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NP Journal for experimenting with ideas, Copyright © 2011-2016 LJ Frank. All Rights Reserved. 


“We think we know but have yet to discover.”  Thomas Aquinas


Narrative Paths Journal

NP Journal is an ongoing experiment initiated within the context of experiences and rooted in treks, voyages, studies and work. The access, content and design of the journal is evolving with the goal of enhancing the reader’s experience.

“Narrative Paths Journal is a literary magazine focusing on new philosophies and ideas.”  Uriél Dana




About Us

A brief overview of  the vision and people who volunteer their expertise and efforts is found in About Us.


The Art section includes works of abstract expressionism. Several of Frank’s paintings have been donated to nonprofit organizations. An increasing number are on display in business and professional offices and private homes.

Guest Column

Patricia Oblack is the most recent Guest Columnist, with An artist’s thoughts about her work. Guest columnists may contact us at:


Philosophical Inquiries shows the most recent addition listed first. Diplomacy and Language by L J Frank.


Interviews strive to offer succinct, thoughtful observations and trends in fields that are engagingly diverse and leaning towards the paradigmatic. The most recent interview is with African American vocalist, composer Carmen Browne.


Publications is a preview listing of L J Frank’s published books with links to retail availability.  “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”  Lao Tzu

Now available: The Elusive Mistress of Thomas Paine  


The section called Rhythms offers various shapes of experiences, ideas and thoughts in the form of essays and poetry. The words amusing, obscure, or existential could be used as descriptors for these jottings. The most recent entry is placed first – Will the self remember? L J Frank.

Diplomacy has a long tumultuous history with numerous revisions during its illustrious coursing through the centuries. It’s an art, not a science. If you are a conqueror then the language of diplomacy changes to justify the reason for your being in power. Language is diplomacy in action and is a largely successful human experiment with war being the failure of language and conscience. And there is no statute of limitations on the downstream effects of a war.

If efficacious enough the language of diplomacy whether verbally or at times in silence offers a method and means to resolve potential conflicts before they begin. A significant challenge of diplomacy has been keeping promises. Once a promise is made, it’s best to keep the promise when peace is the objective.

Language, logic and culture are complex. Frames of reference are embedded in our words from earliest humans in our negotiations from ancient China, India, Greece, Egypt or Rome among hundreds of other societies, tribes and families. Economics is prominent in most diplomatic relationships. Governments, rulers and officials develop treaties, cultural exchanges and trade policies with economics being the significant influence. What are the benefits to the negotiating participants? The language of poverty and the poverty of language are finely interwoven threads in a given diplomatic culture.

Character is an ingredient that shapes negotiations, whether a nation or an individual. When he was a young man, and not unlike his father, after hearing a fiery sermon from a colonial minister, young John Quincy Adams (later diplomat, president and statesmen) asked the minister why he should pay someone else to be made to feel guilty when he could feel guilty all by himself without another’s admonition and at no cost except perhaps his own conscience. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree that births it. That reputation of questioning served John Quincy Adams well in negotiating treaties later in life on behalf of the young country. The point is our family, culture, knowledge and education affects and shapes our character to a large extent.

The efficacious use of a single word or sequence of words could mean the difference between positive or negative outcomes, whether it’s détente, brinksmanship, Cold War, Manifest Destiny, domino theory, containment, raison d’é·tat, self-determination, exceptionalism, realpolitik, globalism, convergence theory, big money and numerous other words of multiple meanings within different frames of reference.

People live within frames of reference. A good example was the colonists that used the words of religion as a resource for “conscious morality,” (see) historian Andrew Preston’s Religious Language in US Foreign Policy. He spells out how words and religion are used and their effectiveness in this insightful scholarly work. The danger was/is the effect of narrow religious convictions as the breeding ground for division.

In his work titled God’s Phallus, Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, observes the ambiguous nature of human relations and cultures with their “God” through their choice of words. We give “God” a body through our words and in turn the problems develop in bodily images and roles between men and women. Our beliefs affect our relations on a local, national and international level. Once you give a name to something Martin Buber suggests in his work, I and Thou, you make the person approachable and it serves as an opportunity to control the attributes you give that person or “being.”

In another frame of reference the Ambassador’s Journal, by John Kenneth Galbraith (Ambassador to India during the JFK Presidency) noted the challenge for journalists who traveled halfway around the world to cover a non-war and felt inconvenienced. They decided to word their stories to show that tensions existed between probable enemies that shared a common border, so as to appear they hadn’t traveled there for nothing. Galbraith adeptly stepped back and spoke little. Diplomacy requires being selective with one’s words or being altogether silent.

Frames of reference and its language determine the relationships whether at a diplomatic outpost as well as wading through the twist and chaos of logic in fighting a war. With regards to war one of the most insightful sequence of words is to found in the language of a novelist. In his brilliant work titled Catch 22, Joseph Heller wrote pithily about the nature of words and logic: “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr  (a pilot) was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. That’s some catch, that Catch-22.”

One may come away from reading Heller realizing that “world order” is in the minds of those who act within the framework of their perceived or actual power. Perceived power is an aphrodisiac, observed former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. And words are a form of persuasion even when talking to oneself and looking into the narcissistic world of self. And therein lies a danger when we are unable to step back and discern the nuances of reality.

Words are always used in a framework – perhaps at times with psychological purposes with meanings only known to an inner circle as if they were coded. Still, as Benjamin Disraeli pointed out, “Finality is not the language of politics.” There is always another word(s) to be spoken and another moment of needed quiet. And those who travel that diplomatic path become an ingredient in the ambiguous narrative itself. Pick a diplomatic policy issue and look at its history. Ambiguity is as relevant today as it was during the time of the pharaohs and their relations with their Mediterranean neighbors.

In his Parable of Tribes, Andrew Bard Schmookler wrote, “The experience of meaning requires connection between thought and feeling, between perception and passion.” While today existential alienation allows for us to become “strangers to ourselves,” (see Albert Camus, The Plague).

In Franz Kafka’s work The Trial, one senses a discomfort from the author himself as he attempts to weave as story about a man only known as Josef K. His surname is never revealed. There’s a lack of connection as if everything around was surreal as to what was happening to him, for there was no legitimate explanation. The writing is rough, insightful, poetic and disturbing, much like human relationships within families and the family of nations.

Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher in his work, On Being and Time, suggests to be radical is to get at the root. “Being” is not only the idea that one finds oneself some place, it also means that that we are dealing and concerned with a specific thing. The problem is found in our words and the disparate meanings a given word has within a given frame of reference. People think differently and the same word in different cultures has varied meanings. Man must create his own middle, according to Heidegger.

We use words with intent. An indelible mark or stain remains with an ill-used word. A single word can literally lead to an explosion of words and retribution. In an age of existentialism where we gaze toward the precipice of nuclear havoc, irreversible climate change and the abuse wrought by poverty we need to choose our words and subsequent policies, wisely.

Diplomacy is a high calling. It means we must examine ourselves, our relationships with others and seek to understand our place if we wish to have a peaceful coexistence. The word humble when translated into different languages has cultural variations but the intent is similar. Or as Thomas Aquinas wrote in the margins of a manuscript, “We think we know, but have yet to discover.”



Carmen_Browne-300dpiCarmen Browne is an African American vocalist and composer living in Dublin, Ireland. She was the winner of the 2012 RTE/RAAP Breakthrough Bursary, a national award given by the National Television and Radio Station similar to the BBC in Ireland. Her performance highlights have included being the opening act for M People and Billy Ocean in Dublin’s Vicar Street Venue. She has been the headliner in Dublin’s Workman’s Club, a featured performer at the Dublin Soul Picnic Festival sharing the same stage as Hozier, a popular Irish Soul Musician and a headline act at the Bray Jazz Festival.

Carmen’s debut album, Cloud Ballet, was recorded in collaboration with her producer Everett Bradley, a current member of Bruce Springsteen’s band and reached number 1 on Ireland’s jazz chart. She is currently finishing her second album, “Sublime Light”, which will debut in 2017. For more information, see

NP: You have a remarkable background. In your bio on your website you discuss your evolution and inspiration. Could you elaborate a little more on your inspiration? What are your sources of inspiration?

Browne: Although I have been singing since age 6 in church and studied music formally since I was 11, (I played the violin and the piano as a child as well as singing), I feel that in songwriting, I’m mostly inspired by higher thought or spirit. I like to think of each song as being it’s own personality and it’s own being with a message it wants conveyed and to a certain extent I am just an open channel for it. It is obviously written through my voice, but quite often, I will hear a song as a completed work and need to record it or notate it immediately.

NP: Were there ever any crossroads when you wondered whether you were headed in the right direction?

Browne: I don’t know if there was a crossroads, but I have known since I was very young that I was a musician and that there was very little that could ever stop me being one, in some capacity. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t interface with music on some level, even when I’m sad or sick. I’m not sure I would have been able to survive without music as it is such a part of me, like breathing.

NP: How would you describe you singing style and what are the things
that have affected that style, genre or content?

Browne: I would describe my singing style as dreamy and resonant. I sing for myself as much as for an audience. I must feel a chill when I’m singing to feel connected to the vibration of the music. As far as genre, well I love jazz music. I used to listen to standards as a child, when my peers would have been listening to Hip Hop, R&B, electro or pop. Actually I love all music as I can find an appreciation in most quality music. But my voice hits the air as smooth dreamy jazz.

NP: Are things in the field of jazz you wish to experiment and or

Browne: I feel I still have a message to get out there and I’m letting the spirit guide me on how best to spread the message. I feel I have a very positive message of love and empowerment that is healing for me. I think there are any number of people around us who can really use the message I have and I am constantly propelled by that purpose. As for experiments, my dream would be to do some collaboration with other contemporary songwriters and musicians like Jamie Cullum or Gregory Porter.




patty_smAs an intuitive artist I never know for sure how people will respond to my art. I recently sold one of my works to a professional who spends a great deal of time at her desk with no one around except her thoughts. She purchased a work of mine from a jpg or Joint Photographic Experts Group image, never seeing the actual thing, after spending several hours on my various links. She said how amazed she was, it was so much more than she could have imagined and how happy she was, as it would be her only companion while she worked.

I was blown away by that reaction, but not totally surprised.  I’ve been told by galleries and viewers at art shows people linger on my work (sometimes for more than an hour), touching the surface and searching, hoping to find the hidden meanings or messages on the surface, trying to understand my thoughts and processes.

That said, I am not the norm in terms of the artists that I have experienced. I never use ‘art speak.’ Completely self-educated, I work on a level most people/artists perhaps don’t grasp. My work, if I must explain, is based on a gut reaction to the surface, to music and often memories that rush through my head when I put paint to surface. Only after a board is complete, do I really study it, wondering, where was I when I painted this? I’m serious. All my years in Fine Art have been produced with the use of palette knives, even if the piece is 8’x8′, I still use nothing but my small knives.

I love the naming process, which also mystifies, what is the hidden meaning? My work, each piece, is most likely a smidgen of my soul and they are my children. Any number of artists can linger and speak in eloquent prose on the meaning of their work, but when the paint is dry, it’s difficult to say if there is a value beyond your own heart. And, while I may note that my work has not evolved, that would be untrue, the same tools are used and there’s a link from painting to painting, so much so that I’ve been told, when entering a gallery, it’s been said: “Oh my god, you have an Oblack!”  My children have somewhat common threads.






uri by car

Uriél Dana has been honored for her work as a fine artist, writer, and lecturer for more than three decades. Her oils, gouache, and lost wax bronze work has been shown in 12 countries on 4 continents. She is a former U.S. State Department Ambassador to the Arts under the former Arts America Program.

Her oil paintings and drawings are included in dozens of private, corporate, and celebrity art collections. In October 2015 two of her paintings were selected for the Carousel de Louvre exhibition in Paris, and she was included in the catalogue Modern Art Masters in Complex Musée du Louvre.

In addition to her own art career, for 17 years she was known for her painting collaborations with the late Gage Taylor under the name Taylor-Dana. ‬

Her current work is inspired by San Francisco’s nouveau cirque culture.

A few of her honorary mentions include:

  • International Woman of the Year (nominee 4 times)
  • Outstanding People of the 20th Century
    • Outstanding Achievement Awards
    • Outstanding Achievement in the Fine Arts
  • The Twentieth Century Award for Achievement
  • Who’s Who of American Art
  • Who’s Who of American Women
  • Who’s Who in America
  • 2,000 Outstanding Artists and Designers of the 20th century
  • International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women
  • 2000 Outstanding Women of the Twentieth Century


NP:  Your background is rich with the textures of experience and knowledge. What are those things that motivate you to try new things and embark on different paths?

Dana: The Chinese have a saying that we are a house with four rooms (Mental, Spiritual, Physical and Creative) but most people spend their time in only one. I spend time every day in each of those rooms. I learn something new every day, I meditate every day, I paint or write every day, and I exercise every day.

NP:  How would you define your philosophy of life and your work in the areas of fine arts, writing and film directing?

Dana: As the daughter of a Rosicrucian, I was weaned on the mystery schools, the occult, Edgar Cayce, and Atlantis. By adolescence I was on a steady mental diet of the world’s religions, mythologies, and archetypes; washed down with an occasional weekend séance. Add to the menu a lesbian mother who was also a mortician and you have the makings for a child with a sleeping disorder. As a child I suffered parasomic nightmares. I walked in my sleep until I was 23 years old. This has colored every page of my life.

My mother probably found the only Tibetan Monk on the North Side of Chicago. He taught me to navigate through the mysterious nocturnal worlds I found myself swimming in. Learning to remain conscious while in a sleep state and recognize the dream while awake helped me evolve out of a life controlling sleep disorder. You might say it was the first art I mastered. It was the beginning of a 45+ year practice of Tibetan Dream Yoga. Dream Yoga is one of the Buddhist tantric practices. (People think tantra only has to do with sex when in truth, there are 64 tantras and only 6 have anything to do with sex).

As a result, I have always gravitated to the surreal and to those that participate in the world with unique vision. The form isn’t important, everything is a manifestation of that view.

NP:  In the area of film directing how do you approach a project? What things do you look for and what excites your imagination? Do you see an overlap with film, art and the role of Internet?

Dana: Directing film is a recent transition for me but a natural creative progression. As a painter I just see film as “moving paintings”. The few things I have directed I also wrote. All my life I’ve written. In school I was active in journalism and on the school paper. I served as Feature Editor twice and a News Editor for a year. Over the decades I’ve written poems that were published in anthologies, and lectured on many subjects. I’ve edited books, and written mostly art related online articles.

A few years ago I participated in the San Francisco 48 Hour Film Project. Participants are given 48 hours to write, cast, shoot, edit, and score a 5-minute film. You must also produce a trailer. It was life changing. I loved the collaboration and the marriage of the visual and the emotional in film to create a shared group dream. Screenwriting allows multiple genres for people to process an experience. At its core helps people know they are not alone. I’d like to be a part of that.

Recently I was accepted for a year’s tutelage with the Writer’s Guild Foundation in Beverly Hills. The Foundation is attached to the Writers Guild of America, who represent screenwriters & playwrights nationally. I was one of only 50 people selected from thousands of applications that were received all across the US. In May I attended a Writers Guild Boot Camp Weekend with industry giants. The rest of the year I attend weekly & monthly meetings with highly successful mentors.

With the help of the Writers Guild, I’m currently writing an anime premise pilot based on Tibetan Dream Yoga that I will pitch in May of 2017. Anime for me is the perfect medium for the subject because, like dreams, they are not limited by the rules of the waking world.

I am so grateful for being accepted into the program. It is an outreach for veteran writers to offer gratitude for our service to our country. People know me for my art but few realize I was in the Air Force or that I am a Disabled Vietnam era Vet. (My disabilities are not visible. I have some missing internal bits that require medication to stay alive and that compromise my immune system). Unfortunately I also suffer from PTSD. It is Dream Yoga that helps me to function and why I thought my film project would help other veterans.

It’s interesting that you asked me about the Internet’s impact on film and art. It has opened up all kinds of film and television possibilities because of online streaming, with new studio-producer-distributors such as Netflix and Amazon Studios offering original content.

As far as fine art goes, the Internet can be a good research tool. However, I find the emotion you feel off an original painting is stripped out when you view a piece online. It also distorts the color and makes everything more electric. It is not elegant. The Internet has also flooded the market with really bad art. It’s similar to when our phones became our main camera and everyone started believing they were a photographer. A digital painting is an advertising or film tool; it is not fine art.

NPAre there interests you wish to further explore and experiment with?  How do you decide on what to pursue?

Dana:  I follow the love. As a former Ambassador to the Arts, I met artists who created beautiful paintings that did not sell, and artists although lacking in skill their work sold like crazy. Without fail, when I met the artist whose work sold well they were filled with love and joy for what they created. The poor selling artists were angry, bitter, or felt the world owed them a living. “The energy we hold when we create something stays there forever. You can create something perfect but if you were angry when you made it no one will want to be around it, let alone buy it.”

Michelle Pollace_070_8x10 (1)Whether performing her own compositions or her arrangements of standards, San Francisco “Bay Area” native Michelle Pollace [poh-LAH-chi] honors the roots of jazz, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban music while adding a new voice. Her latest CD, New Beginning, has garnered favorable press as well as airplay on around 200 satellite, public, and college radio stations, plus made the “most added releases” list in JazzWeek. New Beginning features an all-star lineup — producer Rebeca Mauleon, a recognized Latin-music expert and renown pianist and educator; David Belove on bass; Phil Hawkins on drums; Carlos Caro on Cuban percussion; Michaelle Goerlitz on Brazilian percussion; and saxophonist Kristen Strom as guest soloist. Michelle’s love of melody and affinity for well-structured compositions creates a classic sound, of which critic Mark Tucker of Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange writes, “I’m highly reminded of Ahmad Jamal’s … and others’ old canons of work.” This melodic sensibility makes her music accessible to a wide audience.
Prior to launching her solo endeavor, Michelle co-led Zarate Pollace Project with guitarist Abel Zarate (hit songwriter for Malo and Willie Bobo).  ZPP enlisted the musical contributions of many Bay Area luminaries, including John Santos, Paul Van Wageningen, Michael Spiro, and others to realize its musical blend of jazz, fusion, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban styles both live and on the CD Soul Redemption. Michelle’s diverse performance and recording credits also include orchestra member in Lou Harrison’s internationally renowned Gamelan Si Betty, keyboardist for Chepito Areas (Santana’s original percussionist and arranger), chorus member in a Gilbert & Sullivan theater company, bassist for a grunge band, and more.

NP: When did your interest in jazz begin? What artists influenced you?

Pollace: I became interested in jazz when I started playing piano formally. We didn’t have a piano until I was 14, but I had wanted to play since I first touched a piano at a family friend’s house when I was 4 years old! Since we didn’t have a piano for quite some time later, I quenched my thirst for musical knowledge in other ways … recorder in 5th grade led to flute for a brief time, and I picked out piano parts on a handed-down Estey organ I got when I was 9 or so (remember those? With the push-button chords in the left hand?) I taught myself chord qualities and how to read music on that thing. I picked up a cheap electric bass and was gifted a cheap acoustic guitar, so I taught myself how to play them …

We finally could afford a piano when I was 14. I started my formal training with taking piano lessons down the street at the local music store, but working out of those beginner books wasn’t interesting or challenging for me, especially since I had been playing by ear anything I set my mind to learning — mostly rock songs. When my dad found a jazz piano teacher, Martan Mann, we both went down to the Garden City, a club where Martan played. I got to meet him on his break and he talked about his approach to teaching. The idea of improvising appealed to me! But I wasn’t hip to too much jazz, then. I started listening to artists he recommended – I remember McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Monty Alexander, Joe Zawinul being among them. The two first jazz albums I ever bought with my own money were “Dimensions” by McCoy Tyner and “Voyage” by Chick Corea and Steve Kujala. Still have my wax of those! My Dad’s copies of Ahmad Jamal’s “Live at the Pershing” and Erroll Garner’s “Carmel by the Sea” were also impressionable. I managed to add my dad’s vinyls of those titles to my collection, too. Dad, if you’re reading this and wondering where they went, I have them.
My big influences now … McCoy Tyner, first and foremost – I just did a concert featuring the Latin Side of McCoy Tyner, where I led a trio through some of his works that touch on Brazilian and Afro-Cuban rhythms. By extension, I love, love, LOVE, the small-combo work he did with John Coltrane in the early/mid 60s. Another longstanding influence is Chick Corea – Return to Forever and his Elektric Band in particular. I don’t think Chick’s influence is as apparent in my playing as Tyner’s is; however, I admire how his ensembles improvise – they manage to go far out and then come back down to earth, and never ditch the listener. I also love Chucho Valdes, Michel Camilo, Hilton Ruiz…great Latin jazz pianists who’ve done small-combo work I can really sink my teeth into. I’m sorry if I have left any influences out; I’m sure I have! This doesn’t count musicians that I enjoy listening … I think everything I listen to influences me in some way.
NP: How do you approach your music? How would you describe your jazz? Your creative process?
Pollace: That is an interesting set of questions! How I approach my music is guided by my aesthetic, what I want to put out in the world. I think of releasing creative works as an exploration of where an artist is at a given point in time; I don’t feel compelled to adhere to what was important to me, say, 5 years ago. But, some things have remained fairly consistent. For example, valuing these qualities in compositions: a strong melody, a defined structure, and a combination of what is accessible/familiar with something new. I’d like to think that I could describe my jazz as having these qualities. I could also describe my jazz further by genre; the description “piano-centric, small combo Latin Jazz” feels right.
As for my creative process, I get ideas from all kinds of places. I might be working on music and make a mistake, and like the way that mistake sounds … so I use it, either a chord progression, or a riff. Sometimes a melodic or harmonic idea will come to me and I will do a scratch recording of it, then base a composition off of it. Sometimes I am inspired by an existing composition – “Forro” was like that. I was inspired by Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro” and wanted to write something that had the similar harmonic movement and similar melodic elements. I am always learning, and writing what I incorporate in my studies. Reminds me of that Sergei Rachmaninoff quote, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” I feel that in my creative endeavors I will never do more than barely scratch the surface of what is possible to absorb and make my own.
When it comes to choosing a song to arrange and record, it’s really about taking a song that moves me and defining the concept for arranging it. With “La Comparsa,” I wanted to take a well-known Cuban piano piece and play it with my band. It has been done before, but my arrangement is my own. With “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I wanted to nod to the past in a different way … my grandfather, a professional jazz pianist, once accompanied Judy Garland when she strolled into the Chicago hotel where he played; this was one of the songs they performed. I never got to hear my grandfather play, but he remains an inspiration to me. So I dedicate my arrangement, which puts the song into the Latin Jazz vein, to my father—whose love of jazz led me embracing the music as well—and to the memory of my grandfather. In both cases, and anytime I decide to record another well-known song, I strive to add something new to it. Otherwise, why bother recording another version?
And sometimes, it’s just an image, or a feeling, that comes over me and I want to capture that with music. I have collaborated with other musicians before (in my band Zarate Pollace Project with guitarist Abel Zarate, for example), but for the last several years I have preferred to compose alone. I think it’s also just easier … I’m juggling duties and mom, wife, bandleader, composer, and more. I have to fit in my creative process whenever I can and it’s easier to do that solo.
NP: There are so many forms of jazz today. What is your philosophy of jazz and of life?
Pollace: There are many different forms. Whenever I hear someone say “I don’t care for jazz,” to me that is like saying, “I don’t care for rock.” Really? In all that vast library of sounds, you can’t find anything you like? I find that not to be true … if someone cares enough about music to have an opinion of what they don’t like, they are discerning enough to find sounds they do like, and there is probably something there in the jazz umbrella they would dig, lol. Those two genres in particular have a variety that is quite staggering.
My philosophy of jazz … as far as what constitutes jazz? I admit I sometimes hear something and go, “That ain’t jazz.” But I keep it to myself, lol. I know what I like and don’t like, I think that’s what it comes down to. Some people are purists … I am not. But I do have boundaries as to what aesthetically satisfies me, but I don’t outright dismiss any given subgenre.
My philosophy of life … well, that’s a living document, always changing, because I am always learning and growing, not just musically, but in other aspects of life. I believe in lifelong learning; right now I and the rest of my family are taking tae kwon do. That’s been exciting! To occasionally have something in your life that you approach from a novice perspective, I think it keeps you young. It keeps a sense of wonder.
I also admire integrity and a sense of self that allows diverse creative expression while still maintaining one’s identity. Musically, I always admired David Bowie, for example. His integrity and sense of self tied it all together, the glam, the blue-eyed soul, the Tin Machine days, all of it. Prince had that depth too. Some artists try new things and have that stamp that is distinctly them no matter what they do. Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea…I strive to have that creative freedom and artistic integrity.
Other than that, I try to remain in a state of gratitude. Also, the golden rule applies, “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” That’s really learned empathy, isn’t it? I just think the world is a better place when we operate from gratitude and empathy, compassion and generosity of spirit. It’s something to strive for. And so is having fun and a sense of humor. On that note, I’m going to leave you with a quote from Frank Sinatra, one I think we can all take to heart as we navigate life: “You gotta love livin’ baby, ‘cause dyin’ is a pain in the ass.”

The Elusive Mistress of Thomas Paine

frank_mistresscover_finalCopyright (c) 2016, All Rights Reserved, Smashwords Edition. Published in ebook formats at  ISBN: 9781311165534   Price: $4.95

She was an extraordinary, mysterious and striking woman – both a Mistress of Thomas Paine and an actress during the late 1700s. She kept a personal journal of her life as a mistress and as an actress. This is the story of my search for the truth about the Mistress and my meeting of her seductive descendant. The resulting book is a blending of fact and fiction.


Projects or ideas can come from many different sources – a documentary, a book, an image, a group in town, or a shop assistant. The need to write is powerful indeed. I am not a writer that has to write as a job – writing just happens to make me a better person. Call it a way to vent. I also walk and swim to keep fit and relax. We all need an escape. Since I don’t drink or smoke, writing is my vice! (As well as chocolate, cakes, and good food, but we don’t need to go into that.)

As a reader who is always looking for the next big read, I have to admit that I have been disappointed over the years at the “must reads” that have been thrown in our direction. Sometimes, I do not like to follow the trend and other times I don’t realize a book was trending when I rave about an author! I have read many self-published books that have blown me away, and other traditionally published mainstream books that have left me wanting. Originality is important for me as a reader. However, sometimes it is nice to read a book with a predictable plot line. But, “nice” is never special.

In my opinion, there has been a surge of YA/children’s books over the last 20 or so years that have caught the imagination of many young readers. Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, Hunger Games, Who Wants to Train a Dragon, Noughts & Crosses, Gone, Alex Rider, Half Bad… As well as the multitude of paranormal romance (guilty as charged) series that have flooded the market. Readers love these books (myself included) and my daughter, 12, is voracious in reading them all! Of course, Roald Dahl is still a favourite, as well as David Walliams.

As a reader, I want to be shocked. I want to laugh, cry, feel loved, everything… Human nature dictates that we seek these emotions. Safer in a book than in real life, don’t you think?

I think that children need to be encouraged to discover books. Libraries need to stay open and investments in education need to continue to secure the future development of our children. Saying this, Goodreads is a great site for readers to discuss books, meet other readers, and share. Social media is a powerful tool for any author. If you master it, you are on the road to success.

Goodreads Author Profile:

I have a feeling society, in terms of its individuals and their basic needs, will ever change that much in the long run. We all have different wants and interests. You will never get me interested in watching too much sport, but then others that socialise by going to support their favourite teams might arguably be having a better time with friends than I am with my book – I did say arguably!

Becoming a writer has enabled me to use my skills and imagination. To create something that I can be proud of. It has also made my children aware of how hard it is to create a book – to write it, edit it, make covers, promote it, etc… I am hoping my daughter will be an agent one day! She is very critical. The fact they also see me read, blog, use social media, also means that I am closer to the world they are growing up in. I am not a complete dinosaur!

To conclude, can I challenge anyone reading this and wondering to just go for it? Write down your ideas, work hard to make it come together, have patience, and one day stand back and say to yourself, “I did that.” That’s when you allow yourself to smile.

Now for the sales pitch – Make me smile by checking out my books! A sampling:

Four booksNEW (1)


Thanks for reading,

Vanessa Wester




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Find my books via…


Hybrid *~FREE as an eBook~*




All four books ~Box Set~


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Vanessa Wester was born and raised in Gibraltar – a British colony on the Southern tip of Spain! She left the Rock when she moved to Southampton, England, to undertake an undergraduate degree. Since then she has lived outside London and in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She now considers the Isle of Wight, off the English Coast, her home after being based there for over ten years. She’s an author, avid tweeter and blogger, Teacher of Mathematics & Swimming, mother, and friend to many.

“I write to escape, I escape to live, I live to create, I create and learn.”



NP: When did your interest in writing begin?

Wester: From a young age, I was always fascinated by murder mysteries. I wanted to be a writer and loved escaping in words. Creating my own stories and characters was something that kept me occupied before the dawn of computers and the Internet. However, I also loved TV and followed many series.

As my education took over, I studied Mathematics and Science, before undertaking a degree in Accounting & Law. Writing was long forgotten as the world of work took over. Something was missing from my life and I thought I had filled that void by changing vocation from Accountancy to Teaching. Honestly, I really enjoyed teaching children of the ages of 11-16. When I had my son my career was put on hold.

As the years passed, I added two daughters and have to admit that I missed the world of work so I filled my time by helping at school and volunteering in any number of ways. I have done accounts for charities, taught swimming, face-painted and so forth.

NP: Was there a significant turning point when you knew you wanted to write novels?

Wester: Interestingly, nothing I attempted filled my “void” and I finally found my voice in 2010, when after reading voraciously I decided to put my own thoughts and ideas unto paper. I used a notebook as I watched my daughter play, then moved on to the iPad (a gift from my generous father-in-law), and then spent hours on the computer as she slept. Writing took over for a while. Whenever I had any time at all I wrote.

What resulted was a series of novels, which I went on to publish, The Evolution Trilogy comprised of Hybrid, Complications, Return, and a prequel, Emily. I also put together some anthologies to raise money for charity, by working with other authors I met online.


NP: Sounds like stimulating times for you.

Wester: Indeed, they were exciting times! I had also been to the Festival of York, run by The Writers Workshop, where I met agents and well-known authors and realized they are just ordinary people with the ability to create/sell books.

I have to add that putting yourself out there – for the world to see – is a scary process. Strangers get to comment on your work, and friends & family get an insight into your (my) twisted mind!

NP: Did you receive much moral support?

Wester: I was lucky to have a group of friends when I started who gave me encouragement and read my first attempts. If it had not been for them I would probably have given up. Once I went online, I was surprised at the fantastic support and feedback I received from readers and authors alike. I am not saying it was all positive – not everyone was interested or cared about my writing. I remember someone saying to me, ‘You’re never going to be famous or anything.’ Honestly, I have walked along this twisted road and the adventure along the way have made it all worth it.



Nicole Collet, daughter of French and Chinese immigrants, is a Brazilian-born writer and translator fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish and French, with degrees in journalism and cultural management. She has edited and translated works from authors as diverse as Ken Follet, Nora Roberts and Machiavelli. Collet’s writing explores why people fall in love and what it takes for them to stay in love. Her plots invite readers to think outside the box, merging story with psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, music, and literature.

NP:  How would you describe your background? How has your experiences affected you as a thinker and writer as well as your philosophy of life?

Collet: I grew up in Brazil in a time when Asians were still stereotyped and mocked. Having immigrant parents and Asian features always made me feel different from the other kids in a moment when I desperately wanted to fit in. Only as a young adult was I able to fully integrate within me those three very different cultures. Brazilians are very laid-back, the French are more stern, and the Chinese can be even more reserved–at least, my Chinese mother is. In college things suddenly changed and I was no longer “different”: now people said I was “exotic.” I guess I have always been very cerebral so to speak, reading a lot from cheap Harlequin novels (guilty pleasure) to classics and quality literature. I’m enraptured by beautiful prose and insightful ideas. Psychology, philosophy and neuroscience fascinate me because they deconstruct the human nature: I’m very interested in understanding how people function, the root of their emotions and why they do what they do.

NP:  Sex is not an addiction in that “at least in the sense that it does not neurologically behave like other well-documented addictions,” according to recent studies in neuroscience at UCLA. It’s certainly a pleasure to write about. It’s seems natural part of the human libido.  With so much being written about sex do you see some positive outcomes as humans strive to understand and explore the nature of intimacy with each other?

ColletI think it’s wonderful that science is shedding light on human sexuality. Open dialog is essential. On the other hand, we have pop culture and porn distorting the individual, organic sexuality. No matter how many studies are done on human sexuality, wherever you look you’ll find pasteurized sexuality, and that’s what becomes the paradigm and norm. Pasteurized sexuality is not good for several reasons. It’s extremely limiting and restrictive, it kills spontaneity and the imagination. The most harmful aspect of it, however, is that it vulgarizes sex and promotes a pattern of promiscuity, violence and domination of women, which results in people having a decreased ability to experience intimacy and connection. Porn is the vehicle for sex education in different parts of the world today: you have 10-year old boys watching porn, you have young men thinking sexual intercourse forcibly ends with a “money shot,” and you have girls objectifying themselves because that’s what they think is expected if they want to be appreciated.

NP:  From your perspective what are the challenges people face when dealing with porn?

Collet: Porn is at times confused with sexual freedom.  It’s not the same. For example, are the porn categories of rape, pedophilia, murder, gagging, anal ripping, torture and bestiality, forms of sexual freedom? Not in my opinion.  Many people argue it’s fantasy. Yet there are neuroscience studies and scans that show porn desensitizes your brain and shapes your behavior. When you associate violence with sex, you render violence invisible and normalize it, as sociologist Gail Dines explains. Serial killer Ted Bundy made a point in warning how dangerous sexualized violence can be and how it impacted him.

You have hardcore on the Internet and soft-core in pop culture, but in the end of day it’s all pornography. You have women and increasing cases where men are reduced to body parts in an advertisement. Female singers are forced to behave like strippers onstage to stand out, and young teens believe blow jobs and handshakes belong to the same category.

Sex is sacred, though. Not sacred in a moralist sense but sacred as a very intimate connection with another human being. This shouldn’t be taken for granted. When you take that for granted you end up losing a precious part of your own humanity.

 NP:  What challenges do you see for yourself in the future as a writer?  What do you think is the future of writing as a result of technology and that it appears that the “seeing” public is becoming more visually oriented and less time is spent on reading?

Collet: My first challenge would be to make a living writing my beloved stories and not having to spend so much time and energy promoting my work. I’m a writer not a publicist. Being simultaneously a professional with a daytime job, a writer AND a publicist is daunting. My second challenge would be to become as skilled in English as I am in Portuguese when it comes to writing my stories. As for our culture being more image-oriented than print-oriented, it makes me a bit sad. In the genre that I write, which is romance, you have many readers. Romance, actually, is the most popular literary genre. However, for what I see, readers use romance novels as a mean for escapism. There’s nothing wrong with that. But books should be sought for more than mere escapism and emotional roller coasters.


IMG_2969sSharon Cawood is currently an Area Director for N2 Publishing, a national company serving over 800 communities in 49 states – Turning Neighborhoods Into Communities. She’s experienced in business start-up operations – site research and development, forecasting, budget development, and marketing strategy development.  She has also worked in business development – including marketing and sales in the fields of human resources, technology based services, and small business as well as helping organizations in areas of troubleshooting and disaster recovery.  Cawood graduated with a B.S. from Tusculum College in Organizational Management and an M.A. in Human Resource Development.

NP: The word “community” has many definitions, from society, to an area of people, neighborhood or association and so forth. Given your experience with N2 Publishing and serving local neighborhoods how would you define community? How is it changing?

Cawood: The word “community” has multiple meanings and is continuing to evolve. Growing up, I considered the area where I lived, which was mostly a farming part of Knoxville, TN, to be my community. We didn’t live in a subdivision so my community was much broader. With the move of many families to subdivisions, communities in one sense have diminished in size. The downstream effect was attitudes changed with respect to the community one might belong to.

Many factors play into why. Mom and dad often work outside the home and the subdivisions become bedroom communities – the population leaves in the morning and returns in the evening.  In such a case, you don’t find people sitting on their front porches. In fact, few homes have a front porch large enough to accommodate a couple of chairs. And, you don’t see your neighbors unless you happen to drive by when they are getting the mail. We became more isolated behind our doors. If we ventured outside, we were probably in the back yard hidden from their neighbors. And if we did see then we simply waved as we got into our cars.

I think this is just one reason social media has taken off so well. People are hungry for friends and relationships. If you live in a large city like New York you may have only a handful of real friends you can hang out with and perhaps feel safe with. Many have no family around. Even living in a high-rise building, you probably only know a few of the residents and may never socialize with any of them.

I think the “friend me” frenzy on Facebook and Twitter and other social media over time will mellow out.  I’ve already seen some folks getting tired of constant posting and interruptions and have reduced their interaction with their social media friends.

We are still figuring all that out. It’s just like the telephone – when everyone starting installing home phones, I’m sure there was a lot of chatter going on with constant catching up with your friends and family. Facebook and social media are much like that right now.

NP: In your experience how do you see the affects of technology and lifestyles on “community?” Are we becoming a nation of “lifestyle” communities? And is there an isolation that’s occurring among those communities you are familiar with?

Cawood: As far as technology goes with social media and everyone having a phone on them 24/7, we do tend to talk and share more with family and friends. However, if you think about it, this may not be more than our grandparents did with their families and friends. Remember, they would come in from the fields and talk over dinner. They spent all day together out in the fields and barns. They were together a lot more than we are together with our families and our communities.

People do seem to gravitate toward those who have similar interests and behaviors. Look at the private groups on Facebook alone. You could probably find just about any group you are seeking out there.

I don’t see most communities becoming more isolated as people seem to belong to several different groups. Much like having lots of different interests and not all of the interests related.  I may belong to a Facebook group that loves to try out new restaurants and another group that is all about home schooling or horses.  Do I really consider these groups, communities?  Some are, but not all. Am I really a member if I don’t interact with everyone? I think you can make your communities and you may have many different levels of communities.

NP: Do you anticipate there will be other expressions of what might be considered a community in the future?

Cawood:  I think there will always be a need for a community type relationship. We are human. Most of us don’t really want to be isolated and live alone. We need interactions with other humans. I talked with a senior caregiver the other day and he was sharing with me how many seniors he sees who really just need interaction with other people. They are lonely.  I think there will always be a mix of social communities, geographically defined communities, family communities, religious communities, university communities, etc.

We are much more mobile now than a generation or two ago. We move and change careers more often. I see people who hold on to those relations via social media when they are forced to geographically move. They stay connected with their “old” communities even if they cannot be there to run around with them.

We have snowbirds that have communities where they live in the North and in the South. With social media and the phone they can keep the communications open all year around.

Social activities seem to be more important now than ever. Since we don’t say hi to our neighbors and talk across the fence, social events are our only opportunities to sit and talk with each other.

I think in summary the traditional characteristics of community are being redefined and transformed by technology and online communities, the increasing diversity of lifestyles, the economy and the growing separation between classes, personal and professional working habits, military and corporate communities and transportation and mobility among other factors. We are experiencing dynamic changes in the very nature of community and how we relate to each other as human beings.

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