“That time I was certified I was dead only for seconds” — Dakota Franklin’s TRIPLE THREAT THRILL

CoolMain Press Proudly Announces
of the
 Volume Appearing in
Dakota Franlin’s Grand Series

“A wonderful story full of action and remarkable detail
Boyd S Drew

“The Queen of Racing Scribes”
John Houlton


by Dakota Franklin

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On her thirty-third birthday she is broken in body from 15 years of racing on the ragged edge, and in spirit from bad luck and bad decisions in choosing her men. For her family she gave up Drew the ‘fortune hunter’, her beloved Hiroshi died headless in her arms, and Erich wanted only to use her to further his own ambition. Still, even if after a two-year absence from driving to be a ‘good wife’ to the treacherous pervert Erich she will never be grand prix champion, she is Jack Armitage’s all-time favorite driver, engineer and racing executive: ‘Triple Threat’ Thrill Morgan, the Parachute Queen Jack sends to salvage impossible situations in his auto racing empire.

Jack brings Thrill Morgan back from despair with Erich in Monte Carlo to be his successor as the head of Armitage when the younger generation takes over. First she will be Chairman of Armitage America which, in the usual excessive Armitage style, has vastly overextended its racing program. Jack sees the appointment as an opportunity for Thrill, who made almost her entire racing career in the Far East and Europe, to be a champion back home in the Indy Racing League—and perhaps in the Indy 500 itself. Jack also wants to confirm Thrill’s status as one of the most versatile racers of all time with a win in NASCAR stock cars, preferably at Daytona, and a win at Le Mans, where she has always driven support for the Armitage partner Charlie Cartwright.

Drew, now a successful publisher whom no one can accuse of being a fortune hunter, lives in San Francisco, just a short plane ride up the coast from Armitage America’s test track in the mountains back of Santa Barbara.

With work, her racing and her burgeoning relationship with Drew to keep her busy, Thrill is slowly rebuilding her shattered self-image. Briefly it seems as if the only question is: Will Thrill, born so fortunate, so talented, so celebrated, so loved by so many, once more end up in surgery — or worse:

‘That time I was certified I was dead only for seconds, then I was bitching Dieter, the trauma specialist, for carelessly dropping a bottle — which I caught as the other certifying physician drew the sheet over my face.’

–and all alone.

But Erich de Stahl will not give up his prize so easily. The son of an armaments tycoon, he commands the loyalty of whole platoons of Corsican thugs. If he cannot have Thrill, then no one else will either. If Erich cannot have the glittering racing career he wanted, he is determined that she will not have it either. A psychopath far more vicious than any on the most cutthroat track, Erich de Stahl will stop at nothing to revenge himself on the woman who, for a parting gesture, sank his family’s 190 foot, $100m superyacht across the mouth of the harbor at Monte Carlo so that the police would be forced to arrest him for child molestation.

‘You maliciously sink my ship, you blackmail me, you mutilate my employees—and now you harass my son,’ Baron de Stahl said. ‘This cannot go on.’

‘Your son sent your employees to murder Thrill,’ Charlie said. ‘They did murder one of her guests. Your sainted son also promised to give Thrill to those Corsican thugs to rape.’

The Baron shrugged in his greatcoat.

His indifference shocked me more than anything else in the whole affair so far except seeing Tom Tripp stupidly killed because a Corsican thug did not have his reflexes under control.

Thrill is of course insanely competitive. That is how she rocketed to the top in a profession, a sport and a business for men in which the survivors are not renowned for their sensitivity and delicacy.

‘Kiss my ass, Lasalle. Kiss my ass again. Then kiss my ass goodbye!’

Thrill doesn’t care how many Corsican thugs Erich sends: she will return them damaged. But Erich, maddened by rage at Thrill’s celebrity as she returns to racing and takes Armitage public, cannot stop escalating. All the signals are that Erich is plotting some violent action against Thrill.

The vastly experienced Harringtons protecting Thrill are desperately worried. They consider Thrill to be one of them, as violently proactive as they are. So they cannot understand why Thrill as the head of Armitage must be more circumspect.

I turned to stare into Commander Oliver’s eyes. ‘And you have the cheek to lecture me about being reckless? We’re sitting in the Grecian colonnade at Armitage America’s headquarters—calmly discussing cold-blooded murder.’

‘Erich already set you up once for cold-blooded murder,’ Charlie said. ‘He’s doing it again. How many chances do you want us to give him?

But Erich, a master-manipulator, has faked them out, misdirected their attention to strike where Thrill least expects the blow, where it will destroy her forever as a woman and a human being if this time she does not win.

Triple Threat Thrill is loaded with engrossing sidelights on the rock’n’roll hysteria of celebrity, superb racing in the States, Europe and the Far East, a sensual love story and brilliant illuminations of a top racing team wielding the power of its wealth and fame.

 Get a sample & buy at
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(Kindle at Smashwords)

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Filed under Automobile/Motor Racing, Publishing, Reading, Listening, Watching, Reviews, Sports

“Lovers and enemies alike have their price.” — FESTIVAL by Andre Jute

CoolMain Press Proudly Announces
publication of
the classic thriller of the performing arts
by André Jute


“Lovers and enemies alike have their price.”

Special introductory price of $2.99.
Get a sample or buy from
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N

When the formidable Iron Curtain conductor Vlaklos decides to defect to the West at the Adelaide Festival of Arts, consequent events electrify an elite group related through their loves, their hatreds, their secrets and their ambitions. Lovers and enemies alike have their price.

The rising impresario Ransome is torn between his fear for the life of the great conductor and his duty to his friend O’Neal, whose re-election as Premier depends on the smooth running of the Festival. A complication is Ransome’s long friendship with Kerensky, the KGB’s cultural watchdog over Vlaklos: if the conductor defects, Kerensky will be shot. Ransome also has to cope with the shifting political pressures applied to him from every side. All this while trying to run the largest arts festival in the world, with nobody to turn to except Mellie, his fiancée. And even she, with the benefit of having “the great plots of the world explained to me over breakfast” by her communications-tycoon father, cannot detect all the currents before the last night of the Festival, when they converge explosively.

The New York Times hailed André Jute’s literary début, Reverse Negative, as “wild but exciting” and the London Evening News thought it “so bizarre, it’s probably all true”. In FESTIVAL he brings together his intimate experience of the high-powered performing arts world, his inside knowledge of the security apparats of the world and his abiding love of Adelaide with the terse narrative, pointed dialogue and sharp-focus characterization that elicited such high praise around the world for his writing.

The resulting novel lifts the lid off the world’s premier arts festival to show the deals that sustain it, the careers it makes and breaks, the men and women of the city itself and from all over the world whose lives are changed by it. FESTIVAL displays all the suspense mounting to a shattering crescendo — and the astounding twist-in-the-tail — that is the hallmark of this highly original writer of elegant, credible and truly memorable fiction.

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Novel dressing for avocado


Avocade is traditionally eaten with a vinaigrette sauce or, in really common restaurants, with tinned or frozen shrimps in pink sauce slapped into the middle. I don’t find either too exciting, so I normally eat avocado with soy sauce and black pepper, which give me both salt and pepper tastes. Roz likes her avocado with the smokey flavour of sesame oil. So it was only a matter of time until I tried truffle oil. It’s brilliant, actually, but I don’t know that I want would want it every day. It seems to me that there is enough oil in avocados already not to be adding any. The thing about my fave dressing of soy sauce and black pepper is that neither fights the avocado’s natural oil, nor makes it doubly oily, but instead complement it. That’s the best of both worlds, I think. — Andre Jute

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“Stupid books and stupid rumors about sketching and painting!” — Marialena Sarris


Marialena Sarris: Grapes, watercolour, 35x50cm.
You can see more of Marialena’s art here

mlscr14-148x150Marialena Sarris is a Greek painter made very angry by the “stupidity” of Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Every day I see another victim of this stupid book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. This book is the ultimate art alibi. I made the mistake of reading it and became angry with what I read.

Edwards’ book tries to persuade people that they are not able to sketch because they don’t use the right side of their brain and dedicates loads of pages to providing the supposed scientific proof.

We don’t draw with the right side of our brains, we draw with our whole brain, and a well developed right brain hemisphere is the one that makes the difference between a very good painter and the average sketcher.

BUT anyone who can write can sketch. That is a rule. If schools spent the same amount of time, that they spend on teaching writing, to teach sketching, all people would be decent sketchers in the same way all schooled people know how to draw letters on their paper. Asian people literally draw letters on their paper with a brush, so that even the worst of Chinese pupils, knowing how to write Chinese letters, already know how to draw.

Practice and method is the answer.

But so many are misinformed by Drawing on the Right Side of Brain. It is not their fault but the misinformation becomes a handy alibi for not putting in the time and the practice.

Stupid books and stupid rumors about sketching and painting!

Copyright ©2014 text and images Marialena Sarris.

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Filed under Reviews, Sketching

“…a good job of presenting the Revolution itself as a another character…” — J. A. Beard

Coolmain Press
proudly announces publication of
cwhp_cover_4_brothers_enemies_800pxhBROTHERS & ENEMIES
Book 4 of the 75-Year Saga
by André Jute

…recalls Russian literature at its finest. VANGUARD ELITE was a real pleasure to read, the writing is rock solid and flawless – every word is the right word, in the right place. The next volume is written and awaiting publication. Bring it on.


The exploration of the mindset of the Revolution is fascinating.The complex nature and motivations of the revolutionaries and the sorry state of Russia at the time are explored in a way that makes the suffering palpable in an engaging way without pretending that the people who want to be in charge are necessarily as noble or capable as some of them would like to believe. The author does a good job of presenting the Revolution itself as a another character, and through its atmosphere and details begins to offer a commentary and explanation for what history will further bring.
J. A. Beard/Good Book Alert

It reads like a literary classic and as a screenplay for a historical documentary miniseries. The language is lush, vibrant even when describing the horrors associated with the Bolshevik Revolution. The imagery through words painted by author Andre Jute makes me feel that I am moving through an art gallery where I wish to study every aspect, explore every color, more than once. I cannot remember when I have read a book of this caliber in recent years.
Doug Glassford/Amazon

“I am reading this now. So well-written, with the combination of graceful, elegant prose and tough subject matter that makes Andre one of the best around.”
Matt Posner on Facebook

Stalin was paranoid. He had good reason to be. He planned a new Terror. Somebody plotted to kill him before he could start the new cycle of arrests and executions. But it wasn’t the Jewish doctors Stalin killed for it. The plotters were people Stalin overlooked as
totally loyal, true patriots.
In immediately postwar Italy, among the reprisals and communist wrecking, Joshua Adams and Hillel Hirsch play off the Mafia and the Camorra on the international black market to raise the funds to buy an entire nation, plus the loyalty of the yet-to-be Israeli they aid and abet against the British, who want only to send Jewish refugee ships bound for Tel Aviv to the bottom of the Mediterranean. In Ankara, meanwhile, their friend Kim Philby is hours from being exposed.
William Harvey McQueen is the FBI’s point man against Stalin’s killer goons and atomic spies. Years before he would beintroduced to President Kennedy as “the American James Bond”, he exposes spies with offices in the White House itself. Tropic of Treason tells how— and above all why — David Adams recruits Harvey McQueen to the CIA, where he exposes Burgess, McLean and Philby as Russian spies.

All in one volume at only
Get a sample/buy: iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N

Book 4 of Cold War, Hot Passions

cwhp_series_800pxhCold War, Hot Passions
by André Jute
The epic saga
of ten intertwined families
who live and die by their love of
their Russian and American motherlands
and the searing passions they
arouse in each other

In the beginning they were impassioned young revolutionaries risking only own their lives for justice. The prince, the soldier, the peasant and the baroness became the founders of three families, steadfast in love and war, whose generations are enfolded in the sweep of humans and inhumans, inquisitors and victims, the betrayals of friends and family, the show trials of colleagues, the psychiatric tortures of dissidents, that was Russia under the Communists, right up to glasnost, when the fourth generation must answer the question, Was the result worth three generations of tragic suffering and sacrifice?

And the Americans who opposed them for liberty, the patrician Adams family, the refugee Hirches, the redneck Remptons who became political powers in the land, the McQueens who did not count the price of rising from smalltown mid-America to the highest levels of the nation, the Drexlers who had always served their country, the implacable Southern Hubbells who could — and did — threaten Presidents, and the clever Talbots whose shy Joanne married the handsome Russian who was the cleverest traitor of them all.

In his first novel for two decades, a storyteller who has always had a knack with the true history of men and women will touch your heart and thrill your mind with the risks these men and women took with their lives and their families for the ideals they were born to — which some betrayed, and some paid too high a price for in love, even with their lives.

• around 2000 pages
• launched in eight volumes 

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“….exactly what it is like in the Heart of Darkness” — John Braine/Sunday Telegraph

CoolMain Press Proudly Announces
Back by Popular Demand
Second in Andrew McCoy’s
About the Quintessential Hard Man of Africa

by Andrew McCoy

The equation is simple: on the day the last elephant in the world is shot, ivory will be more valuable than gold. Two men — one a merchant prince, the other a big-game hunter — are preparing for that day by acculumating vast hoards of the irreplaceable tusk. It is the hunter who makes the first mistake, and pays the price.

His widow engages Lance Weber on the lethal brief of reclaiming her inheritance from the very heart of war-torn Africa. Lance is on the run from the ghost of Bruun, a man believed by every authority to be dead, who is still killing Lance’s employees, friends, parents, drawing concentric circles of terror ever tighter around Lance himself. Lance wants no ivory but he is driven by the need to avenge the many innocent dead and to expunge the evil of Bruun from the face of the earth. Bruun has shown that he too lusts for the ivory, so Lance sets himself, the ivory — and the beautiful widow — as bait for the mad predator. Their violent duel carves a scar across the face of the globe, from Sydney to Kent to Macao, from the harsh red grit of Africa to the suppurating green lushness of the Opium Triangle.

— dust-jacket blurb by John Blackwell, from the original hardcover edition

It did not occur to Mpengi that men would die in Macao, the China Seas, Brussels, Tokyo, the Burmese jungles, Africa and the Kent countryside because the bellies of his children were empty. He did not know of these places.

What Mpengi did that would have such disastrous effects around the world, what he did to relieve the gnawing mouse in the bellies of his children, was simplicity itself. He wenr to the camp of the Englishman with the red face and the luxuriant white moustache and told him where to find the last six elephants in the world.

— from BLOOD IVORY by Andrew McCoy

What the critics said:

“Mr McCoy gets on with the job of telling us exactly what it is like in the Heart of Darkness. He has the soldier’s eye for terrain and the soldier’s eye for character. This has the ring of truth.”
John Braine/Sunday Telegraph

“Very rough, exciting, filmic, and redolent of a nostalgie de boue d’Afrique. Full of the rapport and affection for blacks experienced only by the genuine old Africa hand.”
Alastair Phillips/Glasgow Herald

“Like the unblinking eye of a cobra, it is fascinating and hard to look away from, powerful and unique.”
Edwin Corley/Good Books

“I found this work excellent. I recommend it as a book to read on several planes, whether of politics, history or just as thriller — every episode is firmly etched on my memory. It is certainly a most impressive work of fiction.”
“H.P.”/BBC External Service

“Like a steam hammer on full bore.”
Jack Adrian/Literary Review

“Something else again. The author has plenty of first-hand experience of the conditions he describes so vividly.”
Marese Murphy/Irish Times

“Totally convincing fiction.”
Colonel Jonathan Alford, Director, Institute for Strategic Studies/BBC World at One

“The reader is in good hands.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Even in an entertaining thriller he makes us see ourselves anew.”
La Prensa

“Graphic adult Boys Own Adventure.”
The Irish Press

“Well written by somebody who has lived the life: a cracking read.”
Grant MacNeill/Amazon

Buy it or get a sample at:
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1911 was a very good year for writers: best Brittanica ever, birth of the Colt Model 1911, “the most referenced firearm in 20th Century literature”

1911 was a very good year for writers:
best Brittanica ever,
birth of the Colt Model 1911,
“the most referenced firearm in 20th Century literature”

R. Doug Wicker, who always stands ready to advise other writers on firearms, and see also, has several articles up and coming soon on the most common US pistol, and one of it’s putative “replacements”. Doug says:


“In a run-up to next week’s shooting review of the Colt M1991A1, yesterday I posted Historical Firearms — The Colt Model 1911.  If you’re a purveyor of fiction that involves firearms then you may want to take a look at this brief history.  The M1911 is probably the most referenced firearm in 20th Century literature, and is ubiquitous in almost any movie or television show in which handguns play a major role in the storyline including pretty much anything dealing with the U.S. military.”


“And next I’ll present a post on what it’s like to actually operate and fire one of these classic pistols.



Filed under Reading, Listening, Watching, Reviews, Writing


As I was writing to Alitogata about phi, the golden ratio, and the Parthenon, my eye caught a vignette sitting on a drying rack in the window, a painting I made a while ago. So here, just for you Alitogata, SATURDAY NIGHT SACRIFICE AT THE PARTHENON:

Andre Jute: Saturday Night Sacrifice at the Parthenon

Andre Jute: Saturday Night Sacrifice at the Parthenon

I have no idea whether at the relevent time there were orange groves, or cattle, or geese, on the hill below the Parthenon, but they must have kept the sacrifices somewhere. And oranges at the time would have been much smaller than the uniform size Euro-monsters (with zero taste <tm>) that we get today.

SATURDAY NIGHT SACRIFICE will be followed by the village bop.

Bookmark this blog for painting tips, tool and and material reviews, and, of course, paintings, books, controversial articles on any subject under the sun, and general amusement for the intelligent. If you’re a visual artist you may like to know that Andre is often to be found at the Sketching Forum.

Images and text copyright © Andre Jute 2014


Filed under Sketches, Sketching

A Plein Air Painting Expedition by Bicycle: a photo essay by Andre Jute

A Plein Air Painting Expedition by Bicycle
a photo essay by Andre Jute


This looks like something I could paint!


There’s even an appreciative audience. In the bicycle basket the complete kit of easel, black bag with paints and tools, and shooting stick to sit on.


Set up is quick. Once the easel is set up and the canvas clamped, the repurposed leather messenger bag is just hung open on the easel and the shooting stick opened to lean against or sit on. The paints in the bag are oil bars, which is pigments in wax. I don’t use a palette with oil bars, just holding the oil bars in my hand and digging out as much as I want with a silicon colour shaper, which saves on cleaning brushes. The entire process is solvent free, odorless, non-toxic.


The painting I made.

For more on Andre’s bicycles, see Bicycling.
For more on Andre’s painting see Painting

Text & images copyright © Andre Jute 2014


Filed under General, Sketches, Sketching

A heartshaped pin of tiger’s eye


Tiger's Eye Pin by Roz Jute

Tiger’s Eye Pin by Roz Jute

The beautiful and talented Mrs Jute has no need to write on the envelope enclosing a birthday card. The stickpin with tiger’s eye heart (my favourite stone) is enough to announce both the intended recipient and the sender of the card within. Look at my halo shine on the edge of the cushion of tiger’s eye!

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Filed under General, Humor & other BS

Buggins’ Turn reviewed: “quirky, humorous and downright terrifying-to-the-funny-bone”

buggins__turn_cover_800pxhBuggins’ Turn reviewed: “quirky, humorous and downright terrifying-to-the-funny-bone” — see the full review

$2.99 and equivalents at all good bookstores.
All formats including Kindle to sample & buy at Smashwords
Also at iTunes Kobo B&N

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“The hilarious crossover read”: Buggins’ Turn the original screenplay by André Jute

CoolMain Press Proudly Announces
publication of
“The hilarious crossover read”

Buggins' Turn by Andre Jute

Buggins’ Turn
the original screenplay
by André Jute

W. S. Buggins is the nerdiest wimp ever, an embarrassment.
A poet, for crying out loud.
Now the rappa-revo Bloody Raztuz Razzamatazz has recorded his poems.
And Buggins,
with only a little prodding from Celia
— the beautiful stockbroker —
is blossoming into a guerilla consumer advocate.
With violence and destruction of property.
A rock’n’roll romantic comedy we all wish would come true.

$2.99 and equivalents at all good bookstores.
All formats including Kindle at Smashwords
Also at iTunes Kobo B&N

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Filed under Publishing, Reading, Listening, Watching

Olden Times, Modern Language


 Olden Times, Modern Language
Uvi Poznansky explains why her hero, the biblical David,
speaks in modern vernacular

My new trilogy, The David Chronicles, presents a surprising contrast before you: the story harkens back to biblical times—yet by design, it is expressed in modern language. Why? Because such is my way to suggest to you that this is no fairytale. It is happening here and now. I invite you to step into the skin of my character, become David, and look yourself in the mirror.

Readers often ask me, “Were you quoting the bible or paraphrasing? I’m used to read the King James version, and I’m certain you aren’t.” To which I say, “All the English versions—King James included—are translations. Therefore, they are interpretations of the original Hebrew, in which I am versed to the point of knowing it by heart.”

In this trilogy, the choice of modern language is intentional. The entire book is greatly informed by art through the ages, including modern art, which adds multiple viewpoints to every moment in the story. This artistic versatility is reflected in my writing. Here is but one example, that was inspired inspired by a painting of David and Bathsheba by Chagall

bathsheba small

I try to take control of my desire by playing my lyre and writing poetry, but notes and words fail me. Everything I compose these days seems to be but a pale shadow of a shadow of what Bathsheba means to me. 

And the one image that keeps coming back to me is our reflection in the glass, where our faces melded into one. My eye, her eye, and around us, the outline of a new, fluid identity. A portrait of our love, rippling there, across the surface of the wine.

I feel great responsibility for all my characters. My utmost wish is to convey their voices and their experiences in a faithful manner. However I take none of them as a sacred, perfect figure, which to my surprise may offend some readers. Please keep in mind, I do not claim my story as gospel.To me, perfect characters are boring and unreal. I am interested in mining the internal conflicts in their souls. In an era of cruelty, when destroying the enemy is deemed a divine directive, David’s search for a path to power leads him in ways that are, at times, scandalous. Notorious for his contradictions, he is seen by others as a gifted court entertainer, a successful captain in Saul’s army, a cunning fugitive, a traitor leading a gang of felons, and a ruthless raider of neighboring towns who leaves no witnesses behind.

Rise to power frontcover- 1mHow does he see himself, during the first phase of his life? With his hands stained with blood, can he find an inner balance between conflicting drives: his ambition for the crown, his determination to survive the conflict with Saul, and his longing for purity, for a touch of the divine, as expressed so lyrically in his psalms and music?

Not only is David a conflicted character, striving to find his better self—but so are other characters, each bearing her anguish. Take Michal, daughter of king Saul, as an example. My story springs out of very few lines given to her in the bible. You may remember that when David dances in front of the arc, she despises him in her heart. Such is the bitterness of love that has turned to hate.

In the first volume of the trilogy, titled Rise to Power, Michal is a tragically conflicted figure. Because of her royal upbringing, her pride makes her look down upon David. To her he is an outsider and a commoner. And yet, in spite of herself, her heart is consumed by love for him.  She is doomed, in the end, not to have children. This is something I explore from the beginning of their relationship. Here is a glimpse of how he sees her on their wedding night:

I glance at her as she climbs up over me into her bed and tucks herself under the blankets, and I remember what Joav told me about girls, just a few days ago. It’s all just flesh, he said, no matter how fancy their garments. In bed, they’re all the same. 

I must tell him he made a mistake. This girl is different.

With her narrow hips and her flat belly, which is matched by an equally flat chest, Michal looks like a boy. And trapped in that skinny body, pounding there with palpable longing, is the heart of a woman, a proud woman, cursed with love.

What I want most of all is for the characters that have sprung from my mind onto the paper to continue their journey, and spring from the paper into your mind. That, for me, would be the best reward.

twisted_front_cover vhome-front-title_sm
apart from lovefavorite son small


Uvi Poznansky

Uvi Poznansky

For more about Uvi, visit her blog, follow her on Twitter @UviPoznansky and like her Facebook page.

Also, check out her Amazon page, which includes her bio, her animations (under the title Author Video) and the list of her books. Most of them are available in ebook, audiobook, and print editions.

The David Chronicles includes volume I, Rise to Power, and volume II, A Peek at Bathsheba. Volume III, A Search for Redemption, is still on the drawing board.

© Copyright 2014 Uvi Poznansky. Published on Kissing the Blarney.



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A spectacular performance of La Boheme on Lake Massaciuccoli

puccini_s_lake_800pxhThe hard life of an editor just doesn’t let up.
Lisa Penington is a stalwart of the Editorial Menagerie, where she edits books byDakota Franklin, Andrew McCoy and Andre Jute for CoolMain Press.
Every year in July and August Lisa takes a break at her house near Nice, with side trips to the open-air opera in Tuscany.

lisa_waiting_out_rain_at_outdoors_opera_800pxhPUCCINI FESTIVAL
by Lisa Penington

We missed out on a visit to the Puccini Festival last year but my daughter and I made it again this year. Torre del Lago was buzzing as usual at this time of year and our first visit was to Turandot, an opera I have seen eight or nine times but which never ceases to enchant. The production was spectacular, beautifully dressed and well sung. Surprisingly for August in Tuscany the night was chilly and a great commerce was done by blanket sellers! We had not expected rain on the Thursday but literally five minutes before the end the conductor signified that the orchestra should stop and we all rushed for cover in the foyer of the arena as the deluge started.

At least that was better than my Verona experience some years ago when it rained for an hour in the first interval, then after the second break we waited in vaIn for the forecasters to announce an end to the bad weather. We left without seeing the last act, the one everyone is waiting for with the wonderful aria Nessun Dorma.

toasting_clear_weather_800pxhWe had expected bad weather on Friday but to our surprise we were warm and comfortable during La Boheme with no sign of the expected rain despite the threatening clouds you can see in our shot of Lake Massaciuccoli taken as we walked to the arena. This was a new production by the veteran film director Ettore Scola and it was very beautiful. The Cafe Momus scene was outstanding with a great atmosphere as the set had a second floor where you could see waiters serving customers while the action was proceeding in the street outside. Both Mimi and Rudolfo were excellent, experienced singers from the famous opera houses of the world. Daniela Dessí is apparently the first singer to perform an encore of ‘Vissi d’arte’ at the Teatro Comunale in Florence since Tebaldi in the ’50s. It was nice to be able to stay to give them the applause that was missing due to the rain the night before.

This time we stayed on a great little B&B right next to Puccini’s villa/museum so there was no rush for the cars after the performance.

A perfect stay!

More from Lisa:
The hard life of an editor
Three days in Tuscany

Text and photographs © Copyright Lisa Penington 2014

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The 10 most beautiful bicycles, according to the editors of the hoon’s automobile magazine, Top Gear


The 10 most beautiful bicycles, according to the editors of the hoon’s* automobile magazine, Top Gear, starts with the bike above… That abomination is indicative of most of the rest of their choices.

One has to wonder whether any of them cycle.

They aren’t too hot on auto styling either.

Andre Jute

*a hoon is an Australian road hooligan


Filed under Cycling

Cycling history personified! On his 90th birthday, my bike builder is honored by Volkswagen.

Henk Kluver, the master craftsman who built my everyday bike, a Utopia Kranich, and made the coachlines on it, is 90, and in recognition of his lifelong dedication to quality transport, has been given a brand-new VW Transporter for being a “real craftsman” — that’s the “egte vakman” they’re searching for near the beginning of the touching video.

Among other things the video shows Meester Kluver assembling a near relative of my Kranich crossframe by hand, and, most interesting of all, coachlining it with a special tool.

90 and still working!

See my bicycle page  for my other bikes. This photo essay on my Utopia Kranich includes more images of Meester Kluver at work, and also of the 1930s version of my bike.

Andre Jute
Riding history


Filed under Cycling, Cycling, Sports

SuperWhooper Escapes the Isle of the Damned

The Bandon River, on which I live, is one of the places the Whooper Swans overwinter. I often ride out on either of the two roads that flank the field on which they sit. You can get very close on one road, where cars have accustomed them to noise and people, and on the other you can look down on them with binoculars. But you shouldn’t conclude from this painting’s name that it is a realistic rendition of a Whooper; it isn’t, it is an allegory, a Whooper crossed with Dante’s Inferno, and I’ve crossbred it with a snow goose from some vague notion that a snow goose wouldn’t like the heat of Sodom & Gomorrah. The mind of a literarily inclined artist is awfully confused— er, I mean subtle.

Andre Jute: SuperWhooper Escapes the Isle of the Damned, acrylic on canvas, 2014, 6x8in

Andre Jute: SuperWhooper Escapes the Isle of the Damned, acrylic on canvas, 2014, 6x8in

I enjoyed making the Isle in the background so much in acrylic with a colour shaper that I’m ordering an oil bar (a thick stick of pigment mixed into wax that one applies directly to the canvas) of burnt sienna to slash at a larger canvas. I’m not ordering a set of oil bars because I really like working with water soluble oils and have plenty of other media, including normal solvent-based oils; we’ll see how I like one oil bar, then perhaps I’ll buy a set.

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Filed under Sketches, Sketching

Painting with bicycle found. Unfortunately, it’s a fraud!

Geocycle on the Thorn forum found the exact image I was thinking of. This is what I was looking for:

Fake bicycle poster with "Vincent van Gogh" background

Fake bicycle poster with “Vincent van Gogh” background

And this is what made me think of Vincent van Gogh, because he did paint the background.

Vincent van Gogh, Langlois Bridge at Arles

Vincent van Gogh, Langlois Bridge at Arles

Someone added a rider and a bicycle over a crude copy of a van Gogh scene. No wonder I couldn’t find it in the Musée d’Orsay!

Thanks to all who helped solve the puzzle for me by suggesting avenuses of investigation. Give Geocycle the big cigar!


Filed under General, Sketches, Sketching

Painting of artist with bicycle? Who knows where to find it?

I’m looking for a painting of an artist with a bicycle.  He’s standing on an angle, perhaps coming up from a river, fields and maybe factories in the background. The bicycle is a Pedersen. Can you help me find it?


Here I have  Robert Rosenblum’s beautiful book of the paintings in the Musee d’Orsay open on my treadmill and am paging through it, looking for the “missing” painting of the artist with a bicycle. I’m also in the photo; you can see my halo.


But it’s slow work. There are about 900 pages in the book: here it lies on a box for a 100 canvas panels, so you can see how thick it is. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, who published it, give real value for money! More books of paintings from our shelves to follow until I find it, because it’s needling at me to know the painting exists and not be able to put my finger on it.

— Andre Jute



Filed under Sketches, Sketching

Desiree (a dromedary) yawns, or perhaps intends to spit on the sketcher

Andre Jute, The Circus passes (without incident): Desiree (a dromedary) yawns, or perhaps intends to spit on the sketcher, 2014, approx 8x4 inches, acrylic on wax paper

Andre Jute, The Circus passes (without incident): Desiree (a dromedary) yawns, or perhaps intends to spit on the sketcher, 2014, approx 8×4 inches, acrylic on wax paper

There was some paint left over after I made a painting in my book of canvas sheets. It was still wet, so I couldn’t turn a page to make a new sketch. But I had the wax paper from my sandwiches… It pays not to be a litterbug!


Filed under Sketches, Sketching