Birthday Week Kindle Book Giveaway

It’s that time again – the annual Wandering on Kindle book giveaway. Get it absolutely free between now and March 28th!

Check it out on Amazon.

Wandering tallies her hilarious as well as poignant experiences as she travels from Mexico through Central America, sneaks into Cuba, and journeys from Australia to Cambodia and Thailand. Read about her misadventures with crocodiles and the times she encounters erupting volcanoes…and two hurricanes…and a wildfire.

Burovac’s stories will make you laugh while reminding you that life is an adventure—and sometimes you just need to pack a bag and get lost.

Gratitude. And relativity.

It’s true, I have been enjoying my time away from real life. I’ve been wandering around Portland seeing the sights, doing what I want, when I want. I’ve been loving the time with my sister and her husband, getting caught up on the family time that I don’t get at home.

But my trip hasn’t been completely satisfying; my book sales are not as good as I had hoped, which means I don’t have the money to shop or travel more, or eat at all the restaurants I’d like to try, not to mention the various thoughts that pop into my head that tell me I should give up trying to sell my book and go back to my desk job. I still haven’t met the man of my dreams. And I miss home, my friends, and all the activities that I enjoy. I haven’t even once had the desire to dive into the water here, and since so much of my time was spent in the ocean, my motivation for exercise has been slowly waning. But overall, the change of scenery has been good and I shouldn’t complain.

Tonight, though, news from home has brought into focus some ideas that have been floating around in my mind for a few weeks.

I took a train to Seattle to visit some friends whom I haven’t seen in many years. The visit was as big a contrast to happy-go-lucky Portland as I could imagine, and it made me question whether I’ve actually been paying attention to life, or just taking everything I see on facebook as truth.

I was fortunate to stay with friends, even though I had been pretty poor at keeping in touch in the eight years that have gone by since I last saw them. The married couple now has two children, one of whom is eight years old (my friend was pregnant when I moved away). What I learned of them in those eight years is that the children are smiling and happy, one is autistic, and everything is great. That’s what the pictures told me, anyway. In reality, I haven’t met many people who have had to face as many obstacles as this family, and their life has been anything but smiling and happy. I learned about the challenges of having an autistic child, and the incredible amounts of time and energy needed to provide her a life as close to normal as possible. Add to that the ongoing fights with a school system that didn’t believe autism existed; instead of helping how they could, as a school should do, they chose to add the child to the locked room of forgotten, mentally disabled students – which actually had feces smeared on the walls the day before my friend visited her child’s new classroom. Unable to tolerate her child’s potential, whatever it might be, wasting away in a room packed with every type of disability or obedience problem, she chose to sue the school system – not for money, but to give her child access to an education appropriate for her abilities. She spent tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours, and finally was able to force the school to recognize autism and provide a capable teacher. She now works for Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, helping to raise awareness, and fight for other parents and students who are denied help from their schools. Add all that to raising another small child with a strong will of her own, both parents working, and they have their hands full on a good day. But they aren’t defeated; they are a strong family and are doing their best. They welcomed me into their home without hesitation and I enjoyed my days with them more than I would have if I had stayed with a single friend and partied the entire time.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have a cousin with autism whom I haven’t thought about since I saw him last, a couple years ago.

I met another friend for lunch, again I’m guilty for not keeping in touch. His health has declined to the point that we both got teary as we were parting, not knowing if we’d ever see each other again. He will not be able to work soon, and his social security won’t be enough to pay for his meager apartment. And his car was broken into twice in the past month, but nothing was taken because he has nothing to take.

I spent hours walking the streets in downtown Seattle. Poverty and drug addiction were apparent everywhere. It’s hard to understand exactly why it looked different than Portland, where there is a small crowd of homeless people in every space that provides shelter, but it seemed like a harder life. Maybe because in Portland most of the visible homeless have dreads and they’re just trying it out for the summer, ready to go back to college in the fall. Maybe because in Portland they are young and white, as opposed to the greater racial and age difference in Seattle. Maybe Portland has better homeless shelters and programs, or maybe this is just something I know nothing at all about. But life in downtown Seattle looked hard.

Where was I while all this has been going on?

These thoughts were kicking around in my head when I heard about the death of Robin Williams, and that really made me realize that everyone is struggling in some way, regardless of what you see. No one is immune to problems. I already knew this in the back of my mind, having dealt with many of my own problems in the past, and having spent months traveling in third world countries; but seeing friends fighting for their lives, really seeing them for the first time, seeing hopeless, angry people in the streets, has opened my eyes and mind a lot wider.

What this means, I don’t know. Should I stop worrying about my life, my book, money, my love life, wanting to surf better? I don’t think that’s the answer. I haven’t come up with an answer yet; but I do have a stronger sense of gratitude for what I have, for my friends and family, the relative ease that my life is, when held in comparison. I don’t think my life is easy, no one’s is, but each experience I have lately shows me more to be grateful for. And hopefully I’ll see things clearly enough in the future to put my good fortune to better use.

 

My writing tonight was something that I had been thinking about, but hadn’t quite gotten around to – until my news from home. My friend is in trouble, and there is nothing I can do. I haven’t spoken to him since I left home a month ago, nor was he someone I saw on a regular basis before I left. But he was the person who helped me out of a jam when I was in trouble – waking up in the middle of the night to rescue me. I called him after the ‘friend’ I had been out with assaulted me, stole my truck keys, and left me on the side of the road, miles from my house. Without hesitation, he picked me up, drove me to get spare keys, made sure I got home safely, and checked to make sure I was ok. No questions asked, no favors wanted in return. He is a great guy. His life has gotten out of his control, I’m only learning this now.

I’m sending all my positive thoughts to you and your family, J. Please make it home.

 

Wandering at the NW Bookfest and the Oregon Brewfest

I feel that today was a momentous day in my career as an author.  Or my wanna-be career as an author.  I came to Portland for a visit, and coincidentally, the annual NW Bookfest was happening.  I was several months too late to get a table at the exposition, but thought I could show up and make some connections, maybe sell some books.  Schmooze with other authors.

When I woke up this morning I was actually pretty terrified about going to the event by myself, I find it hard to walk up to random people and talk, especially if I’m trying to sell my work.  I considered having a bloody mary or two to calm my nerves but decided to go sober and see how it worked out.

The one thing I hadn’t counted on was that most authors are actually more introverted and geeky than me, which was a pleasant surprise.  There were 100 tables of authors selling their books and I had no problem making conversation and at some point, directing the shy people into talking about my book and passing out my cards.  Not to say that I didn’t learn about many other authors, but I formed some friendships and traded stories for a good part of my morning.

I only brought five copies of my book to the event, mostly because I was nervous and wasn’t sure that I could sell any without a booth, but I talked five authors into book trades and was able to pick up five books that sounded really interesting.  Besides finding five new books to read, five people now own my book and we promised to trade reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I think that’s a win in this situation.

At one point I was stung by a bee as I was chatting up an author.  I said ‘Ouch,’ looked down and pull the stinger out of my leg.  She asked if I was allergic, I told her that we’d see, and we continued on in our conversation.  I didn’t die.

The major thing I learned was what an author’s table should look like at an event.  Everyone had giant poster board pictures of their books, which I have, but most had themed tablecloths, shirts, hats, bookmarks, postcards, and giveaways.  The giveaways were what drew so many people to the tables, and very few authors had them.  At one table, I was asked to pick a card from a specially printed deck, if I picked the ace of spades I could win a copy of the newest book.  Any other ace won a copy of an older book.  I drew the nine of clubs and got some advice.  They were philosophy books.

My favorite table was by Robert R Mitchell, the author of “Only Shot to a Good Tombstone.”  He erected a spinning wheel ala The Price is Right, and had several book-themed items to give away.  I won a beer coozey.  Appropriate.  He had a tablecloth printed with his book info that caught the eye, and some tombstone themed decorations.  Win for him.

Another booth by CS Blue, a poet, featured a sound system, and he sang me his latest love poem, accompanied by soothing music.  I’m not a huge poetry fan but he put his heart and soul into the production.  I was a bit uncomfortable nearing the end, as I was the only person at his table listening.  And because his love took on some more-than-pg flourishes.

Overall, I was pretty pleased at the event, I met several great people, and learned a lot about book promotion.  The books I traded for were The Sum of our Gods by Benjamin Gorman, The One Idea that Saves the World by Laurence Overmire, Island Women by Richard Sessions, Memory’s Hostage by Margaret Pinard, and Sun Wielder by D Wallace Peach.  All intriguing books that I’m excited to read.

The next stop of the day was the Oregon Brewfest.  I met my long-lost friend Andy Buoni and his co-worker Aaron, and we wandered around a couple hours sampling some of Oregon’s best microbrews.  Andy and I spent two years together at The Ohio State University, taking the same classes and doing all the things that delinquent college students do.  It’s always great to catch up with old friends, especially the kind that can start right into conversation like a day hasn’t passed.  I saw Andy last about five years ago, and before that, about 10 years.  Wow, I feel old.

The brewfest featured almost 100 different beers, including a small selection of international beers, ranging anywhere from 5% to 11% alcohol.  I tried multiple types that I’m trying hard to remember the names with very little luck.  When my phone gets charged I’ll be able to get the info from the pictures I took.  The ones I really wanted to try had lines with approximately 100 people and I didn’t have the patience to wait.  As it was, Andy and I perfected our line-cutting technique for a good portion of the day; he’s a smaller, inconspicuous type of guy who could melt into the front of a line without notice, and I’d show up as he reached the front.  At other times I’d spot a group of single men near the front of a line and strike up conversation, and Andy would appear as I was getting my beer poured.  The only objection came when a woman protested ‘cutters,’ and Aaron took the fall for us.  Poor Aaron didn’t benefit from any of our ingenious, tipsy line cutting.  I did miss out on the dragon fruit beer and the jalapeño beer, those lines were so long that cutting was not an option, but I can find them in the stores.

As the day progressed, the crowd became ridiculous, and I found the shortest line to spend my last token.  The shortest line didn’t necessarily mean the worst beer, it might mean an undiscovered beer with bad advertising.  After 15 samples, I was happy with it.  Then I took my commemorative glass and wandered to a nearby bar to write up my notes.

All in all, a successful day in the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve been wandering the city for almost a week, shopping, running, and discovering, and I have plans to hike waterfalls and find the hidden natural gems that Portlanders can show me.  The next stop is Seattle, for more book promotion and an unexpected wall dive that is apparently one of the best in the States.

Gearing up for a new book…

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