Mango Rash is a memoir of your time in American Samoa as a teen in the mid-sixties. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this memoir?
I started writing bits and pieces of my Samoa story when I joined a writers’ group in 2004. That was almost forty years after my time in Samoa, and for all those years I’d struggled to convey what it was like living on a tropical island as a teenager in the 1960s. All I could come up with was, “It was beautiful . . . It was a blast . . . “ and other generic responses that didn’t begin to capture the essence of the experience. So I started writing about that year as a way to not only fill in the details, but also tease out why living in Samoa made such an impression on me—something I’m not sure I completely understood until I finished writing the memoir.
Was everything you wrote from memory, or did you have to do research like dig through old photographs and letters?
Some events and conversations were so deeply etched in memory I could write them off the top of my head. Others surfaced as I looked through old photographs, played music from the time, and read letters and diary entries. One very good friend from high school days had saved all the letters I wrote her from Samoa, and those filled in so many details, including entire, verbatim conversations and descriptions of people and places. As I was revising the manuscript, a cousin unearthed letters my parents had written to her parents from Samoa. Those letters corroborated my accounts and provided even more details.
I appreciated the candid nature of your book. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer for this book?
Interesting question! I think my main goal was to dig beneath the day-by-day recounting of events, extract the most pivotal events, and ferret out my reactions to those events, both at the time and forty to fifty years later, as I was writing about them. And then to keep making sure I was telling the truth, not only the factual truth, but also the emotional truth.
This is a lovely coming of age story that superbly captures a whirlwind of emotions. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
Thank you! I hope readers take away several messages from my story.
First, that even though our individual life stories may be very different, we all experience similar emotions at key points in our lives—adolescence, for one, but also other points along the way.
Second, that change is inevitable—nothing is permanent—but it’s good to consider which changes are beneficial and growth-promoting and which ones are destructive. Neither resisting change nor forging ahead just for the sake of change is the best path.
Finally, I think the most important message is that we all can learn so much from cultures other than our own if we open ourselves up to what they have to offer. Given all the mistrust and misunderstanding among different groups of people these days, this message can’t be stressed too often.
Moving to a South Pacific island from small town Oklahoma, sixteen year old Nancy Sanders trades cruising Main Street in search of tater tots for strolling sandy shores with islanders who feast on sea worms and summon sharks with song.
With a dash of teenage sass, MANGO RASH chronicles Nancy’s search for adventure—and identity—in two alien realms: the tricky terrain of adolescence and the remote U.S. territory of American Samoa. Against a backdrop of lava-rimmed beaches, frangipani-laced air, and sensual music, Nancy immerses herself in 1960s island culture with a colorful cast of Samoan and American expat kids.
But life is not one big beach party, Nancy soon finds, when she clashes with her parents over forbidden boys and discovers double standards in the expat community. Samoa, too, is experiencing growing pains as ancient customs collide with 20th-century ways. In the midst of all this, a hurricane shatters the peaceful paradise, delivering lessons in attachment and loss, strength and survival.
Like Nancy, readers of this unforgettable memoir will fall in love with Samoa’s biscuit-tin drum serenades, its mountains like mounds of cut velvet cushions, and its open-hearted people, who face adversity with grace. And just as Nancy does when her own health crisis thrusts her into a very different kind of unfamiliar territory, readers will draw strength from fa’a Samoa: the Samoan Way.
In language as lush as the island landscape, MANGO RASH enchants, entertains, and, ultimately, inspires with its message about embracing and learning from other cultures.
Not many people are attentive enough to hear an inner voice let alone listen to it. Lenerd Louw had always had a small voice inside of him urging towards a direction he had never taken before. The voice was leading him to veer off a life he had always lived, enjoyed and took some measure of pride in. The voice only grew louder over time. Then Lenerd took the time to actually listen to the voice. He took the time to audit his life and venture into the unknown with nothing but a large backpack. Five years later, he has a new outlook on life.
Lenerd leaves nothing to the imagination. He lets the reader deep into the belly of the story. He tells such a vivid story that while he is momentarily mesmerized by the Jacuzzi fire, the reader will be right there with him. You can almost smell the cocktail of diarrhea and vomit when he attempts to rid himself of parasites.
His style of telling his story is completely engaging and involving for the reader. There is an authentic air about the author. Even as he accuses himself of in-authenticity, the fact that he is questioning means that it lies somewhere within him. You can tell that he is not in any way completely devoid of it. This quality comes through in the way he tells the story as well as the events he chooses to highlight.
This was definitely a story worth telling. It is a story of triumphs. Often people think that those perched atop privilege and success have it easy. Truth is that they too, undergo the same kind of struggles that everyone does. In that sense, this story is relatable. Although the reader may not have the means to traverse the world like he did, Lenerd’s experiences and his candid narration of the story connect him to the reader right from the beginning.
Although I liked the book, I felt that the story tended to jump around without notice. This left me a little confused at times, like when someone digresses when they tell a story. Regardless, you will enjoy Lenerd’s discovery of self.
The reader will be gripped right from the scene by the fire with the two girls on the table to his recall of the Café at the Edge story. Everything in between will be a beautiful roller-coaster. Speaking of the story, it is the perfect ending to a great story. It is so apt and fitting and wraps up the book quite nicely.
Pages: 286 | ASIN: B07TZJM1ZQ
Kathleen Schmitt worked on a farm, which was a far cry from the city life she was used to. It started as a sort of joke that turned into the best thing that could happen. This story has very little to do with the joke that started the journey. It is about the actual journey and the people encountered on the way.
On a deeper level, this story is about life. Kathleen Schmitt is telling a story about a cross-country horse ride, but a lot of the situations can be metaphors for life. Her masterful narration of the story pulls the reader right into the scene with her and the horses. It is almost like you are watching every moment of the journey, which includes everything from preparation to the experiences. She includes multiple dimensions to the story, giving the reader a headier literary ride.
This story is energetic, engaging and evocative. The author has done a good job of bringing depth to the story and layering it to make it more intriguing. The author introduces every character with utmost finesse.
This is a lot of story that fits within 266 pages. I enjoyed the story, but sometimes the story pace slowed as a lot of information was shared all at once. This may not be a problem for some as the story keeps the reader very busy.
The author has done a good job of relaying the quintessence of the trip. The narration itself has it’s own character and charm. The narration moves a person to ask, ‘why not?’ but still remain realistic enough to put loads of preparation into whatever it is. The different people in this, from friends to family and even strangers along the way, really do show you how vast the world can be. It also shows you that if anyone remains open minded they can learn a whole lot from whomever regardless of their status in life.
This is a book about life, people, horses and farms. Fantastic pictures that evoke strong emotion accompany an incredible wealth of information. This is the kind of book you reread every year just to relive the experience.
Pages: 244 | ISBN: 9780998430515
Available at TheGrandTrek.com
The Journal follows a young man’s search for his sister who has gone missing in Cambodia and finds more than he thought. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
In my early twenties, I spent two years travelling and working my way around the world. It was an exciting, engaging and enthralling adventure that I will never forget. Travelling on a shoe string budget, I began in Europe, traveled across Russia and China, moved down through South East Asia and into India before going across to Australia and New Zealand and, finally, into South America. I regularly wrote about my experiences whilst I was away and wanted to try to use this to create something, but at the time I wasn’t sure what.
A few years later, whilst doing some creative writing classes, I had an idea for a novel. I wanted to create a story that revolved around the search for meaning. I thought that it would be an interesting concept to try to explore this in the context of someone going on a literal search. I decided upon the idea of a young man searching for his sister after she had disappeared whilst travelling abroad. When I considered the setting for the story, I wanted to be able to authentically represent a part of the world in which the protagonist would instantly feel out of place and yet, at the same time, experience the wonder and amazement that the world can offer.
I liked Ethan’s character and thought he was well developed. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
I wanted to write a bildungsroman style novel and to explore some of our most fundamental questions, such as: What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here? How should I live my life? These are questions that everybody considers at some point. It is part of the human condition to question the nature of our lives; we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Most of the time we might ignore these questions, or not really consider them. Alternatively, we might push them to the back of our minds, thinking them unimportant in the hectic schedules of our day to day lives. However, as Albert Camus pointed out, these questions and the feelings that they evoke can push in and abruptly occur to us at any point, even just walking around a street corner. At any time we can be struck by the question of what is this really all about? And that feeling of not knowing why we are here and what’s going to happen can be quite powerful.
These questions can feel even more significant when we are on the cusp of adulthood, a time when emotions can run high, we are trying to work out who we are and are still yet to put together the pieces of our lives. When I began to write The Journal I wanted to try to create a character who would capture some of the naivety, anxiety, curiosity and idealism that comes with facing these questions at such a delicate time of life. After some different ideas, I settled on Ethan Willis, a bright, fragile eighteen-year-old boy who often struggles and feels frightened by the uncertainties that life throws at him. In The Journal, I chose to really bring out Ethan’s insecurities by making him have to go look for his absent elder sister who disappeared and was last seen on an adventure in South East Asia.
The story takes place in Cambodia and Laos. Why did you choose these locations for your novel?
When deciding on the location for the story, I turned to the notes I had kept whilst away for inspiration. Reviewing my travel writing and thinking back to my time there, I felt that South East Asia would be the perfect setting for the story. There is such a rich depth of variety, colours, tastes, sounds and experiences in South East Asia that I felt it would be the ideal place to throw my protagonist in at the deep end and highlight his sense of feeling out of place in this world. Travelling in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand can offer a visceral experience in which the beauty, awe and challenge of the world are never too far away.
In creating the world in which the protagonist, Ethan, inhabits, I drew from my memories of the back-packing scene in South East Asia: the conversations with strangers on bus journeys; the late night parties and philosophical discussions; the characters and personalities encountered along the way; the nature and intensity of the fleeting yet meaningful relationships formed in such an environment; the stunning beauty of some of the scenery; the pleasure seeking escape of being somewhere you might never be again; the desire to be individual and meaningful; the recreational drug use and the search for answers; the disdain for, and lack of understanding of, ‘real’ life; and the impact that this industry can have on those who have to live through it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have recently finished a first draft of my second novel and am currently beginning the painful process of editing. My second novel is a very different type of story and is a thriller set in a world that is like our own but with one important difference. I hope to have a second draft completed by the end of the year.
Ethan Willis is a confused 18 year old who struggles with the uncertainties of life and has just embarked on a quest to find his elder sister, Charlotte, who disappeared whilst travelling in South East Asia. Ethan admires and idolises his sister for her spontaneity, individualism and worldly understanding. His quest to locate her throws him into the backpacking world and, following what could be his sister’s ghost, he is taken on a journey through the countryside of Cambodia, into the remotest parts of Laos and finally to the party islands of Thailand.
When Ethan finds his sister’s journal by chance, he traces her footsteps. The travel journal, along with flashbacks to their childhood, reveals Charlotte’s nature and her relationship with Ethan, taking the young man on an existential journey as he is led to address many of his questions about meaning, truth and beauty.
With the help of Elodie, a fragile and complex girl with whom he has developed a meaningful relationship, and his own growing sense of self-esteem, Ethan begins to question his relationship with his sister and why she disappeared. When he finally learns of a place in which he might be able to locate his sister, will he be ready to find her?
Two Years of Wonder is a memoir detailing your journey towards recovery after an attempted suicide. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Initially writing the book was part of my healing process. Post hospitalization I didn’t have too many intentions of ever publishing it, just to complete it as a way to give a shape to what I had been through. But then as I began to share it with people who were curious about it they kept saying to me “this story has to reach a wider audience.” Then when the kids themselves told me they wanted their stories shared, I felt an obligation to finally get it out there.
Throughout this book you interweave stories of orphan children you helped in Nairobi. What were some themes you felt were important to capture in this book from their stories?
Resilience and hope. While the book contains some of the harrowing experiences of the kids which–I know–are painful for a lot of people to read, throughout even their worst experiences so many of these children demonstrate such a fierce determination to survive and even thrive. They do even to this day which is why I wanted proceeds from the book to go towards their further college educations so they can continue to have some of the same chances I had.
I found this book to be inspirational. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I want to shine a light on the suffering of these children and how that is a stand in for the suffering all around us. As Dr. Helene Gayle says in the foreword, we don’t need to go to Kenya to find suffering an inequality our world today. A lot of us can just walk down the street. To that end, I hope it makes everyone a bit more compassionate, whether its for vulnerable children in Africa, at our southern border, or the addict/alcoholic on the street corner.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book will be available later this summer. It is called REAPER MOON: RACE WAR IN THE POST APOCALYPSE. It is my attempt to take on the toxic nature of white supremacy and white nationalism which have become resurgent in the United States right now. Link to the preview page on my website is here: Reaper Moon — Tenebray Press.
September 25, 2012 Ted Neill picked up a knife to cut his wrists open and kill himself. Post hospitalization and treatment for major depressive disorder, he wrote Two Years of Wonder, a memoir based on his journey towards recovery. In it, he examines the experience that left him with such despair: living and working for two years at an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya.
Neill interweaves his story with the experiences of Oliver, Miriam, Ivy, Harmony, Tabitha, Sofie, Nea, and other children, exploring their own paths of trauma, survival, and resilience. In prose that is by turns poetic, confessional, and brutal, Neill with the children he comes alongside, strive to put the pieces of their fractured lives back together as they search for meaning and connection, each trying to reclaim their humanity and capacity to love in the face of inexplicable suffering and loss.
About the Author: In addition to his time living in Kenya, Ted Neill has worked for CARE and World Vision International in the fields of health, education, and child development. He has written for The Washington Post and published multiple novels. His share of proceeds from Two Years of Wonder are donated to the children featured in its pages as well as other Kenyan based organizations that support vulnerable children and youth.
My Name is Bacci Bogie, by Sandra Glosser, is a story of travel, of life’s ups and downs, and above all, of love and acceptance. However, unlike many other stories, this one is told from the perspective of a small, but boisterous, Maltese dog.
Bacci tells us the story of his adoption by his doggie mom, Sandra, and their lives together as traveling companions. By accompanying Sandra on her travels as a motivational speaker, Bacci becomes an expert at flying in planes, staying in hotels, and making friends. He gets to live a doggie life full of adventure while bringing joy not only to Sandra’s life, but to many other people’s lives as well. Through Bacci’s own voice we learn about the real love and companionship that is shared between animals and humans.
I think Glosser’s choice to write this book from the perspective of her dog works really well to convey her story in an interesting way. Many pet owners can attest to wondering what their pet is thinking from time to time, and this attempt by the author to reveal her dog’s interpretation of events can appeal to pet lovers everywhere. Even those who are not doggie parents will enjoy hearing about the world from a fresh perspective. By imagining what Bacci is thinking, Glosser reveals her story to us a lighthearted way that is fun to listen to.
While the overall approach to the book is compelling, I think the structure of the story itself could use some fine tuning. Frequently, one anecdote seems to lead into another without much transition, making it hard to follow where one idea ends and another begins. The text is not always divided into chapters in an effective manner, leading me to feel at times like I may have missed something in the plot. In addition, while the stories that Bacci tells are endearing I felt that they were underdeveloped. I think the book would benefit from elaboration on these stories to develop their significance a bit more. Without this, the book at times feels like it is a string of thoughts rather than a fleshed out story.
With that being said, the book is a fairly enjoyable read overall. The author’s message in the preface and epilogue turn what may just be another story into something with a more personal meaning as they reveal the author’s real feelings and motivation for sharing her story with her audience. Grosser’s heartfelt story pays tribute to the life of her beloved pet in a way that is touching to hear.
Pages: 51 | ASIN: B07R9Z76LC
The Spell is a captivating memoir about your life, the obstacles you faced, and your perseverance. What was the inspiration that made you want to put your story into a book?
It’s not that I wanted to put my story into a book; I was compelled as you will find out at the end of Book III. I see my journey as archetypal and no longer my personal story. I have had many people connect with me about how one thing or another from the story affected them—something similar that they faced in their life. When I wrote it, I had no idea why I need to share this story.
You retrace your steps through some painful years in your life. Was there anything that you see different now that you have reflected on it?
Back then, I was another person. I often look at how ridiculous and childish I was. Many times I wanted to chop out the parts in the story that were embarrassing and what seems to me now, as ridiculous! But the character arc, my arc changes across the span of the three books. The thing I remind myself to do is to hold me, the person I was back then and the character of the story with tremendous tenderness. I can not discount how my life shaped me and the challenges I’ve overcome. Like a migrating Sandhill Crane, I have a perspective from a higher vantage point that spans across space and time.
I felt that you did a fantastic job of revealing the truth, no matter how painful. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
Thank you! There is no point in hiding behind your shame and your fears. And, no one has the right to judge another’s life and their choices. You don’t know what they’ve been through. You don’t know how much courage it takes to face themselves each day. We all have a story. That is what links humanity together. We all have our role to play and the only thing I can do, you can do, is make sure your life is an Oscar-winning performance.
This is book one in the The Shaman’s Lover Trilogy. Where will book two pickup and when will it be available?
The Shattering, Book II is gestating as I write this. It will be out this year. Here is a blurb from The Shattering.
What are you willing to risk to become who you really are?
As Georgina’s life faces a disastrous implosion, her best friend Sandy invites her to a healing center deep in the Peruvian Amazon where she naively enters into the mysterious world of ayahuasca-a potent visionary plant medicine also known as the “vine of the soul”. Magical journeys and other-worldly adventures submerge her into the shadow world where she discovers her demons and uncovers the lie she has been living. Just as she begins to reconnect with the Divine, Georgina meets with an unexpected twist of fate, when the healing center’s shaman casts a powerful enchantment on her. In order to unbind herself, she must face her past and strip away an imprisonment that is not only hers but shared by women world-wide.
Travel with Georgina as she takes you into an extraordinary reality. The Spell, Book One of The Shaman’s Lover Trilogy is a mesmerizing memoir about healing the Wounded Feminine and embodying the Divine Feminine. This personal account will inspire women to free themselves from the patriarchal program of shame, guilt and low self-worth and awaken to their power, radiance and beauty. Join Georgina and an unforgettable cast of characters as she takes you on a journey of magic and paradoxically, what it means to be ordinarily human.
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Rachel is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character?
I decided to set her character around my own experience as a nurse in my earlier years and incorporate places I have visited.
This was a mystery novel that was filled with unexpected twists. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?
I wanted to capture Myanmar particularly as it really is a beautiful country with lovely, friendly people. I have visited Myanmar 5 times so I guess that speaks for itself. The book just evolved on one of my visits to Burma, when sitting at the beach after visiting their main jewelry market (Scot’s Market) where there was a plethora of ruby’s on sale.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have since written 2 other books of different genre. The Power of Childhood Dreams ( a pre-teen book) and Turn Pain Off – both of which are under my marital name. Linda Hehir.
Kidnapping Mystery: A thrilling adventure with a touch of romance and an unexpected turn of events.
Derek young man arrives at the hospital unconscious. Rachel, a nurse, finds strange objects in Derek’s shoes. Facing an ethical dilemma, Rachel investigates the objects further. The theft of Derek’s clothes from the ward and Rachel’s bedroom being ransacked indicates that Derek’s attacker is still looking for something he desperately wants. Alerted of these events Rachel began to feel anxious that her life could be in danger through inadvertently becoming the temporary custodian of the strange objects she found amongst Derek’s property. Upon Derek awakening, she felt compelled to help him. In asking for Rachel’s help to save his child, Derek sets in motion a course of events that leads himself, Rachel and Max, the grandson of an Australian exporter based in Thailand, into dangerous territory. Travelling halfway across the world transporting the ransom to save Derek’s child, Rachel is kidnapped in Thailand and transported to Myanmar (Burma) and in the process of risking her life falls in love – a love destined to ….
Ruby Ransom is a unique combination of mystery, suspense thriller, romance and includes a medical theme. It brings together three strangers, where trust, fortitude, courage and intuition are required to help save a child from captivity, with an unexpected outcome.
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Ruby Ransom is equal parts mystery and equal parts adventure spiced with a bit of romance. What starts as just another night in the hospital is the start of a series of thrilling events that will send young nurse Rachel to an exotic country where she must face down rebels to help save a kidnapped child. All of this delivered in a little over 100 pages.
This story starts slows but, like an airplane taking off, quickly picks up speed. The twists come just as quickly as Rachel, and the reader, is given new information. Each new chapter brings a new and unexpected direction to her journey. All the while driven by the need to help a child that’s been kidnapped under mysterious circumstances in a far-off country.
Rachel receives helps along the way from her grandmother, and an old friend of the family, and a young man that ends up being much more than he first appears. I felt that Rachel’s character, overtime, was the most developed, but other characters lacked the depth that Rachel was given.
The story is told from Rachel’s first person perspective in a straightforward manner. Like a nurse who must keep logs of patients, the story is told in a similar manner, as if it’s a log of events that happened. Because of this I felt like the delivery of this otherwise intriguing story was stilted. Rachel is given vital plot driving information in large sections of exposition. But in this manner of story telling the book is consistent.
While every good mystery novel must have twists that the reader doesn’t see coming. I can honestly say that every twist in this book surprised me. I, along with Rachel, wanted to know what was going on and I was glad that Rachel and I (the reader) were on the same page. While Rachel is whisked along on this perilous journey through exotic locales, we get to learn a little about the region and local culture, which I appreciated.
Ruby Ransom delivers a circuitous yet thrilling journey set against an exotic location in an unambiguous way. Perfect for anyone looking for a romantic suspense novel that is easy to devour in a day or two.
Pages: 104 | ASIN: B00HZNG9L4
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Going through this book is akin to being virtually in touch with the Italian culture and customs. The author compiled text and images which show how beautiful the Italian community in America is and how wonderful the people are as they co-exist with others. Stephanie Longo tells the story of Italians of Lackawanna in a distinct and brilliant way that can’t help but admire the way of life of the Italians. The author starts by narrating the history of Italian immigrants who first moved to the county. The immigrants had to do menial jobs like farming, mining and other works that required hard labor. The first wave of Italian immigrants knew that only hard work would help them fend for their families. This notion was passed through different generations of Italian Americans as everyone had to work to survive.
The author shows the deep connection between Lackawanna county authorities and the Italians who live in the county. With pictures, the author talks about Italian-American themed events that happen throughout the county, the close ties between Pennsylvania administration and Italian officials in Sicily, the Lackawanna County Library System which promotes Italian American events throughout all nine of its branches, and the heritage and Italian pride witnessed in the county among other things. The author also highlights the monuments and buildings which were made in honor of Italian heroes and legends. They include the Gino J. Merli Veteran’s Center, The Christopher Columbus statue on Scranton’s Courthouse Square and the statue of Dante among others.
I absolutely loved the images Stephanie Longo shared of the La Cosra dei Ceri festival. The pictures were colorful and everything seemed perfect. La Cosra dei Ceri is a festival I would want to be part of if I ever get to be in Lackawanna County around May. I appreciate the author’s effort to explain in detail what the festival is about, and what each family does in honor of their patron saints. Religion and by extents Catholicism is a huge part of Italian living. It is beautiful how religion brings the masses together as they worship and celebrate life as one people.
Italians of Lackawanna County is about 70% images and 30% text. This is one of the things that made me enjoy reading this book. Pictures tell a lot and one can easily and quickly understand the content without having to read a bunch of words in a paragraph. I loved reading this book because the author shared a little history of the Italians in the county and how Italy is. Italians of Lackawanna County is a great educational read that I would recommend to everyone who wants to learn more about Italian-American culture.
Pages: 98 | ISBN: 1540228266
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