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Welcome to Part 2 of “THE MEREST LOSS” Blog Tour! @StevenNeil12 @4WillsPub #RRBC

Q & A THREE

Getting to know Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS.

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

 

The Learning Process

 

  1. The ability to write is a gift. True or false?

It is a gift that most of us have, to a greater or lesser extent. What is missing is usually application. Having said that, not all writers are created equal and some people do seem to have the ability to write effortlessly. Lucky them.

  1. Some people think that writing cannot be taught. What do you think?

Clearly no one can teach you to be a great writer. You have to have some feeling for language and a story to tell. However, I think the craft of writing, the technical ability to write grammatically, to be able to describe character and to be competent in building the arc of a story, can be taught. It is no certainty, however, that the skills will be learnt.

  1. How did you learn to be a writer?

I studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the Open University. It took me five years to complete my degree. I enjoyed it so much I carried on and took a one year Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. I also read almost a lifetime of books!

  1. What experiences have been most useful to you in honing you skills?

My formal education and my reading helped me, but I have probably learned most from getting feedback from other authors on my drafts.

  1. Have you read any helpful texts on writing?

Stephen King: On Writing

  1. Which authors do you regard highly for their technical excellence?

Amongst nineteenth century writers I think Anthony Trollope is the master craftsman. Amongst modern writers Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd are technically excellent but they are also great storytellers.

  1. Would you recommend creative writing courses?

I would absolutely recommend courses, but I do understand that my courses were taken at a time when tuition fees were much lower than they are now and it is hard to justify the cost of a degree course.

  1. What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Stick to your guns. Whilst all the advice I have been given along the way has been helpful, one particular development editor thought I should rewrite The Merest Loss from a different point of view. I’m glad I took the conscious decision not to change it.

  1. What do you wish you had known before you started writing?

I have mixed feelings about this. I am proud of my novel The Merest Loss and pleased with the critical feedback. However, if I had understood the true economics of publishing, where even a successful novel brings meagre financial rewards for an author, I might have done something else with the time I invested. Who knows?

  1. What would you recommend to someone setting out as a writer?

Read a lot. Write a lot.

 © Steven Neil

THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5

https://www.amazon.com/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5

https://www.amazon.fr/Merest-Loss-English-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5

https://www.amazon.ca/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5

https://www.amazon.com.au/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5

Follow Steven Neil on https://twitter.com/stevenneil12 for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.

4Wills Blog Tour

 Book

The Merest Loss by Steven Neil  ISBN: 1788039718

Blurb

‘A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?
Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?’

Genres

Historical Fiction and Victorian Historical Romance

Bio

Steven has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. He has been a bookmaker’s clerk, bloodstock agent, racehorse breeder and management consultant amongst other professions in his varied career. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire, England. The Merest Loss is his debut novel.

Twitter

@stevenneil12

IAN author page

https://www.independentauthornetwork.com/steven-neil.html

Email

stevenneil1@aol.com

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  
 
Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

 

 

 

Introducing the “TIGERMAN ON TOUR” Blog Tour! @TigerManGuest @4WillsPub

I am pleased to welcome author Colin Guest to The Indie Spot today.

Take it away, Colin. . .

The second book I wrote was An Expat’s Experiences of Living in Turkey. Readers who are thinking of moving to Turkey will find a wealth of information related to living here.

The book starts with how I came to Turkey back in late 1988, to work on a five-star hotel project down on the Turkish Meditteranean Coast. After only five weeks of being in Turkey, my late wife stunned me one day. “When you finish your contract, why don’t we buy some land and have a house built,” she said. It just shows how impressed she was at what she had found and seen in Turkey. As a result of that conversation,  along with a Turkish friend, we bought a piece of land and had a house built. Although at first intended as a summer holiday home, after some discussion with my wife, we sold our house in England and moved to live fulltime in Turkey. Without a doubt, we did the right thing by moving to live permanently in Turkey.

After my wife died in 2007, I later met, and at the age of 72, married Gulden aged 69. We live in Istanbul, one of the most exciting cities in the world. Although living in Turkey has been a roller coaster of experiences, I have never regretted living here.

So, if you want to get out of the rat race, who knows, an expats life might be just what you need. For those considering this kind of life, there are specialist organisations that handle overseas contracts. They can also provide a wealth of information related to expat life.

Bio

 

As an expat who worked in fifteen countries spread through the Middle, Far East and North Africa, Colin Guest has lived a life most only dream. He started writing after his retirement and has had nine books published, with five made into Audiobooks.

 

 

 

Social media contacts

http://www.tigermanpress@gmail.com

http://www.colinguestauthor.com

http://www.turkmed.wordpress.com

http://www.twitter.com/Tigermanguest

http://www.facebook.com/tigerman55

http://www.pininterest.com/colinguest9

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9857414

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tigerman77

http://www.instagram.com/tigerman105

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to schedule your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  
Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

Welcome to the “OPERATION IVY BELLS” Blog Tour! @RGWilliscroft @4WillsPub

Greetings! Today on The Indie Spot I am honored to welcome author Robert G. Williscroft on his blog tour.

 

OPERATION IVY BELLS: A MAC MCDOWELL MISSION

Robert G. Williscroft here, with an updated version of my bestselling, semi-autobiographical Cold War Novel. Operation Ivy Bells is a first-person account of a team of saturation divers locking out of the nuclear submarine USS Halibut on the bottom of the Sea of Okhotsk. Fearlessly risking death, these dare-devil divers placed a tap on Soviet underwater communication cables and retrieved spent missile parts from the seafloor. They gathered intel that tipped the scales to win the Cold War. This story is reality-based—I led one of the teams depicted in this book.

Am I Mac McDowell? Some folks would say Yes, but even though I based his character on my own experiences, there are many differences between us. I was an excellent submarine and diving officer, but Mac is more capable and smarter than I. I would welcome your visiting my website to check out my background. Then compare the real me with Mac and let me know what you think.

A warm thank you to my host for sharing this blog.

Recognition for Operation Ivy Bells

Here’s what a USS Seawolf sailor had to say about Operation Ivy Bells:

For those who have an interest in Cold War secrets this is a must-read. Some minor details and names have been changed, but most of it is pretty close to the real deal…close as you can get without going to jail. My source of information? Memory—I was an Ivy Bells submariner.

Excerpt from Operation Ivy Bells

“OK, Dive Control.” Jimmy sounded a bit winded. “Now we need you to jack the port shaft in reverse—slowly. With a bit of luck, the cable will pull free and snake to the bottom.”

Once again, Buck moved in from the stern, behind the screw, which gave us a great view of the action.

“Roger that, Red Diver.”

The Skipper started talking on his handset again. He kept it to his ear. The screw started turning very slowly.

“That’s it!” squeaked Jimmy. “Slowly…slowly…” And then, “Stop! Stop!”

Even on the monitor we could see that the cable had crossed itself.

The Skipper said something to the handset.

“The cable crossed,” Jimmy told us. “Jack forward about a quarter turn.”

The Skipper passed it on.

“OK – Stop!” Heavy breathing. On the monitor the cable snapped free from its constraining hold on the other wrap. “Now back slowly…” More heavy breathing, from both divers. “Slow…slow…SLOWER!”

The Skipper stayed with him. And suddenly, the cable started slipping through the screw blades.

“Bingo! That’s it! We did it!” Squeak or no, he definitely was excited. “Let’s get the fuck outa here!”

Buck stayed with them until they reached the bottom of the Can. Then he headed back for the Aquarium.

Ten minutes later we could see Jimmy and Whitey emerging into the outer lock through the lower hatch. Bill had wrapped their umbilicals on the bulkhead hooks as they swam to the hatch, and now he pulled them into the lock. He unhooked the hatch and swung it closed. Whitey stooped to spin the locking wheel.

“Dive Control, Outer Lock, hatch secured.”

“Dive Control, Aye.”

“Conn, ROV Ops, we’re secured and the hatch is shut.” And that was it.

I gave the Skipper a thumbs-up, and he ordered the XO to secure the hover and get the ship underway. I headed back to the dive locker. The guys had been out for about an hour at a maximum depth of 250 feet on standard heliox. Ham or Jack would have already worked out the decompression schedule. I needed to check it, and then we could start bringing the guys back to the “surface.”

It would take a while, but that’s what we got paid for.

Watch the one-minute trailer

Author Bio

Dr. Williscroft is a retired submarine officer, deep-sea and saturation diver, scientist, author of numerous books and hundreds of articles, and a lifelong adventurer. He spent 22 months underwater, a year in the equatorial Pacific, three years in the Arctic ice pack, and a year at the Geographic South Pole. He holds degrees in Marine Physics and Meteorology, and a doctorate for developing a system to protect SCUBA divers in contaminated water. A prolific author of both non-fiction and fiction, he lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his family.

Links

Website

Amazon Author’s Page

Goodreads Author’s Page

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  
Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

Welcome to the “UNDER A FALLEN SUN” Blog Tour! @JohnCoonSports @4WillsPub

Greetings! Today on The Indie Spot I am hosting author John Coon during his blog tour. John is sharing his thoughts on writing a compelling and entertaining story! Take it away, John. . .

 

 

Who’s Driving Your Story?

Ever watch a horror or science fiction movie and quickly become frustrated with the direction that the story takes? We’ve all experienced this feeling from time to time.

One trait common to these bad movies is characters who take a particular action simply because the script requires them to do it. Their actions and behavior defy logic and don’t ring true to how a real person would react when confronted with the same situation. What was designed to move the story along only serves to shatter the suspension of disbelief.

Taking this approach to building a story as an author will only alienate your readers.

Never underestimate or insult the intelligence of your audience. Readers will notice when you construct  plot armor and force your characters to do your bidding like puppets on strings. And they will not like it one bit.

Let Characters Drive the Plot

There’s a simple thing you can do as an author to move a plot in a plausible and realistic direction. Invest sufficient time in creating each character you intend to place in your story.

You should know each character as well as you know a family member or close friend. Sketch out their life histories, physical characteristics, personality traits, hobbies, personal beliefs, and other pertinent backstory details before you write your novel or short story. This will give you a better idea of how a particular character will react if you drop them into a particular situation.

Creating dynamic fleshed-out characters will take your story in unexpected directions. Let those characters hop into the driver’s seat and steer through the twists and turns of the plot. You will create genuine tension and suspense and your readers will be unable to put your story down until they finished the final page.

Say No to Cardboard Characters

One glaring sin common to poorly written novels and stories is an abundance of stock characters who are walking and breathing stereotypes. Even good authors can fall victim to relying on a cardboard character.

You can’t always avoid using stock characters. If stock characters didn’t have so many real world counterparts to draw from, they wouldn’t exist.  On the other hand, you can avoid populating your narrative with a slew of cardboard characters. You can even take the stock characters and give your own twists.

In my horror novel, Pandora Reborn, I took a stock character of a crazy hermit in Dean and gave him a dynamic presence in the plot by fleshing out his story. One way I did that is to give him a tragic backstory where the antagonist murdered everyone he loved in their previous encounter 55 years earlier. It turned Dean from a potentially laughable character to a deeply sympathetic figure.

I took a similar approach in new novel Under a Fallen Sun. I let my audience see an inside perspective on the antagonist alien race through the eyes of Melody. It lets them learn the aliens’ motivations for coming to Earth and the tragedy and desperation driving their actions and behavior. It helped make what the aliens do in Travis feel more believable and, ultimately, even more terrifying.

When characters drive the plot, everyone wins. The author gets a more dynamic and engaging story and the readers are rewarded with a richer reading experience.

 

BIO:

John Coon has possessed a love for writing since age 12 when he typed out his first stories on an old typewriter belonging to his parents. For 15 years, John has worked as a sports journalist. His byline has appeared in multiple publications and on multiple websites nationwide. John currently writes for the Associated Press and Athlon Sports. He is a graduate of the University of Utah and currently resides in the Salt Lake City metro area. John published his debut novel Pandora Reborn in 2018. Under a Fallen Sun is his second novel.

 

Links to purchase Under a Fallen Sun:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

John’s website and blog

Social Media

Twitter: @johncoonsports

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jcoon

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  
Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

 

 

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Bernard Foong @bernardfoong

Vignettes Parisian by Bernard Foong

Vignettes Parisian

Vignettes Parisian is a collection of four short stories about the Author’s past and present experiences in the French City of Love and Romance, commonly known as Paris.

 

Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve

It is impossible not to have a close encounter with fashion when I am in Paris. Even if I had to wait in the freezing cold for an hour and a half to enter the Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve (Christian Dior Couturier of Dreams) exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts). My husband, Walter, and I were the lucky few who arrived early before the museum opened its doors. The late arrivals were banished to the back of the queue for a five hours wait before admission was granted.

This spectacular exhibition was worth the wait. Not only were the lives, times, and accomplishments of Christian Dior, one of the great French couturier and his successors well documented, the exquisite fashions and well-thought-out displays were equally impressive.

Since my first visit in 1966 to the French capital of romance, luxury, and fashion, my love for Paris has never waned. Before I left sunny Maui, I had designed and made a haute couture gold, silver, and black embossed velvet fleur-de-lis patterned coat to wear during my recent holiday in France. It was at this exhibition that I received compliments for my one-of-a-kind creation.

A stranger approached me at the exhibition to buy the coat off my back because he loved what I wore. Perhaps I should be the next designer to take over the reins for this resplendent Maison – The House of Dior. After all, I am a knowledgeable and seasoned fashion designer who knows every aspect of the international fashion industry.

Shopping In Paris (Then & Now)

I am one of those blessed individuals with a pair of discerning eyes and can detect items I wish to purchase in cramped spaces on my crazy shopping sprees. It was in such a circumstance that Walter and I found ourselves in the middle of the crowded shopping Avenue, des Champs Elysées.

A sole of my shoe had divorced itself from the body of my long-lasting suedes and left me to hobble around Paris like a circus clown with flapping feet. I had to take immediate action to remedy this unanticipated situation before the remainder of my footwear disintegrated onto the wet and soggy ground, while my beloved, sniggered at my fashion malfunction.

I remembered an amusing incident that happened in 1969 at this boulevard. Back then, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fashion student. Accompanying Moi was Count Mario, an accomplished Vogue fashion photographer, Andy, my model-looking lover and Valet, and Sammy, a flamboyant young fashionista. The four of us were shopping at the avenue, that drizzly day.

To elongate his petite stature beneath his wide bell-bottom jeans, Sammy wore a pair of eight inches high platform shoes. He also donned a fitted denim jacket over a sassy body-hugging bodysuit. To complete his eccentric ensemble, his dyed cornflower yellow, emerald, and turquoise hair flowed behind him like an exotic mane as our quartet floated down the street.

Eyes turned in our direction as we trotted around Paris in style. Before I realized what had transpired, Sammy was flat on the pavement. Colorful socks bounced around him like raptured pom-poms. The lad had stuffed pairs of rolled-up socks inside his footwear so he could fit his tiny feet into the platforms. He had stumbled on the wet and slippery sidewalk.

Mario, wasted no time whipping out his camera to capture this unanticipated fashion faux pas, while Andy and I looked on in shock.

As if modeling for a Vogue fashion shoot, the quick-witted Sam posed this way and that on the wet thoroughfare while the photographer clicked away at the gaffe. A pedestrian circle had formed in the middle of Avenue des Champs Elysées to witness this “fashion happening.” Advertently, our friend had transformed an embarrassing situation into a photo-opt as the applauding crowd showered the boy with accolades. By the time Sammy got on his feet, he had saved his face with poise and grace.

 

The Magical Power of The Written Word

“Why are there beds located at different corners of the bookstore?” I asked Monsieur Mercier, an assistant at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop.

“The beds are available for writers to stay a night in Paris for free,” the man responded before he resumed, “ Are you a writer? Do you intend to stay the night?”

Surprised by the man’s inquiries, I evinced, “I am a writer. But no thank you to the lodging offer.”

“What genre of books do you write, Monsieur?” Mercier queried.

“I’m an autobiographer,” I replied. “Because of its controversial and provocative contents, my books are often classified under the Erotica genre.”

The bookseller questioned, “What are the titles of your books, and what is the author’s name?”

A HAREM BOY’S SAGA; A MEMOIR BY YOUNG. It’s a five-book series,” I declared.

“I believe we have your books in the store. Are the titles: INITIATION, UNBRIDLED, DEBAUCHERY, TURPITUDE, and METANOIA?” he promulgated.

I nodded, delighted by his information.

The Frenchman led me through a series of narrow pathways covered with volumes and pamphlets of the written word. When he finally extracted five volumes of my autobiography from a shelf, my heart nearly leaped out of my chest.

“I read the series. What a compelling teenage life you’ve led. I wish my school had a secret fraternity program like yours,” the teller quipped smilingly.

He recommenced, “Our store is a focal point of English literature in Paris. Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Richard Wright are frequent visitors. We also host literary activities, like poetry readings, writers’ meetings, book readings, writing festivals, literature festivals, photography workshops, writing groups, and Sunday tea.

“Ms. Sylvia Whitman, the owner, might invite you for a book reading at our store.”

“That will be splendid. Unfortunately, my husband and I are in Paris for a short period. Maybe we can arrange a book reading and signing session when we are in Paris again,” I proposed.

Monsieur Mercier and I had exchanged contact information before I left the Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hopefully, during my next visit to Paree, I will get to meet Madam Sylvia Whitman with a book reading and signing gig in place.

 

S.O.W. and R.E.A.P.

Over the years, I have been asked by many, “Why do you love Paris so much?” My reply is always the same – S.O.W.

Although the Parisian cityscape has changed over the years, these three alphabets continue to shadow my existence whenever I am in or out of Paris. S.O.W. is also a reason Walter and I chose France as our home away from home.

In the autumn of 1966, when the Simorgh (one of my Arab patriarch’s private jet) touched down in Charles de Gaulle airport, I had contracted the romance bug. Back then, the ebullient Moi, an inquisitive teenager with a quest for adventure, was whisked to the Paris Ritz Carlton in a luxurious Bentley by my host, Prince P. I had fallen head-over-heels in love and in awe with both the prince, Andy, my then chaperone and Valet, and Paris, the city of romance. That was before our entourage visited the haute couture fashion Houses of Chanel, Dior, Ungaro, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Patou, and the fancy eateries, such as Café de Flore, La Belle Époque, Maxim’s, and last but by no means least, Le Folies Bergers. Back then, these infamous Parisian establishments were places to go, to see and be seen. Nowadays, they are tourist attractions.

Through the subsequent years, I had accompanied many princes, princesses, sheiks, sheikas, and their aristocratic Arabian entourages to the French capital. Most significantly, this city of love and romance had taught me the art of Seduction (S), Originality (O), and Wit (W). Some may say that wittiness is a congenital trait, but I purport it as a learned art of human relationships. Whatever definition one chooses to use, I had returned to this electrifying metropolis of S.O.W.; where I had sown many a wild oat. Now, with my beloved husband in tow, I’m here to R.E.A.P. its rewards.

“What the hell is R.E.A.P.?” you ask.

I will explain:

RRomance continues to exist in this alluring Capital of Love; even amid an influx of foreign refugees and political upheavals. Another series of stories, I will narrate another time.

EElegance in this sordid city of high culture is a trait Walter and I find irresistibly seductive.

AAuthenticity is historicity in this Center of Romance. And I am not referring to the faux reproduction of the Las Vegas ‘Paris’ in Nevada, United States of America.

PParis equals Sophistication, Originality, Wit, Romance, Elegance, and Authenticity. But last and by no means least, this French capital is where Perfection reigns supreme.

PARIS – Mon Paree!

 

Bernard Foong (aka Young)

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Bernard Foong RWISA Author Page

 

 

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Ronald E. Yates @jhawker69

Burning Out in Tokyo by Ronald E. Yates

Burning Out in Tokyo

By Ronald E. Yates

 

Clayton Brandt stood just behind the glass doors of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry building waiting for a let-up in the storm that pummeled the hot Tokyo pavement. Wisps of vapor rose into the air as the rain hit the warm ground.

 

He searched the eight-lane boulevard in front of the MITI building for an empty taxi. He knew it could be a long wait before an empty cab came down Sakurada-Dori. Thousands of bureaucrats glutted Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district, and whenever it rained, it seemed like all of them wanted a taxi.

 

“Son of a bitch!” he said, his words echoing through the lobby. Two middle-aged Japanese bureaucrats standing nearby looked over at the tall foreigner. They understood that English phrase.

 

Clayton grinned. “Ame-ga futte imasu,” he said.

 

The two men looked at one another and then back at Clayton as if to say: “Yes, we can see it is raining. But is that any excuse for such a rude public outburst?”

 

Clayton sighed, opened his umbrella, and stepped out into the downpour. He turned right and hurried through the governmental heartland of Japan, maneuvering his 6-foot, 3-inch frame through the crowded sidewalk glutted with black and gray umbrellas. Sometimes the edge of an umbrella held by a much shorter Japanese man or woman slashed at his throat or slapped against his face. Whenever it rained, and the umbrellas came out, Clayton always felt Gulliveresque—like a giant trapped in a forest of undulating toadstools.

 

He looked up at the leaden April sky. The rain had drenched Tokyo for the past four days, covering the ground with a pink and white patina of delicate sakura blossoms. A slow rumble of thunder curled between the squat granite structures of Kasumigaseki. Clayton looked at his watch. It was four-thirty and the evening traffic was already crawling. He had hoped to get his story written and filed by six o’clock, but the briefing about Japan’s angry reaction to Washington’s decision to bar the U.S. government’s purchase of Japanese supercomputers had taken longer than usual.

 

The sky rumbled again, and bolts of lightning streaked overhead. A taxi pulled up outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare and was disgorging three Japanese bureaucrats in dark blue suits. Clayton closed his umbrella and dashed for the cab splashing through rivulets of water as he ran. The three men had barely climbed out before Clayton bolted past them and into the rear seat. He gave the driver his destination, closed his eyes, and rested his head on the seat back as the taxi inched its way back into the gridlock.

 

Every so often, his eyes opened just long enough to take in the somber Tokyo landscape. The perpetually gray skies of Tokyo didn’t do his already sepulchral spirit any good. In fact, very little seemed to buoy his disposition these days. He couldn’t help it. He felt depressed and probably a bit too sorry for himself. A few hours before the MITI briefing, he had suffered through another of those telephone “chats” with Max, the foreign editor of Global News Service in London about expenses and the need to cut back on costs.

 

“O.K., O.K. Max,” Clayton had sighed bleakly into the phone. “I get the picture.”

 

The exchange ended with Max suggesting that Clayton not be such a “cowboy.” A “cowboy?” Why? Just because he was from Oxford, Kansas and not Oxford, England? It wasn’t easy working for a bunch of Brits when you sounded more like Garth Brooks than Sir Laurence Olivier. But he knew what Max meant.

 

Clayton was an iconoclast in a profession that increasingly rewarded conformity rather than individualism. Newspapers today all looked alike, loaded with the same predictable stories about the same predictable events. It was rubber-stamp journalism practiced by rubber-stamp editors who worked for rubber-stamp publishers who worked for boards of directors who wanted twenty percent operating profit margins above all else—quality journalism be damned.

 

He went over the notes he had hurriedly scribbled during the MITI briefing, searching for the lead of his story. His pen scratched heavy lines under the words “ill-conceived” and “studying our response.” Then he stuffed the notebook back into his bag.

 

“It’s over,” Clayton thought to himself as he watched the snarl of cars and trucks crawl along Uchibori-Dori through Kokyo-Gaien, the large plaza that fronted the walled Imperial Palace. It was as if today he had been forced finally to confront the inevitable mortality of his professional career; or at least of his particular brand of journalism. He was writing the same boring stories over and over again. Where was the challenge? The sense of accomplishment?

 

Clayton exhaled and gazed out the taxi window at the striated, ashen facades of drenched buildings. They reminded him of the mascara-smudged faces of women weeping at a rainy graveside.

 

He closed his eyes and nudged his mind away from the depressing Tokyo landscape. Soon it was obediently shuffling through old images of another, more beguiling Asia. It was an Asia of genial evenings spent beneath traveler palms; of graceful, colonial-era hotels in Singapore and Malaysia with their chalky plaster facades and their broad verandahs peppered with rattan settees and peacock chairs; of slowly turning teakwood paddle fans that moved the heavy night air with just enough authority to create a light breeze, but not enough to obliterate the sweet scent of evening jasmine. THAT was the Asia he missed; the Orient of the past.

 

Yes, it was ending. Clayton could feel it. It had been a good run . . . A good career. But now the journey was ending, like a train that had roared through the night and was now pulling into its last station. How many times had he almost gotten off only to be lured back on by the promise of what lay ahead at the next stop? How many times had he been disappointed by that decision? How many times had he been rewarded? At first, the rewards outweighed the disappointments, but in recent years, as he had grown older, the regrets seemed to have gained a definite edge.

 

For one thing, the passengers kept changing. And the conductors. And the engineers. But what did he expect? Wasn’t that the way the world worked? What was it that Tennyson had written: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new?”

 

Clayton shuddered. Was he the old order? Should he be yielding? Was he burned out?

 

Maybe he was becoming the old order, Clayton thought. But he wasn’t burned out just yet. And if there was any yielding to do, he wanted it on his own terms. The trouble was, the gulf of time between his past glories and the imminence of the callow, computer savvy handlers in the home office who controlled his destiny was becoming almost unbridgeable.

 

Most of his career predated cell phones and computers. For the computer literates at Global, his life’s work might as well be stored on some remote database. As it was, he existed only in yellowing newspaper clips, aging telexes, and letters of commendation that were kept in his personal file back in London. And nobody bothered to look at that stuff anymore.

 

It made no difference, Clayton thought. In the mutable, evanescent province that modern journalism had become, it was ancient history. Hell, HE was ancient history. He was like a piece of old journalistic parchment—readable, but, unlike a computer, much less utilitarian.

 

What Clayton needed was another journalistic rush . . . A story he could get hold of and play like a newly discovered Mozart piano concerto. He needed something . . . Not to satisfy the yuppies back at Global, but to give him a reason to get back on the train and to leave the station again.

 

The taxi slewed to a stop like a wooden bathhouse sandal skidding along a wet tile floor. Clayton looked up. They were in front of the Kawabata Building.

 

“Kawabata Biru, desu,” the driver announced.

 

Clayton fumbled in his pocket, handed the driver a one thousand yen note, and waited for his change. Then he bolted through the swirling Tokyo rain and put his shoulder against the massive glass and steel doors of the Kawabata Building. Unlike most of Tokyo’s modern structures, the Kawabata Building didn’t have sleek automatic glass doors that hissed serpent-like and opened automatically at the approach of a human being. It was a pre-war relic—an architectural throw-back with cracked marble floors and a fading art deco interior that had somehow survived the allied bombings.

 

The building’s deteriorating facade, which was the color of dead autumn leaves, seemed to glower at the world—like the rumpled brow of an angry old man. But the tumble-down building had an undeniable individuality in a country that too often prized sameness, and that was the reason Clayton liked it and had refused an offer to move into one of the new glass and steel “smart buildings” that soared over Tokyo’s Otemachi district.

 

He paused to talk for a moment with the old woman who operated the small grocery and newsstand tucked away in the corner of the lobby. From his many conversations with her, Clayton had learned that the old woman had operated her little concession since 1938 and knew the building’s history better than anybody.

 

She smiled as Clayton’s towering frame bent toward her in one of those peculiar half bows that Japanese make when they are in a hurry. Japanese could do it with a certain grace; but not Clayton. When this big foreigner bowed, he always looked like he was on the verge of crashing to the ground like a gingko tree struck by lightning. Nevertheless, she liked this gaijin. Ordinarily, she merely tolerated foreigners, but this one had a solitary charm. He was big, but not threatening; assertive, but not arrogant.

 

“So, Oba-san, Genki datta?” Clayton asked, combining the Japanese honorific for “grandmother” with the less formal interrogative for “how are you?”

 

“Genki-yo,” the old woman replied. Clayton picked up a package of Pocky chocolates and placed a one hundred yen coin in the old woman’s hand.

 

“Sayonara,” Clayton said as he turned and scuttled toward the bank of elevators.

 

“Sonna ni hatarakanai ho ga ii desu!” the old woman called after him.

 

Clayton smiled and nodded over his shoulder. The old woman was right. He was working too hard, and where was it getting him? Back on a train to oblivion?

 

“Oh, get over it,” Clayton thought as the elevator door closed. “You’ve got a story to write. Feel sorry for yourself AFTER you make your friggin’ deadline! Besides, what else do you know how to do, you old hack! Burning out is not an option.”

 

The End

 

***

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We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Ronald E. Yates RWISA Author Page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Karen Ingalls @KIngallsAuthor

Nature Speaks by Karen Ingalls

 

NATURE SPEAKS

Why did my life spiral into darkness in a second? One minute I am married to my soulmate, a mother to a beautiful daughter, and owner of a successful bookstore. My friends asked me, “How do you have the perfect life? It is so easy for you.” They were right. I had the perfect life.

My husband was an engineer, and I opened a bookstore naming it Mile High Books offering old and new books, coffee or tea. Leather chairs and couches provided comfort to the patrons. Classical music played in the background. I loved going to my store enjoying the smell of books, coffee, and leather.

We had our first and only child, Lynn who also loved classical music and dreamed of being a ballet dancer.

One Saturday morning, my life changed forever. I had awakened with a migraine headache, which was intolerable. It was best if I stayed in a dark, quiet room until the medication relieved the blinding pain.

My husband, Miles volunteered to run the bookstore that fateful day. “Lynn and I can manage the bookstore today. You stay home and take care of the headache.” He leaned over and kissed me. “I love you,” were the last words I would hear him say.

I curled up, closed my eyes, and waited for the pain to go away.

A pounding on the front door and the continuous ringing of the bell awakened me. “This had better be important,” I muttered while staggering down the stairs. Two police officers with grim looks were standing on the porch. I collapsed when the words, fire, death, husband, daughter floated around my confused mind.

My once perfect life was unbearable with the memories of it everywhere. I sold everything, bought a second-hand Volkswagen Beetle, and drove west with just the clothes on my back and a photograph of Miles, Lynn and me. I didn’t know where I was going, but I didn’t care.

 

The small cabin in the foothills of Costa Mesa, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean was my new residence. It was not a home. It was a place to sleep, eat and try to escape from my past.

The land was arid with brush, oak trees, scattered thistle weeds, and clay soil. Every evening, I walked down a short path from the cabin to a flattened area where I sat under a large oak tree and watched the sun dip into the ocean. One day at dusk, I leaned against the tree, closed my eyes and dreamed that Miles arms were around me while we watched Lynn ballet dance on a large stage. I could hear the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

When I awoke there were two limbs embracing me, and leaves and acorns were swirling around creating Tchaikovsky’s music. “Am I still dreaming?” The bark of the trunk and the limbs was rough and uncomfortable. I squirmed and pulled at the limbs. “What is happening? This is crazy.” I yelled for someone to help me, but the only words I heard were not human.

Ginny, you are a strong woman. Use your strength to get through this storm in your life. 

I pulled the limbs off, jumped up, and looked around expecting to see someone nearby. “Is anyone here?” I yelled again. Everything was quiet. A full moon radiated light around me.

Staring at the tree, I brushed my clothes, scratched my head, and said, “That was quite a dream, but how did those limbs wrap around me?” I shook my head trying to clear the confusion. “It was a beautiful dream of Miles and Lynn. I miss them so much.” With the sleeve of my sweater I wiped the tears. “I’ve got to get hold of myself. I’m losing my mind.”

The voice said. That was not a dream. I am here to help you.

“Oh, my God, I am going crazy. Trees don’t talk.”

Ginny, you are not going crazy. All trees talk, but humans do not listen. Do you remember your friend, Meredith who told you she talks to trees?

I nodded. “How do you…?”

I saw a friendly face of a kind, elderly man etched in the trunk. Every flora and fauna communes with humans, but they are too busy or unbelieving to listen and learn from us. 

I fell to my knees, grabbed a handful of soil, and watched it slowly stream out of my clenched fist. “This was my life. Time was going by with no troubles.” I opened my fist and let the soil out in one burst. “Then everything changed. My life was never the same. It is now an empty hand.” I sobbed and my whole body shook.

You are strong. Your faith is like my roots: stretching wide and going deep. 

The limbs stretched out, wrapped around my shoulders and leaned me against the trunk. Miles and Lynn are speaking to you through me.

Then I heard them say, We love you and will always be with you. Follow your heart.

The limbs were gentle and comforting. The rough bark was now smooth. My tears dried up, and I drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.

The warm and bright rays of the morning sun radiated through the tree’s canopy bringing warmth to my body nestled against the oak tree. Standing up, I stretched and looked out at the blue waters of the Pacific marveling at its majesty and beauty. I smiled as the words follow your heart floated around. “Wow! That was quite a dream.”

I walked a few steps on the path back towards the cabin. I stopped and looked back at the oak tree. “It might have all been a dream, but thank you.”

A thistle plant with its purple flower in full bloom was further up the path. I stopped. “You are beautiful, but your spikes are sharp.”

The spikes turned inward. Do not let fear hold you back.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. “Now I hear a flower talking to me. I am going crazy.”

The thistle plant swayed back and forth though there was no breeze. It bent forward bringing its flower near my hands. Touch me and accept my gift of peace.

I placed my hand on the purple flower and a deep sense of serenity swept over me. For the first time since the deaths of my family I was at peace. I whispered “Thank you.”

A short distance from the cabin porch, I saw the white silken top of a trapdoor spider’s home. I did not remember seeing it before and bent down to get a closer look. The trapdoor opened and a dark spider poked his head out. I stumbled as I tried to jump back.

The spider was small and ugly with fine hairs covering its dark brown body. He was frightening to look at, but his kind words put me at ease. You have walked by many doors, but you didn’t open them. 

“What is going on? I am hallucinating with all these voices in my head.”

You are not hallucinating. Your family is talking to you through the oak tree, the thistle and me. The spider moved back into his home and closed the trapdoor.

 

For days I paced around the cabin, reliving each moment and the words about strength, peace, and opportunities. I prayed and cried. I read about mysticism and nature.

One morning, I awoke and saw Miles and Lynn standing beside my bed. We will always be with you in your heart. Let nature continue to teach you.

 

The magnificent oak tree taught how to be strong of body, mind, and heart. Staying healthy and opening my arms to others became my ways of living.

I found beauty in my life and other people after removing my thorns of bitterness and self-pity.

My cabin was a trap shutting out people until I opened its doors and made it a home and retreat center. I added rooms for guests to stay and classrooms for teaching.

I called my new endeavor Nature Speaks, helping people to commune with and learn from all aspects of nature. When people open their hearts and minds to nature there are opportunities for a richer life.

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Karen Ingalls RWISA Author Page