Category Archives: Blogs

My Clifibooks.com post

Mary at Cllifibooks.com was kind enough to list The Straw That Broke on her website and invite me to be a guest author. Here is my post before Mary’s edits and alternations.

(But first a Max note. I spoke with ninety-five eager eighth graders at Oak Grove Middle School in Jamul, CA on Tuesday, 4/22. The students are starting to read Max as a culminating project before graduation. Many will read Charley as well. Gifted teacher Marty Brisbois showed me the projects from last year when the kids worked in teams comparing the two books. They were amazing! The theme is, “In Search of America. In Search of Self.” Read On! Mighty Oak Grove Eagles.)

Here’s my clifibooks.com guest author post.

The Future Looks Drier for the Colorado River Basin

Nearly every climate change model puts a red bulls-eye on the Colorado River Basin, suggesting profound temperature increases over the coming decades. It’s going to get much hotter and drier. The future of water – and life – in the West will be very different from anything we’ve come to expect.

National Geographic News Watch “What Does Climate Change Mean for Water in the Colorado River Basin?” By Jennifer Pitt of the Environmental Defense Fund.

John Wesley Powell, the one-armed civil war veteran who first explored the length of the Grand Canyon in 1869, presaged the view quoted above. Powell, an advocate of conservation and land preservation, cautioned the attendees at an irrigation conference in 1883, “Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

In my opinion Powell was a prophet. He would deny that, stating that he was simply a scientist reacting to scientific observation and data.

Inaccurate data is where we first got into trouble with the Colorado River. The Colorado River Compact of 1922—an agreement among the states and regions touched by the basin’s waters—divided up the river’s flow between an upper basin, a lower basin, and Mexico. The total allotment of the Colorado River Compact was based on the Reclamation Service’s estimated flow of 17.5 million acre feet per year. After six years of negotiation (and some pressure from Congress), resulting, for instance, in California being granted much more water than either Arizona or Nevada, the compact was ratified and all seemed settled. As Marc Reisner reported in Cadillac Desert, “And it did settle things, temporarily at least, except for one small matter: the average annual flow of the Colorado River was nowhere near 17.5 million acre feet.”

After fourteen dry years, the Colorado River is experiencing the worst drought and the lowest flows in twelve centuries. Lake Mead is reaching forty-five percent capacity. Rationing is eminent. For the first time, in 2014, federal authorities are going to reduce the flow from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. According to the New York Times, “A 100-foot drop (in Lake Powell) would shut down generators that supply enough electricity to power 350,000 homes.” A 100-foot drop in Lake Mead will put the surface below Las Vegas’s highest intake tunnel or “straw.”

The American Rivers Organization recently named the Colorado River the most endangered river in America because of mismanagement. Forty million people rely on the Colorado for their livelihoods. Current demands on the Colorado are not sustainable. Conflict among communities and between states—the sort John Wesley Powell augured—is inevitable.

The Colorado is one of the most dammed and diverted rivers on the planet and yet more dams are planned. And according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (December 2012) there is not enough water in the Colorado River to meet the basin’s current water demands, let alone to support future demand increases from growing populations in an era of climate change. As is, the mighty Colorado is reduced to a trickle by the time it reaches the Gulf of California in Mexico.

There are two encouraging developments on the lower Colorado. Although there is money available to dam and divert an upper section of the Gila River in New Mexico (the Gila joins the Colorado near Yuma, Arizona) studies are showing that watershed restoration, conservation, agricultural conservation and effluvia treatment can realize as much water as a destructive and invasive dam.

And even during the worst of the drought—and possibly because of cooperation that the drought made unavoidable—Francisco Zamora, who works for the Tucson, Arizona-based Sonoran Institute, and colleagues from several other environmental organizations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, have recently focused their considerable energies on the last one hundred miles of the river. One hundred years ago, wetlands and cottonwood, willow and mesquite forests covered nearly two million acres. It was a bird and birders paradise. Over the last fifty years the river has only occasionally reached the sea. The lower Colorado has been like an animal in a cage slowly strangled by human hands. But every human travesty has its offsetting triumph. The good people working for the delta today have brokered an international deal for the history books that is returning water to the lower stretches of the river. Some communities, named for their proximity to the Colorado such as San Luis Rio Colorado are seeing water for the first time in seventeen years.

Those two powerful examples of conservation and restoration are a beginning—a trickle. Now the drier (and dire) situation on the Colorado River demands a torrent of enlightened management and realistic allocation.

Gregory Zeigler’s environmental thriller, The Straw That Broke is a modern allegory addressing critical water issues in the west.

Team Cli-Fi

Wow! I’ve gone from not knowing what the cli fi genre was five days ago to being a member of Team Cli Fi, thanks to Dan Bloom, the man I call the networking typhoon in a Taiwan cafe. Here’s how this remarkable small world story (thanks to technology) evolved.

Before we even knew that Montana journalist and author, Todd Wilkinson had written such a positive review of “The Straw That Broke” in the Jackson Hole News & Guide (4/16/14) we heard from an expat blogger in Taiwan who is known as the father of a new literary genre called cli fi (climate fiction). He posted Todd’s article and included a statement saying “The Straw That Broke” is a must read in the new cli fi genre. The cli fi meme has been discussed in the NYTs and on NPR referencing works like Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” as an example of climate fiction.

Here is the link to the Dan Bloom cli fi post. Check it out.
http://northwardho.blogspot.tw/2013/07/cli-fi-guy.html

Dan is a climate activist with a keen sense of the power of the internet even though he does not own a computer and works out of an internet cafe. Thank you Dan for welcoming “The Straw That Broke” into your newly coined and very important sub-genre of fiction, and for teaching me so much in such a short amount of time.

Real Men Read Fiction

Since reading a few years ago that women consume 85% of all fiction, I have wanted to create an attractive bookmark with the words, “Real Men Read Fiction” and offer it to any male I saw with a novel in hand. Thanks to my friend, James Mathieu, my experience last night was reassuring.

James invited me several months ago to attend his April men’s book club meeting with the “The Straw That Broke” as the selection of the month. I have done many book clubs but this was my first men’s book club. It was an enjoyable and stimulating evening with a dozen very well-read guys. This is what one participant had to say about the evening (and also agreed to post as an Amazon review): “Gregory Zeigler joined our men’s book club in mid-April. I had thoroughly enjoyed “The Straw That Broke” and was pleased to find Zeigler a stimulating and lively presenter as well. Greg elucidated his passion for the Colorado River and his strong belief in the message his environmental thriller/modern allegory is carrying to the reading public in this time of horrible drought and seemingly limitless demands on a severely over-taxed Colorado River Basin.

The discussion ranged from water issues to Straw’s strong characters and powerfully evocative western settings. The book was enjoyed by all. Several members of our group suggested Zeigler get busy on his sequel so we know what happens next to heros Susan Brand and Jake Goddard and the few villains from Straw still at large.

In short, “The Straw That Broke” kept my interest as a page-turner tale of deceit, murder and abduction while giving me much to ponder about the future of water and inevitable conflicts over water in our predictably drier future. I could have used a little less tying up of loose ends after the shattering climax but that is somewhat to be expected with such a complex tale.

I give “The Straw That Broke” five stars and recommend it to women for it’s strong and varied female protagonists and to men (who Zeigler reported statistically read little fiction) because it is a damn good read!”

I couldn’t have written it better myself.

Book Note: If nothing else my recent visit to China brought home how little I knew about this mysterious land. I think it is safe to say that is true of most westerners. Upon return I immediately picked up “Things That Must Not Be Forgotten” by Michael David Kwan. It is an elegant, lovingly rendered memoir of Kwan’s childhood in China during and just after World War II. It’s not fiction, but still I’m learning a lot.

Vietnam (at last)

First, the 31st. That was the day eight courageous and creative fellow cruisers intent on learning and growing joined me for a memoir writing workshop in the Observation Lounge on Deck 11. Our writers ranged from an aspiring children’s author to a retired businessman with an interest in corporate communication (and with a wonderful story to tell about his time in Korea, fifty years ago and while on this cruise). All eagerly shared their stories as we worked our way through my handout entitled, “Zeigler’s Guide to a Successful Memoir.” An hour was way too little time together but I’ve managed to connect on shore and and on board with several of the participants. (My thanks to you all for enriching this experience on the high seas.)

And now, April 1st—my daughter Jamie’s birthday and my first time in Vietnam. The unsettled feeling in my stomach harkening back to the buddies I lost in this neck of the woods forty-five years ago was quickly alleviated by the beauty of the monoliths of Ha Long Bay in Northeastern Vietnam and the warmth of the people. Dimmie and I were strolling on the beach when we were briefly adopted by a group of university students on a field trip. Several of the girls were eager to try out their English and pose for photos with us. One of Dimmie’s new friends took her by the hand and walked a short ways down the beach.  Several of our abiding memories from this trip will be the times we ventured away from the ship’s planned excursions and off the beaten path—and I have no doubt our time with that group of warm and welcoming young adults from Hanoi will be foremost among them.

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Cruising to Shanghai…

…again. This will be our second stop in Shanghai on our Regent Seven Seas Voyager cruise of Asia. On our first visit—although I enjoyed the colorful downtown harbor as viewed from the veranda of the boat—I couldn’t really explore the city thanks to a little case of Mao’s revenge. We just left Seoul, Korea for the second time and enjoyed completely different sites and sights on the second visit so it did not feel redundant at all.  I’m looking forward to the exotic and international city of Shanghai.

I’ve been invited by very talented Cruise Director Ray Solaire (A.K.A. Captain Hook) to offer a writing workshop to fellow guests on the 31st. I’m looking forward to that.

Book note: My friend Tom Jackson recommended the mysteries of Chinese writer, Qui Xiaolong. I read both Don’t Cry. Tai Lake an eco-mystery, and The Mao Case. I enjoyed both and learned a great deal about the mysterious and ancient land called China. I recommend the works of Xiaolong as much for the poetry and philosophy, as for the elements of mystery.

My Japanese friend—Kiyoshi Yamauchi

It was a mutual love of John Steinbeck’s work that originally brought Kiyoshi and me together. We met in August of 2010 at the annual John Steinbeck Festival at the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA.

Kiyoshi is a professor at Niimi College in Japan, about two hours away from Hiroshima. Kiyoshi is also a director of the Steinbeck Society of Japan as well as an editor for the society’s publication, “Steinbeck Studies.”

Kiyoshi wrote a very thorough (and positive) review of Travels With Max: In Search of Steinbeck’s America Fifty Years Later for “Steinbeck Studies” for the May, 2013 edition. When we met recently over lunch in Hiroshima he asked me to contribute to a future publication. I was flattered and honored and accepted readily.

I learned much about Japan during my few delightful hours with Mr. Yamauchi. As we parted, I told him how a tourist differs from a traveler. A tourist checks off monuments, a traveler wants to get to know local people and culture. I consider myself to be a traveler and my time with Kiyoshi the highlight of my exploration of Asia (which has included China, Korea and Japan) thus far.

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Straw chosen all-school book at Kiski School

It has been a good run for manly readers of late. Not only was Straw chosen as the April selection for an all-male book club (my first men’s book club) organized by James Mathieu in Jackson, Wyoming, it was chosen as the all-school book by Kiski School (young men grades 9-12) in Saltsburg, PA. (www.kiski.org).  I don’t have all the details but an all-school book choice is normally read by every student, every staff member and many spouses and family members as well. That is followed by an author visit to the campus.

Considering that women read 85% of all fiction, I see this as great progress for male readers. In fact, I’ve been considering printing up bookmarks that read “Real Men Read Fiction.” and passing them out to any guy I see reading fiction.

“Straw” is officially launched

After hosting a three-day (6 hour) memoir-writing workshop, Teton County Library was kind enough to allow me to use their auditorium to officially launch my new novel on the evening of 2/26/14.

Both the workshop and the book reading/signing/launch party were well attended and a great success.  My “surprise” guest at the launch was Jane Lavino the amazing artist who won the competition for the cover art. Jane also happens to be a good friend. In my opinion, Jane stole the show with her presentation about her inspiration and process, but here is what she had to say. “Greg you gave a great reading and discussion last night. Thank you! You are a master of organizing ideas and facilitating conversation (in addition to being a darn good writer!)” Jane also flattered me with the signed gift of the original artwork for the cover. Thank you Jane.

Another good friend whose opinion I respect is Gillian Rose. Gillian is an executive for PBS and a member of the BAFTA board of directors. This is what Gillian had to say about “Straw.” “I loved the book. I really enjoyed it. I immediately imagined it on the screen.”

Wow! That’s going to keep me going for a while as I try to slog through the often discouraging process of setting up a book tour (late April/early May) in Southern California. But there is even a bright spot there—Charles at Skylight Books on Vermont Avenue (www.skylightbooks.com) bought a few copies of “Straw” yesterday. LA, here we come!

Finally, I’m happy to report that American Rivers (www.americanrivers.org), the worthy non-profit that will benefit from our events in Jackson, received a donation as a result of brisk book sales at the launch.

Thanks AGAIN, to our friends and readers for your generous support.

 

 

 

 

An invitation to the launch of “Straw.”

Greg Zeigler’s new thriller, The Straw That Broke is like “Chinatown” meets Edward Abbey. It is a riveting thriller involving corporate greed, abduction and murder. Zeigler’s novel is a modern allegory with an urgent message.
 
The story centers around the illegal appropriation of water from the Colorado River through new tunnels or “straws.” 
 
Fact: the Colorado was recently named the most endangered river in America by the American Rivers Organization because of mismanagement. 
(Most of the sales of Straw in Jackson at places like Stio and Davies-Reid will benefit American Rivers.)
 
Fact: Lake Mead is at 45% capacity after 14 years of drought. 
 
Fact: 40 million people rely on the Colorado River for their livelihoods. 
 
Fact: California relies heavily on the Colorado River and California is experiencing “the worst drought in 500 years.” (Mother Jones).
 
Conflict is inevitable.  
 
If you live in or near Jackson, please come to Greg’s reading/signing/book launch party at Teton County Library on 2/26 at 6:30 p.m.
 

SoCal So Dry

Although I’m anxious—now that the southern Arizona book tour has concluded—to fly to Atlanta to meet my new grandson, Caleb, I’m cooling my heels here in San Diego. I’m being treated like royalty by my brother, David, his wife, Lori and their son, Jake. Sunday night involved a wonderful dinner with teacher Marty Brisbois and her husband, Brian, also an educator. Marty agreed to work with Dimmie and me next summer to export her lesson plan for teaching Max as a companion piece for Charley to teacher’s blogs. She also purchased 52 copies of Max for her students.

My flight to Atlanta was cancelled today. Dimmie texted me saying they were riding out the worst storm of the century, which, while inconvenient, at least means moisture.

Here in San Diego, David tells me they are experiencing a drought that stretches back to post-2008 (the last wet year on record). David reports his well is at about 30% capacity and as the water table drops the level is often below the pump. Last night, I got to observe the family in a meeting over the issue of water conservation (the future for us all?). It was agreed that showers should be two minutes, the dish and clothes washers should be run as full as possible and that flushing should occur only when urgent. It was even suggested the water normally lost while waiting for the shower water to warm could be captured in a bucket and used for dogs or plants.

I’m grateful to my family for allowing me to listen in on such a critical conversation in challenging times.

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Art Note: The rest of the Borrego Springs dragon.