Brave Lotus Flower Rides the Dragon: A Memoir

Lives can be changed in an instant. For Tracy Todd, that moment came in April 1998. She had walked out of her home with her husband, holding their baby on her hip and dragging a suitcase packed with beach clothes. Seven weeks later, she was pushed through their front door in a wheelchair, unable to move anything except her head.
Everything had changed.

In her memoir Tracy reconstructs the horrifying moments of the accident, and her memory of the split second when she realised that her neck had broken and that from this moment on, everything would be different. We follow her through the first awful days and weeks of her rehabilitation, when she began to learn that everything she’d taken for granted before was now beyond her reach: she couldn’t, at least initially, breathe without assistance, talk, or eat, or evacuate her bowels. When, at her own insistence, she was put in a wheelchair, she fainted repeatedly. She hoped to die.

Press Release - Tracy Todd's Memoir Brave Lotus Flower Rides the DragonBut eventually she went home. Ramps were built. Showers were adapted. Her one-year-old son learned that his mother was different. And her husband at first rejected and then abandoned her.

Against all odds Tracy chose to live, and to do so independently. Divorced, and living on her own with helpers, Tracy learned to turn what had appeared to be a life of humiliation and victim-hood into one in which she took charge of her choices and learned what options were available.

Tracy lives in Mbombela and has become an accomplished and much-sought-after public speaker, inspiring many with her story. She has played a significant and critical role in raising her son. And most significantly, she has found love and emotional fulfilment.

Her story, written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, is engrossing, emotionally engaging, humorous and sometimes frustrating, but it never fails to inspire.

Brave Lotus Flower Rides the Dragon is an honest and intimate memoir that looks into the life of a South African quadriplegic. Many people have never met a quadriplegic and have no idea how to respond when they do. Tracy’s candid details of how she has coped, physically and emotionally, with various day-to-day activities like eating, reading, writing, communicating, bathing and going to the toilet, as well as her romantic and sexual experiences, lays it all bare.

She is a woman who will touch your heart.

In order to publish the book Tracy Todd, and Tracey McDonald of I Love Books, have initiated a crowdfunding campaign through Thundafund. To support this initiative go to  https://thundafund.com/project/bravelotusflowerridesthedragon.

 

The telling of heart-warming adventures South African vet come to an end

The three books by talented South African writer/vet, Mike Hardwich. Photo: Supplied by Tracey McDonald Publishers.

The three books by talented South African writer/vet, Mike Hardwich. Photo: Supplied by Tracey McDonald Publishers.

The Lion and the Lamb – Memoirs of a Vet is an absolutely delightful book by South African author and vet, Mike Hardwich.

KZN-based Mike, recounts the many interesting adventures he enjoyed while treating a variety of wild and domestic animals, from circus elephants (who cry, seriously), racing horses (and their shady underworld), and a (very unkind) ostrich, to the tiniest Marmoset and a pet dassie called Rocky.

His tales are interspersed with warm accounts of the people (including his own family) behind the many animals with which he has come into contact. Told without fanfare or too much sentiment, Mike’s humble passion for his profession belies his experience and talent.

In The Rhino and the Rat this talented storyteller brings us more tales from his interesting career. Sadly, The Tiger and the Tortoise are Hardwich’s “Final Memoirs of a Vet”. In the latter Hardwich speaks of his childhood encounters with animals, his experiences at university, his first and second vet practices and the very important people he comes across. He ends with a description of the Mike Hardwich Foundation, an organisation aimed at sterilising the pets of disadvantaged owners.

The Lion and the Lamb, The Rhino and the Rat and The Tiger and the Tortoise are most enjoyable reads for the whole family. Published by Tracey McDonald Publishers.

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My Lion’s Heart by Gareth Patterson captured my heart

Gareth Patterson working hands on with a lion. He recounts his experiences in 'My Lion's Heart'.

Gareth Patterson working hands on with a lion. He recounts his experiences in ‘My Lion’s Heart’. Photo supplied by  Tracey McDonald Publishers

A review by Brenda Daniels

My Lion’s Heart is the very moving account of author Gareth Patterson’s work with lions in Africa. Whilst having worked with different lion prides, Gareth in this book details his work primarily with the Adamson lion orphans, Batian, Furaha and Rafiki.

More than lions, however, Gareth also discusses the African elephant and covers decades of his work with wildlife in Africa, from the 1980s to present day.

As well as an author (My Lion’s Heart is Patterson’s tenth book), Gareth has contributed to a number of wildlife documentaries and films and is an environmentalist and wildlife researcher. He worked with George Adamson of Born Free fame.

Indeed, in My Lion’s Heart Gareth prefaces his work with an urgent call for “wildlife warriors” to continue the work of Adamson and of other well-known environmentalists. Gareth has certainly taken his own call to heart; in My Lion’s Heart he clearly highlights the problems caused by trophy hunting, the canned lion hunting industry and poaching.

He also explains the importance of preventing the inbreeding and culling of “surplus” lions, factors that often occur in fenced reserves.

But it is Gareth’s passionate and touchingly close relationship with the three lion orphans (his “children”) mentioned above that speaks volumes. It really lays bare the plight of the African lion and has the potential to change people’s mind-sets in favour of the lion. It certainly changed mine.

Orphaned very young, Batian, Furaha and Rafiki bonded with Gareth who became their “father and mother”. Gareth tells the amazing story of how he lived in the Tuli bush with these lions, taught them to hunt, watched them mate and give birth to young, treated their injuries after a territorial dispute and tragically heard of Batian’s death.

When reading My Lion’s Heart I was initially a little dubious about Gareth’s very independent approach to his work. I was affronted by his negative comments about South Africa, the country in which he now resides. And I doubted Gareth’s “spiritual” connection with the lion.

However, Gareth’s own connection with animals cannot be disputed and I agree with his contention that humans have lost touch with wildlife and the natural world.

As well as educating his readers with his work, I think Gareth’s deeply relational approach, achieved at an enormous price to his own mental and physical health, could help begin to reverse the 90 per cent continental decline of the African lion. Thanks to My Lion’s Heart I will follow the lion’s progress with great interest.

My Lion’s Heart is published by Tracey McDonald Publishers, www.traceymcdonaldpublishers.com.

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My Lion’s Heart is available at all leading book stores. The recommended retail price is R265.

Picture supplied by Tracey McDonald Publishers

Picture supplied by Tracey McDonald Publishers

Gareth Patterson with one of the lions he interacted with. Photo supplied by Tracey McDonald Publishers.

Gareth Patterson with one of the lions he interacted with. Photo supplied by Tracey McDonald Publishers.

Enlightening interview with author Melissa Delport

An interview by Brenda Daniels with Melissa Delport

This is the second post for the blog book tour of Melissa Delport’s exciting novel and trilogy, The Legacy. Be sure to see the first (review) post in the tour.

For more information on the author and the tour, click here.

Skilled author, Melissa Delport

Skilled author, Melissa Delport

Brenda (A Feast of Tales): As a South African author why did you choose the USA (or New USA) to situate your story? Why not South Africa?

Melissa (The Legacy): Firstly, let me say that I adore South African fiction – it is colourful and steeped in history and familiarity. I broke tradition in setting my book in America for two reasons: Firstly, to make it more believable. The trilogy begins with a speculative nuclear war. I needed a setting that would be in the midst of the chaos and very involved in the decision-making that led to this catastrophe. Logically, America being a super-power was a perfect fit. The other reason that I chose America as my setting was to appeal to an international audience, given that my concept is geared towards fiction readers, and our fiction market is relatively small here in SA.

Brenda: Tell me about your strong female protagonist – is there a little bit of yourself (or at least what you imagine for yourself) in her? What and how much?

Melissa: I wish! I think it’s more the person I would like to be. Since having children I have become so much more cautious and careful, it is such a responsibility and as a mother you have both the most amazing love for your children, and the most crippling fear of anything happening to them, or yourself. Sometimes I just want to throw caution to the wind and be reckless, and fearless. I would love to have Rebecca’s abilities; I would also feel like I could take on the whole world! That being said, I wanted readers to connect with her, so for all her astounding strength and ability she is still very much human, a mother, friend, lover, and she has to deal with the same emotions and find a balance.

Brenda: I love the futuristic setting; what made you think of this time frame for your story? – Wondering what would happen if there was a nuclear war? Biogenetic engineering today that might enhance human capabilities for good or evil?

Melissa: I needed to set the story in the future to make it plausible, but I didn’t want an overly “futuristic” outlook, so I only jumped forward a few years. The holocaust also set mankind back, so by the time the story commences, 28 years later, the setting is very similar to a current day environment. The only thing that has advanced beyond what we know today is the genetic engineering technology. I didn’t want traditional weapons (guns, bombs, etc.) to play a role, so I opted to make the elite soldiers the new “weapons” and go back to hand-to-hand combat.

Brenda: Give me some insight into the “free will” values that the Resistance are fighting for – is this something you feel is under threat in today’s world, even in a democracy like the USA? Please elaborate.

Melissa: Yes, absolutely I do, particularly here in South Africa. I am not impressed with the political situation going on in our beautiful country. There are far too many chiefs and not enough Indians, and sadly too many of our leaders are power-hungry. I think the character Eric embodies this well, although his intentions are not necessarily all bad, the execution of his vision is very tyrannical. The setting of the book is obviously very dramatised and free will has been completely obliterated. Most dystopias contain an underlying warning of what could potentially come to being if humanity make the wrong choices, and The Legacy is no different.

Brenda: Where did you get your ideas? How easy is it to write something original when there is so much input around us? Think for example of films that involve superheroes and futuristic settings. Why is yours different? What will make people read it?

Melissa: The beauty of the SFF [science fiction and fantasy] genre is that it is not bound by the laws of what we know to be true and possible – it knows no limits other than the vivid reach of the writer’s own imagination. The Legacy is a dystopian action-adventure series, but it is different from other dystopias in that the characters are older, and they are not simply surviving in a devastating environment, they are excelling – because they have been given the skills and the training to do so.

My characters make a conscious choice to fight for freedom and justice; they are not unwillingly foisted into this struggle. There is also the contrast of the barren Rebeldom and the opulence of the New United States, which is similar to a pre-war setting.

Brenda: Tell me something about your writing process – time spent, discipline, place of work, challenges, pleasures, planning, writing process, research?

Melissa: The Legacy Trilogy took almost as long to research as it did to write. I wrote the first two books while I was still working full-time, and with three young children, most of my writing was done at night. As a result I spent two years feeling exhausted, and yet with an amazing sense of achievement. Now that I am writing full-time, I try to treat it as you would any other profession and get most of my work done during the course of the morning, so that I can focus on my children in the afternoon. It is important to find a balance, although I will still invariably sneak in a few chapters when my family have gone to bed and the house is quiet.

Brenda: Can you give us a hint of what to expect in the next two books in the trilogy? Are your ideas formed yet? Are the books written? Does Rebecca’s romance feature strongly? How do you plan to publish – hard copy or online?

Melissa: The second book in the series (The Legion) is currently available in both hardcopy and online across all digital platforms. It was released by my publisher, together with Book 1 (The Legacy) on the 1st July 2014. The final instalment (The Legend) will be released early 2015. I have just finished the final book, and it is moving into the editing phase of publication.

Rebecca’s romantic involvement with the men in her life does feature more heavily in books 2 & 3, and I am happy with the choice she ultimately makes, although a little heartbroken. It is bittersweet now that this series has come to an end, as I have invested so much into these characters and they are very dear to my heart. Fans of the trilogy will, however, be happy to know that I am planning a spin-off series, which will feature some of the secondary characters. The Rebeldom is just too exciting a world to let it end with Rebecca’s story.

Brenda: What’s your next project?

Melissa: I am making final changes and polishing the final book in The Legacy Trilogy, called The Legend, and then I am moving onto a new project, which is a fantasy series that I am very excited to get started on, but which may take me longer than any of my previous books, given the complexity of the plot.

For more information about Melissa’s Publishers, check their site out.

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The Legacy, the first novel in the trilogy.

The Legacy, the first novel in the trilogy.