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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

THE WEATHER

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.

 

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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.

 

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THE ACCOMMODATION

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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_photobyrobert

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.

 

HOW TO GET TO BUNAKEN:

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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.

 

Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma


read-tell

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.

Ellison Hall, where a rollerskating ghost boy makes mischief. Across the street is the site of the old Tri-Delta House, where an exorcism was performed in 1973.

Ellison Hall, where a rollerskating ghost boy makes mischief.
Across the street is the site of the old Tri-Delta House, where an exorcism was performed in 1973.

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.

 

Jeff Provine's new nonfiction book CAMPUS GHOSTS OF NORMAN, OKLAHOMA is a collection of ghost stories.

Jeff Provine’s new nonfiction CAMPUS GHOSTS OF NORMAN, OKLAHOMA is a collection of ghost stories.

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!

Cate Center, a beheaded basement ghost. More information at Channel 9's link of David Burkhart’s film.

Cate Center, a beheaded basement ghost.
More information at Channel 9’s link of David Burkhart’s film.

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?

 

Holmberg Hall

Holmberg Hall, home of organ-playing ghost, Professor Mildred Andrews Boggess, eternally displeased with renovations.

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!

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed our chat with Jeff Provine. Meet  his  true ghosts, Campus Ghosts  is available at WalmartBarnes & NobleAmazon, and more ~ a very entertaining nonfiction!

Sydney Trains Lost Property

 

What are the chances of getting your lost property back in Sydney? Pretty big. But if it doesn’t have your phone number somewhere on it, cool your heels eight days before you may retrieve it.

Okay,  I’m sharing my experience, and this is the story of my wallet, lost Monday nine days ago while I was showing Sydney to some visitors. I saw it last at Wynyard Station when I was buying them cold drinks from the vending machine, just a few minutes before hopping into a North Shore train. When I realised that I had no wallet with me after leaving the train, I returned to my local station and spoke with the local Lost Property. The staff kindly checked their list. OMG, there were about 50 wallets found that day alone! But none was mine.

She said, “You might have lost it on the train or in the city. Call the main Lost Property, 93793341.”

93793341 only gives out a recorded message. It says the address of Sydney Trains’ Lost Property office is 484 Pitt Street, Sydney, the opening hours are 8.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday, and that they receive lost properties 7 days after the items are found. But, but my son’s umbrella was found on the same day! In fact, the Lost Property called us one hour after it was lost. So I went to their office the next day, which was located underneath Central Station, roughly under Central’s Big Ben, next to Canberra buses. I was told that my son’s umbrella had our phone number on it, but please come back a week later to check about my wallet.

I filled a lost-item form before I left, and from the glass wall I could see hundreds of big bags and suitcases, and, and a huge bicycle! Who on earth lost such a big bike on the train, and how?

The kids’ French teacher advised me to report to the Police and  fill the lost-property report, in case somebody handed it to the Police.

I confiscated hubby’s bankcard (yeah, I know his PIN number 🙂  ). He said to order new cards, but instead I phoned my bank to block my bankcard until I could find my wallet.  I had hopes to find it because, somehow, my level of anxiety was very low.

And today I had my wallet back!

The Lost Property had not phoned me back, because they’d just received the item last night. It’s been kept at Wynyard’s Lost Property for 7 days. I hadn’t checked there, thinking I’d lost it in the train. So this morning, after 8 days, I visited the main Lost Property office.

When I first came in, the staff behind the counter searched his computer for my name. First he asked how much cash I had in it, and when I answered correctly, he opened the connecting door and took me to see the wallets. OMG… there were hundreds upon hundreds of found wallets! Shelves upon shelves of them! In various colours,  from tiny thin ones to larger ladies’ purses. As a test, I was asked to pick mine ~ which was easy because I saw it right on the top. As proof of ID, I had to show them my passport, because my other IDs  were inside the wallet. Then I had to pay a $7.20 retrieving fee.

I thanked God for the kind person who handed it in at Wynyard, with all the cash and cards intact. There was no cash inside my wallet though, they have the policy to bank all found money.  I gave them my bank details, and they will transfer the cash, all of it, directly to my bank account.

Readers, I hope you will never lose anything when you visit Sydney. To the Sydneysiders, please write your phone number on all of your important items now! Yeah, including on your big bicycles 🙂

Good luck!

 

After a wonderful day in Sydney Harbour, I refused  to believe the end would be ugly. I had hopes I would find my lost wallet because, somehow, my level of anxiety was very low.

After a wonderful day in Sydney Harbour, I refused to believe the end would be ugly. I had hopes I would find my lost wallet because, somehow, my level of anxiety was very low.

 

 

Meet Author Greg Pavlosky And Learn To Save Money!

read-tellAuthor 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.

 

 

Greg Pavlosky, author the Homesteading series

Greg Pavlosky, author the Homesteading series: “I am just a simple person and I am trying to help others.”

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

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:

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:

WHAT We Should Know and Should Be Teaching Our Kids

WHAT We Should Know and Should Be Teaching Our Kids: “The picture was a stock picture that I used in the cover creator. People ask me if it is my daughter and grandchild.

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.

Teri and Greg

Greg and Teri Pavlosky. “This is me and Teri at The Mother Earth Fair at Seven Springs. We were interviewed for their blog. We look forward to attending this year as well.”

“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?

Rachael, grand daughter of Author Greg Pavlosky.

Rachael, granddaughter of Author Greg Pavlosky, with her motorcycle helmet.

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.

Rachel, granddaughter of Author Greg Pavlosky.

“Rachael at the Children’s Museum earlier this year.
She had to show Pappy that she was a firefighter.”

Lovely! You enjoy the outdoors, sports and motorcycles with your wife. Wonderful! Tell us more about this.

greg's bike

“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.”

Teri’s Scooter

Teri’s Scooter

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.

 

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Meet Wayne Zurl, former police commander, author of Sam Jenkins police mysteries.

 

Author Wayne Zurl is a retired police commander and a Vietnam veteran who writes witty and very realistic police stories, Sam Jenkins mysteries—like an episode of NYPD Blue in the Smoky Mountains. Wayne honors us with an interview today.

Wayne Zurl, US author of Sam Jenkins mysteries—like an episode of NYPD Blue in the Smoky Mountains. “All my novels and all but two novelettes are based on actual incidents—either cases I investigated, supervised, or just knew a lot about. My stories come from real experience, not something I learned after a two-hour lecture at a writer’s conference.”

 

You have led a very interesting life. But first, please tell us about your current home.

Wayne Zurl, author of Police mysteriesI live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, East Tennessee,  only a few miles from the most visited national park in the United States. It’s also “jest a hoot an’ a holler” from the small fictional city of Prospect where my protagonist, Sam Jenkins, became police chief. The Smokies are full of history and the natives are part of a fiercely independent and hardy group. The landscape is beautiful, the communities unique, and the region deserves character status—just as Raymond Chandler gave to Los Angeles in his Philip Marlowe stories and books, James Lee Burke gives Dave Robicheaux’s Cajun country of southern Louisiana, and Loren D. Estleman gave to Amos Walker’s Detroit.

Your beautiful home sure deserves one! And Sam is quite a character. Now, for thirteen years you were a New York police commander who supervised investigators. Please share with us what you do there.

I spent more than half of my police career serving as the CO of a specialized unit. The nature of these sections makes a supervisor’s life easier than for those who lead the line organizations of any agency. Everyone I worked with was chosen from a pool of volunteers. Everyone wanted to be there, doing that specific job. They were all self-motivated, experienced cops who wanted to investigate complicated and specialized cases. I dealt with the cream from a good crop. All I had to do was coordinate our efforts, offer some advice, check over reports, and make sure morale stayed high. I liked the people I worked with . . . then there was management.

You sure downplay your role, but how lovely to work with such people! You deserved that after serving in Vietnam and in the Reserves. Would you like to talk about Vietnam?

Young people should never be subjected to war. During the Vietnam conflict, the average age of the soldiers I saw serving in that country was between eighteen and nineteen years old. I was an old man—almost twenty-three when I got there on April Fool’s Day of 1969.

I served in a special warfare unit manned by career soldiers and volunteers. Our motto was ‘De Oppresso Libre.’ In English:‘Liberate the Oppressed.’ Unfortunately, most of the Vietnamese people didn’t want us in their country. They didn’t ask to be liberated or see their land occupied by a bunch of foreign soldiers who believed in the domino theory of Communist oppression and domination.

Discussing the ramifications of the Vietnam War could take me more time than I have left on earth.

Yes, I read Trang Sen by Sarah Anne Smith, a book about the Vietnamese and the Americans during that war. What happened on your return from Vietnam?

I returned to the U.S. after my time in Vietnam and a second “hard tour” in South Korea. I landed at McCord Air Base in Washington. The rhododendrons were in bloom. The pines reached way up into the sky and the Seattle-Tacoma region was experiencing a rare period of clear blue skies and sunshine—a beautiful homecoming. I walked from the Air Force facility to the civilian SEA-TAC airport where I would hop on an Army bus and ride to nearby Fort Lewis and the mustering out station.  I wore a set of custom-made khakis, spit-shined jump boots, a jaunty beret, and all the appropriate ribbon bars and silver badges. I thought I looked like the cat’s ass. While marching over the highly buffed terminal floor, I encountered the first two hippie panhandlers I’d ever seen. The male was tall and fat and bearded. The female would have been attractive had she been scrubbed with a push broom. He put down his guitar, lifted his T-shirt, and flashed a hairy stomach at me. She shook her tambourine, gave me the finger, and called me a baby killer. Welcome home, kid.

Here’s an excerpt from A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and what Sam Jenkins said about his homecoming from the Vietnam War:

I felt similar to how I did after returning from overseas many years before. I spent two hard-tours in East Asia for the Army, one in Vietnam and one in South Korea. Upon my return to the U. S., I possessed little tolerance for the street punk or college student who somehow escaped national service and behaved like they knew something of the world. I believed that only I, and those of my ilk, owned the right to feel worldly or world-weary. We had seen it all and done most everything, or so we thought. But as I grew older, I learned most everyone gets to see and do just a little more.

Before all that, you worked in the fledgling business of computers—when they were seven feet tall. What happened there?

When I started college in 1965, a counselor bamboozled me into taking several courses in computer programming and data processing. He claimed that Sperry-Rand’s UNIVAC machines had been eclipsed by IBM and recommended I get into the business as advancements emerged. Back then, you wrote programs on paper worksheets and key punch operators transcribed each line onto a punch card to become one element of a total program. The older and simpler plug-board accounting machines were programmed by a series of wires telling the machine what to do. Both depended much on logic to instruct the computer. The programming methods I learned linked that logic with orderly common sense. I did well and during school scored a couple of part-time jobs to help provide tuition and gas and pizza money. After I graduated and got married, I found a cushy job at a major university. I wrote programs, but when a system runs well and no one asks to improve what works, there were no programs to write. So, I helped the machine operators run the computers and generate reports, payroll checks, billing statements, and whatever paperwork makes a business go around. That’s where my problems broke water. Operating a data processing machine is boring. My mind wandered. Inevitably, I pushed the wrong button or crossed hands and fed the wrong sequence of cards into the hopper. I was a disaster.

In retrospect, I realize the local draft board breathing down my neck saved me from getting sacked. Uncle Sam sent me a “greetings” letter, but I opted to speed up the inevitable by going into the Army three months early. I left the university a local hero.

I can envision some of that! When I started work in 1986, I wrote numerical programs and typed them into black and green screen of a fat computer. Then the operators run the programs at night time on seven-feet-tall mainframe computers, storing the data in big reels and giving us boxes of velocity rolls or seismic sections in the morning. And now it’s almost paperless! So, you were disenchanted with the IBM/data processing business then. You scrapped reentry into that world after returning from your stint with the Army overseas. You collected unemployment insurance until you were offered the only job compatible with your military background. Would you like to tell us more?

Almost five years later (there were aspects of the Army I liked and stayed a bit longer than my obligatory two years),  I separated from active duty and became one of the unemployed masses. A woman at the New York State Division of Employment asked if I wanted to return to the world of computers. Remembering the seven-foot-tall processing units, eighteen inch “RAMAC” discs, and massive reel-to-reel data drives clicking and ticking away in frigid air-conditioned dust-free rooms and the frantic month-end closing days of reports, reports, and more reports, I mumbled some excuse for not pursuing that career path.

Well,” she said, “based on what you did in the Army, you have no marketable civilian skills, but your military salary allows us to pay you the maximum unemployment benefit of $104.00 a week. Keep a record of the job interviews you go to and report in every Monday.”

FBI advanced firearms school 1977

I faced choices in life. Go back into the Army? I kinda liked the idea, but my wife hated it. To make a few extra bucks to help offset the high cost of New York life, I opted to go into the active reserves. Go back to school on the G.I. Bill? I didn’t know in which direction to go with further education. I decided to follow many indecisive young men from New York when looking for a job: Go into civil service. I could be a cop, a fire fighter, or a garbage man. Smoke gave me a headache and I didn’t want to spend twenty years smelling other people’s refuse. That left being a policeman. I liked the idea of the paramilitary structure, the chances for advancement, and the benefits. So, I took the entrance exams for the three major departments in the Metro New York area.

The results of the test I took on February 24th were published first. I placed number 24 on the list and was hired in the first academy class on April 24th. I found a bookie and played that number in all combinations.

Hahahahaha! You are witty like your character Sam 🙂 Speaking of your many writings, you sure are a very busy and a very happy retiree. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of each book? Please share your favourite paragraph in each book.

HEROES & Lovers by Wayne ZurlHeroes & Lovers

Synopsis:

After helping her friend Chief Sam Jenkins with a fraud investigation, a beautiful TV reporter is abducted in Prospect by a deranged fan.

Quote:

I rose up on my knees and unzipped my field jacket. I took it off slowly and dropped it on the floor. In doing so, he saw the holstered Glock hanging on my right hip.

“You have a gun?” He rose up, too, and snapped his pistol directly at my head. “You wanted to kill me.”

He sounded disappointed in me.

A Leprechaun’s Lament

Synopsis:

Records show that a long-term employee at Prospect city hall doesn’t really exist, and then the man is found dead in a Smoky Mountain creek bed, killed assassination style.

Quote:

I think about the little guy often. Murray McGuire looked like a leprechaun. He played darts like a pub champion and drank stout like a soccer star. If you worked for the city of Prospect and found problems with a piece of office equipment, Murray would work tirelessly to remedy your troubles. But after I interviewed him for thirty minutes, I could have cheerfully strangled the little bastard.

A New Prospect by Wayne ZurlA New Prospect

Synopsis:

A retired New York detective finds a job as police chief in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, investigates a grisly homicide with less than a week on the job, and encounters more political corruption than he ever wanted to see.

Quote:

Few people believe me when I speak about my life altering experience at the checkout in Wal-Mart.

How long did it take you to write each of them?

I began writing my first novel, A NEW PROSPECT, in the summer of 2006 with no formal education in creative writing. It took a long time and served as a learning process not only on how to write fiction, but the publishing business in general. When I thought I’d finished, I hired a “book doctor” to evaluate the manuscript and received good news and bad news. The retired editor and author of nine novels told me he liked my main character, the story, and my writing voice, but . . . “It would have been a hit in 1985, but it doesn’t conform to the structure today’s publisher demands.”

So, I jumped through hoops to move chapters around, trim lots of fat, add some necessities, and got it ready to submit.

After a blessing from Dr. Book, I began sending query letters to literary agents. As the answers came trickling back and the rejections piled up, I began to wonder if my deodorant had failed. Then one of those pedantic power brokers who must have had a free afternoon sent a scribbled note saying, “I like the way you write, but a 60-year-old retired NY detective in Tennessee just isn’t trendy. Consider changing your character from a middle-aged police chief to a teen-aged private eye from Orange County.”

I gave up on the agent idea and began writing to any publisher willing to accept submissions directly from an author and accepted the first reasonable contract offered. A NEW PROSPECT was traditionally published in January 2011.

The next two novels came along quicker. I wrote them faster and a new publisher found me posting chapters at an on-line writer’s workshop and offered contracts. A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT was published in April 2012 and HEROES & LOVERS followed in August that year.

Interesting! How real are your characters?

I tell everyone I have more memory than imagination. Most of my characters are based on people I know/knew well. Sometimes they’re composites of multiple personalities. Some are caricatures of brief acquaintances. But they’re all real people. Being able to see these players makes writing dialogue easier. I can hear them—their voices and delivery, so duplicating their speech comes naturally.

I noticed that attention to speech 🙂 Now, how did you come up with the titles?

My first book began life as Murder in the Smokies. Reflecting on that, I didn’t want readers to think this was just another story of a murder investigation. I wanted the book to be more character driven and didn’t want a body by page 3. I woke up at 3 a.m. one morning and said, “A NEW PROSPECT.” A double meaning. A new prospect in life for former Detective Lieutenant Sam Jenkins and a new [city of] Prospect for the residents, gaining an honest and professional cop as their chief. Will Prospect ever be the same?

The second book’s main antagonist is a little redheaded guy named Murray McGuire. He claims parental ties to Ireland, but turns out to have no past and meets a horrible future. A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT seemed appropriate.

I first called HEROES & LOVERS Christmas in the Smokies, which sounded terribly bland. It took me until the end of the book to dream up something I liked better. The final title also has something of an ambiguous and double meaning.

What inspires you the most? 

Remember what I said about more memory than imagination? All my novels and all but two novelettes are based on actual incidents—either cases I investigated, supervised, or just knew a lot about. I’m never sure when or why I’ll get an idea or inspiration for something new, but these old memories surface and with luck I figure out how to twist things a little and transplant them from New York to Tennessee. In GRACELAND ON WHEELS (a soon to be published novelette) I took the New York murder of an old alcoholic who everyone thought to be wealthy and turned it into the killing of an Elvis Presley impersonator. Who knows where that transition came from?

And with your life experiences you have so much more memories to write about! When did you first know you just had to write?

I had been writing non-fiction magazine articles for ten years and woke up one morning feeling burnt out. Around the same time, I started reading Robert B. Parker’s NIGHT PASSAGE, the first Jesse Stone mystery. Parker’s premise was an ex-LAPD detective who became chief in a small Massachusetts town. A mental light bulb popped on. I had been a cop and Parker hadn’t. Why couldn’t I write about a retired New York detective who moved to Tennessee and found a chief’s job? How hard could it be? Refer back to Question #10 and that business about agents.

You’ve achieved so much since then. Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

I could make a long list of favorite authors, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll choose a few people who give me good reason to hold them in esteem.

Someone gave me a copy of James Lee Burke’s BLACK CHERRY BLUES and started me reading mysteries. I’ll always place Burke on my list of favorites and admit I’ll never be as technically as good as he, because my mind doesn’t work in the directions his does. Burke can describe people, places and events with pure poetry. He can also take you into a character’s head in psychological and philosophical ways that I admire.

I mentioned Robert B. Parker before. I like everything he wrote—Spenser, Jesse Stone, Sonny Randal, and the other non-series novels. His strong point is an easy-going, minimalist style. From him, I’ve gotten the urge to tell my stories in the fewest possible words. He did that quite well. I’m working on it.

I’ve read every piece of fiction and several of the non-fiction books from Joseph Wambaugh. He’s excellent with police procedurals because he’s an ex-cop. He gets the details right and doesn’t pander to expected formulas. His books aren’t for the action junkie who likes the unrealistic, over-the-top, fantasy police novels some best-selling authors peddle.  Joe writes interesting, compelling, and real police stories.

Who gives you the most encouragement?

No doubt about this—my wife. She offers plenty of encouragement, compliments, and a true touch of honesty and reality by saying, “I’d never want you to embarrass yourself. After I read something, I’ll tell you the truth.”

Tell us about your audio books and your experience producing them.

While I was trying to peddle A NEW PROSPECT to a publisher, I wrote shorter novelettes (the accepted definition of a novelette is between 7,500 and 17,500 words) for practice, but encountered problems trying to sell long stories to mainstream mystery magazines who typically want pieces between 3,000 and 5,000 words. Then I ran across a relatively new company called Mind Wings Audio who was looking for stories between 8 and 11 thousand words to produce as audio books (read by professional actors) and simultaneously publish as eBooks. They called them “commuter audio books” or something to listen to other than the same old am/fm station on trips to and from work. They duplicate the old-fashioned one-hour radio programs I remember from the 1940s and 50s. They sell very well and Mind Wings pays royalties faithfully. MP3 downloads far exceed compact discs and eBooks outsell them all. So far they’ve bought nineteen of these short Sam Jenkins mysteries.

 Any writing tips?

What you write should not only be grammatically correct and have all the elements of a well structured story but they should sound good. ALWAYS read your finished product aloud to yourself. It should flow smoothly, have rhythm. If you hit an awkward bump—reword it until it sings to you.

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

A new full-length novel is under contract and the publisher is doing the first round of edits. Here’s my proposed dust jacket summary for PIGEON RIVER BLUES:

Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.

The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.

C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.

The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.

Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate.

During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

Mind Wings has four novelettes on the coming soon list: NOTHING FITZ, THE SWAN TATTOO, ALVIS IS IN THE BUILDING, and GRACELAND ON WHEELS.

And I’m working on revisions of A TOUCH OF MORNING CALM, a novel about Korean organized crime in Tennessee.

How much do you have in common with your protag?

Reality and authenticity of detail mean a lot to me in mysteries or police procedurals. Allowing a reasonable amount of suspension of disbelief is good for any story, but too many bestselling authors insult our intelligence with what they write. I promise, I’ll never expect you to believe that in real life Sam Jenkins would shoot a steel cable from his wristwatch so he can “slide for life” across the gap between two tall buildings and chase a suspect over the rooftops of beautiful downtown Prospect, Tennessee. That’s pure hogwash. So, to bring this much needed authenticity to my stories (and make my writing life easier) I decided that my protagonist would act a lot like me. I can look back on twenty years of being a cop in a busy place and allow Sam to do what I would do and say what I might say. Initially, I thought it would be a chance to take that extra time often not available to a street cop, reason out a foolproof plan, and make everything come out perfect. But that’s not reality and perfect is boring. Sam occasionally acts impulsively and makes mistakes. We share the trait of sometimes lacking the patience necessary to do things safely. I hope readers grit their teeth, say, “Oh, Jenkins, you know better,” and feel the tension.

What are your hobbies apart from writing?

My wife and I travel a lot. With travel comes photography, and it’s a lot more enjoyable to take nature and landscape photos than to capture the nuances of a crime scene or dead body. A couple of years ago, we rekindled an old interest in fishing that had been on hiatus for more than thirty years. And like my protagonist, I have a keen interest in old British sports cars. Sam’s 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 is not a work of fiction.

Cool!

Sam-Jenkins-Austin-Healy

Sam Jenkins 1967 Austin-Healey 3000.
This series of police stories is full of interest, authenticity, humor, and quirky characters. The protagonist is middle-aged, not an alcoholic, he regards police work as fun, and remains steadfast in the philosophy that politicians should not try to influence a cop.

Tell us a bit about who or what matters to you.

I’ve always had a small family and not many of us are left. So, living a healthy and tranquil life sits high on my priority list. From a writer’s standpoint, before I fall off the perch, I wanted to bring readers a series of police stories full of interest, authenticity, humor, and quirky characters. My protagonist is not your average police/detective hero—he’s middle-aged, not an alcoholic, he regards police work as fun, and remains steadfast in the philosophy that politicians should not try to influence a cop. If nothing else, I hope readers finish a Sam Jenkins mystery and say, “Score one for the old guy.”

What one thing is important for your readers to know about you? Why?

I care how the public looks at the police. I believe that society has the right to expect more from the cops they hire than they might expect from themselves. No civil servant likes to hear a complainant say, “Hey, I pay your salary.” But that statement is true and the paying public deserves 100% professionalism and talent from a good cop. I do my best to make Sam Jenkins adhere to those standards. My stories come from real experience not something I learned after a two hour lecture at a writer’s conference. A combination of two Twitter messages I often use tells people what they can expect: He’s not just another fictional cop. Mysteries told in minimalist style. No BS. Meet Sam Jenkins.

Thank you so much for your time and the very interesting chat, Wayne.  Happy writing and best wishes!

Readers. I trust you have enjoyed meeting Wayne Zurl. Come visit his website and author pages on  Amazon,  B&N, and Mind Wings Audio. Follow Wayne on TwitterFacebookGoodreadsGoogle+.

His most recent novel, HEROES & LOVERS, is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble , and Books-A-Million

Now, here comes my mini review of Wayne’s novellete, Heaven’s Gate

Heaven’s Gate, reviewed by Ia Uaro

Author: Wayne Zurl

ASIN: B00DF9LHEG

Sam Jenkins is the Police Chief of quaint little town Prospect, which is peopled by real and quirky characters of friendly police officers, obnoxious Mayor Ronnie Shields, news-hungry journalists, and obtuse crooks. In Heaven’s Gate, Chief Jenkins goes undercover to buy automatic illegal weapons from a gun show hustler, with the money supplied by  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The story opens with illegal-firearm trading by Patriots at the Gate, a neo-fascist militia group of genuinely patriotic but sadly misinformed men. Members of this group arm themselves with automatic weapons and military munition in order to defend their American ideals. They must prevent the minorities, women, and Democrats from forcing their ways on society.

 Heaven’s Gate is a short men fiction, which even female readers will be interested in. Here we learn about real police procedural with the right details but Wayne’s minimalist style prevent these details from bogging down the plot. An interesting look into the minds of gun lovers and black-market firearms, in a country where the  number of the annual gun casualties is extremely high.

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Cypher Lx, US Law Enforcer Who Writes Suspenseful Psychological, Paranormal Thrillers

I’ve recently discovered that some book publicists and used-car dealers have one thing in common: their job description necessitates that they praise the merchandise, regardless of what their own personal opinion about this product might be. This makes me very wary when I’m offered books to review—“astounding” books by “incredible” authors.

Let me just make one thing clear: I don’t receive any payment in any forms for the reviews or videos I make. When I praise an author, that’s because I genuinely like what I read; not because I’m obliged to do so. And the reason you don’t find me criticizing an author/book is because I send any constructive review to the publicist/author instead of posting it for the public.

Some authors or readers here may make undisclosed donations to the charities I support, but any praise from me is unsolicited and unconditional.

Okay, recently two masterful authors, Cypher Lx (“Darkest Before Dawn“) and Stuart Land (“Epiphany“), have convinced me to praise books from a genre I rarely read: paranormal. Stuart is busy working a film project in Beijing, but we are honored that Cypher is here for an interview today.

 

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Cypher Lx works full-time in law enforcement, part-time as an alternative model, and has a B.A. degree in Forensic Psychology. When she is not busy with those things, she participates in cowboy action shooting, makes Victorian gowns by hand, reads and writes. She is an avid reader of horror, mystery, and more specifically, vampire and zombie novels.

 

Her novel Darkest Before Dawn is a suspenseful thriller of mystery, action, psychological and paranormal intrigues.

 

 
“I am an author who will write just about anything paranormal, whether it’s vampires, zombies, other supernatural creatures, and anything else that goes bump in the night, with a psychological twist.” ~ Cypher Lx

 

Hello Cypher, thanks so much for coming in. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of Darkest Before Dawn? 

Darkest Before Dawn is the strange and twisting journey Elissa Greyfield takes to solve the mysterious disappearance of her sister and how it may tie in with more recent serial killings where the victims are posed as angels in Laurel Hill Cemetery.

What compelled you to write this book?  

I have always been fascinated with large, old cemeteries and the statuary.  Combined with my studies in Forensic Psychology, I thought it would be interesting if a serial killer actually turned his victims into works of art that blended in with their surroundings.  I decided to add a supernatural element to it, which is probably influenced by all the paranormal books and movies that I read and watch.

I can see how your work in law enforcement influenced this story. Would you like to elaborate? 

In law enforcement, you undergo a lot of training, from firearms to handcuffing, and interviewing to investigating.  The thought process in using these elements is as natural for me as it would be for a doctor writing about a medical mystery or a teacher writing about the educational system.

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Tell us about cemeteries and the Goth club. 

 

Laurel Hill Cemetery is a real historic cemetery in Philadelphia, PA.  It covers over 70 acres of land and has many beautiful statues and mausoleums.  It is also an arboretum and is just wonderful to walk through.  The Goth club I used in the story is also a real place, though the Goth nights are no longer held at that venue on a weekly basis.  There are still many Goth events held in Philly and the culture is very “colorful” despite the mostly black attire many people wear.  It’s a very accepting group where age, gender, race, or pretty much anything else has no bearing on you as a person.  As long as you are nice to people there, they will treat you the same.

 

 

 

Your characters are very convincing. How real are they? 

That’s a difficult question.  There are elements in each of my characters that are very real.  Except for the family tragedy, Elissa kind of depicts the rebellious person I was when I was younger.  Like her, I was an art student who later on went into law enforcement.  But I wrote her having much more experience in the career than I ever had to this point.  Sage is probably more like I am now.  Still rebellious, but with a sense of authority and responsibility.  She’s probably one of my favorite characters and has a few surprises coming.  Sean and Michael are different blends of various men that I have encountered in my life.  I have to admit, Sean is probably the most realistic of all my characters.  He’s down to earth with a good mix of humor and protectiveness.

How long did you develop the book to its final state?  

I started writing it in 2009 and published it in early 2011, so a little over a year.

How did you come up with the title? 

Long before I started writing the novel, I worked night security at a chemical facility.  There is an actual phrase that says, “It’s always darkest just before dawn.”  Walking around at night, I realized that it was true and I thought it would make a good book title.  At the time, I was just considering writing a vampire novel, but I didn’t actually start writing in earnest until four years later.

What’s your favourite paragraph in Darkest Before Dawn?

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“Dance with me,” the familiar voice spoke softly in my ear.  His breath was like velvet against my skin and his hand travelled down my arm to my hand, which he raised slowly to drape around his neck.  He pressed his chest closer to my back and I took a shallow breath, my heart pounding as hard as the beat of the song.  Briefly, I wondered how he had crossed the room without me seeing him, but his fingertips sliding down my side to encircle my waist distracted me and I lost the thought completely.  To our left, I caught the sight of Wraith glaring at me, incensed.  I gave him a defiant glance as my dance partner turned me to face him, still holding me intimately close.  Looking into his eyes once again, I felt as though I was losing myself in his gaze.  The lyrics of “The Sinner in Me” seemed to echo in the distance as our sensual dance intensified.  The subtle scent of him only amplified the sensations I was experiencing, and I began to feel a bit lightheaded.  If I had been able to think at all, only one word would have been suitable to describe these feelings.  Euphoria.  My eyes closed as his lips tenderly brushed against my cheek and down my throat.  It was so soft and fleeting that I was unsure if it had happened at all.  The song was nearly over as I felt him release me.  I opened my eyes and he was gone, just as quickly as he had appeared only minutes before.

Thank you Cypher. Now let’s visit its sequel, “The Cold of Night”.

Would you like to give us a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

The Cold of Night is the continuing story from where I left off in Darkest Before Dawn, using Sean’s perspective of losing his partner and trying to cope with that while continuing the murder investigation.

Where do you get your inspiration for this sequel? Did you base the sequel on what readers like from the first book or your own inspiration? 

I purposely left loose ends in the previous novel to continue where I wanted the story to go.  I also couldn’t leave Sean the way I did in the end of the first novel.  There’s a lot more about him in the second one.  I used my own inspiration for the sequel.  If I wrote what people expected to happen instead of what I felt should happen, I think I would be doing a disservice to the reader.

Tell us about these fabulous characters. Which actors would you choose to play them in a movie rendition? 

I always have a problem trying to decide what actors would suit the characters in my books.  One that I can definitely pin down is Elissa.  I could see Molly C. Quinn pulling off the role if she was just a little bit older.  She has the look and if you’re not familiar with who she is, watch the television series Castle.  Sage is so much a part of me that I would have a very difficult time being satisfied with any actress.  Typically, I have mental pictures in my head of what the characters look like that is never based on celebrities.

What sets this one apart from the first book? Is this a repeat or are there new excitements?

I’ve introduced several new characters and revisited others who didn’t get as much face time in the first novel.  Things happen that are hopefully unexpected.  There is a lot more that was only hinted at before, so I hope it’s exciting.

Why is this a must read? 

The characters have evolved and there is much more action.  There are also some questions that are answered, as well as more questions that crop up.

Sample paragraph, please?

Laurel Hill 2

My eyes snapped open and for several moments I stared at the blank ceiling, watching the shadows and waiting for my pulse to slow.  I knew that I had been dreaming, but couldn’t recall the content.  Whatever it had been sparked another anxiety attack.  Stumbling out of bed, I opened the window to let in fresh air.  A sudden chill went down my spine and I felt like I was being watched.  Great, Sean.  Now you’re just being paranoid, I thought.  Until I saw him perched on the fire escape across the way.  Michael Sheridan.  I scrambled for my gun, trying to keep my eye on him at the same time.  I had only glanced away for a split second as I checked to make sure there was a round in the chamber, but that fast he was gone.  And just as quickly, I felt as if a railroad spike had been driven into my skull, dropping me like a rock.  The entire dream in all of its detail slammed into me as if a rubber band had been snapped back into place.

When is the planned release?  Tell us your latest news.

I’ve had to delay the release, I will announce it on my author page.  I also have a new idea for a novel that may very well have some sci-fi overtones.

Good luck with that. Now on writing. When did you first know you just had to write? 

I’ve been writing on and off since middle school.  Mostly just short stories and poetry with a few failed attempts at longer stories that I gave up on.  In 2009, one of my professors asked us what goal we wanted to meet in our lives.  I wanted to write a novel.  Little did I know that we had to share with the entire class.  He encouraged me to pursue that goal and Darkest Before Dawn was dedicated to him.  I now have four complete novels and several more ideas for future works.

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life?

What is it that really strikes you about their work?  It sounds so cliché, but Stephen King and Anne Rice.  I started reading King’s books when other girls were reading YA romance about cheerleaders.  He really knows how to dig into the darkest part of the human psyche and bring it to life.  It’s sometimes scarier than the monsters he writes about.  Rice combines the horror and romance of vampirism so artfully that the reader can feel fear and sympathy at the same time.  The Vampire Chronicles was just the start of my Anne Rice reading, but The Mayfair Witches and The Violin are also very good.

What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing? 

Writing is a real roller coaster ride for me.  I hate staring at that first blank page wondering how to start.  When I finally jump off, everything starts to flow.  Then I hit those loops where I have to keep going back to make sure I connected everything properly.  Climbing that final big hill, I struggle to find a way to end it satisfactorily.  Then it’s full speed ahead.  There is the anxiety that builds toward that last big drop, because I wonder how people will accept the ending.  Will they be happy?  Will they hate it?  After the ride is over and I publish, there’s almost a sense of disappointment that it’s over.  Then I jump back on and ride again.

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

My husband and my mother are probably my biggest supporters.  I have other friends and family that support me as well, but they are the most important.  My husband allows me to write for hours on end and will even help me out with parts of the plot that he is knowledgeable about, which is evident toward the end of The Cold of Night when I had to use his military expertise.  My mother reads over my novels before I publish and tells me what sounds right and what doesn’t.  She’s also excellent at catching spelling and grammatical errors that I may have missed.  Above all, she’s my biggest promoter.  She just loves telling everyone that her daughter writes books and will do just about anything for me, including going out in the rain to model for the new cover of Darkest Before Dawn.

You are so fortunate in your supporters!

You lead a very busy life. Would you like to elaborate on who you are when you’re not writing? Please tell us about some unique experiences in law enforcement.

As a female in any kind of law enforcement, it’s more difficult to prove that you’re just as capable as your male counterparts.  I tried to reflect this in the character of Elissa, because I have had situations where the sexist perspective still persists.  While I don’t go overboard with this particular theme, I want the reader to understand where Elissa is coming from in Darkest Before Dawn and how others in the department saw her in The Cold of Night.

I can relate to that! Geophysics was dominated by males:)

f11c7fd6a5030a7e9d9aff.L._V167923710_SY470_ How about being an alternative model?

Becoming an alternative model happened by chance.  I had gone to traditional modeling school and was essentially told that I would never get a job in the field because I wasn’t tall enough, thin enough, or conservative enough.  That was before I had all the tattoos.  Several years ago, I transitioned from the “normal” Goth style to cybergoth and, because it’s not as common in the US, it drew attention.  I was asked to model for the BizR Babes, and I still do from time to time when my schedule allows it.

What you do with your B.A. degree in Forensic Psychology? 

Currently, there isn’t a high demand for careers in Forensic Psychology unless you have a Ph.D.  I’m looking into furthering my education, but for now I mainly use my knowledge in my writing.

And cowboy action shooting?

My husband initially got into cowboy action shooting and after watching, I decided I wanted to participate as well.  It’s an international sport where people dress in period clothing and register under a specific shooting class like Traditional, Gunfighter, or Duelist.  The shooter is timed while shooting for accuracy at interactive metal targets.  Unfortunately, because my work schedule has changed, I haven’t gotten to do it in a while, but if I ever become a full-time writer I will be spending more time doing it again.

What fun! You also make Victorian gowns by hand. How is it?

The short answer is…I can’t work a sewing machine to save my life.  The longer answer?  Victorian ball gowns are beautiful, suit almost any formal event, and are very, very expensive if you buy one already made.  Cowboy action shooting full weekend events tend to have a formal dinner and that started my obsession.  But I have also made them to wear to the Gravediggers’ Ball, which is a fund raising formal dinner Laurel Hill Cemetery holds every year to keep the grounds beautiful through the donations of the patrons.

Would you tell us about your charity drive?

Due to the nature of the plot for my novel Christmas Evil, I have chosen to donate fifty percent of the proceeds of its sales to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?  

The most important thing to me is that my readers enjoy reading my work.  If I have made you laugh, cry, or even hate me for what I’ve done to one of my characters, then I have done my job, because I want my readers to experience the same range of emotions that I have while writing.

Share with us some of your photography work and their story. When and why did you take them? 

1001855_539724449397993_859091925_n

Each of my book covers has an example of my photography.  The original Darkest Before Dawn cover is a photograph of one of the angel statues in Laurel Hill Cemetery.  The newest cover, as well as the cover for The Cold of Night, are also of Laurel Hill.  The models I photographed were digitally added later.  All of the cemetery photographs were taken on rainy nights during an event called Dining Amongst the Dead, where patrons eat a delicious meal at the gatehouse prior to taking a guided stroll along the winding paths.  The cover of Salt Bowl Death is a composition photograph by myself and my husband using us as models and his best friend’s barn as the background.  Christmas Evil’s cover was a fun experiment in photography.  I mixed up fake blood and smashed Christmas ornaments and candy canes just to see what I came up with.  That cover is the result.  More of my photography can be found on my website.  Eventually, I would like to start putting prints up for sale, but I haven’t had the time or finances to make that available yet.

My best wishes on that, Cypher.

Now would you tell us about your home in Pennsylvania?

I live in a pretty typical middle-class neighborhood, I suppose.  My house is a half a twin, which means I can sometimes hear my neighbors.  Most of us have dogs or other pets and grill outside when the weather is warmer.  Generally, we know everyone in our little stretch of houses.  It rains a lot in Pennsylvania.  Sometimes too much for my liking.

Any tips on reading and writing? 

Read a lot and write a lot.  Reading keeps the imagination going and writing only improves over time.

Thank you so much for your time, Cypher. Best wishes for all the books!

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Cypher. Following is my review of Darkest Before Dawn.

31y1btRXQCLDarkest Before Dawn, reviewed by Ia Uaro

Title: Darkest Before Dawn
Author: Cypher Lx
ISBN: 978-1460963791
There are so many things I want to say about this book. So, I’ll make a list of WHAT I LIKE:

The masterful writing
These days it’s very rare that I can lose myself in whatever I read without analyzing the structure and noticing all kinds of errors. Reading DARKEST BEFORE DAWN however, I was allowed to fully focus on the story and enjoy myself.

The deftly drawn characters
Goth girl with attitude Detective Elissa Greyfield–who is obsessed with dark clothes, frequents Goth club Nocturne, and decorates her room with pictures of cemeteries–joins the Homicide department of Philadelphia Police Department, where nobody can stand or understand her bitterness and strangeness, except the ever loyal and patient Detective Sean Winters, formerly the investigator of her sister’s case. Sean knows what has shaped this girl, and their interaction is precious.
Enter mysterious newcomer Michael Sheridan, who brings suspicion in the protective Sean and rage in former Goth boyfriend Wraith. These characters, Michael and Wraith, are remarkable, but I really can’t be a spoiler here.

The deep mystery
The plot is meticulous. Elissa is the last surviving member of her family, after her sister disappears and is presumed to be brutally murdered. Four years on, as detectives she and Sean investigates a series of murders where the victims are exsanguinated and posed as angels in a cemetery by a psychopath who leaves notes of warning. But who is he warning? How much danger will Elissa’s fearless search for her sister’s bring? Why is someone shadowing her? And who is the mysterious Michael; is he the last gentleman on earth or is he too good to be true? And there are so much more to this book. Expect the unexpected.

The author’s knowledge
The details are amazing. No matter what topic or setting she’s describing, without overdoing anything the author pays scrupulous attention to providing fascinating facts, teaching you either from her thorough researches or from her wealth of experience in the law enforcement and Goth culture.

The uniqueness
This book is first of all a suspenseful mystery, something fans of Kay Hooper will enjoy, but there’s nothing quite like this one. “Darkest Before Dawn” is massive–a wholesome and intriguing blend of deep mystery, murder suspense, psychological thriller, police action, Goth community, family drama, and paranormal adventure. Do not expect your normal fares of these genres though, because Cypher Lx will take you on a journey to where you know not.

This is not good bye
I have mentioned the perfect balance of the book’s structure. Everything is just at the right proportion. But I fell in love with the story and its characters and dreaded the approaching end. I didn’t want it to end! And so I was glad when Cypher announced on the last page that a sequel should arrive soon. Yeay!

WHAT I DON’T LIKE: Nothing.

Perfectly balanced, cleverly written, and stylish, this one is a masterpiece by a talented author who excels in everything that she does.

 

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Art Expert Terry Stanfill Talks About Her Novels “The Blood Remembers” and “Realms of Gold”

 

TERRY STANFILL’s first novel The Blood Remembers was published in 2001 and was a finalist in 2002 Independent Publisher Awards and 2002 Dorothy Parker Awards of Excellence. Her new novel Realms of Gold has won the Bronze Medal in Romance of the 2013 eLit Awards. Born Therese Olivieri in West Haven, Connecticut, Terry is a first generation American of Italian descent. She received a degree in English Literature with a minor in Medieval History from the University of Connecticut. Until joining Christie’s as an International Representative, she served as a director of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. She is an overseer emerita of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens and a founding member and Life Trustee of Los Angeles Opera. For her efforts in fund raising for the restoration of San Pietro di Castello, the ancient cathedral of Venice, Stanfill was decorated by the president of Italy with the Ordine al Merito, Cavaliere della Republica Italiana, and more recently as Commendatore. She is vice president of Save Venice, Inc. and was a founder of The California Chapter of Save Venice.

Terry is married to Dennis Stanfill, former CEO of Twentieth Century Fox, and MGM. Their daughter Francesca Stanfill Nye, is a novelist and journalist. Their son, Dennis, is partner and managing director of HBDesign, Singapore.

We are honored to have Terry visiting with us today, and she brings along her fascinating wealth of knowledge and experience.

 

Terry Stanfill, US author of Realms of Gold: “For me writing is a mystical experience. I don’t work “on” a book; I work “in” a book… I guess you can call them visions~the visions of my mind’s eye breaking through the layer of consciousness and called the imagination. I believe that the story is already written in the unconscious and it has to be mined out from its depths.”

 

Hello Terry, thank you so much for coming in. 

You dedicated Realms of Gold to your daughter, in memoriam. I am a mother myself and I feel you have to be very strong to have written this. Would you like to tell us about her?

Michaela Sara Stanfill, our daughter, was a brilliant girl who suffered from bi-polar disorder.  After graduating with a B.A. from Harvard, she received a Masters Degree in Communications from Boston University.  Michaela, (or “Cada” to rhyme with Michaela), was a professional researcher.  My oldest, rarest articles on the Vix Krater are those she discovered at the Boston Public Library.   After Cada died I went back to the idea of writing a novel about the Krater.  I found that storytelling helped to sublimate my inconsolable grief.

Years before, I’d put together a sketch about the Krater, an immense bronze vessel (archaic Greek) from the 6th century BC.  This was way back in 1994 after I came upon this virtually unknown object in a backwater museum in ChâtillonsurSeine, Burgundy.  Soon after, I wrote a very simple storyline and showed it to my editor, the late Alan Williams, retired Editor in Chief at Viking press. He liked my ideas but advised me to put them aside and concentrate on finishing my first novel, The Blood Remembers, which, like Realms of Gold, is also set in Italy and France.

When I returned to the idea of writing about the Krater.  I abandoned the original sketch and found myself writing a completely different book—now Realms of Gold begins with a wedding in Venice and the opening chapters are from the point of view of Giovanni.  And Bianca has developed into a much more interesting character.

Giovanni Di Serlo, by the way, is a character, an archaeologist, in The Blood Remembers.  When he talks about the woman who went back to her husband in California, he’s talking about Rose Kirkland, the protagonist of the novel.   Why not use him as the archaeologist in The Krater (working title), I thought. Many of my readers liked him and so I decided to “keep Giovanni going.”

 

"Realms of Gold" by Terry Stanfill, winner of Bronze Medal, 2013 eLit Awards.

“Realms of Gold” by Terry Stanfill,
winner of Bronze Medal, 2013 eLit Awards.
A huge vessel used for the mixing of wine in ceremonial rituals was unearthed in a tomb from 600 BC, along with the remains of a woman of great importance.

 

Bianca has mystical visions of people from the past. Personally, I’ve had telepathic “contacts” with living people and “see” them—mostly when they’re in trouble—but they are not strangers or people from the past. Do you know a person with visions such as a “medium” or a “seer”, or do you have this ability? Please share your experience and opinion with us. 

I too don’t know anyone personally who has a gift of prophecy—although I have heard of people in Italy who have this oracular power, handed down for generations to certain women supposedly from the seeresses and sybils of antiquity.   As for myself, I do have some pretty good hunches every now and then.

For me writing is a mystical experience. I don’t work “on” a book; I work “in” a book.  It all begins with my dreams. I have hundreds of pages in my dream-journal computer files and several pre-computer notebooks with dreams written by hand.  When I write, some of the images loom large, and I use them in my storytelling.  I, as a Jungian, believe that much of what we know and remember comes from the unconscious—and the deeper one goes into the unconscious by meditation or dreams, the more visual the storytelling. The back-story images in Realms of Gold are parts of actual dreams.   Before I began my first novel I wrote poetry, and relied on those visual images. Most of Bianca’s ritual stories for the magazine were written this way.  I guess you could call them visions—yes—the visions of my mind’s eye breaking through the layer of consciousness and called the imagination.  I also believe that the story is already written in the unconscious and it has to be mined out from its depths.

Synchronicity, important in the narrative in Realms of Gold is also activated by digging deeper into the unconscious.  I have had some startling occurrences that could never be merely coincidences.

 

The Blood Remembers

“The Blood Remembers” was a finalist in 2002 Independent Publisher Awards and Dorothy Parker Awards of Excellence.
A jewelry designer inadvertently unravels a mystery surrounding the medieval emperor, Frederick II.

 

Coming from a strongly matriarchal people myself, I like the independent women in your story. Who are the special women in history you particularly admire, and why?

There are two women who come to mind immediately—not so much women that I admire, but women who made a mark on the history of England, France and Italy, women who were in my area of research for my first novel.

The first, Constance de Hauteville, the daughter of King Roger of Sicily, and the mother of the Emperor Frederick_II.  Frederick was born in December 26, 1194, died in 1250.   Constance became the wife of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor.  When Constance was forty years old she gave birth to a son on her way back from Henry’s German kingdom to Palermo, where her ancestors the Normans had founded a great kingdom.  Her son, who would one day become Frederick II (grandson of Frederick Barbarossa), was born in the public square of Jesi, near Ancona, in the Marche area of Italy.  An elaborate tent was set up and any matron in the town could witness the birth of her child. Since Constance was over 40, she wanted to put to rest any stories that might arise if the birth had not been publicly witnessed. She also nursed her son to prove that she was indeed his mother. The image of this town square, with its great tent, eventually propelled the storytelling in The Blood Remembers. Years ago, long before I picked up the pen, it had become a vision imbedded in my mind’s eye.

The second historical character is Eleanor of Aquitaine; mother of King Richard the Lion Heart, and King John (of Magna Carta notoriety) was Queen to both Louis VII of France and to the Plantagenet Henry II of England.  She lived a long life, and had enormous influence on the politics of Aquitaine, England and France.  Eleanor was a patron of the arts.  She brought with her the refinements of her beloved Aquitaine, poetry, troubadours, courtly love.  Her daughter Marie, by King Louis of France was the patron of Chrétien de Troyes, and it is conceivable that Queen Eleanor was also Chretien’s patron, as well.  Chrétien and his romance Le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) is also an important part of the story telling in Realms of Gold...

One of the contemporary women I admire is the late Dorothy Buffum Chandler, who raised enough funds to build the three theaters of our Music Center, and who wisely engaged the very young Zubin Mehta to become the first conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in its new setting, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Buff Chandler was a very strong woman and it was hard to say no to her when she was so convincing about her mission. She raised millions of dollars for this great city which was bereft of a performing arts cultural center.

Another woman for whom I have a lot of admiration is the controversial writer, Camille Paglia, who is very strong in her opinions.  I was impressed by her book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), her best-selling book of literary criticism.  I admire Paglia for defending the canon of the western literature when so many colleges and universities want to abandon the classics and great writers throughout history.

 

Bianca Caldwell is quite a personality. How real are your characters?

My daughter was never far from my mind as I wrote.   Even though Michaela is not Bianca, she had some of her characteristics. She too had a strong personality, definite opinions, and wasn’t the least bit shy about giving them. I know that she would have liked Bianca and she would have smiled at some of her descriptions, attitudes, little eccentricities—just as I’m smiling now as I write this for you.  My characters are sometimes, but not always, composites. My mind is always at work combining the fruits of my imagination with people I know, or have known in reality.

 

Burgundy, the Village of Vix

Terry Stanfill: “I’d put together a sketch about the Krater, an immense bronze vessel (archaic Greek) from the 6th century BC. This was way back in 1994 after I came upon this virtually unknown object in a backwater museum in Châtillon-sur-Seine, Burgundy.”

 

Would you share the joy, the challenges, or your special experiences in regards to developing Realms of Gold and what has happened afterwards?

After The Blood Remembers was published I felt an enormous vacuum in my life, in my daily routine. After years of studying the Normans in South Italy I was suddenly without the dedication and the pleasure I derived from historical research. Because the Vix Krater had made such an impression on me on that day in 1994, I thought I might return to the idea of writing a novel about it. Before long I was reading everything I could find about the archaic period in Magna Graecia, the art, philosophy, about the early Hallstatt Celts, the many Celtic tribes in France.   When finally I sat down to write in 2006, the historical detail was in my head, and the narrative flowed—especially on Bianca’s ritual pages. This was exhilarating!

The joys have come from the excellent reviews of Realms of Gold, and by the recent ward of a bronze medal (third place) in the romance category from the E-Lit Awards.   The Blood Remembers, in hard cover, was first runner up in the general fiction category—Independent Publishers Awards back in 2001, it was also short-listed for the Dorothy Parker Award.

 

At Vix in Burgundy in 1953, Archaeologist René Joffroy unearthed a huge krater, a vessel used for the mixing of wine in ceremonial rituals, in a tomb from 600 BC, along with the remains of a woman of great importance. With the height of 1.63 m, the Vix Krater is the largest known metal vessel from antiquity.

At Vix in Burgundy in 1953, Archaeologist René Joffroy unearthed a huge krater. With the height of 1.63 m, the Vix Krater is the largest known metal vessel from antiquity.

 

How did your love for history develop?

I can’t remember when I didn’t love history—especially ancient history—Greek and Roman in particular. I couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old when my Auntie Luisa returned from Italy with postcards of Pompeii and Herculaneum—how fascinated and terrified I was to hear the story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  I read The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer-Lytton when I was in my teens—and one of my favorite novels of the past decade is Pompeii by Robert Harris.  When I was a little older I also became interested in mythology, a subject which interests me still.  I also enjoyed The King Must Die by Mary Renault, a retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, as if it were reality—the works of Robert Graves, among them, The White Goddess, have been helpful.  And of course, Jessie L. Weston’s From Ritual to Romance which I’d attempted to read when studying T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland as a freshman in college.   I was far too young to understand why Eliot paid homage to her ideas.

Later on, at university, I studied Medieval history.  Years later, the history of the Norman conquest of in South Italy was the subject of my research at the Huntington Library where I was a Reader.

Sometimes I scold myself for not being more knowledgeable about American history.  I feel somewhat redeemed after reading David McCullough’s John Adams, then 1776, and more recently, The Greater Journey, his book about great Americans, writers, artists, and scientists in Paris in the 19th century.

 

Terry Stanfill, US author of ancient-history fiction

Terry Stanfil: “I can’t remember when I didn’t love history—especially ancient history—Greek and Roman in particular. I couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old when my Auntie Luisa returned from Italy with postcards of Pompeii and Herculaneum—how fascinated and terrified I was to hear the story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.”

 

On your work and writing. Who would you say have been the most influential authors or historians in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

Ernst Kantorowicz, who, before he became a professor at Princeton, published (in 1927) the first complete monograph in English on Frederick II, King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor. He clears Frederick of all contradictions and portrays him as a genius, a precursor of the Renaissance, who was advanced in law, science, art, architecture, philosophy. He spoke many languages including Arabic and Hebrew.

I bought this biography in Blackwell’s in Oxford, where Dennis (my husband) was a student.  Years later I could find no other book on Frederick II in the English language.  And it was this book, and my fascination with Frederick II, that became a seminal influence, and my novel, The Blood Remembers was the ultimate result.  Kantorowicz portrays Frederick as “the genius and master of all times and eras before and after him.”

Certainly John Julius Norwich was a great influence with his two books on the Normans in South Italy and Sicily—The Greater Conquest and The Kingdom in the Sun, his volumes on Venice and Byzantium.  Although Norwich claims not to be an academic, he writes with historical accuracy and clarity, in his own inimitable voice, making his books a joy for the layman to read.

Chrétien de Troyes was an important influence.  Chrétien, as I mentioned earlier, was a court poet to Marie of Champagne, and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  It was Chrétien who first mentioned Camelot, describing it as a place on a hill, by a river, surrounded by forests, with plains beyond.  I make good use of his description in Realms of Gold!  Chrétien was also the first to write about King Arthur and his court.  

Jesse L Weston’s provocative words from her landmark book From Ritual to Romance, referred to Chrétien de Troyes and especially his romance, The Story of the Grail.

“It is most probable that the man who first told the story, and boldly, as befitted a born teller of tales, wedded it to the Arthurian legend, was himself connected by descent with the Ancient Faith, actually held the Secret of the Grail, and told in purposely romantic form, that of which he knew.”

The subtitle of Realms of Gold: Ritual to Romance is my tribute to Jesse Weston.

 

Jess Weston2

Terry Stanfill: “The subtitle of Realms of Gold: Ritual to Romance
is my tribute to Jesse Weston.”

 

Thanks, Ia for your provocative questions.  Thanks for reading through this.  I hope I haven’t gone on too long!

It’s a great honour to have you with us Terry. Thank you so much for your precious time!

And readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Terry Stanfill. Following is my review of her intriguing book, “Realms of Gold.”

 

Route of the krater.

Route of the krater. Archeologist Giovanni and New York art-writer Bianca follow the journey of the ancient queen Zatoria from Sybaris to Vix in France to help them connect Bianca’s visions with Giovanni’s scientific findings of the origin of the Vix Krater.

 

A Memorable Journey to an Ancient World
“Realms Of Gold”, reviewed by Ia Uaro

Author: Terry Stanfill
ISBN: 978-0615 657 547

There are several layers of stories inside this story and intelligent readers with interest in historical mysteries and the intricacies of ancient arts would be intrigued by how the plot unfolds.

At Vix in Burgundy in 1953, Archaeologist René Joffroy unearthed a huge krater, a vessel used for the mixing of wine in ceremonial rituals, in a tomb from 600 BC, along with the remains of a woman of great importance.

In July 2007 archaeologist Giovanni Di Serlo attends a cousin’s wedding in Venice and meets Bianca Caldwell, an American art writer who depends on her visions for guidance as she writes about ancient objects and their use in ritual.
Bianca is obsessed with the mystery of her great grandmother Nina Evans, especially being in Venice, because this never-married Nina had returned from a 1902 Venice holiday pregnant.
Giovanni doesn’t think much of Bianca’s looks and her abysmal fashion sense, however he is kind to her and tells her about his latest archaeological work.

On the plane home to New York, Bianca receives inspiration that connects the Vix Krater with medieval poet Chrétien Troyes and King Arthur’s Grail. On her arrival home, her flat has been broken into and vandalized by the Mafia group Sacred Crown United, but nothing is lost.
Bianca continues to receive visions about strongly matriarchal peoples, and in her mind eye she sees the life events of the Lady of Vix, Zatoria, from her childhood with her storyteller mother and her travels with her spiritual-teacher father, Zalmoxis. Bianca also sees visions of Nina, and what had happened to her in Italy in 1902.

Giovanni invites Bianca to visit his dig of the lost city Sybaris, and Bianca connects her visions of Zatoria with his scientific findings of the origin of the Vix Krater. To understand more about their findings, these two set off to follow Zatoria’s journey from Sybaris to Vix in France.

The author’s fantastic imagination combined with her thorough knowledge of the artifacts lead us to the ancient world as we follow Zatoria’s journey from Olbia to Sybaris, to Vix. Terry Stanfill shows us these places and how their peoples had lived, what they had used and what mattered to them. And at the same time the real-life plot gets thicker as tomb-looters and underground art smugglers emerge, and romance blossoms.

This book isn’t for everybody but may hook avid mystery readers, who will lose themselves in learning intriguing new knowledge. A wonderful experience.

 

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My Review of “DEAR CAPTAIN, ET AL”

"Dear Captain, et al" by Allan Wilford Howerton. An authentic day-to-day account of infantry combat during WWII

“Dear Captain, et al” by Allan Wilford Howerton. An authentic day-to-day account of infantry combat during WWII

 

A beautiful book about friendships and a study of human behaviour under fire.


Book Title: DEAR CAPTAIN, ET AL: The Agonies and the Ecstasies of War and Memory, a Memoir from World War II
Author: Allan Wilford Howerton

This book was written by one of my very best friends, but I’ll try to be objective here.

“Dear Captain, et al” is a witty, cracking good novel from a modest author who uses amazing factual details such as war records, friends’ notes, and his personal notes and memory that have been diligently and scrupulously researched for accuracy 50 years later. I’d bought “Dear Captain, et al” over a year ago, but only had the chance to read it in May 2013. I wish I’d read it much earlier.

Young Allan Howerton hoped to avoid the conscription for WW II. In 1943 he was studying at Drexel University under the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which aimed to produce civil engineers and pencil pushers ostensibly to occupy and rebuild Europe after the war was won. On weekends Allan visited his first love sweet Mary in a nearby town, planning that when he would become a lieutenant upon his graduation, to marry her and to whisk her away to live in Europe where he would be commissioned to carry out civil work. Alas, his dreams were dashed when the Army aborted the ASTP in 1944. The compulsory military recruitment age had been lowered, and the deeply disappointed, mad-as-hell ASTP boys were sent to the Army’s training barracks in Claiborne, where none of them wanted to be. Here, brute and merciless officers shaped the unfortunate bunch to become combat soldiers. Several months later, as Company K, they were packed into a train to a destination they knew not, ended up being shipped to the war fronts at the border of Belgium and Germany, clawing in the mud, hiding in miserable foxholes, fighting in the extreme cold, shooting and being shot, most of the time not knowing what was happening or where they would be next, and always, they ended up in a war zone with worse miseries than the previous.

In Company K, circumstances bonded the men together as a troop, and friendships developed between individuals. In the beginning Allan was very interested in the officers’ antics, and later on his focus shifted to friends and their group effort to survive. A very keen observer, he scrutinized various personalities and noted their views and their habits. Allan, who was the loudest snorer, complained when one night his close friend Ceroni kept talking aloud preventing sleep; only to be heartbroken when it turned out to be this friend’s final night alive. Even after 50 years his agony is palpable in his narration. His friends and leaders were important to Allan, yet one by one they became war casualties. His was a gentle soul that hurt inside, even while jokingly referring to the soldiers’ injuries, followed by evacuation to hospitals which freed them from front-lines’ horrors, as their million-dollar wounds.

Since this is a war memoir ~ otherwise known as a series of unfortunate events ~ perhaps it was bad form of me to chuckle from time to time. Yet Allan has a fine sense of humor. Even during the war he rarely failed to notice the funny bits or the bright side of people, places or circumstances, even while grumbling, worrying, commiserating, sympathizing, or shaking in fear. I found myself glued to the pages in interest, engrossed in following detailed day-to-day conditions of the endless war, the actions, Company K’s hard-luck movement, and what actually befell Allan’s comrades. Many brilliant young lives met sickness or untimely end in horrendous ways. Many courageous souls developed amazing personalities, toughness, and various skills to support and to lead their own proficiently. Allan was later promoted to be Company K’s communication sergeant, working close to its commanders in exciting actions, and eventually assisted the last one with his considerable staff knowledge from people-watching.

This is a beautiful book about friendships, a behavioral study of how humans react and cope under fire, and firsthand’s account of how a group of cynical college boys journeyed to become a crack military team.

Allan Howerton is almost 90, one of my favorite people, and is the most remarkable and inspiring oldie I know. I’ve been telling whining young authors to pull their acts together, to stop complaining about having to learn new things, and to copy savvy Allan who is undeterred by changes, adapts accordingly, and never loses his infectious smile. I wish so much that no-one had had to experience or see what Company K had been through, but Dear Captain, et al shows me many elements that had helped to shape my beautiful friend’s ever-advancing mind, his dynamic strides in keeping up with changes, his smiles and his caring attitude towards others. The beginning is always the hardest, but tough times don’t last. You are what you have overcome. Be grateful and kind, everyone you meet may be fighting a psychological battle. Definitely, we, whining younger generations, can learn a thing or two.

 

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ABOUT ALLAN WILFORD HOWERTON

After the war Allan attended the University of Denver earning a B.A. degree in international relations and a M.A. in education plus graduate study in economics. He had a long career as a federal civil servant with the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Later, Allan became a general manager of a cable television channel. He lives with his wife Joan, a Registered Nurse, in Alexandria, Virginia.

Books by Allan:

– “DEAR CAPTAIN, ET AL.: the Agonies and the Ecstasies of War and Memory, a Memoir from World War II” — an authentic day-to-day account of infantry combat written from original source records over a period of several years. Many readers have called it one of the best books of its type to come out of World War II or any war.

– “WAR’S WAKE”—a novel, is a love story set on a university campus (much like the University of Denver) crowded with ex-GIs studying under the GI Bill of Rights in the aftermath of World War II. Against the background of the Communist scare and the ever-darkening shadows of the Cold War, WAR’S WAKE is an enticingly seductive romance about a time which is gone forever. Whimsical, brainy, and fun to read, WAR’S WAKE is also a serious novel about war and its repercussions, time and its mystery, love and its consequences, memory and its caprices, writing and its perils, and death and its regenerations. And there is also a bit about the Communist scare and the Cold War, the debut of the national security state, the manners and mores of the Truman era, as well as reflections about the formative years of the “Greatest Generation” myth.

– “BAPTISTS, BIBLES, AND BOURBON IN THE BARN: the Stories, the Characters, and the Haunting Places of a West (O’MG) Kentucky Childhood.” —a soon-to-be-published book together constitute a trilogy of my life experience through and beyond World War II.

Allan Howerton, one of my favorite people, the most remarkable and inspiring oldie I know.

Allan Howerton, one of my favorite people, the most remarkable and inspiring oldie I know.

 

Watch out for my interview with Allan around the publication of BAPTISTS, BIBLES, AND BOURBON IN THE BARN.

You can read Sydney’s Song on your iPhone or iPad

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Sydney’s Song

 

Olympic fever runs high in the Australian summer of 1999 and 17-year-old Sydney has caught it. Little does she know taking a holiday job in the beehive that is the Olympics’ public-transport call centre will be life altering. Shaken by her parents’ divorce, the sheltered Aussie is further plagued by abusive callers, obnoxious government agencies, constrictive office rules, and liberated friends. She is trying to negotiate these challenges as her own personal Olympics when Pete finds her. Pete, Boston’s former child prodigy whose soothing voice floats across her workstation, sees through Sydney’s tough outer shell. Pete knows what it takes to present a dignified front when all you want to do is howl at the moon. Treating their friendship like an art, he invests time and creative effort to pull Sydney out of her despair.

Tragedy strikes when an accident leaves Pete with a major brain injury in a Boston hospital. Their families think Sydney is too young to cope with all the complications, but she doesn’t agree. After all that he has done for her, Sydney refuses to leave Pete with people who view him only as an endless chore. Deferring her university studies, alone in a foreign land facing new trials, Sydney stays at his side—even when he doesn’t recognise her.

Humorous fiction, socio fiction, coming-of-age adventure fiction and best love story, SYDNEY’S SONG follows an undefeatable girl’s courageous journey to adulthood. Set in Sydney and Boston where heartbreaks are juxtaposed humour and based on true story and real events, this novel with an Australian accent also shows the world that living with disabilities does not prevent a person from attaining happiness.

Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/sydneys-song/id636344884?mt=11

 

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Click picture to download from iTunes.