivid language and imagination. She has had nine novels published. Her first novel, The Jigsaw Woman, is a modern classic of feminist literature. Kim lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.

Her latest book is Her Frozen Wild.

Learn more about Kim and her writing at www.kimantieau.com.

Bowls & Blueberries

By Kim Antieau

I have a thing for bowls. I am sometimes particular in my lust for bowls. I like them plain without much hoopin’ and a hollerin’. I like the ones that are white on the inside, colorful on the outside, mostly. My grandma had similar bowls, for mixing fresh pie dough and decadent cake recipes.

My husband Mario brought a blue bowl into the marriage. We called it a cereal bowl. Deep, you know, so you could stir the cereal, milk, and whatnot around with a flourish. When this blue bowl broke, I was desolate. Relative desolation, of course. American desolation. “Oh, my favorite TV program went off the air” kind of desolation. Still, I missed the old thing. It never chipped, you see. I have a thing about chipped dishes. They kind of make me shudder: It’s like seeing a chipped bone.

Seriously, though, I like my bowls. I don’t buy a lot of things. For instance, I have one pair of jeans. I have two pairs of shoes. Penny loafers, which really need replacing. And a pair of running shoes that I use for hiking. I don’t buy stuff. But I have many bowls. Forty-two, I believe, counting the mixing, serving, salad, soup, and cereal bowls. The plain bowls are my favorites. These bowls are beautiful in their simplicity.

Sometimes I open the cupboard and stare at the plain bowls. Piled on top of each other. Egg yellow, split pea, plum, blue, dusty cranberry. They’re like huge open flowers, each one spooning the next. Or bowling the next, I suppose. Almost nesting, but not quite. I like the colors. I want to take photographs of them the way I take photographs of rhododendrons: up close and personal.

Every time I make something that requires using one of these bowls, I smile. I reach for one bowl, deliberately, slowly, and take it off the pile. I look inside at the translucent white well to make certain nothing untoward has dropped inside.

When my friend Linda was ill, I asked her what she wanted to eat. She wanted pumpkin pudding. So I made it, and I used one of my big bowls. Into the bowl put in pumpkin, eggs, honey, cinnamon, and my love, and I wished for her healing. Afterward, I washed out the big bowl with reverence. What a wonderful thing it was to cradle that which nourishes us—even if it was only for a short while.

The following day, I took the pudding to Linda.

The day was blue like my blue bowl. Was the sky the color of the bowl or was the bowl the color of the sky?

Linda and I sat on weather-worn benches, the dark green grass at out ankles. Swallows swooped above us, singing their watery arias. A wren sat on a small willow tree near the large bird feeder and sang to us. Flowers grew along the fence lines, wild and brightly colored. Linda said, “I need to cut the grass and weed the flowers.” She ate the pudding as she sat sheltered by the bowl of the sky, with me alongside her.

Later that night, Linda was in so much pain that she called an ambulance. I didn’t learn about this until the next day when she called to tell me she went to the hospital. She called after she was home again. I didn’t fuss over her. She hated that. I just listened. When I got off the phone I went to the cupboards, opened the doors, and stared at the bowls. They were still beautiful. Full of memory. Potential. Color.

Then I pulled out two big mixing bowls. One was split pea colored, the other was chick yellow. Mario loved my blueberry muffins. Only they weren’t muffins. That was too much fuss to pour the mixture into a muffin tin. Too much bother to clean. So I made blueberry cake. I had the recipe memorized. First I measured out two cups of rice flour and put it in the split pea bowl. I should have sifted it, but I didn’t. I dropped in two teaspoons of baking soda, and then I stirred the dry mixture together.

In the yellow bowl, I put a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and one egg. I whisked them all together, then added 3/4 cup water. I gently poured the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.

I stirred everything together with a bamboo mixing spoon. Next, I dropped a cup (or more) of frozen blueberries into the bowl along with my love and affection. I folded the blueberries into the mixture carefully. Almost immediately the cake mixture turned blue. Not ordinary blue. But a blue-green. No, that wasn’t it. It was the color of blue that you’d imagine a mermaid’s tail would be. It was so deep and light and natural and perfect that I could only oooh and aaah. I showed it to Mario. If I were a painter, I thought, I would spend a lifetime trying to create this color. But then, why bother? Nature had already done it.

I oiled a Pyrex dish and then poured the blueberry mixture into it. I put it in the oven at 375° for about 30 minutes. I washed the mixing bowls carefully, reluctant to clean away the blueberry cosmos.

Later, I served my beloved blueberry cake. I watched Mario eating my love and affection for him along with the blueberries, egg, flour, and oil. I wondered what he would think if he knew he was eating the cosmos, too. He seemed happy as he ate.

I wished my pumpkin pudding could have made Linda happy—or eased her pain. Maybe it had for a few minutes.

Mario promised to make one of my favorite dishes on the following day: a kind of stir-fry with rice and tofu and veggies all mixed together. He would use the huge chick yellow bowl that we had not had an occasion to use yet. It would be a glorious sight, I was certain. A great feast.

“This is even better than usual,” Mario said as he ate the blueberry cake. “Did you do anything different?”

I smiled. “It’s the bowls, darlin’. It’s the bowls.”

copyright © 2012 by Kim Antieau. All rights reserved.

 

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Author Interview: Rudy A. Mazzocchi & ‘Equity of Evil’

Rudy MazzochiRudy A. Mazzocchi is best known as a medical device and biotechnology entrepreneur, inventor, and angel investor, with a history of starting new technology ventures throughout the U.S. and Europe. He’s been privileged to have the opportunity to see the newest innovations in healthcare and work with some of the most brilliant researchers, scientists and physicians in the industry.

Authoring more than 50 patents, he has helped pioneer new companies involved in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, neurosurgery and even embryonic stem-cell development. Through these efforts, he has become the recipient of many technology and business awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Healthcare and the Businessman of the Year Award.

Combining these experiences and opportunities, with thousands of hours of travel and long evenings in hotel rooms, he found the initiative to start writing a collection of medical thrillers based on true events, the first of which is entitled EQUITY of EVIL.

You can visit his website at www.rudymazzocchi.com.

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ABOUT EQUITY OF EVIL

Equity of EvilA Venture Capital Fund makes a risky investment to start a challenging new business that appears capable of reaching profitabililty with modest capital requirements. The real challenge: optimizing one of the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the World — Abortion.

Founding Partner, Roman Citrano, a successful entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, soon struggles with what he believes is his choice to establish the controversial new company. He soon realizes that he and others are but pawns on a massive, ugly chessboard being manipulated to benefit a far larger, illicit market in human organs for transplantation. Unknowingly, prime, hyper-enriched organs are spawned from the aborted fetuses and grown like hydroponic vegetables.

An unfolding world of deceit, rape, human trafficking and assassination becomes deeply personal as Roman’s sole love interest secretly uses one of his new abortion services to terminate her untimely pregnancy. When she disappears, his frantic search becomes a hellish nightmare that grows worse by the hour.

Based on true events, this bold novel involves some of the world’s oldest, most emotional and controversial issues. At the core of each matter is man’s predisposition to control and take ownership of the human spirit for the sake of profit and person gain… such is the dark and brutal new world where life becomes the equity of evil.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Rudy. Can you tell us what your latest book, EQUITY of EVIL, is all about?

 It’s a medical thriller based on true events and experiences… a rather bold story that involves some of the world’s oldest, most emotional and controversial issues; including abortion and human trafficking. But at the core of each matter is man’s predisposition to control and take ownership of the human spirit for the sake of profit or personal gain. This pursuit of “evil ownership” is what stimulated the title of the book.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Roman Citrano is our protagonist, a serial entrepreneur in the medical device industry who becomes a Venture Capitalist with a reputation of taking on high-risk new ventures. Filled with good intentions, he’s deliberate and calculating, but perhaps moves too quickly to pursue a controversial opportunity that puts many innocent people in jeopardy and nearly costs him his life. Dr. Marcus Levine, our antagonist, is a conniving, greedy clinical scientist who is central to the plans of an evil foreign syndicate who is manipulating people and companies, like pawns on a chess board, in order to monopolize the billion dollar human organ transplant market. All of the supporting characters are either victims or puppets of this evil syndicate.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

The majority of my main and supporting characters are based on the essence of real people that I’ve encountered over the years, but do not truly represent any one particular person.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

The basic plot and theme(s) of the story were well defined in my head before I started writing, but the actual “scenes” are produced as I write minute-by-minute.

Q: Your book is set in various international locations. Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?

 My personal business experiences have taken me all over the world, but the initial cities of Pittsburgh and Minneapolis are where I lived and/or started my first companies. The transition to India was a result of one of my main supporting characters… a medical research from India who was actually very similar to my original mentor when I was an undergraduate student. She was incredibly bright and caring.

Q: Do the settings play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes, I believe so. I think the contrast between the conservative and safe environment of the Midwest (Minnesota) compared to the depressed locations in India that introduces the darkness of human trafficking and prostitution was key to revealing the yin and yang, pro vs. con, and good vs. evil sides of the story.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Wow… you had to go there! Well, this was one of the more difficult scenes in the book to write, but it was designed to abruptly interrupt the notion that things were progressing as “business as usual”. This scene sets off the reader on a rollercoaster that doesn’t really end until the last scene in the book. It was not meant to focus on the atrocities against women, but the atrocities of our society. This is a brutal rape scene that occurs in a seedy part of East L.A. and the setting and timing within the story couldn’t be sugar-coated. These horrendous events occur all too often with real people within the dark side of our real world.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

“Mr. Citrano, although our justice process has been well served, understand that your acquittal is merely procedural, not something you’ve earned. You and those like you should realize that this state and this great country of ours will never allow such capitalistic activities to prevail over the Godliness of conception, birth and the right to life. Your goal of turning a profit was an inhumane and downright reckless disregard for all humanity, no matter how you justify it. I’m not interested in hearing anything you might say for yourself. Members of the jury, you are now dismissed… case adjourned.”

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Not really, but my writing process is a collection of random starts and stops, so it might be a matter of semantics.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

 Sounds boring, but “exercise”!

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

This is going to sound a bit strange, but it would be Soylent Green by Harry Harrison. It was written nearly 50 years ago, (originally poorly titled, Make Room! Make Room!). It describes a future world suffering from overpopulation, pollution, poverty, extreme hot temperatures due to something they called back then as the ‘greenhouse effect’, and depleted food resources (including fresh vegetables, meat and water). It presents a story in such a way that I hope I have done in Equity of Evil; revealing what we will potentially be dealing with in future decades and generations… forcing us to think about how we might prepare ourselves and our children to best accept and manage them. My second choice would be Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – for the same reasons.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

My approach to about everything is to “build a great team”. I could not imagine doing this without my editors, agent, publisher and publicists!

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Rudy.  We wish you much success!

 Thank you… it’s been an enlightening and enjoyable process!

 


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Interview with Jessica Chambers, author of ‘Dark Is the Sky’

Jessica ChambersJessica Chambers has been inventing stories even before she was old enough to hold a pen. She has a passion for writing contemporary novels packed with emotion, complex relationships and often a touch of mystery.

Visually impaired from birth, Jessica currently lives with her family and Staffordshire bull terrier in the English town of Windsor. In addition to devouring fiction of all genres, she loves watching TV quiz shows and admits to being extremely competitive when it comes to a game of Trivial Pursuit.

Her latest book is Dark is the Sky.

You can visit her website at www.jessicachambers.co.uk.

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About Dark is the Sky

Dark is the SkyTwelve years earlier, Olivia and Joel Cameron invited the family to spend the weekend at their new country home. Olivia hoped to provide them all with a much-needed escape from their anxiety over the recession crippling the nation; instead, the visit ended in tragedy when Scott, Joel’s wild and outrageously sexy youngest brother, was found dead. The repercussions tore the family apart.

Now, Olivia’s sister Violet has persuaded her to host a reunion. She claims it’s time they finally put the past behind them and laid their ghosts to rest. However, some wounds run too deep to heal, and some secrets are too destructive to remain hidden. Still grieving for the man she loved, Violet is determined to uncover the truth behind his death—a truth she believes lies within her own family.

As the web of deceit and hostility begins to unravel, family ties are tested to the limit, and no one will emerge unscathed.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Jessica. Can you tell us what your latest book, Dark is the Sky, is all about?

Think of it as women’s fiction with an edge, blending emotion, complex relationships and mystery.  Twelve years after tragedy tore their family apart, the Camerons are reuniting for the first time since that fateful day. They hope that they will at last be able to put the past behind them and lay their ghosts to rest, but of course, nothing is ever that simple! Some wounds run too deep to heal, and some secrets are too destructive to remain hidden. As the web of hostility and deceit begins to unravel, and the truth about what really happened on that long ago summer’s afternoon finally emerges, family ties are tested to the limit.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Oh, the Camerons are one screwed-up family with enough emotional baggage to fill an entire series of Maury! Soft-hearted Olivia does her best to hold the family reunion together amidst the devastating discovery that her husband Joel is having an affair, while her sister, a high-powered lawyer, seems intent on raking up the painful past. Long-nurtured resentment simmers between Joel and his twin, once his closest friend, and his down-trodden sister-in-law appears on the verge of nervous collapse. Through it all, Olivia and Joel’s seventeen-year-old daughter is conducting a secret relationship with her cousin. So much drama, so much fun to write!

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Before writing Dark is the Sky, I would have had no hesitation in saying that my characters come almost entirely from my imagination. In fact, this is one of the things I love most about being an author, creating multi-layered characters that will hopefully stay with readers long after they close the book. However, when I wrote the wild, outrageously sexy Scott Cameron, whose death forms the focal point of the novel, I realized there’s rather too much of my ex in him to be wholly coincidental!

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I’ve never yet attempted to write a novel without at least some idea where it’s headed. I’m just not that brave! Supposing I got halfway through and then hit an impenetrable block? No, I always like to have an outline before I start writing, although that doesn’t mean the story necessarily goes to plan. Characters have a habit of taking on a life of their own and doing things I never expected of them, in which case I simply have to let them lead me into the unknown. Scary but interesting!

Q: Your book is set in the fictional English county of Denninshire.  Can you tell us why you chose this as opposed to a real location?

As some readers may know, I suffer from a degenerative eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which has left me almost totally blind. This doesn’t generally cause a problem where my writing is concerned, but when I started work on my debut novel, Voices on the Waves, I encountered a stumbling block. The story is set in Cornwall, England, and there’s a chapter where some of the characters visit the town of St. Ives. The question was how to describe a place I’ve never actually seen. In the end, I was forced to rely on descriptions I found on the internet, but this was hardly ideal. So, when I began planning Dark is the Sky, I had a brainwave. Why not create my very own county and set my novels there? I wouldn’t be the first author to do this, and it would give me enormous freedom in so far as describing the scenery. Thus, Denninshire was born!

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Not so much in the development, no, but the setting is important, I think. The entire novel takes place in a single location, a converted farmhouse in the midst of the English countryside. Because of this, I felt it even more vital to ensure readers have a vivid mental picture of every detail, from the rustic kitchen and oak beams, to the wild grounds and tumbledown outhouses. Fingers crossed I did a good enough job!

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

We’ve jumped back in time twelve years to a balmy summer’s night before tragedy shattered their lives. The Camerons have spent a wonderful evening eating and laughing, drunk on cocktails and love, carefree despite their anxiety over the recession threatening the family business. Only Scott has any inkling of impending disaster, and even he could never have imagined that, in less than forty-eight hours, he would be dead and his family split in two.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Certainly! This scene takes place on the very evening I just described, after the rest of the family has gone to bed.

Violet’s words hang between them in a darkness thick with tension. All at once, she is perfectly sober. Arms folded on the table, now cleared of glasses, she keeps her gaze trained on Scott, standing at the edge of the patio with his back to her. Still he says nothing. Dragging on his cigarette, he stares out over the grounds as though unaware of her presence. Only the stiff set of his shoulders, outlined in the glow from the kitchen window, reveals his strain.

At last, Violet can bear the silence no longer. “Scott, did you hear me?”

“Yes.” His tone is even and he doesn’t look at her. “I heard.”

“Well, then, I meant what I said.”

“So what do you want me to do about it? I told you already—”

“Not to say it? Yes, you made that clear earlier.” Anger propels Violet to her feet. “Okay, so you don’t want to hear that I love you, you’d rather I just kept it to myself, but that doesn’t change anything. My feelings aren’t any less real because I don’t say them out loud. What do you want me to do? Turn them off and pretend they never existed?”

“That’s exactly what I want.”

“I see. Well, sorry to be an inconvenience, but, unlike you, I can’t turn my feelings on and off at will.”

Finally, Scott turns to look at her. Despite the amount he’s drunk, his expression betrays no emotion. “You have no choice. It’s never going to work between us. I’m not right for you.”

“Who are you to tell me who is and isn’t right for me? I love you. Nothing else matters.”

“Your career matters. I drink too much, smoke weed, throw my money away in casinos and lap-dancing clubs. Do you really think I’d make a suitable partner for a lawyer?”

“Aren’t you listening to me?” Violet slams a fist into the table. “I didn’t fall for you because I thought you’d make good marriage material. I suppose you’d have me end up with a fellow lawyer, or maybe an accountant. Someone safe and reliable, whose idea of a night out is a cigar and a glass of port at his club. Well, I don’t want that. I want you, suitable or not, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go hang.” She takes a step towards him, gaze intent on his face. “Don’t you love me? If you don’t, if you can look me in the eye and say it, I promise I’ll never ask you again.”

“All right,” he says. Throwing his cigarette to the ground, he crushes it viciously underfoot. “If that’s what it takes. No, Violet, I don’t love you.”

She grows still. Though mid summer, the breeze ruffling her hair carries the threat of winter. “What about the night we spent together?”

“That was just sex.” Scott walks past her towards the house. “I was at a loose end and you were available, not to mention willing. Get real, Vi. I can have any girl I choose. Why would I tie myself down, least of all to you?”

Violet blinks against the sting of tears; she mustn’t break down. “I don’t believe you really mean that.”

“You’d better believe it.” Scott pauses at the kitchen door, face hard. “You asked for the truth and I gave it to you. It’s not my fault you don’t like what you hear.” With that, he stumbles into the house and crashes the door behind him.

Thank you so much once again for giving us this interview, Jessica.  We wish you much success!

 

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