Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"UPCHUCKING HAIRBALLS...THE WRITER'S LIFE"

Hello World.

In my travels I sometimes meet people I want to forget. But more often, there are characters I want always to remember! On my last trip to Russia, finishing research on my new novel, THE SOUL AJAR,  I spent long nights beside the Black Sea throwing back shots of vodka with an old bear of a Russian who claimed to have been a prisoner of war during WWII.

To my reckoning Nazdi Khabarovsky would have to be at least 90 years old to have fought in that war. He looked a mere youth of 80, but he was born in the Caucasus Mountains that tower over the Black Sea region of Russia, where people are known for their amazing longevity, so maybe Nazdi's war tales   were true. The story I loved most was why he became a writer.

As he told it, once during combat his plane was shot down. "You were a pilot?" I asked. "Not important," he said. And where was his plane shot down? "Not important." What he wanted to stress was that he was shot down over a forest buried in ice and snow. That a ravine of soft, deep snow had kept his plane from exploding on impact with the earth. And that everyone was killed but him. Thus, he lay semi-conscious in sub-zero weather for days, during which he lost all feeling in his feet, his legs and groin.

And that is how the enemy found him, patched him up and threw him in a prisoner-of-war camp. "The Germans?" I asked. As usual, Nazdi waved his hand. "Not important." After several weeks, he slowly regained feeling in his limbs. But no feeling returned to his testicles. "Frostbite. But not important." What was important was that after four years of torture and starvation he was liberated by the Yanks. And in a Red Cross hospital, several of his toes "and other things" were surgically removed.

 Nazdi understood he could never have children. So he decided he would have stories instead. He would write about all the absurdities and tragedies of war. About prisoners eating 'shit sausages,' from the cut-up intestines of dead comrades. About a stolen radio, men weeping at the sound of violins. About sadistic guards, knocked out and thrown on ice floes, and how prisoners cheered as the ice floes slowly sank. About bare-assed girls from distant villages backing up to link fences so prisoners could have sex with them. About tubercular men tenderly dancing together, coughing up blood on each other's shoulders. And about how even survivors were afraid to go home, knowing Stalin would execute them as 'traitors.'

After decades of writing stories that were never published - Russians did not want to read about war - Nazdi decided that NOW was the time for his big book. After 9/11, Iraq, Syria, the bloody revolutions of the Middle East, war was fashionable again! And so he began his POW memoir, the title of which broadly translates into English as HOW I SAVE MY LIFE BUT LOSE MY TESTICLES. "Many years in writing," Nazdi said. "Many false starts and detours."

In his struggle to turn random stories into his OPUS, Nazdi had finally found the perfect role model, a writer whose books were guiding him. "Real genius who help me upchuck this hairball of novel stuck in throat for decades." When I asked who, Nazdi threw out his arms like a man greeting heirs. "Your American! Most famous writer in all world!  Real Einstein of words!" "Ernest Hemingway?" I asked. "Nyet! Nyet!" Nazdi shouted. "More better than Hemingway." I searched my brain. "Saul Bellow? Stephen King?" "Nyet! Nyet!"

He stared at me in shock. "You don't know who was true American genius?? Was like American Shakespeare! Wrote many dozen books!" "Okay. Then give me a title." Nazdi sat back, struggling to translate titles into English. He finally leaned forward. "He write about... nickles. Da! Many nickles." I frowned, groping for some genius book about nickles. Or metals. Nazdi downed two shots of vodka, stared at his glass, then whispered. "Was like Star Wars...nickles... Martian...nickles." I sipped my vodka. Upchucked hairballs. Martians. Nickles. Then, like an epiphany, it came to me.

I turned to Nazdi and smiled. "You mean Ray Bradbury. THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. He jumped up from his chair and danced. "Da! Da! Great American genius! Bradbury. Loved by all the world!" He waved his arms and kissed the air. "He say novel is like big hairball. Takes patience. Many years to upchuck." After a while, Nazdi sat down again. "Now we live in age of terror. Mass killings everywhere. May be my war not so great, too long ago. So. I write book about surviving. How old prisoner of war lose toes, lose testicles, lose mind. But still could not be brainwashed. Not be destroyed. Good lesson for soldier today. Maybe also good for writers."

 The day we said da svidanya, goodbye, he introduced me to his son, a big strapping man in his sixties.  "Your son?" I said. "Da! Four sons, two daughters, many grandkids!" I stood there thinking of frostbitten testicles, which, presumably, had been surgically removed, which, presumably, is why Nazdi decided to father books instead. He waved and drove away, but in that last moment he looked back and winked. So maybe none of it was true. Still, it makes great fiction.

Months later Nazdi sent me a chapter of his novel, translated into a ripped-to-the-tits Caucasian-Russian version of English. Included was a kind of survival kit, based on 'four grueling years as a prisoner of war.' (Memoir? Fiction? Who can know?) Either way, he's right: it's also an excellent guide to surviving as a writer.  Herewith, for your pleasure.

The POW's Guide to Surviving:

1. Never give up hope.
2. Never scale down your dreams (of liberation, or success).
3. Create a routine: a time to work, a time to read, a time to sit and think, even pray.
4. Get Physical. Jogging, stretching, sit ups. It toughens the mind as well as the body.
5. Be prepared for torture, thirst, starvation. This is why you toughen your body and mind.
6. Keep a secret space for yourself. Don't give things away, your thoughts or dreams. (Your plots!)
7. Say the opposite of what they expect. Keep them guessing and unsure. (Readers like mystery)
8. Go back to daydreams and childhood, when you were innocent. It keeps you pure.
9. Your brain cannot be washed. In spite of torture, pain, starvation. Don't change what you believe in.  Don't give in! (For writers, that means not quitting.  Ever!)
10. Find humor where you can. Laugh, even if it kills you. Laugh out loud. It shocks the brain.
11.  Find three people to trust, love and care for. In return, they will love and care for you when you are down and out. You don't need more than three.  More is a burden.
12. Be patient.  Good things (liberation, or success) will come if you believe.
13. Lying is important to survival.  Lie your head off.  (The best liars are the best storytellers.)
14. Always act dumber than you are. Hide your intelligence. Use it as a secret weapon.
15.  Never give up. Never!  When you give up, you die.
16.  When your stomach is full (or, your rent is paid) give thanks.
17.  You were born. You are here. That in itself is a miracle. Again, give thanks.

Happy Writing,  Happy Reading!   Please add to the  above list in your comments!
Alohas, Kiana                                                   
                                                         
                                                         
                                                          (Now available  at Amazon)
   







Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"BREAKING BAD"...A LOVE LETTER

Hello World.

This is a love letter to Vince Gilligan, creator of the brilliant AMC hit series, "Breaking Bad." It was a show that astonished audiences with its mind-blowing premise, its genius visuals, its brilliant cast. It was, and still is, the gold standard for a TV series. Television as God meant it to be.

We all remember Walter White, the anti-hero in the series, a chemistry teacher who transmorgrifies from Mr. Chips to Scarface! But what intrigued me most was Walter's son, a boy handicapped with cerebral palsy, played by the heartbreakingly handsome R.J. Mitte, an actor who in real life has cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that affects muscle development, therefore control of the body's movements.

Vince Gilligan was a genius into introducing this physically handicapped character, Walter, Jr., whose inclusion in the series was groundbreaking on many levels, especially because his presence in almost every episode of "Breaking Bad" alerted audiences to the dearth - in fact, the near-absence - of physically and mentally challenged characters on television, in feature films, novels, and even live theatre. (Unless they are portrayed as villains, vampires, demented freaks.)

Watching weekly episodes of "Breaking Bad," I realized that when writers choose to omit such characters from our novels, we are inadvertently rendering the physically and mentally handicapped people of the world "invisible." We are consigning them to the shadows. And, thus, our stories suffer from that lack of richness and diversity.

"Breaking Bad" provided me with the impetus to finally write about my dear friend, Andre, a  handsome and talented man who happens to suffer from albinism (the preferred word to 'albino') and its attendant limited vision in one eye. Thus, was born Adam Fleming, the CIA intelligence operative in my new novel, THE SOUL AJAR. (Written with Andre's approval.)

Though the character is fictional, I labored to accurately portray the isolation of an albino child, the terrible fear of sun that scarred skin lacking pigment, the unspoken envy of snakes who shed their skin each year. And later, the adult years of albinism with the attendant loss of vision in one eye, the awareness of being an eternal 'outsider,' and the sense of being 'unworthy' of love.

Of course, Adam Fleming, is psychologically complex, but THE SOUL AJAR is a political thriller and a love story, not a clinical study. I leave that to the medical experts. Still, with the creation of his character I made a vow: to create more fictional characters in my novels who reflect the actual world we live in - a world enriched with beautiful, creative, ingenious, and loving humans who happen to be burdened with mental or physical challenges.

My hope is that more of my fellow writers will join me in that resolution. And I hope my readers will help us by recommending books they have read that portray such heroic characters. In researching THE SOUL AJAR I read many clinical books on albinism. Alas, there are not many fictional adult books on the subject. Maybe readers can recommend whatever books I missed.

One novel I did discover and  highly recommend is 'Ghost Boy,' by Ian Lawrence. A beautiful YA novel about a boy with albinism who runs off to join a circus!  It's available on Amazon, and was recommended to me by NOAH: The National Association for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. I thank them for their help and the information on their website.

 Herewith, a scattering of other wonderful novels I recommend. Becoz of space I have only listed a few. But please write in your suggestions in the Comments space at the end of this posting.

1. FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON, Dan Keyes -  A mentally challenged man. A classic.
2. JEWEL, Brett Lott. -  A child with Down's Syndrome. Beautifully rendered.
3. HOUSE RULES, Jodi Picoult -  An autistic child. Another beauty!
4. FORREST GUMP, Winston Groom - A fantasy about an 'idiot savant.' But I loved it.
5. UNTO THE FEAST OF THESE, Alison Winfree Pickrell - A child with cerebral palsy.
6. DEN OF LIONS, same author - Asthmatic librarian and handicapped man. Wonderful!
7. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, Anthony Doerr - Blind girl during WWII. Recent.
           
 Again, please add your suggested books in the Comments space. And I will list them in a further blog. In closing, now and then remember to stop and look around. See who might need help. Hold out your hand.

Once more, A Big Shout Out to Vince Gilligan!

And I hope you enjoy THE SOUL AJAR.  (At Amazon.)
Happy Reading, and Alohas.   Kiana











Monday, November 3, 2014

THE SOUL AJAR, A LOVE STORY (continues...)





Hello World.

I'd like to announce publication of my new novel, THE SOUL AJAR, A Love Story.  Its now out in ebook form, and in two days as a paperback, published by 'Iolani  Press.  It's my first  attempt at writing a political thriller, and was an exhilarating experience to attempt another genre.  But I do think writers should expand and experiment, isn't that what artists do?

I also wanted a platform to write about my friend, Andrei, who is afflicted with albinism.  ("Albino" is really not the preferred word.)   I think more books should be written about  physically challenged characters. In a following blog I will go into detail about this subject and how R. J. Mitte, the wonderful actor  with cerebral palsy in the  brilliant TV series "Breaking Bad," deeply influenced me in the writing of THE SOUL AJAR.  For now,  here's a synopsis of the novel and I hope you will enjoy it!

http://www.amazon.com/SOUL-AJAR-Love-...




"From the bestselling Hawaiian author of 'Shark Dialogues' and 'The Spy Lover' comes a riveting  political thriller and haunting love story. Based on a real-life friend of the author, here is the story of Adam, a handsome, Russian-American CIA operative afflicted with albinism. On undercover assignment in Honolulu, he meets Lily, a young Hawaiian journalist, who ultimately follows him to New York City. While struggling to gain his trust and love, she discovers his secret 'shadow life,' and that, as an albino, Adam feels undeserving of love. He grows increasingly distant until, heartbroken, Lily leaves him and makes her way in the city alone as a hard-hitting journalist.  It is only when Lily meets Bazil, Adam's colleague in the intelligence world, that she learns the terrible secret of Adam's past: his mother's execution by a Russian assassin,Yakoviev, an act Adam witnessed as a child. She learns why Adam's mother was murdered, and of his life-long obsession to avenge her death. While helping Bazil track his own love, Zahira - a beautiful Afghani girl running from the Taliban - Lily becomes inexorably enmeshed in Adam's search for Yakoviev, now a world-class killer financing Muslim fanatics.   Based on today's global terrorism and the unspeakable torture of women in the Middle East, 'The Soul Ajar' transports readers from Honolulu to New York City, from the wilds of Afghanistan to Georgian and Russian resort towns on the Black Sea, until finally - near a monastery deep in the Caucasus mountains of Russia - Adam confronts the monster, Yakoviev.  It is here that Lily discovers the depths of her courage in an unthinkable act she commits to save Adam's life.  In scenes both beautiful and harrowing, 'The Soul Ajar' unflinchingly examines the chaos of the present world we live in, while illuminating our timeless desire for human dignity and love."  
   
 ~ Praise for Kiana Davenport ~ 
"Davenport is a brilliant writer."  -- The Huffington Post. 
"Her prose is sharp and shining as a sword."  -- Isabel Allende 
"You can't read Kiana Davenport without being transformed."  -- Alice Walker 
"Davenport is a superb storyteller."  -- The Seattle Times  

Thank you, and happy reading!! 


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Saturday, November 1, 2014

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: "THE SOUL AJAR"

Please sign up for a free Autographed Paperback of my new novel, THE SOUL AJAR,  A Love Story.    Just follow the link to the Goodreads Giveaway Page.  Happy reading!


 https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/113918-the-soul-ajar-a-love-story




"THE SOUL AJAR, A Love Story"

Hello World.

I'd like to announce publication of my new novel, THE SOUL AJAR, A Love Story.  Its now out in ebook form, and in two days as a paperback, published by 'Iolani  Press.  It's my first  attempt at writing a political thriller, and was an exhilarating experience to attempt another genre.  But I do think writers should expand and experiment, isn't that what artists do?

I also wanted a platform to write about my friend, Andrei, who is afflicted with albinism.  ("Albino" is really not the preferred word.)   I think more books should be written about  physically challenged characters. In a following blog I will go into detail about this subject and how R. J. Mitte, the wonderful actor  with cerebral palsy in the  brilliant TV series "Breaking Bad," deeply influenced me in the writing of THE SOUL AJAR.  For now,  here's a synopsis of the novel and I hope you will enjoy it!

http://www.amazon.com/SOUL-AJAR-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B00OKRQRI8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414866723&sr=1-1&keywords=the+soul+ajar




"From the bestselling Hawaiian author of 'Shark Dialogues' and 'The Spy Lover' comes a riveting  political thriller and haunting love story. Based on a real-life friend of the author, here is the story of Adam, a handsome, Russian-American CIA operative afflicted with albinism. On undercover assignment in Honolulu, he meets Lily, a young Hawaiian journalist, who ultimately follows him to New York City. While struggling to gain his trust and love, she discovers his secret 'shadow life,' and that, as an albino, Adam feels undeserving of love. He grows increasingly distant until, heartbroken, Lily leaves him and makes her way in the city alone as a hard-hitting journalist. 

It is only when Lily meets Bazil, Adam's colleague in the intelligence world, that she learns the terrible secret of Adam's past: his mother's execution by a Russian assassin,Yakoviev, an act Adam witnessed as a child. She learns why Adam's mother was murdered, and of his life-long obsession to avenge her death. While helping Bazil track his own love, Zahira - a beautiful Afghani girl running from the Taliban - Lily becomes inexorably enmeshed in Adam's search for Yakoviev, now a world-class killer financing Muslim fanatics. 

 Based on today's global terrorism and the unspeakable torture of women in the Middle East, 'The Soul Ajar' transports readers from Honolulu to New York City, from the wilds of Afghanistan to Georgian and Russian resort towns on the Black Sea, until finally - near a monastery deep in the Caucasus mountains of Russia - Adam confronts the monster, Yakoviev.  It is here that Lily discovers the depths of her courage in an unthinkable act she commits to save Adam's life. 

In scenes both beautiful and harrowing, 'The Soul Ajar' unflinchingly examines the chaos of the present world we live in, while illuminating our timeless desire for human dignity and love."

     ~ Praise for Kiana Davenport ~

"Davenport is a brilliant writer."  -- The Huffington Post.

"Her prose is sharp and shining as a sword."  -- Isabel Allende

"You can't read Kiana Davenport without being transformed."  -- Alice Walker

"Davenport is a superb storyteller."  -- The Seattle Times 

Thank you, and happy reading!!




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RUSSELL BRAND ON ROBIN WILLIAMS SUICIDE

Hello World...

Here is the Sometimes Frantic, Sometimes  Serious, Russell Brand  Speaking Eloquently and Rather Brilliantly on the Suicide of Robin Williams.

http://www.google.com/#q=russell+brand+what+should+we+think+robin+williams+the+trews

I urge you all to download and listen!  What he says affects us all.

Thank you!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CONSERVATION? OR COLD-BLOODED KILLING?

Hello, World...

I have just seen these photos of a teenager from Texas  gleefully posing with majestic African wild life which she has slaughtered with assorted firearms.  She allegedly learned her expertise from her father, a big game hunter.

  They call it 'conservation,' culling animals that are crowding already over-crowded preserves in Africa.  I call it cold-blooded killing.  As the human population explodes all over the planet, wildlife is  being crowded into smaller and smaller preserves.  Their extinction is inevitable, so why prolong their agony?

According to  Kendall Jones and her ilk, the answer is quite simple.  Just shoot them.  The depths of her ignorance is stunning.

Animal-lovers, take a stand. Sign one of the many petitions circling the Internet  urging that her cold-
blooded killer photos be removed.    Thank you.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/kendall-jones-the-19yearold-cheerleader-from-texas-provoking-worldwide-fury-over-hunting-pictures-on-her-facebook-page-9578836.html