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Other People’s Books–#2: A Soul’s Calling

Here’s the next entry in my recommendations of “indie” books that I’ve read and loved and would like to recommend to my readers here.  The book is A Soul’s Calling, by Scott Bishop. If you’re interested in travel, adventure, or spirituality (or–if you’re like me–all three), this is the book for you, particularly if you’ve ever wondered what it would really be like to make the trek to Mt. Everest’s base camp (you will no doubt be surprised in many ways).  Here’s my review:

“‘I couldn’t put it down’ is kind of a cliche among book reviews, but I read A Soul’s Calling in a quick two days. The book is a memoir about a man who does what “conventional wisdom” (something I’ve come to pretty much despise) would advise him strongly against, and challenges himself to fulfill a spiritual imperative (HIS spiritual imperative–he never tries to force his spiritual vision on the reader, or on those with whom he comes into contact) by making what may be considered a kind of pilgrimage to the Everest Base Camp. He is guided by visions and communication with spirit in various manifestations; one of the most beautiful elements of the book for me was his personal, loving, respectful relationship with the natural environment, which for him is also a manifestation of spirit.

The author makes no apologies for his relationship with/belief in the “spirit world”; it is simply part of HIS world, and he wishes to use his ability to interact with it for the benefit of all beings (and, again, he considers things like the mountains he approaches, the sun and moon and stars, rocks, and all the natural gifts of the earth as “beings”). This may make some readers uncomfortable, or skeptical, but those feelings should not be used to judge the quality of A Soul’s Calling. A reader with an open mind and an eye for good writing should find a lot to love in it. Even if one isn’t “into communication with spirits”, the descriptions of the people and landscapes of the Himalayas, and of the tortuous journey to Base Camp, as well as the wonderful knowledge that there are still people out there who are willing to flout conventional wisdom for something that they believe is truly meaningful, make A Soul’s Calling worth reading.” 

Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon.com page:

http://www.amazon.com/Souls-Calling-Scott-Bishop-ebook/dp/B00AWQCRWG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387495326&sr=1-1&keywords=a+soul%27s+calling

Other People’s Books–#1: Only Shot at a Good Tombstone

I’m going to take a break from my regularly (or irregularly) scheduled discussions of my books and make some recommendations in the next few posts about some “indie” books that I’ve read, and loved, in the past year or so.  I’ve mentioned a few here before, but they’re worth mentioning again. (And there’s still time to get them as holiday gifts; I assume that they’re all eligible for the Amazon “MatchBook” promotion, which allows you to buy the Kindle version of a book for a significantly reduced price–usually 99 cents, and in some cases free–if you buy the print version.  One for you; one for a reader you love.)

The first book I’ll mention is Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, by Robert Mitchell.  I LOVE this book.  Robert is one of the best writers I know; he loves Kerouac and Salinger and Joyce and Steinbeck, and it shows.  Tombstone is definitely (and refreshingly, these days) not a light, frothy beach read; it requires a reader’s attention, and rewards it. Yet it’s unfailingly entertaining and thought-provoking and just downright wonderful (did I mention I love it?).  I was thinking just last night that it’s a book about a hero’s journey, albeit a decidedly unconventional one.

Here’s the review I wrote of the book a while back:

“As I read Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, I kept thinking about how I could possibly describe it to anyone else. On one of my Goodreads updates early on, I said something about how reading it was a little like getting on a ride at an amusement park, and having no idea what the ride would be like, and then finding yourself “hanging on for dear life” as the ride takes you to all kinds of unexpected places. I stand by that description.

If you’re the kind of reader who needs a conventional story-line, unfailingly upstanding and “respectable” characters, and tidy answers in order to enjoy a book, OSAAGT probably isn’t for you. There is no real discernible “plot” to the book; it simply follows a protagonist known only as the “young man” through a couple of days as he wanders around the smog-choked, chaotic city of L.A, allowing himself to be drawn into one tableau after another. But if you can just allow yourself to be led where the young man takes you, and keep in mind that “real life” doesn’t have any particular plot either (except, perhaps, in retrospect…perhaps), and tends to be more of a long series of encounters that are defined in large part by what you make of them, you should be able to really enjoy the ride.

It’s those “encounters”–each one elegantly detailed and engaging–that make up the book. What binds them all together and keeps the book from being nothing more than a random, piecemeal–albeit remarkably literate and well-written–gathering of scenes, leading nowhere, is the world-view and unfailing humanity of the “young man.” Although a self-described “freak”, his (and the author’s) compassion for every lost soul he comes across during his wanderings (one of the things that he considers “freaky” about himself is his ability to see the beauty in just about everyone), and his easy willingness to care in an unassuming way for others, allows US to see the characters in his world–and, perhaps, our own–as real, significant, and deserving of our attention. Each one of those characters, and his or her circumstances, is fully drawn and remarkable, and each tableau draws the reader in and turns pre-conceived ideas about “types” inside out, so that, perhaps, when she closes the book and goes out into her own world, she will be forced (in a truly positive way) to look beyond those types out there as well. And that can only be a good thing. (I found the character of Harold, a Jesus-like kind of “street prophet”, particularly affecting.)

But there is nothing “boring” about the book, and the author is not trying to hit the reader over the head to make a “point” (although the book is anything but pointless). Every story and encounter is fascinating and often haunting. Only Shot at a Good Tombstone is by turns funny, heartbreaking, illuminating, profane, “obscene” (but not gratuitously so), cynical, shocking, and just plain sweet. As in life, there are no easy answers, and no tidy conclusions, and each situation and character we meet will be affected by what we ourselves bring to it.

Yeah–I kinda loved this book. It’s one of those good, “old-fashioned” books in which the writer can actually write, and thinks deeply about what he’s writing, and is willing to take all kinds of unconventional chances (and has the talent to do so). I believe that it’s what we used to call ‘literature.'”

OK.  Go buy the freakin’ book! 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/Only-Shot-At-Good-Tombstone-ebook/dp/B0032JTVGU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387381374&sr=1-1&keywords=only+shot+at+a+good+tombstone

A Poem From Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days

This is one of the five poems included in my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days:

 How You Looked (VA Hospital, Spring, 1990)

David, let me wash and cool

your swollen feet while you’re awake

so nothing can get worse, at least

for now, at least not here where we

are so alone, the nurses masked,

reluctant to come in the room.

 

I’d almost tell you how you looked

asleep, all afternoon,

your body on a boat

losing course, slipping over fish, the sun

a yellow wine that whispered

in my head to let you drift.

I watched your face fall fully

open, saw your sheets come loose

and drop apart, your body a mirage,

your belly hollowed-out and vaporous,

your penis arched and cool

dozing there, flawless in the glare.

 

The sound is just the rush

of water and a washcloth

in a bowl. Tell me if it feels too hot

or cold. You’ll feel my fingers

run across your toes so thick

I’ll never pass a towel through. Your skin

is breaking up like desert floor,

no longer big enough to hold you in.

 

The ebook is available on Amazon.com for $3.99; with Amazon’s new “MatchBook” program, if you buy the print version you can also get the ebook for .99.  Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

The book’s Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/HoldingBreathAMemoirOfAIDS

Free Ebook Version of Holding Breath–A Reminder

As promised in yesterday’s post, I’m posting this reminder that the Kindle version of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is FREE on Amazon.com from today (9/13–I love Friday the 13th’s!) through midnight Sunday.  Please spread the word if you know anyone else who might be interested in reading it.  Here’s the link again:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

Amazingly Good Novel, Free For a Limited Time

One of my absolute favorite “indie” novels (in Kindle format) will be free on Amazon for a few days, starting today. It’s called Only Shot At a Good Tombstone, and it’s by Robert Mitchell. You can read the description and reviews (including mine), and download your free copy, here:

http://www.amazon.com/Only-Shot-Good-Tombstone-ebook/dp/B0032JTVGU/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

You’re welcome. 🙂

P.S. Reviews are really helpful to indie writers–it’s the only way that good books can really start to be appreciated by a wide audience. So, if you do read Tombstone, please try to leave even a quick review/rating on its Amazon page, and/or on Good reads.com.

Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days On Sale This Week

The price of the Kindle version of my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days (you know–the book that this blog is about!), will be reduced just this week to 99 cents.  On May 1st it will go back to its usual price of $3.99.  (The print version is also available for $11.95.)  Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1350864778&sr=1-3&keywords=Bevilaqua

Image

The Point, Really…

A lot of reviews have been coming in for Holding Breath on Amazon and Goodreads.com.  I get as excited as a child every time I see that a new one has been posted, but the ones that make me the happiest are the ones (and there are quite a few) that say that the reader feels as if he or she has gotten to “know” David through reading the book, had begun to think of him as a friend, and even, in a couple of cases, had started to fall in love with him (yup–been there, done that 🙂 ).  Writing the book, I’d been kind of worried that no one would be able to see the sweetness in him as I had, no matter what I wrote.  But people are seeing it, and reading about their reactions to my portrayal of him (I’m really not all that concerned about what people think of me–it’s David’s book) has made me cry more than once.  I’m so grateful.  And I know that it would make him happy (it would also no doubt make him laugh to see his face plastered all over the Internet, if he’d known at the time what the Internet would be).

I wanted to post another song from the book’s playlist to go with this post, and for some reason The National’s song “Bloodbuzz Ohio” seemed the most appropriate (although I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, except that something about it just reminds me so much of David).  It’s a great song, although I find the video a little baffling because it’s so different from the “video” that runs in my head when I hear the song.  Here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K779pqvYQds

Free Today and This Weekend

I just want to let people know that the Kindle edition of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, is FREE today (Friday, 3/1) through Sunday on Amazon.com.  Here’s the link to the page again:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1350864778&sr=1-3&keywords=Bevilaqua

If you do read it, reviews on the Amazon page and/or Goodreads (or anywhere else you can slip one in 🙂 ) are always helpful and appreciated.

The Eighties… “Bitchen”!

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a memoir by Tom Harvey, who had read Holding Breath.  We ended up exchanging print copies of our books, and I got to read Tom’s book–The Eighties: A Bitchen Time To Be a Teenager!  Now, I was only a teenager for one year of the ’80’s (and spent most of the decade kind of “underground” at college and later in NYC when I was busy meeting and loving David), but I had a wonderful time reading The Eighties.  It will resonate even more for those who actually did come of age in the ’80’s.  This was my review of the book on Amazon.com and Goodreads:

The advent of and boom in “indie” publishing has made me realize something–that EVERYONE has a story to tell and, when the stories are written well, readers can learn something AND be entertained while reading those of even the most seemingly “ordinary” people. The fact is that there really are no “ordinary” people, or ordinary lives.

Unfortunately, not everyone who has a story to tell has the talent to tell it in writing (I’m not putting anyone down; it’s simply that different people have different talents). Tom Harvey DOES have the talent, and his memoir is entertaining and thought-provoking and funny and occasionally sad. He also has an absolutely amazing memory for details from what is now a fairly long time ago.

What impressed me the most about the book, however, is that it portrays the author’s life as a teen in the ’80’s with such joy and enthusiasm (there are a lot of really tragic memoirs out there, too–a happy one that’s fun to read is a rare thing!). If everyone had such a lust for life as Tom had then (and, I would guess, now), and were able to express it as wonderfully and infectiously as Tom does in his book, the world would no doubt be a more joyful place. I read The Eighties during kind of a rough week, and it did me the huge favor of cheering me up enormously. (And yet, small, melancholy details like the down-and-out man the author observed in a restaurant, dribbling his food, provide balance and moments of good reflection. The author seemed to swallow that part of his life–the good and not-so-good parts of it–whole, and he sends it back to his readers as a gift.)

I can’t agree with ALL of Tom’s tastes in music :), but I loved his book!

Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page again:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Eighties-Bitchen-Teenager-ebook/dp/B0084KT0WM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1359853282&sr=1-1&keywords=tom+harvey

Holding Breath Book Giveaway

Someone who came across, read, and really liked Holding Breath suggested that I do one of Goodread.com’s book giveaways.  (His name is Tom Harvey, and he’s written a memoir called, The Eighties: A Bitchen Time to Be a Teenager!; I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but it’s got a huge following and a lot of excellent reviews on Amazon.com, and it’s next on my list.)

Anyway, I’d thought of doing a giveaway, but–lackadaisical as always–I hadn’t gotten around to looking into the details until Tom suggested it.

The giveaway listing went up on the Goodreads site today.  Four print copies of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days are available, and at the end of the promotion (which ends on Valentine’s Day) I’ll be sending them out to the four winners.

If you’d like to enter the giveaway for the book, go to:

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/42028-holding-breath-a-memoir-of-aids-wildfire-days

and sign up.  You can also look at and enter to win a lot of other great books there.

Good luck!

(Of course, if you just can’t wait until after Valentine’s Day to read Holding Breath, you can go to its Amazon.com page and buy the Kindle or print version:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-AIDS-Wildfire/dp/1480164518/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1350864778&sr=1-3

You might also want to check out Tom Harvey’s book at:

http://www.amazon.com/Eighties-Bitchen-Teenager-memoir-Harvey/dp/0982874200/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358177481&sr=1-1&keywords=%22Tom+harvey%22+eighties

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