Here is my interview with George Wright Padgett

August 19, 2014 at 3:29 am (Uncategorized)

Anakalian Whims:

I love this man. Check out the Interviews tab to find my own interview with George Wright Padgett.

Originally posted on authorsinterviews:

George Inset Photo

Name:  George Wright Padgett
Age:  Acts like: 9 1/2 Actual: Middle-aged
Where are you from:
Houston, Texas
A little about yourself; ie your education Family life etc:
I’m a husband (25+ years) and father of two children (13 year old girl/10 year old boy) a jazz piano player, a graphic artist, and sometimes a playwright. I also live with a mini dachshund that goes by Jenny.


Tell us your latest news?
My first horror novel, Cruel Devices is in the hands of the editor and is due out this winter. I also just signed a contract for a 2016 release of a steampunk detective novel entitled Addleton Heights. Both are being released by a small press publisher in Katy, Texas known as Grey Gecko Press.

When and why did you begin writing?
Looking back over the years I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. Only recently did I realize that I’ve unofficially…

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My First Harlequin

August 17, 2014 at 2:53 am (Uncategorized)

His Texas Forever FamilyTitle: His Texas Forever Family

Author: Amy Woods

Publisher: Harlequin

Genre: Home & Family Romance

Length: 216 pages

I’ve read a few romance novels in my day, but as far as I can recall this is my first Harlequin.  Though I’m not a new die hard Harlequin customer, I am pretty ecstatic about this particular title… since my brother’s wife wrote it!

I’m a little more than biased and absurdly proud.  It’s exciting to be a first time author, and even more exciting that her first time out the gates she’ll be hitting the shelf of every Wal-Mart in America and more.  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m a little bit jealous she’s getting such amazing exposure, but I’m so happy for her – she’s earned it!

I enjoyed my brief 216 page stay in Peach Leaf, Texas. Woods had me wondering if Peach Leaf were real and when I could visit.  It’s apparently one of the safest places on earth and the people are awfully nice.  Everyone needs a place where the lady at the grocery store will order your favorite coffee when they discover they don’t already have it in stock.  Favorite coffees are important!

The main characters, of course, are intriguing… a sexy art teacher recently divorced, a widowed and emotionally guarded assistant principal, and a kid that won’t talk sets the perfect stage for a romance about matters of hearts in need of healing.  Woods is a great writer (a fantastic copyeditor too, if you’re in the market for one) and draws you into a seemingly simple plot with every carefully placed sentence and word. 

This debut novel will be available September 1st, 2014.  Take note, mark your calendar, set aside a few bucks for a new book! And once you’ve read it, be sure to leave a review for our favorite Harlequin author.

 

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Two Brothers, A Reporter, and the Civil War

August 9, 2014 at 12:02 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

of-blood-and-brothersTitle:Of Blood and Brothers

Author: E. Michael Helms

Publisher: Koehler Books

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 269 pages

“It was war, I said, and war makes people do bad things.”

Historical fiction that involves research and spans time within a story is always my favorite.  Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, any of Kate Morton’s novels, A.S. Byatt’s Possession… these are among my must own forever books.

So, of course, I was pleased to discover E. Michael Helms’ Of Blood and Brothers series, which follows reporter Calvin Hogue (from 1927) as he researches the story of the Malburn Brothers (who fought in the Civil War).

As a child from the South, I adored Civil War tales.  I didn’t care whether they were written from our perspective or the Yanks, I just couldn’t get enough of it.  Gentle Annie and Red Badge of Courage were both beloved titles during my elementary school years.  I played Colonel Shaw in the school play of Glory.  Part of my obsession with Little Women was the mid-to-post war setting.

E. Michael Helms took me back in time to Elijah Malburn, and I got to experience being stolen from by the Confederates, being interrogated by the Union soldiers, and working at the saltworks.  I traveled with Jefferson, the Malburn’s slave and found it oddly appropriate that the rift that doomed the brothers wasn’t just a political one, but one that included a girl.

I could easily turn this review into a political debate – there’s plenty to talk about, especially with me being from the south and having all sorts of views on the Confederacy.  But that wouldn’t do Helms’ work justice.

Of Blood and Brothers is about people and homes being torn apart by circumstances outside of their control.  It’s about being a soldier and not always being one because it’s what you believe in, but because it’s what saves your backside.  It’s about protecting your loved ones and lamenting their departure from this world…

It’s a darn good book and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

 

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Book Review: “Storybound”

August 8, 2014 at 9:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Anakalian Whims:

Another book blogger reviewed a book I’ve reviewed. And linked back to me. Check out The Cheap Reader’s take on Storybound by Marissa Burt.

Originally posted on The Cheap Reader:

“Storybound (Storybound #1)” by Marissa Burt

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Fantasy, Fairy Tale

Source: Freebie

Other Storybound books

Summary from Goodreads:

When Una Fairchild stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, she thinks nothing of opening the cover and diving in. But instead of paging through a regular novel, Una suddenly finds herself Written In to the land of Story—a world filled with Heroes and Villains and fairy-tale characters.

But not everything in Story is as magical as it seems. Una must figure out why she has been Written In—and fast—before anyone else discovers her secret. Together with her new friend Peter and a talking cat named Sam, Una digs deep into Story’s shadowy past. She quickly realizes that she is tied to the world in ways she never could have imagined—and it might be up to her to save it.

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Seashells, Gator Bones, and an Interview

August 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Interview with Susan Adger

seashells and gator bones1. Seashells, Gator Bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability. What a title! Can you tell us a bit about it?

Actually, my daughter Emily came up with the title, based on three of the stories in the book. Seashells are reminders of a girl’s first love, one of the characters makes jewelry out of gator bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability is one of the town’s churches; the name came from the fact that the members are supposed to be “libel” for each other – to take care of each other – which means they have to know everybody’s else’s business.

2. What made you choose Florida as a setting?

My family has been in the Tampa Bay area for five generations, and the characters in the book are based on some of the old stories my Grandma Keathley used to tell us. When she was born in Mango, FL in 1891, the population swelled to thirty-eight people. Her mother was one of seven children, and her grandmother was one of eight, so there were plenty of crazy, I mean interesting, relatives out there to get ideas from. While everything in the book is fiction, my relatives will be able to tell you who some of the characters are based on.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your earlier work A Quiet Voice?

A Quiet VoiceThe book was inspired by a man named Eugene Hairston, who grew up in grinding poverty, then to keep himself out of trouble – he thought – he enlisted in the army and ended up fighting in Vietnam. When he reported the rampant discrimination on the base, his sergeant pushed him out of a helicopter into Viet Cong territory. He survived almost by accident, when some American soldiers on patrol happened by a few days later and rescued him. After the incident was reported, Eugene was given the opportunity to return home, which he did. With untreated P.T.S.D., he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, spent almost two decades in jails and prisons, and lived on the streets of Tampa for eight long years.

In 1998 he changed his life. I met him a few years later and we started working on A Quiet Voice in 2005. It took us almost two years of meeting weekly to complete it. Today he is married, holds a responsible position at the Bay Pines Veterans Administration Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is held in high esteem by hundreds of people who know him. The V.A. sends him to speak to veterans about his life at conferences nationwide, and he has received many incredibly heart-warming letters from readers. I’m very gratified to know that writing this book has helped him reach so many people.

4. Ray Bradbury once said, “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices.” What do you think about this statement?

Well, actually, I never studied writing in college, but for me it has been really important to read a lot, to learn from what others do, and to get feedback on my work. I’ve done this mostly with other writers; I’m in two critique groups and value their input. When I’m critiquing others, however, I always remind them that what they’ve written is their work, and while it’s good to listen to input, in the end it’s their creation.

SusanPHLibInitially, I was told that I should know my entire story inside and out before actually writing it; have my outline and character sketches completed and go from there. And heaven knows I tried to do that. But when writing fiction, the only way that seems to work for me is to have an idea about a character and then just watch to see what happens; when there’s a knock on the door in the story, I go along to answer it and we both see who’s there. Of course, I do a lot of editing that way, but it works for me.

I enjoy writing short stories, keeping it light. These days I can hardly bear to watch the news or read the paper; seems to me there’s plenty of negative out there and we could all use a laugh once in a while.

5. What were your educational experiences like? Do you think these experiences have influenced the kind of writer you have become?

I was never too wild about school and wasn’t a great student, partly because when I was growing up my family moved almost every year so I was always the new kid on the block. I remember in the second grade, looking out the classroom window and thinking I’d give anything to be outside with the guys trimming the hedge rather than sitting at my desk. But somehow I ended up with a B.A. in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Education.

I’m sure everything I’ve experienced in my life has colored what I write. I don’t think any author can avoid putting themselves into their work, even if they want to. I spent a number of years working in child abuse and neglect, as well as with young children with behaviour/emotional problems or developmental delays, and their families. Being able to watch people work to make changes in their lives has been both rewarding and heart breaking. They all taught me a great deal.

6. What brought you to the writing world? What made you decide to write?

I am definitely a late starter. I first began writing when the last of my three children moved out. I remember coming home from work that day, sitting on the couch in an empty living room and listening to the quiet; nobody yelling that somebody stole her sweater (nothing was ever misplaced, it was stolen), no loud music competing with the television, no phone ringing off the hook. I felt let down, a little lonely. For about ten minutes. Then it occurred to me that after twenty-two years of raising kids, mostly as a single parent, I had a life of my own again and could do whatever I wanted. I started with family stories, and branched out from there.

7. Do you have future projects up your sleeve?

I’m in the middle of recording the Seashells book, in my grandma’s old Florida vernacular and hope to have it done this fall. (Why is everything harder than it looks?) And I have a number of stories completed for a companion book.

8. Who are your favorite authors? Do you have an author whose career you aspire to emulate?

Years ago I discovered Lee Smith, whose stories about poor families in Appalachia drew me in. While I haven’t intentionally used her as a model, she has unquestionably had an influence on my work.

9. I see on your facebook page that you do a number of public speaking events and lead group discussions on your books. What do these events involve? How do they work out for you?

I’ve been fortunate to be asked to give a number of book talks at local venues, and have been gratified to see how encouraging and supportive audiences have been. When I first started speaking, I found it quite challenging (read terrifying), but with practice, I no longer feel that I’ll have a nervous breakdown before it’s over.

I talk a little about how I got into writing and my Florida family’s background, read some excerpts from the book, and encourage listeners to record their family histories.

10. If there were one thing you would want your readers and fans to know about you, what would it be?

One of the reasons I thought to write this book was because of interviews I did with my Grandma Keathley. Years ago I sat down with her and recorded her reminiscences about growing up in Mango, and later raising her six children in Tampa. I had to kind of twist her arm to do it; she finally relented after I talked her into reciting poetry like she did to her kids when they were small, and singing a few hymns. Then I just kind of sneaked her into the interview by asking questions.

I love hearing her stories about growing up in Mango in her voice with the old Florida “southernisms” Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I’ll make myself the breakfast she’d always fix me, a fried egg on top of some buttered oatmeal, then listen to one of her interviews, and I feel better.

When I speak, I strongly encourage the audience to interview the older members of their families – these days it’s easy to videotape them – or write about their own histories. The little details are what I love most – knowing that the oxen my great-grandfather hooked up to the wagon to take his vegetables to market were named Red’en and George; and when my great-grandfather would pull my grandmother up on the horse with him so she could see the baby birds in their nest; and once, when my grandma was at a “Church Sing” with a new boyfriend, the horse took off with the buggy and when they found him he’d gotten stuck halfway over a fence. For me, details like that make my family history come to life.

And you can quote me on this: “There is NOTHING more interesting than families.”

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Interview with Leo King

August 4, 2014 at 3:53 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000461Periodically, Anakalian Whims interviews authors and artists for the public.  This blog having such a friendly relationship with Grey Gecko Press has allowed for more author interviews than I could have ever dreamed for, and here’s one more.  Meet Leo King, author of the Sins of the Father trilogy.

1. You have a 3.95 average rating on Goodreads for The Bourbon Street Ripper, sounds like people generally like it! (The first few pages creeped me out and I’m holding off until I can muster a non-scaredy cat reading mood out of myself to finish the book.) Tell us a little about your series Sins of the Father.

Sins of the Father is a genre-bending trilogy. While it’s thriller throughout, it starts as a a murder mystery and changes into what could almost be called urban fantasy. The voodoo culture undertones in the beginning become more prevalent as the three books go on.

2. What brought you to the murder/mystery/thriller genre? Is it merely what fit this story or is it your chosen genre?

My chosen genres are actually sci-fi, urban fantasy and epic fantasy. However, I’ve always wanted to write a trilogy that mutates genres in a seamless fashion. Most of this is because I want to show that it can be done. Put enough information in the story to inform the reader, and you can go from mystery to supernatural or fantasy to science fiction, etc. While it’s not recommended all the time (fans of one tend to favor it over the other), there are occasions when it can be very entertaining.

This is my only attempt at genre-bending. I will not do it again. I also will likely never write pure modern-day mystery. It’s not something I think I’d enjoy. I might try a hand at science-fiction mystery some time.P1020027

I love thrillers though, and will likely continue in the supernatural thriller and serial killer thriller genre in the future.

I think I kind of got away from your question. Sorry about that. The genres of Sins of the Father fit the story.

3. Who are your favorite books and authors? Ultimately whose writing career inspires you most?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is my #1 favorite for modern authors. Otherwise, anything by Asimov for science fiction, Weiss and Hickman for fantasy, and Stephen King for thriller/horror. My favorite old-school novel is Lord of the Rings.

P10200164. You’re published through Grey Gecko Press. How has that experience been for you?

I’ve enjoyed the freedom I get with GGP. They put the author’s desires first and foremost. I consider GGP a great starting place for any author.

5. Although you’re a Houston local, I see in your bio that you’re not a Houston native. How do you think your Louisiana roots and life experiences have affected your writing?

I grew up in New Orleans, the birth place of the modern romantic vampire (mostly thanks to Anne Rice). Because of that, I tend to blend romanticism with everything I write. I also try to give my locations and settings enough life for them to be considered a character themselves.

6. Your bio also says that you want your work to be controversial enough to make people think. What kind of thinking were you wanting to encourage with the Sins of the Father series? What kind of themes do you plan to pursue in future work?

If nothing else, I want to dispel stereotypes. Let me explain.

Every person, even the most deplorable, is still a person. Something made them that way. For example, some people in our society believe that anyone who is a terrorist is the epitome of evil and deserves no regard. But what drove that person to become that way? What hopelessness made them susceptible to their cause’s brain-washing? So many people do not ask those questions. They just brand and condemn. It disgusts me.

So I’ll create characters that the reader falls in love with, and then have them reveal something utterly horrible about themselves. Will my readers continue to love them? Will they condemn the actions instead of the person? Or will they suddenly hate the character and put the book down? What they do, and if they think before doing it, will say a lot about them.

I won’t apologize for anything I write, no matter how much it offends someone. Every human being has a story, and that story needs to be told.

7. You’re planning a Halloween release party for your next book. Ideally, what would that look like to you?

As this is my first launch party, I have no expectations. Something voodoo themed would be lovely.

8. Did you put any of your series to paper while listening to music? If so, what kind, which artists, what songs?

I write in silence.

9. Outside of your writing career what does your life look like? Do you have hobbies or interests that you’d like to share with your readership?

I am happily married to my wife of going on nine years. I work from home during the day and write at night. Sometimes I meet friends for coffee or beer, but never coffee and beer. That’s an important distinction!

My biggest out of office activity is my Writing Workshop. It’s a video workshop I started in 2012 and let stall out due to lack of equipment. I am thinking of setting up a Kickstarter campaign to get better equipment. It’s hard to teach writing techniques when you’re recording on an iPhone!

As for hobbies, I am an avid gamer. That’s both video games and role-playing games. I have a BS in Video Game Design that I’ve never used professionally, but I design game mods and develop indie games all the time. Yes, game development is a hobby for me. I love martial arts and am a sword collector.

10. If there were one thing you would want your fans/readers to know about you, what would it be?

Someone once expressed concern about my mental health because of some of the scenes in The Bourbon Street Ripper. I want to say that it’s just a book: I don’t endorse any of the horrible things my characters do!

P1020007

Leo King, second from the left in the black shirt, interacting with fans at one of his book signings.

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Do You Believe in Ghosts?

August 4, 2014 at 4:51 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

the_thirteenth_taleTitle: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Length: 406 pages
Publisher: I read from the Atria Books Book Club Edition

The first time I read this book it was July of 2011. I was no longer on maternity leave, but my daughter still seemed very, very small. We were a sleepy household then, despite her running around long before her playmates and peers had begun taking their first steps. I remember mostly listening to this book on audio because I had a hard time keeping my eyes open when I was home – but I wasn’t actually napping ever. It was excellent and I adored it. That’s why I encouraged the HPB book club to read it for our August discussion that will take place tomorrow night (August 4th, 2014).

One of my fellow clubbers emailed me already, saying he only gave the book a 5.5 out of 10. He had questions I can’t repeat in a review due to spoilers. I had meant to take this month off and discuss from memory, but his questions and low rating for a book I remember describing as the perfect tale forced me to pick it up and read it again.

And I discovered that I disagree with him…

I feared I would have my mind changed by time and growth. I feared I would have read so many wonderful things since my first reading that somehow the magic wouldn’t shine to brightly and mysteriously the second time around. I feared the ghost story wouldn’t feel so ghostly, knowing the ending.

But my fears were unwarranted, because I still loved it. I loved it all.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” – pg. 9

thDiane Setterfield has expert hands. She manipulates words deftly. She takes a reader prisoner with her storytelling. Vida Winter winds herself around your limbs like spider silk and will enthrall you. Charlie will render you so terrified you will not move, except to turn the page; Adeline March will pierce your skin, and become a knot stuck in your throat; Isabelle will enter your blood and startle you; Emmeline will numb your thoughts. It is the best, most believable ghost story I’ve ever read.

Also this week, I’ve watched the BBC screen version of the story. Yes, there were a few things changed, much left out, but overall I was pleased with the production.  We were able to watch it on youtube.

First of all, it was brilliantly cast with Vanessa Redgrave.  I adore her and she is exactly how I imagined someone like Vida Winter to be.  She appears in so many of my literature to film favorites, like Atonement, Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway.  She’s such a classy lady.  I must say, too, that I think she looks fabulous with Vida’s red hair.

Some people express a distaste for the “name-dropping,” the characters discussing books and how they shaped their lives.  There are a lot of Jane Eyre references.  If you’ve read my book (The Bookshop Hotel) you’d know that I am not one to find this unfavorable.  In fact, that is my favorite sort of  book, and it is in this fashion that I have discovered my most cherished reading experiences: from characters who pointed me in the right direction.  Characters always have more impact on me than real people.  They have no stake in it, I can trust them, they gain nothing by convincing me or failing to convince me to choose a certain book or behave a certain way.  For this I love them.  For this I respect them more than the living and breathing.

Only a character could get me to listen to a ghost story with an open mind.  Only a character can bring to life the fantastical, the magic, the mystery, and the excitement of a ghost story.  Only a character could make me see and understand a ghost.

Do you believe in ghosts?  No? Read The Thirteenth Tale and Vida Winter might change your mind.

 

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La Taza

July 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm (Travel) (, , , , )

mi tazaIf there’s one thing every traveler needs, it’s a good coffeehouse.  Mostly because traveling requires a kind of energy I can only get from the best coffee; but even for the non-coffee drinker, a coffeehouse is a one stop greeting center.

Your barista will usually be able to tell you how to get places, what activities there are in the neighborhood, where to find the best music and food.  Your barista, equivalent to a bartender in useful information and emotional well-being, will point you in the direction of the best bookstores, the coolest non-touristy tourist sites, and can usually tell you which ones are free and which ones are overpriced.

Find the right neighborhood joint, wherever you are staying, and you will find flyers for things happening while you’re in town that you might otherwise not discover.  You’ll have numerous business cards and bookmarks for local indie authors you can check out while you’re in their hometown, and you’ll be able to gather your thoughts and plan your day over delicious less-commercialized foods and drinks.

P1020603If that place is La Taza, in San Antonio, you’ll also get to check out the local art scene while your barista warms a heart shaped Danish roll to serve you with your Hazelnut latte.  No, I did not take pictures of my Danish roll, I was too busy eating it while it was hot.

I did take some pictures of the walls while he was busy making my latte though, this painting of the horses in the water above the chess table struck my fancy.

There’s also a puzzle table and a slew of board games and books to access.  Other decor included a not-so-Christmasy Christmas tree, dressed in flowers for summer.

The shop was about a mile from where I was staying, easily accessible by sidewalk from that neighborhood.  If I had had the time to enjoy the walk, rather than flit off to book signings, I would have – walked and meandered to my coffee, that is.

I can’t wait to visit again.  Maybe next time I’ll have my book signing there – it looks like they frequently have authors and musicians in the cafe.  In the meantime, you might be able to still pick up my bookmark from the table near the entrance.

 

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Dazzled by Market Square

July 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

When I was in San Antonio Saturday, my best friend dragged me to the old Farmer’s Market – dragged is too harsh, that makes it sound like I was kicking and screaming and I wasn’t.  I was happy to go and see something new, was excited about it really, except I looked past the archways from the street and my stomach sank… people.  Lots and lots of people.  Crowds didn’t bother me much when I was younger, they couldn’t, I went to a 5A highschool and if you were nervous in a crowd you’d drown in a sea of elbows.  (I realize now that maybe they did, I just often had a hand to cling to – my now husband – when walking through those crowds, not sure my bestie would be down with me grabbing her hands to hold in public… doesn’t stop me from wanting to.) Doesn’t change the fact that I see one ahead these days and I have to summon a purpose or desire for something in that crowd in order to enter it.

In this case, food, art, and music.  My trifecta that gets me through the festival experience.  I love those things.  And even though the Market was crowded – the worst of it at Mi Tierra – there was a little bit of space and I found myself able to breathe.  Especially once I got myself to the art booths.

Right outside Mi Tierra I stumbled across two separate booths. One for Joseph Hernandez Jr. (www.josephhernandezartist.com) and one for Robert Wilkens (robertwilkensco@sbcglobal.net).

It was the impressionistic style of Joseph Hernandez that caught my attention to the art in the first place. I was already tired from shopping, tired of the crowds, and on the verge of becoming very hungry. But then I saw this:

P1020679

 

This is Joseph Hernandez Jr. He paints vibrantly, is self-taught, and stands about as tall as me. I could have stood in his booth and looked at every single painting for hours. If I were wealthy, I would have bought one of everything. My house would become a gallery to his work. I loved all the color. His use of it reminded me of Bryan Collins work even if their styles are nothing alike.

P1020682Much of his work is perfect for the tourist or native San Antonio lovers.  He chooses places around town to capture on the canvas.  Far more valuable than any photograph you could take of the same location.

He has just as many paintings of a random assortment, random things that inspired him… trees and branches are a running theme for him.  He had a lot for musicians – a sax, a violin, muP1020683sic notes, etc.  I can’t imagine walking into his booth and not seeing something you want to take home with you.  The hard part is deciding which something.

His paintings are affordable for the art collector.  Good size canvases that I’ve seen sell in the thousands by less talented painters were running between $400 – $500.  You could buy a very small  canvas for $25 and walk away with an original piece. His prints were what would hit your pocket, averaging at half the price of the canvas.  Seeing that I opted to save for an original Hernandez, rather than buying a print.  I took a business card, but came back later to take this picture with him:

P1020680Only a few booths away, closer to the Mi Tierra entrance, was Robert Wilkens – or Roberto as his wife kept calling him, and I can’t get her voice and pronunciation of his name out of my head.  She’s gorgeous and so passionate about his work.

P1020684I asked to take a picture of his work and later found out that most people just take the pictures – they don’t generally ask first.  I’m used to museums and conventions, rather than festivals, and I always ask.  Otherwise you might find yourself being barked at.

Robert and his wife were very gracious and let me take as many pictures as I wanted.  Robert is a chatterer, and I enjoyed talking to him while I watched him paint.  He teased me about my tattoo – told me it said “Soy Sauce in Chinese, didn’t you know?”  I picked on him for assuming I didn’t know what my tattoo said, just because I was a white girl.  Some things are funnier in my head than they are out loud.  Either way, Robert and I had a nice long chat about artistry and professions.  We showed him a picture of my kiddo’s art work.  We talked about books and my career as a writer.

“When did you first know you wanted to write?” he asked me.

“The moment I realized that ink came out of a pen and formed words on a page,” I answered.

P1020675He’s been a painter for decades, but he took the long road it sounds.  He had a lot of people tell him he couldn’t make a living at it.  It’s clear that he can, his work is incredible.  We talked about how we  encourage that artistic spirit in our children.  My daughter – the child of a writer – is quite the little painter.  His daughter – the child of a painter – just might be the next great American novelist.

He was a muralist for a long time, you can see the remnants of that life in some of his work.  I love it, and I want him to come do some walls in Houston that need sprucing.

He’s good enough for the first lady, he should be good enough for everyone:

Artist – Muralist, Robert Wilkens has been in the arts for twenty-five years and has worked commercially for fourteen years. He is well established in all media of the arts. Robert’s talent and dedication to his work has taken him to Mexico and all over the United States of America, even to the White House in the service of the First Lady, Laura Bush. There is no other artist of Roberts caliber when it comes to working with clients. His work ethics are honest and the beauty of his brush strokes while painting murals are eloquent and always precise.

(From Robert Wilkens & Company Blog)

I may not enjoy crowds, but I love discovering.  I love traveling and the search for new experiences and people.  I love seeing something I’ve never encountered before and picking it apart in my brain, learning to describe it.  New sights and smells and sounds may overwhelm me, but I welcome it as a learning experience.  I am so glad we went to Market Square that day.  I am glad we met Joseph Hernandez Jr and Robert Wilkens.  I am glad we waited for seats at Mi Tierra, even after we were told it would be an hour and half before we could be seated (it was actually only 35 minutes).  I’m ecstatic that I got to eat cheese enchiladas and suck down a Mojito before devouring more art with my eyes.  (I’m mildly amused that I got carded for my Mojito.)

When I went back out to take more pictures of Robert’s work and buy a print of his with my bestie, I was pleasantly buzzed (light weight, cheap date, whatever, I’ll take the name calling)… and found this:

P1020687I couldn’t stop looking at it and I wanted it for my wall.  He didn’t have any prints available for it, but said he would ship to Houston if only I let him know.

I want the original.  It’s magnificent.  The detail in the water and his pant leg is stellar.  I wanted to be swept away with him, from the dirty street and into that clear, blue water, up to the moon.  It helps that I find suitcases and umbrellas terribly romantic.

It helps that I find travel romantic.  It helps that adventure fascinates me, even if it makes me a little nervous, I still want to experience it all.  I want to absorb art through my eyes and bathe in it.  I want to taste new foods and close my eyes and live the flavor.  I want to meet new people and really discover who they are before I leave their presence, even if it takes a little bit of work to stay focused on what they are telling me.  I want to be dazzled.

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Entangled

July 24, 2014 at 2:53 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

EntangledCoverWebHalfAAAA1Title: Entangled
Author: Barbara Ellen Brink
Genre: Mystery
Length: 332 pages

It was the title that got me, with its spindly lettering. Then the grape leaves mysteriously hiding the heroine.  It’s grape season.  A mystery in a winery sounds just like the sort of thing to read in July.  Even more perfect, it came in time for me to pack it into my suitcase for my “vacation” – ahem – book signing tour.

Brink’s writing is heavier than I anticipated, the mystery less cozy and a little more John Grisham minus the courtroom meets Alice Hoffman.  A few times while on my road trip, I had to put it down.  The characters had more going on in their lives than my vacation was going to allow.  Of course, I found myself picking it right back up again later.

The truth is, Brink won me over with the word “wafted” on page 22. I’m a sucker for that word.  It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve blogged about this oddity of mine before.  “The sound of a child singing wafted through the open window…” and immediately I thought of my own child, back home, not a part of this trip, and I missed her.  Brink has a way of doing that to you.  You sit down to read a mystery and find yourself thinking about all the people in your life, past and present.

“I know we were just kids, but a bond like that doesn’t disappear. [...] It might fade with time, but it doesn’t disappear.” – pg. 89

No, it really doesn’t, does it?  There are so many childhood friends that I don’t keep in touch with anymore, not really.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think of them fairly often and wonder how they are, hope that they are well.  So many of them affected the way I view the world, and they probably don’t even know it.  We’re all in our thirties now, we don’t talk about any of it, we’ve all outgrown each other.  It doesn’t make the love go away.  It makes it different, but not gone.

There’s a romantic twist in Entangled as well, the kind I like: not too over the top or explicit, a romance between friends, caused by the intrusion of the past into the present.

All this intrusion is what makes Entangled special.  It’s not just women’s fiction.  It’s not just a mystery.  It’s a mystery featuring people with real problems.  In all my cozy mystery reading, that’s not often the kind of story I get.

I’ll be picking grapes tomorrow.  Maybe even having some wine later in the season.  For sure, I’ll be reading Crushed (book two in the Fredrickson Winery Saga) in the future.  There’s too many secrets at Fredrickson not to go back.

 

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