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Title: STAIRWAY TO PARADISE: GROWING UP GERSHWIN
Author: Nadia Natali
Publisher: RareBird Books
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

Growing up as Frankie Gershwin’s daughter, the sister of George and Ira Gershwin, was quite a challenge. I didn’t have the perspective to realize that so much unhappiness in a family was out of the ordinary. But I knew something was off. My mother was often depressed and my father was tyrannical and scary, one never knew when he would blow up. I learned early on that I had to be the cheery one, the one to fix the problems. Both sides of my family were famous; the Gershwin side and my father who invented color film. But even though there was more than enough recognition, money and parties I understood that wasn’t what made people happy.

As a young adult adrift and depressed I broke from that unsatisfactory life by marrying Enrico Natali, a photographer, deeply immersed in his own questions about life. We moved into the wilderness away from what we considered as the dysfunction of society. That’s when we discovered that life had other kinds of challenges: flood, fire, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. We lived in a teepee for more than four years while building a house. Curiously my mother never commented on my life choice. She must have realized on some level that her own life was less than satisfactory.

Enrico had developed a serious meditation practice that had become a kind of ground for him. As for me I danced. Understanding the somatic, the inner body experience, became my way to shift the inner story.

We raised and homeschooled our three children. I taught them to read, Enrico taught them math. The kids ran free, happy, always engaged, making things, and discovering. We were so sure we were doing the right thing. However, we didn’t have a clue how they would make the transition to the so-called ‘real world’. The children thrived until they became teenagers. They then wanted out. Everything fell apart for them and for Enrico and me. Our lives were turned upside down, our paradise lost. There was tragedy: our son lost his life while attempting to cross our river during a fierce storm. Later I was further challenged by advanced breast cancer.

It was during these times that I delved deeply into the somatic recesses of myself. I began to find my own voice, a long learning process. I emerged with a profound trust in my own authority. It became clear that everyone has to find his or her way through layers of inauthenticity, where a deep knowing can develop. And I came to see that is the best anyone can offer to the world.

Enrico and I still live in the wilds of the Lost Padres National Forest, a paradise with many steps going up and down, a life I would not change.

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First Chapter:

On December 8, 1980, my husband, Enrico, our three-year-old daughter, Francesca, and I finished our cross-country journey to Ojai, California, where we planned to make a home on land we had seen only once but had long been dreaming about, away from city life and, especially, away from my difficult and powerful family.

We’d caravanned in separate vehicles, hauling all that we could carry in and on top of our cars, in addition to a foldout trailer hitched to Enrico’s Toyota jeep. At the end of a long, winding two-lane road that followed Matilija Creek, a brown metal gate barred our way. Beyond the gate lay the Los Padres National Forest, wilderness, and a mile farther up a dirt road through the canyon, our property. We had to wait for a key to open the lock, a key that a forest ranger was going to hand over—the key to our new life. I gazed toward the jagged and intimidating mountains that leaned over the canyon. Inhaling the sweet smell of the dry chaparral, I couldn’t help but compare it to the lush, green landscape of my childhood home in Connecticut. This is going to be a very different life, I thought. My privileged upbringing seemed the polar opposite of this place, and maybe that was what attracted me to it. Observing the struggles of my family and seeing that money and fame had failed to bring happiness, I’d learned I needed to find my own path. I had not fully formulated my goal, but it was something unique and original, and I had to find it on my own.

A moment later a forest service truck pulled up by the gate. “You sure found yourselves a beautiful piece of property out here,” the ranger said, as he offered his hand to shake. “I’m Dave Brown. I suppose you know there are some pretty dangerous natural conditions you’ll need to look out for.”

Enrico shook Dave’s hand as he asked, “And what does that mean?” Dave took a big breath. “Well, you should know about this if you guys are planning to live here. There’s the flood. That’s real serious this time of year. There’re two creeks you have to drive through that rise fast and wild when there’s a lot of rain. The water turns black and fierce. You could get trapped in here for weeks.”

Enrico and I exchanged worried looks. We had not known about this. “Also,” he continued, “as you probably know, there are rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. The bears won’t bother you much if you keep your food well covered. But the mountain lions . . .” Dave trailed off, as he looked at our young daughter. “If you suspect there are any about, better keep your little girl close by.”

I glanced at Francesca to see if she was listening. She was busy poking the dry dirt with a stick, her red corduroy cuffs turning brown with dust. I wasn’t sure I wanted her to hear all this. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it. I imagined grabbing a stick of my own and drawing pictures in the worn shoulder of the last bit of paved road.

“The thing that would bother me more than anything though,” Dave continued, “are the kooks that come out here.” That was all he said on that subject, as if he expected us to know just what he was talking about. Then we noticed a large parking area at the side of the road for vehicles, and figured that must be where people parked who were going to walk in.

I hoped he was exaggerating. Kooks? Francesca continued to prod the ground, making scratching sounds that in my mind echoed off the hard landscape and the ranger’s words. Suddenly a sweep of fatigue from the packing, driving, and camping for many nights hit me. I was beyond tired.

“But,” Ranger Dave went on relentlessly, “the fires are the biggest threat. This is the most dangerous canyon in California, if not the whole country. It hasn’t burned in fifty years, and it’s real serious when it does.

There’s only one road kept open, to get in and out.” The ranger stopped.

My heart skipped a beat. He must deliver this information routinely, I thought. That was why he seemed unaware of how scary it sounded. Maybe the reason that no one else lived up here in the Los Padres National Forest is because of the danger. I didn’t know what to say. This was not how I’d imagined our arrival at our new home would be. Was I being irresponsible and risking the safety of my family? I felt numb. I wondered what my mother would think, though I knew she wouldn’t want to get involved. She couldn’t handle challenging situations.

A warm, peaceful breeze sighed through the chaparral, along with the high-pitched buzz of tiny flies that Dave kept sweeping away with his hand. Enrico was silent, typically slow to react. I suspended my negative thoughts. What could we do at this point anyway? “We’ll figure it out,” a voice in my head whispered. “It’s the cold season, and we won’t have to worry about rattlesnakes, bears, or fire for now.”

Francesca’s voice broke into my thoughts. “Mommy, let’s go,” she said, gently tugging on my hand. Her smile pushed my worries away.

I picked her up, gave her a fat smooch on the cheek, and brushed off her pants as best I could. Looking around at the dusty terrain, I had to laugh at my futile attempt to keep her tidy.

Dave handed Enrico the key. We said good-bye and closed the gate behind us. Enrico crept along in the jeep, his tires stirring up dust in the clear winter air. Francesca and I followed in the faded-blue Renault. Only one more mile to go.

Rugged mountains surrounded us, and then a graceful valley emerged before us. Its colors were muted, everything brown and dry. The chaparral and meadows were sunburned to a pale sage green. The tangled grasses were still yellow from the dry heat of summer and fall. The rainy season had barely started.

As I followed the jeep, I heard the ranger’s words in the noise of the tires on the dirt road repeating over and over, “Floods, fires, rattlesnakes, and bears, oh my!” And yet the pronouncement of these threats couldn’t diminish the beauty we saw on our first day.

Our vehicles splashed through the shallow water of the first creek crossing, bumped over stones, and labored up the steep bank on the other side. The dirt road was narrow and densely shaded by spindly red alders. Then the landscape abruptly opened and again revealed the mountains and a bright blue sky.

A quarter of a mile farther ahead we met the second creek crossing, a broad convergence of three streams. There was so little water flowing that winter day that I could not imagine it as a raw, roaring flood. The slow- moving water gently murmured around the rocks, serene and harmless. I recalled Phil Kern, who had sold us the land six months earlier, telling us that this was a special site of the native Chumash who had come to Ojai and into Matilija Canyon thousands of years ago. “A chief and his tribe used this area where three creeks meet—the Matilija, the North Fork, and the Murrieta— as the site for spiritual retreats and shamanic rituals,” he had said.

Once beyond the crossing, I told Francesca the little I could re- member learning about the Chumash. I could almost sense the imprint left in the canyon from when they lived there so many years ago. The earthy color of the chaparral with its sages and scrub oaks was a visual echo of the color of their skin and of the animals they used for clothing, while the wind rushing through the dry grasses could be their distant voices like a welcoming presence, leading us to our property. Something was definitely special about this place, something alive within the landscape. Francesca opened the window, and we excitedly inhaled the fragrance of a wilderness and life new to us.

I had made this rash move with no thought to its consequences. Six months earlier, without considering the details, I’d impulsively decided to buy the property. But I wanted to be in Ojai so badly that the decision felt like it had to be right. The risks I was taking in this drastic move were prefer- able to my previous life in a family with a history of deception and false promises of happiness.

I knew how well Enrico had handled rough living during the years when we lived at what had been his family’s cabin at Sackets Harbor, New York. How he thawed out our hand pump every cold day to get water, how he blasted out a well, cut firewood, tobogganed in the snow to and from our car, and repaired the rustic cabin to make it livable. Amazingly, he did it all with little prior experience, having only watched his father make do and create from very little. But he had the gift of confidence. He had a conviction that he could do just about anything. It was Enrico’s self-assurance and my belief in his abilities that allowed me to move to this wild land.

Bumping along the dirt road to our new home site, I felt the conditioning of my privileged past dispersing with the plume of dust kicked up behind us. Watching Enrico’s jeep lumbering ahead with our foldout trailer bobbing and bouncing behind him, I felt like a kid on a new adventure.

That trailer was to be our dwelling while we built a house. I knew I could handle a simple life because I had become expert at making a home in temporary primitive campsites. But it could be a year before we had a real house. Could I last that long? One thing I did know: this was going to be a life very different from my childhood.

Enrico parked the jeep in a small clearing on the edge of our forty acres, the national forest surrounding it on all four sides. I jumped out of the Renault and tried to find a larger clearing, but the dense chaparral blocked my way. I knelt down to peek through the undergrowth, its strong, tangy scent unfamiliar. The undergrowth was so thick that it kept the sun from reaching the ground. There was no chance of getting farther onto our property until we cleared a long wide path. Perhaps a week, I thought.

 

 

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Steve Caputi caputi_author_pix300is best known for his involvement in the creation, building and management of successful nightclub and hospitality businesses. Decades of experience in the industry and the good fortune to work with a succession of the best performers in the world gave him a broad base of skills… skills that were instrumental in his entrepreneurial quest and subsequent sparkling career.

As an Ivy-league student-athlete, he graduated from the renowned Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in 1979. Rostered as the ‘smallest player in NCAA Division 1 football’, he lettered under George Seifert, world-champion coach of the San Francisco 49’ers and played centerfielder on Cornell’s EIBL championship team of 1977, led by hall of fame coach Ted Thoren. Steve set several all-time team and NCAA records, one of which still stands 37 years later.

His career experience was equally as fortunate as he was trained by the best club management experts in the business while managing the Texas billionaires’ favorite watering hole – the ultra-private, magnificent Houston Club. In the early 1990’s, Steve was President of Michael J. Peter’s gentlemen’s club empire, featuring the world-famous Solid Gold, Thee Doll House, and Pure Platinum. It was during that era that adult clubs became legitimized. After redesigning and opening Club Paradise in Las Vegas, Steve became a partner in South Florida’s most successful long-term nightclub chain ever, Café Iguana. Over the decades, businesses under his direct control amassed nearly a billion dollars in revenue.

Steve was blessed with everything a man could want until he got tangled up in Scott Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme in 2009, at which time everything was lost… including his freedom. So began his most recent quest upon his release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons… to find out what happened, how it happened, and why!

About the Book: 

Stephen Caputi’s memoir, I Should Have Stayed in Morocco, is not just another forensic account of billionaire Ponzi-schemer Scott Rothstein’s life. Caputi opens his heart and soul as he takes the reader on a journey through two decades rife with personal experiences, misadventures and wild escapades with Rothstein, climaxing with their now-infamous ramble in Casablanca. It’s a frighteningly true story of how friendship and loyalty was dedicatedly served to a master-manipulator, just to be rewarded with deceitful betrayal and a prison sentence.

Website: http://www.stevecaputi.com

Read the First Chapter

Purchase from Amazon / OmniLit

Q: Congratulations on the release of your memoir, I Should Have Stayed in Morocco. What made you decide to write your own biography?

A:  It was kind of a happy accident, the result of an unfortunate circumstance. I was stranded in the “Hole”, (slang for solitary confinement) in a dingy federal prison in Jesup, Ga., with literally nothing to do but ponder the past. I had nothing to read, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to until the next bowl of gruel was tossed into the cell through a flap in the door, and nothing to watch since the tiny three-inch window slit was old and yellow and glazed. Total emptiness, which was driving me crazy. For a career claustrophobe, being thrust into a seventy two square-foot space that contained only a bed, toilet and sink constituted the worst case scenario. My worst nightmare had materialized, and there was no getting away from it. No relief. I knew why I was in prison, but I didn’t know why I was in the Hole.

I began writing out of desperation. My mind was still scrambled from the shock of being thrown in the Hole. As a last resort I started to chronicle everything that happened… which wasn’t much. I wrote down every item served at every meal, everything that the guards did and said, and kept a diary of sorts that was chocked full of their shenanigans. I figured that there was no way people knew how inmates were treated in prison… and wondered if anybody cared.

Morocco_medThe process of reflection prompted me to search for answers… about my life, about the sequence of events that led me to federal prison, and about the system that put me away. It evolved into a full-fledged quest for the truth.

Q: Did you write by the seat of your pants, or did you structure the book in advance? 

A:   Actually, I wrote this by the seat of my orange jumpsuit!

Q: How would you describe your writing process? Did you find the process easy or difficult?

A: Tormented is the first word that comes to mind. Writing from a prison cell was far from idyllic. I wrote after every meal, and started by chronicling every mundane event—like the trips marching to and from the ‘recreation’ cage in handcuffs. Or the shackled treks to the showers, or after delivery of every meal. Every night I’d write for an hour before crashing, after the last of the day’s insipid counting rituals were duly completed.

For my protection, I was forced to stash the written notes I was taking in-between pages of books that I was reading. I couldn’t risk mailing them out from the Hole, so I waited until after I left to transport them out. Which presented another challenge, since everything we mailed out was subject to being inspected and read. Due to its content, my writings were extremely risky. If any of the brass got wind that I was keeping a diary of their antics, there were no imaginable limits to how they might retaliate.

As an example, an inmate buddy of mine had been the unlucky recipient of “diesel therapy”—an intimidating tactic so commonly used by the Bureau of Prisons that it commanded its own nickname. Since his arrival, he was overly insistent that his rights not be violated. Because of his annoyance, he’d been kept suspended on a perpetual road trip for a year and a half. The guards would transport him in chains in a Twilight-Zone-like ride to nowhere, on an endless bus ride from one federal prison to the next. It took months and a dozen letters from his Congressman to get him anchored somewhere. Their explanation was that they “lost” his paperwork. No apology. Acting with impunity was a routine… a matter of policy for the gatekeepers who harbored little or no fear of outside pressures or intervention.

Q: Did you suffer from writer’s block at any given time? If yes, how did you overcome it? 

A:    It was more like “cell-block” than writer’s block. The biggest challenge I faced in my writing exploits was finding the best way to properly and effectively communicate the emotion of the roller-coaster ride I was on… while I was on the ride! I had no alternative but to write about all the horrible things that were happening—to me and other inmates—while I was suffering the indignities that I was writing about in real time. The awful physical conditions, inedible meals, harsh treatment, lack of medical attention, arcane and oppressive rules and regulations, lack of exercise, heavy-handedness and the calculated, dehumanizing protocols of the Federal Bureau of Prisons were overwhelming. I struggled every day to balance giving an accurate representation of what was happening… without it being overridden with emotion and dripping with hate by the time my thoughts were scribed to paper. Controlling my own emotions was of paramount importance, since I had to keep my sense of humor intact and my wits about me in order to maintain at least some semblance of objectivity.

Q: That’s an interesting title. Did you choose it? 

A: It kind of chose me… but I knew it would be the perfect title the second I wrote the first line of the prologue. I was reliving the experience of the train pulling away from the station, on my way to federal prison, as my girl waved goodbye. It was a devastating moment for me, and that short sentence that I muttered to myself captured the essence of the book. In that singular moment, the trauma and drama of everything that I’d been feeling for the twenty-three months prior to my incarceration collapsed upon me. I was engulfed in a quagmire of heartbreak, despair, frustration, regret… and fear. It was the first moment that I really believed that I Should Have… Stayed in Morocco.

Q: Why should anyone read your book? What do you think they will gain from the experience? 

A: For one, the book gives a human portrayal of Scott Rothstein, the fourth largest Ponzi-schemer in U.S. history, from the perspective of a close friend… not from social media posts. I lived the experience with him, which was very much different than reading about him through regurgitated internet blogs. My experiences with him spanned several decades, and most of my stories are still unknown to the general public. What happened to me could have happened to anybody that was vulnerable enough to have complete trust in a valued friend of many years. A friend that suddenly went ‘AWOL’ and betrayed everyone around him without any conscience. This makes my story relevant to anyone who has close, trusted friends or business colleague whose integrity seems to be unimpeachable.

Additionally, I used my misfortune to fuel a truth-seeking mission. I wanted to know why and how the current prison system evolved into the monstrosity that it is. How millions of our citizens have been corralled into prison, and why there had been 518,000,000 arrests in this country since 1970. Why seventy million men and women now have criminal records. I was living in a prison population that consisted mainly of drug dealers, the vast majority of whom were non-violent marijuana ‘offenders’. The injustice of it all struck a nerve, and I decided to do a bona fide journalistic investigation of the subject. My findings are part and parcel of the book… and the truth is ugly. People need to know what’s really going on in America today—as well as what happened yesterday to facilitate it—and not rely solely on the mainstream media for information. The time for sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the truth is over.

Q: How was your experience working with an editor? 

A:  Outstanding… and humbling, to say the least. Their input was just what I needed. The process enabled me to view things from different perspectives, and to visualize alternative (and improved) ways to effectively communicate my thoughts. I also enjoyed being challenged and forced to defend my positions regarding different elements of the story that I felt were important. The editing process required me to validate and support the facts as I presented them. It was actually as much fun, as it was constructive.

Q: What have you learned from the writing of this book? 

A: Writing the book forced me to sharpen my focus on all the subjects I was writing about, since I was determined to keep my objectivity despite my environment. I didn’t want to write anything resembling most of the propaganda and drivel that had been written about Rothstein. I became better at stepping back from my emotions, and took great care to substantiate my conclusions (or disprove them) based on solid research of the issues. I trained myself to look for the facts behind the apparent reasons, and to be open-minded to whatever truths I found.

Q: What’s on the horizon for Stephen Caputi? 

A: I am going to finish the last two books in the I Should Have Stayed in Morocco trilogy, and then reenter my career as a nightclub and restaurant entrepreneur. The next book will be the second in the I Should Have Stayed in Morocco series, entitled Club Fed Confidential: Inside the Perpetual Prisoner Money Machine. It will be a more in-depth look at what really goes on inside prisons. The final (untitled) book will provide a professional analysis of the real cost of the criminal justice and prison systems, and a critical look into the skullduggery of the prison industrial complex.

Q:  If there’s one thing you wish readers will take away from your book, what’s that? 

A: Despite what happened to me, I haven’t given up on friendship, love and trust… which doesn’t have to be treated as if it were a four-letter word. However, people who have a trusting nature (like I do!) need to learn to place limits, keep reasonable checks and balances intact, and listen to their instincts—their ‘guts’. If you’re in tune with your intuition, you cannot go wrong.

This equates to making the conscious choice of not ever engaging in any kind of behavior that you feel might be illegal, or just doesn’t feel right for any reason—or no reason. Not for friendship, love, or money!

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Profile: Author Barry Hornig

Were you on line at Studio 54? Did you ever swap drugs for gold in Tangiers? Or try on a dog collar at the Botany Club? Ever marry a countess or a Playboy playmate? Meet Barry. He did all of that and a lot more. He’s had many ups and downs and has probably forgotten more than you’ve fantasized, but this book is what he can recall…

“I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out."

Thus goes the pitch of Barry Hornig’s candid, compelling, revealing, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Without a Net: a True Tales of Prison, Penthouses, and Playmates (Köehler Books, 2015), which, from idea to polished manuscript, took him eight years to complete.

Without a Net is the story of a young man from a middle class background who shoots for the stars and goes after things that aren’t attainable, and when he thinks he has them, they get taken away,” states Hornig. “In the process, he winds up incarcerated, threatened with guns, and succumbs to addictions, but through a powerful series of visualizations he manages to manifest somebody who helps him change his whole life around through love and compassion. And through that, he is able to help other people.” Hornig’s over-the-top life is told with honesty, self-mockery, hope, and more than a little Jewish humor.

The decision to write this memoir came about from Hornig’s anger about his great ups and downs in life and the question, “Why do they continue to happen to me?” He needed to get it out of his system. Through writing, he hoped to see life more clearly and get rid of some of the anger and pain. He decided he wouldn’t misdirect his energy by looking back, but instead concentrate on looking forward and benefit from lessons learned, and it worked. “I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out,” says Hornig. “I believe that with determination, visualization, and the right partner, you can emerge from any darkness, live an interesting and fruitful life, and recover your sanity and your spiritual balance.”

In addition to his personal journey, the book offers a kaleidoscope of America from its triumphant and proud years in the 50s to a more recent time when – from Hornig’s perspective – “A great power has been shamefully falling apart. We’ve killed all our heroes, and there’s nobody to look up to. Violence never wins. And Gordon Gekko was wrong; greed is not good. (Sorry, Oliver.)”

Writing Without a Net had its challenges. From telling the truth, to stirring the hot coals, to old temptations re-awakening, to unsupportive peers telling him he was wasting his time and would never finish the book, Hornig admirably stuck to his vision through it all and came through the other side with a completed manuscript and a renewed sense of reality.

Besides the obvious painful, emotional journey of having to access his troubled past, Hornig’s challenge included the fact that he’s dyslexic. Because of this, he decided to work with Michael Claibourne, who helped him organize his thoughts and Without a Net Coverpen his words. Claibourne loved his life story and had been urging him for quite a while to write it all down.  It seemed just as exciting as any of the screenplays they were working on. “My creative process was a form of channeling with Michael, who acted as interviewer, scribe and psychiatrist,” adds Hornig. “We wrote this memoir from Topanga Canyon to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Montana, and New York City. Sometimes lying down and sometimes sitting up.  In person, over the phone, and over the net. It was complex but clear. I tried to be truthful and honest with all the subjects.”

In spite of help from his writing partner, as well as support from his spouse and family, becoming an author has been overwhelming for Hornig, to say the least. “I can’t quite wrap my head around it,” he says. “All I did was tell a story. We’ll see what happens from there, and I’ll leave it up to my audience.” He’s looking forward to sharing some of his experiences in this journey with younger people, and hopes that this book puts him in a venue where he can talk to them. “I want to spread the news: it’s never too late.” He hopes readers will learn from his story and even find themselves in it, and realize that even the most destructive impulses can be overcome. “I have been able to forgive the people who wronged me, and forgive myself for wronging the people that I wronged – both the ones who are dead and the ones who are still alive. And looking back now through the other end of the telescope, it’s all very clear.”

Barry Hornig currently divides his time between Santa Monica, California, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he owns a gallery of fine art rugs. He is a professional sports fisherman, an expert on the paranormal, has talked with beings from space, had visions in Masar-i-Sharif, has been blessed by Muktananda, and hugged by Ammachi. “I have so many more stories to tell… and they’re not all autobiographical” states the author on what lurks on the horizon. “Screenplays, movies, all with messages. I am hoping that with this book my other story work will be taken seriously. And that in turn the other work will get out and more lessons will be learned.”

Connect with Barry Hornig on the web:

Website / Facebook / Twitter

Without a Net is available from Köehler Books, Amazon, B&N, and other online retailers.

My article originally appeared in Blogcritics

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Czar Nicholas 3Title: Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup
Author: Elisabeth Amaral
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 324
Genre: Memoir
Format: Paperback/Kindle

The mid-1960s through the mid-1970s was a heady, turbulent time. There was a lot going on back then, and author Elisabeth Amaral was in the middle of it all: the fights for women’s rights, racial equality, a music revolution, be-ins, love-ins, riots in the streets, the rage against the Vietnam War, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was an amazing time to be young.

In Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, Amaral shares her recollections of those times. She and her husband gave up their jobs in New York City, relocated to Boston with their infant son because of mime, unexpectedly started a children’s boutique, and opened a popular restaurant in Harvard Square. Most of all it is a coming-of-age story about herself and her husband as they embarked on an improbable and moving journey of self-discovery.

With sincerity and humor, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup offers a personal and revealing account that reaches out to those who find themselves striving to make a relationship work that, by its very nature, may be doomed. But this story is also one of friendship—and of finding the courage to move on.

“A truly wonderful memoir that reads like great fiction. The characters come alive on the page.” – Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor’s Wife and A Stranger Like You.

“The story of how Liz Amaral and her husband became successful at the epicenter of counterculture businesses near Harvard Square / Cambridge from 1967-1975 with their boutique and restaurant is told with humor and insight. Swirling around them are all of the entrapments of the era, the drugs and free love and betrayal, as well as the politics that defined the times.

With a fierce dedication to her son and husband, Liz Amaral triumphs in this stunning memoir where she discovers that, while love isn’t always what we think it is, it remains, in all its multi-faceted transformations, the driving force of who we are and how we live our lives.” – P.B. O’Sullivan, writer and mathematician

“In her intimate and humorous memoir, Liz Amaral reveals the challenges of a young family establishing a home in Cambridge amid the tumult of the late 1960s. You will discover the disconcerting truth about her marriage and the painful path she takes to find herself again. A true adventure of the heart.” – Kathrin Seitz, writer, producer, and coach

For More Information

  • Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

We shared everything, even our friends. But wait. What about those friends of his? Kind, gentlemen. Always womanless. Don’t even start to go there. Just don’t. It was easier to be in the immediate present, a member of our generation who shared the sentiments of the era, the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll era. The civil-rights and women’s- rights and anti-war and race-riot era. It was a thrilling time for youth. Along with our frustrations and fury at the government, we also shared an enormous sense of freedom and adventure, of this being our time. And if it was our time, that made it my time. My time to grab an afternoon lover, come home to nights of gentle affection, hug our kid, make supper, smoke some pot, and live happily. With luck, that might include ever after. Piece of cake, and it was no one’s fault.

Thoughts whizzed by. I grabbed onto some, because I knew I would need reminders.

This is my life, not a bad one at all. A very good one, in fact.

That was one thought. Here’s another: Look at me. Look at me! A sensual, sexual, twenty-something woman. A Scorpio. Married happily much of the time, except nighttime, the right time.

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Marija Bulatovic 2014Born in Yugoslavia in the 1970s, Marija Bulatovic, along with her parents, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s just ahead of the 1990s Yugoslav wars and the breakup of the country.  An accomplished business professional with years of experience driving enterprise business with Fortune 500 companies, Bulatovic graduated from Colgate University. Marija Bulatovic lives in Seattle with her husband and son.

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Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, FANTASTICAL: Tales of Bears, Beer and Haemophilia. What was your inspiration for it?

A: My inspiration for writing FANTASTICAL: Tales of Bears, Beer and Haemophilia was to provide amusement, lift spirits from the mundane set of activities and transport readers to another place and time, fantastical in my memory, that has vanished from the map but not the mind.

My goal was also to tell stories about 1980s Yugoslavia, this beautiful country and time that was magical and very special to those of us who had the opportunity to be touched by the richness of its people, culture, its Slavic soul that embraces melancholy with a twinkle in the eye.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: The protagonist in FANTASTICAL is me as a young child and the 13 stories describe episodes in my life in the 1980s Yugoslavia.  It’s the world recounted from memory and seen through the eyes of a child.  It’s filled with curiosity, typical misbehavior of children, and mystery of growing up.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: The writing process was easy and enjoyable as all the stories in FANTASTICAL are personal to me.  The writing itself took about a month, as I had a goal of writing a story a day for 25 days.  The entire process of publishing FANTASTICAL took much longer-2 years.

Front Cover hi resWhile there were no real bumps along the way, there was a lot of learning, especially as I self-published FANTASTICAL.  Self-publishing is enormously labor and time intensive, but also very rewarding and profitable, assuming one is able to make investments to get the book to the finish line.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting? 

A: FANTASTICAL is a deeply personal work for me and I was just excited to be up every day and writing another story that I felt so deeply connected to.  I was also excited about sharing these stories with the broader audience and sharing the magic of this bygone era with my readers.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: I didn’t but I understand it’s very common.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: Since I was so excited to pen my stories and share them with the broader audience, I had a personal goal of writing a story a day for 25 days.  The actual writing took place during my baby’s naps while the house was quiet and there were no distractions.

However, most of the envisioning of FANTASTICAL came during night feedings, while I was nursing my baby.

Q: How do you define success?

A: I already feel that I’ve been successful with this book project-FANTASTICAL is published and available for readers to enjoy it.  That is very satisfying and rewarding to me.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: First, I’m sorry you are experiencing lack of support for something that is very important to you.  While domestic harmony is important too, following one’s own professional path is important to one’s happiness and fulfillment which positively impact those around you.  To foster this virtuous cycle, find out why your family is not supportive of you becoming an author.  What in specific is the problem?  Perhaps it’s just 1 or 2 assumptions which I’m sure you can work to clarify and move beyond. Good luck!

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: No, I had a very enjoyable and enriching process!

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Thank you for your interest in FANTASTICAL and hope your readers and enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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LindaDiFruscio_29.1FLinda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. In addition to Cornered, her memoir about her friendship with Richard Sharpe, she is currently writing a book on skin care and completing a book of profiles based on interviews with transgender people, many of whom are her clients. While Cornered is her first book, her skin care articles have been published in magazines for years. Connect with the author on Facebook and via her website.

About the Book

In the year 2000, Linda DeFruscio was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Someone whose genius she admired immensely, a business associate and dear friend, committed a terrible crime. In response, she could cut off their friendship and avoid the risk of losing friends, clients and her own peace of mind—or, she could trust her gut and try to save some aspect of her friend’s humanity.

Cornered is Linda DeFruscio’s story of her long and often complex association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife. Beautifully written and surprisingly tender, Cornered allows the reader an upfront view of the fragility of genius and the decline into madness, all while casting a second light on how one woman’s refusal to turn her back resulted in momentous changes in her own life.

Find out more on Amazon.

INTERVIEW

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Cornered is the story of my long and complicated association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife in 2000. He had been my friend and business mentor before his crime, and afterwards I had to decide whether I could continue to befriend him. It was not an easy decision to make. He was a troubled man who did a terrible thing. For nine years, from 2000 to 2009 when he died, the media couldn’t get enough of him. They covered every moment of his trial, his imprisonment, his various suicide attempts and finally his death. So did I, in a sense. As his friend and confidante, I achieved a better understanding of the inner workings of his mind than the jury or the journalists or the psychiatrists all told. I met most of the people who walked in and out of his life after his incarceration. I came to understand the motivations of the various women who offered him their support—and often a lot more—while he was in prison. Having written lots of magazine articles and being a lifelong note taker, I knew that I could turn my story of knowing Richard Sharpe into a compelling book.

Cornered_medQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: Since Cornered is a memoir, I am the protagonist. Even though my book is written in the first person, I still had a sense of separation as I wrote it; there was the me writing the book and the me who was one of the players in the drama that unfolds in the book. That sense of separation allowed me to observe my motivations in a manner that wasn’t always available to me when I was actually living the drama. I can see clearly now how my protagonist grew and changed as a result of the things that happened to her.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: I take notes regularly, regarding just about everything. But my note taking regarding Richard Sharpe went to another level beginning with his trial in 2001. I wrote notes about him—and his interactions with me and a host of others—until he died in 2009, and then I wrote more notes about how is death affected me and others. Thereafter I began to assemble my notes into what would become my book. So, if you count the note taking, which I do, the book took about thirteen years to write.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a memoir?

A: Keeping things exciting may be a challenge for other books, but for this one, the subject matter was inherently compelling. Here you have a man who was a genius, a doctor who was as obsessed with finding a cure for cancer as he was with making the right picks on the stock market and, towards the end of his life, creating a business model that would function as an empire. But in spite of the fact that he had everything he wanted—millions of dollars, a loving wife and beautiful children, a gorgeous home, hundreds of business associates and people who admired his genius—underneath it all he was still a badly abused child, a needy, needy man who was probably mentally ill and prone to making terrible decisions in his personal life. As a character study alone, my book would be compelling. But the narration takes the reader through Richard Sharpe’s rise to power to his downfall and his unraveling. And because I was his friend, and not a biographer, I was privy to details of his life the reader won’t find anywhere else.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: The anxiety that I experienced was more about having to relive my story as I was writing it than concern about the writing process itself. I did a lot of crying as I worked on Cornered. But I experienced a bit of the other kind of anxiety too, especially when I would remember something crucial to the story while I was at work or doing something else. I would have to keep it in my head until I could get somewhere to write it down.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I have my own business. I have an office and a secretary and several employees and lots of clients who count on me. Even without the writing, I have to make appointments to be able to spend time with family and friends. Scheduling dates with loved ones may sound cold, but in fact it works quite well. I feel that my life is well balanced between my work, my hobby (writing) and the quality time I get to spend with the people who mean the most to me.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Writing Cornered was an enormous project. I had to turn boxes and boxes of notes and newspaper clippings into a book. I accomplished that. That’s success right there. Hopefully more versions of success will follow.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: If your spouse or partner doesn’t support your writing, try writing when they’re not around. You can take your laptop to a library or coffee shop. If they still have a problem with your writing, you may have to consider a separation or even a divorce. My ex-fiancé couldn’t stand that I worked past 4:30. He would never have been able to cope with me writing a book. My husband is just the opposite. He is not always happy about things I feel I need to do, but he is always willing to make a deal with me. For instance, there were times when I just didn’t feel up to going to the prison to visit Richard Sharpe by myself. My husband would come along, but then the following weekend I would have to accompany him to a movie that was not to my taste and to a seafood restaurant, even though I don’t like the smell of fish. As for the actually writing, my husband was not only supportive but he was helpful in providing insights and ideas to improve the prose.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: I didn’t feel that way about the writing process. There were times I felt emotionally weakened from having to call up some of the details of the story, but that was about relieving an experience, not about problems inherent in the procedure. I’m a very patient person; if I struggle with a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter, I put the project aside and come back to it. I don’t fret and throw things around or tell myself I have writer’s block.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Know what your goal is and stick to it. A lot of people give up and never finish what they set out to do. Don’t be one of them if you can help it.

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SharonSharon van Ivan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her two cats, The Duke and Earl.  She was born in Brooklyn New York and couldn’t wait to move back to New York when she grew up.  Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she lived with her mother in Akron, Ohio, until she returned to New York in her early 20s.  There she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a working actress for many years.  But she was always writing.  Her debut as a playwright was when she was 10 years old and living in Sacramento, California.  She wrote about the hardships of a young girl in Mexico.  The play was so good, it was presented to the whole school.  Sharon was mortified and did not write again until high school.  Then when she had a writing assignment, she would dream about it the night before, and write it just before class.  She was an A student in English.  Not the most popular person in school, however.

Growing up with an alcoholic and, therefore, mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father (plus a slew of stepfathers) was a challenge that Sharon met head-on – as she had no choice. Later in life when she did have a choice, the patterns had already been set and she followed a similarly disastrous road until she found show business, a great psychiatrist and the love of her life, the renowned realist painter, Charles Pfahl.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Juggle and Hide. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I lived through the proverbial bad childhood, and then as a young adult, I started treating myself badly. Deeply ingrained patterns had been formed and I had to work my way out of them. I had a lot of help along the way, so Juggle and Hide ends up being a story of my search for love and – ultimately – my survival.

Juggle and Hide-BEAQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Since it’s a memoir, I’m the protagonist. I’m lucky to be alive. As a matter of fact, my mother’s sponsor in AA on the day he met me, about 40 years ago, said that very thing to me.  He said it every time he saw me or talked to me on the phone up until the day he died — about a year and a half ago. One thing that sticks in my brain is that I never realized my mother was mentally ill until I was an adult being treated by a psychiatrist myself. I just thought she’d had a rough life and was doing the best she could. Actually, she was doing the best she could do, but it was a fight for her every day.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: As this is my first memoir, once I started writing, it took on a life of its own.  It took about six months to complete, but there weren’t many bumps along the way.  The bumps had been in my own life and that’s what I was writing about.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: With my own life story, it somehow just flowed naturally.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I do, but I experience anxiety before sitting down to send an e-mail or text to a friend. Writing is that kind of struggle for me, but once I start, it gets easier, but I never get any less anxious.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I write in my journal when I first wake up in the morning – about 5:00 – and most of the time that’s all I write during that day.  Then I will have a spurt of energy and write for a few days or weeks at a time.  I guess you could say I’m a binge writer. My husband, the artist Charles Pfahl – who did the cover for my book – died recently – but he was always supportive of my work.  My cats, the Duke and Earl are very supportive, too, but you’d have to ask them why.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Being able to get through each day without too much angst or too much sorrow.  Life is hard and just getting through the day makes me feel successful.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Threaten to leave.  Leave.  Be supportive of them and their work and see if that helps. If it doesn’t help, then leave.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Not totally, but I’m no George Orwell either. I think it is invigorating to write. I think life is the struggle.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Just keep writing. Something good will come of it.  I hope Juggle and Hide makes its way onto your bookshelves or into your kindle, and if it does, I hope you find the dark humor in it.  And I also hope you always have a sense of humor about your work – or mine – or anyone else’s. Never lose your sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

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