Monday, September 24, 2012

Guest post: Larry Buchanan & Karen Gans

Please welcome authors Larry Buchanan & Karen Gans as they give us a peek into their journey along the publishing road.  They are promoting their book, The Gift of El Tio.

Publisher: Self
Date of publication: November 2012

Larry, a world-renowned geologist, discovers an enormous deposit of silver beneath a remote Quechua village in Bolivia and unwittingly fulfills a 400-year-old prophecy that promised a life of wealth for the villagers. Karen, a specialist in child development, is deeply disturbed by the prospect of displacing the people in order to open a mine. She challenges Larry to leave the comforts of home and move to the village in order to bear witness to the massive change his discovery will spark. Thus begins the couple's life-changing, ten-year journey into the Quechua community, their evolution from outsiders to trusted friends. Then part two of the ancient prophecy is disclosed to them, and they are shocked by the truth of its predictions: alienation, despair, even cannibalism.

How to Get Your Book Published 

            While living amongst the Quechua people in Bolivia, documenting the changes that would accompany moving their town to a new location, my husband and I became enthralled with their beliefs.  Although Larry had always been a skeptic when it came to shamans, crystal healings, fortune-tellers and such, his curiosity about Quechua culture led him to immerse himself totally in the rituals and cosmology of these people.  After all, he was the geologist who fulfilled the prophecy of the god of the underworld, El Tio, by discovering an enormous silver deposit underneath the town of San Cristobal.  And how could a geologist resist a culture that believes rocks harbor the souls of our ancestors? 

            When our friend, Senobio, told us that this was an auspicious day for a ch’alla, a ritual where the Quechua request favors from the gods, Larry and I asked him to arrange a blessing for our manuscript, The Gift of El Tio, so that it would be published.  We’d observed many ch’allas, but had never requested one for our own needs.  The yacho, Lucrecio, who performed such ceremonies, informed us that his talents related more to finding lost animals or requesting a good harvest.  He didn’t exactly specialize in attempts at writing, but he’d give it his best.

            After two hours bumping across the roadless high desert of Bolivia, our truck arrived at Lucrecio’s isolated ranch.  How one ever found their destination was beyond me as the way to anywhere all looked alike: sandy, flat, treeless with a few scrawny thola bushes sticking up every so often.  Lucrecio’s home consisted of several one-room houses of mud and straw, encircling a courtyard.

            The yacho held out a bloody hand to greet us, repeating several times, “Una buena hora, un buena dia.”   We must have hesitated.  He looked down, pulled his hand back and wiped it on his jeans before extending the blood-smeared hand again.

A white llama lay upon the dusty earth, blood dripping from its slit neck into a large white bowl.  A cloth covered its eyes to protect it from the fear of death.  I had to ask myself how badly did I want this man’s advice on publishing our book?  However the pile of rejections from agents reminded me that we might need some “outside” help.

            As Larry and I sipped beer, puffed on cigarettes, and chewed coca leaf with the yacho, we watched his sons butcher the llama sacrificed for this special day.  They removed the organs, sliced the muscle, and prepared the ribs for a barbecue.  The animal became hide and pieces of organs, hung to dry on a rope strung across the courtyard.

            All afternoon, we stood in the courtyard around a small table transformed into a mesa.  A bright chartreuse aguayo was placed as a tablecloth.  The family’s wishes were well-represented: two armadillo shells for good luck; a miniature toy truck, a Twin Cab GMC; and an equally small house modeled after a two-story white wooden home; tiny U.S. dollar bills for wealth; and a potato for a good harvest.  For Larry and me, a black loose-leaf notebook filled with our manuscript was added to the crowded mesa.  Lucrecio’s son rolled out a broken red motorcycle, Yugoslavian we were told, so that it too could be blessed.

           My Timex watch ticked away as we repeated the rituals over and over and over again: pour a few drops of beer over each item resting on the mesa, some on the earth for the Pachamama, and then a sip for ourselves before passing it counter-clockwise to the next person.  Then sprinkle coca leaf over each item and the earth before popping some into our mouths.  A puff of a cigarette, flick the ashes on the now sticky coca leaf coated items and some on the beer-soaked ground.  The men dropped the ashes into their hands and placed them in their mouths to enhance the effect of the coca leaf.  I declined.
            Cingani, that clear liquid in a tiny plastic bottle, circled the group.  An alcohol similar to white lightning, it burned as it touched the tip of my tongue.  It seemed to pass my way often, and never emptied.  We stood for hours, sipping, smoking, chewing, drinking, talking just about anything, and once in a while, praying.  Larry and I offered generous quantities of the alcohol to the gods so as not to consume too much.  After all, we were at 14,000 feet above sea level where alcohol executed a power of its own. 
            By the time the sun had crossed the immense sky, the ch’alla ended.  Lucrecio performed the final ritual by placing gifts for Pachamama in a basin.  First he arranged the misterios.  These little white wafers with designs of mountains, potatoes, books, and dollars resembled children’s play-dough with imprints made by fancy plastic toys.  But these were not play-dough; these were our requests for blessings from the gods.

            The Pachamama also relished sweets so candies were added along with a bit of wool from the llama, and of course, some coca leaf.  All this went up in flames as the yacho shook a bottle of beer and a bottle of orange soda, encouraging the spewing liquid to go far over the earth as a sign of a good ch’alla.  Our prayers would be heard.  “Es buena hora.  Un buen Dia.”  Everyone agreed for the hundredth time.

            Maybe we should have grabbed our sticky, coca-beer-ash covered manuscript and fled while the predictions were positive, but we didn’t.  There was one more ritual to determine the fate of our book: the throwing of the coca leaves.  Beckoning us to sit with him inside the company truck away from the afternoon winds, Lucrecio pulled a piece of white muslin cloth filled with coca leaves from his pocket and laid the cloth on his lap.  Larry sat with him in the back seat; Senobio and I, in the front, twisting our bodies to watch Lucrecio as he passed his hand over the folded cloth and then carefully opened it, displaying a design of coca leaves.  Larry and I glanced at each other.

            Some of the leaves had scattered to the edges, others stayed in a pile in the center of the cloth.  Lucrecio would do this three times.  He stared at the design as if the future of our book was imprinted on each leaf.  He lifted several leaves and let them fall upon the pile.  He shook his head and grumbled as Larry and I leaned forward to see.  Many of the leaves criss-crossed each other.  Finally, he let us know the coca leaves did not give a favorable sign.  He said the book would probably never be published.

            Ah ha! By now you, the reader, are thinking this is all silly hocus-pocus because we’re advertising our book on this blog.  But would we be if we had not followed the yacho’s further instructions?

            Dismayed, Larry and I asked if nothing could be done to change the course of the reading.  Lucrecio gave a definitive “Yes.”  He would come to our house in the new town in the evening and perform another ch’alla.  Then at 6 a.m., we would visit the chapel that housed the saints and pray on our knees to San Augustin, the saint of learning.  After prayer, we would follow our yacho to the highest peak where we would perform just one more ch’alla.

            Did we do all this?  Well, The Gift of El Tio is published, yes?

Check out the book trailer:

About the authors:

Larry Buchanan earned his PhD in Economic Geology in 1979 and taught university-level geology for several years, but his love of the field led him to gold and silver prospecting in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In 2006, he won the coveted Thayer Lindsley Award for the San Cristobal silver discovery. Dr. Buchanan has published a dozen scientific works and is a sought-after speaker at international conferences and college campuses.

Karen Gans earned her Masters degree in Early Childhood Development and has thirty-five years of experience as an educator, counselor, and consultant. She taught English in the Quechua village while the couple lived in Bolivia. Ms. Gans and her husband have four children and two grandchildren and reside in Ashland, Oregon.

1 comment:

Tribute Books said...

Kari, thanks for sharing Larry and Karen's story :)