Bonds of Love & Blood
Author: Marylee Macdonald
Publisher: Grand Canyon Press
Published: October 31, 2018 
Pages: 248 
Genre: Short Stories
Twelve stories of wayward travelers. Twelve stamps on the passport of the soul. Walter struggles to see past his disfigurement, but a trip to Thailand and a mysterious woman may challenge his quest for perfection. Married to a workaholic, Leslie is accustomed to solitude until her overbearing Indian mother-in-law turns her kitchen into a verbal battlefield. A woman looks for the perfect souvenir in the Turkish Bazaar and instead finds a passionate love affair. From ice storms in Maine to swimming pools in Vera Cruz, errant souls must grapple with past baggage to forge profound connections and a new sense of direction. At home and abroad, solitary travelers embark on journeys that take them where they never expected to go. Bonds of Love & Blood is a poignant collection of award-winning stories featuring life's unexpected arrivals and departures. If you like intimate accounts of lives at the crossroads, vibrant portrayals of global locales, and elegantly-crafted prose, then you'll love Marylee MacDonald's compelling tales of travel. Buy Bonds of Love & Blood to embark on a heart-wrenching journey of love, loss, and redemption today!
What inspired the book?
I have always enjoyed classic, American short stories. I love to read them because they're typically a "slice of life" rather than a whole life. Often, when I'm traveling, I'll strike up a conversation with a stranger or see something that makes me think, "Aha, that should be a story." I view the twelve stories in this book as mini-novels--just enough background so that the incident captured in the story ripples out into the rest of that person's life.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In fourth grade. I had a story published in my hometown newspaper, The Redwood City Tribune. I suppose I must have imagined writing was something I could be good at.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I have a Master's in Creative Writing and have been a Writer in Residence for the Mesa, Arizona Public Libraries, and when I've taught beginning writers the one thing I stress is that writing is often a far messier--and nonlinear--activity than almost anything else I can imagine. Even if you try to create a plot, that plot often falls apart midway through a book. Characters are unruly. They want to do things their way, not ours. Thus, writing is more life finger-painting, and writers need to just put in a smock to keep their clothes clean. Then, get in there and play.

When did you start writing your book?
I started writing this book about fifteen years ago. All the stories were published in literary magazines and won awards. However, I found that there's often more story or a deeper story, and so some of them underwent additional massaging before I put them in the book.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I've been writing seriously since I was a freshman in college, and after my undergrad degree, I went back for a Master's. So, yes, I suppose I must have always wanted to be a writer. For many years I earned my living as a carpenter, and I chose that career because it did not compete with my writing.

How do you handle writer’s block?
I set a kitchen timer or go to a coffee shop. Sometimes, just writing at a different place is enough to break the logjam.

What time of the day do you usually write?
I start writing at 8 am, then break for a water aerobics class or a long walk at noon. In the afternoon, I edit or write an article for one of my blogs.

What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of becoming a published author?
My least favorite thing is marketing, but learning how to do a good job on that has helped my sales. Now, I view this once distasteful task as an opportunity to connect with readers.

What is your favorite book?
Of the books I've written, I'd say that MONTPELIER TOMORROW is my favorite. It's my debut novel, but it's about a subject I care a lot about--the stress on family caregivers--and I felt that in that book, I was offering some insight into what a family faces when confronted with a long-lasting, terminal disease. The challenge for me was to write a book about impending death that was also leavened with compassion and humor.

What is your favorite thing and least favorite thing about writing?
  Undoubtedly, what I enjoy the most is the writing itself and the revision. I love to "re-envision" a scene and try to make it more vivid.   

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
I think that fiction with a "message" is a sure way to kill a reader's appetite for reading. I don't even like to "sermonize." I'd rather present people with their good points and bad. However, what does tie all the stories in  BONDS OF LOVE AND BLOOD together is my sense that we're all looking for people we can connect to. Sometimes, those are family members. Other times, they're strangers we meet in the oddest places. The story "Almost Paradise" is a good example of that. The main character is a guy with a horrible wine-colored birthmark that he's ashamed of and attempts to hide with thick makeup. When he goes to Thailand with his cousin, it's not his cousin he connects with. Instead, it's "Lady-Man." In life, we often don't know who'll really "get us" until we meet that person. Then we know. There's a heart connection.

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
I hope they'll be entertained by the stories and feel that they've lived vicariously through the experiences of folks they're never met.

Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?
I love listening to music, particularly music from Cuba and Cape Verde. Cesaria Evora and Fantcha are two Cape Verdian singers I particularly like. When I listen to their songs, I can hardly stay in my chair. I want to get up and sashay around the room and smile until my face cracks. Needless, to say, I don't dare listen to their songs while I'm trying to write.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
Gosh, hard to say, simply because my short stories are about people of all ages and of both sexes. Also, there are several different racial groups, from African-American to Japanese.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
I'm finishing up another story collection called BODY LANGUAGE, a companion to BONDS OF LOVE AND BLOOD. The stories in the new book are all about people are making decisions based on how their bodies are reacting. They're infatuated, hungry, fearful, cold, and frightened. A while back I got interested in our "flight or fright" responses, and I wanted to see if I could write stories where the characters are firmly grounded in their body-driven impulses.

What are you reading now?
I'm reading SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a book my grandson gave me for Christmas. It's terrific.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I like to hang out with my kids and grandkids or go for a hike in the hills near Santa Rosa. If I want to drive a little further, I can reach the beaches north of San Francisco, and that's a favorite summertime activity.

Marylee MacDonald writes classic short stories that read like mini novels. Tracy Fisher, a reviewer for Readers' Favorite, said this. "I simply cannot get over how fantastic this book was! Anyone who knows me knows that I love short stories in general. Being able to pick up a book and read a complete story as I'm riding the bus to work or sitting in a waiting room for an appointment is simply a delight. But when I started reading BONDS OF LOVE AND BLOOD, I found a completely different experience. I simply could not put this down." When she's not writing, Marylee MacDonald is walking the beach, strolling through a redwood forest, or hiking in the red rocks of Sedona.
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