Guest Post/Virtual Tour ~ Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup by Elisabeth Amaral

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You can spend your life planning it, or you can more or less sit back and let it unfold in front of you. That is what happened to me when I was a young wife and mother living in New York City’s East Village. It was the Summer of Love, 1965. My husband and I were walking down Second Avenue with our baby when my husband announced that he wanted to move to Boston to study mime.  We gave up our apartment and his job to move north, and that was the beginning of our improbable adventure.

At first we supported ourselves by creating large, heavily beaded earrings and selling them, as well as incense, kurtas and beads, in the stores and streets of Cambridge. Through an unlikely path, that activity led us to open an upscale children’s boutique. Then, a year or two later, while sitting in our store during a blizzard, we decided, in a flash of inspiration, to open a restaurant.

Our adventure took an unexpected turn when we realized that my husband was gay. Homosexuality was barely understood, and rarely discussed during that era, and I began a slow, sometimes, dangerous journey down a road paved with growing self-doubt and lowered self-esteem. While our marriage was full of warmth and love, it suffered from the obvious. The lack of sexual gratification eventually propelled me toward risky behavior as I sought, and eventually re-discovered, my own sexual identity.

These memories had long been either forgotten or repressed. For the most part, my life with my first husband and our young son was filled with friends, fun and creative pursuits. Those were the memoires I chose to remember. But my focus changed suddenly while I was at a Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. I was next in line to pitch a mystery novel to a literary agent when I realized that what I really wanted to write about was those Cambridge years and that thrilling era. I had experienced a lifetime by the time I was thirty, and was now at an age where I felt a strong need to preserve those memories. Not quite the journey of my grandparents from Russia to the Lower East Side, but my journey. My self-discovery. A story for my new granddaughter, when she is old enough. My era of youthful experimentation during the Woodstock years. I had a sudden, fervent need to recall all of it, even the sex, the drugs, and rock and roll.

I reached out to acquaintances from that time, and my ex-husband put me in touch with staff from Duck Soup, our former Harvard Square restaurant. He also reminded me of so much:  our first date when the car broke down on a deserted road, decades before cell phones; our wedding in an unheated house when a state trooper showed up with our marriage license; his memories of young fatherhood, and the joys we shared as parents.

My own memories flooded back, making the early writing of the memoir a joy. At first the memories were all good, not only mine and my ex’s, but also those from former friends and colleagues.  And then, well into the writing came the memories of my youthful pain, my confusions that had led me to a second marriage with a different set of problems, and a deeper despair. Writing about it all with the honesty it deserved was difficult, but it was one of the most important, satisfying things I have ever done.

When I look back on that time of my life I am amazed at how much was accomplished, and how far ahead of the times both the children’s boutique and the restaurant were. I believe we were the first in New England to sell toddler’s bell-bottom jeans, Finnish rainwear, wooden clogs. The first to have a slide and a hiding place for the kids. I was the buyer, the seller, and the bookkeeper. In the restaurant, we served only the freshest, homemade soups, salads and chili. We made our own mayonnaise, steak sauce, and dessert breads – in 1970! We ground the coffee frequently and sold it for a dime, with free refills. And it wasn’t just the healthy and delicious food or the comfortable and flirtatious ambience. The endless soundtrack that included Billie Holiday, Gershwin, Django Reinhardt, Fred Astaire, and much more, held professors, students, poets, locals and hangers-on there for hours. And everyone was welcome for as long as they wanted to be there.

It was such a good time in our lives that whomever I approached from those years had their own stories, recipes and photographs to share. I have included it all. It took me almost three years to finish the memoir and it was quite a ride. As I look back, I am fascinated at how it all unfolded. And I am glad I can share it.  

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czarPublisher: iUniverse (October 22, 2014)

Genre: Memoir

ISBN-10: 1491749806

ISBN-13: 978-1491749807
ASIN: B00OYWN6SS
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository

czar-nicholas-the-toad-and-duck-soup

The mid-1960s through the mid-1970s was a heady, turbulent time. There was a lot going on back then, and author Elisabeth Amaral was in the middle of it all: the fights for women’s rights, racial equality, a music revolution, be-ins, love-ins, riots in the streets, the rage against the Vietnam War, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was an amazing time to be young.

In Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, Amaral shares her recollections of those times. She and her husband gave up their jobs in New York City, relocated to Boston with their infant son because of mime, unexpectedly started a children’s boutique, and opened a popular restaurant in Harvard Square. Most of all it is a coming-of-age story about herself and her husband as they embarked on an improbable and moving journey of self-discovery.

With sincerity and humor, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup offers a personal and revealing account that reaches out to those who find themselves striving to make a relationship work that, by its very nature, may be doomed. But this story is also one of friendship—and of finding the courage to move on.

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elisabethA native New Yorker, I have lived in the city for much of my life. My first jobs after graduating from NYU were jewelry design and case worker for the Departments of Welfare of New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was followed by co-ownership of a children’s boutique (Czar Nicholas and the Toad) and a restaurant (Duck Soup) in Cambridge near Harvard Square. I then worked as an industrial purchasing agent in New Jersey, and for the last 25 years have been a real estate broker in Manhattan, accumulating stories of the wonder and madness that is this city. I published a book of short stories (When Any Kind of Love Will Do), wrote two children’s books and a memoir (Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup), and am currently working on a novel.

Website * Facebook * Blog * Goodreads

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Excerpt ~ 

We shared everything, even our friends. But wait. What about those friends of his? Kind, gentlemen. Always womanless. Don’t even start to go there. Just don’t. It was easier to be in the immediate present, a member of our generation who shared the sentiments of the era, the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll era. The civil-rights and women’s- rights and anti-war and race-riot era. It was a thrilling time for youth. Along with our frustrations and fury at the government, we also shared an enormous sense of freedom and adventure, of this being our time. And if it was our time, that made it my time. My time to grab an afternoon lover, come home to nights of gentle affection, hug our kid, make supper, smoke some pot, and live happily. With luck, that might include ever after. Piece of cake, and it was no one’s fault.

Thoughts whizzed by. I grabbed onto some, because I knew I would need reminders.

This is my life, not a bad one at all. A very good one, in fact.

That was one thought. Here’s another: Look at me. Look at me! A sensual, sexual, twenty-something woman. A Scorpio. Married happily much of the time, except nighttime, the right time.

post-divider leftTour Schedule

Monday, March 2

First Chapter Reveal at Pump Up Your Book

Tuesday, March 3

Interview at Examiner

Wednesday, March 4

First Chapter Reveal at As the Page Turns

Thursday, March 5

Interview at The Book Rack

Friday, March 6

Guest Blogging at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 10

First Chapter Reveal at Literarily Speaking

Wednesday, March 11

Interview at The Writer’s Life

Thursday, March 12

Book Feature at Maureen’s Musings

Book Feature at Bound 2 Escape

Monday, March 16

Book Feature at Authors & Readers Book Corner

Tuesday, March 17

Book Feature at Undercover Book Reviews

Wednesday, March 18

Interview at I’m Shelf-ish

Thursday, March 19

Book Feature at The Dark Phantom

Monday, March 23

Interview at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Wednesday, March 25

First Chapter Reveal at Literal Exposure

Thursday, March 26

Interview at Beyond the Books

Friday, March 27

Book Review at Books Reviews ETC.

Monday, April 6

Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Tuesday, April 7

Book Feature at SheWrites

Wednesday, April 8

Guest Blogging at Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, April 9

Book Review at My Devotional Thoughts

Friday, April 10

Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Monday, April 13

Interview at Blogcritics

Tuesday, April 14

Interview at Literarily Speaking

Wednesday, April 15

Book Feature at CBY Book Club

Thursday, April 16

Interview at The Book Connection

Book Feature at Fallen Over Book Reviews

Monday, April 20

Guest Blogging at The Writer’s Life

Tuesday, April 21

First Chapter Reveal at As the Pages Turn

Wednesday, April 22

Book Feature at Booklover Sue

Thursday, April 23

Book Feature & Giveaway at The Busy Mom’s Daily

Monday, April 27

Book Feature at The Literary Nook

Tuesday, April 28

Interview at Review From Here

Thursday, April 30

Guest Blogging at My Life Loves and Passion

Book Review at Deal Sharing Aunt

 

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