Nov 182014
 

 

Linda Appleman Shapiro

About the Author: Behavioral psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor/ Oral Historian/ Mental Health Advocate and author, Linda Appleman Shapiro earned her B.A. in literature from Bennington College, a Master’s degree in Human Development/Counseling from the Bank Street College of Education, and a Master Certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming from the New York Institute of N.L.P. She has further certifications in Ericksonian Hypnosis and Substance Abuse/Addictions Counseling.

Linda Appleman Shapiro is a contributing author in the casebook, “Leaves Before the Wind: Leading Applications of N.L.P.”

In private practice for more than thirty years, Shapiro also served as a senior staff member at an out-patient facility for addicts and their families. As an oral historian, she has documented the lives of many of New York’s elderly.

Her first memoir, Four Rooms, Upstairs, was self-published in 2007 and named Finalist in the Indie Next Generation Book Awards in 2008. Her blog of three years, “A Psychotherapist’s Journey,”  named Shapiro Top Blogger in the field of mental health by WELLsphere.

Married to actor and audiobook narrator George Guidall, Linda Appleman Shapiro and her husband live in Westchester County, New York. They have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.
Connect with Ms. Shapiro at these sites:

WEBSITE       

Guest Post

Dear Cheryl,

Many thanks for hosting this blog.
I hope my responses to your topic will whet the appetites of your readers.
WIth gratitude and warm regards,
Linda

The Importance of not stereotyping anyone who suffers from mental illness ~

 In stereotyping anyone or any group of people, we are guilty of expressing generalizations that are seldom, if ever, true of any one person being targeted.

I suppose in today’s parlance, I would liken stereotyping to a kind of bullying based on prejudice fed by misinformation.

 Stigma and discrimination (major examples of stereotyping) have been known to harm all who suffer from one mental disorder or another, and since MENTAL ILLNESS is an umbrella for so many disorders – most of which are misunderstood or lumped together — false impressions and mis-education are given all too often to the general public.  

 Having lived with a mother who suffered from major depressive disorder and writing about her in my memoir, SHE’S NOT HERSELF, I have a very personal investment in helping to educate and advocate for mental health. I am ever so grateful to organizations such as N.A.M.I. that are out front and in the news whenever the media misrepresents (in photo or as a character in a TV series)  perpetrators accused of a crime as “probably” being mentally ill. A perfect example of stereotyping a misconception. The truth is that the majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous. In all recent major studies, the majority of offenders did not display patterns of crimes related to mental illness symptoms.

 So, while it is true that mental illness has been taken out of the closet to the degree that one celebrity or another is constantly in the news for having committed suicide, for being misdiagnosed or given the wrong medication, when those same rich or famous who survive are then interviewed on TV, they are sensationalizing a particular ‘woe is me” story that further stigmatizes and misinforms the public who, in turn, generalize, stigmatize, and stereotype all patients. Whether some suffer from a genetic inheritance over which they feel they have little control or others suffer from being in intolerably abusive households, until or unless they receive treatment they will remain victims. Yet, when they are violent, it is usually towards themselves, not others. Their pain is too great and others are not there to recognize their symptoms or help to get them the medical assistance they need and deserve.

 My mother, as my most favorite example, was a physically beautiful woman. If you had seen her on the street, you most certainly would have noticed her.  On the other hand, when I was a child in the 1940s and 50s and she was experiencing any one of her horrifying “break-downs” she was hidden from view at such times. Our blinds were drawn, she was given shock treatments and/or hospitalized until she was well enough to return home.  Yet, she was the same mother who had enormous compassion and taught me all that I know about unconditional love, kindness and how to be my best person. Does that sound like a mother you’d like to meet? I certainly hope so. Yet, in the days before modern medicine (psychiatry in particular) advanced to where it is today, not one of us in our family talked about her illness and, as a result, she remained, for the most part, isolated, in fear of what others would think of her and, in turn, us, her children. And we, her family, suffered in silence, with no explanations for all that we witnessed and no help to deal with our personal demons.

 Although much has changed since those years when I was growing up, society still  has along way to go with regard to allocating money for funding research regarding how best to treat patients, knowing when medication is necessary and which medication is best for a particular person with a particular disorder. We also need to make psychotherapy (talk therapy) affordable and available to all who suffer (the patients as well as their family members who are affected by their family member’s  disability).

 To answer your specific question, I will not discuss the various/terribly painful conditions such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and other disorders that fall under that large umbrella we refer to as mental illness. I will keep my focus on major depression, since I experienced it first-hand while living with my mother.

 The great majority of people world-wide experience states of depression at one time or another. However, for anyone who has experienced more than relatively brief reactive depressive states from the death of a loved one, or after the effects of a divorce, or a major relocation – those who suffer from on-going or recurrent states of depression such as PTSD – experienced by our veterans who return from defending our country and are left feeling of hopeless, unable to sleep or sleeping too much, unable to eat or unable to stop themselves from eating or having recurring nightmares over which they believe they have no control . . . can anyone say that ridiculing such people and/or stereotyping them can ever be helpful? 

 As today’s statistic is that one in four people suffer from mental illness, if we – as a society –  remain victims of our own ignorance, we will continue to be a part of the problem and not a part of the solution in further developing ways for healing.

 When we objectify and thereby stereotype any group of people suffering from any illness, we ultimately diminish ourselves and to the degree that we would all prefer to live in a healthier, saner world, we must remember that stereotyping only prevents us from moving forward and creating such a world.                                                                                                                                                        

ABOUT THE BOOK

She’s Not Herself: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness is a journey to make sense of the effects of multi-generational traumas. Linda Appleman Shapiro is ultimately able to forgive (without forgetting) those who left her to fend for herself–and to provide readers with the wisdom of a seasoned psychotherapist who has examined human vulnerability in its many disguises and has moved through it all with dignity and hope. The result is a memoir of love, loss, loyalty, and healing.

On the surface, her childhood seemed normal–even idyllic. Linda Appleman Shapiro grew up in the iconic immigrant community of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with her parents and a gifted older brother. But she spent her days at home alone with a mother who suffered major bouts of depression. At such times, young Linda Appleman Shapiro was told, “Your mother…she’s not herself today.” Those words did little to help Linda understand what she was witnessing. Instead, she experienced the anxiety and hyper-vigilance that often take root when secrecy and shame surround a family member who is ill.

BOOK DETAILS:

Paperback: 249Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dream of Things
Publication Date:  September 2, 2014
ASIN: B00N9PY1CQ

PURCHASE LINKS:

DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Nov 172014
 

Memoir Revolution invitation

Jerry Waxler

JERRY WAXLER

Jerry Waxler teaches memoir writing at Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA, online, and around the country. His Memory Writers Network blog offers hundreds of essays, reviews, and interviews about reading and writing memoirs. He is on the board of the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference and National Association of Memoir Writers and holds a BA in Physics and an MS in Counseling Psychology.
Connect with Jerry at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER

Guest Post

Around the age of fifty-five, I began to look for a new creative challenge, and decided that the most interesting thing I could possibly do would be to write the story of my life. This turned out to be an ambitious goal, because I didn’t know how to write stories and wasn’t even sure if an analytically-minded adult like me could ever learn. But if I didn’t try, I would never find out.

I started taking classes and practicing, and at each step, I learned some small idea or new way of looking at things. Then I used that idea to help me evolve to the next step.  One of the most important of these ideas was that to write stories, be on the lookout for strong scenes.

A strong scene is like a grain of sand in the soft tissue of the psyche. Some memories go so deep into your psyche, they are powerful enough to fuel a whole book. In memoir classes, these life-changing moments often seem to explode from memory onto the page, as if they were too strong to be kept hidden forever. For example, at one of the first memoir classes I attended, I wrote about the time in 1967 when a peaceful war protest escalated into a riot. Decades later, when I thought of writing about my life, that scene was one of the memories that forced me to keep going, trying to turn those years into a good story.

Short stories tend to be more lighthearted than book length stories. Typically the shorter form romps among the normal stuff that happens every day and drives us crazy. Even though short stories are lighter, they still need enough focused intensity to keep a reader’s interest. To find that intensity, look for scenes in your life that feel like grains of sand. . . Moments you keep thinking about. . . Moments you need to wrap in the smooth container of a story.

For example, the scene that motivated the title of this article occurred twelve years ago. My wife and I recently moved across town and our new next door neighbors seem a bit standoffish. One spring day, I look out the window and see my wife talking to the neighbor. I think “Oh, how nice. They’re starting to break the ice.”

A few minutes later she runs in, practically crying. “Oh my God. I feel so humiliated. He was really upset about the length of our grass. You’ve got to get out there and mow right now.”

“You’re kidding right?” But I detect no tone of irony in her voice. I immediately begin building my case.

“I like the lawn long. It feels more natural. I don’t want to live on a golf course.”

She stares at me.

“The bunnies love it,” I continue. Mentioning bunnies always makes us both smile, but this time nothing. I keep pressing. “The groundhog looks so cute when he scampers through it.”

“None of that matters. They are really upset.”

“Okay,” I say reluctantly, hating to be bullied by neighbors. But now it isn’t just the neighbors. My wife is now in on it.

That’s the scene, but how could I turn it into a story? To take it further, I need more scenes. The fact that it continues to nag at me provides a thousand scenes. For the next twelve years, every time I decide if it’s time to mow, and every time I adjust the cutting depth, I have an inner debate – should I leave it a longer for the sake of the bunnies, or shorter for the sake of the neighbors?

Another scene involves me hearing evidence to backup my belief that longer grass is better. The day I heard the organic gardener on public radio saying that a longer lawn is healthier for the grass, I feel vindicated. I eagerly tell my wife the good news, only to find out she doesn’t really care.

So now I have a few scenes. How to tie them together? A good story needs to have a point. Where is this story going? In a fiction story, the author would invent some outrageous wrap up, creating a scene that heightens the humor, irony, or shock. It could involve vigilantes. Or my neighbor and I could discover we are distantly related and end up best friends. However, in a nonfiction piece, our creativity must work within the actual facts.

If I had been swayed toward the neat, lawn ethic of my neighbors, I could end the story as a converted lawn guy, and call the story “From Lawn Slob to Lawn Snob.” However, I stuck to my position. When I walk outside to the dividing line between our properties, his side, as short and bright green and mine variegated and wild looking. So what is the point of the story I would write? Since my neighbor and I both like to rescue feral cats. I could show how our harmony in one area has supplanted our tension in another. I could include a photo of us standing together holding a rescued cat, with the dividing lawn of the two lawns behind us, and call the article “Agree to Disagree.

But this isn’t an article about lawns. It’s an article about learning to tell stories, and to conclude such an article, I need to bring it back to the lessons I learned in my journey as a story writer. Find the strong scenes. Add supporting scenes. To develop a punchy conclusion, let your mind roam through the implications of the scenes. What did you learn? What were the ironies? When you find an ending that seems fun, work back through the scenes and try to glue them together in a way that seems to effortlessly lead to this clever conclusion. Voila! A storywriter is born.

Memoir Revolution

ABOUT THE BOOK

When I attended my first memoir writing class in the summer of 2004, I quickly realized I wasn’t alone. Many others were reviewing their memories in search of interesting stories. To learn more, I began reading memoirs, many by authors whose main claim to fame was that they had taken the time to turn their lives into stories.

Each book offered a rich, generous window into the author’s life. To organize my thoughts and share them, I posted essays on my blog. Again, I found I wasn’t alone. Through the Internet, I started corresponding with other memoir bloggers and then with memoir writers. We were forming online communities!

I began teaching workshops where I introduced students to techniques for finding their own narratives. Once they realized they could translate the chaos of memories into the order of stories, they expressed their appreciation. Their excitement added to mine.

In 2008, a book publisher heard me speak and said I ought to write about my big ideas. “What big ideas?” I asked. “You know. What you’ve been saying about the importance of memoirs for individuals and society.”

At first I resisted the suggestion. I have always been addicted to ideas, and thought that finally in my later life, I was ready to replace analytical thoughts with lyrical ones. However, I couldn’t resist the challenge. I thought that perhaps I could achieve both goals. I would try to turn my ideas about memoirs into a good story.

To illustrate my observations, I provided specific examples from my growing shelf of memoirs. I soon realized I was writing a book about books. This turned out to be one of the biggest ideas of all. In our literate society, we learn so much about life from the writings that have been recorded before us. As memoir writers ourselves we pass along what we have learned to the next generation.

After five years of reading, interviewing, writing and revising, my editors reassured me that the book was ready. In 2013, I published the Memoir Revolution: A Social Shift that Uses Your Story to Heal, Connect, and Inspire. In the book, I explore the current interest in memoirs: where it came from, why it is having such a profound influence on readers and writers, what I have learned from it and what you can too.

One reason I felt so compelled to write the book was because of my belief that writing a memoir can be a powerful aid to self-understanding. Turning life into story moves events from their haphazard storage in memory back into a sequence. We see the scenes more clearly, and by finding the narrative that links them, we understand ourselves in a new light.

Unlike more isolated forms of introspection such as therapy and journaling, this one reaches outward. From the time you share a few anecdotes with fellow writers, you begin to see yourself the way others have seen you, providing an almost magical amalgamation of self and society.

When I was growing up in the sixties, I looked for my truth in the stories popular among young intellectuals. Authors like Franz Kafka, Joseph Heller, Samuel Beckett, and Albert Camus convinced me that life is meaningless. Their powerful literary works helped me dismantle my trust in the world, and without trust, I sank.

Now in the 21st century, memoirs offer a more healing collection of stories that weave the good and the bad in life into a purposeful narrative. Instead of undermining readers with disturbing twists of irony and dystopia, modern memoir authors shape real life, with its cruelties, vagaries and victories into an orderly container as ancient as civilization itself.

The bestselling authors in the front lines of the Memoir Revolution taught us about this healing potential of life stories. By sharing the psychological influences that shaped them Tobias Wolff (This Boy’s Life), Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes) and Jeannette Walls (Glass Castle) gave the rest of us license to explore our own. Like published authors who have worked long and hard to discover the purpose and character arc of their protagonist, we aspiring memoir writers strive to find the same driving forces within our own lives.

Memoir-lovers in my experience intuitively recognize the potential that this genre has for healing us individually and collectively. My book, Memoir Revolution, backs up these intuitive views with research and examples about how the cultural passion for life stories serves us all.

BOOK DETAILS:

Paperback: 190 pages
Publisher: Neuralcoach Press; 1 edition (April 9, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0977189538
ISBN-13: 978-0977189533

PURCHASE LINKS:

DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Nov 112014
 

Match Play

by D Michael Poppe

on Tour Nov 10th – Dec 12th, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published by: Wido Publishing

Publication Date: November 11, 2014

Number of Pages: 310

ISBN: 9781937178611

Purchase Links:

 

Synopsis:

Golf, Madness, and Murder Collide

FBI Agent Lou Schein is assigned to investigate a grisly murder in Los Angeles, one echoing a similar case in Phoenix, Arizona. Agent Schein, a golf enthusiast, notices a strange coincidence: both crimes occur while the LPGA tournament is being held in the respective cities.

After the fourth murder, it’s clear they are after a serial killer obsessed with the golf game of match play. He is scoring the individual murders as one hole of the match on the current tournament course.

The killer leaves a series of taunts and clues which the FBI must decipher to learn where he will strike next. It is a game that becomes an obsession for both the killer and Agent Lou Schein, one determined to win the match and the other to stop him before he strikes again.

 

Read an excerpt:

He hears the dog barking. She is trying to quiet the dog as she approaches the door. David feels his hand tighten around the grip of the three iron. Her face expresses surprise and dismay when his Fourth Hole opens the door while pushing the little dog back with her right foot.

“Yes?” She says as she opens the door. He assumes the screen door that separates them is locked.

“David?” She gasps. “You’re soaking wet!”

“Hello, Dorothy. I didn’t expect it to be raining like this. I want to return your three iron, had you noticed it was missing? I must have dropped it into my bag by mistake the day we were practicing.” He holds it up so she can see it.

He watches her reach for the latch on the screen door.

“Actually, I haven’t noticed!” she says as she pushes the door open. “I haven’t been back to the course since the day we met.” She is motioning him into the foyer. “Aren’t you freezing? Get back Daisy!” Dorothy again pushes the dog with her foot.

David brushes water from his jacket and steps inside.

“How did you ever find me?” She asks, smiling. “Let me get you a towel. Just a second.” She scurries down the hall with Daisy at her heels.

“That isn’t necessary, Dorothy, I just wanted to return your club.”

Dorothy Duncan, hands him a towel and a moment later, the Fourth Hole is lying on the

 

Author Bio:

I was born in the Midwest on a dairy farm outside a small town. I had a love of art from a young age; drew and wrote stories about the farm. My upbringing was conservative and religious and it took a long time to overcome it. I served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war and was honorably discharged in 1971. I then attended the University of Calfornia and received a degree in Studio Art in 1976. I painted for many years and have paintings in many private collections primarily on the West Coast of the US. I retired and finally had some time for writing; Match Play is my first novel and it will be released later this year or in early 2014. I live in the South Western United States with my wife Ann of twelve years.

Catch Up:

Q&A with D. Michael Poppe

Do you draw from personal experiences and /or current events?

Both.  Match Play takes place during one season of the Lady’s Professional Golf Tour and the murders occur simultaneously with their scheduled tournaments. The locations are current and the crimes are a derivative of each event but the motivation is personal to the killer. I believe I have heard; ‘every great book is biographical in some way’ if that is not true then I am saying it. Certain parts of Match Play, particularly the dreams are variations of my own. Some of the occurrences are also very similar to my own experience. I believe I get very close to the serial killer/murderer’s psyche and experience and frankly some people, after reading the novel, have expressed to me that they are surprised I wasn’t a serial murderer.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

When I think of an idea for a short story or novel the general outline is in my head. However, when I start writing, developing the characters and the ideas, rewriting and editing, I reach a point in the process where I can only say; ‘the story takes over and actually writes itself’. At that point I essentially just write down the narrative, the words, but the story may go in a direction that I never expected. In general I believe it is better because of it.  I think if you overwork an idea you will smother it, and then there is no way to resuscitate it.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I generally write in the morning and start by proofreading what I have written the previous day. It refreshes my memory and establishes the continuity I need to continue. I think my process is pretty standard.

Is writing your full time job?

I am 66 years old and retired from a career as an artist/painter. I have always had an interest in writing and now do a lot of it. My health is not the best so I am limited to some degree as to what I can do and when. I am currently working on several literary projects and that uses most of my free time.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I tend to read rather eclectic subjects and authors. I like fiction by Burke, Connelly, Lehane, Grisham, Slaughter, and Patterson. I also like to read philosophy, psychology, cosmology, and theoretical physics when it is in layman’s terms; like Stephen Hawking.

What are you reading now?

TOUCHING A NERVE by Churchland and RELIGION WITHOUT GOD by Dworkin. I highly recommend them both.

 Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

Yes.  The working title is THE REPRISAL and it is another novel where an individual is committing serial murders. He is conflicted because he is a moral and ethical man, both rational and reasonable, but he must find a way to remedy his guilt and the knowledge that he is a killer.

Fun Questions:

Your novel will be a movie. Whom would you cast?

Michael Cera or an older Zac Efron; as the killer.

Manuscript/Notes: Hand written or keyboard?

I type my manuscript on a laptop, and print my notes by hand.

Favorite Leisure activity/hobby?

Drawing; and studying the piano when I am able.

Favorite Meal?

Shrimp Scampi and Linguine with White Clam Sauce, both prepared only by my wife Ann.

Tour Participants:


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Thank you to D Michael Poppe and Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for generously offering this book to me.

If you’d like to join in on an upcoming tour just stop by their sites and sign up today!

 

Nov 072014
 

Death in the Dolomites: A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery

by David Wagner

on Tour November 1-30, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Poisoned Pen Press

Publication Date: September 9 2014

Number of Pages: 236

ISBN: 9781464202704

Series: 2nd Rick Montoya Italian Mysteries; Stand Alone Novel

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

Rick Montoya is looking forward to a break from his translation business in Rome—a week of skiing in the Italian Alps with old college buddy Flavio. But Rick’s success helping the Italian police with a murder in Tuscany sends the Campiglio cops his way. An American banker working in Milano is missing. The man’s sister, an attractive and spoiled divorcée, has no idea where he could be, nor do the locals who saw him on his way to the slopes. With the discovery of a body, Rick and Inspector Albani widen their list of suspects. Picturesque resort Campiglio harbors old rivalries, citizens on the make, and a cutthroat political campaign. Why would these local issues, any of them, connect to the missing banker? The investigation doesn’t keep Rick and Flavio from enjoying perfect ski conditions in the Dolomites and glorious after-ski wines and bowls of fresh pasta. As for women—Rick has to wonder if the banker’s sister is just hitting him up for information. The action heats up, testing laid-back Rick whose uncle, a Roman cop, keeps urging him to make the police his career. As in Cold Tuscan Stone, Death in the Dolomites immerses us in the sights, smells and tastes of Italy, this time in a picture-perfect Alpine town with a surprising negative side.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

It had snowed most of the day, but a new and stronger system had begun blowing over the mountain from the north, diving into the valley. Snow was always welcome in a ski town, especially the clumped flakes that now cast ever-larger shadows on the ground under the streetlamps. The cement of the sidewalk and the parking lot, barely visible an hour before, was now covered. Bad news for Campiglio’s street crews but not for the skiers who had left Milan the previous afternoon to climb into the Dolomites, skis snapped to racks on the roofs of their cars.

They had been rewarded with an excellent day of skiing, and with this snow, tomorrow would be even better. If it kept up through the night, the base could last for weeks. The local merchants were likely standing outside their shops right now, letting the flakes fall on their grinning faces.

At this moment the man’s interest was not in tourists, but in the stained canvas duffel at his feet. He pulled his wool cap down over his ears and adjusted a small backpack before looking once more around the large lot. It was deserted save for a few cars of the remaining employees at the far side. His eyes moved to the bulky building and the thick cables that ran out of one side toward the mountain. On its top, the last weak rays of late afternoon sun, long gone from the valley below, outlined the station at the high end of the cable line.

It was time.

With a grunt he wrapped the strap of the duffel around his gloved hand and began to drag it toward the building. His burden slid easily through the accumulating snow and occasional patches of ice, like an injured skier on a ski-patrol sled. The last few meters would be inside on the loading platform, but the snow sticking to the bag would help it slide. This would be even easier than he’d planned. Halfway he stopped to catch his breath, pulling up his jacket sleeve to check his watch. Perfect,he thought. There would be one more run of the gondola before its cables stopped for the night, and he would be on it.

On the mountain the cleaning crew was finishing its duties. Given the number of skiers who had passed through the snack bar on their way to the piste during the day, the workload was heavy. The floor was now clean of slush and mud, and four black garbage bags, almost as tall as the women who handled them,had been loaded into the waiting gondola. It would be the same story the next night, especially with the snow now falling. One of the workers—a woman who had been doing the late afternoon shift for more years than she would admit—put down her mop, walked to the window, and peered out at the falling snow. She shook her head and returned to her job. A few moments later the crew stood in a silent clump near the door while the supervisor made a final check of the room. The woman closest to the door slid it open, letting in a light gust of wind and snow. The others, now in parkas and wool coats, instinctively pulled them around their necks in anticipation of the cold. The supervisor
finally nodded and the group began to file onto the platform to the waiting gondola, snow already covering its roof and the windows on one side. When they were all inside, the supervisor closed the latch on the door and took a silent head count before picking up the black phone hanging near the door.

“Guido, siamo pronti,” she said.

Below, the man in the control room hung up his phone while keeping his eyes on the last sentences of a story in Gazzetta dello Sport. Guido knew it was not going to be a good year for his team, and again wondered why last season’s star player had been sold. To make it worse, the bastard would now play for their biggest rival. He folded the paper in disgust and pulled the long wooden lever, never glancing at the platform below. The huge dynamo came slowly to life and the cable above the long window shuddered and began to move.

The man was crouched on the floor of the gondola, well below its ski-scratched windows, when it swung slowly and lurched upward. Neither he nor the sack were visible from above, even if Guido had taken his eyes off the newspaper and looked down from his seat in the control room. As the huge metal box was dragged from the dim light of the lower station into the darkness, the man inside it heard the snow slapping softly against the glass windows above his head. He slowly got to his feet and looked down at the base station, now fading quickly as the cable picked up speed. In a few minutes its lights would be hard to distinguish from those of the other buildings at the northern edge of Campiglio.

The route was a steep shot straight to the top of the mountain, suspended over a forest of tall pines. The only breaks in the thick covering of trees were the clearings around the pylons or a few spots where the stone core of the mountain had pushed itself through the dirt. The ski trails, in contrast, returned to Campiglio over a tamer terrain. They took their time to work through the softer hills of the mountain’s other side, carrying skiers to a choice of bases along the east side of town.

He walked to the other end of the gondola cabin and looked upward. In the swirling wind and snow he could not make out his gondola’s twin, but he knew it was rushing toward him and would be passing soon. He dragged the duffel toward the door and checked to see that the latch had not slipped closed. It had not. According to his calculations the best time would be after passing the second pylon, and just at that moment the cable carrying his gondola slipped over the first one. He flexed his knees as the floor bounced slowly while continuing its climb.Suddenly the other gondola appeared out of the storm and the man dropped to his knees to get out of sight. Through the howling wind he heard a laugh from one of the workers as the two gondolas passed each other. Seconds later the only sound was once more the hum of the cable and the increasing patter of the snow. He reached over and slowly slid the door open with his right hand. As the snow swirled inside he sat back on the floor, the sack between him and the opening.

When the next pylon passed he waited until the swinging stopped and firmly pushed the sack out the door with both feet.

As he got up to slide the door closed he heard the crack of a tree branch and then the soft thump as the sack hit the snow below. The sound meant that it had sunk in, and with the new snow it would be well covered. Once the door was closed he slipped the latch into place. Safety first.

A few minutes later the other gondola bumped slowly into its berth at the edge of the town, where it would stay until it took the morning crew up on the first run of the day. The workers pushed out, waving at Guido in the control room while they pulled the plastic garbage bags behind them. Guido nodded to the group leader but kept his eyes on the young body of one of the newer members of the crew. When they had all shuffled through the door below him, he switched off the motors and gathered his belongings—the newspaper and a thermos. He was always sure to straighten up so the morning shift would have no complaints. He turned out the lights and locked the door behind him. As he walked down the stairs to the streets he wondered what his wife would be serving for dinner. She had not made lasagna in a while, perhaps this was the night. After pulling on a wide-brimmed hat, Guido buttoned his leather coat and walked into the storm.

High above, the man stepped out of the gondola and slid the door shut. On the platform the footprints of the cleaning crew were already covered, as his own would be in a matter of minutes. He turned and looked down at the valley, its lights blending together through the prisms of the falling flakes.

After a moment of reflection he adjusted his backpack and walked on the deck that ran along the outside of the building. Its tables and chairs had been stacked and pushed against the windows under the overhanging eaves, but the protection was not enough. The morning work crew would need their shovels. Two steps led from the deck down to where the wide trail began, a relatively benign incline for the skiers to start their runs, but still often littered with fallen beginners. He could barely make out the trail, but it didn’t really matter, he could get down the mountain blindfolded.

He cleared away a patch of snow at the edge of the deck with his foot and put down his backpack before stepping off and walking around to the far side of building to a small storage shed. After bending over, he used his gloved hands to scrape away the snow under the shed’s door, revealing a small opening from which he pulled a pair of dark skis and poles. Even though the falling snow would do the job for him, he carefully brushed the snow back with his foot before hoisting the equipment over his shoulder and returning to where he had left the backpack. From it he took out a pair of ski boots whose dark plastic matched the skis. After the usual grunts he had the ski boots on his feet and the snow boots secured in the pack. He also had a pair of ski goggles over his cap. It took him only a few seconds to snap into the skis and strap the poles around his wrists. It was snowing even more heavily now. The clear yellow plastic brightened the view slightly as he pulled the goggles down over his eyes and squeezed the rubber grips of the poles. He straightened up, pulling back the sleeve of his parka to check his watch again in the little light that was left in the day. Yes, the ski patrol would already be at the bottom after their final run to catch any stragglers. He pushed off slowly and began to work his way left and right through the fresh powder, his boots always touching as he flexed his knees for each turn. The flakes swirled around his bare cheeks, but he did not feel the cold. He knew that by the time he reached the valley, his racks, as well as everything else on the mountain, would be shrouded in snow.

 

Author Bio:

David P. Wagner is the author of Cold Tuscan Stone, the first Rick Montoya Italian Mystery. While serving in the diplomatic service he spent nine years in Italy where he learned to love things Italian, many of which appear in his writing. He and his wife live in New Mexico.

Writing and Reading:
-Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I draw from personal experience in that I set the story in a place I’ve been in Italy and write mysteries around it. Current events? Strangely, after my first book was sent to press, I read a story in the NY Times about Italian authorities arresting traffickers of Etruscan burial urns, which was exactly the plot of the book. So you could say that current events draw on my fiction.

-Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I have to know the outcome before I start writing, so I outline the whole thing and work from there. That way I know what clues or red herrings to salt in along the way. Mystery writers who just start writing without knowing where it’s going must be geniuses, I can’t do it that way.

-Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
To say that I’m not a morning person would be a gross understatement. I write late afternoon and evening, taking a break to watch Jeopardy!. After an hour or so of writing I have to take a break. So I have a snack or do the NY Times crossword that comes on line here at 8:00 PM.

-Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
My full time job is retirement. So I play golf or enjoy myself (since those two are not always the same) when not writing.

-Who are some of your favorite authors?
I never miss the latest Andrea Camilleri book, I hope he stays healthy and doesn’t leave us like Michael Dibdin, the best writer of mysteries set in Italy. When in doubt I always go back to a P.D. James or Ruth Rendell. I also like caper books, like the Elvis Cole and Junior Bender series. Funny is good.

-What are you reading now?
The Cinderella Killer by Simon Brett. His books are funny murder mysteries with great dialogue. He always throws in some new British word or expression that I have to look up, and that’s good.

-Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
The third book in the series is taking Rick Montoya to the town of Bassano del Grappa, in the hills above Venice, a lovely little town. Lots of twists and turns, danger, and surprises. I’ve also brought back a character from the first book who did not appear in the second.

Fun questions:
-Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Rick Montoya, my multilingual protagonist with dual citizenship, would not be easy to cast. But there’s an Italian actor named Raoul Bova, who was the love interest in Under the Tuscan Sun, who could work. But a younger Raoul.

-Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
Outline, list of characters, and manuscript on the laptop, but I am constantly scribbling notes throughout the day when I think of something, and keep a pen and pad at bedside since I often get ideas when reading. And some of my best flashes on how to deal with the scene I’m working on come in the middle of a golf round. So I write it down on the score card.
-Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Like so many other unfortunates, I’ve got a love/hate relationship with golf. When it’s going well, it’s fantastic, but when it isn’t it stinks. Kind of like life.

-Favorite meal?
My wife is a wonderful cook, having taken various courses when we lived in Italy to add to an already innate skill in the kitchen, so it’s hard to pick one dish. But her flour gnocchi with creamy gorgonzola sauce is right up there.

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Nov 032014
 

BLOND CARGO by John Lansing
Published by Karen Hunter/Simon&Schuster
Publication Date: October 20, 2014
ISBN:13-9781476795515
Pages: 355
Review request via PICT/Pub
Edition: Kindle
My Rating: 5

Synopsis (borrowed from GR):
Jack Bertolino is back… in the sequel to John Lansing’s, Barnes & Noble bestseller, “The Devil’s Necktie.”
Jack’s son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there’d be blowback. In “Blond Cargo,” the mobster’s daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave. John Lansing taps into the real life world of cops, crime, drugs and murder to deliver another sizzling whodunit.

My Thoughts and Opinion:
When I first read the synopsis of this book, like you might just have done, the word sequel stood out to me. But since the story sounded like something I would enjoy, I hoped that it was a book that the author would enlighten the reader of info from the first book when needed and he did. I never felt that I was “lost”

Words that came to mind while reading BLOND CARGO: excitement, non-stop action, adrenaline pumping, page turning adventure, heart pounding pace, and sometimes even a bit of humor.

Jack Bertolino, former LAPD and now PI is “paying back a favor” for mobster Vincent Cardona, to find his missing daughter. But it’s not your average “missing person” case. Drugs, Sex trade, Mafia, Family, Children, Relationships, Exes, Contract hits, Action packed.

This was the first time I read anything by this author and I was hooked by the first chapter. By the third chapter, because of his amazing ability with the written word, my visual creation and the adrenaline that was pumping faster than my eyes could absorb, until the final page, Mr. Lansing was added to my “authors to read” list. I will definitely be picking up the first in this series, THE DEVIL’S NECKTIE and hopefully there is a 3rd.

Do I recommend this author and/or this book? If you like action? Then the answer is absolutely!!

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REVIEW DISCLAIMER
This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review.
No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM

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