Friday, November 7, 2014

Chapter Two: Enter the Frenchman

Love, sex, and the search for meaning fuel this riveting novel about a group of young men as they attempt to navigate their way through life and relationships.
The first book in the series, The Search For Intelligent Life on Earth, is a literary novel with the subtitle A Story of Love
The series is a fictional portrait of the spiritual journey. Note: Due to mature subjects, the series is intended for readers 18 and over. Please respect that this material is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any format for any reason without the publisher's permission. 

Chapter Two introduces a new character in a different part of the globe, Jacques. It is still spring of 1982. A short chapter, it provides enough to catch a glimpse into the voice of this character but leaves the reader to wonder what's going on with him. Jacques' situation is a world apart from Mark's. In the first chapter, the protagonist (Mark) was forced to say good-bye to his boyfriend, whose father is being transferred to another embassy. At the end of the chapter, Mark and Kyle discuss communistic viewpoints, and Kyle implores Mark to avoid joining a communist group he suspects of violence. He tries to encourage Mark to go to college in the US and tells him he will come back for him. Mark is dubious. 

Jacques, on the other hand, is working at his father's night club and suffering from a form of depression. He is a difficult character to gauge at this point, readers unsure if they like him. Here is a sneak peak:


Jacques sat alone at his dressing table and began the ritual he’d practiced every evening for the last three years. He brushed his long blond hair until it hurt his scalp. Still wearing his silk, cream-colored robe, he opened the door a smidge, a message that he was ready to be prepped and groomed, made up and dressed. Then he returned to his cushioned, floral, and somewhat stately chair, unlike the fold-up ones the other performers had. Being the boss’ son had certain advantages.
     The stagehand Aimee stuck her head in the door and waved. She’d been told not to bother him when he was getting ready for work, but sometimes she seemed unable to stop herself. He smiled ruefully and returned his eyes to his own visage in the mirror. Where were they? There was usually no time for contemplation once the door was ajar, and too much reflection could be a bad omen. Jacques didn’t have a whole lot to celebrate in his life, and his mind could too easily become wrapped in self-woe. He took a deep breath and started counting in his head as a distraction. Maybe he should have asked Aimee to keep him company.
     Finally, a tall, gaunt man with little hair entered. He was one of the fill ins. “Bon soir,” he said with a perfunctory smile. He apologized for keeping the star waiting. Jacques said it didn’t matter because he preferred not to appear ruffled in front of the help, both here and at home. What was his name? Not the usual makeup artist, not very friendly. There was always a cold edge to this man. He started to rub cream into Jacques’ arms and hands, then his face.
     “Did you see the costume for tonight?” the man asked.
     “No, not really.” Jacques wasn’t in the mood for small talk. He wanted to crawl into a ball and play dead.
     “Feeling blue?” the man asked as he slapped foundation on.
     “Where is everyone?”
     “Everyone who?”
     Jacques sighed out of frustration. “Westhoff, Yves, my hairstylist, my assistant, the people who are usually running in and out of my room with last minute problems.”
     The man shrugged as if he didn’t care. “The choreographer is prepping the dancers because one was injured. He has to rework the routines. Yves is sick. The stagehands are…sit still, look what’s happened now.” He huffed as he took a cloth and rubbed at Jacques’ face.
     Jacques grimaced and pulled away. “You’ll make my face red. Where is my father?”
    “He is not coming this evening. You don’t know?”
     Jacques felt too humiliated to answer, but it explained why the staff was running late. For a second, he deluded himself about walking out. What was it that American tourist said to him last week? If you are not happy, just do something else. Just do something else! Americans! They are so na├»ve. He didn’t know anything else and was still underage. His father had too much pull in this part of France. What would he do for money? Work in a boutique and live in a flat in the dangerous outskirts of town?
     He glared at his reflection again. Maybe he could sell his hair and make a getaway with the profits. Though, maybe it would only afford him a croissant and a coffee. He had no idea. As he was considering his escape strategy, the inept theater manager arrived.
     “Come on, come on! You are on soon, and you are still not dressed.”
     “You are the one who was late, Westhoff,” Jacques said with a bitter note.
     “Not in the best mood, Jacqui?”
     “Not in any mood. I’m just not the one who was late.”
     “Well, I was arranging a seat for your father’s guest. He seemed very nice, by the way.”
     Jacques’ stomach fell when he caught the makeup artist exchange a glance with the manager. How much did they know?



As you read the excerpt or chapter, I'd love to hear your thoughts about the following:

1) What do you think Jacques is running from? How does one overcome being trapped in exploitative or abusive circumstances (especially one underage)?

2) Do you like or dislike the character? What do you think your feelings about this character say about you as a person?

3) What do you think the connection between these characters (Mark and Jacques) will be?



Since the publishing of my novel, I've come to realize first hand that readers project an enormous amount of themselves into the stories they read. They project their histories and experiences, preferences and secret desires, fears and judgments. It creates a stew of effect when getting feedback.

In other words, sometimes I am learning more about them than I am about my novel.  But I enjoy this! Reading novels should be about self-growth and introspection. Besides, I've always been a student of the human mind.

The book is available in paperback online and electronically for Kindle (internationally on Amazon sites, as well). The complete first chapter is usually available to read on the Amazon link: click here

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chapter One: Saying Good-bye

Blog Intro: The first book in the series, The Search For Intelligent Life on Earth, is a literary novel with the subtitle A Story of Love
Love, sex, and the search for meaning fuel this riveting novel about a group of young men as they attempt to navigate their way through life and relationships.
The series is a fictional portrait of the spiritual journey. Note: Due to mature subjects, the series is intended for readers 18 and over. Please respect that this material is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any format for any reason without the publisher's permission. 

The book is available in paperback online and electronically for Kindle (internationally on Amazon sites, as well). The complete first chapter is usually available to read on the Amazon link: click here


Chapter One introduces the Buddhist concept of impermanence as we meet 19 y/o Mark, the main protagonist of this 100,000+ word novel. It is 1982, and Mark resides with his mother and stepfather in Kenya. He is about to lose his boyfriend in a country where homosexuality is taboo and assumes he will be saddled with isolation the rest of his life. As you read the excerpt and first chapter, consider the following:

1) How do you deal with imminent loss? 

2) How is Mark handling it? Is distraction a coping skill? 

3) Do you think Mark handles loss and helplessness maturely for a young man? How might it be different if he were older or lived somewhere else?

4) Do you ever contemplate the concept of impermanence (the idea that "all things must come to pass") in life? Which feelings arise when you realize that the only guarantee in life is that it will change?

5) How do you manage a strong difference of opinion with someone you love?


Here is the beginning of the story:


Mark forged ahead, wiping dirt-laden sweat from his brow with his soiled hand. He focused on the remaining coffee shrubs, saw them at once brown and dry, and became conscious of the fallacy inherent in the name “evergreen.” Mark liked to think he embraced the Buddhist concept of impermanence, but he wished it would leave his actual life well enough alone. Instead, everything was about to change. He took a deep breath and imagined the tangible sensation of moisture where there was only arid air.
Annoyed by the constant strands of his jet-black hair, he stopped to tighten the small rubber band that held them at the back of his head. It was to honor Sioux tradition that he tried to grow his hair long. Mark knew little about his mother’s people. He wouldn’t bother about it now except for his African stepfather impressing upon him the weight of tribe as he spoke of his own.
About to move along, he saw a small beetle turned upside down trying to right itself. It was just an insect, but Mark couldn’t help but take a moment to flip it over. As he did so, he remembered boys in grade school who tore the wings off of insects for amusement. He felt revolted, assuming any act of brutality toward life would naturally translate into bigger and more malicious acts, as if the condoning of cruelty even toward the smallest of things would somehow, insidiously, seep its way into the very essence of one’s self. He was glad to have finished high school, to be rid of these same classmates. But, when his mind drifted in that direction, a chill electrified his spine as the realization hit anew that Kyle was leaving.
Although the breeze offered no real sign of rain,
“Mark!” his stepfather called out from the house just beyond the field. The Kikuyu man was as great as a tree, but he no longer towered over Mark like he once did.
“Take a break,” Papap said. He didn’t seem as worried about the crop as Mark felt. In a sense, Papap never seemed as disturbed about anything–as if he had struck a deal with the universe and trusted in its reliability.
His stepfather came closer now and assessed him. “You never know when to quit. Even as a child, you were stubborn and had to do everything in your own way. See, in this manner, you remind me of your mother. Look at you. You’re a mess.” Papap shook his head and clucked his tongue. “Go rest now.”
Mark’s hand slipped to his bare chest, made darker by the equatorial sun. In his twelve years in Kenya, he had never felt Africa so parched. It left him feeling thirsty and overexposed. Still, he wasn’t ready to face the evening. “No, thanks,” he said.
“I wasn’t aware that I was asking a question,” Papap said, already heading back to the house. The absolute tone of the directive was clear, and Mark wouldn’t have argued. He had too much respect for Papap to challenge him, but it didn’t matter now because Kyle was pulling up in his jalopy.
The car made choking noises as it maneuvered its way to the house. When Kyle stepped out, Mark’s stomach churned, taken by the slender build, the bronzed skin, and the revelation of the other’s neck under his short locks. His arousal was heightened today by a resonant sadness.

“Can you stay the whole night?” Mark asked when they caught up. The sun had started to descend and allowed for an array of spectacular color on the horizon. The silhouette of Mount Suswa presented a foreboding darkness in the otherwise perfect blend of crimson and violet. Mark again felt for moisture in the air but found only the buzzing of gnats. The dry earth met him hard against his tired feet.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Story of Love

The first book in the series, The Search For Intelligent Life on Earth, is a literary novel with the subtitle A Story of Love

Love, sex, and the search for meaning fuel this riveting novel about a group of young men as they attempt to navigate their way through life and relationships.

The series is a fictional portrait of the spiritual journey. Note: Due to mature subjects, the series is intended for readers 18 and over. 


Mark liked to think he embraced the Buddhist concept of impermanence, but he wished it would leave his actual life well enough alone. Instead, everything was about to change.
While visiting his estranged father in Europe, nineteen-year-old Mark meets Jacques, a young Parisian socialite who performs as a drag queen. Conflicted by the undeniable attraction, Mark returns to his home country of Kenya—only to learn from Jacques that their mutual friend, John, has attempted suicide. Accompanying Jacques to England, Mark soon finds himself falling in love.
As John struggles with his manic-depression, Mark and Jacques begin an explosive affair that threatens to engulf them both.
When Mark’s violent temper erupts, he flees to his Native American grandmother in the Plains, where he works with a shaman and discovers things about himself he never knew were possible.
Eventually Mark and Jacques meet up again in London. While their passion is instantly rekindled, Jacques now hesitates to trust his heart. Can people really change?
If you enjoy thought-provoking literature that is at once character-driven, original and exciting, check out the 5-star reviews on Amazon: 


Some of you might have read my blog on The Search for Love, Sex, and Self in Relationships, so you're familiar with some of the themes my novel illustrates, 
namely:
1) The importance of mindful living,
2) The Tao (Way) is meant to be whole, not just masculine or feminine, and without integration of both forces within and without, we are destructive and incomplete,
3) Relationships can be challenging but fulfilling if we're willing to expand our concept of self,
4) Who are we? What constitutes our identity and our reality? Is it our beliefs? Our genes? Our relationships? Our memories? Our souls? What is our purpose here?
5) Healing and becoming whole could be on everybody's bucket list,
6) Sex can be a spiritual experience, perhaps it was meant to be, and
7) Things aren't always what they seem. 


My quest is to help bring as many people as possible to a place of healing - although we each must do our own work, a nudge here or there doesn't hurt. One of the ways we learn is through metaphor or storytelling. Literature can move us; it can help us imagine ourselves anew.  

My plan is to have a discussion blog - chapter by chapter - since my goal in writing the series is to help awaken as many people as possible - as well as to share these deeply rich, complex characters - who will haunt me, in any event, if I try to ignore them.