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Archive for May, 2008

Norwegian waters turn to blood with the start of the annual whaling season. This year alone, Norway, Iceland and Japan plan to kill over 2,500 whales with cruel, primitive methods that go back to over a century.

Why is this ugly tradition still alive when 1 in 4 Norwegians under 30 are against it, and when so many people are aware of the high intelligence of these mammals and their ability to experience pain and suffering?

In this e-mail interview, Sharanya Prasad, marine mammal program officer, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) USA, talks about the origins of whaling, the methods the whalers use to kill the whales, what people can do to stop it, and the importance of educating the public, among other things.

First of all, for those readers who aren’t familiar with Norway’s whaling season, could you give us a bit of background on how this practice began?

I would like to begin by thanking you for giving me this opportunity to discuss whaling and the associated welfare issues with you.

Whaling refers to the hunting of whales for their meat and other products. Whaling dates back to the 9th century when the first large-scale whaling took place. By the end of the 19th century many countries had invested in this industry and developed major whaling industries. Today Japan, Iceland and Norway collectively kill over 2,500 whales annually, using methods that have not changed in over a century.

Why kill whales? What are they used for?

The development of modern whaling techniques was spurred in the 19th century by the increase in demand for whale oil, whale bone and baleen. Over time some species were hunted to the brink of extinction and it became apparent that sustainable whaling could not continue on such a large scale. Thus in 1986 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) adopted a worldwide ban on commercial whaling.

Whale oil has long been replaced by fossil fuels, and whalebone corsets are not considered fashionable anymore, thus modern whaling primarily has commercial value as a food source (whale meat). Countries that continue to whale have repeatedly announced their long-term intention of continuing whaling and resuming commercial trade in whale meat and products.

Despite the 1986 worldwide ban on commercial whaling, loopholes in the treaty still allow Japan, Iceland, and Norway to hunt whales. The three types of whaling conducted today are commercial whaling, aboriginal subsistence whaling, and so-called research whaling. Iceland and Norway both hunt commercially under an objection to the ban, allowing them to award themselves quotas outside the of the IWC’s recommendations. Japan hunts under the guise of conducting scientific research. The US, Greenland, Russia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines conduct aboriginal subsistence whaling. Whaling also occurs outside the IWC’s control by countries not party to the treaty such as Canada and Indonesia.

How are whales hunted down and killed?

The methods employed to kill whales have not changed in over a century and were originally developed by Norwegian whalers in the late 1800s. The weapon used is the penthrite grenade harpoon which is fired from a canon mounted on the bow of a ship. The harpoon is intended to penetrate into the whale before detonation and kill the animal through injury to the brain and spinal cord. The grenade creates a large, painful wound, which triples in size when the harpoon’s barbs hook into the whale’s body.

Despite the power of the explosive harpoon, a second penthrite harpoon or a rifle is often required as a secondary killing method used on whales who do not die instantaneously. The common use of secondary killing methods reflects the inefficiency of the primary killing methods.

Given the constantly moving environment in which whales live and are hunted and the sheer size and body mass of whales, it is impossible to guarantee instantaneous death for a whale being hunted at sea. If the weather, sea conditions or the motion of the vessel do not allow for a properly aimed shot, then there is a significant risk of a poorly placed harpoon or bullet causing an extended time to death and associated suffering.

How long does a whale take to die?

It has long been established that whales are intelligent, sentient individuals who are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. Data from the Norwegian Government itself reveals that 1 in 5 whales suffer long and painful deaths, some taking an hour or more to die after being hit with explosive harpoons. During this time, whales can suffer terribly. Whales’ bodies’ are adapted for diving and going without oxygen intake for long periods in water. This may mean that whales are able to experience pain over a period significantly longer than suggested by the current IWC criteria for determining death in whales.

What is WSPA’s position on whaling?

WSPA believes that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea. This is due to the high number of uncontrollable factors (such as visibility, sea conditions, movement of the boat, distance, speed and gunner accuracy) which make a single guaranteed lethal shot almost impossible. A whale can almost never be killed in this way without it first enduring prolonged suffering. On these grounds alone, WSPA believes all whaling should be stopped.

WSPA also believes that responsible and sustainable whale watching which is now a multi-billion dollar segment of the eco-travel industry should be pursued as an economically viable and animal-friendly alternative to killing whales.

Are dolphins killed as well?

In addition to the large whales, tens of thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as small cetaceans, are killed annually in hunting activities not regulated by the IWC. Some of the species hunted include pilot whales, pygmy killer whales and bottlenose, stripped and spinner dolphins. Some examples of these annual hunts include the dolphin drive hunts in Japan and the pilot whale hunts in the Faroe Islands. Furthermore, some whaling is conducted in Grenada, Dominica and St. Lucia.

I understand the plan is to kill 1,052 whales in 2008. That’s a pretty specific number. What is the reason and who comes up with this number?

Since Norway is not bound by the whaling ban, their government’s fisheries department has come up with a quota of 1052 whales in 2008. I cannot speak to how they came up with this particular number.

We all know that dolphins and whales are mammals just like us, and that this quality sets them apart from their other sea companions. In terms of their intelligence and family life, would it be fair to say that harpooning a whale with explosives is like harpooning a domestic dog in the same way ?

Cetaceans are extremely intelligent, social and sentient wild animals who are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. One of the analogies used to describe the harpooning of a whale is attributed to Dr. Harry D. Lillie (1947) who spent a season as ship’s physician aboard an Antarctic whaling ship. Dr Lillie said “If we can imagine a horse having two or three explosive spears stuck into its stomach and being made to pull a butcher’s truck through the streets of London while it pours blood in the gutter, we shall have an idea of the present method of killing. The gunners themselves admit that if whales could scream the industry would stop, for nobody would be able to stand it.”

Why does Norway’s hunt continue despite the fact that Norway is a member of the International Whaling Commission and that 1 out of 4 Norwegians under 30 do not support the whaling in their country?

As I mentioned earlier, despite the 1986 worldwide ban on commercial whaling, loopholes in the treaty still allow Japan, Iceland, and Norway to hunt whales. Norway hunts commercially under an objection to the ban, which allows them to award themselves quotas outside the of the IWC’s recommendations. As for why they continue to hunt despite the lack of support among young Norwegians, this would be a wonderful question for a representative of the Norwegian government and if you or any of your readers gets an answer from them please let WSPA know.

What can Norwegians who are against this practice do to help stop it?

Norwegians can participate in petitions and events organized by WSPA’s member society the Norwegian Society for the Protection of Animals (Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge). To find out how you can support WSPA’s work around the world please visit http://www.wspa-usa.org/pages/8_ways_to_help.cfm.
What can non-Norwegian people do to help?

WSPA urges all readers to tell their government that it is time to refocus on whales. You can help WSPA remind the world that the argument should not be about kill quotas, but protecting whales from suffering by signing the petition at www.endwhaling.org.

Why do you think there still is so much indifference in the world when it comes to animal suffering?

In my opinion, awareness of animal welfare issues, sensitivity to the needs of animals, and the understanding that they are capable of and do experience pain and suffering determine the sensitivity of people to animal suffering. Educating people about animal welfare is crucial to animals, people and the environment. WSPA understands that real change in animal welfare does not come unless you can change hearts and minds of people, and therefore education is a central part of all our programs.

What can parents and schools do in order to instill human compassion toward animals to our children?

WSPA promotes humane education programs in schools to encourage respect for animals and responsible stewardship. We provide training on the humane treatment and care of animals and strive to put in place the laws and enforcement structures to provide legal protection for animals. WSPA’s aim is to develop compassion, a sense of justice and to teach others to respect animals and we have plenty of resources for educators to help them achieve this goal. If any of your readers are interested in learning how they can help instill these values in their communities they should contact us at wspa@wspausa.org. You can also learn more about our programs by visiting our website at www.wspa-usa.org.

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Dan Ronco's latest novel is a suspenseful techno-thriller filled with adventure, romance and greed. A former successful engineer and businessman, he used his knowledge and experience to craft Unholy Domain, a story that delves into controversial, provocative themes like the ethics of genetic engineering, the question of what limit to put on technology, and the reconciling of religion and science. The novel also focuses on the relationship between a father and a son. With issues of such magnitude, Unholy Domain promises to be a thrilling, entertaining read. Ronco was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time to answer my questions.

Thanks for being here today. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

Born into a tough neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, I learned powerful lessons about family, friendship and violence. My escape was fiction, and I spent many hours reading in the local library. Nurturing a passion for technology, I went on to gain a BS in Chemical Engineering from NJIT. Not enough challenge. Always fascinated by new technologies, I was awarded a full fellowship at Columbia University and gained a MS in Nuclear Engineering. Although I designed submarine nuclear reactors for three years, I discovered I enjoyed software development more than reactor design, so I changed career direction and achieved a second MS; this one in Computer Science from RPI.

Fascinated by virtually all areas of software development, my expertise grew to include coding, design, project management, quality improvement and finally, general management. My niche was software consulting and my team assisted many large corporations and governmental organizations. Always looking for the latest challenge, I built and managed several consulting practices. I'm especially proud of two accomplishments – assisting AT&T greatly improve the quality of the first commercial UNIX release and helping Microsoft to create a world class consulting organization. Positions held during my consulting years included Senior Principal with an international accounting/consulting firm, President, Software Technology Management Inc. and General Manager with Microsoft.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

Eight years ago I decided to leave consulting and concentrate on a long held desire to write fiction. A successful engineer and businessman, I had the breadth of experience to understand and synthesize rapidly evolving strands of technology. It became clear that fundamental change would turn our society upside down within the next few decades. Humans will have to adapt rapidly to gain the advantages of these changing social and technological innovations. Indeed, we will have to adapt rapidly just to survive.

I scoped out a trilogy of novels to expose three oncoming challenges; computer viruses enhanced with artificial intelligence (set in 2012), the oncoming clash between religion and technology concerning what it means to be human (2022), and the beginnings of the integration of human and artificial intelligence into a network entity (2032). Each novel is written as a thriller – packed with adventure, sex, greed and romance – as well as realistic science and technology. The three leading characters – Dianne Morgan, a female mega-billionaire obsessed with power; Ray Brown, her onetime lover and a brilliant software architect; and David Brown, Ray’s genetically gifted son – are fascinating and all too human.

PEACEMAKER, my first novel, was released in August, 2004 with outstanding feedback by critics, authors, and most importantly, by customers. My next novel, UNHOLY DOMAIN, was released April 2, 2008 by Kunati Books, with an excellent response. The final novel of the trilogy, tentatively entitled TOMORROW’S CHILDREN, should be released next year.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

UNHOLY DOMAIN delivers all the excitement of a great thriller while also delving into provocative themes: the bioethics of genetic engineering, the question of what limit (if any) should be placed on technology, the problem of reconciling faith in God and respect for his creation with the technological promises of artificial intelligence, and the age-old issue of family ties and the loyalty of a son to his father. How could anyone not be inspired by issues of such magnitude?

UNHOLY DOMAIN features David Brown, a brilliant but troubled young man raised in the dark shadow of his long-dead father, a software genius who unleashed a computer virus that murdered more than a million innocents. When David receives a decade-old email that indicates his father may have been framed, he plunges into a gut-wrenching race with the real killers to discover the truth about his father … and himself. As David tracks through his father's startling history, he stumbles into a war between the Domain, a secret society of technologists, and the Army of God, a murderous cult with a sacred mission to curtail the spread of technology and roll civilization back to a simpler era. Hunted by killers from both organizations, David unravels his father’s secrets, comes to terms with his own life, and then falls in love with a woman from his father’s past.

Did your book require a lot of research?

My novels are set in the near future, so it’s my responsibility to bring the reader into a world that is realistic, compelling and consistent with existing trends in science and culture. My stories exist at the point advanced technologies threaten our institutions, beliefs and even our survival.

As a result, I read constantly in subjects such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, robotics and other advanced technologies. I have a passion for technology, so reading isn’t a chore, it’s a gift. I am equally fascinated by human values and culture, such as economics, politics and religion. Searching for stress points, I attempt to project current technologies and trends two or three decades into the future. UNHOLY DOMAIN, for example, explores the potential for conflict between religious fundamentalists and scientists on the leading edge of artificial intelligence.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

I have been in a critique group for seven years, and it has been a positive experience. The five of us meet once a week and we each read our most recent compositions, usually about ten pages. Each reviewer provides feedback describing good and bad aspects of the writing. We offer advice with the intent of helping the author; nobody shows off. The author considers the feedback and decides what, if anything, should be modified.

Actually it’s more than just a critique group. Our coach and group leader begins each session with a twenty minute discussion of a writing topic. While the coach leads the discussion, we all participate. I’d have to say we are many things: a critique group, a workshop, and a gathering of friends.

The secret of our success is compatibility and talent. We keep the group small and invite an occasional new member only if she gets along well with the existing members. It is also important that her writing skills are at a reasonably good level. Bringing a novice into the group wouldn’t be fair to anyone.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

One of the biggest mistakes I made with PEACEMAKER, my first novel, was to not check out the publisher thoroughly. When he called me, I was thrilled, and it seemed that everything was working out. Wrong. The publisher was a nice guy, he was very enthusiastic about my novel and we seemed to hit it off. However, he had a couple of problems: he had been in business less than a year and really didn't know much about book marketing; and he was underfunded, so he couldn't hire talented, experienced professionals. As a result, his business went underwater and all his authors were left scrambling. That's why I had to become the publisher for PeaceMaker, which consumed a great deal of my time.

So the lesson is to not become dreamy-eyed when a publisher offers to pick up your book. Treat it like making an investment. Check out the size, experience, financial resources, number of employees, references from other authors, bookstores that carry his works, etc. Better to walk away than sign up with someone who doesn't have a good track record. I checked out Kunati carefully, and they have been an excellent publisher for UNHOLY DOMAIN.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yes, please stop by www.danronco.com to say hello, read an excerpt of UNHOLY DOMAIN, read my blog or view the incredible trailer for the book. And there’s much more: the complete PEACEMAKER novel, cool videos, book reviews and articles by guest authors. If you enjoy science fiction or technology thrillers, this is a great place to visit.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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Award winning freelancer Andrew Jalbert has been a professional archaeologist and scuba instructor for over 15 years. During that time, he has worked throughout the Great Lakes region, the Caribbean, Central America, Southern Africa, the Florida keys, and Hawaii. His written and photographic work focuses on tropical subjects-both above and below the water-and he is a regular contributor to scuba diving, natural history, fitness, and travel magazines. Andrew recently published his first work of fiction, West Across the Board, an historical novel set in the Florida Keys during the 1930s. Currently based out of Madison, Wisconsin, Andrew is vice president of Strata Morph Geoexploration, Inc., a firm specializing in geo-archaeological research and consulting.

Visit his website at Jalbert Productions.

The Book…

Based in the colorful Florida Keys, West Across the Board is an historical novel that ties together the eventful era of the 1930s with the turn of the following century. Click for reviews, a more detailed description of the story, or a list of discussion questions for your book club. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Welcome to the fourth day of the Women, Words and Wisdom Blog Tour!

The winner of Lara’s $10 Starbucks gift card is SHELL!!!!!!!

Initially I was planning on posting a short story titled, “Killing the Writer’s Block: A Story,” but then I changed my mind. While it has to do with writing and women’s wisdom, I think it’s propably too ‘kinky’ for this blog tour (sorry about that!) So instead I’m going to post an excerpt from my chick-lit novel, Sunstruck, coming next spring from Zumaya Publications. The novel takes place in hot and steamy San Juan, Puerto Rico.

At the bottom of the excerpt I’ve put a question. Send me the answer to mgcalvani@hotmail.com for a chance to win an ebook copy of one of my books, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, Dark Lullaby, or Embraced by the Shadows (your choice!)

Good luck and I hope you enjoy the excerpt!

Excerpt:

When Daniella steps out of the shower she finds Tony throwing a big spoon of Quick into a glass of milk. He begins to stir the milk desperately, as if he can’t wait to drink it.

“How’s the painting going?” Daniella says. She’s wrapped in a bright green towel and her long damp hair smells of apples-and-cinnamon shampoo.

Tony glances at Daniella. “You smell like apple pie,” he says. He tilts his head back and noisily gulps the chocolate milk like a barbarian.

It’s Wednesday night and even though both windows are open, the air feels hot and muggy inside the apartment.

Commando is sitting on the windowsill, staring down at the passersby on the street with a disdainful expression on his face. He seems to be thinking, “I used to be sacred, you simple ordinary mortals. Three thousand years ago people used to pay me tribute at the Temple of Bubastes. Those were the days of glory! I used to be revered and adored and adorned with precious stones and mummified and buried with kings.”

Commando throws Daniella a quick, resentful look. Ever since Daniella gave him that rubber mouse, two weeks ago, Commando has been acting funny. Daniella believes she hurt his feelings when she gave him that rubber mouse. Commando had looked at it with an incredulous, insulted look on his face. Daniella had clearly read the indignation in his eyes: “What do you think I am? Stupid? You think I can’t tell the difference between a real and a synthetic mouse?” But Daniella hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings. She had just wanted him to have a rubber mouse.

“I don’t know,” Tony says, putting the empty glass in the sink and going back to his surrealist painting, propped up on a worn wooden easel in the middle of his incredibly messy work area. From where Daniella stands his work area is so messy it’s almost frightening—a sharp contrast to the rest of the studio, which she keeps spotless and reeking of Lysol. Daniella suspects this dual, surreal state of her apartment symbolizes her life.

Tony squints into the canvas. He grabs the palette and brush from the table and once again submerges himself in his work.

“What do you think?” he whispers, not caring in the least for an answer. He’s wearing nothing but white jockey shorts and white socks. Dear God, he’s so hairy. An alien humanoid or a werewolf making art.

Fifi Santos is going to exhibit Tony’s paintings this weekend. That’s why Tony has been working frantically during the nights for the past few weeks. He’s also been edgy and annoying. Okay, so an art exhibit can bring a lot of stress and pressure into your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like a Neanderthal.

Daniella herself has been working on an important project for her design class. She’s designing a huge modern shopping center, nine stories high, with inner gardens and water fountains and a big roller-skating rink There’s even a skyscraping tower built in the center of it, with a gambling casino, a bar, and restaurant at the top. The walls of the tower are made of glass so that people can see the view as they go up inside the elevator, but outside, the entire structure is painted in a Day-Glo pink-and-black checkerboard pattern.

“An ambitious task, no doubt,” her professor had said.

Daniella had scowled at him. It’s a disadvantage to be in a class were there are only four females and more than thirty males If you’re of normal intelligence, they condescend and patronize you like you’re some sort of pet who dared to dream too high. But if you prove you have above-average brains, it’s even worse. You become a sociological curiosity. She’s still trying to figure out in what category she’s in.

Daniella’s stomach is making strange persistent noises. She opens the refrigerator and studies the possibilities. A half-eaten bag of nacho chips, a jar of mustard, a small bowl with some kind of unrecognizable, stale moldy food in it, two cans of Budweiser, a box of Cocoa Crispies, a plate of hummous Tony made yesterday. She would like to eat the hummous but there’s no pita bread and she can’t eat hummous without pita bread.

“There’s nothing here,” she says, not surprised.

She reaches for the box of Cocoa Crispies, but when she pops a handful into her mouth she notices they’re not crispy anymore. She’s supposed to meet Mari Carmen and some friends from the university at El Patio de Sam at eight-thirty. She’ll have to stop at the supermarket on her way back. There’s one in El Condado that’s open till midnight.

Trying to forget about her hunger, she takes her underwear out of the freezer and starts getting dressed (she got the idea from a Marilyn Monroe film—an ingenious way to fight the heat!) She’ll eat something out.

She glances at Tony and frowns. She can’t help feeling a twinge of envy. She wishes she could concentrate on her studies as much as he concentrates on his paintings. When he paints, the world stops rotating. Right now he isn’t even aware she’s in the room. Yes, she has to give him credit for that. He’s hardworking. All day long struggling with Los Chinitos, all night long struggling with surrealist nightmares. He even runs an hour every morning before going to work. If it weren’t for the drugs, he’d be a saint.

“I’ll stop at the supermarket on my way back. Do you want anything special?” she says when she’s ready to leave, her hand clasped around the doorknob.

After what seems like an eternity, Tony grunts, “Huh?”

“I asked you if you want anything special. I’m going to buy some stuff on the way back.”
He looks up at her. Suddenly he seems surprised, as if she’s an apparition from the lower world. “Where are you going?”

“I can’t believe this. I told you three times. You were not listening to me.”

Tony tries to run a hand through his hair, but his hair is so tangled the attempt is unsuccessful. “I was listening to you.”

Daniella folds her arms across her chest. “All right. Where am I going?”

Tony grins. He doesn’t have an idea where she’s going. He puts the palette and brush back on the table—he’s back on planet earth. He says, “Okay, okay. You win. I wasn’t listening to you. I know I’m an ass. Now can you tell me where you’re going dressed like that?”

“What do you mean?” She’s wearing a jade-green mini dress and high-heeled black pumps, her brandy-carrot hair falling like a long satin cape down her back.

“I mean where are you going dressed like that? Don’t you know that wearing clothes like that at night can be damn dangerous? We’re not in Disneyland. Don’t you read the papers? Are you trying to get yourself raped and killed or what?”

He looks like he’s getting angry, which in a way pleases Daniella because it shows that he cares for her, but in another way mortifies her because it shows that he’s deeply influenced by the chauvinist pigs of Latin America.

“There’s nothing wrong with what I’m wearing,” Daniella protests. “How come all of the sudden you’re so interested in what I’m wearing or where I’m going? Five minutes ago you were hardly aware of my existence.”

Tony sighs. “Are you going to tell me where you’re going or not?”

Commando seems to realize there’s more action going on inside the room than out on the street. He jumps down from the window sill and leaps up on the bed, settling himself on one of the pillows. Apparently elated with this new turn of events, his odd-colored eyes shift from Tony to Daniella, from Tony to Daniella. He yawns.

“I’m going to El Patio de Sam,” Daniella snaps. “Mari Carmen is waiting for me.”

“Mari Carmen can go to hell. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you read the papers? There’s some nut loose slashing women’s asses.” He rummages around the room for the newspaper, but his efforts prove futile. “Damn it! You can’t find anything in this damn place.”

Daniella wants to tell him that if he can’t find anything it’s because of his continuous messiness, but instead she keeps her mouth shut.

“This damn place is filled with cat hairs. No wonder I feel so worn down all the time. I’m inhaling and eating cat hairs. And that cat is Turkish. Do you know what caused the bubonic plague in Europe?” He puts his hands on his hips and stares at Daniella, demanding an answer.

Daniella stares back at him, perplexed. What does the bubonic plague have to do with what they’re talking?

He answers his own question triumphantly. “Turkish rats! That’s what caused the bubonic plague. Turkish rats!” He finally collapses on the bed and starts rubbing his forehead.

Daniella shakes her head. “You look ridiculous, talking about Turkish rats in your underwear. And when was the last time you shaved, anyway? You look like a terrorist. I’m going. I’ll see you later.”

“Wait!” Tony says, suddenly seeing the newspaper tucked under the pillow where Commando is sitting. “It’s here, I found it.” He tries to reach for it, but Commando gives him an icy, threatening hiss, forcing Tony to pull back his hand.

“I can’t believe this is happening. And he’s sitting on my pillow. How did I end up sharing my pillow with a psychotic cat? I’m going to have that paper, you son of a bitch,” Tony says. He snatches the newspaper from under the pillow just in time to see one furious paw with five sharp claws coming at him. “Shit! I’m going to kill you, you son of a bitch!”

Commando swiftly jumps down from the bed and Tony starts swatting him about the room.

“Stop it! Are you crazy?” Daniella says, blocking Tony’s way in order to protect Commando.

“Look at my hand! It’s the hundredth time that cat scratches me! I’m going to kill him!”

“If you do something to that cat, I’m the one who’s going to kill you. Look at yourself. You’re acting hysterical.” She examines his hand. “It’s nothing, Tony. Just a little scratch. Do you want some orange juice? I’ll bring you some juice. And I hate it when you talk like that. You know I can’t stand foul language.”

“I don’t want any orange juice. Bring me a beer.”

“Juice would be a lot better.”

“I said I want a beer, Mother Theresa.”

Daniella scowls.

Tony snickers. He can feel the small wound on his hand stinging, throbbing. He can see it clearly, the ferocious battle going on inside his body. Thousands of microbes and other single-cell organisms rushing into his bloodstream and shouting “divide and conquer!” and some of his cells, the brave ones, attacking the nasty intruders, the others running away like cowards. Human beings are so defenceless. No fangs. No claws. No fur. Only a squashy, flabby, slimy, disgusting-to-look-at mass of grey cells floating inside their heads. Good for what? Thinking about sex and nuclear weapons.
Daniella hands him the beer and in less than fifteen seconds Tony drains the whole can.

“This is the reward I get for trying to protect you—being attack by a deranged cat that probably has rabies.”

“You know he doesn’t have rabies.”

“You should see the way he acts when you’re not here. I’m telling you, he only pretends to be good in your presence. When I’m alone he takes pleasure in hiding and darting out to attack my leg when I walk by. The animal is diabolically possessed, I tell you! Or at least brain-damaged.”

“Will you listen to yourself?” She raises her eyebrows. “You were really trying to protect me?”

“Look at this.” He shows her the newspaper.

Daniella reads the headlines: ZORRO STRIKES AGAIN!

“This is the third time in three weeks and the victims were all wearing mini skirts at the time of the attack. The stitches they put on the third victim—a rich lady who was out from a health club on her way to her car—got infected and she’s suing the whole damn hospital. They say she won’t be able to sit for months and she’ll be permanently scarred for life. I don’t want any lunatic slashing your—”

“Stop whining!”

“On top of that, young girls seem to be disappearing everywhere and no one knows why. This island is degenerating into hell itself.”

“Since when are you so concerned about other people? No one’s going to do anything to me.” She tosses the newspaper back on the bed. “Really, Tony. I can’t let an article in the newspaper tell me how to dress. I like mini skirts. In most parts of the world women wear mini skirts and live to see their grandchildren.” She starts toward the door. “I’m going to El Patio de Sam and I’ll have a nice time with my friend and then I’ll stop at the market. If you’re always so worn down is because of malnutrition, not because of any cat hairs.”

“Mari Carmen is radical. I can’t imagine what you two talk about. You have nothing in common.”

“Just like you and I, Tony darling?” she asks sweetly.

Tony sighs. “Don’t go.”

I turn around. There he is, standing in his underwear in the middle of the room with his arms extended toward me, a pleading, puppy-like look in his eyes. I should ignore him, teach him a lesson and walk out the door. But I just linger here. And then he takes advantage of my momentary confusion and slowly begins to approach me, like a cat stalking a bird. With one hand he pulls me toward him and with the other he curls a lock of my hair around his finger. He rubs his cheek against mine and I feel the scratchy stiffness of his beard and smell the musky scent of his flesh. I must be in a trance because I feel as though I’m not here. I mean, I’m here but I’m not here.

“Don’t go,” Tony whispers.

“Why should I stay here? So that you can go back to your painting and ignore me?”

“I won’t ignore you, I promise. And the painting is almost finished. After I’m done with it we’ll cuddle up in bed and watch TV. There’s a horror movie tonight.”

“Even if I don’t meet Mari Carmen, I still have to get some food. We don’t have anything to eat.”
“Okay, go and get some wine and beer and when you get back we’ll have a little party. What do you say?”

“We need some food, Tony.” Daniella peers into his eyes, uneasy. Lately Tony never wants to eat solid food and has manipulated her again with his luring, animal charms.

“Whatever you say, little fox. Bring some Ben & Jerry’s, cookie dough.”

When Daniella comes back from the supermarket she finds Tony sprawled on the bed and Commando stretched out on top of his stomach, placidly licking his paws.

Tony props himself up on his elbows. His pupils are fixed and dilated and strangely glittery. He looks comatose.

Daniella stands by the door, paralyzed, each arm holding a bag of groceries. The stereo is playing Metallica and on the TV an old woman is stabbing a man in the chest with a pair of knitting needles.
Tony smiles and raises an arm towards her. He’s offering her something. She can’t see what it is but she knows what it is.

“Would you like a one-way ticket to hell?” he says.

QUESTION: Why doesn’t Tony want Daniella to wear mini skirts?

Send the answer to mgcalvani@hotmail.com. The winner will be announced on Caridad Pineiro’s blog tomorrow!

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The Women, Words and Wisdom Blog Tour starts today, May 19th! Visit the authors' blogs for a different story each day. Each author will be offering prizes (books, goodies, gift certificates) to people who leave a comment.

Here's the line up:

May 19 – Mary C. (http://marycastillo.blogspot.com/)
May 20 – Barb Ferrer (http://fashionista-35.livejournal.com/)
May 21 – Lara (http://www.lararios.blogspot.com/)
May 22 – Mayra (http://www.thedarkphantom.wordpress.com/)
May 23 – Cari (www.caridad.com/blog)
May 24 – Jamie (http://jamiemartinezwood.blogspot.com/)
May 25 – Berta (http://bertaplatas.blogspot.com/)
May 26 – Tracy (www.tracymontoya.blogspot.com)
May 27 – Kathy (http://thecraftychica.blogspot.com/)
May 28 – Misa (http://chasingheroes.com/)

Happy reading and good luck!

Best,

Mayra Calvani (my story will be posted here on Thursday, May 22nd)

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It’s a Dog Life, but It’s Your Carpet
By Justine A. Lee, DVM
Three River Press
ISBN: 978-0-307-38300-6
Copyright 2008

Author website.

This latest book by author and veterinarian Justine A. Lee is a must for dog owners and dog lovers alike. The book answers many fascinating questions seldom answered in regular dog books.

Have you ever wondered if a Chihuahua and a Great Dane can mate? Are dogs ever gay? What are the top ten dog toxins? Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Is table food really bad you’re your dog? Why does your dog lick his private parts? Why do dogs like to sniff butts? Is it okay to let your dog sleep on your bed? Why do dogs chase their tails? Do dogs dream? Why do dogs lift their legs when they pee? And many, many others.

The book is written in a highly informative, yet witty, humorous style. Some of the author’s remarks are downright hilarious, making this book a pleasure to read. You get the feeling that it’s your veterinarian best friend who’s offering you advice. This would make a great gift for any canine lover, or one you’ll definitely want to add to your shelf if you own a dog. For feline lovers, the author also has a similar book written specifically about cats.

*My review of this book first appeared on Armchair Interviews.

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When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?
I started writing books around the year 2000. My first novel, Corporate Porn, was published in 2005 through Silverthought Press. During the day I work in the corporate world of New York City.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.

Emotionless Souls is a short story collection of twenty tales. Stories of pick pockets, aspiring adult movie stars, and co-workers suspected of stealing cocaine make up this collection of transgression fiction. Despite each story standing on their own, all relate in that you find characters in dark places finding redemption in the most unconventional of ways.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

Regardless of the length of story I write a high level outline. For whatever reason I need an ending, even though I rarely go with my initial thought of an ending. Once I have my “crutches” in place I am usually able to flow through the writing of the story, rarely looking back at my initial notes.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

Approximately five months. It just happened that I had all of the stories ready to go and Brown Paper Publishing was looking for a specific collection that just so happened to be Emotionless Souls.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Yes, in that when I’m writing a novel or story I continue to work until finished, binging if you will. No, I may take notes for months and until I’m ready to start a novel I will not write one sentence, only notes.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

Initially it was difficult. For my first novel, Corporate Porn I had to deal with a lot of rejection from agents and publishers until finally finding a great match in Silverthought Press. As far as advice: Keep writing and be persistent, I am proof this works.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
http://www.davidsgrant.com

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Bleach|Blackout, my rock and drug fueled double novel is now available through Offense Mechanism, an imprint of Silverthought Press. Bleach details the character Jeremy returning home to the Midwest for the holidays, reliving past New Year’s Eve parties, leading up to the mother of all parties. Blackout, the sequel takes the reader two years after Bleach. The crew is in Las Vegas for an incredible bachelor party and wake up with the worst possible hangover: A police officer standing over them with guns drawn.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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