Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chat with author Guilie Castillo Oriard about The Miracle of Small Things

Guilie and Benny, her
handsome rescue mutt.
The Miracle
of Small Things
Today, please meet Guilie Castillo Oriard, the unusually talented writer and author of The Miracle of Small Things, published this summer by Truth Serum Press. At 126 pages, it's a small gem about what's important in life, learning who we are, and realigning our values. Here is our chance to ask Guilie about the book, her writing, her blog tour, life in Curaçao, dog rescuing, her next project, music, culture -- so many possibilities!

So bienvenida, Guilie. You've had a couple of tour stops already. How are you and Benny holding up under the klieg lights?

A few words from Truth Serum Press
Guilie Castillo Oriard is a Mexican writer and dog rescuer living in Curaçao. She misses Mexican food and Mexican amabilidad, but the laissez-faire attitude (and the beaches) are fair exchange. And the island’s diversity provides great fodder for her obsession with culture clashes.

Her work has appeared online and, in print, as part of several anthologies. Her first book, The Miracle of Small Things (Truth Serum Press) was published in August 2015. She’s currently working on a full-length novel.

She blogs about life and writing at and about life and dogs at

To buy Guilie's book
To purchase The Miracle of Small Things (and you know you want to):

Barnes & Noble Nook (coming soon)

Find the publisher:
The Miracle of Small Things on Facebook
Author page on Facebook
Author on Twitter
Author’s blog

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Meet the author of The Sword & Scabbard

Today I am happy to host Allen Woods, a writer and historian who has written the novel The Sword & Scabbard: Thieves and Thugs and the Bloody Massacre in Boston. Apparently, many colonists were not as well behaved as our Founding Fathers! Please feel free to ask him questions and comments.

Crude vengeance, angry mobs

Author Allen Woods
One of the reasons I find history so fascinating is that there is so much to learn compared to what many of us learned in school. As George Orwell pointed out in 1944, history is written by the winners. In general, the winners have a narrative they’d like to convey whether it strictly matches the facts or not.

Most of us have ingested a view of Revolutionary times that involves noble speeches and actions, and a unified pursuit of democratic ideals (this is true of most other periods of American history as well). There were certainly instances of noble thoughts and deeds during the period, but there was a lot more going on as well. My research brought to mind the modern cliché about politics and making sausage: you might like the product, but the process is rather unsavory.

In doing research for some American history textbooks, I began to think about some of the realities that were suggested but not emphasized, such as the practice of tarring and feathering British officials or their supporters. It all sounds rather jolly until you imagine a man stripped of his clothes, cowering before an angry mob, painted with boiling tar from the docks, covered in foul poultry feathers and dragged about town to the delight of jeering crowds. According to one historical account, removing the tar took off layers of skin as thick as steaks. Suddenly, Revolutionary ideals seem a long way off.

The same was true of the protests against the Stamp Act in Boston. Anyone willing to sell the tax stamps or support those who did risked the crude vengeance of a rough and angry mob directed by leaders who stayed in the background and often hypocritically deplored the violence in public. It was common for a British Customs family to have their house surrounded and windows broken out as a mob howled threats, for businesses to have their doors painted with urine and feces during the night, for officials to be accosted in the street, knocked down and dragged through gutters filled with sewage.

An early depiction of the Boston Massacre
Of course, the British soldiers responded in kind once they were ordered to occupy Boston to maintain order in 1768. There were constant scuffles and brawls in the streets between angry British soldiers who were paid a pittance and forced to live in harsh conditions and dockworkers and sailors out of work because of the British occupation. It was this physical violence, especially the threats to the British upper class and their property, that propelled England and America down the path toward a formal war more than any of the speeches or writings by American leaders.

Another issue suggested by my research and that inspired my book was the intersection between politics and crime. Smuggling was common in American ports before the war and was the foundation of John Hancock’s fortune and that of some other large merchants. At some point, it dawned on me that when John Hancock’s ships filled with taxable wine were unloaded beneath the noses of British Customs officials, it wasn’t Hancock unloading the hundred-gallon barrels in the middle of the night and transporting them to be hidden nearby. He, or those working with him, needed a connection with people willing to work in the night and able to evade capture by heavy-handed officials. Later, when a rival British newspaper had its office wrecked and equipment vandalized, American leaders needed people skilled in criminal activities to do the deeds.

I used factual accounts of many criminal incidents and political actions in my book to illuminate the times from the ‘street level’ rather than present the flowery writings and speeches that dominate much of the common historical narrative. My intent in this book, and those will follow, is not to tear down the heroes of the time, but simply to provide a more accurate picture. Just as the mythology surrounding the personal life of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon have been fleshed out with more realistic and unflattering detail, careful attention will allow us to understand the Revolutionary period better as well. From my point of view, an honest portrayal of a fallible hero is better than any mythical, sanitized one.


Allen Woods has been a full-time freelance writer and editor for almost 30 years, recently specializing in social studies and reading textbooks for all ages. The inspiration for The Sword & Scabbard came while doing research for an American history text. He resides in Massachusetts and has been married to his wife, Irene, for over 30 years.

His blog is at The paperback and Kindle version are available at this link.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Read ’em and weep

This is the result of an exercise that required using no modifiers. You cant blame the Internet Writing Workshop for inciting this nonsense, though it is for one of their practice exercises.


Jack Jackson wiped foam from his mustache, and he smiled the smile of a winner. Or a cheat. “Read em and weep, ladies,” he said as he slapped his cards one by one on the table, which shook with laughter that bounced off his gut. “Jack, Jack, Jack, and Jack. Don't I just love that name? Oh, and a deuce of no use.” Jack reached and scooped the scattering of twenties and fifties, the hopes and prayers and cash for groceries and rent and uniforms for football for the boys and shoes for Sally all disappearing in a miasma of smoke from the Cohibas Jack had smuggled out of Havana. Wives were going to have husbands sleeping on the couches, and apologies wouldn’t suffice worth the kettle of beans my girlfriend burned on the stove a month ago when she stubbed her toe and I had to drive her to the doctor. No babies were about to begin their journey into the world that night, not from us losers.

I couldn’t bear the agony. What would I tell the Missus? She’d weep, then scream words she saved up just for times like this, then ricochet a skillet off my cranium as her eyes glowed like rubies heated in the depths of Hades. No adjectives or adverbs could save me, and by midnight I’d lie in a pool of blood on the linoleum on the floor of the kitchen. Then I expect she'd wipe her prints off the weapon, call 911, and blame it on an intruder.

Fearing such an outcome, I drew my .44 and put a slug in Jack. I guess it got him in the heart, because his shirt blossomed there like a rosebud in June. His mouth gaped like one of them flytraps from Venus, but he was through gloating like he'd won the lottery or laid my wife. The rest of us split the pot and went home.

I am at the gallows where I will hang for the murder of Jack Jackson, but I don’t mind. It was either this or the skillet.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Upcoming book events

We've had an avalanche of self-published and independent books in the last few years, and many of them -- most of them -- are far from being ready for the world to see. They are often poorly edited and come across as amateurish. That's too bad, because they obscure some quality works worthy of public attention. In the coming weeks I'll be posting about at least three of these, with stories that couldn't be more different from each other.

Bun Yom is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide of the late 1970s and the author of Tomorrow I'm Dead. I've read many accounts of that horror, such as The Killing Fields, the story of the late Haing Ngor that was later made into an Academy Award-winning movie. And there is To Destroy You Is No Loss: The Odyssey of a Cambodian Family by JoAn D. Criddle. But his book is in his own heartfelt words.

Guilie Castillo Oriard has just published The Miracle of Small Things, an engaging novella set in her adopted Curaçao. She's a Mexican native who writes beautiful English. I understand she has an e-version of her book coming out soon, and it deserves to be on a lot of Kindles and iPads. Soon we'll have much more about Guilie and her book.
Allen Woods has written The Sword and Scabbard, a historical novel set in colonial Boston, and it's about events leading up to the Boston Massacre. He's going to be my guest on October 27, and I expect we'll hear a lot about rowdies and Redcoats.