KRISTY JO VOLCHKO is an award-winning, multi-genre author, poet, blogger, book reviewer, and human rights activist.
Welcome to my blog! I’m so excited to introduce one of my favorite indie authors, the talented, brilliant, and (very) funny, Grant Leishman. I recently finished Leishman’s The Second Coming, which had me laughing, crying, and wanting to know more about the man behind the story, and creative force to be reckoned with. So, without further ado, let’s ask away!
Hello, Grant, thank you for sharing some time with us! Please tell us a little about yourself.
Hi Kristy, thanks for having me.
I’m not sure you have the space for me to tell you too much about myself, but if your readers want the full oil on my life, I strongly suggest they read: Just a Drop in the Ocean, which is a fictionalized (but essentially true) story of my life. The main character Nick’s story; is my story. I hasten to add that the other main character Teresa’s story is definitely not my darling wife Thess’ story.
So, what can I tell you about myself? I’m a fifty-nine-year-old New Zealander, who is now domiciled in the beautiful islands of the Philippines. After careers in finance and journalism, I decided to run away from real life to a tropical island and that’s exactly what I did. I live in Manila, with my lovely wife and two of my seven step-children. I am technically a full-time author now, but reality insists that I spend some time as an editor/proofreader to pay the bills. Let’s face it; it’s damn hard to make a living as an author.
That being said, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing – following my bliss and “living the dream”.
Reviewers have described your latest five-star book as, “fantastic, inspiring, original, comedic, thought-provoking, witty, a modern-day spin on an ancient story…” What inspired you to write The Second Coming?
The Second Coming was my first book, and originally I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to write about, but I did know I wanted to write a novel, so I looked at Amazon and asked myself; what’s selling right now? As it happened, the number one book at that time was a little book by Mitch Albom called; The First Phone Call From Heaven. Aha! I thought – God sells! That got me thinking and being a good Presbyterian boy brought up in Dunedin, New Zealand, I had gone to Sunday School and learnt all the bible stories about Jesus. What if? I thought; what if one day God looked down from Heaven and despaired at the mess mankind had made of Earth? He decided to destroy Earth and write it all off as a failed experiment – start again from scratch, so to speak. If Jesus intervened and asked for one more chance to turn us around, what would happen? Thus, The Second Coming was born. Of course, it then went on to become a trilogy, with Rise of the AntiChrist and Holy War, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The freedom! I used to live vicariously through reading (still do – to a great extent) but with writing, I can not only live vicariously through my characters, but I can create them to be and do anything I damn well please. I am in control and if I want to use my characters to say something insightful, quirky, funny, or even downright controversial – I can, and for a naturally introverted person, that’s real freedom.
Who designs your book covers?
I’ve tried a few different ones, including someone I used from Fiverr, but the more books I’ve written, the more I’ve understood how important a professional cover really is to a book’s credibility. At the moment, I have two designers I use, depending on what I’m looking for. Rachel McGrath of McGrath House and Eeva Lancaster of The Book Khaleesi Both Rachel and Eeva are excellent at what they do.
What are you currently working on?
I wish I could say I’m writing, Kristy, but I’m not. At the moment, I’m busy editing and/or proofreading books for my clients. My editing business has certainly taken off this year, but sadly at the expense of my writing. Still, needs must come first and we gotta pay the bills – right?
I finished my latest novel; Love Beyond, about three months ago, but I have not even had time to edit it myself and get it out there. I will get there though. Love Beyond is a Historical Romance, set at the time of the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish Colonial rule – circa 1896. When a Spanish Officer falls in love with a Filipina maiden, who just also happens to be a member of the revolutionary army (the KKK), things are bound to be fraught with difficulty. I am really happy with the book and already have my cover made, so am excited to get it to market, since it is my first historical novel. I like to change things up when I write.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Who am I to give advice to anyone? I am an author who doesn’t sell, like so many of us.
My only advice is this; don’t listen to the naysayers, believe in yourself and always, always, follow your dreams. If you want to write – then write, but don’t write because you want to be a famous, best-selling author – write because it is your bliss.
What kinds of things do you like do for fun? Hobbies?
My only real hobby apart from spending time with my family is reading. I read exclusively “indie” books and read between 175 and 200 books a year. I also have a bit of fun every December with the annual “Grunter Awards for Excellence in Indie Publishing” where I give out awards for the best books I’ve read in a number of genres, over the past year, culminating in the Supreme Grunter Award, for my book of the year. I’ve been doing that for the past three years now and get a lot of fun from it.
If you could choose any destination in the world to spend six months writing, where would you go and why?
A Nipa Hut on the beach at Lagundian Bay, Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, the Philippines.
Why? Because it is “heaven on earth” and so incredibly beautiful, peaceful, and inspirational. Of course, I would need my darling wife there to inspire my writing and to kick me in the butt when I goofed off to go swimming in the pristine waters.
What would you like your readers to know?
The only thing I can say is; I write for you, so when you do choose to read one of my books, I am deeply humbled and pleased. It’s a bit like the tree that falls in the forest. If there’s nobody around; does it make a noise? If I write a book and nobody reads it – then did I really write it? Readers are everything.
Where can we find your books?
Almost all my books are exclusive to Amazon, except for The Second Coming and Rise of the AntiChrist, but all of them can be accessed from my Amazon author page.
I love interacting with readers and fellow authors. All of the many ways of getting in touch with me are here:
Website: Author Support Services Website:
Facebook Author Page (Please Like):
Facebook Personal Page (Happy to friend you):
Goodreads Author Page
*Last movie you watched – Little Big League (A Soppy Family One)
*Favorite place to write – Staring at the Beach
*Three things you can’t live without – Laptop, Real Coffee, and my Kindle
*Last book you read – The Socratic Contract by D C Russell (Excellent!)
*Top three favorite bands of all time – This is so embarrassing to admit: Abba, The Beatles, and Queen
*Favorite colors – Pink and Blue
*A particular food you could eat every day for a one year and still love: Lumpiang Gulay (A Philippine Spring Roll, filled with fresh vegetables and deep-fried) OMG! SARAP!
Thank you so much for the candid Q&A, Grant! Wishing you much success on all your books and future projects~ Have a blessed, prosperous, and wonderful summer!
Summer vacation is almost here and that means lots of sunshine, campfires, baseball games, road trips, roller coasters, fireworks, barbecues, cannonballs into the pool, and Summer Reading 2018! Encouraging your child to stay on top of their reading maintains literacy, strengthens critical thinking skills, keeps them from falling behind, supports their reading development, builds vocabulary, and nurtures a lifelong love of books. All great stuff, right?
VISIT THE LIBRARY
Getting kids involved in their local library is important for many reasons. In addition to the various Summer Reading Programs, access to free books, magazines, audio books, music, and internet, there are opportunities to volunteer, find a reading buddy or tutor, and be in an environment where other kids are reading for fun. Most libraries have some sort of Summer Reading Program so stop on in and let the fun begin!
“A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.” Lilian Jackson Braun
“I have found that the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.” Laura Bush
“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein
“Getting my library card was like citizenship: it was like American citizenship.” Oprah Winfrey
SUMMER READING GOALS
Whether kids are getting their books from libraries, bookstores, or online apps, setting aside 20 minutes or more for reading should be an essential part of their daily routine. Create a snazzy chart, graph, or poster to record daily, weekly, or monthly reading goals, use incentives, and reward progress. A promised shopping spree at Barnes&Noble or Half Price Books goes a long way!
Reward them with the key to a locked treasure chest filled with surprise goodies. The wonder and anticipation of what’s inside is a huge motivator. Fill it with stickers, baseball cards, bookmarks, ear buds, sidewalk chalk, crayons, markers, UNO, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, or Go Fish cards, Jacks, a journal, shiny marbles, colored stones, beads…the possibilities are endless!
- A magazine subscription for Highlights, National Geographic Kids, Story Monsters Ink, or any subject of particular interest (dance, science, sports, fashion, cars).
- Tickets to an upcoming sporting event, concert, or movie they’ve been wanting to see.
- A gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Half Price Books, or Record Exchange.
- Something specific they’ve had their eye on (video game, skateboard, jewelry box).
SUMMER READING PROGRAMS
* Your public library
* Carnegie Library Summer Reading Extravaganza
* Barnes&Noble Summer Reading
* Half Price Books Summer Reading Program
* Scholastic Summer Challenge
* Sylvan Learning’s Book Adventure
Let’s face it, reading lots of books can get pretty pricey. Luckily, there are a ton of places to score some free ones. School, online apps, and the public library are always great places to start.
- Get them a library card.
- Take them book shopping.
- Take turns reading aloud, alternating pages.
- Encourage them to donate/share used books.
- Laugh! Reading should be fun.
- Discuss the story and characters; encourage questions.
- Prompt them to bring stories/books along for trips, car rides, waiting areas, and picnics.
- Create decorative bookmarks together for every season.
- Be an example! They need to see you reading too.
- Do a Summer Reading Challenge with them.
HAPPY READING, HAPPY SUMMER!
We’ve all been there. You open up your kid’s new toy and whew! It’s like a cackling skull and crossbones just floated above and flicked you in the nose. Yep, I’m referring to that nauseating odor that makes you wince (or gag) when opening a package. That smell is very likely a chemical soup of petrochemicals, PVC’s, phthalates, pesticides, BPA or BPD, lead, dioxins, ethylene glycol, methyl ethyl ketone, and (who knows what else?)
Unknowingly, your child will wear them, put them into their mouth, absorb them through their skin, and breathe it into their lungs. Chemicals so toxic, they cause asthma, cancer, birth defects, nervous system and organ damage, Down Syndrome, hormone disruption, behavioral changes, cognitive decline, and a myriad of other unfortunate, and many times, irreversible things.
Those of us who are chemically sensitive knew this long before the vast amount of information hit the web, validating what we already felt. Despite friends, family, and the occasional doctor throwing strange looks when you mention the swelling and migraines you’ve been battling since purchasing that new carpet or the disorientation you experience from a trip to the car mall, fresh window caulking, perfume, etc. We knew these products were making us sick.
To say that the regulation of chemicals in the U.S. is in need of serious reform is a gross understatement. Thankfully, independent research organizations have made it a priority to fight for our health and reveal the truth.
Now that this information is widely available, it’s your duty to protect your children from this toxicity. As a parent, naturally, you want what’s best for your child, right? They may not be able to completely avoid it out in the world but why put them in harm’s way in their very home? Bedding, toys, clothing, food…you control it, therefore, controlling the chemical load they’re exposed to, giving them the best chance at a healthy mind and body.
So what kinds of crazy chemicals are we talking about? Here are a few to put on your radar.
• PBDE’s Polybrominated diphenyl ethers * DecaBDE
These toxic flame retardants are found in hard plastics, toys, stuffed animals, curtains, mattresses, textiles, electronics, furniture, building materials, and hundreds of other products.
PBDE exposure is associated with thyroid dysfunction, hearing problems, neurological and cognitive disorders, cancer, birth defects, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, (the list is quite long). This stuff is in our children’s toys, mattresses, and couch cushions?
• PVC (Poly vinyl chloride)
PVC is a synthetic plastic polymer considered to be one of the most toxic carcinogens known to humans. Just one vinyl shower curtain can release over 90 volatile chemicals into the air. Yuck!
It’s found in toys, food packaging, flooring, adhesives, rain coats & boots, sports equipment, inflatables, solvents, adhesives, plastic wrap, mattress covers, arts & crafts, and a lot more- since it‘s so cheap. In fact, cost-effective lead is what’s used as the emulsifier. Massively high amounts (up to 95% higher) have been found in imported toys.
The proven health effects of PVC and it’s released dioxins are vicious. Immune system damage, endometriosis, birth defects, cancer, diabetes- stay away from PVC!
• Methyl ethyl ketone
This industrial solvent has been discovered in over 447 products. Boots, shoes, toys, clothing, art supplies, hats, baby bibs, teething rings, gums, resins, rubber and wax products. It’s a known neurotoxin as well as an irritant to mucous membranes, eyes, nose, and lungs.
• BPA & BPS (Bisphenol-S)
This devil of a carcinogen is used in plastics, toys, baby bottles, CD’s-DVD’s, dental sealants, PVC water lines, canned goods, paper money, store receipts, sippy cups, and more. It’s been linked to over 30 adverse health effects. A large amount of advertised BPA-Free products that were tested still contained toxicity.
Phthalates are a group of toxic chemicals used to soften plastics and increase flexibility. It’s found in soft toys, IV tubing, mini blinds, food packaging, wallpaper, flooring, nail polish, hairspray, perfumes, detergents, soaps, lubricant, aftershave, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and more. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and can damage the kidneys, liver, and reproductive organs.
Can you believe that over 80% of toys and children’s products sold in the US are manufactured in China and other Asian countries, where they do NOT regulate these deadly chemicals?
So now what? You’ve got to make changes, that’s what. Here are a few places to start. Do your research, educate your family, throw out the worst offenders from your home and car. Do you really need that gold, polka-dotted, vinyl shower curtain? Nope. Replace it with an eco-friendly cotton one or glass doors. Start fresh.
There are a ton of places to buy non-toxic children’s products, food, dishes, makeup, home furnishings and building materials. Stick with the most natural, least chemically treated everything.
When buying food, do your best to choose organic, non-GMO products. Organic is always best if you can swing it. For textiles, cotton, hemp, and bamboo are awesome (they look and feel great). Use natural woods, glass, bamboo, cotton, hemp, beeswax, ceramics, stainless steel, low or no VOC, for as many things as you can. Re-use cloth bags or recycled paper for shopping.
• Whole Foods Market or Food Co-op
You’ll find your organic foods, cookware, supplements, eco-friendly diapers & baby products, personal care, makeup, non-toxic detergents, they even have formaldehyde-free toothpicks!
They have a huge selection of 100% organic cotton, eco-friendly, non-toxic baby toys, products, bedding, towel sets, and children’s clothing. *Budget friendly.
These sites have an array of doll houses, toy boxes, instruments, games, rattles, teething rings, bed frames, clothing, bedding, and toys- all free of dyes, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals.
If you implement these changes, the next time you open up that toy for little Johnny, you may find that you’re greeted by a tiny sunshine instead of a green, ominously giggling, Mr. Yuck sticker. Best of luck with your new, healthier lifestyle!