Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Launch!

Tomorrow is the day the sequel to my thriller, Behind the Closet Door has it's first launch. It's called Blood Brothers and will be available from my publisher in e-book format.

Paperbacks and listing on Amazon and Nook will come later in the month but my publisher will have it tomorrow!

What is the sequel about you say? Here's a blurb:

Henry Peterson is trying to change his ways. After his escape from the nightmare he created in Virginia, He is turning over a new leaf. After committing one last crime as a favor to Rex Roland, he heads to Florida.
He meets a pretty girl named Shelby and they hit it off. He’s happy for the first time in ages and relieved that his tortured past is staying in the basement where it belongs. The sunny weather, Shelby’s friendship and her dog Misty, all seem to help Henry become a better person and keep his inner demons at bay. The voices have stopped as well as most of the nightmares.

Wyatt Courtland is an eleven year old boy on the run. He’s on a quest to find the brother that doesn’t even know he exists. Wyatt has always carried the burden of rumors and speculation that his Dad is somehow tied up with Tom Willin who later changed his name to Henry Peterson. Finally his Dad admits that Henry and Wyatt are brothers. Wyatt is an extraordinary boy whose lucid dreams sometimes predict the future. He uses these dreams to help him find the person he thinks will lead him to Henry, ex-cop Rex Roland.

Here's a review from Behind the Closet Door in case you haven't read the first book yet.

Behind the Closet Door

Henry wants to be with someone. That someone doesn't want to be with him. That's a problem. Under the backdrop of a never-ending rainfall, Henry takes matters into his own hands, imprisoning the love of his life, Michelle, inside a closet and spending every second afterwards, contemplating what to do next.

When I first read the premise, I wasn't sure how the author was going to get an entire story out of this and keep me interested for the duration. After reading the story however, I can say that I was blown away. The author really allowed her imagination to run wild and as a result, we not only descend into Henry's mania with him, we actually become Henry. We see what he sees. We hear what he hears. We suspect what he suspects. That connection allowed me to share Henry's fears and apprehension. It was uncomfortable: knowing there was something, eating away, both pushing us away from the closet door and pulling us towards it. The author did a great job of using time as a character. You could feel the clock ticking with each scene, barreling toward a conclusion you were never really sure you were ready for.

The descriptions in this book were alive and written with smartly chosen language. I felt that it was important for this type of story to have stunning details, and I wasn't disappointed. When the author takes us inside Henry's mind, it's a wild, chilling journey. The dark places she took us to, are rarely touched on without being overly gratuitous. Ms. Rood is a writer that knows when to push, when to tease and when to yell "cut!"

The book was also written from the POV of a small town deputy named Rex. To be honest, I could have used a bit more of Rex. I liked his character and either by sheer volume of words or by stylistic choice, Henry's narrative overshadowed Rex's so much that it sort of made it hard for me to get back into Rex's storyline and left me with a feeling of overall imbalance. I think there was more for Rex to do and tell.

As the story thunders toward the climax, you get the sense that nothing is what it seems and that the tension is about to boil over. The author leads us right up to several possibilities and keeps us guessing as to exactly how Henry's ordeal is going to play out. There was nothing predictable about this story. All at once, it was intriguing, inviting and uncomfortable. And if you love good dialogue, the exchanges between Henry and his captive, Michelle from the other side of the door, will be appreciated.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to any fan of the genre. Author Shari Rood is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. (Larey Batz, author, reviewer)

So grab a copy tomorrow and enjoy it! I'm busy working on the third sequel.

Cheers from South Africa.

Friday, May 30, 2014

African Adventures volume 2. Shell collecting and Trash collecting

We have been getting up early to walk on the beach while the tide is out. There are amazing things to be seen in the rock tidal pools that line the beach at that time of day.

The water is crystal clear and I’ve seen many varieties of fish swimming in the pools. My favorite place to watch fish is behind a giant rock formation that I call the natural aquarium. There are at least a dozen species of fish that congregate in the shade behind the giant rock. I’ve seen striped fish, spotted ones, yellow and black ones. I’m too lazy to research what they are but they are beautiful.

When we first started walking I noticed a fair amount of what I call dangerous trash. Broken bottles and fish hooks and fishing line kept popping up as I searched for shells. There is a crew that comes to the beach daily to pick up trash but they often miss stuff that is out in the surf.

The first day we arrived here Rog started picking up the rusty hooks and carrying them up to the trash cans that line the sidewalk. I didn’t really want to do that. Maybe I’m not naturally civic minded but I didn’t want the hassle of having to pick up other peoples trash.

After a couple of days I had a realization. I decided that if I was going to collect beautiful shells from the beach, the least I could do is remove a little trash. I know most of you are aware of how polluted the ocean is becoming so I won’t get into that. I’ll just say that it feels good to my little part even if it’s only a small thing.

Yesterday I was cowrie hunting and I saw a dip in the water where there were thousands of bits of shells and debris. I saw a cowrie at the bottom and practically dived in fully clothed to get it. It was such a rush as I grabbed it and fished it out of the sea.

Rog and I started darting in, grabbing handfuls of shells and carrying them out of the surf so we could look through them. We managed to find eleven cowries, all different from each other.

In our searching, we also found bits of plastic, sharp glass, rusty nails and the like and I started a second bag for trash. Now it’s become something that I do automatically.

This morning we found a beautiful little statue of the Hindu god, Ganesha. (He is the remover of obstacles and the patron of arts and sciences) He is now sitting in our apartment along with our cowries and other shells. Rog is now collecting lead fishing sinkers as well. They come in all different shapes and sizes and are surprisingly decorative.

Rog and I are definitely becoming beach combers. You never know what is going to wash up on shore. It’s a great adventure and I’m glad I’m here to be a part of it.

Cheers from South Africa

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

African Adventures Volume 1. The Goddess of Cowries

Living on the Indian Ocean is a sublime experience and I feel fortunate to be able to experience it. Roger’s family, his Mom in particular, has always collected shells.

The noble cowrie has been gathered for its beauty and also used as currency since, well long before I walked this stretch of beach in Southern Africa. To quote Wikipedia directly:

‘The shell most widely used worldwide as currency was the shell of Cypraea moneta, the money cowry. This species is most abundant in the Indian Ocean, and was collected in the Maldive Islands, in Sri Lanka, along the Malabar coast, in Borneo and on other East Indian islands, and in various parts of the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. Cowry shell money was important at one time or another in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia.’

Since we have been living in our little apartment on the sea, we have also been looking for cowrie shells to decorate our place. Roger’s mother always has a way with them. Finding them easily when I look for hours and come back empty handed. Rog says she once told him that you have to call the cowries.

I liked the idea of that, calling them as if they were children that needed to come home for lunch. I did a little more research and according to Wikipedia (I’m lazy) many African countries used the cowrie as money. Another quote:

‘In the countries on the coast, the shells were fastened together in strings of 40 or 100 each, so that fifty or twenty strings represented a dollar but in the interior they were laboriously counted one by one, or, if the trader were expert, five by five. The shells were used in the more remote parts of Africa until the early 20th century, but then gave way to modern currencies.’

The first day we had good weather I decided to go hunting. I thought that it was a quaint notion. The idea of asking and receiving. I tried it and I was rewarded with an exquisite little pink cowrie with spotty sides that gleamed like a gem stone among the rocks of a tidal pool.

I excitedly ran over to Rog to show him. It’s amazing how much I become like a little kid when I’m at the ocean. The idea of finding little treasures from the sea has me almost giddy with excitement.

As the morning wore on, we swam and came back for breakfast and later went back down to the beach because when you get those wonderful hot windless days, you have to make the most of them.

After having a swim, I grabbed my little plastic bag and started shell hunting. I did an invocation. I asked that any cowrie (or cowry, it seems that both spellings are okay) that would like to be a part of my collection to please make itself known.
I was wandering close to a tidal pool when I saw the most amazing one. Small and spotted, I picked it up with great excitement. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something pink, like a rubber band disappear back into the shell.
I called Rog over who was amazed with the shell and I said, “I think something is living in here.”

“I doubt it,” Rog said and turned it over.

“Really, I think it’s still alive.”

We set it down in a tidal pool to watch and it started to move. He stuck out two tiny little feelers and made his way along the sandy depth of the small pool.

“Told you it’s alive,” I said. “But that means we can’t keep it.” He nodded in agreement. You can’t collect a shell if the inhabitant is still living there. It’s kind of like killing someone to get their apartment.

Anyway, we watched as the little guy made his way to a rock and promptly disappeared under it. I shrugged, happy to see him even if I couldn’t collect him.

Later I was looking for flat black stones to decorate the top of a pot which contains a palm tree my mother-in-law gave us. As I filled my bag I saw what appeared to be a decent sized stone and plucked it up. I couldn’t believe it when I realized it was a cowrie, a large one, bigger than a walnut. I was so excited that I raced down the beach to show Rog. He couldn’t believe it either. It was brown with a large purple spot on the top. He said he’d never seen one that size in all the years he’d combed the beach as a child. I was literally shaking with excitement. I now had the cowrie bug and bad.

I took it into the apartment and rubbed a bit of olive oil on it to make it shine and I stood back and admired it. I think I must have felt what others may have felt through the millennia when finding such a gem washed up, waiting on the beach.
We went back for another swim and soaked in the sun and water which is chilly but crystal clear. On the way back home I was humming and smiling, the influence of the beach is strong on me. I happily walked along the flat sand feeling very good about my day.

Rog and I were almost to the stairs when I saw a very large brownish stone the size of my fist, I almost tripped over it. I suddenly realized it wasn’t a stone but another cowrie, the mother of all cowries. We looked at each other in disbelief and I grabbed it up feeling the hefty weight of it in my palm. I’ve seen ones like this but only at shell shops.

I rubbed some oil on it and placed it with the others and texted my sister-in-law to see if she’d ever seen a cowrie that size. So far, no one I’ve asked has found one that large. Is it because I called the cowries? Is it sheer luck? Or maybe you really do get what you ask for.

Whatever it is, I’m hooked. I found a little book called Nautical shells of the Southern African Coast and I looked up my shell which is appropriately named the giant cowry.

I took one last look at Wikipedia (I told you, I really am lazy) and they went on to describe the sheer volume of shells that were needed to make up a large sum of money. I decided to check out a couple more pages and found one from the British Museum and they explained it like this:

40 shells equal a string. 40 = 1 string
2000 = 1 head = 50 strings
20,000 = 1 bag = 10 heads
(Cowrie counting in Nigeria)

After living here a couple of weeks we’ve now found eighteen cowries in total. I guess I’m not going to get rich anytime soon. Holy cow…rie that’s a lot of shells you’d have to find to get a gold coin or whatever they traded for in those days. Were there more shells back then or maybe just more time to look for them? I don’t know but for me, an hour of searching usually yields one or two at most.

They are delicate and small, none like the giant one that amazed us but I know they’re out there. I’ll keep calling the cowries and see what happens. Then I’ll report back to you.

Now it has become like a game to see who can find the most on any given day. Today I found four to Roger’s pitiful one. I took great delight in calling myself the goddess of cowries. Yes, I’m silly like that, don’t judge me… one day I’ll be the envy of all my friends with my wealth of coweries. Maybe I’ll start a museum or a shell shop or maybe and this is a strong maybe, I’ll just enjoy looking at them and collecting them.

Cheers from South Africa