Sunday, November 22, 2015

1969 And Then Some by Robert Wintner

The year when everything needed to be experienced
and tried, when innocence was tempted, played, and lost.


1969 and Then Some is a memoir of the 60s and the influence of those years over the decades that followed. Romance, psychedelic insight and motorcycling evolve with the narrator maturity, such as it is, and non-compromise on morality and the undying spirit of adventure in nature.

While the 60s is often discounted or as ephemeral—as a social aberration—1969 & Then Some offers keen insight to lingering values that cannot be separated from significant segments of the most significant population group alive today, the baby boomers, many of whom still hold sway in key areas of social and cultural evolution.


I was in my pre-teens/early teens during the era this memoir covers. So while I was aware of this unique decade, by the time I was that magic age of 18, the shine had worn off - things had changed. Author Robert Wintner, however, lived it fully. It was a crazy time of drugs, sex, lack of direction, being in the moment doing what felt right, thoughts of peace and more. Life was experienced in a crazy, impulsive jumble often under a haze of hash, weed and LSD. A style of writing grew out of this called Gonzo Journalism. It captured the stream of consciousness lifestyle prevalent and is the style this book is written in.

                     Gonzo - adjective
                     1.(of journalism, reportage, etc.) filled with bizarre or subjective 
                          ideas,commentary, or the like.

While this type of writing truly does capture the chaos of memories from this time, it does present challenges.  Readers definitely get the feel of living each moment, but there is a lack of cohesiveness to the narrative and confusion at times about what actually happened.  Subjects arise that disappear never to re-appear.

If you love this style of writing, then you'll find this book a great read and wonderful eye opener on this era. If you were also immersed in these very unique times, this will be a great walk down memory lane. But if you're prefer a more traditional style of story telling, this could be a challenging read.

Buy the book here: Amazon ~ Audible

Meet the Author

Robert Wintner lives and works on Maui with his wife Anita, seven cats and Cookie the dog, who came in emaciated at 14 pounds, unable to stand. Cookie at 60 pounds raises a ruckus on the beach or in the living room in her continuing drive to make the world a happier place. The entire family eats well, stays fit and enjoys good health under blue skies.

Connect with the author:    Website    Facebook

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Jerusalem News by John Enright

New Jersusalem news

The summer season on Cape Cod is over - 
now it’s time for the real fun to begin.

Synopsis -  
Dominick is always just passing through. He is a professional houseguest who follows the sun and the leisure class from resort to resort. But this winter he lingers on a quaint New England island and in spite of his best intentions becomes involved in the travails of his eccentric geriatric hosts. An environmental protest against a proposed liquid natural gas terminal turns ugly, and by accident and happenstance Dominick becomes a mistaken suspect in terroristic bombings. But the book, of course, is really about its characters. None of them are young—white-bearded men and blue-coiffed women busy with aging, dementia, and ungrateful children. Dominick strives to float above it all in a life of itinerant escape. A New England comedy of sorts, New Jerusalem News, on another level, is an extended meditation on history, identity, and what it means to drift.

Review - 

New Jerusalem News is a work of fiction set on an island in New England. Reading the synopsis is a bit misleading at the start. The plot sounds like high intrigue and fast action. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the statement that the book is all about the characters is bang on, and to focus on the characters means a slower pace to the story telling. This presents a challenge for writers. How do you keep the reader turning the page when there isn't constant action?  Enright manages beautifully in this well written book.

The main character - Dominick - is a professional house guest who uncharacteristically ends up spending winter months on a quiet island in the home of an elderly couple - Atticus and Lydia. While he tries his best to never get involved in the lives of those he bunks with, he finds himself slowly and increasingly entwined in their struggles - an environmental protest gone bad, health issues, a difficult daughter and more. He also finds himself in the spotlight as the main suspect at the center of a government investigation.

Over the course of the story we are introduced to several other interesting locals. Each comes alive as we listen to them speak and watch them interact with other. And fun is made of bureaucracy - how single minded the focus can be and how once wrong decisions are made, the cover up begins. Truth, and history, are written as you go along. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and consumed it cover to cover.

Buy the book: Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Meet the author:

Check out my interview with author John Enright HERE!

Originally from Buffalo, New York, John Enright holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the City College of New York and a master’s degree in folklore from the University of California, Berkeley. After working in magazine journalism and book publishing, he left the U.S. to teach at the American Samoa Community College. He remained in the South Pacific for 26 years, directing environmental, cultural, and historical preservation programs and writing extensively about the islands. 

His acclaimed detective series, Jungle Beat (Thomas & Mercer), featuring Det. Sgt. Apelu Soifua, is set in Samoa. His collection of poems about Samoa, 14 Degrees South, won the University of the South Pacific Press’s inaugural Literature Prize for Poetry in 2011. He now lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, with his wife, ceramicist Connie Payne.

Connect with the author: Website Twitter Facebook

Interview with John Enright, Author of New Jerusalem News

You have had a very varied career path. Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

When I was 17, I was with a date in the backseat of my best friend Michael Joyce’s ’57 Chevy when he recited a poem he had written to his date in the front seat. We were on South Park Avenue in Buffalo, New York, headed out of town for some reason. I remember the line, “Run run run, children on a sugar cube road.” I was impressed. No one I knew had ever written a poem before. The next day I wrote my own poem, and I couldn’t stop. Up to that point I had figured I would be a painter like my mother. I have been writing and publishing the 53 years since, living by the word one way or another.

What prompted your move to Samoa to teach and what did the experiences of living there for over 26 years bring to your writing?
I moved to Samoa in 1981 because Ronald Reagan had been elected President. I had experienced enough of his anti-progressive, anti-intellectual rule when he was governor of California and I was at UC Berkeley. I had been to Samoa five years before, on a wander. A former lover (and future ex-wife) was now chair of the community college’s English department. I had always liked teaching—the performance part. I taught there for seven years—English, Literature, and Folklore—before moving on to grant-funded preservation jobs.

Samoa taught me a lot. At 36, I wasn’t about to change much; but I still had a lot to learn. About being a minority, the outsider; about how entertaining differences could be; about humility and a whole new way to be polite; about naked nature and living in it; and a lot about Samoan history and culture. My last 13 years in the islands I was Territorial Historic Preservation Officer.

My first four novels, in the Jungle Beat mysteries series (Thomas & Mercer), are all set in Samoa, with a Samoan detective narrator and casts of primarily island natives. For me, the four books comprise a contemporary ethnography disguised as police procedurals. I had to write about what I had learned of this place where things were different.

The sometimes languorous, sometimes lingering pace of my storytelling I owe entirely to a quarter-century in the tropics, where everything slows, time naps, and leisure means being given the chance to appreciate.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

Writing for me is the other world. I guess maybe like heaven is to those believers. The difference is that I get to go there now and then. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. After the hard part of starting and framing (and restarting and reframing), and once the central actors have arrived—in costume (all rehearsals are dress rehearsals here)—and begun asking me what is this all about, inside that next book is where I want to be. Of course, the actual—sometimes called the “real”—world too often jealously intercedes. But when I can escape and get there—and I try every day—it’s like home free! And I get to play with my new (and some old) friends. All around goal is it.

The chore? The mistakes. When you’ve written yourself into a cull-d-sac. When it just does not fucking work. When you begin to sound too much like yourself. When your actors quit out of boredom. Or any time you can’t go there.

Review HERE
What inspired New Jerusalem News' story line? Have you visited or lived in this area (or a similar one)?

The anonymous model for New Jerusalem is Newport, Rhode Island. For the past eight years I have been retired on Conanicut Island in the middle of Narragansett Bay across from Newport. A few years ago—right after I got here—there was a big protest—Save the Bay—over a proposed LNG terminal up in Fall River. (Just another ethnography.)

One of the strengths of this book is the sheer number of individuals you developed that were very real - right down to the way they spoke, reacted and spent their days. How do you develop such unique characters so fully? Do they become real to you as you write?

For me, novels have always been about their characters. I don’t remember plots; I remember people. (You will remember Lydia nailing the burned toast to the kitchen wall.) Once a character arrives and insists on staying, I do spend notebook pages free-writing them into existence. For major characters I have to have an actual, human model in mind, or, more likely, a composite of real people. One of my favorite people in New Jerusalem News is Lydia, the aging painter tasting the freedom of her dementia. Lydia, bless her, is the emboldened hybrid doppelganger of two of my favorite lady artist friends. Sometimes, I bring back dead friends to enjoy their company again.

As I said, in my other, preferred world these actors and I spend quality time together, for a year or more. I miss them when the book is done and we part.

Is having the main focus on the daily lives of the characters a trademark in all your books, or is it unique to New Jerusalem News? What are the challenges to keeping the reader interested and turning the pages with this slower pace of story telling?

Ah, yes, the challenges to keeping the reader interested and turning the pages.

As a young man I spent enough time performing on stage to learn that dread of the audience losing interest. (It is palpable.) I think this is (or should be) the novelist’s overriding fear—reader disinterest. In this age, with an audience media-trained to judge entertainment by the frequency and violence of explosions, murders, and orgasms, what is a pacifist puritan author to do? It is a challenge.

Often times, I’ll leave it to my actors. Improv. I’ll set up a scene and tell them, go for it, make it good, don’t lose anyone. I guess it may be a trademark of all my books. My characters seldom miss a meal.

Are there any new books on the horizon?

Oh yes, the Dominick Chronicles will continue. The next saga, Some People Talk with God, is due out next June, to be followed by Next Exit Paradise, Port Athens, and Unholy Grail, all from Yucca/Skyhorse Publishing.

Do you have any advice for those just beginning on their writing careers?

What? Are you crazy? If you are going to start, don’t stop. Write every day. Write all kinds of things. Face deadlines bravely. Savor details. Marry well. Good luck with marketing. Buy my books.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter    Facebook

Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman's Escape from Iran by Sima Goel

Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman's Escape from Iran

Fleeing the Hijab is a vivid portrait of a dangerous journey made by two teenaged girls through the Iranian desert to Pakistan, where, as homeless refugees, they struggled desperately to find some way to escape to the West. It is a story that needs to be heard and remembered.

Synopsis - 

A true account of Sima Goel, the Iranian teenager who crossed the most dangerous desert in the world rather than accept the restrictions of life in Iran of the early 1980s. Her quest for freedom is a thrilling, timely inspiration for people longing to create a life of meaning. It was the last straw!

The Ayatollah Khomeini had decreed that all women in Iran must wear the hijab, whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Baha'i. Thirteen-year-old Sima had gone out into the streets of Shiraz to demonstrate for freedom under the Shah's oppressive rule, and now that he had fled the country, this was the result: a new regime, and a much more repressive rule. The changes Khomeini's regime forced on the population were totally incompatible with Sima's ambitions and sense of personal freedom. Blacklisted by her school, unable to continue her studies, mourning the murders of innocent family members and friends, and forced to wear the hijab, she realized she had to leave her beloved birthplace and find a country where she could be free to follow her dreams.

Review - 

As someone who interviews people on their life journey, I was strongly drawn to review Fleeing the Hibab, author Sima Goel's true story of having to flee her beloved homeland.  My surprise came when I read the opening notes to discover this journey happened over three decades ago.  How would the author recreate those memories so many years later?  No worries.  From start to finish her intricate and detailed memories shared from the heart bring this story to life as if it was yesterday.

Several things stood out for me. Goel's love for her homeland comes through clearly - it's natural beauty, the wonderful culture and the food and the sorrow she felt at having to leave despite the fact her life was in danger. And her hopes that true personal freedom will one day again return are there as well. I felt the author also laid out how fear for your life and social pressure can change people. One of her worst enemies at school was a former friend. Lastly she opened the door on what a cycle of dependence being a refugee is. It is often a trap from which escape is difficult.

From Goel's need to hide at home, to her frightening escape across the dessert on foot at the mercy of men she did not know, to the frustration of being trapped as a refugee, to her final plane flight to freedom - the reader is drawn into her world both physically and emotionally. This book is as relevant today as when the events originally happened. A great eye opener for those living a life of great freedom in North America.

Buy the book: Amazon Barnes & Noble Chapters/Indigo

Meet the Author -

To read an interview with the author click HERE

Sima Goel author picIranian-born Sima Goel has always had compassion for those who suffer. Her instinctive need to speak out against oppression ultimately resulted in unwanted attention from the authorities, which led her to flee her beloved Shiraz and eventually to Montreal.

Sima Goel is a self-made woman. Her journey to freedom, recounted in her memoir, Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran, reflects her belief that, without freedom of choice, life is worthless. She is a strong advocate for the disenfranchised and the rights of all, specifically the rights of women. With the publication of her book, Sima has fulfilled the promise she once made to herself: to speak out and share her truth that freedom is the most precious commodity of all.

Wellness chiropractor, health advocate, inspiring author and an in-demand speaker, Dr. Goel considers her most important role to be that of mother to her two teenage boys, and wife to her beloved husband.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

VALT 2015 - Nathan McLean, Emcee for Aquatica

Images by Patrick Parenteau and Ed Ng Photography

VALT 2015 is being held Nov. 20-22. 

Please note - NO tickets will be sold at the door
this season so be sure and get your tix early at

Nathan McLean has been a part of Vancouver Alternative Arts & Fashion Week since the beginning in 2012, and he has been the token drag queen working the runway as Ivana Phoque.

With more then 5 years as a professional model and model boot camp coaching behind him, this year he will be stepping into the role of VALT Model Manager. Nathan will be helping cast models for the event, teaching selected models how to walk in heels, and all around supporting the show as much as possible. Bring your A game to castings, because he will be watching!

= = = =

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid/teen?

I grew up in Victoria BC, as a kid I was a "free spirit" , multiple imaginary friend kinda guy. Sort of shy yet loud and energetic. As a teen I was an outcast, didn't know who I was as a person and kind of hid in a shell. It wasn't until I was 18 that I really came out of my shell and started to become the person I am today.

What currently are you involved with: work, hobbies, charity, other?

I am the Imperial crowned Princess of Vancouver's Drag community. So I perform and host shows through out Vancouver's night life. I also work with multiple fashion shows and charity shows by working with the models (teaching them how to walk and own the runway). I have decided to take time off working to find what the best career path I should take, that will best suit myself and my personality.

What things would you like people to know about you?
  • I'm not a regular guy, I have quirks and oddities that make me who I am. 
  • I am terrified of snakes. 
  • I have 4 tattoos. 
  • I can out last most girls in heels, and I mean real heels, none of this 2 or 3 inch shoes... I mean like 6-10 inches for 12-15 hours.. 
How did you become involved with VALT?

Year one I was booked as a model, and as I do caused a ruckus and the "Kats" grew a liking for me from that point on!

What do you personally feel VALT brings to the Vancouver scene that is unique?
VALT bring inclusivity , there isn't anything else like it around. When I can be a part of something that allows all people, all shapes and all forms to walk the runway, I know it' is an event I want to be a part of. When you can have anything from gender fluid, to transgendered, to gay/ straight/ bi, tall, short , thin and full figured on a runway, it lets people know we are the definition of community.

Please share a favourite memory from a previous season of VALT.

VALT season one... I have this skill of "tricking" designers to put me in their sets last minute... So year one I was modelling as a boy and I convinced a designer to let me model in drag in her set. Thus making the makeup artist have to do a 20 minute drag make up on me.... Drag takes minimum an hour and a half to do right! And the artist did a flawless job. Kat Morris!

How did you end up becoming an emcee for VALT 2015?

I don't actually know...The Kats and I went for breakfast last year after VALT and they asked if it was something I was interested in. And I have kinda become the "dominant" personality of VALT... So I guess it seems fitting.

What is the theme of the night you are emceeing? What do you hope to bring to the evening in term of performance?

I am emceeing the Aquatica Night! For my specific night I am just MCing, there are going to be other performance pieces and I want to bring it to a level of featuring the designers and artists work and I'll be there to highlight and direct people focus to it.

Links you would like shared -
Facebook - Ivana Phoque
Facebook - Nathan McLean
Instagram - @N886

Friday, November 13, 2015

VALT 2015 - Tristan Risk, Emcee for Celestia

All images by David Denofreo

VALT 2015 is being held Nov. 20-22. 

Please note - NO tickets will be sold at the door
this season so be sure and get your tix early at

Corsetier, chocolatier, baker, ta-ta shaker, hip swayer, tight lacer, troublemaker, red lipstick, magic tricks, swizzle sticks, voodoo kicks, and a urban myth. Her name is Tristan Risk. You likely know her as burlesque dancer/circus darling/ foodie/fetish model/pin up/actress and general social nuisance Little Miss Risk.

She has spent a great deal of her life as a performer, touring Canada, the USA and Europe with the burlesque troupe the Voodoo Dollz, causing social unrest, contributing to notorious underground burlesque studio Dollhouse Studios, and writing about it.

She currently performs with Vancouver-based burlesque troupe, Sweet Soul Burlesque, as well as circus collective Caravan Of Creeps, is a spokesmodel for the Sizzr app as well as an actress (American Mary, The Editor, ABCs Of Death 2). Something of a Vancouver history-o-phile and a downtown courtesan. also a regular contributor to Huffington Post and Daily Grindhouse as well as guest writer for Rue Morgue, Exclaim!, The Lingerie Addict and Malevolent Magazine. Enjoy.

= = = =

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid/teen?
I grew up in Tsawwassen, but I spent a great deal of time either at school (Langley Fine Arts) or downtown Vancouver. I was a weird kid and teen, and ostracized for being unusual in my selection of dress and expression.

What currently are you involved with: work, hobbies, charity, other?

I'm an actress and burlesque dancer. I also perform with my circus troupe, Caravan Of Creeps and my burlesque troupe Sweet Soul Burlesque. I'm active and enjoy mermaiding, acro yoga, and creating interesting shapes with my body.

What 3 things would you like people to know about you? 
  • I love good wine and food. 
  • I love the company of snakes. 
  • I love making meninists cry.
How did you become involved with VALT?

Through the amazing woman who has been my white rabbit to this Wonderland of craziness: Teresa Tayloy-Bussey of Dead Heaven Make up Artistry.

What do you personally feel VALT brings to the Vancouver scene that is unique?

Vancouver is becoming a fashion and lifestyle destination globally. People come to the West Coast specifically because it encourages weird creativity and is permissive and liberal in it's attitudes towards people's lifestyle choices. VALT is a celebration of all of these things.

Please share a favourite memory from a previous season of VALT.

The Hypershine show from previous years and MITMUNK. I love future-forward fashion as much as vintage ones.

How did you end up becoming an emcee for VALT 2015?

I'm in debt to a number of demons now, but it is totally worth it.

What is the theme of the night you are emceeing? What do you hope to bring to the evening in term of performance?

I'll be hosting Celestia - where my partner and I are the last of our species and study various life forms across the galaxy in a never ending space opera.

Links -

Twitter: @littlemissrisk
Instagram: @littlemissrisk

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Brainstorm: A Memoir of Love, Devotion, and a Cerebral Aneurysm by Robert Wintner

Nine million Americans are touched by aneurysms
during their lifetime. This is one story of love.


Brainstorm is a first-person narrative of incidents leading up to, through and after a cerebral aneurysm and hemorrhage in the immediate family. The action includes the dramatic process ongoing in trauma centers designed to process sudden occurrence of aneurysm, cerebral hemorrhage and morbidity. The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that 3% of all populations have an aneurysm that may or may not leak—about 3½ million people in the U.S.

While the procedures and protocol for sudden onslaught are rote and fundamentally unchanged over the ages, hygienic and technological advances have reduced hazards. Death and debilitation statistics are still daunting, and Brainstorm factors a new component into the procedural mix, whereby a conscientious and healthy husband and wife seek participation in the process, to no avail.


I love interviewing people on their life journeys and have done so for the last nine years. So when the opportunity to read and review Brainstorm was offered, I jumped at the chance. The author, Robert Wintner, and his wife are serious alternative health advocates who embrace the idea of strengthening the body's resources and immunity rather than bombarding it with toxic chemicals and invasive treatments.  It worked well for them right up to the moment Wintner's wife had an aneurysm bleed. What follows is a chaotic, heart felt journey through the emergency system that sheds a light on how patients are treated within a trauma scenario.

First and foremost, I have to give kudos to the author. His fluid writing style and the honest way he lays out what happened brings the scene to life. I ended up feeling like I knew all the characters involved, could hear the disturbing noises that never stopped, jumped every time the curtain was swished back unexpectedly and felt the pressure to just let go and sign without getting questions answered as to full treatment options. There was one road that they were expected to follow without question.

Wintner is very honest about how difficult he was to deal with as they demanded things slow down and more information be given. The hospital went so far as to send a psych person who talked like he was there to help, but was really there to access them for the hospital's legal team. He labeled them paranoid.  In the end, the surgery saved his wife's life, for which the author will be forever grateful. BUT every hospital needs to address the fear and the tension created by the current process as it can have a serious negative impact on the patient.

The need to feel free to ask questions and get real answers on all the possible treatment choices is the basic right of each person who enters the hospital. It should never be a one-stop shop with everyone crammed in the same box and thought needs to be given to keeping a person's mental strength up as that can have a powerful effect on the outcome.

A great read!

Buy the book: Amazon ~ Audible

Meet the author:

Robert Wintner lives and works on Maui with his wife Anita, seven cats and Cookie the dog, who came in emaciated at 14 pounds, unable to stand. Cookie at 60 pounds raises a ruckus on the beach or in the living room in her continuing drive to make the world a happier place. The entire family eats well, stays fit and enjoys good health under blue skies

Connect with the author: Website Facebook

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

VALT 2015 - Kieron Rhys Lillo, Emcee for Terrestria

 VALT 2015 is being held Nov. 20-22. 

Please note - NO tickets will be sold at the door
this season so be sure and get your tix early at

Appearing as MC for the second year in a row at VALT. Kieron Rhys Lillo is a musician-writer-director-producer-sound designer-actor-multi-hyphenate-clown-MC-performance artist, and newest board member of The Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret.

He has been performing all his life, and as a Clown since the age of 6. He has most recently been working on his series as his alter ego, "Sir Buttercup Von Dingus: To Kill A Clown" and the upcoming Satanic pirate play/musical/shadow puppet show "Moonshine Macabaret".

His roots are deep within the theatre, literally growing up back stage in his Moms Theatre school. Music is also in his blood, performing with dozens of bands in his life, but most recently with his new band, the improvisational post modern performance Art soundgasm group, Wet Nightmare!

His imagination and creativity know no boundaries, as you are sure to witness come the opening night of VALT - Terrestria!

= = = =

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid/teen?

I was born in Edmonton, AB. Grew up in Edmonton, and Leduc, where my mother was the Artistic Director of a theatre school. I basically grew up backstage at the theatre. Enrolling into magic and clownology at a very early age, I have been performing in front of audiences my entire life. My father was a professional Musician, and computer programmer. He also played piano for the United Church, but also identified with the teachings of Buddha. He encouraged my musical, and spiritual, and scientific development, often at the same time.

My brother suffered a brain injury as a result of a near drowning when I was 9, which has led me to be an advocate for inclusion for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. As a teenager I had started to organize events, providing workshops on sexual health information, counselling services for teens, with bands closing the night. On Sunday's I volunteered with Food Not Bombs.

What currently are you involved with: work, hobbies, charity, other?

I am the newest elected member of the Board of Directors for The Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret. Earlier this year we put on The Scarlet Queen of Mercy, where I played the torturous Dr. VonPayne. We just finished putting on The Parade of Lost Souls, which transforms the Britannia area into a veritable cornucopia of haunted visages. I performed on the sideshow stage as my adult clown alter ego Sir Buttercup VonDingus. For this set, I made my goal to get moans, and have people leave feeling like an owl in an ivy bush. This years parade was a huge success, catering to over 7,000 people this year.

I'm also working on a series of short films entitled "To Kill A Clown", it's like Pogo the clown meets Wyle E. Coyote. The first in the series "Clown Car", debuted last February at The Badass Film Fest, winning the award of "Best Clown" (there were no other clowns) an honour, nonetheless. Part 2 "Super Douche Mega Goof" was released by Jerk In The Can earlier this year. Part 3 "Clown Bomb" (also featuring Jerk In The Can) will hopefully be premiering again at next years Badass Film Fest (if they accept it, fingers crossed), and Part 4,5, and 6, "Press X to Not Die" is an interactive movie available now on Xbox 360 and Steam. With Part 7, 8, and 9, possible being released in an update on the Steam version.

I've been writing feverishly on many more of these, as I'd like to eventually have "101 Ways To Kill A Clown". During our federal election I ran a parody campaign, making speeches and press releases from different parties talking points. I run a company called Isoarstudio, which occasionally works on horror related art. Somewhere in there, occasionally I play in an improv horror/burlesque band called "Wet Nightmare". We get to steal Calamity Kate from The Lost Girls Burlesque troup, and I'm super happy about that.

What 3 things would you like people to know about you?
  • I am a huge fan of pranks, but mostly the ones where the person getting pranked receives more enjoyment than the person doing the pranking.
  • If you need a clown to be killed in your movie or short, please contact me.
  • I smile a lot, watch my eyes.

How did you become involved with VALT?

The first year I came to VALT was 2 years ago as press, covering for GrindDown Magazine. I met the organizers, and later that year started talking with them about hosting for the next year, which I did. MCing the final night of 2014 "reVelation"

What do you personally feel VALT brings to the Vancouver scene that is unique?

Well first off, the clothing. There are so many mind blowing outfits, from a huge array of incredibly talented designers. That alone should really be enough. But the models the organizers choose, are a much wider gamut than your average fashion show. You'll see models of all varieties of height, build, orientation, and life. Tack on musical performances by anything from a harp player, to musically triggered projection mapping DJ sets, to Rock and Roll, and dozens of artists displaying art of diverse mediums, yeah, they bring something unique to every corner of the space.

Please share a favourite memory from a previous season of VALT.

That had to be right at the beginning of my night MCing last years VALT, I had planted a friend in the audience, and had him fake receiving a phone call, interrupting my opening monologue. My female bodyguards surrounded him, bagged his head, and bum rushed him out of the building. I will not be disrespected. Haha.

How did you end up becoming an emcee for VALT 2015?

I guess I did a good job last year. They asked me back.

What is the theme of the night you are emceeing? What do you hope to bring to the evening in term of performance?

The theme of my night is "Terrestria", Earth. I don't want to give anything away, but I'll tell you this. By the end of it, I want you to know why you're alive.

Links -
Twitter @sirbuttercupvon

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Murder on Safari by Peter Riva

Murder on Safari by Peter Riva

Only a reality TV producer and an expert
safari guide can stop a terrorist attack.

Synopsis - 

Every adventure starts at the fringes of civilization. For expert safari guide Mbuno and wildlife television producer Pero Baltazar, filming in the wild of East Africa should have been a return to the adventure they always loved. This time they’d be filming soaring vultures in northern Kenya and giant sea crocodiles in Tanzania with Mary, the daughter of the world’s top television evangelist, the very reverend Jimmy Threte.

But when a terrorist cell places them in the crosshairs, there is suddenly no escape and they must put their filming aside and combine all their talents to thwart an all-out al-Shabaab terrorist attack on Jimmy Threte’s Christian gathering of hundreds of thousands in Nairobi, Kenya.

Review -

I am going to start with the fact that, of the 2 books I have read by author Peter Riva, Murder on Safari is my overwhelming favourite.. It hit the sweet spot for me and I literally consumed it in a few nights. The book is well written and managed to quickly transport me away to foreign places. Labelled as action and adventure - perfect choices by the way - the author offers so much more. Africa really comes alive.

In the book, the main character - Pero Baltazar - is at the beginning of a new filming expedition. When one of his party dies on the first day of filming - a race to stay ahead of evil forces ensues. Although the crew changes locations, they cannot shake their pursuers. They also learn of a terrorist plot that will result in the dead of hundreds of thousands. What they don't know is how it will be achieved. The plot moves along quickly, keeping you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Riva's not only created great characters in this book, but managed to bring them to life physically. As I moved through the story, I could picture how each person looked and understand who they were. Their voices took shape. The same goes for the African cities and countryside the characters moved through. The airport terminal, the vehicles, the tents - all became substantial.  The world around me disappeared as I gave myself over to the sights, sounds and smells of Africa. Each time I took a break, I was always surprised by how much time had passed.

Kudos to the author. This book is a definite must read.

Buy the book: Amazon Barnes & Noble Chapters/Indigo

Meet the Author - 

To read a behind the scenes interview with the author click HERE!

Peter Riva author picPeter Riva writes books in his spare time on two topics: Sci-Fi and Africa Adventure. He spent many months over 30 years in Africa, many of them with the legendary guides for E. African White Hunters and adventurers. He created a TV series (78 1-hour episodes) in 1995 called Wild Things for Paramount TV. His writing passes on the fables, true tales and insider knowledge of these last reserves of true wildlife.Peter has also worked for more than thirty years with the leaders in aerospace and space exploration, giving him access to cutting edge science and future possibilities. His daytime job for more than forty years has been as a literary agent. He divides his time between New York and New Mexico

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Interview With Author Gabriel Valjan - Roma Underground, Wasp's Nest, Threading the Needle & Turning to Stone

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

I started writing in 2008. In 2010, my short stories started to appear online and in print and I was also short-listed for the Fish Prize. I wrote Roma, Underground in late 2010, submitted it to a call for manuscripts from Winter Goose Publishing in early 2011 and the rest is history. Roma, Underground appeared in 2012.

I know that people read for different reasons, but ultimately it is for pleasure, for some connection with either the character or with the plot. The Roma Series began as a challenge from a coworker, who asked me to write a short story about an intelligent, but flawed woman. I choose to write in the mystery and suspense genre because it is a challenge to keep the reader engaged, turning the pages. Everything has to count, has to contribute to the pacing or the character’s development; it is a genre in which readers see another mind (or minds, in the case of my series) at work in order to solve the mystery.

Where do you find inspiration for your story lines? For the characters you create?

First, I think the majority of writers are keen observers of events and people around them. The discernment, the rub, is what they choose to nuance and accentuate for emphasis. Is it interactions between individuals, between them and the world around them? I focus on relationships, but never forget that there is a greater vortex around them. I believe that no matter how much we cocoon ourselves in bubbles of hyperlinked awareness, all this connectedness is really a symptom of disconnection. The world is Darwinian, impersonal and indifferent.

Like many writers, I read something, hear about something and I ask myself, “What if x or y?” In my particular case, I’m partial to character-driven stories. I want someone to love, root for, and occasionally get annoyed with, BUT I want to see struggles within the greater cycle of history and society. We are all affected – affected when culture is robbed (Roma, Underground), when a cure for cancer can determine life or death, but profits dominate (Wasp’s Nest), affected when lives are caught between antagonistic political systems, between criminal entities, at odds with each other (Threading the Needle), and affected, when the least among us is not valued and discarded (Turning To Stone) because of national interests.

Review HERE
Plot says something must happen, although not necessarily in a linear fashion. We’ve all read character studies where nothing happens. I try to balance Plot and Character. Roma, Underground drew inspiration from the 1980 scandal over silver from the archaeological site Morgantina in Sicily and from the real archaeological group, Roma Sotteranea. Wasp’s Nest has some basis in fact from the world of insect genetics and cancer research. Threading the Needle revisits the dark history that Italians call the Gli anni di piombo (Years of Lead). Turning To Stone explores the Fiscal Crises of 2007 and 2008, which still haunt Europe.

I believe that we grow and learn when we look at Other, at a different value-system. The proverbial Italian flexibility on moral issues is almost blasphemous to the American mindset, for we believe in either black or white. I think that Italians are closer to a more realistic approach, which we may see as bordering on the cynical. We have a hard time with shades of gray (not the book, please). Ennio Flaiano, a brilliant wordsmith and astute observer of the Italian nation, penned a famous line that is truly untranslatable because of its wordplay: L’Italia è la patria del diritto, ma soprattutto del rovescio. Run it through Google Translate and have fun.

I high recommend the films Il Divo – the movie from Paolo Sorrentino and not the musical group – and, for those who want some insight into organized crime other than The Sopranos, watch Suburra, out this year. Stefano Sollima directs what Giancarlo De Cataldo, a magistrate, and Carlo Boninin, a journalist, conveyed in their collaboration, a gritty and dark film noir on corruption.

How do you approach writing - set time each day, when inspiration hits, etc.? Do you ever face writer's block and if yes, how do you get past it?

My process is disciplined. I write daily, and I constantly ask myself, Will this make the reader turn the page? In the first go, I try to get the story down. With a series, the characters are in your head and they have distinctive voices and quirks such that I put them in situations and record how they react. So I guess that is stream-of-consciousness writing once the characters are established. I do, however, make the characters evolve from one book to the next. My characters are flawed, but they are not dysfunctional; they care about each other because they live and work together and are dependent on each other because it is a matter of life or death.

No, I don’t get writer’s block. Look, I am not a genius who will say that I have a million things flying around in my head. That flurry might seem ‘artistic,’ but it is really the mirrored reflection of an undisciplined mind or a lack of discernment. Artists tend to be obsessive and disciplined creatures and I am no different. I’ll chew on an idea until it finds expression. I chisel away at the chunk of stone and I don’t tolerate distractions. I’m very hard on myself because what matters to me is the Story. What I do experience, however, is Frustration because I can’t find the right words at times. Language is, by its very nature, slippery and elusive. Accept that fact and let it go because it will never ever be perfect. I’ll always find the flaw, that one thing in hundreds of pages, that I had wished that I had done better.

In The Roma Series, you chose a strong, intelligent woman as the central character and surrounded her with a support base of loyal male colleagues. Can you talk about why you chose this direction?

Review HERE

Bianca began as a challenge from a coworker when I was writing short stories. I still write short stories, by the way. I think the world is weary of drunken, retired private detectives, so why not a female protagonist? We might be fascinated with intelligent technology savants, if they have redeeming qualities. There is trend for unlikeable characters, but I wanted to create someone who was decent. Lisabeth Salander is rowdy and rude, but she has a strong moral core for justice. Bianca is distant and difficult, enigmatic, but she demonstrates the contradictions we all possess: heroic but afraid, outraged and uncertain how to proceed. At times, she has no filters and infuriates her friends, but she is often on the mark. Like all of us, she wants to be accepted, loved and respected on reasonable terms.

You include a quite a bit of background colour in this series - intimately describing locations in Rome, Boston, Milan, Naples, detailing the preparation and heritage of sumptuous food, and even taking time to offer how someone looks/talks in detail? What kind of research was necessary to bring this aspect to your story line?

(Smiles). First off, I’ve travelled to all of those locations and I live in Boston. Food figures large in my book, because taste and scent are sensual and food is a communal experience. You’ll notice that within the Roma Series my characters hash out their thoughts over meals. I mentioned that novelists observe life around them. Nothing saddens me more than to see families at a table, texting and doing whatever on hand-held devices while stuffing their faces. As you get older, you appreciate the fragility of life, and to think that these people who are sitting opposite of family and are ignoring each other, people they will lose one day, is tragic. Second, I’ve eaten all the dishes that I’ve described in my books. I live near Barbara Lynch’s restaurant. She and her staff keep me apprised of regional Italian cuisine. While I seldom discuss it, I have lost most of my sense of taste due to radiation for cancer. I wrote Roma, Underground while being treated for cancer. The writing was my way of combating depression and keeping my body and mind fixed on a purpose. To smell a delicious scent and not be able to taste it is a perverse form of torture few people will ever experience. The deprivation of a sense rewires your thinking. On a positive note, however, my cancer experience has, for physical reasons, forced me to eat more slowly, to savor each morsel. I detail food preparation because, whether people realize it or not, you may not be able to express your feelings, but making a meal for another person is an expression of love. Meals, laughter, and simple pleasures are what we’ll remember, and not the job, the boss, or the paycheck. The Roma Series is about crime, about deeper questions in this world we share, but it is also about friends, about love in a morally compromised world.

Of the four books in the Roma Series - Roma Underground, Wasp’s Nest, Threading the Needle and Turning to Stone - three are set in Italy and only one in the U.S. Why did you choose to have your second book of this series in a different country?

Each book was written as a stand-alone, but I’ve designed the Series in such a way that readers will see a range of emotional development and responses in each of the main characters. The main character, Bianca, will confront her issues with intimacy. Readers will have hints about what happened to her, but its magnitude is not exposed until Book 5. With each book, readers will learn more about – and love, or, understand – what makes each character tick.

Review HERE
With this in mind, Wasp’s Nest, as you pointed out, is not set in Italy. On the face of it, Bianca travels to Boston, enticed by ‘the assignment,’ but I hope that readers intuit that she ran away from her relationship with Dante. He is good to her, too good at times. In modern Italy, the name Dante is old-fashioned, which suits him because he exhibits values seldom seen today. Intimacy frightens Bianca and there she was in Rome with a close-knit circle of friends who respect her, admire her, and call her out on her lack of consideration.

I situated the second novel outside Italy for another reason: contrast. I don’t just mean American and European contrast, though there is that; but rather that readers see Bianca realizing her feelings for Dante and her sense of growing disconnect with American culture. She misses Italy. She misses her friends. If I am criticizing America, it is for its lack of work-life balance. But just as she thinks she has a handle on cultural differences, she runs smack into the North-South divide within Italy in the third novel, Threading the Needle. Milan is a distinctive city, even for Italians.

In Book 5, Corporate Citizen, Bianca will return to Boston, but this time to help an old friend. It will be her last hurrah for Bianca in the United States and a ‘goodbye to all that’ for her, for reasons I won’t disclose.

Will there be more books coming in the Roma Series?
Winter Goose Publishing has Corporate Citizen scheduled for a May 2016 release. There are other books in the Roma Series, but I will also be introducing another series altogether in 2017, so I’m not certain about the release dates.
I have a volume planned for London, which will put some salt into old wounds and find Bianca and Company hankering for home. After Book 6, the Roma Series stays firmly in Italy. I want to write one adventure in ‘magical Turin’ and maybe frame a story set in Piedmont - home of slow food that would be a perfect setting to mix conspiracy, culture and good food, my way. Speaking of food, Emilia-Romagna is traditionally considered the Italian region with the best cuisine, but I disagree; to me it’s Sicily, followed by Puglia. Some of my characters have southern roots so readers deserve to enjoy the cuisine of their regions, too. It goes without saying that writing in the ‘Italian mystery–suspense genre,’ I have to do a story somewhere in southern Italy, given that I adore Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano Series. Camilleri is ninety now and still going strong. 

Do you have any advice for new authors just entering this career?

Review HERE
Each person, each human being has a unique relation to language, how they use it. We are all storytellers and we all have a story to tell. Write what you know. Write what you don't know. Obey the laws of grammar and syntax. Break the rules of grammar and syntax. Speech is what you hear. Dialogue is what you imagine between fictional characters. A beat is time in the corner for the boxer to rest or time for the boxer to deliver the punch. Characters live and breathe by how they act, however flawed or noble they are, and not because someone tells you they do. Point of view is a camera; change the lens and you change what you see and whence you see it. Visual is in the mind and it is also white space on the page. Edit for copy, for structure, but always have someone else do it because you won't see it. Criticism is always constructive, never personal. Voice is yours and only yours, as unique as your fingertips, your earlobes, and your handwriting.

As you can see, there are rules and there are no rules. Writing is about creation and expression; it is a function of the intangible human spirit. The act of creative expression, be it oral or written, nearly always involves the person who is doing that creating through words to be sitting down. Spoken or written, the story is created from a seated position. Tell the story that you have inside you. You have no control over whether you’ll make money (or not), be famous or forever obscure. Read widely other authors and genres to see how they ‘work’ and why they did what did and why it works. Should you be fortunate enough to meet your readers, stay until you have met every last one of them. You’ll be the better person. Don’t compete with other writers. Somebody will always be better at something than you. Just be you. Respect the time your readers spend with you and be grateful that they chose to spend that precious time with you.

Connect with the author:   Website     Twitter     Facebook


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

America Is An Idea And The American Dream Is For Everyone by Mike Pousti - post November 4th


From a co-founder of comes this "Why?" 
story behind the massive social platform, empowr, that’s 
been in the making for fifteen years.

Synopsis -

Learn exactly what drove the participants (founders, advisors, success coaches and 1,000 employees plus 100,000 alpha test users) in their gigantic moonshot project.

After meticulously discussing the "Why?" the author then delves into how empowr has been designed to exploit the exponential characteristics of the web - via its tightly-integrated democratic, economic and educational platform - to deliver opportunity to people everywhere.

The book reads like a manifesto and a manual. One can’t help but come away with newfound or elevated inspiration to dream big, take on their own moonshot project and make a massive difference on the planet.

Review - 

Note - I have not double checked and confirmed all the statistics presented in this book nor researched the author's company -  What I offer here is solely a review of this book.

America is An Idea and The American Dream is for Everyone is an intriguing, thoughtful look at what is happening in the world around us.  Explored are ideas on what strategies are successful and which seem to move through an established cycles of concept-growth-success-stagnation-failure. The author applies these concepts to politics - both North American and Globally - to businesses and to the education system. Several of the concerns he presented are ones that had been on my mind for quite a while now, so it was interesting to get his take on them. I found myself many times in agreement with his assessment of the situation.

In the end, I support his assertion that democracy, education and the economy all need an infusion of new ideas. Each of these are crucial to achieving and maintaining long term success, whether applied to a company or a country. As a plan of attack, Pousti puts forward several ideas developed over the last 15 years of research that are incorporated into his company's goals - hand the controls back by allowing everyone an equal say, give clear feedback to judge the results achieved, offer financial rewards to all who participate, ensure a regular change of leadership to encourage change and avoid stagnation, and recharge education by offering motivated instructors who are compensated based on the success of their students.

Whatever your thoughts are on these issues, I would recommend this book highly. I found myself considering new ideas and directions as well as gaining a clearer picture of the global situation and current events. It will challenge you to THINK. The only negative - the Table of Contents. It definitely needs a simpler, clearer layout.

Buy the book: Amazon

Meet the Author - 

Mike Pousti is the co-founder of empowr, a partnership between academia and tech entrepreneurs that's attempting to deliver a democratized social media experience where the company is governed by its citizens.

Mike began his entrepreneurial journey when he founded his first start-up during his senior year as a computer engineering student at UC San Diego (UCSD). Employing 200 people and generating millions of dollars in profits before the age of 22, his company, Higher Educational Resources Corporation, developed the first commercially successful search engine on the Internet, known as the Arpanet.

His next start-up, Productivity Solutions Corporation, was acquired when he was 24 and two years later, Mike started, the world’s leading website for the 18-23 year old demographic. 

After the dot-com crash in 2000, was acquired, and less than a week later, Mike started Phase 1 of empowr. empowr’s highly patented suite of technologies generated over $150M U.S. and today, empowr's proprietary technologies are used by all major social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Tumblr.

While Mike remains an integral part in the daily operations of empowr, he recently relinquished his CEO position and handed over control of the company to empowr’s citizens, who formally elected their leader (and new President of empowr) via a web-based election.

Connect with the author:   Website 

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Interview With Peter Riva, Author of The Path and Murder on Safari

Q & A with author Peter Riva!

Where were you born and what were you like when young? Any interests or early signs you would later put pen to paper?

I was born in Manhattan in 1950 – a time of wonderful scientific discovery in America – exciting new cars every September, the race to space ramping up, computers (with punch cards!) all the rage to be marveled at and, never least, the Hayden Planetarium. I liked the complexity of the projector and the operator’s panel as much as the show. I loved writing stories – the story was the thing, the freedom of imagination unleashed. You sort of had to be there, the ‘50s, Spiderman comic’s 1st issue, Magnus the Robot Hunter, The Twilight Zone… imagination run rampant. So, yes, it was easy to believe in, imagine, possibilities.

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

I am a literary agent, some 40+ years licensing. I read maybe the equivalent of 2 books a week, most of it not suitable for publication, but always people’s fresh ideas and hopes. A comment from my son Sean made me stop and think. “Dad, you have had all these experiences, learned so much, where are you recording it?” So I simply started writing, for myself really. Then rewriting and rewriting – the real job of an author, until it was presentable. Then absorbing comments and questions and, you guessed it, rewriting again. Each book takes about 6 weeks of solid work, spread over time. To be published the books needed to adhere to professional publication criteria – although in today’s world maybe those criteria are eroding. It is a time for rejuvenation in publishing, like the first Spiderman comic of the ‘50s, maybe there is room for a new beginning.

You show your day job of more than 40 years is as a literary agent and yet list working for 30 years with leaders in aerospace and space exploration. Please share about this second career. What was your work with leaders in this industry and how did you fit this work into your already busy schedule? 

Oh, that’s a long story involving having a patient wife and family as I spent many months away, and still work normally more than 60 hours a week. Hard for them, I will admit. In 1983 a great man Ansel Adams explained form and emotion in photography to me. I asked him why, then, do astronauts take such interesting subject matter but it is always devoid of emotion. He agreed that was not a human trait, perhaps an anomaly. I then contacted NASA personnel through various contacts and talked to the flight film people who had been there since the Mercury program. To cut a long story short, we discovered that most of the hand-held flight footage was in a freezer, never seen by anyone once the single NASA written shooting-script shot had been selected for printing. The rest of each roll – and that was 175,000 images up to 1984! – had never been seen. Working with astronauts, and Sen. Kennedy, we changed that procedure at NASA, unfroze the flight footage and curated the unseen images down to 2,200 wonderful “art” shots – full of human emotion and artistic meaningful form. The exhibit opened at the Air & Space Museum in 1985.

Read Review HERE!
That program also exposed me to Mark Greenberg a LIFE photographer who was taking shots of the VOYAGER world flight program in Mojave. By 1985 I was managing that program in most ways, fund raising, PR, personnel selection, program management, sweeping the floor – all the while still being a literary agent. That program made us work with Allied Signal, Mobil, Lockheed Martin, the Air Force, and a host of other aviation powers – many of whom I still maintain contact with. When VOYAGER was successful in 1986, meeting with the President at Christmas was a milestone for me. VOYAGER is still, today, the ONLY atmospheric trans-global flight – passing the equator twice. No one has ever done that again. Distance? Sure, they learned from us. Around the globe? Nope.

After that I worked for two years with NCAR and UCAR on the External Tanks Project, trying to get NASA to leave the External Tanks in space and not ditch them in the ocean. Had that been successful we would now have 16 or more giant islands in orbit, ready for habitation.

In 1990 I brought 40 Astronauts and Cosmonauts to the United Nations for a show and tell to the delegates on the real dangers to this planet. I arranged for the first ever live broadcast from the MIR space station into the Assembly and co-negotiated the first environmental treaty between the USA and USSR: The ONLY ONE EARTH Treaty – witnessed by all the spacefarers.

Most authors write in one genre. While you do stay in the fiction category, you move easily between very technical Science Fiction and fiction stories set in Africa. What challenges do you face as you move between the different genres? What are the benefits?

I think the issue facing me is common to all authors… it is sort of like the difference between swimming at the beach or in a lake. Both require the same basic skill set but the joy of one is not a competition to the other – each has its own special joys and fears, challenges and victories. In me, because of my varied life and experiences, I have all these stories, all these events that I witnessed, that can be brought to bear on the story I want to allow to unfold – and perhaps that is the key. I am not dictating a story, but allowing experiences and knowledge to guide the story to a conclusion I hope is entertaining, page-turning and, above all, informationally satisfying. It is important to share. My life has been full, so sharing is an additional pleasure.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

The world ceases to exist when I am writing, it is the ultimate escapism. The only chore part is the feeling of sheer stupidity that occurs when you are rewriting and spot typos, poor grammar or when someone gets confused or “lost” when reading a passage. It hurts, I cannot pretend it doesn’t – but fixing the problem is part of writing. As Hemingway said, “Writing is re-writing.” Who the hell am I to argue with him?

What inspired the story line in The Path? The main characters?

I have an above average understanding of computers, and the reality of where they are going was imparted to me at NCAR by Walter Orr Roberts during the External Tanks Project. I learned about the Cray supercomputers they had then and the newest memory inventions – and he postulated where things were going – even the possibility of AI. I carried around that information in my head until – having fermented, I suppose, other life experiences – I had a story to start to tell, to allow to unfold.

Now, I have to say, that the first person in this book was tricky because I needed to have the slightly Monty Python-esque tone of the protagonist in order for the reader to really see he was not a hero as much as the right guy in the wrong place (or the other way around – the story does evolve) – and also to make it all slightly farcical that he was the one who first speaks to the AI. And what would a man who does not take himself too seriously do? Take the safe route, without egomaniacal ambition, and invoke the Path.

What kind of research was required to create the computer run scenario seen in the world created here?

Well, as a teen, I built Heathkit electronic oscilloscopes and hi-fi’s and then started at 17 learning Algol at school – all of which I have forgotten! – and learned Basic in 1984 to try and get on board the PC revolution. I always hated Apple – it’s their way or the highway (sort of fascist to me) – I prefer being able to make the machine do what I need or want it to do… the main change to the computer design in the story was that I changed the FAT from File Allocation Table to File Action Table, because I wanted the table to be mutate-able, changeable. Just a bit.

Anyone who has built a computer or circuit board sees computers as a structure, mentally mapping out where the electrons go in the mind’s eye. I just used that to pretend to be able to actually travel around the inside of Apollo’s circuitry and programming.

Review click HERE!
How did your fascination with Africa develop? Have you traveled there frequently?

I first went to Africa in 1966, aged 16. At the time the fascination was mainly as a result of being a kid in Manhattan and having access to the dioramas at the Natural History Museum – all those stuffed animals and lifelike vistas of the Africa that Teddy Roosevelt had brought back home. They enthralled me. Still do. Don’t discount their importance to conservation – they make you admire and want to preserve the last vestiges of wildlife.

In 1985 a client, Peter Beard, had become embroiled in a land confiscation scheme against him by powerful upper-level corrupt officials and their offspring. Jackie Onassis, I. and the French Cultural Ministry were trying to stop their land grab – a land grab almost made possible by false accusations against beard. In the end, the US State Dept. intervened, a non-corrupt judge was appointed and the police’s main witness arrested (never charged, of course).

Mbuno was a legendary African safari guide, to hunters and later hunters with cameras living on Hog Ranch within his wife. He was Liangulu (of the Liangulu – Waliangulu) as were his ancestors before him. Mbuno and I spent a few weeks together, trekking in the bush, mainly with me listening, getting to know him, and his history and that of his people while we waited out the authorities to stop the persecution of Beard. Over the next 20+ years or so I came back regularly on business, filming an ABC special, a car commercial for Peugeot and later a series for Paramount TV (78 1-hour wildlife episodes). So much of the book is torn from those experiences. 

What inspired the story line in your book Murder on Safari? The main characters?

I had witnessed some serious corruption and growing terrorist threat during the years there. Mbuno was very shrewd in guiding our film crew away from danger on occasion – danger many of the crew were never aware of. More than once he advised (and I immediately agreed as the producer) that we decamp to another location or hotel. There are some events I cannot speak of that I incorporated, sort of changed, into the book… but the reality of E. Africa always comes through because I was there and experienced the same or similar situations… Well, not an attack on a preacher or that sniper murder, but close…

What research was required to help you bring to life the chaos of the airport, the feel of the countryside, the greasing of palms needed to deal with problems and the dangers that can arise.

Well, all of that is real. I lived it, I dealt with it as a producer and, I can assure you, when you are out there on remote safari, your whole world can be taken apart pretty quickly. The airport was especially fun to write. Wilson Airport is really the most exciting place. And the history there, amazing, you can almost feel the spirit of Hemingway, Holden and others. 

As for the international airport… a friend and I once went to the airport to watch Concorde land. It was on an around-the-world tour, stopping one or two nights in far-distan5t places. The passengers had all paid $80,000 for the trip of a lifetime. We watched the people alight and then two ambulance men and several police went running up the stairs and, moments later, they brought a woman down in a stretcher for her overnight. She was screaming “I want to go home, I don’t want to be here…” One whiff of the E. African air had brought back primordial memories and she panicked. Think that was unique? Sydney Pollack, the director of Out Of Africa had the same thing happen while we were there observing the shoot with Iman. They had to put air scrubbers in his hotel room, fly his food in from Paris daily, and, the whole while he was in Africa, he never could bring himself to shake anyone’s hand – including it was rumored the President’s!

It is exactly that primordial trigger, deep within the psyche that enthralls, scares and attunes one’s senses in E. Africa. Can you still find it? Not really any more in the East (although parts are still great!), it has mostly been sanitized to a degree (some would say thankfully so) with open-air zoos called wildlife parks – but Namibia is still truly wild – you should go!
Any advice for young authors wanting to write in this very technical genre?

HAVE FUN! No really, have fun. The research you will need to undertake is the voyage, the sheer pleasure of learning is always a joy. If you do not enjoy learning, why would anyone be interested in what you write? Your enjoyment must be the only reason you want to write – not a career, not money (certainly not) – but the joy of the voyage of discovery and plot and wordsmithing and sharing.

The tricky part is in sharing, allowing others to feast, fully, on your vision, your experiences brought to life. Be generous. Generosity is art, pure and simple. If you do not give, do not share fully, you are creating rubbish.

And there is a maxim: If you can imagine it, it IS possible (that is, your brain is incapable of imagining anything that is not possible).

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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