For Authors and Publishers: Nevermore Publicity

6119555_origNevermore Publicity is a PR and publishing-services company founded by authors for authors and publishers.
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Nevermore Publicity is managed by Dawn White and Brandy Schaefer Dull of @NevermorePR.


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World’s Oldest Longhouse Ulu Palin Destroyed by Fire



Indonesia’s Cultural Tragedy: The Tragic Loss of  Ulu Palin Cultural Heritage

Fire engulfed world’s former oldest, tallest and longest longhouse from 23:00 on Saturday, 13 September 2014. Caused by a fire coal for smoking meat that a resident had forgotten to bank, in a few short hours the longhouse’s entire 53 apartments and the surrounding villagers’ huts had been burnt down to the ground. Although no loss of human life occurred, nearly a hundred of exotic birds perished during the tragedy, The compound’s 538 residents that include babies and young children lost their homes and their entire belongings.

Perhaps, the saddest thing of all is the loss of the irreplaceable Sungulok Palin Longhouse. On 4 March 2003 the Indonesian Department of Education and Culture had declared this longhouse as a national cultural heritage site with registration number KM.10/PW.007/MKP/03, while the Regency’s registration number of the site is N0.212/2012  Ref: UU RI No. 11/2010 on Cultural Heritage. The plan had been to relocate the occupants in order to preserve the original longhouse as a cultural museum.


The corricor of Sungulok Palin Longhouse by Ulu Palin River, Kapuas Hulu Regency, Borneo

The corricor of Sungulok Palin Longhouse by Ulu Palin River, Kapuas Hulu Regency, Borneo. The headhunter ancestors built the floor 7 to 8 meter high from the ground to avoid being speared to death during sleep by enemies. Photo © Ia Uaro


Architectural Curiosity

It’s still very hard for me to imagine that this place, that I had visited as recent as a few months back, is no more.

Situated in the fringe of conservation zone Heart of Borneo in Kapuas Hulu, the 240-meter longhouse was traditionally built near the embankment of Ulu Palin River and 1.7 km away from the road towards the regency town Putussibau, located some 38 km away.

Constructed on stilts, the floor of the longhouse was 7 to 8 meters high above the ground for safety reason. The longhouse occupants belong to the Dayak tribe Tamambaloh. Their headhunter ancestors regularly engaged in tribal wars with their surrounding neighbours, and keeping the floor high kept them safe from enemies’ spears during sleep. The longhouse had three entrances that used long, solid round ironwood carved with steps, which occupants in ancient times hauled upstairs during the night.

The entire building uniquely did not use nails or modern metals. The giant beams had been hooked to each other at the ends, while smaller parts had been tied together with rattan ropes.


For hundreds of years, this log of ironwood had been one of the three entrances to the longhouse. The Tamambaloh Dayaks of Ulu Palin are hunter gatherers.

This log of ironwood was an entrance to the longhouse, which was built on 7 to 8-meter high stilts. The Tamambaloh Dayaks of Ulu Palin are hunter gatherers. Photo © Ia Uaro

Natural Conservationists

Each time this longhouse needed renovation, the Tamambalohs worked together dismantling it and rebuilt at an adjacent location by the river. They habitually recycle the woods, and had been re-using the giant long poles of round ironwood for several hundreds of years, making  Sungulok Palin’s the world’s oldest longhouse. Ironwood itself is the world’s strongest wood species that doesn’t get destroyed in water. Even after the fire when everything else had perished, the ironwood poles stood eerily against the backdrop of world’s oldest rainforest.

A forest community near an orangutan conservation habitat, the Tamambalohs of Ulu Palin are hunter gatherers. They grow their own rice and traditionally live a self-sustainable existence, taking forest products only for their personal needs. They chew sugar cane to brush their teeth, and chew betel leaves to strengthen them.  They hunt with their local dogs, fish, collect non-timber forest products, build their own boats and fishing traps, weave their own textiles and jewelries, concoct their own medicins from local plants and produce other daily needs by themselves. Occupying a long row of apartments off the longhouse’s very long corridor which was the common area, almost everyone is a keen craftman or craftwoman.

I had been fortunate to visit this longhouse through WWF”s Kompakh, the sole ecotourism “operator” of Kapuas Hulu. On the night we arrived, the clan was observing mourning as a young resident had passed away. We were told to remove our jewelries and to keep very silent. However once the morning was lifted the people had been friendly, although remarkably shy. I had been weaving their stories in my WIP  before  the fire struck. Hopefully, my humble effort would preserve a little bit how they had lived.


This giant tribal drum was  tied to the ceiling and brought down during the clan's ceremonies and festivals. Photo © Ia Uaro

This giant tribal drum was tied to the ceiling and brought down during the clan’s ceremonies and festivals. Photo © Ia Uaro


A Call To Help The Fire Victims

As they are currently living in temporary shelters after losing their homes, I call on everyone who is able to help relieve their pain. To make a donation, please contact WWF West Kalimantan through Kompakh. Thank you.


The last children to be born at the burnt-down cultural heritage Sungulok Palin, Ulu Palin River, Heart of Borneo.

The last children to be born at the burnt-down cultural heritage Sungulok Palin, Ulu Palin River, Heart of Borneo. Photo © Ia Uaro


A Visit to Paradise: Bunaken Marine Conservation National Park



Giant turtles longer than humans are common residents of Bunaken waters.

Giant turtles longer than humans are common residents of Bunaken waters.


Kids don’t always agree with what parents find fascinating, but most certainly this hadn’t been the case when I took my son to Bunaken, a small boomerang-shaped island off the northern tip of Sulawesi in Indonesia. As soon as the boat that carried us from the city of Manado in Sulawesi mainland across to this island slowed down near Daniels_Resort, my 12-year-old son looked down into the clear water that welcomed us and promptly expressed a heartfelt exclamation: “OH! WOW!”

A week earlier in Borneo I had dragged him to a multi-million dollar arowana fish farm. Usually getting a permit to visit this premise is close to impossible; I had just been extremely lucky to receive assistance from WWF West Kalimantan and West Kalimantan Endangered-Species Conservation Agency. Entering the massive compound on the outskirt of Pontianak, we’d had to pass through multiple security gates. Inside, 32 enormous commercial ponds awaited. They housed hundreds of the world’s most expensive fish… all of which had been invisible, hiding at the bottom of the ponds. Unimpressed, my son muttered a flat-note—mocking— “Oh wow”

In contrast, his delight of Bunaken was genuine and clear ~ and eased my guilt. We had arrived on June 25th because I would like to speak with several local figures on marine conservation issues for a future writing project. As my son had just reached the minimum age for a PADI course, I had him enrolled with Immanuel’s Dive Center  at Daniel’s so he wouldn’t have to put up listening to me talking to strangers in a language he didn’t comprehend.




Roy Pangalila, former WWF director of Bunaken Marine Conservation National Park whom I’d met at WWF headquarters in Jakarta just the day before, had mentioned that the water clarity around Bunaken is excellent with underwater visibility of 50 meters or more.

Once a friend of mine who is a National Geographic underwater photographer told me that during his visit to Bunaken, the visibility was not conducive for underwater photography. Roy said that this friend might have visited immediately after a storm. After the sea has calmed down (and the washed-out plastics sent by the storm from Manado city across the sea has been picked up), the water condition around Bunaken becomes pristine again. Looking down from the boat, I saw the proof of the excellent water clarity.

As I walked towards Daniel’s with pretty sea creatures by my feet, I knew then that not only my son would immensely enjoy his dives; between my visits to the village to go any farther.




Roy had said the sea between Manado city and Bunaken island, which is a 30-minute trip on speedboat, is 3000-meter deep, and thaeters from the resort was only 500-meter deep, and the sea immediately after 1000-meter deep. But Roy has done scientific measurements.


Bunaken on tectonic-plate boundary

The extreme depths of the sea between Sulawesi and Bunaken is due to the area loaction on a few tectonic plates’ transform boundary.



Not too far north from the equator, Bunaken has a constant, yearlong water temperature of 27 – 30°C. No serious protection against the cold is required, but a 3mm one-piece, long diving suit is great to protect against possible coral scratches.

Tropical rain may occur more between November to April, but the duration is short. Your diving or snorkel instructor will let you know when it is safe to return to the water, which shouldn’t be a prolonged wait.





Immediately outside Daniel’s about 100 meters into the water to the drop off 200 meters away, fantastic pristine corals live healthily and colourful fish of Nemo’s world swims happily. As this area falls under the marine conservation zone, no fishing is allowed and the locals are very strict in making sure that no corals get broken by snorkelers’ activities. People can only step on certain stones along the “sea footpath”, where  boats also come and go very carefully. 

As I am not a photographer, I invite readers to please check out these pictures:



Bunaken Hans is a German photographer who lives in Bunaken and rents a cottage permanently at Daniel’s. Hans says it is true that Raja Ampat in Papua has better biodiversity and is very beautiful, but Bunaken is still among world’s top ten best diving destinations because it has rich biodiversity and is beautiful, has much lower pricing, and its excellent location is very close from the diving spots diving sites with very rich biodiversity divers don’t need to travel for one hour or more by boat, making Bunaken economical and ideal.





26 tourist resorts operate in Bunaken. Most are European-owned. Many are better than Bali resorts (where the indigenous people cooanders’ welfare by providing electricity. I had been referred to Daniels Resort by Roy Pangalila because, as in Borneo, WWF promotes ecotourism as a sustainable income source for the indigenous people, and Daniel’s is one of the few IP-owned resorts.

One lesson that has been drummed in to me recently is that, regional per capita income is NOT the same as the money that actually stays in the area. If a regency in a remote area of Indonesia is said to have a very high income per capita, it’s a sure thing that about 90% of the money generated in that regency travels out to Java or  the USA, or Europe, or Australia, with only the remaining 10% is spent locally (part of this is earned by the natives through labor and passed on to the local economy through spending). So in actuality the locals per capita income is very, very low, and they remain in poverty although their land generates a massive income for foreign-owned companies. (One example of this is an area above Caltex’s oilfield in Riau where a few years back many residents died of hunger despite living on top of Indonesia’s largest oilfield.)

Therefore, for visitors who wish to contribute to the local economy of their holiday destination, one way to do so is to engage the natives’ services. Hence, my stay at an IP-owned resort.




On our arrival the owner was in Manado, the mainland city of North Sulawesi that we had flown into from Jakarta, from where we had chartered a boat to this island. (A public boat is available once a day but we had missed it.)  The reception efficiently showed us the choices of aditional trade of Minahasa ethnic group in mainland Sulawesi, showing that Daniel’s owner has helped even the economy of the nearby indigenous people.

While excellent luxurious resorts with €uro rates are abound in Bunaken, the much-less-expensive Daniel’s Resort gives as good as it gets for value.

Daniel’s offers airconditioned or non-airconditioned cottages; the first type advisable if mosquitoes love you, although mosquito nets are always readily available.

I picked up a cottage next to the beach because I love the intermittent sound of waves lapping. It had excellent firm mattress that looked new or mren’t top of the range, but they were adequate and everything was very clean. We could sit on the porch, or in the nearby gazebo, or ventured to the large alfresco dining room near the office.

Visitors can meet and greet at the dining room, where you can also work using the internet because here the free WiFi has the best reception.  As I was there during the Brazil’s World Cup, guests also flocked to the TV area near the beach to watch. Not far from this, guests can also play table tennis. Whatever you do, though, never leave sugary substances in the open, because in the tropics ants detect them very quickly.



Every resort in Bunaken includes full meals as there aren’t restaurants around.  The food at Daniel’s is excellent and fresh, consisting of rice with a variety of fish and vegetable dishes. In deference to the largely foreigner guests, here the menu doesn’t include the a guest from Slovenia requested purely vegetarian food.

Standard drinks are bottled water at room temperature and hot tea or coffee, but guests can requests cold drinks or put your own in the kitchen’s fridge. I entered this  kitchen when I was requesting a picnic lunch for the day I would tour the surrounding isles (as there aren’t shops in the surroundihe staff agreed to make my lunch even though this was out of ordinary. On the day I was to tour the isles, the requested lunch was ready at breakfast time, packed in stacked food containers.

Outside the cottages, Daniel’s ground is carefully cared for. The staff sweeps the beach and the footpath in the mornings and bury fallen leaves in the ground. They change the water in front of the porch  to wash your feet in case you don’t stop at the hose after going in the sand.



I will write more on Bunaken later. But yes, the real beauty of Bunaken is its fascinating underwater. I recommend Bunaken to any divers or snorkelers who appreciate finding rich marine biodiversity all in one handy site, without spending too much, and at the same time contribute towards  marine biodiversity conservation.



Bunaken resorts are normally dive resorts, or they cooperate with a nearby diving school. A Scuba diving course costs €380 and lasts 4 – 5 days to certification exam. Certified divers can take fun dives to see barracudas, giant turtles, endless coral fish, and at times accompanied by over 100 dolphins. Equipment hire is available for diving and snorkeling and is inexpensive.




Take a plane to Jakarta, Indonesia.


Take another plane from Jakarta to Manado in North Sulawesi Province. The flight is 2.5 hours. Return airfare around  AUD 440 (about USD 413 or GBP 240).


Take a taxi to from the airport to Manado harbour.


Cross to Bunaken by a public boat (departs 14:00) for less than $2/person. Or charter a boat at $100 for  up to 10 people. The trip is 30 minutes.


Australian PM Calls Timber Companies Ultimate Conservationists


I was away only for a few days and managed to miss joke of the week: PM Tony Abbott calling timber companies ultimate conservationists.

To the joy of Australia’s forestry industry, our PM has declared no more Australian forests will be locked up by national parks and he is committed to remove 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from World Heritage listing.

PM Abbott has earlier submitted the proposal to delist the zone from World Heritage, rebuking the move by the previous government to list the area as a conservation zone. Australia’s laughable request will be considered in the June’s meeting of  World Heritage Committee in Qatar.

I guess he thinks you can easily replant trees,  but forgets that it takes many long years, and meanwhile wild animals are left homeless and the earth rapidly warms up. I wouldn’t comment about Prime Minister’s stand today, but on this occasion I want the world to know that most Australians don’t agree with him. In my few days away, three friends managed to mention forestry as pertaining to Australia to me, and I commented based on stumbled-upons I have kept encountering during my research for my WIP Heart of Borneo. Here they are,

  • Sandra, a Sydneysider who is a foster parent of orang-utans said, “I recently asked my home builder not to use Indonesian merbau because that’s the wood taken from orang-utans’ forests, but he ignores me saying that’s what’s available.”

I said to Sandra, “Australia is a primary market for smuggled illegal timber. WWF has been complaining that every year Australia imports over $400 millions  of illegally cut wood from unapproved sites.”

  • Patrick, a naval officer, said, “Forest Crime is something I have seen first hand. Way back in 1986 I was involved in rescue and recovery of bodies from a hillside village on Solomon Islands after rain from Cyclone Namu caused a mudslide. Timber companies rape the hillsides without care. Was still happening when I was there in 2006. I wonder how many people stop to consider that the cheap meranti timber at Bunnings was once the jungle trees of Borneo and Sumatra.”

I said to Pat, “After Aceh’s tsunami, WWF campaigned for Timber for Aceh because Indonesia simply didn’t have wood to rebuild 250,000 houses unless they hack conservation forests. Norway, Germany, and Australia agreed to help. But, WWF discovered AusAID was going to donate timber from disputed Solomon Islands’ forests that had been forbidden to Australian logging companies. Masking under timber for charity, Australian companies imposed their will on the locals and decimated their forests. WWF Indonesia then rejected this timber because they only accept certified wood from undisputed sustainable source.”

  • Roxane, the kids’ French teacher said a few days ago a TV program  showed that wood from Indonesia in Australia is mostly illegal. Heck yes, of course, while Indonesia has been at pains trying hard to eradicate illegal logging, Australian vast housing industry buys timber from the forest criminals. Unlike European countries that demand certified wood from sustainable forests, Australia accepts crime proceeds.



Hornsby Waterclock

This post is part of my New Authors’ Pathfinder blog series.

Author brand is how people perceive you as an author.

  • What you write: how you connect readers emotionally with your writing.
  • The quality of your work.
  • Your voice: how you are special. Novelists have unique voice—no-one can reproduce your work (while non-fictions are easy to copy). This identity is yours alone; nobody can take this away from you.

Branding is telling readers you have what they want.

You want to be known for your uniqueness. For example: Roald Dahl, author of hilarious, outrageous children adventure books.

Strong brands result in sales and loyal readership. They make choice easier for readers because they represent greater value and lower risk of disappointment.

When you write two genres, avoid readers’ confusion by creating a new brand, such as using a penname for this second brand, while telling them your first brand.

Defining your brand

You are your brand.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • Why is your book a must read?

Create distinction in the market place. Use the same solid messages clearly and consistently in every presentation:

  • One-sentence author brand:

–          This is a one-line description about who you are and your genre.
–          Focus on what makes you different.
–          Make it keyword rich.
–          Use this as your written tagline on your website and blog.
–          Use this as your spoken message points in interviews/conferences.

  • Visual tools:

–          Author headshot: clear, high quality photo that shows you are approachable.
–          Theme colour: colour scheme that your product will be associated with (book cover, website, stationary, etc).
–          Signature fonts.
–          Brand logo.
–          Unique supporting images.


  • Your conduct in public.

Evaluate and refine your brand continuously.


Brand foundation

Nobody is aware of a new author’s brand. Start brand building early through publicity. Establish connection with readers:

  • Participate in online forums, community, and book events.  Create a buzz:

–          If you a total newbie, introduce yourself as an aspiring author and people are bound to ask about what you do.
–          If you a speaker in a conference, mention your upcoming book in your bio.
–          If you already have a public presence, talk about your upcoming book to the media.

  • Give out free sample chapters everywhere possible. All the time consistently maintain your professional presentation. Show people the best of you. If your unique style and subject matter impress them, they will tell others. Upload your free excerpts onto:

–          CreateSpace Preview Gallery

Promote this preview wherever possible in real life and on your social media.

–          Wattpad
–          Facebook notes (under your “About”)
–          Your website (read how to set up a blog in section 2.3.1)
–          Your blog (read how to set up a blog in 2.3.2)

Make it known this sneak peek is available. Tell people where to find it, and use the #free tag when you tweet it.

  • Get an endorsement from an established author or from a leading expert in the topic. A cover quote is an emotional drive and a stamp of impressive quality.

How do you get a well-respected author to endorse you? Ask. You can’t be worse off.

SydneysSong torch keyring


Building brand awareness

How to create a buzz:

Offer review copies.

  • Do this well ahead of your book launch, because most book reviewers are extremely busy people.
  • Of course, continue to offer this well after the launch, because it will continue to generate publicity.
  • Most of reviewers shun self-published authors, and considering the majority of indie work out there you can’t blame them. Therefore, in your review-request letter don’t forget to mention who is your literary editor.
  • Where to find reviewers:

–          The listing compiled by writers’ centres
–          Book_Reviewers Directory
–          The-Book-Reviewer-Yellow-Pages
–          Readers’ Favorite
–          From among your quality friends.

  • Credible reviewer groups that accept work by self-published authors with a fee:

–          Kirkus Reviews
–          Net Galley
–          Publishers Weekly
–          etc

Be available for interviews. Let reviewers/book-bloggers know this.

Advertising, free and paid. See PART TWO on marketing.

Continue to refine your brand after you publish. Identify what might be missing.

Note: Manage the above steps on your own. If you hire a book publicist,  make sure to have a detailed contract on what your publicist will do for you before you sign any agreement.

SydneysSong iPhone5 cover

Your name, book title, and website’s name

 The criteria for your author name, book title, and website’s name:

  • No middle name or middle initial. If there is no way out, use the full word instead of an initial in the middle.
  • The book title should:

–          capture the essence of your book.
–          be catchy.
–          be easy to say and to remember. People should remember it without having to write it down.

  • Your website’s name:

–          Use your name if you already have a strong public presence.
–          If you are a first-time author, or if your focus is to promote the product, use your book title.
–          Avoid a long name. When you mention it in passing, people should remember it without having to write it down.
–          Continue building your brand awareness. When you have written a few books, use your author name.

  • Unique. You want search engines to list your name/book/website in the first-page results.


  Creating your book and your online sites

  • Apply your brand’s visual tools when you set up your book and your online sites.
  • You can outsource most of the next steps, but you must have knowledge about what to tell those you hire, and what to check when they show you the results.
  • If you opt to do most of the doable preparations yourself, you will save more funds towards marketing.

I will show how to do the above in detailed steps next time.

Have a great week!



My Writing Process: on Heart of Borneo

This is a blog hop on the writing process of which I’ve been tagged by the multi-talented artist and author Uvi Poznansky.

First, let me introduce Uvi to those who haven’t met her, and then please visit her blog and have a look around.

rise-to-power-uvi-poznanskyUvi earned her B. A. in Architecture and Town Planning from the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and practiced with an innovative Architectural firm. She received a Fellowship grant and a Teaching Assistantship from the Architecture department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. There, she earned her M.A. in Architecture. Then, taking a sharp turn in her education, she earned her M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.


During the years she spent in advancing her career—first as an architect, and later as a software engineer, software team leader, software manager and a software consultant (with an emphasis on user interface for medical instruments devices)—she wrote and painted constantly. Her versatile body of work can be seen online at It includes poetry, short stories, bronze and ceramic sculptures, oil and watercolor paintings, charcoal, pen and pencil drawings, and mixed media.


Uvi has published a poetry book, Home, and two children books, Jess and Wiggle and Now I Am PaperApart From Love, her novel, was published to great acclaim, as were her recent novels A Favorite Son and Rise to Power.

I will now answer the questions Uvi has asked me.

What am I working on?

I’m writing “Heart of Borneo”, a forest crime.

Much like Sydney’s Song, this Work In Progress is a real-life socio fiction, except, instead of portraying a vibrant metropolitan as massive as Sydney, I’m visititheme around a love story, “Heart of Borneo” focuses on conservation works, particularly environmental economy.


Heart of Borneo itself is a conservation initiative to slow down the rapid deforestation of one of the world’s few remaining natural rainforests. Covering an area of 220 million hectares, two-third of which is in three Indonesian Kalimantan provinces, this program identifies and develops sustainable ways to empower the local residence and to protect the area’s threatened rich biodiversity.

PrintA lawless no man’s land which is 2004’s ultimate illegal logging heaven awaits Lance Knox, an environmental economy fresh graduate assigned by WWF to promote community livelihood in Kapuas Hulu Regency of West Borneo. To prevent further deforestation, Lance must show the indigenous people how to develop alternatives and more sustainable income sources. However, Kapuas Hulu is wilder than his dreams.

How can a conservation program work, when the boss of Malaysian logging mafia sleeps in the house of TNI’s Regional Military Cests have brought in obscene wealth to their personal pockets? It doesn’t help at all when the central government insists on developing an oil-palm plantation along Malaysia-Indonesia border, which necessitates demolishing virgin forests in three huge national parks.



How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have read some excellent works by Indonesian and European anthropologists, economists, journalists, and travelers on Kapuas Hulu (Upper Kapuas), but each of them describes only a portion of a complex land with massive issues. They are like vivid portraits of esent, hopefully, the complete picture. I’ve been lucky to receive guidance from my personal contacts, insiders who are highly dedicated professional conservationists, including one of the world’s most respected environmental experts, as well as indigenous scientists.  Let’s hope I can do them justice.


Why do I write what I do?

I have many reasons, among others:

  • I have deep respect for those who work hard to get things done in conserving the environment. The conservationists I’m writing about are noble people who have striven to preserve wildlife and safeguard human dignity. This is their story.
  • I’m passionate about forest conservation (although, I will also write about marine conservation in my next book). I wish very much that the forest criminals stop for a moment and think about the helpless animals that are losing their homes with nowhere to go. Of course, decimating the forest itself of protected trees can only bring natural hazard to the local as well to the international communities. Hopefully, more hearts will come to care through my writing.
  • The most valuable asset of Kapuas Hulu is its people, and I would like to introduce the Borneans to more people, because, hey, guess what, the world owes them. They are unique communities who are blessed with a rich land. They live in pristineeart of Borneo zone will slow down global warming.  The whole world depends on their forests, and on them to save our planet from harmful climate change that can only lead to grave natural disasters. Climate change is dangerous for people’s health and economy. By not cutting their trees — like all other people of the world have done — the indigenous people of Borneo are rendering a most noble sacrifice for the good of mankind. 


How does my writing process work?

borneo wwfindonesiaIdeas normally come to me when I do my walks, but I need to be passionate about what I write. This WIP was triggered by the environmentally depressing state in my birth country; a state that had been at the back of my mind and brought hich was a 50-km road trip. But Sumatra today is no different from Java. How would you feel, if the tall canopy of your jungle disappeared and replaced by potato fields? And it is so much more than the loss of the magnificent beauty. How would you feel when you think of the protected animals that must face extinction because they are endemic to their forest condition?

A few months back my dear friend Allan Howerton reminded me of my (now gone) forests, and that opened the pandora box.

There is so much to write and so little time available. And then there’s so much to learn from my conservationist mentors, from books and from the internet. I’ve been busy studying and interviewing. In the process of my research I frequently stumble upon ut facts that I had learned during my life journey — facts that assist me to understand pieces of a few puzzles. In other words,  more information turns up from nowhere and everywhere prompting me to write and rewrite. I will also travel to the locations, as I’ve only been to a few oil fields in Borneo, to make sure I don’t make mistakes.

And of course, that’s before throwing my manuscript to the wolves for critic! I have been known to heed my opinionated assessors, as many of them as I can get, the sharper their claws the better.

The author I tag for next week’s blog hop on The Writing Process

307159_100137780102626_873656523_nJ Lenni Dorner began publishing poetry at age eight, and won several awards before turning eighteen. Education includes the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Excellence in Creative Writing semi finals and Penn State University’s Honors and Scholars program. Tragedies and personal traumas took the writer away from the modern world for a while. While embracing the ancient tribal traditions, J Lenni Dorner discovered a story worthy of the ancestors- one that no other could tell. J is happily married and living in Pennsylvania (USA) on the original lands of the Lenni Lenape people. When not reading or writing, J enjoys video games (such as The Sims and Civilization V), amateur photography, and watching movies.

Come visit J’s websiteFacebook, and follow J on TwitterPinterest, and his interesting blog.


I would like to end this post by calling all readers to make donations towards wildlife conservation. Click the following logo to donate. Thank you.


Guide to Cover Art: How to Create a Compelling Book Cover


Compelling, quality cover maximises reader’s dramatic experience of your book. Great cover art invites sales. Therefore, it is highly advisable that an author/publisher hire a public-relation expert who is also a fully experienced cover artist.

Experts range from very expensive to affordable. For either, an author and publisher must learn the principles of cover art in order to know what to ask and what not to ask.  As part of my blog series New Authors’ Pathfinder, this article aim to guide:

(a) An author planning to hire a cover artist, but wanting to have a say in the book’s cover art.
(b) A self-publisher wanting to design his/her own book cover.


Notes in building a book cover:

  •  Be mindful of your author brand at all times. (I will publish a blog post on author brand next week.)
  • Unless you are a visual artist or an excellent photographer, buy the license for an image from royalty-free photo sites.
  • Get experts’ feedback—even if you are an excellent artist. Apart from creating the main picture, you must take care of the public-relation and marketing aspects in order not to ruin or waste a perfect picture.
  • Post the proposed cover on your online group walls for critics. Heed bright-idea feedback. Only criticism will give you ideas on how to improve your project.


Guide to Choosing an Image For Book Cover


  • Eye catching quality picture.
  • Intriguing. The image should prompt a second look.
  • The longer people look, its aspects become more pleasing.
  • Let the picture speak the thousand words for you.
  • Captures the essence of your book.
  • Unique. Represents your brand of quality.
  • Be subtle, yet strong. For example, for a horror novel don’t use a too-literal horrific image.
  • Less is best. Avoid using more than four colours, unless you are a specially gifted artist with flair in the use of multiple colours.
  • Image resolution must be excellent.


Cover Size


Recommended paperback sizes for best results:

  • Novelette: 5” x 8”
  • Use 5.25” x 8” for books up to 85,000 words.
  • Use 6” x  9” for fantasy/thrillers with over 85,000 words.
  • Use 6” x 9” for any large-print books.


–          6” x 9” is cheaper because it uses less number of pages, but distributors prefer the smaller, easy to handle 5.25” x 8”
–          For pictorial children book and nonfiction, other sizes are available.


Spine Width


Width = 0.002250? x pagecount for CreateSpace’s white interior paper.

Width = 0.002252? x pagecount for CreateSpace’s cream interior paper.

Enquire about the paper thickness if you print somewhere else.




Allow ¼” all around for cutting (see the dotted lines in Pic 1). Make sure there is no text and no important image inside this gutter.


Final cover size


See the Pic. 1. Including the dotted line:

Cover width = ¼” + back cover width + spine width + front cover width + ¼”

Cover height = ¼” + book height + ¼”


Font Types


  • Use a font type that looks more basic like Times New Roman, but preferably not Times New Roman itself.
  • If you want something different, browse and install some free fonts  type from internet. There are millions.
  • Don’t try to use a PC-provided ‘different’ type of fonts. It’s so overused-yet-unique-wanna-be (Comic Sans falls into this category).
  • Don’t use a too literal horror/spooky-themed font type with blood drops and all that. It would look like a Halloween story for children instead of novel for adults. Be subtle, yet strong.
  • Be careful with the readability of curvy fonts. Make sure that the fonts, especially the capital ones, are easy to recognize.
  • For curvy font type, don’t abuse it. Use it once, or maximum twice, if there are three elements of text (main title, sub title, and author’s name). Use a basic one for the second font type.


Font Colours

  • Visible.
  • Slight invisibility could also trigger curiosity.
  • Choose any colour with earthy tone, not neon/vivid one as it cheapens the novel.
  • Less is best. Let the picture speak—pick font colour/s taken from part/s of the picture as not to detract people’s appreciation.


Text Size


  • Readable in thumbnail. Title must be clear when your book is displayed in the miniature cover size of Amazon listing and other online catalogues or magazines.


Text Placement


  • Avoid putting the text right on any object, especially main object. Use blank space.
  • Place author’s name close to the book title. Make sure both will appear together if this cover is displayed in a square thumbnail (as in Facebook, Twitter, etc.). To accommodate this, it is okay to move the subtitle (if any) or book series somewhere else.




The colour of logo (book title) of the front cover in Pic. 1 was originally black. When I chose dark red for the back cover to let people know that this wasn’t a gloomy story, Zaki advised to change the front cover’s logo to the same dark red. My theme colours become black, white, and dark red.


sydneyssong cover art

Pic. 1. An example of item placement.




To boost your book’s credibility and marketability, ask a well-known author or the topic’s leading expert for a cover quote. The colour for this seal doesn’t have to conform to your theme colour.


Back-Cover Content


When your author brand is famous, all you need on the back cover is your author photograph. Until then, you need:

  • Book description (hook). Use either one of these:

–  A couple of lines that captures the essence of your book.

–  A 100-word summary of your book that book catalogues will also use. (Best option.)

– Your pitch. (Must be in easily readable font-size.)

  • Testimonials.
  • Mention awards, if any.
  • Author photograph with a one-sentence bio or a one-sentence author brand. (Optional.)
  • A signature image. See Pic. 2 (courtesy of Terry Stanfill). Here the krater’s image that speaks the thousand words serves as a book description. Note that the space on the right bottom corner of the back cover is reserved for barcode.


realms of gold

Pic. 2. An example of back cover with a signature image.



And come visit the website of author Diana Wilder for marvelous examples of self-created book covers.

Here’s wishing you the best for your work.



Capturing Colorful Characters can be as Easy as Carrying a Notebook

We have been honored with a visit from grammar police Nikolas Baron in the form of a guest post today.  Nikolas kindly shares with us some very useful tips on how to create a highly readable content. His writing nicely fits and complements my blog series New Authors’ Pathfinder, which I will roll out here every Monday in the coming weeks to, hopefully, assist new authors. Our gratitude, Nikolas, many thanks.


Capturing Colorful Characters can be as Easy as Carrying a Notebook


Why Many Writers Carry a Notebook

One of my fiction professors told me during every class period to “always have a notebook on hand because you never know when crazy strikes.” It’s true. That perfect character might walk up right next to you at a gas station with a purple Mohawk, leather jacket with safety pins up and down the arms, a ripped up gray tank top, faded blue jeans, and pink Converse sneakers…and then you see that they drive a Toyota Prius. There’s so much that can be done with stereotypes, contradictions, first impressions, and gender roles with just one person you happened to run into at the gas station. Having the notebook in your pocket or purse allows you to write down descriptive details, setting, thoughts about how it could turn into a story, anything. Writers need to have a place to collect their thoughts and capture the interesting moments of life quickly, before they pass by or you forget about them.

What Can the Notebook Do for Me?

Not only can the notebook serve as a place to collect conversations, characters, and chaos, but it can also be used as a reference tool. When I feel lost or have writer’s block, I refer to my notebook of ideas. It gives me a fresh look on the idea I first had and allows me to explore what my first impressions were. The notebook can also provide me with a huge resource of names, places, and people that can seem unrelated but with a writer’s touch, can weave a story.

The notebook can easily serve as a place to get out all of your creative frustrations. When you’re feeling creatively stifled or just have too many ideas floating around in your head, the notebook comes in handy. I’ve been frustrated before with editors for chopping parts of my work I thought I really needed. I used my notebook to get out all of the feelings I was holding inside. Later, when I was trying to describe a frustrating relationship between a parent and child, I reviewed the editor rant and found a place to write from. The frustration and annoyance I felt was extremely similar to what my characters were feeling. Channel those emotions you stored in the notebook and use them to fuel your story.

Colorful characters can be found anywhere; as a writer, you know this. The notebook can capture any ideas you may have at any time. It can be reference material, inspirational material, memories, and facts. I once overheard a controversial conversation between two people having lunch. I assumed they were a couple, and later found out that they were actually brother and sister. They spoke with such passion, pizazz, and punch. They seemed as if they were dating. They kissed on the mouth when meeting! But I was wrong and I thought about what we normally consider “healthy” relationships. It lead to a musing that helped me get through a tough period of writer’s block later on. Never underestimate the power of pen and paper when you’re a writer.

What if I Hate Carrying Pen and Paper in My Pockets or Purse?

There are options other than traditional pen and paper. I like to use my iPad or my phone to take notes since they can be synced instantly. There are also online resources where you can take notes, write passages, and check your work all for free. If you’re struck with inspiration at the coffee shop and end up writing a few paragraphs, check them with an online proofreader before you incorporate them into the rest of your story. It’ll save you time later and help you see errors more quickly. I like to use a site called Grammarly to check my work for errors. I love when I can just jot down a quick few paragraphs and have Grammarly check it for grammar, punctuation, better synonyms, or style. One of the best aspects of Grammarly is its ability to adapt to your style so that the more you use it, the more it learns how to help you. Making sure your work is error-free before incorporating it into your piece is a great habit to get into.

Even if you’re still not sure that you like the idea of carrying pen and paper, almost everyone carries a smartphone nowadays. Utilize your phone as a note-taking resource and don’t let a crafty character pass you by.


Top 10 Countries with Most Threatened Species


Have you done your part to be environmentally responsible?

10 countries with most threatened species on our earth:

Top 10 countries with Threatened Species

Signs pointing to the fact that a global climate change is happening increase every day. Shall I tell you how massively furious I am about the sad, sad deforestation of my birthplace, Sumatra? Massive jungles used to cover the land everywhere, lush and green and soaring high, but when I showed my husband the land where cars used to stop to allow tigers and the cubs to pass in my childhood, the trees were no more. We traveled from the south to the north of the island, and the only forests left seemed to be the ones deep down inside the canyons where bulldozers couldn’t go.

Indonesia and neighbours. Indonesia consists of several large islands and thousands of isles. Sumatra is world's 6th largest island. Borneo (aka Kalimantan and shared with Malaysia and Brunei) is world's 3rd largest island. And Papua is world's second largest island   (after Greenland). You will notice that Bali is very small, and so is  West Timor, compared to the other parts of Indonesia. This is where very, very good people live, but the greedy ones have turned the country to be environmentally depressing.

Indonesia and neighbours. Indonesia consists of several large islands and thousands of isles. Sumatra is world’s 6th largest island. Borneo (aka Kalimantan and shared with Malaysia and Brunei) is world’s 3rd largest island. And Papua is world’s second largest island (after Greenland).
You will notice that Bali is very small, and so is West Timor, compared to the other parts of Indonesia.
This is where very, very good people live, but the greedy ones have turned the country to be environmentally depressing.

This is a heads up about my work-in-progress, Heart of Borneo,  as I’m very passionate about environmental issues and would love to contribute in raising environmental awareness.

I hope to release Heart of Borneo in 2014. For now, let me just say that I’m deeply saddened that my home Australia, one of the world’s developed countries, made the above list. Mr Prime Minister of Australia, please, please, please stop that plan to build a new coal port in Queensland. You will be dumping over 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil on corals and reef water of The Great Barrier Reef, our world heritage. Your descendants will not forgive you, just like I will never forgive the people who have bulldozed my forests in Sumatra.

And readers, may I call you to please do your part in saving the environment. Thank you.



Sarah Lane on The God of My Art: a portrait of the artist as a young woman.


Sarah Lane is the Canadian author of The God of My Art: A Novel, long listed for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. She grew up in rural British Columbia on the Canadian west coast and has lived abroad in France and the USA and travelled around Cameroon, Mexico, and Europe. She has a M.A. in comparative literature, and her short stories and poetry have appeared in a number of literary magazinesShe currently lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she is mom to two energetic toddlers.

Sarah has kindly honoured us with a visit today to chat about her writings.

Hello Sarah, thank you for coming in. Tell us what compelled you to write THE GOD OF MY ART.
Many things, but one in particular. I did part of my B.A. in France, where I studied political science. Social classes often define people’s options for careers and the like in France, and I realized that, even if we like to pretend they do not exist in Canada, they enmesh us here as well. My novel shows how being born into, for example, the “welfare” class has repercussions that can follow a woman into adulthood.

Sarah Lane, Canadian author of The God of My Art. "My novel shows how being born into, for example, the “welfare” class has repercussions that can follow a woman into adulthood."

Sarah Lane, Canadian author of The God of My Art.
“My novel shows how being born into, for example, the “welfare” class has repercussions that can follow a woman into adulthood.”

“The novel’s title is a twist on the traditionally female muse or goddess of art.”  What made you decide this approach?
I thought it would be fun to look at how a female artist might find inspiration for her paintings in her male lovers.

“It explores the protagonist’s obsession with her lover as her source of inspiration in becoming an artist and for creating art.” Besides techniques, what, in your opinion, will generate great art?
That is one of the questions that the novel asks: where does art come from?

“The novel is set in British Columbia: Prince George and Vancouver.” Share with us your Vancouver. 
I wanted to show the two-faced underbelly of Vancouver. In the novel, it is a city divided between affluent neighborhoods full of do-gooder globetrotting outdoor adventurers and gritty neighborhoods full of streetwalkers, homeless people, and other misfits. It is also a city with certain liberties, like the nude beach, and a natural beauty that changes with the seasons.

“Helene’s underprivileged background with her prostitute mother and biker father.”  How did you decide this background?
Please see the question on my motivation for writing the novel, regarding social class.

“Helene and Matthew’s relationship really takes off…” Tell us why Matthew is special.
Matthew is Helene’s muse. The novel explores her obsession with him, first as a lover and then as the object of her art.

“The novel follows Helene’s process of moving on from the relationship.” What makes this a charming read?
I think the novel is more gritty and urban than charming. It is divided into three sections, each representing one of the primary colours. Blue is the second section and in it she learns of his betrayal.

“At the core of this coming-of-age tale are the shifting faces of Helene—teenage runaway, university student, and budding artist.” How involved were you with the art world or artists’ life?
I am a writer and so involved in the art world that way. When I lived in Europe I visited the major art galleries in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Berlin. I drew on those experiences a lot while writing the novel.

How real are your storyline and your characters Helene, Matthew, Hana and Laurent? 
The storyline and the characters are completely fictitious.

Yet you have created a convincing novel! Would you share with us a memorable moment in completing this novel?
Walking along the boulevard of the lake in Annecy, France, every evening at twilight after a full day of writing. Those were the days before my sweet toddlers, when I could fully concentrate on writing.

Could you please give our readers a one-paragraph sample of your short fiction and poetry?

From my story “Breaking Up,” published in the Antigonish Review:

Clement doesn’t tell this Canadian woman that he was in the Congolese army.  He says the scars are from soccer, which they are, and doesn’t mention the AK 47 under his arm that night in Katanga.  He doesn’t describe the bloodshot eyes of the intoxicated soldiers in the gleam of headlights, the loud shouts penetrating the darkness to ward off terror.  What the body remembers is a single gunshot.  Tied to a tree, an albino rebel slumping forward in front of the military truck, a long row of trees, long as the night can be dark, multiple shots in the dark to ward off treason.  In the same instant as he fires, he recognizes this albino to be his maternal cousin. 

A poem in French, published in Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine:

Par émail

Thank you, Sarah.
“She began writing in high school, penning her first poem for circulation in the school newsletter.”  When did you first know you just had to write?
In high school, when I was fifteen. I wrote a poem about a boy in my class. I guess he was my first god of art, in that sense.

“She did her B.A. in international relations and her M.A. in comparative literature at the University of British Columbia.”  What is it that really strikes you about the work of your favourite authors?

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian Author)
I love this book because you could remove the love story from the historical setting and it would still be an amazing book. But when you add in the historical element, it becomes so much more. The novel as a whole is absolutely devastating and more so, because up to today nothing has changed in terms of how the Western word views Africa.


Dancing in the Dark by Caryl Phillips (British Author)
This is my favorite novel by Phillips because it is rich and subtle and adds up in little bits and pieces all the devastating effects of racism on Bert Williams’s life. There are videos on YouTube of Williams’s acting and they are difficult to watch after reading this novel.


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Russian-American Author)
I took a few years to get past the first few chapters of this book as I couldn’t get into it. When I did, I fell in love with Nabokov’s writing. This book is the best written novel I’ve read, in terms of poetics and style. Nabokov draws you against your will into the world of a pedophile and that is both the beauty (he writes so well) and the horror (he writes so well you start to sympathize with his character) of his novel.


L’Ingratitude by Ying Chen (Chinese-Canadian Author)
I love the dark, hopeless feel of this novel. I read the French original, and I’ve been told the translation is not as good.


The Lover by Margerite Duras (French Author)
This is a dark, coming-of-age love story, tragic and moving.


The Man Outside by Wolfgang Borchert (German Author)
I love the style of the writing in these stories (I read the English translation). He writes in repetitive, crispy short sentences, which are rather hypnotic and give the mundane events of his stories a poetic feel, most of which are set against a background of war.


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (American Author)
I liked this story because I thought it was a well written and compassionate account of an American family in the Congo.

You have studied with acclaimed writers Tom Wayman, Crystal Hurdle, and Sharon Thesen and studied literary translation under Rhea Tregebov and George McWhirter. Any writing tips?

Write specific not vague and concrete not abstract. Avoid adverbs in any shape or form. Translation taught me to look at writing from the sentence level up, rather than the other way around. There are many ways to say the same thing. The poetics of writing are as important as the meaning the words convey.

Thanks, Sarah. What are you writing now? Share with us your latest news. What’s next?
My writing projects include finishing my second novel about an international love affair that may or may not have a happy ending and starting my third novel about a doppelganger who seeks recognition from her original self, with tragic consequences.

'My novel shows how being born into, for example, the “welfare” class has repercussions that can follow a woman into adulthood.'

‘My novel shows how being born into, for example, the “welfare” class has repercussions that can follow a woman into adulthood.’

Good luck with those. Now, let’s talk abou you. What did you learn from writing your novels?
That writing is hard work.

“She has lived abroad in France and traveled extensively in Cameroon, Mexico, and Europe.” What’s your favourite place, and why?
I loved France because it is such a beautiful country in terms of history, architecture, and countryside. I also liked the culture and the cuisine.

You’re also a foodie. If I came to your place for dinner, what would you prepare?
Spicy fusion cuisine. Depending on how adventurous I thought you to be, I might serve Ndole with boiled-plantains (Cameroonian dish), Mung Bean Curry with chapatis (Indian dish), or Chilli soup with corn bread (North American dish).

The first one sounds interesting 🙂 
Thank you so much for your time today. Best wishes with your writing!

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Sarah. Come check out her   BlogGoodReads, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for her latest updates. Her book is available from Kindle EditionAmazonChapters, & Barnes and Nobles.


Book Trailer for The God of My Art: A Novel by Sarah Lane from Purpleferns Press on Vimeo.



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