Amy Benevento Author of Jackel Island

January 11th, 2013

Amy Benevento was born in Syracuse, New York. She graduated from Oswego State University of New York, with honors, majoring in English and art. She is a fifth degree black belt and has owned Red Sun Academy of Martial Arts for 23 years. Amy Benevento lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and her dog, Pony.

Amy enjoys drawing and painting. She currently runs a Book Club, and has done so for over ten years, along with an Entrepreneurial Group, and a social group called FROG that has over 1700 members. She participates in the Big Brother program, teaches water aerobics, and heads the annual Ghost Walk in downtown Raleigh, a fundraiser to help prevent cruelty to animals. Amy enjoys tennis, biking, history, and canoeing.

Jackel Island Book Synopsis:

Life is paradise for Jamie on Jackel Island, until things go wrong. A multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company hires 21 people to work on a biological research project, sending them all to a small remote island southwest of India. Jamie forms close bonds with the people on the island, and they become like a family she doesn’t have. Tragedy strikes when the people on the island discover that they’re cut off from the outside world. Their computers stop working, the supply ship stops arriving, and they learn that the outside world thinks that they were all killed in a tropical storm that supposedly swept the island. They begin to suspect that they are human test subjects for biological research. They suspect that the research team on the island is to blame, or perhaps the pharmaceutical company, or even the government. They start to turn against each other, and some seem to turn savage. The twist ending will surprise readers.

How did your book come to life?
My story was already alive before I wrote it. The characters have been playing in my head for years. They were alive. It was like I had to write the story to give them a life outside of my head.

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
Actually, I have two favorite characters. One is Evan. He’s hated by most of the people on the island. When things go wrong and the 21 employees find themselves stranded on the island, Evan is blamed. Evan is complex. He’s brilliant with an IQ in the 140’s. He’s world renowned in the science culture. He’s written many texts that have been translated in several languages and thousands of copies are sold throughout the world. He’s mostly calm and controlled, but he has a temper. He shoves a knife through Grady’s hand, and he killed a cat in his youth, but he risks everything to save the people on the island. Or so it seems. The end reveals the truth.

Kane is also my favorite character, and also the favorite character by many readers. He is the wisdom behind the writing, the spiritual voice. He is freakishly tall and is often chopping wood. He’s a man of few words. He never makes it off the island. What happens to him in the end is up to interpretation, but it’s pretty much spelled out.

Are the characters in your books based on people you know?
No. Situations from my past are thrown in the book, but not the characters, ironically. The characters are more symbolic than based on people I know. Tom represents democracy. Jeremy represents our influential youth. Adrian represents our military, or protection and security within a society. Evan represents the intellectual class. Etc.

Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?
I’ve heard feedback from over 30 people who have read the book, and pretty much all of them say that it’s been a page-turner and they couldn’t put it down. It’s action-packed. Also, people say that there’s strong character development.

How long did it take you to write your book?
One year and one month. I started with a vague outline. Throughout the whole process of writing, I kept adding details to the outline, and editing it, switching things around.

How do you start writing a new book? What comes first? The characters? The story?
There’s no right or wrong here. For me, the characters exist first, and I create a story around them. I knew these characters years before I started writing about them. I’ve “played” with them in my head for hears, giving them different scenarios and different story lines. But there’s something intriguing to me about people isolated on an island. I can’t say exactly what it is. I wanted to create a mini-society.

Do you like to write series? Or single titles only?
This is my first novel. I’ve published before, but it was non-fiction.

I think I want to write a series only because I miss the characters terribly, and want them to live on. The thing is, I ended the story completely, wrapping everything up in a tight ribbon. I only left one character open-ended. Everything else just… well… ended.

I was thinking on doing something that has never been done before, I don’t think. I don’t know if this is too revolutionary (or too weird). I was thinking on creating a whole new story-line, but using the same characters. Then, my third novel will be even another story-line completely, but once again with the same characters.

Where can a reader purchase your book?
On Amazon.
I am in the process of e-publishing the book, so it will be available on Kindle in February 2013, unless I hit any unusual bumps.

Where do you find your ideas? Do you carry a notebook in case inspiration strikes?
Most of my ideas come to my while I’m driving or in the shower. It’s hard to write them down while driving or showering. I often write on my hand. All ideas get put in my outline, which was growing and being edited just about daily.

Have you written your entire life? Have you always considered yourself a writer?
I have always known I was a writer, tho I never wrote an autobiography. When I was a little kid, I used to write “books” on scrap paper, using crayon, and I’d staple them together. I would then tape another little scrap of paper on the back of these “books”, and I’d insert a library card in case anyone would ever want to check a book out. No one ever did, ha!

Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do?
I have to write. Writing a story has been nagging at me for decades. I felt like if I died without writing a story, I’d be doing a disservice to myself.

What is your writing process?
Once I started, I wrote every day. I really did. It wasn’t because I am super disciplined, or felt I had to. I wanted to. Writing was FUN! I fought for time to write. Cleaning house, socializing, and doing paperwork all became items on a back burner.

Every day before work, sometimes during lunch, and a lot late at night, I would sit down with my computer and re-read the 5 or so pages I’d written the day prior, or the morning prior. I’d re-work the words and edit. Then I would write about 5 more pages. Sometimes I was rather stuck and would only write about 2 pages… sometimes I’d struggle for a day or two on a paragraph. Sometimes (rarely), I’d push out 10 to 15 pages in one sitting. I’d often be at it until two in the morning. My husband can testify to this.

How did you describe a scene?
I had to describe a barn with a mountain in the background. I image-googled, and literally spent a couple of hours until I found a photo that matched that what was in my head. I would look at the photo, then write. The photo helped me.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
An author has MUCH more control with self-publishing than with traditional publishing.
With traditional publishing, the publishing company often “owns” the writer.
They may say “Change the title” or “Cut out 50 pages” or “omit this character”, etc.

Traditional Publishing = an automatic car
Self-Publishing = stick shift

Would you consider converting one of you stories/published books into a screenplay?
Yes. Actually, I’m in the process of doing this. I understand that I have to tell my story in about 90 pages, which will mean cutting out a LOT. Ouch.

What are your strengths as a writer?
Dialogue & character development.
My weakness is pacing.

How many books in a month do you read?
I read one book a month. I have to; I run a Book Club, ha!
If I wasn’t working, I’d read one book a week. I love to read!

What is the best book you’ve read?
Can I list 3?
–The Kite Runner
–To Kill a Mockingbird
–The Outsiders

State 5 random facts about yourself.
–When I was 7, I was the crocodile in the play Peter Pan. I crawled around on the floor.
–I play tin whistle
–When I was 13, I beat a teacher in chess.
–I worked in New York City next to Grand Central in my young twenties.
–I absolutely love toads. They’re so goofy and lovable.

One more:
As kids, we would bike down a bumpy hill in the woods, be airborne, then land in the small lake.

Do you have a pipe dream?
Yes. Owning a hundred acres, building cabins, hiring people to live there to take care of stray dogs. I would have a doctor live there and pay him well, a mini store, a little school house, theater…

In all the books you’ve read, who is your most favorite character and why?
Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. By far. He combines gentleness with inner strength, a combination you rarely see in a man. Many men are gentle, and many men are strong, but few are both.

Were you a good student? Or were you “bad boy” or “bad girl?”
I was both. I graduated High School with honors, and I graduated college earning Magna Cum Laude. However, I did my share of pranks. I set the clocks back in 10th grade English class so we could get out of class earlier. I painted the dorm bulbs red in the staircases for artistic effect. I put notices under dorm doors saying we’d get an extra week of spring break, using the college administration stationery.

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Health and the War on Foods

January 10th, 2013

Eating real, healthy foods is the best way to keep your weight down and your body healthy.

By Kelley Gaske

Remember back in the 1990′s when we had the no-fat, low-fat craze?  The general public suddenly became wary – fearful, even – of eating anything that contained fat. Labels started popping up on our favorite foods that said things like now with less fat and zero grams of fat per serving.  A war had been waged against one of the three major macro-molecules and this was one war that the fat molecule was not going to win.

But then we realized that if there is no fat in our foods, what the heck is in there?  Sugar. And that’s when the war against the second major macro-molecule was waged.  New slogans appeared that showed your favorite foods were now made with less sugar options; candy was made with low and no sugar, and even ice cream cropped up with no sugar added.

Somehow, even with all these wars on foods, we the people still continued to get heavier and more unhealthy.  Doctors and nutritionists brought us back to the main science of eating, namely the second law of conservation of energy which shows us that energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Thus, if we take in the same amount of energy that we put out each day, we should be able to easily manipulate our bodies into gaining weight, losing weight, or maintaining our current weight.  While this is intrinsically true, there are variables omitted from this perfect system such as the adaptability of the human body and the type of mass lost in weight loss (i.e. losing fat tissue, muscle tissue, water, etc.).

At this point, the general public had thrown up their hands and cried Uncle.  And here we find ourselves, in this past decade, in the era of eating by omission.  Entering any health food section of any market will lead you to slogans such as gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, soy-free, allergen-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, and so many more.  While some of us have good reason to eat by omission, considering the reality of many diseases, disorders, and maladies that can be controlled through diet, the majority of us are merely following the trend – while paying top dollar for products that are of little use to us.

The next time you go to the market and find yourself lured in by clever marketing and peer pressure, ask yourself a few questions.  Am I vegan?  If not, why am I eating and paying for vegan foods?  Do I have a gluten allergy, sensitivity, or Celiac’s disease?  If not, why am I eating and paying for gluten-free foods?  If you are objective, you may find when you leave the market that your tally is less than usual.  And of course then you can put that money towards buying better foods in general – organic, fresh, whole foods which, of course, is where healthier eating starts.

Art City: Metelkova, Ljubljana, Slovenia

January 8th, 2013

Art at Metelkova City, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The ‘Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Center‘, in Ljubljana, Slovenia—more commonly known and much easier said ‘Metelkova’— is a composition of seven buildings and outdoor space run by independent leaders of civic engagement, political action groups, and artists of music, painting, sculpture, literature, theater, printmaking and other arts. It is also well known for its weekend exhibitions (i.e. dancing and flirting and laughing all night.) Metelkova was created in 1991 when the Yugoslav People’s Army vacated the former military barracks on Metelko Street, and several groups of impassioned leaders of contemporary art would move to transform the space into a vital den of and civic art-based culture. These leaders have occupied the area ever since while participation and support has immeasurably. Not surprisingly, this ongoing collision of all types of art, events, gestures, theories and plans for what the space should be, creates a certain ongoing contention that has resulted in great debate, and sometimes, destruction.  In the summer of 2006, the Inspectorate for the Environment and Spatial Planning demolished ‘the Small School’. Cultural centers similar to Metelkova are found throughout Europe and are an important component in breathing a historic flow into contemporary Europe. It is a little DADA. A bit Zeitgeist. It is a taste of the old and one of the new.





Courtesy of World on a Fork. © 2012, all rights reserved.


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