March 17th, 2015
I will never forget one thing. In Winter time, when you go to
Wounded Knee, never dig deep into the snow. All you will do is
find the blood left by your family before me. Think only of
them and say, it is a good day to die!
-Tashunkala (Little Horse), SihaSapa Lakota
February 3, 2011
Justine stood at the frosted window in flannel pajamas, an Indian blanket curled around her like a cocoon, curtains drawn to reveal an island of lights on the Taos campus of the University of New Mexico a half-mile away. A meteor streaks by and disappears into a palette of stars, a mere sliver of moon hung in the eastern sky. Barely 5:30 a.m., she hadn’t slept since Amir’s 2:30 call. In a couple of hour, the mantle of snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would turn shades of mauve in the early morning light.
Revolution day all over again. She held her steaming coffee cup with both hands, the noise of the television in the background. Without turning, she listened to the sounds of men and women flooding into Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was Wednesday.
All Amir had said before the line went dead was, “I love you, Justine. It could be today. Then I’ll be home . . . . ” It could be today, which could only mean one thing: Mubarak was expected to step down. The revolution would achieve its goal: the end to a brutal thirty-year dictatorship. Justine felt a tension in her gut—could it be so easy? Could Mubarak be brought down in less than two weeks? Perhaps, but not likely.
The possibilities were promising, yet she was gripped by deeply unsettling fears for Amir, his leadership role with the youth of Egypt placing him at great risk of being arrested. The turmoil in the Middle East was unprecedented, clearly, so perhaps none of the old rules applied. This is a new game, in a new world bursting from the ground up, a popular revolution quickened by social media. But then what? She knew that if Mubarak were removed, Egyptians would still have the military and the Brotherhood, since no one else was as organized. Perhaps with Amir’s help, those who led the January 25th revolution would form themselves into a focused political movement. Perhaps.
Justine gripped the blanket more firmly around her chilled body and returned to the kitchen for the last dregs of coffee. On the couch, she curled her stocking feet under her and stared at the screen. Tahrir Square was crowded with thousands of Egyptians chanting, “Down with Mubarak,” arms flailing the air, placards in Arabic demanding the president’s resignation. The crowd throbbed, like a singular heart beating in concert.
Her vision was captured by a familiar-looking figure in the throng. While the images were nearly indistinct, she recognized his gait, his posture, even his profile. Amir! She smiled involuntarily to see that he was wearing the Kokopelli scarf she’d given him for Christmas. It must be Amir. She couldn’t be wrong, could she? He was facing west, toward the burned-out Hilton, leaning into a small group of four or five men.
From the edge of the screen, men rode swiftly into sight on sturdy Arabian horses and lanky camels, clubs swinging above their heads, then coming down to strike indiscriminately into the swarm of young people.
Suddenly, one of the camel riders rushed in his direction, charged with intent as though he knew his target. Amir didn’t see him. Justine jumped to her feet, spilling her coffee, turning over the coffee table. “Amir! Amir!” She was with him in the middle of the grassy square, screaming, warning him. Two men in the crowd pointed frantically and raced to pull the hoodlum from his camel, but too late. The club crashed against Amir’s head. She imagined blood spurting into the electrified air. As the rider lifted his club for a second blow, he was pulled from his camel and beaten into the ground.
Bloody Wednesday had begun.
March 1st, 2015
A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos is the sizzling third novel in The Justine Trilogy. Pre-order today
February 18th, 2015
My excitement mounds as I consider returning to Taos for the world release of the third
novel in The Justine Trilogy: A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos. In June, 2015.
Meanwhile, I gazed on with envy as the community threw a luscious tea for Frieda Lawrence’s great granddaughter this week at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. See the engaging blog and photos by Robert Cafazzo:
January 5th, 2015
Welcome to the New Year, which I welcome with optimism and anticipation.
This coming Thursday, January 8, I will be speaking about The Italian Letters at the extraordinary Book Passage in Corte Madera. I’m delighted by positive feedback about this novel, the sequel to the award-winning The Cairo Codex.
This year will also host the release of the third novel in the Justine Trilogy, A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos. The world release will be in Taos, New Mexico, in June, 2015.
My resolution…to read and write good novels!
December 17th, 2014
The identity, personal diary, and genealogy of Mary of Nazareth and her son, Jesus, are expressed in the first two novels of the Justine Trilogy: the award-winning, The Cairo Codex and The Italian Letters (release, October, 2014). Perfect Christmas presents. The third in the trilogy, A Rapture of Ravens, will be released in June, 2015.
November 11th, 2014
On Friday evening, November 14, at 7:00, I am talking about and reading from The Italian Letters in San Francisco at Books, Inc., Opera Square, 610 Van Ness. This will be a Champagne Launch and you are all invited.
Why is this so special? Books, Inc. is the West’s oldest independent bookstore with 11 stores in California. Amazingly, their “origin dates back to the Gold Rush Days of 1851 when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, California, and set himself up in the business of selling books. That small bookstore was moved, bought, sold, burned, rebuilt, renamed and became Books Inc., as we know it today, in 1946.”
On December 9, I’ll have the pleasure of sharing The Italian Letters with the community of readers at the Palo Alto Books, Inc.
Check out booksinc.net and join us.
November 2nd, 2014
I’m always seeking environments that offer moments of clarity. That one magnificent epiphany, that one true sentence, that pulse of reflective insight into self. A redwood forest, a beach, waterfall, or even a seat alone among a crowd of strangers. A few months ago, I wrote that Ernest Hemingway found that moment of clarity in front of a Cezanne. Doreen Carvajal’s romantic piece in the New York Times (10.26.14), entitled “Writing Retreat by Rail”, conjured up an enticing experience of traveling–and writing–by rail from Paris to the Riviera. She recounts the array of artists and writers who found their Eureka moment on the rails: John le Carre, Graham Greene, Matisse, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Anton Chekhov, J.K. Rowling, among others. What do they find there? The repetitive moment of the rails? The kaleidoscope of colors and light stirring those brain neurons? Perhaps we out to hold collaborative writing retreats on trains as well.
October 24th, 2014
My son Tod suggested this morning that I explore the Brain + Gut phenomena as an analogy for desirable novels. Capital idea! Many now recognize that humans have two brains. One in the head and one in the gut. The gut is loaded with nerves and neurons; a very complex brain indeed. For the gut, taste+reward=energy. So describes Heribert Watzke of Oxford in the video below. So far, so good.
We experience the pleasurable taste of a good novel in the gut as well as in the brain holding our hat. I would suggest that a novel must satisfy the intellectual cravings of the big brain in companionship with the yummy tastes experienced by the gut brain. And the best news: both brains entertain your emotions, that lovable human possession that makes the world go round. Thus: Intellect + Taste + Emotions=Human choice and desires.
Think of the last novel you really loved (I’m hoping it was The Cairo Codex or The Italian Letters). Did it meet these criteria? How so?
October 7th, 2014
John Berendt is a truly unique writer. In Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil he engaged a true story and characters into a richly texturized novel of grace and elegance. Memoir authors have borrowed this approach in recent years—to their detriment when the fiction is excessive—and to their glory when it worked.
As I began to write The Italian Letters (just released), I turned to Berendt’s second such novel, A City of Fallen Angels, set in Venice for insights into the Italian culture and legal systems. I, in turn, invoked some of his approaches, particularly the use of true incidents and characters, into my novels (the Justine Trilogy). Berendt—and earlier Truman Capote (In Cold Blood)—offered gifts heretofore undiscovered. For me, these writing strategies created a format to bring together my background in history, non-fiction, and fiction. Thanks, John.
October 2nd, 2014
The Italian Letters lies in the sensuous curvature of ancient, 20th and 21st century Italy. The sequel to The Cairo Codex follows the adventures of anthropologist Justine Jenner after she is expelled from Egypt in the wake of discovering the diary of the Virgin Mary. Exiled into Tuscany, Justine finds herself embroiled in three interwoven stories of discovery: the long-lost letters of D. H. Lawrence to her great grandmother, Isabella; an ancient tomb revealed the origin and migration of an ancient people pre-dating Rome; and the genealogy of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. While shaken by the frank revelations in Lawrence’s letters and the intimate relationship between the primeval Etruscan’s and Jesus’ mother, Justine must confront her own sexuality and yearning for personal freedom. The second in a trilogy, The Italian Letters is riveted with literary, religious, and archeological history and international politics, each narrative magnifying and altering the meaning of the others.
The Italian Letters is the suspense edition of Etruscan Evenings.