Friday, October 31, 2014

Transit role considered for threatened train

Companion track along route may tie Maalaea, Kapalua

August 12, 2014
Engine 3 Myrtle
"Myrtle" Sugar Cane Train
By CHRIS SUGIDONO - Staff Writer ( , The Maui News

The effort to save West Maui's historic Sugar Cane Train has taken a new turn as Maui County Transportation Director Jo Anne Johnson Winer looks at using the popular tourist attraction as a transit rail system as well.

While Johnson Winer is helping to save the train as a public citizen, she said that in her capacity as transportation director she and her department must evaluate the system for future uses.

"It's important for us to do our due diligence to see if there is some aspect that can work into public transit," she Monday. "Right now, because of the purpose that it serves, it's more dedicated to tourists, but I also think it has an importance to the (county) department of economic development in terms of job creation."

The 6-mile track from Puukolii to Lahaina and the train are managed by Lahaina Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad. The train made its final run Aug. 1 after 45 years. The railroad built in 1969 has handled some 15 million passengers and is one of the state's last steam engine railroads.

State Rep. Angus McKelvey, whose father helped start the railroad, said that the train could be the basis for a transportation system to Maalaea on one end and Kapalua on the other, given demand. He noted that the state is looking at extending the Lahaina bypass to Olowalu, "but after that it is really iffy."

The problems facing the next phases of the bypass are building highways over wetlands, especially in the Ukumehame area, and over the gulches along the pali. A train offers a smaller footprint, he said, adding that the engines would have to be modern electric or diesel but could have historic facades.

"This is all long range," he said. "It is very doable."

Johnson Winer cautioned that using the railroad for public transportation is still "nowhere in the scenes" but suggested that a companion rail could be built, which could extend to Kapalua or toward the pali. She said that the railroad could have two rails, one for the tourist attraction and another for public transit.

"Although it's not part of Hawaiian culture, it has a historical thread that goes way back," she said of the railroad and its tracks, which come from the old Kahului Railroad built in the 1800s. "From that perspective, it is a part of Hawaii's history."

Kakakea trestle bridge
Releasing steam on the Kakakea trestle bridge
A nonprofit organization is being set up to preserve the Sugar Cane Train and is looking to raise $25,000 to temporarily save the railroad's assets and delay its destruction. Members of the nonprofit group in the making include Johnson Winer, McKelvey, Joan McKelvey, Lynn Donovan of Lahaina Town Action Committee and railroad General Manager Iolani Kaniho.

Johnson Winer said that the group has raised a portion of the $25,000, and that she is looking to start an online fundraiser through Kickstarter to gather additional funds. She added that railroad owners Robert and Kim Butler of Nebraska might begin removal of the track sometime in early September.

"That doesn't give us a lot of time," Johnson Winer said. "But if we can at least get a memorandum of understanding or make some type of offer we might be able to" save the train.

As the train nonprofit is established and gains its nonprofit status, Lahaina Town Action Committee will serve as the train's sponsor and will be accepting donations, Johnson Winer said.

McKelvey explained that using the train as a transportation source is a county, not a state function, as is the light rail project on Oahu currently under construction. He envisions a two-pronged approach - to save the train through a nonprofit in the short term and to look at the transportation aspect, possibly with a terminal in Maalaea and a Maui transit authority in the long term.

"It's a pro-Maui thing," he said, given the challenges of building more highway and the ability to preserve cultural history. "It seems logical."

Kaniho said that the tropical storm over the weekend did not damage the train but did push back track removal plans, which were originally set for mid-August.

"It pushed our time frame back a little bit, so it's good for the people interested in buying the train," he said, adding that there are a couple of interested buyers.

Johnson Winer said the recent storm reminded her of an incident in the 1980s when a storm tore off the roof of Kapalua airport and closed Honoapiilani Highway.

"All the power poles were down, it was like dominoes," she said. "They blocked off the entire highway. Everybody was stuck and people couldn't get anywhere so the only way they could get to (Kahului Airport) was the Sugar Cane Train."

Johnson Winer said tourists staying at resorts past Lahaina in the Kaanapali direction had to take the train from its Puukolii Station to Lahaina, where taxis took them to the airport.

"It was amazing," she said.

Johnson Winer, a former West Maui residency council member, said she "loves the train on a personal level" and "can't imagine not hearing the train whistle ever again."

"It has a very special place in many of the hearts of Maui's kupuna, as well as some of their grandkids now," she said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at

© Copyright 2014 The Maui News and reposted with permission. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express consent of The Maui News.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Searching for lost history : the forgotten Mango Tree Camp

From Hawaii State Archives
When I set out to write my current project about a young boy living in a steampunk alternate history of Maui in the 1930's, my initial question had been, "What if the Hawaiian Monarchy had never fallen?" This was the question that drove my setting, and fueled my 9-year-old son's imaginative character building as he helped me cultivate the story.

I wanted a mango tree to be the anchor to the theme of the novel, a story about perseverance, self-assurance, and growth. And it was modeled after a tree that lived in my grandmother's back yard, next to a house built by my great grand-uncles in an old plantation town. And so, a mango tree was born in the pages of my outlined draft and it's branches encompassed the characters.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Introducing the Write Life!

I wanted a way to engage with my readers and have a conversation. So I fumbled my way through Hangouts On Air to come up with a way to do just that! Posted below is my impromptu attempt at my very first Write Life! episode. And it just so happened I had a viewer who asked questions! That was my highlight right there.

In addition to this video, please scroll down to find some links related to what is discussed. I hope you find it entertaining and helpful, and I look forward to you joining me in future Hangouts On Air.

Books featured in this episode:

Websites to visit:

If you have any questions about this episode, or have a question you would like answered on my next episode, please let me know in the comments section.

Enjoy, and write every day!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Communication and Book Reviews

image courtesy of The Book Pushers
I came across an article in my feed that a friend shared, where a Young Adult author, Kathleen Hale, was so distraught by a bad review she tracked the reviewer down both online and off and harassed her. Since reading it, I've looked into other responses to the incident. There are a few authors and publishing authorities who take Ms. Hale's side, but the overwhelming response has been, basically, "what a bitch."

As an author, I expect bad reviews. Especially since I am a relatively new and unknown author, I look forward to those reviews. Well, any reviews actually. I need to know what my readers liked or didn't like so I can improve upon my skills and create even better stories for readers to like, or not like (not everyone is a reader of my genre or style after all).

As a reader, I expect that an author provides me with a book that will entertain me and even provoke me into engaging with the social, cultural, or whatever hot-topic issues that the author wants to bring to the story. If a book meets or exceeds my expectations, I will say so. If it falls short, I'll say that too.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The commitment to write

A conversation with a friend

It's just after lunch and I am multitasking my time between completing an outline, cleaning (more like finding) my office, and figuring how to create an interactive On Air Hangout on Google+. Amidst all of this I find time to sneak onto Facebook every so often to check in on my feed.

First of all, if you want to be a successful writer, Facebook needs to go away while you are in writer mode. However, I was able to catch  a Messenger notification from an old friend from my anime convention days. Although we keep in touch through Facebook posts, we rarely use private messaging so I was curious to see what was up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Interview with a character 2

If I could draw, he'd kinda look like this. ^_^
Thank you QueenofBoos!
Solus Kordivos

It's been a while since I did an interview with one of my characters. So today I thought I would interview the main character of my new novella, Solus Kordivos. He's a tortured soul who chose to become a demon so he could fulfill his desire for revenge. Which leads me to believe this interview is going to be pretty angry. Well, hopefully, he's not nearly as ornery as Dante was!

Here goes...

Interview with a character, the demon Solus Kordivos of A Demon Born

Friday, October 10, 2014

Prequel novella available now on Smashwords and Amazon

The  prequel to Circles is now available as an eBook! This novella, A Demon Born is available for purchase from either Smashwords or Amazon for $0.99. Due to it's short length, it will not be published in paperback form.

The story follows the demon, Solus, whose desperate desire to take back what he lost causes him to choose the path of becoming a demon. He may soon realize that the price for revenge is greater than he imagined and his greatest wish could be out of reach. As his master's most powerful demon, Solus struggles to hold on to what is left of his humanity. But the darkness in his soul is growing.

Through many revisions, I completed this novella and fell in love once more with the beautifully morbid world that is Circles. I hope that you will also enjoy this little window into that world, and who knows - There just might be more stories to come!

Please enjoy this book trailer I made especially for my readers!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Communication and Marketing: Questionable subject lines

In  a recent blog post I read about subject line ideas for email newsletters, I found the suggestions to be rather "spammy" sounding. And I think it has to do with the "headlines" that I get from Facebook's "suggested posts" or email "newsletters" that I never subscribed to.
THIS is my favorite spam, not junk from the internet.

The first one was what turned me off to the whole post: Idea 1 - Mystery.
If you want to make a headline irresistible, add a bit of mystery. (You’ll notice I try to add a bit of mystery to almost every headline) 
“You’re going to freak when you see this”
“You won’t believe this when you hear it”

I see these headlines preceding everything from weight loss miracles to fuzzy feel-good puppy videos. And all these posts or emails want to promote is traffic; spam to take up my time and screen space. I felt the same way about this post's "drama" idea. As intriguing as a newsletter or post title is, if I don't think opening the link or email will benefit me and be good use of my screen time, I won't bother.

Now, the second and third ideas of using a question or setting up anticipation ("don't miss out!") make compelling headlines for posts and subject lines, but the examples this blogger used in the post were also very spam-sounding. One of my favorite newsletters that I subscribe to is from author and writing instructor Holly Lisle. Her subject lines utilize these two ideas frequently. Her last one, "I want to trade GIMP skills for a free writing class," gives recipients a quick idea that if they know a particular skill, they should hurry and let her know so they don't "miss out" on a free class. I have no idea what GIMP is, so apparently, I missed out. ^_^

The idea that made the most sense in the blog post was number ten, "unlikely combinations." This option shows a newsletter's or post's worthiness by using creative wordsmithing. If you can catch my attention with something odd or surprising (like this poster's example, "Today: Songs about pudding and car repair"), then I would be more likely to open the email or click on the post.

Which leads to my closing point of today's post. I haven't done a newsletter in over a year, but I try to promote my blog by updating my Facebook and Google+ feeds and tweeting a link to my current posts. But I want readers to click through to my blog because I want to provide worthwhile reading, not more random visits to my page to improve my ranking. And I truly hope that I am providing that for you!

What is the worst newsletter/feed headline you've seen so far? Let me know in the comments below!