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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.
THE WATER QUALITY
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.
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.
THE MARINE BIODIVERSITY
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: bunakenhans.com/slideshow.php
WHY BUNAKEN IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST DIVING DESTINATIONS
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.
HOW TO GET TO BUNAKEN:
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.
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.
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:
Promote this preview wherever possible in real life and on your social media.
– 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.
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:
- Credible reviewer groups that accept work by self-published authors with a fee:
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.
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!
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.
Uvi 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 http://uviart.com. 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 Paper. Apart 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.
A 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?
Ideas 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
J 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.
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.
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.
Have you done your part to be environmentally responsible?
10 countries with most threatened species on our earth:
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.
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 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 magazines. She 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.
“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:
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.
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 Blog, GoodReads, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for her latest updates. Her book is available from Kindle Edition, Amazon, Chapters, & Barnes and Nobles.
Author Jeff Provine honors us with a visit today. A professor of Oklahoma University, Jeff also runs the university’s ghost tours. Jeff has compiled spooky ghost stories and recently released Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma. Let’s ask Jeff about this exciting new book.
Hello Jeff, thank you so much for coming in. You say, ‘While backpacking around Europe and attending every ghost tour I could find…’ Why ghosts? What triggered this fascination?
Ghosts have always fascinated me, as I’m sure they do anyone who wonders what goes bump in the night or what happens to the human spirit when the body gives out. There seems to be so much more at work in the world than just the material realm, and I’ve always wanted to learn more about it.
You say, ‘I mentioned to a friend of mine the only local ghost story I knew, the “Ellison Hall Ghost”.’ Please tell us a bit about the “Ellison Hall Ghost”
The story goes that a little boy was out roller skating one day in the early 1930s when he was hit by a car (or had an asthma attack, the story differs). With the university infirmary the nearest hospital, they rushed him inside and up to the third floor where the surgery suites were. He did not make it, but apparently he’s still up there. People have heard the sounds of wheels rolling up and down the hall and, sometimes, the bouncing of a ball. The motion sensor lights are famous for going off when nobody’s around.
Wow! That is scary.
You say, ‘She suggested I do a ghost tour of OU; I chuckled and said, “There aren’t enough stories! “Well, I was very wrong. Turns out there are so many stories I picked the best.’ How and where did you discover these stories?
Stories came from a wide variety of sources. My first look was at Internet forums telling local legends about Norman. Once I had a few leads, I dug into old newspaper archives on microfilm, books written about OU, and old yearbooks. Most useful of all was simply strolling from one building to the next, seeing if anyone had experienced something weird. Good ole Oklahoma folk are often quiet, but once they get to telling stories, it’s amazing what we can find out.
You say, ‘Since October 2009, I began informal walks around campus telling the tales.’ How did this start?
It started simply as an imitation of the other ghost tours I’d been on. We met outside one of the buildings and walked along the sidewalk from one story to the next, pausing to tell tales. Over the years, word of mouth, social media, and OU’s Visitor Center have been instrumental in filling up the tours.
You say, ‘My walking tours are seventy-five minutes and open to the public.’ Please share with us some memorable moments.
Since OU is a public space, it’s only fair to tell the stories without charge. Anybody walking by can stop in and listen. At about the hour-mark, people start getting worn down, but there are so many stories to tell!
You say, ‘A voluntary donation is collected on behalf of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma.’ Tell us about this cause.
CACO is an organization that operates multiple-bedroom homes where kids from troubled backgrounds can go into a safe place. Each kid gets his or her own room and, often for the first time, their own individual toys. With Halloween being a kids’ holiday, I thought it’d be the best recipient for donations, which give the Ghost Tours all the more reason to go on.
Since Norman’s inception more than 120 years ago as a college town, it has gathered a shadowy history and more than a few residents who refuse to leave. Ghostly organ music and sinister whispers fill school buildings in the night. Patients walk the surgical suites of the old infirmary, which was once a quarantine ward for polio victims. Long-deceased sisters still occupy their sororities—one even requiring an exorcism—and dorms are notorious for poltergeists and unexplainable sounds
About the book. It’s new from The History Press’s Haunted America line’. What prompted you to write Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma?
The History Press caught word of the tours, and they suggested I write a book. It was my first major nonfiction work, and I was excited to tackle it.
What, in your opinion, are the best ingredients of an excellent scary tale?
First, the author needs to establish a setting or character that is relatable. Show that it can happen to anyone or anywhere. Then, introduce the weirdness, go outside of the comfort of normality. Finally build to a crescendo where the mortals and the spirits face-off.
Please share some memorable moment/s from when you wrote this.
While I was writing about the poltergeists believed to haunt students in some of the dorms, unseen spirits tearing posters off walls and shoving students, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the bedroom door behind me slowly, almost silently, open. I jumped out of my chair to find my wife peeking in to check on me and show me a funny YouTube video for a break. I definitely needed a break after that.
Hahahahaha! The book must be scary to have affected you like that! You say, ‘It has all of the scariest stories from the OU Ghost Tour, plus more from around the college area of town.’ Why is this book a must-read? What makes your collection special compared to the available ghost stories?
My stories are collected with at least two independent sources. Rather than spinning a yarn, I exercised my Journalism degree in making it as factual as possible. The stories also show a good deal of history, which gives a deep perspective on places we often just walk by. If this is what happens in a few blocks square in a town in Oklahoma, imagine what happens around where you live.
You have true ghosts as characters!
And you say, ‘Strange sounds, secret societies, and spectres… all just a part of the darker side of OU.’ Aren’t you supposed to be scared? Are you an expert in scaring your tour guests?
Generally the tours are rated PG. It gets freaky when we talk about the choking ghost who repeatedly attacked a student before being exorcized, and people love to share that thrill. I know it’s a good tour when people gasp and, after the story, whisper nervously and excitedly to one another.
You must be an excellent speaker! ‘Professor Jeff Provine sheds light on some of the darker corners of this historic campus and the secrets that reside there.’ I can see your deep love for this campus. Share with us your historic OU.
Even though I didn’t know it until I graduated, I’m a fourth-generation OU student. My great-grandfather went there for his pre-med degree, my grandfather for mechanical engineering, my mother for accounting, and finally me. Since I finished my degree, I returned for a Master’s and have been teaching there every year as an adjunct professor. It is a vibrant campus with lots of history and possibility.
‘The Mysterious and Macabre of the University of Oklahoma. A noisy ghost in Cafe Plaid, chittering sorority spirits in the basement of Casa Blanca, and a Pioneer Woman wandering the Duck Pond.’ Do you have any interaction with these secrets? Any medium ability, or have you ever sought a medium’s assistance?
I’ve never seen a ghost, and I’ve never heard or witnessed anything that, as a skeptic would say, is scientific proof. On the other hand, I have tagged along on an investigation, and there have been some unexplainable happenings. I’ve talked with several folks who claim medium abilities, but I’ve never been with them while consulting with a spirit.
If you could, which character/ghost did you want to meet the most, and why?
Mex the Dog, buried at the 50-yard line in the football stadium. He sounds like a good dog.
If you were to interview a ghost, which questions would you be curious to ask?
First and foremost, I’d have a lot of questions about the death process and the afterlife. Once my curiosity there was settled, I’d like to learn more about the specifics of history. What was Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency like? What do they think of cultural norms these days?
Would you like to elaborate on any of these tour talks of yours?
Mildred Andrews Boggess was our Professor of the Organ from 1938 to 1976. She was a very type-A personality who got things done. She established the Master’s organ program, holds the record for most students winning nationals, and started the fund for the cathedral-style organ that is today named in her honor. When the music hall was renovated, they moved out all of the old organs, and apparently prompted her to come back to the school. They say you can hear organ music playing in Holmberg late at night from her.
Ellison Hall is our most haunted building on campus. The little boy is the most famous, and from the paranormal investigators I’ve interviewed, he’s not alone. There is a nice nurse with an EVP saying she’s from Memphis, a stodgier nurse, a female ghost, and a trickster. A pair of psychics who went into the basement (which was once the morgue when it was the hospital), said that there was something bad beyond the hatch leading to the steam tunnels. One said she wouldn’t go in there even if they paid her.
In 1986, a fourteen-year-old there on a summer program got into in the basement of what is also known as “Cate Cafeteria.” He was playing with the dumbwaiter, the little elevator used to take things up to the ground floor so they wouldn’t have to be lugged up the stairs, apparently trying to ride it. He was too big, however, even if he squeezed in backward. Unbeknownst to him, someone upstairs hit the “call” button, and the elevator began moving up even with the doors open. He tried to escape, but got caught by his neck and was decapitated as the elevator moved past the wall shaft. They say his spirit is still down there.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Campus Ghosts is the product of asking people their stories. The world around us is jam-packed with amazing history that we rarely think about. Pausing to look deeper into our surroundings and those around us makes our lives so much richer. There are stories everywhere!
Thank you so much for your time, Jeff. Best wishes for the book and the tours!
Author Greg Pavlosky has honored us with a visit today. Greg has written books on homesteading which focus on practical tips towards money saving, being frugal, parenting, being self-sufficient and self-reliant.
Hello Greg, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Let’s introduce you, and I’m sure besides in the US, many people in Australia and other countries would be interested in your how-to books.
I want to thank you for asking me to be interviewed. I am honored since you are such a wonderful author.
You can call me an author, Greg is fine. I am just a simple person and I am trying to help others.
Thank you! Your books contain valuable tips for money savings and self-reliance. Would you be so kind to give readers the summary of each book?
HOMESTEADING: A 21st Century Beginning of Self-Reliance:
My first book is often described as the best place to start if you are interested in homesteading. I try to give a very broad overview of what homesteading means to me. I also try to provide readers with enough information for them to think about what their homestead may encompass. I am using information that I compiled over 30 plus years that Teri and I had wanted to do this. We always thought that this is what we would make our lives about. We also never wanted to be caught up in the rat race where people are constantly struggling to pay for all of that stuff that we really don’t need or feel the need to “keep up with the Jones’”.
I don’t have all of the answers and I certainly don’t want anyone to think that I do. One of the biggest things that people that have read the book told me was “there were so many things that I never considered.” I also give the complete lists that we compiled over the years from talking to so many people and asking what they had and used years ago. Many people tell me that these lists made them realize things that they had never thought about needing for their homestead.
A homestead does not have to be a country property with 10 acres. People tell me that they are growing food while living in an urban apartment building. Some live in a suburban location and others live in a rural area. You basically can make your home wherever you want. Then try to incorporate a self-reliant or self-sufficient lifestyle where you live. The idea is to become less reliant on outside sources for as many things as you can. Growing food is usually where most people start and then go from there.
The early homesteaders in the US often came here with little and then got land from the government to build a place on. They learned most of the skills necessary to do the work there on the homestead. You did not jump in the car and run to the store every time that you needed something. This is why I also suggest to build an extensive library of information so that you will have reference materials when you first start out. We probably have close to 200 books in our library of information. We talked to many family members and friends years ago and they provided us with a wealth of information.
HOMESTEADING: Money Saving, Frugal Tips and Recipes:
When I started this book I was asked how people can start to save money and cut their expenses so that they can begin to simplify their lives.
Many people were hurt bad by the economic crash in 2008 and they have not recovered. The politicians think it is all better and yet the lower unemployment doesn’t account for the large number of people that simply gave up on trying to find a job. Any people lost their homes along with their jobs. Many people were still chasing the American dream and just pushing themselves and their family further in debt. Then jobs were lost and the debts were so bad that they had nowhere to turn. Their mortgage was underwater or upside down. This means that they could not sell it for what they owed on it. So I talk about how to establish a budget, since you will need to see where all of your money goes.
I then talk about ways to earn some extra money, and this can be selling off the stuff you accumulated over the years and turning it into cash. I also go into the idea of using coupons, shopping at yard sales, secondhand stores or scavenging. If you are faced with a difficult situation, you will fight and find every way to win or you will give up. Most people will fight and win, others will not.
If you want to take care of your family, what would you do? I have not had an easy life and we have struggled much of our 34 years to get by. We also know that you don’t keep charging things on the credit cards just to have them. When I became sick 10 years ago and we lost my business (my job and income) and almost everything we owned, I never lost faith that we would get by. We did and it wasn’t easy and we just get by now. But, things are better. I look for anything to scavenge that I can recycle for cash and that makes some extra money for us. Would we like things easier, yes! But we have that survival mentality that we will find a way to get by.
I also provide some simple recipes that will help to save money and some tips about grocery shopping, eating healthier, and using natural remedies.
WHAT We Should Know and Should Be Teaching Our Kids:
This book is the book that I always wanted to write. I felt that there are so many people that just don’t seem to get it. They don’t understand how we are hurting the future generations with the behavior we exhibit. All of these reality shows are just such nonsense and people hang on every word people spew. This is not what we need to be doing. If we don’t get serious and change our ways then we are hurting the future generations.
I also provide a dedication to my dad and convey a story about him. I lost my dad on June 12, 2013. I had started the book and then he passed. It was unexpected and it was difficult to handle. He was a big supporter of my books and was always encouraging me to keep writing.
I cover a variety of topics about things that are so prevalent in society today and they are hurting society overall. The kids today seem so soft compared to us when I was growing up. We did lots of stupid stuff, but some of the things kids do today just drive me crazy. This constant texting, this thing called sexting, bullying kids to the point that they commit suicide. This is why I felt the need to write this book. I have received some great messages from readers about what they thought of this book. Many people don’t understand what sexting is and that it goes on. I talk about some of the peer pressures kids face today and how harmful they can be.
Your explanation really makes me want to read the books and copy your examples, Greg. I’m sure our readers will find them very useful too. You wrote that for a long time you and your wife have longed for living in a rural area and building your homestead. Would you tell us what inspired you? Why rural, and why homestead?
The idea of living in a more rural location always seemed attractive to me and then to Teri. I think I always liked the visits to farms of family and friends, and how different it was compared to where we lived. I have nothing against my neighbors but I would prefer to have some extra land and more distance between us.
We often talked about living further out in the country and just doing our own thing. Not being pressured by daily routines of constantly rushing from one place to another. We are also animal lovers and have always had dogs. We have also rescued and helped a variety of animals over the years. The thought of being more self-reliant and self-sufficient has always appealed to us.
I can fix almost anything. I have saved us thousands of dollars over the years by being able to fix things that broke. This has included our cars, house and almost everything else we owned. I have also built many things over the years. So that was also a part of becoming more self-reliant.
We wanted a rural location with lots of trees, off away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Privacy is one of the reasons, and it is not that we are trying to hide anything. We just want to grow some food (fruits and vegetables) and raise some animals for meat. We also wanted a very simple home that we could enjoy with family and friends.
Your years of researching and reading lead you to write your first book in your HOMESTEADING Series. Would you share some memorable instances?
I think that the most memorable instances that I enjoyed were the stories of what it was like growing up during the depression and then what it was like living during the time of the second World War. The stories we were told of how people did so many things to survive and get by made me long for those times. It was simple and also very hard. These stories helped to shape our dreams of a simple more self-sufficient life. My grandmother talked about how they made meals and used everything that they could to make the most of the meal. Using beef and chicken together to make the broth for soup and then roasting the beef and chicken for other meals later in the week. Soups included lots of homemade noodles and vegetables. These filled you up since there was no actual meat in the soup. The talks about how they had to walk everywhere since they didn’t own a car and with winter and the snow, cold, etc.
The book was a collection of thoughts. I didn’t write the book out in long hand. I basically wrote the book looking at my notes and composed it in my head as I went. Teri does a great job when she sits down to edit it. I will tend to ramble and she can often make sense of what I am talking about. I also don’t use much punctuation when I write, so she has to add much of that. She will tell me that I wrote an entire page and there was only one period.
Thank you, Greg. Could you please tell us about the KISS principle?
The KISS principle is actually Keep It Simple Stupid. I have used that for years as a way to not overthink some of the problems that I have encountered. I have always had a tendency to do much more than I needed to, so I try to remind myself by having KISS in my head. You don’t need to complicate everything in your life, just try to keep it simple…
Starting your homestead couldn’t have been easy. Would you like to share a few challenges? How did you overcome them?
Some of the most difficult times were when we found a particular property and made several visits to it. Then starting the process of getting things ready only to be told there was an offer or some other reason. We would specify that it would need to PERC for a septic system and the owner would reject that as a contingency. We were not going to buy a piece of property and then be stuck without a septic system.
We actually lost our place that we had thought we had bought. We had been told it was going along and that the owner was out of the country and would accept the offer. This lasted for months and then we were told that someone else had placed a deposit with another realtor and the owner accepted that offer. Very disheartening with the number of trips we made to that land, the number of times we walked the land and had invested so much into it.
You just have to believe that there was a reason that it didn’t happen. Otherwise you would go crazy. There was no recourse for us. I believed when I wrote the books that it was going to happen and that the realtor was being totally honest with us. He admitted that he dropped the ball and used several excuses that were plausible. I now know to only deal with the actual listing office and agent. I felt like a fraud as I had already published both books and then we find out it wasn’t going to happen. So we keep looking for that right piece of land. So the moral is, don’t get discouraged. In the meantime we continue to downsize our possessions, work on our home to sell when the time comes and keep adding to our lists of tools, equipment and household items we will need. We keep researching, reading the books in our library and adding an occasional title we feel will benefit us. I have also been picking up various building materials that we will need for our home and buildings. Teri says that I am building my own hardware store. We just look for bargains and if it is something we will need then we get it.
You are very lucky to reap benefits by growing your own foods which also help to make you healthier with hours outdoor in fresh air. What story would you share about the joy of homesteading?
Gardening is great, and that is something that we did for years. We went into raised beds this year as a way to hopefully increase our yields. We do enjoy being outside, and people ask if I use a tanning bed. I work outside as much as I can, and often without my shirt. I don’t get burned very often and hold my tan for a long time after fall gets here. Our site that we lost was so nice due to the amount of wildlife and we looked forward to sitting on the porch and enjoying the views.
You have received very positive comments and reviews from a broad section of people on your third book. Would you tell us why this book is a must-read?
Some of my friends that read most of the book prior to completion just raved about it. Others that previewed it for me told me it would be called a must read.
Their reasons seemed so different from one another and I think that is what I liked most about it. These friends all came from different areas and professions. So it touched on many things to different people.
I think that the biggest compliment was a friend that said it was “like an updated version of ‘Life’s Little Instruction Book’” due to the various areas that I covered. I remember when that book came out and just how popular it was. I actually never read it. That comment blew me away. This was the first time I had ever allowed anyone other than Teri to read my book. I was kind of skeptical with how it would be received and decided to ask my friends on Facebook if anyone wanted to preview it.
I can honestly say that the majority of my 800+ friends are actually people that I know. I have about 25 that I am friends with due to our love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rest are friends and family. I don’t remember the actual number that read it but I told them to be tough and that I wanted genuine feedback.
That’s wonderful! Now, you grew up in a family food business and were bitten by the entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. You also learned that hard work is necessary to achieve anything in life. How much of this background influenced this third book?
I see so many people that don’t get that hard work is the only way to get anywhere in life. People seem to look for the easy way out. I think this is one of the things that bothers me the most about these reality shows. Many of the people don’t really work at their jobs and most of those shows are scripted. This gives people the idea that anything someone does should be on TV. Then they get paid big salaries after the show becomes a hit and become more outrageous.
My dad told me I had to start at the bottom even though I was his son. So I scrubbed pots and pans, while my sisters started later in their lives and worked as waitresses and cooks. I always thought that I would own the business when dad decided to retire. But, I always had so many other interests that I thought about owning other businesses. Hard work was the only way any of it was going to happen.
Thank you, Greg. On writing, when did you first know you need to share your knowledge?
I had been talking to people about simplifying and becoming more self-sufficient for years. Then one day I was talking to some people at some kind of gathering when someone said “How do I get started?” I started explaining where I felt that they should start based upon my own experience. I talked about learning skills and building a library of information. Then someone said, “Why don’t you write a book about this and how to start from square one.”
I thought about this for a couple of months and researched publishers. Then I discovered self-publishing and Amazon. Teri had been working on her book for a year or so and wasn’t ready to get back to writing in spite of the encouragement that she had been receiving. She was sharing chapters as she completed them and everyone was hanging on waiting for the next chapter. We talked about where her story was at and that we could self-publish her book. She had actually sold a short story to a magazine years ago. So I told her that I was going to write a book about homesteading. She encouraged me to write and I actually completed and published it before she was done.
Who gives you the most encouragement, Greg?
Teri was a big supporter and she spends the hours after I am done getting it ready to read. My dad was a big supporter and always asked me how it was doing in sales, and when I was going to write the next book, etc. When he passed in June I didn’t want to think about finishing the third book. But after 2 months to the date, I asked my friends on Facebook if they wanted to preview what I had written to that point. Their words and the words of my mom were what I needed to push me through to the finish.
What would you like to share about the writing process?
My father-in-law was a writer for newspapers and then many books that were never published. He did sell stories to magazines, etc. He told me years ago that every person has at least one good book in them. This was back in the early 80’s and it always stuck with me. At the time I was writing a book about my experience in the fire company.
I am probably so different in the way that I write to other writers/authors. I work from notes and basically compose the page as I write it. Sometimes a single word in my notebook can turn into several pages. Teri marvels at the amount of information that is in my head. My style probably won’t work for others. I tell her that editing my words is probably the toughest part of my books.
Tery has been your wife for over 3 decades and she serves as the editor for your books. How lucky! How wonderful! Tell us about Teri.
We met in January 1979 on a blind date. Her friend was dating one of my friends and I asked if she had any girlfriends that she could set me up with for a date. My dad would throw a big party every January since his business was slow and invite family, friends, employees and business associates. He would make all of the food, hire a band for dancing, and we would all have a good time. So anyway this is how I came to meet Teri.
She was very stunning when I picked her up and we had such a great time together. I knew when I took her home that she was the one. Everyone at the party thought we had been dating for months and told us what a great couple we made. It turned out that we graduated from the same school, same year and didn’t know each other. We had almost 700 kids in our class.
That was Saturday night and I went after work on Monday and bought the engagement ring. We were engaged on Valentine’s Day that year and married in July on her birthday. We had planned a big wedding for November but neither of us actually wanted to wait. We decided to head out west and see what it was like to be on our own. We loaded my truck and drove to Phoenix 4 days after we were married to begin our life. We returned to Johnstown two years later and then began a family.
Teri was working at the lab in the hospital and she did that in Phoenix. She is a hard worker and a wonderful person. She decided at 37 to go to college for accounting and business. She started part time due to the kids and then went full time and completed the courses in 4 years. She worked 3 part time jobs at one point while going to school and I was working a full time and part time job. She graduated Cum Laude and I was very proud that she was able to be a good mother and still get her school work done. With 34 years of marriage under our belt and all that we have been through we remain supportive and in love.
“She works for an insurance company as a customer service rep now and hopes to make the jump to writing full time at some point. She released her first book “Sometimes” this year under the name Bobbi Rice.”
Her father passed away 10 years ago and His Name was Robert Rice. She chose her pen name as a tribute to him.
What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
I actually have three books started and they will be the rest of the Homesteading series. I am still not sure which one will be released next at this point. I decided that with the third book done and people asking if I was going to write more I should return and complete that series. I also want to get a web page up and running and hope to get a blog started once we find that piece of land so that I can blog about the day to day chores of building the homestead. I also have so much other work to get done as I have some medical issues that will require a hospital stay and a recovery period.
Thank you, Greg. Let’s talk about you. You were born in Chicago, IL and was raised in Johnstown, PA where you lived with your parents and 3 sisters. How was it like to grow up in a houseful of girls?
It was very difficult since dad worked so many hours and couldn’t be there. But, I had a great group of friends that I hung around with. Several of them were the only boy in the family, so they could relate even though they didn’t have as many sisters. I also had sports to also keep me busy with baseball, football, and motorcycle racing.
You grew up in your father’s restaurants, bakery and catering operation, and you graduated from Greater Johnstown Vocational-Technical School in Food Service and Preparation. Wow! If I came to your place for dinner, what would you prepare for me?
Since I don’t know much about you I would probably go with some of the family favorites and ethnic foods from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. I know lots of “Hunky” and “Slovak” recipes. I also like grilling and also make award-winning chili. I won trophies at Chili Cookoff’s with my own recipe. I also like crockpot cooking since it is put everything in and let it go. I am also known for my chocolate-chip cookies and bake a ton of them at Christmas time to give away.
They all sound delicious! You certainly love cooking. But you also spent years as a member of Geistown Volunteer Fire Co. as an Emergency Medical Technician and as a volunteer firefighter. Would you like to share a memorable event from your time there?
I saw some really horrendous stuff on the ambulance and fought some big fires. The thing that most stands out to me is the 1977 flood in Johnstown. The damage was so bad, I helped to rescue so many people, and lost an aunt and two cousins. Family members lost everything, my dad lost his business and I was on the go for 4 days straight before I got to sleep. I had bought a new truck and received it one week before the flood. I was then using it to the water and mud to rescue people and deliver food and supplies to people. I drove it in very deep water and against rushing water that was up to the hood. It never let me down and the 4-wheel drive was so great. I never got stuck and pulled others vehicles that were stuck.
Also, September 11, 2001 is always fresh in my mind. We were all in the fire company (Teri, Erin, Ryan and myself) and the fact that Flight 93 almost landed here and crashed 14 miles away. I remember the radio chatter and the dispatch for a plane with terrorists at the controls and a bomb on board en route to our airport. I was working at a business next to the airport and was already aware of the other 3 planes being hijacked and crashed. Knowing the loss of life at the World Trade Center Towers, especially the firefighters from FDNY, we (my family) organized a prayer service for all of the victims and brought together firefighters from 20 fire departments to pray for the firefighters. We also organized a collection and raised nearly $6,000 for the FDNY Widows and Children fund.
How did you come to serve in the US Navy?
My dad had served in the Navy as did his brothers. I decided after high school and an argument with my dad to join the Navy. I didn’t know that an old injury would allow me to only serve a few months before problems occurred.
You’re married and you have 2 children and 4 grandchildren. What would you like to share about the kidlets?
My kids are great, Erin is almost 32 and Ryan is 26. Being a grandparent is much better than being a parent. Rachael is 8, Bella almost 4, Frankie is 18 months and James is two months. Rachael sees us every other week and lived with us for a time and she loves to be with Pappy. They are all out of town. Rachael loves to ride in my truck since we are up higher, and also loves to ride on the tractor with me since I let her steer. We Skype with all of them to stay in touch. Rachael is a very technology oriented and understands so much about all of these different technologies.
Lovely! You enjoy the outdoors, sports and motorcycles with your wife. Wonderful! Tell us more about this.
“This is our 1977 GS-750 Suzuki. We love to ride it and try to get out as much as we can. I also use it for trips to the store when I don’t need a lot of stuff. It’s old and for me it’s easy to work on. I always worked on my own motorcycles and enjoy it.”
We have not been on it much this year with so many things going on and I want to replace a few things before any trips on it. People ask me why I ride an old bike and I always tell them “I am old.”
You spent years competing in a variety of off road motorcycle racing events. Would you like to elaborate?
I don’t have any pictures to share from those days. We had lots of fields around our neighborhood and having a dirt bike was very popular. From our riding we began racing and would travel all over to race. We also tried almost every form of off road racing. I raced on dirt flat tracks, motocross, dirt drag racing, hare scrambles and endures. Races were on Sundays and my dad did not work on most Sundays. That enabled him to take me in the races, and a few times my mom did drive me. There were usually 5-8 of us from the neighborhood that would race so it was great to have friends there. Most of my friends rode in the 125cc class and I rode in the 250cc class. I was taller and a little bigger so that was why I rode a bigger bike.
Tell us a bit about who and what matters to you.
“My wife and my family are the most important people in my life. I am also an animal lover, although we just had to put our German Shepherd down due to her hips. This is the first time in a long time that we don’t have a pet. We have served as foster parents to dogs for the area shelters when someone was needed to care for a dog that was injured or abused. Our dogs always got along with the other dogs and that was good. We always get our pets from the shelters to give a dog a good home. I am also concerned about the ecological aspects of the country as well as the economy and the other problems facing the US and the world.”
What one thing is important for your audience to know about you? Why?
I am not a trained writer and have no real writing experience prior to my books. I find that very important for my readers to know. I am not someone trying to write and make a fortune off my books. I hope that I am actually helping people and get emails and messages of thanks. I write as I talk and that is kind of in a very laidback style. I loved when one of the reviewers of my first book said that I was like the guy next door, easy going. That is real and not a particular front. I am very calm in any kind of emergency and that comes from all of my time on the ambulance and in the fire company.
What you’d like people to know about you apart from the questions above?
I was stricken with some form of degenerative nerve disease in 2003. That led to the closing of our business and losing almost everything. I have suffered 4 heart attacks and 6 strokes since then. In 2004 the doctors told me that my body was failing and they couldn’t give me more than 5 years. Rachael was born in May of 2005 hat really made me fight even harder to live. The tests they were doing every 6 months were worse every time they did them and I decided after 5 years to quit going for their tests. In June of 2009 I hit the 5 year mark and told Teri that every day from here on out was a bonus. That was the day I went and bought the motorcycle. I have told that story to other people that were given months or years to live. They tell me that it was inspiration to them to fight on.
We live in the house and neighborhood where I grew up in for the last 14 years. All of my friends from childhood are gone but many of their parents are still here. I look after them and check on them. I also help with chores, repairs, and taking them to doctor visits, the store, etc.
That’s so wonderful for you and of you, Greg. Wishing you the best of health and good luck in helping others! Thank you so much for your time and the very interesting chat.
And readers, I trust you have enjoyed meeting Greg. Come visit TheScavengersHomestead on Facebook where Greg shares what he is doing any of his book promos. Greg also shares ideas for recycling and repurposing items. Visit also Greg’s Amazon’s authhor page on Amazon. The books are available by clicking the book covers above.
Kopi Soh, Malaysian artist and author, goes out of her way to ease the sufferings of those around her. A healer of hearts, crisis counselor, teacher of an adult school, Kopi draws cartoons for sick children and writes self-help books to help children and teens. We are honoured that Kopi visits with us today.
Hello Kopi, so glad and honored that you’re here. You always draw funny cartoon and you fairly ooze with positive vibes. Come teach our readers how to maintain happiness. Tips?
The way to maintain happiness is to know that nothing is permanent, sadness or happiness, nothing last forever. Live for the now, look for happiness in the little things in life (blue skies, fresh air, a good book, a delicious fruit, chocolates!!!)
You’re a psychologist and a counselor whose specialty is in working with children, adolescents, couples and families.What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of your day job?
My work with rape survivors is often unpredictable, when we get the call we never know what to expect. Nothing much I am able to share here because everything is confidential. That is actually my night job. In my day job I teach seniors social media such as Facebook, twitter, iPad.
With night and day jobs, when do you find the time to write?
Haha, I suppose when there is a will there is a way. The desire to help others through my writing always gives me that unexpected second oomph to push through.
Best wishes for your writings. What are your other hobbies?
I draw for terminally ill, sick children and various charities such as orphanage for free. I also design t-shirts and do various illustration gigs.
Tell us a bit about what matters to you.
What matters to me is making a difference in this world, not just merely taking up space.
What one thing is important for your audience to know about you?
That I care, may it be through my art or writing, everything I do is done with heart in hopes of putting smiles on people’s faces.
Would you like to tell readers about the joy of Malaysia and its fabulous food?
Malaysia is my homeland. I always will have a special place in my heart for her regardless of where I live. As far as food is concerned, my taste buds are not of the highest caliber, I like almost everything so I can’t comment much on the fabulousness of the food.
On work and writing, what drives you the most?
The desire to help people.
Tell us about your charitable work for the hospital patients. Care to elaborate? Why is it important to you? Share with us some experiences with them.
I would not consider it “charitable work” I consider it a privilege. Those children are the real heroes. I am blessed to have crossed paths with them in the virtual world and they have taught me what is the true meaning of courage. They are the real heroes in life.
What a great view! And your books are written for them. What’s the age range?
Ages 9 and up, although if a parent or caregiver wants to, they can also use it as a guide for much younger children. That is the reason why I loaded it with illustrations. If the child is much younger, you can use that to help them identify and express their feelings.
What compelled you to write Oh I Thought I Was The Only One?
To make people feel less alone. Asians are brought up to not “wash their dirty laundry in public”, therefore many people experiencing depression or other life stressors often suffer in silence. They do not talk to anyone else about their problems and even if they do, they are often told to just grin and bear and count their blessings. Many of us feel alone and lost, unable to confide in anyone. This book was written so at least if nothing else happens, when you read it you know you are not the only one who feels this way. That feeling that you are not alone in and of itself I am hoping can somehow give us the courage to heal.
Would you share a short synopsis for each of your books?
Oh I Thought I Was The Only One was written with the hopes of easing your pain by letting you feel less alone in dealing with the troubles in life. Through little insights, the book shows us how to live fully in every moment and how to be successful without compromise– the deep soul searching for harmony and happiness we all can achieve.
Oh I Thought I Was The Only One 2 is filled with 30 plus pieces of delightful artwork and was written for the kids ages 9 and up. This book was written specifically to help today’s kids deal with stressors in their daily lives, like bullying, shyness, friendships, exams, studying, divorce, etc.
Share with us the story behind your second book
After I wrote my first book, I told myself, I do not ever want to write again. Reason being there was so much involved in writing it is like writing using your blood and soul. You pour your heart in it, you immerse yourself emotionally, trying to empathize and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. So that was it I thought, I was happy it was on the best seller shelves in all the bookstores in Malaysia and in Singapore.
Then …Arizona Tan, happened, he was my friend’s teenage son. Arizona Tan, age 17, took his own life because he was depressed over not doing well in his studies.
For those who do not know about this case you can read/watch it here:-http://www.ntv7.com.my/7edition/local-en/DEPRESSED_OVER_STUDIES_STUDENT_FOUND_HANGED_IN_BEDROOM.html
Initially I thought of writing about how parents push their kids but then again I thought we cannot just jump to the conclusion that it was the parents’ fault, this is NOT the time to play the blame game, there are many many factors involve when it comes to suicide. More importantly is how does a person get through this feeling of hopelessness and helplessness? Let me share something very personal, at one point in my life I had also thought the balcony of a high rise building looked really inviting after my father’s death. So I too am not immune to this feeling which I feel is a strength, that perhaps I can share and understand. Only a person who has sunk to this depth and come out is able to truly understand how it feels like at that MOMENT when checking out seems like a good idea.I kept thinking what can I do, what can I do, I can’t just sit here and just accept things. Thus I was compelled to write again, and “Oh, I thought I was the Only One 2” was conceived. It is my deepest hope that together we can reach the children that needs this. No one truly knows, this can be the lifeline to a child.
What are you working on right now? What’s next?
Currently just focusing on my T-shirt business at The Kopi Shop and continue drawing healing art for terminally ill children through this Facebook Page. I also work as a crisis counselor and advocate for survivors of assault, and teach seniors at an adult school.
Anything else you’d like to share?
There really is nothing much to know about me 😀
Thank you so much for your time, Kopi, and best wishes on all that you do!
And readers, I hope you enjoyed meeting the fabulous yet humble Kopi. Come follow Kopi on Twitter. Visit her sites above and support her work.