Monday, October 3, 2016

Promises and Unintended Consequences

When I began the Friends in Foreign Places project I had hopes and dreams. It was exciting and I hoped that the project would help settle the anxiety I had of wanting so desperately to DO something to help the people in my new home.

And as the stories came pouring in, the anxiety subsided, and a quiet joy, that I was doing something replaced it. As I read the fabulous stories, some of them poured from the deep recesses of the writer's hearts, my excitement grew. And I made a promise, to do everything I could to make it a best seller. And we promised that all the proceeds would go to help the families on the coast at the Proyecto Saman camp.

Well, when we began our sales a little over a week ago, everyone was on board. Motivations, hopes, and dreams were at a high. But I never dreamed we would hit #1 in two of our categories before the launch party was even over. And I thank you all. All the writers, who wrote such great stories, our proofreaders, artist, cover designer and publisher. Everyone helping with the social media blast, sharing posts and building excitement. Telling their friends and families about the book. To Cuenca High Life and Gringo Tree publications for telling our story. It was pretty emotional. But something else unexpected happened. An Unintended Consequence of magnitude proportions. Even bigger than that 7.8 magnitude earthquake that totally decimated so much of our northern coastal cities.

Sarah Hanenbauer told us more about the families living in the Proyecto Saman camp. You see, this area is one of the most poverty ridden areas of the country. Houses and buildings were substandard construction and it's why they were reduced to dust when the earth shook so violently. She told us, many of the families living in the tent village say they've never lived so good. This earthquake happened where there is no FEMA, no State Farm Insurance, no unemployment, no food stamps. There is literally no help, except donations. And education is a real luxury few can afford. Therefore the illiteracy rate is high.

So, when our friends volunteering at Proyecto Saman, told the families that the extranjeros (foreigners) from high up in the mountains were writing a book to help raise money for the community, the residents wanted something else. They want to learn to read, and they want to learn English.  Because they want to read the book we wrote for them. And at the new learning center at the camp, they are doing just that.

Folks, this has been an emotional time, and I'm not too proud to say I've shed quite a number of tears. But a week later, every time I think about teenagers and adults learning to read, to read our book, the faucet turns on again.

SO, to the people at Proyecto Saman...we will make you another promise. You learn to read. And thanks to Sandra Materi, Karla Sanchez Arismendi, Fannie Villegas, and Sebastian Torres Vallejo, and bilingual volunteers in Cuenca, the book will be translated into Spanish in the coming months. To the families of Proyecto Saman, with love, from your friends in the Andes.

Are you crying with me yet? Well, there is one more unintended consequence. When the Ministry of Immigration heard about our book, they asked one of our Cuencano writers what it was all about. When he told them, they wanted to know when it would be available in Spanish. Because they want to read it. All of them. They want to know about our experiences in their country and as expats. So that maybe they can make the process of living here better and easier for us.

All you need is Ecuador and all Ecuador needs is love!

Thanks again to everyone involved! I can't say it enough. Now, I'm focused on finished Terror on the Bluff, book 3 in the Providence in Ecuador series. #Amwriting

To purchase the book in ebook format Click Here
To purchase the paperback in the US Canada or Europe: Click here
To learn more about Proyecto Saman or donate directly: Proyecto Saman
To join the crowd-funding campaign to buy a bus for the kids to get to school and the adults to work in the city: Big Red is Dead

Abrazos (hugs) from Ecuador,

Loving life in Cuenca!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Christmas came early!

I've mentioned it, but maybe you haven't heard.  I had this idea of my author friends here in Cuenca putting together an Anthology. A collection of stories about friendships- especially as expats. And we did, but some of our writing friends outside Cuenca asked to join us. And the project got bigger and bigger. In fact, everything from proofreading to cover art and design and all the stories within were donated. Zero Latitude Books in Cuenca is the publisher. Garry Kaulitz is the cover artist. 37 Authors, 45 stories and it's available NOW!

All the royalties will go directly to Proyecto Saman, a project housing 50 families devasted and left homeless by the April 16th earthquake, providing jobs for those families, and rebuilding permanent homes in Canoa. It's been five months since the quake, and a new normal is taking hold at the Proyecto Saman camp. Look at the resilience of these people, working hard every day to get their lives back.

The anthology is a collection of nonfiction true stories accompanied by fiction...suspense, mystery, romance, even sci-fi. It includes a little bit for everyone. There are even a few stories with dogs, a horse, and a mule. If you are considering or even ever thought about the expat lifestyle it's a great introduction to all the ways friends play a part in our lives.  Have an expat friend? What a lovely gift- send an ebook anywhere in the world.

And today is the day!! September 25th. My 2nd anniversary in Cuenca. My birthday. And Christmas for the families in Canoa. At least it will be if you click on the link below, and jump over to Amazon and purchase our Anthology. Only $5.99 for the Ebook, if you are in the US, Canada or Europe you can get the print book for $19.99. And ALL the proceeds help rebuild Ecuador.

Maybe our book will be a best-seller. And then it's Christmas for the 37 authors too! And a bigger Christmas for Proyecto Saman and the families in Canoa.  Will you help us make Christmas happen?

 Please Click Here to buy your copy!

Merry Christmas in September!  We thank you!!

We're having a big party today in Cuenca to celebrate the launch of the book. All our authors and friends will be sharing pictures over social media. Look for #FriendsInForeignPlaces and #EcuadorEarthquakeRelief- and I'll write another blog next week to tell you all about it and share some photos. Have a beautiful day, wherever in the world you are and know that we thank you for your support!

Scarlett Loving life in Cuenca!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Did you ever blow up a marshmallow in a microwave? My life in 2016.

I know, it's been a while since I blogged and filled you in on my life and other writerly things. So let's catch up, shall we?

By now you all know I live in Ecuador. And Ecuador suffered a devastating Earthquake in April. And I'm consumed with helping the people on the coast to recover.

What I haven't mentioned is I have health issues which prevent me from going to the coast. So I am filled with pride for my friends that left their comfy, fun life in Cuenca and headed to the coast and are actually DOING something. And I am left behind. But I'm certainly not alone. Oh No!

So I told you about gathering supplies and sending truckloads of stuff to the coast. And I've told you about my friend Sara Coppler, and Proyecto Saman, the rebuilding project. I posted about the t-shirts my friend Sebastian and I were selling to help raise money. And now I get to tell you about the biggest project yet. But first...exploding marshmallows.

Did you ever think you had a really good idea and it turns out it just wasn't? For any number of reasons it wouldn't work, or couldn't work, or didn't get the expect results? We've all had those, right?  For me, I have a huge trunkful of those not so great, great ideas. But then sometimes, you hit it out of the park. Like putting a marshmallow in the microwave. Right before your very eyes it grows and grows and grows, your eyes widen and bulge and you quickly open the microwave door just before it explodes into tiny sticky particles of nuclearized sugar. (Yes, I do like making up my own words, thank you.)

The last year and a half of my life have been ahhmazing. (Yes, another made up word. I'm confident you can follow along.) One night as I tried to go to sleep I was reflecting on all the things my life is, the people, the places, the experiences. I'm suffering from insomnia. Not like in years past when I worried and couldn't sleep. This is like a small child on Christmas Eve or even Christmas night. Or how I imagine an athlete feels trying to go to sleep on the night they qualified for the Olympics, or won the gold. It's just too good to go to sleep. Most days anyway. So I had this idea. I have all these writerly friends here. Cuenca is overflowing with literary riches. Why don't we write stories about our friendships and sell them as an anthology and donate the money to the coast? Sounds like a great idea, eh? (as my Canadian friends say). I facebooked a friend in the US who participated in a couple of anthologies, a publisher friend in Ireland who works with multi-author sets on a regular basis and a publisher friend here in Ecuador with extensive anthology experience and asked about the pitfalls, the problems, etc. I set out to put together a program that I thought would circumvent all the problems they told me about.

I jokingly would say, if we end up with three volumes, we'll do three volumes! I never dreamed it would happen. (The reason we do multiple volumes is because Amazon will only allow us to list ten authors. So for everyone to get their deserved credit we have to do multiple volumes.) Especially when right out of the gate folks wanted me to change the topic or the title or whatever. All things I had set to circumvent those pitfalls mentioned above. I became my most stubborn self and said nope this is the project. Write or don't if you don't want. And then weird things started happening. I started getting messages from people in other places asking if they could contribute. And then messages from people I didn't even know. Friends of friends and so on. Marshmallow. Growing.

So we ended up with people writing not only from Ecuador, but from France, and Thailand, and the U.S. and Canada.  And on August the 1st I grabbed that handle on the microwave door and opened it before the great marshmallow of an idea exploded. And now I can't wait for you to read what these amazing people have written. All for Ecuador. I get teary every time I think about it. There are so many stories within the stories. Maybe along the way, I'll share them, because I know this blog is getting beyond our attention spans.

With days like this, there is no shortage of inspiration for artist, photographers, musicians and writers. This is the view from my kitchen window this morning.

The books Friends in Foreign Places: An Expat Anthology (Volumes 1-5 and the Complete Works) will release on September 25th, and we hope you will buy a copy. You can follow our progress to launch on my facebook page. Garry Kaulitz just donated the cover art and the covers are being designed. We're having a huge book launch party in Cuenca, we'll take pictures and maybe some videos to share with those of you who can't be here. If you are in Cuenca and would like to attend, message me for details!  But in the meantime, if you want to read about my friend Sara and what she's doing on the coast, check it out Sara's story here or the Proyecto Saman project with our friends Sara Coppler, Sarah Hanenbauer and Geof, you can read here.

Have a great day and I wish for you all that you realize the world is your playground and there is nothing more important than the people in your life. Believe it or not, your best friend may be waiting to meet you on the other side of a vast ocean. Uncover your blessings and cherish them.

How about just one shout out with all the writers who contributed?
Paul Anlee, Karla Arismendi, Madelaine Barry, Carol Boe, Jane Brunton, Brian Buckner, Edie Buckner, Joss Burnel, Susan Burnett, Lennie Charnoff, Dragonfly, Miriam Drake, Suzy Stewart    Dubot, George Forges, Susan Hart, J. Michael Herron, Egyirba High, John Keeble, Lynne Klippel, Billy Kring, Tom Larson, Thomas Longwell, Sandra Materi, Sharon McIntosh, Donna McNicol, Sloan Moorland, Quincy Noelle, Georgina Nunez, Kristen Sawyer, Barbara Snow, Nancy Thornton, Sebastian Vallejo, Garry Vatcher, Fanny Villegas, Rebecca Weldon, Buddy Winston
Thank you for helping my little idea turn into a great idea and for caring about this place I call home.

Scarlett, Loving life in Cuenca!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Signs of a Worthy Mission

I've always despised the phrase, "No good deed goes unpunished."  Firstly, I perceive it to have a hopeless kind of feeling about it. And secondly, I've never really believed it to be true.  Those of you who know me well know that I practice being positive. I tend to surround myself with positive people. And, while I work at being realistic, I know everything doesn't always work the way it should, or the desired outcome doesn't always follow a carefully laid plan.  Yes, I could have used, "Best laid plans..." but I really am trying not to write a cliche cluster.

Those who know me, also know that the April 16th Earthquake here touched me in an inexplicable way. Many have asked me why. I don't know. I just know it did. I want to help. It was during this time that I realized Ecuador feels more like home to me than any place I've ever lived. So friends and I jumped in and helped by doing what we could from the altitude of the Andes, hours and hours away from the destruction. Literally, hundreds of truckloads of water, medical supplies, diapers, and food were rushed to the coast in those first weeks.

But then the clean up and reconstruction began. I physically am not able to help on the coast. So what could I do from here? I started a project and then another just kind of happened. If you would like more information about the relief effort, Proyecto Saman, or to donate click HERE.

Most of my expat friends here are writers. So I hatched a plan. What if we put together an anthology about friendships as expats? And what if we dedicated it to the Earthquake relief with all royalties going to the rebuilding effort? I began questioning people I know who have been involved with anthologies and set out a project hoping to avoid the most obvious pitfalls my friends experienced. Did I think this project would roll along with no hiccups? Of course not. Some of the obstacles I've experienced so far I'll admit I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. But the bottom line is, Friends In Foreign Places: An Expat Anthology migrated from an anthology of Cuenca writers to writers from all over the world. It grew from our impressive Cuenca community writing about being expats in Ecuador to include our new Ecuadorian friends writing about being friends with us, and then expats from other places, and U.S. and Canadian citizens writing about friendships with immigrants and refugees in their own countries. We now will have between thirty and forty writers from amateurs to professionals sharing beautiful stories and woven tales about cross-cultural friendships from corner to corner of this ever shrinking world. Even before publication, the project is exceeding even my wildest dreams. And I am thankful. I'm especially thankful that I didn't listen to the people who said it couldn't be done.

For the next part of this story, I will say that in my public life, in my social media, in particular, there are two things I never speak of. Religion and Politics. Many of us have adopted that philosphy because if you don't want to spend all your time arguing your opinion or listening to someone else's it's just better left unsaid. I'm about to break that rule, just this once. Because I stumbled onto a hotbed of crap that you just won't believe.

In the Southern U.S. where I was raised and raised my son, we had t-shirts and baseball caps with the saying, "American by birth, Southern by the Grace of God." I decided I wanted a shirt that said, "American by birth, Ecuadorian by the Grace of God." Some friends said they wanted one too. But they wanted their shirt to say they were Ecuadorian by choice.

Okay, I'm aware that it's not cool to say, "God" anymore. I'm also acutely aware that many people don't think God has a single thing to do with where they are, how they got there, or the many blessings in their in lives. Yep, some of us earned what we have and we made our own choices. I have friends that bridge all different types of religions and beliefs and even a few who profess to not believe in anything. That's cool. We don't talk about it. They don't try to sell me their doctrine and I'm not peddling mine either. So I find someone to create the artwork, (thanks, Sebastian) and someone to help me get the shirts made, (thanks, Sebastian, Olivia, and Agosta). I put the shirts up online and said hey, if you want a shirt, I'm adding $5 to the cost and it goes to earthquake relief.

Well, as they say in the south, (I don't think it matters your religion), Oh My Lord in Heaven, I opened a cesspool of opinionism. The first objection, of course, was not wanting God on a shirt, but I expected that and had already addressed it with an option for your shirt to say by choice if you desired.

But then. Then. I discovered that I can't call myself an American anymore. What?!?!?! Yep. The term American is apparently a one-word oxymoron. And to top it off, it's offensive to the nationals of my new adopted country. Or, at least, so say some fellow expats. So, not believing this could possibly be true I set out to clarify in my mind what I was being told. First I apologized publically for the short sightedness and insensitivity of our forefathers to call us Americans and I pleaded for help in reversing 240 years of tradition and habit. (Yep, I can be a smartass when it's warrented.)

Yes, I understand that there is a South America and a North America and that the term American COULD be considered ambiguous. It could mean either one. I get that. But there is no flag for North American, I didn't get here with a North American passport. I began asking all the Ecuadorians I came into contact with if it offended them if I called myself American. Those I know personally and those I don't. Like the taxi driver, the shop keeper, the restaurant owner. My first belief was confirmed rather quickly. No. Ecuadorians are not offended by this. Because mostly they are not offended by something so inconsequential. Then the virtual online fight broke out about what people around the world call the citizens of the United States of America. Americans. No. Yes.

I did get in a discussion with a new friend from Belgium about the upcoming election in the U.S. He says, "The Americans..." Hold on. Wait a minute. Go back. When you say Americans, who do you mean?  Yep, you got it. Because my readers are smart and worldly. Will I ever win this debate? Nope. Cause I'm not going to engage. I now call us United Statesians. Feel free to use the phrase if you find you need it too. Maybe in another 240 years it will catch on and no one will ever have to compromise themselves by being called an American.

And then on my way home today I saw a sign. Plastered to posts down the street. Down a street in Cuenca, Ecuador. It said: "Gran Vende de ropa de Americano! Sabado y Domingo."  Translation: "Big Sale of American clothes, Saturday and Sunday." I have no idea if those are South American clothes, or North American, Central American, Latin American, oh my. I wish I had thought to take a picture to include here so you could see it too. But I was just too perplexed as I continued my walk down the street trying to ascertain the actual origins of said clothes. I would have gone to the sale to see for myself, except it was last weekend. I missed my chance.

I apologize for a negative blog, but when I did a search for the word "opinion" on my photo site, "Blog" came up. Now you know my opinion.  And so far we raised $150 for earthquake relief from the sale of t-shirts and polos. Thankfully it's not nearly as confusing to be Australian, British, Belgian, Canadian or Ecuadorian. Will $150 build a new home on the coast? Of course not, but every little bit helps and there are some really cute shirts being worn in support of Ecuador.

We hope you will support our efforts further and plan to buy a copy of our anthology. It will be available in September and if you follow my blog, facebook or newsletter, you're sure to see more about it!

It's all a sign of a worthy mission.

So that's what I'm up to here in the Andes, in case you've been wondering. Keep smilin' ya'll. Love wins.

Scarlett, Loving life in Cuenca!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Do you want to go to Hawaii?

First, I'd like to welcome some special guests here today who are following Scott Bury's blog tour.  For those new visitors, I'm Scarlett and I'm an expat living in Ecuador. That's pretty vital information for this post to make any sense. I'm a suspense writer and I promise that doesn't come into play in today's blog. As hard as it may be to believe it, it's all true, no fiction today. I live south of the equator, which means our seasons are reversed to those in North America or Europe.

I know this post isn't going to get much sympathy from anyone in the U.S. right now, but while you are melting in hotter than usual temps, winter in Cuenca is being brutally harsh. For Ecuador anyway. We've suffered through two weeks of rain and unusually cold temps. True the temperatures are in the 50's but that feels COLD at this altitude when it's raining, especially after dark. Here's a picture of me dressed to go out for last night's parade. Yep, you can't see the long johns or sweater under there. And remember we don't have heat in the house because we don't need it. Normally.

Yep, that's me in baggy jeans with leggings underneath, a heavy jacket over a sweater over a thermal shirt, gloves, and an alpaca scarf doubled. On June 25th. I can honestly say that has NEVER happened before.

After the parade, I attended a surprise birthday party for a friend. I'm not sharing pictures because that's his party to share, but an indigenous lady was at the restaurant and apparently thought we were having a good time. She joined our party, and I will share the picture she allowed me to take.  It was a bit of an unusual party and we were a little loud, lots of laughter, and though she didn't understand a lot of what we were saying, she seemed to have as much fun as the rest of us. She is known to us simply as Abuela, or Grandmother.

She was very excited to get the Blue Glitter Cowboy hat as a favor from the party.

So, back to our topic. Hawaii. That's what the blog is supposed to be about right? Yep. So you guys in the States are sweltering and the only good place to be is in or on the water. At least if you have to be in the sun, a beautiful sandy beach with tropical flowers and plants doesn't sound too bad. And for me, a sunny beach sounds warm and inviting this week. I've often said I read to escape where I am and go somewhere else. Or to learn something new. But since we can't ALL go to Hawaii, let's go in a book.  I told Scott Bury he could hop on my blog. Why don't you check out Dead Man Lying. You'll find a description, an excerpt, a bio and a link below. Books- the best summer escape.

Dead Man Lying
A Lei Crime Kindle World Mystery

She knows when you’re lying …FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm is back on Maui to catch a killer.

With lush rain forests, black sand beaches, and a laid-back lifestyle, Maui offers the perfect retirement location for once-famous country singer Steven Sangster … until he ends up dead.

As the killer, or killers, strike again and again, Detective Lei Texeira and FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm must untangle the lies spun by the singer’s associates, friends, family — and the singer himself before the music dies.

Dead Man Lying: Blog Tour Excerpt 3

“‘This morning, the body of Mr. Steven Sangster, American folk music legend, was found on the grounds of his estate on Maui, Hawaii,’” Vanessa read aloud for the family. “‘Medical professionals were called immediately, but unfortunately, the coroner pronounced Mr. Sangster deceased at the scene.”
She looked at the crowd before her. Sangster’s children’s, Simon’s and Lana’s cheeks shone, wet.
Vanessa took another breath. “That being said, there have been some developments since Mr. Sangster was found in the forest. Specifically, someone fired a gun, probably a shotgun, at Detective Texeira, me and Mr. Sangster,” she nodded toward Simon, “who against police direction came to the spot where we found the body.” She realized her tone was sharp, even harsh and her pulse sped up when she thought about the gunshot.
“A gunshot? Is that why all these cops are swarming over the whole estate?” said Kaholo Iolani, the groundskeeper. He still wore coveralls, with thick gardening gloves tucked into one pocket.
“That’s why. And I am going to speak to each of you about your whereabouts for the past twenty-four hours,” Vanessa answered, still conscious of her harsh tone. She took a deep breath, hoping no one would notice.
“At least tell them to keep out of the gardens and not to stomp on the flowers,” Iolani grumbled.
“Are you going to speak with the children, too?” asked Paula Sangster, Simon’s wife. Vanessa heard the hint of an accent. Was she Spanish? French?
“No. We’ll speak with any minors in the presence of at least one parent,” Vanessa said. “Let me state now that no one here is a suspect in any way. We’re just trying to gather as much information as we can.”
“Does this mean there’s still a shooter on the premises?” Simon asked. Vanessa could see sweat on his forehead.
“We don’t know. That’s what Detective Texeira and the special weapons crew are trying to find out.” She scanned the room one more time and looked at her tablet. Someone was missing.
“Are you cops searching the whole estate?” someone else asked. When Vanessa looked up, she saw the skinny, curly-headed man beside Lana Sangster looking at her.
“Who are you?” she said.
“This is my boyfriend,” Lana said.
Vanessa consulted her tablet again. “Kefir Steinberg?”
“I pronounce it ‘Kiefer,’” he said.
“Then you’re pronouncing it wrong,” Vanessa said. Motion out the front window caught her eye. A cloth-top Mustang dodged around the three media vehicles perched at the entrance to the access road before pulling into the already crowded driveway. A tall, slim woman with long dark hair got out of the driver’s door, and two women jumped out of the media trucks to chase her. The tall woman easily outstripped them, reaching the verandah before the reporters could get to the driveway to shout questions.
Vanessa’s breath caught in her chest. That’s Erica Harrison—Sangster’s second wife. Even after all the years since her marriage to Steven Sangster ended, Erica Harrison still had a fan base and could sell CDs. Vanessa had bought one of her albums as a girl.
“Let her in,” she said to Righetti, who opened the front door.

About Scott Bury

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre, although the Lei Crime Kindle World holds a special allure. He’s written 
·       epic fantasy in Initiation Rites and The Bones of the Earth
·       erotic-romantic parody in One Shade of Red
·       historical memoir in Army of Worn Soles and its sequel, Under the Nazi Heel
·       mysteries with
o   Torn Roots (A Lei Crime Kindle World Mystery)
o   JET: Stealth (A JET Kindle World novella)
o   Palm Trees & Snowflakes (A Lei Crime Kindle World Mystery)
o   The Wife Line (A Sydney Rye Kindle World adventure)
·       And now his latest Lei Crime mystery, Dead Man Lying.

Scott lives in Ottawa, Canada, with two pesky cats, two mighty sons and a loving wife who has a very high tolerance level. 

Go ahead, click HERE to jump to Amazon and get your copy today.

I'm hoping everyone finds a comfortable place to spend the day wherever you are and as always, thanks for reading my blog.


Scarlett, Loving life in Cuenca! (Even when it's chilly)