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)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Magnitude of a Moment

We've all heard the saying "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take your breath away." For most of my life, there was just one thing that stole my breath and that was being Mom to my precious son. I never imagined anything would be better than that. Lately, at the end of yet another long and incredible day, I realize that my breath is being stolen multiple times a day. I can't believe my life, it's so different than before, and it's just magical. Still nothing is better than being Mom, but, oh boy, is this new life surreal.

On April 16th, 2016 Ecuador was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake along the northern coast. Since then the same area has been jiggled and jolted by literally thousands of aftershocks or smaller quakes. Many areas along that coastal region suffered from what ranges from destruction to complete devastation.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

Now I know you're asking, "Scarlett, how in the world is this a good thing? You just said your life is magical. Are you warped?" My answer is No. The earthquake was a terrible event and I still hurt every day for the people on the coast, some of whom have relocated to Cuenca and I've had the pleasure of meeting them. I'm working on several projects to help the efforts and there isn't a single day that I don't connect in some way with the efforts. But amid all the hate, prejudice, intolerance, and vitriol in main stream and social media from my home country, the response to the catastrophe here renews my faith in humanity. It isn't all lost. And if we try hard enough, we can share enough love to make a difference.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

Those of us in the Andean region of the country felt the quake, but there was no damage here except for a few minor cracks in the plaster, which is fairly common. But the people of this region want to help. The expat community and the local Cuencano community have all reached out to help in any way we can find to do so. In the beginning, help meant sending truckloads of water, diapers, canned foods etc. And then the bigger problem of finding shelter for over 25,000 newly homeless and beginning the rebuilding of the coast. Several organizations are working to help the people and the animals of the region. Bamboo is being harvested from the northern regions and supplied for rebuilding efforts as it's proven to be a versatile and earthquake stable building material as well as sustainable. There are many volunteers but the largest need, of course, is money. And how do you keep the dollars coming for a long term project like this?  Many programs, projects, and events are beginning to take place to raise those extra dollars.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

A group of Cuencano artists formed a coalition to raise funds for the rebuilding effort in Canoa. It was a group of visual artist, writers, actors and musicians who planned to combine their talents and offer a one of a kind event. They called their new group Unidos Somos Mas (Together We Are More) and invited the expat writers to join in the event by writing about their personal experience with the earthquake.  I joined right away. I sat down and began to write. When I stopped writing, the tears still streaming down my face, I realized this piece was much more poetic than anything I have ever written.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

I enlisted the help of my very dear friend and poet Barbara Snow to help me arrange my words. We made a few different passes at editing it until we were satisfied and I read it Thursday evening at two different events. The first event was a Gringo event called the Cuenca Art Walk and the other was the Unidos Somos Mas event called A Night of Poetry and Art for Manabi.  Manabi is the province most destroyed by the April earthquake.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

Here it is, the first time published, for you and I hope you like it. If it inspires you to want to give to the cause, I highly recommend Hearts of Gold and please earmark it for the Proyecto Saman en Canoa. I'll include the link about the Canoa project at the bottom of the blog, you know, just in case.

                                            The Magnitude of a Moment

Written By Scarlett Braden

Arranged By Barbara Snow

A shiver and a pause.
                              One thousand one. One thousand two.
A quiver and a question.
                              One thousand three. One thousand four.
A rumble and recognition.
                              One thousand five.  One thousand six. 
A roll and a call to action.
                              Seven seconds.
Jump into the doorway.
               Just numbers to some. For others --- everything.

               A new experience.
               A moment of wonder.
               An earthquake.
 A moment of curiosity.
               Is this one close?
A moment of clarity.
               Earthquakes don
t occur near here.
               This must be really strong someplace far away.
A moment of confusion.
               The ground is still shaking.
               A long time.
               Will it ever stop? 
A moment of peace.
s stopped.
               Only the hanging fixtures still sway.
I run to my computer, check my newsfeed.
               Yes, others felt it too.
               But how strong was it?
               Where was it?
               Is everyone okay?
Facebook and email our interconnected lines of communication in a foreign land.
We were eating dinner. I was in bed. We were taking a stroll, I was washing dishes,
               Where were you? A soccer game, a volleyball game, a parade.
ust another Saturday evening, until…
               Until 7.8.
In mere moments, it flashes across the web.
               An earthquake off the coast of Ecuador. A 7.8!
               More Facebook messages, more emails. Is everyone all right? And we wait and we wait.
               An hour ticks by. Facebook sends a message…
"You are in a dangerous place. Are you safe?" 
               Yes, I
m safe. My friends begin to check in: Yes, I’m safe. One by one and two by three.
               So many still silent.
Family and friends around the world hear the news.
               Are you okay? We heard. Whats happening there? Should you leave?
               Im afraid and worried. Were anxious.
By daybreak the news is bad. Destruction and desolation.
               Missing friends. Is it  lack of power, lack of internet, or something more deadly?
               Should I stay calm? Worry? Be sad?
7.8  Just numbers.
               Numbers that mean time,
A day of disbelief. And we ponder.
               What can I do? How can we help? What does this mean?
               In social media posts, family and friends search for loved ones who are not responding.
               And then, a city galvanized into action.
               Everyone racing.  A nation in unity. One purpose.
               Help the coast. Ayúdanos.
A plea for help. Ayida.
               Help me. Ayuadame.
Today everyone is Ecuadorian. By birth or by choice. 
               Discounts if you buy to donate to the coast. We’ll box your purchases for transport.
               Every tear shed is for our fellow Ecuadorians. Extra tip jars for the coast.
               We all volunteer together, the Quichua, the Incas, the Spaniards, the Gringos. 
               We ask our friends, our family, our co-workers, and our social media friends.
               Please help us.
Ayúdanos, por favor.
Yes, I am okay. Physically.
               My body, my home, my pup, my family are still whole.
But my heart - my heart is shattered.
My soul - my soul is tormented.
My voice - my voice sobs and quivers, like the quake itself.
For the lost loved ones, the broken families, the lost pets, the crumbled homes, the shattered             dreams.
For the victims, there is so much lost. Every family affected. A lost family member, a friend, a home. Lost  transportation, heirlooms, mementos or livelihood. An uncertain future.
The victims have so many questions. Should I go or should I stay? How will we survive? How  can I provide? What does my neighbor need? What have I left to share?
The aftershocks shake and jiggle.  Will the glass stop breaking, the buildings stop falling, the cracks stop opening. The tangible evidence of my history is gone.
Dare I try again? How do I start? And where?
We are strong. We have friends. We are family. We will rise again.
Thank you to every countryman, foreigner, and nation,
               to every heart, soul and body who is doing what they can to help us.
               We will not forget you.
Viva Ecuador!

©2016 Scarlett Braden & Barbara Snow All rights reserved

When you click on the website at the top right is a button to select English version and at the bottom of the page is a button to donate.

Click here for information about Proyecto Saman en Canoa

 Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog!

Scarlett, Loving life in Cuenca even more!