Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome a Recovering "Good Girl" - Annmarie Kelly

As stated in my review yesterday, I'm pleased to bring to you this morning Annmarie Kelly, author of "Victorious Woman!".  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the inspirational life journeys she shared.  Let's get started so she can share with you how her life's work transpired.

DAB:  I have to admit, your website alone inspired me.  Tell our readers a little bit about your background that led to this fascinating project.

AMK:  Thanks – I appreciate that you took the time to look the website over and so very glad you like what you found there! And thanks for doing this too!

I grew up in a strict Italian-Catholic home. I was a "good girl" - and I know many of your readers will identify. You know, I did all the right things: good grades in school, didn't make problems, became the peacemaker, became a teacher, etc. But the first part of my life included very difficult times - but also contributed to some of the most profound turning points of my life. My father became an alcoholic in my teens (he didn't drink at all before then). My oldest brother was physically and emotionally abusive brother, and my sister was already showing signs that the moodiness (as my mother called it) which she exhibited when I was a child was the beginnings of mental illness.

In my twenties I fell in love and was engaged, only to realize the relationship wasn't going to work out in the long term. I ended the engagement but at the expense of my father's approval. A couple years later, when I moved into my own apartment, my parents (with their strong first-generation Italian values) didn't approve. Not only did they not help in any way, my father didn't talk to me for almost a year. I was teaching in a Catholic elementary school and making next to nothing - or, as I often joke, earning a couple holy cards (prayer cards) a week.

DAB:  What was the catalyst that inspired your desire to write “Victorious Woman!”?

AMK:  I got the idea to write Victorious Woman in a dream. Then, like many of us who get great ideas that way, I immediately found an excuse to ignore the inspiration. A few months later I started having a gyn problem and the doctor couldn't diagnose it. After ruling out different kinds of cancer, I was waiting for a call and wondering if it was ovarian. If it was, I didn't know what I would do; I didn't even know if I wanted to be treated or just go peacefully into the next world. That’s when the Victorious Woman idea popped into my mind again – and it was like the universe smacking me on the head, and gleefully telling me, “We tried to tell you nicely but you ignored us, so we had to give you the ‘two by four between the eyes’ to get your attention. Now will you write Victorious Woman?” The phone call came moments later and it wasn't cancer. Interestingly, my gyn problem resolved itself within two weeks; it was the outcome of an embolization which, at that time, was an experimental treatment for fibroids. But I wasn't going to fool around anymore. I did my first Victorious Woman interview six weeks later.

DAB:  Was this your first foray into writing a book?  If so, please tell us a few choice tidbits along the way.

AMK:  Yes and no. Early on I mostly wrote in my journal. Later on I wrote business articles (freelance) for magazines. My marriage has an unusual foundation, that is, I only get married for five years at a time. People really liked the idea and, as I was preparing to get married again (to the same man), they encouraged me to write a book about it. The concept was working for me, so I drafted a book about it. Unfortunately, at that time, I couldn't find a publisher who would consider it. So, in 1998, I boxed it up and put it away.

I'm now in the 4th year of my fifth marriage – and it’s still working well. In the years since 1998, I've noticed that the market for my “different twist” on marriage is broader now. So, in 2011, the book came out the box and is in the process of being finished – finally! The Five Year Marriage is generating more interest now and I think it will be better accepted by the public in 2013 than it would have been in 1990s. To everything there is a season!

DAB:  How long did it take to write “Victorious Woman!” from concept to final draft?

AMK:  I got the inspiration in October 2001 but didn't pay attention until late January 2002. I did my first interview in the spring of 2002 and went to press in 2004; it was available in early 2005.

DAB:  Many times I describe writing as a pregnancy and birth experience.  Give us a nutshell about how you would describe it.

AMK:  Well, it was definitely a birthing experience! I can really appreciate that analogy. But for me I think I felt it was like a roller coaster. Each interview was a “high” and I loved doing them. But the writing part wasn't always easy and, as anyone who writes knows, writing is rewriting. The interviews and getting the published book were both great, but everything in-between was emotionally very up and down.

DAB:  In your lifetime, who among your family/friends/acquaintances/memories most inspired you?  Tell us about that person and what they did that propelled you forward.

AMK:  Cheez, I was so lucky to have wonderful people, mostly women, who guided me. One woman, Jeanne Grayson, has been my spiritual mentor for years and years. I'm not sure my life would be as positive and upbeat if she hadn't shown me a better way to think. It’s what I trust I do for other women through my keynote speaking for groups and associations and with my Victorious Woman Project workshops, webbings, determiners and books. In fact, Jeanne is older now and I often tell her that, because she was good enough to help me, her influence is reaching and helping so many other women.

Specific to Victorious Woman!, it would be Gloria Williams. Almost fifteen years ago, still missing my undergraduate degree, I made the decision to go back to college. It was a curriculum designed for people like me who were way past “traditional” college age. It began with a required first course for research science. Each week I turned in the required paper on some topic I researched. While my grades were mostly in the B+/A category, I somehow presumed that I was just keeping up with the rest of the class. After all, we weren’t kids just starting out as teenager freshman.

But a conversation with Gloria turned things around. She told me that I was one of two students in her class whose writing was head and shoulders above the rest of the class. She also told me that I had a talent and should do something with it.

I graduated, magna cum laude, in 2001. Gloria retired a few years later. We still keep in touch and have a breakfast together from time to time.

If I hadn't returned to finish my college degree, I might never have never written a book that could actually get published. Sometimes, as Robbie Motter (another of my mentors) tells me frequently, it’s all about showing up!

DAB:  Do you think it is imperative for success and overcoming life’s obstacles to have that inspiration/encouragement from another person?

AMK:  Without a doubt! But it can't be false or phony stuff. Not one of the women who influenced me gave me a pass on the work I did with them. They challenged me and the challenge made me better.

DAB:  Please share with us a snippet about your question, “Are you one of the good girls?” and what the meaning is behind the question.

AMK:  Those of us who are “good girls” are the ones who did all the things we were expected to do:  we went to school and got (at least) decent grades, we didn't cause problems, we kept the peace and accommodated others. Then we got to a certain point in our lives and said to ourselves, “Hey! I've been being a good girl for all this time and where’s it gotten me?”

But being a good girl is a habit so ingrained in some women – many women. And though I don't think of being a good girl like an addiction, it is, like any habit, tough to change. And, because being a good girl serves most of the people in our lives, they aren't happy when we stop. So, when we break through good girl behaviors and replacing them with powerful woman behaviors, everyone doesn't like it. Then we hate the disapproval and rejection that comes with our change; some good girls think it’s easier to be unhappy in our life than to be rejected. So, because of that, I think “good girl” is as difficult a habit to break for good girls as giving up smoking or drinking is for other people. And, BTW, I'm an ex-smoker who really liked smoking, so I know what I'm talking about when I say they're similar!

I was a good girl...I'm better now :-). I sometimes say I'm a recovering good girl. I might have a good girl slip-up once in a while. Fortunately, I've done enough victory stretches to know how to get back on track right away.

In the Victorious Woman Project, I help women find their own path and do the same.

DAB:  What other writing projects do you have in the works?

AMK:  I have a couple small projects but my big and really exciting one is The Five Year Marriage. I designed the concept because I didn't then and still don't think traditional marriage is all that great a deal for most women. The Five Year Marriage gives her a least a “fighting chance” for a more equal, happier and more satisfying marriage. It isn't for everyone, but there are plenty of women, and the men who love them, that will find it’s a perfect fit for them! I'm hoping it’s out in early early-mid 2013.

DAB:  Now’s the time I like to leave for you to share a bit of inspiration for our readers about you, your work, and “Victorious Woman!” – take it away.

AMK:  The focus of pretty much everything I do is around women having the power to choose what they really want and create a lifestyle that brings it to them. I don't promise that it’s easy, because it usually isn't. But that’s where the victory comes into play.

Victory is the stretch out of your comfort zone that enables you to go from where you are to where you want to be. When you stay in your comfort zone, you have to settle for whatever is there – and all too often, it’s not what makes you happy or satisfied.

In the first and last chapters of Victorious Woman I tell stories about some of the women I interviewed who did just settle, and what happened to them.

I believe you have a dream that you're meant to fulfill. If you don't, you are unhappy and you get to the end of your life and look back with regret. I don't think it has to be that way for you, me, or any woman.

That’s the idea that gets me up in the morning and keeps me going when things get tough. When I talk to or get email from a woman who has taken my advice, followed the steps, gotten to the other side and is happy – that warms my heart and fill me with joy!

Once again, thank you to Annmarie for visiting the blog and for Tribute Books Blog Tours for bringing us all together.  If you know a victorious woman or have someone in your life who desires to become so, be sure and pick up a copy.

Visit her website at:

To follow her Tribute Books blog tour, go to:

Purchase "Victorious Woman!" for $16.95 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or her website at:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Are You a Victorious Woman?

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing a book chock-full of inspirational stories about some very special ladies who faced incredible challenges and not only survived, but who learned how to rise above the difficulties and thrive.  Yes, this book is written toward an audience of women, but there are some gems here that even some men may find beneficial if they are facing life's uphill battle.  Take a moment and meet the ladies from Annmarie Kelly's "Victorious Woman!"

Book Summary:
Real Women – Real Stories – Real Challenges – Real Victories

What’s a woman to do? If she makes a bad choice or gets thrown one of life's curveballs, is she forever doomed?

Author Annmarie Kelly says "NO!" and proves it with compelling real life stories of women who faced and overcame seemingly overwhelming life challenges. This powerfully moving book overflows with intelligence, understanding, emotion and true grit.

Kelly explains victory as the stretch you make out of your comfort zone and into the greater, fuller expression of who you really are – your authentic self. She demonstrates victory by taking you inside the lives of nine distressed women and showing you how they became victorious. You are likely to recognize something of yourself woven in each of these stories; each one will inspire and encourage you to forge your own victory over whatever is challenging you right now. At the end of each woman’s chapter you’ll find soul-searching questions that you must ask yourself to insure your own victories.

Author Kelly concludes the stories with a "lessons learned" chapter. Gleaning the best from each Victorious Woman, from the many other women she interviewed and from her own intriguing life challenges, Kelly describes the FOUR LIFESTYLES that either support you in victory or sabotage you, and the SIX SKILLS every woman has to learn to be in control of her SELF. She also gives you, her readers, the Victorious Woman Model to help you figure out what you need at different stages of challenges. The result is a book that is part inspiration, part motivation and part skill building. Some have called Victorious Woman "a blueprint for life" and "a practical approach to taking control of your life."

Since its first publication, many women say that they keep Victorious Woman! on their book shelf for reference or on their nightstand for comfort at the end of a long day. This "celebration of life" is an encouraging and enlightening read for women who want to create their own personal and professional victories.

My Review:
In the first few pages, Annmarie introduces us to two women facing that dreaded battle with cancer.  Both eventually succumb to the disease, but only one did so as a victorious woman.  One gave up the war without entering the battle.  The other lived her life with gusto until the very end.  Even though both eventually passed, Annmarie wondered what it took for one to live victoriously until the last breath.  This was one catalyst that prompted her to begin the writer's journey that became "Victorious Woman!".

Each chapter contains the story of one woman, follows her through the choices she made that resulted in her particular trial, how she decided to face the trial, and then ultimately what it took to overcome that chain-reaction, downward spiral to become victorious.

It was hard for me to pick any favorites, but I'd have to say that I was struck most poignantly by Nancy's and Maureen's stories.  One left an abusive situation at a time when women just didn't typically leave their husbands, especially with children in tow.  The other was left suddenly for a secret lover, alone with five children and no means to survive.  Now that I think of it, I have to also mention Tekki, a woman suffering from dwarfism and how her body image infected her entire life until she decided to face it head-on.

Some stories may not resonate with you - that's okay, because the chapters focus on one individual and her particular situation.  If needed, you can always skip that person's story and move on to another.  But I have to say, I don't recommend it.  Several times a person's story took a turn I didn't expect and I would have missed out on the treasure their full story provided.

The end of each chapter offered an overview of the aforementioned individual, questions to get you thinking about how your situation might relate, and then what practical steps you could take to begin or continue your own victory journey.  I really liked this and thought it worked well for the individual reader to glean helpful information, to dig a little deeper into their own psyche, but it also would work well to utilize in a group setting to spur discussion.

The final chapter defined the different stages, or "stepping stones" of where you might be in your journey and then practical methods to move you from each step toward the "Victorious Woman!" model: the Victim, the Surviving, the Advancing, and then the Victorious.  The step reveals details defining each to help you determine where you may be at the present time, with suggestions to help you identify how to move forward.

If you're like me, you've struggled with what Annmarie describes as the "good girl" syndrome, doing what others expect of you, for their approval, and putting aside what you want and watching a part of you die inside.  Like Annmarie, maybe this will be the catalyst that helps break you from that desire to please everyone all the time and learn to be true to yourself.

So if you're in need of inspiration, or you feel stuck somewhere in your life goals or relationships, I can recommend "Victorious Woman!" to assist in propelling you forward.  Stay tuned tomorrow, where I have the pleasure of presenting Annmarie Kelly to you live, and in-person - well, at least via an interview for the blog. :-)

Annmarie Kelly's Bio:
Author Annmarie Kelly is a professional speaker, workshop leader and victory strategist, who has firsthand knowledge of the transformative power which determination and motivation, the stuff of victory, can have in a person’s life.

Growing up in her Italian-Catholic home, Kelly wasn’t a natural go getter but rather a shy and introverted girl – a “good girl” who felt invisible and insignificant and powerless to deal with family problems including alcoholism, sibling abuse and mental illness.

In her early twenties, a broken engagement and her father’s reaction to it, caused Annmarie to look at her life and where she was going. After a couple “dark” years, she realized she had a purpose but that she was following a path that would only give her more of what she already had: disappointments, regrets and lost opportunities. Annmarie understood that she needed to make a change; she decided to start on a new track.

Through the rest of her twenties and thirties, step-by-step, she changed the way she thought about herself and her future, set major goals, and let go of many of the limitations that were holding her back, from kicking the undesired habits of smoking cigarettes and being a couch potato to getting honest about her own sabotaging behaviors. She also let go of people and environments that became obstacles to her efforts.

While leaving the comfort of the familiar for something better was what she wanted, it wasn’t easy. But in time the effort paid off. The decisions Annmarie made then have enabled her to BE more and DO more than she ever thought she could and HAVE more of the kind of life that, on her old path, would only have been a dream.

Not content to keep that kind of empowerment and success to herself, Annmarie Kelly has made it her life’s mission to help other women find the same confidence, inner power, and most importantly the “feminine victory” within. Whatever she does, whether she’s speaking, teaching, writing, blogging or coaching, she shows women just how much power they have over their own lives, encourages them to LIVE VICTORIOUSLY - out loud and in living color – and shows them the skills they need to do it!

Annmarie Kelly owns and manages SkillBuilder Systems, a training and development firm specializing in management development and communication skills. She is also the founder of The Victorious Woman Project which focuses on the information, resources and skill building which help women empower themselves so they can live their best life.

Annmarie is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTDPhl), The Press Club PA and the National Association of Female Executives.

Her services include:

- Keynotes for Corporate Events and Association Conferences

- Training Workshops (SmartWoman@Work and New Beginnings)

- Retreats

- Seminars, Teleseminars, Webinars

- Individual coaching

- Group coaching (Victory Teams)

Annmarie Kelly is available for interviews in the Greater Philadelphia area, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Washington DC, and by phone anywhere.

Visit her website at:

To follow her Tribute Books blog tour, go to:

Purchase "Victorious Woman!" for $16.95 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or her website at:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Dating Minefield w/ Charles A Johnson

This week I'm bringing you a book about dating, romance, and love - Charles A. Johnson's "How to Find the Right One & Make It Last".  As a single woman who has been out of the dating scene for much of my adult life, I thought it might be interesting to see what this life coach had to say about the dating minefield.  Perhaps I could learn a thing or two about what to do and what to look for as I consider venturing back out into the world of romance.

Book Summary:
We all want that special someone in our lives.  But isn't it odd that one of life's most important lessons tends to receive the least amount of focus.  It's no wonder why we have so little success attracting the love, passion, romance and fun that we all need and desire.

The problem for many busy and successful people is that they do not know where to find and meet the right partners, how to approach dating, or what it takes to build and sustain a healthy, loving relationship.  To address these issues, I have taken a unique approach and have written this book about real people, like you, who struggle with finding love and the right companionship.  Many who have used my techniques have been able to find happy rewarding relationships.

This book provides real world experiences and proven dating strategies and techniques.  It's a guide that can be used to change your life and bring you the romance and love you've always wanted.

My Review:
First of all, it is clear from the get-go this is a book directed toward a distinct audience of wealthy executives, not the average Joe or Jane.  The average Joe and Jane don't go to department stores and boutiques where they have personal wardrobe shoppers, nor do they typically hire a personal chef from their favorite restaurant to cook a gourmet meal in their home.  Most are happy to take one family vacation a year, not able to take time away to travel the globe in search of Mr. or Ms. Right.  Those options sound lovely and nice, but for the average person they are neither feasible nor practical.

That said, there are some helpful tips just for anyone considering or starting a potential relationship.  It is always important to dress appropriately for the occasion and venue.  Keep the physical aspects aside until you have the chance to really get to know someone.  Too much attention for the senses clouds your better judgment.  Find out what you have in common - if it's just about the chemistry, you're in for a letdown eventually.  Never anticipate changing your mate.  Then there's that most important piece of the puzzle that tends to get left out of the equation far too often - communication.  Learn to communicate properly with respect and dignity early on in a relationship and make it an ongoing priority. 

Continue dating one another after marriage, remembering the little things you did early on and the things that light up your spouse and make them feel special.  Everyone goes through a few bumps in the road, but that can be alleviated with continued communication and counseling as needed when the bumps arise.  They should never be left to fester.  If you suspected or found out you had cancer, why would you put off treatment while it is still manageable and instead wait until it becomes inoperable?

I'd liked to have seen more of a focus on being the right one instead of just having the appearance of the right one.  So much of the first half of the book focused on looking the part, designer shoes and handbags that most men would never even notice (I even took a sample from many of the professional women from all walks of life I have the opportunity to work with and/or talk to on a daily basis, and every one of them felt the same about their boyfriends/spouses).  Very little referenced important character issues and traits, things to consider about ourselves and potential mates and how these can enhance or hurt. 

There was a promise several times to ladies about upcoming information on how to spot a player.  I anticipated this would focus on cues to pick up on when someone was trying to hit on you.  When I finally arrived at that section, it was mainly about how to figure out you're with a player AFTER you're dating or in a relationship with them.  Not being a part of the dating scene for so long, I'd have appreciated some cues on how to detect them up front.

The book had some wonderful real-life stories, some sweet and some difficult, but for the most part there was little here I haven't read before, or that I felt truly applied to a traditional girl who has left the corporate world behind and embraced simplicity.  But if you pick up the book and take something away from it that can help you in your particular situation, then it is a good thing indeed.

Charles Johnson's Bio:
Surrounded by three sisters and eight female cousins, Charles Johnson had a significant female influence growing up.  With the knowledge he gleaned from that experience, he spent the last 25 years coaching and mentoring hundreds of single professionals and up-and-coming, career-minded men and women -- including his own four daughters.

He found himself providing guidance to help these otherwise successful individuals improve their personal confidence by updating their image, polishing their social skills and providing insight into the art of establishing and maintaining relationships.  Charles has connected and helped hundreds of couples find marriage or committed partners and coaches them on how to make relationships last.

He has been married for more than 32 years and three of his four daughters are now married.  Charles has found happiness and balance in his own life as well, pursuing his passions as an avid traveler, photography enthusiast, art collector and a supporter of various charitable causes.  He enjoys basketball, football and tennis.  His greatest passion is writing about hope and how people can achieve their dreams and still have a balanced and complete life.

Visit the Tribute Books Blog Tour Page:

Charles Johnson's Web Site:

Charles Johnson's Blog:

Price:  $19.95
Publisher:  Two Harbors Press

On Amazon:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sitting Down With El Tio

I'm so happy to bring to you an incredible husband and wife couple - Larry Buchanan and Karen Gans.  Together they share with us a wonderful, real-life story of an incredible geologic find and how a challenge led them to spend so much of their lives in the tiny Bolivian village of San Cristobal.  That experience continues to live on in their hearts today.

So please join me in welcoming the authors of "The Gift of El Tio".

DAB:  Larry, what was it about geology that led you into the field?

LARRY:  I found a form of liberation in geology.  My memory as a kid growing up in the coalfields of western Pennsylvania is of grimy brick buildings, black snow, soot covered fields, ashes, cinders, drunkenness, ignorance, and universal povery.  I knew deep inside, somewhere there had to be a better world.  At age 11, I left an abusive family behind and moved to the Mojave Desert of California.  For the first time I saw color in my life:  blue sky, orange and red cliffs among the butte and mesas, olive-green sage poking out of the yellow sands, vast expanses where I could walk a hundred miles and never come across a fence.  I saw romance in the ruins of ghost towns and wondered over the azure-and malachite-green stained rocks around the abandoned mines, explored entire petrified forests turned to swirls of agate and chalcedony.  Even the name, Mojave, conjured up an image of mysterious peoples of long ago.  I found freedom there, a peaceful solitude broken only by the rocks, snakes, and scorpions.  I decided then at that early age to become a geologist, to make a living in such a place, to get paid to hike the hills and valleys.

DAB:  Larry, describe for us what it was like first coming across the village of San Cristobal and the incredible silver deposits out in the open for all to see.

LARRY:  When I first saw the adobe village with its grass-thatch roofs among the cobble stone streets, I was struck by the lack of people.  Other than a little girl peering at me through some cracks in a rock wall, the streets were deserted, not a soul in sight, everyone hiding from the stranger hiking along their streets.  I knew a hundred pairs of eyes were staring at me from the dark cracks in their doors and windows.  I felt this village must be the poorest I had seen, and I had seen a lot.  Then I inspected the rocks in the walls, the cobbles in the streets, the cliffs surrounding the houses.  All were laced with thin veins and masses of silver minerals:  argentite, galena, limonite, all of no particular note to the layman, but to a trained geologist, ineluctable proof of the presence of silver.  Their homes, their streets, their walls were made of silver; the village of San Cristobal lay right on top of one of the world's largest silver deposits.  I had to tell my boss but in those pre-cell phone days, I had to drive 12 hours across dry lakebeds and up and down rocky canyons to get to the first functioning phone.  My voice broke, I shook with excitement, and told him to be ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to see if I was right or not.  To his credit, he jumped at the chance.

DAB:  Karen, what was your initial reaction to this discovery?  Were you immediately aware of how this would impact the villagers or did realizations occur gradually?

KAREN:  I was appalled.  I adored - and still do - my husband, but at that time, we saw the world from very different perspectives; he, being conservative, was convinced that this mine would bring jobs and eradicate poverty; I, being the liberal, could not tolerate the loss of culture and identity that inevitably would face the people.  Locked in our polarized views as so many are today, we were each convinced our positions were correct.  Neither of us could have known the outcome of Larry's discovery in the beginning.  As a matter of fact, now, fourteen years since the town was moved, we know some outcomes, but we're aware there are even more to come.  Thus, new realizations have occurred over time and continue to occur, enabling us to re-examine our viewpoints; I, accepting the advantages of developing a mine and Larry, recognizing the value of culture.

DAB:  Where did the challenge to go live in San Cristobal originate and why?

KAREN:  The challenge to go live in San Cristobal sprang from our polarized viewpoints.  I didn't know how I could justify living with a man who supported the destruction of an indigenous village nor did I trust what the mining company would do.  I had to see for myself.  This prompted me to demand that Larry and I follow the people to see the impact of the changes.  Fortunately, my husband agreed!

LARRY:  Actually, Karen didn't leave me much choice.  Either go there and live with her, or risk losing her entirely.  I figured she would last maybe two weeks and then beg to go home.  Who would have thought that 10 years later....

DAB:  Tell us what it was like when you first arrived in country, knowing you were going to spend so much of your lives there.

KAREN:  First of all, it's important to note that Larry and I were always aware that we could escape and return to the comforts of our home in Ashland, Oregon, and we did this from time to time.  If we hadn't, I fear we might not be able to write this blog today.  San Cristobal was hidden away in a remote canyon in the high desert of Bolivia.  At 14,000 feet above sea level, I initially experienced altitude sickness - headaches, nausea, weakness.  Even though we adapted somewhat to the altitude, lack of oxygen forced us to move slowly, extreme dryness parched our lips and cracked our skin on our fingers, and "el viento" (the wind) filled our lungs with dust.  These elements either robbed us of sleep or triggered nightmares.  At the same time, the uniqueness of the village excited me and I loved each new experience; well, maybe not "loved", but welcomed the adventure.

LARRY:  To tell the truth, it was quite easy as I had to be on site anyway to do my geological studies of the property.  Thus, living in the village allowed me to work with fewer interruptions.  And having Karen there to come home to at night was just wonderful.  We were, and still are, on our honeymoon.

DAB:  Was the trek to the village difficult?

KAREN:  My first trip from the capital of Bolivia, La Paz, where we'd fly in, to San Cristobal was a challenge.  I curled up in the back seat, fighting altitude sickness, but at the same time, I didn't want to miss anything.  In 1998, what Bolivians called a road was not my idea of a road.  Our Toyota bounced across endless desert for 12 hours with nothing in sight but some distant mountains - brown, no trees, no lakes, barren like the moon - and the smell of dust filling our nostrils.  Remember, I'm from the damp, green Northwest.  Larry is the desert rat.

LARRY:  Naw, not a problem.  I am used to 12 to 15 hour rides across the desert.  'Twas a bit bumpy, though, and seeing how green Karen was in the back seat did concern me a bit.  But I figured she'd survive, somehow.

DAB:  Karen, tell us about what you first noticed when seeing San Cristobal for the first time.

KAREN:  I loved the village the moment I saw it.  The old town was nestled amidst rocky hills, the browns and yellows matching the surroundings as if they had sprung up from the earth.  The adobe houses with grass-thatched roofs lined the three streets, all meeting in a central plaza where a single pipe from a distant spring delivered the town's water through a faucet.  The quaintness charmed me.  I love children and volunteered to teach English at the little school.  The teachers and students welcomed me with curiosity and delight.

DAB:  Do you have some special memories of your years in San Cristobal you'd care to share with the audience?

LARRY:  One experience stands out strongly:  my crawling three times around the cemetery with the village chief at midnight, begging the souls and spirits to forgive us for disturbing their peace, all the while stoned on coca leaf and beer.  I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a religious experience of the first order, one that set me on a course to look deeper into the Quechua ceremonies.

KAREN:  A young adolescent, whom we call Soledad in The Gift of El Tio, befriended me early on.  One day while hiking the hills, Soledad suddenly dashed away, leaping across thola brush like a swift deer, and then ever so slowly returning, her hands cupped.  When she approached us, she opened her hands to reveal a baby ostrich.  Soledad's ability to live in harmony with her surroundings as well as her resourcefulness of how to survive in this barren land amazed me.  I felt safe and cared for in her presence.

Other positive memories include moments with students in the classroom.  They received every song, every picture book (there were no books in the school), every game with enthusiasm.  We danced the hokey pokey and we played bingo endlessly.  For the first time in their lives, they received letters and photos from penpals at my school in Ashland, Oregon.  I experienced such joy from my contact with these children.  And then years later, to witness them as young adults taking advantage of educational opportunities and training that the mine brought, well, I don't want to give away what happens in our story...

DAB:  What prompted you to write "The Gift of El Tio" to chronicle the experience?

KAREN:  For me, moral obligation.  I felt that if I were married to the man who found the deposit that required a village be destroyed, I needed to know the outcome for the villagers.  Larry is an exploration geologist.  His job is to discover ore and then move on to look in other places.  I demanded that he not abandon these people, and that we not only live among the people, but also document the changes.

LARRY:  We had such unique experiences, involving blind witches, zombies, shaman, animal (and human?) sacrifices, crawling around cemeteries in the middle of the night, chewing coca till green goo slobbered down our chins, rocks that came alive to kill and maim, long evenings huddled against evil spirits and sprites and walking, living devils...well, how could you not write about such experiences?

DAB:  How have your lives changed since discovering the deposit and then living among the Quechua culture?

KAREN:  I truly feel I am a different person having lived among the people of San Cristobal.  I no longer cling to my way of seeing the world.  I've not changed my liberal values, but I can listen to my conservative husband and respect his viewpoint, sometimes I even agree with him.  I no longer sit in the comforts of our coffee house, sipping my latte and expounding on the evils of mining and development in far-off places of the world.  I recognize how complicated the issues are and how individual is each situation.

LARRY:  As I wrote in the epilogue of The Gift of El Tio, "Karen and I started out at opposite poles, two points of view looking at the world from different angles, acute against obtuse.  Karen saw injustice where I saw opportunity.  She imagined a healthy, vibrant culture, and I, only dysfunction and despair.  Our images of the world were focused by prisms cut concave and convex:  hers, I thought, rose-colored; mine, she thought, as opaque as coal.  It's funny how a shared experience can prove that neither of us was right."

DAB:  What do you miss most after leaving San Cristobal?

KAREN:  I miss the friends we made and being in San Cristobal to witness the changes that continue to affect their lives.

LARRY:  Huddled by a fire while the shaman and the village chief relate stories long into the night, listening to the cold wind whistle around the cracks and the sharp corners of the rocks.  "Are there spirits out there?" they ask with their eyes, "and are they friendly or...?"

DAB:  Do you have plans to go back to Bolivia and visit San Cristobal again?

LARRY:  Are you kidding?  You bet, any time.  There is still so much to experience.

KAREN:  Yes, we will return to San Cristobal.  Our connection has lived on through a young man, Cornelio Gonzales, who came to live with us five years ago in order to learn English.  After achieving a sufficient level of English and with the help of Larry's generous boss, Cornelio studied at our local university - quite a feat for a young man who grew up without a single book - and graduated this past June.  He will attend East Anglia University in England next year where he plans to acquire a Masters in International Development and Education.  His hopes?  To improve education in developing countries.  We hope to visit him in Bolivia when he is Minister of Education!

Once again, I want to thank Larry and Karen for visiting the blog and allowing us to be a part of their lives - even if only for a moment.  As a youngster, I'd always loved geology and archaeology - dirt and dead things, I used to say.  So when the opportunity arose to interview this fascinating couple, I jumped at the chance.  I never expected the depth of the story I found in "The Gift of El Tio" and can highly recommend this touching and heartfelt encounter they shared.  I laughed at Larry's journey on his knees around the cemetery in the icy, freezing wind.  I cried along with Karen at the heartbreaking loss of the village children (even newborn twins).  Soledad was truly an inspiration!  But you'll have to read the book to find out why. :-)  Then you can also find out the gift not only that El Tio gave to the village of San Cristobal but also the gift that Larry gave back to El Tio.

The Gift of El Tio Summary:
Larry, a world-renowned geologist, discovers an enormous deposit of silver beneath a remote Quechua village in Bolivia and unwittingly fulfills a 400-year-old prophecy that promised a life of wealth for the villagers. Karen, a specialist in child development, is deeply disturbed by the prospect of displacing the people in order to open a mine. She challenges Larry to leave the comforts of home and move to the village in order to bear witness to the massive change his discovery will spark. Thus begins the couple's life-changing, ten-year journey into the Quechua community, their evolution from outsiders to trusted friends. Then part two of the ancient prophecy is disclosed to them, and they are shocked by the truth of its predictions: alienation, despair, even cannibalism.

Author Bios:
Larry Buchanan earned his PhD in Economic Geology in 1979 and taught university-level geology for several years, but his love of the field led him to gold and silver prospecting in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In 2006, he won the coveted Thayer Lindsley Award for the San Cristobal silver discovery. Dr. Buchanan has published a dozen scientific works and is a sought-after speaker at international conferences and college campuses.

Karen Gans earned her Master s degree in Early Childhood Development and has thirty-five years of experience as an educator, counselor, and consultant. She taught English in the Quechua village while the couple lived in Bolivia. Ms. Gans and her husband have four children and two grandchildren and reside in Ashland, Oregon.

You can read more about it on their website at or to follow their Tribute Books blog tour

Price: $19.95 paperback, $5.99 ebook
Pages: 254
ISBN: 9781450739146
Publisher: Fuze Publishing
Release: December 2010

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