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LA’s Epic Rock & Roll, Fashion & Art Party: Interview with Author Nora Novak

VIEW THE LOS FELIZ CONFIDENTIAL BOOK TRAILER

Whenever she’s asked why so many Millennials and Generation Z men, women and teens continue flocking to the music and style of the 1960s and 1970s, Los Feliz Confidential author Nora Novak has a ready answer: “I think Millennials are recognizing a sense of excitement and freewheeling attitude of that era by listening to classic rock, and streaming movies and documentaries that portray the ‘good times’ they find appealing in a way not found in today’s device-dependent, stressful and more violent world,” she says. “I think the boomers, the internet and the media have had a hand in this, unlike previous generations.”

Nora, who grew up in and currently lives in Newport Beach, is the author of one of the finest scenester memoirs in years, and winner of a 2017 Southern California Book Festival Award. Los Feliz Confidential takes us right inside the classic home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz where Nora and her boyfriend hosted some of LA’s wildest parties of the 1970s and early 1980s. But their wildness was classed up by the fetching, willowy blonde hostess, whose elegance, glamour, style and love of music turned these parties into something extravagant. With her visual descriptions and deeply honest portrayal of her own feelings, goals and hopes, Nora lures us into a narrative so rhythmic and rich that you can practically hear the songs of the period spinning on her turntable — and the lyrics weaving in and out of the narrator’s heart. If you can’t remember the titles of these memory markers, no worries: she lists them in a back, a clever piece of “soundtracking” the book.

But Los Feliz Confidential is much more than a musical all-nighter put to words. Nora takes us through her rich, complex world that she creates on the fly, as a trendsetting scenester and traveler completely in touch with her native Flemish roots. The fact she was born in Belgium, grew up in the U.S. with her Old World parents but never lost her connection to Flemish culture (but rather dove into and celebrated it), adds to both the perspective and depth of the book. She takes us around the world on her fascinating (and sometimes wild) adventures, one of which she shares in the interview. She also takes us into the crazy all-hours fun of 1970s Los Angeles, and into the glam rock, punk rock, hard rock and early New Wave worlds that she made part of her own. We meet her friends, and again throw ourselves on Sunset Boulevard and into the clubs and scenes that many look back on with deep reverence, while younger generations seek to know more about this time period where freedom, platform shoes, liberation, shoulder pads, creativity, long hair, imagination, art, style, and great music prevailed.

Los Feliz Confidential and Art Damaged Author Nora Novak.

Turning all these experiences and elements into a treasure trove of a memoir was no easy task, but Novak has the chops to pull it off. She’s a fine artist, designer of her fashion line (Noraluxe Loungewear), art gallerist, actress, model, and also the author of the novel Art Damaged. She comes from a very talented family as well. Her mother, Emma Albertina Bogaerts, a lifelong storyteller, is the 105-year-old (not kidding!) newly published author of Emmy: Memoir of a Flemish Immigrant, now available in English and being shopped to publishers in Europe. Nora’s brother, Mark Leysen, is an award-winning art director and fine artist, as well as the author of Klown, his third novel (Traveling Shoes Press) about a late-night talk show host who runs for President. It definitely echoes the present state of the world.

We caught up with Nora recently. To get your Black Friday book shopping chops going, here is what she says about life, L.A., making scenes, and Los Feliz Confidential.

Word Journeys: Los Feliz Confidential is an epic scenester read – the incredible LA music-fashion-art scene and how you and others showcased and helped define it in your travels and daily lives. Could you talk about the amazing chemistry that exists between music, fashion and art, and why it was so definitive of a generation? And still is?

NN: Because that generation (talkin about my ge- generation) experienced an explosive time of cultural change, social mores, pop art and particularly British rock that spawned new looks in fashion as a lifestyle. There was an innovative and artistic energy that changed the way people dressed. The 70’s rock-infused fashion had an element of sensuality and glamour with an edge that I certainly favored and is still being recycled today. Innovative new artists, designers, bands and clubs emerged in L.A. and provided a more artistic expression in fashion. It all played out with the music creating a dazzling decade that many look back on for inspiration today.

A good example is Stephen Spouse collaborating with Debbie Harry in the 80’s and Jeff Koons collaborating with the new Louis Vuitton line today. Music blasts at every fashion collection. I think music, fashion and art have always had an evolving synergy.

WJ: Take us through your writing process for Los Feliz. How did you pare down your countless experiences into a tightly written 200-page book? What themes and points did you emphasize? And tell us about your decision to basically “soundtrack” the book, with songs listed for each chapter.

NN: First of all, I wrote what I could remember! I could have added many more stories, but I chose to keep it moving like the fast pace I was living at the time. I wanted to emphasize the difference of how immigrating here made me feel and my fearless sense of adventure. I tried to be give my stories a visual sense of the fashion and look of things, the easiness of life at that time. Everything I wrote about had music running through my mind, reflecting the time, so I naturally made many musical references. When I finished I was compelled to write a Playlist for each chapter, which I really enjoyed doing.

WJ: What are three of your favorite tales that you share in the book? And the funniest?

NN: Well (spoiler alert!), I do share an interesting story about my relationship with a Jordanian arms dealer and his Ambassador brother. There’s a tale about my first skiing experience – which also proved to be my last – and a humorous girl/girl story. I think the story about an ENT treatment given by my boyfriend’s surgeon dad is hilarious but for me it all seems humorous now. I’m still laughing!

Nora Novak’s fine collage work includes “The Girl from Antwerp”

Cinema Verite at Cannes? It’s red carpet time.

WJ: You are the daughter of a very take-charge, dominant father and a warm, artistic mother. How did that parent combination shape you as both a person and an artist?

NN: My father, although a stern and unpleasant man, instilled a strong sense of discipline and a somewhat sardonic outlook. However, he was responsible for my love of art and photography, for which I am grateful. My mother, on the other hand, emanated femininity, graciousness, a pleasant demeanor and sense of humor. The combination definitely shaped me as an individual and shows up in my work as an artist, as I generally incorporate female photographic images in my glossy mixed-media collages.

WJ: What struck me about your journey is how you took part in the lifestyle and excesses of the day, yet you always seemed to have a sense of who you were and what you wanted. How did you maintain that compass, if you will, of how to go forward?

NN: I readily enjoyed the excess and decadence of the times; it was a Bacchanalian era for rock ’n’ roll. Everything seemed so glamorous and indulgent, and was completely accepted in the L.A. that I knew. I did have goals though, like a working schedule and a sense of enough discipline that probably prevented me from becoming another Hollywood fatality. Many didn’t make it.

WJ: You write of your affinity for Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. What was it about his voice, music, lyrics, and presence that captivated you? What do you feel musicians today can learn from their predecessors in terms of delivering from heart and soul vs. making a hit?

NN: Bryan Ferry evoked a sultry, seductive kind of singing unique from other rock stars. Not to mention his suave, good looks, elegant style, sophistication and harmonica playing that simply resonated in a big way for me. I thought his music and lyrics quite beautiful and loved his sexy album covers. It seems like everyone can sing today with a huge range and big powerhouse voices, but at the end of the day, it’s generally the more unique voice with soul and a great tune that becomes the hit. The late Amy Winehouse comes to mind.

WJ: You’ve also been creating works of art. Tell us about those.

Nora Novak’s “Nico”, honoring the late New York scenester and Velvet Underground singer. Part of her Femme Fatale collection.

NN: I started a new series, my “Femme Fatale” collection. I just finished three mixed-media collages, that can be seen on my website noranovak.com and will be exhibited soon. I’m thinking about starting another book next year, possibly a sequel to Los Feliz Confidential, picking up where it left off moving into the crazy 80’s.

WJ: Lightning Round: Who are your five favorite authors? Musicians or bands? Artists? Fashion designers?

NN: My favorite authors? When I was young, I would say John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac. I that progressed to Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski, and more recently Irvine Welsh and Edward St. Aubyn. Musicians: It’s still Bryan Ferry, Iggy and the Stones and Amy Winehouse, miss her. Artists: Jan Van Eyck, Kees Van Dongen, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel to name a few. As for designers, Dries Van Noten, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbana, love the vintage Halston — and my own Noraluxe Loungewear line, of course!

WJ: Final question: If a musician came up to you and said, “Hey girl, I want to play you one song that speaks to who you are,” what would that song be? And who would be playing it?

NN: Well, I would love it if that musician was Bryan Ferry. I’d request his cover version of Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, but wait; can I get one with Iggy on vocals, Mick on harmonica and Keith on guitar, and they can play whatever they want?

WJ: Let us cue it up! Thanks so much, Nora, for a fun and enlightening look into an era so wonderfully captured in Los Feliz Confidential.

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The Write Time: Feeding your Writing Needs Over the Holidays

Welcome to the 2015 Holiday Season … and Launch Day!TWT_WebCov

Today is the release of the second edition of The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life, published by Open Books Press out of Bloomington, IN. Since it initially released, it has been used as a teaching tool in dozens of high schools and colleges. Of equal importance, it sits on the shelves of writers ranging from multiple book authors to those writing for fun. Now, we’ve brought in 20 new exercises, as well as fresh photos and a new foreword, to go with the other 346 exercises in the book.

For me, the beauty of this book is its diversity and variety. Since I was young, I’ve kept journals, with the specific intent of writing about something different every day. I believe that diverse writing, along with good reading, observation and life experience, builds our voices and fluency as writers faster than anything. When my book or editing clients say, “You can write about anything! How do you do that?” my answer is the same: “By many years of writing about different things and experimenting daily.”

That is why I created The Write Time — to present a sweeping approach to writing about the subjects that interest you, and trying new forms in the process. Between that, the stories embedded within the exercises, motivational and creativity quotes from authors and brilliant minds, and listings of 125 dynamic writing websites, I’m confident in stating that The Write Time goes well beyond typical writing prompts and exercise books. In fact, you won’t find another that offers such a rich experience.2015-12-01 06.23.33 2015-12-01 06.24.09

For The Write Time, I cobbled together writing exercises developed from the past 15 years of teaching at conferences, high schools, retreats and colleges, gave them stories, and brought them together. Every genre and type of writing is covered, from fiction to essay, songwriting to poetry, fantasy to literary narrative non-fiction. Whether you journal, write poetry or songs, novels or essays, short stories or major papers, The Write Time will be a valuable asset.

The other thing — you’ll never have writer’s block again. All you need to do is open the book to the date, or any random page, and it won’t take long for your words to flow. “It serves as a invocation to come sit at the shore of new creativity, take up your ink-cup, drink plentifully, and be refreshed by the waters of a new day, all intentionally assembled by a fellow writer, reader and lover of literature,” wrote Andres Torres, advanced placement teacher at Minooka (IL) Community High School, in the Foreword.

The Write Time is available through all bookstores, Amazon.com, online booksellers, and on the Open Books site. Or, if you’d like an autographed copy for a holiday gift for yourself, or writers among family and friends, contact me and we’ll get one to you.

Finally, to whet your taste buds, the exercise for December 1:

All complete stories arrive at resolution. We entered the story with characters departing from an opening situation. We followed them as they made their way through the world you created for them, enjoying the motives, conflicts, twists, surprises, realizations, discoveries, complications and sub-plots along the way.

Now, we’re ready for resolution. How will your story end?

Write the ending to your story — no matter where you are right now. The resolution can lead to either a predictable, surprising, or twist ending; your call. Whatever the case, make the ending solid and convincing. Refine it over and over. Then, use it as a compass to guide you through the rest of the story.

(Please let us know how you like The Write Time by reviewing it on Amazon and Goodreads).

 

 

 

 

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Bringing Presence to Eating Disorders: Author Joanna Poppink

(NOTE: This is part 2 of a 3-part series on author Joanna Poppink and her book, Healing Your Hungry Heart, which directly addresses the eating disorder epidemic in the United States in a most personal way – and offers insight and steps to achieve recovery and lead a happy, fulfilling life. It is available through Amazon.com and at many fine booksellers.)

Healing Your Hungry Heart author Joanna Poppink

Healing Your Hungry Heart author Joanna Poppink

WordJourneys.com: You weave together patient stories, before-and-afters, and personal experiences in Healing Your Hungry Heart to address inner and outer aspects of eating disorders, how they affect lives, and find lasting solutions. Why does this method of writing connects so well with readers?

Joanna Poppink: When I was in the midst of writing Healing Your Hungry Heart, I thought of all the people I’ve worked with in my practice and all the questions I’ve been asked over the course of my career.  I wanted my book to give information and direction, and my publisher gave me a page limit. As I was writing, I realized that I was trying to jam too much information into the book and was leaving out the personal stories.  So I wrote on Facebook and asked my followers, “What would you rather have, more information and less stories or less information and more stories?”

The response was immediate and unanimous:  more stories.  So I rethought the structure of my book and wrote with the stories.  The stories tell more than I know I’m writing.  Sometimes just a little detail in someone’s personal story triggers a powerful response in the reader that can make a difference in whether or not they will proceed to their own recovery work. Stories give hope. Stories show that people aren’t alone in their illness. They give examples of the effort required to turn their lives toward a new direction. They give the reader a place to identify.

I wanted to give as many examples as possible so readers could find parts of themselves in at least one story.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to get motivated for recovery work.

WJ.com: What do you feel are some of the societal and internal reasons for HHHthe eating disorder problem we have in our country? What is the common experience in the person with these disorders?

Joanna Poppink: A few things:

• Isolation. A secret self that is merciless in self-condemnation. The harsh self-criticism covers a vast territory that includes and goes beyond body shape and size.

The mind divides lived experience, so that when the person is in one world, the other doesn’t exist and vice versa. Splitting can be mild or severe.  It’s a protective device so the mind doesn’t have to know what it cannot tolerate.

• Magical thinking.  All troubles will go away if: she has a beautiful body (beauty based on current impossible standards); achieving perfection (in body, grades, career, work, any task).

• Treating herself as a thing, an object that doesn’t feel or shouldn’t feel and is desperately lost and frightened when she does feel. This tragic state allows her to invite and accept abuse and exploitation in her life. The rule is, she shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort; if she does, it’s her fault.  She is her own abuser blaming the victim who is also herself.

And under it all, if she can get near the experience, is a terrible despair.

WJ.com: What are the main warning signs of an eating disorder?

JP. A number of things: eating for emotional reasons and not hunger; eating too little, getting too thin and focused on perfection in all things; eating large amounts of food in secret; throwing up or using laxatives as a way to get rid of calories consumed; exercising to an extreme in order to get rid of calories consumed and to lose weight, even when thin; feeling out of control when eating and continue to eat when no longer hungry or continuing to starve when very hungry; and harsh self-criticism about weight, shape and always needing to weigh less no matter what the weight.

WJ.com: When people want to recover, what are some of the first mis-steps they take? And why are they mis-steps?

JP: People can decide they want to stop their eating disorder behavior but have little or no appreciation of what recovery work looks like. They still think it’s about stopping the behavior. So mis-steps involve diets, Appetite control pills, eating every other day projects, eating one meal a day, eliminating certain foods, taking on an all-consuming project so they are distracted from their eating disorder behaviors, and more.  None work.

More serious mis-steps involve taking up a different destructive behavior like drinking alcohol, taking drugs or become promiscuous. To the person with an eating disorder who lives with constant self-criticism, sometimes nothing destructive or dangerous seems worse than the eating disorder behavior. But, as you can imagine, these behaviors only had more trouble to her life and do not address recovery at all.

WJ.com: Mindfulness is a big part of your life, your practice, and Healing Your Hungry Heart. What are the principles of mindfulness especially apropos for dealing with and recovering from eating disorders? How did this work for you personally?

JP: Developing a mindful attitude and approach to living requires you to be aware of the present moment.  Eating disorders are designed to remove you from that.  To be aware and mindful of your immediate and genuine experience is often intolerable to a person with an eating disorder.

To sit quietly and let herself be aware of her feelings in one living and real moment is to let her inner experience come through.  She can’t bear that.  And yet, to be able to be real in the present moment is to be able to be free to be your true self and live in the world as it is.  This allows you to make realistic decisions, to honestly appraise your situation and make wise choices, to know what you genuinely feel and move away from what is negative and move toward what you care about.

The approach to the present moment for a person with an eating disorder needs to be gradual. Being present for a few seconds may be enough in the beginning.  She needs to learn that she can survive her own feelings.

Mindfulness continues to work for me personally.  I can take a short or long time for a mindfulness experience, like watching a hummingbird in detail in my garden

or pausing while shopping to feel the ground under my feet and attend to what I see, feel, hear, smell.

WJ.com: Can you speak briefly about the exercises you’ve incorporated into Healing Your Hungry Heart?

JP: The exercises build gradually on each other, taking the reader slowly and gently into a longer and deeper experience of her own present moment.  The exercises build the reader’s strength, because she knows she did the earlier step, which gives her a more solid base to take the next.

(PART 3 of the Joanna Poppink interview will post on Friday, Dec. 20)

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The Road to Healthy Eating: “Healing Your Hungry Heart” Author Joanna Poppink

(First of a three-part interview series)

When Joanna Poppink was 40, she faced a pivotal, critical decision – do I continue to feed bulimia, or do I make a choice in how I eat?HHH

The crossroads to which the author of the wonderful book Healing Your Hungry Heart came is familiar. The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 20 million women and 10 million men will have dealt with one of hree eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating – at some point in their lives.

In a culture where up to 60% of elementary school girls are concerned with their weight, the seeds are planted deeply. They are fertilized to alarming and sometimes fatal levels by media messages and concepts of attractiveness that openly espouse the super-thin.

Joanna made major changes in her life during her 30s. When she entered her 40s, she dealt with her bulimia head-on. “So much of my energy and thinking and behaviors went into maintaining my eating disorder,” she says. “If it were free for something else I could do vast things in the world.  That thought gave me real hope and incentive for the first time.”

Today, Joanna works with people struggling with eating disorders as a therapist. She also has written Healing Your Hungry Heart, part-memoir, part-prescriptive and part-self help and exercise, which gets right to her point about the origin of eating disorders – at the heart level. Learning to love and trust ourselves, she says, is a most critical step for coming to grips with any eating issue.

On this holiday season, when food consumption is higher than normal, we present a very special and exclusive three-part interview with Joanna. Once read, if you know someone who is in a difficult situation with their eating, please pass along this link or provide information on Healing the Hungry Heart.

Healing Your Hungry Heart author Joanna Poppink

Healing Your Hungry Heart author Joanna Poppink

WORDJOURNEYS.COM: Joanna, tell us briefly about your professional background, and when you started working with people with eating disorders.

JOANNA POPPINK: I was a returning student in the 70’s. I finished my B.A. at UCLA and Masters at Antioc, majoring in psychology. Then years of internships. I passed the licensing exam, and the State of California gave me my MFT license. Partly because of my age, partly because of my interests and partly because of luck as I advanced in my studies, I befriended senior clinicians at UCLA and at psychoanalytic institutions.

Bulimia was in the process of being discovered.  I had suffered with bulimia since I was 13 and was new in the mental health profession.  My friends had decades of experience in the mental health profession but knew nothing really about bulimia.

WJ.COM: Yet, because of being in a crowd of senior clinicians, you started talking with each other about it.

JP: Because we cared about each other as friends and respected each others’ minds we talked openly and in depth about the symptoms and experience of bulimia – my part, and how that could relate developmentally and psychologically to what was known about normal and abnormal human development (their part). I had no idea just how rich and powerful these conversations would be in furthering our knowledge about the illness and what it takes to recover.  They benefited us and the people we would work with for years to come.

My working with eating disorder patients developed gradually as my own recovery progressed and people who had children with eating disorders and then adult women with eating disorders began to find me.  It was years later that I decided to specialize in the field.

WJ.COM: When you were 40, you came face to face with your own bulimia. How did that happen?

JP: No one knew I was bulimic.  I ask myself the question you are asking and many people have asked.  My answer changes over the years as my awareness grows. I thought the change came, when, after cleaning myself up after a purge, I thought, “What could I do with all this energy I use for my eating disorder if I used it for something else?”

My answer staggered me.  So much of my energy and thinking and behaviors went into maintaining my eating disorder. If it were free for something else I could do vast things in the world.  That thought gave me real hope and incentive for the first time.  That’s when I told a few trusted people in my life I was bulimic and got love and support instead of my expected rejection. That’s when my healing work started in earnest.

WJ.COM: Yet, the seeds for this recognition and healing started a few years before, when you were 32.

JP: Yes they did. Starting at 32, I began to earn my own trust.  I went back to school and got degrees. I made rich friendships with quality people in my profession. I discovered I could learn and that people respected me and what I had to say. I gave talks at conferences and led seminars. People were glad to come and listen.  Colleagues invited me to do more. I made enough money to support myself and my child. I was building a belief in myself that I was valuable, competent and strong.

WJ.COM: How do you look back on that now?

JP: I believe I was creating value, competence and strength in myself. When it was solid enough, I could ask myself the eating disorder question that set me on my path to recovery and freedom. When the pain of early recovery work unleashed itself, I had wonderful friends to hold me with Sunday brunches and walks in nature, and even a recovering alcoholic psychiatrist who shared his story and the power of 12-step.

All that had to be in place before I was ready to begin.  Even my therapist was in place.  She was my supervisor and agreed to become my therapist when I told her I was bulimic.

I suppose the quick answer to your question is that I created the healing and recovery environment I would need to go through recovery.  When that environment was complete my inner dams burst and the healing environment held.

WJ.COM: Since bulimia was barely on the medical recognition map, it took a lot of self-discovery, fortuitous events and people dropping into your life to set out on your recovery path. It’s far easier today.

JP: Today, with so much more known about eating disorders, people don’t have to wait as long as I did to find a healing environment that can hold them as they work for recovery.  Clinicians and treatment centers abound and are ready to work with eating disorder clients.

WJ.COM: You cover far more ground in Healing Your Hungry Heart than any other book on eating disorders I’ve ever seen. Why do you feel it’s so vital to approach this situation with 360-degree vision versus symptomatically?

JP: When a person’s eating disorder begins, a good chunk of normal development stops. The eating disorder behavior moves her mind away from stressful situations that develop in normal life.  She learns to deal with stress by using her eating disorder to go numb rather than feel, assess, communicate and learn, as her life grows more complex over the years.

Often a person with an eating disorder feels very young and acts with teen-ager and even infantile responses. She’s not trying to be cute. That’s her immature response.

Real and lasting recovery involves picking up development where it left off and supporting healthy development as it occurs for the first time.  When she gives up her symptoms, she’s given up her coping style.  This is a frightening and vulnerable place to be.  Yet it’s essential that she get to this psychological place so that she can learn anew what it means to be a mature woman.

Through the exercises at the end of each chapter and the chronological development of the chapters in Healing Your Hungry Heart, I did my best to give the reader a graduated pathway to develop her own personhood.  Once that is well on its way, she has no need for an eating disorder. She has much more effective ways of dealing with the complexities of an adult life.

(Part 2 of the Joanna Poppink interview will post on Friday, Dec. 13)

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If Apollo Were Alive Today: AK Patch Interview, Part Two

(To see Part 1 of the Interview)

"Passage at Delphi," now available on Amazon.com and through booksellers nationwide

“Passage at Delphi,” now available on Amazon.com and through booksellers nationwide

AK Patch’s new book Passage at Delphi is a page-turning historical adventure thriller that portals back two  professors into a defining time in Ancient Greek history – and also carries its arch-villain 2,500 years into the future … modern-day San Diego. That dual time travel element is one of many exciting twists in the 336-page novel, which is drawing 5-star reviews from publications like Midwest Book Review and Library Bookwatch, as well as readers on Amazon.com and Goodreads. Just in time for holiday shopping!

There’s another, deeper side to Passage at Delphi: the presence of the Greek God Apollo, who is the mastermind for the adventures and lessons Lauren and Zack Fletcher experience. In this version of hero training, Lauren proves herself a heroine during a time when women never achieved such status. But why? What is Apollo’s plan? What would he be like if he were alive today?

These are a few of the intriguing questions behind the book. We had some more for Dr. Patch, to conclude our two-part interview with him.

WORDJOURNEYS.COM: A part of the Ancient Greek historical record you used  effectively in Passage at Delphi was the concept of the oracle. You used it as your time travel trigger . Could you elaborate?

AK PATCH: I like the idea of using ancient oracles to transmit my characters between the past, present, and future. I see the site at Delphi as kind a mysterious religious site. A shop-owner in Athens actually did tell me that when he walks among the ruins, he senses a tingling and feels as if he is gliding over the ground. This may be a deep cultural connection with his heritage, or a lightening of oxygen content, but nevertheless, it is a place where many people over two thousand years invested their hopes and prayers. I had many conversations with an associate, Dr. Anthony Marciante, regarding the intricacies of time-travel and how that relates to the movement of characters across millennia.

WJ: The mastermind in this book, and others to come  in this series, is another Ancient Greek icon – Apollo, the god of prophecy (among other titles). You stretch beyond the classic description of Apollo to position him in the modern world, tasked with a solemn undertaking of utmost importance that works through Zack and Lauren. Why Apollo?

AP: I see Apollo as a teacher. Not only must Zack and Lauren struggle to survive, but they are also in a kind of classroom themselves. Many of our countrymen live a stable, comfortable life in the U.S. There are those that don’t, for which daily life is a battle. Lauren, but especially Zack, must struggle and suffer to learn. Apollo is fashioned after the Greek Stoic philosophers. He is a benevolent taskmaster. He doesn’t just want you to talk a good story; he wants your actions to back it up. Zack and Lauren must become warrior–citizens for democracy, to preserve our nation when times become perilous.

Apollo’s training is not over. He has seen the future, even lived it. Greek gods like heroes to carry out their will. People are not hardened by one experience. It takes time, so our heroes must endure and learn before they can be effectual in the great fight that awaits them. It is our fight too. Can we learn and act in time?

WJ: You’ve written Passage at Delphi for reasons far more significant than crafting a historical action thriller. What is the underlying issue that prompted you to create this novel?

Passage at Delphi author AK Patch, doing book research on location in Greece

Passage at Delphi author AK Patch, doing book research on location in Greece

AP: I’ll answer that with a question: What is the state of our democracy today?  It’s a subject best debated by political and constitutional experts, but from the point of view of a citizen, developing events are troubling. More and more, greed, arrogance, and corruption are the mainstays of our politics. Who do we believe? Who can we trust to maintain the secure and bountiful future of our country? Look at the ridiculous shutdown of the government and the way we nearly fell off the debt ceiling. Why? How can a few hundred people shut down a government that we, the people, pay for and are supposed to have representation in? The Athenians had a hand in destroying themselves, as did the Romans. Can we learn any good lessons from their triumphs and tragedies? In PASSAGE, our heroes are propelled into real-time history. They will struggle and suffer, but they will emerge tempered by their experiences and be more cognizant by what has been sacrificed by previous generations.

WJ: To that end, you’ve created a novel with non-stop action that will surely appeal to younger readers as well as older ones. How do Millennials figure into the overarching story ?

AP: There are times when people need to recognize the lessons of history and realize that their generation is the one that is likely to be called upon to save this great country. I see the Millennials as that generation, so the message of this and my other books points to them. We will undoubtedly change as a nation on the path of that struggle, but we have to hold onto our freedoms and not let them be compromised. Other generations will see this in the experiences of Zack and Lauren as they endure real-time what the ancient Greeks did in facing overwhelming odds, and yet, emerge victorious. This is about instead of saving the virtual world, saving the real world.

WJ: How and when did the writing bug first bite you?

AP: The earliest writing project I remember was a short story written in 5th or 6th grade, 1966 or so. The Cold War was prevalent and I crafted a story about a Russian spy hiding out in Charles Lindbergh’s plane when he flew solo from New York to Paris in the 1927. I wrote it the spy’s point of view. He described how Lindbergh had to stay awake and eat sandwiches, had to fly above the waves and was excited when they crossed over Ireland. The spy escaped in the celebration after the landing and was impressed by the bravery of Americans.

WJ: How did you keep it going during your long military career?

AP: During my 26-year career in the United States Navy and serving with the Marine Corps, I held unit positions that required some writing skills – personnel evaluations and reports. As a commanding officer of Marine Corps Medical Unit, we concentrated on physicals and combat casualty care, but it seemed like the evaluation and reports evolutions never ceased. Also, I spent a lot of time in Greece … which found its way into the center of my writing.

TO ORDER PASSAGE AT DELPHI

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Ancient Greece & Apollo Come to Life: Interview with Author AK Patch

What happens when  two modern-day, married professors fall into Ancient Greece through a portal, experience their lives as a page-burner of adventures and harrowing escapes that forges them into hero figures – all at the behest of the Greek God Apollo and his deep concern for the direction of our world today?

PAD cover lo-res

The answer to that rather long-winded question forms Passage at Delphi, the new novel by San Diego-based author A.K. Patch. Passage at Delphi went on sale today worldwide, and is available on online booksellers, Amazon.com, Kindle, bn.com and through all bookstores.

Seven years in the making, Passage at Delphi tackles enough historical, topical and character-driven real estate to open a small state. Flip the pages and you find: protagonists Lauren and Zack Fletcher racing through intrigue, romance and adventure; narrow escapes from predatory hands; their experiences with gods, kings and legendary military rulers; time travel in both directions – from present-to-past and past-to-present; exquisite Ancient Greek landscapes seen and lived through young 21st century professors; a new view of the famous “300” Spartans war against the Persians; and a climactic final scene. All is orchestrated by Apollo, the God of Prophecy, as part of a master plan that reveals itself as Passage at Delphi progresses.

Says the Midwest Book Review of Passage at Delphi: “In presenting action spread out over three different times and characters that intersect, Passage at Delphi creates a fast-paced and challenging story line that places readers at the crux of understanding choices and their wide-reaching consequences makes it a force to be reckoned with: a novel that involves even the most experienced reader of historical fiction, mythology fantasy, and adventure.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost of all, Passage at Delphi has the Big Three of great novels – memorable characters, strong story, and plenty of entertainment and enlightenment. It is smart, gritty and dedicated to its details – much like its author, a retired career Naval officer who has been fascinated with Ancient Greece and ancient military tactics since he was a child.

Now, in the first part of a two-part interview, A.K. Patch talks more about the historical adventure thriller that is already garnering strong praise.

WORD JOURNEYS: First of all, Dr. Patch, Passage at Delphi is a very ambitious project, a compelling blend of deep history and crafty fiction writing – a magnum opus in many ways. How long have you been working on it?

A.K. PATCH: PASSAGE has been in progress for seven years now. I’ve been in no rush to publish it and it has become far more interesting and involved plot. I’ll never have writer’s block. The story just comes out. I occasionally write the story in my head while I’m jogging.

WJ: You wrap the story around a pair of university professors from California who travel to their beloved Greece on an archaeological dig – only to be transported back in time, as intended by the Greek god Apollo. Could you discuss the protagonists a bit more?

AP: Apollo chooses Zack and Lauren because they have the qualities he desires. They have the potential to survive his gauntlet of hero training, but are guaranteed nothing. Apollo’s goal is to save western culture from a devastating collapse. Thereby, the United States must be secured, or the western world will crumble. His heroes must be American, physically able to endure what he has planned, and knowledgeable of the ancient times in which they are tossed into. Even more so, Zack and Lauren are connected to The Professor in Athens. That is how Apollo found them. They fit his requirements.

The Greek God Apollo, the plot orchestrator in "Passage at Delphi"

The Greek God Apollo, the plot orchestrator in “Passage at Delphi”

AP: Lauren, like a lot of women, has the capability to rise to the occasion. She has the temperance of a military upbringing. I have personal experience with military dependents and their silent endurance of multiple deployments, low pay, and the ever-present possibility that their loved one is not coming home. Their dedication and sacrifice should be more celebrated by our nation.  Lauren is not so completely hardened, though. She doesn’t realize her strength, and fears separation from Zack. She will endure many physical and psychological battles.

I have asked women what they think they do better than men. One compelling answer is that they multi-task better. Juggling family and career is no picnic. Zack has a lot to learn. He has not had to struggle. He lives under the umbrella of safety that the United States provides to him. What happens to any of us when our umbrellas are pulled and the full force of the storm hits us?

WJ: No good historical action-thriller with a romantic twist can thrive without an antagonist – and Passage at Delphi has a most memorable one in Bessus, the Persian commander who threatens and harangues Zack and especially Lauren throughout the story. Can you tell us how you created such a menacing character, and why?

AP: Bessus represents evil, but would not most ancient warriors act in the manner he does? There are no terms of chivalry, no mercies extended. That is true today also. One aspect of Bessus I might mention is that he has suffered and struggled, and in his mind, cruelty and domination is survival. A monster such as Bessus is not all evil. He yearns for his son, to hold onto his hard-won gains back in Bactria (modern-day Afghanistan). He was betrayed by his mother and her people, seriously enough that you can hold a grain of sympathy for him. Even though he transposes his brand of malice to the modern day, evil, greed, and malevolence can come in many forms. It doesn’t just hold a two-headed axe. It can wear a three-piece suit with cufflinks and plot domination of markets, too.

The Temple of Delphi, the centerpiece of the novel, where Lauren and Zack are pulled through the portal.

The Temple of Delphi, the centerpiece of the novel, where Lauren and Zack are pulled through the portal.

WJ: How did this gritty, elaborate story originate for you?

AP: PASSAGE originated as a vehicle to bring the Battle of Thermopylae to the attention of readers. The Greeks of that time were presented with a horrific decision of submitting to slavery or fighting the overwhelming power and wealth of The Persian Empire. I find the Persian Wars period fascinating, and it could be considered a climactic event in the development and survival of Western culture. The questions may soon come to be: are we living in such pivotal times? And what may we have to do to survive and pass our way of life to succeeding generations?

WJ: How do you feel people today are connected to the Ancient Greeks themselves in order to arrive at this correlation you’ve formed as a major plot point?

AP: The ancient Greeks might be called our distant grandparents. Their significant advancements in philosophy, mathematics, architecture, art, sculpture, and playwriting are a solid foundation of our western culture. Ultimately, they gave birth to democracy and more so, fought to the death to defend their way of life, allowing those advances in human spirit to be passed to us.

WJ: Can you elaborate?

AP: Sure. When freedom was largely unknown in the ancient world, when kings and despots ruled the lives of populations, a hardscrabble group of Greek city-states on the western edge of the great empires of the east forged a society. As it turned out, that society made a lasting impact on the future generations of the west – and the east, for that matter. We look to Athenian democracy as our crucible of freedom, but it was not inclusive. Only male citizens of wealth and military training were allowed to vote. It is a kernel of what we have today, but an amazing development for the time. Our enlightened founding Fathers declared equality for all, but that didn’t happen for some time.

WJ: What endeared you to the history of Ancient Greece and its relevance in today’s world?

AP: I loved Hercules movies and some of the other big Sword and Sandal Classics of the 50’s and 60’s. Cleopatra, Spartacus, The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators, and my ultimate favorite, The Three Hundred Spartans from 1962.  Without video in those days, you would see a movie once and then wait years to see it again. Torturous, if it was a movie that made a big impact on you!

I have been entranced with ancient history for so long that a lot of the events and settings are second nature to me. I did dig deeper into authors and texts regarding life in those times. I especially respect author and educator Edith Hamilton and her works. When I develop plot twists, then I’m looking for an unusual aspect of ancient life to add substance.

(Part Two will be published on Wednesday, Nov. 27)

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The Sleuthsayers: Six Crime, Mystery & Action Thriller Novelists Discuss Their Work

CHECK OUT THE 366 WRITING BLOG:

40 GREAT BOOKS FOR EVERY WRITER

(First of a 2-blog series)

THEY PRESS ON WITH THEIR DAILY LIVES, watching everything. Stories percolate constantly in their minds. They sit for hours, days, weeks and months, cooking up good characters and bad, and plots with more twists and turns than a mountain switchback road.

Frank Ritter

Frank Ritter

Meet The Sleuthsayers. These crime fiction, mystery and action thriller authors specialize in compelling page-turner books that exemplify solid storytelling and characters that jump off the page. They kill people, injure others, fall in and out of love, and solve one tantalizing mystery after another. In many cases, they carry the same lead character from one book to another.

Recently, I put a few questions to authors Jenny Hilborne, Frank Ritter (also an award-winning playwright), Gayle Carline, William Thompson Ong, Claudia Whitsitt, and Wes Albers, who is also the director of the Southern California Writers Conference.

These people are very good writers. Their average collective ranking on Amazon.com? 4.8 (out of 5). And on Goodreads? 4.9 (out of 5).

Other interesting trivia tidbits: Remember the 1980s TV series Simon & Simon? The series was loosely (or not so loosely) based on Frank Ritter and his brother, private investigators at the time. Ritter’s expertise really shows in The Killing Games. Our other on-the-job expert is Wes Albers, a longtime member of the San Diego Police Department. Meanwhile, Tom Ong is one of the original Mad Men from the New York advertising scene of the early 1960s.

I hope you enjoy what they have to say – and buy their books, either for yourself or for a favorite crime & mystery fiction lover on your Holiday shopping list. Now, let’s get the roundtable started …

Jenny Hilborne

Jenny Hilborne

Q: First of all, give us a snapshot of your most recent books.

Jenny Hilborne: The Jackson Mystery Series, which can be read as standalones. They include Hide and Seek and Madness and Murder.

Frank Ritter: The Killing Games, an adult thriller (now available), and The Devil’s Crib, another adult thriller, which will be out in Spring 2014.

Gayle Carline: I write the Peri Minneopa Mystery Series. A couple of titles include Hit or Missus and Hot Mess.

William Thompson Ong: I call mine the Kate Conway Series – The Mounting Storm, The Deadly Buddha, and The Fashionista Murders.

Claudia Whitsitt: The Samantha Series: Identity Issues (Book 1) and Intimacy Issues (Book 2).

Wes Albers: Black & White is my first published novel. It’s a look into the life of a street cop, told through the eyes of veteran San Diego Police Patrolman John Hatch.

Q: Do you set up your plot twists before you begin writing, or do you let characters and situations take you there?

Albers: I do a little of both. For Black & White, I didn’t start out with anything. I simply sat down one day and started writing. I let the story take me where it wanted to go, until I hit a point where I needed to get to a logical conclusion. It became necessary to start doing some plotting and outlining as I went along, but mostly so that I could drive the story where I needed it to go rather than any creative plot twist.

Gayle Carline

Gayle Carline

One challenge in writing about street cops is that their job doesn’t necessarily flow like a typical story. The thought of having something fall along the lines of Act I, Act II, and Act III is kind of contrary to how the job works. Not every story in a cop’s life resolves. Instead, a street cop’s life is often more a series of scenes.

Whitsitt: Plot twists–what I live for! I do some pre-plotting. It’s best to know where I want the story to wind up, but I’m always willing to let the characters take over. I find a mix of planning/free-form works best for me. The story sometimes stays on track but often the twists are created along the way as a result of my character’s personalities and the ways in which they handle situations. The story evolves through the writing as I continually play “what if”. And my characters have minds of their own—feisty crew that they are!

Ong: I set up a basic plot with plenty of twists and turns in every chapter. But once I begin writing, those unexpected plot twists and turns will come flying at me from every angle and provide the spice for my story. While writing my first novel, I learned two very big lessons: 1) the best way to create plot twists is to ask your characters what’s the worst thing that can happen to them; and 2) believe in your characters and they will help you steer the plot, taking you to places you never thought possible.

Carline: It depends upon the book. Sometimes I just know how everything’s going to work and sometimes I get the idea as I’m writing. I try to do a very general outline. For my first mystery, I was so frightened of having any loose ends or conflicting clues, I stuck to my outline like duct tape. I thought writing to an outline would be my system. Then in the second mystery, I got bored with a scene, so I hit Peri over the head with a golf club and abandoned the outline. The third mystery was a hybrid of outlining, then ditching the outline, then re-outlining. I’m now writing a fourth book, and there is no outline.

William Thompson Ong

William Thompson Ong

Ritter: I story board not only my books but also my plays. All plot twists, locations and even some character traits are worked out on my story boards. I also do a personal profile of each major character and their traits.

Hilborne: I write whatever comes into my head at the time. My characters drive the story.

Q:  How much pre-planning do you put into your characters’ spoken voices, so that their dialogue is distinctive and forward-moving?

Hilborne: I’m not a planner. I hear their voices as I write the dialogue.

Ritter: I work very hard at making my dialogue match each character’s background and speech patterns so that each has his/her own voice. I study slang usage, speech patterns for an American locale I may need, and the speech patterns of those for whom English is a second language, if needed.

Carline: Of all the pre-planning, my characters are my biggest focus. I write up a study of each one, what they look like, their occupation, likes and dislikes, even astrological signs. Then I write a journal for each one. I let them tell me what’s important to them. By the time I start writing the book, I know who they are and how they sound.

Ong: Dialogue is not something that can be wasted. It must either establish character or further the plot. Before writing I make sure each character is

Claudia Whitsitt

Claudia Whitsitt

fixed in my mind—from what makes them tick right down to those quirky little details that are so important—and voice here is key. Then, before each scene, I write a brief outline that describes the action along with snippets of highlighted dialogue. Then I write the scene. I rewrite again and again. When I think I am finished with a novel I go over it carefully, looking for places where sharp dialogue can replace those author descriptions that are too long.

Whitsitt: I wrote a L.O.O.S.E. character sketch before I began writing the series, but I mostly hear my characters’ voices; it’s quite instinctive on my part. I simply step into their shoes and voila! Dialogue! (Don’t tell anyone I hear voices. Please!)

Albers: Dialogue thus far has been a pretty natural process for me. Often it is the easiest part of storytelling. I have an image of the character in my head and any distinct voice for a character just seems to develop as I work.  When I’m not writing but simply daydreaming about the story and where I want it to go, sometimes I’ll get a flash of something unique that I want to attribute specifically to a character.  The sergeant in Black & White is a good example. When I started writing him I had lots of examples of bad managers, or supervisors, from my past so I simply had him strike an elitist, condescending tone and the words just came naturally, his voice developed organically. I must have struck some chord because readers have consistently reacted to him as an accurate reflection of a bad boss that everyone has had at some point.

Q: Out of all the books you’ve written, what are two of the most surprising in-story developments that you did not know would happen when you started writing?

Wes Albers

Wes Albers

Albers: The first was in another unpublished story. I had a bad guy tied to a tree who was about to be executed. Hope was lost, from his perspective. When I originally started writing the chapter, I intended it to be more about the events that would ultimately lead to his surprise release, but as I wrote, it developed into an internal dialogue where this vicious and foul person started reflecting on the tragic path that led him to that tree. Suddenly, he became human and relatable.

The other was the start of Black & White. I didn’t set out to write police stories. In fact, I actively resisted them but someone encouraged me, and then repeatedly pestered me until I made an attempt. I never expected the first line of Black & White would ever survive to print, but in an instant, I found the voice of veteran of the streets, a voice that spoke with the authority of experience.

Whitsitt: My main character, Samantha, has experienced deep moments of profound sorrow. I was surprised how moved I was by those events and the lingering effects her grief had on me—losing loved ones I hadn’t intended to “kill” before I began penning the book. Writing those scenes is exhausting!

The other in-story surprise that has occurred is how much I enjoy writing male characters, (I guess my five brothers are worth something after all!), so much so that I’m considering a new series focused on one of those men.

Ong: At the end of The Mounting Storm, I originally had one ex-wife fire all six bullets from a Colt revolver into the body of the villain. At the very last minute, I switched the revolver into the hands of the other ex-wife. That gave the ending the unexpected wallop it needed.

In The Deadly Buddha, I changed the outcome of the scene where Kate survives the shooting in Central Park after Zack throws his body across hers and Zookie’s and nearly dies in the process. It then became a scene where a very  confused Kate realizes how much she loves the guy—and decides to marry him instead of keeping him waiting another 50 pages.

Carline: The first one came with the first book, Freezer Burn. I had imagined one character, Benny, as an immoral lout (this was before I started all the character development techniques). After the first scene, I saw him for what he was: an obsessive-compulsive man who was confused by the world around him and needed help.

The second one that truly surprised me didn’t happen when I was writing the book, but it happened when I was journaling one of the characters of my current work. I had thought of the crime, figured out the who/what/where, but while one of my characters was telling me about his life, I discovered the motive for the murder. It was completely different than what I was planning.

Ritter: After I story board, I then begin my plot and location research. In the case of The Killing Games, although my research had developed the needed information to make the climatic explosion at the LA Coliseum really happen, I altered this information so as to not be giving out factual instructions to any idiots or truly bad guys. Other than that, because I story board, the only in-story developments while putting pen (computer) to paper have been characters that I grew to truly like and had to either hurt badly or even kill them off. Honestly, when that happens, it really hurts. In The Killing Games, the bad guy rapes a woman and later he rapes her 12-year-old boy. Those scenes were very hard for me to write realistically, but they needed to be there to set up later actions and character developments.

Hilborne: All of my books have surprised me. The endings are never how I might imagine them. The most surprising element for me is the themes readers pick up in my stories. I never intend a message, but readers have pointed them out.

Read Part 2

 

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