Follow by Email

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Look at Old Cuba

I am excited to have as my guest today David Pereda, an award-winning author whose books have won the Lighthouse Book Awards twice, the Royal Palm Awards, the National Indie Excellence Awards, and the Readers Favorite Awards twice. He has traveled to more than thirty countries and speaks four languages. Before devoting his time solely to writing and teaching, David had a successful international consulting career with global giant Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked with the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Qatar, among others. A member of MENSA, David earned his MBA from Pepperdine University in California. He earned bachelor degrees in English literature and mathematics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

His latest book, Havana Blues, is a provocative and compelling story of old Cuba. The year is 1952 and Ramon Rodriguez’s life as a teenager in fun-loving Havana is filled with typical activities and concerns: girls, education, religion, baseball, parties, and hanging out with friends. The country is enjoying a period of prosperity and happiness--until General Batista stages a coup that topples the government and Ramon’s life is flung into chaos. In a few short years, the carefree fifties morph into a vicious and repressive dictatorship highlighted by corruption, organized gambling, school closures, student demonstrations, police brutality, and assassinations. As Ramon experiences the thrills of his first romantic relationship, graduates from school, and struggles to plan for an uncertain future, he is forced to make important decisions that may be dangerous to him, his family, his friends, and his girlfriend – the beautiful Sonia -- and could turn deadly.

I sat down with David for a recent interview:

Thank you for joining us here today, David! Havana Blues is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of revolutionary Cuba. How much of the country is drawn from your personal memories of the place and time?

All of the descriptions of Havana in this book are drawn from my own experiences, as well as from personal diaries and writings I kept about those years.

The book is a departure from your thrillers, though several of the same characters are in Havana Blues as younger people.  Was it difficult for you to make the transition from the heart-pounding thrillers like Twin Powers and Killing Castro, to the pace of a coming-of-age book?

Havana Blues was the most difficult book I have ever written and probably will ever write. There were a lot of intense memories from those years I had to deal with, which often interfered with my editing objectivity. Writing in the first person also required an adjustment, since I usually write in the third person -- although one of my earlier novels, Getting Filthy Rich, was written in the first person from the point of view of each of the main characters in the story as I wanted to give the impression of reflections in a mirror. As far as transitioning from writing thrillers to writing a coming-of-age historical literary novel is concerned, no it wasn't difficult. I have written novels about horses, finances and other topics. In fact my most successful book in the marketplace was an erotic novel I wrote under a pen name that sold 50,000 copies. It wasn't until an agent suggested I write thrillers with a Cuban theme that I started writing them. I liked the genre and the characters, so I kept writing them. However, I'm sad to say that none of my other books have ever come close to selling as many copies as that erotic novel. I don't know exactly what to make of that. Does that say something about readers in general?

The book has made me very interested in Cuban history. What are your thoughts on General Batista and Fidel Castro and the changes each made to the country, both in the political climate as well as for average citizens simply trying to live each day to the best of their abilities?

Batista was the reason the Castro Revolution happened. He was a greedy, corrupt and sanguinary dictator who surrounded himself with a cruel and violent police and military. The worst mistake Batista made was to release Fidel Castro from prison and send him into exile after the failed attempt by the then inexperienced Castro to start a revolution by attacking the Moncada garrison. Castro left the country and went to Mexico where he spent years refining his political views and plotting his revolution. The result we all know. Had President Prio stayed in power, I believe there would never have been enough discontent in Cuba to warrant the Castro Revolution. During Batista, the economy collapsed; gambling proliferated to such an extent that just about everyone in Cuba gambled at something or other; the Italian Mafia used Cuba -- mostly Havana and Varadero -- as their summer homes; prostitution was rampant; drugs were plentiful; police brutality was the order of the day; all schools and universities were closed; and terror reigned. Yes, Batista created the need for Castro -- and the latter took advantage of the opportunity. Their partnership, Batista the cause and Castro the effect, took a country known to be at the forefront of technological advances, music, art, education, literature and culture to the broken-down medieval agrarian society that it is today. Did you know that Cuba has one of the highest suicide rates of any country in the world? 

Have you returned to Cuba in recent years? If so, have you been able to visit the places mentioned in Havana Blues? I'm curious how much has stayed the same and how much has changed.

I have never been back to Cuba. I have kept up with Cuba via friends and relatives and photos and videos. I would imagine it would be cathartic for me to return to Cuba and visit those same places. I can't even imagine how I would feel.

How much of Havana Blues is autobiographical? Has it been difficult as an author to put the story out there in the public realm?

A lot of Havana Blues is autobiographical. The places, the schools, the culture, the people are mostly all real. Recently, a woman who lived in Havana during those times reviewed the novel on Amazon and mentioned how historically authentic the book was in term of the locations, the people, the sounds, the smells, and the culture. As for your second question, the answer is yes. It has been very difficult for me to put that story out there. There were a number of people who had read the drafts who wanted me to publish that novel, foremost among them my first wife, Kay, to whom the book is dedicated. I finally caved in and published the book. How do I feel about it? I feel naked and exposed. Does that make sense to you?

What types of books do you prefer to read in your spare time?

I read all types of books. The last few books I have read or re-read during the past month or so include: Lord Jim by Conrad, The Lord of the Flies by Golding, 1984 by Orwell, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Home and Never Let Go by Coben, The Wrong Side of Good-bye and Two Kinds of Truth by Connelly, and The Rooster Bar by Grisham.

What is coming up for you after Havana Blues?  Can you give us a synopsis of your next book and the possible release date?

Freaking Fast, scheduled to be released by Custom Book Publications in March of this year, is coming up. A melange of YA sports thriller fantasy, Freaking Fast is a totally different book from Havana Blues. For starters, it doesn't have exotic places for its setting; although some of the characters can be considered exotic. The story takes place in only one location: Asheville, North Carolina; and not one word of Spanish is spoken in the book -- though there are some phrases in Russian. Secondly, while Havana Blues takes place in the historical past, Freaking Fast takes place in the fantastic future. The story begins in 2066 with the words, "Today I'm going to kill the love of my life," which are uttered by the main character, a woman, world-renown mathematician Doctor Alexandra "Alex" Martin. Have you ever imagined North Carolina, the United States, the world fifty years from now? I have -- and the result is Freaking Fast. I had great fun imagining Asheville fifty years in the future, by the way. Freaking Fast begins in the future for a few chapters, returns to the present for a long flashback, and finishes in the future, as Alex charges into the lion's den to do the deed. Unfortunately, she ends up disarmed and trapped by killing robots on the balcony of a twenty-story building and about to be shot with her own gun by "the love of her life." How does she get out alive and escape a situation like that? The end will surprise you, I guarantee it.

What would you like for readers to know about you and your writing?

It always gives me pause to talk about myself, but here it goes. I'm much like the solution to a good math problem: conceptually simple to read yet difficult to understand and rewarding to solve. I've lived a blessed life, dotted with glitches and mistakes; and I'd like to believe I have been able to use those experiences to learn a thing or two about life. I've done things most people only dream about -- from riding racing camels in the Arabian desert to watching wolves hunt in the Alaskan wild to jumping horses over seven feet hurdles to authoring ten books. I love to teach and write books and travel and solve complex math problems -- not to mention the friendship and company of smart and beautiful women -- but most of all I love my family and spending time with them. As for my writing, I like to experiment with different genres, but I particularly enjoy writing thrillers and mainstream novels with unique characters and exotic settings. I take writing seriously, which might be the reason I have never written another erotic novel despite the prompts of agents and well-meaning friends. The one I wrote was a satire of erotic novels, and I couldn't beat that.

Where can they learn more about you and how can they purchase the book?

Learning more about me is quite easy. Google my name and information about me will pop out, including my website ( I have an Author Page on Amazon with a list of my books and a bio and even copies of some of my non-fiction articles and blogs. Key in Books David Pereda on Amazon and all my books and links will pop out. You can also purchase Havana Blues directly from my publisher, Custom Book Publications: ( If you still want to know more about me, and you're not a crazed killer, a sexual predator like Doctor Nassar, or a drug addict who hates writers, you can email me at I'd be glad to communicate with you.

For more about David Pereda and Havana Blues, including book excerpts, follow the Goddess Fish Book Tour.

Thank you for joining us today!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Look Ahead at 2018

Happy New Year!      

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s natural that we all should be looking at the upcoming year and all the promises it holds. Nearly everyone I know has experienced more stress in 2016 and 2017, largely due to world events, and I for one am looking forward to a more relaxing and positive 2018.

I am currently working on three books to be released in 2018:

The Essential Marketing Plan for Authors is based on my popular 52-week Marketing Plan Course through The Novel Business. I’ve been mentoring authors for nearly 18 years and have found the biggest challenge to be in the area of marketing; too many authors give up too quickly or they don’t take the time or make the effort to correctly identify their target market, so their efforts miss the mark. This book takes the author through the entire process of identifying their ideal reader (even when they don’t have a clue who they are) and walks them through digital promotional efforts as well as traditional marketing. I am in the editing stage now, and hope this book will be released before the summer of 2018.

The Adventures of Blade and Rye is a venture into writing children’s books (preschool through 3rd grade). I actually wrote this book about three years ago and set it aside, but was recently inspired by Sandra Warren and her children’s book, Spivey’s Web to revive it. Blade and Rye are two fairies and best friends that visit Earth just as life is forming. Their teacher transforms them into two blades of grass so they have a front-row, center seat beside a lake that will see everything from dinosaurs to humans, and eventually (through the series) the formation of villages and then high-rise cities. It is in the production stage now, and I also hope this will be released before the summer of 2018.

And for those that love Vicki Boyd and Dylan Maguire, I am in the writing stage (first draft) of the 7th book in the Black Swamp Mysteries Series. Cloak and Mirrors ended with Dylan and Vicki going dark to avoid enemy spies from abducting Vicki and taking her to Moscow. They will find themselves on a sparsely-populated island as a hurricane nears. Cut off from the mainland, they find refuge in an ancient monastery along with half a dozen island residents, and as darkness descends one after another are murdered. It is up to Vicki and Dylan to discover the killer and his or her motives. It is due on the editor’s desk in the spring so hopefully it will be released in the fall of 2018—just in time for Book ‘Em North Carolina’s 7th Annual Writers Conference and Book Fair.

Book ‘Em is now under the leadership of Robeson Community College and I have returned this year to assist the organizing committee. Please mark your calendar for Saturday, September 22, when we’ll bring together dozens of authors that will be signing and selling their books, giving talks and participating in panel discussions. Headliners are New York Times bestselling authors Jeff Mudgett, Jonas Saul and Elizabeth Massie.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Favorite Books of 2017—and Sneak Peek for 2018

It’s officially eBook season, that time of year when eReaders are purchased for the holidays and recipients are eagerly looking forward to the experience of reading on their new devices. Here are my favorites from 2017 and a sneak peek into some of the books I’ll be reading in 2018:

1.     Split Seconds by Maggie Thom, the third book in the Caspian Wine Series, just proves that Thom keeps getting better and better. The suspense begins immediately, spiriting us across Canada and introducing us to a myriad of characters with so many levels and facets that we’re left guessing who we can really trust. The mystery deepens at every turn and the book sports two climactic scenes, each of which will leave you breathless.

2.     The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley takes us back in time and across Europe as we discover the abilities of a woman that can hold an object and know its past. We are taken from London to Scotland and then to St. Petersburg under the reign of Catherine. It is a fascinating glimpse into how and why St. Petersburg was built and has interested me in touring the city. It also delves into psychometry and telepathy with such realism that it truly is riveting. There are two main characters—a woman in current times as well as another living 200 years in the past.

3.     Spivey’s Web by Sandra Warren and illustrated by Susan Fitzgerald is a lovely children’s book intended for the preschool audience. I have serious arachnophobia but couldn’t help but admire Spivey the barn spider’s beautiful web spinning—and the brilliant light that shines through it to calm a baby in a manger.

4.     Great Jobs for Everyone 50+ by Kerry Hannon and published by AARP contains terrific advice even for job hunters under the age of 50, such as considering three types of resumes and how to get past employers’ computerized black hole of resume accumulation. The days of retiring at 65 to sit on the front porch and play chess are long gone while the technological world is progressing at a rate never before experienced and people are now working well into their 70’s and beyond.

5.     Downsizing the Family Home by Marni Jameson and also published by AARP is a terrific book originally meant for cleaning out a parent’s home after they’ve left it, but it’s also a valuable resource for anyone wishing to rid themselves of clutter. Only 17% of us take the time to look at the things we’ve accumulated through the eyes of heirs, and it’s definitely an eye-opener. Some tidbits: more than 50K books can be stored on an eReader; all those pictures from our youths can be scanned and maintained electronically; and music can be stored electronically now as well. Scaling back doesn’t mean getting rid of the things we love but learning how we can have it all with a smaller footprint.

Books on my radar for 2018 include:

1.     Bloodstains by Jeff Mudgett is an intriguing look at Jeff’s search for his ancestry, revealing the fact that his ancestor, Herman Webster Mudgett (better known as H. H. Holmes) was America’s first serial killer. As Jeff delves deeper into his ancestor’s sinister and terrifying past, he becomes afflicted with what is known as the Holmes Curse, first reported by the New York Times in the 1890s: a form of seizure that occurs whenever the alien voice in his head is disobeyed. His search for his ancestry quickly turns into the struggle to survive. New York Times bestselling author Jeff Mudgett is also one of the headliners at the 2018 Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair, a free event to raise awareness of the link between high crime rates and high rates of illiteracy.

2.     Havana Blues by David Pereda will be released on Kindle in 2018, transporting us to 1952 and the eve of the Cuban Revolution. It is a coming-of-age story for young Ramon Rodriguez against the backdrop of Cuban history, including the prosperity under President Carlos Prio Socarras, the coup staged by CIA-backed General Fulgencio Batista and ultimately another coup by Fidel Castro that transforms Cuba.

3.     Buried in the Sky by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan is the true story of the Sherpas that make mountain climbing possible on ice-covered K2, including the deadliest day for Sherpas on the mountain which occurred during the 2008 climbing season. I am a huge fan of Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer about the deadly Everest expedition of 1996, and I’m looking forward to reading this one, which takes me to K2, the second highest peak—and by far the most dangerous and deadliest.

4.     The Color of Forever by Julianne MacLean is the 10th book in the Color of Heaven Series, in which average people are affected by real life magic that transforms their lives. This book takes us to a sea village along the jagged coast of Maine and to an eerie, historic inn that holds deadly secrets of the past.

5.     The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley takes me to one of my favorite settings: an ancient castle and a tragic love. This castle is in France during the German occupation of World War II, combining the same blend of history, mystery and romance that Kearsley is known for.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

What We Believe

I saw a fascinating video while surfing Facebook, which got me to thinking about personal belief systems. We don’t have the option of saying that 1+1 does not equal 2, or that the letter ‘a’ has been removed from the English alphabet. We can’t declare that Washington, DC is no longer the capital of the United States, or question whether Shakespeare and Dickens ever existed.

Yet in so many other instances, we choose what we wish to believe even as facts lie before us. We do not question whether World War II actually occurred, and yet some choose to belief the Holocaust never happened. We don’t claim film footage from the War was falsified and yet some claim the filming of concentration camps were.

As scientists confirm global warming and we witness ever-strengthening hurricanes fueled by warmer waters, many in power state flatly that global warming does not exist.

One individual—or a group of individuals—cannot state that the earth is flat and make it so. Yet they believe they can state that global warming does not exist and like waving a magic wand, it will disappear.

Instead, they are like the ostrich, sticking their heads in the sand so they cannot see the predator lurking nearby. The ostrich is not made invisible by their action, and believing they are does not make it so.

The United States has been a world leader since World War II. Yet if we decide we no longer believe in mathematics, literature, history—or science—it does not mean that the rest of the world will believe as we do. Instead, it means that we are giving up our position as a world leader, stepping aside so someone else can fill the gap. And there are many willing and ready to step in—from Japanese robotics to China’s space exploration to India’s renewable energy.

The United States can insist on maintaining fossil fuel dependence; driving vehicles requiring gasoline or diesel, renewing dependence on coal and expanding oil exploration.

But The Netherlands is already planning to phase out gasoline/petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025—and China is leading the world in electric vehicle (EV) design. China is also leading the world in solar energy, followed by Japan and Germany. China has also installed roughly half of the world’s wind energy, followed distantly by the United States.

If the United States wishes to remain a superpower, they must lead the way. They can’t step aside and allow someone else to lead and then insist with puffed chest that they are number one. Saying it doesn’t make it so. Facts will determine who the leaders are, and right now the US is slipping—sometimes badly.

Sometimes believing in something else takes vision and a quantum leap of faith. Consider when John F. Kennedy declared that we would put a man on the moon—only 58 years after the Wright Brothers took their first flight. Yet this country made it happen. And if we hadn’t, Russia would not have abandoned their space exploration; instead, they would have left us sitting literally in the dust.

In writing my books, I often abandon what we’ve been taught to believe and study the cutting edge of science and technology. I was fortunate to be a contractor with the Secret Service in the 1980’s when they were developing the first facial recognition program to assist with presidential and dignitary protection. Now we have smartphones with facial recognition; Facebook has instituted a new facial recognition step in establishing an account—and China is even using it in public restrooms to prevent toilet paper theft. (Yes, really!)

What we once believed was the stuff of science fiction is here and it’s real.

Some thought my use of a psychic spy in the Black Swamp Mysteries Series was science fiction, a storyline fueled by an overactive imagination. But declassified information on the CIA’s own website detail a number of missions in which psychic spies—also known as remote viewers, to prevent public bias—is used to spy on our enemies. The United States isn’t alone. Russia, China, India, Japan, Israel and many others employ psychic spies. When a country blasts it as hocus-pocus and refuses to use it, it doesn’t mean it goes away or fails for the rest of the world. It means the disbelieving country has become like the ostrich with its head in the sand.

The 7th book in the Black Swamp Mysteries Series (as yet unnamed) has psychic spy Vicki Boyd—now married to CIA operative Dylan Maguire—on an island off the coast of Ireland as a massive hurricane cuts them off from the mainland. Think hurricanes are impossible that far north? The weather services thought them so improbable that their software couldn’t even calculate the path—and then Hurricane Ophelia struck on October 16, 2017.

I’ve written about Irish hurricanes as well, including The Tempest Murders, which detailed The Night of the Big Wind in January, 1839. It struck before the massive storms were called hurricanes in Ireland and there was no forewarning. It stands today as one of the worst storms to ever hit the island.

And that video I mentioned at the start of this blog? Here it is—four minutes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and why we should believe in science:

p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, multi-award-winning author of more than 21 books in several genres. She is also the founder of Book 'Em North Carolina and The Novel Business. Find out more about her books at

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Irish Hurricanes

Those of us in the United States don’t often associate hurricanes with Ireland. We think of them as tropical storms, the warm waters off our southern shores fueling their intensity. Yet on October 16, 2017, Hurricane Ophelia slammed ashore in Ireland with winds exceeding 90mph and storm surges impacting the coastal regions. Trees were overturned, massive root balls uprooted. Falling trees resulted in two deaths as of this writing, and a third when an Irishman in County Tipperary attempted to remove a downed tree. 360,000 electric customers were without power, roughly 1/6 of the population in Ireland and Northern Ireland combined.

Still, hurricanes of such significant intensity are rare in Ireland. When Ophelia reached Category 3 status, it was the farthest east that any major Atlantic hurricane had reached on record. It was so far northeast that weather maps designed to predict wind speeds could not even process it—their software was not programmed for a major hurricane in that vicinity.

Ophelia had an intriguing path. It formed off the coast of Africa, its winds already so vicious that it literally kicked up the Sahara Desert and transported the Saharan dust into Ireland and the UK. Dusk is particularly affected, as the dust particles block the blue light from the sun, turning the skies red.

Ophelia reached Ireland exactly 30 years after The Great Storm struck Ireland in 1987, killing 22 people. It was that storm that inspired Dylan’s Song, the fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries Series. As Dylan and Vicki travel to Ireland to locate and rescue an abducted CIA operative, Dylan is forced to confront what happened during the storm that caused massive flooding, cutting him off from help as he encountered a life-or-death situation.

Another storm, The Night of the Big Wind, inspired The Tempest Murders. It occurred on January 6, 1839, at a time before hurricanes were tracked and the population of Ireland was caught by surprise. The storm literally swept the Atlantic Ocean across the island to the Irish Sea, devastating whole villages. At the height of the storm, Rian Kelly is fighting to return to his beloved from Dublin, arriving only after her home was swept away. It is the beginning of a love story that spans centuries.

Below is an excerpt from The Tempest Murders as Claire is explaining to Ryan O'Clery, named after his ancestor Rian Kelly, the story of Rian and his lover:

“I know you too well,” Claire said. “You’re wanting the story of Caitlín O’Conor, aren’t you?”


She smiled. “Her name was Caitlín O’Conor. She was supposedly the great love of Ríán Kelly’s life. It was a star-crossed love story. Her father was a prominent man in the village and Ríán was a ‘lowly county inspector’ and though they were deeply in love, her father would not permit Ríán to ask for her hand in marriage.”

He felt his chest tighten and he sipped his coffee to avoid Claire’s piercing eyes.

“The tale is that they sneaked around for years; everybody knew it. Everybody except Caitlín’s father, that is. They were madly in love.” She sighed wistfully.

“What happened?” He kept his eyes on his coffee. “Did she marry someone else?”

“Her father died. Quite unexpectedly. Heart simply stopped. And without him in the way, they were clear to be married.”

As if it was a memory that he held of himself, he could see the hallway on New Year’s Eve, whisking Cait to an unused room and going down on bended knee. “So they married then,” Ryan said quietly.

“No. You said yourself he’d never married.” She brushed non-existent crumbs from the countertop before continuing. “He asked for her hand in marriage on New Year’s Eve. Let’s see, I believe it was 1838. Yes, that’s right. December 31, 1838.”

“How can you be so certain of the date?”

“Because seven days later, Caitlín was dead.”

His head jerked up and he stared into Claire’s eyes. They were as green as the fields of Ireland and now she cocked her head and eyed him curiously.

“He’d gone to Dublin, so the story goes,” she continued slowly.

Ríán Kelly.”

“Aye. He’d been called away on business. And as Fate would have it, the great flood came while he was gone and Caitlín was swept away.”

“The great flood.”

“Don’t you remember any of your schooling, Re?”

“I suppose I don’t.”

“Aye, surely you do. It was Oiche na Gaoithe Moire.”

“Oiche na Gaoithe Moire,” he repeated the Gaelic name. “Night of the Big Wind.”

“Aye; that’s it. History says that just a couple of days prior, they had a huge snowstorm that blanketed Ireland. With it came a cold front. But the next day, they had warm temperatures the likes of which they hadn’t experienced in years. It caused all the snow to melt and melt rapidly.”

“So the great flood was caused by melting snow.”

“You really don’t remember your schooling now, do you, Re? It wasn’t that at all. It’s just that the warm front settled in over Ireland as another cold front came across the Atlantic. It was January 6, 1839—Epiphany.” Her voice took on a whispered note as though she was telling a ghost story. “There were those in the faith who had forecast the end of the world would occur on January 6, 1839—the day of Epiphany. So when the air grew completely still, so still they could hear the voices of neighbors miles apart, there were some who thought the end was near.”

He waited for her to continue. His cheeks were growing flush and he could feel beads of sweat beginning to pop out across his brow. “What happened then?”

“By nightfall, there were gale force winds. They moved from the western coast of Ireland all the way to Dublin, where Ríán Kelly had traveled. Some said the winds were accompanied by an eerie moan, a rumbling of sorts. But not thunder; it was a sound never heard before nor since. It increased as the winds grew. And then the northern sky turned a shade of red that had never been seen before.” She sipped her coffee while she watched him. “We know now it was the aurora borealis. But there was widespread panic amongst the people. And when the sky darkened once again, it darkened to the color of pitch.”

He reached for a napkin and mopped his brow.

“Are you feeling alright, Re? Would you care to lie down?”

He shook his head. “I want to hear the rest of the story.”

“Well, so the myth goes, Ríán Kelly left Dublin immediately. It was a miracle he made it back to the village at all. He traveled through the night, in the rain and the hail, with the winds all about him. Bridges had been washed away; the wind had been so strong—stronger than anything Ireland had experienced in more than three hundred years—so strong that it whipped the Atlantic into a fury and pushed it all the way across the island. Streams and creeks became raging rivers. Whole villages were wiped out. Even some of the castles were beyond repair.”

He rested his elbows on the counter and put his head in his hands.

“You’re sure you don’t want to lie down, Re? You look as if you might faint.”

“I’m fine,” he said. “What happened when Ríán Kelly reached his village?”

“It was gone. Oh, there were a few buildings still intact. The church, for one. But Caitlín O’Conor’s home had been washed away. There was no sign of Caitlín.”

“So that’s where the story ends, does it?”

“Oh, no. I suppose it’s where it just begins.”

The winds were so strong with Ophelia that one town, Cleveleys, on the Fylde Coast of Lancashire, England, was entirely covered in foam. Yes, foam—the ocean was whipped into foam, which sprayed roads, buildings and people. For video and pictures, follow this link. This was after it had already reached Ireland and tracked northward across the island and the Irish Sea.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

An author’s life and writing process is often misunderstood and when I read the synopsis of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, I knew I had to read it. It is about an author that is writing an historical novel about the Jacobite rebellion of 1708. She chooses to write the story through her ancestor’s eyes and much to her surprise she finds that everything she writes turns out to be historically accurate.

When the images and the words are flowing, it is called many things, including “finding your muse” or being “in the zone”. The best way for me to describe it is the outside world falls away as if the author is looking through a portal to another world, another place, another time. The characters there become more real than those in the author’s orbit as the plot, the challenges, the heartbreak and triumphs take over.

Kearsley describes this process flawlessly; the characters that prod at the author in the middle of the night until she arises and writes down their words… Their circumstances looming even in the light of day… And the sadness that creeps in once a book is completed and the characters must be set aside.

Within The Winter Sea is the book the author is writing, which takes us back to 1708 Scotland and King James’ determination to win the English throne, casting the Catholics and sympathetic Protestants against those opposed to a Catholic king. It is a story I delved deep into with the writing of Cloak and Mirrors and the historical book, Checkmate: Clans and Castles. It was hard for me as an American to imagine the wars and conflicts between the Catholic and Protestant faiths, which began in earnest in Scotland and Ireland during the time of Henry VIII and continue even today in parts of Northern Ireland. Yet more wars have been conducted in the name of organized religion than any other cause.

Kearsley’s story unfolds like one told by Daphne du Maurier. It takes the reader back to the early 18th century, to horses and carriages, manor houses, class systems, allegiances and betrayals, and the high price many must pay simply to exist. At its heart is Slains, a manor house set against the sea, and through her expert descriptions, she transports the reader to the cove next to the water, to the rolling waves and cloudy skies, and to the horizon where our heroine watches for the sails of a ship that will bring her love back to her—and herald the beginning of war.

As the author within the story pieces the scenes together, she finds that everything she writes is true, despite believing initially that the fragments and images were simply brought forth by her imagination. It is an intriguing plot twist and based on recent scientific evidence, a theory known as genetic memory or ancestral memory.

There are three types of memories and two, procedural memory and semantic memory, can indeed be inherited. It is even theorized that savants are demonstrating ancestral memories since they often show aptitudes in music, art, mathematics and languages at such an early age that they could not possibly have learned it during their short lifetime.

Far-fetched? Consider this: what is an instinct? When a newborn colt struggles to rise to its feet within moments of birth, what compels it to do so? One theory is the generations of horses before it learned that the ability to run could save them from predators. While breeding angelfish, I learned that fry during their most vulnerable period could literally jump across the tank at any sudden movement or sound. Without that unexpected jump, they would most likely be eaten in the wild. Sea turtles break out of their shells on a beach and know to make their way to the water, braving threats and challenges along the way. Couldn’t each of these instincts be attributed to generations before them that learned these are the ways in which to survive?

The answer is yes, and now science is mapping the genome that allows these memories to be passed down from one generation to the next, ensuring the survival of the species.

Kearsley takes this a step further, with genetic semantic memory. As the author within her story writes the scenes of her ancestor, she knows things she couldn’t have possibly have read or been exposed to otherwise. And though it is left to the reader to determine whether it is coincidence or inherited memory, the argument for the latter is compelling.

When I was writing Songbirds are Free, there were fellow authors and friends that thought I must have been Mary Neely reincarnated, because the scenes I envisioned, the places she was brought, the experiences she had, later were confirmed to be true. While I never believed I was Mary Neely reincarnated, the concept of genetic memory appears to be far more plausible. Since I was very young—in fact, as far back as my earliest memories—I have had a fear of being kept prisoner. It is not a fear of attack or death, but rather held against my will and to this day, I cannot read a book or watch a movie about someone caged or made a slave. It wasn’t until I began writing Mary’s story of her capture by Shawnee warriors and her three years as a slave in which she tried time and again to escape, that the pieces began to come together in my mind. By the time I finished the story, I felt as though I no longer feared capture—perhaps because I knew Mary, in the end, did escape and find her way home. But the question still remains: since I was obviously never captured and held against my will in this lifetime and the fears were there long before I began to read or watch television, where did they come from?

Whatever your beliefs, if you enjoy history, romance and suspense, I strongly recommend Susanna’s Kearsley’s The Winter Sea.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An Author's Legacy

As Hurricane Irma bore down on the Florida Keys, unleashing a wrath that devastated many islands prior to its USA landfall, one famous structure loomed large in my mind: The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West and the 54 polydactyl cats that live there.

Ernest Hemingway lived in the home for eight years in the 1930’s, writing To Have and Have Not, later made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro, made into a film starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Susan Hayward. The structure was built in 1851, ten years before the start of the American Civil War, and is made of solid limestone 18 inches thick.

Polydactyl cats have as many as eight digits on their front or hind paws. Hemingway’s first polydactyl cat was a gift from a sea captain. He became so enamored of this feline abnormality that he eventually had between 40 and 50 living at his Florida residence. For this reason, polydactyl cats are often referred to as Hemingway Cats.

In 1961, his home became a museum and in 1968, it was declared a national historic landmark. By 2017, it was home to 54 cats, about half of them polydactyl. Though residents of the Keys were ordered to evacuate, several staff members remained behind in order to care for the cats. According to the Los Angeles Times, the felines sensed the storm approaching even before their human caretakers and began to seek shelter inside the house. All 54 were rounded up and they rode out the storm in the well-fortified home. Though the storm knocked out electricity, running water and Internet everyone survived and the house, true to form, remained intact.

Ten miles east of Havana, Cuba in the town of San Francisco de Paula is a second Hemingway residence; Finca Vigía was his home from 1940 until 1960. Meaning “Lookout House”, it was built in 1886 and is on the World Monuments Fund and The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places. Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea at Finca Vigía as well as For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Moveable Feast. In 1961 after Hemingway’s death, the property was turned over to the Cuban government.

Hurricane Irma’s path took it over the northern coast of Cuba, flooding parts of the island and destroying homes and businesses and toppling trees. Parts of Havana were flooded and while the Hemingway home is only a few miles inland, there have been no reports as of this writing to how the structure and property have fared.

Though Hemingway died more than 55 years ago, his legacy still lives, which is not unusual for authors. Only 61 years old when he killed himself at his residence at Ketchum, Idaho, he left a body of work that encompassed hundreds of newspaper stories and dozens of poems, short stories, novellas and novels. His last book, a memoir, Under Kilimanjaro, was published posthumously in 2005.