Demented Author Moves to Southern California During Covid-19 Pandemic
Why would anyone plan to move to a different state during the summer of Covid-19 Pandemic? I pondered this question for many months as my husband David and I were deliberating about leaving our home of 13 years in Silverton, Oregon. Oregon is a beautiful state—during the summer, that is. We lived near Silver Falls State Park with 11 stunning waterfalls, and next to the iconic Oregon Gardens. So why choose to leave, especially since we have a nice network of friends?
Anyone who has not endured Oregon winters may well ask why. What we didn’t know about Oregon, having only visited during the summer, was just how dreary and long the winters are. Around mid-September the weather gods turn off the sun switch, relegating the Pacific Northwest to unrelenting months of rain, gray skies, fog, bone-chilling cold, various amounts of snow and ice, and short gloomy days. Weeks of grayness and gloom, moist cold, and persistent rain send me into a seasonal depression (probably the dread SAD-Seasonal Affective Disorder). David isn’t so bothered by that as by being cold all the time, despite keeping the heat going. He huddles with a throw blanket over his shoulders while wearing heavy sweats plus a jacket.
We’re quite miserable during winter, which seems interminable. A few bright days in March or April taunt us, sparking hope that soon dies as rain and gloom return. They say that summer doesn’t arrive until after July 4. It’s often raining on the Independence Day parade.
We tried taking trips during the winters, which works for a few weeks but is a temporary respite. For us, it’s hard to swing for long both financially and dealing with our two cats. So we explored places with sun and warmth during the winter, including Hawaii, Arizona, and California. Love-love-love Hawaii but too expensive and far from family. Arizona might work but didn’t have as much appeal as southern California, where we have family. As former Californians, we’re familiar with the state’s peculiarities and challenges. It was a lengthy process, but we settled on a senior 55+ community called The Colony in Murrieta, CA.
As we’re both well over 55 this is a good choice. Another reason for moving was the new development that sprang up behind our Silverton house over the past 4 years. Initially our back deck looked out over a serene meadow with tall grasses, blackberry vines, and stately spruce trees. We watched deer wend pathways through the meadow and coped with excursions by skunks and raccoons into our yard seeking tidbits. Rather suddenly our little nature preserve disappeared, invaded by clanging and belching heavy equipment digging ugly trenches and scraping away trees and vegetation. What a sad sight! We felt so sorry for animals and the golden eagles that occasionally perched in the tallest spruce.
Quickly there were new streets, house pads, and construction in full swing. Over 40 houses were built, too large for their small lots with painfully repetitious, ugly designs. A cul-de-sac just behind out house attracted a seemingly endless swarm of kids riding bikes, playing hop-scotch, and tossing basketballs into a portable hoop. Our own neighborhood children were never so noisy. Yeah, we’re old curmudgeons but just don ‘t like screeching kids right behind our home—especially during happy hour as we take advantage of the few warm summer days that Oregon has to offer.
Oregon has great wine, by the way. We lived in the Willamette Valley that specializes in world-class pinot noir and other cool tolerant grape varieties such as pinot grigio and chardonnay. But, we’ve not lost access to great wine by moving to Murrieta, twin city to Temecula, one of California’s primo wine producing regions. Due to different climate, Temecula wines are warm weather varieties such as cabernet, merlot, viognier, Spanish and Italian varietals. We’ve already found several outstanding wines such as sangiovese, Montalpulciano, big red blends, and delicious peach-melon viogniers. Not suffering in the wine department! Even joined our first wine club here, Robert Renzoni Vineyards.
The Colony is a beautiful gated community for active seniors with a large pool and nice golf course (we aren’t golfers but there are several in our family). It comes with the usual amenities, such as clubhouse, gym, tennis courts, bistro, and innumerable activities. At present due to the virus, these facilities have limited use and most activities are canceled. Speaking of Covid-19, we were fortunate to make trips for house searching and the two-day moving ordeal without coming down with it. This area of California takes prevention seriously, nearly everyone wears masks, and businesses follow guidelines for social distancing and limiting customers. We are very appreciative of this.
Of course, the noise level around the community is quite low. No more screaming kids! Our back patio feels like an oasis surrounded by tall palms and yew trees giving shade and seclusion. The house stays nicely cool due to thick stucco walls and great air conditioning. Yes, beware what you ask for—we’ve endured two intense heat waves with several days in triple digits. One might say unrelenting sun and blue skies. Not as dry as Palm Springs due to higher elevation (1200 feet), more vegetation, and proximity to the coast about 30 miles west. It’s a reverse weather pattern from Oregon, with two intensely hot months (July, August) and then temperate days with cool nights the rest of the year. Plus lots of bright sunshine.
Well, maybe I’m not so demented after all. Now let’s stay safe and take wise action so this virus pandemic can finally end. Maybe I’ll even get back to writing before too long!
Not much that a good glass of wine can’t fix!Leonide Martin, Author Historical Fiction
Most of us are staying home or limiting where and when we go out.
This is an important part of caring about each other and joining together to limit spread of Covid-19 and its harrowing toll of sickness and death. Life as we knew it is suspended for a while. There is much uncertainty about when things will return to any semblance of normal. We’re not able to see our family and friends face-to-face. We keep in touch by social media and phones. Many of us are expanding our comfort with virtual interactions and learning new tricks.
As an author, this “stay at home, stop the spread” reality is both familiar and oddly unsettling. It’s familiar since I already stay home a lot, especially since I’m retired (from a day job) and don’t need to go anywhere regularly. Many of my days were already spent facing my computer screen, doing research and writing. Days could pass without going out anywhere. But when I felt the need to take a break, get some physical activity, go shopping, or socialize with friends, these options were available.
Now they are not. For physical activity, I can take a walk being careful not to approach any other walker closer than six feet. I can do yoga or calisthenics at home—you know just how much appeal that has. For socializing, I can call people or engage in online messaging. That’s OK but not nearly the same as in person discussions. I can do some shopping, but need to put in an online order, hoping what I want is in stock, and set a time for pickup where the clerk puts the groceries inside the trunk. Or else, have things I’ve ordered online dropped off on the porch.
Brave New World indeed!
Now you’d think that an author forced to stay at home would become wildly productive. You envision authors glued to their computers, keying out thousands of words. That new project should be a breeze with so much time. Take on new challenges and spiff up all your social media platforms. Finish those stories. Write amazing blogposts. Submit to awards and contests. Write book reviews by the dozens.
The funny thing is how hard I find it to get motivated. The national crisis has a way of sapping my energy and concentration. I try to avoid watching too much news, but there’s a dreadful fascination with how this pandemic is wreaking havoc across the world. My heart is heavy over such suffering and loss. Silently I urge on the leaders and health workers who contend with the worse of it. Serious concern wells up about workers and families upended as the economy takes a nose dive. We are all affected. We are all—as a planet—in this together. May we find our way through to a more cohesive and caring tomorrow.
The Prophetic Mayan Queen is a Semi-Finalist in Contemporary & Literary Fiction
The SOMERSET Book Awards recognize emerging talent and outstanding works in the genre of Literary, Contemporary, and Satire Fiction. The Somerset Book Awards is a genre division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards (The CIBAs).
Chanticleer International Book Awards is looking for the best books featuring contemporary stories, literary themes, adventure, satire, humor, magic realism or women and family themes. These books have advanced to the next judging rounds. The best will advance. Which titles will be declared as winners of the prestigious Somerset Book Awards?
At the Authors Conference in Bellingham, WA, on April 18, 2020 the winners of all divisions of Chanticleer Book Reviews will be announced. It’s very exciting for my latest book to reach the semi-finalist stage! There are 16 semi-finalists in each division. I’ve long thought the names given for these divisions are humorous and entertaining, such as Chaucer Awards for Early HIstorical Fiction, Chatelaine Awards for Romance, Ozma Awards for Fantasy, Cygnus Awards for Science Fiction, Dante Rossetti Awards for Young Adult Fiction, Litle Peeps Award for Early Readers, and more.
Within a division such as Contemporary & Literary Fiction, authors need to choose among subcategories. After pondering this choice I selected two subcategories: Women’s Fiction and Magical Realism. The first is obvious, since the protagonist is a talented and strong girl who develops into a powerful, wise queen with a mandate to preserve her people’s heritage. The second was selected because the Mayan culture has deep themes of mysticism and inter-dimensional realities. Rulers, priestesses, shamans, and healers had frequent interactions with spirit beings such as goddesses and gods, elementals, and ancestors. To the Mayas, this was part of their normal world, so this kind of magic was very real to them.
The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque has garnered other acknowledgement, such as a 5-star review by Seattle Book Reviews and several praiseworthy editorial reviews. Here’s hoping she wins the Somerset Award which comes with a great Prize Package with lots of publicity!
The Tucson Festival of Books is a community-wide celebration of literature. Offered free-of-charge, the festival exists to improve literacy rates among children and adults. Proceeds that remain after festival expenses have been paid are contributed to local literacy programs.
Started in 2009, this gathering of authors and publishers, marketers and sponsors, receives up to 135,000 visitors and features around 500 authors and presenters. Each year event typically includes special programming for children and teens, panels by best-selling and emerging authors, a literary circus, culturally diverse programs, a poetry venue, exhibitor booths and two food courts. Featured authors give talks in various buildings, while in the university mall there are booths for indie authors to meet fans and sell books in 2-hour time periods over the weekend. This year’s festival is March 14-15. You can see the schedule at: http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/
Friends have mentioned this book festival, but this is the first year that I’ll be participating. Just needing some warmth and sunshine after one of the most wet, cold, and grey winters in recent Oregonian memory. My books will be featured at the Indie Author Pavilion – Adult Fiction on Sunday, March 15, 2020 from 10 am-12 noon. If you’re in the area, stop by! I’ll be offering discounted book packages on the Mayan Queen series.
My last trip to Palenque was in 2012. Went to celebrate the 12-21-12 Winter Solstice when the Mayan Calendar ended a great cycle (Mayan Sun or Era) moving from the Fourth to the Fifth Sun. At least, that’s what many said . . . note that the world didn’t end as some predicted. The Mayas of course never said that–to them it was simply one great cycle ending and another beginning.
Intriguing sci-fi mystery begins in Copan Temple
This book caught my eye because of the Chamber of the White-Eyed Star God deep inside a major temple at Copan. With this Maya connection, I was drawn to read it, although slated genre was YA. I’m really glad I did! It’s the most enjoyable science-adventure-thriller that I’ve read in a long time. Below is my review.
The Coordinate 12-15-19
By Marc Jacobs 5*
High school seniors Logan and Emma are assigned a history project to explore the “how and why” of one of the great archeological mysteries of the world. Other student teams are assigned to Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Gate of the Sun in Tiwanaku, but Logan and Emma get the obscure Chamber of the White-Eyed Star God in Copan, Honduras. Immediately drawn in by the sequestering of data about the site, they launch on the adventure of a lifetime that takes them to Italy, The Vatican, Europe, and the Norwegian fjords. Unraveling the cues and threads of Columbus’ connections with the Copan temple and its astrological mysteries places them squarely in danger’s path, as other agents are also seeking these answers. The teenagers become entangled with U.S. Intelligence agents, international espionage information dealers, and two hapless professors who initially discovered the Star God’s chamber. Their efforts to solve the mysteries propel them into the highest levels of U.S. government and military secrets.
This is the best scifi thriller that I’ve read in a long time. It grabs you and immerses you in the teenager’s brilliant detective work to sort out connections and meanings between astrological clues, ancient sites, and historical figures. Some of the happenings may be far-fetched, but the author provides enough science to make them plausible. There are captivating descriptions of the ancient sites and contemporary places visited during the teen’s quest, along with background material that adds perspective. Just when things are getting obvious, totally unforeseen twists take place setting up more layers of intrigue. With exciting action and mind-bending theories, the plot engages our inner sleuth and challenges our problem-solving abilities.
The main characters are engaging and well-developed, the bad guys well-portrayed and hard to figure out at times. There is a sweet budding romance between Logan and Emma, though we are left with mysteries at the end, especially regarding Emma. Though given the genre of YA, this complex story will be enjoyed by most adults. A sequel is coming soon, and I’m getting it as soon as it’s released.
Blog Tour Book Review – Bee Gone: A Political Parable by Constance Corcoran Wilson, illustrated by Gary McCluskey.
It is my pleasure to take part in this blog tour organized by Teddy Rose. The topic of Bee Gone: A Political Parable is timely, as our country considers the serious consequences of abuse of power by highest leadership. This insightful parable with revealing illustrations tells a cautionary tale about the effects of poor choices upon the general well-being of people and nations.
The power of a parable is found in its simplicity. Parables take complex situations and cut through to the underlying principles. Parables are short, have human characters, and are designed to teach some truth, moral lesson, or abiding principle. They convey meaning indirectly by use of comparison, analogy, or metaphor. Though many parables are religious, others are political or philosophical in nature.
In Bee Gone: A Political Parable, author Wilson and illustrator McCluskey distill the essence of Donald Trump’s rise to power, becoming the 45th President of the United States in 2016. Although no character in the story is named, the flawless renditions of faces and expressions leaves no doubt about who it is. The parable’s lessons are set within the metaphor of a bee hive, something with which almost everyone is familiar. We understand the principles of a bee hive, how bees all work together and fulfill their roles to make honey and keep the hive healthy. The Queen Bee, head of the hive, is a symbol of leadership. Readers cannot fail to recognize who the Queen Bee was and that she should have continued. But, Donnie Drone was jealous and ambitious for power, so he launched an attack using unethical and illegal strategies.
Many worker bees saw that Donnie Drone was unqualified, but he joined forces with another hive—”one that was evil and had not really thrived.” Obviously alluding to Russia, readers easily recognize the foreign leader whose intentions are to manipulate Donnie once he is in power. With Donnie on the “throne” the bee hive begins to malfunction, unable to keep producing honey due to the rapid replacement of worker bees who either quit or were fired. Some worker bees were concerned enough to investigate Donnie’s actions, eventually leading to his removal from the hive. Afterwards, the worker bees rebuild the hive and seek another Queen Bee qualified for leadership; again a recognizable political personality and current Presidential candidate.
The parable concludes with a cautionary verse, reiterating that Donnie was a “very bad bee” and not very truthful. If the lesson of the parable is learned, then the bees will be very careful in choosing their next leader, or again everyone will “take a fall.”
After the parable ends, there are excerpts from the author’s books covering the 2008 election of Barak Obama, including parts of his and Joe Biden’s speeches. Similarities to the upcoming 2020 presidential election are stressed; the country deserves a qualified, inclusive, and intelligent leader. The book is geared toward progressive voters, and is a useful tool to help people recognize underlying principles and consequences of poor choices.
Enter giveaway for a chance to win your choice of book, one print or ebook copy of Bee Gone: A Political Parable. Print is open to the U.S. only and ebook is available worldwide. There will be 3 winners. This giveaway ends November 29, 2019, midnight Pacific Time.
Where do you go to read reviews of books?
I’ll bet that none of these immediately come to mind: Historical Novel Society, Midwest Book Reviews, City Book Reviews, Library Thing, Book Riot, Bookish, Booklist, Foreword Reviews, or Bookpage. You’ll probably think of Kirkus, BookBub, Goodreads, NY Books, and Publishers Weekly. Or The New York Times Review of Books and Library Journal. . . for those lucky few authors.
Everyone who reads, whether print or ebooks, knows the ultimate review source: AMAZON. Where do you turn first when you want information about a book you’re interested in? Kudos if you didn’t answer Amazon — I know some people who have sworn off the behemoth of online shopping. Sadly, most readers simply find it too convenient to disdain this slick service and thus read mostly Amazon reviews.
But, there’s a world of hidden book review sources that few readers will see. These are reviews posted on individual blogs by a myriad of reviewers and hosts. The world of book blogging is huge. It’s easy for some great reviews to remain hidden, never to be seen by most readers.
My purpose in this blog series is to rescue hidden reviews of my recent book, The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque. After it was published in January 2019, I took it on two blog tours. Each tour had 8 to 10 hosts who either wrote reviews, had guest reviewers, and/or did author interviews. It was great fun responding to their interview questions, even including a You Tube video. The book got several excellent reviews, but most were never posted on Amazon or Goodreads.
Here’s the review posted on Shannon Muir‘s blog.
Guest Review of The Prophetic Mayan Queen by Laura Lee
Wow. Whenever I read a book like this I cannot imagine the amount of research that must have gone into it. Leonide Martin’s bio says that she is a professor and Mayan researcher and I’m not surprised to hear that considering the depth of information in this book.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know when I say that this book was
packed with info about Mayan culture that type of statement would turn a lot of
people off from reading it. You might be thinking something like, “Oh no, this
sounds dull or too hard to understand.” Honestly, I would probably have assumed
that too, but this book was SO not dull or hard to understand.
Martin seems to have a way with providing just the right amount of detail to draw the reader in and illustrate the world without dragging it down with a bunch of unnecessary stuff. I have read very few writers who can accomplish that and she seems to do it with ease.
Writing about history is one thing, but writing about a totally different world through the eyes of a 12 year-old girl is a totally different ballgame. Martin’s heroine, K’inuuw Mat was interesting, kind, motivated and, and this is the most important part– realistic! It was simply amazing to read about a girl who would have lived thousands of years ago and be reminded of my own self as a young woman.
What an experience this book was! I’m going to be keeping it in my library for future re-reads and to help me in my own historical writing. Maybe the goddess Ix Chel can bless me in my own work and make it just as historically accurate and entertaining as this one. I Cannot recommend this book highly enough if you’re on the fence about reading it! I give it all 5 stars!
Interview with the Author Leonide Martin
Where do you get the names for your characters? Most of the characters have historic names, and I use these as archeologists have spelled them. With progress in the ability of epigraphers to read Maya hieroglyphs, different spellings have emerged. My choice about which spelling to use is influenced by my past exposure to those names, and my sense of which spelling would be easier for English readers to understand. For fictional characters, I select Mayan words from a list that I’ve generated over the years. Mostly the translations of those words guide my selection, since I try to fit the name to the character.
How long did it take you to complete the book? Active writing took nearly two years, though I’d been collecting research for this time period all along. –
Which character do you love to hate? Probably my most villainous character in this book is Talol, wife of Kan Bahlam. She is jealous, scheming, and vengeful with no redeeming virtues. But, she deserves some sympathy because she is so deeply wounded by her amorous and disdaining husband. Talol does get to inflict considerable harm on those invoking her wrath, but meets poetic justice.
Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself? The inspiration for this book cover comes from the story itself, and my knowledge of solar phenomena at Palenque. I had the cover designed and completed by a graphic artist before I started writing the book, although I had already conceptualized the story. I knew how the story would end, and the cover depicts the final scene in which K’inuuw Mat stands on the top step of the Sun Temple built by Kan Bahlam. She honors him and his genius while symbolizing the continuous cycles of Mayan culture. I sent a sketch to my artist, gave him pictures of the temple, solar phenomena, and depictions of K’inuuw Mat on tablets at Palenque. He did a magnificent job! –
Join me in cyberspace for a book tour!
February 5 – 28, 2019. Come whenever you have time, you don’t need to dress up.
Visit each blog stop, even those already scheduled, read interviews, guest blogs, reviews, and excerpts.
Comment to enter book giveaway.
Doing book tours the easy way.
With the launch of the fourth and final book of my series about ancient Mayan Queens, I decided to take the easier route. For each of the previous three books, I scheduled brick-and-mortar bookstore tours. Doing these took a huge amount of time, energy, coordination, and publicity. Physical tours are also quite expensive, with travel costs and presentation materials. For the most part, my bookstore tours were decidedly not cost-effective. Of course, I really enjoyed my interactions with bookstore event coordinators and staff, and the usually small number of interested readers who attended. Traveling to Seattle allowed me to visit family and friends, and my Oregon stops were equally congenial. This time around, however, I just wanted less hassle. Virtual book tours were the answer! Now I can stay at home, doing my book event via my computer, and even while enjoying a glass of wine.
Organizing a virtual book tour is no small task. I did seek out a few book bloggers for the earlier books, but didn’t have the bandwidth to create a real tour. So, I decided to use Virtual Book Tour (VBT) organizers for my new book. Having a professional VBT organizer certainly makes everything flow better. It’s a real pleasure to work with Teddy Rose of Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.
What you can expect when you join in my VBT.
Ten different book bloggers are hosting during this tour. They were selected because they have interests in my book’s genres, which span historical fiction, historical romance, fantasy, and paranormal novels. When bloggers and books are matched, the results are optimal. The bloggers are scheduled during a set time period, and can elect to send the author interview questions, request a guest blog post on a subject they choose, post an excerpt from the book, or write a book review. Some bloggers do more than one of these. The author receives everything in advance and sends responses to the tour organizer by a set date. Then the tour host forwards it to the blogger, who posts it on the set date.
Tour organizers advise authors to offer a book giveaway or gift certificate to readers who visit the blogs and write a comment. It’s an enticement for participation and increases visibility on the web. In my present VBT, I’m using a book giveaway, either ebook or paperback. You can enter at each blog stop for a chance to win.
Virtual book tours are a great tool for authors to get their books read, reviewed, and noticed. They help create buzz around a book release.
Schedule of VBT for The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque.
Visit each blog stop, enjoy reviews, interviews, guest posts, and excerpts. You can make comments at any time, even after the scheduled dates, and enter for a chance to win the book giveaway.
Feb. 5 Bookgirl86’s Reviews https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2696578333?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1
Join the Blog Tour for The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque
Mists of Palenque Series Book 4.
Blog Tour Dates January 7 – 11, 2019.
Journey back 1300 years to the splendor and intrigue of Mayan civilization, the most advanced in the Western World. K’inuuw Mat, a royal girl who wants to dedicate her life to serving Mother Goddess Ix Chel, instead finds her destiny is marriage into the Palenque royal family, overlords of her region. With her skills in scrying and prophecy, she seeks a vision of her future husband. But, upon arriving at his city, she realizes the face she saw is his older brother, Kan Bahlam. They are immediately attracted, though she resists and follows through with marriage to the younger brother. As family conflicts, regional politics, and high court dramas play out, K’inuuw Mat shares astronomical interests with Kan Bahlam while keeping her distance. He schemes to fulfill his passion for her, assisted by fateful events that bring them together in most unexpected ways. The Goddess gives K’inuuw Mat a mandate to preserve Mayan culture for future generations, as their civilization begins the decline her prophecy foresees. She rises to meet the challenge, aided by mystical connections with ancestor women rulers who give guidance through visions. Her children help carry out the mandate through surprising links with Kan Bahlam.
K’inuuw Mat was a real Mayan women who lived during the late 7th and early 8th Centuries CE. Her portrait appears on a panel in Palenque (Tablet of the Slaves),
seated on the right, where she offers a symbol of royal status to her son. Her husband, Tiwol Chan Mat, is seated on the left. Not much is recorded about her life, but there is a lot of information about the men surrounding her–the ruling family of Palenque and their magnificent architectural and artistic creations. Many characters are from this family, their courtiers and warriors. Fictional characters help fill out the complex relationships and intrigues.
To the Mayas, spirituality merged with everyday life. They moved between dimensions to meet with star ancestors, sky Gods, Underworld demons, shamans, tricksters, and deities who influenced every aspect of life. Rulers and priests were trained as shamans, did vision quests, and used hallucinogens to alter consciousness. They interacted with deities, cast spells, and had visionary powers. During trance rituals where they offered their own blood, the most precious substance to the Gods, they saw incense smoke turn into the Vision Serpent. From its huge jaws they saw an ancestor or God’s head emerge, giving predictions or answering questions.
I hope you’ll want to read this book, and plunge into the Maya’s exotic, advanced, and astonishing culture full of passion, pageantry, and mysticism.
The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque. Mists of Palenque Series, Book 4.
Each book in the series stands alone and tells the story of a real ancient Mayan Queen.
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE January 7 – 11, 2019
Learn some little-known trivia about the Mayas, and find out some things you never knew about me. On the blog tour I’m answering a variety of interview questions, and writing some guest blog posts. The interviews were lots of fun, asking such questions as “What made you want to be an author,” “What is your favorite part of this book.” ‘Which character would you go drinking with,” “What should readers expect from this book,” “Tell about the cover and the inspiration for it,” “What part of the book’s world would you want to visit for a day,” “If a dwarf challenged you to a duel what would you do,” and details about my writing habits and quirks. My answer to the last question might surprise you, and it gives insight into the Maya world.
Visit each blog on the date listed below. Be sure to enter Rafflecopter for a chance to win an Amazon or Barnes&Noble gift certificate!
Tour by Goddess Fish Promotions.
January 7: Mythical Books – review only
January 7: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
January 7: Candrel’s Crafts, Cooks, and Characters
January 8: Bookaholic
January 8: T’s stuff
January 9: Fabulous and Brunette
January 9: Edgar’s Books
January 10: Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews
January 10: Kit ‘N Kabookle
January 11: All the Ups and Downs
January 11: Let me tell you a story – review
I’m delighted to host Amanda Jayne, intrepid author of Close Encounters of the Traveling Kind, stories of her near-death travel adventures in some of the world’s most exotic and unusual places. Jayne was inspired during her youth by a teacher, and always yearned for far-away places. She began these travels in the late teens-early twenties, and had much to learn about staying safe and well in foreign lands. In this humorous and gripping book, Jayne gives vivid descriptions of hair-raising escapades and provides wit and wisdom through “lessons learned” and”tips on how not to die” should other travelers be brave enough to follow her steps.
Below are Jayne’s thoughts about why she sought travel around the world and what traveling means to her. My review of her book follows. —Leonide Martin
I’ve been fascinated by other cultures and countries since I was young. I’m not sure what it is inside me that draws me to them but it’s some kind of magnetic power that pulls at me. I remember pouring over the atlas we had on the bookshelves in my home. It was bigger than I was at the time, at least that’s how I remember it. I would follow the lines and contours of the countries wondering what and who they held inside them. One Christmas I received a large book of mysterious places of the world. Inside were photos of places like Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines and Easter Island. I traveled the world in the pages of this book, from England to Australia, Peru, Mexico, China and beyond. I could feel the energy of each place as I pored over the pictures and read about the countries and I knew that one day I would travel and see them. At school, some of the kids laughed at my idea of traveling and told me I was going to be the first to marry, settle down with 2.4 kids and abandon my travel plans. “Anyway,” they said, “There’s no way you could do it, it’s too difficult.” Then I met Mrs. Joseph.
In my book I have written about Mrs. Joseph in the introduction. She was my English teacher, originally from Myanmar and had lived in several countries that seemed so exotic to me as a teenager. She taught me that travel was not only possible, but that experiencing other countries and cultures was an essential part of life. The stories she shared with me were of strange animals in India making impossible leaps across wide roads in the dead of night, or of her friend who was cursed by an Indian man and told he would die at 22 – and he did (“this was simply because he believed her, the man was not magic”, Mrs. Joseph would say, “your mind is strong, you can use it to help yourself or hurt yourself.”) She spoke casually of her countless miraculous escapes from death, mostly at the hands of cars that ran her over in different ways but also of other strange co-incidences in which her life was saved.
As I look back now, her strongest influence on me was her causing me to begin to see the world around me differently. She wasn’t sharing her strange stories for the drama or to provoke a reaction, she was genuinely concerned that I see that there was more to life than the school walls and learning facts. Mrs. Joseph was a strict teacher, not impressed by nonsense and prone to giving out detentions to those who used the words, nice and a lot in essays (“they are not real words; they don’t say anything to me. Use a word that means something!”). Outside the classroom though, she taught me there is more to life than meets the eye, that the things you need in life will turn up at the exact moment you need them (if they don’t, you didn’t need them) and that the magic and mystery is all around us, right here, in the natural world and in the way we can interact with it, if only we are willing to see. I say ‘she taught me’ but really she told me and encouraged me because these are things you can only learn from experience, and travel is one of the best ways to learn because it tends to put you in unusual places and situations that make you look more clearly and deeply into the world.
Armed with all I’d learned from my favourite teacher and all I’d dreamed of from my books (pre-Google days!) I started traveling. The first thing I noticed was that it is easier than it looks – like anything in life, the thoughts and fears about doing something are most often the toughest part. Once you commit and start, the way opens up for you. I didn’t intend for anything to be ‘adventurous’ travel, I simply wanted to see and explore the world. I’m not an adrenalin junkie and even refused to bungee jump when I was already in the queue at the famous bridge in New Zealand where it all began – I am afraid of heights, can’t swim and when I saw people returning with burst blood vessels in their eyes I felt ok with backing out. However, I am happy to take risks when there is an encounter I really want, a place I long to see or I know I will grow and learn from the experience.
Any travel outside of resorts and hotels is going to bring strange circumstances and adventure primarily because we are in an alien environment. I find that being in foreign cultures where I don’t have a clue what people are saying and I have no idea what is going on makes me feel alive. It stirs something within that wakes me up and causes me to look differently at the world and the people around me. I am more in the present moment during those times, I have the kind of wonder a child must feel when she sees a flower for the first time and is in awe of it. I love that, and I adore the feeling of expansion that comes over me when I am in the presence of a place or creation that has enormous energy.
Mostly, the experiences I write about in the book simply come from exploring places that were fascinating to me. I have worked in an orphanage and an English school in Bolivia, lived in Japan for five years and walked 1,200km alone around the 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku. In India I’ve been stalked by a man who shouted at me wherever I went for several days (“You are crap madam, crap!”) and given a bunch of grapes by a Sadhu (wandering holy man) when I had my pack stolen. It was his only possession in the world and his selfless compassion reached out to me as I cried over the loss of my backpack and helped me see clearly again. I’ve nearly come a cropper in Peru, Bolivia, Japan, Thailand, Nepal and South Africa. All of these experiences have taught me valuable lessons about who I am, how I want to be and how I can live more fully and peacefully in this wonderful world.
Now I understand that just living each day, no matter where you are, can be an adventure if you approach life with wonder and awe. It’s true I’m not being attacked by snakes in my bedroom in Kent or chased out of a makeshift drinking tavern by several angry tribesmen, but there is magic and adventure to be found in life wherever you are. And there are always more countries and cultures to explore… I’d better start packing. — Amanda Jayne
Review by Leonide Martin
Hair-raising travel adventures told with wit and brevity.
For those who love traveling, Close Encounters of the Traveling Kind will provide both uproarious amusement and cautionary tales. Inspired by a teacher, Jayne seeks out some of the world’s most exotic and unusual places for adventurous travels. She narrowly escapes death from altitude sickness on Mt. Fuji, getting lost in the Amazon, a vengeful snake in Thailand, freezing on the way to Machu Picchu, typhoid and salmonella in La Paz, and falling down a ravine bicycling the Death Road in Bolivia. From each near mishap, she culls wisdom and humor, leaving lessons learned for those daring enough to follow her steps.
Her mishaps in South Africa while taking local native buses to Lesotho to ride mountain ponies are downright terrifying. Only a naive 20-something would attempt such dangerous travel alone. A solo white woman in a sea of black faces during the upheaval following the fall of Apartheid, Jayne is nearly kidnapped, assaulted, and threatened with death. From these she learned to listen to her gut, mistrust local advice, take food and water, and watch for the “guardian angel,” a large native woman who took her under a wing to safety.
The last adventure proved to be truly numinous. Rafting the Bhote Kosi River in Nepal, Jayne is thrown from her raft into Class 5 rapids and sucked into a whirlpool. In the near-death experience, she entered a divine calm, her mind stilled and everything crystal clear. But the whirlpool released her to live for yet another adventure. Her lesson learned there perhaps sums up Jayne’s approach to travel close encounters: “Let go, life has got me.” Written with brevity, wit, and gripping description, any adventurous traveler will enjoy—though probably not emulate—these travel stories.