SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD!

I am beyond honored to receive several nominations for the Sunshine Blogger Award!!

Thank you, D.L. Finn, Sally Cronin, Ron Yates and Gwen Plano for the nominations!

That gives me 44 questions to answer and I’m not going to attempt to do that, so I am going to answer three questions from each blogger, focusing on the ones that are most relevant.

Gwen Plano asks:

  1. What motivates you to write? Honestly, the biggest motivation for me to write is a new inspiration for a story. If I am in the middle of one story and get a big idea for another, it takes all my patience to simply jot a few notes and keep going with what I am working on. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush I get when a new story idea arrives!
  2. Do you eavesdrop on your characters, or craft them to fit the story? This question has more than one answer. When I was writing my first four books, true stories, the characters were already created. My job was just to relate the story. But, having written several stories since then, that are pure fiction, I have to say that I definitely eavesdrop on them. In fact, I have conversations with them and have interviewed some to get answers to situations. One that comes to mind was for a book that I have written and have waiting in the wings. I couldn’t decide on my main character’s name, so I interviewed his mother (of course all of this took place in my head.) But, the result was the character’s name, Jag, and the story about why she gave him the name. She loved Mick Jagger. 🙂
  3. How do you structure your time to make room for writing? I chose this question to answer because it is such a huge ongoing issue for me. Besides still working outside the home part-time, I also write for a music magazine that involves interviewing artists as well as reviewing new music. I try to give as much time as I can every day to supporting the wonderful authors at the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB and RWISA. I have five grandchildren and make a strong effort to attend their events and spend time with them often. I also love to read and do so almost daily. I blog regularly and support other bloggers. I try to visit my various social media platforms daily. So, you can see I have a full schedule. I haven’t yet figured out how to juggle it all so that there is time for writing. Often, it gets shoved to the back burner, but I’m constantly working on improving my time management. I’m open to any and all suggestions!

Sally Cronin asks:

4. What is the most daring thing you have done? For those who have read “The Convict and the Rose,” you probably know the answer to this question. Back in the seventies, I went to Dallas with a guy who rode a Harley and was trying to get into The Banditos motorcycle club. While we were at the Dallas house, another motorcycle club threatened a war and I was put at a window with a loaded gun and told to shoot anyone that came into view. There is no way in hell I could have ever pulled that trigger. In fact, I’d never even held a gun before and I was scared out of my wits. Thankfully, it all ended without incident and the party continued. When I look back on it, there is absolutely NO doubt that I had a guardian Angel!

5. Name one item that is still on your bucket list. I have such a strong desire to visit Ireland and Scotland. It is the land of my ancestors and I am drawn there by a strong connection. When I watched Outlander, the desire grew even stronger. Someday before I leave this life, I will make that journey and I can’t wait!

Isle of Skye – Scotland

6. What is your favorite movie of all time? While I’m not a big movie buff, I do enjoy a good show that moves me in some way. I have to say “A Star Is Born” is that for me. I have seen both the one from the seventies with Kristofferson and Streisand and the newest with Lady GaGa and Bradley Cooper multiple times and will watch them again and again!

D.L. Finn Asks:

7. How long have you been blogging? I created my blog site in May 2014. However, until the last three years, it was hit and miss blogging. I got serious about it and have now made 671 posts and my following has slowly built. I believe the keys to a successful blog are consistency and content.

8. Do Blogs encourage you to purchase books? Oh yes! Most definitely! I love reading others’ reviews and that influences my decision to purchase.

9. What do you write about in your blogs and why? The answer to that question is as varied as my blogs. 🙂 I love supporting other authors and Indie music artists. So, you will find anything that relates to words in any form on my blog. In the past, I’ve posted story series on my blog. I’ve posted CD reviews on my blog as well as book reviews. Most recently, I had the inspiration to create a #TarotTuesday on my blog. The idea was taken from Taco Tuesdays where across the nation you can find Tacos for 99 cents on Tuesdays. I draw a Tarot card and tell its meaning every Tuesday. I have really enjoyed this. Not only is it a great way to learn more about Tarot, but to offer uplifting and encouraging messages.

Ron Yates Asks:

10. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer or blogger? I’ve written all my life, but I never imagined myself as an author. That was my sister’s dream, not mine. My dreams always went in the direction of music. But, after my husband passed away I felt a huge nudge to get our story told. However, it took a while before the realization hit me that I would have to tell it. I seriously thought someone else would. So, when reality set in, there was nothing for me to do but educate myself on the craft of storytelling and get to work. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

11. What do you think makes a good story? A good story must be well-written, as error-free as possible and have compelling characters that drive the plot. I read all genres and the same holds true for all. I love unforgettable characters. And while I may eventually forget some part of the plot, I never forget a character that comes alive and takes me along on the journey.

12. If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why? I realize my answer to this question is going to sound a bit strange, but it is sincere. The one person I would want to have dinner with is my deceased husband. I have so much to tell him and show him. He has grandchildren he never got to meet and I would enjoy showing him pictures. I’d love to hand him a copy of the books I wrote about us, along with the poetry and art book that was his. And I would ask him a million questions about the afterlife! Then, I would write one helluva blog to tell you all about it!

Rick and Jan Sikes

That’s it. I thank each one who nominated me for this beautiful award! I apologize for not answering all the questions, but I am huge advocate for short easy-to-read blogs.

Please take the time to visit the four bloggers who nominated me at their sites and follow them, if you don’t already!

D.L. Finn

Sally Cronin

Gwen Plano

Ron Yates

I know that here is where I am supposed to post the rules and nominate 11 more bloggers, but quite honestly, I think all the bloggers who follow my blog have been nominated already. So, I will leave it at that. Thanks so much for taking time to read my Q&A!

Jan Sikes Top-Ten Book List for 2019

AND THE WINNER IS!! I am ashamed to say that I almost forgot to draw a winner for this blog post, BUT, I saved myself at the last minute. 🙂 The winner of the $10 Amazon Gift card is Stephanie Ortiz Jenkins!! Stephanie watch your inbox! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It is always a challenge to pick just ten books from the many books I read each year. Because it was so difficult this year, I have listed a Bonus book and also some fabulous short stories. I hope you enjoy my Top Ten, and if you see a book that catches your interest, click on the purchase link and add it to your TBR list!

PURCHASE LINK: WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

PURCHASE LINK: THE MAGIC STRINGS OF FRANKIE PRESTO

PURCHASE LINK: WHATEVER IT TAKES

PURCHASE LINK: THE OUTLAW’S MAIL ORDER BRIDE

PURCHASE LINK: VOYAGE OF THE LANTERNFISH

PURCHASE LINK: END OF DAY

PURCHASE LINK: VANISHED

PURCHASE LINK: MEMOIR OF A MAD WOMAN

PURCHASE LINK: THE LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME

PURCHASE LINK: WHEN CAN I STOP RUNNING?

PURCHASE L INK: REFLECTIONS

PURCHASE LINKS: RAVE WRITER’S INT’S SOCIETY OF AUTHORS (RWISA) ANTHOLOGY VOL I

CASTE METAL

VISITORS: A SHORT STORY MYSTERY

RED EYES IN THE DARKNESS – A SHORT STORY

MEGAMAX

SLIMMER

And, last but not least, I will be giving away a $10 Amazon Gift card to some lucky person! Just leave a comment and share this post to be entered! MERRY CHRISTMAS!! HO! HO! HO!

Welcome to the #RRBC October-Ween Book, Blog & Trailer Block Party!

Hi and “WELCOME” to Rave Reviews Book Club’s BOOK, BLOG & TRAILER BLOCK PARTY  “Writing and Music!”

AND THE WINNERS ARE:

$10 AMAZON GIFT CARDS!FORREST STEPNOWSKI AND MARK BIERMAN

ONE (1) eBOOK “JEWEL”CASSIDY SALEM

ONE (1) eBOOK “A SOLDIER’S CHILDREN” – MIRIAM HURDLE

ONE (1) eBOOK “VOODOO OR DESTINY: YOU DECIDE”WATCHINGTHE DAISIES (BRIGID GALLAGHER

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL FIVE WINNERS!

If you are new to my blog, I do hope you’ll take a minute to look around and if you like what you see, please follow me!

Since this is a month-long book, blog and trailer block party, I decided I’d give your eyes a break and let your ears do the work at this stop today.

Below you’ll find a short excerpt from “JEWEL” and one from “A SOLDIER’S CHILDREN.”

am SO super proud of these short stories as JEWEL won the Grand Prize in the recent 90-Day Alpha/Omega Beginning to End Short Story Contest sponsored by the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

A SOLDIER’S CHILDREN received an honorable mention!

Now, here is an excerpt from JEWEL!

Excerpt from A SOLDIER’S CHILDREN!

And now just for fun, a tune I wrote and recorded several years ago. Enjoy!

Once again, thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of this post.  Good luck on winning my giveaways!  I’ll see you at the next stop of this awesome BLOCK PARTY!

My Short Stories Won!! #RRBC

I am truly speechless! To have TWO of my short stories as 1st and 2nd place winners in this International short story contest is beyond my belief!! I am honored and humbled!

These two stories are available on Amazon for only 99 cents!

For almost eighteen years, Jewel has known little beyond hopelessness and hunger. Barely existing in a ramshackle cabin, on the edge of a Louisiana swamp with her little sister and their mother, she sees no way to stop the downward spiral. When her mother falls gravely ill, Jewel learns that her life is about to take a drastic turn. But will it lead to joy or more devastation?
Take a heart-warming journey with Jewel as she struggles to rise from the clutches of poverty and shame.

At the tender age of fourteen, Jennifer shoulders the full responsibility of running a household and caring for her seven-year-old sister. It’s bad enough that their father is lost at war in Afghanistan, but troubles multiply when their so-called mother abandons them for another man. Hardships and struggles are constant companions. Family is whatever Jennifer can make it. That’s the way the cards have been dealt, and that’s the way she’ll play them.
This strong young girl meets every obstacle head-on, while never losing hope for a better tomorrow.

I’d be thrilled and honored if you’d pick them up today!! You can see all of my books on my Amazon Author Page!

I want to give a HUGE “Thank You” to those who have already purchased, read and reviewed these stories!

But most of all, Thank You to the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB and Nonnie Jules for providing opportunities such as this contest! And to the RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS (RWISA) because it inspires and pushes me to be a better writer!

“GRANDMOTHERS: A FORCE FOR GOOD” Blog Tour @HealthMN1 @4WillsPub #RRBC #RWISA

It is my pleasure to host Harriet Hodgson and her new book on my blog site!

Homemade Granola with Apples and Cinnamon: Fresher, Healthier, Cheaper

Grocery stores carry many kinds of granola. All are tempting. When you read the ingredients label, you may discover the granola is high in fat, sugar, and salt. Some consumers find store-bought granola hard to chew because it’s not fresh. What’s a shopper to do? Making your own granola is the answer.

I came across this recipe years ago and modified it to suit my tastes and health needs. It has no salt and is lightly sweetened with honey. You make your own by adding dried fruit you like. Homemade Granola with Apples and Cinnamon tastes great on yogurt and surprisingly good on frozen yogurt.

INGREDIENTS

6 cups quick-cooking oatmeal

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ cup sliced almonds

¼ cup honey

2 tablespoons extra light olive oil

2 tablespoons apple juice

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup dried fruit of choice: chopped apples, chopped apricots, chopped cherries, currants, raisins, blueberries, or reduced sugar cranberries

METHOD

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Coat two cookie sheets with baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oatmeal, cinnamon, and almonds.
  3. In a small bowl, combine honey, olive oil, apple juice, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add wet mixture to oatmeal mixture and mix well.
  5. Pour granola into baking pans, spreading out evenly.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring several times, until granola starts to brown.
  7. Remove from oven and add dried fruit. Cool completely. Store in tightly sealed containers. Makes about 7 cups

That sounds YUMMY to me! Thank you for sharing, Harriet!

Author Bio:  Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for 38 years, is the author of thousands of print/online articles, and 37 books. Hodgson is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN.  A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, bereavement, and caregiving conferences. She lives in Rochester, Minnesota with her husband, John. Please visit www.harriethodgson.com for more information about this busy wife, mother, grandmother, caregiver, speaker, and author

Purchase Links: Amazon paperback   https://amzn.to/31Kklgs

                           Amazon eBook   https://amzn.to/31FoUt5

                           Barnes and Noble paperback   http://bit.ly/2N28jLY

                           Barnes and Noble eBook   http://bit.ly/31GeWaj

                           IndieBound paperback   http://bit.ly.2TBRpol

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  Thanks for supporting this author and her work!

#RRBC’s Spotlight Author for September – @JohnJFioravanti #RWISA

Hello, and welcome to the next stop on the RRBC Spotlight Author Blog Tour for the amazing author, John Fioravanti!

It is an honor to introduce you to John and his work!

The REFLECTIONS Blog Tour

I’m grateful to my host of this fifth post of the REFLECTIONS TOUR, and to Nonnie Jules and the #RRBC Team who arranged it all!

Reflection 26 – Love Yourself – You’re Worth It!

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

~ Buddha

Buddhism is based upon the teachings of Gautama Buddha who taught in eastern India over twenty-five centuries ago. His philosophy sought a middle way between unbridled sensuality and a-self discipline that denied any sensual pleasure. His teachings were handed down by oral tradition until put into writing four centuries later.

I read this quote twice to make sure I got it right the first time. My immediate reaction was, Really?  On reading his words a third time, there came a glimmer of understanding. As I began to see his meaning, I realized that it is my own life experience that allowed me not only to understand, but to admire his wisdom. I’m afraid that as a young man, this lesson would have completely escaped me.

We are social beings, and we search for love because it is one of our basic needs. Yet most, if not all of us, look outside of ourselves to find those worthy of our love. At this point, I’m not differentiating between familial, platonic, or romantic love relationships, because I don’t think this teaching is about any one of them. In my mind, this statement is about all of them. We look outside of ourselves for our best friends and our intimate romantic partners. What we don’t do is look within first.

Buddha is not only teaching us that we must love ourselves first, but he goes further by saying that no one is more worthy of our love than ourselves. That means that I am at least as worthy of my love as any other person I might choose. Embracing his meaning, my mind reeled… I wasn’t used to thinking along these lines!

I was raised in a culture that taught self-denial to make me worthy of God’s love. I equated self-love with selfishness – another negative characteristic that one would do well to eliminate. Christianity taught me to focus my love and good deeds outside of myself… do unto others… look after the needs of others first… are just a couple of lessons that come to mind from my early religious instruction.

How many of us grew to adulthood with a jaded view of ourselves? I was taught to control my urges – all of them – lest they lead me into sin. I’m sure this is why Buddha’s words seemed so alien to me at first; it was culture shock. When I take the time to digest this idea, it is enlightening… charity or caritas begins at home.

I’m sure we’ve all met people who suffer from self-loathing. They are not happy and they do not love others. How can they? It stands to reason that if I do not believe myself worthy of my own love, then how could I see myself as worthy of love from another; how could I trust another to be worthy of my love? On the other hand, if I accept myself, not as a perfect being, but as a worthy being, I can love myself. In loving myself, I can make choices that are good for me. I’m not talking about being self-indulgent, constantly seeking to satisfy every desire, with no consideration of the consequences. I mean that I must look after my own best interests by doing the hard work that is necessary to make me into the kind of person I wish to become! But I can’t do that unless I start by recognizing my own worthiness.

In recognizing my own worthiness to be loved by myself, I am not denying that I am a flawed being. This does not negate the fact that I get impatient easily, or that I lose my temper and hurt those around me. But I am sure that by being wise enough to love myself, I will find it easier to deal with my shortcomings more successfully. A friend has been trying to teach me this lesson for quite some time, and now, I think I understand.

In loving myself in this way, I am eminently qualified to take a lover and cherish that person in a way that testifies to their worthiness to be loved. In the same way, I am free to love another person as my best friend. Because I acknowledge my own worthiness to be loved, I can extend that caring to my best friend who will be inclined to reciprocate in kind. You reap what you sow. Because of this teaching, taken to heart and internalized, I am more open to the lessons of love – no matter what their origin.

Author Bio:

John Fioravanti is a retired secondary school educator who completed his thirty-five year career in the classroom in June, 2008.

Throughout his career, John focused on developing research, analysis, and essay writing skills in his History classroom. This led to the publication of his first non-fiction work for student use, Getting It Right in History Class. A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching is his second non-fiction work; it attempts to crystallize the struggles, accomplishments, and setbacks experienced in more than three decades of effort to achieve excellence in his chosen field.

John’s first work of fiction is Passion & Struggle, Book One of The Genesis Saga, and is set within Kenneth Tam’s Equations universe (Iceberg Publishing). He claims that, after two non-fiction books, he’s having the time of his life bringing new stories and characters to life! Book Two is Treachery & Triumph.

At present, John lives in Waterloo, Ontario with Anne, his bride of forty-six years. They have three children and three grandchildren. In December of 2013, John and Anne founded Fiora Books for the express purpose of publishing John’s books.

Connect with John via Twitter @johnjfioravanti

Thank you so much for dropping by today to support John and his work.  Please drop by the “SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR forum at RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB to find out more about John’s time in the spotlight.

If you’d like to be featured in one of the many wonderful hot-seats held by RRBC members, we invite you to JOIN US!  We’d love to have you!

How do your value yourself as a writer?

I saw something the other day about how we perceive ourselves in our everyday worlds and it got me thinking about how we see ourselves as writers. How much value do you place on yourself as a writer?

And what does that even mean? It may mean something different to each one of us because we are unique individuals. But, there are some aspects of writing that are the same for all. In this world of self-publishing where anyone can upload a book to Amazon, we have all experienced running across books that are sub-par in every aspect from grammar and punctuation to dialogue and unbelievable characters. What kind of impression does that leave with you about the writer?

I do not want to be known as a writer who produces work riddled with errors. Of course, we make mistakes. We are human. But, to gain credibility in this over-crowded industry, we must strive to make every aspect of our written communication as perfect as possible.

That doesn’t mean just our books. That means our blogs, our tweets, our facebook posts and our emails as well. It all reflects on us as self-claimed professionals.

But, in order to value our writing, we must first value ourselves!

I never thought about my self-image reflecting in my writing, especially with writing fiction. After all, it’s a made-up world with made-up people. But, the part that reflects is the pride we take in our writing. For me it all starts with a clean uncluttered writing space (again, I know we are all different). If my work space is clear, my mind is more at ease and I can get into a creative flow.

Expressing the scene we see in our minds is not always the easiest thing to do. When we start to put it into words, if we don’t choose the best descriptive words possible, the scene starts to get fuzzy around the edges and can fade. I use tools. Next to my computer, I have three reference books I grab often. “Emotional Beats” by Nicholas Rossis (who is a member of RRBC) is a fantastic tool to find a more descriptive way to show an emotion, as is “The Emotion Thesaurus” by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. Those gals know how to put it all together as does Nicholas! The third book I reach for is “Strong Verbs Strong Voice” by Ann Everett.

The saying comes to mind about doing things right the first time. Any extra effort is reflected in our work. So, even though it might take a few more minutes to reach for one of these tools, it’s worth it in the end product. And, our work is a product.

Another aspect of valuing ourselves comes from valuing others. I know that may sound strange, but it is true. Don’t compare yourself to other writers because there are always going to be writers better than you. And even if your best friend, who has been only writing since last spring, did get published, you can’t wallow in self-doubt that you’re not good enough. Take this negative comparing energy and move it towards positive creating energy. Your time will come. Get back into your chair and create! Oh, and create some good karma and congratulate your friend with love and sincerity.

When I was accepted as a member into the RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS, I knew I had to “up” my game. It is advertised and promoted as the place where the best writers within RRBC reside. And, it has been a great motivator for me. I now proof every email, tweet, FB post and blog post before I hit the publish button. Why? Because I don’t want bad writing to reflect on the organization that so kindly accepted me as a member. AND, I don’t want to be that writer who is criticized for constant grammatical errors. I do value myself as a writer!

If you want others to value you as a writer, it all starts with YOU. Take pride in your work and value what you do. I have read some of the best books in my life written by indie authors! Slowly but surely, we are breaking the misconception that all indie writers are writing slobs. And it all goes back to valuing yourself as an author!

I loved this when I ran across it. Don’t mark your price tag down. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you see yourself as a professional in an industry that is over-saturated with sloppy work. We can continue to change that one great story at a time!

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 16#RRBC #RWISA

Welcome back to the last leg of the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Blog Tour where we celebrate great writing from our RWISA Authors!

Today’s featured author is Bernard Foong!

Vignettes Parisian

By Bernard Foong

Vignettes Parisian is a collection of four short stories about the Author’s past and present experiences in the French City of Love and Romance, commonly known as Paris.

Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve

It is impossible not to have a close encounter with fashion when I am in Paris. Even if I had to wait in the freezing cold for an hour and a half to enter the Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve (Christian Dior Couturier of Dreams) exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts). My husband, Walter, and I were the lucky few who arrived early before the museum opened its doors. The late arrivals were banished to the back of the queue for a five hour wait before admission was granted.

This spectacular exhibition was worth the wait. Not only were the lives, times, and accomplishments of Christian Dior, one of the great French couturier and his successors well documented, the exquisite fashions and well-thought-out displays were equally impressive.

Since my first visit in 1966 to the French capital of romance, luxury, and fashion, my love for Paris has never waned. Before I left sunny Maui, I had designed and made a haute couture gold, silver, and black embossed velvet fleur-de-lis patterned coat to wear during my recent holiday in France. It was at this exhibition that I received compliments for my one-of-a-kind creation.   

A stranger approached me at the exhibition to buy the coat off my back because he loved what I wore. Perhaps I should be the next designer to take over the reins for this resplendent Maison – The House of Dior. After all, I am a knowledgeable and seasoned fashion designer who knows every aspect of the international fashion industry.

Shopping In Paris (Then & Now)

I am one of those blessed individuals with a pair of discerning eyes and can detect items I wish to purchase in cramped spaces on my crazy shopping sprees. It was in such a circumstance that Walter and I found ourselves in the middle of the crowded shopping Avenue, des Champs Elysées.

A sole of my shoe had divorced itself from the body of my long-lasting suedes and left me to hobble around Paris like a circus clown with flapping feet. I had to take immediate action to remedy this unanticipated situation before the remainder of my footwear disintegrated onto the wet and soggy ground, while my beloved, sniggered at my fashion malfunction.

I remembered an amusing incident that happened in 1969 at this boulevard. Back then, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fashion student. Accompanying Moi was Count Mario, an accomplished Vogue fashion photographer, Andy, my model-looking lover and Valet, and Sammy, a flamboyant young fashionista. The four of us were shopping at the avenue, that drizzly day.

To elongate his petite stature beneath his wide bell-bottom jeans, Sammy wore a pair of eight-inch-high platform shoes. He also donned a fitted denim jacket over a sassy body-hugging bodysuit. To complete his eccentric ensemble, his dyed cornflower yellow, emerald, and turquoise hair flowed behind him like an exotic mane as our quartet floated down the street.

Eyes turned in our direction as we trotted around Paris in style. Before I realized what had transpired, Sammy was flat on the pavement. Colorful socks bounced around him like raptured pom-poms. The lad had stuffed pairs of rolled-up socks inside his footwear so he could fit his tiny feet into the platforms. He had stumbled on the wet and slippery sidewalk.

Mario, wasted no time whipping out his camera to capture this unanticipated fashion faux pas, while Andy and I looked on in shock.

As if modeling for a Vogue fashion shoot, the quick-witted Sam posed this way and that on the wet thoroughfare while the photographer clicked away at the gaffe. A pedestrian circle had formed in the middle of Avenue des Champs Elysées to witness this “fashion happening.” Advertently, our friend had transformed an embarrassing situation into a photo-opt as the applauding crowd showered the boy with accolades. By the time Sammy got on his feet, he had saved his face with poise and grace.

The Magical Power of The Written Word

“Why are there beds located at different corners of the bookstore?” I asked Monsieur Mercier, an assistant at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop.

“The beds are available for writers to stay a night in Paris for free,” the man responded before he resumed, “ Are you a writer? Do you intend to stay the night?”

Surprised by the man’s inquiries, I evinced, “I am a writer. But no thank you to the lodging offer.”

“What genre of books do you write, Monsieur?” Mercier queried.

“I’m an autobiographer,” I replied. “Because of its controversial and provocative contents, my books are often classified under the Erotica genre.”

The bookseller questioned, “What are the titles of your books, and what is the author’s name?”

A HAREM BOY’S SAGA; A MEMOIR BY YOUNG. It’s a five-book series,” I declared.

“I believe we have your books in the store. Are the titles: INITIATION, UNBRIDLED, DEBAUCHERY, TURPITUDE, and METANOIA?” he promulgated.

I nodded, delighted by his information.

The Frenchman led me through a series of narrow pathways covered with volumes and pamphlets of the written word. When he finally extracted five volumes of my autobiography from a shelf, my heart nearly leaped out of my chest.

“I read the series. What a compelling teenage life you’ve led. I wish my school had a secret fraternity program like yours,” the teller quipped smilingly.

He recommenced, “Our store is a focal point of English literature in Paris. Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Richard Wright are frequent visitors. We also host literary activities, like poetry readings, writers’ meetings, book readings, writing festivals, literature festivals, photography workshops, writing groups, and Sunday tea.

“Ms. Sylvia Whitman, the owner, might invite you for a book reading at our store.”

“That will be splendid. Unfortunately, my husband and I are in Paris for a short period. Maybe we can arrange a book reading and signing session when we are in Paris again,” I proposed.

Monsieur Mercier and I had exchanged contact information before I left the Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hopefully, during my next visit to Paree, I will get to meet Madam Sylvia Whitman with a book reading and signing gig in place.

S.O.W. and R.E.A.P.

Over the years, I have been asked by many, “Why do you love Paris so much?” My reply is always the same – S.O.W.

Although the Parisian cityscape has changed over the years, these three alphabets continue to shadow my existence whenever I am in or out of Paris. S.O.W. is also a reason Walter and I chose France as our home away from home.

In the autumn of 1966, when the Simorgh (one of my Arab patriarch’s private jet) touched down in Charles de Gaulle airport, I had contracted the romance bug. Back then, the ebullient Moi, an inquisitive teenager with a quest for adventure, was whisked to the Paris Ritz Carlton in a luxurious Bentley by my host, Prince P. I had fallen head-over-heels in love and in awe with both the prince, Andy, my then chaperone and Valet, and Paris, the city of romance. That was before our entourage visited the haute couture fashion Houses of Chanel, Dior, Ungaro, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Patou, and the fancy eateries, such as Café de Flore, La Belle Époque, Maxim’s, and last but by no means least, Le Folies Bergers. Back then, these infamous Parisian establishments were places to go, to see and be seen. Nowadays, they are tourist attractions.

    Through the subsequent years, I had accompanied many princes, princesses, sheiks, sheikas, and their aristocratic Arabian entourages to the French capital. Most significantly, this city of love and romance had taught me the art of Seduction (S), Originality (O), and Wit (W). Some may say that wittiness is a congenital trait, but I purport it as a learned art of human relationships. Whatever definition one chooses to use, I had returned to this electrifying metropolis of S.O.W.; where I had sown many a wild oat. Now, with my beloved husband in tow, I’m here to R.E.A.P. its rewards.

“What the hell is R.E.A.P.?” you ask.

I will explain:

RRomance continues to exist in this alluring Capital of Love; even amid an influx of foreign refugees and political upheavals. Another series of stories, I will narrate another time.  

EElegance in this sordid city of high culture is a trait Walter and I find irresistibly seductive.

AAuthenticity is historicity in this Center of Romance. And I am not referring to the faux reproduction of the Las Vegas ‘Paris’ in Nevada, United States of America.

PParis equals Sophistication, Originality, Wit, Romance, Elegance, and Authenticity. But last and by no means least, this French capital is where Perfection reigns supreme.

PARIS – Mon Paree!

Bernard Foong (aka Young)

THE END

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Bernard Foong’s RWISA Author Page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 15#RRBC #RWISA

Welcome back to the last leg of the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Blog Tour where we celebrate great writing from our RWISA Authors!

Today, the spotlight shines on my ASPIRE TO INSPIRE co-host, Ron Yates!

Burning Out in Tokyo

By Ronald E. Yates

Clayton Brandt stood just behind the glass doors of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry building waiting for a let-up in the storm that pummeled the hot Tokyo pavement. Wisps of vapor rose into the air as the rain hit the warm ground.

He searched the eight-lane boulevard in front of the MITI building for an empty taxi. He knew it could be a long wait before an empty cab came down Sakurada-Dori. Thousands of bureaucrats glutted Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district, and whenever it rained, it seemed like all of them wanted a taxi.

“Son of a bitch!” he said, his words echoing through the lobby. Two middle-aged Japanese bureaucrats standing nearby looked over at the tall foreigner. They understood that English phrase.

Clayton grinned. “Ame-ga futte imasu,” he said.

The two men looked at one another and then back at Clayton as if to say: “Yes, we can see it is raining. But is that any excuse for such a rude public outburst?”

Clayton sighed, opened his umbrella, and stepped out into the downpour. He turned right and hurried through the governmental heartland of Japan, maneuvering his 6-foot, 3-inch frame through the crowded sidewalk glutted with black and gray umbrellas. Sometimes the edge of an umbrella held by a much shorter Japanese man or woman slashed at his throat or slapped against his face. Whenever it rained, and the umbrellas came out, Clayton always felt Gulliveresque—like a giant trapped in a forest of undulating toadstools.

He looked up at the leaden April sky. The rain had drenched Tokyo for the past four days, covering the ground with a pink and white patina of delicate sakura blossoms. A slow rumble of thunder curled between the squat granite structures of Kasumigaseki. Clayton looked at his watch. It was four-thirty and the evening traffic was already crawling. He had hoped to get his story written and filed by six o’clock, but the briefing about Japan’s angry reaction to Washington’s decision to bar the U.S. government’s purchase of Japanese supercomputers had taken longer than usual.

The sky rumbled again, and bolts of lightning streaked overhead. A taxi pulled up outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare and was disgorging three Japanese bureaucrats in dark blue suits. Clayton closed his umbrella and dashed for the cab splashing through rivulets of water as he ran. The three men had barely climbed out before Clayton bolted past them and into the rear seat. He gave the driver his destination, closed his eyes, and rested his head on the seat back as the taxi inched its way back into the gridlock.

Every so often, his eyes opened just long enough to take in the somber Tokyo landscape. The perpetually gray skies of Tokyo didn’t do his already sepulchral spirit any good. In fact, very little seemed to buoy his disposition these days. He couldn’t help it. He felt depressed and probably a bit too sorry for himself. A few hours before the MITI briefing, he had suffered through another of those telephone “chats” with Max, the foreign editor of Global News Service in London about expenses and the need to cut back on costs.

“O.K., O.K. Max,” Clayton had sighed bleakly into the phone. “I get the picture.”

The exchange ended with Max suggesting that Clayton not be such a “cowboy.” A “cowboy?” Why? Just because he was from Oxford, Kansas and not Oxford, England? It wasn’t easy working for a bunch of Brits when you sounded more like Garth Brooks than Sir Laurence Olivier. But he knew what Max meant.

Clayton was an iconoclast in a profession that increasingly rewarded conformity rather than individualism. Newspapers today all looked alike, loaded with the same predictable stories about the same predictable events. It was rubber-stamp journalism practiced by rubber-stamp editors who worked for rubber-stamp publishers who worked for boards of directors who wanted twenty percent operating profit margins above all else—quality journalism be damned.

 He went over the notes he had hurriedly scribbled during the MITI briefing, searching for the lead of his story. His pen scratched heavy lines under the words “ill-conceived” and “studying our response.” Then he stuffed the notebook back into his bag.

“It’s over,” Clayton thought to himself as he watched the snarl of cars and trucks crawl along Uchibori-Dori through Kokyo-Gaien, the large plaza that fronted the walled Imperial Palace. It was as if today he had been forced finally to confront the inevitable mortality of his professional career; or at least of his particular brand of journalism. He was writing the same boring stories over and over again. Where was the challenge? The sense of accomplishment?

Clayton exhaled and gazed out the taxi window at the striated, ashen facades of drenched buildings. They reminded him of the mascara-smudged faces of women weeping at a rainy graveside.   

He closed his eyes and nudged his mind away from the depressing Tokyo landscape. Soon it was obediently shuffling through old images of another, more beguiling Asia. It was an Asia of genial evenings spent beneath traveler palms; of graceful, colonial-era hotels in Singapore and Malaysia with their chalky plaster facades and their broad verandahs peppered with rattan settees and peacock chairs; of slowly turning teakwood paddle fans that moved the heavy night air with just enough authority to create a light breeze, but not enough to obliterate the sweet scent of evening jasmine. THAT was the Asia he missed; the Orient of the past.

Yes, it was ending. Clayton could feel it. It had been a good run . . . A good career. But now the journey was ending, like a train that had roared through the night and was now pulling into its last station. How many times had he almost gotten off only to be lured back on by the promise of what lay ahead at the next stop? How many times had he been disappointed by that decision? How many times had he been rewarded? At first, the rewards outweighed the disappointments, but in recent years, as he had grown older, the regrets seemed to have gained a definite edge.

For one thing, the passengers kept changing. And the conductors. And the engineers. But what did he expect? Wasn’t that the way the world worked? What was it that Tennyson had written: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new?”

Clayton shuddered. Was he the old order? Should he be yielding? Was he burned out?

Maybe he was becoming the old order, Clayton thought. But he wasn’t burned out just yet. And if there was any yielding to do, he wanted it on his own terms. The trouble was, the gulf of time between his past glories and the imminence of the callow, computer savvy handlers in the home office who controlled his destiny was becoming almost unbridgeable.

Most of his career predated cell phones and computers. For the computer literates at Global, his life’s work might as well be stored on some remote database. As it was, he existed only in yellowing newspaper clips, aging telexes, and letters of commendation that were kept in his personal file back in London. And nobody bothered to look at that stuff anymore.

It made no difference, Clayton thought. In the mutable, evanescent province that modern journalism had become, it was ancient history. Hell, HE was ancient history. He was like a piece of old journalistic parchment—readable, but, unlike a computer, much less utilitarian.

What Clayton needed was another journalistic rush . . . A story he could get hold of and play like a newly discovered Mozart piano concerto. He needed something . . . Not to satisfy the yuppies back at Global, but to give him a reason to get back on the train and to leave the station again.

The taxi slewed to a stop like a wooden bathhouse sandal skidding along a wet tile floor. Clayton looked up. They were in front of the Kawabata Building.

“Kawabata Biru, desu,” the driver announced.

Clayton fumbled in his pocket, handed the driver a one thousand yen note, and waited for his change. Then he bolted through the swirling Tokyo rain and put his shoulder against the massive glass and steel doors of the Kawabata Building. Unlike most of Tokyo’s modern structures, the Kawabata Building didn’t have sleek automatic glass doors that hissed serpent-like and opened automatically at the approach of a human being. It was a pre-war relic—an architectural throw-back with cracked marble floors and a fading art deco interior that had somehow survived the allied bombings.

The building’s deteriorating facade, which was the color of dead autumn leaves, seemed to glower at the world—like the rumpled brow of an angry old man. But the tumble-down building had an undeniable individuality in a country that too often prized sameness, and that was the reason Clayton liked it and had refused an offer to move into one of the new glass and steel “smart buildings” that soared over Tokyo’s Otemachi district.

He paused to talk for a moment with the old woman who operated the small grocery and newsstand tucked away in the corner of the lobby. From his many conversations with her, Clayton had learned that the old woman had operated her little concession since 1938 and knew the building’s history better than anybody.

She smiled as Clayton’s towering frame bent toward her in one of those peculiar half bows that Japanese make when they are in a hurry. Japanese could do it with a certain grace; but not Clayton. When this big foreigner bowed, he always looked like he was on the verge of crashing to the ground like a gingko tree struck by lightning. Nevertheless, she liked this gaijin. Ordinarily, she merely tolerated foreigners, but this one had a solitary charm. He was big, but not threatening; assertive, but not arrogant.

“So, Oba-san, Genki datta?” Clayton asked, combining the Japanese honorific for “grandmother” with the less formal interrogative for “how are you?”

“Genki-yo,” the old woman replied. Clayton picked up a package of Pocky chocolates and placed a one hundred yen coin in the old woman’s hand.

“Sayonara,” Clayton said as he turned and scuttled toward the bank of elevators.

“Sonna ni hatarakanai ho ga ii desu!” the old woman called after him.

Clayton smiled and nodded over his shoulder. The old woman was right. He was working too hard, and where was it getting him? Back on a train to oblivion?

“Oh, get over it,” Clayton thought as the elevator door closed. “You’ve got a story to write. Feel sorry for yourself AFTER you make your friggin’ deadline! Besides, what else do you know how to do, you old hack! Burning out is not an option.”

The End

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Ron Yates’ RWISA Author Page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 14#RRBC #RWISA

Welcome back to the last leg of the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Blog Tour where we celebrate great writing from our RWISA Authors!

Today, standing in the spotlight is Author, Karen Ingalls!

NATURE SPEAKS

Why did my life spiral into darkness in a second? One minute I am married to my soulmate, a mother to a beautiful daughter, and owner of a successful bookstore. My friends asked me, “How do you have the perfect life? It is so easy for you.” They were right. I had the perfect life.

My husband was an engineer, and I opened a bookstore naming it Mile High Books offering old and new books, coffee or tea. Leather chairs and couches provided comfort to the patrons. Classical music played in the background. I loved going to my store enjoying the smell of books, coffee, and leather. 

We had our first and only child, Lynn who also loved classical music and dreamed of being a ballet dancer.

One Saturday morning, my life changed forever. I had awakened with a migraine headache, which was intolerable. It was best if I stayed in a dark, quiet room until the medication relieved the blinding pain. 

My husband, Miles volunteered to run the bookstore that fateful day. “Lynn and I can manage the bookstore today. You stay home and take care of the headache.” He leaned over and kissed me. “I love you,” were the last words I would hear him say.

I curled up, closed my eyes, and waited for the pain to go away.

A pounding on the front door and the continuous ringing of the bell awakened me. “This had better be important,” I muttered while staggering down the stairs. Two police officers with grim looks were standing on the porch. I collapsed when the words, fire, death, husband, daughter floated around my confused mind. 

My once perfect life was unbearable with the memories of it everywhere. I sold everything, bought a second-hand Volkswagen Beetle, and drove west with just the clothes on my back and a photograph of Miles, Lynn and me. I didn’t know where I was going, but I didn’t care. 

The small cabin in the foothills of Costa Mesa, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean was my new residence. It was not a home. It was a place to sleep, eat and try to escape from my past. 

The land was arid with brush, oak trees, scattered thistle weeds, and clay soil. Every evening, I walked down a short path from the cabin to a flattened area where I sat under a large oak tree and watched the sun dip into the ocean. One day at dusk, I leaned against the tree, closed my eyes and dreamed that Miles’arms were around me while we watched Lynn ballet dance on a large stage. I could hear the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

When I awoke there were two limbs embracing me, and leaves and acorns were swirling around creating Tchaikovsky’s music. “Am I still dreaming?” The bark of the trunk and the limbs was rough and uncomfortable. I squirmed and pulled at the limbs. “What is happening? This is crazy.” I yelled for someone to help me, but the only words I heard were not human.

Ginny, you are a strong woman. Use your strength to get through this storm in your life. 

I pulled the limbs off, jumped up, and looked around expecting to see someone nearby. “Is anyone here?” I yelled again. Everything was quiet. A full moon radiated light around me. 

Staring at the tree, I brushed my clothes, scratched my head, and said, “That was quite a dream, but how did those limbs wrap around me?” I shook my head trying to clear the confusion. “It was a beautiful dream of Miles and Lynn. I miss them so much.” With the sleeve of my sweater I wiped the tears. “I’ve got to get hold of myself. I’m losing my mind.” 

The voice said. That was not a dream. I am here to help you

“Oh, my God, I am going crazy. Trees don’t talk.”

Ginny, you are not going crazy. All trees talk, but humans do not listen. Do you remember your friend, Meredith who told you she talks to trees?

I nodded. “How do you…?”

I saw a friendly face of a kind, elderly man etched in the trunk. Every flora and fauna communes with humans, but they are too busy or unbelieving to listen and learn from us. 

I fell to my knees, grabbed a handful of soil, and watched it slowly stream out of my clenched fist. “This was my life. Time was going by with no troubles.” I opened my fist and let the soil out in one burst. “Then everything changed. My life was never the same. It is now an empty hand.” I sobbed and my whole body shook. 

You are strong. Your faith is like my roots: stretching wide and going deep. 

The limbs stretched out, wrapped around my shoulders and leaned me against the trunk. Miles and Lynn are speaking to you through me.

Then I heard them say, We love you and will always be with you. Follow your heart.

The limbs were gentle and comforting. The rough bark was now smooth. My tears dried up, and I drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.

The warm and bright rays of the morning sun radiated through the tree’s canopy bringing warmth to my body nestled against the oak tree. Standing up, I stretched and looked out at the blue waters of the Pacific marveling at its majesty and beauty. I smiled as the words follow your heart floated around. “Wow! That was quite a dream.” 

I walked a few steps on the path back towards the cabin. I stopped and looked back at the oak tree. “It might have all been a dream, but thank you.” 

A thistle plant with its purple flower in full bloom was further up the path. I stopped. “You are beautiful, but your spikes are sharp.” 

The spikes turned inward. Do not let fear hold you back. 

I couldn’t believe what was happening. “Now I hear a flower talking to me. I am going crazy.”

The thistle plant swayed back and forth though there was no breeze. It bent forward bringing its flower near my hands. Touch me and accept my gift of peace.

I placed my hand on the purple flower and a deep sense of serenity swept over me. For the first time since the deaths of my family I was at peace. I whispered “Thank you.”   

A short distance from the cabin porch, I saw the white silken top of a trapdoor spider’s home. I did not remember seeing it before and bent down to get a closer look. The trapdoor opened and a dark spider poked his head out. I stumbled as I tried to jump back.

The spider was small and ugly with fine hairs covering its dark brown body. He was frightening to look at, but his kind words put me at ease. You have walked by many doors, but you didn’t open them. 

“What is going on? I am hallucinating with all these voices in my head.”

You are not hallucinating. Your family is talking to you through the oak tree, the thistle and me. The spider moved back into his home and closed the trapdoor. 

For days I paced around the cabin, reliving each moment and the words about strength, peace, and opportunities. I prayed and cried. I read about mysticism and nature. 

One morning, I awoke and saw Miles and Lynn standing beside my bed. We will always be with you in your heart. Let nature continue to teach you.

The magnificent oak tree taught how to be strong of body, mind, and heart. Staying healthy and opening my arms to others became my ways of living.

I found beauty in my life and other people after removing my thorns of bitterness and self-pity. 

My cabin was a trap shutting out people until I opened its doors and made it a home and retreat center. I added rooms for guests to stay and classrooms for teaching.

I called my new endeavor Nature Speaks, helping people to commune with and learn from all aspects of nature. When people open their hearts and minds to nature there are opportunities for a richer life. 

THE END

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Karen Ingalls’ RIWSA Author Page