Nostalgia for the Old Time Radio Shows

By Nora Vasconcelos

It was the just the second decade of the past century when the radio stations found the way to keep an ample audience captive with programs that broadcasted live theater plays specially adapted for the radio format.

The lack of other forms of entertainments, such as television and the turbulent economic situation that came after the Great Depression, make these shows grow as the listeners found a way to escape from reality, even if just for a short while.

Radio stations in the U.S. such as National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and Mutual Broadcasting System, offered all sort of programs that ran from about half an hour up to one hour.

Mystery, Drama, Suspense, Fantasy and Romance dominated the plots of original stories that were performed live by professional actors whose voices match perfectly with effect sounds that have managed to impress people up to these days.

As the documentary Back of the Mike (presented by Old Time World) shows: “rain was created by pouring sand over a spinning potters wheel which sent it down a metal funnel onto a microphone which was covered by a paper bag. Fire was created by wadding up plastic wrap close to the microphone”.

It was so that from the 30’s up to the late 50’s, detectives like Sam Spade and Boston Blackie came to live, as well as crime drama series such as The FBI in War and Peace and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, the same as superheroes such as Superman, Flash Gordon, Batman and Planet Man.

The broadcasts also included romantic stories, like the series Theater of Romance, produced by the CBS; Westerns, like Tales of Texas Rangers and The American Trail, and Comedy shows, including Abbot and Castello, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and the Bob Hope show.

Mystery play a special role in the success of radio shows as it attracted for many years famous actors such as Orson Wells, who was part of the Campbell Playhouse, and E.G. Marshall, host of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Other famous starts that joined the casts of some radio plays were Marlene Dietrich, Vincent Price and Mike Wallace.

When the radio stations didn’t play original scripts, they share with the audience adaptations of the works of famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. In the same way, books like Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Hamlet by Shakespeare, Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte and Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne, were adapted into radio theaters that were able to present in a short time the essence of these works.

The magic produced by these broadcasts was increased with the rhythmic tunes coming from the live performance of the Big Bands, very popular at that time, swinging the audiences away with performers like Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Artie Show.

Music and radio theaters helped many people get through the difficult years of the Second World War, as the audience used to keep their radios on hoping to catch the latest news from the troops abroad. Once again, radio shows gave them some solace.

Reknown brands took also advantage of the popularity of the shows, becoming sponsors of different series, such as Sears, Colgate, Palmolive, the same as hotels like the Lincoln and the Pennsylvania, in New York, joined their names to the Big Bands that performed their shows in there.

Unfortunately, as contracts and legal recording and broadcasting issues affected live performances of the musical groups, and with the recent popularity or commercial Television in color, the popularity of the radio shows gradually decreased until they weren’t popular anymore and their broadcasts ended.

Fortunately, the Golden Age of Radio has remained alive in the minds of many people who have shared their love for old time radio shows to new generations. At the same time, international organisms such as The International Archive have compiled and preserved many of this radio shows for all people to listen to them.

And now it’s time to say: Lights out!

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Writing a Thriller: The Secret is in the Detail

By Jane Isaac*
Guest Post

Author Pic

 

No matter what genre you write, every book carries some element of research and, for crime fiction, the weight is a heavy one.

There’s not only police procedure, plotlines, areas and events to study, but also people.

What’s the secret formula behind the great characters in fiction? Research. Investment into creating and layering our characters gives them the depth to become ‘real’.

As writers we are great people watchers. Aside from interviewing people in our chosen genre, we observe the world around us and pick up little traits: the man in the cafe with the six o’clock shadow, the perfectly manicured mum at the school gates, the child with the tuft of hair that sticks up around his crown – all quirks that help us to build the characters in our fiction.

I’ve always been a great fan of studying, a perennial student in many respects, undertaking courses in a plethora of different subjects over the years including law, pottery, even sign language. Consequently, research is one of my favourite aspects of novel writing – a labour of love, one might say.

It’s interesting what directions book research takes. For An Unfamiliar Murder, fire research led me to a wonderful meeting with the former Chief of Northants Fire Service who explained how the structure of our old terraced properties work in the UK, the role of accelerants, and fire procedures.

I also spoke to endless police officers about their role, their aspirations, the politics of the organisation. Then there are all the books about serial killers and psychopaths – the real case studies that kept me awake at night and haunted my dreams.

For my second book, The Truth Will Out, I met up with a former Detective Superintendent, who managed murder squads all over the UK during his 30 year career, for some in-depth research into some of the cases he has managed. Boy, did he have some tales to tell…

The internet can provide a great resource model but, when considering settings, I prefer the hands on approach. I like to visit a scene, if possible, to see what it really looks like, how it smells, what noises I can hear in the background.

There are times when you can’t beat touching the cold stone, breathing the air around you. I spent hours trudging over fields examining disused mine shafts, old pump houses, railway cabins, derelict cottages, in pursuit of deposition sites for a body for my first novel. Something my Labrador, Bollo, found particularly enjoyable!

Often such information provides background material which never appears in the novel, or only converts to a couple of lines. Sometimes it’s edited out. But the details we learn provide more depth to our work, allowing us to describe scenes and people from an informed viewpoint. This not only enables the words to flow, but makes it feel more real, which is particularly important for a psychological thriller.

Ever read a book when you’ve questioned an event, a character, a place because it isn’t quite right? Failing to do your research will show. And with the internet these days, it’s easier than ever to make sure we check our information. I’d never claim for my work to be completely factually correct, but it’s certainly not for the want of trying.

AN UNFAMILIAR MURDER SMALLER

Released on March 1st, 2016, An Unfamiliart Murder, was my first book, originally published in the US, and it’s almost four years to the day that this title was originally published, so it feels very special to be able to share the ‘all new’ version again. Here’s a blurb taster for you:

“Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder inquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…

Leading her first murder investigation, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?”

*Jane Isaac lives writes detective novels with a psychological edge. She lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. On 1st March 2016 she re-released her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, originally published in the US in 2012, which was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ Later in the year her fourth book, Beneath the Ashes, will be published by Legend Press. www.janeisaac.co.uk

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12 Books of Christmas

Christmas by NVS

By Nora Vasconcelos

Now that the Holiday season is around the corner I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite Christmas stories, and here they are:

1) Fallen Angel, by Don J. Snyder. Christmas time in a cottage called Serenity is the best place to help Terry McQuinn heal old emotional wounds. At the same time, he finds himself in this places that he had almost forgot as time passed by, the same as the relationship with his father. The cold weather and the snow accompany him, unaware that some new visitors to Serenity will change his life forever.

2) Silver Bells, by Luanne Rice. This book tells the story of Christopher Byrne and his son, who find the path back to happiness and family love thanks to a rough time spent in New York city, and the help of Catherine Tierney, who unexpectedly becomes a key element for all of them to finally be able to have a happy Christmas.

3) The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl. Not exactly a Christmas story, but, as part of the story occurs in winter and it places the reader in the time when Charles Dickens toured around the East Cost of the U.S, I always relate this book to the Holidays season.

4) Sherlock Holmes: A Case at Christmas and Other New Adventures, by N.M. Scott. For me good mysteries are always welcome, and who else that Sherlock Holmes himself to flavour a little bit the season. In this collection of stories, Scott retakes the characters created by Conan Doyle to bring many more enjoyable adventures, placing some of them during the holidays.

5) Murder never takes a holiday, by Donald Bain. As part of the series of books based on the TV series Murder She Wrote, this book features two stories. In the first one, A little Yuletide Murder, Bain takes the main character, Jessica Fletcher, to her hometown, Cabot Cove, where the mystery writers hopes to spend a joyful Christmas. However, as always it happens to Mrs. Fletcher, a murder comes on her way to prevent her to sit down and relax. The second story, Manhattans and Murder, places Mrs. Fletcher in New York city, where she’s determined to solve another mystery that’s has happened right in the middle of her book tour.

6) ‘Tis the Season, by Ann M. Martin. This children’s story touches the heart of everyone who reads it as it tells the story of little Flora and Ruby, who had recently lost their parents and are trying hard to fit themselves in a town where Christmas is all around.

7) and 8) Mrs. Miracle and Call me Mrs. Miracle, by Debbie Macomber, are two books in which Mrs. Merkle, often called Mrs. Miracle, goes around different places finding ingenious ways to solve those little problems that people around her face, exactly those little problems that seem impossible to be solved and that once they are solve, bring love, happiness and a very merry happy Christmas to everyone.

9) Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham. Imagine all what can go wrong during this time. Add then the idea of skipping the holiday. The result: A complete disaster. One that Luther and Nora Krank won’t be able to solve unless they accept some help from whom they less expect it.

10) Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, edited by Otto Penlzer, owner of the Mysterious bookshop in New York City. This book compiles mystery short stories placed during Christmas time, written specially for the Bookshop by famous authors such as Anne Perry, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, Ed McBain and Donald E. Westlake.

11) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Of course this good old classic can be never missed during the celebrations. I’ve read and re read this story over and over, and I never get enough of it. I never get tired of going through its pages while I allow myself to get lost in the story as if I were a silent witness of what’s happening to Mr. Scrooge during that ghostly night destined to save his soul.

12) A Rumpole Christmas, by John Mortimer. If Christmas time is not really your thing, you can always take revenge of it by reading the adventures and misfortunes of Horace Rumpole, a moody character, who experiences all kind of situations during the Holiday Season while trying to make the least of this joyful time.

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Book and Trees: A bet for the Future

By Nora Vasconcelos

Forest

Recently, it was announced that the first book of the Future Library project had been delivered by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The manuscript, titled Scribbler Moon, will be published in 2114.

In an essay shared by the Future Library, Atwood considers this project “the material basis for the transmission of words through time… as a time capsule, since the author who marks the words down and the receiver of those words – the reader – are always separated by time.”

Margaret

This project was developed by the Scottish artist Katie Paterson. Along with the collection of unpublished works, the futuristic plan includes an ecological component, as 1000 trees have been planted in a forest right outside the Norwegian capital, Oslo, so that the plants and the words will grow together in time. When the 100 years have passed, the manuscripts will be published, using the wood from these trees to produce all the paper needed.

Katie

Year after year, an author will deliver a new manuscript, in this case, David Mitchell is the one in charge of creating the next new literary piece, which is set to be delivered in 2016.

Quoting Chinese proverbs, Mitchel said about this challenge: “is the basking in the shade of trees planted a hundred years ago, trees which the gardener knew would outlive him or her, but which he or she planted anyway for the pleasure of people not yet born.”

By this way, Mitchell sees this project as “a vote of confidence that, despite the catastrophist shadows under which we live, the future will still be a brightish place willing and able to complete an artistic endeavour begun by long-dead people a century ago.”

According to the Future Library, all the manuscripts “will be held in trust in a specially designed room in the New Deichmanske Public Library”, which will opened its doors in 2018, in Oslo, Norway. There, the authors’ names and titles of their works will be on display, “but none of the manuscripts will be available for reading – until their publication in one century’s time.”

future library

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‘Rats’ invation of Lagos’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

(Part 2)
— — —
[You can read the first part of this story on Obinna’s Blog]

The ones who were lucky, skipped town. But they were the less. The rest of the people were still stuck in the city, ruled by the giant rats.

On April 13th, two days after the rats showed everyone what they were capable of, the local authorities made a deal with them. They would have everything they wanted: food, wealth, property and the management of the Port, which would give them the total control of the economy of the city. All of it in exchange for them to stop threatening the people of Lagos.

The conquest had succeeded before their deadline, which had been set for January 1st, 2016.

For about a month, there were no major incidents. People started to heal and the rats focused on taking over the strategic places and positions in the city.

Jeher, the leader of all the giant rats settled in a huge mansion facing the lagoon. Every day, with his enormous teeth he bit the fresh meals that were brought by ten servants, all of them people who weren’t allowed to look at him, so they had to walk with their heads down.

The rat enjoyed insulting them, showing up his power, feeling always sure that now that his kind had controlled the city, no human would ever be able to remove them from their comfortable life.

Holding his food with one hand, Jeher liked to play, holding his big tail with his other hand. This seemed to scare his servants more than any other gesture, apart from showing them his big teeth.

He liked power, power that he had got not because he was the most intelligent or hardworking one, but because he had bullied everyone all his life, even when he was a regular tiny rat running across the sewer lines across the city.

Not only humans feared him, but also the other rats. Since he had become this colossal rat that found the way to grow thousands of times his normal size, everybody around had lost part of their bodies due to the attacks made by this rat that found pleasure hurting other beings, just for the sake of it.

His second in command, Leax, had bought all her way to power, paying Jeher so he wouldn’t hurt her, on the contrary he would take her all the way up. Together they bullied everyone, and if someone dared to complain they would get rid of them, either sending them to faraway dirty manholes, where food was scarce and weather conditions would punish them badly, or making them work unspeakable tasks. Rats feared them the same as the humans did.

By August 15th, all the cargo shipments that arrived to the port were controlled by the rats. All the incoming merchandise was processed and storaged, so they kept the most valuable goods and the most exquisite food. The left overs were sold to the people in the city who had to line up for long hours before getting a putrid piece of meat and some moldy bread.

For the rest of the world, the horror that caused the story covered by the international media had passed. What became breaking news and took over the TV shows at some point, turned into an old story filed in the archive. Rats ruling a city was just another tragedy the world had got used to.

At least it seemed so to the people of Lagos who had lost all hope. They had seen all the international media leave months ago and no one else had come ever since. All the promises of help from foreign powers and friendly nations had remained as good-will acts, sometimes only performed to get a bigger space on the news.

And the rats felt happy about that.

What nobody knew was that somewhere faraway, a young man in Mexico had been working really hard to find a solution, or at least some sort of relief.

Concerned for the faith of the people of Lagos and horrified by the power that the rats had gained so easily, he spent all his spare time working in his little apartment on a series of experiments that could diminish the strength of the rodents.

Pedro was aware that poison hadn’t worked, so he designed different plans. Some of them sounded simple, some impossible, but he didn’t discard any idea. At least in the planning stage.

As the days passed by, more walls in his house were covered with notebook pages full of diagrams, equations, drawings and paragraphs. Paper cups with left overs of dry coffee were all around the place, and maps of Nigeria could be seen over the tables around the apartment with small notes and arrows drawn in different colours.

But desperation caught up with him. None of his ideas would solve the problem. After all these months, Pedro was finally giving up. Exhaustion caught up with him, and he fell asleep right where he was, covered by a pile of dirty clothes and newspapers.

Suddenly, something unexpected happened, the solution came to him in his sleep, as clear as if he were awake. But, could it be done? He wondered, still half asleep. 

Afraid he would lose this idea, Pedro forced himself to wake up. It was time to implement his plan.

Jotting down all his thoughts along with formulas and lists of items that he would need, Pedro showed then no signs of fatigue. He had to act fast, before the rats could cause more damage.

One week later, Pedro was in Lagos. A backpack hanging on his left shoulder, a metal briefcase in his right hand.

As soon as he settled down at an abandoned hangar, he set all his equipment, but he still had some doubts. Was this a real solution? He questioned himself, over and over.

That same day, Jeher was particularly bored. Since the rats had domesticated the humans, so they would do all the work for them, the fun had severely diminished. May be it was time to move ahead with their plans to conquer other cities. After all, it had been quite easy, and his richness and power would be then infinite. He didn’t have to conquer the entire world, just some critical places. Then, he’d ruled everyone on this planet!

But all this thinking had made him hungry, so he ordered some snacks from his special reserve. A few minutes later, a human servant brought a backpack full of little kittens.

It had been brought by some Mexican guy who dared to come to the city, taking advantage of the almost non-existing fares charged by the few airlines that had kept flying to Lagos.

The present –the young man had said– was in exchange for the rats to let him do some scientific work in one of the abandoned areas of the airport, because his experiments were so unusual that he had already been rejected in other countries. As Jeher had no interest in science, he allowed Pedro to do whatever he wished.

Relaxing in the garden, the rat picked up one of the little kittens with his big claws, and as he was taking it to his mouth, something happened…

In a matter of seconds the little kitten changed its size, and it kept increasing it until it became impossible for Jeher to hold it anymore. The kitten, bigger than an elephant, landed all its weight over the rat …The last thing the evil rodent saw was the huge interior of the cat’s pink mouth.

Minutes later, the rest of the kittens started to pop up, growing as big as the first one, then they began to chase the rats all around the city. It took them no more than two hours to end the rats empire.

The few ones that weren’t eaten by the felines, Leax among them, ran away toward the bay, so scare of the cats that they forgot that the waters of the lagoon had been polluted with their own garbage. They died even before they drowned.

The humans couldn’t believe it! This horrifying episode had ended, but they were so traumatised by the whole experience that they weren’t sure how they would go on with their lives. May be they didn’t have the strength anymore, but they thanked Pedro anyway.

How did you do it? An old man managed to ask.

I found the way to alter the genes of these cats, so they would become huge just with the tiniest contact with the giant rats, then I left the rest to their natural instincts. Pedro answered, happy because his idea had work.

But, what are we going to do with the big cats now? The same old man asked.

That, my good friend, is something I still have to figure out… Pedro said, looking at the horizon were the enormous felines were taking a nap, after their big feast.

* * *

croosover artwork OK
* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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‘Your Best Bet’ – Short story

By Nora Vasconcelos

From his window on the plane, Marco saw the first hints of the Rivera Maya. It had been a long journey, visiting different countries in which he had intended to bring some international investors to collaborate with him in his business.

With more good wishes than concrete results, Marco had finished his trip and now it was only a matter of minutes for him to finally be home. He was really anxious to go out of the plane.

He couldn’t help it, any time he was on an aircraft the words of his father came to his mind, over and over: “Die young and die rich.”

What his dad wasn’t aware of was that one day, quite soon, his wish would come true when his jet crashed on a road close to Las Vegas, where he had hoped to repeat his last winning streak which had doubled his fortune with only one very lucky hand.

As a young adult, Marco had never been really interested in his family’s fortune, but it was perhaps because all his life he had been rich, thanks to the ravings of his father at the poker tables, the roulette, and even the slot machines. Gambling all the year-long around the world, money had flowed around his mansion in Rivera Maya, the same as if it were a river full of gold.

Marco often wondered what it’d be like if things were different. “How it’d be to have less money and a full-time dad?”

One day, the same as it’d happened with his father, life fulfilled Marco’s desire …sort of, because with his father’s death, money had stopped flowing and then it was time for him to take matters into his own hands. He and his mum sold their beach house, then they got an apartment in Cancun, and started an ecotourism business in Rivera Maya.

As the business grew, several trips a year were required. People seemed to like Marco’s style and hired him frequently to lead special tours in other countries when they wanted their foreign partners to be impressed so, they would open their wallets and invest in new business ventures. And for that, he had to overcome his aversion to flying.

The first time he got inside a plane -six months after his father’s death-, Marco was victim of an unusual dizziness. It was so strong that he thought he’d pass out in the middle of the flight.

However, continuous breathing exercises and a glass of Bordeaux helped him survived the rest of the trip. Anyway, memories of his dad’s death accompanied him the rest of the way.

Marco though he could remain in control until the plane landed, but it was just when the captain announced that they were about to touch land, when the nightmare began. He started to imagine the last moments in his father’s life. “Was he terribly frightened? Did he have enough time to say a final prayer?”

“For sure he was thinking about his family?” Marco thought, shaking his head. “Did he ever get time..?” He shivered.

Then he felt he couldn’t breathe and a flight attendant had to come close to him to calm him down and help him breathe normally. The plane finally landed, and Marco went on with his trip, knowing that the same terrible thoughts would torment him not only during his flight back, but also during the following flights for a long while.

In general, Marco was the spitting image his father. He had shared his taste for music, so he always enjoyed spending time at the club, listening to any new band that came to town. French wines were always present on the table and Sundays at the ballpark were a must.

Marco’s dad had also encouraged him to acquire all his wisdom regarding the cards and he had done it, but he didn’t enjoy it. However, Marco had always acknowledged his dad’s passion and dedication towards this activity, which he had considered a “real job full of entertainment and excitement.”

Gambling was out of the question for Marco, but he kept from his dad’s passion the complete dedication to his work. He also remembered frequently his father’s advice: “Look son, whenever you go to work be well prepared, measure your opponents in advance, find out what’s happening in the world, be a good conversationalist, dressed well because presence is important, but never look down on anyone just because you’re wearing a fancy suit.”

Marco had remained truthful to his dad’s advice ever since.

Now, several years later, although he ran a successful operation guiding tourists across the natural areas in the Yucatan Peninsula, Central America, and the Caribbean, keeping the business afloat had become more complicated since the problems with the global economy had caused that many people had to stay home for the holidays.

More money was needed, there was no doubt about that, but Marco refused to dismiss any of his employees, and even when he had inherited his dad’s ability at the gambling tables, he had refused to cash on it. So, he decided that finding some international investors would be his only option. “May be the foreign tourists he was taking on a trip tomorrow would be interested in a business deal?” He thought.

It was almost 6pm and the sunset was taking over the ocean view with its brilliant colors. For a few seconds, he fixed his eyes on the horizon. Several buildings were under construction along the bay. This bothered him a little, because all these new towers would block the sea view. But new hotels meant more tourists, and that was just what his business needed.

The following morning, Marco left his apartment very early to guide a group of 8 people who wanted to have a good sailing day on their way to the Caribbean islands where they had planned to spend some time doing business.

They had come from different countries and were interested in developing cruise-trip options for bays, marinas and small beaches not as popular or advertised as other places, but with lots of potential. Their plan was to use small boats that would allow them to offer luxury trips to people who wanted to explore new lands in style.

The first part of the trip was relaxing as the passengers mainly rested or had some snacks, leaving Marco alone. Then, as the vessel reached deeper waters, they seemed to have some interest in the way their guide dealt with the boat’s controls.

Finally, one of them said to him: “Hey, son. We’ve heard you run a good business here.”

Without taking his eyes apart from the horizon, Marco nodded, as the white boat continue getting the splash from the sea.

“We also know that you’re looking for some cash to sustain it,” the man, in shorts and a polo shirt, continued while trying to find a steady position. “What about coming to work with us. You would get some good money, and you can leave someone in charge of everything here,” he said with a hoarse voice.

Out of surprise, Marco seemed tempted for a second to turn his head, as if he wished to be sure that what he had heard was true. But he continued driving his boat steadily.

“What do you want me to do? What I mean is, what kind of job would pay me that much for me to have someone taking care of my business here while I work with you guys?” Marco asked, hoping this was the break he was waiting for.

One of the passengers, wearing a beach shirt and sunglasses, came close to Marco and told him almost in a whisper: “don’t play the fool with us, boy. We all know that you’re a much better player than your dad, he used to brag about it all the time, while we played cards together in Vegas. Finding you here running a legit business was surprising, but we’re sure this is just a front…”

It took a few minutes for Marco to bring the boat to a complete stop. Then he studied briefly all of his passengers, the same as if they were at the poker table, and with a firm voice he told them: “I don’t know what you’ve heard. Whatever my dad said about me being good at gambling, it’s just not true. I will take you to the next port and once there you’re on your own.”

“Come on boy!” The man wearing the polo shirt told him. “Don’t be like that. What’s the point on hiding your talents? You can be rich, the same as your dad was, and we need a talented man to run our casino business on our luxury mini cruises. It’s a win-win situation.”

“On the other hand,” the guy with the sunglasses intervened – getting very close to Marco -, “we’ve heard this is a deep dangerous sea for people who fall off their boats… why to risk it? Why don’t you come closer and tell us that you’ve decided to come to work with us boy…”

(To be continued next Wednesday on: http://www.obinnaudenwe.blogspot.mx/ )

* * *

croosover artwork OK
* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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The Crossover Mexico – Nigeria Project

By Nora Vasconcelos and Obinna Udenwe

croosover artwork OK

Two writers, Nora Vasconcelos, from Mexico, and Obinna Udenwe, from Nigeria, have teamed up in a potentially huge and courageous short story project titled ‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’. The Project will have the two writers daring to bridge the gap between lives in two continents.

For a short period of time, they will produce a total of ten short stories chronicling lives in both Nigeria and Mexico. Each short story of 3,000 words will have each of them contributing 1,500 words each. One of them will start a story and write it up to 1500 words long, then the other picks it up and adds another 1500 words.

In total ‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’ will have each writer (Obinna and Nora) starting five stories each, and the other completing it, to bring the total number of stories in the project to ten.

Nigeria and Mexico share a lot in common – both face several problems and challenges, at the same time, these two countries have people who fall in love, who are patriots, who want to see their country grow and shine.

The two writers were connected in 2014 in an international blog tour, invited by Trish Nicholson (@trishanicholson), from New Zeland. The blog tour fostered a friendship that has defied distance, and made them believe that the world has been ensconced in a shell by the internet, making everything possible.

‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’ will talk about current issues such as migration, politics, the way we live, family, difficult decisions, love, and much more.

Each story will be uploaded in their blogs (www.obinnaudenwe.blogspot.com, & https://thetravelingbookclub.wordpress.com/). Then the links will be shared on social media.

When they have completed and published online the ten stories, they will try looking for a suitable home for it, getting ‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’ published in a print book form. (Interested publishers are welcomed for negotiations right away.)

Obinna Udenwe’s Comment:
Nora Vasconcelos and I became friends in 2014 after a blog tour that brought us together with Trish Nicholson (@trishanicholson) and Andrew Hill (@jazprose)  from the US. Then in 2015, we decided that having experienced what the internet could do in bridging hundreds of miles, we could embark on a daring, adventurous, fun and witty short story project. Each story will be started by either Nora or myself and completed by the other. So imagine completing a story started by another writer, without knowing firsthand how the other had wanted the story to end, wouldn’t that be hilarious?

Nora Vasconcelos’ Comment:
I’ve always been amazed by the closeness that internet creates, no matter how far away people are, a simple click can bring them together. It’s technology as well which makes this project a reality, allowing two writers, living in two continents, to complete each other’s stories with no more than a great deal of imagination. The same as Obinna, I want to akwnowledge the constant support of our friends, Trish and Andrew.

Our Bios

Obinna Udenwe is the author of a debut political, conspiracy, crime thriller, ‘Satans & Shaitans’ set in Nigeria against the backdrop of the ongoing tensions. His short stories have appeared in the Kalahari Review, African Roar, Brittle Paper, Tribe, Alariwo, ANA Review, Fiction365 and many more.

Nora Vasconcelos is the author of the children’s book ‘Pequeñas Fantasias’, published in Spanish, along with several news stories and exclusive feature pieces about finances and architecture written for different nationwide Mexican media. She has been a blogger since 2011, interviewing international authors and writing stories in English about books and travel.

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The Hidden Talent of Fictional Writers

By Nora Vasconcelos

Anthony_TrollopeFor many years I’ve been fascinated by the enormous ability shown by different authors who are able to create not only believable characters but also very skillful imaginary narrators who come to life on the pages of books, telling readers the story the author has plotted.

These fictional writers narrate the story from their personal point of view, both as a witness and main characters of the story they’re telling, bringing the readers inside the story and making them confidents of their troubles, thoughts, fears and accomplishments.

Of those imaginary authors who have captivated my imagination, here are my three favorites:

The noble efforts of Dr. Watson

"Strand paget" by Sidney Paget (1860-1908) - Strand Magazine. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Strand paget” by Sidney Paget (1860-1908) – Strand Magazine. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

It was around 1880 when John H. Watson met Sherlock Holmes for the first time.

Dr. Watson was looking for “less pretentious and less expensive domicile”. At the same time, Sherlock Holmes had found a nice place and was trying to find “someone to go halves with him”. A mutual friend introduced them, and the next day Watson and Holmes went to inspect the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street.

“They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows. So desirable in every way were the apartments, and so moderate did the terms seem when divided between us, that the bargain was concluded upon the spot, and we at once entered into possession. That very evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the following morning Sherlock Holmes followed me with several boxes.” (*)

Holmes, a consultant detective, solved problems and puzzles when others had failed. Watson, curious about his flat mate abilities, observed him closely, and as confidence grew between the new friends, he became Sherlock’s partner.

Just a few days later they became flatmates, Watson came up with the following list related to Sherlock Holmes limits:

1. Knowledge of Literature.—Nil.
2. Philosophy.—Nil.
3. Astronomy.—Nil.
4. Politics.—Feeble.
5. Botany.—Variable. Well up in belladonna,
opium, and poisons generally.
Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Geology.—Practical, but limited.
Tells at a glance different soils
from each other. After walks has
shown me splashes upon his trousers,
and told me by their colour and
consistence in what part of London
he had received them.
7. Chemistry.—Profound.
8. Anatomy.—Accurate, but unsystematic.
9. Sensational Literature.—Immense. He appears
to know every detail of every horror
perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law. (*)

As the time passed by, the knowledge and care that Dr. Watson developed by watching his friend in action led him to write down his adventures and later on, to become his biographer.

Using the first person, Dr. Watson describes with great detail the cases Holmes solved, presenting him as a skillful and quick thinker. The chronicles written by Watson started with A Study in Scarlet and then they were divided into a series of stories with different headings put together under the title of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

With a big heart and an instinct to find precision, Watson put up with his friend’s insolence, as more than once Holmes fiercely criticized the doctor’s efforts to present him as an extraordinary detective with humane sparks and an avid hunger for the truth.

The endless enthusiasm of Snoopy

Snoopy, the beloved cartoon dog created by Charles M. Schulz, has captivated kids and adults for over 60 years with his charm, contagious happiness and extraordinary imagination, which makes him the same become a war pilot or an elegant gentleman.

In his daily life, Snoopy does what most dogs do, claims his food, sleeps over the roof of his house, enjoys the company of his bird friend Woodstock, and spends time with his owner Charlie Brown and his friends.

It’s often that Snoopy also gets inspired and takes his typewriter out in hopes of being published one day. Throughout his life, this doggy writer has received many letters of rejection with devastating answers such as “Dear contributor, we have received your latest manuscript. Why did you send it to us?..” or “To save time we’re enclosing two rejection slips, one for this story, and one for the next story you send us…”

However, Snoopy has the enthusiasm of all those authors who keep on sending their manuscripts to publishing houses despite continuous rejections. He never loses hope and keeps on trying, even when inspiration is not always on his side.

The funny thing is that, even when Snoopy has never been published, he has a faithful readership which has increased lately thanks to social media where his attempts appear frequently, getting the support of people who are convinced that, at some point, he’ll got it right and we’ll be able to make his dream come true.

In my case, I have to say that I would really love to read Snoopy’s manuscripts, which I think, they should be fun and entertaining.

Mrs. Fletcher’s curiosity

Cabot cove house

Originally created as a character for a TV program, Jessica Fletcher, an English teacher living in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, wrote her first crime novel as a way to overcome the death of her husband. As her book becomes an immediate success, she starts a career as a writer, at the same time that her skills as a keen observer become helpful when solving “real” crimes along with the police force.

“Murder She Wrote” was broadcasted between 1984 and 1996, composed by 12 seasons and 264 episodes in which, Jessica shares with her closest friends, her concerns about deadlines, book tours and writers block.

Throughout the years, she also faces the challenges that come with the evolution of technology, since the moment her old typewriter loses some keys up to the moment when she decides to attend a computing school to adjust her writing routine to the modern times.

As times passes by and she becames worldwide famous, Jessica Fletcher starts teaching at a University in New York, where she shares her experience as a writer with future authors and police officers.

In 1989, Donald Bain and the fictional Jessica Fletcher started publishing a number of books based on the TV program. The book series, which continues until now, has over 40 titles, all of them depicting Mrs. Fletcher the same as her character on TV, with all her friends, her home town, the trips, troubles and endless curiosity that often places her at the wrong place at the wrong time, only to save her seconds later thanks to her quick thinking.

(*) A study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Mexican traditions around the “Day of the Dead”

By Nora Vasconcelos

Decent

Year after year, in Mexico the last days of October and the first of November are characterized for the colorful altars dedicated to ‘the Dead’. Such offerings are composed with typial dishes, candy, flowers, and all sort of figures that represent happy skeletons elegantly dressed as if they were ready to start a funny party at any moment. They are commonly set in public spaces througout the country.

Happy

As much as this may seam a simple way to look at the death, in fact, it actually comes from centuries of years of the Mexican people keeping close to all those who have departed, with the hope that these altars and feasts will bring joy to their souls, as well as a warm feeling for those people who prepare the offerings.

bycicles

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Five Authors Lured by the Seas

By Nora Vasconcelos

Spanish_Galleon - Public Domain

From wooden galleons to luxurious cruise ships, several authors have found their inspiration on the magestic vessels that have crossed the seas througout the old and the modern times, writing fantastic stories in which both, the ships and the oceans have taken the main characters to unimaginable places, changing their lifes forever. Here, five of them:

The Phantom Ship:
Written in 1839 by Frederick Marryat, the story places young Philip Vanderdecken facing a dark destiny marked by his dead father whose ghost can only be freed by Philip. Based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, Marryat develops a fascinating story in which he describes with great detail the life of the Dutch sailors centuries ago. While traveling aboard differt ships, Philip learns all the skills required to command a vessel as well as how to deal with the commercial aspects of the sea travels. However, he remains hunted by the idea that only him can save his father’s spirit, who is believed to be seing crossing the oceans and causing disgraced to any ship that happens to run into his ghostly apparition.

The Count of Monte Cristo
In 1844, Alexandre Dumas published The Count of Monte Cristo. Although the story is better known for the wrongful imprisonment and fantastic escape of its main character, what actually marks the crucial moment of the story is when the young and enthusiastic Edmond Dantes arrives to Marseille, France, commanding The Pharaon, a commercial ships that has taken the crew through the Mediterranean sea and which has lost its capitain, due to a terrible sickness. It’s Dantes brilliant ascent as a sea man which also causes him his terrible misfortune.

Futility – The Wreck of the Titan
As amazing as it might sound, 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic, Morgan Robertson published a novel that described a luxurius trasatlantic cruise ship, called Titan. Although the story has its origins in 1898, the coincidences couldn’t be bigger as the Titan crashes against an iceberg on an April day, while crossing the North Atlantic sea. While reading the book it’s hard not to feel inside the ship which displays all sort of luxurious elements. At the same time, it’s hard not to experience the passangers anguish when they realize the tragedy that is developing while the ship is going under.

Shogun
In 1975, James Clavell published his novel Shogun. Taking advantage of his experiences while traveling through Asia as part of the Navy, the author managed to developed a captivating story that describes the adventures of the fictional captain John Blackthorne, a British sailor that commands a Dutch ship. The plot of the novel accompanies Blackthorne from the moment he fights his enemies in the ocean, to the moments his vessel, the Erasmus becomes a shipwreck in Japan. While learning the language and trying to understand the culture of that country, Blackthorne has only one thing in mind, to go back to the seas. The Erasmus, and the Blackship (it’s main adversary) become then an essential part of the story. Both ships will mark the destiny of the pilot.

She wore only white
Published originaly in German under the title Weit übers Mee, in 2012 it appeared the English version of this novel by Dorthe Binkert, which was inspired by a piece of news read in a newspaper that talked about a mysterious woman who boarded and traveled on a cruise ship wearing only white clothes. From here, the author developed a fictional story for this woman to become then, a stowaway that spent some days aboard the S.S. Kroonland at the begining of the last century. The novel also shows how her presence affected the lives of the people who got to know her while crossing the ocean.

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