Saturday, June 25, 2016

Randall Sawka, Continuing Travels in Asia

Nancy and I have kimchied and sushied (so tasty) our way through Korea and Japan. It was awesome. We made some new friends and met a handful of friends from years gone by. Our flight from Osaka to Taipei seemed simple enough. We had our train ticket to the airport in plenty of time for the 2:40 flight. Oh, how I wish I had checked whether the flight I booked was AM or PM. As I said, our flight from Osaka to Taipei was a Randallesque disaster. We slightly messed up our budget, but collected a few more air miles. The wife didn't find that amusing. During the quiet flight I was able to get work done on my next novel.

From Taipei we took the short bus ride to our home for the next three months, Taichung. The city is vibrant and loaded with some of the kindest people you can imagine. I suppose it's main claim to fame is that it is where Life of Pi was filmed.

We live up there, seven stories up in a modest but comfy apartment lent to us by our friend Michael. He will be in Canada for the summer.

I write in the very early morning (AT 5:30) in the covered area I call my gazebo. The image shows me at a moment of limited creativity as Nancy used my iPad to take the photo.

The area behind me is typically filled with dozens of people doing Chinese Kung Fu. They asked us to join them. I told her that there are 35 women and 2 men. She said "that's the norm." Hmm, just like Canada.

Later in the morning the weather becomes hotter than a BWL. That is when I stroll down to an AC equipped coffee shop like the one pictured. As most of the sidewalks here are filled with hundreds of scooters, the walk is an adventure. Pedestrians are easily second to vehicles who battle it out for the lane and-a-half going in each direction on most streets. The system requires each driver to edge over or turn or stop or upturn or ? Slowly. Thus, the others adjust to the move. The horns don't blare constantly as in other countries. Only when someone flies through a red light (and it's surprisingly often) do they let them have it.

 Until next time.......Randall Sawka

Friday, June 24, 2016

Can Nonviolence Stop the Killing? By Sandy Semerad

         I’ve been thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King lately, and wondering what the slain civil rights leader and champion of nonviolence would say about the deadly mass shootings in our country.

I started thinking about King as I listened to the song, People Get Ready. I’d heard the song before, but I’d never paid attention to the words until Larry, my piano-playing husband, wanted me to sing it. I had forgotten Curtis Mayfield had written the song. According to Mayfield, the lyric and tune germinated as he waited at a Chicago train station for King to arrive.

Although he wrote other gospel songs, this particular one became an enormous hit. It has been recorded by Rod Stewart, the Neville Brothers, and others, including Mayfield himself. Mayfield would have been 74, June 3, had he lived:
         “People get ready                                    
          There’s a train a-coming
          You don’t need no baggage
          You just get on board
          All you need is faith
          To hear the diesels humming
          Don’t need no ticket
          You just thank the Lord…”

King eventually used this song and others, like Keep on Pushing, also written by Mayfield, to inspire marchers as they faced violence and jail time.

I once had the honor of meeting Dr. King. He was pacing back and forth in the Atlanta Airport, as if lost in thought, unaware of his surroundings.

I watched him for a while before I gathered the courage to walk over and say, “Hi Dr. King.”

He froze. I thought I saw alarm in his eyes.

I stuck out my hand and introduced myself. “I just wanted to meet you,” I said.

He kindly took my hand.

Being star struck, I don’t recall what he said in response. I couldn’t quite believe I’d actually met him.

Tragically, a few years later he was assassinated. As I watched his funeral on television, daughter Rene—only a few weeks old then--cried most of that day, as if she had absorbed my grief.

No question those were turbulent times: The Vietnam War, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in ‘63, followed by King’s in ’68. Then two months after King died, JFK’s brother Senator Robert Kennedy was murdered. But even in that crazy decade, we never heard of mass shootings, outside of war.

Dr. King would have been appalled by these senseless killings, I know. He’d always espoused peace.

Four years before his death, he received the Nobel Peace Prize.  He fought for racial equality, using nonviolent resistance as he sacrificed his life to bring about peace and justice for all.

His I have a Dream speech called for us to become better, braver, unbiased and more dignified. (I alluded to his great speech in my novel A Message in the Roses, which is set in Atlanta). I can close my eyes and still see him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, during the March on Washington.

If he were alive today, I’m confident he’d continue to march and use his powerful oratory to speak out for peaceful perseverance. 

As Dr. King, I abhor violence. It’s incomprehensible to me that three of the deadliest shootings in the United States have occurred in the last ten years: Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, FL. (June 12, 2016)—49 people killed, 50 wounded; Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA (April 16, 2007) 32 people killed, 17 injured; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (Dec. 14, 2012) 26 people killed, mostly children. The shooter also killed his mother.

The weapons used in these shootings were obtained legally, according to a CNN report. I’ve also read there were two other similarities. The shooters had been prescribed antidepressants--often large dosages--and they used weapons of war (assault weapons).

However, the U.S. Senate recently voted down two pieces of gun violence prevention legislation--June 20, 2016). This legislation failed in large part due to the powerful National Rifle Association’s lobbying efforts, according to the Washington Post.

       In the spirit of Dr. King, Georgia Congressman John Lewis led a sit-it in the U.S. House. Lewis, and other democrats, wanted the House to allow a vote on "common sense" gun control legislation, but House leaders refused. Lewis, a civil rights icon, who risked his life and marched with King, said he will not give up the fight until tougher gun laws are passed. 

       Most Americans support tougher gun laws, according to public opinion polls. Yet, the majority of our lawmakers refuse to act. 

       This baffles me. Too many beautiful lives have been lost and too many hearts have been broken.

I’m thinking Dr. King would say we can find a solution if we work together, but we must choose the public good over special interests. He’d say violence is never the answer, as he stated so eloquently in his I Have a Dream speech:

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Amen, Dr. King. Amen.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Weight of Words by Victoria Chatham

Coming Soon!

All authors know that writing can be a lonely occupation. They also know that sitting for hours with a computer is not good for them. It’s easy to get lost in the flow of writing. The upside is – the book gets finished. The downside? All that sitting may add a few extra pounds. It is so easy to forget about taking the exercise we all need in favor of just adding a few more words to the work-in-progress, and those words can weigh heavy.

I have a love hate relationship with weight. Photographs show that I was a child of average build and size, but all that changed when I was eight years old and had a three month long bout with pneumonia with much of that time being spent in bed.

I apparently did not have much of an appetite and the doctor advised my mother to not worry about what I ate as long as I drank plenty of milk which, in the early 1950s, was whole milk. Consequently, by the time I got out of bed, I was almost as round as I was high and so began my life long battle with weight.

It didn’t seem to matter what I ate, there was the potential for another inch on my hips. Through my teens I managed to keep a regular weight with numerous activities – horse riding, swimming, badminton, archery and good old rock ‘n roll.

As a Mom with a young family, I burnt a lot of energy keeping up with my three kids. Then I experienced a complete metabolic flip-flop when, after a divorce, my weight plummeted. Family and friends encouraged me to eat – and I did. Anything, at anytime, anywhere. It made no difference. At my lowest weight I was 87lbs and it took me two years to regain a somewhere-near right for my then age, height and build of about 120lbs. Once I reached that weight, I maintained it for several years but it was a constant balancing act.

I lost weight again, naturally enough I suppose, when I immigrated to Canada. My husband was a true blue, dyed in the wool steak and potatoes loving Canadian but he was also a man who loved to cook. How could I refuse to eat a meal so lovingly and carefully prepared for me? From chicken wings (I’d give you the family marinade and sauce recipes but my DH would probably come back to haunt me if I did) to planked salmon, chili and sea food dishes, he tried it all. If he didn’t cook at home, there were a variety of restaurants to be enjoyed. 

And life was changing. We became so busy that what we were doing was more important than what we were eating so, you guessed right, I started putting weight on again. Breakfast was about the only meal we ate at home. Dash here, grab pizza on the way. Dash there, oh we’ll just pick up coffee and donuts.  Then there were the days when we didn’t make time to eat until the evening by which time we could have consumed half a cow because we were so hungry.

Everything changes, and life changed again when my husband passed away. Being a consummate shopper, he did the shopping for what groceries we did have at home. Faced with not much more than an echo in my fridge, I had to start taking care of myself again and I reverted to what the cashier in my local grocery store laughingly referred to as ‘English shopping’. I bought fresh produce on a day to day basis which is almost anathema to the average Canadian shopper.  I started eating more meals at home, boring and time consuming though preparing food for one person was. I’ve never been fond of frozen meals, and could easily live without a microwave, so my meals at home were mostly salads.

Now being more mature than I’ve ever been, in years anyway, it really does matter what I eat. Over the years I’ve weathered the various theories that have been touted around. You know- the ones like apples-are-bad-for-tooth-enamel versus eat-an-apple-before-each-meal, coffee-is-bad-for-you then one-cup-in-
the-morning-is-fine. It all boils down to eating sensibly. A little of everything does you good as my grandmother used to say, with the emphasis on ‘little’.

And where, these days, do you find ‘little’ of anything? Supersize this or that, MSG-laden pre-packaged food products and the question about a bag of chips, ‘Can you eat just one?’ I have discovered for myself the truth nutrition gurus have been telling us for a long time – diets don’t work. Diet programs are great for initially losing weight, but how many people actually learn the lesson of smaller portions of the right foods aligned with exercise? Many don’t so, when they stop the program, the weight piles back on.

So where am I on a scale of 1-10? I must be honest. I’m pretty low on the totem pole actually. I know I could and should pay more attention to my diet. I know I could and should take more exercise than my walking and yoga. With each book I start I plan to take my exercise first thing in the morning to get it out of the way, but my characters have a siren song and I often find myself sliding out of bed into a housecoat and sitting down at the computer to get to grips with them. The walk can wait until later in the day, the yoga stretches I’ll do in a minute.

I’m starting another book now. I have a schedule up on my white board of how each day Monday to Friday is going to be. By the time I finish this one I hope to have lost the few pounds I put on with the last one. Come December I’ll let you know how I did.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Song Her Paddle Sang

The Song Her Paddle Sang

For nearly two decades Emily Pauline Johnson, known by her stage name as Tekahionwake, thrilled audiences at the turn of the century across Canada and Europe with her recitals. Born half native Mohawk and Caucasian in Brantford Ontario. Although more white than native, by Canadian law she was classed as a native.
Her father was head chief of the six nations tribes and her mother of pure English bloodlines. Their marriage shocked Canadian society, at the time in the late 1800’s. Pauline went on to continue that wave of awe during her stage performances with many of her plays and poetry stood up for native beliefs, unheard of in her time.
            Her health, precarious as a child, led to her early death in Vancouver where she died of breast cancer at an early middle age in 1913. Pauline grew up devouring poetry and read most of Shakespeare, Longfellow and Byron, among others. One night her lucky break occurred when she was part of a Canadian authors reading night. She recited a poem about the plight of the Indian’s side of the North-west rebellion, titled ‘A cry From An Indian Wife’. The assembled crowd went nuts and she was the only one to be given an encore. From there Pauline Johnson went on publish several books of poetry and tour Europe and North America for nearly two decades.

All her poems, recitals and comedy sketches she wrote and produced at a time when the country was still in its infancy and women were not known, for the most part, to take control of their own lives. While not really classed as a feminist, she was proud of her native heritage.
Most of the time she toured the country in rickety horse drawn buggies, slept at flea bitten hotels, or worse in sheds. Although on one trip to the log mile houses of BC she was treated so well Pauline was quoted as saying ‘slept like a baby, laughed like a child and ate like a lumberjack’. In many towns where the populations were less than the cows surrounding it, word would spread like wild fire and soon people would be packing into the place. She also attracted the attention of many famous people, presidents, prime ministers and dined with royalty while in London.
She eventually befriended Joseph Capilano, the Squamish chief, at the time, which lead to the publishing of the book ‘Legends of Vancouver’, detailing many of Vancouver area oral stories.
The streets of Vancouver were lined with hundreds of people for her funeral procession. A memorial built to honor her in Stanley Park now sits now mainly forgotten under a stand of trees next to the Teahouse Restaurant.

For those who love poetry, I’ve condensed below her most famous poem, ‘The Song My Paddle Sings’.

West wind, blow from your prairie nest, Blow from the mountains, blow from the west
The sail is idle, the sailor too; O! wind of the west, we wait for you. Blow, blow!
I have wooed you so, But never a favour you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between, But scorn to notice my white lateen.
I stow the sail, unship the mast: I wooed you long but my wooing's past;
My paddle will lull you into rest. O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
Sleep, sleep, By your mountain steep, Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings. August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I, Drift, drift,
Where the hills uplift, On either side of the current swift.
The river rolls in its rocky bed; My paddle is plying its way ahead;
Dip, dip, While the water flip In foam as over their breast we slip.
And oh, the river runs swifter now; The eddies circle about my bow. Swirl, swirl!
How the ripples curl, In many a dangerous pool awhirl! And forward far the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore. Dash, dash, With a mighty crash,
They seethe, and boil, and bound, and splash. Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into. Reel, reel.
On your trembling keel, But never a fear my craft will feel.
We've raced the rapid, we're far ahead! The river slips through its silent bed.
Sway, sway, As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away. And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby, Swings, swings,

Its emerald wings, Swelling the song that my paddle sings.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Owl Card by Cheryl Wright


I have four granddaughters. Three of them go crazy over anything owl. My now fourteen year old twin grandchildren had a birthday recently, so I decided to make each of them an owl card.

Today I'm sharing my granddaughter's card. 

This was a very simple card.  I sponged around all the edges, then stamped the top section with leaves, using the same ink. 

I made an owl using the Stampin' Up! Owl Punch, which I love, and decorated it up. I wanted the owl to look like it was on a swing hanging from a tree, hence the leaves, but didn't have a swing stamp. 

So... I took some twine, cut a small piece of brown cardboard, which I distressed to make it look like wood, and added the twine as thought it was attached to the wood. 

Last but not least, I stamped Happy Birthday. The stamp was again from Stampin' Up! 

Next month I'll showcase the card I made for my grandson. 

I hope you've enjoyed this post. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!


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Monday, June 20, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Sandy Semerad

Sandy Semerad has been making up stories in her head since childhood. She was born in Geneva, Alabama, to an eccentric, talented mother and entrepreneurial father. Her dad died when she was seven, and after he passed her mother’s Viking spirit compelled her to travel, taking her two daughters hither and yon, far outside the confines of their small Alabama town. Sandy earned a journalism degree from Georgia State University in Atlanta. She has worked as a model, newspaper reporter, broadcaster, columnist and news editor. She has two grown daughters, Rene and Andrea and a granddaughter Cody. She and husband Larry live in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida with P-Nut, their spoiled Shih Tzu and wayward cat, “Miss Kitty.”

Books We Love has published three of Sandy’s novels: SEX, LOVE, & MURDER (Mystery); HURRICANE HOUSE (Mystery); A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES (Romantic Thriller) 

Her latest novel, A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES, is based on a murder trial she covered as a newspaper reporter in Atlanta.

Warning: It contains steamy Romance.

A Message in the Roses is both lovely and exciting, a nail biter to the quick. It brings a delightful combination of journalistic craft and romantic prose that warms the heart and steams up the room,” says Dave Straub former CNN anchor, white House reporter and NBC Presidential Advisor.

Sandy’s second book, HURRICANE HOUSE, is set in a Florida Fishing Village. A hurricane strikes the fishing village while a murder is at large. Protagonist Maeva Larson is a catastrophe investigation. She suspects some of the deaths aren’t hurricane related.5 out of 5 starsAn excellent pick for mystery fans, not to be overlooked,” By Midwest Book Review 

Sandy’s first book SEX, LOVE & MURDER (previously Mardi Gravestone) combines the mystique of Mardi Gras with the soulful spirit of New Orleans, adds a suspicious accident, a plot against the U. S. President, a mysterious suitcase and a crystal necklace from a graveyard psychic. "A very intriguing mystery," says Romantic Times.

Both HURRICANE HOUSE and SEX, LOVE & MURDER feature the same crystal necklace. Question to readers: Do you think the necklace has magical powers?

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...