Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Book Feature: THE SINNERS by Sourabh Mukherjee

The Sinners by Sourabh Mukherjee

~ Release Day Blitz ~

12th November

The Sinners by Sourabh Mukherjee

About the Book:

Vikram Oberoi is found dead in his penthouse. A few hours ago, his involvement in a sex scandal in NexGen Technologies made headlines across the world.

Who is behind the sinister conspiracy that destroyed Vikram Oberoi, the philandering India Head of NexGen? Rivals within and outside the firm? One of his many jilted lovers or the miffed wife? A mysterious conspirator laying out honey traps to sabotage his plans? Or, is it the ghost of a sinful past that continues to haunt the Oberois?

The Sinners is a fast-paced thriller with a shocking twist that unravels against the backdrop of corporate warfare, illicit relationships and ruthless seduction games.

Book Links:

Read an Excerpt:
Agastya picked up the call from a private number after the third
ring, taking his eyes off the monitor in front of him.

“Is this Agastya Bakshi?”

“Yes… who’s this?”

“Agastya, my apologies for calling you late. I assure you this won’t
take too long. But, we need to talk in private. Where are you right now?” The
male voice at the other end of the line sounded authoritative. Agastya could
not recall having heard the voice earlier.

Agastya looked around the near-empty office and said, “I am at
work, but we can talk. Not too many people around at this time of the night.” His
curiosity, by this time, was at its peak.

It was past eleven. It was the third time that week that Agastya had
to work through the night. Hired a couple of years back, his work as an engineer
in the Network and Systems Division of NexGen kept him rooted in front of
computer screens through his days and very often, his nights. Agastya did not
have much of a social life. A clumsy desk littered with pizza crumbs, empty cartons
and soda cans, and a paunch growing at an alarming rate – that was what his life
had been reduced to. But, he did not complain. Agastya loved his job.

“Great! Then let’s talk business. I’m sorry I cannot disclose my
name. I belong to a private investigation agency that’s currently looking into
the dealings of the company you are working for. There are reports of certain
financial irregularities in the business.”

Agastya sat up straight in his chair.

“Okay! But, what - what do you want from me?” Agastya asked tentatively. “I work in Network and Systems. I
don’t think you have the right number!”

“Agastya, I know who I am talking to,” there was an almost
imperceptible hint of annoyance in the voice of the man at the other end of the
line. He went on, “We need access to the e-mail accounts of some of the top
guys in your company to check their correspondences. And I’ve been told that you
are the right man for the job.”

Agastya took a sip of the cola that had already gone flat.

“Why - why me? You can
speak to my Manager in the morning. He -“

The voice at the other end of the line did not let him finish.

“Agastya, this is a covert operation and we are a private agency.
We cannot turn up at your office with an order to gain access to these
accounts. Also, right now, we’re not sure how many of the big guys are involved
and in what ways. For all you know, your boss – the Systems Manager you are
referring to - might as well be a party! Let’s not forget that, he has access
to all records of transactions. We do not want anyone getting alert and
tampering with the data we are looking for. We cannot risk exposure. It’ll take
us some time to complete the basic investigation. And I’d really appreciate
your cooperation while we are at it. Once we have enough evidence at our
disposal, we will make this official.”

Agastya thought for a few minutes. The whole thing could be a
hoax, for all it’s worth!

“Look… how do I trust you?”

“I knew you’re going to ask, Agastya. We’ll be completely
transparent with you. One of my agents will get in touch with you. You’ll be
working with her. I want you to hand over the details to her in person. This is for reasons of
safety. And also, to make sure that you put faces to names. We want to win your
trust and make sure that you are
comfortable working with us because, as I said, this investigation isn’t going
to get over in a day. We’ll need to work together for a while.”

“I - I’ll need to think this through. What’s in it for me?”

“We’ll most certainly compensate for your time and your
cooperation. And I can assure you that, you will have no reason to complain
about the money. Don’t worry about that,” the voice sounded reassuring. Agastya
did a quick mental calculation of the remaining EMIs for his new car. Almost at
the same time, the full front-page advertisement of the upcoming apartment complex
in South Mumbai flashed before his eyes.

The voice continued, “So I gather we’re good to go here, right?”

Agastya mumbled an uncertain “Well…”

The voice did not seem to care.

“Thanks for your co-operation, Agastya. Ruchika will get in touch
with you shortly. Have a good rest of the night at work.” The man hung up.

Agastya looked disbelievingly at his phone. Agastya wondered if he
should call someone and discuss. The next moment, he decided against it. The
man did sound like he meant business. And, in any case, Agastya was the one in
charge. He was the one who had access to the data the agency was asking for. He
was willing to give it a shot if the money was good. If, at any point in time,
he had any reason to doubt the authenticity of the agency, he could always step
back. Maybe even report the guy to appropriate authorities. He could always
make an honest confession.

He put the phone down on his desk and went back to monitoring the
data backup jobs. In a couple of minutes, his phone buzzed.

“Hey, this is Ruchika” – said the Whatsapp message.

About the Author:
Sourabh is the author of two psychological thriller novels The Colours of Passion: Unravelling Dark Secrets behind the Limelight (Readomania) and  In the Shadows of Death: A Detective Agni Mitra Thriller (Srishti Publishers and Distributors); Romance Shorts, a collection of dark-romance short stories; a 2-part series Beyond 22 Yards (Srishti Publishers and Distributors) on stories of Love and Crime from the world of cricket and a 7-part series of short stories titled It’s All About Love (Srishti Publishers and Distributors). The titles in the series are The Gift, The Cookery Show and a Love Story, A Special Day, Masks, An Autumn Turmoil, The Hunt, The Death Wish.

A keen observer of human behaviour and cultural diversities, Sourabh loves travelling and has travelled widely across five continents. An avid reader of fiction, Sourabh is equally passionate about photography, movies and music.

Connect with the Author:


A Paperback Copy of The Sinners by Sourabh Mukherjee.

Open till 25th November, 2019
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Why I got bored with a vegan diet

Fourteen months ago I switched to a vegetarian diet for health reasons. The net result was worth the pain and inconvenience of those first weeks of detoxing from eating meat for 50 years. But about a month ago, I came across a Veggie Challenge on Instagram and decided to try it out - as a vegan. So this my take on following a vegan diet for 31 days, in South Africa.

Exciting and challenging

The first two weeks everything was great. I cooked interesting meals at home and even managed to lose two kilograms. The weight-loss was not planned, but I do have to say not unwelcome. The challenge at this time was mostly finding things for snacking. Having a snack or two each day helps to keep my blood sugar levels stable - a good thing to do for anyone with a busy lifestyle.
As the challenge coordinator mentioned, there are more vegan snack options available these days than there had been say, 5 years ago. Unless you have high blood pressure, then these temptations are not an option. Too much salt, as you would have guessed no doubt.
So snacking options were severely limited for me, hence the weight-loss I think. I did have raw nuts in the cupboard, the bag is still fairly full, but nuts are heavy on calories, and I can only eat so much of them anyway.
Snacks remained a frustrating challenge throughout the whole 31 days.

Then the boredom started to creep in

Ever since leaving my high paying full-time job in January this year, we have been more conscious of the budget and eating out less often than before. On the vegan diet eating out in this country is a huge challenge on the best of days. Something I was not so aware of, until last month.
Boerewors picture courtesy
TempestSA at the English language Wikipedia
Allow me to elaborate for a minute. South Africans love meat. The more the better. We have a standing joke that people in South Africa eat boerewors for salad and chicken for vegetables. Seafood is probably considered a snack I suppose.
Unfortunately, there is more truth in that joke than you can imagine. Eating out options are extremely limited for a vegetarian, and borders on the near-impossible for vegans.
I do have to say this though: at the places where we dine out often, the waiters and chefs have been nice in trying to accommodate my vegan choices during October, but franchise restaurants are so restricted in their menus, that it became a problem for me after a while.
Whoever designs those menus seem oblivious to the fact that there are more food options out there than butternut (which I dislike except during winter), mushrooms (don't much like those either) and zucchini (also called courgettes over here). Whatever happened to lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, wild rice and all the other (very tasty) options to use as a base in cooking?
Even salads - which I love all year round - can definitely be spruced up with nuts, and the aforementioned ancient grains and starches in summer dishes.

Vegan proteins and vegan cheese

Fortunately for me, I had a vegan shake available which I could use to supplement my protein intake during the month. Since I have a dairy allergy (mainly the raw product - milk and cream) I even use the shake on the vegetarian diet.
Meat substitutes are readily available in supermarkets and are wonderful for home cooking. If only the restaurants shopped at the large supermarket chains too. (Hint?)
Back to the cheese. I like the taste of vegan cheese, but be warned, it is not a protein substitute. Aside from being expensive (even more so than the mature dairy version), I feel it a waste to buy because it is only a starchy food.

Fruits and vegetables

October is basically summer already in this country, so the abundance of fruits and vegetables is a pleasure to someone who has always loved fruit and raw vegetables. At least I got all my fibre and vitamins!

Enter the last ten days

By now I was getting really bored with the vegan diet. Except for the breakfast cereal, which I do eat every day of the week irrespective of the kind of diet - with almond milk.
Eating out became a chore, not a pleasure and I started to eat more 'normal' again, including cheese in my evening meals, and sometimes even for lunch. Two days before the end of the month, I started eating eggs again too.

Coffee, coffee, coffee ... my kingdom for a coffee

I drink my coffee black and have been since I was a child. I was the first person in my family diagnosed with the dairy allergy, after almost dying when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I have some tolerance for the mature cheeses, but still have to watch how much I eat.
I love coffee, Americanos, especially, but since hitting the sexy age of 50, drinking my coffee black has become a problem too. So I stuck to drinking coffee after a meal, but I don't have time to eat the whole day just so I could drink coffee.
I found a cappuccino premix - it does contain some milk powder - which I could drink at any time without the pain I experienced with drinking black coffee without eating. Vegan? Not so much, but I love coffee too much limit myself to two cups a day (I don't drink black coffee after a breakfast of cereal and fruit).

A veggie future?

I am not keeping up the vegan diet. That is not to say that I will not eat vegan meals, because I mostly still do at home, but as a South African the long term options are not worth it, at least not right now. Will the restaurants ever change?
I am delighted to say that some already have. Even on Friday when my friend, Vanessa, and I were having breakfast together for the first day of NaNoWriMo, our favourite meeting place had two new vegan options on the menu. I cannot claim to be the reason for it, but maybe I helped to raise awareness for the need that some of us have not to eat any meat at all.
But unless more people ask for a meal to be adapted to a vegan, or vegetarian, diet I don't think the average South African restaurant is rushing to include more interesting and seasonal vegetable-based options on their menus. And they really should.

PS: With NaNoWriMo challenging me once again, this will be the only post for November. But do keep an eye out for my newsletter, and #TheTinyBroom tweets twice a week.

Until December!
💜 Linzé

Monday, 28 October 2019

Book feature: ANYBODY WANT TO PLAY WAR by Tommy B. Smith

book cover, Anybody Want to Play WAR by Tommy B. Smith, fictionAnybody Want to Play WAR?
Brutal injuries can leave scars.
As the teenage survivor of a savage dog’s rampage, it’s a lesson Bryce Gallo will never forget.
Struggling to cope with his damaged appearance, along with a newfound fear of dogs and mounting anxieties at home and school, he flees his suburban home into the moonlit streets of St. Charles.
Along the roads of suburbia and through the shadowed heart of the city, he encounters Wheels, a maintenance worker for a series of apartment buildings; Paloma, known to some by the moniker of Lady Luck; and a woman in a dark house who is, as far as Bryce can fathom, like no one else he has met before.
His new life is not without obstacles or enemies, he learns. The future is a battlefield. Fire and smoke loom on the horizon, and his dangerous course may see the lives of his family and friends forever changed.

Buy Links  >>      Bookish      Amazon      Barnes and Noble

For several seconds, Bryce Gallo stared back at the dog until it shot toward him and lunged. 
It drove him to the street on his back. With a flurry of spittle, its teeth latched into his face, digging in deep. The beast fought to rip the flesh away. 
Bryce’s senses spun. He struggled for survival, pummeling the dog with his arms, pushing against the daze consuming him. Grinding its teeth in, the hound wrenched its head back. 
Bryce’s flesh tore. He gasped. Blood, tears, and canine saliva leaked down his face. 
It required a true effort of will to cram his hand into his right pocket, withdraw the pocketknife, and unfold its four-and-a-half inch stainless steel blade. Desperate, he stabbed it deep into the dog’s rage-quivering neck. 
The dog reeled, grunted, and squealed. Its jaws slipped free. The canine staggered aside and darted across the street. 
With a screech of brakes and a blasting horn, a white Cadillac struck the dog and smeared it across the street in a mess of red, white, and brown. 
The hound’s death broke the fog of fear stalling everyone around. A woman screamed. Her boy stood transfixed. 
A diminutive older man shouted, “Call an ambulance!” 
Bryce pressed his hands against his bleeding face. It hurt, it burned, and that was his base assessment of the pain through his shock. Blood seeped between his fingers. He couldn’t restrain a choked cry. Wild dizziness consumed him. 
The hard street, the blood, and the pain fell away in another instant, swallowed by minutes and hours of incomprehension. 

About the Author
Tommy B. Smith is a writer of dark fiction, award-winning author of The Mourner's Cradle, Poisonous, the short story collection Pieces of Chaos, and the new coming of age novel, Anybody Want to Play WAR?
His presence currently infests Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he resides with his wife and cats.
More information can be found on his website at http://www.tommybsmith.com.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Living the creative life...most of the time

Life has been crazy since my friend, Vanessa, challenged me to take part in Inktober this month. But my challenges did not end there. I also decided to follow a vegan diet in October (I follow a vegetarian diet since August 2018) and that has turned out to be quite the challenge indeed. But that is not all. Two large art projects have to be completed too - one at the end of November and one in December. November as you know is NaNoWriMo time, so I really have my work cut out for me on top of an increasing workload as a self-employed engineer.
As whiney as all that may sound to you, I am actually happier than I have been in a very long time. And the one thing I can attribute to that state of mind is control of my time. With more hours spent drawing than I have in a long time, I have also managed to work on a large cross-stitch project which I started in 2009. It is not finished yet, but I have more progress on that in six months than in the three years before. 
While I do work longer hours than I ever did in a full-time job, I also now only work 4 days a week. And I am taking three days off in the coming week.
I am a long way away from earning the kind of income that I had before, but the freedom of my time totally makes up for that.
Inktober Day 9 prompt: swing

Cammy: "Told you that thing didn't look safe."⠀
Cricket: 🤬
My drawing skills have improved although I am drawing a cartoon for Inktober which does not show the extent of my present skills. I still love the characters, Cricket and his friends, and am having a load of fun writing the little story to accompany each drawing. Maybe there is a cartoon series to contemplate with the (mis)adventures of Cricket and his friends, Tim and Cammy. Don't forget the dragon, Draco, who also has a few tricks hiding under those scales.
Inktober is running until the end of October and you can follow the adventures of Cricket and friends on Instagram.
The vegan diet will remain an option for me, but not permanently. Eating out in South Africa is for carnivores, with few vegetarian options and even fewer vegan options on the average restaurant menu. Cooking at home is not difficult, and that includes feeding my husband who is a committed carnivore. Snacking requires more planning than I anticipated, but my biggest challenge remains drinking coffee. With a dairy allergy, I drink my coffee black, but recently that has been a problem. So I have limited my black coffee drinking until after a meal.
I love having coffee while working (and not eating), so I have taken to "cheating" by drinking a pre-mix cappuccino powder twice a day. The powder does contain milk, but the processes it has gone through makes it palatable enough that two cups a day does not make me sick. I am not converting to a strict vegan diet despite some weight-loss (grateful for that) but can see myself be open to eating vegan more often in the future.
This time of year I think can get beyond the normal level of crazy we are used to, so I am making sure to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and focus on the things that work towards my mental well being too. And I trust that you will be mindful to do the same. We do after all only have one life, so we need to make the most of it, including taking personal time.
Until we meet again!

Monday, 16 September 2019

COVER REVEAL!! The Last Gryphon by Linzé Brandon

Pre-order links:   SMASHWORDS     B&N      KOBO    Apple Books 
Release date: 29 September 2019

book cover image, The Last Gryphon by Linzé Brandon, fiction, romance
War destroyed everything they loved when the oldest race in the universe, had no answer for the machines that ravaged their new home planet, Xyridia.
The last words of their queen sent Galen and Richard on an impossible quest to find the Lost Gryphene to save their people.
But destiny had different plans for the two men when they crossed paths with the people of Zo'en and Xa'an.

Release date: 29 September 2019
Get your copy @  SMASHWORDS    B&N    KOBO   Apple Books

Friday, 13 September 2019

Book Feature: JUSTICE GONE by N. Lombardi Jr

About the Book:

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.

A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran's counselor, is caught up in the chase.
Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa's patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield's dramatic capture.

Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?

Book Links:

Goodreads * Amazon


Winner of Three Awards:

2019 American Fiction Award
National Indie Excellency Award - Best Legal Thriller of 2019
Silver Medal Winner 2019 - Readers' Favorites Awards
Chosen by Wiki.ezvid.com among their list of 10 Gripping and Intelligent Legal Thrillers

Reviews for Justice Gone:

The courtroom scenes are wonderfully written...the characters are well described and the author paints a picture of each in the mind of the reader...Strong plot, strong characters and a strong writing style that I really enjoyed. This one is a definite "thumbs-up." Strongly recommend! I look forward to reading additional works by N. Lombardi, Jr.
~Kim M Aalaie, Author's Den

One of my favorite suspense novels of the year. It will make you question the legal system.
~The Eclectic Review

The courtroom action is excellent, trimmed to the most gripping parts of the trial, with plenty of emotional impact...a fairly realistic portrayal of the way small-town US society works...a fast-moving story with plenty of dramatic moments, and a big twist in the final pages.
~Crime Review 

Read an Excerpt:

“Welcome, Dr. Thorpe. Meet our investigator,” Bodine said, obviously referring to the good-looking young man wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and baggy khakis.
He leaned over and offered his hand for Tessa to shake.
“Michael Bodine.”
“Ah, I should have known…I can see the resemblance.” “Handsome, ain’t he?” the elder Bodine quipped. “Keeping it all in the family, are we?” Tessa fired back.
“If you want loyalty in this business, leave alone reliability, that’s the way to go.”
The old man straightened out the recliner to a sitting position, with the footrest retreating inside the bottom with a muffled clang. “Well, we got everything the DA has to
offer: arrest report, scene forensics, autopsy and ballistics…we were just about to discuss the witness list. Your arrival was good timing.”
“What about Donald’s alibi? Did you get a hold of that bartender in Allentown?”
Michael shook his head forlornly. “Disappeared, scrammed. Nobody knows where he went.”
Tessa nearly erupted. “What! Don’t you think that’s just a bit morethan coincidence?” Nat Bodine held his hand up, palm outward.
“Stop that right now. I understand your paranoia of the State after all you’ve been through in your life, but we’re not going down that road yet…we won’t win that way…and maybe he just took off on his own, not wanting to get involved…course we’ll be sneaking behind the scenes to see if anything nefarious was involved, but we can’t be wasting time trying to prove such a serious charge, we got other fish to fry, so let’s get on with it.” He turned his head, his white mane flopping as he did so. “Michael, check out that Hoskers woman yet?”
“Hoskers woman?” Tessa asked.
Emily explained. “The prosecution has listed a witness who claims she saw Darfield in the vicinity of Fratollini’s house just around the time he was shot.”
“I’m still on it,” Michael said. “Going back right after we’re finished here.”
Tessa wore a puzzled frown. “Who is this witness?”
Bodine was growing annoyed at her interruptions. “She’ll testify that she saw a large black man with a rifle slung over his shoulder walking in a direction consistent with Fratollini’s residence. That little shit of an assistant DA will probably goad her into identifying Darfield right there in the courtroom. Now, Michael, what we got so far?’
“Well, she wears glasses for one. She answered the door with them on. And not for reading, she took them off to read my card. And when she read it, she practically plastered it to her eyeball.”
“She probably doesn’t like bifocals, has two pairs of specs, one for reading. Good work, son. I would imagine there’s no golf course around there.”
“No, but there is a pool hall. That’s what I want to follow up on today, have a few chats with the clientele.”
“Atta boy.”
“I don’t think I get you,” Tessa said.
Nat Bodine coughed briefly before speaking. “It’s easier to get someone to admit they made a mistake than to accuse someone of lying, and it goes better with the jury, I might add. Okay, she saw a large African-American man. How large? Was he really the same size as Darfield? Was he an African-American, or maybe a dark Latino, a Tamil from India…and was that a rifle over his shoulder, or a golf bag, or maybe just a black case holding a pool cue… now, let’s stop jabbering and review how the State is going to present its case. The reason I brought up this Hoskers woman is that most prosecutors prefer to start with a strong witness, someone who could put the accused in the same general location as the victim.”
“I’m afraid I disagree with you on that one, Dad,” Emily said. “Why’s that?”
“I’ve studied Fiske. He’s very methodical, likes to go from A to B…he’ll start off with the detectives on the scene, followed by the crime scene forensic people, I’m almost certain. Then, to gain sympathy early in the game, they’ll call the widow, Mrs. Fratollini. And to keep the emotional aspect up, they’ll call the coroner to go over the autopsy.”
“How can that be emotional?” Tessa asked.
“They’ll show photos of the corpses.”
“Then come the experts: ballistics, and a psychologist to give testimony on PTSD.”
Tessa was alarmed. “Shit! Who’s this person?”
“Dr. Weibul. Know him?”
“Her. Yes, I’ve heard of her. You’ll call me as a rebuttal witness, won’t you?”
“We’re considering it,” the old man said. “You’ll at least assist me in preparing the cross-examination. But as a witness for the defense, perhaps someone else less involved in the public eye would be better, maybe your right-hand man, Casey?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea?” “Why not?”
“I’m not sure. I’d better discuss it with him first.”
“You do that,” Bodine said, a bit imperiously.
“I’m sorry, Dad, but again I disagree,” Emily said. “I think we should eliminate the gender factor here, you know, woman expert versus man expert…we need another woman.”
“Know of any?” Bodine inquired.
“Yes, a few,” Tessa said, “not closely associated with the clinic.”
“Contact them right away, arrange a meeting with Emily.”
“Oh, look who they have here?” Emily exclaimed.
“Donald’s small arms instructor.”
“Well, they have the motive,” her father said, “so they need to concentrate on the means, namely, was Donald Darfield capable of picking off those men at long range with a rifle.”
“Should we get an expert to counter him?”
“No need. They’re gonna shoot themselves in the foot with this one. No pun intended.”
His daughter resumed her analysis of the State’s case. “After all the discussion on PTSD, they’ll put the motel manager on the stand. Remember the motel where Donald smashed the television? They’ll be building a foundation of violent behavior, and once it’s laid, they’ll go with Lt. Colonel Calvin Gerhard of the New Jersey State Police Investigations Branch to talk about Donald shooting at the police.”
“So,” Bodine posed, “when do you think they’ll put the Hoskers woman on the stand.”
“I think Fiske will save her for last, makes more of an impression, easier to stick in the minds of the jury.”
“Anyone else?”
“That’s it, Dad. Nobody that looks like a snitch here.”
“Don’t be so sure. It just means they haven’t found one yet.” “So who do we have?” Tessa asked.
“We have our own ballistics expert,” Emily said. “A professor at John Jay Criminal College, worked with the NYPD for thirty years. And, as we just said, we’ll need a PTSD expert…”
“Who else?”
Emily looked at her father with a hesitant expression, and although he could not see it, the pregnant pause that followed told him the ball was back in his court.
“There’s only one other person,” he stated somberly. “No, don’t say it, you can’t put him on the stand.”
“If they do finally come up with a snitch, I’ll have to. Only he himself can deny the lies.”
“Look, he looks like this big tough guy, but he’s very fragile, he could lose it, especially when the DA butchers him in cross- examination.”
“Not if I butcher him first.”
Tessa was afraid to ask exactly what that meant. An awkward silence ensued. Bodine broke it. “Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“Dad, I think we’re through now. I’d like to take Tessa to Jerry’s Home Cooking and have her taste that incomparable cheesecake.”
Bodine became animated. “I tell you, that cheesecake could compete with the best in the country, even those fancy places you might be going to in Manhattan.”
Tessa didn’t feel like cheesecake, but she did relish some time alone with Emily, intuiting that their discussion would center on Donald having to testify. “I’ll let you know,” she said, getting up in unison with Emily.

About the Author:

N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).

In 1997, while visiting Lao People's Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.

Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc.
His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.
His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.
Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Follow the Author:

Website * Goodreads * Amazon

Mindfulness Week: Flow state by Melissa Adendorff

When I started to think about how to engage with this topic, I wanted to bring my personal experience into it, because it is practically valuable and I use it daily, but I also wanted to speak about it on a more formal level, because it is a practical tool that has promise in terms of the wellbeing of vocational dancers. This is my current research focus, and I deal with it in practice as an NLP practitioner, but I also deal with it in the studio where I dance every day. My focus is on mindfulness in terms of performativity and bodily esteem … which culminated in tremendous personal triumphs, and highlighted a professional challenge second to none.
To contextualise this, technically, I’ve been researching the specific value of a preventative intervention in terms of body-esteem which addresses the prevalence of the development of anorexia nervosa and anorexia athletica in the vocational ballet community, in addition to this community’s propensity to normalise pain in order to achieve a higher standard of technique execution despite the increased risk of injury and increased anxiety around the ballet class experience, as reported in 33 peer-reviewed studies conducted between 1966 and 2013, including a study conducted in the South African context (Arcelus, Witcomb, & Mitchell, 2014).
And I could do only do this research because of my personal investment in ballet and my own ballet body, and that makes the research process mindful in itself, because I work in the liminal space between objectivity and subjectivity, and it allows me to take care with my analyses and applications of my learnings.
Now, while I’m wary of labels, if I have to put a name to the thing that got me here, it would be “mindfulness” … but I prefer to call it “flow”.
I like to call it “flow” because there’s a continuity to this state that moves through every one of my areas of function, from academics, to dancing, to work, to diet, to sleep hygiene, and my post-operative recovery, and it combines an awareness with a motive and an action, leading to a motion toward an achievable goal.
I started working with my personal flow state just after a knee surgery in 2018. For a while, my flow state meant straightening my leg, and focusing ALL of my attention and energy into just performing that act, in that moment. And then doing it again.
And, as hard as it may be to believe that, looking at me now (not to be boastful, but I’ve made quite a bit pf progress in just over a year), that took ALL of my focus and willpower and determination and motivation and drive and vision. To do something so simple.
I did not want to do the leg-straightening, because it was tremendous effort and tremendously painful. But, flow isn’t necessarily about wanting to do a thing, because desire and motivation invariably peter out.
Flow has a discipline component, and that’s why flow, or mindfulness is so valuable in ballet, because with awareness, I learn my limits, and I learn which limits I can push safely and which limits to respect … and this has filtered into my life in general – changing careers, studying again (after attaining a PhD), and going back to an active pursuit wherein I feel at home, and yet so out of place.
My flow state helped me make ballet home again …
That said, when I started this dancing endeavour, it required a lifestyle overhaul. Primarily because I set a lofty goal of passing vocational levels … Vocational levels are distinguished from general graded levels as Intermediate Foundation through to Advanced Level Two are internationally recognised tertiary-level qualifications which are strictly examined through structured assessments recognised by the United Kingdom’s Regulated Qualifications Framework (Royal Academy of Dance, 2016) allowing for workplace entry as professional dancers, teachers, and choreographers. These exams are serious, and attaining a vocational grade is a big deal.
Vocational dancing requires a rather surprising time sacrifice, and it requires daily effort, in terms of learning the syllabus, performing the syllabus adequately, conditioning, strengthening, and incorporating the RAD’s “CCCLSD” as a mindful component to all dancing practice (correct placement and posture, control, coordination, line, spatial awareness and engagement, and dynamics). This couples with dietary effort, to find the balance between sustenance, satisfaction, and performativity, and still working on building a dancer’s body and deconstructing the body that I had worked with until that point ... And that was hard for me, but again a flow state regarding food made it possible …
Now, I have heavy muscles, so going by the number on the scale, my achievement is not really anything to brag about, but I have managed to transform my shape from a bulky martial artist to that of dancer, moving from a bulkier build to leaner muscles, even if they are still heavy, and dropping three-ish dress sizes in about 18 months … this was also not what I wanted to do, because I am the embodiment of an emotional eater, and yet, with awareness, and discipline, and flow, I’ve been able to maintain a 500 calorie deficit every day since February last year.
It helps that with intensive training, I burn enough calories that I’m not starved and miserable, I’m just keenly aware that a slice of white bread slathered in butter and covered with another layer of peanut butter (that has both salt and sugar) and syrup, while delicious, would throw all my progress out of kilter, and flow keeps me on kilter. Because I can have a banting treat, which turns out is pretty good when it’s all you choose to have.
And this is important, because I still have an “other” ballet body … (Now I have done rather extensive research into the issue of the ballet body, eating behaviours, and the pressure of performativity, and I am working alongside the organisers of the South African International Ballet Competition and its International Ballet Intensive to address this within the next year). A whole other novel aspect of an other ballet body is my tattoo collection (that’s a story for another day), which I got to feature here with a smile alongside Taras Domitro (a spectacular dancer from Cuba).
This bit might get a little bit technical, again, but the technicality matters, and brings back the flow of personal discipline and personal achievements.
The culture of ballet discriminates against any body which does not fit its predetermined idea. (Nolan, 2011). This ideal is based on the aesthetic qualities of being physically slight and slim, with a long neck, a shorter torso, long legs which are not hyperextended or hyperflexible, long arms which are not overly muscular, and feet with sloping toes and high insteps.
Any deviation from this ideal potentially risks breaking the body line. Any body of any race will face discrimination if that body is perceived as “big” (Campbell, 2018), because while the bigger ballet body may be technically proficient, it breaks the body line and the line of the corps. This has a similar effect on the bigger ballet dancer as it has for the black ballet dancer where the perception of the “wrongness of body shape” affects the person’s worth in terms of her dancer identity (Campbell, 2018). Olivia Campbell (2018) explains that not being thin and slight enough leads to severe embarrassment and humiliation when a smaller, but less technically proficient dancer would have a successful audition, while a bigger dancer is rejected. This ultimately impacts the individual’s self-concept, as it renders her feeling that she is not good enough because of her anatomy (Campbell, 2018). 
Without flow, I would lose myself in the ideal, and while I have done a lot to reshape my fighter’s body into a ballet body, it is not within the ambit of the preferred aesthetic. And yet, I maintain my flow, and work with my body, because it has achieved so much in a short time, and it dances en pointe and turns and jumps and looks beautiful in flow state on the stage … and maintaining a positive bodily esteem is necessary for a healthy self-concept, and while mine is not quite perfect, it is healthier now than it has been in a long time, and that keeps me motivated to stay healthy in my body, while it is on display in a leotard and tights every day of the week.
And that is maintained by flow, because I can’t know what goes on in anyone else’s self-concept and bodily esteem, so there is no point comparing, especially in the ballet environment where competition comprises height (and, I shit you not, knee circumference).

On that, here is another technical bit, but one that mindfully contextualises why mindfulness (or flow) around bodily esteem is so important …
The positive subjective appraisal of one’s appearance (Smolak & Thompson, 2009) is vital for sustained wellbeing of an individual’s dancing practice, as the dancer’s body is contextually constructed from childhood into an embodied identity, based on public bodily presentation and “performativity” (Pickard, 2015, p. 8). This bodily construction forms the basis of stress-management and performance-management in vocational dance, as the discipline of ballet, and the habits of the ballet community, the necessary commitment to ballet practice necessary to pass vocational levels, and the competition within the ballet community to attain recognition from instructors, company directors, examiners, and choreographers create pressure to function within the meritocracy of the ballet community (Pickard, 2015).
This especially pertains to adolescent dancers, as the adolescent’s identity as a ballet dancer is in the process of determination while he/she undergoes physical, cognitive, and psychological development during puberty, all while being exposed to criticism and scrutiny (Pickard, 2015) by teachers, examiners, and directors in the attempt to construct a proficient vocational dance body.
What does this amount to? Research suggests that working with a foundational practice of mindfulness in dance, and the lifestyle surrounding dance, allows for healthy holistic development … 
Sensory acuity and physical self-awareness of proficiency and general physical wellbeing (Linkenauger, Wong, Guess, Stefanucci, McCulloch, Bülthoff, Mohler, & Proffitt, 2015) are required in correlation with emotional self-awareness in order to manage the stress and discipline of the ballet curriculum (that’s a lot of technical language for “flow”). This requires awareness in terms of subjective distress, pain, anxiety, and the behaviours which are engaged in order to manage these emotions and sensations (Pickard, 2015). Based on this awareness, it is possible to create skillsets around accurate self-assessment (Nadler, 2011) in order to allow the individual to check-in with herself/himself and to prevent harmful coping mechanisms from being reinforced, especially in terms of preventing the normalisation of pain, and the normalisation of restrictive dieting to meet the balletic aesthetic requirements.
Flow keeps me going in a class where I am seen to be in competition with every other dancer on the floor (and every other dancer is at least 15 years my junior, in peak physical condition, and good), because when I focus on myself and my technique, I am able to count my victories. After an ACL reconstruction and meniscus debridement, in August 2018, I have managed to master a vocational syllabus to the point that I can be put up for examination. And pass. At 33, with an older and a little bit of a broken body (there have been ankle injuries and some noodle ligaments, and other bits that don’t really work as well as they used to), and I have to keep sight of what is “my” good, and my accomplishments. Every day.
If I didn’t do that, ballet would become unbearable, because of the nature of the beast that is the hypercompetitive world of vocational dance. 
My daily flow follows this basic trajectory … consistent time in getting up and a set morning routine – If I have a morning class, then I start the day with a stretching and limbering routine because my leg struggles to get going sometimes, and I have a breakfast that I know will keep me going ill lunch time, even if I am dancing. Whether I’m dancing, working, or going to an academic class, my discipline remains the same – and the flow is in the discipline. I don’t deviate from the plan, but the plan remains flexible. From ballet, I either go to work, or to an academic class, and then back to the studio, and again, I am disciplined in this. I don’t feel like it every day, but I know the benefit of following through. So I do, and I make progress, and hat keeps me flowing. And then I come home, and spend the quality time that I have left with my fiancé and the cats, and I sleep, and I get up and I do it again. It’s is a simple routine, but it is full, and fulfilling. And flow keeps it fulfilling because it gives me pause to reflect and count my victories and acknowledge my perseverance and dedication. 
Part of that reflection happens when I’m processing big thoughts or feelings, and then I blog about them, or use them as impetus for a research topic … I oscillate between personal and technical writing, even when they come to the same conclusions in different registers. I often blog before a ballet class, because it centres my thoughts and intentions. And energy flows where attention goes, as directed by intention, according to Michael Hall (2006).

About Melissa
Dr Melissa Adendorff is currently an NLP practitioner and performance coach, an aspiring returned vocational ballet dancer and instructor, and a student registered counsellor. This follows on from an established career in academia, with close to a decade of lecturing, course coordination, and curriculation, local and international conference presentations, journal article publications, and the completion of a doctorate focused on critical spatiality and bodily spatiality. 
Melissa’s current research focus is based on wellbeing and performativity in the vocational balletic paradigm, focusing on psychoeducation for dancers, their parents, and their teachers in order to prevent harmful behaviours including disordered eating and the normalisation of pain.

References for the technical bits of the post
Arcelus, J., Witcomb, G.L., & Mitchell, A. (2014). Prevalence of eating disorders amongst dancers: A systemic review and meta-analysis. European eating disorders review22(2), 92-101.
Campbell, O. (2018, May 28). 'She's good but she's big': My years as a 'fat' ballerina. The Guardian.Retrieved fromhttps://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/28/shes-good-but-shes-big-my-
Hall, L.M. (2006). Meta-NLP®– Accelerated NLP training. Clifton, OC: NSP – Neuro- Semantics Publications.
Linkenauger, S.A., Wong, H.Y., Guess, M., Stefanucci, J.K., McCulloch, K.C., Bülthoff, H.H.,Mohler, B.J., & Proffitt, D.R. (2015). The perceptual homunculus: The perception of the relative proportions of the human body. Journal of experimental psychology: General, 144(1), 103-115.
Nadler, R.S. (2011). Leading with emotional intelligence: Hands-on strategies for building confident and collaborative star performers. New York: McGraw Hill.
Nolan, B. (2011, July 20). The ideal ballet body. DANCE informa: Australian edition. Retrieved fromhttps://dancemagazine.com.au/2011/07/the-ideal-ballet-body/
Pickard, A. (20150. Ballet body narratives: Pain, pleasure and perfection in embodied identity. Oxford: Peter Lang.
Royal Academy of Dance. (2016). Specification: RAD level 2 and level 3 certificate in vocational graded examination in dance: Intermediate foundation and intermediate (ballet).London: Examinations Department; Royal Academy of Dance.
Smolak, L., & Thompson, J.K. (Eds). (2009). Body image, eating disorders, and obesity in youth: Assessment, prevention, and treatment(2nded.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.