One Man’s Fight to Save Little Girls

There is a place in Southeast Asia where three countries join their borders to make a very scary place — especially to little girls. The Golden Triangle joins Thailand,Wikipedia Prostitution of Children Laos and Burma — an area once renown for the world’s production of opium. In the past 30 years, the drug trade has dwindled, but crime in the area has not. With 367,000 square miles, large sections have zero law enforcement making this a perfect haven for criminal activity. In Thailand, it is estimated that 25 percent of the economy is based on child prostitution. With that much money at stake, the child sex trade is lively, full of dangerous people trying to get their share of the take.

Families living in the small towns and villages are often surviving in extreme poverty. Loan sharks are readily available to lend a hand in tight circumstances. This financial arrangement can go awry very easily, so much so that even the thought of selling off the daughters closest to puberty is done on a regular basis in order to keep trouble at bay. The social stigma is that children are born to work. Working in retail, a factory or a brothel is equated … (Read the Full Story)


The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan 3

A woman came out of the shelter that I was in, and she was yelling at me — she was full-on screaming, ‘We don’t need coats! Coats are pointless! We need jobs!’”

This is how social entrepreneur Veronika Scott’s dream job was born. It started in a class she was taking in college. The project was to design something that would fulfill a need. Scott did her research at homeless shelters, and came up with a unique coat design that would turn into a fully utilized sleeping bag. It looks like a regular coat. The bThe Empowerment Plan 2ack of the coat unfolds to open up the bottom half of the sleeping bag through Velcro enclosures. When the coat isn’t in use, it folds up into a bag. For the 20,000 Detroit homeless, she thought this was a great idea.

“Really, she was completely right,” Scott posits about the angry woman at the shelter, “because a coat is just a Band-Aid for a systemic issue. And, what really would make a difference is hiring a population that would need them in the first place.”

That’s was Scott did. She hired homeless single mothers. In her startup phase, there were plenty of naysayers with discouraging The Empowerment Planstatements that homeless people will never be able to work a normal job. Scott found that to be so untrue. The women they’ve hired at The Empowerment Plan have proven to be excellent employees and many have managed to … (Read the Full Story)

Catching Water in Sand

A simple technology that can save millions of gallons of water in areas that are parched and barren for most of the year is what captured Simon Maddrell’s hWikipedia Buidling Sand Damseart. He left the corporate world in search of a way to help people — who sometimes had to walk 12 hours a day to find enough water to make one meal. Meanwhile, the younger children would be left at home without schooling, and the livestock were uncared for during these absences. The land area would be almost useless for agricultural purposes because of the arid conditions.

In 1984, Maddrell met Joshua Mukusya whose passion and desire to find a way to have access to clean water for himself and his neighbors, started an investigation into techniques used during the colonial period, which slowed down water flow. Noticing how much green vegetation those areas had, he started working on plans to enlarge … (Read The Full Story).

Sneak Peak at Deborah Heal’s New Book

My latest book is on a sad topic–the Cherokee Trail of Tears–but that’s not to say there aren’t moments of levity. Here Merri and our old friends Abby and John are preparing for an all-night “time-surfing” session in an empty apartment they may have sneaked into without permission:

Faint noises came from the hall. Merri and Abby started then looked at each other, wide-eyed. Someone knocked softly on the door, and a smile bloomed on Abby’s face. “It’s our secret knock,” she explained as she race-walked to the door.

“Of course you and John have a secret knock,” Merri said, rolling her eyes. “Doesn’t everyone?”

John came in loaded down with plastic shopping bags. How he managed to lug it all up without being seen was a mystery they didn’t take time to discuss.

“Wow, it’s dark in here,” he said, setting the bags on the kitchen counter. “I forgot to warn you about not turning on lights until I got something to cover the window.”

“And yet the little women managed to think of it themselves,” Merri said. “Amazing.”

John grinned and tugged at her hair. “Oh, stop, Merri Christmas. You know I respect your ginormous brain.”

“What’s all this?” Abby ignored them and began snooping through the bags. “You must have bought out the store.”

“It’s amazing what you can find at a Dollar Store. Did you know they have blankets there?” Out of the largest bag on the counter he removed a green blanket in a zippered vinyl case and held it for them to see. “It’s thin and wimpy, but it should work to cover said window.”

“What else?” Merri said, unable to tamp down her curiosity.

“These,” John said, handing Abby three flashlights. “Even with the windows covered we should keep the light to a minimum.” He handed a writing tablet and pen to Merri. “Because I couldn’t remember if you still have yours in your backpack. Toothpaste and brushes, as requested, and soap and paper towels as an added bonus.”

“I’m all in favor of good hygiene,” Abby said.

“One thing I’ve always admired about you, my dear,” John said. “Here are mixed nuts and cheese crackers in case we get hungry later. Bottled water because…well, you just never know, do you? And coffee—with sugar, my love—so we can stay awake.”

Grinning, Abby took the coffee from him. “My hero.”

“Instant?” Merri said without bothering to keep the disgust from her voice.

“What was I thinking? I’ll go back and buy a coffee maker. Maybe a waffle maker would be nice.”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Merri said. “But what about cups?”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” he said and pulled three ceramic mugs out. “And last, but certainly not least, breakfast.” He opened the last bag, a white paper one in which Merri glimpsed three jelly donuts. “Unless you think we should eat them now before they get any staler.”

Abby took the bag from him, closed it firmly, and put it on the counter.

“Now,” John said. “Tell me what I missed while I was out foraging.”

Exciting News from Author Tanyo Ravicz

Hello Everybody,

I wanted to let you know that my books Alaskans: Stories and A Man of His Village are out in their new Denali Press print and eBook editions. Details at or

KOBO ( is having a 30% off summer sale on all their eBooks until Monday, July 28, 2014. This includes my eBooks, which are available at Kobo (as well as Amazon, etc.).

Readers who use Apple e-readers and are interested in posting a review of either of my books at iTunes can have a promo code for a free copy of either eBook — Please contact me at

Also, a recent TR author interview will be posted starting next week on July 28, 2014 at and

Thank you for your interest, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Best wishes,




Alaskans by Tanyo Ravicz

Alaskans–Stories from the “Great Land”

My favorite line from “Cossacks” is, “Happiness is grace, it’s bounty.  It’s free of charge, it’s given to you.  You don’t win it.  You don’t earn it.  You don’t deserve it.  You say yes.  You just say yes” (page 139).

There is a flavor of art in the author’s writing.  Not art you would see in a museum or in a painting, and not in a sense of painting with words (although Ravicz does a fine job of this as well), but more as “art with a sense of feeling.”  Each story is different. Each story is told in another voice from the author from a different period in his life.  Had I not known that I was reading from the same book, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to tell who had written the various tales.  They are unique.  The prose is strong, thought-provoking, and colorful.

A Fox in May” is about a young boy who is thirteen and is stuck betalaskans_150x220ween childhood and being a young adult.  He takes on the responsibility of raising chickens, from building the coop to feeding and caring for them.  Throughout these lessons, he learns to love those chickens and does a great job of raising them.  There are so many questions unanswered at this age for a young boy–so many trials to pass to get to the other side of young adulthood without losing the respect from elders.  Through nature, he learns about death, and living, and loving, and being a part of the cycle–what it takes to endure–no matter how difficult that can be.

            “The Ballad of Robbie Fox” is a story told from someone struggling at the bottom of the pile and trying to claw his way up and out.  It is raw, edgy, strong prose that feels like it just came off the streets and into your living room, or like talking to your new best friend at the local bar after tossing a few back.  There is a feel to this Robbie Fox, like someone you know, or have known, or maybe it’s even you.  There’s a truth from someone’s heart in this . . . it’s the hard kind of truth about life.

All total, there are ten stories told in this book, “Alaskans.”  Jimmy Biggs works in a cannery at the age of nineteen in “Fishes and Wine.”  Old college buddies get together again after years of being apart in “Cossacks.”  You can hike the Alaskan wilderness in “Caribou, Paxson Lake.”  And, if you do a Google search you can see how be
autiful the Paxson Lake area is.

I really enjoyed all these stories (well, except for one–I’m squeamish about dressing a kill).  Tanyo Ravicz is a talented author, and I’m pleased for the opportunity to review this well-written anthology of Alaskan tales.  Also, my thanks goes to Review the for allowing me to review this book.

Tremora’s Young Michael Interviews Author Bill Westwood—Fiction

Regarding: Tales of Tremora: The Shimmering by William Westwood Jr.

A young boy who has lost his father is a terrible thing.  Now, a young boy who goes searching for said father and wanders off into a leaky, shimmering veil, deep in the forest of the Cascade Mountains, and finds himself in another world altogether can be a very, very terrible thing.  And, this is how Michael found himself in the middle of a terrific adventure in the land of Tremora.

Just fourteen years of age, Michael is sent off with well-wishes from his worried mother who is on the other side of the shimmering.  She watches him hike down the trodden trail with a little green man named Tracker–Michael’s guide and protector in this curious world.  What Michael doesn’t hear are her final words, said to herself as a whispered afterthought, “Oh, Michael. . . . Now you’re both gone.  I knew you’d choose to stay, of course–it’s in your blood.  And, Megan assures me Tremora needs you. . . . But, please be careful and come back to me safely.  And please, please, Michael, don’t kill your father.”

Michael follows Tracker over hill and dale.  They meet up with wood elves, fairy folk, ogres, a camelop, and a wazalop on their way to the wizard’s gathering where the greatest wizard and magician of them all, Megan, will be presiding.  It is here, Michael finds out the real reason why he is in Tremora—he is to save Prince Cedric from the dragon.  And “finally” he learns where his father is.

I met up with Michael after he spent a couple of weeks training with the wizards.  I had far too much curiosity to know how Bill Westwood could come up with such a unique world for Michael to complete his quest.  Michael had a little time to kill before he was ready to head out again on this next leg of his adventure.  After a brief introduction to Nova, his animal guide, and a few pats on her fuzzy nose from me, we sat down to chat about this amusing, imaginative man who was Michael’s inner guide and overall good-guy creator.

After a little thought about my musings, Michael said that Bill had spent five years in England—the mystical land of elves, fairies, wizards, and the like.  Not only did he spend time with the little folk, but he met his wife there as well.  It was a very important period in his life and set him on a new course to follow his dreams.  Then, he added, “Well . . . it might have something to do with his background as a Russian linguist, and his time spent in the National Security Agency.  I think he probably had some interesting adventures of his own.”

Those years in England provided plenty of time to conjure up a wonderful land for a young boy to travel and have adventures in.  I know how it has changed Michael’s life, but another curiosity I have is about how the book an author is writing changes his own life.  Does writing a book that is so involved and wildly different have any effect on him when he’s writing it or when he’s done?

Michael arched an eyebrow and squirmed a little as he thought about this.  After a bit more fidgeting, he said he wasn’t sure, but he thought it had changed Bill a great deal.  “He spends a lot of time in Tremora, you know.  It took over seven years of Bill’s life to get this far.  Did you know that he is an artist as well?  He has made sculptures of just about all of us.  That’s why I’m stuck here now, waiting. . . . There’s such a backlog for his artwork that he hasn’t had time to get back to “me,” and it is frustrating—I need to go and find my dad, alread!”

We talked some more about the different stories and various authors we knew. That brought me to wonder about another question.  So, I asked if he had any fears that Bill would “kill off” any of the main Tremora characters during these perils.  There are a lot of authors who “do in” their characters to promote more suspense into their storyline.  “Bill loves us all too much, Diane, and he would never do that.”

With that, Michael jumped up, threw his backpack on, and said as he turned and walked away. . . . “Besides, I have to go and save Prince Cedric and my dad.”

If you want to have a little fun, check out Bill’s sculptures here.


White_Leghorn_Rooster, WikipediaI was raised by my grandmother.  Back in the mid-60s, in St. Louis, Missouri, she toiled away at the florist’s shop to keep us all alive.  My father drank a bit and was not very regular about his employment habits.  Somehow that woman managed to keep us all fed and even sent us to Catholic school.  My mother, who was very ill, left us.  I was volunteered by my father to keep house for my family at the tender age of five.

I can’t remember a day in my life when I wasn’t totally mesmerized by animals.  I loved them and pleaded to have a puppy or kitten to love because I missed my mother so.  Sadly, my grandmother had her fill from all the creatures my father had dragged home as a boy.  So, I coaxed whatever sick or stray animal that would wander by the yard and closed the gate so it wouldn’t get loose.  It would be all mine, for a day or two, until it figured out how to escape.  And I would cry my heart out that it had left me just as my mother did.

Easter time at the dime-store brought 100 little chicks, packed and stacked, in Chinese food cartons.  They were all dyed in pastel blue, yellow, green, or pink.  The store was alive with peeps.  One quarter bought enough peeps to drive a city dweller insane in short order.  And it did.  I still can hear my father screaming through the peep-peep, peep, peep-peep-peep “Shut that gawd-durn bird up!  How am I going to hear the TV?”  My father would spend many evenings cussing that bird while waiting for the usual death that befalls all dime-store chicks. I spent those wishful nights, gleefully, downstairs with my new best friend, watching him race from one end of the toy box to the other, while he was looking for his new “mom” to pick him up.

I named him Charlie. We were inseparable, Charlie and I.  He ate what I ate (in addition to his chicken food), went where I went, and did what I did.  The most difficult time for the little chick was when I’d go to school.  He’d wait in the backyard all day.  When I was a half a block from home, he could hear my whistle, then he’d take off running full speed ahead—chicken style: all his feathers slicked back, his neck and body stretched forward as far as he could stretch; each step would swing him left or right as he raced as fast as he could to greet me. That was his mode of airstream travel.  When he reached me, he’d fly onto my shoulder and, all out of breath, he’d gasp little peeps while he tried to tell me all the trials of chicken life that day.  And we’d mosey home that way.

Spring melted into summer, and our weekly trips to the dime store continued.  Those were the days of penny candy—big jars of penny candy. There were five rows of jars on the shelves stacked high enough to make us stand on tiptoe. There were no laws about animals being in stores then.  Charlie sat in the crook of my arm, and I’d pick one piece of candy, and then I’d ask him which one he wanted.  I’d wait, and when he jerked his head a couple of times at a certain jar that choice would be his.  Always before returning home we’d stop at the Velvet Freeze for our ten-cent ice-cream bar to tide us over during the walk home.  Fudgsicles were a favorite.  I’d take a bite and Charlie would take a bite.  With the jostling of walking, holding a chicken, the bags of candy, manipulating the ice-cream bar, chocolate would cover my mouth, his beak, and most of our faces.  What a sight!

When Charlie got older, I found a round box and secured it to the back of my bicycle, cut a hole in the top and voila! the chicken graduated to wheels.  We could make the candy trip to the store in style.  He was tightly secured in the box on the back of my bike.  Sticking out of the hole in the top of the box was the white head of a leghorn rooster with long red waddles and a bright-red comb. As my legs pedaled, Charlie’s head kept rhythm: forward-back, forward-back, just like he was walking along in the yard.  Every bump brought with it a “Brrraught” from the little backseat passenger as the two were off on their summertime adventures.

We received a phone call from the neighborhood college in the fall.  “Yes, we have a chicken.”  “You want him for a play?”  Oklahoma?  Charlie was going to be a star!  “Be at dress rehearsals at nine p.m.”  We left Charlie backstage, and all was quiet.  That was until he got on stage.  He wouldn’t shut up.  It was the scene with the traveling salesman, and he was holding Charlie in a cage.  Every time the salesman spoke, Charlie thought an answer was required, and he did so–quite loudly.  No one could hear the salesman’s lines.  Charlie lost the audition and his only chance at being an actor.

A few years went by, and Charlie was past his prime.  He had taken on the personality of a dominant rooster and was chasing the little kids, walking home from school, and scaring them to death.  My brother was home, one day, when a policeman knocked on the door.  “We had a call to this address that there is a dangerous chicken here. Is that so?”  My brother, not sure what to do with the comment of “dangerous chicken” said, “Well, we do have a chicken here.”  He went outside and led the officer around to the backyard, opened the gate, and there was Charlie eager and ready for company.  The officer took his stance, drew his gun, and pointed it at the bird.  My brother was doing all he could to not burst out laughing at this ridiculous scene: the policeman vs. the “dangerous” chicken.  I think my brother is still chuckling, forty years later, at that officer and his gun.Well, we had our warning.  Charlie had to go—dangerous or not. We had to find a new home for him.

My brother happened to work for a man who had a large spacious farm in the country with lots of hens that were eager for a boyfriend. That’s where Charlie lived happily, ever after.

The Pig Idea

Wiki Commons Bagel Dumpster

A slide appeared, on the screen on, of a dumpster full 13,000 bread crusts as social entrepreneur Tristram Stuart mused about never being able to get a sandwich from a retail shop that was made from bread crusts. Where do all the bread crusts go? From this single bread factory (shown on the slide), 13,000 bread crusts are dumped into the trash every day.

This food waste expert explained that in America, and other well-developed nations, grocery stores usually carried double the inventory it expected to sell. And, if you add in the food that is fed to livestock, there is up to quadruple the amount that is needed to feed the masses. In his further investigation of food waste, Stuart visited a farmer who was letting 16,000 pounds of spinach die because there were some blades of grass growing here and there. It was not suitable for market.  It is quite common for farmers to throw out 1/3 to 1/2 half of their crops due to imperfect sizes, shapes or color that would be turned away at market.

In Europe, in 2001, feeding regular unprocessed food to livestock became illegal because of the foot and mouth disease epidemic. Because of the ban, soy has since become a major crop in South America.  Due to the expansion of this commodity, forests are being cut down in places like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to grow soy. From 1965 to 2004 soy production rose from 29 to 200 million tons, most of which is used for livestock feed after the oil is extracted. For 9,000 years, pigs had been fed with the surplus food products and refuse that people did not eat. Presently, people throw away this human grade food by the ton every single day — and pay to have it hauled away to rot in landfills. Then, they buy pig food.

The Pig Idea was born from what Stuart had learned from the overwhelming food waste problem. He joined forces with other Londoners to create public awareness of food waste around the world with the hope that the animal food ban will be lifted. The idea is ecologically sound. Eliminating so much processed feed would save the planet about 20 times more carbon dioxide emissions. More of the rainforest in the Amazon would be saved, as not as much farmland would be needed. More farmers in Europe would be able to stay in business by saving the cost of the expensive grain they are forced to buy. The problem of the foot and mouth disease can be eliminated by cooking the food given to the pigs and chickens.

To bring awareness to this issue, Stuart and his colleagues — the hambassadors, seven of London’s best restaurants, and thousands of Londoners gathered in Trafalgar Square to enjoy over 5,000 portions of free food, including pork that had been raised on food that would have otherwise been wasted at The Pig Ideas’ Feast of 2013.

Stuart started studying food waste at the age of 15 when he raised pigs to supplement his income. He is a renowned author for his book “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal,” and has won numerous and prestigious awards for his dedication to preserving the planet as well as the pigs.

UPDATE: Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tristram Stuart was featured in the National Geographic Web edition in an article by Elizabeth Royte “How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger.”

Check it out –

One Who Teaches with Experience

Wikipedia 375px-Computer_RecyclingTechnology changes at a rapid rate. It’s important for successful businesses to stay up-to-date with new technology. The site eWeek reports that a study done by Techaisle, an analyst and market research foundation, found companies that hold on to their computers for longer than three years, end up spending between $326 to $401 on maintenance of those computers with an extended warranty. For those companies without a warranty that figure jumps up to about $526 for repaired and upgraded computers. They also found that computers malfunction more often after a period of three years, and they suggest replacing them for the most efficient and cost saving measures.

A staggering figure of 355.2 million computers were sold globally in 2011. In 2010, the number was a bit lower at 346.2 million computers that were sold around the world. That means, about every three to five years a large number of those computers are being tossed out, in one way or another.

In 2005, social entrepreneur, Cormac Lynch from Dublin, Ireland, had a plan to do something with all those computers that were being thrown out into the landfills. He wanted to refurbish them for the children around the world, so that they could gain an education. The company he started was named Camara, which is West African for “one who teaches with experience.” In June 2007, 70 volunteers set off with 1,000 computers, and the initiative . . . (Read Full Article)