WHO ARE THE NIGHT ANGELS? The Story of Blanca

Book of Angels on Amazon.com

Book of Angels, volume two in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, opens with Sera’s Turning. In order for her to survive, she is given the blood of the five Night Angels and she becomes one with them and sees their terrible pasts. This gives Sera her first real understanding of who they are.

Blanca is the NIGHT ANGEL who Sera feels hates her and wants her dead. In Key of Mystery, Sera thought that Blanca must be Peter’s girlfriend, but she finds out this isn’t so. Their relationship goes back hundreds of years. Sera still doesn’t find out what happened all those years ago, that will have to wait for another book. But this is what she does now know:

  1. As a human, Blanca was a gypsy, or a “traveler” would be a better term. She was thought to be a witch and was a victim of the Catholic Church, at a time just before the official start of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. All of the Night Angels suffered terribly as humans before they became vampires, but for Blanca, that suffering was the worst. She was tortured and thrown in a trash heap, left for dead.
  2. Sera doesn’t get any insight into how Blanca ends up in the court of Sultan Mehmet II, in the Ottoman Empire. But once Blanca is there, Sera sees how Blanca meets Fabian Gore, Peter, Strejan, Malek and Marianne. Together they fight as Janissaries in the Sultan’s army. The Sultan is the one who turns Blanca and the other Night Angels into vampires.
  3. Sera doesn’t yet understand why Blanca hates her so much, but she struggles with her own hatred of the Night Angel. However, as she begins to get to know Blanca better, a grudging respect and even compassion unfolds. When it comes time for them to go on a mission together to find out if the Queen is still imprisoned in the Life Box in St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sera and Blanca make an uneasy pact. Sera begins to wonder if she isn’t misinterpreting Blanca’s hatred and it is really about something else.
  4. There is one more interesting fact about Blanca that Sera finds out in Book of Angels, but I will leave that for readers to discover for themselves! It will be interesting to see how Sera and Blanca’s difficult relationship unfolds throughout the series!

Here is an excerpt from the time when Sera, Peter and Blanca are about to embark on their journey to St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert. Blanca doesn’t want to take Sera and an argument ensues, during which Sera discovers some important things about Blanca’s character and the bond between the Night Angels:

Blanca groaned impatiently. “Why must we take her?”

“Be quiet,” said Peter with a growl.

I was desperate to stall for time. I didn’t care if it made Blanca angry. “What I want to know it, am I going to have to listen to you two fight the whole time? Because it’s fucking boring. How do you even keep it going for hundreds of years?”

Peter pretended surprise. “Fight? Us? Perhaps on occasion, like everyone, but never on a mission.”

“We’re on a mission and you’re fighting.” I raised my eyebrows. “Hello?”

“Shut up,” said Blanca, adjusting her sword on her back.

“Whatever,” I said.

“Whatever,” Blanca mimicked. And under her breath, she said, “Ignorant Oak Haven bimbo.”

I had literally taken off into the air to attack Blanca, but Peter grabbed me and slammed me back onto the ground.

Blanca folded her arms, chin raised triumphantly. “See that?” She walked right up to me, while Peter restrained me. “Let’s get one thing straight, baby. I don’t like you. I don’t trust you. I don’t want  you here.”

“That’s three things.,” I said through gritted teeth.

One corner of Blanca’s mouth turned up slightly. And then she laughed. Peter let me go, and I glared at him. I didn’t know which one of them made me angrier.

“An irritating little thing, isn’t she?” said Blanca.

Peter grinned. “Yes, she is.”

Blanca turned back to me. “Peter and I might have our problems. But we trust each other. And we have each other’s back. We have fought together for hundreds of years. When we’re on a mission, we put our differences aside. I’m willing to do the same with you. Think you can reciprocate?”

I just stared at her, saying nothing. I hated her so much.

Peter reached toward me. I flinched, but he put his hand on my arm gently and I calmed down. “Maybe you don’t like Blanca’s rough ways, but she’s telling you something important. When you’re in battle, there’s no one better than Blanca to have at your side. Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t!” I jerked away from him resentfully. “Why should I? This is all crazy! But still, I’m trying. And what do I get for it? I get made fun of,  insulted. By everybody! You treat me like dirt, Blanca, and I’m supposed to take it?”

“Pretty much, yes,” she said. “You’re the runt of the litter. You have to pay your dues.”

“Okay,” said Peter. “Can we do this? Can we all agree to put our differences behind us while on this dangerous mission?” We nodded. “Great. Now, humans would call what we are doing teleportation. As I said, we call it the Passage. You are a denizen, Sera. This means you know yourself on a molecular level. You will easily navigate the Passage.”

I sighed. “If you say so. I’m ready, let’s get this over with.”

The next thing I knew, I had leapt into the air with the two of them, my mind on St. Catherine’s Monastery, and I found myself hurtling through the Passage, horribly aware of every atom in my body and the indomitable forces of the universe that were trying to pull me apart.

Painting by Theodor Aman

 

 

THE BOGEY-MAN INSIDE OF US

These elections and the associated conventions have taken our country so far down into the murky waters of greed, lies and hypocrisy, I am hard pressed to see how we could sink any lower.

The American people, like the team players that we are, hop on the bandwagon and are carried along by the speeches and fanfare. If you believe one view, then Trump is the good guy. If you believe the other view, then Hillary is the good woman.

Finally, we have reached that wonderful fairytale world, where good and evil are clearly defined and we know what we are fighting for.

There is a bogey-man and it is, most definitely, the other side.

Watching these elections on television, I keep remembering the Iraq War, delcared in 2003.

Everyone now seems to admit that it was a terrible “mistake.” The intelligence information was all wrong.

Oops. Oh, well!

Words fail me as I watch the insanity of this election and how easily we have fallen into it. As easily as we fell into the Iraq War.

John Tirman, the principal research scientist at MIT Center for International Studies has said that an average figure “suggests roughly 700,000” Iraqis died in the Iraq War. That figure does not include deaths among the millions of displaced Iraqis, which accounted for 20% of the population. Those statistics were repressed by the media. What we saw on television wasn’t anything like what was really happening.

When war was declared, no one dared to question the Shock and Awe campaign. I was president of InsideOUT Writers at that time. I sent out an email  to my contacts saying that weapons of mass destruction was surely a lie and this war was a disaster. I wish I could find that email and review it now. It seemed so clear. I thought surely the majority of people in my mostly liberal circle would agree with me.

Much to my surprise, I was bombarded by vitriolic responses. I was labeled unpatriotic. I was told to keep my thoughts to myself at such a sensitive time, when we should show a united front and support for our leaders.

Now we know the truth. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein did not present a threat to the United States of America.

The decisions made in 2003 are directly responsible for the bloodbath in Syria,  which is now spreading up through Turkey and into Europe. Those decisions are directly responsible for the rise of ISIS, and for the rise of terrorism in general.

Yet, no one is taking responsiblity. No one is standing trial for these crimes. The terroists are the evil ones, who somehow rose out of hell all on their own, without any provocation. We are pure in our righteous indignation.

If journalists do not toe the line and report what they are supposed to report, they are blacklisted.

Carne Ross, once known as “Mr. Iraq’ by the UN, was a senior British official and a leading figure in sanctions against Iraq. He has since apologised for that stance. In an interview with The Guardian, he said, “We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitized intelligence, or we’d freeze them out.”

The public is quite used to being fed water-down or even made-up stories and accepting them. Slightly varied versions might be given to appeal to different segments, but the underlying story is the same. I think by now everyone knows that this is what happens. But, somehow, it just doesn’t matter. If the story appeals to us, we will believe it.

 

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When all of our recent presidents are photographed together, there are both Bushs smiling along with the others.

The Iraq War is only one of many lies and manipulations. Why aren’t the American people demanding that our leaders speak the truth? Silence on the part of our leaders is collusion. Bush should be tried for this crime, as should a silent Senate. We as a nation should bow our heads in horror that we stood by.

But no ones does this. It would cause unrest. It would make us look weak and vulernable to our enemies. And so, we perpetuate the lies and manipulation. As a result, the world becomes more unstable and dangerous–the very results we fear will happen if we admit the truth.

NO LEADER IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA GOT INTO A POSITION OF POWER BY TELLING THE TRUTH.

If you want to see things in a negative light, you vote for Trump. And if you want to see things in a positive light, you vote for Clinton. It’s okay, the marketing experts know how to appeal to consumers so that they think they are getting a different product. It is slightly different, but it is made by the same manufacturer. Give Americans the story they want; make them feel the way they want to feel and they will faithfully line the pockets of the rich and powerful, whether they be Republican or Democrat.

It doesn’t matter which one wins.

In fact, Clinton might well prove to be a greater mass murderer than Trump. In her 2008 bid for president she threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. That is only one example of her eagerness to kill. We have yet to see.

Obama was a classy guy. And Michelle was super classy. People who like classy are going to miss them. I liked that Michelle included in her speech about slaves building the White House. It helped me see this fact in a new light. I had never imagined how incredible it must be for her and her daughters to wake up every day in the White House.

It made me think about the greater truth that this nation was built upon genocide, slavery and dishonesty. It was not built on the premise that “all men are created equal.” Slavery, genocide and dishonesty continue to this day. I never learned any of this in school. I never heard the statistics. I wasn’t given any tests on these subjects. I was never asked what it might mean to stand up against the lies of my own govnerment.

Democrat and Republican are two sides of the same coin. 

“The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.” John Pilger

If the cost is 1 trillion, you better believe the profit for defense companies who are building and selling these weapons is at least double that. As always, war is big business. Making money is the American ideal.

Nothing has changed since the Iraq War of 2003 began. Nothing will change as long as humans are so easily bought for a dollar. 

As Kurt Vonnegut so aptly said, “War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, the barbed wire and the machine gun.”

And now, we have the presidential election. One one side the police. On the other side the disenfranchized. Yet, wasn’t it Hillary Clinton who, in her 2008 bid for president labelled certain children as “super-predators.” Her words, “We can talk about how they became that way. But first, we have to bring them to heel.”

The Republican and Democartic conventions were carefully orchestrated. Like a sitcom, the audience laughed and clapped as instructed. It held up the appropriate signs that had been handed out ahead of time.

The world watches our hypocritical displays in disgust but without surprise.

Hillary Clinton is not a better choice than Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton represents the status quo, the way it has always been, the entrenched establishment. Donald Trump is unpredictable. I think he has some kind of wild idea that he can make independent decisions. But then, he isn’t a career politician.

Whoever wins, the polarization of the people of the United States will continue to escalate. With each faction believing the other is evil.

No president ever got to that position without selling themselves to the highest bidder. At that level of power, there is no more room for the ideal. There is no more room for kindness or generosity or understanding. There is only a slicker facade and an emptier soul.

Where are the mainstream journalists asking the question of why? Where are the journalists probing the build-up of American troops around the world, in aggression against Russia, China, not to mention the Middle East?

A map should be on display so we can see exactly how many American troops, how many nuclear warheads, how many military aircraft and ships are amassed on borders far from our own. And it should be compared to how many Russian troops and Chinese troops are amassed on borders far from their own.

Is it not imperative to have this information? Is it not imperative to know what is really happening?

Perhaps such information in front of our faces will help us to see how the United States, thanks to its own fundamentalist history as a Christian nation, has the dangerous idea that its “values,” must be embraced by all nations and all people. Even if it is done by force. As the Messiah will come back on his white horse and run all the infidels through with the sword–his Christian army beside him–so, too, the United States of America will lead the world as its Messiah, bringing to heel all who do not bow to our God-given rule.

Americans are fed just enough information to make us believe we are free to decide the fate of our nation and of ourselves.

We can “like” something. We can sign a petition. We can demonstrate. We can vote. We can publicly trash a politician or make jokes about them. It makes us feel as if we, as ordinary citizens, are influencers on this global stage. But we are just “liking” our way into World War Three. In fact, there are plenty of people in plenty of countries who would tell you a world war has already begun.

We are too distracted by the media lies to understand this.

Freedom of speech is a scam. But it doesn’t matter. As long as we are presented with a spectacle, we will watch it.

The more we can debate and take sides, the more we will be duped into thinking our involvement matters. It is clear with this election that people are being expected to take a side. As if by doing so, we are all doing our part. We are all making a commitment to either bring about change or to uphold the status quo.

It is all lies.

Nothing has changed since the Iraq War of 2003 began.

Nothing will change as long as humans are ruled by selish greed and are so easily bought by the highest bidder.

Nothing will change as long as humans are ruled by fear and are so easily intimidated by those in power.

Nothing will change as long humans are ruled by self-deceit and are so easily manipulated for the sake of entertainment.

We are not right (whoever “we” may be), and everyone else is not wrong (whoever “everyone else” may be).

In 1917, David Loyd George, the British Prime Minister, said of World War One, “If people knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and can’t know.”

Some have said it is a lack of education. It is not. Our leaders are educated and they are the ones who send us to war.

Almost 7,000,000 Russians died in the “Great War.” The estimated total number of people killed is 20,000,000.

Yet we continue to glorify war and elevate our nation as if we have some God-given right to kill.

Here is one of many powerful statements Kurt Vonnegut made about war, “Perhaps when we remember war, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.”

There is no bogey-man onto which we can turn our hatred. There is no scapegoat to blame. The bogey-man is inside each of us.

It is called human nature.

And until we change the nature of humanity, nothing else will change.

THANK YOU, MICHELLE OBAMA

Photo is of Michelle Obama and her daughters in South Africa.

Thank you Michelle Obama for drawing our attention to the historical fact that the White House was built by slaves. This is something I never considered before. It is now an incredible picture that I will  forever hold in my mind.

I cannot even begin to imagine how amazing it must feel, as Michelle said, to wake up in the White House, every day with her daughters.

Smithsonian Magazine states that “ironically, the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol dome was made with the help of Philip Reid, a man enslaved by sculptor Thomas Crawford, who was commissioned to build the statue.”

That is irony, indeed.

We don’t know a lot about these slaves because they were not considered important. It is tragic to think that all these nameless and faceless people toiled to “make America great,” and no one will ever know their stories. I think about this in relation to women, too. Half the population of the world. Repressed and enslaved down through history. I often wonder what our world would look like if the ideas and innovations of women had been respected and encouraged. As an African American and a woman, with two daughters, Michelle Obama inspires me.

We constantly hear from naysayers that anyone still addressing the significance of slavery in the present day should just “get over it.”

That is shameful.

Fact is, the United States was built on not just slavery, but genocide. Having taught creative writing to youth in juvenile hall for years, I venture to say that slavery and genocide are still practiced in the United States. Every American with a desire to be honest has only to look at our prison system and see this to be true.

Germans and Jews talk about Hitler and the genocide. This is healthy. The death camps are open to the public. Monuments have been built so that it will NEVER BE FORGOTEN.

NEVER FORGET. That should be our firm resolve. As a child of ten, I walked through Dachau and will always be grateful to my parents for giving me such a profound experience. That hell is ineradicably fixed in my brain. I will never forget.

The stories of slavery, the stories of genocide…these are the stories we should tell our children so that they, in turn, can pass them down to their children, keeping the truth alive.

Having this history drawn to my attention by Michelle Obama gives me a new and more inspired perspective of an African American family waking up every day in the White House.

It is a story that should not be discussed with controversy. It should be celebrated and never be forgotten.

 

 

My Guest Post for Author Christine Potter!

My Guest Post for Author Christine Potter!

I want to thank Christine for hosting me. This is my first experience writing a post in an exchange with another author and it was fun! Here is my post about how my traveling experiences inspired Book of Angels and the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, with photos and everything! The photo featured here is the seventh century Swiss castle I lived in as a child.

Do Artists have a Responsibility to Society?

view from my balcony

Inspiring view from my balcony, Lake Arenal, Costa Rica.

It is my opinion, as an artist, that we do not have a responsibility to society. We are not answerable to anyone other than ourselves.

As artists our struggle is to be true to our own voices, not some else’s. An artist shouldn’t feel a burden or obligation to set an example for the entire world. They shouldn’t feel that they have to reflect the beliefs or opinions of a certain segment of society. Pressure should not be put on an artist to “set a good example.” Or to change people’s political or moral views.

The first books I created were beautiful and sweet children’s books. The Rumpoles & The Barleys series, which I wrote and illustrated, will always be favorites of mine. I am blessed to know they have been a positive force in the lives of children around the world. On the other hand, I always knew I had so much more to say and I fought for years to be able to say it. With my creative nonfiction works and the publication of the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONCILES, I feel I am finally an artist who is true to myself.

Artists create from a deep place inside. It takes courage to go to that place and to let it out. Sometimes this can be horrifying. Sometimes it can be beautiful. Sometimes it can be painful. Sometimes it can be sweet and innocent. Playful. Brutal. Violent. X-rated.

My art (and I mean my paintings and drawings and writing) is mostly fantastical worlds of escape. This is because I find the real world to be horrifying on so many levels. I don’t have answers to the world’s problems. Well, actually, the world doesn’t need answers, it is humanity that needs a makeover. I don’t think we have even come close to figuring out those answers. Or perhaps we are afraid of them…or…I just don’t know. Due to my personality, my life experiences, my spirit, I am compelled to create art that uplifts and brings a ray of light to the darkness. That said, my art can be quite dark in its reflection of my own experiences and the suffering that I see around me.

As a woman artist, once I was married and had children, I was told over and over in many different ways, all of them painful, that I should put aside my compulsion to create, for the sake of my family. That my art should no longer be important. I had a husband and children now. They should be my focus. Of course, they were my focus. But I did not understand why being a good wife and mother and being an artist wasn’t possible. I couldn’t give up creating on paper. I couldn’t give up my imagination or the stories inside of me. Not any more than I could give up breathing. This was a difficult time for me as an artist and as a woman. And it went on for many years.

At various times, I have been told by the men in my life, that they needed to guide me. That I wasn’t a real artist, I was just pretending. That I needed to stop because the amount of time I spent doing my art didn’t make sense monetarily. Once, a drawing that I had worked on at night when my family slept, was thrown in the fire the next morning because it was “worthless.” My nose was broken as a punishment when I painted a picture that did not measure up to my husband’s standard. My writing was ridiculous and why would anyone ever want to read it? I should give up. I was a bad wife and mother because my focus wasn’t completely on them. Anyway, I was far too shy and I had no ability to “sell myself.” On and on. Even when I was finally a free woman and I was seeing someone “in the business,” he told me I should leave it all to him. I didn’t have the experience or the personality to know what was best or how to present anything.

My children are grown now and I am without “entanglements.” I am traveling and writing. I embrace all my life experiences. It comes out in my work. It is coming out right now as I write this! I have remained true to my love of fantasy and now I can indulge it. Fantasy is what got me through the darkness. I love creating that darkness in my writing. And then filtering in those moments of light. I know how it feels. I lived through it. How tragic it would be if I had given up. To think that if I had listened to those voices I would never have written Key of Mystery or Book of Angels, or gone on this NIGHT ANGELS CHRONCILES journey.

We all live through darkness. We are all artists trying to express ourselves. Art is so powerful. It can uplift us. It can spiral us further down. A song or a poem can inspire kindness to a neighbor. Or it can lead to murder and suicide. It can incite riots. It can spark a revolution. It can bring reconciliation. I can’t judge any of that. I don’t understand enough about the forces and motivations behind it all, on a spiritual level.

For so much of my life I was bombarded with angry, resentful voices of society, telling me what I should do with my art. If I had listened to all those voices and let them guide me, I would have lost my balance and fallen too far into the darkness. With my spirit, with the way I see the world, how would I have faced each day?

How can I breathe if I can’t tell a story?

 

 

Interview about MY WORLD PROJECT

The Missing Slate, Interview with My World Project Founder Karen Hunt

For me, this is a way of life. It isn’t a “cause,” it isn’t a “movement.” I can’t put some spin on it. There aren’t any buzz words. It is how I choose to live, and I really can’t help it. It is so much a part of who I am.”

Honored to have this interview, by Constance A. Dunn, published in The Missing Slate, an international arts and literary magazine. The interview tells about My World Project and the backstory leading up to it. Here is a brief excerpt from the backstory…

“I went on a personal quest…I met a woman named Alma Woods, who was responsible for single-handedly getting the Watts Library built. And to illustrate the politics, they didn’t want to name the library after her, they wanted to name it after some big-wig politician and there was a huge outcry and they had no choice but to buckle under public pressure and name the library after her. She was a simple lady, lived in a simple house in Watts and I would go and visit her and “sit at her feet,” as it were, she was a real guru, she taught me so much! She would take me around her neighborhood and I saw Watts through her eyes. If there were kids loitering outside the liquor store she would reprimand them and they would hang their heads in guilt and listen to her. She was respected. She was fearless. I grew to love her. She encouraged me to follow my heart and not be afraid of where it led me. It was after that that I went into Central Juvenile Hall and talked to the principal, Dr. Arthur McCoy, an older version of the nutty professor and the most amazing human being, and he let me start teaching there, along with the amazing teacher in the girls’ school, Cheryl Neely.

Like a beautiful, magical web, one person has led to another in my life. Not big celebrities, or what you would call “movers and shakers,” but the salt of the earth people. The ones who really have the power because they don’t care about it. They are the ones who truly balance the good against the evil. The ones we never hear about. I know I use the word amazing a lot, but really, there is no better word for all these people.

SUCRE, THE WHITE CITY OR, CIUDAD BLANCA

I have been busy lately! I have been in Sucre, Bolivia since April 7th and will be here until June 7th. What an amazing experience. This is a gem of a tiny city, all painted white. The sky is piercingly blue. The contrast is breath-taking. I was told that long ago a plague came to the city and they started painting the buildings white, I am not sure why, perhaps to indicate which house had the plague or which house didn’t. The habit stayed and eventually, all the buildings were painted white. And so they still are, today, making this city unique and memorable.

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I came here to write and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working on Cave of Secrets, the third book in the Night Angels Chronicles series. This place has truly inspired my writing. I have become obsessed with the churches. The heavy austerity, the gold on the alters, the light pouring down from high windows. I can never fully reconcile the contrast between the beauty of these monuments, built to display the power of God, with the poverty of the people upon whose bent backs these monuments were built. It is the same around the world, religion is used by the powerful as a form of control, through fear, of the masses. Yet, you also see how these awe-inspiring buildings bring comfort to those who enter them to pray. A young woman, an old man, I have seen so many people sitting in silence, staring up at a carving of a saint, and you know they have a heavy heart about  something and have faith that there is an answer and that these lifeless images hold that answer.

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I am here long enough to get a real feel for these churches and how religion is so integrated into every aspect of life. The churches dominate the city, they are the landmarks you look for when you are walking. If the door is open and you go inside, there is always something happening, musicians practicing for a performance, ladies placing flowers in front of statues, children laughing and playing, preparing for something, who knows what. The schools all seem to be associated with the churches and I have been told that children are brought here from the outlying villages. Since there are so many churches at the center of Sucre, children are everywhere. You hear them playing, practicing in bands, and at lunch break and at the end of the day, they spill out onto the streets in hordes, from the tiniest tots to college age. I really have never seen the center of a city so filled with children.

As a visitor, you cannot escape the overwhelming spirit and presence of the churches. Mostly, the doors are closed and locked, as are the gates in front of the churches. If you are a tourist, you can pay to visit certain ones of the convents or the churches, during visiting hours. At San Filipe Neri, my favorite church, you can climb up to the roof and enjoy a view of the city and the mountains. If you go at sunset the beauty is astounding.

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Remembering back to my time in the Sahara Desert, in Morocco, during the month of December, 2015, it would be hard to find two more contrasting places than Sucre and village Tissardmine. In the desert, I was finishing up Book of Angels, while in Sucre, I am finishing up Cave of Secrets. I signed the contract for Book of Angels while in Sucre. Both places inspired my writing but in such different ways–going from the stark desert, endless, undulating waves of sand and rock, to the up and down streets of Sucre and the ornate colonial buildings. Here, the altitude takes a bit of getting used to, as it is over 8000 feet. In the Sahara Desert, the wind and flies, the freezing nights and often hot days, the heavy shadows and blinding light, everything spoke of extremes. In Sucre, the extremes are in the altitude, the brilliance of the white against the blue sky, the heavy dominance of colonialism, almost as if old spirits still haunt the streets at night.

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At least a few times a week I face the challenge of walking up the steep cobbled path to reach La Recoleta, a big plaza with, yes, another church  and convent, established by a Franciscan order in around 1601. There is a garden café up here and I like to sit outside and enjoy the warm sun. Relaxation takes over, after hours of sitting at a computer, writing. In fact, I think I will go up there after I finish this! From there, you can look down on the sparkling jewel of a  city, with the Andes Mountains a purple shadow in the distance.

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Although I have been here for five weeks already, I still huff and puff my way up that hill, never getting enough oxygen. Once I reach the top, the feeling of accomplishment makes it all worthwhile. Fortunately, it isn’t a long climb, but the last block is extremely steep. Again, the plaza is often filled with children playing soccer, if they are on break from the school attached to the church. This church has a beautifully serene monastery with a one thousand year-old cedar tree. The tree stands outside the convent wall, somewhat forlorn and forgotten, looking down on the city below. I was shown it by a young girl who guided me through the various parts of the convent open to the public, all the while, listening to some television show on her phone. It was an odd juxtaposition of the past and the present.

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I am looking forward to being here on May 25th, Independence Day, which happened in 1809. I was wondering why early every morning I was awakened by bands playing the type of music you associate with military functions and political events. Well, they are practicing for Independence Day. Although, every day seems to be an excuse for some kind of celebration. The main square, aptly named Plaza 25 de Mayo, is always alive with music and parades.

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I still have four more weeks here and it is going by way too fast. This is my first visit to South America and I would definitely like to return. I knew nothing of Bolivia or Sucre when I came. At the place I am staying, Casa Verde, I have encountered only two Americans. Which is one of the reasons for its appeal, I wanted to completely escape from everything that was familiar to me. And I am happy I made this choice. It is a renewing experience.

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to come to this magical place. Of course, every place that I visited has been magical. I can’t wait to see where I will end up next.

SALAM for the Children of the World

Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, a Nigerian Poet, has honored me by writing two poems for the children of the world and the MY WORLD PROJECT. Please listen to the words and visit the Facebook page and maybe together we can find a way to bring this project to more children around the world.

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SALAM (I)

Salam, they say
whenever a bomb blazes in the sky,
in the streets, in the eyes of a girl
who sleeps in a room filled with the screams
of her mother, filled with terror moving like
wind. Salam, they say whenever houses
become morgues for those who search
for the corpses of their relatives, those
who count the number of corpses left
unclaimed, unburied, opened like a
bud to the sun. Salam, they say whenever
grief gnashes their hearts, whenever fear
dims their eyes, whenever bullets sculpt
holes in the portraits hanging on desolate
walls, whenever they assemble to mourn
those who rot in the dark, those whose
countries become dust. Salam, they say
whenever a woman cradles the corpse
of her only son, whenever blood splatters
on the face of a boy in Nigeria, Iraq, in Paris
in Burundi, in Yemen, in Bangladesh.
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SALAM (II)

Every day they search for light
in the remains of their countries.
in the bodies wrapped with rags
disposed like waste, ferried to where
their relatives ask how and why a body
becomes an object, a mere name, another
synonym for trash, a symbol of how war
litters the earth with wrecks. Every day
they walk the streets to where a boy carries
a placard that bears the names of his parents,
his elder sisters–raped, battered, left to bleed
to death. Every day the world fades into the darkness
that war births, in the turbulence of missiles, in the
sound of a bullet that leads them to where blood clots
dust, to where silence tunes their ears to the cries
of people dying in far away countries. Every day
they remember their dead beloveds, their families
at refugee camps, people buried beneath stones,
covered with leaves. Every day they say, Salam.

 

HOW MY TRAVELS AND WORK WITH YOUTH AROUND THE WORLD INSPIRES NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES

FANTASY LITERATURE Expanded Universe article

Inspired by my current travels to Sucre, Bolivia, where I am writing for two months

Writing is never just about sitting down in front of a computer and obsessing about characters and stories. For me, writing is powerfully connected to my life experiences. And some of the most influential experiences I’ve had have been the result of traveling to incredible destinations and having amazing adventures as a result. This led to me founding the MY WORLD PROJECT, connecting youth in remote areas around the world through art and writing. Knowing the power of words to create change, I want to give youth a chance to speak out beyond the borders of their villages and towns and connect with other youth, who might have different cultures and faiths, but who share common goals and concerns.

Please check out the MY WORLD PROJECT Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/myworldproject

YA INSIDER GRAND OPENING EVENT

Key of Mystery featured for the month of May at YA Insider Grand Opening Party

This is an exciting event happening the entire month of May at YA Insider. Lots of prizes and Giveaways. Key of Mystery is a featured book so make sure to check it out!