The Amazon rating system is subjective. What may appeal to one person and rate five stars, could end up with a three-star or lower rating by another reader. So much depends on taste, likes, reading level, and the reader’s relationship with the author.

Here are my simple and personal criteria for rating books on Amazon.


I couldn’t put the book down and when I did, I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again. Didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend this book.


I liked the book. It read well and was interesting. I would recommend this book.


The book was okay but lacked the ability to connect with me. May have some typos and editing errors. Not likely I would recommend this book.


This book was poorly written and not engaging. I had to work to get through it. I may have skipped through some parts. I would not recommend this book


The writing or content was so bad I couldn’t finish this book.

Now Available – Panda Girl

Based on a true story, this war romance takes place in the CBI (China, Burma, India) Theater of World War II. After writing memoirs and biographies, I have tried my hand at a novel. It has been an interesting journey. Many hours of research have gone into every hour of writing.

Panda Girl is now available through amazon.com and other online retailers.

The Passing Of A Brother

To many people, Dennis was a great humanitarian, and that is true. But to me, he embodied the consummate entrepreneur. He had the innate skill to think far outside the box, envisioning the impossible, and the fortitude to make it happen. When others thought it couldn’t be done, he did it. He often told me his accomplishments were born out of ignorance rather than talent. For Dennis, bringing his ideas and visions to reality represented the reward. His joy came from the discovery and creation of something new that would benefit others. That skill blossomed in the Philippines as a blessing to thousands of people in the deaf community.

This talent was evident throughout his life beginning with Kool-Aid stands and puppet shows for the neighbors. He always looked for creative ways to provide support. As a teen, he and his friend, Jeff Butcher, started a concrete busting business where they learned hard manual labor isn’t always properly rewarded. He and another friend tore down old buildings to sell the “barn wood” popular among interior designers. The full-body costumes he fashioned of the San Diego Padre’s Chicken mascot and the Scheels Hardware Bear were a hit in Billings at ball games. In college, he sculpted beautiful wood birds using Dad’s band saw, created coin jewelry, fashioned replica Native American dream catchers, and even sold buffalo droppings under glass to tourists. After Dad bought him a broken-down trailer home to live in while attending Montana State University in Bozeman, he turned the lessons learned in restoring that wreck into a lucrative business of buying, remodeling, and selling trailer homes to help finance his education.

Dennis filled his life with out-of-the-ordinary choices and accomplishments. He also had a lot of failures along the way but that didn’t detour him from trying new things. Once life took him to the Philippines, he found an unending supply of opportunity, starting with a little shack in the middle of Tagbilaran called the Garden Café. Begun by his friend and Peace Corp coworker, Johnny Fisher, Dennis took the reigns, learned through hard knocks, the restaurant business, and created jobs and incomes for the deaf community. That formed the springboard to dozens of other business ventures that have supported IDEA, its’ students, and graduates for many years… all from the fertilemind of Dennis Drake. Donut shop, brick manufacturing, furniture building, fly tying, pizza wagons, construction business, sewing shop, hotel, recycling center, modular housing, and much, much more. All to the benefit of a once forgotten and ignored deaf population.

Things didn’t always work out. Exporting quality rattan furniture and handmade bamboo rakes from the Philippines to the US met with near disaster. Rice burning stoves never took off. Pizza wagons sounded great but didn’t find a home. Dozens of other ventures met with little or no success, but Dennis always seemed to find another idea to try.

I will sorely miss our regular phone conversations where we spent hours talking about business ideas and concepts. He always had something new on his mind he wanted to run past me. To most entrepreneurs, financial gain is the goal and the reward. To Dennis, the happy faces of his deaf kids and the satisfaction of watching them learn and grow as a result of his efforts fulfilled him.

People may think that the success of the International Deaf Education Association grew out of Dennis’ love for the deaf children of Bohol. I believe that is only partially true. I think his passion for taking not only the road less traveled but the road unexplored, is at the heart of IDEA’s success. Without that vision and willingness to take enormous risks in the face of overwhelming opposition, IDEA would never have flourished. Dennis leaves behind a great legacy in that organization. His creativity and adventurous spirit will be hard to replace.

He and Marilou also produced two fine sons that exhibit many of the same traits as their father. I have no doubt that they will make their mark as well.

Dennis made the world a better place with his presence. We will miss him but I smile every time I picture his face.

The Secret Books

Amazon now boasts over forty-eight million books available. Amazon represents about 50% of all print books published. Add in the other publishers like Barnes and Noble and that makes close to one hundred million books waiting to be purchased. That’s a lot of authors. So the question is, how do people find my books? If I were a movie star or well-known politician, some publisher may want to promote my work with advertising, tv appearances, book signing and such. As it is, the majority of books end up buried deep down in the bowels of the vast book warehouse to be lost forever after a few friends and family members make their purchase.

The sad part is, there are multitudes of fantastic books available that hardly anyone knows exist. Once a book is written and published, the challenge becomes one of making people aware that it is available and to entice them into reading it. That takes time, money, experience, talent, and commitment. Most authors don’t have the marketing skill or resources necessary to promote their books. Publishers are generally unwilling to do the job unless the author is well known or has a very unique feature that will attract readers. Writers are often shy about promoting their own work and when they do, it can be viewed as self-serving and annoying if overdone.

So here is the challenge, how do I, as an author, get my books on to the shelves of bookstores, listed high in the search engines, talked about in blogs, and shared on social media? I’ve already discovered that internet ads cost far more than they return. Online book clubs prey on authors, making claims of sale potential, and charging big fees. Very few books actually return the investment. The work of book promotion far outweighs the effort of writing.

Is there a solution? If so, I haven’t found it. I do know that people buy my books when I post something about them on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and such. Not in significant quantities, but enough to make me feel like the writing might be worthwhile. And, I get good reviews from those who read them. That is encouraging as well.

Take a risk, try digging deeper the next time you look for your next book to order. Who knows, you might discover a real gem overlooked by the multitudes. And you’ll make an author very happy.

Now Available

When Silence Calls is now available in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com. Writing it with my brother has been a great adventure. Finding the right voice was a challenge. Ultimately, it is his story, told by him but extensively edited to make it flow and read easily. His is an inspiring story with a wide variety of experiences and emotions that everyone should relate to on some level.

When Silence Calls


Sometimes a writer doesn’t find a story, the story finds the writer. For years I have encouraged my brother to write down his story. His journey has been no less than amazing. No one could have predicted the course of his life, nor the impact he would have on thousands of deaf children.

When Silence Calls book cover
upcoming book

G. Dennis Drake is the founder and director of the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA). How he got there is a fascinating tale, and I have been challenged to capture it on paper. This is no small task for me, but I am a willing laborer. With input from Dennis and family, combined with a lot of research, I hope to present his incredible adventure in the pages of a new book.

With barely three chapters under my belt, I’m sure many months will pass before its completion. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

The Long and the Short of It

I got about halfway through my first fiction novel and put it aside. Not that it’s a bad novel, I just don’t know if I am a novel writer. In fact, those who have previewed it say that it is an intriguing story. Somehow, though, I feel like I’m cheating. I’m best known for my memoirs and stories based on real-life events. Making everything up as I go is a bit unsettling for me.

I love flying or driving with a GPS. No worries. I can see exactly where I am and where I am going. Still, in the air, I carry a paper sectional chart to track my course… just in case. The GPS seems too easy. That’s the way I feel about writing a novel. Too easy. Of course, that could also mean that my novel writing is a bit on the weak side.

So, for the time being, I think I will stick to short stories based on real life. They are fun to write, people seem to relate to them, and I know the beginning, middle, and end before I start. The challenge is in making the story come alive and entertaining.

I may eventually get back to the novel once I run out of interesting true-life adventures to write about. Time will tell.

More than just burgers

[To read the full story click here]

When I decided to track down some of the airplanes that influenced my life, the biggest surprise was finding a little aerobatic airplane I had restored in the 1990’s hanging from the ceiling in a Burger King. After the initial impact of viewing internet pictures of my handiwork suspended peacefully above fast-food  tables, I had to wonder how the little plane came to be caged. Numerous attempts at reaching the owner of the establishment and/or the airplane have so far been unsuccessful. In the meantime, while searching my files, I came across a story (Snap Rolls to Burgers) I had written shortly after completing the resurrection of the aerobatic bird.

The truth is, I flew only one competition in N20DS even though I owned her for several years. We did a lot of playing and dancing in the wild blue yonder, but she had a bad habit of sharply dropping the right wing in a stall even if I wanted to spin to the left. I’d pull hard back on the stick, full left rudder and instead of entering a left-hand spin she would drop hard to the right and then flip over to the left. Once I got used to it, her erratic behavior didn’t bother me much, but it made the maneuver look ugly to the judges. As a result, I lost points and scored low. I figured out that the right-wing attach-points were slightly off and, instead of tearing things down to redo them, I learned to live with her small idiosyncrasies and avoid further competitions. I did, however, spend a lot of time competing with myself, trying to improve on my figures in the sky.

N20DS and I parted company in July of 1997. I never saw her again until she showed up on a Facebook page a few months ago. Now I have the urge to somehow rescue her from burger prison. I’m not sure if that is even possible given current circumstances, but the wheels in my head are spinning. Time will tell.


From Bell Bottoms To Army Boots

The Alternative

A full half-century has passed since I wore bell-bottom pants, paisley shirts, and a fringed leather jacket. To be honest, I was never quite that cool. I did own bell-bottoms and paisley shirts, yes—but, no fringed leather. A ragged old jeans jacket had to do. But that was in the early 70’s. In high school, I was caught between the doo-wop days and the Beatle cut, white socks, and penny-loafers.

Back in those days, college was the way to avoid the draft. The Vietnam War was raging somewhere in Asia, and nobody wanted to become a jungle-tramping, ground-pounder carrying an M-16 rifle. Of course, there was always Canada, but that was considered the coward’s way out.

My first attempt at college was a total bust, so I figured joining the Air Force was safer than getting drafted. As it turned out, attending classes and studying harder in college would have been the best alternative by far.

Wearing the Boots

I ended up in a top-secret compound run by the National Security Agency in the East China Sea, processing intelligence information coming out Vietnam and all South East Asia. “Intelligence” was an oxymoron when referring to military secrets. Sending hundreds of thousands of good American boys to fight a war we couldn’t win, in a country that didn’t want us, didn’t seem intelligent to me. The more I learned, the less I believed in our government’s decisions.

At any rate, many years later, after raising a family and obtaining a crop of grandchildren, my daughters convinced me to write down my unique experience of protesting an unjust war from within the military. They had heard my stories many times of the Red Boots Rebels, and our stand against the idiocy of the Vietnam War. In a way, the story of the Red Boots was the M.A.S.H. of the late 60’s. While being intensely serious with potentially grave consequences, the outcome was quite humorous.


Wheat Field Tag

Summer Fun

What better way to spend a summer afternoon than playing tag with a good friend in Piper Cubs. Mike and I would roam Montana skies looking for challenging landing spots. We took turns selecting a field or road to plop down on while the other followed. Some landings were ego boosters. “Let’s see if he can get down on this jeep trail.” Others were easy in-and-out for a picnic lunch or snooze by a river.

I found my Piper J-5 rotting away in the back of an Oklahoma crop duster’s hangar. The sad little plane ended its days as an agricultural sprayer and had been neglected for a number of years. With the purchase of an old flatbed trailer and a few hundred yards of rope, I hauled the derelict back to my Montana shop and restored her to life once again. I have no doubt she enjoyed bouncing in and out of wheat fields much more than the life she had previously lived dowsing them with chemicals.

The J-5 played an important role in the love story of the aviator and the hippie, as told in my book, Schellville.