Friday, September 14, 2012

INTERVIEW with Writer/Photographer M. G. Edwards


With Writer/Photographer 


I became acquainted with Mike Edwards on Twitter where I am always looking for Indie Authors who may need editing or cover design services, or where I often find people to write about on Mavor Arts.  Mike asked me if I considered writers to be "artists" and if so, would I consider interviewing him about his adventures climbing Kilimanjaro, which are chronicled in his amazing book, Kilimanjaro: ONE MAN'S QUEST TO GO OVER THE HILL, published in March of 2012.

After I read the beginning pages of his book on Amazon, I was immeditely intrigued.  I do think writers are "artists", but I don't usually include them on this blog except when other visual artistry is involved like the sketchbook selections featured for writer Ernest Hogan awhile back.  In this case we have Mike's pictorial record of his incredible trek to the top of what is not only the tallest mountain in Africa (5,895m) but also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.  His photographs bring to life all that is spectacular about Kilimanjaro.


Then there is the personal story behind the scenes which we will discover in this interview.  And it turns out to be something way more than simply an incredible travelogue.
Elinor Mavor:  Mike, are you a seasoned mountain climber? Truth!
M. G. Edwards:  Not at all!  I'm a dreamer who dreamed big and did something I never thought I'd do ... climb a mountain!  Thank goodness Kilimanjaro (Kili) was forgiving enough that I didn't need to be a mountaineer to attempt it.
EM:  You are one of those people who have pursued several careers in your 40 some years on our planet.  Tell us about them.
MG:  It's true.  I've had several past lives.  I want a career that I enjoy, and my tastes have changed through the years.  I began working on commercial airplanes at Boing but took a break to pursue my Master's Degree in Business Administration.  One day, a diplomat visiting the university campus persuaded me to join the U.S. Department of State, and after I graduated, I joined the Foreign Service and moved overseas to serve in South Korea, Paraguay and Zambia.  By 2011 a voice in my head told me that it was time to leave the diplomatic corps and become a writer.  The rest is history.
EM:  And what is it that you REALLY have wanted to to do all along as a lifetime career?
MG:  Good question.  My work history mirrors my lifetime career aspirations.  My first calling as a kid was to be a writer, but when I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a diplomat.  Although I initially went into the private sector, I ultimately achieved my dream of becoming a diplomat, a job that in reality was nothing like I had imagined.  Life has now brought me full circle to what I really wanted to do all along ... be a writer.
EM:  So, why did you decide to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
MG:  To quote George Mallory before he perished on Mount Everest: "Because it's there".  My wife, Jing, climbed Kilimanjaro the year before and inspired me to try it too.  At the time I was struggling to get through a midlife crisis and needed a challenge that would help me get out of my funk.  It seemed like a good idea at the time to tackle something life-changing to help me to overcome what was bothering me.  It was a really tough way to do it, but it worked! 
EM:  Tell me about your climbing companions.
MG:  My climbing companions, Betty, Kay and Tom, are a great group of people.  We had our ups and downs climbing Kilimanjaro (literally!) but were fortunate to avoid the drama that affects some groups.  Betty was our climbing veteran who had tried and failed to conquer the mountain several years before in honor of her home country, Zambia.  Kay, the athletic, no-nonsense member of our team, had no experience mountain climbing but prepared for it  by running marathons and eating right.  A seasoned adventurer with a great sense of humor, Tom was a trekker at heart but had bever climbed something so high as Kili.  We all got on so well that I'm hoping my companions will join me again for a trek in the Himalayas in 2013. 
EM:  Would you share with us two of the most significant parts of your adventure:  the most breathtaking and the most challenging?
MG:  Without a doubt the most breathtaking would be the magnificent panoramic views.  It's been said that you can see farther from Mount Kilimanjaro than any other place on Earth.  The mountain with its ever-changing cloud patterns and landscapes, Serengeti plains, and other freestanding peaks scattered across the horizon were simply spectacular.  I hope that my photos offer a glimpse of Kilimanjaro's amazing beauty.  The most challenging aspect was the physical ordeal of being an average guy summitting what has been called "Everyman's Everest".  It may be one of the easier of the world's highest mountains to climb, but not everyone can do it.  The challenge of climbing it was worth it, but I'm not sure I'd do it again.
EM:  What will your next project be?
MG:  I'm writing a psychological techno-thriller novel called Hyperlink that I plan to publish next year.  It's a major departure from travel writing and will set the stage for more speculative fiction novels that I hope will leave readers asking,"Could this really happen?"  Mum's the word on the plot for now.  I'm also working on another travel memoir called Eurasis that will chronicle my adventures as a college-age backpacker in Europe, China and Russia.  A short excerpt is available to read in my book Kilimanjaro.   Sign up for my newsletter for updates about upcoming books and projects.
EM:  Your little boy seems very proud of you.  What footsteps of yours do you think he might want to follow?
MG:  Alex is my pride and joy.  He's a great kid.  I hope he'll catch the writing bug.  We co-wrote a children's ebook called Alexander the Salamander inspired by our trip to the Amazon River Basin in 2008.  For now though, he says he wants to be a diplomat.  It will be fun watching where life takes him.
EM:  Please tell us anything I may have overlooked that is on your mind. 
MG:  Thank you for letting me introduce myself to your readers and share some of my travel adventures.  Kilimanjaro is the first book in the World Adventurers Series, a collection of travel memoirs filled with photos.  Readers who want to purchase the ebook or paperback version of my books should visit , my website,, or email me at:  My website has a full list of booksellers who carry my books as well as thousands of travelogues, photos and videos from around the world.  Readers can also enjoy travel adventures on my blog, World Adventurers.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres.  He also writes travel adventures.  He is the author of Kilimanjaro: One Man's Quest to Go Over The Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Aftica's highest mountain.  He also wrote a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories.  His books are available as ebooks and in print on and from other booksellers.  He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.
For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his website at or his blog, World Adventurers.  Contact him at, on Facebook, Google+ or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.
© 2012 Brilliance Press.  All rights reserved.  No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.
Michael Gene (M. G.) Edwards writes fiction in the mystery, thriller and science fiction/fantasy genres as well as travel non-fiction.  He first picked up his pen to write a mystery thriller far beyond the imagination of a typical ten-year-old.   From mysteries to mythical tales, Edwards let his writing capture dreams spun from this imagination, until life set him on a different course.
Edwards graduated with degrees in interntional studies, political science, history and German from the University of Idaho and worked briefly in the U. S. Senate.  He earned his master's degree in China Studies from the University of Washington.  After working  at the Boeing Company for seven years, he left to earn a Master in Business Administration from the University of Washington and worked at the Intel Corporation, Microsoft, and the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche.
He served as a diplomat from 2004 until resigning from the U. S. Department of State in 2011.  His overseas assignments included working as a consular officer at the U. S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea; as a political officer at the U. S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay where he focused on political-military affairs and human rights; and as a political-economic officer at the U. S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia focusing on democracy, governance and human rights.  He is the recipient of numerous Department of State awards.
He also founded and runs Brilliance Equity LLC (BE), an investment firm specializing in emerging markets.  His books are published by Brilliance Press, A BE subsidiary.
Edwards lives with his wife Jing and son Alex in Bangkok, Thailand. Father and son are actively involved in the Cub Scouts.  The family enjoys traveling and exploring new cultures.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Artwork for Fine Art America

Majestic Lion

Being sidelined with injuries from a fall for the last ten months or so was a huge bummer.  Besides torn rotator cuffs, my hands were injured and I could not write or do any artwork.  It has been quite a year and a half.  It started out in the late summer of 2010 with nasty roof rats partying in my attic and a big ol' bull snake slithering into my house after said rats and then, if that wasn't creepy enough .... the klutzy trip and fall late last November.  When you get to a certain age, my advice is ... Do Not Fall Down.  No bones broken, but I really was miserable from shoulders to toes.  So, after dealing with it all via therapy and much imposing on family and friends, I have now learned my lesson about not being in such a rush all the time.  Patience. Is. A. Virtue.  Amen.

Months of rehab under my belt, I'm now back and ready to show some pieces from a collection of both old and new artwork which will be going up on my new personal Fine Art America Website.   I had been working on a series of Big Cats already and now am adding to that as well as creating a series of Portraits and revamping all of my galleries.  The Big Kitty at the top was finished in late 2010.

Lion Icon

The very first Big Cat in the series (above) was created a few years ago for inclusion on and it was featured in one of their yearly calendars.  I liked this guy so much, that later I decided to use him as my Facebook Avatar and he has received lots of compliments.   All of this artwork will be available in various sizes of fine art prints: canvas prints; framed prints; art prints; acrylic prints and  greeting cards.  Very large prints can be used as posters.  Here are a few more featured below:


Soulful Tiger

Colorful Cheetah

Puma Portrait

In addition to the new gallery with Big Cats I have been working on a series of posters featuring famous people, real and imaginary.  I have always loved doing portraits and awhile back completed a group of black and white portraits of famous people for a chanelling book by medium Philip K. Burley to be published sometime in the future.  These portraits for FAA (below) are much more whimsical, colorful and abstract.  Here are a couple of examples:

New Portrait of a Famous Old Guy

Portrait of fictional character Baba Yaga

So it is wonderful to be back at work again.  Upcoming projects include a cover illustration for a soon-to-be- published YA novel by Emily Devenport and Ernest HoganTerrible Twelves, a YouTube slideshow presentation promoting Emily Devenport's sf novel, BELARUS, and a cover illustration for political thriller, Trapped in a Wilderness of Mirrors, by Scottish novelist, Merlin Fraser, writer of the famous Inner Space trilogy.  

I am having fun again!

All illustrations copyright by Elinor Mavor 2012.  All rights reserved.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Polish Photographer/Poet Danuta Antas

Nostalgy 2, 2010

Danuta Antas

Countless as the drops of rain
Swept by a wind like autumn leaves,
Words, invisible, living for fractions of seconds
In an undefined space.

What a power is hidden behind them,
Mysterious force,
Which creates worlds so beautiful
and delicate
like a cobweb sprinkled with rain
in the sunbeams.
Yet, at the same time,
In one brief moment
Can turn them to dust,
to nothingness, to Hell?

The word, one little word
Can turn a happy man's paradise
Into the Hell of perpetually dying love.

Glimpses, 2010

Danuta Antas and I shared some things last year: we both suffered accidental falls causing serious physical injuries that sidelined us from our usual creative activities for many months.  While reading her blogs I discovered we also share many of the same feelings about the forced downtime as well as life lessons coming from such experiences.  We both realized how precious it is to be active and healthy and to simply be able to work and fully enjoy our friends, families and familiar surroundings. 

Danuta's love of the simple things in nature shines through her artistry, revealing just how spectacular these familiar surroundings can be.  She graces the viewer of her work with a very enhanced awareness of reality.

Now we are both well on the road to recovery and after a long delay, I'm finally able to present this remarkable artist on Mavor Arts.  Danuta is both an amazing photographer and a poet whose work conveys a spirituality I find reminiscent to that in the exquisite digital paintings of Helene Kippert, interviewed here last November.

Elinor Mavor:  I am so glad you and I are well enough again to be back to work!  To begin our conversation, will you share with us your fascination with "beautiful ugliness"?

Composition 1 from "The Soul of Human Dwellings" series 2010

Danuta Antas:  My fascination with the beauty of things commonly perceived as ugly began three years ago.  My life partner, Andrew and I started a real estate business which gave us many opportunities for business trips outside the city we live in.  It was then when I noticed lots of abandoned, decaying buildings.  Seeing these places raised my awareness concerning individual human lives, time, and generations passing.  Looking at what were now ugly, dirty, collapsing dwellings made me think of the people who used to live in them, of their lives and their stories.  I have sensed the presence of souls in some of these places.  Suddenly, the remains of a life would begin to emanate with invisible light to me.  Whenever I encounter such a place, I am deeply moved by its atmosphere.  It is what I refer to as "the beauty of ugliness". 

Later on, I created the image below I call "The Secret Garden",  inspired by the original photograph.  Since that first encounter, we have returned to this place several times during different seasons.  Each time we have been as enchanted by the mystery of the house as we were when we first saw it.

 "The Secret Garden", 2010

EM:  Which person in your life has been most influential in your artistic pursuits?

DA:  Definitely my father, however, I do feel that all people I have encountered in my life have had some special part in letting me be who I am today.  My father was a unique person, one with a powerful mind, imagination, vision, and great heart.  He noticed my passion for art very early and encouraged me to pursue my dream.  Both my parents provided me with every opportunity to develop my artistic skills.  Even though it was not very easy for them at that time, they supported me in everything so that I was able to attend a fine art secondary school as well as complete a five-year Master Course in Fine Art and Art Education at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun.  Presently, it is my daughter, Monique, and my partner, Andrew, who encourage me to work and explore my inner visions.

People, Photograph of Andrew, 2010

EM:  Would you care to talk about your "dark period" and how this has affected your work?

DA:  It is not easy to talk about this because it means remembering a painful time and recalling deep, strong emotions.  Such a time for me fell between 2001-2004.  During these years I lost two very important people in my life to tragic illness and death:  my father and my husband.  This time also coincided with very demanding English Philology studies, writing BA and MA theses and with my daughter's growing up.

For these terrible losses to have occurred in such a short period of time was really almost too much for one soul to bear.  For quite awhile I was physically burned out, emotionally knocked down.  My whole world had collapsed, the framework of my life shattered.

As I was working through my grief, I did some things that helped me recover and, as they say:  from ashes, phoenix arose.

It was a time of reawakening and searching for understanding.  In 2004 I started to write short texts that I would call "reflections" rather than "poetry".  They all appeared in my mind suddenly, usually when I was falling asleep at night.   I would jump out of bed and hastily write down words and thoughts that were emerging.  "The Words" (at the beginning of this article) is from that period.  I also started to draw small images with a pencil I used while studying English.  It wasn't a special pencil for artistic work, but rather a kind of automatic office pencil.  Yet, it is still very dear to me. Over a three-year period I wrote many such reflections.  They were never published, but some of them received honorable mentions in local poetry contests.


Seemingly we know each other best.
Always together                                                                                                         
Me and my person.
We know everything about ourselves,
Only not.

Who are we?
We can see us in two miorrors,
The reflections of which are mutually

One of them,
there is in ourselves.
The other one,
Broken to millions of pieces,
which is as many
as people around us,
Showing us who we really are not.

The truth about me is
What I can give to others,
having nothing myself.

EM:  Do you prefer shooting in black and white or color photography and why?

DA:  I can firmly say that I prefer black and white.  I have always preferred B & W art, whether I did drawings, etchings, and now photography, and I have always paid special attention to light in my art.

Light is by far the most crucial factor, while all the other elements like colour, texture and shapes are subordinate. So when it comes to my photography, the B & W mode enables me to experience a scene to its fullest potential.

B & W mode is perfect to explore light in all possible dimensions.  Of course, I shoot in colour, too, but each type of photography I treat differently.  The colour works are more like illustrations for me, while my B & W art, I would say, is a more intimate experience.  It lets me focus on feelings and spiritual dimension.  I would say that B & W art invites me to enter the scene I am depicting.  It avoids distractions that colour usually causes.  It is a sort of sensation we experience while sleeping or dreaming.  Then, we are "in the scene"; we are the actors.

Nostalgic Landscape, Image 9

EM:  Your photography of trees is extensive and awe inspiring.  Describe your feelings and intentions when creating these pieces.

DA:  I am in awe of trees, actually, and this fascination is a complex one.  On a physical level I am enchanted by the diversity of shapes, textures and lines, plus the majesty of some trees and their incredible ability to firmly hold heavy, prominent branches.  Manmade constructions wouldn't be able to carry such heavy loads without additional support.

There is also another aspect that makes me so in love with trees.  While being in a wooded area, I sense energy and peaceful love emanating from the trees.  Thanks to trees I understand what Antonio de Mello discussed in his books about what true, unconditional love means:  all encompassing love, the love that does not judge, separate or discriminate.  For instance, trees offer shade to everyone on a hot sunny day, no matter who they are.  Moreover, the silent pride of the trees reminds me of very wise old people whose eyes express unspoken truth.  For me, trees are a linking element between heaven and earth.

EM:  Can you share any techniques used in creating the unique artistic results you achieve in your photos?

DA:  I have developed my own digital technique I call "digraphy".  It is coined from "digital" and "graphics" and my goal was to create a photo editing method that would simulate the look of traditional graphic arts such as etching, aquatint, etc.  How I did this was by experimentation and partly by chance.  The core of this technique is mixing different layers in Photoshop CS4, some in reversed mode and some in drawing mode.  I was encouraged to experiment in my art classes and it became the basis for developing my own "style" or "look".

Digraph 1, 2011

EM:  Which one of your photographs is a favorite of yours and why?

DA:   My favorite photo is the one below I call "El Paradiso Mio.  It depicts an ordinary creek, found by accident while we were celebrating my nephew's first wedding anniversary.  The young couple organized a picnic for this occasion taking us out of the city to get away from the summer heat.  While exploring the area, Andrew and I found this place close to our gathering, hidden behind thick bushes.  On such a hot day it was indeed like a paradise.

I am a little bit crazy about all kinds of water: running, still, lakes, rivers, seas.  Close to water I feel an incredible thrill and inspiration that I can't really explain.  But this piece shows how I perceive the natural world, the way I sense reality.

My initial shots of a scene like this one are just the beginning of my process.  After that, I manipulate the results to elicit my emotional and spiritual interpretation.  The finished piece is not literal, but rather an enhanced and even imaginary reality, uniquely my own.

El Paradiso Mio, 2010

EM:  What are your plans for future projects?

DA:   This year I am going to do exhibitions in my hometown as well as in Warsaw, Poland's capital city.  In my hometown I look for a public kind of venue to bring art to the people.  In Warsaw, I think it will be a private gallery.

I am also going to publish a photo album with my B & W works and I will be focusing on further developing photographic themes I started some time ago.  One I call "The Silent Pride of Trees" and the other one, "The Soul of Human Dwellings".  Until my physical therapy is finished, I will be staying close to home, but after that I plan to travel again and will be creating a series on medieval architecture.

EM:  One final question, Danuta.  Will you name the most important inspirations for your work?

DA:   Outside of nature, water and meditations, I would have to say, Rembrandt and Goya among the Old School of artists.  Among contemporary artists, Bruno Mercier, Philippe Marchand, Michael Massaia and Cole Thomson.

EM:  Thank you so much, Danuta!  I am sure everyone reading this will appreciate getting a glimpse into your special world and unique vision.  We will be looking forward to seeing your new projects.

"Awakening" from "El Paradiso Mio" series, 2010

Danuta Antas was born in 1961 in Poland.  She is a graphic artist, fine art photographer, art teacher and English Philologist.  Since 2009 she has been devoted exclusively to fine art photography and graphic design.  Danuta's art works are mostly inspired by nature and by spiritual meditation.  The artist is focused on a wide choice of themes, from landscape, nature, portrait, architecture and abstract.  All of them reflect her deep spiritual approach.

Website links:


1989: CUPRUM 4TH Nicholaus Pruzi Biennial of Graphic Arts in Intaglio Techniques,
Lubin, Poland,  Sponsor Award
2011:  International Photography Awards (IPA): Two Honorable Mention Awards
for "Awakening" and "El Paradiso Mio".
2011:  Prix De La Photograph Paris (PX3), Official Selection, Danuta Antas Photography


9/21/11 through 12/15/11:  The Energy of Trees Exhibition, Portugal
2011:  PORTRAIT 10th National Exhibition, Kolo, Poland
1989:  DIPLOMA '89 Group Exhibition of Fine Art Faculty Graduates, BWA City
1989:  CUPRUM 4th Niolaus Pruzi Biennial of Graphic Arts in Intaglio Techniques, Lubin, Poland 
1989:  The 15th International Independent Exhibition of Prints, Kanagawa, Japan
1988:  ARSENAL '88 Juried National Exhibition of Young Polish Artists, Warsaw, Poland

Danuta has been included into the 10th edition of Hubner's Who is Who in Poland and will be featured in the upcoming Hubner's Who is Who of European Women.

Nostalgy 1, 2010
All images in this article:   copyright 2012 by Danuta Antas.  All rights reserved.