Conversation with writer Mark Fine by Fiona Mcvie of “Authors Interviews”

Hello and welcome to Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

Thanks for inviting me, Fiona

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name.

Mark Fine, though I wish I had a few more syllables in my name. I envy your four: Fi/ona Mc/vie.

 Fiona: Where are you from?

Born in the City of Gold—Johannesburg, in faraway South Africa. I now live in sight of Catalina Island, south of Los Angeles.

 Fiona: A little about yourself (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I’m a veteran of the record industry; worked with wonderful artists like Sheryl Crow, Boys II Men, Bon Jovi, and Bryan Adams. It was tremendous being around such creative artists, on a daily basis, and help them achieve their creative aspirations.

Unfortunately, my late wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I quit my music gig to care for her, and raise our two boys. Frankly, I surprised myself at how well I took to becoming ‘Mr. Mom’.  In reflection, the most rewarding mission of my life. My sons have really prospered. The elder is a real rocket scientist at SpaceX. The younger is conquering it at business school. Both grateful and proud. Thankfully, romantically speaking, life has afforded me a second chancewith a wonderful soulmate.

 Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

I just released the audiobook for The Zebra Affaire on Audible.com.  For someone who spent a major part of his career in the recording studio, it’s odd it took me this long to co-produce this recording. Almost 10 hours—unabridged. Truthfully, I needed a voice actor with South African roots to do the narration. When I chanced upon the talentedDennis Kleinman, everything then changed; I had no excuse to not move forward with the audio project.

Dennis is familiar with the dialects and colloquialisms that make The Zebra Affaire so authentic. And for the listener—through my words and Dennis’s voice—Elsa and Stanwell’s struggle to preserve their forbidden love against extraordinary odds (the full force of the apartheid regime), is vividly brought to life in this audiobook. HEAR an excerpt of Dennis Kleinman’s compelling narration HERE. Briefly, let me set the scene. These are the events leading to Elsa and Stanwell’s fateful first meeting. She being white, and he being black, their relationship proved to be cruely complicated in segregated South Africa. Enjoy the Listen!

Every author should treat themselves to the tremendous experience of hearing their book read back to them by a gifted narrator. Dennis Kleinman certainly did that for me. The way he seamlessly transitions from character to character, by adding his personal vocabulary as an actor to my plot, is extraordinary. An outstanding performance!

This week, I also published a small folio of short stories. It’s titled Two Short Shorts: Short Stories of Strangers in Strange Lands.Two Short Shorts Cover Though the book cover is an ancient picture of me, as a little tyke, wearing embarrassingly short shorts, it is not at all biographical.  However, it is a commentary on being a ‘square peg in a round hole’ which I personally find relatable.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

It’s a natural evolution of my ‘Mr Mom’ role. My sons were growing up andmoving off to college. I expected becoming an empty nester would be hazardous to my well-being, so a new sense of purpose was needed. Coming from the music world, I saw writing as a natural evolution. However, my intent was to write songs. Failed miserably! Instead, I wrote an 86,000 word novel. My, I do admire those songwriters. The ability to compress such massive ideas—filled with emotion and rhythm—into three minutes of lyrical rhyme is a gift that I wish I had. Still, I am going to keep trying…

 Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The moment someone else read my words; and that these same words resonated with them, challenged them, made them weep, made them angry, and compelled the reader care for the characters I had created.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

My paternal grandmother ran a library. Hence, I always admired the printed page. The next step was deciding which story to tell. It took time and distance—from the country of my birth—to better understand the complicated social dynamics there. It is not simply a black and white story. But I could see patterns begin to repeat themselves here in the United States and elsewhere, so I felt The Zebra Affaire could serve as a cautionary tale.

 Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

“The Zebra Affaire” speaks of a forbidden romance across the color divide in a malicious, racist society. Elsa and Stanwell’s affair was not only socially unacceptable, but it was illegal—with seven yearsimprisonment as a consequence of being discovered by the authorities. However, stepping away from bigoted manmade laws, whether black or white—we are all truly equal—as are the black and white stripes of a zebra.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

I’m a patient writer. Research is a key element. It may elongate the writing process, however, the knowledge I gain is well worth it. Better still: I’m the vehicle that transfers that same knowledge to my readers—but in a far more entertaining way. It is satisfying, when I meet with a book clubs, to find The Zebra Affaire has past the Google test. Nowadays, it’s so easy to be fact checked that I do my best to be a diligent researcher.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The canvas on which I paint the lives of my characters is totally realistic. I guess 1976 South Africa isn’t quite long ago enough to be categorized as Historical Fiction, but setting the apparent ‘youth’ of the period aside, the book has all the bones, and authenticity, of historical fiction. As I was raised during those torrid times, there are certainly echoes of my personal experiences throughout the novel.

Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

No doubt. The grand finale in Zebra is a safari sequence. I used that as an excuse to go on safari; a field trip to the magnificent, Londolozi game reserve.  With camera and pen, I documented the setting and behavior of animals, humans, location and weather, in order to bring a heightened sense of immediacy to my writing. I’m a big believer of exploring our full senses in storytelling. I needed to hear the chuff of a lion, smell the char of a brushfire, feel the grit of the parched earth, taste the organic nature of a rustic meal, and see the splendor of an African night sky—unspoiled by big city light pollution—to better articulate these pure moments for my reader.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

I did. Not that it was my intent. As a remedy for writer’s block; rather than walking away in frustration, I chose to change my creative focus. Rather than struggle to get twenty-six letters to march in cogent order, I pivoted to pictures, graphics, fonts, and layouts. I taught myself Photoshop, thanks to YouTube, and almost organically designed the cover as the book’s manuscript was shaped.

 Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes. The only up-front way to fairly evaluate the world around us, specifically people, is on the basis of merit. As guiding criteria, merit, is inherently colorblind, nor is it swayed by creed, race, gender, tribe, religion, etc. Also, merit is contextual. You do not apply the same metric to both subsistent farmer and billionaire. From personal experience, frankly, merit was the only sane way to navigate through the arcana and social distortion of the unfathomable, cruel apartheid laws.

Merit sweeps away the emotion of ideology, the prejudice of fear, and the foolishness of ignorance. In an imperfect world, merit is the purest way I have found to deal with folks on a person-to-person basis, without preconceived biases. That said; merit expects everyone to contribute to the greater good, to the best of their individual ability. To some that may seem harsh; to me it is both fair and dignified.

 Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Similar to the record biz, with its vibrant Indie Scene, I feel the publishing world has a comparable pool of extraordinary emerging talent. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Horton-Newton (The View from the Sixth Floor), Julie Mayerson Brown (The Long Dance Home), Geoff Nelder (Aria: Left Luggage), Eric Gates (Outsourced), Jack Kregas (Choice Cruise Lines), Jean Gill (Song at Dawn).

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Perfection, and the pursuit of it, is so costly—both in emotions and treasure—that I have learned to let go. Nevertheless, I do regard my books as living documents. The process of producing the audiobook was most informative; I found I had to tweak some of the dialog sequences to make them more natural for the narrator to articulate.

 Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Stanwell should be played by Boris Kodjoe. Margot Robbie would be my definite to embody Elsa. However, I am interested in hearing suggestions from our readers. Hey, let us know in the comments section below.

Boris Kodjoe Stanwell look

Boris Kodjoe as Stanwell?

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Margot Robbie as Elsa?

Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

Write your ending first. It may seem counter-intuitive; however, consider it to be like a lawyer’s closing argument. Everything that happens before leads up to that dramatic wrap-up at the end of a court case.  Switching to another metaphor, by knowing your destination, you increase your odds of getting there in one piece.  Your early draft of the book’s conclusion is like a sign post  guiding the way. Of course, go back and review your closing, tweak, then repeat; especially as your writing muscles develop, the further you get into your WIP (work in progress).

Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

I am deep into my next novel; it is an interesting collaboration. If songwriters can collaborate, why not authors? Again, the focus will be on Sub-Saharan Africa, though it will be a decade later than the 1976 setting of The Zebra Affaire. Our working title is “The Spy in the Hyena Den”.

 Fiona: What book are you reading now?

Alan Furst, “The Spies of Warsaw”

 Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Herman Wouk, “Winds of War” is the first significant book I read.

 Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Animals. I weep for the countless rhino and elephant slaughtered for their ivory and horn. Tragic waste; these magnificent creatures killed for mere trinkets and problems better solved with a certain blue pill.  Yet, watching baby elephants trying to learn to use their rubbery trunks for the first time is the funniest thing, ever.

 Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

Winston Churchill. Supreme writer, orator, statesman, and blessed with an extraordinary gift of foresight.

 Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Philanthropy. Especially wildlife conservation and breast cancer research.

 Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

‘So Little Time (So Much to Do)’: the title of a 1938 Louis Armstrong song.

 Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

Fiona, so kind of you to offer. I can be reached at www.markfinebooks.com and www.finebooks.coand my Twitter handle is @MarkFine_author

Blog: Mark Fine | RUMINATIONS https://markfineauthor.wordpress.com/


The Zebra Affaire [130 Amazon Reviews]

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/ZEBRA-AFFAIRE-Apartheid-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B011PXSEWG/

Audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/The-Zebra-Affaire-Audiobook/B076C1CVNS/

Download “THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE” Audiobook for FREE

When you sign up for Audible 30-day Free Trial

Click the link below for the Special FREE Offer:

http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B076C1CVNS

You Save $19.95 (100%)

Two Short Shorts (includes Bonus excerpt from “The Zebra Affaire”):

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Short-Shorts-Stories-Strangers-ebook/dp/B0771X8VNC/

Amazon Authors Page:https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Fine/e/B00KOIP05S/

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/MarkfineAuthor


Thanks to Fiona Mcvie for this interview. You can view her original post here.

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CROOKED INTERVIEW with Author MARK FINE by ANITA KOVACEVIC

 

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CROOKED INTERVIEW with MARK FINE

BY ANITA KOVACEVIC ON 26/03/2017

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CROOKED TALES

The CROOKED TALES is another bountiful reader feast prepared for you by Readers Circle of Avenue Park and 15 extraordinary authors from around the globe. It contains 15 short stories on deception and revenge from all genres and walks of life, and is now available in kindle and paperback. It gives me a mixture of pride and humbleness to state that my story Beneath is also featured.

This spring I have an amazing treat for you as these superbusy authors have agreed to be my blog guests and do an interview. Crooked Tales inspiring my crookedness, I have also given them a task – in the second half of the interview they have to interview themselves:).

To open this series of Crooked Interviews, here is MARK FINE, a man whose autobiography alone would make for a stunning movie. Thank you, Mr Fine!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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The Author in his African Element

Mark Fine [Mark of the Hyena], a self-confessed, tone-deaf music executive, was born in South Africa, However, now Los Angeles is his home. There with his two sons—and Charlie, an affectionate neighbor’s dog—Mark wrote his historical fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire—the story of a mixed race couple and their struggle to survive under the racist regime’s oppressive 1970’s apartheid policies. Mark also takes a broader look at the travails of greater Africa; a topic that concerns him greatly. A charming aspect of Mark’s writing is how he looks to nature—Africa’s animals and wildlife—for inspiration and a solution to human shortcomings. In the process of telling the truth via the freedom fiction provides, a reviewer said, “Mark Fine has been brave like William Faulkner in his journey of truth telling – he has simply done it with a much different kind of Southern accent.”  For further info on Mark, check out these links— Website: finebooks.co and MarkFineBooks.com Blog: Fine Ruminations ~ or you’re welcome to connect on Facebook and Twitter: @MarkFine_author

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


 

INTERVIEW

– What is your Crooked tale about and what inspired it?

MARK OF THE HYENA: ‘Fish out of water’ stories intrique me. The set up of an elite academic from New York City stranded in the Kalahari desert with a tribe of San Bushmen as his only means of survival was too tempting to ignore. In the telling we learn of hubris wrapped in first world arrogance, and simple grace in respecting nature’s lore.

– What do you like writing and/or reading best? 

I now have so many stories within me to tell, I’ve shifted my focus to short stories. This permits me the time to write them, and affords busy readers the time to read them.

– What else do you do in life apart from writing?

I mentor aspiring talent in both the music world, especially songwriters, and print publishing. It is the joy of collaboration that finally motivates me.
– What are you currently working on?

An historical fiction/suspense novel based in sub-Sahara Africa. It is based on a true story, and has the tantalizing title, “THE CULTURED SPY”.


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Author Mark Fine

CROOKED INTERVIEW (In a ‘crooked twist’ Anita had the ‘victim’ of the interview, interview himself!)

A Conversation with Myself: The whys and wherefores that shaped author Mark Fine’s novel, “The Zebra Affaire”

Mark Fine: What was the genesis of Zebra Affaire? Was it a grueling process or did it write itself?

Myself: More complex, more a creative evolution. I originally wanted to write a biography about my father. But, despite his accomplishments, he remained a modest man. I began to sense that the notion of a biography would be awkward for him. So I scrapped the idea. However, a great deal of research I’d already completed about his life and times. Subliminally, my mind must have churned away at this problem, because one day—a true kismet moment—the idea of courageous love story between a white woman and black man in the land of apartheid manifested itself. Only then did The Zebra Affaire ‘write itself’.

Mark Fine: Did you find that, as the characters developed, they changed the trajectory of the story from the original vision of the book?

Myself: The arc of the story remained surprisingly consistent. Probably because I wrote the end of my novel first. Seems counterintuitive, but it made sense to have a final destination as a guidepost. Kind of like a closing argument in a legal trial, I instinctively focused on the book’s conclusion when I began. Of course, as characters assumed a life of their own, the ending was constantly revisited, and refined.

Speaking about characters, I enjoyed adding the animal world and their instinctive code-of-honor into the story. As allegories to the foibles of human behavior, the natural behavior of these creatures was rather instructive. I’m thrilled I found a place for Africa’s wildlife in the book. It makes the experience all the more authentic for the reader, and foreshadows the human narrative at the heart of the story in a fresh way.

Mark Fine:  Which of the characters, if any, did I shape from personal experiences?

Myself:  The patriarch, the DGF character, typifies the decent people that tried to make a difference within the discriminatory apartheid system. Despite onerous job restriction laws that prohibited people of color from any management position, the real DGF did in fact hire and mentor a black man as a senior executive for a public company—despite such a hiring being illegal.

Due to the real DGF’s mentorship and ‘civil disobedience’, Rupert Bopape became a legendary music producer and label chief. DGF’s philosophy was simple in a complicated color-shaped society: merit is the only sustainable litmus test, and surpasses all other things that divide, such as race, tribe, gender, and faith.

In the context of the times, DGF was quietly brave. Now for a confession, my late father David Gabriel Fine inspired the DGF character. Fittingly, by weaving his memoire within the tapestry of my historical fiction story I was finally able to pay tribute to a wonderful man, and terrific dad.

Mark Fine:  Your Zebra Affaire story deals with many areas of history and diverse ethnic groups. How much of the final work was a result of inspiration or research?

Myself: The schism between the various races and tribes was my motivation to write the novel, as it remains a cautionary tale. I felt the world tends to adopt a simplistic ‘bumper-sticker’ view of what in reality is a more complicated state of affairs. Things are invariably seen in stark black and white, when in fact it’s anything but immutable. For example, in South Africa the white clans hated each other (English speakers versus the Afrikaners from Dutch heritage), as do the various native tribes (Zulu, Sotho, Venda, Xhosa and others). It’s ironic that South Africa’s motto was “Unity is Strength” when it was such an intensely balkanized society.

But the challenge as a writer was to humanize this constantly shifting tide of societal unrest, and so the context—shocking for that time and place—of an illicit interracial romance. As such, the arcana of South Africa’s convoluted legal code needed thorough research.

However, my main goal is to entertain the reader. It’s the thrilling fusion of romance and suspense set against a canvas that’s vividly authentic and powerfully provocative that makes The Zebra Affairestory worth writing, and reading. This is about the courageous love story of Elsa and Stanwell, the two of them on a collision course with the mighty racist regime, which is the compelling narrative that draws the reader through the book’s pages. If the reader becomes better informed in the process, well, that’s an added bonus.

Mark Fine: If you could return to post-apartheid South Africa and make sweeping changes, what would they be?

Myself: Out with the men! The women of Africa are saints. That image of a humble woman walking miles in the heat of day, barefoot, with a five gallon bucket of water balanced on her head—and with a baby wrapped in a blanket bound to her back, is for me the essence of selfless sacrifice. Unless there is another Nelson Mandela, these women should represent the true voice of Africa. Tireless and dedicated they may be, yet sadly they remain marginalized, underappreciated, due to gender discrimination and patriarchal tradition. I believe it is time for an authentic, nurturing, honest African woman to become the next president of South Africa! Maybe this will become the topic of my next book…

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The Zebra Affaire [Historical Fiction, Suspense/Romance]

To purchase a copy of your own:

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


MARK FINE’S QUESTIONS for other Crooked Tales authors

Do you find a silver lining in a bad review? If so, please give an example.

What percentage of the research you do for a novel actually lands up on the printed page?

Do you have an author you admire? If so, why?

ANITA REQUESTS: Could other Crooked Tales authors please reply to this kind gentleman in the comments below? Other authors also welcome:)

Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

Traci Sanders is an amazing lady I had the pleasure of meeting a while back in an online writers’ group. Apart from being an early educator and caregiver, she is an award-winning multigenre a…

Author Mark Fine said, “Traci is an impeccable example, as are you, Anita, of the wisdom, enterprise, creativity and innovation of the Indie Author. Both of you are making great strides in legitimizing the Indie Author scene. You refelect the fine writerly talent that’s been constantly ignored by ‘snobbish’ media and publishers row in New York, London and elsewhere. Keep up the good work! #IndieCred4Authors.”

Source: Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

Author Spotlight: Mark Fine Gets 5 Minutes for Fighting!

Jeremy – Welcome to the Penalty Box, Mark Fine! How are you doing today?

Mark: Fine thanks, or ‘well’ if the intent is not to confuse my state of health with my name.

Speaking about names, Jeremy, we share one—Jeremy. But it’s my middle name. As family legend goes, my mum and her best friend were both pregnant. They both loved the names Jeremy and Mark. So they struck a deal; the first to give birth would get naming rights!  So I became Mark Jeremy Fine, and out there somewhere is a Jeremy Mark…

Jeremy – The name Jeremy is a solid one. As a card carrying member of the Jeremy Club, please allow me to welcome you to the group.

First thing’s first, why don’t you tell everyone a bit about yourself. How did you end up getting suckered into this harsh reality that is “being an author?”

Mark: My true vocation is record industry exec and producer. Been around the music creative process my entire work-life, working with super successful artists. I’ve gone from physically pressing vinyl at the factory, to producing a hit single in a Manhattan studio. However, I never wrote a song…

Source: Author Spotlight: Mark Fine Get 5 Minutes for Fighting!

Readers Avenue Park’s Most Excellent Worldwide Book Tour showcases author MARK FINE

I’ve been fortunate to be showcased by Readers Circle of Avenue Park in their on going Most Excellent Worldwide Book Tour. Please check it out…..thanks, Mark 🙂

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THE MOST EXCELLENT WORLDWIDE BOOK TOUR #7: Meet author MARK FINE

Introducing MARK FINE, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE

Mark Fine B&W (300dpi)Print Mark Fine was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has made the United States his home since 1979, living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. For well over a decade he headed an award-winning record label that he founded, called Hammer & Lace, that united non-profit organizations with world-class celebrity and music talent to create benefit albums and entertainment events to raise awareness and funds in aid of breast cancer research, at-risk children, the blind, freedom of speech, and wildlife conservation. For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Variety magazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision.” He has also contributed articles to entertainment industry publications, and conducted public speaking engagements at media and charity events.

The oncology community has honored Mark for his innovative, entertainment-based approach to health education. But he is especially proud of his “Paws of Fame” award he received from The Wildlife Waystation for support and commitment of animals worldwide. As such, animals always make an appearance in Mark Fine’s writings. Now he resides in the South Bay, where he lives with his two sons, his “significant other” and Charlie, a neighborhood dog that drops in from time to time. There he wrote the historic romance novel, The Zebra Affaire. Set in apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.


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Book Blurb

IT’S THE SPRING OF ‘76. For Elsa, her affair with Stanwell may well prove lethal, as she’s white and he’s black, and they dared to fall in love in apartheid South Africa. The terrified lovers are the prey in a deadly manhunt from the golden city of Johannesburg to the exotic but dangerous wilds of the African bushveld. The Zebra Affaire is a thrilling fusion of romance and suspense—laced with rich South African history. The tension is palpable as the persecuted couple race against time and bigotry. Reviewers rave about this intimate, yet dangerous love story; that’s set against a canvas that is both vividly authentic and powerfully provocative.

Book Reviews

“INTENSELY DAZZLING…NOT A BLACK AND WHITE STORY, A RAINBOW STORY WITH THE RICH COLORS OF LIVES IN TURMOIL.” – Elizabeth Newton, author of ‘View from the Sixth Floor’

“A book to savor slowly…appreciating each moment. I found myself re-reading sentences and whole paragraphs; such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books I’ve read this year.”
 Jean Gill, author of ‘Song at Dawn’

“The story of Stanwell and Elsa really touched me. Racial discrimination was so dehumanizing. This book took me to the days of the liberation struggle, and I experienced the hurt as I read. It was a real privilege to read the history, a period of pain and hope, as seen through Mark Fine’s eyes.”
– Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, Former Freedom Fighter & Senior South African Diplomat

“More than a daring, multiracial romance set in a racist 1976 South Africa, that nation on the turbulent cusp of collapsing due to apartheid; The Zebra Affaire grips your soul and won’t let go. Never mind zebras, think lions, raw and roar.” – Geoff Nelder, author of ‘ARIA: Left Luggage’


News

The Zebra Affaire is aptly described in cinematic terms as Romeo & Juliette meets To Kill A Mockingbirdin Out of Africa, with all the passion, racial strife and wild, exotic setting that those three books (and film adaptations) suggest. In a recent development, a screenplay based on The Zebra Affaire is currently in development.

Book Excerpt

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EARLY MORNINGS IN MID-JULY on the Highveld were gripped in the bracing chill of a Southern hemisphere winter. White frost dusted the parklands and lawns. These tiny ice crystals were destined to thaw as they faced a warming sun. However, in Pretoria’s corridors of power, matters had heated up considerably. The nation’s administrative capital was at full alert as a consequence of the Soweto upheaval. Though the mob violence had been contained, the threat still simmered.

The Soweto Riots had eroded the certainty of the ruling regime. They feared for their way of life. Despite their apparent insensitivity to the plight of other humans, the Afrikaners were great champions of wildlife conservation—and similar to the white rhino, a victim of senseless poaching, they too felt as if they were an endangered species.

An endangered animal is desperate. A cornered animal is dangerous. The ruling regime was both desperate and dangerous as they felt their grip over the nation loosening. The Soweto Riots invoked a regime dictate of zero tolerance. From on high, directives to the nation’s security apparatus adopted an apocalyptic tone—the end of the volk was imminent, and all threats must be stopped, now. No deviation from the law by anyone would be tolerated.

The Security Branch considered Stanwell and Elsa’s romantic entanglement a matter of national security; what was once considered a tawdry “domestic affair” became a public symbol of rebellion and had to be crushed. The couple had undermined a key principle of apartheid; the white minority’s dominance could not be eroded by the intermingling of the races. Another outrage was Stanwell’s status as a business executive. His authority over white employees signaled to the Bantu that they were the white man’s equal, and that was unacceptable.

The Security Branch’s first act in their campaign against the couple was plagiarism. They lifted the “Zebra Affaire” headline from the newspaper article that publicly exposed them, and made it the operation’s code name.

Their second action was to classify Stanwell as an enemy of the state.
***
Malan Zander was delighted. Finally he had his marching orders. The mixed-race couple was now fair game, and it was time they suffered the consequence of their actions. He felt the buzz of anticipation. Others chose to be doctors, teachers, or builders in order to heal, impart knowledge, or create. Zander never understood that mindset.

As a child he found it more gratifying to demolish things, and as an adult, annihilation was his guiding light. Fortune shone on him when he found an employer that regarded the destruction of people’s lives a virtue.

For Zander restraint was an anathema; he’d much prefer bludgeoning the miscreants into submission. But his orders were clear: the Zebra Affaire must be handled subtly, as the world was watching. No killings, no public trial, no questionable disappearances—just make it go away. But for now just one problematic life required his immediate attention; he would deal with the girl later. As Stanwell’s crimes against the State were twofold, in business and in the bedroom, Zander had fertile grounds to create mischief.
***
Stanwell initially dismissed the disruptions, strange repeated hang-ups or silence on his telephone at work, as a nuisance. But paranoia grew when he heard mysterious clicks and echoes on the company phone. It could only be the State’s Security Branch meddling in his business.

Then the threats started, and Stanwell’s worst fears were confirmed. Vulgar in content and vicious in implication, faceless voices with rasping accents vowed public exposure. All Stanwell’s claims of innocence to his invisible attacker were brushed aside with merciless laughter until he began to plead. At that point he was given a specific warning: Miss Elsa Marais would soon receive something in the mail. After that the calls stopped, but the pressure continued.

Two white men arrived unannounced at the warehouse facility. Their ill-fitting suits were a signal to Stanwell’s staff that they were members of the Security Branch. The visitors were seen speaking with Stanwell through the executive office’s glass wall. The three men leaned toward each other in a conspiratorial fashion. Their body language was clear—they wished not to be overheard.

After the men left, the warehouse swirled with rumors that Stanwell was a snitch working for the apartheid regime. In that cesspool of tribal mistrust, Stanwell’s coworkers happily accepted the allegations as fact. This placed Stanwell’s life in potential danger. A revenge killing by embittered colleagues was now a real threat.

Understandably, Stanwell was terrified.


Available from Amazon

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Author Contact, Information and Social Media links

WEBSITE  |  BLOG  | FACEBOOK 

|  FINEBOOKS  | AMAZON PAGE

Twitter: @MarkFine_author
Email:    mark@finebooks.co

Mark Fine – An Inteview


Blog courtesy of Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park 

A WORD WITH TRACI #AWWTBLOG TOUR: featuring MARK FINE

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Now let’s keep the party going with today’s guest author! MARK FINE

Traci Sanders: “When I joined BooksGoSocial on Facebook (an awesome group of readers and authors), my world of reading and authorship was burst wide open. I met incredibly talented authors, such as today’s featured one.
I was blown away by the reviews I’d seen coming in for his novel, ‘The Zebra Affaire’, (read my 5-star review here), and just had to read it for myself. I was not disappointed!  The love story within is fiction, but many of the other events in this story are, sadly, very real reminders of just how far we’ve come as humankind. The writing is intense, riveting, and beautiful.
It’s my pleasure to welcome…Mark Fine!!!
Mark Fine (300dpi) Print

About The Author

Mark Fine was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has made the United States his home since 1979, living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.

For four decades he has worked alongside world famous recording artists. He eventually launched his own award-winning record label, Hammer & Lace, with a mandate to produce benefit albums in support of such causes as breast cancer awareness, at-risk children, and wildlife conservation.

For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Variety magazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision.” He has also contributed articles to entertainment industry publications, and conducted public speaking engagements at multimedia events.

Now he resides in the South Bay, where he lives with his two sons, his “significant other” and Charlie, a neighborhood dog that drops in from time to time. There he wrote the historic romance novel, The Zebra Affaire. Set in apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.

Connect with Mark:

Twitter: @MarkFine_author or https://twitter.com/MarkFine_author

BLOG: https://markfineauthor.wordpress.com

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/ZebraAffaire

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/markfine37/the-zebra-affaire/

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markfineauthor

WEBSITE: http://www.markfinebooks.com/


Accomplishments

Launched anti-poaching campaign called “You! Yes you can be a Rhino Protector!” with the #RhinoProtector and this graphic:

rhino

ZEBRAAFFAIRE Cover613

BLURB:

IT’S THE SPRING OF ‘76. For Elsa, her affair with Stanwell may prove lethal, as she’s white and he’s black, and they dared to fall in love in apartheid South Africa. The terrified lovers are the prey in a deadly hunt from the golden city of Johannesburg to the exotic but dangerous wilds of the African bushveld.

The Zebra Affaire is a thrilling fusion of romance and suspense—laced with rich South African history. The tension is palpable as the persecuted couple race against time and bigotry. Reviewers rave about this intimate, yet dangerous love story; that’s set against a canvas that is both vividly authentic and powerfully provocative.

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

“INTENSELY DAZZLING…NOT A BLACK AND WHITE STORY, A RAINBOW STORY WITH THE RICH COLORS OF LIVES IN TURMOIL.” – Elizabeth Newton, author of ‘View from the Sixth Floor’

“Profound, provocative and powerful — a book EVERYONE must read!” – Michelle Medhat, author ‘Connected: The Call & The Shift’

“I can’t find words to express how deeply reading this book affected me. I would have given it ten stars if I could.” – Gloria Antypowich, author ‘The Second Time Around’

“A book to savor slowly…appreciating each moment. I found myself re-reading sentences and whole paragraphs; such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books I’ve read this year.” – Jean Gill, author of ‘Song at Dawn’

“The story of Stanwell and Elsa really touched me. Racial discrimination was so dehumanizing. This book took me to the days of the liberation struggle, and I experienced the hurt as I read. It was a real privilege to read the history, a period of pain and hope, as seen through Mark Fine’s eyes.” – Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, Former Freedom Fighter & Senior South African Diplomat

“More than a daring, multiracial romance set in a racist 1976 South Africa, that nation on the turbulent cusp of collapsing due to apartheid; The Zebra Affaire grips your soul and won’t let go. Never mind zebras, think lions, raw and roar.” –  Geoff Nelder, author of ‘ARIA: Left Luggage’

BOOK LINKS:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B011PXSEWG

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Zebra-Affaire-Apartheid-Love-Story/dp/1512321028/


BOOK EXCERPT:

EARLY MORNINGS IN MID-JULY on the Highveld were gripped in the bracing chill of a Southern hemisphere winter. White frost dusted the parklands and lawns. These tiny ice crystals were destined to thaw as they faced a warming sun. However, in Pretoria’s corridors of power, matters had heated up considerably. The nation’s administrative capital was at full alert as a consequence of the Soweto upheaval. Though the mob violence had been contained, the threat still simmered.

The Soweto Riots had eroded the certainty of the ruling regime. They feared for their way of life. Despite their apparent insensitivity to the plight of other humans, the Afrikaners were great champions of wildlife conservation—and similar to the white rhino, a victim of senseless poaching, they too felt as if they were an endangered species.

An endangered animal is desperate. A cornered animal is dangerous. The ruling regime was both desperate and dangerous as they felt their grip over the nation loosening. The Soweto Riots invoked a regime dictate of zero tolerance. From on high, directives to the nation’s security apparatus adopted an apocalyptic tone—the end of the volk was imminent, and all threats must be stopped, now. No deviation from the law by anyone would be tolerated.

The Security Branch considered Stanwell and Elsa’s romantic entanglement a matter of national security; what was once considered a tawdry “domestic affair” became a public symbol of rebellion and had to be crushed. The couple had undermined a key principle of apartheid; the white minority’s dominance could not be eroded by the intermingling of the races. Another outrage was Stanwell’s status as a business executive. His authority over white employees signaled to the Bantu that they were the white man’s equal, and that was unacceptable.

The Security Branch’s first act in their campaign against the couple was plagiarism. They lifted the “Zebra Affaire” headline from the newspaper article that publicly exposed them, and made it the operation’s code name.

Their second action was to classify Stanwell as an enemy of the state.

***

Malan Zander was delighted. Finally he had his marching orders. The mixed-race couple was now fair game, and it was time they suffered the consequence of their actions. He felt the buzz of anticipation. Others chose to be doctors, teachers, or builders in order to heal, impart knowledge, or create. Zander never understood that mindset.

As a child he found it more gratifying to demolish things, and as an adult, annihilation was his guiding light. Fortune shone on him when he found an employer that regarded the destruction of people’s lives a virtue.

For Zander restraint was an anathema; he’d much prefer bludgeoning the miscreants into submission. But his orders were clear: the Zebra Affaire must be handled subtly, as the world was watching. No killings, no public trial, no questionable disappearances—just make it go away. But for now just one problematic life required his immediate attention; he would deal with the girl later. As Stanwell’s crimes against the State were twofold, in business and in the bedroom, Zander had fertile grounds to create mischief.

***

Stanwell initially dismissed the disruptions, strange repeated hang-ups or silence on his telephone at work, as a nuisance. But paranoia grew when he heard mysterious clicks and echoes on the company phone. It could only be the State’s Security Branch meddling in his business.

Then the threats started, and Stanwell’s worst fears were confirmed. Vulgar in content and vicious in implication, faceless voices with rasping accents vowed public exposure. All Stanwell’s claims of innocence to his invisible attacker were brushed aside with merciless laughter until he began to plead. At that point he was given a specific warning: Miss Elsa Marais would soon receive something in the mail. After that the calls stopped, but the pressure continued.

Two white men arrived unannounced at the warehouse facility. Their ill-fitting suits were a signal to Stanwell’s staff that they were members of the Security Branch. The visitors were seen speaking with Stanwell through the executive office’s glass wall. The three men leaned toward each other in a conspiratorial fashion. Their body language was clear—they wished not to be overheard.

After the men left, the warehouse swirled with rumors that Stanwell was a snitch working for the apartheid regime. In that cesspool of tribal mistrust, Stanwell’s coworkers happily accepted the allegations as fact. This placed Stanwell’s life in potential danger. A revenge killing by embittered colleagues was now a real threat.

Understandably, Stanwell was terrified.

Mark’s book is available for just $2.99 on Amazon Kindle!


Interview with Mark:

What/who inspired you to become a writer?

My paternal grandmother owned a private book library in a suburb of Johannesburg. Her shop was always busy with clients scrambling dibs for the latest read, as she (a copious reader) gave brief synopsis of new releases–all the while stamping return dates on the front leaf of the book in front of her. And I helped, opening boxes of new releases, or bringing some order to disheveled shelves. Only is such an environment, where the written word was so revered, would my first notion of becoming an author take seed

Where do you get your ideas from?

My unofficial mission is to make history come alive, by been relevant again, as there are lessons to be learned (and repeated mistakes avoided). Strangely the events of recent history seem to be the first forgotten, so I don’t tend to forage beyond 50 years from today, now. I specifically enjoy the African continent; it is so easily misunderstood (or written-off), but it’s a fertile source of inspiration for a writer such as me that delights placing fictional characters in the midst of real events and people from another time.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers (writing, getting published, etc.)?

A topic I do have an opinion or two. When writing, I have two basic rules. First, prepare a three page outline. This is the map that provides direction, keeps you on topic, and defines the universe you are creating. Second, write the closing of the book FIRST. Sounds counter intuitive, but I think of it as the “closing argument” by the prosecutor in a court case. It has to be tight, concise, clear, and dramatic. With that strategy in mind, the writer will have a final destination, a finish to write towards. Without it, the author will inevitably wander down extraneous paths; and this is the biggest obstacle that causes many to never complete their book.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known prior to getting published?

You must create an author platform by the date your book is released. This includes setting up a website or blog, garnering sufficient reviews, preparing your media kit with bio and book synopsis, readying the components for you Amazon Author Page, etc. etc.  Unfortunately, I only began addressing these issues late in the process when “The Zebra Affaire” was going through the final editing process. It has certainly cost me wasted time and some opportunities. I’d suggest (though easier said than done), try wearing both your writer’s hat and entrepreneur hat simultaneously. This way I could have allowed fans to witness the writing process; the research, book jacket design, before and after drafts of the manuscript, and type setting in real time.

What’s next? Are you currently working on anything?

“The Zebra Affaire” remains in part a living document to me. No, not because of mistakes, but my interests have grown since the book’s release. The story’s big showdown takes place during a safari in the African veld. I would like to add an anti-poaching theme as a subset to the main narrative. I believe it would play very well. And fit elegantly in the story with the tragic, sad focus on a rhino, hacked to death for its horn. (More pathetic and pitiful knowing that alleged mystical/medical benefits of a rhino horn are no greater than the cuticles on our hands). Being an independent publisher, I am free to make this adjustment—and insert these passages—without requiring consent from a cast of thousands. As for the page or so added to my novel, I will feel so much better about the cause-driven component it will add to my historical novel, “The Zebra Affaire.”

Do you have a book tour planned? Will you be appearing anywhere?

I am a fan of Book Clubs. Really enjoy the conversation with readers whom are already well acquainted with my work. It makes the nature of our engagement more intimate, as, instead of trying to pitch the book, I’m able to get down to the emotional, political, and societal issues that influenced the actions of my characters. And most of all, relish the personal feedback they kindly provide.

That said, I’ve never attempted a book tour. Frankly, I’m not sure how to go about it–but I’m eager to try. Any suggestions?

What are you currently reading?

Alan Furst “The Spies of Warsaw”


BOOK LINKS:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B011PXSEWG

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Zebra-Affaire-Apartheid-Love-Story/dp/1512321028/


Connect with Mark:

Twitter: @MarkFine_author or https://twitter.com/MarkFine_author

BLOG: https://markfineauthor.wordpress.com

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/ZebraAffaire

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/markfine37/the-zebra-affaire/

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markfineauthor

WEBSITE: http://www.markfinebooks.com/

I would like to thank Mark Fine for joining us today! Go check out ‘The Zebra Affaire’!


PLEASE CHECK OUT “A WORD WITH TRACI” at this link:  http://awordwithtraci.com/day-15-mark-fine/

THE MOST EXCELLENT WORLDWIDE BOOK BLOG TOUR: Trip#1 with SUZI ALBRACHT

 Suzi Albracht header

Introducing author Suzi Albracht


Book Title:  Death Most Wicked

Genre and Sub-Genre: Horror, Thriller

Book Content Rating:  Adult (18+)  Language and Violence


Suzi Albacht

Author Bio: I love to write horror thrillers with intense personal relationships between characters. I started reading earlier in life than most of my friends and spent many hours hidden in closets and under beds, sneaking in just another ten minutes of whatever book I was reading. As soon as I was old enough, my mother would send me to the library to pick up books for her. This delighted me because it opened up a whole new world of books not available in school.

I read everything I could get my hands on but was drawn to sci-fi, horror and thrillers. As I matured, I would say my main influences became Stephen King, Dean Koontz and William Faulkner. My writing definitely reflects those influences.

I can honestly say my twitter bio describes me to a T – Write, scare myself, turn all the lights on, write some more. Take a break, play pool, kick butt/get butt kicked, go write more horror, double lock door.

To reach me regarding my book (s) or to just say hello (please, no spam), email me at SuziAlbracht@aol.com or tweet me on Twitter: @SuziAlbracht.
Send me an email if you want to be alerted of new book releases.


 51P-72nNU1L._UY250_Book Blurb: The thing Evil craves most is innocence. When small children disappear, you can be assured that Evil has crawled out of its dirty corner. And when those children turn up dead, Evil has clawed its mark on humanity.

What if you were a homicide detective and little girls were suddenly being kidnapped and murdered by a devious pedophile? And what if that pedophile left no evidence behind except for the broken bodies? What would you sacrifice to save just one innocent child? Would any sacrifice be too great? What if it cost you someone you loved? What if, by saving that child, you unleash a horrific monster into your own life?

Mikael Ruskoff was living his dream. He was a highly successful, homicide detective working a career he loved. He had a mother who adored him, a son he took skateboarding, and a wife he loved more than words could express. He played a mean drum set every Thursday night with his best friend on guitar. His life was comfortable and pleasurable. Then he caught a case that would change his life forever.

 Review(s):

51P-72nNU1L._UY250_ Death Most Wicked

Wow! By B. Martin on September 7, 2015: This is one creepy novel. First you have a man who wants a little sister so desperately he’s willing to kidnap children, only to kill them when they refuse to live inside his shed. Then you have this hellish substance that turns victims into puddles of bloody liquid. And in the middle of all this is Mikael Ruskoff, a homicide detective who’s charged with solving a seemingly never ending string of murders.

Suzi Albracht has a fantastic imagination, and she does a wonderful job bringing this disturbing tale to life. Twists abound. Characters are connected in ways you least expect. And it’s all presented in a way that will leave you on the edge of your seat. (or in my case, my bed) Definitely a novel horror fans will want to check out.

The Devil’s Lieutenant51byRxkOxXL._UY250_

An Excellent Tale of Horror By Glen Barrera on March 18, 2015: After reading and enjoying Albracht’s Scorn Kills, I knew what was in store when I began reading this novel. I wasn’t let down. In fact, after the first few pages I was convinced the author had taken this tale of horror to an even greater level. Like any good novel, horror or not, it’s the well written characters that drive the story. In this department, Albracht didn’t skimp: Jake Holyfield and his pregnant wife, Caroline; his brother Bobby and friend Max – the good guys – pitted against evil in the form of Carl and Dimitry Ivanovich. Quite simply, the bad guys want the good guys on their team, by whatever means. And they do have interesting means. But this story is also about the frailty of the human condition. What moral price would someone pay for unlimited money, youth, or the woman of their dreams? This is a fast paced read, with unexpected twists and turns, leading to a well-done ending. I definitely want to read Albracht’s next book.

Scorn Kills51xLjuvZydL._UY250_

The first person telling of this breathless tale is delectable! on April 4, 2015: “Scorn Kills” is a wickedly devilish book that reads with the breeziness of a fiery furnace backdraft. It dramatically opens with a claustrophobic setting; a coffin relentlessly heading toward final conflagration, its living occupant desperate to plead his case. Horror it is not, but author Suzi Albracht’s dark humor ensures that “Scorn Kills” is a far more satisfying read. Morality and fidelity are supposedly inscribed in blood, but for our main protagonist, his manly frailty is that well-treaded demon–the temptation of another woman. And for this transgression, alas, there would be no second chances. The first person telling of this breathless tale is delectable, as it is the sinner that narrates his own fate. What I especially enjoyed about Ms. Albracht’s book is that she never burdened me, the reader, with tiresome sermons on the evils of infidelity; instead she expertly grabbed my attention with a vivid story, filled with flawed characters. For me, “Scorn Kills” is well worth the read!


Book Trailers:  The Devil’s Lieutenant


Scorn Kills, Death Most Wicked, and The Devil’s Lieutenant: are all part of The Devil’s Due Collection

Book Links:
myBook.to/DeathMostWicked
getBook.at/SCORN_KILLS
myBook.to/The_Devils_Lieutenant

Author Links: Author.to/SuziAlbracht

Brain to Books Blog Tour: Today’s Featured Author, MARK FINE | Bio, Book Excerpt, Reviews & Interviews

Brain to Books Blog Tour

Fast Facts

Author: Mark Fine

Genre: ​Romance / Suspense / Historical Drama​

Books:  The Zebra Affaire: An Apartheid Love Story​ from The Sub-Saharan Saga​

Official Site

​Bio

Mark Fine (1)​Mark Fine was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has made the United States his home since 1979, living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
For four decades he has worked alongside world famous recording artists. He eventually launched his own award-winning record label, Hammer & Lace, with a mandate to produce benefit albums in support of such causes as breast cancer awareness, at-risk children, and wildlife conservation.
For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Varietymagazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision.” He has also contributed articles to entertainment industry publications, and conducted public speaking engagements at multimedia events.
​ ​
Now he resides in the South Bay, where he lives with his two sons, his “significant other” and Charlie, a neighborhood dog that drops in from time to time. There he wrote the historic romance novel,The Zebra Affaire. Set in apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.​

Accomplishments

​Finalist. BGS Best ​Book 2015 Award, Dublin, Ireland

Blurb

Mark Fine (2)Apartheid, South Africa

In the spring of 1976 matters of the heart are strictly controlled by racist doctrines. In that toxic mix of segregation and tribal mistrust, an unlikely union between a black man from Malawi and a white woman—an Afrikaner—shocks the nation unaccustomed to such a public affair. All sides across the color divide are represented in the interracial couple’s painful journey in an unaccepting world. The lovers find themselves in the crosshairs of the racist regime’s cold-blooded enforcer, Mal Zander, who will stop at nothing to crush their union and future hopes for a colorblind nation.

The intimate and emotional love story of Elsa and Stanwell is exposed for all to see under the harsh glare of television, newly introduced. In a narrative that’s intense—vividly authentic, and thought provoking—the reader will witness Elsa and Stanwell’s desperate fight to remain together—as the apartheid nation waged a deadly struggle for liberation…and eventual redemption in the guise of prisoner #46664, Nelson Mandela.

Review

It is not often a book as intensely dazzling as “The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine comes along. A forbidden love story takes place against the dramatic background of 1970’s South Africa and apartheid. Fine draws you into the story cautiously, laying the groundwork for the eventual affair between Elsa and Stanwell. By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced. This is more than a racial segregation issue; there is a deeper issue brewing in South Africa. Tribal conflicts cause significant damage to a country beset by violence and political unrest.

As the love of Elsa and Stanwell grows deeper and more intense they are assisted by some to strengthen their bond. While segregation forbids open encouragement of their union, friends support them quietly. But the strict Afrikaner regime stands against them if not publicly at least in a behind closed doors attack on their union. While they flaunt their affair the government seems to stand in stunned silence as the world looks on. But the fanatics behind the scenes are both appalled and disgusted by their obvious sexual relationship and strive to expose and punish them for breaking hundreds years old laws.
With vibrant descriptions of both the beauty and ugliness of South Africa the story weaves its way to an intense climax. Waiting for the resolution of the love affair the reader will also wait for the resolution of apartheid. Knowing the eventual outcome of South African politics and the rise of Nelson Mandela it is easy to anticipate the same result for Stanwell and Elsa.

I highly recommend this lush and beautifully written story. Fine’s use of words is akin to an artist’s use of the palette; this is not a black and white story, this is a rainbow story with the rich colors of lives in turmoil. In a word, it is brilliant. If I could rate it higher I would do so.

Read an Excerpt

He needed to make it right. Elsa had misunderstood him. She believed he’d rejected their child and made a mockery of their love. It upset Stanwell that she wouldn’t accept his explanation that he was preoccupied by a cruel government stalking them. And that his immediate concern was for her safety, leaving him little room to truly grasp her good tidings.

So he returned to the way of his people, and prepared for Elsa a love letter—made from primitive colored beads.

Stanwell carefully harvested the beads from a family heirloom, a ceremonial loincloth of his mother’s that she in turn had inherited from her mayi. His mother had thrust the rolled leather apron into his grasp as he set to leave Malawi for the City of Gold, and, with tears in her eyes, had wished him the blessings of his ancestors.

 His message to Elsa would not be in words, but in colors. Stanwell patiently threaded tiny antique beads into a delicate necklace of such intricate design it belied his rugged, workman-like hands.

The beaded chain was predominantly yellow—the color of corn touched by the sun—and signified fertility and wealth. Hanging from the center was the rectangular “love letter”—a chevron of black and white beads trimmed with red and pink. The charcoal-black beads pledged marriage, the ivory white beads promised spiritual love, and the red beads—juicy-red like pomegranate seeds—vowed strong, physical love. But the single tier of pink beads, the color of Elsa’s lips, was the most significant; these shiny little beads declared Stanwell’s commitment to the birth of their child.

⧑⧒

Elsa accepted the uniquely crafted peace offering. She was touched by his handiwork, and the effort and thought he’d put into its creation. Happy tears rolled down her cheeks as Stanwell gently described the significance of each colored bead. At the moment he placed the necklace around her neck, Elsa’s hand reached up for his, and then she turned to face him. Stanwell cupped her face in his hands—a bas-relief in ebony and alabaster—and held her close. No longer doubting his intent, Elsa raised her lips to his. Tenderly they kissed their sorrows away.

Impetuously Stanwell knelt at Elsa’s feet. He placed his lips on her belly and kissed it. Then on his knees he began an earnest conversation with her tummy, whispering away in his mother tongue.

Elsa had never heard him speak the language of his people before. “What were you saying to our child?” she asked.

Stanwell first touched his fingers to his lips and then to hers. “Hush, I was speaking to our son,” he said.

“A son! How do you know it’s a boy?”

“I know,” he said quietly.

Elsa saw the conviction in Stanwell’s face; there was no doubt. She then knew it to be true. A trill of excitement coursed through her body. For the first time it was real; in her belly, created by their love, was their son. A boy destined to become a unique individual, a manifestation of the union of two great heritages, with skin a beautiful coffee hue. Such a child would be incapable of bigotry and tribalism.

“How could the white half of him hate his black half, or vice versa?” Elsa said softly to Stanwell. “He will be our wonderful gift to Africa.”

 As they gently affirmed their belief in each other, all was still except for music that filtered into the room from somewhere in the backyard. It was mesmerizing. The melody and rhythm remained steadfast, yet as the minutes passed, evocative layers of complexity were added. Both Elsa and Stanwell were fond of the recording, and knew it by the name “Mannenburg.”

But the anguished cry of the saxophone soaring over the hypnotic strains of the keyboard meant something else, something hopeful for Elsa and Stanwell. This plaintive masterpiece by Dollar Brand was the birth of a wonderful new sound called Cape Jazz—a fusion of American jazz and local Marabi music from the District Six township—another unconventional, yet fruitful meld of two musical forms and cultural traditions.

⧑⧒

It was dark—probably after midnight. Stanwell was already in motion. Something had alerted him, something rustling by the window. Then the barking started.

Elsa woke. “What is it?” she asked.

“It’s Leo. He’s barking outside our window.”

“Ridgebacks don’t really bark. Something must be wrong.”

Stanwell, about to lunge through the door, stopped in his tracks. A fusillade of snarls and growls had replaced the barking; then a volley of frantic curses, “Jy’s ‘n dood hond ! Jy is ‘n duiwel !” [You’re a dead dog! You are the devil!], filled the night, followed by pounding footsteps and a thud as a body made hard contact with the fence, then he heard the desperate night caller scramble to safety.

Stanwell opened the door. A proud Leo—panting, salivating—stood with a trophy in his jaw. It was the ripped back pocket from a now tattered pair of jeans.

At daybreak, among the churn of muddied footprints they discovered an overstuffed man’s wallet. Inside was the firearm license and driver’s license of a certain Ulrich van Zyl. Elsa and Stanwell recognized the face; it was “Thick,” one of the monsters who’d attempted to rape Elsa in the elevator.

Crass reality had forever invaded their discreet oasis. It was a chilling development. Stanwell hugged Elsa to his chest. Mal Zander’s stooges were closing in. Yet still Stanwell couldn’t bring himself to tell Elsa about his clash with the Security Branch operative. And he hoped he would never have to do so.

Interview with Mark Fine

Angela B. Chrysler: I want to take a moment to welcome Mark Fine, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle

Thank you so much for speaking with me, Mark. Please take a moment to tell us about your book. Tell us, how did you come up with the idea for your book?

Mark Fine: Thank you Angela for chatting with me. Though they don’t realize it, I would have to credit my two sons. I have this belief that if a people don’t know their history, they are destined to be forever lost. It was important to me that my sons learned about their African roots from their father; but my personal story isn’t that interesting. So I chose to couch the story from the perspective of far more intriguing characters, that of Elsa (who’s white) and Stanwell (who is black) and their daring romance of the no-no kind. The cruel dynamics of the love-struck couple’s story under the racist regime of then South Africa is all theirs, but the place and time that I inserted them is very much mine.
ABC: Stories always require some form of research. What kind of research did you do for your book?

MF: Besides reference works and letting my fingers stroll through the universe that’s Google, I went on safari. In capturing the romance and exotic location for The Zebra Affaire, I had the privilege of viewing many wild creatures in their natural habitats—a life-affirming experience that I strongly suggest for others. Being in the bush, tracking game (with camera, and not firearm) is not a bookish, academic pursuit, which was a welcome change. The composite of the senses are vital to telling a story that’s authentic. And as the climax of the book is resolved in the African bushveld, what better place to begin the writing process.


ABC: Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?

MF: It’s less about a specific scene, than the challenge of ensuring the reader understood the arcane nature of South Africa’s apartheid rules. Without the reader truly appreciating the jeopardy Elsa and Stanwell faced in that turbulent society, the novel would not have the impact it deserved. So, instead of footnotes or endnotes—both devices that pull the reader away from the narrative, I created what critics have favorably called “anywhere notes.” These I inserted within the context of the story. In the wonderful reviews Zebra has received, these “anywhere notes” have been applauded. Readers now better understand the societal construct of the time, and Elsa and Stanwell’s story became more meaningful, touching and emotional.


ABC: Please describe your favorite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favorite?

MF: The challenge was to set the stage for this unlikely union; a white woman and black man falling in love, at great personal risk, in a bigoted apartheid world. I don’t wish to reveal too much, but emergency events surrounding a catastrophe was the vehicle I used. Without a solid foundation to establish their relationship, and at the same time reveal the cruelty of apartheid, well, the novel would not have succeeded so handsomely. Fortunately this establishing scene worked, and as such it has become my favorite.


ABC: Which of your characters, do you relate to the most (or) who is your favorite character and why?

MF: The patriarch in the book, a character known by the initials DGF is certainly my favorite. He holds moral authority, decency and strength in an unkind world. Certainly flawed, but he represents all the honorable and kind people of South Africa who tried to make life easier for discriminated majority. He understood that bigotry was dehumanizing, and worked to make a difference. I’d like to believe that DGF is a reflection of my personal sensibilities.


ABC: I once read that every author is simply a compilation of his/her favorite authors. Which authors have done the most to influence your writing and why?

MF: Always enjoyed substantial books that both entertained and informed. It was such a pleasant way to learn. Without a doubt Herman Wouk, Leon Uris, Ken Follett, and South African authors Wilbur Smith, Andre Brink shaped me. I’d like to add Alan Furst to that list. He’s my current favorite.


ABC: “Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. We invent it. What does “story” mean to you?

MF: Of course, “story” takes me back to being a child, and the best moments were being read to. I was fortunate that my granny owned a private library in Johannesburg, and she shared with me her joy of the printed page. So many stories, and so many rich memories preserved in my mind.


ABC: Tells us about your next project.

MF: The Zebra Affaire is set in 1976 South Africa. I’m considering remaining in sub-Saharan Africa, and setting my next novel, The Hyena Affaire in 1978 Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). I’m in the process of developing the outline, character profiles, and continuing research. Though my books are set back in time, and on a continent many are unfamiliar; the themes are relevant today, considering the tribal turmoil in the Middle East, as an example.


ABC: Where can we find you and your book?

MF: The Zebra Affaire is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and other fine retailers. For convenience the Amazon link for the Paperback is:http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireNovel and the Kindle: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle

ABC: Thank you again, so much for speaking with me.

MF: You are welcome, Angela. I enjoyed discussing my work with you.

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AUTHOR 2 AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Authors Mark Fine & Pamela Crane Reveal their Lives in Pursuit of the Art of Writing.

The Pamela Crane & Mark Fine Interview

Find out what secrets each author reveals in this author-on-author interview between Mark Fine, author of the romantic historical drama The Zebra Affaire, and Pamela Crane, thriller writer of the best-selling The Admirer’s Secret.

Each an admirer of the other’s work, here are pictures of Pamela and Mark “presenting” each others respective novels:

Pamela Crane with Tinkerbell_Zebra copy          Mark Fine admiring Admirers Secret

A coin is flipped and Pamela agrees to be first questioned by Mark… Continue reading