Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Writing in The Time of Trump by Kenneth Weene

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For the past year, I’ve been co-writing the memoir of one of the “Lost Boys” of South Sudan. Fleeing from Arab marauders at only seven years of age, Deng found his way to the refugee camps in Ethiopia. Later, fleeing again—this time from the revolution which had taken place in Ethiopia—he returned to Sudan for a brief stint before, again in flight, he found his way to Kenya. Finally, under the auspices of Catholic Charities, he came to the United States where he finished high school and college and obtained a master’s degree. Now holding dual citizenship in his homeland of South Sudan and the United States, Deng hopes to help build bridges between his two countries.

With the recent election, Deng asked me to assist him with a new writing project. “Just a short paper to help the leadership in Juba and in the South Sudanese diaspora around the world to understand how to work with this new administration,” was his request. He followed this with an additional recognition of what might make this such a difficult task. “But Trump’s so unpredictable, I don’t know what to say.”

We met to work on this “short paper,” something my friend and writing colleague could publish in Juba and share on the social media.

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Before that meeting, I spent some time thinking about Mr. Trump and his unpredictability. Of course, I was also focusing on what I knew of South Sudan. As I thought, I reached a few conclusions. I share them here.

First, unpredictability is in the eye of the beholder. I learned that a long time ago working with the mentally ill. The behavior of even the most erratic seeming patient in the asylum could be predicted a good portion of the time if one merely started with the assumption that behavior makes sense to the individual. I might not see the reason why the severely schizophrenic youngster stuffed crepe paper in his mouth, but knowing that it made sense to him to do so immediately implied that he might stuff other bright things in as well. “Put coloring in his food and he’ll be more willing to eat,” was one obvious suggestion.

I do not suggest here that Mr. Trump is mentally ill. I’ve seen many posts and articles offering diagnoses of him. Some have even been well argued. However, I don’t necessarily think diagnoses of public figures help much. Were I to assign one to the President-Elect, it would be oppositional defiant personality. By the way, that tendency to reject anyone telling him what to do was found in another American leader, a fellow named Teddy Roosevelt, who was incredibly successful in the job.

That diagnoses leads to my first bit of advice to Deng and to the other South Sudanese who want to improve relations with the U.S. under this new regime: Don’t try to tell Mr. Trump what he has to do. Don’t try to appeal to higher principles and notions of good. That will only antagonize this new POTUS.

So, what will work? Appealing to the motivations that he exhibits as being important to him. Back to that bright colored food. What does Mr. Trump attend to? Certainly, not to advice. Certainly, not to reasoned arguments and position papers.

I came up with a list of things that appear to interest this new POTUS.

Top of my list is business and making money. Can South Sudan offer him and American business, which he sees himself as part and head of, ways to make money, significant amounts of money?

Second, what does he want to seem in the eyes of the world and especially his followers? This is a man who takes offense at Saturday Night Live. He’s thin-skinned. He needs to feel that others see him as the tough guy, the hero, fighting off the enemy. Who is that enemy? Perhaps sadly, he and the Republican party have defined the enemy as radical Islam and Sharia law. Can South Sudan help him look tough on those two branches of the Muslim tree?

Third, underneath, of whom is he most afraid? Under such bluster has to be a core of inadequacy and fear of failure. To feel safer is something we all crave, but especially this new President. As a businessman—which is his main self-identification—Mr. Trump has had many failures. In the end, the biggest threat to that identity comes from the burgeoning economy of China. To make China even more of a threat in his eyes, Trump has been forced to turn to China for both products and financing for his various businesses. This is a man who hates those to whom he feels beholden. That’s one reason why—to keep his own head from exploding with the ambivalence he feels towards his father—he understates the degree to which his success has depended on family assistance. Can South Sudan help him diminish China in a meaningful way? Can that fledgling nation help him to feel that he has done successful battle with the dragon and protected himself? That he has made the world safe for Donald Trump?

There it is, my three-pronged approach for the South Sudanese government to follow in communicating with this new American President: Offer business opportunities to make him and his peers richer; Offer a stand against radical Islam to make him appear tough; Offer a way to act against China to make him feel safer, like he is more in control. Three prongs are enough. More and the resulting approach would be too long, too complex, and require too much reading to affect a man who has little use for complexities and academia.

Were we able to put together that action plan, something that Deng could offer to the government in Juba and to South Sudanese leaders throughout the world? Yes, in just over 600 words. Deng and I put together a position paper that may well allow South Sudan’s diplomats to make a major breakthrough. That plan says nothing about the genocidal civil war that has been tearing their country apart. It says nothing about the need for American assistance to help their people.

Just three things: Make money; Stop radical Islam and Sharia; Push back China.

Now, of course, the big question: Will the leaders in Juba take time to read those carefully chosen words? That I can’t say, but what I can say with some certitude is that crafted documents such as that paper can make a difference in the world. That’s just one more reason why I will keep writing in The Time of Trump.

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In addition to the recently completed and not yet published memoir, A Journey Between Worlds, which he co-authored with Deng M. Atem, Ken Weene has published a number of books, stories, poems, and essays. To buy a book.

Finding a Sanctuary for a Novel by Steve Lindahl

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I dedicated my latest novel, Hopatcong Vision Quest, to its setting, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. The story takes place at the same location, in two different eras: the present time and the early 17th century, when the area was inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. My history with Hopatcong is important because it helps me understand the feel of riding a power boat across a crowded body of water, the serenity of paddling a canoe on smooth waters, the fun of searching for freshwater mussels in shallow water , and the thrill of competing with a best friend for the most skips of skimming stones. The lake has been a friend for most of my life.

I wonder how many others have a sanctuary near water: a different lake, a place by a river or a creek, or perhaps an ocean beach. If you’re one of those people, you understand the meditative pull of gentle water as well as the power of a storm or a flood.

My family bought the lake house in 1928. My grandfather wanted a country home, to get his family out of Brooklyn during the Polio season. He had a place in Connecticut for a time, but wasn’t happy there, so he relocated to an island on the largest lake in New Jersey. The family’s been there ever since.

Lake Hopatcong is where I spent summers when I was a child. I Learned to swim there, to sail, to explore the woodlands, to paddle a canoe, to drive a motorboat, and to take an outboard motor apart and put it back together. I grew up with my cousins and some of the best friends of my life, people I’m still close to today. When I grew a little older, it was at that lake where I met my wife.

In Hopatcong Vision Quest there is a scene where two nine year old children, a boy and a girl, go into a wooded area between a road and the shore of the lake. They are searching for an entrance hole to a muskrat burrow. This is an example of a section of the book that required research as well as a general knowledge of how it feels to approach a lake through a place where people seldom go.

The Lenape people of the late 16th, early 17th century felt a sense of respect and reverence for animals that lived both in and out of water. One of their clans was called the Turtle Clan, named after an animal that fits the description. In the book, the otter, another animal that fits, is the spirit guide of one of the main characters. So a muskrat, a third fit, was a logical animal to include in my story.

I remember, as a child, how I watched a muskrat swimming in front of our dock to a nearby shore, then disappearing into a hole in the ground. This happened many times and is an example of an experience that led to a plot choice. I never went looking for the animals with a flashlight to peer into their burrows, but I did go to the shore though the woods many times for other reasons.

I had to follow the decision to use muskrats with research. I used YouTube to be sure I understood how they swam and other sources to check on their eating habits and the time of the year when the kits are with their mother.

Hopatcong Vision Quest is a past life mystery, a story of two suspicious deaths and the use of past life regressions to discover clues. It’s about the past and present characters and their relationships: friendships, betrayals, and love. It is both a modern mystery and historical fiction, but it is also a tribute to a place for peaceful withdrawal from the troubles of the world, my own Walden Pond.

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Steve Lindahl’s first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, were published in 2009 and 2014 by All Things That Matter Press. His short fiction has appeared in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis, and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. He is currently the managing/fiction editor for Flying South, a literary magazine sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers and is also a board member of that organization.

His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Hopatcong Vision Quest is Steve’s latest novel.

BORGES REMEMBRANCE AND NOSTALGIA

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Thirty years ago no one used yet such terms as internet, e-mail, nor cell-phone in Latin America. The most advanced in technology available then for popular use was compact discs, which of course represented a luxurious expense for the great majority.

The night of June 14th, 1986, trapped inside the passionate DX mania, so strange and ancient nowadays, completely antediluvian and left behind in the last century for most of the young, I was listening to Radio Suiza Internacional, found by mere chance after playing with the dial, transmitting from Berna. The overwhelming news was: Borges, the great Jorge Luis Borges, who never received a Nobel Prize even though he deserved it much more than the great majority who had obtained it, has just died in Geneva.

That fact left a mark on us for all time to come, given that there would not be any talking of any other topic in the Special Literature subject. From the following day on, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo would be, for all of us who represented the specialty of Social Sciences, the great torture or the great passion, according to the characteristics of each of those fifteen-year-old spirits who knew little to nothing about the author of El Aleph. Assignments, monographs, expos, research, essays, mandatory readings (and for that reason not so pleasant as those that arise from the feeding need of a bibliophile) left some of Borges in us: in the case of the author of these lines were his mark, his circling ruins that from time to time raise again to involve and enfold us in oneiric worlds from which no one ever knows how to emerge, or from which one emerges, as in La Flor de Coleridge, disturbed forever and carrying material evidence brought from those orbs, forever tempted to return and disappear in the magical forcefulness of their complacent idealism.

We were only a few, of course, very few, who remained so marked by the fact, that ever since then we would never abandon the Borgesian world, because we would even discover later, as enthused as the one who makes a discovery by his own even though others have already done it before: the Kafkaesque condition of Borges’ literature, and years later the Borgesian condition of Eco’s literature.

From him it was, top and paradigm of the writer, from whom we learned that books are extensions of the thinking and the mind of the human being. The book, the magazine, the newspaper, as extensions of the thinking, must so keep that condition of word and human ideas’ vehicle, must serve as means of broadcasting of those ideas among all cultures, for only so we will be able to move forward on this cosmic journey without losing track, without getting lost nor ending up buried under the uncontainable avalanche of data and images.

Thirty years since his death, the Argentinian tiger, the most universal gaucho, still rests in Geneva, though his work and his name are now more immortal than ever. To me, though Borges did not live to see it, the current world is full of his fiction. For example, if someone wants to meet/know the aleph, they can read and read again that Borgesian tale, but can also connect to the internet from a computer or a cell phone, and in that precise moment converge at a single spot, all the spots around the world.

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Remembranza y nostalgia de Borges
Por: Rodrigo Aguilar Orejuela

Hace treinta años nadie usaba aún en Latinoamérica los términos internet, correo electrónico ni teléfono celular. Lo más adelantado de la tecnología al servicio del consumo popular suntuoso era por entonces el disco compacto, que por supuesto resultaba aún demasiado oneroso para las grandes mayorías.

La noche del 14 de junio de 1986, atrapado por la manía apasionante del diexismo, hoy tan extraña y antiquísima, tan del siglo pasado y para la mayoría de los jóvenes completamente antediluviana, escuchaba por esas casualidades del dial Radio Suiza Internacional, que transmitía desde Berna. La noticia fue contundente: Borges, el gran Jorge Luis Borges, aquél que nunca recibió el Premio Nobel aunque lo merecía mucho más que la gran mayoría de quienes lo obtuvieron, acababa de fallecer en Ginebra.

El hecho nos marcó para siempre, pues no se hablaría de otro tema en la materia de Literatura Especial. A partir del día siguiente, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo sería, para la gran mayoría de quienes conformábamos la especialidad de Ciencias Sociales, la gran tortura o la gran pasión, según las características de cada uno de esos espíritus quinceañeros que poco o nada sabían del autor de El Aleph. Trabajos, monografías, exposiciones, investigaciones, ensayos, lecturas obligadas (y por ese motivo no tan placenteras como aquellas surgidas de la propia necesidad alimenticia de un bibliófago) dejaron en nosotros algo de Borges: en el caso del autor de estas líneas fueron su marca, sus ruinas circulares que de cuando en cuando vuelven a erigirse para envolvernos e involucrarnos en mundos oníricos de los que nunca se sabe cómo emerger, o de los que se emerge, como en La Flor de Coleridge, para siempre turbados y portando pruebas materiales traídas desde aquellos orbes, para siempre tentados a retornar y desaparecer en la mágica contundencia de su idealismo complaciente.
Por supuesto que fuimos pocos, muy pocos, quienes quedamos tan marcados por el hecho, que desde entonces jamás abandonaríamos el mundo borgiano, porque además descubriríamos luego, con el entusiasmo de quien hace un descubrimiento por sí solo aunque ya otros lo hayan hecho antes: la condición kafkiana de la literatura de Borges, y años después la condición borgiana de la literatura de Eco.

Fue de él, cima y paradigma del escritor, de quien aprendimos que es el libro una extensión del pensamiento y la mente del ser humano. El libro, la revista, el diario, como extensiones del pensamiento, deben por ende mantener esa condición de vehículos de la palabra y las ideas humanas, deben servir de medios de difusión de aquellas ideas entre todas las culturas, pues solo así podremos avanzar en este viaje cósmico sin perder el rumbo, sin extraviarnos ni quedar sepultados bajo la avalancha incontenible de la información y las imágenes.

A treinta años de su deceso, el tigre argentino, el gaucho más universal, aún descansa en Ginebra, pero su obra y su nombre siguen más inmortales que nunca. Para mí, aunque Borges no vivió para verlo, el mundo actual está lleno de su ficción. Si alguien quiere conocer el aleph, por ejemplo, puede leer y releer ese relato borgiano, pero también puede conectarse desde una computadora o un teléfono celular a internet, y en ese mismo momento tener en un solo punto todos los puntos del mundo.

 

RODRIGO AGUILAR OREJUELA
Bio: (Ecuador – 1970) Writer, ghostwriter, journalist, editor, columnist, I have worked as a journalist of opinion and information for twenty five years at different press media institutions from Ecuador. In 2004 I was the absolute winner in the First National Essay Contest. My books: Colombia-Ecuador: an Example of Coexistence (2004), The Charm of Cuenca (editions in Spanish, English, French, and German, 2005), Market, Barrio and City: History of the Ninth (2009), The Hummingbird’s Flight (2011), Like a Thistle: spoken portrait of Eudoxia Estrella (2013), Monologue of a Castaway (2016).

The Story Behind the Story Trish Jackson

 

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Every story starts with an idea—that one little spark of information that triggers a blaze of creativity.

A little while ago I was walking on the beach early in the morning and as I passed a man who was in conversation with two women I heard him say, “It all started at Melanie’s slumber party in 1978.” I immediately thought what a great first line for a story.

I’m still working on that one, but ‘Scorpio’s Sting’, my next romantic suspense thriller in the Zodiac Series is in the final editing process, and will be released by my publisher soon.

Here’s the story behind Scorpio’s Sting:

Several years ago when I lived in Young, Arizona, I was sitting at my desk in the real estate office, when my friend and co-worker received a phone call. I could tell immediately that this was something serious, and as soon as she hung up, she turned to me and said that her brother in Phoenix employed an illegal immigrant from Mexico. No biggy there. Lots of people in southern border states do that. This Mexican guy, let’s call him Juan, had paid a lot of money to have his wife safely escorted over the border (illegally) so she could join him and live with him in the United States.

The men whose ‘profession’ it is to get people across our southern borders without detection by Border Patrol are known as ‘coyotes’ and they are tough, ruthless people, often affiliated with the major drug cartels who also move drugs across our borders.

In this instance, the coyote had called Juan and demanded more money. He had Juan’s wife in a remote part of the Arizona desert and threatened to abandon her there without food or water unless he was paid another three thousand dollars.

As far as I remember, my friend and her brother were able to scrape up the money and help Juan out, but I wondered how many people can’t meet the coyote’s demands. I cannot start to imagine the terror of the victims and the helplessness of their family members.

In Scorpio’s Sting, Drew McBain has developed a system he calls a Virtual Mine Field, which will be installed along our borders, and will help to stop illegal border crossings as an alternative to building a wall. The major Mexican drug cartel in the area, La Serpiente Coral Cartel stands to lose millions of dollars in human trafficking and drug revenues. They mount a ruthless campaign to stop Drew from manufacturing the product, leaving him saddened, sickened, and driven by a desperate need for revenge.

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officer Neelie Nelson has a history with the Cartel. Her Border Patrol husband was tortured and gruesomely murdered by its leader, Jose Marie Iglesias. Now cartel members are following her home every night, and she is terrified they may hurt her child.

In a strange twist of circumstances, Drew and Neelie end up having to work together with a group of undocumented (illegal) immigrants living in the sewers under the city of Los Angeles to take Iglesias and his cartel down.

I write romantic suspense, so you know they’re gonna fall in love sooner or later. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Drew McBain’s eyes opened wide, and before he could do anything to stop her, a smoking hot blonde filled his arms. “Watch it!” he said.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” she yelped.

“You should look where you’re going.” He held onto her. She smelled good, and he had just groped a delectable, firm breast. “I didn’t mean to—”

She ran her tongue over her lower lip, and for a moment their eyes met. “I’m sorry, again.” She held up the cell phone she had been checking. “My bad.  I’m late for work.”

He released his hold on her, and watched her ass until she disappeared into the darkness.

~*~

I’d love to hear where your ideas come from.

Trish Jackson writes romantic suspense thrillers and romantic comedy, and loves to

include fictional animals that are not limited to dogs in her stories.  http://www.trishjackson.com

 

THE DISAPPEARING MAGICIAN Don’t Try this at Home By Hazel Dixon-Cooper

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Instead of astounding one of his Las Vegas audiences by making an elephant disappear, Penn Jillette amazed the country by losing 104 pounds in four months.

In 2014, weighing 322 pounds and on eight different medications for hypertension, Jillette ended up in the hospital with life-threatening, uncontrollable high blood pressure. A doctor told him that if he could lose 40 pounds, he might be able to significantly reduce both his blood pressure and the medication he took. The doctor suggested bariatric surgery. Realizing that he must lose weight and change his eating habits if he was going to live, Jillette shunned the surgery but agreed to lose weight.

The magician says he does not believe in moderation. Instead of beginning a sensible and healthy weight-loss program, he called his friend, Ray Cronise, a former NASA engineer-turned-weight-loss coach. Cronise’s program is not moderate.

For the first two weeks, Jillette ate nothing but potatoes. Nothing. He could eat russets, fingerlings, Yukon Gold, or any other type he craved. He could boil them, bake them, or eat them raw. He had to eat them plain—no salt, oil, or sour cream—and was allowed up to five per day. He lost 18 pounds. Corn was next on the menu. “It tasted like candy,” Jillette said. He added other vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains over the next few weeks until he was eating 1,000 calories a day.

In addition to the potatoes-only diet, the program consisted of intermittent fasting, cold showers, and lots of sleep to trigger a metabolic winter. According to Cronise, the idea was to jump-start Jillette’s body into feeding on itself to create rapid weight loss. It worked. Over the next three months, Jillette dropped another 72 pounds. Now he eats one meal a day, usually a huge salad, in the late afternoon and all the fruit he can stuff in his face.

Jillette says he hates to exercise, and didn’t while on the program. The truth is that it was forbidden. “Why would you want someone who is 100 pounds overweight to risk injury by exercising?” said Cronise.

What injury? Does he think his clients should jump into an extreme body-building routine? Maybe the near-starvation diet and rapid weight loss made Penn Jillette too weak to exercise.
Even if you have a hundred pounds to lose, as I did, walking is a safe way to stay mobile. At first, my feet and ankles hurt so badly that I couldn’t go farther than the end of the block. I was short of breath so I shuffled. As I grew stronger, I increased the distance until I was routinely walking three to four miles a day. Our bodies are made to move.

Jillette admits that he had a 90-percent blockage in an artery in his heart. That, with his weight and dangerously high blood pressure could have been the perfect storm for either a heart attack or stroke, especially with the added stress of even moderate exercise. He had surgery to unclog the artery two months before beginning the drastic diet.

Quickly losing a huge amount of weight looks dramatic, and it’s tempting to think that you could be five or six sizes smaller within a few months. The trouble with that and every quick-fix program is that you risk your health. Rapid weight loss can set the stage for gallstones and fatty liver disease. You can lose more water and lean muscle tissue than actual fat. This is especially true if you are not helping your atrophied muscles repair themselves by exercising while you are losing. Jillette says that he did begin a mild program including riding an adult tricycle several miles a day after he lost the weight.

Exercise or not, you would think that, after such an extreme weight loss, Penn Jillette would be the first to promote this plan to anyone within earshot. Not so. Instead, he told Dr. Oz, USA Today, and a slew of others that this diet is not for everyone. In fact, he’s adamant about it. So is a line-up of physicians, nutritionists, and weight-loss experts who all agree this has done nothing but set him up for failure. Although potatoes contain natural compounds that affect inflammation, hunger, insulin, sleep, and mood, they do not provide all the nutrition your body needs to maintain health.

Ray Cronise alludes to creating the potato diet and says that he chose the starchy vegetable because it is a good source of protein. However, the concept has been around since 1849. That plan promised fat men that they would become lean and required them to stay on the potatoes-only menu for three-to-five days. More than a hundred and sixty years later, the potato diet is still being recycled as another miracle cure for obesity.

Penn Jillette has kept his weight off for a year. He’s also promoting his new book, Presto, about his experience. Right now, he’s still motivated. However, the long-term odds are against his maintaining both his current weight and his health. Ninety-five percent of people who fall for any medical, commercial, or over-the-counter weight-loss fixes are going to fail.

No miracle cure, no fad, no draconian hard-ass way to lose weight will help you keep it off. The only way that works is getting rid of your carbohydrate and fat addictions, and that is a slow process. Drive by the drive-through. Pass up the pizza. Dump the processed food and nitrate-loaded meat products. You can start as I did by gradually making healthier choices. One skipped order of French fries, one refused dessert, one trade from fried chicken to grilled halibut will start to turn your life and your health in the right direction.

There is no presto in weight loss. Just like a magic act, the promises of near-instant results are only illusions.

Noted astrologer Hazel Dixon-Cooper is known and loved by fans and astrology buffs all over the world. You can find more about her at www.hazeldixoncooper.com and easily purchase her books at https://www.amazon.com/Hazel-Dixon-Cooper/e/B001H9RFEM

3 Reasons Writing LGBTQ Fiction is Mega Rewarding

 

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Like many authors, I have lots of book ideas in my head. One of the most difficult decisions I had early on was choosing which one to start first. That started The Great Debate (trademark pending). I even made spreadsheets with pros and cons of releasing each novel. OK I made that up, but I did think about it a lot.

Finally, I decided it was the right time for my LGBTQ novel. Things today are progressing, but there’s still a lot of hate and ignorance out there. So many teenagers are struggling with their sexuality and bullying. And I really wanted to give them something that attempts to be funny and poignant at the same time. I had to say “attempts” because it’s not up to me to decide if it succeeded. SEE! I’m a humble author! For reals! Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyway, since The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren was released, I’ve realized the decision to publish it first was absolutely, one million percent correct. So many wonderful things have happened as a result of the novel being LGBTQ. And I wanted to share a few! So let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

I had the most fun LGBTQ book launch party ever!

When planning the book launch, I racked my brains on how to make it interesting yet relevant. I had some really, really bad ideas, like doing those stupid teamwork games where everyone sits on each other’s laps in a circle. Or conducting trust falls off the top rungs of ladders.

Finally, someone suggested that, because my book is set at a pray-away-the-gay school, why not take everyone there? Consequently, I made name tags for everyone that read, “My name is X and I’m a gay”. Then, I conducted the same orientation written for Sanctuary Preparatory Academy (the homophobic school in my novel). Sanctuary is WAY over-the-top with their homophobia. There are posters depicting the stereotypical signs of gays and lesbians. They even serve food like “Cleansing Corn” and “Healing Hamburgers”. With all this in mind, I made my own posters and handed out meal coupons listing some of the food. For a half hour, everyone knew what it was like to be told they were essentially evil.

The fun part was half of the attendees were straight. So I got to pull them into my world along with everyone else. And they took it so well. I even convinced a few of them to come out. OK that’s not true.

But, in the end, it was a really fun, memorable event.

I dominated a Barnes & Noble event (Mwahahaha!)

Early this summer, I was fortunate enough to attend a young adult book event at my local Barnes & Noble. I had no idea what to expect so, the day of the event, I showed up all nervous, toting my box of books. Why was I nervous? Well, although I’m proud of my novel, I did have this little worry in the back of my head about backlash. I started concocting worst-case scenarios about prejudiced people shaming my novel or throwing giant Shakespeare books at me.

When I arrived, I was put at a table with two other local authors who immediately put me at ease. They were both friendly and approachable. However, both of them were much more established than me, so I imagined giant lines forming in front of them while I filed my nails.

Nope.

First of all, the event planners got us involved, making us compete in a spelling bee against the teenagers. It was really fun, except I was one of the first people out! You can laugh, but I was given a word from Harry Potter, like densaugeo or aparecium or broom. Who in their right mind knows how to spell those?

As embarrassing as it was – all the kids laughed and one even threw some Chocolate Frogs at me, screaming, “Spell this!” – being eliminated allowed me to chat with the teens. Their interest in my book was incredible! Virtually every teen there grabbed a copy and some talked with me about their own struggles. One teenager told me about her love of writing and interest in the LGBTQ community.  She and I have since exchanged e-mails.

Although I’m kind of bragging, don’t think this is how all my events go. I had another event where I brought 20 books and left with 19. And the only reason one was gone is because I forced someone to take it for free so it at least looked like I’d sold something. See! Humble.

I got to speak with an LGBTQ school!

Late last year, a friend connected me with a man who’d founded Pride School Atlanta in Georgia. While their students are primarily LGBTQ, the school is for anyone who wants to learn in a safe, bully-free environment.

I ended up sending him copies of my book and we’ve since become friends. Last week, he invited me to be a guest speaker to his students. It was amazing! I was expecting to jump onto Skype and see two students interested in writing. Instead, I found a room full of students and teachers all asking me questions about writing, LGBTQ issues, Pokemon Go, and everything in between.

One of my favorite parts of the chat was when I held up my book. When the students saw the word ‘Gay’ in the title, they gasped and clapped. That really touched me. Young people everywhere are clamoring for fiction they can identify with. And being able to fill that gap just a little is so rewarding.

All in all, I’ll never forget their reactions, and the reactions of everyone I’ve spoken to about the novel. It made the decision to write a novel about a gay teen and a siren one of the best I’ve ever made.

 

About the Author

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

Mystic Moments by John B. Rosenman

Have you ever had a mystic moment? A cosmic or out-of-body experience beyond space and time? A spiritual moment of enlightenment, precognition, you-name-it?

Or perhaps you’ve had a moment not so grand and glorious. Perhaps you’re even a rational, logical sort who never tolerated such nuttiness until the day you saw a ghost or dreamed of an event before it occurred.

Let’s define the term mysticism. According to Wikipedia, “Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning.[web 1] It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.

Becoming one with God or the Absolute. Sometimes it depends on prayer, meditation, or what you smoke. I’ve never quite broken through in that area, but I have had a few moments or experiences which I find hard to explain logically. Perhaps after I tell you about them, you’d like to comment and share some of your own.

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1. When I was very young, I could function a little in both the conscious and unconscious realms at the same time. One night my sister Mona entered my bedroom while I was dreaming about batting against Bob Feller, the ace pitcher of the Cleveland Indians. She asked me something. I replied, “Wait till I get a hit first.” She was insistent though, and I saw Bob Feller start to fade. I could hear Mona’s footsteps as she paced back and forth, and my mother moving downstairs. I didn’t want to wake up because I was enjoying my dream. Fortunately my sister left, and Bullet Bob came back into focus. I dug in at the plate and smacked the next fastball right over the center field fence.

2. One day at Norfolk State University, I was sitting in the Honors College meeting room. I reached out to the bookcase and had an odd feeling. Whatever book I take down will help me with my next novel. I don’t know where the feeling came from, but I felt certain it would come true. My hand didn’t search long. As if guided by some force, it selected an unknown book.

When my hand came back to me, I looked at what it held. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Of course I had to read it. The Noble Prize-winning author’s novel is about Nigeria, and the European invasion and colonization of his homeland which caused the collapse (Things Fall Apart) of its culture and traditions. I had been thinking of writing a science-fiction novel about Africa, and Things Fall Apart inspired me to create a beautiful Africa-like planet among the stars. In my story, history repeats itself as it so often does. The New Europeans come to conquer and colonize The New Africa, and to hell with the natives. I call my novel A Senseless Act of Beauty. The title comes from a bumper sticker, and it’s available at http://amzn.to/2c90IaF .

3. Finally, whenever I watch Jeopardy, I can always tell a split second in advance when a Daily Double is about to appear. I just feel it in my bones. Sadly, this talent has no practical value. In fact, it’s a curse, since I can never convince my wife I possess it. Imagine what it would be like if the answers came to me a split second early! But could I do anything with such a gift, or would it be just another curse?

I believe most people have mystic moments—or whatever you want to call them. My ability is small, and I know some of you out there possess a greater gift than me, perhaps even a prodigious one. How about it, do any of you have a Third Eye or a Sixth Sense? What experiences have you had? Please comment and let me know.

Ah, I feel someone about to respond. Don’t ask me how I know–I just do.

***

A retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., John has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Turtan Trilogy, the first three novels of his Scifi-Adventure series, available at http://amzn.to/2bOjbsq/

Website: http://johnrosenman.com

Blogsite: http://johnrosenman.blogspot.com

Personal Goals by Yves Johnson

ppWe must control what we’re doing to be successful.  As we clarify our goals we are able to help steer our organizations.  It’s easy for a leader to lose her way.  The result will be disastrous.  The same can be said for the individual!

“If you don’t have personal goals, you’re controlled by those who do.” – Garrison Wynn

Imagine if we have no goals, or a list of the ‘things we want to do,’ or ‘things we want to achieve.’ Life would have absolutely no direction. That’s why goals become important — because they give our life a definite direction, force us to think about what we hope to achieve in life, and take the necessary steps to achieve the same. It helps us at several levels because while we set about achieving those goals, we also acquire numerous skills and qualities. All in all, setting goals helps in our growth as human beings.

Here are a couple of suggestions I provide participants in my seminars:

Career – What level do you want to reach in your career, or what do you want to achieve?

Financial – How much do you want to earn, by what stage? How is this related to your career goals?

Once you’ve realized what your goals are, the next step is to list them out. There are a number of ways of going about this. You can list them under categories that pertain to ‘general,’ ‘professional’ or ‘personal’ goals and then further list them out under the ‘long term’ and ‘short term’ goals. Now, you need to put some action to your goals. If you don’t, you’re not going to progress much farther.

One last question.  Are you where you want to be? How far are you away from your goals?

This is your action plan for the week. Simply write out one thing you can do to get closer to your goal. Then, complete the thing you have written down.

I hope this very brief overview can help you get started on the road towards achieving your goals. I am confident you can get there. Now, stop reading this blog and get to work on your goals. I know you can do it.

 

Yves Johnson is a Speaker an Author.  He has written two books and a varied collection of articles and blogs. He is the President of Christ Is My Savior Ministries and CEO of CornerStone Leadership Consulting.  He’s a sought out speaker and offers a wide range of leadership and development seminars for both Faith Based and non-Faith Based organizations. You can find his books at http://ow.ly/B4aGp

Island Life: Mountain Lion – by Delinda McCann

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I find something special about living on an island. Perhaps a special energy is created when water flows around a piece of land. I’m not certain what creates the special weirdness that permeates Vashon. Perhaps the whispering of the trees create an almost audible sense of the alien. Whatever the source of the funky Vashon spirit, I love it.

Now, when I talk of a Vashon spirit or special weirdness, I don’t mean that we all express this spirit in the same manner. No. Each person expresses their own special brand of Vashon Weird.

For example, this summer we have a mountain lion living on the island. I’m fairly certain I saw it over a year ago as did one other person. Since no more sightings occurred for over a year, I didn’t pay any attention to it other than checking overhanging trees for predators when I’m out walking. This summer, we’ve had a half-dozen confirmed sightings that we track in our own little facebook group. This group has become one of my greatest joys for people watching. Islanders have divided themselves into several groups.

Naturalists post links to wildlife sites where the uninformed can learn everything they want to know about our resident pumas or mountain lions or cougars as they are called in various places. The Naturalists regularly run through their little speech about how to keep safe in the woods. Woods pretty much cover the entire island. I have about a hundred trees on my one and a half acre, so the advise is needed everywhere.

The Science Deniers respond to the Naturalists by calling them names and insisting that they don’t know anything about wild animals, and the big cat is going to eat them at any moment. Delightfully, nothing anybody says gets past the Science Denier’s fantasy of immediate Armageddon triggered by one very large cat.

Fantasy Islanders seldom leave the bars. They tend to be men of a certain age. They post daily about the cougar they met in Sporty’s Bar or at the Red Bicycle. According to them this cougar tried to pick them up. I don’t have the heart to tell them that any older women in the local bars are there for a drink not for younger men who have a questionable relationship with reality. These guys have detailed descriptions of their cougar sightings that include makeup and tight pants.

The Runners just want to go running in the woods, which is one of those activities the Naturalists say is a really bad idea. One intrepid runner who may have been a former Science Denier came across the cat one morning. He described it as much bigger than he imagined. He says he yelled at it. Neighbors say he screamed like a little girl. Whatever, the cat ran into the woods and The Runner slunk home to change his underwear.

The Cougs are graduates from Washington State University. I fall into this group. When I was in school we still had a live cougar mascot named Butch. I walked by his pen every day on my way to class. Like the other students I’d stop and say hi. I know how big Cougars are and what they sound like and how interested they are in people. Butch never acknowledged greetings or bothered to wake up when we talked to him. I suggested everybody on the island learn the WSU fight song to sing while running. This is good science since one way to avoid sighting things that might soil your underwear is to make noise. Other island WSU grads have taken the opportunity to report sightings of fellow Cougs in WSU sports paraphernalia. We are not appreciated.

The Gardeners just want to grow a few vegetables, some fruit and a lots of flowers. I’m also a member of this group although The Cougs are way more fun. Anyway, we want to enjoy the products of our gardening labor and maybe make a little money selling produce at the farmer’s market. The local deer are our enemies. They eat way more than their share. They killed the strawberry farms on the island. They’ve stolen flowers from my stand at the main intersection in Burton. They stand outside our deer fences looking for a way over, under, around, and through. Gardeners FB posts run something like, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” The Naturalists assure us a mountain lion eats fewer than fifty deer a year—not enough. The Naturalists are no fun either.

The Hunters were disappointed to learn that Vashon does not have a Cougar season this year. They tell us puma tastes like chicken and discuss what caliber weapon to use despite the fact that the only hunting guns allowed on the island are shotguns.

The Perpetually Terrified have been high on adrenalin ever since the first confirmed sighting of the mountain lion. This excitable group is certain this cougar, unlike every other cougar, will be attracted by their garbage or vegetable garden. This cougar lurks on roofs waiting for juicy human prey—we taste like pork, you know. The Perpetually Terrified are Science Deniers and half support the hunters, although they don’t believe in killing. They make daily calls to the Fish and Wildlife people to report the ferocious savage predator that will eat their children and pets. The poor fish and wildlife people patiently explain that it is not a problem animal, and no, they will not come and trap it and relocate it to the mountains. The Perpetually Terrified can be identified around town by the way they constantly look-over-their-shoulders, sit-with-their-backs-to-the-wall, and wear tin-foil vests—the better to confuse an attacking predator, you know.

At the end of the day when islanders of any persuasion go out to close the barn doors and bring the dog inside, we think about the bravado of our facebook posts and secretly fear the Perpetually Terrified might be right and the cougar will leap out of the dark shadows and eat us.

 

Delinda McCann is a mostly-retired social psychologist. During her professional career she worked with at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. Her research in the field of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome led her to become an advisor to several governments. To ease the stress created by working in the disabilities field, she took up gardening. Never one to do things in a small way, Delinda now runs a small farm and sells cut flowers. She writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist. She has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.

You may purchase her books at: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Delinda+McCann
You may view her flowers, gardens and personal blog at: http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

 

I DID SURVIVE: A TRUE STORY told by Fran Lewis

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Growing up I wondered why my grandmother had trouble seeing at times, why she constantly had to check her blood levels and why she always seemed so sad and frightened. As a young child and because she was my best ally, best confidante I knew that at the age of 14 I was too young to ask her about her life as a child not of course thinking that she had something she wanted to hide. But, one day she sat me down when no one was around and explained just why my grandmother was her hero, her champion and how she came to be Mrs. Max Goldberg.

My grandmother had five sisters and all of them were in different camps during WWII. The stories she told me that I am going to relate to you as they were told to me will reopen old wounds, replay scenes from the war most would choose to forget and let everyone remember that this really did happen and we better stay on guard or it just might happen again. What was done to my grandmother was an insult to humanity and her dignity. So many suffered at the hands of a select few. Hear her voice as she relates the story behind the stone and then meet the man who did this to her as I made sure he had a stone of talc with his name written on a piece of paper pasted to the outside. It’s more than he deserves.

Here is my grandmother’s story.

My name is Katie and what I related to my granddaughter really happened to me and explains why I had so many medical issues to deal with and why she heard her Aunts and Uncles at first call me by my first name or Tante and not Mama. How the world allowed this to happen is unthinkable and the fact that I survived quite remarkable. Doctors are supposed to save lives not destroy them. I was placed in a cell that was filthy with rodents crawling from all parts, as there were so many holes inside it. No windows, no vent just a small metal opening in the door to push a food through. Food that I would never touch because just smelling it allowed me to know that it was drugged and would make me even sicker than I already was. There was a cot, a small mattress, a small pillow and a blanket with holes in it. The cell was about four feet long and 6 feet wide. The bars on the door were close together you could barely see outside but the screams and cries of the others could not be ignored. Fear entered my heart as I had no idea what they were going to do to me and why. The time period of the Third Reich and the Nazi doctors violated more than my privacy, dignity they tore at my inner core and soul. They were cruel, relentless, heartless and demanded total submission. They taunted us every chance they got and the tortures were many. One morning after trying to make me eat what was supposed to pass for oatmeal but looked like someone’s stomach contents they took me into a stark white lab and placed a burning hot sun lamp on my lower parts. They did this many times and the pain was horrific. My screams were unheard and the faces of those in the room frightening as the just smiled, laughed and wrote down what they saw.

But, this was not the worst of what I endured as they had devised a sterilization plan that led to more than 200,000 Germans being sterilized and based on The Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases. ( July 14, 1933). If successful and in my case it was the sterilization could rid the world of inferior races and create what they felt was the master race of those within it who were masterful and rid the world of those of us that were not perfect.

There were two forms of sterilization that they used: x-rays and injections. In my case it was X-rays. Fear was in my eyes but I would not allow them to see me cry nor would I give them the satisfaction of knowing that I was terrified. I tried to hide my feelings as two or three times a week I was brought in to have my ovaries irradiated with x-rays. The dosages varied. I was subjected to these experiments and at times too weak to go back to work but they did not care. I don’t know whether working in the kitchen and making their food was better than living in a state of hell within that cell. Prisoners such as myself were subjected to these experiments and the pain and burns from the radiation did not deter my tormenters. Suffering the serious burns and swelling on my genitals did not receive any medical relief.

The results of these sterilization experiments to some seemed disappointing but in my case they served what they would say was their purpose. Others were victims of surgical castration and they felt that this time more time-efficient.

The sick mastermind behind these experiments was Dr. Josef Mengele who became the chief physician of Birkenau in 1943 hoping to prove the superiority of the Nordic Race. Schumann was the man that created them where I was. But, this was not to be my final destination as they sent me to Dachau where pharmaceutical compounds were tested to supposedly fight off contagious diseases like TB, yellow fever, malaria and other infectious diseases. Sulfa drugs were invented and used on some prisoners but they refused to see that I am allergic to that drug and kept injecting me with it anyway.

These doctors were sadistic and enjoyed what they were doing and they had little or no morals, no consideration for any of use and could care less if we survived. There were some seventy medical research programs at these camps or so they were called and over 200 so called doctors. The fact that they had contacts with leading universities and medical institutions is scary.

After being here for at least two years or more I have lost track I look at myself and wonder that I really am. I can’t sleep, eat and every time they come to get me I have no idea what will happen next until a miracle occurred and God heard my pleas and my voice.

In response to the German occupation, some Poles organized one of the largest underground movements in Europe. More than 300 widely supported political and military groups. I could not believe what happened. We heard little about the outside world or the news but the guards often talked when we were even allowed in the yard for some respite of fresh air but not much.

After finally escaping I learned more about this group and why someone would come to my cell dressed as an SS officer, pretending to take me for another experiment or test and then I was taken into the woods, under tunnels and found myself somewhere else and supposedly brought to safety with many others. Air force physician Dr. Horst Schumann ran the experiments where I was at Auschwitz.

Liberated and free did not help when I was haunted by the nightmares of this horrific place and the stench that never left my body. The bugs, the smell of death and the tattoo on my arm that I hid from everyone by wearing long sleeves, hiding my shame at being a victim of these monsters as I picture the camp divided into three main areas. According to what my granddaughter learned from her research the estimated amount of innocent Jewish people killed at Auschwitz was between 2 and four million people. Those gas chambers burned the bodies in twenty minutes and starvation, showers; sleep deprivation were just some of the horrors. Freedom comes at a high price but those of us that found our way were not ever really safe within our own hearts. Although freed from the horrors we had to remain silent, safe and in close quarters in the homes of others who agreed to protect us until we could gain safe passage to America.

When I finally arrived in America my sisters Fanny, Rosie, Shandina and Tillie all who were taken to safety but had not undergone most of what I did greeted me. We never spoke of our experiences or shared our heartaches. We preferred to keep it all-private. My granddaughter will tell you some of the rest before I complete my thoughts and the reasons why I am behind this marble stone.

Fran Lewis continues the tale:

I am named after my grandmother Fanny. She had four sisters who survived the concentration camps in Poland. Two sisters and Fanny’s parents were brought to America from Poland by my grandfather. Katie and Tillie came from Poland and their parents Tzvia Bella and Joseph Mordecai Cohen as well.

Fanny, my biological grandmother, spoke five languages and instilled in her children the importance of being educated and going to school. Both Max and Fanny taught their children Irving, Kenneth, Harry, Tova and Ruth, to always strive for what they wanted and never give up until you succeed. Always working to succeed on your own with the support and guidance of your family is the only route, Max felt to being successful.

When Fanny passed away, Max was devastated. He no longer had a mother for his five children. Faced with this serious situation he decided to court and finally married the only grandmother I ever knew, Fanny’s sister Katie.

Katie did not walk into a great situation. She had a difficult time making the transition from aunt to mother. A unique and wise woman, she quickly won the love, trust and devotion she so rightly deserved from all five children. Katie and Max brought up the five children with love, understanding guiding them and supporting each one in whatever they chose to do. With a strong and firm manner my grandfather headed his family and received the respect he deserved from every member.

Katie’s story continues:

Five children that learned that I was their new mother after Fanny died and left them. It took many years before they considered me their Mama but they finally did. My grandchildren, many of who live in so many different places never learned the truth. You see, because of those monsters and what they did to me I am sterile and cannot have children. I have this awful brown liquid that comes out of me and I have to use stool softeners and enemas in order to cleanse my colon. My life is great being married to Max and my grandchildren and children are my life.

They are respectful, wonderful and my granddaughter that is telling you this story even taught me how to write my name and read. I still cannot see that well when I walk in the street I have to count the number of steps that I know to my destinations. You see I have these awful cataracts too thanks to everything they did to me plus Diabetes and other illnesses. This would get anyone down but not me you see I DID SURVIVE. The love of one man who devoted himself to me and his children and the love of my grandchildren is what kept me going for so many years. To the SS officer that did this to those and me that helped him torture so many others and they and me your voices have been silenced do not deserve to hear now or ever. This is my story. My name is Katie Goldberg and I DID SURVIVE! They tried and tried but my spirit was never broken.

Fran continues:

Although the facts are there the sequence of events might not be perfect but this is what I recorded when my grandmother told it to me. Historical events sited in this story are written and told the way my grandmother told them to me. She was brave. She was smart. She was KATIE!
Shared by Katie and Fanny’s granddaughter Fran Lewis: