Saturday, June 26, 2010

The dangers of relaxing

Relaxing can be a hazard to your health.  Too much relaxing, and it might be difficult to get back into that disciplined compartmentalised state I was in.  However, relaxing is addictive.  Unfortunately.  I might get to like it too much.  Cape Town is always a blast, so much to do, so much to see, and the shopping and vibe is always great.  The money part is not so great, I spent way too much money on the way down, and now have to guard my pennies to be able to pay for the way back.  Being broke in Cape Town is not a joke.  I'm seriously considering going to the Grand Casino and playing the pokey machines there to win myself more money.  But with my luck, I might just make the casino richer, so that is probably not an option.  I guess I have to look with my eyes and not my wallet.  Sigh....Very hard when you have two kids who want you to buy them everything they like.  Maybe, I should try and continue my disciplined approach to my writing, but shift it to my shopping/money spending facet of my life.
It's been great catching up with family and friends and doing the little things that you can't do in Tanzania, like handing in Siobhan's macbook for repairs (remember, the one I accidentally spilt diet coke over) and getting the lock on the boot repaired.  Initially, I had phoned around the scrap yards to try and get a pajero boot lock mechanism out of a crashed car.  Sadly, nobody seems to crash Pajeros here.  In fact, we've only seen one other Pajero since we've been here, so maybe nobody drives Pajeros here.  I was advised to go to the Motsubishi Dealer and buy a new one.  With dollar signs blinding my vision (imagine what a fortune they would charge) I pulled into Roadrunner 24 hour locksmiths, and two hours later my boot lock was repaired for under $100!  The kids were a bit antsy that their lunch was delayed two hours, but the other bonus was that because they then only had lunch at 3pm, I didn't have to buy them dinner!
Cris, whom I know from Hubpages, took my initial cover design for my The Great Mountain to Mountain Safari book, and reworked it with his special magical touch.  I think it's come out really well.  I've started on the book, typing up the introduction etc, but need to sit down and start typing up the stuff from my notes while it is all fresh in my mind.  The problem is, the world cup football is rather distracting.  I can't help myself, I just feel compelled to watch the games and blow the vuvuzela!  Actually, the atmosphere here in Cape Town is quite electric, and I'm so pleased I've had the opportunity to be in the city during a world cup.  South Africa is doing a wonderful job hosting this world cup and making all those negative people who forecast it would be a disaster, eat their words.  I reckon, this is the most colourful, vibrant world cup ever!
Well, one more cup of coffee and then I'd better raise those sleeping kids of mine.  It is 9.35am already and half the morning has gone! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Introducing Cissy Hunt

As part of her Virtual Book Tour, Cissy Hunt, author of A Rose Blooms among the Thorns, is making a guest appearance on my blog.  She's written a great post on Domestic Abuse, which is something very close to my heart.  I've done quite a bit of research on the subject, and most of my books do have some element of abuse in them.  So, without any further's Cissy!

ABOUT ME (Cissy's bio)
I was born and grew up in Louisiana. I worked in the nursing field as a licensed practical nurse for almost 30 years. My husband and I now live in the beautiful Ozark Mountains with our two small dogs and two cats, where we love to night fish in one of the beautiful lakes here and work in our yard.

I have been an ordained minister since August of 2007. I am called to minister to hurting women who carry the emotional scars of domestic abuse.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved to write. When I couldn't express myself verbally, one only had to hand me a pen and paper and out would flow my words on to the paper.

I have written poetry most of my life and now my life-long dream has come true. I have written a book.

My book, A Rose Blooms Among the Thorns, is the story of a woman's journey from domestic abuse, through healing, to forgiveness.


My book, A Rose Blooms Among the Thorns, is about a woman’s journey from domestic abuse through healing to forgiveness. LaRae Jones, the main character is finally granted a divorce from her abusive husband, but this means nothing to James, her now ex-husband. He stalks her across the country, even goes so far as to hiring a private investigator to find her for him. LaRae stays on the run from her now ex-husband while at the same time trying to work.

This book will take you through the steps LaRae goes through on her journey to a complete healing from being in a domestic abusive relationship. It will show the reader that no one can heal over night from being in a domestic violence relationship. It will reveal hidden family secrets that LaRae discovers on her journey. It will also show the reader that no one can heal from this type of relationships on their own and that there is help out there for women who suffer in silence in domestic abuse.


My book, A Rose Blooms Among the Thorns, is a fictional story about a woman’s journey from domestic abuse through healing to forgiveness. This book covers a subject matter that is very close to my heart. the subject matter it covers is domestic violence.

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Emotional abuse is often minimized, yet it can leave deep and lasting scars. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.

Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate. It happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused--especially verbally and emotionally. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.

Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain--and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.

There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner--constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up--chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

When people think of domestic abuse, they often picture battered women who have been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked--even by the person being abused.

Understanding emotional abuse
The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.

Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.

You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse--sometimes even more so.

Even though A Rose Blooms Among the Thorns is a fictional book it is taken from my own life experiences. I chose to make it fiction rather than non-fiction because I want every woman that has gone through domestic violence to be able to relate to it. I don’t want them to just read about another woman who experience domestic violence. I wanted them to read the story and relate to it to be able to make it their own. I also want them to know that another man is not the answer to getting free of their situation that healing is their answer. They need to be free to seek healing and find their self. To find who they really are. Jumping into another relationship after domestic violence without healing 90% of the time leads to another abusive relationship. Yet, if they take the time to heal then they can find a new life that does not include domestic violence.

I would like to leave you with this exerpt from my book.
'After stepping to the podium, LaRae looked down at the urn
holding Terri’s ashes then to the picture displayed on the easel before
looking back up and beginning to speak.
“Terri never made it to true womanhood for she was only nineteen
years old when she died. She will never know what it means to be a
mother or a grandmother because her life was devalued so greatly by
her abuser that it meant nothing to him to take it. Her life was snuffed
out instantly with no thought of remorse because her life wasn’t her
own; it had been taken from her. She had become property not a human being.'

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control another. Do you know that every nine seconds a woman is assaulted and battered in this country, and 5.3
million women are abused each year, and that Domestic Violence is the single major cause of injury to women, more than muggings and car accidents combined. Fifty percent of all women murdered in the
United States are killed by a spouse or an intimate partner.
Also, over 500,000 women are stalked by an intimate partner each year. An average of about four women per day dies because of domestic violence. So you see on the day Terri died at the hands of her abuser so did three other women. Three other families in this country lost a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, or a niece.
Terri Carter is not the first nor will she be the last this town will gather together in mourning over. I wish she would be the last, I pray she would be, but until this community starts changing and becoming
aware of domestic violence; there will be more victims like Terri.

Think about it! The next service could even be held for one of your family members…maybe even one of your daughters.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

My beautiful mountain

We arrived in Cape Town, not at all tired, but ecstatically happy to finally be here after a 9 day drive.  There is something about that mountain, Table Mountain, that grabs you and draws you in.  The minute I set eyes on it as I came out of the Du Toitskloof Pass Tunnel, I could feel tears in my eyes.  I was home.

Our drive down was fantastic.  We took our time, averaging between 500-600km a day, never arriving at a destination later than 7pm, so avoided night time driving.  Siobhan hogged the big camera and took some amazing shots.  When she got bored, she took artistic shots of the inside of her mouth, eyeball etc.  I think this trip was good for our relationship.  She does drive me mad as teenagers do, and I probably ignore her more than I should.  On this trip, as she was sitting next to me all the way, it was hard to ignore her and I discovered that she does actually have a sense of humour and is quite entertaining.

My anticipated problems entering the South African border with a foreign registered car dissipated like a silent fart, leaving one wondering why all that energy was wasted getting all anxious about it.  Everywhere on the internet said I needed this highly expensive carnet de passage only obtainable from the AA in South Africa.  Other people who'd driven to South Africa said I needed it.  Getting it while living in Moshi, Tanzania proved a mission I had no time for, so I decided to chance my luck and bullshit my way across the border.  My bullshit wasn't needed.  The customs guy at the Pioneer Gate border post leaned back in his chair, stroked his beard, scratched his bum, and stamped my gate pass without looking at it.  So, I guess he never noticed that I had a foreign registed vehicle.  Of course now, as my vehicle has not been tempraily imported into South Africa, it might prove to be a hassle getting it out again.  But I'll cross that bridge in a month's time when I go through the whole thing again.

On our way back, I've decided to go back through Zimbabwe and Malawi and avoid Mozambique.  The police were so nasty in Mozambique when we were there two years ago, and I want to see the Zimbabwe Ruins again and have never been to Malawi.  Luckily, to visit those two countries, we have a Comesa which is recognised there, making it easy to drive our car across their borders and in their country.

I was going to type each days' traveling in this blog, Day 1, Day 2, etc, but we only had internet access on two of the days.  However, I've kept copious notes of keywords of interesting adventures, how much fuel, distances and so on.  Siobhan's taken heaps of photos along the way and kept a video diary.  So, I figure a book is called for.  I mean, how many single mothers with a 14 year old daughter drive 9 days alone from Kilimanjaro to Table Mountain?  Also, we found the guide book we had on Zambia a little inaccurate, distances between towns weren't given, and then of course the issue of toilets along the way.  Most guide books don't pay any attention to toilets, because guide books are written by men who just jump out of the car, stand with their back to the car, haul out their little member and point it at the nearest bush.  Women don't have that luxury.  We require a toilet, and I have made a note of our toilet adventures as well.  On the way down, I designed the book cover in my head and know exactly what it's going to look like.  I also came up with quite a few ideas for other books, I guess nine days in a car does that to you!  I just don't know where I'll find the time to do all I want to do.  I'll have to compartmentalize my life a little more to fit it all in.

Anyway, I'm going to call the book The Great MOUNTAIN to MOUNTAIN Safari.  The title will be in cursive with MOUNTAIN in thick bold letters, with a drawing of Kilimanjaro and Table Mountain above the M's.  I can't wait to do a mock up of it, and put it on my blog for feedback.  I'm quite excited about this book.  The first half will be the way down, second half will be the way up, and I think it'll be a great resource for other travelers wanting to do a similar trip.  All the talk about being dangerous was a lot of crap, to put it mildly.  We never once found ourselves to be in any danger, people all the way down in all the countries were extremely friendly and helpful.  And if there was any danger, I did have the Tazer Mobile Phone!  Seriously, more people should think about doing overland trips like this, as it's definitely a way to see Africa.  Unfortunately, the camera's battery is dead, so I have to recharge it first before I can add some photos.  So, hold your horses, some photos of our trip will be on here in a day or two.

Have a great week ahead!  I need to find a friendly mechanic to service my car.  Think she needs some love after this trip.  Geez, some of those roads...


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The week that was

It’s difficult writing in retrospect, when there’s so much going on to write about at the moment. The last ten days or so have been like a mad crazy rush, an avalanche of things that you had to just run ahead of to avoid getting trapped under the weight of, so it’s good to take the time to sit now and reflect on the week that was. While I sit and listen to the birds singing and lions grumbling somewhere to my right. Yep, you heard right. Lions. It’s 6.45am and I’m in a safari lodge in Zambia.

It seems so long ago, but the madness started with a Mexican Party, a surprise one for Theron, our school’s PE teacher. Actually, maybe before that even, earlier in the day, very early, like 5.30am. I offered to second Maggie, the school’s drama teacher, who is one of these mad types who enjoy running. She was training for the Brisbane marathon which she’ll be running in on the 4th July. So, I drove slowly behind her while she jogged in the dark, ready to jump out and protect her virtue if she was attacked. Not sure how I would do that, but the thought was there. Maybe drive over the attacker or something. Maggie is so little, she’d be able to cower between the wheels and avoid getting crushed. But, I digress. When it got lighter, I’d drive ahead and wait for her with a bottle of water at the ready, reading a great book on writing by Anne Lamont that my friend Diane gave me for my birthday. Maggie powered up the steepest of hills, peed next to the side of the road and will win any marathon. She finished about 31km in 2 hours and 50 minutes, a lot of that uphill. Definitely, a super woman, but not somebody I’d like to emulate. Staying in the car reading was more my kind of thing.

The Mexican Party was a riot, with everybody donning moustaches, drinking heaps of punch and feasting on guacamole and tortilla chips and the tenderest of tender beef fillet expertly barbecued on hot coals. There was that donkey paper mache thing, I know the name for it but it’s completely escaped my mind, which we hammered the shit out of blind-folded to try and knock the candy out. David, the art teacher, had done such a wonderful job making it, it was hard to smash. But Maggie went to her house and fetched a knobkierrie after we broke a broom handle trying to smash it, and that worked.

Sunday afternoon was a superb spread at the Bryce-Benetts in Marangu, and all these events were interspersed with me frantically working on the Yearbook. We got home to no power, which only came on again the Monday as we were leaving for school. Power on Monday and then no power again on Tuesday. When we left for school Wednesday morning, it still hadn’t come back on. I tried to phone TANESCO to find out what the situation was with the power, as we were the only house powerless in the neighbourhood. The twinkling lights of our neighbours made me roar with jealousy, rather like the lion I just heard this second. TANESCO were singularly unhelpful. The first five times I phoned, some little man said something in Swahili and put down the phone. The sixth time, he called someone who could speak a little English. “Can you see anything funny happening on your pole?” The man asked me.

“It’s dark, I can’t even see the pole,” was my somewhat short response.

As I just know the name of my street and not the plot number, I couldn’t direct them to our house to sort out the problem. “Just drive along until you see a house in darkness with a woman sitting inside with flames coming out of her ears as she’s so mad because she has no power to charge the laptop to finish the damn yearbook!” They never found our house. Either I wasn’t mad enough, or they didn’t bother to look. So we just went to bed. What else can you do when it’s so dark?

Tuesday morning I went for round three with my dentist friend at Mawenzi Hospital. This was supposed to be the last root canal treatment and then the fitting of the crown. I headed up to his surgery at the hospital with much trepidation, remembering the careless way he’d injected me so that half my throat seemed to swell shut with numbness and the bleach. How could I ever forget the bleach mouth wash? I just smell that stuff now and I want to gag. However, no injection, no bleach. He must have read my last blog! He drilled and pasted stuff on the tooth for an hour and a half, and managed to get quite a bit on my tongue so that it felt as if it was covered with hard pimples. The whole procedure – lancing the abscess, removing botched up Chinese root canal, doing a new root canal, and then a crown, cost me a grand total of $65. I don’t think I can get that much cheaper elsewhere. After scraping off the hard lumps on my tongue, I could run my tongue over my tooth and it seems okay. I’m not sure how long this crown will last, as one week later and already half of it seems to have worn away.

The power problem was finally fixed sometime Wednesday by the school’s handyman, who said he’d done a temporary repair job. He saw carbon on the pole, so he thinks there must be loose wires catching alight, so he joined them together with some tape. Charming. I hope TANESCO come and fix it properly, because that’s a helluva lot of voltage to be held together with some tape.

The yearbook was finally completed Thursday morning and I could start the big job of burning the pdf files onto cds. Making the final pdf was another headache, as I had to merge in other pdf files and let’s just say, I am now officially a pdf expert. I can do all kinds of things with a pdf. However, pdf files would not help me plan my big road trip, which I hadn’t yet had a chance to think about.

Thursday night and saying goodbye to a dear friend Diane Bowe who unfortunately heads back to the US with her family. They were only here a year, she helped Americanize The Case of Billy B, took many of the photos for the yearbook, accompanied us on our school field trips, she’ll be sadly missed.

Friday, like the rest of the week, passed in a blur. A goodbye assembly, class party, more yearbook cd copying, then the staff barbecue, and then it was time to finally catch my breath and think about the 4500km I’d be embarking on the next day. We packed our cases, made snacks for the road, headed off to school Saturday morning for a staff breakfast, couple of meetings and finally at 11.45 we hit the road. Unfortunately, not much planning, but Siobhan had the guidebook and read aloud about the places we’d be stopping off at, so that we had an idea of where we could stay.

Today is day five of our road trip. We should be heading down to Livingstone in Zambia, we’re staying at a Protea Safari Lodge, the only guests at the hotel, and they have 40 chalets! So, should head down for breakfast, then check out those growling lions, pack our car and be on our way. I’ll write more about our road trip later. I’ve been keeping copious notes and Siobhan’s been taking excellent photos along the way. Suffice to say, I’m thinking of writing a book on our trip and calling it Mountain to Mountain. Kilimanjaro to Table Mountain, get it? Everything’s been going fine, people are so friendly, and we’re having a blast. Hopefully, I’ll find the hotel’s Wireless Hotspot so that I can send this.

Luvya all!


Introducing Lorrie Struiff

Hi Cindy,

It’s such a pleasure to be here today.

For this guest spot, I thought I’d let my main character introduce herself to your readers. Okay, Rita, you’re on.


My name is Rita Muldova. Allow me to tell you a bit about my life.

I come from a long line of Roma people, some call us gypsies. My parents came to the States before I was born. At first we traveled with relatives and other families of migrant workers, setting up our pop-up trailer wherever our group could find work. My mom, Anna, would tell fortunes around the campfire in the evening while dad whittled away carving small toys for the kids. Though it was hard work, it was also a happy, carefree life.

Many in our family tree have psychic gifts, but of course custom forbids we use them for relatives, only for friends and strangers. And my mom has the most powerful gifts of our clan. I swear she has built-in radar.

When I was thirteen, Dad was offered a job as a carpenter and decided we had enough of roaming the States, so he settled us down in one place. They enrolled me in school, but with home schooling, I was ahead of the public classes.

Keyport, PA. is a nice little town, upriver from Pittsburgh, and nestled along the Monongahela River. We bought a three-bedroom trailer and lived in the rental park.

Then life got a bit tough for me. The kids in school nicknamed me “Gypsy Girl” and I was considered an oddity because of my Roma customs and traditions. A lot of jeers and taunts came my way. But, I coped. I’m proud of my Roma blood.

Two years later, Dad was killed in an auto accident while driving mom to market. Mom had this strong premonition, but Dad refused to heed her warning.

Well, life just got tougher after that. Money was scarce. Mom wrote to her older brother, Uncle Dragus, who still lived in Romania and had a small bakery. He traveled across the big pond and moved in with us. He opened another bakery and did fairly well. To supplement our money problems, Mom put out her shingle and did her crystal ball thing. Let me tell you, my mom is right on the nose with her psychic powers and she helped a lot of people. At times, she’s downright spooky.

When I left for college, Mom and Uncle Dragus borrowed money to open a quaint little restaurant in a theme mall near Keyport, sold the trailer, and moved into to the apartment above the restaurant. Mom still reads palms, tea leaves, and Uncle plays the sweetest violin music.

After college, I went to the police academy. Upon graduation, mom gave me this mystical amulet that has been handed down through our maternal bloodline. She said it would protect and help me with my chosen career path. The crystal amulet allows me to see in the eyes of a corpse the last image they saw before death. Well, let me tell you, this amulet propelled my career on the fast track. Of course I kept it a secret, but with more studying, making detective, I had to tell my chief about it. He freaked out, but promised to handle it discreetly.

That brings us to today. A serial killer is on the loose in my town and targeting prostitutes. What has me so confused is, the crystal seems to have lost its power. For some reason, it’s only showing me the person the deceased had seen before the killer struck.

That brings us up to date. I’ll let Lorrie tell you what happens next in my story.

(Excerpt first page)

Detective Rita Moldova peeked around the corner to make sure the hallway was empty. Making a quick right turn, she slipped into the autopsy lab to have a few minutes alone with the body. She tucked her white shirt tighter into her jeans and zipped her windbreaker to stay warm in the chilly room. The harsh odor of formaldehyde hit her nostrils and stung her throat.

Her heart twisted at the sight of the young, auburn-haired woman lying on the stainless steel table. A white sheet covered her to the navel; bruises blemished the once pretty face. Contusions marred the pallid skin from elbow to shoulder. The gash on the front of her neck gaped, exposing open veins and torn tissue.

Rita flipped her thick, dark braid back over her shoulder, snapped on one latex glove, leaned over the corpse, and peeled back an eyelid. In her bare hand, she clasped a star-shaped crystal hanging from the gold chain around her neck, an endowment from her maternal Roma bloodline. The crystal heated in her palm, warm energy pulsing up her arm to her shoulder. The face captured in the victim’s eye coalesced and stared back. Rita drew in a sharp breath. Bobby Driscoll! She had known him since high school, and now he worked as a uniform in her precinct. What the hell was going on?

Visit my website for more info. and to read the reviews.

Gypsy Crystal is now available in print and MultiFormat e-book at Amazon


Lorrie Unites-Struiff is a native of West Mifflin, twenty minutes from downtown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She writes short stories in different genres that have appeared in various publications and anthologies. When she is not sitting in front of her computer, she’s often found checking out bookstores, leading her writing workshops, or having lunch with local authors.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Introducing David Fingerman

The next visitor to my blog, is David Fingerman.  I should have put his post up a couple of days ago, but as I had no power for a few days, I've got a bit behind with internet stuff.  I'll try and write about the last of my dental experiences tonight.  Anyway, here he is....drum roll here....David Fingerman!

I love the quiet of writing. I’m lucky. During the day I’m the only one here (except for the cat, and she’s quiet most of the time). Sometimes I’ll drop in a cd or occasionally even pull out the lps and listen to music. But often, the only sound is the gentle tapping of the keyboard as I do what I love to do – write. I dislike crowds. I feel the claustrophobia wrap itself around me just thinking about it. I left my civil service job over four years ago (holy crap! has it really been that long?) and I find getting out and mingling with strangers harder all the time. Hell, I’m just two steps from lining my walls with tin foil, wearing a metal colander, and moving my computer to under my desk. But I also want Edging Past Reality to be read. And that means getting out there and marketing. One of the ways I enjoy is to be a guest and post a blog on some kind soul's site (thank you, Cindy for allowing me to take up space on your site). Unlike many authors with something to say, I have no important message that I feel needs to be told, just a lot of fun stories that I think people would enjoy reading, especially if they liked “The Twilight Zone.”

Here's an excerpt from one of my short stories, "A Midnight Stroll."

Fog washed into the park like a tidal wave, which might be one of the reasons why I decided to take a walk. Bulbs of golden light seemed to float along the lined path through the thick air. Even up close it was hard to see the black poles that posted them in place. In fact, it was difficult to see more than three lights down as they disappeared into the mist.

Maybe it wasn't very bright of me to take a walk, what with all of the bodies that had been found in the park. But all of the bodies found had been young men, mostly hoodlums, all homeless. I was no spring chicken. In fact, I had just celebrated my seventy-second birthday. Well, celebrate isn't exactly correct. More aptly put, I turned seventy-two last Tuesday. At the assisted living home where I reside, they don't believe in fanfare for aging. It seems that most of the people there only exist, waiting for death. Not all of us, but then I'm considered one of the kids. I've still got some years left in me.

Also, there is my cane. The handle is made of lead and it's in the shape of an eagle's head. The beak curves down into a sharp hook. I'm no street-tough, but I still work out, and if threatened I'm sure that I could still swing a pretty mean stick.

I suppose that I should mention a third reason for getting out of my apartment. There has been a rash of deaths inside my building. The staff tried to tell us that it's just been a coincidence that six residents in the last month have passed. People there are old. It happens in clusters sometime. Not only did I know four of the six, but those four were in good health, and like myself, were the exceptions to the rule. They enjoyed their lives and wanted to hold off the grim reaper for as long as possible.

Then of course there was the ringer. The other night I just happened to open my door as they were rolling away victim number six. He was one that I didn't know. There wasn't any sheet covering the body, but he was in one of those heavy plastic body bags. To make it even worse, one of the orderlies who pushed the cart was yapping about how the last time he saw anything gutted like that was his last deer-hunting trip. He saw me and quickly shut his mouth, turning a shade of beet red.

Because of the obvious cover-up, I thought it might be an inside job, and I wanted to spend as little time inside as possible. These people were found in their rooms for God's sake. Where on earth can a person feel safe if not in their own home?

The damp, night air felt good against my skin, although I'd probably pay for it in the morning with my arthritis. But my legs needed the workout.

"Hey old man, pretty gutsy for you to be out on your own."

I froze. Too late to get off the path. I had been spotted, and I never heard a thing. I just had my hearing checked a couple of months ago, and the doctor said it was still good. I guess there are different definitions for good.

I slyly slid my hand down the cane. I figured if I spun around swinging, I could catch him off guard. I pivoted and made my move, swinging at what I hoped would be crotch level.

Two things caused my attempt to utterly fail. First, when I made my turn, my foot stepped off the path onto the damp grass. I slipped, and down I went. When I looked up, totally at the young man's mercy, I noticed that even had I not lost my balance, he was at least three feet away from where my cane would have whooshed through air.

Long, black, straight hair, parted in the middle, hung loosely over his shoulders. Even in the darkness I could make out his deep tan complexion. I guessed him to be Lakota Sioux, but I couldn't be sure. He tried to hold back his laughter as his black eyes looked down upon me. I'm sure that I must have looked to be quite a comical sight, and had my ankle not hurt so much, and this young man not about to kill me, I might have laughed with him.

I hoped that my face showed defiance, but I fear my mask was invisible, and I looked as scared as I felt.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Introducing Ami Blackwelder

Ami Blackwelder tells us more about her exciting book in this guest post!

The Hunted of 2060

By Ami Rebecca Blackwelder

America 2060.

Three Lovers. Two Species. One Way to Survive.

Summary: Set in Alaska in 2060, when April enters her Sophomore year at University, she thought Robert might be the love of her life, but as she discovers, she is hiding something inside her, something the rest of the world believes to have died out. She struggles with who she was and who she is becoming as she learns of a family she never knew existed and of enemies she will have to outrun, outfight or outwit to survive. As April embraces her new identity, will she have to leave the life she loves behind?

With underlining themes of how prejudice breaks human connections and animal/wildlife conservation, this novel which has received rave reviews will leave the reader flipping through the pages of April’s story.

Join the discussions for The Hunted of 2060:

contacting the author:

Praise for the Hunted of 2060:

‘I have read enough to see that you have a fine story here, Ami. I skipped a couple of chapters, but still found the whole thing very interesting. The way you have spread the story out is very good, as a book, I think you have the makings of a good seller here.’ -Fromante

‘This is a very well structured piece of writing. I very much like how you create the opening atmosphere using a good range of strong sensory descriptions. Very powerful! Also what is very good is the suspense you build by what you don’t tell. this sets up the storyline so very well. You build a very credible character in April. Great narrative, great dialogue, great book!’ -Famlavan

‘The pitch is great and the writing solid. The imagery is touchable with fluid narrative. The secret is well revealed and I liked the fact it came as a surprise to the character too. You can almost feel there is another world shivering in the background waiting to pounce.’ -Owen Quinn

‘Wow. This is a good story. I like the way you hint in chapter one that something big is wrong with April but then take your time revealing that - makes this a suspenseful read. It also makes April a sympathetic character, because she's as in the dark as much as your reader in the beginning. Well done.’ -Burgio

‘I first noticed the awesome cover; then, the story completely held my interest. In chapter 1 & 2, I was wondering what was happening to April. In chapter 3, a lot was explained. I would love to read more of this! This story has such an original twist and is already gladly backed.’ -Jenn

‘Such an interesting idea! That and you've set it in an amazing location. You write very well and I really love your style. It drew me in right away. I find the changes coming over April very intriguing, it makes me want to read on and find out what is happening. All the little details of life in this future world seem real too; so good job with your descriptions. I really enjoyed this.’ -Missy

‘This is really well written and draws the reader in right from the first sentence! Very entertaining style of writing which I love! ‘-Liz

‘Cleverly plotted and well thought-out sci-fi thriller. Characterization and dialogue all work well and the setting is very believable.’-Jim Darcy

‘I found the premise excellent and the story does not let it down. April is in a quandary as she tries to outdistance whatever changes are taking place within her. Her need for meat and hunger for comfort, the hearing and memory capabilities are finally understood as she meets her twin in ch 4. This is paced well with enough tension and narrative to flesh April and the surroundings of 2060 out nicely. The beast within is taking control, and she must learn how to accept her situation as she morphs into the hunted.’ -Suzannah Burke

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Introducing Lloyd Kaneko

As part of his Virtual Book Tour, the author Lloyd Kaneko is making a guest appearance on my blog.  Find out more about his fascinating book, Kami Jin.

As my virtual book tour draws to an end with one more guest blogging appearance with BK Walker on Immortality and Beyond ( tomorrow, June 4, I want to take this opportunity to personally thank Brandi for all the work she has done coordinating and juggling all the authors that are presently on this tour. For me, it has been a wonderful and rewarding experience and I really appreciate all the work that she had done in making this tour a reality.

In my previous appearances, I talked about myself and a little about the synopsis of the book. What I would like to do with this time is focus very little about myself, but more on the historical background of Kami Jin, a little about the meaning of the title itself, my writing thoughts behind the story and structure and what readers may expect to see in the future.

A Little About Myself and Kami Jin

For those following the tour, pardon me for being a little repetitive. My name is Lloyd Kaneko and I reside a the suburb eleven miles east of my home town of Los Angeles in the City of Whittier, named after the famed poet John Greenleaf Whittier. My inspiration for writing, however, was fostered as a sophomore in nearby Montebello High School where I received creative writing exercises during my English classes. That eventually led to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach where I learned the art of writing novels, short stories and poetry. My ultimate goal, however was to become a screenwriter while I attended classes offered by the Writers Guild of America, West.

Kami Jin originated as a screenplay concept while I was learning how to master the art of writing screen and teleplays. However, the original title was The Dying Generation. After I graduated college, I continued to work on the screenplay until I was offered a full-time position as a computer operator for an aerial photography/surveying firm in Long Beach. That was essentially the start of a technical writing career that spanned over thirty years and consumed most of my writing efforts. Occasionally, I would write articles for trade newspapers and newsletters – but my concentration would be mainly on technical and training manuals. This led to a 3-month assignment training computer operators in Algiers, Algeria.

Upon my return home, I was offered another job by an aerospace firm and worked there for over 6+ years experiencing the dark side of Corporate America and corporate politics. After that I worked for an financial institutional headquarters in the San Fernando Valley for 10 years before becoming a consultant to various other utility and engineering companies. After my last job as a training manager for a software development startup company, I was laid off and unemployed for four consecutive years. During that time, I experienced severe health issues which caused me to go on long-term disability and declared officially “retired” by the administrative judge. This opened the floodgates for my creative writing energies that had been held back for decades.

While recovering from a major operation of my cervical spine, I used the opportunity to tinker with the screenplay that had been sitting on the shelf collecting dust bunnies. After several abortive efforts, I decided, it was time to start afresh by writing the novel. The delay was, perhaps, a blessing in disguise -- for the story, not for me. It made me live though of the darkest days of my personal life having witnessed the dark and sinister side of capitalism. Much of it is well documented in Michael Moore’s movie Capitalism: A Love Story. In his movie, you didn’t see Corporate America coming to the benevolent assistance to those families in distress when they were losing their homes. Rather, they were being forced out of their domiciles with the assistance of local law enforcement. The movie falls short in failing to show viewers how people are treated when they are jobless and credit companies and banks continuing to harass their card holders in troubled times, practically blaming the card holders for losing their jobs. Then, having the audacity to permanently record comments on your credit history that you were delinquent on making payments without giving due reason why the payments couldn’t be made. Then, when you try to get a job, you are denied the opportunity because of a bad credit history when it really wasn’t your fault to begin with. After all, you were not the one to voluntarily terminate your job – that all done for you.

So while wrestling with the title, I wanted to give the subtitle of “A Manifesto from the 23rd Century.” But that was eventually dropped.

I originally wanted to entitle the novel “Paper People.” But during my title search with the U. S. Copyright Office, I found it was already claimed many times over. So, my alternative was to look for a translation. Since the protagonist was a native of a Pacific Island nation, more Asian if you will, I looked for a Japanese term that came close to the translation of paper people.

Eureka! “Kami Jin” was an exact fit, and it wasn’t claimed in the Copyright records.

Meaning of “Kami Jin”

“Kami” is a Japanese word that has a double meaning depending on how it is used and written (such as, the Kanji or Chinese character(s) that is associated with it). Read one way, it can mean “paper.” In another way, kami can also translate to “deity” or “godly.” The Japanese word “jin” translates to “person” or “people.” So, in essence, “Kami Jin” can be translated into the English title “Paper People.” But, the term “Godly Person” can also be applicable as well. My original intent was to underscore the paper people emphasis. But the plot of the story also lends itself well to the “godly person” aspect as well. So coincidentally, I was able to “kill two birds with one stone.”

Synopsis of Kami Jin

In the 23rd Century, A. Gordon Sakata observes that people of the dystopian nation of the Republic of North America are treated as discards – or, as he describes it, “kami jin (paper people).” With a national unemployment rate of 95%, people are losing their jobs daily to droids. He becomes a victim of automation, becoming homeless himself; works as a circus elephant caretaker. Eventually, he is forced into a concentration camp when war breaks out and taken into the mountains to die. As a survivalist, he becomes enlightened on the mountain and gains insights to eradicating the world of poverty and homelessness; rescued by his lovely extraterrestrial wife and transported to a distant utopian planet where he lives a heavenly new life; eventually inherits the throne as Emperor of Xychron. He then returns to Earth to save the oppressed and takes them to a land of paradise. The former earthlings consider him as the “chosen one.”

Current Issues with Kami Jin (from a reader’s perspective)

After getting some feedback from readers, I guess my experiment wasn’t very successful. My original intent was for the readers to get the impression that Gordon, through the first read, was recording events into his bionic arm. Then, just before Part II, the reader is instructed to go back to the Preface. And re-read the press release. This then, becomes author Jason Shohara’s story as dictated by Gordon’s diary after he [Gordon] travels back in time to the 21st Century after the Earth has been put back together from committing nuclear suicide. Gordon travels back in time to deliver Jason his story with hopes that he can ultimately subvert the ultimate destruction of Earth in the 23rd Century by influencing history by travelling back to the 21st Century when all the problems started.

The first third of the story was designed to put the reader in darkness. This is why Gordon appears to be pontificating – and maybe this was overly done. But it was designed to give readers and experience of what it is like to be jobless or homeless. All of a sudden, you are adrift at sea, unable to navigate, wondering what is going to become of your life. Time passes by so slowly.

Frequently, you feel like your ship is rudderless. Sometimes you feel like you’re sailing in circles often coming to the same place you were before. Then, when you think are just you are just about die, you get a glimmer of hope – a shining star that guides you to end of a dark tunnel. Your boat begins to pick up speed as it travels faster towards this light. You don’t come to the end of a journey, but the beginning of a new life, a new day.

To those readers who have already finished my book, I apologize for the confusion. I know some of you had to re-read portions of it to understand what was going on. Perhaps I should have incorporated a “How To Read This Book” section in the front of the book.

Future Planned Enhancements to the Story

Since completing the screenplay adaptation of Kami Jin, I realize that the book needs to get to a faster start. My present idea is to eliminate Gordon’s pontificating in the first third about his life and miseries in Corporate RNA and focus more on his personal and social life with Wendy (aka Kathy), expand a little more about Gordon’s experience as a circus elephant caretaker (as in the movie); and expand on Wendy’s character using more dialogue and dramatics. I think Gordon’s monologue for the first several chapters would easily put readers to sleep.

Of course, these are only my ideas. I consider my works to be a never-ending work-in-progress. As with many other artists, I’m always shaping and reshaping. And having been in a customer service oriented business for a large part of my life, I aim to please and always welcome comments to make my products better.

You can give me feedback by writing to me at my email at, or go to my forum page at my website at

Besides writing, another art for that I enjoy very much is cooking. I love to create new dishes and experiment by enhancing with variations on existing recipes. Generally, I use these same skills as I am writing. So, you might say I’m always out to create that “perfect” dish be it on the dining table or in the form of a book.

Writing Projects in Progress/Planned

I’m currently working on the prequel to Kami Jin entitled Legend of the Crescent Eagle. The story traces Gordon’s ancestors’ immigration to the United States from Napajan through Mexico during the 20th Century before World War II and will also reveal more detail about the original interplanetary voyage to Xychron in ancient history. The story will also reveal the history and origin of Gordon’s heirloom ring and the extraterrestrial materials used to make it. I do have a non-fiction book on the back-burner that is currently in research. But my primary focus are on my fiction novels and screenplay that is currently in competition.

Advice for All Writers and Readers

In Kami Jin, I painted a rather dismal look at what our resources would look like in the 23rd Century after we have over-harvested our trees leaving barren forests in our mountains. Eventually, the price of electronic devices for books will come down and I encourage writers to write for e-books and readers to invest in electronic book devices and e-books. But until that time, I want to encourage you to recycle your books properly by sending your books to friends of the library, prisons, charities and other organizations that can reuse your books. If there is nothing nearby, send them to proper book recycling centers near you where books can be properly disposed of. Please don’t send your books to the nearest land fill.

And, write to your Congressional representative and encourage him/her to support the production and farming of hemp as a cash crop and also as viable alternative source for paper. Besides paper, hemp also has other medicinal benefits and textile benefits. It is a good source of Omega 3 and 6, plus is also a good resource for clothing as an alternative or supplement to cotton. All around, it can put more people back to work. It can also put more farmers to work – and, our farmers need the work! Farmers can be a writer’s best friend, plus, we need to do all we can to save the trees!

Where You Can Get My Book:

Trade Paperback format--

E-Book –-

Also on:

Where to Find Me:








Where you can see me live in person:

Meet the Author and Book Signing

Bastet’s Kindle

Saturday, June 12 and Sunday, June 13, 2010

12:00 – 5:00 P.M. (Both days)

1501 Irving St.

(between 16th Ave. and 17th Ave.)

San Francisco, CA 94122

Telephone: (415) 731-2723

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Birhdays and Dentists

There is something about growing older that is quite depressing. Inside you still feel young, the same as you’ve always felt, you can still see yourself sitting under the table at your fifth birthday party crying with embarrassment when everybody started singing happy birthday to you. But outwardly, oh God how cruel is outwardly! Outwardly is nothing like you at all. This fat, grey, wrinkly-person is nothing like you imagined you’d turn out when you were five and sitting under the table crying at your birthday party. It’s like, the aliens invaded unbeknownst to you, and one of the damn aliens invaded your body, swallowed you whole, and that’s why now outwardly you are an alien. A strange fat wrinkly-person. It’s not actually you at all.

Birthdays creep up on you, camouflaged like a leopard hiding in a tree, and in a flash leap out at you and grab you while you are picnicking under the tree, minding your own business and getting on with your life; unaware that the leopard was looming above, stalking you. Birthdays are precious, when people wish us or celebrate with us, it reminds us that we are loved and we exist. When they forget it’s like we’re not really here, invisible, a non-entity. A figment of your own imagination. Birthdays are also a reminder that we are getting old. Forty-eight still sounds okay, like you’re in your forties, but forty-nine sounds so old, much older than just one year later. God, forty-nine means that you are nearly fifty, and fifty is well, antique. Unless of course, you are over fifty and then fifty might seem young.

This past weekend, I celebrated my ‘Not quite fifty’ birthday at a friend’s house on a sugar plantation with Kilimanjaro looming in the distance. Surrounded by friends, I felt loved, and that is what life should be all about, shouldn’t it? Food, drink and good company, celebrating your wrinkliness.

Last year I had an interesting experience with a Chinese dentist, before you get your mind in the gutter; it was an interesting DENTAL experience. Suffice to say, that the week after my fifth root canal appointment, the front half of my tooth broke off and was consumed with my bread roll. It might still be inside me as I never checked to see if it passed out. Too afraid to go back to the dentist, I struggled bravely with half a tooth, careful not to give a wide smile to anybody, lest they notice the peculiar tooth. In January, I suddenly started getting soft tissue infections in my left cheek which were extremely painful. The doctor down the road kept giving me antibiotics which didn’t do much. The infection would flare up and die down with a life of its own, so I saw no point in taking the antibiotics. Then a month or so ago, I started getting a boil on my gum above the half-tooth. One would pop it, and a few hours later it would redevelop. Sometimes I would feel another soft tissue infection, but would ignore it rather than going back to the doctor to get the same antibiotics which were more like suppositories, they were so big.

Unfortunately, Sunday night the soft tissue infection returned with a vengeance and the permanent pustule on my gum turned into an abscess. It was time, I decided, to seek the advice of a dentist. I had heard rumours of a good one in Arusha which was 90km away, and a good one in Marangu which was 30km away. I had no idea what the directions to either one were, so I asked my housekeeper who told me I should go to Mawenzi Hospital, which is a state hospital here in Moshi. Siobhan agreed to take the day off school to accompany me. It took us a good half an hour to find the hospital, the grubby dilapidated buildings spread out amongst tall shady trees. Walking across the muddy grounds, surrounded by women in brightly-coloured kangas, some carrying babies on their back, and men in their work clothes sneezing and coughing, I felt like we were in for a truly African experience, and we were not disappointed.

The dental area we were directed to, had rickety wooden benches jam-packed with people waiting their turn. It was going to be a long wait and luckily I’d brought a book to read, which Siobhan grabbed from me. We had to pay up front for the visit, a huge sum of 1000 shillings which is less than a dollar. For that I saw the dentist who looked not old enough yet to wipe his nose, and had x-rays. The dentist’s surgery had the required reclining chair, only this one was standard 1960 issue, and a table with stainless steel instruments and flies. He spoke English, which was a blessing, and instead of asking me what my dental problem was, asked Siobhan how old she was. “Fourteen,” she replied.

“Ah,” he sighed with a smile, waving his little dentist’s mirror in the air, “Then in four years time I want to engage you.”

“My tooth,” I said pointing to the half-tooth, cutting short his marriage proposal.

“Infection,” he said prodding my abscess and letting a stream of pus squirt out, “You need x-ray.” Another thirty minutes waiting for a wizened old man with a surgeon’s green mask over his mouth, to escort me into the x-ray room. To my surprise, they had an x-ray machine, a simple one mind you, but a device which could take x-rays all the same. The wizened old man shoved the little x-ray card far back on the right side of my tongue, causing my gag-reflex to take over. I tried to control it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop gagging and I thought I might throw up.

“No twisty!” The old man said sternly, “No twisty! No twisty! Bitey! You bitey!”

When he removed the x-ray card, he said I could go. “But aren’t you going to do the other side? The one with my half-tooth and the actual problem?” I asked, wondering if they put the x-ray card in one side to take the image of the other side. He didn’t respond, just forcibly pushed me back in the chair, pulled open my mouth and stuck the card on the left side of my tongue.

More waiting and then back in the dentist’s chair. “You have lesions on the root canal. Bad job, they not take out packing. Packing go bad, make tooth bad, make gum bad. All bad. Two options. One, take out packing, clean, make new root canal, put on crown. Two, pull out. Extraction. I think, save tooth is best.” The dentist smiled flashing his perfect teeth. “You can come here or go somewhere more comfortable.”

“Do you have the equipment to do it here?” I asked nervously. The dentist just smiled and waved away the flies that were sitting on his surgical instruments. “Are you qualified? Can you do it?” The words slipped out of my mouth.

“Of course,” the young dentist laughed at me, “It’s what I studied to do.”

I made the appointment for eight this morning, he said if I had an appointment I wouldn’t have to wait. I lay back in his dentist’s chair. No small talk after he’d asked where Siobhan was and why she hadn’t come along. “Open,” he instructed, brandishing a syringe with a long needle, and before I could blink stabbed me three times, spilling some of his anaesthetic in my mouth, so half of the back of my throat felt swollen and numb. It was like my breathing passage had just been divided in half. The numbness spread quickly and even my left nostril was numb, so I could only breathe through my right nostril. As the whole half of my face was numb, I couldn’t tell what he was doing, but I do know that people waiting outside for their turn would come in from time to time and have a quick chat and watch me, and the dentist would chat to them in Swahili and laugh, all the while working on my tooth while looking at his visitors. He obviously could perform a root canal blind-folded.

There was no little nurse with the sucky thing to suck up your spit. Instead, there was a plastic bucket with a green bag in that you had to spit into. The first time I spat up blood, not sure if that was from the initial injection or what. The dentist had a cup of bleach which he poured into my mouth from time to time and then I had to spit out. It smelled just like the stuff we used to bleach our white washing, and burnt the inside of my mouth. It was awful. I can still smell it on my hands where some accidentally spilt.

Now the numbness is wearing off, I feel that I have been in a fight, and someone has punched me in my face. But, only one more appointment to finish it off, so next Tuesday at 8am I’ll be in the same chair, with the same dentist waving the flies away from his shiny, and hopefully clean, stainless steel instruments.

A truly authentic African experience. Surely, some tour company can include this in their brochures for insane sado-masochistic hypochondriacal adrenalin-junkies?