Friday, September 30, 2016

Christmas in Cuzco by Jeannie Zokan #CallMeDaddy

In anticipation of the upcoming release of my novel, Call Me Daddy, I asked for stories about family: the fun, the inspirational, the heartwarming moments that make us part of a family. Author Jeannie Zokan takes us on a Christmas to remember...

Christmas in Cuzco
My father inherited his adventurous spirit from his mother, who never turned down an opportunity for excitement, and his adventures started early. By the time I came along, he and my mom were in the process of becoming missionaries. When I was two, my parents, three older brothers, and I trundled off to Colombia, South America.

          We lived in the northern coastal city of Barranquilla four years, where my oldest brother went to school with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s son, then we moved to Cali, the best city on earth. Our family traveled often, and one almost mandatory trip for anyone living in South America was to visit Machu Picchu.

          Around Christmastime in the late seventies, we took a bus through the Andes mountains from Cali to Ecuador, then flew to Cuzco Peru and stayed in a rustic hotel, sleeping off the effect of the altitude. Cuzco is over 11,000 feet above sea level. The next day, a train took us to Machu Picchu where we wandered among the ruins of the ancient Incan civilization and the llamas.

After walking along the paths between the structures, I sat on the ground and looked across the valley to two mountains that were like immense green eggs standing beside each other. One velvety green mountain slid down into the other and the Urubamba River flowed between them, beautiful and enduring. Could it be that, centuries before, a young girl admired that same view?

          The trip remains a favorite topic of conversation among our family, mainly because of a certain wooden flute Dad bought for twenty dollars. When my family gathered to go back to Cuzco, he showed us the flute and told us about the man who hand-carved it and offered a free lesson with the purchase. Dad presented the man’s address scribbled on a scrap of paper.

          I’d like to think I stood by my dad in buying the flute. On one of the more unusual Christmases in my life, he and I boarded a bus, flute in hand, to search for the address. The weather, sunny and cold, felt refreshing, making me glad I bought a llama’s wool sweater. We traveled Cuzco’s mix of old and new with it’s amazing backdrop of mountains, but we never found the man.

          Dad still has the flute, and we all have the memory, which makes that hand-carved souvenir worth a thousand times over the twenty dollars he spent for it in the ancient city in the clouds.

Dad, Danny, Davy, Johnny, and Jeannie going through the Panama Canal

Jeannie Zokan’s debut novel, The Existence of Pity, will be released in October 2016 by Red Adept Publishing.

You can follow her on Facebook:

And her webpage:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Family Secrets by Gail Cleare #CallMeDaddy

Family Secrets

I often write about families, because those primary intimate relationships seem to be at the heart of human existence. Even people who seem independent are often strongly connected with their family members, though they may be separated by time, geography, or death. These relationships may be positive or negative, but nearly always they are critically important. They teach us how to interact with others, how to feel about ourselves, and how to express love.

Imagine a series of concentric circles, with the innermost ring made of just those few people who you can stand next to fully exposed, your real self, completely vulnerable, and still feel safe. These people are usually family members, or others who act as family. Admission to the inner circle is a rare privilege, only for a handful of trusted individuals. If something goes wrong with one of these relationships, it can be utterly devastating. It shakes the circle apart and everyone is hurt. If the problem isn’t resolved, it can poison the circle for generations and make the family totally dysfunctional.

Here lies fertile inspiration for authors of family stories, like me. The drama at the center of family gatherings makes a fabulous backdrop, and the tension between various conflicted family members energizes dialogue. Add some mystery and a pinch of romance, and…poof! We have my latest novel, THE TASTE OF AIR (Red Adept Publishing, September 2016). It’s the story of two sisters who discover their mother has been hiding a secret life for over forty years. She has a lakeside cottage in Vermont and a series of complicated relationships with people they have never met.

 When my sister and I found out that my mother's name didn't match the one on her birth certificate (a small thing compared to what Nell and Bridget find out in my book) it set me off thinking. Did I ever really know her? What was she really like, when she was my age? What did she go through, that she kept this secret from us forever? What if there was a lot more to the story? What if…?

That real event influenced the creation of the fictional Reilly family. And the real families of lots of people in my life contributed to bits and pieces of other characters. It seems that everyone I know has at least one family saga in them. Some people have so many melodramatic things happen in their lives, a fictional version would be criticized as unbelievable. So writers like me pick and choose from among the tidbits, trying not to overdo it.

In THE TASTE OF AIR, Nell and Bridget must learn to accept a new picture of reality as their assumptions about the past are challenged, and their own lives take on new meaning. Their inner circle is shaken, and when the earth settles into place again the landscape looks different. It’s vibrant and glowing with color, and the air tastes sweet.

If you ever wondered what your mother is really like, you should read my book. Mary Reilly’s cottage is vault for family secrets never suspected, and the gateway to change for all three women.

 Release Date September 22, 2016! 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Confidence, Because F*ck You by Joelyn Drennan #CallMeDaddy

In anticipation of the upcoming release of my novel, Call Me Daddy, I asked for stories about family: the fun, the inspirational, the heartwarming moments that make us part of a family. Confidence, Because F*ck You, is in classic Joelynn Drennan style (which is why I adore her):

Confidence, Because F*ck You

In my early teen years, the last thing I wanted was to be seen with my parents—especially on a weekend. That I actually enjoyed their company was irrelevant. In the event of running into peers while out with my parents, I’d have betrayed their existence faster than Judas betrayed Jesus. That is, until my father taught me a valuable, though unintentional, lesson in self-confidence.
One summer, on the way home from a long day spent at the beach, I begged my parents to stop for ice cream. “We always stop at Fox’s,” I said, citing the unofficial tradition. Despite their exhaustion, the heavy traffic, and its out-of-the-way location, my parents honored the request and drove over to Fox’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Once inside, my dad ordered his usual black-raspberry sherbet and my mom ordered her usual rocky road ice cream. I’d just decided on a double scoop of mint-chocolate chip when a group of boys about my age entered the shop and settled at a corner table. All of them had deep tans and sun-bleached hair and were dressed head-to-toe in Abercrombie & Fitch—the epitome of cool in 1997. Suddenly, I was uninterested in ice cream. In fact, ice cream was lame and my parents were assholes for dragging me in there. I moved away from the counter, attempting to look cool and aloof. Dad whistled in my direction.
          “Hey, are you going to pick something or what?”
            “Nope.” I shook my head and rolled my eyes.
            “What? I thought you wanted—”
            “I don’t want anything,” I said.
            “We drove all the way over here and now you don’t WANT anything?”
 Ignoring the irritation in my dad’s voice, I feigned interest in a framed newspaper article hanging on the wall near the table of boys. I smiled their way, but they were all caught up in conversation and didn’t seem to notice me. However, they had noticed the drops of purple sherbet caught in my father’s handlebar mustache. They had also noticed his straw hat, faded wolf t-shirt, and Bermuda shorts. Snide comments and snickering erupted from their table. I looked over at my father and then back towards the boys. My cheeks flamed. I approached my parents, demanded we leave that instant, and then I stormed out of the shop.
 A few minutes later, my parents came outside and my father asked what the hell had just happened. “And don’t give me this ‘nothing’ bullshit,” he said. I couldn’t meet his eyes, but I choked back the knot the in my throat and told him the truth. I was ashamed.
 I was ashamed of myself for casting both of my parents aside for the attention of some random boys I’d never see again—attention that I didn’t even get—and for standing silent while they made a joke of my father.
 Completely unfazed, Dad described the absence of fucks he had to give about the opinions of a bunch of “snot-nosed little bastards.” Then he knocked on the window and pointed to his wolf t-shirt. He raised both middle fingers to the group of boys, laughed at their stunned expressions, and then walked away with a huge smile on his face. In that moment, I couldn’t have been more proud to be his daughter.

 Joelyn Drennan is a die-hard yankee living in Memphis, Tennessee. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Joelyn is a shameless conspiracy theorist who writes to make herself laugh (and also to quiet the voices in her head). These days she can be found at the nearest A/C vent, cursing the heat of southern summers.