Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's 12:20 a.m.

Dh is sleeping. The dogs, thankfully, are sleeping as well. It's been a bad day for Tiger, who has glaucoma and may go blind.

I'm sitting in the living room, writing. Writing. Writing.

In less than five hours, the alarm will blare. BEEP BEEP BEEP. DH will get up, and get ready to go into work. I will wake up as well.

But for now, I am writing. Writing. Writing.

Some people think that if you are an author, you lead a life of glamor and romance. Lush verdant hillsides tumbling down to oceanside cliffs as you sit by your ivory mansion, nibbling mentally over a thought.

Or two.

The reality for me, is this.

I came home after a very rough day at the day job. Depressed, over a few things that are out of my control. Out of anyone's control.

Let's face it. Life right now, in the US, and abroad, is challenging to say the least.

We're in a recession.

It's not a fun time to rely on the generosity of others, as a friend of mine put it.

But we at work must do what we can, because there are thousands of hungry kids who need us.

If we don't feed them, who will? It's like being a parent to a faceless, nameless stream of hunger.

So I keep working hard, as do the others in my department. We grit our teeth, dig in, and do what it takes. In three weeks, I'll be back in Haiti.

We do what we must, and then, I come home to my DH, hug and kiss him, understanding man he is, and I sit down to purge the day.

I write.

I write about a man who is a werewolf who is given one chance to escape his prison, who finds redemption in the love of a woman who swore to NEVER to have anything to do with his kind ever again.

Love wins, after all. It's a wonderful, wonderful concept.

It's fantasy on a computer keyboard. Words typed that become power, fantasies of love, joy and an HEA fulfilled, despite the trials.

At the day job, I work as hard as I can to make the reality a little less painful, a little more hopeful and joyful, for the poor.

When I come home at night, when all are asleep, and the world seems to quiet, I create a world in which there may be darkness and pain and suffering. But in the end, I control the outcome. I say what will be, and what will be is love, and joy, and no more suffering.

Last week was a hellish week in which we had not one, but two sick dogs, to contend with. As I brought the younger one into the regular vet, the tech asked me about my work in Haiti. She was deeply interested, asked intelligent questions.

Then she asked how my writing was going. She knew all about the books, since I had dedicated my first Nocturne, THE EMPATH, to her boss.

We made small talk and then got back to Haiti. And then she said, "That's why you write romance. Because of what you see when you travel."

I told her, "Yes."

She is the first person who truly got it. Understood. It was very refreshing.

I'm no saint. Trust me, I'm not, or a martyr, or someone who is a bleeding heart who is ready to storm the castle for social justice. I'm just one small person, trying to make a small difference in the world. It's not easy.

Some days, it breaks your heart.

It's exhausting. And when I come home, sometimes I just want to watch stupid TV and forget.

But there is the writing, the romance, and the hope and dreams that live on in the stories and the worlds I create.

I'm blessed to have the chance to publish my work.

Blessed to be able to share it with others.

This is why I sit up, at (now 12:33 when the world falls silent, and everyone sleeps.

This is why the keyboard clatters, why my fingers do not cease.

It is the writing, the hope, the dream, that keeps the blood pumping through me. That keeps the hope alive and the wistful desire that romance, and love, maybe, some day.

Just maybe.

Will make a difference.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Which one?

Which one from LOST do you like most and why?


Or Sawyer?


Here's the review:

"An exotic backdrop sets the stage for Vanak's newest novel. With a few twists, she combines an English lord, scarred in body and soul; an illegitimate young Englishwoman; a ruby and enough adventure, pathos, secrets and betrayal to keep you turning the pages of this sexually charged romance.

Summary: Lord Nigel Wallenford, Earl of Claradon, is a thief, a liar and a scoundrel. He's also in need of a great deal of money. Anne Mitchell began her young life in a workhouse in England. Sent to Egypt by her father, she is now known as Karida, guardian of a ruby that is the key to a sacred treasure -- a ruby that Nigel is intent on stealing.

Fate takes them on a journey filled with great passion, secrets, betrayal and danger. Though Nigel fights his feelings for Anne, she is determined to help him overcome the demons that torment him. Can she teach him to unlock his heart, to love and prove that she will always be his? (LEISURE, Apr.,
320 pp., $7.99) HOT "

Monday, February 23, 2009


Marilyn Rondeau, at C2K KWIPS AND KRITIQUES gave four and a half clovers in this review for The Lady and the Libertine, my April Egyptian historical. Woo hoo!

“Nigel Wallenford’s reputation of being an incorrigible thief, libertine, and liar was clearly shown right from the very beginning of this book and it appears he is not ready to redeem himself. Nigel needs money and if he must steal from an innocent in order to achieve his aims, he would.

Anne Mitchell, was born illegitimate; raised in a workhouse; sold by her mother; then packed off by her father to the East. Living with the Khamsin, Anne was known as Karida and was adopted and loved by new parents. Not until she was entrusted with a great secret did she find the one thing she could call her own – honor and belief in herself. But would her new found passion for Nigel destroy what she cherished or give her the happiness she had long yearned for?

Award winning author Bonnie Vanak continues her fascinating Egyptian series with her seventh book featuring the disreputable and notorious twin brother of the hero from THE SCORPION AND THE SEDUCER. Vanak showed Nigel to be a truly disreputable human being giving a complete picture as to how he wound up being the way he was. His childhood and the treatment from parents who should have shown him love, rather than disdain was carefully woven into the storyline so that the reader could easily feel empathy towards him and rejoice when the love and acceptance from Karida helped him to rediscover his good side and overcome his own feelings of inadequacy.

As always, Vanak creates her romantic scenes with daring sensuality and the intimate scenes between Nigel and Karida were no exception. Especially well done was the initial scene when Karida revealed the burn scars received during her childhood after falling into a fire. Vanak has a knack for creating strong , imperfect heroines and her characterization of Karida bears witness to her genius in giving life to her unforgettable characters.

The author kept the non-stop action perfectly paced and flowing well along with the suspense of whether Nigel would or could change his wicked ways and become a better man. Vanak also includes a scrupulously good amount of historical research making this series as well as this installment a highly entertaining and recommended read.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New cover in Japanese!

This is The Tiger and the Tomb, my second Egyptian historical, in Japanese.

I love this cover, it's so soft and evocative. In the book, Lady Katherine covers her face with a veil (she's half-Egyptian) to hide a disfiguring scar she received from a tiger cub attacking her in childhood.

I forgot how much I do like this book. The original cover is pretty cool, too. :-)

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Haiti pix

I love this photo. It's in Baie d'Orange. I call it Moonscape as the white volcanic rock against the red clay earth and the backdrop of fog makes it look eerie.

The soil at 4,000 feet there is fertile, but rocky, and the farmers work hard, hoeing the earth to ready it for planting. What led to the famine there was the crop failure from lack of rain, and then the four shattering hurricanes last year that wiped out what little did grow.

Writing and more Haiti pix

This is a village market we passed on the way to Baie d'Orange last week. I love the outlandish, huge hats the women wear to shade their bodies as they sit and sell their wares in the hot sun.

If you ever want to take a step back in time, Haiti is a great place to go, as some villages, time seems to have stood still. They sell goods in open air markets like they did decades ago.

I have 5,000 words on The Savage Wolf, the Bite that's due next. I actually started writing it while in Haiti. Didn't write it in the Toyota, hard to type while bouncing over the goat path roadways, but I wrote in snatches in the hotel rooms and during breaks.

One of my goals this year as a writer, not an author, is to learn to write tighter, and improve my skills in writing shorts and novellas. They're tougher for me because you have to write so tight. It's more challenging for me to write a 15,000 word Bite than a full-length Nocturne.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

This burns me

I can't help being outraged.

Especially after being in Haiti last week, and dealing with starving children and mothers who lost babies because of crop failure and a devastating series of hurricanes. Mothers whose children died as they helplessly watched because they had nothing to feed them.

I interviewed a mother who told me in stoic resignation how she watched her twin babies die, one after the other, from starvation. "There was nothing I could do. I had nothing to feed them," she told me.

Now seeing Nadya Suleman's story, I'm angry. So if she wanted a big family, why not adopt? She already had SIX children. No job. No viable means of support.

And she spent the disability money she got on IVF!!

The article said, "Suleman received disability payments for an on-the-job back injury during a riot at a state mental hospital, collecting more than $165,000 over nearly a decade before the benefits were discontinued last year. Some of the disability money was spent on in vitro fertilizations, which was used for all 14 of her children."

The state of California, the taxpayers, may end up paying to take care of her family, to the tune of about $1.3 million???? Now she's started a web page for donations for the octuplets. I feel horrible for the children, the innocent victims of all this.

There are thousands across the country who are in foreclosure, homeless, lost their jobs -- hardworking, responsible adults who lost the American dream. If you want to help someone who truly needs it, give to them through a reputable charity.

Please, please, do not give money to this reckless, irresponsible woman.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hump Day Hunk

Spent the past couple of days working on a report about the Haiti trip. I needed a diversion, so here's today's Hump Day Hunk.

Sawyer from LOST.
Nice beach, huh? ;-)

Have a great day!

Friday, February 06, 2009

This is how it is

I'm home. Ben, the photographer who traveled with me, had a saying on this trip.

"It is what it is."

I wrote an essay on the plane back about this visit. It's called, HOW IT IS.

Copyright 2009 by Bonnie Vanak

Let me tell you how it is.

There is a vehicle, an SUV of course. because you need an SUV. No status symbol, but simple practicality.

Maybe it will have a snorkel. Snorkels are good for fording rivers. You don’t know when there will be a river, when there will be rain, when there will be gushing water growling down the mountainside, thirsting to sweep you and your vehicle away, like a giant broom whisking away dust.

The snorkel is good.

You climb into the SUV, maybe it’s a Toyota, or a Montero, and if you’re lucky it will have a high ceiling. This is good because when you bounce up and down like a jack in the box, you will not hit your head.

If you’re lucky the vehicle will have good suspension and seat springs. If the seat springs make this squeaking noise like eee eee eee, that’s not good. It means your bottom will get a lot more sore as you are bouncing and coming down on the seat.

Now you’re inside the SUV and you put the seat belt on. The driver, a member of the projects team, cranks up the radio loud, playing a talk show with laughing or angry people, or maybe music that makes the bouncing up and down have a beat to it.

You set out. You know where you are going, but you don’t know what will be there. It’s all mysterious, like a movie about to unfold. There may be adventure. Or not.

There will be hunger, and sad or stoic faces.

You have to ride a long way to get to the hunger. You can almost feel it grumbling in the far distance, like a giant beast gnashing its teeth.

You want the hunger, the sadness, the stark sunken cheeks, the big round eyes filled with resignation and dull acceptance. You need it and almost crave it.

You’re a poverty junkie. You seek it out, like heroin on the street. You live for it. It is what makes the stories sing, the sadness and the grit, and you do what you must to get to it.

The SUV starts out with a cough and you are off. Passing by the window is life on the streets, a brown river of frail humanity selling, moving, standing still, yelling, quiet, talking, laughing, peeing.

Pas pipi las. Don’t piss here.

You pass the cemetery, then the turquoise sea is a blur against your clean, sparkling window, a ribbon of blue promise threaded with muddy brown.

“That is the most dangerous place in Haiti,” says your projects guy. “They clean the fish there. That’s where the sharks hang out.”

You wonder if the sharks are hungry, too. What would a shark say if you whipped out your notebook and asked questions about the hunger.

“Do you pray to God when you are hungry?” you would ask the shark.

The shark would think a minute, tilt its triangular head and nod.

On the way there, you stare out the window or you trade war stories about disasters. You were in that flood in ’04, but the projects guy was there right after, and his SUV had to nose bodies out of the way, like they were mooing cattle, only they were floating in the grayish brown muck that was the flood.

Two hours later, you are in Jacmel. It is a pretty city, with a serene blue bay so sharp it hurts your eyes. The burning yellow sun kisses your cheek in welcome.
The hotel greets you kindly, with its cool tiled floors and salmon walls and scowling Mardi Gras masks. There is a lunch, but you don’t eat. You know where you are going there is hunger, and there are no latrines, either.

Lunch is over, and you climb back into the SUV. The windows are slightly dusty now, the snorkel snakes out of the truck like a black plastic chimney.

The road rumbles beneath you as you leave Jacmel, and your guide points out the landslides from the last hurricane. Part of the seaside road has caved in, but you still have pavement.

The pavement ends. “Now we are off roading,” the projects guy says cheerfully.

The bouncing begins.

Sometimes it is a lot of bouncing, tires squeaking over rocks that once were pavement, sometimes it is smooth as crunchy peanut butter.

You bounce and bounce, your head nodding like a bobble doll.

Vaguely you wonder if bobble dolls were invented in Haiti.

The SUV grumbles as it climbs the mountain, your guide blowing the horn to announce you are coming to the trucks that may be barreling down the road, oblivious, like rich people sweeping past the poor in bored indifference.

White dust cakes the windows as you bounce. You are Jello in a large rectangular box.
Minutes slide by, then the hours. Nearly three hours later, you arrive. There is a small painted sign nailed lopsidedly to a tree with few leaves.

It reads Baie D’Orange.

The community representative with his dark sunglasses and his Fidel Castro-like cap comes and greets you. He climbs into the SUV.

You bounce some more as the vehicle creeps down a hill.

At the bottom of the hill there are scattered trees and a house. Beneath the small copse of trees is a coffin.

The official kindly explains this is the house of the coffin maker.

The wood coffin sits in silence, patiently waiting to be filled. Its patience is always rewarded because the hunger is bad.

You look at the wood coffin, sitting there beneath the quiet trees, like a little wood house.

Then the SUV growls off, and you bounce some more.

You know you are going somewhere.

You will soon get there.

You aren’t certain what you will find. Maybe there will be a sad-faced child with sunken cheeks or a stoic mother who will tell you in painstaking detail how her twins died, 21 days apart, shrinking into their bodies like collapsed balloons.

Or a woman asked to sell her son like a goat to pay off a debt.

Or a man telling you about a woman who died yesterday from the hunger, who is now being welcomed into the dark earth.

Or a chorus of voice calling out the names of their loved ones who died from the hunger when you ask who has lost someone from malnutrition.

Maybe there will be fog rolling in on the mountain, barricading the sun, rubbing against your skin like the icy stroke of a cold finger.

Maybe you will see tombstones along the pathway as you walk, little stone houses sheltering those who can no longer feel the mist against their cheeks.

And when you leave, you can’t forget the sunken eyes or the goat-sold children or the mist or the tombs forever sitting in silence on the clay earth.

That is how it is.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Riots tonight?

We're back in Port au Prince. Got back yesterday, a little late. Today we were supposed to take a boat across the lake near the border to visit hungry families, but our office said no, as there is tension in the streets.

Everyone is waiting for something to happen, as the elections office was releasing the ballot of candidates for April's election. Some of those who wanted to run were, let's just say, less than admirable, with extremely questionable backgrounds.

You know, like running drugs, gang violence.

So we stuck close to the office, went to a local hospital and interviewed a woman who has a child with stage 3 malnutrition. He also has TB and is HIV positive.

The woman openly admitted to me that she "prostituted herself" to feed her son. And then she got pregnant.

I asked her how much the men (she had two men as clients) gave her for a night of sex.

She told me, "150 gourdes." That's less than $10 US, maybe enough to buy a 10 pound bag of rice.

She doesn't know how she will feed the baby when the baby comes.

Meantime, in the waiting room of the clinic, a television set is showing "Mama Mia" in French, with the songs in English. Meryl Streep is chirping, "Money, money, money, it's a rich man's world."

I found the irony sad... a room filled with women, some very pregnant, watching a show about a woman who raises her child by herself, just like they are doing, only some of them, like the woman I interviewed, probably sold their bodies just to feed the children they did have.

Such is life.

Later, when we were hanging around the office, we were told we were leaving early as they were beginning to burn tires in Delmas, a hot spot. The UN told its staffers to go home, stay behind locked doors and monitor the radio to see if the streets were safe to come into work tomorrow.

One of our staff workers, V, said that Delmas is a "yellow" zone. He and others have colored coded areas. Downtown right now is a red zone, because trouble has already started. This is how you get news of what is going on, you monitor the radio for roads blocked off and call friends.

When the real violence begins and the shootings start, bullets are flying and people are dying, that is a black zone.

On the drive back to the hotel, we passed near the "yellow" zone. UN tanks lined the street in Delmas, blocking off the elections office as UN soldiers with their baby faces and their robin's blue helmets patroled, heavily armed.

I asked if the UN soldiers would stop the people from rioting there later tonight.

The answer was, "No."

People are hungry, very hungry, tense and angry. Times are very harsh here. When we first arrived, someone told us it's been too quiet and they thought the silence would be broken soon.

Looks like it will be broken tonight, maybe.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

From yesterday

Finally got these to upload. This is the good part of the road we traveled to get to Sainte Rock.

We drove back as dusk fell and then it got dark. We crossed a wide river bed that fortunately was quite dry. Sometimes the river is raging so hard you can't cross.

When they said on the news that it was remote, they meant it, which is one reason the UN does helicopter food drops. It's at least a 2.5 hour drive from Jacqmel.

This is a graveyard in Sainte Rock. We saw a lot of these.

This is a little girl we met whose mom walked into town, at least a three to four hour walk, maybe more, to borrow money so she could buy food for her children. None of them had eaten since the day before.

During hard times the mother normally could borrow from the neighhors, but even the neighbors have nothing.

Some are so desperate they try to sell their children. Two people have sold their children, a boy of 8 and a boy of 11.

One of the community officials told me that they sell their children "Like they are goats because they are so desperate. They even get a receipt for the sale."

Those who buy the children put them to work.

And there are still people who are dying from hunger. The woman the day before yesterday. A man a few days ago. "People here die in misery," the official told me.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In Haiti

Have internet for a little bit. We spent the day going south, driving over a road that was more a washed-out ditch, to Sainte Rock in Baie d'orange, the region that the media highlighted a few months ago. 26 children died of malnutrition here, but when we arrived in Sainte Rock, we were told that at least 40 children and adults have died.

IN fact, a woman died yesterday of malnutrition and they were burying her today. Her child is also gravely ill, but it was a three-hour walk (at least)

It was pretty eerie... as we were driving to the region, we passed by the home of one of the local coffin makers. There was a freshly carved coffin in the yard.

We saw lots of graves as well, looking like grim reminders in the rolling mist.

I talked with quite a few people, including a woman whose young twins died of hunger back in October. When I asked the crowd surrounding us if they knew someone who lost a loved one from starvation, it was chilling.

They all called out the names of the children they lost, or the relatives who died from starvation.

There is no food. No crops because there hasn't been any rain, and then the hurricanes wiped out what was left. Neighbors hoping to borrow food from neighbors watch their kids go hungry. The UN still does food drops, but they are sporadic.

So a couple of months after all the media attention in this area, all the fuss and shocked horror, the people are still hungry. Still suffering.

I'm hoping we can help with giving them seeds for planting, and food in the interim, it looks like we'll be able to do it. The people can't afford seeds for planting, but the land looks fertile, and there has been some rain. Those who live there say this is the worst they have ever seen it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

On my way to Haiti

Gone all this week.

If I manage to get internet, I'll post from the field.

Look for my upcoming interview at the blog the Good, the Bad and the Unread, coming soon!

And how about the Super Bowl, huh? Amazing. I was rooting for the Cardinals, but wow, Santonio Holmes in that amazing last minute catch! 35 seconds left and he locks his feet together, gets the touchdown as he catches the ball and wins it for the Steelers.

He used to sell drugs on the street in Belle Glade (sugar country) in South Florida. And now he's MVP of the Super Bowl.

He said (according to AP):
"I dared the team," Holmes said. "Just give me the ball, give me the chance to make plays and I will do it for you."

I'd say he's done a great job with the chance he was given. Amazing.