Friday, February 26, 2010

Distant Cousin Touches Another Soul: True Story

A blog came to our attention recently, a blog by a gentleman with serious health problems, whose only choice is to contemplate final things and his relation to them.

Imagine--if you can--the exhilaration of a person who overcomes a potentially deadly disease, alcoholism, through a supreme effort of will. Then, after that life-affirming triumph, imagine being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Such a cruel twist of fate would be incomprehensible to most of us. This particular man, however, has courageously devoted himself to attempting to reconcile his plight by seeking to understand his position with respect to eternity, by studying religion, the philosophy of Buddha, and more. In his blog he says he has finally succeeded--with the assistance, incredibly enough, of a bit of philosophy from Ana Darcy.
In his blog, he makes this statement: "My western trained mind continues asking, 'But where is God?' My Catholic mind keeps looking for the Last Four Things! ...I let this question go unanswered until I came across a statement of God that gave sense to the definition lurking within me." He then cites a passage from Distant Cousin: Repatriation, the second volume of the series (slight spoiler alert). In the passage, Ana is in the clutches of a kidnapper, and her situation is deteriorating ominously. This is the actual dialog:

"Do you believe in God, Ms. Darcy?"
"Do I believe in God?"
"Do you mean an an...anthropomorphic God or a transcendent God?"
"A what?"
"Do you mean, do I believe in a God who's like us, but maybe with a beard, or some kind of more abstract, spiritual entity?"
"Either one."
"Well, I don't think I believe in an anthropomorphic God who lives up in heaven, like some people do. But it would be hard to travel as far across the universe as I have without considering where it all came from. I suppose I believe in God as an algorithm."
"A what?"
"An algorithm. A system of formulas or laws, like in physics, that explain how things have come to be."
"I think so. Yes."
"Interesting...not a lot of comfort in that, though, is there?"
"Comfort? I don't know. Maybe there is, some. It suggests, to me, anyway, that all we have for comfort lies in each other, in ourselves. Whatever God is, we need to care for each other. I try to do that myself. Why did you ask me about God?"
"Oh, just curious. Never mind."

In an email message, the gentleman, Mike Donohue, explained: "I am aged 73, on the down hill slide. Do not be sorry about my affliction. Even though it has me sliding it has forced such opportunity on me to get everything in my wavering brain expressed in writing or in digital art. 43 years I was a successful trial lawyer traveling throughout the country handling cases. That is small potatoes to where Alzheimer's disease has now placed me. Now I am totally involved with who I am, have always been but could not see it until all the glitter was removed. This parting segment of life is just not all that bad.
"I am enjoying it, sharing it and having some sense of doing good with it. Like Ana I have an Algorithm working full bore in me.... I work feverishly at getting it all done before my mind beats me to it. This provides me a pretty satisfying life in race with the demons."

Mr. Donohue, racing those demons, is an inspiration. If we were ever to be in a similar situation, we can only pray we could face it with such resolution and grace. We are humbled and pleased that Ana Darcy's message has provided Mr. Donohue some comfort. We wish him well.

You will be always in our thoughts, sir.

Mr. Donohue's blog may be found here. His insight is here (near the bottom, just above the red graphic). He has written the account of his quest into a book, From AA to AD, A Wistful Travelogue, here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Music of the Galaxy?

Ana loves most kinds of our music, but she really, really loves the music of Bach. One of her all-time favorites is Bach's Prelude #2 in C minor (BWV 847) from the Well Tempered Clavier. Ana said that if you could lift the hood of the universe and listen to the engine running, it would sound just like this famous piece (and she should know, having traveled through a good part of it).

Ana learned to play that prelude, but not as well as she would like. Her favorite recorded version is by the well-known Brooklyn harpsichordist Rebecca Pechefsky. Ms. Pechefsky, who has actually met Ana Darcy, graciously allowed us to present it to Ana's fans.

Ana loves the sparkly, resonant, brilliant sound of the instrument. Most people, particularly piano students, are familiar with the Well Tempered Clavier on the piano. If you are one of those, you owe it to yourself to hear it on the same kind of instrument for which Bach composed it. It's stunning.

You may hear Sviatoslav Richter playing that prelude here. (If you right click and open in another tab, you may listen while you continue your visit to Ana's site.)

If you would like your own copy of Ms. Pechefsky's splendid, benchmark recording of the complete Book 1 of the Well Tempered Clavier, you may find it here, or here at Amazon, where you can sample all 24 tracks! Ana also loves the Fugue in c minor which follows the Prelude (track 4).

To hear the theme song of the Distant Cousin books, another piece that Ana loves, slightly more mellow and reflective, played on the theorbo, click here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Whoa! Distant Cousin on Sale!

All the Distant Cousin e-books are on sale at Barnes and Noble, just $3.57! We have no idea how long the sale will last, but you can find them here!

For the paper editions, they are offering the members' discount to everyone as well!

[Note: the sale seems to have concluded (May 2010). If you wish to check the current price, the link will take you to the Barnes & Noble search page for the Distant Cousin books.]

(As far as we know, B&N e-books work on the iPhone, Sony's e-reader, the Nook, and the Mac and PC. B&N provides a free e-reader. If anyone knows for certain, a comment below would be appreciated.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rare Sight: The Back Side of the Moon

Have you ever seen a string of glowing reviews and wondered if there might be another side to the matter? We certainly have. So we're going to let you in on something few people get to see.

There actually haven't been that many pans of the Distant Cousin books (aside from a couple of sockpuppets at Amazon), but there have been a couple. No book, not even the Bible, will please everyone. Readers' reasons for not liking a book are many, and it's sometimes instructive to see what people do NOT like about one's work. In that spirit, we will give you a peek at something few authors dare to publicize: "the REST of the story!"

1. First of all, I could not finish this book. I did read almost three quarters of it.... After reading most of this novel, I still never received much information about Darcy's planet, lifestyle, etc.... I felt the most interesting aspect of the storyline was virtually ignored.... The writing style was extremely simplistic. Sentences were short staccato beats against a nondescript background. There were some nice metaphors and a few vivid descriptions. For the most part, though, the narrative had almost a reporter-like feeling, with the reader being kept at a distance. Editing/Formatting both were of professional quality. Rated PG for some Adult Situations

[Editor's note: Our apologies for not writing the book you wish we had written!]

2. I enjoyed the book right up to the end and then felt I'd been conned into buying the conclusion to the episode.

[Editor's note: The next book, Distant Cousin: Repatriation, is not the conclusion. The Distant Cousin books are the story of an extraterrestrial woman, her growing family, and their adventures. To this day, we do not know when the conclusion will arrive.]

3. The writing is mediocre, at best. Perhaps it is something that readers who do not enjoy a challenge will like but I do not.... One of the roommates, Cheryl, is African American. The author, in writing dialogue for this character, has her speaking in that stereotypical way that others do who want the reader to know this person is 1) black, and 2) ignorant of proper grammar.... I am not an African American and I have no antipathy for dialect which is appropriate for a culture or a time period. But, this character is a college student living in modern America. The author is simply lazy; using a literary device to impart a stereotype to the reader. If the author needed for the reader to know the character was African American, for some reason, it could be done in an intelligent manner rather than perpetuating a negative stereotype because it was easy. I will never read another book by this author!

(Editor's note: Cheryl was not African American, but Barbadian, as was clearly stated many times in the story. For those who may be laboring under a misapprehension, Barbados is not, say, a city in Illinois but an island nation in the Caribbean. The author (who has a PhD in linguistics) lived there for two years.)

4. The writing is somewhat YA, and, in fact, I recommended the book to my 18-year old niece. It's a quick read, though, probably great beach material, but there are large sections I skimmed. The middle is a sleepy domestic interlude (which could have been much shorter) and as a result the book doesn't maintain the grip of the adventure it promises to be in the beginning and returns to at the end

5. The Nitty Gritty: It seems like another age when I started in on Mr. Past’s novel. It was, in fact, the last time I had access to a laptop and I managed to get the whole way through “Book One” in that volume before I found myself preoccupied to too great a degree to carry on. Although I did not feel that the novel was one I was never going to finish it has taken me a while. So Book One is pretty decent, decent enough to finish and want to read more.... It starts out in a blaze of mannered thesaurus-bashing prose that is quite sickly. Once it recovers from this start it settles into a perky economic style that keeps its head down and runs for the finish at a fair old pace. Overall Book One comes in as a pretty well crafted novella.And so, all this time later, on to Books two and three... the plot takes a heavy slug veering away from juggling Darcy’s personal life and her SF adventure into a pure exposition of her integration into earth society and her budding say that this is an extended meander is to be kind. Basically Book two could have adequately been summarised in about a paragraph with nothing major being missed....There is no hook and no incentive to come back for more and that is a crime that is inexcusable.

And now, to cleanse our editorial palate, we present a review which gives us a chuckle to this day:

6. I know when I'm really loving a book when I don't want to quit reading to go to the bathroom. Distant Cousin was that kind of book for me. I don't like scary books or movies but the alien coming to earth in this book was full of adventure without making me lose sleep at nights. The characters had depth and believability and the plot was not predictable. One of my very favorite reads.

For the brighter side of the moon, see this, and this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Super Kitty Speaks!

Here is one of the characters from Distant Cousin: Regeneration, talking to the camera. If only we had a sound clip! Her message, however, is basically unmistakable: "I am playing with my toy. Do not dare bother me! Stay back! I mean it!"

There's another picture of this sweet cat here. Thanks yet again to Julie's Jungle! See more cat pictures in the right column under the photo of the LOVE sculpture-->

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Toot, toot! Second Verse!

The Distant Cousin books continue to be particularly popular with Kindle owners. Here are some recent comments from members of the Kindle Boards:

"...the three [Distant Cousin] books that I mentioned have been the only books that I've read on the Kindle to this day that were able to fully sustain my interest from the beginning all the way to the end...I have to thank you for such a great book, just thinking about it makes me very happy."

"...I have absolutely no idea where [Distant Cousin: Repatriation] is going. You also get bonus points for making me laugh multiple times, the Lehrman bit was particularly funny."

"Ana Darcy is one of my favorite characters."

"What a fascinating concept you have developed."

"These are excellent books and are at a very good price. The first volume made my Top 10 list for 2009. I like the premise of the books and Al is quite good at descriptive passages. A good part of the books takes place in West Texas and it's easy to have a movie running in my head as I'm reading...."

"Darcy has been keeping me company. I am re-reading from the beginning before I start #4 just because...I forget bits and pieces. It's just as good the second time aorund if not better!"

"I just finished reading Distant Cousin. Although science fiction usually is not my favorite genre, I enjoyed the novel very much. It was not overly technical, and mixed romance in nicely with the story of the extra-terrestrial. Also the book was driven more by character than by plot, which is something that I like. I am looking forward to reading more about Darcy and Matt. Thank you for writing their story."

"I just finished Distant Cousin and loved it! I can't wait to read the rest of the series. Great storyline, loveable characters, I really liked seeing how the characters developed and their interactions with each other. I was pulled into the story and wanted to stay there. I hated having to stop reading for such mundane activities as work, but since they give me a paycheck...."

"...this is a great sci-fi series and has a little something for everyone, a little action, a little suspense, a little romance, and it also really shows how the characters develop and interact with each other and I really like that."

"...there are only a few books that I tend to think about or miss the characters after reading so that says a lot about your book!"

" is all your fault that I have dirty dishes and no laundry done. I am 79% thru with Distant Cousin, it's a really good read so far and I can't wait to see what happens next!"

"I'm 80% through Reincarnation, I think this is my favorite so far, EXCELLENT read."

"I just finished Distant fact I was up half the night just to finish it! It was wonderful!"

"I have read yours twice already and am sure I will read them all again. They are nice and soft and don't give me nightmares, and leave me with a fuzzy feeling. So there!"

"Loved these stories. I certainly intend to reread the three books that I have!"

"I would recommend the book to any of you who like science fiction with some romance and adventure thrown in. No little green men/women will be involved, but there will be characters about whom you will care a great deal." [Later] "The author does a great job of capturing the essence of New Mexico...I am really glad that I decided to give Al's book a try, and hope that others will do the same."

"I have been wondering when the 4th book would be out...but I've been so busy READING all the books I've downloaded this is the first I've even been on in a while. I loved the first three and am looking forward to the next one! Even though I promised myself I would not buy any more books until I've read most of the multitude I've downloaded, obviously Distant Cousin: Regeneration will be an exception!"

"I really enjoy your books and love the characters.... I had a 3 hour break today between classes and was only going to read for an hour and then do some homework. Well that plan got shot to heck when Darcy [spoiler snip]. I had to keep reading. It worked out ok, the book ended just before my next class started. Good thing is wasn't longer, I would have missed my class!"

"Stumbled across Distant Cousin back around the 4th of July and decided to give it a try. Got seriously and quickly sucked in and then ran through the remaining three in the next week or two. Very good enjoyable reads!!!"

"Distant Cousin is one of the best series around...."

"As far as sci-fi's go, it's very light on the sci part. I mean, you really don't get bogged down in techy stuff at all & there's a great story in there."

" is a great work, and can't be called sci-fi, but a great story. Move it to the top of your TBR list you (and) you will not regret it."

"...I just finished DC: Regeneration. Loved, Loved, Loved it!!! I feel that this book held up the story line that the first 3 started and even ramped up the drama."

(Chapter 1 of Toot Toot the Hoot here.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine Recipe? Biscotti? NO! Bruschetta!

Did you know that "biscuit" and "biscotti" come from Latin roots meaning "cooked twice?" You don't need to know that to be able to prepare this seemingly oddball appetizer, but we can promise you it's a good one, and not in the least experimental. We've served it several times to favorable and surprised comment. It's the sort of dish that people think outlandish at first, but, upon trying it, readily admit is delicious and, in retrospect, a sensible combination. Ana Darcy made it in Distant Cousin, before she was Ana Darcy Mendez.

Start with toast. Ana's preference is toast from one of her preferred artisan breads, tastier and chewier than sandwich bread. Rub the toasted slices with a clove of garlic and brush with a good quality olive oil. Top with diced tomatoes and strawberries. Yes, that's right. Toast or broil a second time to blend the flavors. Cut into triangles and serve, optionally decorating the tray with an attractive tomato and several juicy strawberries in the center of the plate.

It's not exactly a Valentine's Day dish...but the strawberries and tomatoes are red, after all.

Editor's emendation: the commenter below is correct. We checked, to be absolutely sure, with a professor of Italian. The proper name for this dish is bruschetti. The professor did admit that it was cooked twice, however!

More recipes and ideas are in the right column under the photo of cranberry/apple pie-->

Sunday, February 7, 2010

NOT one of Ana's favorite poems!

The week before Valentine's Day it seems reasonable to add an extra love poem to our growing list. This is an editor's choice poem, not one Ana has selected. She's reserved in public, as we know, and guards her privacy closely. She would never claim affinity to something so personal. Still, the poem has several elements coincidental with her life, just as her all-time favorite poem, "School Prayer," by Diane Ackerman, does. We think "O Best of All Nights, Return and Return Again," by James Laughlin, could easily be among Ana's favorites.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Favorite Valentine's Day Love Poem

For Valentine's Day here's another of Ana's favorite love poems. Being from another planet, after all, she had trouble at first with our verses that don't rhyme, but she's finally decided she simply likes the parade of images and ideas in many of our poems. She thought this early morning love poem was especially close to her own feelings and experience: Being in Love, by Chungmi Kim*.

Happy Valentine's day to Ana and to all!

*Oops! The page died! See the workaround. It works!

There are lots more of Ana's favorite poems in the right column, under the photo of the LOVE sculpture, including:

A love poem on carpentry that makes Ana think of her husband,