Hidden Life of Vanished by Mark Bierman w Podcast Audio Version

Close up of "Vanished," cover, an action/thriller by Mark Bierman.

The Hidden Life of, “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #HumanTrafficking #Haiti #Writing #Canada Ever feel like your attempt to help the world is insignificant? When Mark Bierman, an author/blogger from Ontario, began to write an action/thriller, he found his subject ran deeper and broader than human trafficking. Within the horror, he discovered a message of hope. Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s original dream for it? Your questions, thoughts, and/or experiences are welcome here. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps: HBT introduction 1:00 Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman 3:18 My question for you 7:25 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: The blog post for this episode includes photos and links to more info. Blogger/author Mark Bierman’s site includes his contact and book info. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” is a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Mark Bierman’s guest blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and apple music and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is here.

Who knows what inspires someone to write a novel? Even authors don’t always until much later. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” seemed merely an experiment, a dive into fiction. Only as it progressed did I see it’s really a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love…

So when it comes to producing a novel, there’s deciding to write, then comes writing, and then it’s published. At that point, the author releases their words into the world for book lovers to make of them what they will. Every reader brings themself into the act of sitting with a story.

Here blogger/author Mark Bierman (click here for his site, where you can find his book and contact him) reveals what he’s learned about the writing process and readers. Born and raised on a farm in Ontario, Canada, he merges country life with his adult experiences as a correctional officer and a story teller. You can find more of his guest posts for Happiness Between Tails here and here.

Vanished by Mark Bierman cover.

The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman

A few weeks ago, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

Here’s a quick synopsis

Driven to despair by a shared loss, Americans John Webster and Tyler Montgomery try to self-medicate by embarking on a mission of goodwill to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The reconstruction of an orphanage transforms into a nightmarish hunt after a young girl is kidnapped.

Unequipped, culturally illiterate, and alone, the pair are forced into alliances with shifty characters, as they delve deeper into the treacherous underbelly of the human trafficking world. Can they survive long enough to keep their promise to the child’s mother?

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery, is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire to promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it? At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty-plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium security prisons.

Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.
Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary, which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from. I also want to emphasize that Hollywood and the news are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve led normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues. Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.        

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell you, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers. Look around, you’ll find them everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read… you get the picture, then you are a helper.

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

Here’s info at my site about how one woman works to help victims of human trafficking.

Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s dream for it?

Books: Ageless + a Dirty One + K. Rooney Review + Podcast on Hers

Blog title over pictures of the books discussed in blog post.

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Fiction #Women Do walk for fun? In author Kathleen Rooney’s novel, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out to stroll alone, in the middle of the night, over 10-miles across New York City! Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Follow Kathleen: @KathleenMRooney All of Kathleen’s related links. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of author Kathleen Rooney. Margaret Fishback’s actual papers. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. Poet/Historical Novelist Kathleen Rooney visits us again with a guest blog post that follows below. Via the podcast, you can also listen to how she came to publish Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, wherein an 85-year-old woman embarks upon a midnight stroll across New York City.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Longevity is on my mind as I continue recording the book I’ve yet to publish. Writing takes time and so does getting it to the public. Perhaps you’re like me, who from the time I was very young, never felt like days were long enough?

Here I present to you Fauja Singh, a.k.a. the Sikh Superman. You can read all about him in Turbaned Tornado: The oldest Marathon Runner Fauja Singh, by Khushwant Singh.

Cover of Turbaned Tornado: The Oldest Marathon Runner Fauja Singh, by Khushwant Singh.

Up until he was five-years-old, he could barely walk. Later, in his early 80s, personal tragedies sank him into deep depression. At 85 he took up running. At 89 he started competing and soon ran New York City Marathon. A lifelong vegetarian, he’s even a spokesperson for PETA. Born on April 1, 1911, he continues lacing his sneakers each day.

Early on, when he encountered racist hecklers, his mission really kicked in: he’d showing the world just how amazing people like him are!

His story inspired Simran Jeet Singh, who grew up in Texas, to publish a book for kids, Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon. Runner’s World Magazine offers background on both the Singhs and the book.

Cover of Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon, by Simran Jeet Singh.

You’ll remember today’s guest, author Kathleen Rooney, from when she contributed to Happiness Between Tails here and here. Besides her historical novels, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (which features a lively octogenarian) and Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, she’s a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, that publishes literary work in hybrid genres. In addition, she’s a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a band of poets who haul typewriters wherever readers gather. Then they fill orders for custom poems. Her latest collection Where Are the Snows, winner of the XJ Kennedy Prize, has just been released by Texas Review Press and her next novel, From Dust to Stardust, will be published by Lake Union Press in Fall of 2023.

Here she describes the which and why of one of her fave books, a marvelously dirty one! I just read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying and was pretty impressed, for its time and now! What’s the last dirty book you read? (Note: Kathleen’s review first appeared in The Star Tribune.)

Cover of A Tale of Five Cities and Other Memoirs, by Joyce Elbert.

Kathleen Rooney’s book review: A Tale of Five Cities and Other Memoirs, by Joyce Elbert

NONFICTION: The unjustly neglected Joyce Elbert reminiscences about being a woman novelist in a man’s world. 

A contemporary of Jacqueline Susann, credited by Cosmopolitan magazine with writing “the first really great dirty book,” Joyce Elbert made a splash in 1969 with her novel “The Crazy Ladies,” a slinky, metropolitan, woman-centric romp that sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.

Yet by the time of her death from Lou Gehrig’s disease in Florida in 2009, this brash and brilliant Bronx-born author had long since sunk beneath the waves of obscurity, no longer able to garner interest in what she called her “zany, sexy, campy creations.”

Luckily for contemporary readers, the eight previously unpublished autobiographical essays gathered here in “A Tale of Five Cities and Other Memoirs” brings Elbert’s wit and earthy sophistication back to the surface.

Published by Tough Poets Press, a one-man operation dedicated to “new and rediscovered unconventional and neglected literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction,” and committed, as Publishers Weekly has put it, to “resuscitating forgotten classics,” this collection reintroduces 21st-century audiences to an underappreciated, funny and feminist talent.

With candor, toughness and an indefatigable sense of humor, Elbert regales the reader with details of her bohemian life among the likes of Mark Rothko and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as her romantic (mis)adventures with men who range from the maddeningly casual and unsupportive, to her alcoholic con-man ex-husband, to an outright physical abuser.

Yet the book is never more about them than it is about her quest to become and remain an author, an ambition so deep that after being battered by the aforementioned partner, she notes, “My only consolation was that someday I would be able to use this sordid experience in a book. Yes, even in times of despair the novelist’s brain is forever churning.”

Elbert also chronicles her own later-in-life descent into alcoholism and struggle for sobriety, concluding that, “Like many mind-altering drugs, alcohol had shown me where I needed to go, but alcohol couldn’t get me there.”

The title essay — or really five separate-but-linked essays — globe-trots from Acapulco to Paris to Campello to London to Martha’s Vineyard, but New York and its bygone midcentury milieu remain the most indelible in Elbert’s memory. The book opens with “Movies: 1934,” about attending screenings at “our local movie palace, The Allerton … a ten-minute walk from where we lived in a remote section of the Northeast Bronx” with her mother, of whom she writes, “Nothing in her life had emotionally prepared her for marriage or motherhood and yet there she was, trapped, with no hope in sight.”

Elbert manages, often with daffy panache, to evade those traps. In the confident and unapologetic yet self-aware vein of her fellow writer of glamour and excess Eve Babitz, Elbert documents her own desires and drives against a vivid backdrop of long-gone social settings.

At the end of her life, Elbert left behind at least seven unpublished novels, as well as several novellas and short stories. If the essays in “A Tale of Five Cities” are any indication of their quality, one can only hope that those will be resuscitated soon.

What’s the last dirty book you read?

My Honey has Covid Again + Podcast: Do Better by S.D.Jones

Shira Destinie Jones: Author/Educator/Activist.
Shira Destinie Jones: Author/Educator/Activist.

Do Better by Shira Destinie Jones Happiness Between Tails

#Activism #Writing #Women #SelfEsteem Ever wish you could make the world better a better place for anyone and everyone? Educator/community organizer Shira Destinie Jones blogs, at least for now, from San Diego and is doing just that. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Do Better by Shira Destinie Jones My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Shira Destinie Jones Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Shira Destinie Jones — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Shira Destinie Jones’ guest blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

A few days ago, my husband came down with Covid. That’s the reason my intro here is short and why I haven’t worked much on my novels. We don’t know how he got it — we’ve got all our shots and he’s been masking. We both had it January 2021, right before the vaccines came out. So far, that time was far worse. My mother is visiting out-of-state family, so he’s quarantining in her apartment. He’s headachy, fatigued, and coughing. Fortunately, today his fever is a little lower than it was yesterday…

What follows is the revisit of a guest blog post from educator/community organizer Shira Destinie Jones. She blogs, at least for now, from San Diego. “Do Better” is the organization she founded to stop child abuse and help those who care for kids.

Volunteers Needed: Shira needs feedback on the book she’s writing about how Do Better works, as well as the project itself. Find out more at h-e-r-e.

A budding historical fiction novelist, she’s published, “Stayed on Freedom’s Call: Cooperation Between Jewish And African-American Communities In Washington, D.C.” The following actually happened to her…

“Standing in The Gap” by Shira Destinie Jones

There it was again. I knew that sound.

“Oy, they’re having a fight down there!”

That was what Mona thought. I knew better. That was an old sound, from a lifetime ago. One I thought I’d finally escaped. I should have known better.

I looked out the window, counting five men holding smart phones up toward the screams. Then my feet moved of their own accord. It was only from hearing a muffled shout as the door slammed behind me that I knew I’d left the flat. The rain had just ended, and the pavement was still wet. My feet pulled me to the source of that sound. Not the shouting, not the screaming, but the one I remembered so deeply that it still hid under the table with my inner child. The sound of a head hitting a wall.

There it was again, but this time, I could see them. Both of them. The woman’s head sounded like a watermelon when she slammed against the wall, sliding down those slimy bricks to finish crumpled on the filthy paving stones. Her eyes were open wide, looking stunned and frightened, as a giant advanced on her from the ten or fifteen feet from where he’d launched her. My stomach churned as the pain of that impact coursed through my own body, as if I had been the one tossed like a sack of rice into that wall.

Looking at the giant, I wanted to flee, abandon this woman to her fate. But my feet had a will of their own, carrying me right into the one spot where I didn’t want to be: about 5 steps between each of them.

I realized that I’d carried an old umbrella with me out the door. At least those Kung Fu lessons had had one result: they kept me from rushing in where angels feared to tread entirely unarmed. Then again, my next thought was that this flimsy brolly was more like a liability against that big drunk guy. I took a second of comfort in hoping that as a foreign PhD student, at least the NHS would cover my hospital stay if I didn’t manage to duck fast enough.

“Move!”

I flinched as the sound wave from the giant’s lips struck me. It felt just like the impact of furniture breaking against the wall that night. When the giant stepped closer to me, my feet moved me back the same step, but my body refused to budge. That brolly, I now realized, was balanced in my left hand behind me, just like a short staff. My stomach had turned into a solid ball, no longer churning. As I saw him look at me, the giant’s eyes suddenly grew wider. If he hits me, it is going to hurt. But then why did he seem to be afraid of me?

“Move!”

“No.”

Who said that? Oh, wait, that was my voice. So why did the giant look confused?

“Thank you.”

I risked a glance backward. That sobbing voice had come from behind me, as the woman I was foolishly blocking wept, her tears mingling with the rain on the wall as she’d stared up at me.

Focusing on the giant as I’d learned to do in so many sparring classes, I drew a deep breath, preparing. But the giant stood frozen himself, staring at me with some odd drunken mixture of contempt and fear. Both were clearly written in his face, as well as the frustration of being denied another chance to strike the woman on the ground behind me. What was he waiting for?

“You prick.”

He was treating me like a man? He really must be drunk. Then I realized that I’d dropped into an automatic fighting stance. He wasn’t that drunk, then.

“Ok, but you should be ashamed of yourself.”

As those words tore themselves from my throat, I began to tremble so violently that I thought I’d begin crying like the woman at my back. The giant looked so confused that I could practically see the gears turning in his drink-addled mind. Then, a tall woman stepped between us, her back to me, placing a hand flat upon the center of the giant’s chest. I found myself letting out the breath I’d not known I was holding, and heard movement behind me.

I turned to see the two young bar girls helping the woman, finally, up off of the pavement, and taking her inside the pub. As I looked back at the giant, he had backed away, the tall woman’s arm guiding him to the curb.

I stood straight, now in tears myself from the relief, and from the shock. I was still four years old, still hiding under the table, while furniture still shattered, as my mother screamed in the other room. But this time, I had not stayed hidden under the table.

This time, I had come out to help.

Lost in these thoughts, I turned down the bar girl’s offer of a drink. As Mona came over, saying something I couldn’t hear, I wondered where she had been during all of this. Recalling her nights of coming home drunk, I realized that she had been standing there, 20 feet away, the entire time. Now I could see her in my mind’s eye, standing off to the side, just watching. As the five men and two bar girls had stood by and just watched.

All standing idly by while… And all but the young bar girls were bigger than me.

When have you surprised yourself by your bravery? When did others disappoint you with their cowardice?

Adulting and Videos + Why Darlene Foster Writes For Children

What was the day you became an adult? “Young Adult” (aka YA) is a major category when it comes to selling fiction, especially because people of all ages enjoy reading it. If I could swing it, I’d aim for that, rather than the harder sell of literary fiction, which the genre of the novels I’m working on.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of young people leave home to start college. In one case, friends were driving their son to begin university classes in San Jose, 400 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I flew to meet up with the parents and then the four of us enjoyed a leisurely drive back south.

Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there.
Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there.

Along the way, we also visited a young cousin from Spain who that very week relocated to attend college in Santa Barbara, a stunning affluent beach town.

These images are from that drive…

Khashayar walking into a super cold Big Sur stream.
Khashayar was steely enough to brave a super cold Big Sur stream.

Seeing these teens on the precipice of adulthood got me thinking of when I was their age and how I set out on my own.

Dear reader, what was that transition like for you?

The way I was raised, girls absolutely must not aspire to anything beyond the role of ultra meek wife, and mother. That was my father’s indoctrination, and my mom supported it, although she was also the family’s breadwinner.

By age seventeen, I resided in at least fourteen different apartments and attended about ten schools. That year, my parents and I lived in Miami, Florida.

Video Note: Piedras Blancas is the beach of choice for many elephant seals. Average males grow to 16 feet and 5,000 pounds, so babies risk getting smothered by them. Learn more about them here.

My sole plan was to make it out with my sanity intact and to never return, even if it meant resorting to prostitution. I set to earning good grades and a high school diploma. To save money, I worked at the local mall’s pet store and earring kiosk. My parents didn’t charge me for rent and food, and I saved my earnings, carefully spending only for needed doctor and dentist visits, and clothing.

My father greatly admired Pablo Picasso, a fellow Spaniard. Everything I’ve read about the famed artist paints him as a complete horror of a family man, so much so that even his grandkids still fume about him. My dad was fond of paraphrasing one of Picasso’s milder sentiments, which was that offspring should be given the boot the moment they reach eighteen, and they should never get financial help or guidance.

Video Note: The entire length of Pacific Coast Highway is phenomenal.

It was generous that my parents waited the extra couple of months between my birthday and graduation to move to Spain.

I want to kid myself and believe that’s when I left home. A little before they departed, my mother asked if I’d like to join them. The relief in her posture when I shook my head no was enough to deduce this was one move where an insubordinate wasn’t welcome. That’s when I realized it was me who was being abandoned.

My father’s farewell was more honest than hers. He shook my hand and said, “Look us up if you’re ever in Spain.”

They saved me feeling guilty and ambivalent. A whole new life was plenty enough to contend with.

Video Note: Morro Bay is famed for Morro Rock. The historical site was formed about 23 million years ago from the plugs of long-extinct volcanoes. While we visited, Otters were doing log-rolls and lounging tummy-up in the water, but they were too far off to snap a good photo.

The necessity for compassion is a running theme in my blog posts. Often I urge people to keep in mind our interdependency extends far beyond our families of origin. 

Lucky for me, a friend took me in. Her parents had completed a mean divorce and she lived with her dad. He spent his days smoking and drinking and lamenting his loss of work because of his drinking. He’d been a long-time executive at a major airline and now he was passing time until he could draw his pension. As un-promising as that may sound, he was kind and patient in a way I hadn’t experienced a man to be. He and his spirited daughter provided a good family to me. They gave me confidence and taught me the basics of adulthood.

K-D doggie was overjoyed when her people returned home and she loved getting her chest rubbed.
K-D doggie was overjoyed when her people returned home and she was in nirvana when Khashayar gave her an overdue chest rub.

As for young people, author/blogger Darlene Foster has written eight books for them (and everyone else) in ten years! She writes full-time from Spain, and also writes and does some editing for other writers. She says, “I also travel whenever I get the chance and consider it part of my research. It’s a good life.”

When I asked her to let us know how she went about getting published, she emailed back:

“It took me three years to write my first book and five years to find a publisher. I sent out query letters to many publishers around the world, received many polite rejection letters and eventually found a publisher in my own neighbourhood. Go figure! Central Avenue Publishing is an independent traditional publisher and I am very happy with the professionalism and dedication of my publisher. The lesson here is, never give up!”

Learn more about Darlene, her books, where to get them, and all her social media links, at her blog.

Photo of author Darlene Foster.
Photo of author Darlene Foster.

Why I Write For Children by Darlene Foster

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

One of my favourite memories from my childhood is sitting on a large rock in the middle of a prairie field making up stories in my head. I had a wonderful childhood, although I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. I found it lonely, as I like being around people, and often wished I lived in a big, busy city. But it gave me plenty of time to daydream and create characters and adventures that later fuelled my desire to write. In grade three, I had a wonderful teacher who encouraged me to write down my stories. She also taught us about other countries in such a fun, interesting way that made me want to travel the world and meet interesting people. I owe her a lot and have since found her and thanked her for making a difference in my life. When I was twelve, one of my stories was published in the local newspaper. I decided then that I wanted to be a published writer one day.

Why did I choose to write children’s adventure books? I love writing for children, they are like sponges and eager to learn. They enjoy adventures and characters who can get themselves out of a tight spot. I can better express the excitement of travelling to new places when I write from the point of view of a child. 

Interestingly, many adults read my books and enjoy them as well. Kids’ books aren’t just for kids!

The stories in the Amanda Travels series are inspired by my real-life travel experiences.

When I visit an interesting place, I get a strong desire to share my experience with the rest of the world. The best way for me to do this is to write about it. I am always thinking of how I can work a setting or situation into a story. I take notes and many pictures during my travels and think about what would interest a young person. 

I have travelled to all the places Amanda has been. However, I do not have all the adventures Amanda has. She has more fun, excitement and scary experiences in her travels than I do. For instance, I took a riverboat cruise down the Danube with my best friend and our husbands a few years ago, on a boat called, The Sounds of Music. It was a trip of a lifetime, with stops in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. I knew immediately it would be the perfect setting for an Amanda and Leah adventure. Including music in the story was a no-brainer. This is how Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music was conceived. 

On another occasion, I travelled to Taos, New Mexico with my aunt, who is also one of my best friends. We had such an amazing time. Besides being steeped in history, the place has a very paranormal feel about it. We even visited a haunted hotel in Cimarron. Everywhere we went, I kept saying, “Amanda would love it here.” When I returned home, I immediately started making notes which eventually became, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind.

I love to read and so does Amanda. Books are important to both of us. When a vintage novel goes missing, Amanda feels compelled to find it. I love visiting the many used bookstores in England so I wanted to include one in the novel. I found a quintessential bookstore on the Isle of Wight which was perfect for the story, including a resident Main Coon cat. Rupert, the cat, plays an important role in Amanda in England: The Missing Novel.

My latest book in the series, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady was a result of a trip I took with my hubby a couple of years ago. I loved the history and culture of Malta and felt it would be an ideal setting for an Amanda Travels book. I tossed in some endangered birds, a missing artefact and a friend in danger. Amanda would do anything to help her friend. One reviewer said, “I love the author’s ability to bring the settings alive, from the Blue Grotto to a beautiful cathedral in Valletta, all while keeping the suspense high.”

Covers of some of the many books Darlene Foster has published.
Covers of some of the many books Darlene Foster has published.

It took me three years to write the first book, Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask. It was a steep learning curve as I had so much to learn. I am still learning, but I can write a book in a year now. Keeping things fresh in a series is a challenge. I keep up with today´s young people, hang out with them and listen to their conversations. I introduce new characters in every book to keep it interesting. The character of Caleb, a classmate and good friend of Amanda’s was introduced in the New Mexico book. He was so well received he appears again in Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady.

Publishing eight books in ten years is a huge accomplishment for me. I have also won prizes for my short stories and have had stories published in several anthologies. A milestone for me was visiting my former school in rural Alberta and reading from my books to the current students. Seeing my books available online, and on shelves at bookstores and libraries is the most incredible feeling. Having readers tell me they enjoy the stories and hope I write more is like a dream come true. 

If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up!

Amanda is the twelve-year-old I would have liked to be. It is so much easier for kids to travel these days, but I didn’t travel on an airplane until I was in my mid-twenties. I would have so loved to see the world as a child. I am doing it now through my writing!  

That’s why I love writing for kids. (And grown-up kids)

What was the day you became an adult?

Author/Blogger/Artist Sharon Bonin-Pratt is a playwright too

Art by Sharon Lynne Bonin-Pratt
Self-portrait by Sharon Lynne Bonin-Pratt

Time’s running out quick, so run, don’t walk, to catch Sharon’s stage play! Have you ever written a play? Sharon’s been a guest at Happiness Between Tails here and here

Sharon Bonin-Pratt's Ink Flare

Based on the true story of when I couldn’t sing a song about Jesus out loud during a school performance

You read that title correctly, yes you did.

The Braid is producing my story.

The Braid is an award winning live theatre that presents the diverse voices of Jewish people in performances that touch our hearts.

I submitted a short story, “Hawaiian Songbird,” for their consideration. It describes an incident that happened when I was an eleven-year-old newcomer to Hawaii’s famous Punahou School.

“Hawaiian Songbird” was accepted to be the opening segment of their May production, The Rest is History. Nine other wonderful, funny, poignant stories will complete the program.

The show focuses on moments that altered the course of our lives, proving that, unique as they are, these stories are universal in their appeal.

No matter your age or background, you’ll be moved by the life-changing moments described…

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Happiness Defined by Author Mark Bierman

Thrills — and reading and writing — have always been important to Ontario blogger/author Mark Bierman. Read on for how he describes his favorite sorts of adventures! He’s also been a guest at Happiness Between Tails here and here.

A special award from Grandma to commemorate Mike Bierman’s bike ride with his daughters from their home to the city of Kingston, a distance of about forty kilometers.

Bonding with my kids is what I love to do! by Mark Bierman 

Time has a way of slipping by way too quickly. It seems that only yesterday I held my oldest daughter, Amanda, in my arms when she was a seven-pound, ten-ounce newborn. I was both overwhelmed and overjoyed at the same time. That was back in February of 2007! Two years later, our second, Isabel, was born. Today they are a pair of beautiful, smart, and fun-loving girls with whom I’ve had many adventures. This fits well with both my lifestyle and writing style. I love to write action/adventure, and you can go to my website to find out more about it.

I won’t take up too much of your time here. I know we all have busy lives, so I’ve compiled three of my favorite photos that show the type of activities we do to bond. Thanks for reading! Thank you, Da-Al for opening up your blog today and allowing me the privilege of being a guest!

We were at a waterfall, and the rocks were slippery. I “wisely” cautioned the kids about the slippery algae, but then decided to jump a small puddle, yup, I slipped. Amanda must have been feeling empathetic because she slipped soon after.

Slimed.

In this photo, we are proudly displaying our slimed pants.

On a recent trip, the writer in me was annoyed by this sign. Rather than spray paint “for” between the words, I had Isabel pretend to be a ‘Watch Child.’

Isabel as ‘watch child.’

She watches and reports ALL to Mom!

I think most parents will agree that spending time with your kids is worth more than anything you can give them.

What’s your favorite way to spend time?…

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse

Thanks to Facebook, I met Katheryne Gatehouse, who is passionate about fine art and nature. She first guest blog posted on HBT about bees. Here she tells us about a favorite painter…

Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier
Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier.

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse…

When you think of the greatest Impressionist painters, you might think that because the movement was founded in Paris, all the best were French, right? If that’s the case, you’ll have missed one of the forgotten giants, Spain’s Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923). It was Claude Monet who named him, “The Master of Light.” Growing up in the harsh bright sunlight of Valencia, he mastered the play of light on buildings, on gardens, on flesh, and on the sea. No other artist depicts shadows and dappled sunlight better!

Sewing the Sail, by Sorolla.

I first came across Sorolla as part of a large exhibition on impressionist gardens. Many of the paintings were charming or beautiful, yet entering the gallery from a cool misty grey London day outdoors, and then standing in front of a luminous Sorolla painting, I felt as if I was on holiday. Some weeks later, I visited Giverny, where I was delighted to find an exhibition of his works. It was love at first sight. I have been besotted with him ever since!

Fisherwomen On the Beach, 1903, by Sorolla.

As a young man, he studied in Paris and won a 4-year term to study painting in Rome.  He returned to Valencia in 1888 to marry Clotilde Garcia del Castillo, whom he met in 1879 while working in her father’s studio. She is the subject of many of his portraits, including one in the style of Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus lying naked on silk sheets and is as sensual as his painting of Clotilde lying next to their newborn daughter is tender. All of the Clotilde portraits clearly show his undying love and admiration for her.  Later still, he painted her in a traditional black Spanish dress, looking every inch the supermodel with an impossibly tiny waist, though a photograph of this sitting shows that it was indeed a true likeness.  The couple went on to have 3 children Joaquin, Mary, & Elena who feature in many of his works, including  “My family” also in the style of  Velasquez’s Las Meninas.  Despite his talent and recognition above all he was a devoted husband and family man.

Photo of Sorolla painting “Clotilde in a Black Dress”, 1905.

Although he was based in Madrid, each year he returned to Valencia. There he painted glorious beach scenes of children playing in the water and running along the shoreline, as well as proud working class people that included fishermen and women.

Running Along the Beach by Sorolla.

An exceptional portraitist, his repertoire includes Spain’s King Alphonso XIII, artist/designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, and U.S. 27th President William Howard Taft. Social themes were important to Sorolla. “Another Marguerite” (1892), which depicts a woman who was arrested for murdering her young child, was awarded the gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid. “Sad Inheritance” (1899) portrays children with polio bathing in the sea while supervised by a monk. The title refers to how the youngsters were innocent victims of hereditary syphilis.

Sad Inheritance by Sorolla.

Despite great acclaim elsewhere in Europe, a 1908 London exhibition was not a great success. However, it led to important introductions. A wealthy American friend of the arts, Archer Milton Huntington, made Sorolla a member of the Hispanic Society of America. In addition, he invited Sorolla to exhibit, with great success (195 of 365 paintings being sold) and subsequently commissioned Sorolla for a series of monumental paintings to be installed in their building in Manhattan. The murals total 227’ wide by about 14′ high. “Visions of Spain” depicts regions of the Iberian peninsula. All but one was painted en plein air with life-sized figures, some in traditional regional dress.

Child Eating Watermelon by Sorolla.

In 1920, Sorolla was painting a portrait of Mrs. Ramon Perez de Ayala when he suffered a major stroke that left him paralyzed. He died three years later and is buried in the Cementeri de Valencia. The last house he and Clotilde shared in Madrid is now the Museo Sorolla. It is a must-see for all fans of impressionist art. If you are visiting London, there is currently an excellent collection of sixty Sorolla paintings at The National Gallery until 7th July 2019.

My Wife and Daughters in the Garden, 1910, by Sorolla.

What do you think of impressionism?

Guest Blog Post: On Boy Books and Girl Books by Pernille Ripp

Books allow me to transcend my own experience of the world. In reading, I can assume the skin of people, places, times, and events that I’ll never otherwise inhabit. They make me feel more part of the world and more human.

How has reading shaped you? Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp why she believes children should be exposed to all kinds of books…

Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp.
Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp.

Pernille Ripp

White, Black, Yellow, Lime,  Free Image

I get asked for a lot of book recommendations, I think it comes with the territory when you share the love of books.  And while I love pairing books with potential readers, I have also noticed a pattern that causes me to pause, that should cause all of us to pause.

I get asked for a lot of books featuring male lead characters for male readers.

When I ask why the need for a male lead, I am often told that “they” just don’t think a boy will read a “girl book.”  That a boy will not like a book about feelings.  That a boy only wants books that have action.  That have other boys in it.  That feature characters that look just like them or at the very least think like them.

As if every single boy thinks alike.

When written like this it is easy to see the…

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Let’s Make Every Week Banned Books Week! by da-AL

Persepolis is discussed by a UK teen on youtube video about Banned Book Week.

Does the threat of a book being banned ensure that it’s among the finest books written? Check out the fantastic examples cited by the smart folks in this 29-second video (and pat yourself on the back if you smile when “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is discussed — *see end of this post for why)…

Banned Book Week needs to be every week of the year! Started in the U.S., the now international event has been honored every last week of September since 1982.

* Whereas the girl in the video remembers the story as happening in South America during the 1920s, here’s how Wikipedia tells it: “The story takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression in the fictional “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama, the seat of Maycomb County.”

Once my novels-in-progress are published, I hope they’re not banned! How many potentially banned books have you read?

Now We Are 2 (only): Sweet Lola is Sorely Missed by da-AL

Lola our black Labrador mix dog at the beach.
Lola our black Labrador mix dog at the beach.

Our home is too quiet, too empty without our dear Lola. Last Wednesday, she joined her twin brother, Pierre.

Lola our black Labrador mix dog when she was only a few months old.
Lola our black Labrador mix dog when she was only a few months old.

We were privileged to have her. Like Pierre, she was loyal in every way to the end. The two were trusting, kind, obedient, and fun loving.

Lola our black Labrador mix dog, to the right of her brother, Pierre.
Lola our black Labrador mix dog, to the right of her brother, Pierre.

Second in her heart only to her human family was her adored brother who passed away a few months ago. Hopefully, now they’re together, forever safe and happy.

Lola, our black Labrador mix dog, is sorely missed.
Lola, our black Labrador mix dog, is sorely missed.

A kind fellow blogger said that losing a dear pet never gets easier. Indeed it doesn’t…