A Q & A with Aaron Smith, Shanti Bloody Shanti author

Monday, October 7, 2013

This weekend, the Avid Reader at Tower will be hosting Aaron Smith, author of a travel memoir: Shanti Bloody Shanti

Aaron will be in 10/13/13 at 2pm to talk about his experiences and the book that evolved from them. 

For a taste of his style and personality,  I asked him a series of questions.

What was the most important experience you had in India?

I could wax lyrically about sunsets in Varanasi over the Ganges or sunrises over the Himalayas, or swimming the azure waters of the Andaman Islands, or riding rickshaws through the frenetic back streets of Calcutta - but I won't. 

As a 'travel writer', a moniker I use cautiously, I avoid prose that sentimentalizes the travel experience. It not only nauseates me as a reader, but it annoys me as a writer as its not what travelling is really like, especially in India. That is what I call 'Travel Wank'. No travel in India is often uncomfortably hot, cramped, often dirty, dysentery is common, as is being ripped off. 

So to answer the question the most important experience I had in India was the sum total of all my experiences there and the way it permeated my psyche. Unlike many other countries tourists visit (and I think we are all tourists and not 'travelers', no matter how intrepid), India is often the destination people visit who are 'seeking' something. I didn't know what I was seeking other than an antidote to the malaise of modernity, and what stayed with me was a permanent realignment of what I thought was important in life - that is to live in the now.

What was the most memorable conversation you had in India?

The most memorable conversation I had was actually on the plane flying from Melbourne to Mumbai with an older Indian woman. I had babbled a typical wishlist of what I wanted to do and hoped to achieve and she just smiled knowingly. She wobbled her head and replied, "Mother India is bottomless, you can go as deep as you like and there will always be more." 


 What informed your decision to travel to India initially?

Most people go to India to 'find themselves', I however went to lose myself. I needed to disappear off the grid. An affair with a cocaine dealer's mistress resulted on a contract being placed on my head - so I figured it was a good time to disappear in the sea of humanity that is India.

What would you say to a prospective traveler heading to India absolutely needs to do there?

Mother India is a love/hate relationship. At first you will hate it - the crowds, the sweltering heat, the touts, the Delhi Belly, the open sewers, the endless delays. Then after a time you will love it, after it has got under your skin and you find the rhythm and you have aligned with the pulse of a place that transcends space, time and even logic. 

What I would tell a prospective tourist heading to India is to try to forget their agenda and not to be in a hurry, just let India happen to them and give India time to happen. My plan has always been to have no plan, and I stick to that plan religiously.

The reason I said earlier I believe we are all tourists and not travelers is because unless you are an asylum seeker fleeing a war-torn country with nothing but the clothes on your back, or merchant in a caravan crossing maybe Central Asia or Africa, whose way of life relies on the act of migration, you are most likely not a traveler. A backpack, travel insurance, Thai fisherman pants, exotic beer T-shirts, trinkets and rhetoric makes you (and me) nothing more than a tourist. Travel is a luxury, a privilege for the comparatively wealthy (even if on a shoestring) and travelling in no way makes you superior to anybody else - food for thought before hitting the road. 

Could you describe the process of writing your book? 

A lot of crazy things happened to me in India, and the subsequent four years I spent on the road crossing Asia, Europe and Latin America. Telling my stories in bars and cafes, I was told time and time again I should write them down - so I did. At first on napkins, in notebooks and in Internet cafes as emails to myself. Then when I settled in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil I collated it all into a manuscript. 

The first draft was awful, torpid, full of self-indulgence and way too long. I sent it to some publishers, all of whom knocked it back. I then sought out professional feedback, which tore it shreds - the best thing that could ever happen to me. Re-write after re-write pared it down to a much tighter narrative which culled about 50 per cent of the text. 

In the three years it took to finally get published I continued to refine my writing, freelancing for whoever would take my work - at first writing gratis for travel blogs, then for paltry sums in some magazines. As my writing improved, so did my commissions. I then did an MA in Journalism and an internship with a prominent magazine. Today I am the editor of a regional newspaper that has me posted in one of the wildest and most remote places in the world - the Torres Strait, which is just south of Papua New Guinea. My second book, Chasing El Dorado. Into the wild and back, a South American adventure, recounts my three years living as an illegal immigrant in Brazil, studying the myriad of Indigenous cultures and being feathered and tarred by every brujo I could meet. It is due for release late 2014. 

Victoria Loustalot on "This is How You Say Goodbye"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

This weekend the Avid Reader at Tower will be hosting a locally-raised author, now living in New York City. She is kicking off her first book, a memoir recounting her growing up and the the loss of her father when she was a child.

Come join us at 3pm for food, drink, and to speak with this wonderfully talented author!

My Questions, Victoria's Answers

Andrea: What was your process writing this book?  The style right from the

start feels so natural and conversational. Did you have any diaries or
journals to draw on?

Victoria: The emotional resonance of the book was extremely important to me, and
I knew the only way to achieve that was to write my story the way I
would tell it to a close friend. I made a point to avoid lofty
language and did my best not to overwrite, because I find such writing
keeps the reader at a distance. I didn't want there to be any distance
between the reader and my story. There's enough distance in the world
already. I wanted readers to be right there on the page in the moment
with me every step of the way. The best memoirs are the ones that let
you in.

Andrea: What originally gave you the idea to contrast these two periods of your life?

Victoria: I wanted to show the reader where I ended up. Who I grew up to be. If
the book had only been about my childhood, half the story would have
been missing. It would have been less honest. I needed to be as hard
on myself (if not harder) as I was on everyone else in the book and
that meant writing about myself as both an innocent child and a not so
innocent adult.

I also wanted readers to understand my quest to find my dad, to
understand the burden I carried into adult and the longing I felt to
make sense of who this man had been as a whole human being, not just
as a father, not just as a dying man.

Andrea:What question would you love readers to ask you and what would your
response be?

Victoria: I'd love readers to ask why I wrote this book. And the answer is that
I believe the only way to heal, the only way to foster acceptance and
empathy and to eradicate shame is to share our stories. I want to live
an honest and open life without secrets, because all secrets are
poisonous. It breaks my heart how much my dad suffered because of
secrets. I want that kind of suffering to stop with his generation. It
won't happen to me. I won't let it happen to my future children.

Andrea: Have you been able to think of your next project yet, and if so,
what will it be?

Victoria: I have given lots of thought to my next book, and I'm researching a
few ideas right now, but one thing I've learned is that having a topic
or even a theme is not a story. It's just an idea. It's in the
researching of a topic that you find the narrative. I'm still in the
research stage, looking for the story I want to tell next, and until I
find it, I'd rather stay mum on the specifics. But wish me luck - I
need it!

Wishing you the best of luck Victoria! May we see plenty more titles with your name on them in our store!

Homework Assistance Volunteers Needed!

Friday, August 16, 2013

West Sacramento Library is seeking Volunteers!

Whether you or someone you know are seeking volunteer hours to polish a resume, class requirement, transfer to a university or admission to a graduate program--this is an excellent opportunity!

Helping kids with homework is a rewarding experience, even if you are interested in helping for the sake of the difference you will make in their lives, and you will be making a difference in their lives.

Or, perhaps you are a parent or grandparent of a little one who could benefit from some homework assistance.  Whatever the case may be, Avid Reader at Tower is glad to let you know of he program offered at the West Sacramento Library.

Tutoring will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm for children in the 3rd through 8th grades.  All assistance is free.

This service will be offered at the main branch location, the Arthur F. Turner Community Library in West Sacramento. For more information, call Librarian Ann Hamilton at 916-375-6469. To visit the library or find directions, they can be found online: here.

And from everyone at the Avid Reader at Tower--May the school year start off splendidly for you and your whole family!

Back for Their Last Visit!

Friday, July 26, 2013

These Three Authors  Will be here both days, so come and stop on in!

11am - 2 pm Sat and Sunday 7/27 and 7/28

Steve Unger 

Dancing in the Streets--
 Steve Unger mined his own journal for this book, and wound a murder mystery through the 60's memoir.  He pulls from his own experiences being a white minority in an historically black college in Alabama and joining a commune in California, and watching it fail around him.

Being an avid traveler, he also included scenes from New Orleans, Paris, the Bay Area, and Salvador, Brazil.

Come on in and talk to him about his book, and his life!

Sharon S. Darrow

...and the good lord remains anonymous

Back again with her memoir in case you missed her the first time,

Sharon will be selling, signing and discussing her memoir, which was mentioned in a post last week.  Go read about it here: 

Or go visit her website http://www.sharonsdarrow.com/

And come on in with your questions! 

June Gillam:

House of Cuts

Last week, when June came in before, we discussed her collection of poems.  As promised, I would like to mention her thriller: House of Cuts. 

Hillary Broome has been looking for something interesting to write about and further her career as a reporter.  The dismembered managers of the local superstore turn up and give her just what she wanted, right?

 Her story gains national attention and threatens to expose a secret that could destroy her career. Meanwhile she catches the killer's notice and has to work with detective Eddie Kiffin before she's the next victim.

This Weekend: The Last Weekend for State Fair Authors' Meet & Greet

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Aspiring writers here's a heads' up!  The Publisher Terry Burke Maxwell of Earth Patch Press will be at our store this weekend with her two local authors: Ruben Llamas and Sharon S. Darrow. That means it's a rare opportunity to ask those questions of the process of publication you know you want answers to but haven't had the right person to ask.  Terry can give insight and perspective from the view of editor, publisher, and writer.  Her own writing has been technical and the focus of her publishing company is currently memoir. 

   Here's Terry and Ruben with Ruben's wife Anita at our store, when, a few months back Ruben came and presented "Eye from the Edge," his memoir of growing up in Oakland.

   We will be very happy to have them all back and hope you will enjoy coming to meet them.

    Both Terry Burke and Ruben Llamas will be here on Saturday with author Shelly Buck, currently published by Margaret Murray's company Write Words' Press.  For more information check here: http://www.margaretcmurray.com/writewords-press/

Sunday July 21: Children/ Young Adult/ Inspirational Meet & Greet

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sharon S. Darrow

Sharon will be at the Avid Reader, with her book, "...and the good lord remains anonymous." 

Her are some of her words regarding her book: 

"Writing this book was an incredible experience that helped me appreciate the people around me and the experiences I've lived. My hope as an author is that each reader will gain a little deeper understanding of there own life while being entertained along the way."

Sharon started writing  "...and the good lord remains anonymous," with the idea of presenting stories about what can happen when you say yes to requests that are out of your comfort zones. But her line of thinking led to reminiscing on her own life, wherein examination altered trajectory the story took, and landed it squarely in the realm of  "inspirational," our Sunday theme.


She found that  events and circumstances that had been the most painful experiences brought the most valuable life lessons of all. Others she had repeated a number of times before the lesson got through.  

Sharon previously wrote: "Bottlekatz, A Complete Care Guide for Orphan Kittens" in 2006, which has since become a training manual for kitten/cat rescue groups all over the United States and the United Kingdom.

After writing her second book Sharon was referred to the Northern California Publishers and Authors group by my publisher, Terry Burke Maxwell, of Earth Patch Press,and accepted an invitation from one the group members to participate in the California Authors booth at the State Fair.  
Check out her website: here 

June Gillum:


June Gillam teaches writing and literature at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton. She belongs to the Auburn-based Gold Country Writers and to Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime. She can be reached via her website: http://www.junegillam.com
 So Sweet Against Your Teeth by June Gillam invites readers to bite into 15 poems, reflections from a childhood spent in a World War II small-town Sacramento culture. Sugar-and-spice along with not-so-nice puppy dog tales pull readers through some Father-Knows-Best (not) days. 

Her other published title includes House of Cuts, a thriller set in San Joaquin County (to be discussed more next week!)

Shirley Paranteau:

Is a children's author with a series about bears.  She will be discussing "Bears in Beds," a follow up to "Bears on Chairs."

Bears on Chairs:

Four small bears learn to share their four small chairs with Big Brown Bear. 
Bears in Beds:

When the four smallest bears are too frightened of a noise in the night to sleep, Big Brown Bear comforts them by reading a story about a pesky girl with golden hair. 
Bears in the Bath will be her next installment, due out next year. Bears in the Bath will show four grimy but stubborn little bears tempted into the tub when Big Brown Bear shows that a bath can be fun. 

Laurie Hoirup:

Laurie's memoir is the inspirational tale of well... herself.  In her poignant words:
"Having a significant disability since the age of two, I have been an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities for most of my life, including my employment and it was through the encouragement of my family, friends and colleagues that I decided to use my story as a resource for others, to be a role model in the face of adversity with a positive attitude and a sense of humor.

"While I was first trying to figure out how to get published, I remembered the authors corner at the state fair and I went there and talk to an author who directed me to the "Northern CA publishers and authors." it was through them that I found a local independent publisher. Five years later, I won first place for nonfiction at their annual awards competition and I was invited to participate at the state fair authors corner. I truly have come full circle."
--Laurie Hoirup

Learn more about her and her book at: www.LauriesLegacy.com


Saturday July 20th, Steven and Margaret Return!

Friday, July 19, 2013

We were greatful to have Steven and Margaret last week, so if you missed Sundagger or In the Footsteps of Dracula, you can come on by and get them tomorrow!

Steven P. Unger 

Steven is a fun guy to sit and chat with, so come on in and ask about Before the Paparazzi.

 Before the Paparazzi:  Fifty Years of Extraordinary Photographs includes over 250 pictures taken by Arty Pomerantz, staff photographer and assignment editor for the New York Post from the 1960s through the early 1990s.  Almost all of the pictures in Before the Paparazzi appeared in the Post, and a great many of them were on the newspaper's front page.  Before the Paparazzi is published by World Audience, Inc., 

Find it here: www.beforethepaparazzi.com.

Margaret Murray 

The writer and publisher and organizer of these Meet & Greets will be back this Saturday!  Check out this great book and stop on in to meet her.  

Dreamers, is a love story of the American1960s, set in the Civil Rights showdown. Street-savvy Thomas, desperate for stardom, meets music student, Annie.

To impress his struggling family, Thomas drives a flashy borrowed car home to Pittsburgh from New York City and is involved in a minor accident. A fender bender in a snowstorm escalates into a confrontation with police and he becomes a fugitive.

They’re both in the wrong place at the wrong time, seeking to live up to their dreams.

Saturday 16th Authors Post 1

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yet again this weekend we will be having another Meet & Greet with California Authors.  This Saturday the theme will be Fiction.  So, fans of contemporary literature, come on out and meet these authors.  Here's a little bit about our Saturday Authors and their books. 

 Deborah Rae Cota 

Deborah Rae Cota will be selling and discussing her series, The Dante Chronicles, about the ongoing magical battles of the Dante family and their son Eli
In Book I, The Kindred, The Dante family is alerted to an evil plot  in a vision. The family forms a plan to end it, but it forces them to make a vital, heart-breaking sacrifice to survive. When the youngest Dante is appointed as The Sentry to combat the evil plotters, The Kindred become aware of him. The Kindred are  unlikely heroes, each with their own special powers. Together they plan to foil the evil plot, and reunite the family once and for all.
In Book II, The Brotherhood, the Dante's are haunted by the events of Book 1.  They seek the answer to a crucial message as the new King of The Dominion is crowned, and the sequence of events they believed halted are taking place, despite. While the Kindred must move forward, they are forced to look back and battle personal demons in order to respond to the strange message.
In Book III, The Traveler, the team is formed and ready, and missions should go exactly as planned. Right? An old nemesis has some new players he is toying with, and creates total chaos for The Kindred. With the help of former members of The Brotherhood, the team will learn a tough lesson that will ultimately strengthen them, but with great costs.

Deborah Rae Cota started writing when her 4th grade teacher encouraged her to enter a short story in a school contest.  Deborah won. 
Her teacher told her to write a little something every day, and she's been writing ever since. Encouraged by her best friend, she started putting more of my short stories together and created The Dante Family. They are based upon her own family, with a paranormal twist.

This is her second year as in invitee to the Cal Expo California Authors Booth.
Visit her website at  http://www.dantechronicles.com
Can't get enough of the Dante family? Check out her book trailer is located on YouTube: http://youtu.be/K5YMoaavcBE
Margaret Murray & Steve Unger will also be rejoining us this Saturday.  Look for their post and a more in-depth examination of some of their other books!  
See you in the store.

Sunday Authors

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Here are two of the authors who will be in tomorrow.  Be sure to check out their websites!

Margaret Murray

 Margaret Murray has two published novels.  She is writing a prequel to the book, Sundagger, which will be featured this Sunday. 

Sundagger is a fantasy meets speculative fiction.  Sara, the main character, has had it with her job.  On top of that, her son has gone missing. Seeking some way out of the stresses of life she winds up in a sweat lodge and launches herself on a modern day vision quest.

She began Sundagger.net in 1999 after visiting the Four Corners area in the Southwest, as well as making a stop by Chaco Canyon. Entranced, she undertook research Pre-Puebloan culture.  Sundagger is the culmination of her fascination with ancient American pre-history and her own, more personal trials and anguish.  

 She also runs a small publishing company, WriteWords Press.

Red Storm

Frank Luna

American Commander “Mac” MacTavish and his international team of scientists and engineers are wrapping up an eighteen-month mission at Mars Base. Without warning, all communication with Earth is mysteriously lost. Mac’s egotistical science chief discovers that a massive solar flare has impacted Earth, causing catastrophic damage and most likely political and social upheaval. Unsure if it is safe to return home, Mac decides to wait for the arrival of the Mars 3 spacecraft and the relief crew already en route from Earth. After several weeks with no communication, Mars 3 lands nearby, showing no signs of life. Expecting a grisly scene, Mac enters the lifeless lander, but he is stunned and horrified by what he discovers. Are Mac and his crew the sole survivors of a galactic solar catastrophe or something more sinister? Now it is up to him to discover the truth in the midst of this Red Storm.

Learn more at his website- redstormnovel.com
And tweet him - @Redstormluna

Saturday Authors -- July 13 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Valerie Murphy:

Valerie Murphy is a mother of three and has had a passion for storytelling since she was a young girl.  So, it's no wonder that she has published books for kids.  

Her list of published works includes: 

Children’s Book Of Poems Schmoems 

The Gumshoes series:

The Gumshoes: A New Town, Oh Joy!The Gumshoes: Rogues Hollow

Oh Joy! recently received an honorable mention at the san Francisco Book Festival, and this weekend at the Avid Reader, she will be featuring her series.  

Here is a synopsis of The Gumshoes: A New Town, Oh Joy! as presented by the author:

Bug, a ten year old boy, just moved to a new town. Desperately trying to find a skate park, he discovers a few new friends instead. But these aren't just any friends. They're The Gumshoes, a paranormal investigation club. Will Bug ditch his skateboarding ways to become a Gumshoe? 

 Valerie is currently working on her first young adult novel which she hopes will bring awareness to Cystic Fibrosis, her son was diagnosed with the devastating disease with in 2006.


Steve Unger:

Unger has been a traveler and writer from the time he learned to type with two fingers on a manual typewriter in the basement of his parents' house in Ferndale, Michigan.  He still travels, writes, and types with two fingers, and is happiest when he can combine his two passions of traveling and writing.

Extensive travel in North and South America, Western Europe, Israel, and Romania has influenced, inspired and shaped all of his writing.  Including the title which he will feature this saturday at the Avid Reader at Tower:  In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide.

In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide meticulously follows Bram Stoker's depiction of Jonathan Harker's 1893 expedition from London to Count Dracula's castle on the Borgo Pass in Transylvania in text and almost 200 pictures. In the Footsteps of Dracula also includes every site connected with the historical Prince Dracula, that is, Vlad Ţepeş or Vlad the Impaler.

Unger has been a traveler and writer from the time he learned to type with two fingers on a manual typewriter in the basement of his parents' house in Ferndale, Michigan.  He still travels, writes, and types with two fingers, and is happiest when he can combine his two passions of traveling and writing.

Steven P. Unger lives in Elk Grove, California with his fiancée Paula, Bailey the dog, and Batman the cat.

His other published titles include:
Before the Paparazzi:  Fifty Years of Extraordinary Photographs
Before the Paparazzi:  Fifty Years of Extraordinary Photographs 


Meet & Greets For July

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The State Fair is about to start, and there will be a very cool authors' booth that any booklover stopping by Cal Expo should pause to see.  But, if the bustle and heat are not your thing, you can meet some of the authors at our store.  

Starting this weekend we will be featuring between 3 and 5 authors in the store for Meet & Greets.  Come, speak with them, have books signed, and just generally enjoy the community.  

So who, exactly will we be having?

This Saturday we will be welcoming Nan Mahon, Valerie Murphy, and Steve Unger.

This Sunday we will feature: Margaret Murray, Frank Luna, and Janet Parrish.  

Each Week we will be featuring these authors and their books, here, so you acn know just a little more before you come on in.  

See you this Weekend!


First Post to Events Blog

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hello all,

Welcome to the new Avid Reader Tower Events blog!  This blog is designed to go into more detail about upcoming events, authors and books in the spotlight than we have room on other venues. 

Hope your summer is going well, and do stop on by the website for all the particulars, or to order books online. 

Stay cool in this heat wave, and we'll see you soon!

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