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My Big Move

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

When Authors Must Stay At Home

Most of us are staying home or limiting where and when we go out.

Stay Home, Save Lives Order in Oregon

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.

Working at home, as usual.

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.

Order groceries online

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.

See more of my writing.

Sunset behind island mountains
Sunset heralds a new sunrise.

Chanticleer Book Reviews Semi-Finalist 2020

The Prophetic Mayan Queen is a Semi-Finalist in Contemporary & Literary Fiction

Book cover The Prophetic Mayan Queen top half

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.

Semi-Finalist Badge for Authors

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.

Photo of Maya mural from San Bartolo, Guatemala
San Bartolo Mural Interactions with Gods Maize God is Central Figure (photo by author)

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!

2020 Tucson Festival of Books – March 14-15

Photo of UA hosting Tucson Festival of Books
Tucson Festival of Books University of Arizona, 2018

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/

Flyer for 2020 Tucson Festival of Books
2020 Tucson Festival of Books

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.

Thumbnails of 4 Mayan Queens book covers
Mayan Queens Books Mists of Palenque Series

Ebook and print books available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore by order.

Leonide Martin Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

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.

Blog Tour Book Review

Picture of book cover

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.

Blog Tour banner

Book Review

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.

Constance C. Wilson
Constance C. Wilson, author

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.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e23ee71d1314/”

Hidden Reviews

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.

Leonide Martin in Third Place Books, Bothel, WA. Bookstores are my favorite places.

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. Book cover The Prophetic Mayan Queen

Photo of Shannon Muir
Shannon Muir
Logo for Infinite House of Books.

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 Photo 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! 

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