Book Review: An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl

If Jane Austen were alive today, what would she say about the contemporary world? No longer is this question idle speculation—for the great authoress herself appeared in California at the turn of the twenty-first century and wrote about what she found there. The result is An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, her modern-day Pride and Prejudice, which tells a thoroughly modern tale in Austen’s own classic prose. |It turns out she has a lot to say about the prejudices we still harbor, and about how opponents can get past their pride to achieve reconciliation.obstinate headstrong girl cover

THE PEACEFUL HAMLET of Lambtown, in central California’s ranch and vineyard country, is cast into disarray after the Bennet family appears on the scene. From Mrs. Bennet’s social climbing to her youngest children’s dissolute behavior, the newcomers provoke universal censure. Eldest daughter Lizzy, a landscaper, challenges decorum with a series of social experiments aimed at improving the lot of the Spanish-speaking poor. And her gentle brother John offends many by virtue of his romance with local entrepreneur Charlie Bingley.

Nobody is more outraged by the Bennets than thoroughbred breeder Catherine de Bourgh and her amanuensis, Morris Collins. While Collins at first imagines that Lizzy is a promising prospect, she will have none of him, attracted instead to the elusive Jorge Carrillo. Unbeknownst to Lizzy, she has also been noticed by Fitzwilliam Darcy, scion of the founding family of Lambtown. Darcy, tantalized by her spirit but disapproving of her social crusades, makes an awkward pass that is spurned. Will hearts be healed and peace return to a divided community? How will Darcy and Elizabeth move beyond their pride and prejudices to achieve lasting happiness?

ABOUT the AUTHOR

THE HUMBLE AUTHOR of the volume before you finds herself much discomposed by her journey in the time travel device into which, in a moment of inattention to the niceties of comportment, she inadvertently strayed. She is even further bewildered by the world into which she has been cast; but, striving for the appearance at least of equanimity, is determined to inscribe a faithful record of all she observes. Perhaps, by continuing to be true to her nature in such an odd circumstance, she will find her way home at last.

Available through Ingram, or signed copies from www.obstinateheadstrongirl.com.

What reviewers are saying about An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl:

“I have been addicted to Jane Austen since I was eleven, and have read every sequel and modernization of her work for more decades than I care to admit to. In all that time, I have never, even remotely, found a volume that completely satisfied me. When I picked up An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, I confess I didn’t expect much—but hope began to rise with the first, witty sentence—and by the time I had finished page 1, I was irrevocably hooked. Delicate, clever, wise, completely true to both the eigh-teenth century and the twenty-first, this book is absolute perfection. . . . A dizzying debut for a stunningly good writer.”
—Award-winning author Mary Sheldon

“I will be the first to admit, I’m not a huge Jane Austen fan, so when this book was given to me, I read the first few pages out of politeness. Let’s just say, I ended up finishing the book the next day. Not only will the modern variations from the source material delight Austen diehards, but the book gives a fascinating glimpse into the politics and passions that take place in a small central California town. The writing is divine and by the time I was a few pages in, I was totally convinced that Jane Austen had indeed written it after a mishap with a time machine.” —Rebecca Van Dusen, Amazon

“How can this modern retelling, on the one hand, be so wildly different from the original but, on the other hand, be so genuinely devoted to the portrayal of Miss Austen’s beloved characters? The prose, for one, is largely from the exquisite Regency style . . . elegant, complex, and lofty. To be able to combine the venue of this modern story with the authenticity of the original characters into a story with such compelling contemporary political/social issues is a testament to the author’s creative abilities. . . . If the prospective reader of this tale had never heard of Jane Austen, the story would still stand confidently on its own with the compelling urgency of both personal and community conflicts, how they unfold in their complexity, and the beautiful way in which the author seeks to resolve them. Indeed it had me examining my own prejudices on the social/political issues presented. This remarkable story deserves more exposure and I hope you will find a place for it in your stack of
must-reads.” —Jeffrey Ward, Goodreads and Austenprose reviewer

For more information or for signed copies, visit www.obstinateheadstronggirl.com

David Ovelowo in “Selma”

Like most Americans, I suspect, I have been only peripherally aware of the events that took place in March 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King led three historic (and very dangerous) voting rights marches from Selma, Alabama to the Alabama state capital, Montgomery. I understood the importance of the march, and (vaguely, I admit) what it accomplished, but I didn’t know the real story—the challenges, the terror, the resistance, and the implications—of this seminal cultural and political showdown. Director Ava DuVernay brings the truth to the fore in her new film Selma, the best film yet to focus on Dr. King and his iconic role in the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60s.flick

Actor David Oyelowo, who portrays King in Selma, has given us a performance for the ages, and one likely to be recognized when Oscar announces the Best Actor nods in January. Oyelowo, a (still-young) veteran of the British stage, brings a deep humanity and vulnerability to the character of King, showing us the man beneath the mythology, and, in turn, further heightening our respect and admiration for the heroic cultural leader.

I sat down with Oyelowo in San Francisco recently, and we talked about the timeless message of Selma, the immense challenge of stepping into Martin Luther King’s shoes, and the years of struggle to finally bring this film to the public.

Oyelowo explained how the triumph of Selma is underscored by the fact that it took years of struggle and commitment to even get the film made. He had been attached to the project early on, and remained committed and focused on his dream of playing King throughout the long development process. He recalled: “It was a seven year journey of disappointment, frustration, anticipation, and excitement to get this off the ground. The blessing in disguise of all that waiting was that I knew, somewhere in my spirit, that it was my destiny to do this role. I watched everything I could in terms of documentary film, I read books, talked with people who knew him, and spent time with his family. I went to where he was born, and where he died. Once it became time to actually create the film, there was weight gain that needed to take place—a physical assimilation—and what I can only describe as spiritual work. This man was governed by his spiritual life and conviction, and I felt I needed to really open myself up in order to show that.”

With his theatrical background and oratorical skills, Oyelowo came well-prepared to capture King’s legendary speaking voice, but he also had to find the source of commitment and belief that made truly King inspirational. “The thing is that there was a difference between King in the pulpit, or at a podium, and him just talking to someone in, say, a corridor He was taken up, there was something transcendent in him. The question was what was going on with this man internally to get him to this heightened place where he is able to move thousands—millions—of people by the power of his words. That was an intimidating prospect, but one I felt I needed to get my arms around.”

I mentioned Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, in which Oyelowo had a small, but very poignant, role, especially when considered in the same context as Selma. He described his connection between the two films: “I have a scene with Colman Domingo—who plays Ralph Abernathy in Selma—we both stood before Daniel Day Lewis, and I say to him, ‘maybe one day we’ll get the vote.’ That was the winter of 1865. In Selma, there is a scene where I am sitting next to Colman Domingo and I am brooding over the fact of whether or not we will actually get the vote. And that’s 1965. Same actors, 100 years apart. It beautifully crystallizes how long the process towards freedom has been for people of color in this country.”

I expressed that I thought Selma brought a depth to our understanding of Martin Luther King that might have been lost in a three-hour biopic, and Oyelowo agreed, adding: “The genius of the script by Paul Webb and Ava DuVernay was to focus in on just those three months, because to tell such a full rich life, one that has so many chapters, you may end up with an unsatisfactory film that just touched on the elements of his big life. This film really mines what was going on in the internal life of King and those involved in the movement. And that is what we look for in movies. We are looking for ourselves. You ask yourself, ‘If I were him, what would I do?’ Selma demystifies, but at the same time further elevates, the beauty of the man.”

It’s so true. I was moved to tears by Selma. It is a great American film with a timeless message. As we celebrate the holiday season, and share that feeling of equality that feels so natural during the holidays, I hope we come to understand that we really can treat each other this way every day of the year.

Patriarchs of Alta California: Sunol and Amador

My curiosity was piqued recently when I pulled an antique leather-bound book from my library shelf. I had purchased the liturgical Latin Missale Romanum altar prayer book in the late 1960s as part of St Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s church libraries.
The weighty missal’s leather cover is gold-embossed: “IN MEMORIAM JOSEPHINE SUNOL –1906”. As I ran my fingers over the inscription I wondered if Josephine’s family may have donated the missal in memory of a Don Senor Antonio Sunol descendant. Research soon revealed that Josephine Sunol was indeed the granddaughter of Alta California land grantees; Jose Joaquin Bernal and Antonio Sunol for whom the town of Sunol is named.book sunol

Research connected the Sunol family to the original St. Joseph’s Church and San Jose historic archives revealed that Antonio Sunol had donated land and funded the building of St Joseph’s first church in 1835, then known as San Jose de Guadalupe. The historic landmark church, since rebuilt and renovated, was designated a cathedral basilica in 1997 by Pope John Paul.

With nothing tangible to go on, but the name Josephine Sunol, I soon discovered she was a St Joseph parishioner when she occupied her grandfather’s adobe in the 1880s at 243 Guadalupe Street, now Market Street. Old directories indicated other Sunol family members lived at 189 Delmas Street, a stone’s throw away.

The adobe on Guadalupe Street was once part of a Mexican land grant where the present Roberto-Sunol Adobe National Landmark stands at 770 Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen. After renovation, San Jose Historian the Honorable Judge Paul Bernal guided its donation to California Pioneers of Santa Clara County.

When Josephine Sunol’s Guadalupe adobe home was demolished in the mid-20th century, the rancho land later became the sites of the Civic Auditorium, Centre for Performing Arts, and an office complex. As Josephine Sunol’s backstory unfolded, I discovered how she fit into San Jose’s early history, and her connection to Bernal, Sunol and Amador Mexican land grantees; Alta California pioneers of the post-New Spain era. Excitement soared as internet sleuthing got underway.

According to the 1860 San Jose Census, widower Antonio Sunol, 65-year old gentleman, lived at the 243 Guadalupe Street adobe with his children after he sold the Roberto-Sunol Adobe to a Dalmatian sea captain.

And an Alameda County 1880 census shows farmer Jose Narcisio Sunol, born 10 June 1835, and wife Rosario Palomares (daughter of Pacheco land grantee), had six children including 6-year old Josephine and Juanita, born 1874. They were twins!
When I found Josephine Sunol’s significant historic connection to my own book, I delved into the lives of her grandfathers, Don Senor Jose Joaquin Bernal and Don Senor Antonio Maria Sunol. Bernal, a soldier in the 1775 De Anza Expedition, was granted 64,000 acres in 1839 from San Jose to Santa Teresa north of Morgan Hill.

Sunol, Spaniard-turned-Californio, married Bernal’s daughter Dolores which added to his riches. He was a ranchero, orchardist, cattleman, mayor and philanthropist. And was brother-in-law to fellow ranchero Jose Maria Amador owner of Rancho San Ramon, who married 16-year old Magdalena Maria Trinidad Bernal in 1818 thus forging powerful alliances.
My in-depth sleuthing revealed that the largest landowners in Alta California; Bernal, Amador and Sunol were all intrinsically linked by their vast estates that spanned from Santa Teresa to the golden hills of San Ramon until statehood in 1850 when newcomer “Americanos” finagled the rules of land grant ownership.

THE CALIFORNIOS
Antonio Sunol, born in Barcelona in 1797 to afrancasado parents, (close ties to France) was educated in Bordeaux. After the Royal House of Bourbon fell, he joined Napoleon’s French Navy. Rumor has it that Sunol was present when Napoleon surrendered and was exiled to St Helena. Later Sunol sailed on the “Bordelaise” around Cape Horn to California. The 20-year old adventurer jumped ship at Yerba Buena, San Francisco, on 15th August 1817. The intrepid sailor made his way sixty miles on horseback to Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe, governed then by Sargente Luis Maria Peralta of the Spanish Army whose original adobe still stands at 184 West St John Street, San Jose.

Sunol, Spanish entrepreneur-trader, travelled over the valleys selling leather hides, tallow candles and precious lace. This may have been when Sunol crossed paths with Jose Maria Amador and wife Magdalena Bernal Amador. After rotating out of the Mexican Army in 1827, Amador was granted a 4,400-acre rancho that spanned from Mission San Jose to San Ramon Valley as far as the eye could see.

It was just a matter of time before Sunol too became owner of a large rancho. The 2,219-acre Rancho de los Coches on Los Gatos Creek in San Jose belonged to Mission Indian Roberto Balermino. Roberto owed Sunol $500 and paid the debt in 1847 by deeding his rancho and adobe.

Sunol purchased 500 horses, 5,000 sheep and 10,000 head of cattle. He sold hides, leather goods and saddles. He built a brick house adjacent to Roberto’s Adobe where he proudly flew three flags; Spanish, French and Mexican. He opened San Jose’s first mercantile store; sold calico, furs, brandy, wine, wool serapes and blankets, kerchiefs at $16 a dozen, and lariats. He cultivated wine grapes and a superabundance of peaches, pears, oranges and figs. He cooked meat and bread in the clay oven outside Roberto’s Adobe.

Don Antonio, an educated man, could read and write Spanish, French and English. Known for gracious hospitality, the gallant Spaniard held fiestas, caballeros played guitars, guests danced fandangos, people played monte card games, and ex-soldiers shared war stories about fighting Indians. Landowners Bernal and Amador were linked by their Mexican military service; Sargente Bernal was part of the 1776 De Anza Expedition and Pedro Amador, Jose Maria’s father, had been with Portola’s 1769 Overland Expedition who said upon retirement, “The only compensation I got for 18 years of service was 14 Indian arrows in my body.”

When Spain missionized Alta California with twenty-one religious and military outposts on Camino Real, soldiers manned them to support the priests’ work with the Indians. By the 1830s the missions were secularized and large ranchos were granted to ex-soldiers. Senor Amador married 16-year old Magdalena Bernal on May 28, 1818, and Sunol married her sister Maria de los Dolores Bernal at Santa Clara Mission Church on November 7, 1823.

Legend has it that weddings lasted three days. Young brides sat side-saddle in front of a family member, silk slippers golden braid-entwined, and rode in procession through tree-lined avenues to Santa Clara Mission Church. Serenade music escorted cavalcades of caparisoned horses for grooms and brides to unite their influential families in blissful marriages. These intra-family marriages forged enduring alliances between the Bernal, Amador and Sunol clans—the three most powerful ranchero families in the valley whose vast lands reached from south San Jose Santa Teresa to present-day Dublin and deep into the San Ramon Valley.

Amador outlived three wives and had 22 children. He married his beloved 16-year old Magdalena Bernal who died during childbirth after having 5 children by age 25. Jose Maria died June 12, 1883 and is buried at St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Gilroy; his tombstone stands a few yards from my own mother’s grave. With such a large family I deducted that Jose Maria Amador must have had many local descendants. I had to look no further than my own circle of friends. Fellow Friends of Blackhawk Museum, Jill Brennan, told me that her husband Bob possessed impeccable Amador descendants’ genealogies.

I met with longtime resident Robert John Brennan at his Danville home. His drafting table was strewn with pedigree charts, vintage photographs, and history books confirming his auspicious Amador roots. Bob Brennan is the great-great-grandson of Jose Maria Amador and Magdalena Bernal Amador, once owners of the historic San Ramon Mission Rancho and Mission El Valle de San Jose Rancho. “We are very proud of our heritage.” Bob said, showing me charts of the Hispano-Mexican pioneers and photographs of the Amador descendants.

Jose Maria Amador, whose name aptly translates to ‘gold lover’, had beaten the 1849 Gold Rush by mining in early 1848 with brother-in-law, presumed to be Antonio Sunol, who also wrote of finding gold near John Sutter’s sawmill. Amador returned from the camp (now Amador County) with 114 pounds of gold nuggets in coffee cans. He wrote that he shared the golden yield with Indians and family, and gave the rest to the church for chalices. Eureka!

SUNOL AND VALLE DE SAN JOSE
As Bernal descendants, Maria Dolores Bernal Sunol and Magdalena Bernal Amador inherited half of a 64,000-acre parcel around Mission San Jose. Antonio and Maria Dolores Sunol had several children; Jose Antonio, Jose Narcisio, Jose Dolores, Josepha, Antonia, Francisca, Incarnacion, and Paula who married Frenchman Pierre Sansevain, San Jose’s first vintner.

A glimpse into history tells of Hispano-Mexicans before California entered statehood in 1850. When gold was first discovered in 1848 near Sacramento on the American River banks near John Sutter’s sawmill, Sunol rushed there with Amador and some Indians. John Sutter had bought cattle from Sunol and paid the debt with a land parcel near Sacramento.
Sunol returned to San Jose with about $3 million worth of gold nuggets which he shared with Indians and split with family to play the monte card game.

The Gold Rush and subsequent Land Rush were historic turning points for Alta California. The Spanish had once forged frontiers from St Augustine, Florida all the way to San Francisco where un-scarred pristine lands were belted by forests of redwoods, heritage oaks, and alamo cottonwoods that ran along rivers. Rolling hills were ornamented by purple needle-grass, and luscious wild oats grew as tall as a bull’s horns, clusters of wild azalea, poppies, and thickets of huckleberry carpeted ravines where no men had yet tread. Wanderers and Ohlone Indians bivouacked on open plains or near rivers’ fording places where bears spooked their horses. Vaquero cowboys lassoed groaning cattle and rode herds in canadas through steep arroyos to faraway markets.

ALTA CALIFORNIA GAINS STATEHOOD IN 1850
After the Mexican-American War, over 100,000 Californios reluctantly yielded to statehood in 1850 becoming the Union’s 31st state. Gold Rush opportunities enticed the largest western-bound migration in human history. Westward wagon trains carried thousands of trekkers a day. Some eastern speculating interlopers became unlawful squatters, gunslingers, horse thieves, and cattle rustlers. Many grabbed rancho lands, panned rivers, built cabins on private property and dynamited outcrops.

New State laws allowed squatters to pre-empt the rancho lands that had not yet been confirmed under previous Mexican Land Grants. Most parcels had been allocated to ex-military servicemen with charts and the watertight integrity of a handshake. Jose Maria Amador sold off his land parcels in 1850 and, some say may have died a pauper after paying exorbitant legal fees. Many “American” interlopers sequestered parcels of Hispano-Mexican ranchos and wanton bandits forged their names into history.
Notorious cattle rustler and monte card dealer, Joaquin Murrieta from Mexico, was one of the most famous desperados. His gang raided mining camps, stole gold from prospectors and rancheros in the Sunol hills and Livermore Valley. Murrieta’s Well Winery on Mine Road in Livermore is named for the desperado who has since gained folk hero status. It is said that the bandit’s head, preserved in a jar of brandy, travelled around California and could be viewed for a dollar. And newcomer land grabbing squatters and interlopers made big trouble for rancheros. It was only a matter of time that disaster would strike the Sunol family.

While Sunol’s son, Jose Antonio was tending to 25,000 heads of cattle on the 48,000-acre El Valle de San Jose Rancho, 15 miles north of Pueblo de San Jose, now Niles-Fremont-Sunol, an argument broke out with squatter John Wilson. After Wilson had killed several animals, Jose Antonio approached on horseback, “If you want meat I will give you all the meat you can eat, just don’t kill our cattle.” Wilson aimed his rifle and shot Jose Antonio dead. It was March 7, 1855. Wilson escaped, was never brought to justice.

The murder of Sunol’s oldest son was a devastating blow to all ranchero families. Jose Narcisio, brother to Antonio, moved to the El Valle San Jose Rancho. He married Rosario Palomares in March 1858. These were Josephine Sunol’s parents.
There were other relatives with interesting stories. I found an online legal document stating that 19-year old Narcisio M. Sunol, born in 1853 two years before Jose Antonio’s murder, was admitted to Stockton Insane Asylum in 1872 by Cristobal Palomares (Rosario’s brother?) for reason of insanity. Could this asylum inmate, who died of consumption five years later, have been orphan son of Jose Antonio who was murdered by the squatter in 1855? The plot thickens.

Don Antonio Sunol, devastated by his son’s death, drew up a last will and testament naming his children and future heirs to his vast fortune, including not-yet-born granddaughter Josephine Sunol. His beloved wife Maria Dolores Bernal Sunol had died in 1845, and Antonio died on the Feast of St Joseph, March 19, 1865 at his Guadalupe Street adobe home.
The Spaniard of noble birth had not only mingled with Emperor Napoleon, but also with Bernal, Amador, John C. Fremont, Thomas O. Larkin, John Sutter, John Gilroy, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo of Petaluma, and Roberto Livermore all of whom left indelible marks on Northern California.

The near-forgotten legacies of Jose Maria Amador still lives through Amador County and San Ramon Valley that he named for his mother Ramona, and Antonio Sunol still lives through Sunol Valley and the historic town named for him. Sunolians value their small town atmosphere and strive to keep it intact. Sunol gained an odd sort of tongue-in-cheek fame when Bosco, a Re-pup-lican dog was elected town mayor on a lark in the 1990s. Communist China even commented on America’s canine democracy.

And today when irate I-680 commuters are idling on the highway from Silicon Valley to San Ramon, Senor Antonio Sunol’s memory comes alive all too vividly on the bottle-necked Sunol Grade.

Sunol Valley also shares some pre-Hollywood film history where it once attracted moviemakers to Niles Canyon. Curly-kop Mary Pickford posed near Warm Springs, and iconic Charlie Chaplin filmed “The Tramp” years before Hollywood became filmdom’s epicentre.

Today tourists visit Livermore Valley’s superb wine region and historic Niles Railroad Museum. Visitors ride the Niles Canyon Railway steam train that meanders through canyons where bands of Ohlone Tribes lived 5,000 years ago.
Today heritage oaks, sycamores and alamo cottonwoods spread dappled shade across rail tracks or reach for the sun. Lush valleys, yellow-crisp in summer, still echo where caballeros serenaded, and cattle once roamed along Canada de la Tasagera, now Camino Tassajara.

Slow trains carry riders from Niles, not only through the canyon, but back in time where once proud Hispano-Mexican pioneers, like Jason’s Argonauts, forged a forever history in California’s own El Dorado golden hills.
Again I touch the book’s embossed dedication; “In Memoriam Josephine Sunol—1906”. Now I know Josephine’s story. Her grandfathers, Jose Bernal and Don Antonio Sunol, together with Jose Maria Amador, forged history in the Santa Clara and San Ramon Valleys.

Josephine’s grandmother was Dolores Bernal Sunol; aunt was Magdalena Bernal Amador. And maybe unbeknownst to some readers until my ALIVE Magazine revelation, Bob Brennan is also Josephine Sunol’s distant cousin. And his great-great-great grandfather Jose Joaquin Bernal was a member of the De Anza Expedition.
Josephine’s grandparents, Antonio and Dolores Sunol, were godparents on July 26, 1825 to Jose Amador’s son Jose Antonio,

Brennan’s great grandfather, at Mission Santa Clara. And it was Josephine’s uncle Jose Antonio Sunol who died at Rancho El Valle de San Jose at the hands of a renegade squatter in 1855.

And now as I return my old mass book back to its place of honor on my library shelf, I know the rest of Josephine Sunol’s once-secret story.

The Gift of Me: Another Interview with Myself

Here I am again, at the home of author Mike Copeland on the eve of the release of his second book, Alive and Chillin’ – More Sideways Views and Do You Know Who’s. Given that his first book, Alive and Kickin’ – Sideways Views From an Upright Guy only sold about 23 copies, I can’t imagine that this is terribly exciting news to anyone other than Mr. Copeland, and perhaps Eric Johnson, his editor at ALIVE Magazine, who also happens to be the President of ALIVE Book Publishing. ALIVE is the company distributing Mr. Copeland’s latest birdcage lining.

As the doorbell rings, I can only hope that the subject of this piece is asleep, not home or possibly even incarcerated. Alas, no such luck. Once Mike eventually does get around to finally opening the door, he gestures me in without speaking. His silence is odd given his narcissistic nature. I’m led into the same den/man cave that we met in almost two and a half years ago just prior to the release of his first book. The first book was panned by critics, but the pages made for wonderful padding in our dog’s crate right before she delivered her litter of puppies. By the scent in the room, Mr. Copeland has apparently given us drinking (Rebel Yell Bourbon) in favor of medicinal marijuana (San Simeon is my educated guess). I’m still not sure how I drew the short straw when it came to our monthly assignments at ALIVE Magazine, but not every pull of the slot machine is a jackpot.copeland

MC: Thank you for having me to your home again Mike. How is this night different from where we were two years ago?

Mike: Please, call me Mr. Copeland. Well for one, it’s December, 2014 not July, 2012 so it’s colder. As an author, I’d like to think that I’m more worldly and mature. Not to mention, a much bigger celebrity in the Tri Valley. I did so many, three or four, book signings, that my name has become much more recognized in literary circles and book store restrooms. I’m huge at Art and Wine festivals along the I-680 corridor and Central Valley Blog conventions. So to answer your question….What was your question? Oh, I think it’s just different because it is. Next question.

MC: What makes you think that this book will sell better than your first book? It’s pretty competitive out there and your first effort didn’t set the world on fire.

Mike: Can you say, Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad, Happy Hanukkah, it’s Kwanza Baby! Tis the season to be jolly and since it’s better to give than to receive what better way to say “I love you,” “I care about you,” or “quit annoying me,” than by giving the gift that keeps on giving? The holidays are a great time to release a book, because people are shopping for suitable gifts. My new book is a thrilling and provocative, OK – maybe more light-hearted and somewhat entertaining, non-fiction toilet tank distraction that is needed in this world. It was also written by someone people in this area know and love: Me! I’ll even sign it for you if you come by my house.

MC: How do you plan to market the new book differently than the first book?

Mike: Few people know that my first book actually sold over 500 copies, thank you very much. It’s probably safe to say that there’s a lot of buzz for my latest Pulitzer submission. I have a catchy title, right, so that will catch some eyes? See how I did that, using “catch” twice. Plus, there’s this new thing called Amazon and it’s not the river in Egypt. Secretly, I hope we can count on Santa to place a big order. He’s even bigger than Amazon when you think about it.

MC: How is this book, Alive and chillin’ similar or different from your first book, Alive and kickin’?

Mike: In my first book, I was kickin’ and in this book I’m chillin’. You’re not very observant are you? My first book was only humor lifestyle material from my first six years with ALVIE Magazine. This book is a collection of roughly 25 humor lifestyle essays from the last two years, along with over 25 personality profiles dating back to 2008. I’ve also included a few community-oriented pieces. That is some good sh……. Stuff.

MC: You chose to work with Eric Johnson at ALIVE Book Publishing again. How was that experience?

Mike: EJ knows me. Because of our history, he focuses on what buttons to push to bring out my brilliance. E. Johnny works with his authors in a kind and gentle, yet stern and firm manner, depending on the mood of his talent. Personally, I like to be coddled. Eazy Jezzy knows that I also do my best work in my pajamas and Crocs while wearing my lucky fedora. That attire might be frowned upon on at some of the reputable publishing houses, but not at ALIVE world headquarters. If I’m hungry, there’s Cup-0-Noodles, if I’m thirsty, there’s Kool-Aid, and if I’m backed-up (creatively) there’s medicinal incense. I respect that Lord Eric of Johnsonville works hard and leads by example.

MC: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Mike: Few people know that I’m an uncertified professional ballroom dancer; a sock puppet ventriloquist and I have narcolepsy. Needless to say, my days are pretty full. I’ve also been known to smuggle exotic reptiles into the country, but don’t say anything to anyone because I’m already on the TSA’s “No-Fly List.”

MC: You’ve always proclaimed yourself to be exceptionally witty and glib with a self-deprecating style of humor, who challenges you to be your best? Where do you draw inspiration?

Mike: OMG, stop flirting with me. The key to my success has been to surround myself with people more creative and intelligent than myself. At home, my wife and daughters contently needle and ridicule me so I need to be on my “A” game at all times. I’m intellectually stimulated and challenged by certain, but not all, of my guy friends (Rob, Stan, and Tom – you know who you are). I also communicate telepathically with local comedian, David Vanavermaete. He is one talented and very funny dude. Additionally, Giants broadcasters, Mike Krukow and Duane Kieper educate and entertain me from early March through late October. I don’t actually know them, but if I ever transition to radio, they would be my mentors. Finally, I’m a big fan of the television show, Modern Family. The writing is unappalled and that Cam is a hoot. I would say I draw inspiration from all my surroundings. You might say, I’m a student of Planet Earth University. Too bad I can’t find a PEU hoodie.

MC: Off topic, but didn’t I hear that you were recently involved in a traffic altercation?

Mike: Yes, your muckraking is correct. It was at Bagel Street Café in the Mercantile Livery and I graciously offered to sign someone’s November issue of ALIVE magazine. When that person didn’t appreciate my generous offer, I may have accidently bumped my forehead on hers. I’m embarrassed to admit that the incident was a case of “Roid Rage” Hemorrhoids not steroids. When those things flare up, I get awfully cantankerous. I don’t have any scientific evidence; however I’m relatively certain that Dr. David Banner’s Hulk episodes were the direct result of hemorrhoids. But I digress, fortunately the alleged victim and I settled out of court—the bocce ball court.

MC: Do you have any book signings or public appearances planned for your latest Toilet Tank offering?

Mike: As a first time author back in 2012, the ALIVE PR department booked me at every Rotary Club breakfast, Chamber of Commerce Mixer and Cabi Show in a ten-mile radius. Add to that, we did our share of Stella & Dot parties, Scout jamborees and Senior Center blood drives. My favorite public appearance was a Tinder meet and greet. As for bookstore signings, I had my biggest night at Read in Blackhawk Plaza. There must have been a crowd of six or seven people and at least half of them were there to support me, or use the restroom. I expect this time will be more of the same. Good times.

MC: When do you hit the road?

Mike: Tonight. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave now. I’m serious.

As I thanked Mike for his time, he awkwardly asked me if I stole anything while visiting his house. It almost felt like he was frisking me when he gave me a “bro” hug as I was departing. Like I stated at the end of my first profile piece on Mr. Copeland back in the summer of 2012, for an odd fellow he does possess some talent. I actually enjoyed most of his offerings in his new book and found the content somewhat therapeutic while doing my business in the bathroom. I do feel compelled to support our local talent and hope the readers will do the same. Good luck Mike.

For more information on Mike Copeland’s new book, Alive and Chillin’ – More Sidways Views and Do You Know Who’s contact the Alive Media office in Alamo.