Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Straight Chatting at the Library: Ameera Unveiled by Kathleen Varn

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kathleen will be awarding a $10 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


What is the favorite book you remember as a child?

I fell in love with The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet in fifth grade. I had to do a book report for the class and made a puppet show. The teacher liked it so much, we were asked to perform it in other classrooms. But there are so many more—and I made sure I read them to my daughter when she was still learning to read. She was adamant that we read a couple chapters of The Little Princess or Secret Garden before she’d go play in the neighborhood.

What is your favorite book today? 

I am in love with Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I picked it up on a live-aboard dive boat in the Maldives. Erin did a fabulous job creating visuals and I loved her complex timelines.

Tell us about your current book in 10 words. 

How Kat shimmied through a childhood forbidden zone with glitter!

What are you reading right now?

I am juggling three books depending on my reading environment. My dad left me Pigs in Heaven. My aunt mailed How Green was my Valley. And my Kindle has A Son of the Circus on it.

What books do you have on hold at the library?

Does unread downloads on my Kindle count? Carol E. Wyer’s Just Add Spice, Debra Trueman’s Advice of Counsel and JB Bond’s Rainbow’s End.

E-Reader or print? and why?

I like my Kindle and I LOVE my paper books. I’m a very fast reader. If I’m traveling for an extended period of time, four books on my Kindle is a lot lighter (and I love using the internal dictionary).

One book at a time or multiples?

I can read several books at one time. Again, because I’m such a fast reader I can stay in the story and characters easier if I restrict myself to one.

Dog-ear or bookmark? (don't worry—Librarian Judith won't hold it against you—much)

I will not dog-ear a book! I found a gorgeous beaded bookmark on a dive trip that I keep in my Kindle. That makes me feel less guilty about being paperless.

Least favorite book you've read this year?

I don’t dislike very often but I was not a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Favorite book you've read this year?

In spite of living in Charleston, I’d never read Lords of Discipline. Pat Conroy captured the older Charleston I knew as a teenager.

When do you do most of your reading?

If I can break away from writing, I try to support other authors (including Indie) while I’m at lunch solo.

Favorite place to read?

On an airplane going somewhere new and fun!

Favorite genre? I have a wide range of tastes in books.

My mother listened to a lot of vinyl records from The Beatles to The Righteous Brothers. I think I’m the same way with stories.

Do you loan your books?

Only if they aren’t on my Kindle! I’m happy to lend a book unless I’m concerned about it being returned.

Re-reader or not?

I have several books I’d love to re-read but my time is gobbled with promoting Ameera Unveiled. I’m also trying to squeeze in research for my next project.

What would make you not finish a book?

Out of respect to all authors, I try and always finish a book. If it is a very, very poorly edited—I may give up.

Keep books or give them away?

I keep and give books away unless I purposely acquired a first edition.


At the age of forty-eight, happily remarried and retired from her legal assistant gerbil wheel, Kat decides to break out of her shell and try her hand at belly dancing. What begins as a hobby leads her to filling a coveted spot in Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe. With less than eight weeks to prepare, Kat’s thrown into a world of performing she is terrified to face, all leading to a week of giving lessons and performing in Jamaica. Traveling with eight glittery strangers, she forges deep bonds under outrageous circumstances at what they’d soon all discover was a clothing-optional resort. Struggling with paralyzing stage fright and searching for the deeper root of her fears, Kat feverishly seeks a way to release Ameera, her inner dance queen. By the end of the week, the audience is mesmerized by the powerful presence and synchronicity of women joined at the hip by scarves and some glitter. Kat soon knows, with the help of eight sisters in dance, that she is finally part of a tribe, discovering an oasis to refresh her thirst to be part of a circle of women.


In the hall ahead of me, Sybil was struggling with a CD player, a small suitcase, and some music. The CD binder was slipping from under her arm. I rushed forward to offer assistance. “Can I help?” I asked.

“Sure,” Sybil said, handing me the CD player. “How was your week? Did you practice?”

“I’m trying to, but I don’t have a huge dance background,” I answered. “You make it look so easy in class, but when I stand in front of my mirror at home, it’s discouraging. I’m so stiff.” I didn’t want to sound like a whiner. “I practiced isolating the three regions of my body though.”

“That’s typical,” Sybil said. “Just keep practicing so you’ve got a good base. When we work on transitions from chest to hip, head to hands, undulations on various level changes, you’ll see the payoff.”

Transitions? I was still learning my alphabet. We headed into the drama room. Sybil and I dropped what we were carrying on the wooden floor. I saw my dance neighbor, the brunette from the first class, chatting with a young ethnic woman who looked as if she’d been born to belly dance. Not a hair out of place, she exuded confidence . . . and the tiny dancer in me cringed. Tying my hip scarf, I scooted closer to them.

“I’m so excited about this class, but it’s harder than it looks,” the brunette said. “But it’s good. I’m challenged.”

“It’s hard, but I love watching belly dancers,” the exotic one remarked. “Sybil belongs to a belly dance troupe. Can you imagine?”

Before I could add my own glittery story, Sybil had us form a circle. “Let’s review what you learned last week,” she said. “Grab one of my veils. I’m showing you the beginning of a dance to a Shakira song.” She reached into her suitcase and pulled out a stack of paper. “Take one and pass it around.”

I looked at the words. They might’ve been English, but my brain saw hieroglyphics as I read, “Pose for eight counts, veils tucked in hip. Hip lift A/B/C (right). Repeat left.” I looked at my neighbors, who were laughing at the idea of learning a dance.

In less than an hour—following week two’s round robin, reviewing modules and isolations, introducing the first half of the choreography, and a quick two-minute cooldown—Sybil slipped away. My hips were facing some serious homework.

“We’re learning choreography?” I asked, my heart banging at the thought. “I can’t believe she’ll move us this fast.”

“Hey, my name’s Polly Taylor,” the brunette said.

“I’m Kat Varn,” I answered.

“I’m Cheryl Curcio,” the exotic one informed us. “And we’re supposed to bring three yards of material for a veil?”

“I guess there isn’t a belly-dance store in Charleston,” Polly said, chuckling.

“I loved the tie-dyed veil that Sybil’s letting me use,” I said. “I guess she wants us to have something at home to practice with.”

As we walked together to the parking lot, I learned that Polly and Cheryl worked at the Medical University of South Carolina, or “MUSC,” as they called it. Introductions aside, we stopped to synopsize our lives by Polly’s car.

I went first. “I retired after working twenty-three years for an attorney. Spent last year homeschooling my son. He finished his senior year here and graduated this past summer. Taking this class was kinda my reward.”

“I’m single but dating a doctor from our pathology department,” Cheryl said next, beaming. “I saw the ad for this class in the local community paper.”

“I’m fifty-two and single—not looking for anything serious,” Polly volunteered last. She looked at Cheryl. “I saw the same ad! My life slowed down a little when my son went off to college. I love dancing and working out. Doesn’t belly dancing sound like an adventure?”

We all nodded, three dissimilar women from ages ranging in the late twenties to fifty connected by one ad. Streetlights flickered overhead, reminding us to get home to evening routines that didn’t involve hip scarves.

“Y’all, the gnats are biting,” I said. “See you next Monday—with three yards of material.”

As I pulled out of the parking lot, my heart felt lighter. That brief conversation with my dance mates reminded me how blessed I was to be retired from my legal assistant work with Thomas Rawlins Calhoun, a Charleston blue-blood attorney branded by his ancestors. Mr. Calhoun was a Confederate, and I was a Virgo. I’d juggled all my plates and his . . . too well. Each morning, I knew I’d find a flustered boss rifling through well-ordered drawers. I’d join him beside a file cabinet, resigned to the fact that I’d eventually fetch a mysteriously missing file. As he’d step aside, I’d go to the “S” tab, find the “Smith” file, and pluck at a manila folder like a captured mouse with my thumb and pointer finger. He’d shake his head and chuckle before he’d saunter off without so much as a thank you. I’d fake indifference.

Smiling, thankful that that relationship was a thing of the past, I eased my car through the back streets. Steve and I were creating our new Monday night after-class routine. Porch light on? Check. Kitchen light on? Yes. That meant Steve was cooking to reruns of Two and a Half Men. I closed the garage door and headed inside.

He pelted me with questions the minute I walked in the door. “How was class? Did you learn anything new?” Steve asked as he stirred food in a wok.

“We have to bring three yards of material next week,” I answered, casting my hip scarf on the sofa table. “She’s teaching us a short dance and how to use the veil.” My tuxedo cat, Melkey, rubbed against my legs.

“How’s that make you feel?” Steve asked. Apparently, he sensed my discomfort from my short description.

“Pushed,” I said. Suffocated, overwhelmed, scared. Admittedly, this hobby was an attempt to heal something I’d felt robbed of in my childhood that had been amplified in other areas as I entered my adult life. It was an attempt to put my creative side and my body in shape. It would take physical muscle and psychological muscle memory.

“I think six weeks is a bit ambitious to learn the craft,” I said.

Steve looked at me and smiled. “Have fun with it. You’ve earned this time to chase some girly dreams. Go get comfy.”

I kissed him then said, “I met two girls in class tonight. I’m not sure we have anything in common besides dancing, but who knows?” I left to snuggle into soft flannels. I could then join my hubby for some dinner and celebrity dance moves on Dancing with the Stars.


Kathleen Varn’s love affair with words manifested when she turned four and taught herself to read. As she grew older, books and reading were an escape from responsibility. Eventually, Kathleen dove into journaling, which helped her find solace in the grief of a toxic relationship. Throughout her journey to extract her family from oppression, she explored the idea of freedom through allegorical short stories. Kathleen is now very happily married to her soulmate. She resides in Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for an adoption attorney for twenty-three years. With her two children settled in adulthood, she is exploring a beautiful world, from scuba diving in Fiji or photographing in Alaska’s frozen tundra.

Kathleen hopes her readers enjoy Ameera’s journey to pursue the forbidden zone of dance while becoming part of a larger experience—embraced and bonded to eight glittery belly dancers, each of them aware they may have never met without the common denominator of a six-week belly dance class under the tutelage of their troupe director.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for promoting me to Straight from the Library. Will have to visit again to meet another author!

  2. What a nice website! Thanks for the opportunity to share Ameera's journey.

  3. Thanks for the interview. I've never read multiple books at once (except school). I am always so engrossed and impatient I would have to know the ending of one before spending time starting another

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

    1. I'm usually hooked on one story but can shift around. If the plot lines have to be reviewed too many times, I'll shift back to attending to the one I am not keeping up with well.

  4. I always have more than one book going. It all depends on my mood which one I pick up.

    1. As I said above, sometimes the plot/characters are a bit more complex that I have to stay with one storyline. For me, that is not a turn off. Being a lover of puzzles, I find guessing where the author is going as challenging as the story itself.

  5. Oh, I always read multiple books at once. I have ADHD, so I'm often jumping from book to book if I lose interest in one. I take a break, read something else, and then go to another or go back to it. My record is reading 14 books at once. Thanks for the interview!


    1. Wow, you are a rock star! I don't think I could juggle 14 even though it is a good number. I'm plugging away at several but will be travelling to South Korea to visit one of the characters in my book. I'm sure there will be LOTS of time to read! Thanks for dropping in.

  6. A very interesting 10 words. Fires up the imagination.


  7. A very interesting 10 words. Fires up the imagination.


    1. I've seen the challenge to do those very short one liners... and Straight from the Library challenged me. Harder than it looked!