A More Than a Book Signing book signing

Sunday, November 12, 2017 was a day to remember. The renowned Chinese brush artist and author Nan Rae, hosted a “Shattered Peacock” book signing at her glorious art studio in Burbank, CA. By 2:15, the studio was already full. Nan provided croissant sandwiches from the house of delicious things, Porto’s Bakery, and Amy of Le Jardin Prive created three spectacular floral arrangements, complete with peacock feathers. The studio was saturated with creativity, and the guests felt it.

Nan gave an introduction, saying too many nice things about me, after which I spoke about the themes contained with “Peacock’s” plot. It’s difficult to to speak about the 1979 violent overthrow of Shah Pahlavi without reaching back into Iran’s uniquely rich history for context, so I included a thumbnail description of King Cyrus the Great, who was King of the World before dying in battle in 530 B.C. This man was as ethical as he was brilliant in military strategy. He’s mentioned 23 times in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) for liberating the Jews from Babylonia. He’s also known for his belief in human rights, stated clearly in cuneiform on what we call the Cyrus Cylinder, which was written during his lifetime. I was lucky enough to see it at the Getty Villa some years ago.

A highlight of the day occurred when three attendees stood and recounted their experiences during the Islamic Revolution. Even though I’d spoken with various refugees during the research phase of writing the book, hearing their stories was heartbreaking.

The day was a resounding success, and I’m forever indebted to Nan, Amy and Nikka. Many thanks to all those who bought books, not only for themselves, but for others!

Nature and Nurture

Yes, the desert is what I’ve always thought it was … not! I strolled the perimeters of St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo, CA a couple of weeks ago with a retreat group. We trudged between splotches of shade. We emptied our water bottles too quickly. We were slices of garlic bread under the broiler, browning too fast and ready to burn. But our fearless leader, John West, had us search the parched and cracked stream bed for signs of life.

They were all around us: a clump of cottonwoods, a shrub more green than gray, water-smoothed rocks glistening with mica and pyrite, birds chirping despite the furnace they live in, and rising up before us, the abbey itself, which completely depends on the underground springs running right beneath our sneakers. Veins of life-giving water were everywhere, all around us. We just couldn’t see them. They had to be coaxed to the surface.

It was a reminder that no matter how dry your life, your faith, or your creativity may feel, there is refreshment closer than you realize. You may not see it right now, but it can be coaxed to the surface with patience and trust. You can be diligent without be panicked.

While I still prefer greenery and water, beauty is all around us. Nature’s beauty is a pretty fail-proof way to find something to be grateful for, even if it’s a weed with a pretty flower or a shiny rock in a dry creek. Nature offers us opportunities to nurture ourselves.

Time for beauty

PERSEPOLIS ROYAL TOMBS.jpegPersian culture is so rich because various societies have dominated the area over the ages. In fact settlements go back as far as 4000 BC. The Arabs, Turks, the Mongols and even Alexander the Great had a hand in weaving the fabric that which once was called Persia. Ancient royal tombs can be seen at Persepolis and  Naqs-i Rustam. These tombs are on my bucket list.

An excerpt from Shattered Peacock

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I woke up this morning wanting to share a bit of the book with you. Enjoy!

 

Darius studied the party guests through the haze of dreamy cigarette smoke. A group of the Shah’s “Immortals” nonchalantly piled appetizers on their plates. These Imperial Guards, who served the king, were tall and handsome, their broad shoulders draped with thick gold braids. Their bright uniforms with rows of medals stood in sharp contrast to the subtle grays of the Savile Row bespoke suits worn by the foreign ambassadors and international businessmen. Darius listened carefully. A cacophony of Persian, English, French, Arabic, and German mingled into one exotic Babel-tongue he pretended he understood.

The conversations flowed as smoothly as the drinks. Darius finally was able to distinguish the conversation of a government official discussing oil production with a circle of British and American businessmen.

Something was going horribly wrong. What was that noise? Jarring voices spiked above the gaiety. A group of men was yelling, confusing Darius. Why were they upset?

Without warning, he was yanked back from the railing.

“Nanny, what are you doing?”

She was pulling him away.

“Wait a minute, Nanny, I want to see what’s happening!” Darius’ feet dragged on the carpet as he flailed to find his balance.

“No, Nanny, I don’t want to go yet!”

He opened his eyes. The dream vanished. They were in the desert and the hooded men were yelling at them. His mother was dragging him through the sand toward the trucks. Darius was shocked to see it was late afternoon. What had happened to the dawn for which they’d been longing? He realized his clothes were dry. Was it possible he’d slept through an entire day? He forced his feet to cooperate, running alongside his mother, but even in his groggy state he saw the irony: normally nightmares disappeared when he woke up, but this one disappeared only when he slept.

They were on the move again.

Shattered Peacock is available

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Shattered Peacock is available in print and eBook form on Amazon.com.

Enjoy the ride!

Lisa Di Vita: Historical Fiction

"Shattered Peacock" follows the story of Iran's Persian citizens
after Shah Pahlavi's downfall and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini's
theocratic government. Remnants of 1979's cataclysmic event 
continue to make Iran dangerous even today.

Writing "Peacock" was an opportunity to step into a foreign culture,
an ancient culture in a dire crisis. Consider that true Persian dynastic
rule began with King Cyrus, known as Cyrus the Great, who was born between
590-580 BC. This wise man can be found in the book of Ezra in the Hebrew
Bible (or Old Testament), where he is lauded as a just ruler.
It wasn't that Cyrus didn't conquer cultures and peoples, but that he did
allow them to keep their land, their customs and religions, which restored
hope to the Jews who were living under oppression.Image result for king cyrus of persia
Many rulers came and went for more than 2000
years. Persia's fortunes waxed and waned. Then
in 1979, a great upheaval swept Mohammad
Reza Shah Pahlavi from the Peacock throne.
The Islamic Republic was born beneath
the thumb of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini,
and the world was unalterably changed.

Throughout history, it's usually the poorest 
citizens or specific ethnic groups who are
forced to flee the persecution they face in
their countries. However, in 1979, it was
the educated, the pro-Western and the wealthy
people who had to run for their lives. The greatest minds of Iran
emigrated to the United States and Europe, leaving behind a vacuum in what
was a storied civilization. "Shattered Peacock" explores this phenomenon.
If you enjoy history, you'll savor the accuracy of "Shattered Peacock."
If you enjoy a personal, exciting and thought-provoking book, you'll 
discover one that's ripe for discussion in a book club.