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Review of The World’s Emergency Room by Michael VanRooyen

The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers by Michael VanRooyen

 

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A review by Jennie and Roger Sherwin

In 1945 when Allied troops liberated The Netherlands, an unlikely warrior accompanied them. American pediatrician Clement Smith flew into Amsterdam and then The Hague to study the effects of history’s first and only clearly delineated famine—in terms of its start and finish—on children born to Dutch women who were pregnant during the “Hongerwinter” of 1944. Following D-Day in May 1944, the exiled Dutch government called for a strike of the national railways to impede the German occupiers of The Netherlands, a call that was answered beginning in September 1944. The Germans retaliated by blocking all food transports into the western areas. Food, already scarce because most of the agricultural land had been destroyed during the war, began to run out. When the Germans finally relented, the severe winter weather, which had frozen the canals, along with the German destruction of roads and bridges to slow the advancing Allies, made overland and water transport of food impossible. From the fall of 1944 to May of 1945, the Dutch people in the affected areas endured a famine, which killed—according to some estimates—up to 22,000, mostly the elderly, and had lasting generational effects.

When news of the famine came to the attention of the exiled Dutch government in London, Queen Wilhelmina petitioned Winston Churchill to broker relief for the Dutch people. An agreement between the Allies and Germany allowed an airlift of food by the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the American Air Force. Called Operation Manna and Operation Chowhound, bombers laden with food supplies were allowed to fly in low, unmolested by German gunners, to drop their life-saving cargoes. The starving Dutch spelled out “Many Thanks” in tulips for the bomber crews to read. Although these crews did not think of themselves as humanitarian workers but as men in service to their respective countries, in effect they were doing the work of humanitarian outreach to a population affected by war, displacement, and starvation.

Clement Smith, whose research would show the famine had a major effect on birthweight but only if the famine coincided with the last trimester of growth, as well as other effects, would go on to become a founding father of neonatology and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard University. Decades later, the son of a Dutch resistance fighter whose life had been turned upside down by the war and the mass starvation, would co-found the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative with the mission of conducting research to improve humanitarian response to crises, embedding the principles of human rights into these responses, and educating the next generation of humanitarian leaders.

In The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers, Michael VanRooyen, co-founder and director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at Harvard University, professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the chairman of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, gives us an up-close look at the humanitarian crises of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Written from a very personal yet historically comprehensive perspective, the narrative provides an intimate portrait of the making of a dedicated emergency medicine physician and humanitarian as well as a series of harrowing tales of his and others’ provision of emergency life-saving procedures under threat from warring factions in troubled areas of the world.

What makes people dedicate their lives to helping others, especially under life-threatening circumstances? VanRooyen points to his father’s wartime experiences as the catalyst for his desire to devote himself to helping other people. Michael’s father, Johannes (Joe) VanRooyen, was a teenager when the Nazi Army invaded The Netherlands. At age seventeen he joined the Dutch resistance and helped Jews to hide and eventually to flee to England and to Spain. In 1943 he was caught and sent to Bergen-Belsen, where he was tattooed and put to work in a steel factory. Periodically, he was taken to Berlin and interrogated by the Gestapo. VanRooyen’s description of his father’s torture by the Nazis is not sensational in the least, yet it will nevertheless horrify those of us who have yet to become inured to the scenes of war and refugee crises that have been flashing across our television screens in the United States and around the world as technology has advanced to connect humanity globally. Returning home weighing all of seventy-eight pounds (on a five-foot, eight-inch frame), Joe found his country and its economy in ruins and his hometown deeply affected by the mass starvation. He met and married a young woman from Haarlem, Gertrude Breed. Together, they decided to emigrate to the United States for the chance of a new life.

And a new chance is exactly what these refugees from war were afforded in the United States of the 1950s. Working hard, they soon owned their own home and had two sons. Yet, personal tragedy would dog this young family even in their new country. Gertrude VanRooyen developed metastatic melanoma in her late thirties and died at the age of thirty-nine when the author was eight years old. Although at this young age he could not articulate the effect of this loss on his life, later he would cite it, along with his father’s stories of imprisonment, his religious upbringing, a roadside rescue he witnessed, and his medical training in inner-city Detroit as the seminal events in his life that led to his career as a humanitarian physician

He was clearly drawn to a life of service to others with a wish to provide this service through the field of medicine. Finding a specialty that would most prepare him to do so was the focus of his exploration in medical school. His search led him to the work of Charles Clements, a Quaker and a humanitarian physician who had served in El Salvador, providing medical treatment to the victims of the civil war between rebel forces and the government. In Clements’ example VanRooyen found the combination of humanitarian outreach and provision of emergency medical services that would define his career.

For anyone who likes delving into the motivations that lead people to do what they do, this is a book that will hold great appeal. VanRooyen gives us an intimate look at the defining moments in his life, including his relationship with and marriage to fellow physician, Julie VanRooyen, who shared his vision of bringing emergency care to victims of conflicts and disasters. For those who are concerned about the global humanitarian crises humanity is now facing, VanRooyen outlines in painstaking detail the circumstances that led to each of the major crises in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, describing the actors and movements that led to their explosions on the world scene, as well as the main responders who brought aid to the affected populations.

Along the way he provides a history of humanitarian aid and the evolution of humanitarian aid workers from being seen as neutral and protected from the conflicts into which they bravely entered to being thought of instead as pawns of opposing governments and open targets. He doesn’t shirk from discussing the inadequacies or inefficiencies of humanitarian aid efforts and the lack of coordinated approaches to some of the worst humanitarian crises in our time. Nor does he fail to focus on the consequences of starvation and the brutalization of those most vulnerable in the populations affected by war—women and children.

One vignette from the narrative, in particular, will serve to illustrate the effects of war, displacement, and starvation on the vulnerable, resilient but not infallible, women caught in conflict. VanRooyen describes meeting a woman in a camp in Mogadishu who would illustrate these effects without speaking. He and his team were screening children between the ages of one and five for malnutrition when they discovered a child named Fatima with symptoms of kwashiorkor, a condition recognized and so named by speakers of the Ga language, living in what was then the Gold Coast. Cecily Williams, an Oxford-educated physician of British extraction born in Jamaica who studied famine in seventy different countries, first determined that this condition was due to protein deficiency and distinguished it from marasmus, an overall caloric deficiency. Williams translated kwashiorkor loosely to “disease of the deposed child,” such deposition taking place after the birth of the next sibling. Since the mother would no longer be able to nurse the previously born child, he or she would be weaned and thus become vulnerable to protein deficiency.

After VanRooyen and his team examined Fatima, VanRooyen asked through an interpreter for the child’s mother. There was no response. The question “Who takes care of her?” was then posed. Again, there was no response. Obviously, Fatima’s mother had perished or been abducted during the conflict. Finally, a woman motioned to VanRooyen to come with her. They walked silently through the camp to a crude plastic shelter, and she pulled back the flap. There on the dirt floor sat three small children, a small bag of rice, and a pot. When VanRooyen looked again at the woman, she turned up the palms of her hands to indicate her inability to help. Fatima was a victim of the conflict, but so too was this woman, who was helpless in the face of another starving child. VanRooyen’s comment at the end of this vignette, which reflects his combined background in emergency medicine in hospitals in U.S. inner cities and his experience in the field of humanitarian outreach, is worth repeating here:

“The suffering of a malnourished refugee in the squalor of a camp is an affront to human dignity. That dignity is something we all possess and must fight to preserve. Perhaps now I also could better understand my patients in inner-city Detroit or Chicago, where the oppression of poverty and culture of violence drives them to helplessness. The struggle to promote human dignity was not only to be fought in Somalia, but also closer to home.”

VanRooyen has served as a humanitarian physician in more than thirty countries, including Bosnia, Chad, Darfur-Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, North Korea, and Somalia. He brings an insider’s knowledge and perspective to the reporting of the conflicts and natural disasters that have led to the urgent need for humane and compassionate responses to the millions of refugees now knocking on the doors of conflict-free countries in Europe as well as the United States seeking asylum. Will the world tell them there is “no room at the inn,” or will it find its way to a compassionate solution that raises the dignity of all of humanity?

 

The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers is published by St. Martin’s Press and is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Michael VanRooyen is also the co-author of Code Blue: The Making of an Emergency Physician (John Hanc and Michael VanRooyen) and Emergent Field Medicine (Michael VanRooyen, Thomas Kirsch, Kathleen Clem, and James Holliman).

Disclosures:  We have never met Michael VanRooyen, although Roger corresponded with him several years ago through letters of recommendation for two researchers then being considered for appointments to Harvard University faculty and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI): Phuong Pham, PhD, MPH, now Director, Program on Evaluation and Implementation Science, HHI, and Patrick Vinck, PhD, now Director, Program on Peace and Human Rights Data, HHI. Roger knew them when he was the Joseph S. Copes Chair and Professor of Epidemiology at Tulane University. Jennie also knew Phuong in New Orleans and later met Patrick in Santa Fe. We consider them close friends. (They are mentioned in VanRooyen’s book). Finally, we have provided editorial services for online and print publications written and produced by researchers within the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

 

 

Rave Reviews Book Club’s Spotlight Author Sherilyn Powers

Today it is my pleasure to host Rave Reviews Book Club’s Spotlight Author Sherilyn Powers. In today’s post Sherilyn focuses on the phenomenon of “morphing” as it applies to allergies and sensitivities. It is a phenomenon with which I am all too familiar. I first heard about this so-called morphing in relation to allergies and sensitivities at the Environmental Health Center-Dallas, where I learned that when someone is sensitive to a food within a particular food family, it may not be long before that person develops sensitivities to other foods in that same family. To counteract this tendency for sensitivities to evolve, Dr. Rea, the center’s founder, recommended a four-day rotational diet to his patients. I followed this diet for about four years until I became so well after following Dr. Rea’s treatment program and receiving energy balancing from the healing team at A Healing Place in Richardson, Texas, that I was able to return to my normal eating patterns, based on a heart healthy diet with organic foods whenever possible and filtered water always. So … are you curious about morphing? See what Sherilyn has to say about it. While you’re at it, support her on social media and visit her website. You will find links below.

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Sherilyn Powers is the author of I’m Not Crazy I’m Allergic! In her book Sherilyn explores how exposure to seemingly harmless foods and substances could be related to reactions like panic attacks, depression, uncontrollable crying, brain fog, body aches and pains and many more.

I'm Not Crazy I'm Allergic by Sherilyn Powers

Morphing reactions?

Speaking to people with allergies every day, I’ve come across a very interesting phenomenon:  allergies/sensitivities that “morph” or change seamlessly. Sometimes so seamlessly that it takes a long time to realize it has happened.

And by “morph,” I’m don’t mean a worsening of reactions, though this can happen, too, but actually a change in the type of reaction and even the form of the food to which they react.

For example, a lot of people I know can’t drink milk. It gives them stomach aches, excess mucus and even diarrhea, to name a few symptoms. These people have no problems with yogurt, cheeses or even ice cream, so they don’t consider themselves allergic to dairy, just lactose intolerant.

It gets interesting, however, when suddenly someone’s reactions evolve from just reacting to milk to reacting to the next food up the line, which seems to be yogurt or ice cream. These new reactions can present with symptoms similar to those they had after drinking milk, or they can be totally different.

After that the softer cheeses, and finally hard cheese, can also provoke reactions.  Once that happens, dairy can sometimes no longer be tolerated at all, and drinking milk may cause debilitating reactions where it once only caused a bit of mucus.

I found the same type of thing happened to me with gluten.  Before I found out I had Celiac disease, I had a lot of very interesting reactions to gluten. I had eaten it my entire life and had never known it was the cause of my so-called “IBS” (irritable bowel syndrome).

When I finally started to suspect a wheat allergy (I knew nothing about Celiac disease at the time), I noticed I had lesser reactions with some gluten-containing foods than others (e.g., spelt and kamut), and I found I could more easily eat foods prepared one way rather than another (toast vs bread, for instance). At that time, I had no idea that gluten was a factor. I just knew I tolerated certain foods better than others. It was after I was diagnosed with Celiac disease that I was able to put it all together from my notes.

How many people would have noticed the difference between how they felt having milk and cheese or eating toast and then eating bread?  I probably would have missed it, too, but I had been sick and had eaten nothing but toast for a week. I went from that to eating an untoasted sandwich and my throat began to swell up. That rather caught my attention.

This doesn’t happen with everyone, but I’m using these examples to point out that allergies/sensitivities are not static. Just because drinking milk makes you sneeze one day, it does not mean that it will still make you sneeze three years from now, or that only milk, among all dairy products, will elicit a reaction.

When you are trying to discover what your allergies and sensitivities are, don’t forget that cooking and processing foods can sometimes not only change your reaction, but also can influence whether you have a reaction at all.

Sherilyn Powers’ contact information:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/imnotcrazyimallergic

Twitter: @SPowersINCIA

Website:  http://imnotcrazyimallergic.com

 

 

 

Paying It Forward to Jan Sikes, RRBC Author

Today is the day I support fellow author Jan Sikes through the Pay It Forward initiative of the Rave Reviews Book Club. Each member is given the opportunity to “pay it forward” by supporting a fellow member and not promoting herself or himself that day.  If you are an author in search of a supportive home, then head over to the RRBC website and tell us that Jan sent you.

Jan’s creative approach to writing combines narrative and music, as she explains below. She is not only multi-talented, but she is also “multi-published” as well. You can check out her books and CDs below. Join the fun and support Jan on social media. Her links are listed below. Now here is Jan in her own words.

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I am an Award Winning Author, screenwriter, songwriter and most of all an individual. I tell true stories in a creative and entertaining way. I love sharing what other authors are doing and any information I feel is useful to other authors. I also enjoy playing guitar and writing music. With each book I publish, I also release a music CD of original music that matches the time period of the book. This is something unique and I haven’t met many other authors who do this, but for me they go hand in hand. My stories all evolve and revolve around the music.

 

Click on the photos above for summaries of each book.

Jan’s links:

http://www.jansikes.com http://www.ricksikes.com
http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJanSikesBooks
http://www.facebook.com/RickSikesMusic http://www.twitter.com/rijanjks

 

Let’s Welcome Janelle Jalbert, RRBC’s Spotlight Author

As the very first Spotlight Author of the Rave Reviews Book Club, and yes, my fellow RRBCers, I will continue to remind you of that singular honor, I take great pleasure in hosting a Spotlight Author. If you’re not familiar with the benefits of membership in the Rave Reviews Book Club, then head on over to the website. Stay awhile and surf the menu. RRBC is a home away from home for a great group of congenial writers who help beginning writers as well as established writers to promote their work and have a good time while doing so. Today, Janelle Jalbert is in the spotlight, so if you decide to join this great group, say that Janelle sent you! Here she is in her own words.

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Birth of a Wingdog

Often, authors refer to their books as “book babies”, and I tend to be one of them. Each book is a special gift, at least for me, and has its own unique life beyond the covers. WINGDOG: Soul Pup continues that trend for me. It wasn’t started as a book. I had no illusions about being a memoirist. It started as a coping mechanism that blossomed into more than I originally ever thought possible.

The story behind WINGDOG started sometime in 2009. Have you ever gone through a period in life where everything seems to be touched by magic…where doors open to possibilities you couldn’t have imagined, and it seems as if you were given life’s golden ticket simply for waking up in the morning? That is where WINGDOG started.

I was transitioning out of the traditional classroom into online teaching and also working on a doctoral program in education while writing for an online startup. I’ve always had a wide range of interests and hobbies, including auto racing. In fact I used to get teased by my students for my motorsports enthusiasm.

By 2010, I was working two posts as a motorsports reporter/photographer in addition to my teaching career. Ninety days after covering a race weekend in Martinsville, Virginia, I signed a lease for an apartment in Charlotte, since my reporting was leading to more travel to the area. A month later, I officially moved from Southern California to North Carolina.

I didn’t have any personal ties to the area at the time. It was a leap of faith in many ways. A few months after I settled in, I began having problems with some neighbors and a couple of events had me thinking that I made a disastrous mistake. Still, I am not one to cower in the face of adversity, and my dog lover side made the solution easy. A pup would help me deal with the situation as well as be a much needed form of companionship in the aftermath of my move.

Little did I know the miracle that would arrive on an October afternoon.  I opened an email and was introduced to a pup with one brown eye and one blue eye. I fell in love instantly. By that evening, my wingdog, Goose, and I were a fresh little family. Goose not only worked his magic on me but also touched lives across the country.

A year later, I began writing the “Goose Tales” as a kind of writing therapy. My life had done a severe one-eighty, and I was struggling after my return to Southern California. It started as a series of vignettes to help me smile when I thought the proverbial bottom had fallen out from under me.

It took more than four years and several stops and starts to see WINGDOG: Soul Pup completed. What began as writing therapy, to help process the events of a remarkable time in my life, slowly shifted. I learned one of the major differences between fiction writing and memoir writing in the process. There’s therapeutic value in getting a story told, but sometimes it takes time for the full impact of a cycle of events to emerge. Time may heal all wounds, but it is also true that the unfolding of subsequent life events change the story behind the story. It was the permission to let the story emerge over time that was the key to WINGDOG: Soul Pup being more than just another canine-centric story.

WINGDOG: Soul Pup is subtitled ‘A Magical Mutt Memoir’ because what started out as a personal coping strategy developed into a celebration of life and love. The magic in life is not about spells, potions and other wizardly or witchy things. The magical side of life is about experiencing all that life has to offer; celebrating companionship in all its forms; seeing the love and humor in the everyday moments; experiencing the gifts of serendipity and synchronicity; and understanding that the present of life is often more than we can grasp in the present moment.

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Excerpt from Wingdog Soul Pup

First Date

Yes, I slept with him on our first date. It felt so good to have his warm body against mine. He was gorgeous and sweet as slumber set in, and I couldn’t help but curl up closer. We were already doing our own version of spooning, just hours after meeting. Everything was once again right with the world thanks to his warmth by my side. It was a case of love at first sight that grew deeper in the darkness of the bedroom around us.

I couldn’t help but run my fingers through his fur as his brindled coat rose and fell with deep, sleep-filled breathing. His fur was the perfect texture, not too course but without fluff. The hairs behind his bouncy ears were already my favorite, so silky fine. He sighed as I continued rubbing up and down his side before once more scratching behind his ear. With the ear rubs, he pushed closer into me. His sixteen pound body firmly tucked at my hip.

Ah, I’m home.

I wasn’t sure if it was my thought because it could have easily come from the pup at my side. For the first time in weeks, I began to doze off, peaceful and content. The neighbor problems that plagued my previous weeks faded away with his comforting presence.

Sometimes it does all work out. Bad things can lead to great opportunities.

The stress of moving from California to North Carolina evaporated. The distress that plagued me eased. It was what I’d been craving: a chance to forget and to enjoy life again. It was what my soul needed. I sighed and let go. All was good, at last.

The day started like most of late when I got sidetracked by my inbox after clicking on the message. A small, brown puppy snuggled face-to-face with a tabby kitten appeared. The expression in the picture wasn’t curiosity. It was more like a big brother protecting a younger sibling. The other picture was of the same puppy looking up at the camera. His brown ears were as big as his head. The look in his eyes was that of questioning intelligence, and only the slightest hint of his blue left eye opposite the brown one showed. He seemed to know it was not simply a picture being taken.

It took less than thirty seconds. I was in love.

Immediately, I hit reply. He’s adorable. I’d love to meet him!

With that, a flurry of emails was exchanged. I rushed out into the silvery, fall day, filled with clouds. I stopped at the ATM before getting on the highway for the trip down to Rock Hill from Charlotte. It felt odd to pull money out to buy a dog. Granted, I rescued pups before, but this felt different. Then, it hit me. There’s something not all together right about exchanging money for a living creature’s spirit, and that thought caught me off guard.

“What’s that all about?” I muttered as I turned down the onramp to Highway 85, heading south. I shook off the feeling with the thought that it helped pay for his care rather than buying him per say.

As I made the transition to the 77 near uptown Charlotte, I started thinking of names for the pup. Angie named him ‘Ace of Spades’ or Ace for ease, but that wasn’t right. I knew that instantly. My dogs have always named themselves. He’ll let me know. I thought, but still names flitted through my mind.

What do I want from all this? That made me laugh. It’s a dog adoption, not a marriage. The truth was already apparent. This was going to be bigger than a simple custody transfer. The anxiety over recent events with neighbors at my apartment complex threatened to rear up again. I needed someone…something…to help watch my back. I wanted a right-hand man…a wingman…or, in this case, a ‘wingdog’.

That’s it! Goose. Like the wingman in Top Gun, he’d be my extra pair of eyes and ears. I loved it immediately and settled on it before remembering that the dog does the choosing.

“Okay, just keep it in mind,” I mumbled as I got off the highway and made a convoluted trip to the apartment. I texted Angie from the parking lot because I couldn’t make sense of the numbers in the complex, so she agreed to bring him down to meet me. I waited in the car for a few minutes, laughing at myself for having a bit of ‘first date’ jitters about meeting a puppy.

They seemed to appear out of nowhere and stopped at the end of the walkway.

I got out, and as soon as I cleared the bumper, he spotted me. It was magic – a connection in an instant – as he leapt towards me despite his leash. His eyes lit up like I’m sure mine did. With a big smile and open arms, I walked up to him at Angie’s side and said hello. He barely reached my kneecap, but his eyes were wide and bright. I dropped to my knee. Given my earlier thoughts about marriage, I chuckled and shook my head to clear the whole proposal analogy from my head. He nuzzled into me immediately and toppled me onto my rear.

Who are YOU? I haven’t seen you before. He did a once over with his nose. Yep, you smell nice. You’re a good one. How ya doin’?

I smiled ear to ear as I situated myself, sitting cross-legged so the little guy could sniff away at will. If that isn’t an enthusiastic yes, I don’t know what is. My heart swelled as his furry little body shivered with excitement. His wild tail matched the leaping in my chest. I looked into his wide, trusting eyes: one brown, the other blue. It was a match. You choose me too! I thought as I wrapped my arms around the brindled bundle showering me in warm wet pup kisses.

“We found him on the highway. He was in bad shape, but we nursed him back to health. He’s been dewormed too.”

He sat listening to the conversation like he would chime in at any time, sneaking glances at me as Angie debriefed me about his circumstances.

How could someone be so evil to such an adorable boy?

“Several people have come to look at him, but the brindle coloring gives the impression of a pit bull.” Angie sighed. “He’s incredibly friendly, but the people who’ve come to see him have scared him as well as my husband and me. It’s like he knows they’re not right. My husband and I figured they were looking for fighting dogs, or even bait dogs, when they start asking about his bloodlines.”

A chill traveled down my spine at the thought of people looking to sacrifice a loving creature for a blood sport.

Angie continued, “That’s why we’ve been saying that he’s a Jack Russell mix. We’re not sure though, and we can’t keep him anyway.” Angie went on to explain about their impending move as Goose scanned the yard of the apartment complex.

Hold on. His name isn’t Goose yet. I thought as my mind and heart made the leap. He gets a vote. Remember?

“He’s big into sticks,” Angie stated as she reached up into the branches of a small, almost bare tree near us and broke off a branch for Goose. He immediately plopped down to tackle his new toy. “I was going to name him Lucky, but that’s too common. So, I thought that the Ace of Spades is a lucky card. That’s how he got his name.”

I noticed that he wasn’t too fond of the name either, since he didn’t even twitch when he heard her say it. Good boy! You’re definitely a smart one. I thought. I could tell Angie was stalling a bit with her continued chatting.

“He’s still damp. I was cleaning the bird cage in the bathtub, and he jumped right in too. He loves water.”

“Perfect! I’m a surfer girl who needs to be around water all the time.” I said with a laugh and smile. “Yeah, I know Charlotte’s not near the ocean, but we’ll be at the lake a lot.” I felt like I was selling myself to win favor.

“He loves going for rides too. My husband has to take him every time he goes to the store or wherever.”

“That works out perfectly too. Though I am teaching online classes fulltime, I’m a bit of a road warrior right now with a side gig as a motorsports reporter. That’s what brought me to NC. We’ll be going to California in a couple of weeks for the Phoenix race, Thanksgiving, and Champ Week. He’ll get the ride of his puppy life.”

Angie’s shoulders slumped as we transferred his things to the car, and I handed Angie a hundred dollars for both the pup and all of her supplies. There wasn’t much: a used cat collar, a small leash, some food and a bowl, but it was a start. The supermarket dog food was going to be replaced immediately.

You’ll be eating way better than that. I vowed silently. I could tell that Angie was both happy and sad. I passed the test. He was going to a good home, but it meant that he was leaving her.

Whether it was Angie’s demeanor or plain puppy energy, he grew restless, starting to explore the yard as much as he could while still on a leash. After Angie ran out of things to chit-chat about, I opened the passenger’s side door and cradled him in my arms. His warmth traveled to my core as the soft bundle of brown, black and white fur rested close to my heart. A sigh escaped as I held him to my chest before placing him on the seat.

Shotgun! He perked up and sniffed the interior, which was already filling with the smell of kibble.

His investigation stopped abruptly and he stared at Angie and me. He knew something was different. This wasn’t a casual, meet-someone-on-a-walk encounter anymore. It was a strange new car. He looked at Angie. Thank you. I’m happy. She’s a good one.

Angie sighed. “Bye, Ace. You’re a good boy.”

He seemed to smile as he stretched, puffing out his puppy chest. Then he got distracted by the straw to my iced coffee. He was at ease, and inside of two hours, I became a pup mom. Life wasn’t going to be the same again.

Website: www.janellejalbert.com

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/JanelleJalbertRRBC

Twitter handle: @JustJJWriting

Facebook: Facebook.com/janellejalbert.author

WINGDOG: Soul Pup will be released on Amazon, March 7, with full release across most major retailers in June 2016

 

Rave Reviews Book Club’s Spotlight Author Jan Hawke

As the first Spotlight Author of the Rave Reviews Book Club, I always take great pleasure in hosting a Spotlight Author. Rave Reviews Book Club, founded by Nonnie Jules, is an online club for authors and readers that promotes the work of its author members. The club is highly supportive to both seasoned writers and beginning writers. Be sure to visit the RRBC website and check out its features. If you decide to join, say that Jan Hawke sent you because today is her day to stand in the spotlight and to shine! See the text below for links to Jan on social media. Now here is Jan in her own words.

jan hawke bio pic my download

My debut novel, Milele Safari, ends where my own African journey began, in Kenya, the first country I ever visited on that continent. We went in September, hoping to see the Great Migration only to find the wildebeests had moved on a few weeks before we got to the Maasai Mara, although we did glimpse the last remnants over the Mara River in Tanzania. I fell in love almost immediately, after we arrived at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, and our first wildlife encounter was at the hotel pool, with eagles floating high above us and all the trappings of Kenya’s colonial past around us (the Hotel was used as a set in Out of Africa, where Karen Blixen asks the Governor, Sir Joseph Byrne, for help when her coffee farm goes bust). Things I didn’t put in the book… Elephants creeping silently out of the night to a water hole in Tsavo East as we were Milky Way watching over a duty free gin and tonic, from the balcony of our room. Wonderful Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe and my spectacular solo ‘spot’ of a leopard (in a place where our otherwise splendid game guide wasn’t expecting to see one) in Samburu. Baboons galore and a black rhino at Treetops water hole, and the luscious afternoon tea ceremony at the nearby Outspan Hotel where Lord Baden-Powell (who founded the Boy Scout movement) lived out his last years. An advanced dissection lesson on a wildebeest, courtesy of a couple of lionesses, followed by two young male cheetahs out for a walk in the shade on the Maasai Mara one hot afternoon. Still on the Mara, one abortive and one successful balloon inflation near the Siria escarpment at dawn on the day our safari ended, followed by an unforgettably turbulent flight back to Nairobi in an elderly Dakota, much to the chagrin of the other people in our tour group, who had travelled all day, long and dustily overland, only to find us contentedly sipping long cool drinks at the Norfolk at four in the afternoon… Things that did make it… Samburu was also the place where we saw the leopardess and two cubs who kick-started Milele Safari as a project in the Watching chapter. She had an interesting history in that she’d been raised by world famous conservationist, Joy Adamson, of Born Free fame, and then set free in Samburu. The cubs we saw her with were likely her last litter as she was over ten years old by then. Dennis, our European Kenyan tour leader, was also responsible for several of Harry Burton’s non-Kariba anecdotes, including the buffalo hunt and also the tale of the Dik-Dik and the Rhino that I took several liberties with in Onwards and Upwards… I’ve been to Kenya twice more since that first memorable time and it will always be dear to me, especially in these latter days when it is still struggling on with the fight against big time commercial poaching, which, alas, appears to be a losing one at times, especially as the Middle Eastern and Asian ivory markets inflate the demand. Organisations like CITES (https://www.cites.org/) ensure that the work of conservation enforcement continues, but with a constantly struggling economic climate, endemic poverty and neighbouring states at war, or battling with famine and drought, Kenya’s tourist industry and the crucial influx of international currency is increasingly under pressure to deliver on its reputation as the top safari destination on the planet, and to maintain the infrastructure of its national parks.

Vacation Picture

https://janhawke.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/nitedrive.jpg

My husband Pete’s photo of me, his brother Malcolm, and wife Janine, on a night drive in Zimbabwe. The Hannibal Lecter look is down to my severe dust allergy!

jan hawke Milele Safari

Milele Safari – An Eternal Journey, available on Amazon

 Follow Jan Hawke on Social Media

Website: janhawke.me/

Twitter handle: @JanHawke

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Jan-Hawke-386239624841750/

 

An Interview with Natacha Guyot, Author of Clairvoyance Chronicles

Clairvoyance Banner 1

For the past two years I’ve been following the blog of a young French author and scholar, Natacha Guyot, who already in her young career has published works of both fiction and non-fiction. Clairvoyance Chronicles is her latest fiction offering, and I am honored to be her host today as part of her blog tour to celebrate her latest book. As a writer I am interested in the writing process. Natacha graciously answered the interview questions I sent her, which focused on her creative process.

profilepic

  • How do you craft your story and characters?

The original ideas come via characters or settings, though most often via the characters. From there, I take a lot of notes and build the world, seeing where things are going until I have a structure I can write from. I like having a solid and detailed structure, but not something that is so tight I can’t make things evolve as the characters surprise me as I write.

  • How much research is involved?

It depends though I am mostly a plotter for fiction. If I write nonfiction, a lot of research and planning happens, but plotting fiction still takes time. Some more recent projects were more on the pantser writing side. Clairvoyance Chronicles took more research for me besides my usual world building because I based it in real life. I had to research some geographical, historical and cultural aspects, especially with characters from so many different backgrounds. It was a different approach for me and it was a learning experience as a writer.

  • How long did it take from idea to finished book?

I had the original concept in 2010 – if I recall correctly. I took notes about some characters and world building then let it stay in a drawer until 2014. When I picked my notes up, it turned into a collection of short stories with more main characters. I worked on outlines in Fall 2014, then was writing the first drafts until Spring 2015. Then came revision and preparing for the November release.

  • Do you have any writing rituals or habits?

Not really. My process is rather organic. The one habit I would really have is being a plotter. Besides enjoying structure, I go with how the muses are working at a given moment. I am unable to write two projects at the same time. I can revise, promote, format several ones simultaneously but if I am in the first writing phase, I must focus on a single project. For years, I also had to have a definitive title if writing. These last two years, I have become more flexible on the topic.

  • What is your favorite theme?

Becoming a better person. Growing as an individual is a theme that always comes up in my projects, fiction or nonfiction. Friends, family and faith are also central themes that run through my work.

  • Do you have a favorite character? Why?

I don’t. It would be like asking a parent who their favorite child is. I love all of them. I even find interest in my villains, although some really scare the hell out of me, especially Keno. I have some characters I like more than others, but picking up a single (or even a trio of) favorite isn’t something I can see myself do.

  • Is Adaira your alter ego?

No, she isn’t. Are there elements of me in her? Yes. Her devotion to her people, her faith and her want of a family are elements important to me too. Yet, I would gravitate more towards Mairi as some vague alter ego, than Adaira. Tania reminds me of me a few years ago.

  • Are any of your life experiences reflected in your book?

I originally came up with the story with Tania as main character, before it evolved into a multiple narrator book. Her studying abroad in London is inspired by my own experience. I even found it amusing to have her live close to where I used to during my time in the UK. Situating some of the scenes in Oxford is also dear to me because I have fond memories of trips there.

  • What do you hope readers take away from your books? This book in particular?

I always hope that my readers have a good time reading my books. I’d like that they feel and think thanks to my stories, whether fiction or nonfiction. In the end, what matters to me most is that they enjoy them, regardless of their personal experience generally speaking. As for Clairvoyance Chronicles, I hope they fall in love with the characters and want to come back to see what happen to them in the next volumes.

  • How do you like to connect with readers?

Social media makes it quite easy to connect. I always enjoy reviews, but exchanging via emails or comments on my blog or other pages is a great way to find out more about my readers and their experiences, too. This is why I do my best to be reachable via several online platforms.

CLAIRVOYANCE CHRONICLES VOLUME ONE

Old enemies never truly disappear. When they return, peace becomes fragile and clans are on the brink of destruction.

 Were Saber-toothed Cat Neyla relives her real-life nightmares upon Keno’s reappearance. Her longtime nemesis is scheming to overthrow the supernatural society. With Keno’s followers growing each day, Fae, Weres, Shifters and others with special gifts, are at risk.

 In these dark times, everyone must join ranks and keep faith in a better tomorrow.

 Unfortunately, the price may be high.

Goodreads page, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia.

About NATACHA GUYOT

Natacha Guyot is a French author, scholar and public speaker. She is passionate about Science Fiction, Fantasy, Transmedia, Gender Studies, Children’s Media and Fan Studies.

She holds two Master’s degrees: Film and Media Studies (Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Digital Culture and Technology (King’s College London). Since 2012, she has been published in several countries and was a guest speaker at academic conferences and university lectures in both Europe and North America.

Her released titles include A Galaxy of Possibilities: Representation and Storytelling in Star Wars, Feminist Bloggers: The 2014 Collection (editor), and La Cité de Sharianth.

Besides her nonfiction and research work, she also writes Science Fiction and Fantasy stories.

She considers herself a feminist, Science Fiction and Fantasy nerd, fangirl, book worm, vidder, gamer and cat lover.

Publications | Upcoming Publications | Appearances

SOCIAL MEDIA–Here’s how to connect with and support Natacha:

 

Paying It Forward to John Howell, Author and RRBC Member

Today I am participating in one of my favorite promotional activities of the Rave Reviews Book Club. Every day this week, RRBC member-authors will promote a fellow author. It is my pleasure to promote and support John Howell, award-wining author of stories and books, including My Grl and his latest, His Revenge. John is a super supportive member of fellow RRBC authors, and I am very happy to be given the opportunity to support and promote him today. Take a moment today to check out his books on Amazon and to support him on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Be sure to visit John’s website. Here is John in his own words.

photo-by-tim-burdick-copy[1]

John’s main interests are reading and writing.  He turned to writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive career in business.  John writes thriller fiction novels and short stories. His story Cold Night Out won an honorable mention in Writers Digest Popular Fiction contest this year. He also won first place in the Kurt Vonnegut Kilgore Trout novel contest, celebrating Kurt Vonnegut as an author. His short story Never Give Inn was selected to be published in the Miracle E-zine fifth issue published in April.

John lives on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife Molly and their spoiled rescue pets.

John has finished his debut novel and is published by  Martin Sisters Publishing. www.martinsisterpublishing.com. The title of the book is My GRL and is currently available on Amazon. Come see the author’s page at Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

His novel is a fiction thriller and the following back cover blurb will give you an idea of what the story is about:

John J. Cannon successful San Francisco lawyer takes a leave of absence from the firm and buys a boat he
names My GRL. He is unaware that his newly purchased boat had already been targeted by a terrorist group. John’s first inkling of a problem is when he wakes up in the hospital where he learns he was found unconscious next to the dead body of the young woman who sold him the boat in the first place. Further, John now stands between the terrorists and the success of their mission.

The following review by Readers Favorite gives My GRL a five star rating:

Reviewed by Faridah Nassozi for Readers’ Favorite
My GRL by John W. Howell is a book filled with suspense, intrigue, conspiracy, and drama. John J. Cannon needed a break from work so he requested a one-year leave of absence for personal exploration, which he was entitled to as a partner who had been with the firm for over 10 years. He booked a flight to Corpus Christi, locked his condo, and started on what he hoped would be a long island vacation filled with lazy days and personal time. When he reached Corpus, he bought a boat, and started living the life. Little did he know that buying that boat would bring an end to the peaceful vacation he had hoped for, not until he woke up in a hospital with no memory of what had happened, and was told that Gerry, the girl who helped him buy the boat was dead. That is when he starts working to put the pieces together and find the truth behind Gerry’s death and then realizes who he is really up against.
My GRL by John W. Howell is fast-paced thriller that shows how your life can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye. John J. Cannon was looking forward to a long island vacation but instead ended up chasing and hiding from the bad guys. From losing Gerry who he was getting close to calling a friend, to discovering the real truth behind her death, to discovering who Sarah, Gerry’s friend really was. It is a well-written story that kept me glued, page after page.

Spotlight Author Christa Nardi and the Cold Creek Mysteries Series

As a member of the Rave Reviews Book Club,  I have the honor of hosting the Spotlight Author’s blog post from time to time. Today I present a post by Christa Nardi. If you love murder mysteries as I do, follow the links below to Christa’s books. Then snuggle up with your favorite hot beverage and one of Christa’s books. You can support Christa on Facebook and Twitter or visit her blog through the links at the end. Below is a preview of what you’ll find in Christa’s books.

“SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR

Christa Nardi

 Author Photo Christa

The Characters of the Cold Creek Mysteries Series:

Interview with Max Bentley

 

Thank you for joining us today Max – I mean Mr. Bentley.

It’s Dr. Bentley.

 My apologies Dr. Bentley. We wanted to talk today about the recent murders here at Cold Creek College.

I hope this isn’t going to take very long. My research is important and takes up much of my time. That State Detective – McMann – he took up a lot of my time. He had no right interrupting my meeting with my students.

 What are your thoughts on the murders, Dr. Bentley?

Murders are not good for the prestige of this college. Especially when a faculty member is the victim and the rumors about him. Did you know that he was married four times and dating multiple women? That is not how to raise money for the college. Research brings in money. It is what’s important and will improve the prestige of the college.

What do you research, Dr. Bentley?

I work with mice and rats in my laboratory. Along with my students, I study learning and social behavior. This is critical research and I’m sure I will get a grant some day and be able to – now don’t quote me on this – get to a bigger better university where they appreciate my research. I’ll receive many awards.  Are we almost done? My research you know…

 Do you think there is enough security and support for students, staff and faculty?

My lab is secure, locked all the time. I need to take care of the mice and rats in order to keep the lab you know. All of that is regulated you know. I’m very careful. I only let the best students, like Wesley, work in my lab.

Just one more question, Dr. Bentley. What is your involvement in the crisis plan for the campus?

Crisis is what Sheridan does along with Kim and Mitch. Only Sheridan tells Detective McMann what she thinks and then he comes and bothers me. This is all bad publicity for the college. I don’t know about the interim Chancellor but I hope the new Chancellor knows something about education and research. Someone needs to appreciate that faculty should not be hampered by students. [stands up and walks off]

 Thank you, Dr. Bentley.

An excerpt from MURDER AT COLD CREEK COLLEGE:

 From Chapter 1

I nodded and then checked the next open door. Unfortunately, it was Max’s office. I knocked. He swiveled around, his black hair somewhat uncontrolled and in need of a cut. I must have startled him. His brown eyes opened wide.

“Sheridan, you wouldn’t believe. I‘m ready to get this experiment going, and somehow the materials I ordered haven’t come in. Terra told me I didn’t have enough money in my account, and that’s not right! I don’t know what her problem is,” was his opening tirade. Max was the other experimental psychologist in the department.  He was by far the one most interested in research .

“Yeah, well, Terra and Ali do the books. They would know. Maybe you didn’t figure right what you had in your lab account. I bet they can give you a full accounting,” I suggested. Max tended to have these tantrums a lot. He was relatively young and had come to Cold Creek straight from graduation the year after me. He had big dreams of doing enough research to get to a better university.

“You doing okay otherwise – you know with the rec center and all,” I asked.

“Oh, I gave up on the rec center last year. Too crowded. I joined a private club where I don’t have to deal with the students. At the rec center, they always tried to talk to me. Are you looking for a place to work out?” he asked, oblivious to the excitement on campus. But that was not unusual for Max. Unless it was going to directly affect him, he didn’t seem to know about it. Now, if he had wanted to work out today, he might have been more interested.

“Uh, Max, someone died at the rec center this morning,” I offered as gently as I could.

Jumping out of his seat, he proclaimed, “I knew it, I knew there were safety problems. I knew those students would wreck something! See what I mean?”

“Max, someone was murdered. It wasn’t an accident,” I added. I wondered at the fact that he hadn’t asked the obvious question of who? It was certainly the question I wanted answered.

“Oh. Well, it better not get in the way of my lab work. I’d love to chat with you Sheridan, but I have work to do,” he responded. With that, he sat back down and turned back to his computer. Good thing or he would have seen me shake my head in disbelief. It was also probably a good thing that he did research with rats or mice, examining their use of cues, learning, and such. He sure didn’t seem interested in people and didn’t always pick up on social cues. I made my way back to my office with a wave at Kim. I also quickly let her know that it wasn’t Jim, Doug or Max who was murdered.

Book Covers

Check out Christa’s books:

Murder at Cold Creek College

mystery, women sleuths, cozy

Murder in the Arboretum

mystery, women sleuths, cozy

 

Buy Links:

http://smarturl.it/MColdCrk

http://smarturl.it/MArb

 

Follow Christa:

Twitter handle: @ChristaN7777

Facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/christa.nardi.5

Website address: christanardi.blogspot.com

Don’t forget to stop by Rave Reviews Book Club. Tell them Christa sent you!

Shirley Harris-Slaughter, Author: RRBC’s Bethany Turner “Pay It Forward” Week

Wow! I was selected to promote Shirley Harris-Slaughter again in this week’s Bethany Turner “Pay It Forward” week for the Rave Reviews Book Club. Here is my original post from April 2015:

This week I am participating in the Rave Reviews Book Club’s Bethany Turner “Pay It Forward” week during which RRBC members promote their fellow authors through a club selection process. Well, wasn’t I surprised to learn that I was being promoted by the very member I was asked to promote: Shirley Harris-Slaughter, and on the very same day! I first “met” Shirley by telephone, shortly after I was selected to be the RRBC’s first ever Spotlight Author. Talking to Shirley put me at ease before my podcast interview that was part of the promotion package I received as the first Spotlight Author. I must confess that I was won over even earlier when I saw Shirley’s beautiful smile in her author photo. That smile is symbolic of Shirley’s outreach to fellow authors, and I venture to guess, all the people who are lucky enough to inhabit her every day world. You can help me support Shirley by liking her Facebook page, retweeting my tweet of this post, following Shirley on Twitter and other social media, and buying and reading her book.

Today I “pay it forward” to Shirley Harris-Slaughter. Here she is in her own words.

Shirley Harris-Slaughter

Shirley Harris-Slaughter

My name is Shirley Harris-Slaughter and I’ve been a published author since 2007. My life plans never included becoming a writer. I was urged to write when I realized there were things going on around me, such as my community being shut down everywhere I looked and yet it seemed no one was interested in preserving our history. I never dreamed that I would be the “chosen one” to take on that task, but I was, and so after much research, sleepless nights and being shunned by those who didn’t want me to tell this story, OUR LADY OF VICTORY, THE SAGA OF AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY was born. Something that started out as just a timeline of events to honor the pioneers of this West Eight Mile Community, turned into a full-blown narrative history.
Like most Indie authors, I was struggling to get even a little recognition in an already over-crowded field. And then, I happened upon the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB where I served for a short while on the Governing Board as the Newsletter Director. This club is all about supporting and helping authors. RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB is the brainchild of Founder and President, Nonnie Jules. She took the time to read my book and gave it an honest review. Since becoming a part of this awesome organization, I have been blessed with many opportunities which further profiled and brought recognition to my book. I have had such honors as being: the President’s Pick in the online Newsletter, a “WHO’S ON THE SHELF” Interview by Nonnie Jules, a #PUSHTUESDAY win and a week-long “SPOTLIGHT.”
Aside from being an active reader and writer, I am also a community-activist and from time to time, I lend my name to petitions to stop something or another, or I may even pick up the phone to call my elected Representatives, if that’s what it takes to get something accomplished. My latest campaign is about the potholes that are driving us crazy here in Michigan. I personally started a petition drive and am in need of 500+ signatures (preferably from the citizens of our great state) to make an impact. If you can’t sign for that reason, but know someone here in Michigan who can, please share this link:

Thanks for stopping by to learn more about me and you’re welcome back any time. You never know what I might have going on next!

Slaughter CoverImage
OUR LADY OF VICTORY – The Saga of an African American Catholic Community is a compilation of memories, records, photos and interviews. The author recalls growing up in the legacy of Mother Anna Bates.
Follow the tale of the infamous wall…built to separate blacks from white residents and how it almost impeded the development of the area. It’s the story of a thriving Catholic community in spite of regressive government policies; on the verge of developing strong Catholic roots but doesn’t quite make it.
This is the Saga of an African-American Catholic Community. Don’t run from the information housed inside the covers of this book because the mere mention of black and white being divided makes you uncomfortable. Run towards this historical narrative because, whether black or white, yellow or brown, if we don’t know the history, we are surely destined to repeat it! I dare you to read this book and walk away unmoved!

Rave Reviews Book Club’s Spotlight Author: Maureen K. Howard

As the Rave Reviews Book Club’s very first Spotlight Author, I really love hosting for the blog tours of the Spotlight Authors. It gives me a way of paying back for the wonderful support I received when I was the lucky author and still receive today as a member of RRBC. Today, I host Maureen Kovach and Brigette Howard, a mother and daughter writing team, also known as Maureen K. Howard. Wait until you dig in to the first book in their Lake Erie Mysteries series! Looking for another great summer read? Look no further than this link to Sunny Side Up. To get things started, the authors have for you today an “interview” with their main character, Francine Orsini Egge. Then, have fun reading an excerpt from Chapter Two of Sunny Side Up.

Bio Pic

Character Interview

~by Brigette Howard

Host: Welcome! Let’s get the easiest and most obvious question out of the way first. Who are we talking to today?

Francie: My name is Francesca Orsini Egge. Notice that my last name rhymes with ledge and not leg. People get that wrong all the time, but you can just call me Francie.

Host: Okay, Francie. Would you tell us a little bit about your family?

Francie: I have been married for twenty years to my wonderful husband Hammond. He is a lawyer and a really stand up kind of guy. We have two children, Beth and Ben; they are twins. They both moved off to college this year, so I’m suffering a little bit of empty nest syndrome.

Host: Is that why you spend so much time with your friend June?

Francie: I guess I never thought of that. I suppose I do like being around June and all of her shenanigans because it keeps my mind off of worrying about my kids.

Host: Speaking of shenanigans, tell us more about June.

Francie: June is my best friend, if people in their forties are still allowed to have best friends. We met while I was working as an intern to the Cleveland prosecuting attorney, and she was just starting her career as an investigative reporter for WCLV. Our paths seemed to keep crossing, and in no time we were socializing out on the town and living it up as two single career women would do. That’s also just about the time I met Hamm, and the rest is history so to speak. Look at us now. Still best friends, but with very different careers and lives than we set out for.

Host: How did you switch gears from a budding career in law enforcement to eventually heading the local college drama department?

Francie: After the twins were born, I loved being a stay at home mom spending my days with Beth and Ben when they were babies and then sharing in their youthful adventures, but I realized that I still needed something for me. I was endlessly directing impromptu plays the kids put on with their friends in the neighborhood, so I thought, why not try my hand at theater for adults. It started with just a few classes here and there when I could squeeze them in, but resulted in a degree in theater and a very fulfilling career as the drama department head in the same college where I had started out my classes.

Host: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Francie: I love to spend summers at my “Happy Place.” Hamm and I have a condo and a boat in Marblehead on Lake Erie. We spend our weekends there as often as possible. We enjoy taking the boat for short trips to some of the nearby islands. There are some great shopping destinations and really delicious food. Not to mention a wide variety of tempting adult beverages.

Host: Do you have a favorite food or drink that you would like to share?

Francie: Cheese for sure! It can be on food, in food, or just by itself, but everything is better with a little cheese. And of course, a nice glass of Pinot Noir also goes nicely with a cheese plate.

Host: I think that about wraps things up. And I’m getting a little cheese craving of my own right now. Thank you for stopping by to chat Francie.

Francie: It was my pleasure. Until next time, remember my favorite motto, “keep a drink in one hand, credit card in the other, and everything else will sort itself out.”

Author Bio:

Maureen K. Howard is the pen name of mother/daughter writing partners, Maureen Kovach and Brigette Howard. They both live in Findlay, Ohio. Maureen recently retired from a long career as a high school English teacher and now focuses her time on spoiling her three granddaughters, spending long weekends at the lake with her husband and their golden doodle, and making friends with fellow mystery writers and readers across the globe via social media. Oh yeah, she also writes books. Brigette works full time managing multiple national restaurant franchises. She enjoys taking her charcoal lab on running adventures and spends her free time reading, gardening with her husband, cooking, and planning the perfect murder.

Maureen Online:

Twitter: @mhowardbooks Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maureenhowardauthor Website http://mhowardbooks.wix.com/lake-erie-mysteries

Book Links:

AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/Sunny-Side-Lake-Erie-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00Q79DB90/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434554136&sr=1-2&keywords=sunny+side+up B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sunny-side-up-maureen-k-howard/1121262131?ean=9781634432887

SunnySideUpCover CHAPTER TWO

Did I leave my vibrator on? Oh wait, I don’t own a vibrator, so what was causing the riotous pile of clothes on my bedroom floor to buzz with such urgency? The mundane truth was that I’d switched my cell phone ringer off so I wouldn’t lose focus while trying to assemble my weekend wardrobe. Obviously that wasn’t working out so well for me.

I located the gyrating devil under some discarded tank tops and swiped the answer button on the screen just before the call was switched over to voicemail.  “Hello?”

“Francie! Is it a go? Did you get the hubby to agree to run us over to the island in the boat this weekend?”

“It’s good to hear from you, too, June. And no, I haven’t even gotten around to asking him yet. He’s downstairs whipping up one of his gourmet meals, and I sure don’t want to distract him from that. I was trying to figure out what I should pack. How do you prepare for freezing cold mornings, balmy afternoons, torrential downpours and high winds—and fit everything into one suitcase? At least I don’t have to worry about bathing suits. After the winter we’ve just had, the lake probably won’t warm up until August.”

“Sorry. I’m just anxious to get to the island. My editor is jumping down my throat to get this story in before the official start of the season.”

June’s passion was hard to resist. She was like that about everything she did—she took off running and didn’t look back. I could feel myself being lured in to the promise of fun and adventure. It wouldn’t be the first time.

My best friend was a freelance writer. She worked for a consortium of specialty magazines running the gamut from Fruit Aficionado to The Neighborhood Cigar, to my favorite, Lady Sings the Tools. Two years ago she gave up her high-profile job as an investigative reporter for WCLV, the major network news channel in Cleveland. After her divorce, she bagged up all her corporate outfits, chopped off her hair, and set off on a new career path that didn’t hamper her free spirit. Her new job now requires her to spend time with all kinds of interesting people from every walk of life instead of digging up dirt on the lowest of low-life criminals.

Recently, I even got to meet Christie Browne, the beautiful model, while June was working on a story about the latest beauty product the star was endorsing. In our enthusiasm to prove our support for the much-touted self-tanning lotion, we doubled the recommended amount as well as the recommended usage time. Our skin turned a frightening shade of burnt pumpkin, and wouldn’t you know it, I had to accompany Hammond to a formal dinner party given by his firm that same evening. June, on the other hand, was able to postpone her face-to-face interview, and by the time we met Christie, we both looked sweetly sun-kissed.  She got rave reviews on her piece. I got put on a prayer list.

“I get that you’re under a deadline, but if I don’t approach Hamm in just the right way, I’m fried. Let me call you back in a little while.”

“Okay, but let me know soon. If I don’t take this assignment, I’ll be stuck documenting the mating behaviors of ferrets for the next two weeks.”