Sunday, October 30, 2016

5 things You Didn't Do in Venice (But Should Have); The Not-So-Beaten Track Travel Journal


Piazza San Marco is breathtaking (and taken over by pigeons); Murano is a must see (and everybody sees it); dinner on the Grand Canal is tough to beat (and tough to afford); but there is another side to Venice, a side that few people see because it isn't in the guidebooks or at the top of the list on Yelp.

If you want, I can bring you there, and here's the best part--it's gratis (a word you don't see in Venice much.) No grazie needed; That's our mission at the Not So Beaten Track.

Okay, without further ado:
#1 Do drink the water. That's right, don't waste a Euro on bottled mineral water, get your water from the 181 functioning water fountains throughout the Lagoon City, almost all located within the numerous campi, the large open areas. The fountains date back to the years before an aqueduct was constructed to bring fresh water to the city, but still function, and pour more than 80 million gallons of clean (city tests regularly) water every year. It's history, economy and agua all at the same time.



#2 Do eat at Dal Moro's. Want good food? Look for the queue. In a city of restaurants, cafes, bars, trattorias and a dozen other kinds of places to eat (all with open tables) look for the line to get in. It will lead you to Dal Moro's. I would give you directions, but where's the fun in that? Dal Moro's serves meal-sized cartons of takeaway pasta made a few minutes prior to you eating it. Choices of gnocchi, spaghetti and fusilli over which is poured your favorite sauce; options include pesto, and several different red sauces. Don't forget to add the funghi and the proscuitto, and your favorite cheese. All for 5-6 Euro per carton. Deliciouso!


#3 Do take a day trip to Verona. After a few days walking the crowded alleys of Venice, especially in the busy summer, a day trip is in order, and Verona is just an hour away on the Frecciarossa high-speed train. And there is a reason Shakespeare chose this city as the setting for Romeo and Juliet--it's spectacular. Also, the wide streets and the hilly terrain are in perfect contrast to the flat, narrow Calles of Venice. Don't forget to have a Cafe Latte on the Piazza del Erbe, and do see the Chiesa di Sant' Anastasia, the very imposing Gothic cathedral just off the square. Keep going to the bridge over the Adige river, and take a stroll up the hill on the other side for great views of the city and a Birra Moretti at the cafe on top.


#4 Do spend an afternoon biking on the Lido. Lido is a biker's paradise--it's flat, scenic, and there are gelatto shops everywhere. So take the number six Vaporetto from Zarrete and get going. The best bike shop is right on the main drag; for the handful of coins in your pocket you can rent a very serviceable bike for a few hours. Ask for a map, although you probably don't need one. The ride down to the beach and then out to the pier and back is a good option, and make sure you walk the beach for shells, because nobody picks them up and there are multitudes of intact specimens.




#5 Do have a drink at the Corner Pub. One of the best parts of travel is finding that spot where the locals go. In Dorsoduro, one of the six sestiere of Venice, that's the Corner Pub. How can I be sure? It's called research, my friend, and I like to do it the old-fashioned way, with boots on the ground. Try a Spritz, which is the current rage in town, a mixture of Campari, Prosecco and club soda. The draught beer is excellent, especially the local Birra Moretti, and the wine selection is extensive. But it's the atmosphere that brought me back again and again; the place has flat out charm. You can sit inside one of the cozy rooms inside, stand at the outside bar (my favorite) or sit on the bridge around the corner and watch the people go by. Cheers!
Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  










Wednesday, October 26, 2016

5 Things You Didn't Do in Venice (But Should Have): The Not So Beaten Track Travel Journal


Piazza San Marco is breathtaking (and taken over by pigeons); Murano is a must see (and everybody sees it); dinner on the Grand Canal is tough to beat (and tough to afford); but there is another side to Venice, a side that few people see because it isn't in the guidebooks or at the top of the list on Yelp.

If you want, I can bring you there, and here's the best part--it's gratis (a word you don't see in Venice much.) No grazie needed; That's our mission at the Not So Beaten Track.

Okay, without further ado:
#1 Do drink the water. That's right, don't waste a Euro on bottled mineral water, get your water from the 181 functioning water fountains throughout the Lagoon City, almost all located within the numerous campi, the large open areas. The fountains date back to the years before an aqueduct was constructed to bring fresh water to the city, but still function, and pour more than 80 million gallons of clean (city tests regularly) water every year. It's history, economy and agua all at the same time.



#2 Do eat at Dal Moro's. Want good food? Look for the queue. In a city of restaurants, cafes, bars, trattorias and a dozen other kinds of places to eat (all with open tables) look for the line to get in. It will lead you to Dal Moro's. I would give you directions, but where's the fun in that? Dal Moro's serves meal-sized cartons of takeaway pasta made a few minutes prior to you eating it. Choices of gnocchi, spaghetti and fusilli over which is poured your favorite sauce; options include pesto, and several different red sauces. Don't forget to add the funghi and the proscuitto, and your favorite cheese. All for 5-6 Euro per carton. Deliciouso!


#3 Do take a day trip to Verona. After a few days walking the crowded alleys of Venice, especially in the busy summer, a day trip is in order, and Verona is just an hour away on the Frecciarossa high-speed train. And there is a reason Shakespeare chose this city as the setting for Romeo and Juliet--it's spectacular. Also, the wide streets and the hilly terrain are in perfect contrast to the flat, narrow Calles of Venice. Don't forget to have a Cafe Latte on the Piazza del Erbe, and do see the Chiesa di Sant' Anastasia, the very imposing Gothic cathedral just off the square. Keep going to the bridge over the Adige river, and take a stroll up the hill on the other side for great views of the city and a Birra Moretti at the cafe on top.


#4 Do spend an afternoon biking on the Lido. Lido is a biker's paradise--it's flat, scenic, and there are gelatto shops everywhere. So take the number six Vaporetto from Zarrete and get going. The best bike shop is right on the main drag; for the handful of coins in your pocket you can rent a very serviceable bike for a few hours. Ask for a map, although you probably don't need one. The ride down to the beach and then out to the pier and back is a good option, and make sure you walk the beach for shells, because nobody picks them up and there are multitudes of intact specimens.




#5 Do have a drink at the Corner Pub. One of the best parts of travel is finding that spot where the locals go. In Dorsoduro, one of the six sestiere of Venice, that's the Corner Pub. How can I be sure? It's called research, my friend, and I like to do it the old-fashioned way, with boots on the ground. Try a Spritz, which is the current rage in town, a mixture of Campari, Prosecco and club soda. The draught beer is excellent, especially the local Birra Moretti, and the wine selection is extensive. But it's the atmosphere that brought me back again and again; the place has flat out charm. You can sit inside one of the cozy rooms inside, stand at the outside bar (my favorite) or sit on the bridge around the corner and watch the people go by. Cheers!
Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  










Saturday, October 22, 2016

BATS OVER BAMAKO

by Arthur Kerns


This is an excerpt from my West African travel journal and dated May 28, 2000. I had just learned that my flight to Timbuktu by bush plane was canceled because a foot-wide crack appeared on the runway. Even the ex-pat Russian pilots wouldn’t chance a landing.

In May it gets hot in Bamako, the capital city of Mali. A cool 105 degrees in the shade, but if we have a good rain, not only is the air refreshed, but also the temperature drops to a comfortable level. The scent of blossoms mixes with the dusty air to give a distinctive scent. The land is semi-arid, not quite like Arizona, more Southern California.

The people smile a lot and speak French with a pleasing accent. The women wear beautiful, bright flowing caftans with twirled turbans on their heads. Men and women balance baskets, boxes, and large bottles on their heads as they move along the streets with a fluid, easy grace. Even though there are city sidewalks, most locals prefer to walk along the edge of the streets, side-stepping the litter. Perhaps this practice is left over from their village days when they walked their country roads.

Outside the window of my French colonial hotel that has seen better days, the streets of Bamako are a mix between paved for the main thoroughfares and dirt for the side and minor streets. The rainy season makes travel a slog along the dirt streets.
Flowering trees provide a splash of color to this city. Buildings are salmon-colored and bright white minarets stand out against the green foliage. Small shops and stalls line the streets; with enthusiastic people selling all matter of goods. It seems that every block has a street lined with rows of stalls on both sides. The city of Bamako has been described as one big market.





Soirées in Bamako are interesting and telling of the living experience here. They are held on outdoor patios when possible. I suppose, just to accommodate the number of guests. When they are official functions, coats and ties are in order. I went to one without a jacket and felt out of place. The local guests appear more comfortable opting to add a splash of native attire. However, we all visibly perspired, from the combination of heat and alcohol.

Like most cocktail parties, it's hard to remember the names of all the people you meet. Even more so when you are dealing with foreign diplomats with unfamiliar names and accents. The conversation begins with something that you two can latch onto, like a sport, a hobby; the weather is always a good initial start but is dropped quickly for some other topic. The main goal is to act interested in what this person is saying. In turn, you must stay witty or touch on the profound while gathering the information you want. When the well runs dry you move on. Another very important thing is to keep track of the food that's being passed around on trays. On rare occasions, you can actually discover something that resembles what you find at home, or even tastes familiar. Still, one must be careful. The next day that interesting hors d'oeuvre may come back to visit you.
Here body odor is quite noticeable. Bathing for some people is lower on the lists of necessities: finding food or seeking safety being higher on the list of life’s concerns. Nevertheless, the odor is still there, surprising you as you walk out the door of your hotel room, or pass a table in a bar or restaurant. It lingers like perfume. You can leave your hotel room and walk down the hallway and suddenly; there it is, hanging invisibly in the air around you. The lasting presence of someone who passed ten, twenty minutes, perhaps a half-hour before. Sort of like passing by a bar stool where a Frenchman had smoked a Gauloises.
During the day I’d drop by my hotel room and realize that someone had recently been in the room. Not the cleaning staff, someone else. I advised the security officer at the embassy and she said, don’t worry, no one is trying to steal anything. You are a strange person from America and they find what you wear, read, and possess interesting. You are a curiosity.

The dominant flying creature in downtown Bamako is the Fruit Bat. This sucker is immense, with a wingspan of at least five feet. A few doves fly around, resembling the American white wing dove, but bats prevail. They swarm in groups mostly in the morning and evenings seemingly with no apparent destination. When they do land, they hang upside down from trees lining the streets, chirping like birds. They crawl from branch to branch, eating mangos. Some bats hang alone, but the majority gathers in tight, dark, furry pods consisting of three to eight bats.
They have light gray backs, black wings, and buff-yellow patches on the chest. Red tongues hang out between small pointed white teeth. A frightful presence even if you don’t have a hangover.
As I write, I hear a gunshot outside the window. Peering out, I see a group of ten or so youngsters standing in the middle of the street. One of the boys has fired a single-shot shotgun. A bat hits the street, flaps a moment, and then lies still. In the tree above, the bats scream and flap off in all directions. The boys run over and retrieve the dead animal and stuff it in a black sack. Bamako bush meat.

The Appaloosa Bar in Bamako is a main center of ex-pat social life, especially on Wednesday night. It is along an unpaved lane next to a series of other restaurants, one a popular Thai establishment, run by a pleasant Belgian and his Thai wife. The Appaloosa is clean, has a number of booths and tables and sports flags and other totems of national identification that patrons donated to the establishment. The music is American, seventies-on rock, played not too loudly and gives a visitor like me a mellow feeling. The beer is cold and good. There are a lot of Americans, but mostly French and other nationals who, if they don’t have some good stories to tell—they certainly look like they do—will make them up. A comfortable hangout for spies.

Arthur Kerns is a retired FBI supervisory special agent with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. A past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) his award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. He is a book reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Diversion Books, Inc. NY published his espionage thrillers, The Riviera Contract, The African Contract and The Yemen Contract.
See more in author’s website, www.arthurkerns.com

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Guest Blog - Maya Tyler

Interview Questions
I am pleased to introduce Maya Tyler, author of the paranormal romance Dream Hunter.

Q: Tell us something about yourself.
A: I’m married to my high school sweetheart and we have two sons and a nine pound shih tzu. I love to read anything I can get my hands on, mainly romance these days. I have a strong interest in healthy living. I am active every day which helps when I decide to cheat on my diet. I have a weakness for carbs and I like a little cream and sugar in my coffee. I love being outside and outdoor living in my backyard (work-in-progress) paradise. We grew beans and broccoli this summer, but I didn’t help much… I have a completely black thumb.

Q. How did you get into writing?
A: As soon as I could hold a pencil, I was writing little stories. I have a box full of stories and poems I wrote as a child, mostly handwritten. These days my first drafts are electronic and saved on my laptop. I just find it easier to express myself in written (or typed) words. I love to read and writing is a natural extension of that love for the written word. Whether I’m blogging, plotting, writing or revising, I try to write every day.

Q. How do you develop your plots and characters?
A: I have an active imagination and love creating believable characters. For the most part, my plots just come to me. I start writing and the story appears in my mind like a movie. Dream Hunter, in particular, was inspired by a dream I had.

Q: What inspires you to write?
A: I write because I love a happily-ever-after. Life isn’t always lollipops and rainbows, it is unpredictable with ups and downs. When I read, I am drawn into a book and, for a time, distracted from life’s worries. I want to write a book which provides my reader with the same solace.

Q: Who is your all-time favorite character (from your books) and why?
A: Gabe, from Dream Hunter, will always have a special place in my heart. I wanted to create a sexy and strong hero, with a hidden protective and sensitive side, and Gabe appeared in my mind. What I didn’t expect was his rebellious and defiant nature, but it certainly came in handy when he met my heroine Cynthia.

Q: Do you prefer coffee or tea?
A: Coffee… I prefer a dark roast and I love Starbucks…

Q: What’s better than chocolate?
A: A lot of women swear by chocolate as their go to sweet. I, unfortunately, have been allergic to chocolate since I was a child. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other vices out there… I get my sugar fix from cake, pie and cookies (whatever’s in the house).

Q: If you believed in this sort of thing and could channel an artist from the beyond, who would it be and why?
A: I ask this question of the authors I interview as well. I would select a humanitarian, one who creates art, not in the traditional sense, but through their betterment of the world. Princess Diana has long inspired me with the grace and compassion she brought to the world.

Q: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: My plans for the future are centered on my health. I plan to continue to live a healthy life and strive to make the world a better place for my children. I see myself writing and publishing more paranormal romance novels.

Q: Any advice for those aspiring novelists out there?
A: If you are an aspiring novelist, keep writing. Write for the pure joy of writing, not to get published or become famous.


 
Biography:
 
Maya Tyler is a romance author, blogger, wife, and mother. She has a degree in Commerce. Over the past few years, she decided to unleash her creative streak and get serious about writing. So far, she has published a short story “Just for Tonight” in an anthology called With Love from Val and Tyne and her debut paranormal romance novella Dream Hunter. She has also written a few other books (Her latest, A Vampire’s Tale, is scheduled to be released in 2017). Writing mostly paranormal romances, all her books have a common theme – happily ever after. When she’s not writing, you can find her playing with Lego and watching superhero movies with her husband and sons.

Thanks so much for your time, Maya






Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four
brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the
University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. Susan has been writing
most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the
Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-
line Contest where she received a thousand dollar prize. Susan won the National
Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and one of her
poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her novel, A Bend In The Willow, is scheduled for release by Tirgearr Press in January 18, 2017. 

Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Steampunk Contraptions of Dreamwielder

Diversion Books has put book one of The Dreamwielder Chronicles on sale for 99 cents in all ebook formats through September 13, 2016. To celebrate, author Garrett Calcaterra talks about the steampunk-inspired vehicles and contraptions in the series that have captured readers' imaginations and make the books stand out from so many traditional epic fantasies.


When I first started planning Dreamwielder, I knew I wanted it to move beyond the generic medieval fantasy setting. I don't know that I purposefully set out to make the book have a steampunk aesthetic, but a confluence of influences led me in that direction.

One of those influences was reading the work of steampunk progenitors James P. Blaylock, Tim Powers, and K.W. Jeter. Readers might be surprised, however, by how few steampunk gadgets and gizmos are actually in the works of those three authors. Modern steampunk has really gravitated towards having tons of cool steampunk gadgets and vehicles, but that's not the case with Blaylock, Powers, and Jeter. Sure, there are airships and time machines in there, but their work is more about the dingy, early-industrial setting of the Victorian era, and that's what I was interested in.

Artwork by Patrick Williams
The most stereotypical steampunk contraption I included in Dreamwielder is Siegbjorn's airship. His ship achieves buoyancy the same way a hot air balloon does, with...well, hot air. The only unique aspect to the ship is that the fuel source Siegbjorn uses in the furnace is hand-made by sorcerers.

In book two, Souldrifter, I introduce a new breed of airships. These airships achieve buoyancy the same way modern blimps do, with alpha ether (aka helium). They also have outrigger sails that are used to propel the ships forward with the aid of sorcerers known as stormbringers.

Another big influence that led me to adding steampunk components to The Dreamwielder Chronicles was my time working as an industrial hygienist, particularly my time monitoring the processes of oil refineries and then my stint doing air monitoring for cleanup workers during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Artwork by Patrick Williams
I saw firsthand the devastation that our reliance on fossil fuels leads to, and with that in mind I created the dark city of Col Sargoth. To Emperor Guderian, the city is a triumph of human ingenuity over nature and magic, but as the reader quickly learns, it's actually a once proud city that is now ravaged by industry run amok, with coal smelters belching out black smoke that blots out the sky and covers the buildings with soot.

Emperor Guderian's other "triumph" would be his war wagons. These steam-powered, armored wagons are essentially a steampunk version of tanks, and they prove to be unstoppable by traditional means of combat, as our heroes discover in Dreamwielder. The war wagons also play a role in Souldrifter, but to a lesser extent.

The last big influence on the steampunk aspects in Dreamwielder is the work of two more authors: Mary Shelley and Octavia Butler. Shelley's Frankenstein is the classic tale of humans taking technology too far by meddling with life itself. I played with this theme, but by adding magic into the mix of technology and life.

Artwork by Patrick Williams
The Dreamwielder Chronicles is first and foremost a fantasy series, so it's no big surprise that my steampunk aspects are blended with fantasy aspects. This is most apparent with the scenthounds—part human sorcerer, part hound, and part mechanical compass. Readers also get glimpses of a past war where other hybrid abominations were created by magic. In fact, it's these creatures that led people to abhor magic and allowed Emperor Guderian to come into power in the first place. Readers will get to see more of these hybrid creatures in book 3 of the series, which I'm in the process of writing. 

As for Octavia Butler, her novel Wild Seed was a big influence in creating my character Wulfram, the shape changing sorcerer who hunts our hero, the dreamwielder Makarria. Although, now that I think about it, shape changing isn't really a steampunk aspect, so I'll leave it at that!


Garrett Calcaterra is author of The Dreamwielder Chronicles and other works of dark speculative fiction. To learn more, visit www.garrettcalcaterra.com