Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Books: Interview with Author Henry Martin - literary fiction

I met author Henry Martin through GoodReads, and have been thoroughly enjoying his posting contributions to several of the threads in the communities there. So, I'm really excited to post his interview today. When I interviewed Henry, I hadn't read his work yet - however, I just finished reading his first novel. I will get a review out in the next blog post. In the meantime, get to know Henry a little bit - and enjoy what this inspiring writer has to say!

Henry, it's a pleasure to host you here. Tell us, where are you from and what is your background?

Despite calling New Hampshire my home, I consider myself a cosmopolitan. I was fortunate to experience life in a few different countries, but I have to keep some mystery. So, instead of being specific, I'll confuse your readers with a paragraph from one of my short stories:

I am a nomad, a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the universe. No matter where I go, I always stand out; out of place, a misfit, an eccentric oddity. My voice both hoarse and soothing, a mixture of tones and melodies. An intriguing mixture of accents spanning halfway across the globe, from the Back Bay towers of Boston, through New Hampshire’s pristine wilderness to the coast of Spain, taking a few occasional stops in several European countries. A sound so pleasing and annoying at the same time, that it can only be compared to the buzzing of a hummingbird’s wings amidst the rambling of bulldozers’ engines in the Amazon rainforest. If you sprinkle it with a few drops of saffron, I may sound Indian; yet, on a humid night, after a glass of Pampero I might be easily confused for a South American. A wild night of Vodka drinking converts me into a Russian, and when a Flamenco dancer arouses my imagination, I may come across as a Spanish gypsy. During a storm, when the sky is heavy with water like the breasts of a nursing mother are with milk, I acquire the sound of an electric eel, spinning in the coarse sand underneath a tidal wave. The world is my cradle, its languages my lullabies. 

That sounds indeed very cosmopolitan. A little mysterious. And how many books have you written? What do you consider to be your target audience?

At this point my main work consists of the books Escaping Barcelona, Finding Eivissa, and Eluding Reality, which make the Mad Days of Me, trilogy. I also have a collection of short stories, Coffee, Cigarettes, and Murderous Thoughts, and a collection of avant-garde poetry, The Silence Before Dawn.

My target audience would be the reader who is looking for a thought-provoking story, not merely entertainment.
Your book "Escaping Barcelona" has a quote that I really like: “Silence—people are afraid of it—they feel the need to make small talk, anything, just to break the stillness. I don’t feel any such need. To me, silence brings about peace and certitude.” Does this quote, in any way, mirror your own feelings (past or present)?

When Rudy, the protagonist, says that, he is referring to the uncomfortable silence between two people, to a situation many will try to avoid by engaging in a needless chatter.

As for my personal feelings about silence - I embrace silence whenever possible. Our world is so full of clamor that we hardly, if ever, take a moment to just listen. This, however, brings up a different question - is there ever silence? No matter where we find ourselves, chances are that there is some noise. Be it the rustling of leaves as they sway in the breeze, the chirp of a bird, a car horn, a train rolling on its tracks, the buzzing of insects, the sound of water rushing over rocks... our world is never silent. When I say I embrace silence, I mean that I cherish moments void of unnatural noise. 

Silence is the precious time we can be comfortable with our own thoughts.  

Talking about quotes, tell me your favorite quote - or any of your favorite quotes - who it is by, and why you love it.

I have to admit that I do not have one favorite quote. Quotes change, depending on the mood; what I find strikingly beautiful one day, may come across as mundane and useless the next. There are, however, sentences that strike me as amazing, sentences that provoke thought. Just last night, as I was reading Camus' The Plague, I came across one: "Can one be a saint without God?" I contemplated that question for a long time. Nevertheless, it is not really a quote, so I'll answer with one I saw today: 

"Imagine having nothing on your hands but your destiny. You sit on the doorsteps of your mother's womb and you kill time-or time kills you. You sit there chanting the doxology of things beyond your grasp. Outside. Forever outside." - Henry Miller

I like it. It's thought provoking, optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. 


Since you mention Miller and Camus, let's talk about writers. Who is your favorite author/writer? Which of her/his book is your favorite? Is he/she an influence in your writing?

My favorite author is Henry Miller. There are others: Albert Camus, Knut Hamsun, Charles Bukowski, Albert Cossery, Boris Vian, Karel Capek, Italo Calvino.... Miller, however, stands above all. If I had to choose a single book of his, it would probably be Black Spring, but that is a very hard choice to make. 

Miller most definitely influenced my own writing. I started reading his books when I was only a teenager, and from then on, I have developed a love not only for his words, but also for the way he wrote. Miller loved life, and it shows in his books. There is a certain unconditional honesty in his writing that inspires me.
Although I haven't yet read your books, based on the descriptions, reviews and sampling of your work, you tend to write about loners, isolated or troublesome characters and/or relationships, am I correct? What prompts you to go deep into a character's soul searching and write lit fic?

Yes Andrea, you are partly correct. I tend to write about individuals and their struggle in the greater collective. While, at the cursory glance, we are all part of a larger society, deep down we are all individuals. Inside each one of us is that scared kid, the troubled teenager, the working parent who struggles with the weight of responsibility, the dreamer who wonders what if... I tend to write polarizing, yet universally human characters. For example, Rudy, the protagonist from the Mad Days of Me, trilogy: He is intelligent, yet he is wasting away. He has a possibility to escape his plight, yet is too proud to ask for help from his parents. He can make the choice to be deported, yet decides to remain homeless instead.

As to why Literary Fiction, I must admit that I never viewed my writing as literary fiction until it was pointed out to me. Nevertheless, literary fiction, unlike most genres, allows for the greatest flexibility in character development. Most genres must follow established formulas - in romance, there has to be love; in crime fiction, there has to be a crime; in horror, something gruesome must lurk around - in literary fiction, one can fully concentrate on the character as the character himself advances the story. Literary fiction is also best suited for addressing the greater issues we, as society, are facing.

Soul searching...well, the best stories are the ones we can relate to on a purely human level.

Have you been to all the locations you mention in your books? What place is on top of your bucket list and why?

I'm fortunate to have visited most of the places I write about. While technology makes it possible to write about just any place in the world, there is something selfishly pleasing about researching the places I visited years ago, and refreshing my own memories of tastes, smells, and sights I had enjoyed.

At the top of my bucket list would be South America. Just me, a motorcycle, camping gear, and enough money for gas and food along the way. I would fly down to Chile and ride all the way up to Mexico, experiencing as much as possible along the way.
Are you optimistic/hopeful/romantic?

That's a loaded question. Deep inside, despite all the gloom and realism, I'm an optimist. I like to gaze at the horizon, wondering what lies behind the line of sight, which probably makes me a hopeless romantic.  

Tell me one thing about you that you would like readers to know.

I still have dreams.

Glad to know you're a dreamer, so we can expect more books from you. Where can we find more about you and your books?

You can visit my infrequently updated blog:

my frequently active Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583769.Henry_Martin
or my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001JCCFNI

Thank you for having me. 

You're welcome! Good luck and keep writing!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Music: Interview with Music Entrepreneur Justin Barwick from DyverseProductions

Musical February! We will follow with another interview from the music world! This time, we met Justin Barwick, aka DjRipRidah, among other akas (check his site for more bio info)! He is the vibrant executive producer and promoter of DyverseProductions, a music label based in California. Let's find out more about Justin, the label and the music it represents!

Justin, tell us about http://www.dyverseproductions.com/ - how did you start the company? 

Dy-verse Productions is a record label I started with local talent artists and producers, whose main focus is to expand our music to wider audiences.

Excellent idea to promote locally! What's the story behind its name?

I wanted to start a record label with homegrown talent, and since I was working with a very diverse group of emcees, rappers and other artists, I wanted to name it something diverse and it ended up being Dy-verse Productions.

We'd love to know who is who in the label - please share your background!

Me and my friend used to run a promotions/street team company called Hardlife Ent. I grew a network of local talent while promoting mainstream artists, and I decided to break off and form my own label with talent from our neighborhood and we’ve done showcases, radio, TV, Internet, press and toured around northern California and the west coast expanding our names.

Justin is the label's executive producer
We understand you're trying to promote local artists from California, so who is your target audience?

Anybody interested in hearing underground music.

What genres does the label work with currently, and are there plans to expand to other genres? 

Hip-hop/rap/r&b/poetry and working with artists to combine new music.

What are your plans for the coming year? 

This year our main focus is to make new visuals and music for the people to enjoy.

Who are some of the artists you're promoting - can you share their albums? 

Dy-verse Productions promotes local talent from the California area. We are currently working on our 3rd compilation CD featuring a wide variety of emcees. One of the main artists is K-rek, who released "No Roads Can Hold Me" and is working on his second solo CD entitled "Toxic Files". Other artists included Roberto Sanchez, Nitris 211, Dre Dubb, Pill Cosby, Dynamic, and others.

Thanks, Justin, for a great interview, and good luck to the label and the artists. So before we go, tell us where can we sample and buy your music!

You can email directly at djripridah74@yahoo.com
Sites to sample and buy include:


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Music: Special Interview with "Your Song Project" creators (from UK Band Panic Island)

It's February, the month of love, the month of Valentine's. And so we found out about "Your Song Project", a love song factory that was set up to give people a fun experience to share with their loved ones.  Two cupid wannabes from North London band Panic Island, Arron and Vinnie, decided to take people’s stories and turn them into personalized songs. We couldn't resist interviewing them about it! Read on to find more! With us, Vinnie and Arron, from Panic Island!

This is a pretty nifty project, what inspired you to launch this project?

Thanks, I suppose you could say me (Arron) and Vinnie inspired the project. It was Fernanda Marth's idea initially. She knows exactly how Vinnie and me tick. She had that eureka moment in the middle of the night and just knew we were the guys to do it. As soon as she mentioned it to us we immediately thought, yeah, we're gonna get a kick out of doing this!

It sounds like you guys are having so much fun with it! Are you doing this as a Valentine's project only, or are you going to continue with the promotion for other special dates?

We weren't sure, we wanted to see how the response was... It has been amazing and so much fun so it would be great to think we can do something similar again but for now the we've done as many requests as possible...we've had so many, some silly, some very sentimental and others really romantic...it is great to see so many stories about love and people caring about each other! We'll see, the 13th is our last day of writing and recording. We'll see if anymore can come in the last stretch but afterwards it will be nice to just take a break and enjoy the main day!
And what is your favorite song from the project so far, and why?

We've been working on one called "Thirsty Kiss", I have a feeling that will be a winner... personally I really liked one we did today called "Perfect Moments". It is frustrating because you wish you had more time to get more out of a song or to get the perfect take but I suppose that's also the magic of the project, the limitation of time keeps it real! "Timeline of Love" has been the most inspiring so far, simply because their story was so beautiful. So much happiness is out there, pain too but clearly lots of love to share.
So who is involved in this project? Can you tell us a little about the team's background?

Myself (Arron) and Vinnie are musicians from the band Panic Island. We've been making music together for almost 3 yrs now. Fernanda Marth is an incredibly talented art director. She really brought the project together with her designs and art direction online and on the sets. She's one half of the brain behind the scenes. The other half is Liv Love, she's our manager and PR, so has been setting deadlines and targets and making sure everything is in place while letting myself and Vin focus on dealing with requests.

The whole thing couldn't have been possible if it wasn't for Taylan Mutaf. He's a very skilled filmmaker. As soon as he was asked to take part, he jumped at it. He has helped bring a professional quality to each of the videos. His consistency is amazing and personally I thought it was great to work with him, he directed us so well and I think that shows on the videos. And we also had Periklis Balafas, our mighty webmaster all the way down in Brazil working round the clock to make sure everything is functioning and sharing the videos as we deliver them.
What a great group of international talent! What genre do you consider yourself and who is your greatest influence?

As a band, we have to be Alternative Rock, we're not quite indie rock nor pop rock, but we have a flavor of most guitar based genres. We're influenced by iconic musicians, great artists who realize that the music is as important as the visual performance you give and the expression you put out there, there are so many influential creatives who have this ethos, from David Bowie to Guns and Roses, Freddie Mercury to Lady Gaga, they have all got the theater and drama of music as well as the songs to back it up. When we write we visualize things because we want to project with energy. But like we've proven with this project, inspiration can come from anywhere, your fans, even from a stranger's story who lives on the other side of the planet!
This sounds like a great opportunity to get to know your audience! What do you enjoy the most between the interaction with your fans?

We are yet to explore that further, we have a single available as a free download on our website www.panicisland.com, so we hope to bring more and more to the table to give the fans something to hold on to. For us, the important thing is that we keep writing so we can keep reaching them. To play in front of everyone would be good, we're aiming for world tours asap ;) so we're pretty realistic, Haha! The best thing at the moment is obviously social media, to really link everyone together, it is great to see people reacting to the project and hopefully making long lasting connections. Music has always and will always bring people together!
Who is your target audience?

The project was aimed at everyone and anyone. But as a band we have a high energy level, we're emotive and, like I mentioned earlier, we're dramatic, powerful on stage. So the audience we're aiming for are those who love to see and hear anthems, music lovers who are looking for the 21st century Rockstars, we're writing songs that speak from the heart and soul so people who seek to be moved always find a friend in Panic Island.
What are your plans for the coming year?

The plan is to release some more music. But that's a bit of a secret at the moment. We have a few things in the making that we’ll be announcing soon on the band’s social media pages.
So how do we request a song for Valentine's?

I'm not sure when you are publishing this but the 13th is the very last day for us to be able to write and record in time for the 14th. But please don't let that put you off sending a request. Like I said, everyone's stories are amazing and we're having a little think about what we can do for those who don't get theirs turned into a video.
(We’ve been releasing loads of videos, but this was a really popular one and close to our hearts due to their story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA9Xbc8M4s4 
And I think our fellow Americans will enjoy finding out the little secrets Britain holds on this one…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1I_WyqkUPs4 )

That's great to know, because we're on different time zones and time is running... Anything else you'd like to let us know?

Other than to tell you all that you're pretty amazing people! We've been incredibly moved with this project. So thanks. You can check our project website for more videos and also get in touch with us through it: www.yoursongproject.co.uk  
We wish you all an amazing Valentine’s day!
Thank you and much success to you with this project and the band!
Get your free download of “We Start Fires” at www.panicisland.co.uk


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Location: The Nile River - a blue river.

There's a river called "Blue Nile", which is actually not the Nile river, but a tributary of the latter. And it's not blue. In fact, I had never seen a "blue" river in my life - blue meaning: the water looks literally "blue". Most rivers I've seen usually have a brownish or greenish color. The bodies of water I've seen which exhibit bluish hues have often been seas or lakes.

In Cairo, the Nile river has the same brownish, sometimes dirty greenish coloration of a river which is plagued by the environmental effects from the big city it's fathomed to cross forever. It looks just like any other river running through a populated area.  I didn't think much about the river's color until we arrived in Aswan. We would be cruising the Nile for the next 3 days, and all we were thinking about was seeing crocodiles in the murky brownish waters of a river. Surprisingly, however, the Nile in Aswan is not green, or brown. It is incredibly blue, like a mirror reflecting the clear sky. And astonishingly peaceful, dotted with  feluccas, Egyptian traditional sailboats.
View of the Nile from Elephantine Island

And what about the crocodiles? Well, we didn't see any (except for mummified ones in one of the temples). According to our tour guide, after the Aswan Dam was built, the crocodiles stayed behind, unable to cross over!

No trip to Egypt would be complete without experiencing a Nile cruise. It is one of the best ways to experience what Egypt has to offer in terms of culture. A cruise is an excellent way to visit major sites: Aswan, Luxor, and other ports on the way, with a surplus of exquisitely preserved temples and monuments to the gods of Ancient Egypt. Not to be missed are Edfu, for example, which is actually the best preserved temple built on the banks of the Nile, and the temple of Isis at Philae. While in Aswan, surround yourself with the sounds and sights of the Nile with a stay at the Movenpick hotel at Elephantine Island. The view from the island is magnificent; you can really appreciate the bluish of the Nile while submerging yourself in a 2000 + year old culture and atmosphere.

Felucca boats sail across the blue river on a sunny afternoon

So yes, the Nile is blue!