Here, There and Everywhere

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.

Writing “Real” Sex

I enjoy writing about “real” sexual and sensual experiences, and including them in my fiction. Some of it is imagined, or fantasized, but most of my scenes are from personal experience. This isn’t true for all writers of erotica and romance. Many will include scenes and situations that are unbelievable or, literally, out of this world. This kind of sex writing is not better or worse than using, or exploring, “real” sexual situations, just different.

Setting, relationship, and feeling are vital ingredients in my erotic world. There’s nothing wrong with throwing in “pussy” “fuck” “lick” “suck” or similar words into a scene, but to do so without context tends to have them fall flat on their face, or someone else’s. Sometimes you just want to fuck, or read about a good fuck, without any emotion, romance, or preamble, but minus some setup or story, it ends up looking like a glut of sexualized words and actions randomly thrown onto the bed. The heat is missing.

Here is an example of intimate sensual sex from my erotic romance Loving Annalise.

41jh2yi72qlHis soft fingertips lightly scratched the skin as they moved towards the base of my spine, lighting a torch that licked my groin from the inside out, filling my body with the heat of the sun. As my legs wrapped him tightly into my cocoon, I heard a voice rise from my gut, screaming, “Tomas! Tomas!” My body shook and jerked on the wet sheet with gale-force winds, as my muscles contracted from my toes to the crown of my head. The candles danced, and my back arched towards an invisible force. I was conscious of nothing and everything; bathing in a river of sex, I swam in its smell, sight, sound, taste and touch.

I invite you to read Loving Annalise, if you enjoy realistic erotic fiction.

 

Writing Diverse Characters

BuddhasWifeOccasionally, someone at a book event will ask how I write diverse characters for my novels that sound so authentic, seeing that I am a predominantly straight European-American male. The books they are referring to are Buddha’s Wife, whose heroine is a woman who lived in India in the 5th century B.C., and The Last Conception, whose primary character is a lesbian Indian-American embryologist. 

This question is often asked of writers who move outside of their individual cultural background. The best answer is that a good writer can get under the skin of anyone, anytime, anywhere, and make their character’s dialogue, thoughts, feelings and actions realistic and relevant. I don’t claim to be that good of a writer.

My ability to write women character’s comes from a variety of sources and events. For Buddha’s Wife, I researched the heaven out of the time period and customs of India, and accumulated everything written in English that was known about Yasodhara (Buddha’s Wife) at the time. With Savarna, the lead in The Last Conception, I visited a fertility clinic and interviewed the head embryologist, spoke with Indian-American friends and colleagues, attended Indian festivals, and watched lots of movies (of Indians living in The States).

The main ingredient however, for both novels, was personal experience. One of our daughter’s is lesbian and had children, and our heterosexual daughter had children using IVF treatments. I also grew up with nine sisters, worked primarily with women, and been witness too, or assisted with, six different births. In addition, I worked with Hospice off and on for about thirty years, and observed hundreds of families from around the globe.

In my case, writing authentic and believable characters is a combination of good writing (hopefully), personal experience, asking questions, and looking at life through others’ eyes.

Spreading The Word

It takes a lot of time and effort, before and after one’s book is published, to get good reviews and interviews. Of course, it always helps if what you write is good in the first place! Assuming that it is, there are several steps that can be taken. These include: research which blogs review and feature work similar to yours, and contact them about a review and/or interview. Next, do the same thing with magazines, journals and online sites. Find out which ones are related to your topic (or story) and get a hold of the editor with a brief description (short paragraph) about the book, the cover, your publishing history, and contact information. The other folks to get ahold of are book reviewer’s at major newspapers, and producers of radio and TV shows that talk about books, and are looking for guests. These can include a variety of podcasts as well.

Here is a wonderful review I received for The Last Conception from the Extraordinary Bliss Mistress and author, Edie Weinstein.

“The Last Conception” is a bhakti-fest of love and loss, hope and courage that comes in unexpected packages. Take a peek into the lives of an Indian-American family faced with an unusual demand of their medical professional unmarried daughter whose job and personal life intersect in unanticipated ways. Although happy endings are never guaranteed, it seems that one is in the offing for this savory literary masala.
Edie Weinstein, author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here’s a brief description.

LastConception-CoverA successful embryologist (Savarna Sikand) must make difficult and life-changing choices. Should she continue devoting her soul to work and party with her girlfriend Magdalena or settle down with Charlemagne (Charley) and have children? If she decides to have children, how and when will they start the process and what will it take to convince her conservative East Indian mother to stop trying to marry her off to a “good man”? If that isn’t enough pressure, throw in the bomb her parents plant when they tell her she MUST have a baby because she is the last in line of a great spiritual teacher who reportedly never had children!

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

Moments Turns Into Years

My “brief” journey from story to screen.

Write down, or have a story idea, or concept, in mind.

Write the story. Rewrite and edit the book at least 10 million times.

Find a publisher who will publish the book, now known as The Last Conception.

Sign contract with Melange Books.

Obtain quotes and advance reviews.

Book published.

Book signings, promotions, connections and marketing for two years (year before and a year after novel is released).

Decide to write screenplay. One of my previous screenplays, Stellina Blue, was made into a film and another, Down On Earth, is optioned by Sybil Danning at Adventuress Films.

Work on screenplay for The Last Conception, continuing to revise and edit.

Workable, moving and entertaining screenplay completed.

Write up logline, summary of film and synopsis.

Research and obtain contact information for those who might be interested in script.

Start approaching executive producers, directors and production companies.

Elapsed time, from books inception to pitching screenplay (so far) is three years.

Presently, an award-winning and innovative director is attached.

Next step will be finding a producer and/or financing for film, and then festivals and/or distribution.

This timeline will be familiar to thousands of novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers. Some take less time, and some take more (from page to screen).

I hope for those just starting out, or venturing to put your toe in the water, this provides a little insight into the amount of patience, persistence and ordered chaos that can await on the journey to bring your story to the screen.

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Coming Into Her Own

The Buddha of Lightning Peak: Cycle of the Sky
By Yudron Wangmo
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A lot of authors, agents and publishers say their story is “unique”, but rarely does the tale turn out to be that different or “special”. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an exception. The characters in the story are like many people I know, and experiences they have lived, but I’ve never read something that combined them all into one tight, believable and well-crafted novel such as this.

Denise “Dee” is a teenager who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also black, lesbian and part of a meditation group. She has a variety of friends, including Leslie and her BFF, Shanti, as well as her mentor/teacher, Sandy. She isn’t a strong environmental advocate, until she learns of a mining operation about to start up next to her beloved summer camp and mountain.

The author reveals life through Dee’s eyes and perspective, and reveals the thoughts, emotions and experiences that many teens go through, especially teenage girls. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an insightful and entertaining story that reveals Dee coming into her own strength, realizations, and sense of connection and community. I rarely read stories twice, even good ones. This will be the exception.

(The author provided me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.)

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Greetings from Rwanda!

We hope you are having a great summer! There’s been a lot going on around the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center, so we wanted to tell you what we’ve been up to since our last update.

The biggest and best news is the fact that we have been able to fully pay off our new land. That’s right, back in May we were able to make the final payment on our new home, and we are currently in the process of finalizing the paperwork that will secure the property, and our future, for many years to come. 

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When the ROP started out in an abandoned industrial warehouse the idea of having our own permanent home was nothing more than a dream. In 2010 we were able to move to a better location, but there we had to pay rent, which was a significant burden on our budget each and every year. Today we have finally realized our goal of securing a permanent facility for our children’s program, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Another great achievement happened just last Friday when one of our graduates, Jean, graduated from the National University of Rwanda having earned himself a bachelor’s degree. Even more impressive was the fact that he graduated FIRST IN HIS ENTIRE CLASS! That is no small feat at all, especially considering he graduated with nearly 2,000 other students.

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Jean is a survivor of the 1994 Genocide, the tragedy that saw approximately 800,000 Rwandans killed, including his own parents and siblings. He is the sole survivor of his family, and the physical and mental scars were never easy for him to overcome. After losing his family he ended up surviving on his own on the streets of Kigali until, at age 12, he found the ROP. No student worked harder in the classroom and when Jean wasn’t in class, washing his clothes or doing other chores his nose would be buried in any book he could get his hands on. The results of his commitment to aspire to a better life combined with the opportunities ROP was able to give him are now celebrated by us all.

When speaking to our boys at his party he told them, “I attended classes with rich kids and kids who had ‘normal’ families. Many of them doubted me and discouraged me because, in their eyes, having been a street boy, I could never hope to achieve anything. First I proved them wrong by being elected class president in my second year. Many still doubted me, so I showed them by becoming the best student in the entire school. Now they can’t doubt me. Never let anyone doubt you because of where you came from. The only one who can stop you doing great things is yourself”.

Please support the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center.

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