Friday 24 July 2015

Guest Author Tina Frisco of California.

 The Scribbler is happy to have Tina Frisco as a guest this week. She lives in California and is a very generous participant, not only in sharing her thoughts about her own writing as well as advice on being an author. She is also a fine promoter of other authors as well. Her links are below.

Thanks so much, Allan, for inviting me to be a guest on the South Branch Scribbler.  I appreciate your support and am honored to be among so many talented authors. 

I’ve been many things in my life:  a singer-songwriter; RN; activist; shaman apprentice.  Like many authors, I began writing at an early age.  My sister and I composed little ditties that we sang to our parents.  I received my first guitar at age 14 and began performing publicly in high school.  As an RN I’ve worked in the areas of med-surg, hemodialysis, psychiatry, geriatrics, clinics, and with the California State Dept. of Health Services.  I did stints with Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth, which ushered me into activism for those less fortunate.  I began working with a medicine woman in the early 1980s and maintain a solid spiritual practice.  I love walking in nature.  I do so every day.  Nature inspires me and nourishes my spirit.  I also enjoy reading, playing my guitar, singing, listening to music, dancing, arts and crafts, camping, and working crossword puzzles.   

I’m most inspired to write by my desire to help make the world a better place.  My novel, Plateau: Beyond the Trees, Beyond 2012, is mystery and adventure fiction for young adults to adults.  I wrote it after watching one too many "doomsday" documentaries regarding the supposed end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012.  I was determined to put forth a message of hope into the world.  The underlying message is that if we keep our hearts open and act from love instead of reacting from fear – if we practice gratitude and compassion within every moment and with every breath – we’ll raise our vibratory rate and help elevate the human species to a higher consciousness, facilitating personal and global peace. 

Brief synopsis of Plateau:  While honoring the wisdom of her elders, a 15-year-old tribal female learns to face her fear, trust blindly, and overcome adversity.  Her will is relentlessly tested as she discovers her strengths and destiny.  She ultimately comes face-to-face with herself in a battle that would shrink the will of the most intrepid warrior, unaware that realizing her destiny will irrevocably impact all beings on earth and beyond.  Her people inject humor and wisdom throughout this tale of mystery and adventure.   

My children's book, Gabby and the Quads, was inspired by my niece having quadruplets.  A child’s moral compass develops early in life, and I wanted to write a book that was ethically as well as traditionally educational.  For example, Gabby’s family includes two pit bulls.  So I explain that pit bulls are gentle by nature and become mean only when mistreated.  The story is loosely based on my niece and her family, and I include photos of them at the end of the book so kids can see the real Gabby and quadruplets.   

Brief synopsis of Gabby and the Quads:  Gabby is an only child who is about to become big sister to quadruplets!  How will she handle this?  Her parents decide on a unique approach to introduce her to and help her accept this awesome experience.  

I’ve always been a storyteller.  As a child, I would delight in making up stories to entertain my friends.  And I was especially pleased if I could scare their socks off!  When my oldest nephew was little, he would nestle close to me on the couch and say, “Tell me another story, Aunt Tina.”  I’ve always loved reading.  I attended parochial schools, and the nuns were expert in fostering this in their students.   

The biggest challenge for me as an independent author has been marketing and promotion.  It’s endless!  And as I’m sure you know, even traditionally published authors are now expected to market their own books, with little help from the publisher.  Another challenge is earmarking specific time periods for writing.  Promotional work, due to its ongoing nature, can consume all of your time if you let it.  I’ve heard many authors say, “I have to get back to my writing!”  Writer’s block can also be stifling, but I’ve been fortunate not to have encountered it very often.   

Oh, I’ve had days when I’ve wanted to quit.  Haven’t we all?  I’m reminded of that fabulous scene from the movie Julia where Lillian Hellman - played by Jane Fonda - has a cigarette hanging from her mouth while madly typing, and then becomes so frustrated that she throws the typewriter out the window!   

But I think the way out of writer’s block is the way in.  Just write ~ anything.  Let your thoughts flow without interruption or an expectation of perfection.  Rewriting is a key to good writing, so giving oneself something to edit is never a waste of time.  

I think the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer are tenacity; optimism; learning from constructive criticism and disregarding what doesn’t apply; taking copious notes from the world around you; and taking breaks.  A walk in nature always resuscitates and refuels me.  

So my advice to new and aspiring writers is:  Listen to your inner voice!  Your intuition is your best guide.  Don’t be disheartened if you encounter writer’s block.  Just put down your pen for a period of time.  Take a walk.  Listen to music.  Visit with friends.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you return to your writing.  Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to gain momentum to move forward.  And whatever you do, don’t listen to critics unless their criticism is constructive.  If it is, learn from it.  If it isn’t, turn a deaf ear and continue writing.  Above all, follow your passion.  It will lead you to your heart’s desire.   

Authors need to support each other.  I’ve met many wonderful authors who have become friends.  We share each other’s work on our blogs and social network pages.  I’ve also met a few authors who ask for promotional support but give little if any in return.  I don’t harbor ill feelings toward them; I don’t like to internalize negativity.  I’m content in knowing that what goes around comes around.  We can’t give anything away; it’s always returned threefold.  

I love connecting with other authors, so please don’t hesitate.  I wish everyone health, happiness, and many blessings... 

Thank you Tina for sharing information about your work as well as the keen advice to other authors.

Stop by the Scribbler next week for the 4Q Interview with Mohana Rajakumar of Qatar. A splendid author and interesting lady.

Friday 10 July 2015

Guest Author Susan Toy

Susan Toy is an author and publisher that lives in Bequia, a tiny island in the Caribbean. This is her third visit to The Scribbler. She is a tremendous supporter of her fellow writers as well as an exceptional story teller. Her award winning short story - 50 Ways To Lose Your Liver - was originally published in The White Wall Review #33. You can read more about Susan and her novel - Island in the Cloudsat 

Another Day In Paradise                   

Generally, Bert had been a lucky guy.  He’d had a good life: steady, well-paid job, beautiful wife, big house. No kids by choice, they’d been the original DINKS of the eighties. On top of that, he was lucky to have retired early, at fifty-five. At his leave party, co-workers harmonized, “We could never afford to live in the Caribbean.While you’re lounging on the beach all day, clipping coupons, we’ll still be hard at work in this office. You lucky stiff!”
  And starting life over again in a tropical paradise might have been the perfect ending—if Sheila had shared his dream. After a slow six months, she’d packed up and shipped off, saying, “I can’t exist like this any more, with nothing
to do. We’re only retired from paid work, not waiting to die. I have to get out of here and start living again. You don’t see how pathetic you’ve become. For God’s
sake, do something with yourself!” 

Things might have been better, had she stayed. But then some would say he was lucky to lose her, she’d become such a nag. Now that he’s a bachelor again, Bert does spend many days lazing around on those sandy, sun-kissed beaches, but, for the most part, he’s bored out of his
mind, refusing to admit his luck may have finally run out—in fact, too stubborn to face the truth of what he’s become, or even to desert the dream altogether,
returning to his old life.  

This day was no different than the string preceding it. He was anticipating the upcoming tourist season, and all the paste-white bodies that would eventually join him on these empty beaches, filling restaurants and bars, and the old acquaintances who would alleviate his boredom—at least for a few months’ time.But those visitors would only offer the same talk about the same rehashed subjects, just like the previous season.
Sheila had been right. Bert needed to do something. He couldn’t go on like this, latching onto anyone who happened to glance his way, hoping to strike up a conversation, finding momentary companionship.  He’d spent most of the morning at Lower Bay, prone on a towel. A book by Grisham hadn’t maintained his interest; it lay to one side, abandoned. 
 I think I’ve already read this, he mused. It sure sounds the same.  Had he said that out loud? Now he wasn’t even sure if he was talking to himself. Worse would be if he began answering.

 There were still two months before the hordes arrived. It wasn’t even
Canadian Thanksgiving yet, his favorite holiday as a boy, growing up in Bishop Lane. He could still smell the pumpkin cookies his mother usually made - his favourite. “Albert!” she’d holler, mad because he’d steal a handful then run outside to gulp them down before playing in the crisp fall wind, a hint that winter and snow were just around the corner. There was wind in the Caribbean—usually too much or never enough—but you couldn’t call it crisp. At least there was never snow. Bert hated winter, but missed the fall weather: Sweaters, football, the smell of burning leaves. That was a whole lifetime away. Sitting up, he dusted sticky sand from his hot arms and scanned the beach,still the only soul there. A boat tacked into the bay, its mainsail flapping like a long, striped skirt billowing in the wind. Only two other boats were moored there.

Business had been slow since the previous Easter. Too slow. Bert was lucky it wasn’t necessary to have to eke out a living from tourism. His retirement package had been more than enough to provide a comfortable life. No need to supplement.
Squinting up at the brilliant sky, Bert then glanced back down towards the horizon and gazed at the endless sea. The sun was above the yardarm. Time for a drink. 

He wasn’t an alcoholic… at least, not yet. He’d been lucky in managing to avoid the habitual gatherings of several other retired ex-pats at a local seedy rum shop—the “office,” they called it—knowing that, if he gave in, finally accepting
their repeated invitations, he’d soon be on a slippery downward slope. But he
might begin considering the possibility if no other prospects came along.

It had been impossible to make friends among the local people. Bert was just another white foreigner, but to them, the worst kind—one who never left the island to go elsewhere, who managed to live on a fixed income, and was not considered to be on vacation—so didn’t throw any money their way. He’d become a man in-between; never completely accepted in his new home, he would forever remain a stranger to both locals and ex-pats. But he was also now a
stranger to his old life, and would have a hard time fitting into Canada again—if he ever considered going back.
Standing up, Bert stretched his arms overhead, then swung them around like a windmill. The breeze was beginning to pick up and it blew sand into his face, as well as scattering dry leaves around his feet. He turned his back and a
large almond tree leaf hit him, fastening itself exactly to the spot where the hair thinned on top of his head. He reached back and peeled it off, releasing it to the wind. 
Someone laughed.

Bert turned around. A young village girl was striding towards him,carrying a towel that partially hid a small baby, wrapped up as though it were a  precious gift.
“You funny,” she giggled, passing in front.
"Wait, don’t go,” Bert said, anxious for any company. “May I look at the baby?” The grinning child appeared too simple-minded to be capable of caring for such a small infant.
“Yes, please.” She stopped and uncovered a boy’s silent face; large brown eyes stared at Bert.   

“Is this your brother? What’s his name?”
 “No, he mine. He name Shakil. We goes for a sea bath.”
 Bert frowned surprise. A claim of maternity from someone so young? Not unusual in the Caribbean, but Bert had his doubts about this particular girl. He said, “Do you think that’s a good idea? Your baby seems too little to go into the sea.”
“We’s alright. I a good swimmer. I takes care of he.”
 Bert wasn’t as confident. “Maybe I should swim with you, just to make sure.” He had never liked children, but that didn’t mean he could allow these two to enter the water, unsupervised. "Okay.” She sat the baby down on the sand, still wrapped in its towel, and began stripping off shirt and shorts, revealing a hand-me-down bathing suit with an unravelling hole just above the waistline. Kneeling, she opened the towel, plucked out the naked boy, then stood up. 
“We’s ready.” 

She ran to the water’s edge before Bert had a chance to think, but, in a few paces, he was next to them, ankle-deep.
The young mother stepped forward and squeezed the baby so tight against her chest that his eyes popped out as he stared over her shoulder at Bert. Both children squealed excitement while they were being bounced in the surf.
 Bert’s concern was now bordering on panic. “I really think you should give him to me.”
The waves were increasing in size. Where the girl stood the depth was only a few feet, but, even that close to shore, the current was strong. A wave slapped the children; strands of the girl’s long, beaded braids stuck to her face as well as to the baby’s head, so the two looked as though they were already surrounded by seaweed. Bert moved closer, the better to grab them, if need be.  

From behind, further up on the beach, a voice shouted, “Ula! Ula! What you does?” The girl and Bert both turned to look. A big woman was breaking through the bush that lined the road. She ran towards them, but stopped short at the
water’s edge. “You comes here! You brings dat baby!”
“He mine!” Ula cried, turning to take another step out from the shore, just as a large wave smacked her in the face, drenching the baby as well. He began howling. 
Bert reached out and gripped Ula’s arm before she could escape. She dropped Shakil, then opened her mouth wide and began a panicked screaming. Ducking down, Bert fished the baby out from under the water’s surface, bobbing
back up a split-second later. Holding Shakil above chest level, he pushed through the water onto the shore, the baby coughing and spluttering in his arms. He handed the shivering child to the woman who stood with tree-trunk legs rooted in the sand, her wide arms holding open the towel. She immediately wrapped Shakil back up like a package. 
Ula slowly walked out of the sea.
“What you thinks, girl! You crazy? My grand-baby too small for dat! You no deserves he. I gonna gives you licks,” the woman said, holding up a meaty, flat hand. Ula grinned, open-mouthed. Bert said, “The baby is okay, isn’t he?” 
Attempting to defuse the situation, he reached over to pull the towel away from Shakil’s face. The boy had stopped choking and was now settled into a steady cry. The woman’s hand lowered to tightly re-secure the towel. Then she turned away, not allowing Bert to touch her grandson.
Over one shoulder, she spat out, “Dis no your business.” She marched towards the road, shouting, “Come, girl! Dat’s what gets you in trouble already, talking to a strange man.” 

In the meantime, Ula had dressed. She took off at a run, following her mother. Then she stopped and turned, walking the few steps back to face Bert again. Flashing a big gap-toothed smile, she stretched out a small hand and said,
“T’anks, Mister.” They shook. “You’re welcome. Lucky I was here to help you. But what were you…”
She turned immediately, running again to catch up, ignoring Bert’s further plea of, “Wait!” He watched them disappear, his jaw set in anger. He ruminated for a moment, more furious with himself than with either the mother or daughter.
Turning around, he stared at the endless, boring sea. It really was time for that drink—a good strong one. 

Then he would phone Sheila, conceding that maybe she had been right
after all. He picked up his towel, book and clothes, and walked down the beach to the bar.

Thank you Susan for joining us once more here on The Scribbler.

Please visit next week  and read my latest short story - Mr. Warrakoo. In Australia during the first part of the 20th century, half caste children were forcibly removed from their homes. A whole generation that was referred to as the Lost Children. Imagine if one of them came to Canada.

Friday 3 July 2015

4Q Interview with artist Ralph Gruenewald.

The South Branch Scribbler is very pleased to have Ralph Gruenewald as our featured guest for this month’s 4Q Interview.  Not yet world famous, Ralph is an exceptional artist whose paintings are coveted by collectors of fine art. Originally from Montreal, Quebec, Ralph and his family reside in Moncton, New Brunswick.  Both he and his wife are involved in retail management, his son Karl is also a gifted artist and his daughter Bianca is a performer with the Moncton Miracles of the Canadian Basketball League.

Ralph has a keen eye for detail. His talented use of colors and perspective makes his paintings unique and pleasurable to view.

4Q:  When you were growing up, how did art become important in your life, something you wanted to create?

RG: I always doodled and drew since I can remember, but only as a teen did I start to paint with oils. I enjoyed the way you could work the colours endlessly because the oil would not dry sometimes for days unlike acrylics or watercolours.
I didn't do well in art classes in school, because stubborn German that I am, I had great distain for techniques other than my own and only realism, never abstract or any other form interested me. My son, on the other hand, just completed his bachelor's degree in fine arts, and was open to learning all techniques and mediums and as a result has far surpassed me in terms of ability and skills.
But I plug along and when I see a subject that interests me I usually take many photos of it and work from those to create a painting that I enjoy.  

4Q: Moncton High School is an historic building in the city and just recently closed. You have recently been commissioned to create a sketch of the grand structure. How did this come about?

RG: My daughter was captain of the Moncton High Cheerleading squad and they needed to raise money for travel and expenses, so I volunteered to paint a picture of Moncton high for them to raffle off and raise money, so I did. The following year I did it again, but this time did it in a graphite drawing. It turned out very nicely and during the raffle the principal of the school Mr. Belong asked if I would do a larger version to display at the new Moncton High, which I accepted. After much deliberation I came up with the idea of outsourcing the job to my son, Karl because I thought it would be more meaningful to have a work like this done by an alumni of the school, and with his training and technical ability, he produced a work greater than I could ever have!
The drawing, nicely framed now hangs in the entrance to the offices in the new Moncton High. Upon my delivering the drawing to the school, Mr. Belong was so pleased, he asked me if I could do three more drawings of the old building to decorate the new offices and I accepted the commission, but to date neither I or my son Karl have had a chance to start them. 

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

RG: As a teen growing up in the seventies, immersed in psychedelic music and other mind altering sources I came up with the theory that if I produced a work of art so terrifying that if a person stared at it long enough their mind would so want to escape the image that they would project themselves into another dimension just to escape it! Needless to say, I tried but it didn't work and all I got were some awful paintings that were so bad that I don't remember whatever became of them. 

4Q: As well as the above mentioned commission, I understand that you have been busy with other commissions as well these past few months. What is in the future for Ralph Gruenewald and his art?
RG: I painted a lot of fishing boats at various wharves around New Brunswick for many years from photos that I had collected. Many of them are now in private collections in New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec. I have done many animal paintings over the years, and now I'm thinking of a new subject to take on, as soon as I have all my commissions done, I'll be starting a series of works focused on something like old barns or abandoned structures that I find interesting. I will work from photos that I will take this summer on my travels. 

Lastly, thank you Allan for giving me the opportunity to share this with your readers I hope you enjoy the pictures that are included. Ralph


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on The Scribbler.
If you have any questions or projects for Ralph, you can reach him at
Next week on the Scribbler, I am happy to have author Susan Toy of Bequia return with a short story, Another Day in Paradise.
Susan is a terrific author and I know you will enjoy her work.