Here, There and Everywhere

Unbelievably Believable

decemberroadDecember Road (Seasons of Love and War Book 2) by
Brenda Ashworth Barry

Review by Gabriel Constans

December Road is an unbelievably believable romance. It is unbelievable to think of childhood sweethearts staying together as a loving adult couple, and believable to witness the jealousy, doubts, fears, support and love that passes between them.

This love story revolves around Beth Ann and Kaylob, after Kaylob returns from being held captive for two years in Vietnam, and everyone believed he was dead, and Beth Ann going to care for him in the VA hospital, though she is now engaged to another man, Blake. While Kaylob works through his PTSD, Beth Ann works on convincing Blake that there relationship is over, and that Kaylob is, and always was, her true love.

One of the things that is so likable about the characters is that they are every day people. They speak, act, and react, like readers’ friends, families and relatives. They get hurt, cry, laugh, outraged, jealous, loving, forgiving, and confused. The biggest issue between the couple is trust. Kaylob needs to trust that Beth Ann loves him only, and always has, and Beth Ann learns to trust Kaylob and take him at his word, when he says there is nobody else who has his heart, or his body.

The other touching aspects of this romance are Beth Ann and Kaylob’s family and friends (Jackie, Lillian, Carol, Frankie, John, James, Harold, and Gran). Beth Ann’s grandmother, Gran, has a special place in the story, and what Beth Ann and Kaylob do for her and her long lost love, Nicholas, will have you in tears.

If the other books in this series (Seasons of Love and War) are as good as December’s Road, it would be worth getting the entire set. An unbelievably believable romance that pulls at the heart, and has you wanting to invite Beth Ann, Kaylob, and their clan to your house for dinner.

They Live in the Sea

CryOfTheSeaCry of the Sea by D. G. Driver
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

I don’t usually use personal pronouns in a review, but I love this book. With little preamble, I was running along the beach with Juniper Sawfeather, and her American Indian father, Peter, as they document an oil spill on there local beach. What they discover is surreal, and fighting for every breath. After making sure they aren’t seeing things, they try to save the mermaids.

One of the wonderful things about this tale is that it is completely believable. When 17-year-old June (Juniper) describes the mermaids, you can see them before your eyes. Unlike Disney versions, these creatures are silver-scaled, have gills, webbed hands, bald heads, and tails. Somewhat like a seal, but with human-like arms, hands, and eyes. It seems reasonable that they could have evolved without ever having been caught before, thus the countless stories, fables and history surrounding mermaids.

It turns out that June’s father is the head of an emergency environmental organization, and her mother, Natalie, is an environmental lawyer. Over the next few days, the mermaids existence becomes public, with resulting dismissals, and believers. A large oil company, Affron, hijacks the remaining mermaid from the marine mammal rescue center June and her father have taken it to. Over the next few days all hell breaks loose, within there family, community, internet, and national news.

Cry of the Sea never lags, or stops for a breather. It is a splendid ride exploring friendship, family dynamics, teen friendships, first romance, earth concerns, ethics, and public opinion. If either of the other two books in Ms. Driver’s series (Whisper of the Woods, Echoes of the Cliffs) are half as good as this one , they should be read immediately.

 

A Multi-faceted Ruby

NairobiBloodstarNairobi Bloodstar by Carole Hall
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

You know a good writer when you read one. Carole Hall is such a writer. Nairobi Bloodstar pulls you into Kenya in the late forties, as if you were just there yesterday. The characters (Charles, Karl, Annalisa, Nils, M’tebe, Michael) are flesh and blood men and women that could have been historical figures, though this is a work of fiction.

Starting at Karl and Annalisa’s mining operation in Kenya, the story follows each individual, at the points where they are related and intersect, and there individual lives, thoughts and feelings. It is like a great ensemble cast in a play, when they are all believable and well played. Ms. Hall’s writing style also reminds me somewhat of Agatha Christie, who was one of the most adept of all time at describing her character’s appearance, emotions, thoughts, traits and personal history.

The story takes place as a number of countries are seeking independence in Africa from the English, Portuguese and French, and at the same time Jews are fighting to establish Israel in Palestine, and protect their new nation from assault. There are romances and alliances throughout, but in many ways (to its credit), they are the background and not the main entre. Individual and national independence, as well as finding personal happiness, are at the crux of this tale. Choices are made, with many unexpected results.

There are no pat answers, conclusions, or moral certitudes in Nairobi Bloodstar, much to its credit. There are people from a variety of cultures who are genuine and will have you caring about each one.

Searching For Someone

Some people are easy to find. Others, not so much. Especially when you are trying to meet up with someone to interview for a story and/or book. That’s what I’ve discovered through the years in my attempts, and some success, in tracking down people I’ve wanted to talk to, especially those that are well known.

With the internet it has become easier to get people’s information and background, but getting their contact data, or getting through there gate keepers (managers, agents, family, lawyers, etc.), is another matter. It can take persistent emails, and calls, to get a response, let alone an interview.11898_cover_front

When I was putting together a book about loss and grief sometimes being the catalyst for people to not only change their lives, but to also create social movements and influence public opinion (Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call), it literally took years to get ahold of everyone and complete the interviews.

Obviously, people who were less known were easier to contact and meet, but women like Nancy Goodman Brinker (who started the Susan B Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, after her sister Susan died); Candace Lightner (who founded Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, after her daughter Cari was killed); and Leah Rabin (who gave speeches about reconciliation and peace around the world, after her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated) were another matter.

The difficulty isn’t always due to an individual’s reluctance, or apprehension, about being interviewed, or not knowing who you are (if you are not a known author, journalist or organization), but most often it is their schedules. They have limited amounts of time, and some are booked years ahead. In those cases you have to be willing to go where they are and get whatever snippet you can.

I’ve also had unsuccessful attempts at getting interviews for different articles. and news organizations, as a freelance journalist. Even though I went to Rwanda twice, I was never able to meet with President Kagame. The closest I got was his press secretary. An interview with Christina Aguilera and Joan Baez has also alluded me, after many attempts and conversations with there managers.

If you need to interview people that are heads of government, well-known in entertainment, or in social movements, don’t give up before you try. Be persistent, yet courteous; creative, and respectful; and be able to explain briefly (in a call, email, or personal contact) why you want the interview and who you are.

Articles: http://tinyurl.com/glpyt2p

Books: http://tinyurl.com/z8pdtj7

Connect the Stories


Some writing “experts” once told me that the best way to write a novel is to first write short stories. They said, “If you can write a good short story, with a beginning, middle, and end, then a novel will easily follow. All you have to do is use the same characters in one short story after another and string them together.” Turns out that they were right, in most respects, but not always.

From my experience, it is extremely difficult to write a good short story, and more difficult to string a number of them together for a book. I’ve had some success with shorts, with some of mine appearing in Go World Travel, Listen, Los Angeles Journal, Japan Airlines/Wingspan, Omega, Enigma, and the Roswell Literary Review. As you can see from the following description of my collection of short stories, Saint Catherine’s Baby, which was released 7 years ago, I hadn’t yet figured out how to keep the same characters and storyline for a novel.

Saint-Catherines-BabyAn eclectic collection of short stories that include Ruthie and her obstinate elderly student from Germany (The English Lesson); Stephanie, who waits for the unorthodox return of her deceased father (Dressed In Black); Walter O’Brien, who discovers a young couple and their child in an abandoned monastery on the West Coast of Ireland (St. Catherine’s Baby); Shannon, on the run at a shoe store in Chicago (Sizing Up Shannon); Jacque, meeting Rosalita’s shocked parents in New Mexico (Framed); and Joshua Johnson, a school custodian whose mother may have interfered in his love life for the last time (The Sweetest Man).

It still rings true,  writing a good short story is a great beginning for a novelist, and also some of the most difficult writing to do. Character and scene development, crisis, insight, and/or conclusions, must all be created within a limited number of words. Some writers can also write great books, without ever having written a short, and vice-a-versa. To this rule, if you choose to call it that, does not apply to everyone.

The Truth of Fiction

If you read the story, Loving Annalise, without any knowledge of where the characters or events came from, it would appear to be an intriguing and loving romance that was complete fiction. In fact, it is taken from real life experiences of a friend from Austria, who married two brothers (not at the same time).

The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, is so often true, that it is no longer a cliche. Anything one can think of happening in someone’s life, probably has, is, or will take place. When they all come together, with some perspective and distance, these experiences can also make a great story.

When I first heard a few of the details from my friend’s life, about growing up on a farm in Austria, going to nursing school in Vienna, falling for an abusive man, then later realizing she was in love with his brother, it sounded like a movie. When I asked if she would sit with me for a few afternoons and tell me the entire story, and she said yes, I was surprised and delighted.

The result of her sharing her life resulted in Loving Annalise. It is more than a simple, or even complicated romance, and includes childhood mishaps, coming-of-age, family drama, first loves, big city expectations, erotic encounters, suspense, blackmail, and redemption. The majority of the story takes place in Austria, and Western Europe, with the climax coming home to The States.

If there was ever an example of a life that reads as fiction, Loving Annalise fits the bill, and goes straight to the heart.

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What A Year Its Been

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Last year we faced our program’s greatest challenge and you, Rwandan Orphans Project and Imizi Children’s Center supporters, came to the rescue and helped us secure our future for years to come. That achievement made 2015 ROP’s best year yet, but I’m very happy to tell you 2016 was an equally great year for us and those we support.

Why is that? Well, from the moment we settled into our new home we began making renovations and improvements around our property that have made our Imizi Children’s Center a better place for our children. But while those changes are important, what Imizi is really all about is helping vulnerable people, and this year we have been able to serve more than ever before.

And we’re not only helping kids anymore. Recognizing that adults can also benefit from our presence in our rural community we began hosting meetings and workshops for local people and the family members of children who stay with us, where they could learn about family planning, sexual health, positive parenting, gender equality and other topics. Our goal is to help solve domestic issues before they lead to a breakdown of the family. To us preventing a child from leaving home to live on the street is just as important as helping those who are already out there.

We’ve had many achievements this year, and we hope you are as proud of them as we are. In 2016:

We increased the total number of vulnerable children attending our school from 140 to 200. These are children from our community’s poorest families who cannot afford to pay for public school, so they attend Imizi’s school completely free of charge.

We completely renovated one of the boys’ dormitories, making it more comfortable and safe for them. We also constructed new toilets and an eco-friendly outdoor kitchen that is great for the environment and saves us money.

We began constructing a massive underground water storage tank with a rainwater collection system that should ensure our children and animals have access to water even during the long dry seasons.

We successfully reintegrated 11 children back into their families. Each of them will continue going to school with the support of ROP.

 We rescued 19 children from homelessness. Three of them were only five years old, while the others were all under 10 years old.

We have five boys who have completed secondary school, two who have finished vocational school and one who has graduated university with a bachelor’s degree. In 2017 we will be supporting 21 in secondary school and 8 in vocational training.

Eight – that’s right EIGHT – of our graduates have performed well enough to earn government scholarships to university starting next year. That is a record for ROP and a huge achievement for these amazing young men.

To all of those who have donated to us this year and supported us in other ways – thank you for your continued support. We are so grateful to have your support as we do our work. 

For those who wish to make a donation as we approach 2017, you can visit our website for details of how to do this.

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