What’s a writer? Plus Kathryn Bashaar’s Thoughts on “Grace”


We novelists are an eclectic bunch, but you already know that. The best ones are avid readers, and they know that rewriting is when writing magic is truly unloosed.

Many authors I’ve encountered have great respect for their kind. Also, writers can be pretty darned modest when it comes to discussing their own work. Goodness knows that I’m not the greatest about discussing my books in progress, Flamenco & the Sitting Cat, and Tango & the Sitting Cat. Some scribes I know will go so far as to refuse to call themselves writers, yet everyone around them knows that they definitely are.

Kathryn Bashaar, a historical fiction author who operates her blog from Pittsburgh, knows she’s a writer. In addition, she’s a retired bank vice-president, a dancer, a traveler, and a grandmother. Her first novel is The Saint’s Mistress and her upcoming novel is tentatively titled Righteous.

Here are her thoughts on a book she really likes. What did I tell you about writers liking writers?…

Historical fiction author Kathryn Bashaar.
Historical fiction author Kathryn Bashaar. Photo by Techniques Photography, Bethel Park, PA.

Kathryn Bashaar’s thoughts on Grace by Paul Lynch

I’m in love with historical fiction. I am a writer of historical fiction and an avid reader of the genre. The lessons of the past speak most clearly to me in the form of fiction. I’d like to recommend to da-AL’s readers the wonderful book Grace by Paul Lynch. It’s about the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, but, more deeply, it’s the story of everybody’s life.Cover of Grace, by Paul Lynch.

14-year-old Grace is wakened by her mother in the wee hours one morning. Mam cuts off Grace’s hair, dresses her in boy’s clothes, and sends her out on the road to fend for herself. Mam can no longer manage to feed all of her children, and she doesn’t like the way Grace’s step-father has started looking at her.

The horrors that Grace endures, and her stubborn spirit, make for a story that is hard to put down. Just as the fields have been corrupted by the potato rot, Grace is corrupted by her experiences. The Irish people as a community are also corrupted, as the veneer of civilized behavior is worn away by privation and an every-man-for-himself ethos prevails.

Grace’s salvation comes at the hands of a very flawed group of human beings. Giving a clever double meaning to the book’s title, Grace is the beneficiary of grace, in an unexpected way.

It occurred to me, as I neared the end of the book, that Grace’s basic story is everybody’s life story.

Everyone is ruined in some way. This life is a beautiful miracle, but it can also be brutal–in big, tragic ways or in slow, small ways that accumulate like a weight on your back. Some of us had addicted parents or other traumatic childhood experiences. Your heart is broken by someone you loved. A career setback proves to be unrecoverable. Someone you love dies far too young. You are disabled or stricken with a chronic illness, raped or mugged, or your house burns down. And then there are the everyday injuries of having to make a living: tedious work for 40 years, unreasonable bosses, back-stabbing co-workers, long, miserable commutes, the sheer weariness of getting up at 6 a.m. day after day after day. “Life has a way of breaking everyone,” Hemingway said. We are all broken. Most of us are more tired than we like to admit.

And, like Grace, we are saved by other imperfect human beings. I’m a Christian, so I believe that our salvation is in Jesus–ultimately. But, day by living, breathing day, our salvation is in each other. You are ill or disabled, but your spouse sticks around and takes care of you. Your work is tedious, but your co-workers make you laugh. You are hungry and think you are alone, and a local church group delivers food to your door. A friend betrays you, and the next day a neighbor you barely know shovels your walk, and you invite him in for coffee. That is what happens to my main character, Leona, in my novel The Saint’s Mistress. Leona suffers an unbearable loss and is only healed when an old friend re-enters her life and gives her a glimpse of grace and a reason to go on. In a hard world, we are granted the grace of each other.

Every single person you meet is broken in some way. This week, be the grace in someone’s life.

Do you feel comfortable calling yourself a writer? Do you write?

When Life Gives You Oranges: chat+video w artist Uzo Njoku by da-AL


Books + Art = Happiness

Dear readers, that’s why, when I learned of Uzo Njoku through Bust Magazine (a lifestyle/feminist publication started in 1993), I thought of you. Many of you are novelists like me, most of you writers and creatives, and lovers of books.

"When Things Fall Apart," by Uzo Njoku: "My favorite book by Chinua Achebe."
“When Things Fall Apart,” by Uzo Njoku: “My favorite book by Chinua Achebe.”

Her self-published coloring book, “The Bluestocking Society,” launched the statistics-turned-art-major a couple of years ago when she was a 22-year-old college student. It’s filled with images and facts about all sorts of wonderful women throughout history. She also offers free printable coloring pages.

Uzo moved from Lagos, Nigeria, to the United States as a child. Here’s a writeup about her by the University of Virginia, and here’s another by their news magazine.

"When Life Gives You Oranges" by Uzo Njoku: "I created this when dancing the idea of me being an orange farmer if I was not an artist."
“When Life Gives You Oranges” by Uzo Njoku: “I created this when dancing the idea of me being an orange farmer if I was not an artist.”

Along with Uzo’s comments on these paintings, what follows are the answers she kindly emailed back to me…

Question: How does being bi-cultural play out in your day-to-day life and influence your art? And in terms of how you regard your own loveliness and potential?

Answer: Being in the middle of two worlds gives me more content to work with. My work addresses important issues such as identity, duality and spirituality, yet is approached with a particular openness snd beauty. The themes addressed in my work stem directly from my life experience as a female artist living and working between cultures, and yet the aim is to show how a single person’s ‘double vision’ can produce images that possess much wider social effects by collapsing racial and cultural borders.

"Stretch," by Uzo Njoku: "Exploring the limitations of the body with a simple leg stretch image against the stark contrast of a flower pattern."
“Stretch,” by Uzo Njoku: “Exploring the limitations of the body with a simple leg stretch image against the stark contrast of a flower pattern.”

Question: Many of my readers (myself included) are struggling creatives. How do you juggle making art, marketing, fulfilling orders, and attending university? How did you initially let people know about your amazing coloring book? How do you continue to expose people to your art?

Answer: Everything I have done starts from my friends supporting me. Constantly telling others about my work and word-of-mouth helping to spread the news. A lot of artists don’t have a business mindset, and I believe that is how a lot of them do get exploited initially. I took an arts administration class in college, and that really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes. This helped me understand more what it takes for shows to happen and the right people to reach out to.

I studied Statistics in college before switching over to art, so by nature, I am a very technical person. I see numbers alongside art a lot and understood when it was time to pay a marketing personnel to run ads when I released a new product on my website. I don’t really know exactly what to advise people because everyone is different, but I learned everything from Google and YouTube videos. So a lot of research.

"Strangers," by Uzo Njoku: "I had a conversation at a bar with a man who essentially told me everything going on in my life, and then I went about my normal life the next day because we were still just strangers even though he told me everything."
“Strangers,” by Uzo Njoku: “I had a conversation at a bar with a man who essentially told me everything going on in my life, and then I went about my normal life the next day because we were still just strangers even though he told me everything.”

Question: How has the horrific politics of late as well as the pandemic affected you and your work?

Answer: I am not a social artist, so I do not create art based on political events. But in regards to Oluwatoyin passing away, I feel it was my duty to beautify her image because I know a lot of media outlets would try to show her in a negative light. A good amount of the sales during this period I have been able to donate out to small BLM groups and artists struggling during this pandemic.

Artist Uzo Njoku in her studio.
Uzo Njoku in her art studio.

Question: How do you find and choose your marketing personnel?

Answer: My marketing personnel reached out to me. He had been following me for years and felt that he could reach new customers for me. Basically, anyone who understands how to market on Social Media is an asset.

Question: What are one or more mistakes you see artists making business-wise most often?

Answer: I would say the biggest mistake is forgetting to follow up on business taxes when tax season comes by. It can bite you if you’re not careful. Also, you need to get into the habit of having a second pair of eyes look at contracts with you, whether they are those of a family member, a friend, or a professional.

Dear reader, if you didn’t do what you do now, what would farm oranges…or what?…

Part 1: Sydney, Australia by da-AL


 

Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge by Khashayar Parsi.

Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge shown here, is stunning beyond what photography can convey.

Sydney Opera House by Khashayar Parsi.

Our vacation began with New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. In Australia, we met terrific family in Gold Coast / observed these exciting birds — and these too / hiked breathtaking views / enjoyed delicious eats at the beach / saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary / had fun with Rita Rigby / delighted in a bit of the beauty and beasts of Brisbane / and later enjoyed Sydney’s art and the purring there, as well as this…

From — nature to architecture to entertainment to food to a heck of a lot more — it was impossible to see all of Sydney’s wonderfulness in the few days left to our holiday. What less would anyone expect of a city with a Writers Walk in front of their most notable site?! Mark Twain’s comments (near the Sydney Opera House) about his visit over a century ago still ring true…

Mark Twain quotation at Sydney Writers Walk.

Same as the other parts of Australia we’d visited earlier, ibis flock to Sydney as plentifully as pigeons do to our Los Angeles. We saw this ibis near a touching memorial to Australia’s working horses…

Ibis in Sydney.
Memorial in Sydney.

Their NSW State Library is as impressive for its architecture, collection, and reading room as it is for its displays of culture and art. Surely you’re not surprised by what caught my eye there — dogs, including a kangaroo dog!!!…

NSW State Library.
Art display at NSW State Library.
Historical art at NSW State Library.

What is a kangaroo dog? Well, here is what I found when I googled ‘kangaroo dog’…

We also ate various delicious types of food. The first night we had African food, another time I had a great veggie burger…

African food at Radio Cairo in Sydney is tasty!
I had a great veggie burger at Buddahlicious.

Visit back here soon, dear reader, for more about Sydney! What are your vacation plans?

Guest Blog Post: Wildlife Then by equinoxio21


Magic, fiction, and art: journalist/novelist/blogger equinoxio21 weaves them together with compassion and wisdom to create his fascinating equinoxio21 site.

equinoxio21 as a toddler
“Shah taught me Urdu, and proper table manners, the latter with great difficulty I might add.” equinoxio21

From the start, he‘s led exciting life! In a short reply to a reader, he described himself: “I am a cultural “mongrel”. Born in Pakistan, raised in Africa. It helps to add tiny details, the “couleur locale”. Reality, to me, is what adds weight to fiction.

Here he combines his historical photos (and here’s some of beautiful original art he posts as well) with those from antique books…

Equinoxio

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Wildlife is under a death sentence everywhere. Those giraffes (and ostrich, look closely) I saw in Kenya in 1969, fifty years ago (!) are being snared by poachers. What for? For giraffe hair bracelets? To turn their skin into a carpet? Pointless. As a teen, I was fortunate enough to see the last of the wild. Isolated pockets still remain with Game wardens practically turned into a military force. But who knows how long they will last?

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This is how giraffes were seen in 1879. (In Mammifères, Louis Viguier). 140 years ago. This is yet another of my books falling apart. Major restoration in the works. The engravings are priceless. Many would tear the book apart and sell each engraving for 20 Euros on the banks of the Seine.

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Warthog, 1879.

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1969, Nairobi National park.

IMG_7011“In the jungle, the mighty jungle…”

kdd10-14“The lion sleeps…

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Guest Blog Post: “Fes, Morocco’s Imperial City,” in Nilla’s exact words


Stone engraver, Fes, Morocco, AfricaStunning world photography is the cornerstone of each of fellow blogger Nilla’s post. Here she takes us to Fes, Morocco…

Image Earth Travel

March, 2011

Lose yourself in antiquated winding alleys whilst you crisscross your way along one of Morocco’s vibrant imperial cities, fabulous Fes.

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Guest Blog Post: “Lucky’s Amazing Story: What Has Lucky Done And Has Been Doing To Deserve A Place In Our House And In Our Hearts?” in the exact words of Oriyomi Isaac


Photo of a mixed breed brown and white dog lying down on a matt.
Lucky lives in Lagos, Nigeria. His family takes good care of him.

How do dogs get along in Nigeria? Blogger Oriyomi Isaac explains his site: “I live in the most historical part (Lagos) of Nigeria. I want people to know about things that happen in my own part of the world.”

Stories and Football

Not Hostile

Unlike his predecessors, Lucky is not hostile. He tends to recognise a person when such person calls his name; kids in the neighbourhood often play with him and he does not bark unnecessarily.

Watchful

Only God can watch over people but sometimes He could use a living thing. Lucky is always mild during the day and active by night. There were times when people broke into our shop which is front of our house and stole things, but Lucky would always bark at night anytime he sees someone approaching, so, we are always alerted.

Sometimes, I do wake up in the middle of the night to see if Lucky is getting himself a rest but he has never been asleep.

There was a time we thought about getting Lucky a companion. We actually did. My mother bought a little white male dog for him. One night, Lucky was…

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Be Your Own Best Role Model – & – Guest Blog Post: “Learning to make homes,” in Elizabeth Semende’s exact words


Thank you, Ryan McGuire.

Role models can be great. They provide wisdom for how to get where we’d like to be.

Take care, though.

In our eagerness, we risk blindness and deafness to how sometimes they’re better examples of what not to do. Of the ones we love, those who are closest to us, their familiarity can feel like normalcy.

The amazing poem posted by afroliz of Zimbabwe that follows illustrates what I’m trying to say.

I believe we must all continually work to be our own best role models. Let us be lighthearted in working toward that goal. Let us be as serious as happiness when it comes to understanding which role models we might already have unwittingly chosen.

flowers and poems 🌼

In these places where women come to die

My mother’s words take turns to hit my ears:

“When you find a man, carve a home beneath his pride and

learn to make homes from nothing.”
Then I screamed: Mother this is not my home!

This is not a home!

It carries the weight of a man’s pride

the same way corpses carry the weight of tombstones​

In silence.

Mother did not listen.
She too found a home

In these places where nothing remains

but a swam of men urinating on the flame of our souls

She said: that is how we make homes out of nothing

By carrying the weight of a man’s pride

In silence.

© Elizabeth Semende

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Guest Blog Post: “The Last Cat for a Meal,” in Abigail Padi’s exact words


Every worry dad might eat the cat?

Written by Ghanaian blogger Abigail Padi who’s written for Happiness Between Tails before, visit her new blog

Green Eyed Cat by Abigail PadiPets are lovely and the children love them. Other than dogs, we have cats. Initially they were many but the neighborhood in which we live is not safe for big and healthy animals especially cats because some selfish individuals steal them for commercial purposes or to satisfy their own needs.

My concerned dad thought that he also was human and had the desire Green Eyed Cat by Abigail Padito taste the delicious part of those cats and so there was no way he was going to give those people the chance to enjoy for free anymore. He advised himself and since then, their number reduced, currently left with two; a male and a female. Obviously the next to be a meal is the male cat and I can’t help but think about it.

That cat is such a lovely one. It has a darker color and very beautiful in my eyes. I don’t know what you think about it but that’s how I see it. All my friends who have visited me at home can tell that that cat knows no stranger and I believe that’s what made those selfish individuals get hold of them without us knowing.

I instructed my young ones to keep an eye on my dad and be on guard so that on that they I don’t want to imagine will ever come, they should plead with him to spare that only cat.

I’m Abigail Padi and I love to tell stories about myself and those around me. I operate 2 blogs, the recent one is relationshippointblog.wordpress.com where I post anything related to relationship with real life experiences and opinions.

Guest Blog Post: “Give a Donation,” in bowaleXO’s exact words


Blogger bowaleXO
Blogger bowaleXO

Hang on — surely you’re wrong about why I’m posting bowaleXO’s request. Read on, then visit the Nigerian blogger’s thoughtful site. Only then, comment below about what you think when bloggers request financial support from readers …

bowaleXO

So I realised blogging is not cheap even with a free wordpress.com website. Thought producing original content may be a free gift from God, but it still requires Internet to be edited and posted online.

Like most African countries Internet Service in Nigeria is expensive, and when you manged to afford it you don’t get face value of what you are purchasing. I started bowalexo.wordpress.com two (2) months ago and because I always want to create new and original contents for the readers of bowalexo.wordpress.com I am always online and as a result of that I have spent in two (2) months what I would have spent within six (6) month on purchasing Internet Service

I recently found my ability and desire to write when I lost my job two (2) and half months ago and I have been using my saving to fund bowalexo.wordpress.com ever since and I fear…

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Guest Blog Post: “Be Bold be Beautiful Be You,” in lisalemuya’s exact words


How much do you know about Kenya? One of the zillion things I love about blogging is how it makes the world friendlier and smaller. Here lisalemuya shares about her beloved Kenya …

Be Bold Be Beautiful Be you

I have noticed most of my followers are not from my native country and that’s great having different views from all over the world is a breath of fresh air i get to know a bit of their cultures and they can learn a bit of mine.Here it goes…

I come from Kenya a country on the eastern side of Africa

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we are made up of roughly 42 different cultural communities who have different languages(i know crazy but we manage).This makes us diverse and in a way very accommodating, actually if you compare us to our neighbouring countries we are very cosmopolitan. Apart from the 42 tribes we have various other non natives from all over the world we have expatriates  from all over the world who fell in love with the country and decided to be citizens for good .There is a considerable indian population mostly they came to…

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