Monday, October 28, 2013

Dont be misled with the pretty part

Wanda "Panda" Hartzenberg is a top rated reviewer, and the author of a new book, The Struggle of Me. She ranks #2 top readers#11 best reviewers , #1 top reviewers on Goodreads. So I am deeply honored that she posted this review, on Amazon and Goodreads, for Home:

5.0 out of 5 stars Dont be misled with the pretty part. It is sad at times.October 16, 2013
Wanda "Wandah Panda" (Pretoria, South Africa) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Kindle Edition)
I am not good with poetry. I know none of the buzz words. Nothing about rhyme or rhythm, nothing about anything other than the basic.

So this is what I am here to tell you. This is basically a brilliant read.

It is a journey of a man, a woman, a father, a daughter.
A family.

I cant tell you anything apart from the fact that the way in which this was written was pretty.
And yes, I mean pretty. It was a turn of phrase. A choice not usual that made the words sound pretty as I read them to myself.

The stories, the prose, the poetry. All of it has a story, a voice. All of it or some of it, or one if will hit HOME.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Lentil Stew

We have not been camping close to a well for nearly three days now—but I happen to know where water can be found, because in her tent, under her bed, my mother keeps a full jug, for no one else but me. And so, I bring it to him, catching myself in an unexpectedly generous mood. He takes a long gulp. Then he has to catch his breath.
“Yankle?” he says.
“Yes, Esav?”
“What is this smell? So good...”
“It’s my new recipe! I call it a stew.”
“Give me. Give me now!”
“Well, no,” I say. “There are limits to my generosity.”
“You be sorry,” says he.
“Well, what’s in it for me?”
“Do I really have to explain? What will you give me in return?”
“Give you?” he flares up. “A big smack.”
“Oh well,” I laugh in his face. “Forget it, then.”
He falls to some deep thoughts, by the end of which he throws his hands up in the air. “I give you something,” he offers. “Anything.”
I smile. “You know what I want.”
Then he hesitates. “No. Not that.”
Well, by now you know me: I can find a way, some way to convince him. So I go over to my big pot and, as theatrically as I can, raise the iron lid. 
Out comes a puff of steam, escaping high into the air and carrying with it the most tempting, most delectable scent. Then, using my brother’s arrow as a skewer, I pierce through the juiciest, most succulent piece of meat, and bring it right under his nose. 

Yankle in  A Favorite Son

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Friday, October 11, 2013

This Tissue Is Me

Shimmering luster, let me try, let me reach you
Layers beyond layers of red, all aglow
With trembling fingers I touch... Flimsy tissue
It comes down upon me, folding high into low 

I dance with abandon, with no inhibition,
Entangled in fabric, I can no longer flee
Can't breath, for now I can see the strange fusion
Now I know: this tissue is me

I did the preparatory work for them by drawing sketches of a nude model, who posed with a silky, red piece of fabric. Then I created a composition out of these sketches, a composition which I arranged as a triptych (an arrangement similar to paintings on an altar.) I did a version of this arrangement in a different color scheme, in watercolor. You can see this version on my facebook page. Then I created the version presented here, in oil. Later, the panel on the right provided the inspiration for the cover of my novel, Apart from Love.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Have you ever experienced the heat in Hell?

He turns to me with a sly look. To my surprise, his smile—even with those sharp fangs—is quite endearing.
“Job’s wife, I presume? Hallelujah! I have been expecting for you for quite a long while,” says Satan. His voice is sweet. He must have sung in a choir in his youth, because in some ways he sounds as pious as my husband. “Shame, shame, shame on you,” he wags his finger. “You sure made me wait, didn’t you...”
And without allowing time for an answer, he brings a magnifying glass to his bloodshot eye. Enlarged, his pupil is clearly horizontal and slit-shaped. Which makes me feel quite at home with him, because so are the pupils of the goats in the herds we used to own.
Meanwhile, Satan unfolds a piece of paper and runs his finger through some names listed there. Then, with a gleam of satisfaction he marks a checkbox there, right in the middle of the crinkled page. At once, a whiff of smoke whirls in the air. Satan blows off a few specks of charred paper, folds the thing and tucks it into his breast pocket, somewhere in his wool. Cashmere, I ask myself? Really? In this heat? 

My chalk and charcoal drawing on brown paper of a creature in hell

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Love Historical Fiction? Here is Sebastian

Love historical fiction? Here is a a great series, The Three Nations Trilogy by Christoph Fischer. I have recently read and reviewed Sebastian, the second book in the series. Check it out:

5.0 out of 5 stars The challenge to overcome handicaps in the presence of warOctober 3, 2013
This review is from: Sebastian (The Three Nations Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
When a book opens before you, you expect to enter into a new reality--here, it is dropped upon you with a rarely seen immediacy. From the very first sentence, when the Serbian doctor tells Vera, "I am afraid I won't be able to save his leg," you understand in your bones how hard she tries to remain composed, so as not to frighten her son. Having stepped on a rusty nail, Sebastian has been hiding his injury from her, which is about to cost him dearly: the amputation of his leg, and the blow to the way he perceives himself at this sensitive age, both of which will eventually drive him to find his bearings, as he must. And not only he must overcome the limitations of his handicap, and come into his own-so must other characters, such as his frail mother. This is a time of war. We must all grow up. We must all find our inner power.

The author, Christoph Fischer, has drawn life in Vienna with vivid detail, illustrating the intricacies of the pre-World War I era with great imagination, which is underpinned by careful research of historical aspects. As the father leaves for war, Sebastian is charged with being the man in the family; not an easy task for any young man, and it is even more of a challenge for Sebastian. His is an imbalanced, stilted world, controlled by the women left behind, both his mother and the mother of his beloved Margit, who makes her daughter leave him and follow her to Galicia, in search of her father. I was reminded of several women in my own family, and smiled with awe and affection at the amazing (if sometimes annoying) power and initiative of Jewish mothers...

I am yet to read the first part of The Three Nations Trilogy, The Luck of the Weissensteiners. But to tell you the truth, sometimes I like reading one volume of of a trilogy out of order, to see if it holds on its own. Sebastian does.

Highly recommended. Five stars.

Book Description:
Sebastian is the story of a young man who has his leg amputated before World War I. When his father is drafted to the war it falls on to him to run the family grocery store in Vienna, to grow into his responsibilities, bear loss and uncertainty and hopefully find love.
Sebastian Schreiber, his extended family, their friends and the store employees experience the ‘golden days’ of pre-war Vienna and the timed of the war and the end of the Monarchy while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear.
Fischer convincingly describes life in Vienna during the war, how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the Monarchy, the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era.
As in the first part of the trilogy, “The Luck of The Weissensteiners” we are confronted again with themes of identity, Nationality and borders. The step back in time made from Book 1 and the change of location from Slovakia to Austria enables the reader to see the parallels and the differences deliberately out of the sequential order. This helps to see one not as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the momentary reality as it must have felt for the people at the time.

Short Biography: Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; 'Sebastian' in May 2013.He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How does it happen? Your guess is as good as mine!

There must be some magic dust in the air every time I visit my dear friend, Brian M. Hayden, and leave a few words on his blog. Within a day, each one of my three guest posts garnered an incredible amount of 'readers' likes. Brian tells me The Cyclical Process of Writing was the highest visited post, with over 1,100 visits in a single day. Check them out: 



Funny thing is, I wish I knew how this happens, because then I could repeat this feat with my next post... My best guess is this: here is a case of two authors combining forces, one opening the door for another, creating an inviting environment--and therefore, the friends and followers of both of them come in too, and they do it in great numbers!

Still, who knows... Your guess is as good as mine!

Brian is the author of The Road to Transplant (and more books) 
where he takes you along to witness the final mile 
on his amazing journey to a heart transplant. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

They all flick their tails at her

So at the end of an unbearably drawn out, tense second, here it is: she gives a jerk—a sharp one, mind you! And with a click, she brings in a host of shadows by turning on the twisted lamp by her side. 
What do I care? I am busy, trying to imagine sun. Curling around myself, eyes half-open, I pass my tongue around my fangs. Here, it is coming to me: a radiant, blood-red sun. Sky—ground—birds—flap, flap, leap!—throats—
I feel her looking at me, trying, perhaps, to decipher the sudden flash in my slit pupils. I flick her with my tail. The shadows—small and large, sharp and fuzzy—all flick their tails at her...

My charcoal on paper drawing. Untitled

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

This here was like no elevator I had ever seen before

Two of the tales in my new book, Twisted, make use of an elevator, which is more than a transportation device. It is a symbol of the descent from the realm of the living into the realm of the dead. In I Am What I Am the elevator falls from the surface of the ground down to hell. Here is how it is described by the protagonist, JobĘžs wife:

But now, this here was like no elevator I had ever seen before.
How can I begin to describe it to you? Space was tight. In distress I looked up—perhaps by force of habit—to cry, to say a prayer. Stones, torn roots, autumn leaves, most of them already rotten, even tiny lizards and worms were soaring over us in a big swirl, bouncing from time to time off the walls, and then being blown up and away with a big spit, straight off the top of this thing.
After a while you could breathe again, if you were so inclined. I was not. In the shadows, if you dared brush your fingers around you, you might feel the mud slipping upward along the walls as we went on falling.
Then came various outlines, various shells and pebbles and hairy seaweed, all floating across a layer of damp air. From time to time a fish skeleton swam by, lit from inside, like the neon signs at the top of that hotel in Jerusalem. And then, puff! The skeleton hit the elevator wall and crumbled to dust.
Layer after layer rose away. Water, vapor, gas; cold, hot, toasty. All the while the floor kept accumulating hairy strands of algae, crumpled insect wings, chopped off lizard tails, split-open pebbles, coal dust...

And here, is quite a different description, no longer in the first language but rather a bit remote. The elevator itself is airy and nearly transparent, because it exists only in the mind of the protagonist. Another difference is that here, it falls from the tenth floor and we will never know where it would land. Here is the elevator in The Hollow:

That was when, with a clap, she closed the book, then went through the missing door. With one easy step, which helped her ignore how final it was, she was flying, her hair pointing up, blowing wildly in the vertical wind. At first she avoided spreading open her arms, for fear of scraping them against the walls. Then, she heard her laughter, swirling loud and free, because there were no walls, only papery architectural designs around her. Sliding dreamily down, she was closer and closer to where she was headed all these years.

"A twisted exploration that turns and returns this reader to the singular question: 
What is woman?"

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Friday, October 4, 2013

What quality brought people to their knees in his presence?

My novel explores the life of one of the most fascinating characters in our culture: David. Here he is, pondering how to become larger than life:

I often wonder, what was it in Saul, what quality brought people to their knees in his presence, even in the early years, before he was anointed? What was it that made so many of them follow him, to the point of risking their lives? I have turned this question over and over in my mind, and the more ways I look at it, the more I find it baffling. There must be more to leadership than wearing a crown.
For now, this is what I have come to believe: people will follow, if they perceive that their leader is larger than life. 
For Saul, this is easy. He is so damn tall! 
But stature is only a part of his power. To make his authority even more visible to his subjects—and discourage anyone from doubting it—he adopted some manners, some symbols of high ranking. Which he must have learned from the hieroglyphic stone carvings of foreign war memorials. 
These symbols include not just this court, but the walled gardens, too. Looking at the waterfalls pumping here continuously I have to remind myself that it is not the stronghold of some royal dynasty, dominating the Nile delta or the Babylonian Tigris and Euphrates. Set against the view of the poorest sun-stricken desert in Canaan, where water is scarce, this palace seems like a foreign place. 
And looking at the center of all this, at the King himself, I have to pinch myself. He is a striking figure, and not just because of his royal garb. Just like painted icons—those of the god-kings of Egypt, and of the high priests of Akkadian empire—he has a magnificent beard, the likes of which I have never seen on another man before. 
It is carefully groomed, oiled and dressed using tongs and curling irons to create elaborate ringlets and tiered patterns. Often dyed reddish brown with Henna, it is plaited with an interwoven gold thread. And in place of the ornamental scepter of the Egyptian monarchs, Saul holds the next best thing: his weapon. A spear.
I collect these details in my mind and examine them at length, all the while growing more restless. It is hunger for success, hunger for what he has, that turns in my guts. 
No longer do I ask, what was it in him that allowed him to become who he is. Instead I wonder, whatever it might be, is it in me? Do I have what it takes to become a leader? A King, even? 
And on my way up, how do I overcome my shortcomings? How does a kid like me—who is too young to grow even a single hair on his chin, let alone a fancy beard like his—find a way to project himself into an iconic role, a role that will become memorable for ages to come?  
In short: how do I become larger than life?  

Here is my pencil doodle of the word Larger

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This way, I can see with greater clarity

His hands go in, searching playfully for her feet, touching the creamy skin, fondling her toes, rolling each one of them ever so slightly between his fingers; which makes her arch her back, stretch out her arms, and twist her body around until she is turned over, on her back. She points her toes towards him with a cry of pleasure. 
Anita utters a groan as he applies gentle pressure to the soles of her feet, caresses the arches, the heels, the ankles. Her knees spread open and fall apart, until she takes control of herself and brings them together—only to have them spread open again.
I close my eyes because this way, I can see with greater clarity. The entire blanket is coming alive, folding and unfolding, stirring with their passionate tangle. From time to time the ripples rise to mark the line of his back, or the curve of her embrace.

This is my watercolor painting of a woman having a dream. It started out as a nude painting, and then I added the layers of translucent fabric around her.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Upside down fallen angel

“Hell,” I blurt. “Where am I?”
To which a voice says, “You can say that again.”
I cast a quick glance this way and that, and see—just outside the mouth of the cave—two figures standing guard. Only they are standing upside down, perfectly frozen. Icy wings hang down from their shoulders, broken. And splinters are scattered on the dirt all around them. They are so still that it seems they have been carved from pillars of salt—if not for their feet twitching up there, above me.

Clenching my jaws so they stop clattering I manage to say, “Who are you?”
The only answer I can hear is a groan from the left, somewhat muffled this time. Turning right I bend down to take a good look at the other guard. Why is he silent?
“Who,” I repeat, “are you?”
His head is now barely visible; eyes and nose already submerged, he seems to struggle for air. Mud is flowing into his white mouth, and at the surface, froth starts regurgitating.
“Fallen angels are a dime a dozen around here,” grumbles a throaty voice from above. Her foot kicks some more muck in his direction. “Some,” she says, “have no names at all.” 

My quick sketch, blue acrylic on paper, untitled

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