MOCK CASTLES AND MOSQUITOES

 

TRAVEL (LOCAL)

In the Moors and Christians parades there are groups or filaes either Christian or Moor and they fundraise throughout the year to pay for the costumes and bands and props for the battles they fight. Some towns put up mock castles and use boats to arrive and for the parades there are often camels, fire eaters, elephants and dancing girls as well.

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Possibly the most impressive are the horses. The Spanish Riding School you can now see in Vienna and Johannesburg with the Lipizzaner horses came from Spain. During the parade they perform amazing dressage steps dancing on their back legs – which is something not every horse can do. They take your breath away. (I always wear a good pair of shoes when I go to watch, as they come awfully close to my toes).

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HISTORY

Isabella of Spain

Joanna of Castile
JOANNA OF CASTILE

Isabella’s plan to get out of marrying the very elderly Portuguese King Alfonso aged 32, is to say she can’t agree unless the Cortes (sort of parliament) agrees. This is unlikely to happen as they don’t like the Queen and Alfonso is her brother

There follows lots of wrangling and bargaining from opposing sides, which I won’t bore you with except that Henry tries to make the marriage happen by offering his daughter to his half brother. Yet again, for the moment, Isabella escapes marriage as the kingdoms are about to go to war over all this marriage nonsense.

 

 

AFRICA FACTS

I was dismayed when we returned to England for a couple of months to discover that my youngest was telling her new friends that we had lions and tigers walking down the paths outside the mud hut we lived in. (They might have noticed the inconsistencies in this as there are no tigers in Africa). Thing is, they believed her and she thought this hilarious.

Africa is still a dangerous place the heat encourages bacteria and other diseases to grow quickly. The smaller creatures are the most deadly of all.

MOZZIE

Durban had eradicated the anopheles mosquito that carries malaria – though a new strain now attacks the brain and there is a very low recovery rate if you contract that.

We filmed in a laboratory where they bred mosquitoes and I was curious to know how they fed them. Simple. They keep them in old plastic tubs covered with netting.

GUINES PIG

They also keep guinea pigs, shave their tummies, and then place them on the netting where they sit happily chewing lettuce leaves as the mozzies dine at the same time below. It doesn’t affect the guinea pigs apparently as they are used in rotation in a perfect symbiotic relationship. As long as they don’t try to shave my tummy!

This and other stories in the Truth, Lies and Propaganda series.

Till next time, take care.

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TANTRUMS AND TEMPERATURES.

While I am between countries I thought I would share some pictures of one of the local fiestas.

Each year many of the towns on the east coast (and I think along the south coast as well) have a 3 day festival celebrating the Moors and Christians. Now, in case you didn’t know Spain was invaded in 711 AD from North Africa by the Moors. They conquered most of it, except for the far north around Santiago de Compostela. Being a mainly Christian country that was not viewed too kindly by the Iberians and they battled to take back the conquered land. This was not accomplished until 1492 almost 800 years later.

The term Moors refers primarily to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers.

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On day 1 at festival time, the Moors invade and take control of the town. On day 2 the Christians fight back and on day 3 they all march together in a big parade, usually lasting at least 3 hours.

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The costumes take your breath away. In a few towns they make or buy them, but mostly they are hired from huge centres for the festivities so they are different every year.

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I found this utterly fascinating as in South Africa they are working so hard to bury their history, changing road names, re-branding to Africanisms and using the past only as a vehicle for blaming the state of the present.

A replacement road sign in Durban

Here in Spain they celebrate the diversity and most places you can see remnants of Moorish architecture and culture.

HISTORY

Isabella of Spain

Ferdinand 5

FERDINAND

Since last week I’ve discovered Alfonso was only 32 when he wanted to marry the 13 year old Isabella, but to her that was like, ancient!! The Queen can’t wait to get her married off and out of the way, while Dowager Mummy bleats her daughter is already betrothed to Ferdinand of Aragon. Isabella agrees with this, she’s madly in love with the dashing Ferdinand of Aragon and she’s not above throwing a real tantrum if she can’t marry him. Now that his brother was bumped off he’s the heir to the Aragon throne and quite a good catch.

To get out of this new betrothal to Alfonso of Portugal, Isabella turns to Don Frederick Admiral of Castile, father of Queen Joan of Aragon who is a man of great experience.  She feels that she can trust him.  And he comes up with a plan.

AFRICA FACTS

It’s a mistake to think that Africa is warm all the time. The summers are hot but it can get quite cold in winter. Of course, nothing like as cold as many places. Durban on the east coast is a subtropical climate and the temperature rarely drops below 9 degrees Centigrade. I never needed a coat there but I had several jerseys. The contrast between a hot day and a cooler night can feel so much more and it’s possible to shiver at 10 degrees Centigrade.

AERIAL BEACHFRONT
DURBAN BEACHFRONT

Johannesburg is 1,753 metres (5,751 ft) above sea level and Nairobi is pretty much the same at 1,795 metres. Even towns in Botswana are over 1,000 metres above sea level. As a child I always thought that the higher up you are the hotter it would be – closer to the sun aren’t you? Apparently, this is not the case as Mount Everest at 8,848 metres proves.

Visitors to Nairobi and Johannesburg will notice the oxygen levels are lower at these heights and will need to take things easy for the first few days.

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JOHANNESBURG

Since I have little fashion sense, I don’t need to worry too much what Amie wears – usually cargo pants and t-shirt and good, sturdy boots. In book 4 these became more dangerous than she could ever have imagined.

Till next time, take care.

RATHAUS AND (W)RITING

TRAVEL (VIENNA)

After we left the Vienna Experience exhibition we spent several minutes standing on the pavement discussing which way to go – I won’t go as far as arguing exactly but it got heated. Want to know who won? DH, nauseatingly he was right. We spent time meandering the streets getting a feel for the place – to me the vibes screamed music, history and art – quite heavenly.

This building is the front of the State Opera house.

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They offer free tours and we left it to the last day to go round it – sadly it was closed on that day.

So, we headed off to the Town hall or Rathaus (the name in German) instead. I know it’s silly but I kept imagining scenes similar to the Pied Piper of Hamlyn – how we often think about politicians?

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I’m not sure we were supposed to go inside but there were no notices telling us not to and we were very good and didn’t vandalise anything or scrawl graffiti on the walls either. It was a veritable maze with several wide staircases covered in red carpet over the marble floors.

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HISTORY

When Joan Henriquez Ferdinand’s mummy hears of the intended betrothal of her stepson Prince Carlos with Isabella, she is furious because she is all for the marriage between her darling Ferdinand and Isabella. But all is not lost because Carlos is now locked up by his Daddy the king and is languishing in jail. Not the best place for a royal to get married, even in those days.

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King John is forced to release his son, but shortly after, Carlos dies in rather suspicious circumstances. It’s said that his ghost still walks the streets of Barcelona.

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And it gets worse. Living quietly in Olite, Blanche [Henry’s ex wife the one he had before Joan Henriquez] is now very scared. On Carlos’ death, she has inherited Navarre. She is still imprisoned by her own family, in general she has a very sad life. She also dies under suspicious circumstances at the age of 40.  Like Carlos, she was probably poisoned. What dangerous times, better to be a peasant I think.

AFRICAN FACTS

When we first started filming in the rural areas around Johannesburg, it was easy. The local people were so friendly and helpful. If we asked them to cry they wailed loudly enough to be heard in London. If we asked them to laugh they cackled till we begged them to stop.

But, somewhere word got out that in Hollywood, actors were paid obscene amounts of money, and they began to demand payment. Sadly, our budget did not stretch to this and we were at a loss as to what to do. Until someone hit on the idea to ‘pay’ them in plastic buckets and bowls.

buckets and bowls

It worked! We got our footage and they walked off with brightly coloured plastic ware and everyone was happy.

Later, when I was running my own company in KwaZulu Natal I handed out lollipops for appearing in my movies. The idea was to give them to the children, but the grown-ups were having none of that and queued up to get theirs as well. It led to lots of laughs and some amazing footage.

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This picture is not a mock-up, this lady was having her first lesson in learning to write.

all books day 5 group promo May 2018

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914/

Till next time, take care.

MEET HILARY COOMBES

My guest this week is an author I have actually met. Yes, a real-life meeting, we even shook hands, kissed in the Spanish tradition, and drank coffee together but she’s also a cyber friend of course.

She’s written two books and is currently formatting the third one. But enough waffle from me – over to Hilary.

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I’ve always wanted to write, but then if you’ve never written anything you don’t know any better do you? It started with a couple of successes with magazine articles a lifetime ago and developed from there to short stories and eventually full-blown novels.

Alongside the day job, I decided to become a novelist to put my talent for making up stuff to good use. At the time I mistakenly thought I’d have the power to make my characters do my bidding … it turns out the tail very much wags the dog. My main characters wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me they don’t like what I’ve written about them. I usually end up having to get up and rewrite in the small hours! This is why I sometimes need matchsticks to keep my eyes open during daylight hours.

You may know that I live between the Costa Blanca, Spain and Oxfordshire, England and I adore both my countries, which is probably why they often feature in my writing. I think I must be the luckiest person on earth to live my lifestyle. I wouldn’t change places with anyone – not even the Queen of England or Posh Spice! J

HILARY COOMBES HEN PARTY

I’ve had a love affair with Spain since my first visit as a teenager. The good weather, great people, Mediterranean food, scenic beauty, not forgetting the wine of course, and I must confess I have a weakness for a glass of red.

Not sure whether you will really find this bit interesting, but I’ll include it in case you’re wondering which country gave birth to such a lucky soul. I was born in Devon in the south west of England, although when I was adopted I moved to Bristol and I grew up there. I very much feel like a Bristolian and I can talk the talk if need be (‘Ow bee mee luvver?). As an adult, I moved around a bit, as you do, and luckily nowadays we can all live almost anywhere we choose, as the Internet easily keeps everyone in touch.

I love humans (well, most of them); long thick hair (mine is incredibly fine); sunshine; eating al fresco (especially breakfast as this seems decadent somehow); plus writing of course.

 

I have won several writing awards, two of which I am particularly proud of (probably because of their Spanish connections)  … the 2015 Spanish Radio short story competition, and the 2017 Ian Goven Award. I won’t name all the others – far too uninteresting.

I have found that the writing community are one of the loveliest bunch of people you could hope to meet, especially indie writers. I have been lucky enough to write for the big publishers (Macmillan), the small publishers (UPBooks) and lately I have chosen to go it alone as an indie publisher. It’s hard work, but boy have I learned a lot and the support of other indie writers has been there every step of the way.

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My personal challenge for my last novel BEYOND PROMISES was that wanted to put myself in a man’s shoes.

Charlie the main character is male. His powerful politician father parts him from the love of his life, and then the reader follows his exile in 1980’s Spain where he becomes trapped in a criminal underworld. The story follows his life through to the present day. It is a story of passion, heartbreak and humour.

It had very good five star ***** reviews, but to be honest this face-to-face encounter is my favourite feedback  –

I was sat in the local laundry when a lady I had never met before tapped me on the shoulder. ‘You’re that writer lady, aren’t you?’

I was amazed (I have no idea how she knew me, I can only imagine it was word of mouth). ‘Um, y-yes.’

‘I’ve just read your book, Beyond Promises.’

‘Oh.’ (I wondered what was coming next).

‘I want you to know it’s the best book that I have read in the last twelve months. It’s fantastic. I couldn’t put it down.’

I could have kissed her! (I didn’t), but it was such a lovely thing to hear.

Version 2

My next book is due out in July 2018, and once again it was born because of a challenge to myself. This time I decided I wanted to write short stories with a theme, so ‘Short LOVE Stories’ was born. Readers are going to be treated to love in all its guises, from brotherly love, love of an artist, elderly love, child love, and even the traditional boy meets girl type love, but of course there are no certainties in love are there, so the themes range from “Game. Set. Heartache” to “Passionate Crime”, of course, sprinkled with humour along the way.

Thank you for coming along with me on Lucinda’s blog today, it’s been great to talk with you, and thank you, Lucinda, for inviting me to be your guest.

I’d love to hear from any reader that would like to get in touch, and there are many ways you could do this. I run a webpage, a blog, and I endeavour to amuse people on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so do and come join me

http://hilarycoombes.com   (my new blog is here)

https://medium.com/@HILARYCOOMBES   (my old blog – has writing tips as well as topical news articles about Spain and the UK)

https://facebook.com/hilary.coombes.94

http://twitter.com/HILARYCOOMBES

http://www.instagram.com/hilary.coombes/

Thank you, Hilary and we’ll be meeting up for coffee again very soon. You can read more of Hilary’s work as she’s contributed a short story to the book her creative writing group is preparing to publish to commemorate their 10th anniversary – I’ll keep you updated on that as soon as I know more.

Until next time, take care.

 

VIENNA AND A VICIOUS ANIMAL

TRAVEL

Now because I’ve decided we need more pictures in here, these are two statues in Vienna, but sadly I can’t tell you anything about them.

I thought I would be really mean and pop up a couple more pics of the scrumptious cakes they have in Vienna. Austria is renowned worldwide for its cakes and hot chocolate.

Saturday, we got up early and walked to Karlsplatz and got on the underground for a trip out of town to visit the Schönbrunn (beautiful spring) Palace.

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This is the tiny country cottage that Empress Maria Theresa inherited and then extended it a little (as you do). She enlarged it to 1,441 rooms in the Baroque style making it one of the most important monuments in Austria. It’s been the summer holiday home for the Habsburgs, and it’s very sad they couldn’t play on the beach or swim in the sea as Austria doesn’t have a seaside.

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These days, in fact since the mid 50’s they let any old people wander around it, so we were let in too. The palace reflects 300 years of history, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

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HISTORY

Over 500 years earlier in Spain, in the castle of Avila, the Dowager Queen constantly tells her young daughter “If your stepbrother Henry dies without heirs, then your younger brother Alfonso will be king.  If Alfonso dies, you, Isabella will become queen.”  This is a little daunting when you’re only 6, but the really scary thing is that the Dowager Queen is terrified that the new king is out to harm the little Princess Isabella. Don’t forget she is mad.Henry IV 6

So, she whisks the kids off to the lonely castle of Aravelo to keep them safe. Princess Isabella has lessons and, under instruction from her mother spends an awful lot of time praying. She spends hours and hours each day on her knees.  Court etiquette is rigid, it’s more nunnery than a royal court.

Aravelo castle 2

AFRICA FACTS

I thought that as all but one of my books is set in Africa I would try and include an interesting fact that you might not know.

Ask anyone which animal is the most dangerous in Africa and they will probably quote one of the Big 5 – lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros and elephant.

However, many local Africans living in rural areas will tell you it’s the Honey Badger.

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Many Africans will tell you they are the fiercest of all the animals. They’re not really badgers and though only 28 centimeters high, they’re notorious for their strength, ferocity, and toughness. They have been known to savagely and fearlessly attack almost any kind of animal when escape is impossible, even repelling lions. They will also attack horses, cattle and Cape Buffalo and their skin is so thick that bee stings and porcupine quills rarely penetrate it. When they attack they are virtually tireless and urban legend has it they will jump up and grab a large animal by the testicles and refuse to let go.

I scripted a video for National Geographic a few years ago, where a couple hand reared a cub before releasing it into the wild when it was old enough to fend for itself. It was one of the best projects I have ever worked on.

Finally, a quick reminder about my books with this advert.

WANTED READERS 27 MARCH 2018

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914/

Till next week, take care.

Lucinda

 

LITTLE PRINCESS AND LAP DANCING

TRAVEL

So, we are still in Vienna. I’ll have to drag this out a bit as we don’t really travel all that much though I would love to go away more. The problem is the difficult people you meet that demand money to cart you about and let you sleep in their hotels and houses that stop us traveling more.

One thing that really struck both of us while in Vienna were the reminders of the last great war. For example, there were these memorials.

We also visited the Jewish Museum which had some excellent videos and I was riveted to the presentations – living history, people talking about their personal experiences. We spent a good couple of hours there, reading letters and stories about the resistance fighters and the concentration camps many of which were located in Austria.  (No photos allowed).

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Pi museum exterior By Gryffindor – Own work

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This is another reminder for the Victims of Holocaust. Under this square are the excavated remains of a Jewish Synagogue from the Middle Ages, which had seen the tragic end of the Jewish exhaustion during that time.

 

When we got back to the hotel, this was waiting for us on the table. I thought it was a really nice touch.

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HISTORY

Mad queen Isabella Castile

If you remember we are in Spain in the town of Avila population at the time 1451, with 1,285 inhabitants in the province of Avila, Castile and Leon. Now I hope you’re not going to be difficult and ask me how or why it was in 3 provinces – that’s what the book said.

It isn’t an easy or a happy childhood. Little Isabella’s mother, Queen Isabella is mentally unstable.  She has periods of hysteria, and her husband and her children are afraid of her. Her madness is an inherited trait from the royal house of Portugal. (Apologies to the Portuguese – that’s what the book said).

When little Isabella is only 3, her father King John II dies, and he is succeeded by his son Henry from his first marriage.  He becomes Henry, or Enrique IV. It all gets very complicated doesn’t it, but the NHS at the time was not as efficient and people kept dying all the time. (Have you noticed Disney never mentions this fact).

THE LAP DANCING EPISODE

Now I promised you the story of the lap dancing club this week. Besides writing scripts for radio and television I was up for hire for anyone daft enough to pay me to write anything – as you can tell I’ve no morals at all. Hunger and shelter win out every time. But I was a little taken back when I was asked to write a radio ad for a lap dancing club.

I decided to raise the stakes a little here and it went something like this:

“Come to XYZ club and meet Mandy, who is working hard to provide for her poor granny who needs an expensive heart transplant. While she dances close to you (very close) you will be contributing to Help the Aged and making a beautiful girl very happy at the same time.”

“You can also get to meet Veronica, currently putting herself through post-grad school in micro-genetic bionics. She will be happy to chat with you over a bottle of champagne. Make it soon, as she will be leaving once she has been awarded her PhD.”

“You may be able to help Annette, who has no family at all. Sadly, they were all butchered in the revolution in her home country and now she is building a new life for herself. Come along and give her some love and encouragement.”

All lies, of course, I never got to meet any of them, and a guy who frequented the XYZ club told me none were a day under 40 and they’d all been around the block a good few times and looked very much the worse for wear.

I sighed and shamelessly ran all the way to the bank.

My web page – just in case you feel inclined. http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Until next week, take care.

Lucinda

 

 

 

 

MEET ALICIA GIRALT

My guest this week is Alicia Giralt, and reading her story has struck a chord with me and made me feel very humble yet grateful. It reminds me to be thankful for what I have right now. Do, please read to the very end, and you will see exactly what I mean.

Alicia, over to you.

Alicia

I was born in Barcelona, Spain. At twenty, I moved to the United States, where I have lived for almost 40 years. I started writing when I was a child and have continued ever since. In college, I majored in print journalism inspired by Hemingway, who was also a reporter.

I loved working in newspapers but wasn’t thrilled that my Hemingway-esque words would end up lining a bird’s cage.

One of my professors invited me to apply for a scholarship to pursue a master’s in Spanish. He said he was sure I would get it. Taking this course of study had never crossed my mind, but he had planted a seed in my brain. I continued working and studying at the same time. In December 1990, I was pregnant with my third child and ready to graduate. It was a time of economic crisis and I was elated to have three offers from different newspapers. One evening in class I was talking to a friend Bettina about Christmas plans and feeling excited. I’d chosen my new job and was going to start working the day after classes ended. Bettina told me that since her job was being a teaching assistant, she didn’t have to work until the new semester started. Something was wrong with this equation. But I was happy about going to work, five-months pregnant, and leaving my two older sons in daycare.  Bettina did not have to work. Very interesting.

I talked to the professor who had mentioned the scholarship and my future changed forever. I loved reading, so studying literature didn’t feel like work. It was fun. When I was almost done with my studies, I was offered a scholarship to obtain a Ph.D. in modern languages. Was that possible? And how much fun would that be? A lot, I thought, and it was.

With my Ph.D. in hand, I went to a job interview at Weber State University in northern Utah, a place I knew nothing about. The night before the interviews –there were to be several– I strolled around my hotel. The town is in a valley framed by the Salt Lake to the west and the Wasatch mountains to the east. The mountains were covered in snow and the full moon shined on them. It took my breath away. Next morning, I taught an advanced class. To my surprise, one of the students started talking to me in Catalan, my home language. A young man in Northern Utah speaking in Catalan? This had to be a sign.

Nineteen years later, I’m still in awe of the scenery and amazed by the quality of my students. I’m certain the future is in good hands.

This January 1st. I had to resign due to health issues, but I keep in touch with many of my former students and colleagues. There’s always a silver lining: Finally, I have time to write those stories that have been percolating in my brain.

alicia'spoetry book

I’ve published academic articles, a book about Spanish writer Lourdes Ortiz, and a medical Spanish textbook. I’ve also self-published a poetry book in Spanish and a bilingual Spanish-English children’s book and did the illustrations to the former. My poetry has appeared in journals and magazines. I’ve received so many rejection letters that I could wallpaper my whole house–and my neighbor’s. Luckily, I have also received numerous teaching awards, among others, the Higher Education Teacher of-the-Year by the Utah Foreign Language Association, Outstanding Mentor Award, Excellence in Teaching, Secondary Education Award by Southwest Conference on Language Teaching. Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (Best higher education, foreign language professor in the 9-state region), the John A. Lindquist Award for Community Involvement, the Gwen S. William Award of Excellence, and the Lowe Award for Innovative Teaching.

Alicia kids book

In 2005, I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to present a paper at the World’s Interdisciplinary Congress on Women. On an organized trip to honor Korea’s comfort women, my mother told me she loved me. The only problem was that she had died when I was 15-years old. I felt I had to share this experience with anyone who would listen, but being an academic put a damper on it. My colleagues would no doubt see me in a different light, maybe in a bat-crazy light. So, I only told close relatives and friends. Ten years later, in 2015, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Now, I really had to share my story. I could die soon and my story would die with me.

Alicia's book

After chemo, I went back to work and research, with no time to write my memoir. When my cancer came back a year later, at stage four, I knew I was running out of time to tell my experiences. No more procrastinating. I am convinced of the existence of an afterlife–my mom had shown it to me. Gone was any fear I might have had about dying. In April 2016, my oncologist told me I had a year left, maybe two. I’d better hurry up. I finished my memoir, which should come out in February 2018.

In Blooming out of Darkness: A memoir about cancer, spirits, and joy, my goal is to offer readers a progressive look at spirituality, without dogma or limitations, with only joy. If someone benefits from it, all the work will have been worth it.

You can get Alicia’s children’s book here  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1419667173

This is the link to Alicia’s website. https://aliciagiralt.org/blooming/

Alicia, it has been a privilege to have you as my guest this week, and I hope you have many more days left on this earth. One comforting thought for all writers is that their work will live on long after they have gone.