Critter Vids + B. Christopher’s Vet Trip + Pod20: A. Renaud’s Inspo

Photo of Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a chinchilla.
Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a friend.

Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #Publishing #Creativity #Covid-19 #Animals Staying home, as well as animals, inspire fantasy romance author Alice Renaud, a Londoner. Here she also details how she published her award-winning books! How's your creativity going? Share your thoughts, and questions. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Alice Renaud discusses what inspires her writing My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Fantasy romance author Alice Renaud's website that tells about her and her books. Original blog post for this episode. About “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat," my novel. Posts regarding my bout with COVID are here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Photos at the HBT blog post for this show: Portrait of Alice Renaud. Alice’s photo of an amazing red butterfly. Tabitha, Alice’s aunt’s tabby, staring at the neighbour’s feline. Cover of Alice’s “Mermaids Marry in Green; a Sea of Love Novel.” — 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 “Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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 H-E-R-E.

It started with witnessing utter joy between an orangutan and a hound dog. Youtube videos are pleasant distractions when one is slogging through writing a novel, no? (A bit about the ones I’m working on H-E-R-E.) As you can guess, my fave videos involve dogs, preferably ones that look like mine. Dogs absolute experts at befriending anything and everything…

When I mentioned the video to a friend, she replied, “Me too! I love looking at interspecies romances.”

Is that what they’re called? Now short breaks turned into hour-long procrastinations… add in baby goats and owls and… and so it goes with YouTube… That’s why I’m sharing just one more with you — so as not to impose on your busy day, it’s got five not-so-romantic romances rolled into ten minutes…

Cute, weird, adorable, scary… what a diverse world of creatures we inhabit! Here to show us in real-life terms about the benefits of human-animal relations is Brendan Christoper, a blogger (links to his work h-e-r-e) out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom. Besides writing, he’s a hands-on educator who introduces his wild menagerie to people of all ages at events, parties, and classes. Read on for how even his pets aren’t thrilled with veterinarian visits…

Photo of Forest, a black and white cat resting on a cat scratching tree, by Bren from Wild4animals.
Forest by Bren from Wild4animals.

I’m Taking My Pet to See the Vet (Wish me luck!) by Brendan Christopher

Forest, my cat, is suspicious, so he slinks behind the sofa. Then, spying from a safe distance, he spots me fumbling with a pet carrier. There’s no turning back now.

As I creep towards Forest, I pretend to act casually. But, in one swift move, I scoop him up, place him into the box and attempt to shut the lid.

Somehow, he always manages to leave at least one paw on the outside. When I push that one in, another pops out like a jack-in-the-box. Eventually, we’re ready, and that’s when the drama begins.

To be fair, Forest is usually compliant when going to the vets — well, except for a couple of issues. One involves the journey.

He hates the motion of travel and lets out the most pathetic meow he can muster. This noise sounds like a baby in distress and is designed to wreck my emotions.

Now I’m racked with guilt as I drive. But mercifully, the journey’s short, so I’m spared any lasting trauma.

On arrival, he’s usually calmed down. However, as we cross the car park, the howling starts again because he doesn’t like the instability.

Logo for Brendan Christoper's animal education work, Wild 4 Animals, an acronym for Welfare, Intrigue, Learning, and Dignity.
Brendan Christoper’s animal education logo.

There’s just another man with a cat in the waiting area and me. I sit opposite, but the two cat boxes happen to face each other. So, naturally, we humans start complimenting each other’s pets.     

Meanwhile, our cats hold a growling contest for no apparent reason. They clearly hate each other even though they’ve just met. I think to myself, ‘it’s a good job they’re on neutral ground and not meeting in a back alley’. (Or perhaps they have – who knows with cats?)

Anyway, as Forest prowls around like a big caged cat, we’re summoned. I place the box on the vet’s table and carefully unleash my feline.

Instantly, Forest makes himself look massive by fluffing up his fur and thickening his tail. However, he fails to intimidate the vet — on the contrary, she finds him cute.

All goes well until its temperature time. At this point, the vet dares to hold his bushy tail whilst inserting a thermometer. Thankfully, Forest is a gentle soul, so he tends not to bite.

Once the ordeal’s over, the vet declares him a ‘good boy’, and I beam like a proud parent.

On the way out, he looks at me as if to say, ‘And I thought I could trust you. Typical human.’

Finally arriving home, I open the carrier, and Forest shoots out. He sniffs the box, glares at me and flicks his tail in disgust — that means I’ve been snubbed. However, as soon as I stroke him (and open a packet of food), he’s back to his loving, purring self.

Well, almost… he gives me that look as if to say, ‘you’re forgiven this time, but NEVER trap me in that cat snare again!’

The only problem is I’m taking Forest for another check-up in six months. Even though I know it’s for his own good, I doubt he appreciates my efforts.

Do you have a favorite animal?

Vid: My Bull-Friend + Austin + Pod17: G. Constans’ Novels Into Movies 

Photo of da-AL and her new bull-friend on LBJ's ranch.
My new bull-friend and me horsing around.

From Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns books into movies! Happiness Between Tails

#Novels #Movies #Authors #Screenwriters Want to know what it’s like to complete a book and then see it made into a Hollywood production-type of film? I’d love to see the novel I’m working on “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” as a film. Here’s Gabriel Constans, who made his book into a film. Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share about writing and publishing? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Gabriel Constans on making his book into a movie 3:14 My question for you 6:00 HBT outro Links referred to in this episode: About my novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.” Gabriel Constans’ blog. Gabriel’s post at his blog about his movie, The Last Conception. The trailer for it. Website for Buddha’s Wife. Robert D. Reed Publishers. One of Gabriel’s previous screenplays, Stellina Blue, that was made into a film. Photos available at the blog version of this show: Cover of “Buddha’s Wife” by Gabriel Constans. Photo of Gabriel Constans. — 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 “From Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns novels into movies!” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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.

Hurrah!!!! Spain now recognizes pets as legal family! My hope is that the U.S. will be next…

Every budding novelist (see about my books H-E-R-E) needs a bull-friend for fun between writing days. Mine lives among the herd at LBJ Ranch. Lyndon Baines Johnson served as the United States’ 36th President from 1963 to 1969 (Wiki’s info on him h-e-r-e).

LBJ’s ranch is in Johnson City, Texas, which includes his “Texas White House.” The 300-year old “Cabinet Oak” shades the front, and the view is of the Perdernales (which means “flint” in Spanish) River.

da-AL stands in front of LBJ's Texas White House.
LBJ’s Texas White House.

 

da-AL stands before Perdernales River, which runs near LBJ's Texas White House.
The Perdernales River runs near LBJ’s Texas White House.

Last I visited the United Kingdom (I’ve written a number of posts on that, including H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E), a taxi driver who immigrated from Brazil waxed dreamily of wanting to visit Texas, “To see cowboys.” Definitely he was immune to America’s Anglophilia. (Just today I came across vlogger Michael’s English lessons where he offers t-h-i-s one about real life in England.)

I envied the taxi driver his romantic, cartoon-eye-ed view of the U.S. that blinded him to our political horrors like what’s happening abortion rights-wise in Texas and elsewhere (posts on that H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E).

Austin is truly stunning. Though this visit was about family, we did plenty of sight-seeing. Downtown, there’s a great statue of Barbara Jordan, an African-American woman of many political firsts in Texas and nationally. (Wiki tells about her h-e-r-e.) An Austin Airport terminal is even named for her!

Khashayar and da-AL stand before statue of Barbara Jordan in Austin, Texas.
Khashayar and I were cheered to see Barbara Jordan’s proud statue in downtown Austin.

 

Photo of sign for Barbara Jordan terminal at Austin Airport.
Jordan even has her own terminal at Austin Airport!

On our way home from a sunset hike up Enchanted Rock, we passed through Fredericksburg, where a stand of trees twinkled.

The views at sunset are gorgeous at Enchanted Rock.
The views at sunset are gorgeous at Enchanted Rock.

 

A festive stand of trees at Fredericksburg, Texas.
A festive stand of trees at Fredericksburg, Texas.

 

Trees filled with tiny lights in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Trees kissed by stars in Fredericksburg, Texas.

 

Khashayar and da-AL in front of trees filled with lights.
Khashayar and I happened on these by chance.

It had been way too long since I’ve seen my dear extended family, all the longer due to the Covid pandemic (read about how Khashayar and I got it just before the vaccines came out H-E-R-E).

Thank goodness our dear K-D doggie provided the loving buffer to the crash landing returning home can feel like. (By the way, our Austin friends offer t-h-e-s-e instructions on their audiology site regarding keeping our furry friends’ ears healthy.)

Close up of K-D-doggy's sweet face.
Hopefully our little K-D-doggy was as happy to see us as we were to see her.

Do you think pets should be regarded as legal family, like they now are in Spain?

3 Blog and Pod Tricks + Pod 8: Dwayne Sharpe’s Sci-Fi

Photo of K-D-doggie giving da-AL a sloppy kiss.

1st podcast!! + D. Sharpe’s Sci-Fi “Another Day in the Twilight Zone” Happiness Between Tails

#ShortStories #Podcasting #Novels #WritingLife #Authors #Drama This very first experimental installment premiered during the early days of the first COVID-19 lockdown in Los Angeles. First it discusses podcasting, then Dwayne Sharpe reads his sci-fi short story, “Another Day in the Twilight Zone.” As always, I welcome your insights and questions. Record them at my Anchor site — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Links referred to in this episode: Video version of this episode. Blog post with this episode in text form. This episode first resided here at Podbean, a podcast host. A Happiness Between Tails blog post where I sing public library praises and another one here. A video with my honey and a super cute baby chick in New Zealand, and this amazing cat video I made in Spain. Get Dwayne Sharpe’s books, "Thomas' 100 Cat Tales” and “Blaze Mysteries,” here. He also enjoys geocaching, which you can learn about here and here.) Los Angeles County Library Virtual writing groups offered through Shut Up & Write. Photos available at the blog version of this show: Dwayne Sharpe, the cover of his book, “Thomas’ 100 Cat Tales,” and the cover of another of his books “Blaze Mysteries.” Time Stamps (where segments begin): 1) Happiness Between Tails intro 2) Background info about today’s show 1:09 3) How I started this show and about today’s guest 1:59 4) Dwayne Sharpe's Sci-Fi, "Another Day in the Twilight Zone” 4:49 5) Happiness Between Tails outro 7:53 — 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 an earlier post. There’s a video version of it H-E-R-E (and at the end of this post) — and a text version of it H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand 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 H-E-R-E.

1. Getting the word out about Happiness Between Tails Podcast takes time away from writing my novels. Rather than worry I’ll never get my books done, I remind myself this stretch of learning is an investment for when I’m ready to produce serialized audio drama versions for the novels.

To that end, it occurred to me — duh, after all this time lol — that while Happiness Between Tails is meant to be a play on “tales” as well as “tails,” only the wag-able kind is represented in this site’s photo. A few days ago, I was feeling rather under-the-weather pasty, but hey, my hair was clean and brushed. Time to set aside excuses and dust off the selfie stick. The new masthead and the photo below are the results. The books? There’s a pile of them on my lap, but they kept sliding, so the book stamped onto my shirt must suffice.

2. Do you have business cards? Does anyone use them? I dunno, but it seems like the thing to have “just in case” if one is to be in business, so here’s mine. The two versions are because I discovered sites like t-h-i-s o-n-e that offer free QR codes. Who knew COVID would bring them back in style?

Screenshot of da-AL's business cards.

3. Podcasting and some lingo: It’s one thing to have a hosting site, like AnchorFM, where one’s podcast lives. “Directories” are also needed to get it into listeners’ smartphones and desktops of various operating systems, and such. For weeks I’ve researched “directories,” among them Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pandora, and so on — they’re the apps and sites that catalog and feature podcasts.

It would be impossible to get onto all the zillions that exist, so I just did my best and now I’m done, at least for now. Take a look at the list, not merely for to know where to listen, but to copy for when you submit your own podcast to directories.

The extended list of directories and other pertinent links are H-E-R-E at Linktree. It’s a site where, among other things, multiple links can be simultaneously funneled into a “master link.” A click of the screenshot below will also take you there…

Screenshot of Happiness Between Tails at LinkTree.
All Happiness Between Tails links are listed and scroll-tap-click-able at LinkTree.

Time-saving Linktree tip: before adding links there, first organize them in another document. Then drop them into Linktree starting with the last one. The last one loaded lands at the top.

Back to today’s podcast — here’s a video version of it…

Dwayne Sharpe submitted the story when Los Angeles was first quarantined, so… 

When you first heard about COVID, how did you think your life would be impacted?

World Building: Imagining a New Place by Chris Hall: Podcast 7

‘Sunset over the Berg River ©River Tides Guesthouse’ – where author Chris Hall stayed when she began writing her book, "Song of the Sea Goddess." Owner Mike Harvey is a good friend of hers and the photo is from his website.
‘Sunset over the Berg River ©River Tides Guesthouse’ – where author Chris Hall stayed when she began writing her book, “Song of the Sea Goddess.” Owner Mike Harvey is a good friend of hers and the photo is from his website.

Imagining a New Place by novelist Chris Hall + Me and COVID Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #WorldBuilding #SouthAfrica Have you ever created a new world? In this episode, author/blogger Chris Hall describes herself as “a compulsive story-teller, cat slave and hen keeper.” Record your thoughts, experiences, and qustions on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topics and about today’s guest 1:05 “Imagining a New Place” by novelist Chris Hall My question for you 5:28 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post that corresponds to this episode. Chris Hall's website. About my works in progress, "Flamenco & the Sitting Cat," and "Tango & the Sitting Cat" Some of the posts about when my husband and I had COVID-19 are here and here. and here. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of the riverside where by Chris Hall began writing her book, "Song of the Sea Goddess.” Photo of Chris Hall. Photo of Chris’s kitty, Luna. Photo of Chris’s book, “Song of the Sea Goddess”vg83yt618kz6sxYKe9w7x3vwvtkox1p4rpaz51 — 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 to listen to today’s blog post below. The audio version is on AnchorFM’s Happiness Between Tails podcast page, where you’ll find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus many more and an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Notes on the progress of my new podcast and this blog: People listen to podcasts via so many different sites and devices that it’s important to upload one’s podcast onto as many directories (such as Apple and Spotify) as possible. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent much time making lists of them, uploading, waiting for verifications, etc., and still am not quite finished. By now, the show should be find-able on at least 50 places — yay! As for this site here, it’s got a new look when you click on the tab that gives you a list of past posts.

Connection… collaboration… We affect each other, for good and bad. Please know that your visits, likes, and comments go far in helping me keep writing my novels (about them h-e-r-e) and the rest of my creative endeavors.

Writers get to build whatever world they please — sometimes our novels bend the truth only somewhat — other times they invent entire new galaxies.

My works in progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” are set in fictitious towns within Los Angeles during 2002 and 2003. Back then, COVID-19 didn’t exist…

Note: When this post was first published in January of 2021, my husband and I found we were in the initial stages of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, we were super careful. I’m reiterating this as a reminder that one can never be too conscientious about avoiding this severe illness and about working civically to help contain it. (Here’s more about our bout with it h-e-r-e, and h-e-r-e. and h-e-r-e.)

Deciding on settings, histories, and all the rest that goes into storytelling is chancy no matter what an author chooses to create. There will always be fans and foes. To be a novelist requires enough passion to outrun the discouraging thoughts that can torment us.

Chris Hall has been wonderfully prolific over the last few years. She’s published three novels and a short story collection! Originally from the UK, she describes herself as “a compulsive story-teller, cat slave and hen keeper.” To sample her short fiction, fan fiction, mini-series, and poetry, as well as to follow her on her various social media, check out her website.

“Song of the Sea Goddess,” her most recent novel, is set where she lives now, the Western Cape of South Africa. (Listen to a sample of the audiobook version h-e-r-e.) Here she describes why she decided to depict a South Africa different from how it is in real life…

Author Chris Hall.
Author Chris Hall.

“From the Writer’s desk” by Chris Hall

Writing a novel is not just about telling the story. There are other considerations that come into play. I’d like to share with you why I was motivated to write a book set in South Africa. In particular, why I chose to paint an idealised portrait of the place and why I drew on the overarching theme of environmental destruction, rather than dealing with the gritty issues of race and poverty in my latest novel, Song of the Sea Goddess.

The Setting

When it came to writing this, my fourth novel, I was determined to set it in my adopted country, South Africa. I’d been living near Cape Town for almost ten years and the time had come to give voice to the people around me. I’d also decided it was time to transition from historical fiction. It was time to write in the moment, but at the same time include elements borrowed from the ancient lore of the African continent, which are written on cave walls and embedded in the landscape.

I knew I needed a setting to match the story I was about to tell, although the story hadn’t really even begun. Then, at the beginning of 2019, while staying in a small town on our very beautiful west coast, while I sat by the banks of the Berg River and watched the little boats going past on their way out to sea, I was moved to write a story about a fisherman with a little boat.

Every writer needs a helper as inspiring as Chris Hall's kitty, Luna.
Every writer needs a helper as inspiring as Chris Hall’s kitty, Luna.

The Characters

I’m a lazy novelist. I let my characters emerge and develop and play around in my mind. Even before they are fully formed, they are always desperate to run to centre stage and act out their parts.

But there has to be a starting point.

A few of my key characters are based on people I met when I first came to live in South Africa. People whose backgrounds were unfamiliar to me; people who come from what are euphemistically called ‘formerly disadvantaged communities’ (as if their communities are not still disadvantaged in this country, which has the most polarized society on the planet).

I could have written about some of their struggles, about the conditions in which they live, about the poverty and lack of opportunity that characterizes their communities, of how they’d suffered under apartheid, but as I got to them better, I realised that none of them wants to dwell on any of that.

So I decided I could give them better lives, locate them in a much more pleasant place and put a positive spin on this beautiful country.

I mixed them up a bit, taking a little bit of one and blending it with another, but their voices are true and their characteristics mirror real life in many respects. There’s a nod to some of the darker side of people’s lives with Sam’s flight from the Cape Flats’ gangland and in the history behind Jannie’s tattoos from the notorious ‘28s’ gang.

On the lighter side, several of the comical incidents, like when Auntie Rose loses her false teeth down her pants’ leg, are little events that actually happened. The food that the Aunties make and sell in the novel is based on recipes that I tasted and talked about with people. The love of food and the common ground we found over cookery has cemented several friendships in my new town.

The Theme

Concern for the environment is a theme I continue to return to in the short fiction and poetry, which I write on my blogsite, and while watching a TV documentary about water pollution, an idea began to form in my mind for the backdrop to my novel’s narrative. Water is in short supply in our country anyway, but what if the rivers were threatened? And what would happen if the forces of nature were moved to fight back? Soon my emerging novel would take a new and interesting turn.

My love of the landscape and ancient lore of the country that I now call home will continue to feature in my work. I’m already embroiled in a sequel to Song of the Sea Goddess, where myth and magic will once again be awakened in the little coastal town where the great river flows from the purple mountains into the southern ocean.

Visit Chris' site to order her books, and to find out more about her and the rest of her writings.
Visit Chris’ site to order her books, and to find out more about her and the rest of her writings.

Have you ever created a new world?

Tango Videos + C.Hall audiobook + Pod 5 Healthy Carrot Cake

Screenshot from video of Khashayar and da-AL dancing Argentine Tango, un-choreographed.
Screenshot from video of Khashayar and da-AL dancing Argentine Tango, un-choreographed.

Carrot Delight Cake: a Healthier Recipe by Khashayar Happiness Between Tails

Check out my podcast! It’s hosted by AnchorFM. There you’ll find the audio version of “Our COVID + Carrot Delight Cake Healthier Recipe by Khashayar.” The Anchor.fm page also features links to subscribe, hear, and share shows via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Here’s the full list of 50+ places.

Note: Check out the audio/podcast version of Chris Hall’s guest blog post that follows below.

This week I had time to work on my novels. Yay! I’m also happy to report that my husband and I danced. The Covid quarantine put our tanging on hold. As much as we missed it, we were even more eager to see our dancing friends at last. Pre-Covid, a number of fellow students gathered several times a year for potluck and dance ranging from belly and flamenco, to tango and folk.

Good news regarding my learning to podcast: since the audio version of author/blogger Judith Barrow’s guest blog post about how she got published aired recently, I used Headliner to produce a full-length video version of it.

Khashayar and I performed two tangos for our friends last weekend. To be safe, the event was outdoors and only included friends who were vaccinated. Over the Covid interim, my hair had grown so long that during rehearsal, it got stuck in his armpit. The morning of the show, I whacked 4” of it off. When we performed for real, I was so out of shape and unaccustomed to wearing heels that my calves were cramping. All the same, the whole night was truly heartwarming and fun!

We began with a classic tango, un-choreographed as is the tradition for authentic Argentine tango…

Later we performed a milonga style Argentine tango, also not pre-choreographed, so as to adhere to convention… 

Back to the subject of books — do you listen to audiobooks? I’m obsessed with them. It’s amazing how quickly moments of listening during cooking, washing dishes, sweeping, driving, exercising, brushing my teeth, and walking my dog add up to a whole book!

Author/blogger Chris Hall, who has guested here before, just produced an audiobook! She calls herself a compulsive story-teller, a cat slave, and a hen keeper who hales from England and lives in South Africa with her artist husband. Lately she’s finishing the sequel to her novel, “Song of the Sea Goddess.” Visit her blog to read her flash fiction and poems.

In her recounting of the process she used to convert her novel into an audiobook, she includes helpful links, as well as where to hear a sample of it…

Graphic describing how "Song of the Sea Goddess" is available as an audiobook.

“The Rise of the Audiobook” by Chris Hall

Audiobooks are becoming more mainstream, most growth coming from people using technology to find more time in their day to consume more books”.
Chris Lynch, Simon & Schuster Audio.

Audiobooks have been around for almost a century in one form or another, although it was only in the 1990s that the advent of digitized recording technology saw audiobooks take off. They’re a boon for people with visual impairments and those who have difficulty with holding a book or e-reader. Or those who don’t get on with processing the written word but still love stories. And of course, they’re great for busy people who like to multi-task, all those artists and crafters, bakers, cooks and wielders of needles I know! From my hairdresser to my podiatrist, I’ve found people who love to listen to audiobooks.

There is also the opportunity to reach a brand new, younger audience. The ‘Podcast Generation’, the 18-24 year age group, are increasingly listening to audiobooks, and these are not a traditional book buying group. Plugged into their smartphones, they consume their stories on the go.

Increasingly aware of the appetite for creating audio offerings amongst some of the folk I know here on WP, where more people are converting their posts to podcasts, producing their own podcasts, and generally getting to grips with ‘all things audio’, I decided to dip my toe in the water and make an audiobook.

But which of my novels to choose?…

I decided on my most recently published novel, Song of the Sea Goddess. It’s the first book I’ve written set in South Africa, my adopted country, where in my experience, people are less wedded to the written word, but love their listening devices. It’s a book that I hope will appeal to both a local and a global audience.

Song of the Sea Goddess combines fantasy and magical realism, and contains elements of an eco-thriller. Key themes include man’s avarice and arrogance, and the human threat to the environment and to earth’s creatures (both real and imaginary). Written not long after Cape Town almost ran out of drinking water a couple of years ago, it also touches on the thirst for water experienced in many parts of Africa.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. My novel is populated by a small cast of quirky and humorous characters who reside in the charming little coastal town that I created for them, an imaginary place on the beautiful west coast of South Africa. They’re a great bunch to get to know, and very relatable to a local audience.

Author Chris Hall.
Author Chris Hall.

So, to the process of producing an audiobook…

A little online research led me to make my first decision: I had to find a good narrator. Even if I had that magical ‘voice for radio’, it’s a mammoth task to read and record an entire novel. Nor do I have the equipment or the skill to make a professional digital recording, and I can only imagine how many times I’d need to stop to silence my very opinionated cat! But, by great good fortune one of the teachers with whom my husband used to work is also a voice actor. I asked him to drop her an email.

Voice actor Terry Lloyd Roberts was happy to take on the project and in turn, she introduced me to Devon Martindale, Director at Audioshelf, a South African company dedicated to the production of audiobooks. From then on making the recording was easy. All I had to do was send them the manuscript and they’d do the rest. Over the next month, I received a chunk of chapters to review each week. Listening to the recordings made by Devon and golden-voiced Terry was an absolute delight. It couldn’t have been easier. You can listen to a sample here.

Armed with the finished recording, finding a platform on which to publish was the next step. Being in South Africa closes off many avenues (don’t get me started) and I was disappointed to find that ‘big names’ like ACX were ‘not available in your geographical location’. However, Devon came to the rescue and recommended Authors Republic who offer audiobook publishing and distribution worldwide.

After signing up, completing a US tax form, and adding my paypal account details, all that remained was to fill in the book details, load up the cover pic and upload the audio files, which had been perfectly prepared by Audioshelf, then finally set the price, although the distributors have the right to amend this to fit their pricing profile.

Just two weeks later, my audiobook was available via all the major audiobook retailers, including the ones unavailable to me in South Africa, like Audible and Chirp. It was also published on Amazon, alongside the e-book and paperback, which I’d been unable to do directly.

Bottom line: cost vs. sales…

Because of the time involved to read and record an entire novel, it is a relatively costly enterprise to engage a narrator and arrange the studio time. It cost me equivalent to a nice holiday! This of course, would have been drastically reduced if I’d done my own recording. 

Sales are paid quarterly by Authors Republic and I’m pleased to report that I earned more royalties from the audiobook than the combined paperback and e-book sales in these first three months since publication. It might take a while (if ever) to make my money back, but it does give me the opportunity to reach a new audience. Having people enjoy what I’ve written is reward enough for me.

Would I do it again?…

Oh yes! Terry and Devon are about to start recording my adventure story for all ages, Following the Green Rabbit, which will be out in time for the coming festive holiday.

Do you listen to audiobooks? And is there something you’ve gotten rusty at due to Covid?

Menendez Bros + My Jury Duty Pt 3 + a Podcast Note

Photo of Menendez brothers with their father, Jose, whom they murdered.
Photo of Menendez brothers with their father, Jose, whom they murdered.

Justice — trials, how our system works, lawyers, juries… all these topics have been on my mind since I recently completed doing jury duty. Since the week before I started it (here are Part 1 and Part 2 about it), I’ve wondered about the Mendez brothers. You know, those rich guys who killed their parents back in the late 1980s. This video I checked out from my happy place, a.k.a. any public library, explains their story.

The brothers somewhat physically resemble my two older brothers, plus we three were raised “tennis-y.” Our household wasn’t hellish in the way of Lyle and Eric’s, but controlling and cruelty and looking the other way existed.

Please don’t get me wrong: a) my brothers aren’t killers and they’re nothing like the Menendez — and b) I believe murder is despicable.

Unlike the Menendezes, we didn’t suffer rich-people burdens. Here’s one man’s take on growing up “in tennis” for some players at the nosebleed rungs. Our dad wasn’t a powerful movie mogul, and we weren’t indoctrinated to keep up with the Beverly Hills set. There are benefits to being an apartment-dwelling plebeian. Tennis earned my brothers college scholarships. As for me, I set out on my own the moment I graduated high school, determined to sooner resort to prostitution than go back.

As a writer, I began as a journalist, then later attended a course on fiction. A classmate, Vonda Pelto, wanted to learn story telling for a recount of her former career as a psychiatrist at the downtown Los Angeles jail. Her primary function was to prevent serial killers from dying by suicide. How’s that for irony? (Here’s an enlightening article about discussing suicide.) Her patients ranged from Charles Manson and porn star John Holmes, to “Hillside Strangler” Ken Bianchi and “Freeway Killer” William Bonin.

Clearly, those killers fall into a different category than the Menendez brothers.

Almost every day in Los Angeles is sky perfection.
Almost every day in Los Angeles is sky perfection.

Back to jury duty…

For a thumbnail of what I posted about jury duty so far, picture “Car Problems” as my middle name. Was it mere coincidence that the morning my mom lent me her car, in front of the courthouse was a man in a t-shirt with a “check engine” logo?

Every trip to and from downtown was a winding tour of Siri workarounds to Los Angeles traffic. Siri kindly even warned me of traffic cameras. The Spring Street Courthouse is snuggled among the Toy District, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Union Station, Grand Central Market, the Bradbury Building of “Bladerunner” movie renown, and more. Slogging along freeways to get there and back would have been unbearable without my beloved audiobooks.

It’s years since I’ve visited the area. Sadly, the number of people who live on the sidewalks has exploded. Flimsy domed homes shelter people along corners, alleys, freeway overpasses and underpasses. I don’t know an end-all remedy, only that “them” is “us.” Whenever I left my juror chair, I kept my little backpack near. How is anyone mobile enough to find a job, see a doctor, take a leak, do anything, when their worldly goods are housed within a nylon tent parked in the middle of a city?

The trial I worked on involved an RV park, privately run yet publicly owned, endeavoring to evict a couple.

On one hand, one of the two renters had recorded park employees, those not wearing mandated Covid19-preventative masks. They used the evidence to report them to the health department. On the other hand, staff accused the renters of impeding their work and bothering fellow tenants by failing to consistently leash their dog.

Sculpture of "Young Lincoln" by James Hansen, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.
Sculpture of “Young Lincoln” by James Hansen, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.

Management had a slicker lawyer and employees willing to smooth over their sloppy record keeping. The tenants brought neighbors (via an extremely problematic videoconferencing setup) who stated they loved the dog and the couple.

Ah, the dog! Mike was old, pudgy, and wore a vest that suggested he was an emotional service provider (any dog is, no?). I first noticed him when he snored from the opposite end of the vast courtroom. Basically, he slept and sometimes slurped water.

Hearing testimonies is nothing akin to dynamic TV shows and high drama movies. Questions get reframed in endless ways so lawyers can reveal details otherwise not allowed. Did I say it was boring? Many jurors were there only because they heard rumors that not showing up can result in a $1,500 fine.

This case ran four days, not counting the Friday of jury selection. Monday was a holiday. Tuesday through Thursday were for evidence disclosure, a process rendered mind-numbingly. The last Friday morning was for the lawyers’s closing speeches. Here again, imagine what money buys in terms of lawyers.

Management’s was organized and smooth.

The residents’s insisted on using an overhead projector that blinked his pages onto the screen so annoyingly that I half-closed my eyes. To his credit, he opened with a salient point; each side had recorded, antagonized, and vilified each other. Amen.

Then it was time for a shortened lunch. Then deciding whether the tenants ought to be evicted.

Hand on any religious tome you prefer I swear on, I had every intention to review evidence and turn over every rock.

Sculpture of "Law" by Archibald Garner, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.
Sculpture of “Law” by Archibald Garner, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.

Twelve jurors: roughly fifteen questions to vote on. The list was one of those affairs of, “if you vote this, answer this or skip this…” Each question required only nine votes to pass.

Within some questions, the word “substantial” was used. Was the residents’s rule-breaking and annoying of neighbors “substantial”? Four months earlier, after they were served a seven-day notice to clean up their acts, did they? Substantially? Definitely, but fellow jurors noted that management had spied near-catatonic Mike off-leash once or twice.

A juror reminded us that the residents bothered neighbors over the past year when twice they called the cops. First, when one renter was assaulted by a stranger, then later when she spotted the assaulter lurking.

I asked the juror, “If a sick neighbor needed to summon an ambulance twice over the last year, would you evict them?”

She nodded her head.

Except for mine, the votes were unanimous. They voted so quickly, and with so little discussion and consideration of evidence, as if they’d made snap judgements, I wonder if justice was truly served.

So very many people in Los Angeles live in tents or in cardboard boxes.
So very many people in Los Angeles live in tents or in cardboard boxes.

I’m told the renters can appeal and it was their choice whether to have their trial judged by a judge or a jury. It was an honor to serve, and I learned a lot, though not what I’d expected.

Maybe in the end, like with the Menendez brothers, it boiled down to looking into faces and choosing whether they deserved another chance. TV’s Columbo only needed to solve crimes, not decide whether they were redeemable…

What do you think of our trial system? Would you choose a jury or a judge to decide your case? Do you think the Menendez brothers have served long enough?

Me, leaving the courthouse.
Me, leaving the courthouse.

Wait — a non-jury thing — I’ve already converted several blog posts into podcasts via the WordPress-to-Anchor function. Once Apple’s podcast app accepts them into its feed, you’ll be the first to know!

Eating Thoughts + Infidel753’s Vegan COVID Ones

Little K-D girl definitely loves her meat — and anything else her people are eating. Here she works her hypnosis… Photo thanks to Khashayar Parsi
Little K-D girl definitely loves her meat — and anything else her people are eating. Here she works her hypnosis… Photo thanks to Khashayar Parsi

What kind of eater are you? Writer, reader, whatever you do for fun (I’m working on my novels, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat’ and “Tango & the Sitting Cat”), you gotta eat, right?

I’m sort of vegetarian — more pescatarian — more accurately hypocritical — but definitely not vegan.

Whatever one is or isn’t, I believe the thoughtful — and emotional — life is best. The idea of considering one’s actions, being honest with oneself and the world at large mean a lot to me. Particularly because I believe not being so causes harm, i.e., people doing bad things to themselves, each other, their pets, the environment. I’m no expert, though. The only thing I know for sure is that generalizing generally gets me in trouble.

So for the rest of this post I’ll stick to worrying about myself. I’ve written about what my pets have taught me here and here and here

For a long time, I didn’t really want to eat meat, but I ate it because the vegetarians I knew were so insufferable that I didn’t want to be anything like them. For one thing, they were awful to eat with, the way they’d badmouth nearby meat-eaters and discuss food in unwholesome ways. But as someone who too often bends backward to be understanding and accommodating, who am I to speak badly of vociferous vegetarians?

What I can say is one day I attended a BBQ. One where the hosts had purchased ribs as I’d never encountered them before; long racks of them, as boney and white-pinkish as mine! I can’t remember if I ate some to be polite. What I know is that very night I had a nightmare wherein I ate the little lovebird I owned at the time. It didn’t help that around then (in real life, I mean) it seemed convenient, tasty, and nutritious to once a week or so rinse a dead refrigerated Cornish game hen and dump it into a crock pot with veggies. How grown up of me — Voila! — dinner awaited as soon as I got home from work!

After aforementioned BBQ, the next time I rinsed a little boney pink-white-grey game hen — I thought of my ribs, my pet bird who was named Gumbie for her adorable putty green feathers, and the nightmare.

I can’t remember if I immediately — “cold turkey” harhar? — stopped eating flesh. Maybe I ate whatever was left in the fridge as it would’ve been beyond disrespectful to toss the corpse remains in the trash….

What I’m sure of is the convergence of discomfort woke me to the fact that I was foolish to eat meat only because I didn’t want to be like the sort of folks I could never anyway be.

It wasn’t hard to stop. The meaty meals I enjoyed had to do with the stuff on them, the sauces and such. And I’ve always loved veggies and fruit and nuts and beans and grains and the like. Good chance less meat would clear space for more of the better stuff, assuming I didn’t fill said “meat gap” with candy. That I could easily do as I love chocolate, but I didn’t. Not much, at least.

The first year, to be social, I ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. I was taken aback by just how much meat some people consume when I heard lots of, “I would starve if I didn’t eat meat. What do you eat?” The trickiest situations were eating at people’s homes until I realized I should just bring a good veggie dish to share. As a result, I found people enjoy veggies a lot more than they think, so long as they’re prepared nicely. In fact, at parties, it’s the veggie pizzas that usually finish before the meat ones.

But I eat fish sometimes. So I’m a hypocrite. Though I don’t go out of my way to eat fish meals…

Eating is complicated. For all the health advice I’ve encountered, stress is hands down the worst thing for us. And eating can be super emotional. So if not eating meat is going to stress anyone out, not that anyone seeks my opinion on this, I’d say just go ahead and eat some, but try to do it with thought and compassion.

For sure don’t heap more of it than you can eat on your plate and then throw it away. That animal died for you, after all, unwilling as it was. And try to make sure it had a halfway decent life before it was led into a slaughterhouse or tossed into boiling water or…

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I recently stumbled onto “Infidel753: we are not fallen angels, we are risen apes,” a blog filled with so many genius posts that I asked Mr. Infidel753 to guest blog post here for you! The following post he wrote for us is what inspired my preceding aside. BTW, with all the quarantining, like him, between no social eating and exercising more regularly since now I do it on zoom without having to add in a commute, I’m now actually healthier.

Born in the United States since his parents arrived here from Britain, Indfidel753 blogs from Portland, Oregon. He’s been to the UK, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Germany, Ukraine, and Japan, and hopes to travel some more. Though he earned degrees in Middle Eastern history, he works in something secret that’s other than academia. A blogging pioneer, he started in 2006!

An in-depth portrait of the author, Infidel753.
An in-depth portrait of the author, Infidel753.

Pursuing health in a land of sickness by Infidel753

It started with the pigs.

For most of my life I ate pretty much like a typical American. That included eating meat, with little or no thought to what meat is or where it comes from. But due to a long-standing interest in evolutionary biology, I steadily learned more and more about animals — including how similar they, especially other mammals, are to humans in many ways. Did you know, for example, that the other great ape species have the same blood types as we do — A, B, O, etc? In the case of chimpanzees the blood chemistry is close enough that transfusions between species would be possible, with individuals of the same blood type.

Around 2008 my reading made me aware that pigs, in particular, are at least as intelligent and emotionally sophisticated as dogs. This made me uncomfortable with the thought of eating their meat. Most people, at least in the West, would not be comfortable with eating dog flesh because we think of dogs as quasi-persons. But I realized that eating pig meat was no different — so I stopped doing it.

Over time, as I learned more, I extended the same principle to mammals generally. Cattle and sheep are not as intelligent as pigs, but they’re also self-aware creatures, and I could simply no longer blank out the knowledge that what I was eating was part of the corpse of a conscious being. Finally I gave up meat altogether. Even animals like chickens and fish seem obviously self-aware to some extent, and they certainly have the capacity to suffer.

And suffer they do. Most meat now is produced on factory farms, where animals are kept in horrific conditions of overcrowding and immobility, constantly dosed with antibiotics to suppress the infectious diseases which would otherwise run rampant under such conditions (and even so, disease is often widespread). Unlike many vegetarians, I don’t really like animals — they’re unpredictable, generally not very clean, and in many cases dangerous; I don’t like having them around me. But I don’t like the thought of them suffering.

But I still hadn’t grasped the implications for human health. If anything, I worried that eliminating meat might lead to malnutrition. I still ate things like eggs and cheese, as well as the wide range of processed junk that makes up so much of the “normal” American diet.

By the beginning of 2020 I knew I needed to do more. I had lost some weight, but at 225 pounds and 5’11″ I was still clinically obese, and I was about to turn sixty. That put me in the express lane to a stroke or a heart attack. I started educating myself about health and came to realize that animal by-products like cheese and eggs are probably even more toxic to the human system than meat is.

The pandemic was the final straw. It soon became clear that if you catch covid-19, overall health has a lot of impact on how badly it harms you. I observed rigorous isolation to avoid the virus, but I knew I couldn’t absolutely eliminate the risk of catching it. So I cut out all the remaining animal products and most of the junk food. It was, I suppose, partly a way of feeling proactive and taking action rather than being passive in the face of the viral threat.

I also became something of a fanatic for learning as much as I could about the effects of various kinds of food on the human body. Human anatomy and biochemistry are those of a herbivorous animal, not an omnivorous one, and our pervasive problems of obesity, diabetes, arterial damage, and a dozen other scourges, are simply the kinds of things that happen to an animal when it eats the wrong kind of food. Such problems have historically been rare in populations which traditionally ate a mostly starch-based diet with very little meat, as in much of Asia — but as prosperity brought American-style eating to those cultures, American-style health problems have followed. Conversely, among Americans, it’s vegans — those who eat mostly vegetables, fruit, nuts, and legumes, eschewing animal products and keeping processed stuff to a minimum — who statistically suffer least from such ailments. All this self-education helped me stick to the new path.

The results far exceeded expectations. By the end of 2020 I had lost thirty pounds, and the joint inflammation flare-ups and chest pains which had plagued me for most of my life had almost disappeared.

This isn’t a “diet” in the sense of a temporary program to be followed until its goals are achieved. It’s a reversion to what should be the norm. I consider it analogous to quitting smoking.

In terms of popular thinking and moral consensus, I think meat-eating today is about where slavery was around 1800. Most people still accept it as a normal part of life without giving it much thought. Only a small minority recognizes that there’s a serious moral problem, to say nothing of the health issues. But that minority is growing with time. There is, at least, fairly widespread awareness of how much animal farming contributes to global warming. But that issue is only the tip of a very large, ugly, and dangerous iceberg. Over time, I hope and believe, the reality of the problem will become widely understood despite the dense fog of misinformation, propaganda, and wishful thinking that now obscures it. Until then, at least I personally am no longer implicated — and no longer harming myself.

How do you feel about eating these days?

My Bday Res + COVID Vax2, and Christoph Weigert’s DIY Book Promotion

It was my birthday a few days ago (COVID-19 style: quiet and sweet) and yesterday I received my second COVID immunization shot. For anyone like me and my husband who had COVID, the side effects of the vaccine can be worse than for most. Both shots have been a doozy for me. If the U.S. had taken the pandemic seriously from the start, countless lives would have been saved and fewer people would feel as horrible as I do after getting their shots. Which is to say, mask up and get your vaccine — side effects are way better to experience than wrangling COVID.

In my side-effect addled state, I’m announcing here that I’ve promised myself to complete my novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” once and for all by my next birthday (and hopefully lots sooner). That said, I’ll keep this short so I can go back to bed. Thank goodness my dear doggie is more than happy to lie about with me.

Update: I wrote the above after a night and day of relentless nausea, severe headache, and fatigue. However, besides waking this morning with wringing wet pajamas and bedsheets, I slept pretty well. Fever and aches are gone, moreover I’m not nearly as light-headed, tired and nauseated. Fingers crossed, this time I’ll recover from Vax II way quicker than Vax I. Regardless — please, please, please get your vaccines. I’ll take Vax over actual COVID-19 any day. In Iran, where my dear in-laws live, they don’t even have the luxury of choosing whether to get vaccinated. Despite whatever outlandish “news” Fox News and their ilk tell us, Iranians continue to be hit extra hard.

K-D with da-AL.
Forgive the weird hair bump at the top of my head — the result of showering yesterday, then not having energy to comb my hair until this morning. Today I managed a little lipstick and blush, plus a few moments of doggie backyard cleanup. The fiendish grin is due to torturing my dear husband to snap this pic for you.

Here to share book promotion know-how is Christoph Weigert, author of “Imagination: the Secret Nobody Talks About.” He’s from Bavaria and now lives in Berlin. To learn more about him and his book, check out his site.

Getting the Word Out About Your Book by Christoph Weigert

Writing a book is one thing, publishing and pushing it out into the world is something quite different, yet they are inextricably entwined. Pictures of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde come to mind. Publishing — ignoring this often unloved and unasked for task would be a great disservice to ourselves as writers. 

In the following I want to touch upon different efforts I currently deploy for my debut book Imagination: The Secret Nobody Talks About. 

There is a company I admire and whose content on YouTube I cherish. One day one of their coaches remarked he creates his own audio version for books he likes, and he was the editor for a book the company’s CEO wrote. My instincts were on full alert and a few e-mails later, mixed up with weeks of waiting, he became the editor to my book. Eventually he also narrated the audio version, and I even included an interview with the CEO.

Soon my book will be offered as a free bonus to participants of an online course that Jon, editor to my book, will host. This adds to the book’s exposure to the public.

The question here is: can you cooperate with people and integrate them into your next book project, or at least write about them? Being part of a book project seems to be flattering, and it can open new doors for you as a writer.

Another of my publicity efforts is the creation of a so-called funnel. For a deep dive into this topic, I recommend Dotcom Secrets by Russel Brunson. A basic description of a funnel is that once someone is already interacting with your product, or is on your webpage, then you offer them other products. A waiter offering you dessert, or a automotive dealer selling you an insurance on top of your new car are examples from daily life for this type of business consideration.

What could be additional offers of an author, besides obvious ones like an e- or audio format that accompany the book’s physical version?

Maybe art has inspired your book? Or a bundle of interviews with experts that shine even more light onto the topics you love to elaborate on?

A basic theme of my book is the power of creativity and imagination, as well as how to connect with it and train it like a muscle. Hence I came up with the following additional offers for my funnel: 

  1. A guided imagination meditation and an audio that contains a wide range of additional imagination exercises.
  2. As another step, I’m offering a training video that enhances physical power and flow, because a strong mind (an empowered imagination) needs a strong body.

These are my two cents on furthering the good cause of your book, making it work for you and getting rewarded in return. I hope you can get something out of it and I wish you happy creating and writing.

Do you make birthday resolutions?

Happy Persian New Year and we just got our 1st COVID-19 vaccines


Happy Persian New Year!

Note: I just got my 1st COVID vaccine, a Moderna, yesterday. I won’t lie — it’s knocked the stuffing out of me so I’ll keep this post brief. Make no mistake, as uncomfortable as I feel (achy, chills, fever, headache, poor sleep, which means my body is building protection, doing what it’s supposed to do), I most certainly will get my 2nd shot and totally recommend everyone get immunized.

Persians like my dear husband celebrate the Iranian New Year on the first day of spring. The celebration is two solid weeks of partying and time off from work, much like our winter holidays. Same as the European New Year, Nowrooz is a secular holiday. However some regard it also as a holy time.

No-rooz mobarak: Happy New Year
Eid-eh shoma mobarak: Happy New Year to you (formal)
No-rooz pirooz: Wishing you a prosperous New Year
Sad saal be in saal-ha: Wishing you 100 more Happy New Years

Here we stand before the “sofre” that Khashayar puts together annually. Items represent a plethora of auspicious things that start with the letter “s” (in Farsi, of course). Here and here when I posted earlier about it, you can find out more. What a delight to see that my local Ralph’s grocery store put out a sofre with detailed explanations.

Khashayar and da-AL standing before their Happy Persian New Year arrangement.
Khashayar and da-AL with their Happy Persian New Year spread.

And what would a holiday be without a cute little dog licking her lips at the sight of those tasty pastries?

Our doggie sits politely for pumpkin seeds.
Anyone got a pumpkin seed?

Have you been immunized against COVID-19 yet? If so, which brand did you get, and how were your first days, and later?…

COVID, Friendship, Writing, and Books: We’re better

It’s official — as of yesterday, I can smell the cinnamon in my oatmeal and taste hot chocolate — hurrah! Smelling flowers is uplifting — but no longer worrying that I could be snuffed out by toxic air or spoiled food? — mega-hallelujah!

Senses, mwah and mwah! Please don’t ever leave me again! Here’s to hoping that a benefit of COVID will be more research spent to help all who have limited abilities to smell or taste…

Illness is dreadful, but now that I’m securely on the other end of it, I see it provided me some upsides. For one thing, it’s reminded me how beyond-lottery-winner-fortunate I’ve always been in regards to wonderful friends — and that includes you, dear reader. Most strangers are merely people we haven’t yet had the opportunity to become friends with, no?

Besides appreciating the kindness of pals and soon-pals, I wish I could say I completed extensive writing on my “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat” novels, but my writing energy was nowhere to be found.

However, sitting and lying about  enabled me to do some reading. Without revealing plot points, here are my reviews of four books I’ve just finished. When I review books I appreciate, I notify the authors. Occasionally they email me back 🙂

Cover of "Earthlings" by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings: A Novel by Sayaka Murata

Pardon the gray matter, but my brain just exploded. This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before — and I read a lot of books and genres.

Picture Sayaka Murata’s earlier book, “Convenience Store Woman,” as a string of firecrackers that cleverly illuminates how soul-sucking capitalism can be. “Earthlings” is akin to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when 80,000 people vanished in the blink of an eye and 200,000 mostly civilians perished.

Equal parts sci-fi, reality, magical realism, comedy, horror, satire, and gore, she says this is her other-worldly response to a Japanese health minister’s announcement. In 2007, he said, “The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can do is ask them to do their best per head … although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines.”

Granted, there are beaucoup reasons “Earthlings” isn’t for everyone — but I have no time for those who’re simply offended that the story isn’t as cutesy as the iconically Japanese cover. The same goes for reviewers who lament the dearth of “likable” characters. For Murata, no one is all-good or all-bad, and no gender or age has it easy. Surely when Murata named an essential character “Yuu,” she knew the meaning of “you” in English.

Cover of "Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends" by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

This is a wise and chatty culmination of what the authors learned as co-hosts of their “Friendshipping” podcast. Their mantra: “Friendship is a skill.” Indeed, it’s one that merits continual honing, for which they offer great suggestions.

Cover of "The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention" by Julia Cameron

The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s 12-week manual, “The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” is ultra groundbreaking to creatives of any ilk. Each non-fiction book Cameron has published since then reiterates much of her original teachings — but for me, the repetition often works. This newest text is a 6-week DIY course that emphasizes the value of listening to each other, our environment, and ourselves.

Cover of "The 90-Day Novel" by Alan Watt

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt

Good chance Julia Cameron fans will enjoy this, given that there are a few similarities. If Cameron doesn’t resonate, you still may find this bread-crumbs/inside-to-out writing approach useful.

Are you reading or writing lately?