What’s critical to read next? Margie Miklas’ debut novel!

I am so very excited to share this book with you!  Margi Miklas is a critical care nurse colleague of mine who has been lucky enough to retire and travel all around Italy!  She has written several award winning books depicting the colorful, less-traveled towns and villages amongst Sicily, Rome, and the Amalfi coast.  But that’s not the exciting part!  On her last viaggio abroad, she penned a medical thriller!  I am proud to show off my nurse buddy’s debut novel!  Check it out!Margie Miklas

  1. What sparked off the idea of your books?

My first three books are on Italy, so my travels there and how I felt at home and fell in love with Italy sparked the idea for the books. The first book is based on my blog, which I started when I went to Italy as a solo traveler for three months. Once I returned home, I realized I had much to say about that experiences besides what I wrote on my blog.

I wrote My Love Affair with Sicily for the same reasons, except that book is based on five separate trips to Sicily, the region where my maternal grandparents were born. I wanted to share my experiences as I discovered explored their village and the other towns and cities in Sicily, a place where I almost felt a strong connection.

The main reason I wrote my third book, Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast, was to present Naples in a more positive light than its reputation. So, the book is a photography/coffee table book depicting life in Naples as well as the Amalfi Coast, which I truly love.

So, this newest work, Critical Cover-Up, is a work of fiction, my first novel. My years of working as a critical care nurse and witnessing the changes in the healthcare system, sparked the idea to write this book. I decided to make it more exciting than that, so I wrote a thriller set in a hospital where a critical care nurse is the main character and discovers corruption and evil around her.

2. Which character, if any, most resembles your personality?

I guess it would have to be Allison Jamison, the protagonist, although as I wrote the story, I don’t think I was consciously thinking of her like that.

3. Which character was the hardest to write and why?

Detective Derning. I don’t know any detectives personally, so his character required more research and imagination for me.

4. How do you plan/research your books?

The Italy books were nonfiction so the research consisted of checking on historical facts about places, monuments, and dates. In Critical Cover-Up, I created a loose outline based on events by chapters, which changed some as the story evolved during the writing process. As I wrote sections which included laws, places, protocols, etc. I reviewed current policy and statistics related to those.

5. What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I am taking a break. I know I will write another book, but nothing concrete is in the works at the moment, although I have been overwhelmed by the positive response and comments about a sequel.

6. Do you write for any websites?

I am a contributing writer for various online and print magazines and newspapers, including Italia Magazine, La Gazzetta Italiana, The Grand Wine Tour, and Italian Talks, the blog for Baglioni Hotels.

7. Do you prefer to read paperbacks or ebooks? Why?

I prefer paperbacks and hardback books because it seems easier to pick up and continue reading. I have so many books on Kindle that I have started and never finished. I like going into bookstores too and browsing the shelves.

8. What was your favorite book as a child and as an adult?

I liked Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales as I was growing up, but as an adult, I prefer biographies and autobiographies. I am currently reading Brice Springsteen’s, Born to Run.

9. Whom do you admire and why?

I admire my 91-year old mother who always encouraged me to be independent and follow my dreams and today, she still always wears a smile and is positive and encouraging. I also admire writers who can write about very personal challenges times in their lives. I find their stories inspirational and moving, and don’t know that I could write about such private experiences.

10. Name three people, dead or alive, you would invite to dinner. Why?

Wow, this is a tough one. I’d like to invite Angelina Savoca, my Sicilian grandmother who died when I was in my twenties. I have so many questions I’d like to ask her about her life in Sicily before she came to the United States. I’d like to invite Emmy award-winning writer Matthew Weiner so I could pick his brain about character development and storylines. And I’d like to invite Andrea Bocelli if he’d be gracious enough to sing. He’s one of my favorite performers.

Now, if that doesn’t get you interested….try a FREE excerpt from this awesome read!!!

Critical Cover-Up         Critical Care Cover-Up . . . .

The unit was full, so it looked like her shift would be busy. They were also one nurse short, since someone had called in sick and not been replaced. Word from top management was the usual explanation: “There aren’t any nurses available.” One nurse now had three patients, and the charge nurse had one patient and an empty admission bed. This was becoming the status quo lately, and Allison did not recall the staffing being so tight when she worked her clinical during nursing school. Good thing she enjoyed the work so much that she didn’t mind being busy. It was the frickin’ paperwork she detested.

***

     By 2:00 a.m. Allison had gotten caught up with her work. Thank God Mr. Wetherly is somewhat stable. Allison doubted that anyone outside the medical field would describe a critically ill patient in those words. It seemed like an oxymoron. His blood pressure and heart rate were maintaining within the parameters ordered by the physician, although he required high doses of vasoactive medications to achieve those numbers. As Allison reviewed the electronic chart and checked his orders, she became curious as to the events which led to his respiratory arrest a couple of nights before.

Unable to find any new information from the physicians’ progress notes, she approached the central station monitors. I know there’s a reason he coded, and maybe I can find something here, she thought. Zeroing in on Mr. Wetherly’s information, she backtracked to the day in question.

She located his patient data screen and studied his vital sign trends. Her inquisitiveness became an obsession for a few minutes as she zoomed in to the time of the code. She sensed she was on the verge of uncovering something.

“What is this? Oh no. Do I really want to see this?” she said. What had triggered the alarm was not only a heart rate of forty-five, but an oxygen saturation of fifty, which was quite low. After more investigating, Allison discovered that the oxygen saturation had been low for an hour before he coded. The last time it had been within normal limits was an hour and five minutes prior to the code, and at that time it was reading ninety-five percent. The number consistently decreased from there until it reached fifty. She knew this was not good. The alarms for O2 sats were always set for ninety-two or ninety-three, since anything below that was abnormal. Why didn’t someone check on this patient when the alarms went off? she wondered as a heated flush spread up her chest and across her face.

Allison then checked the alarm review for the same time period and found close to 100 instances when the alarm had been triggered for low oxygen saturation.

Her stomach roiled, and she swallowed back the wave of nausea that followed. Why didn’t someone see this? She printed out the alarm events and also the patient’s vital signs from that terrible day and shoved the papers into her bag. Glancing around, she noticed that she was the only one at the desk and felt relieved that she was not being watched. Maybe she would reevaluate the information later when she had more time. Her gut informed her that something wasn’t right, and she knew this information was something she had to save.

The more she contemplated what she’d discovered, the more anxious Allison became. She knew that sometimes nurses just silenced the alarms when they were sitting at the desk and didn’t really investigate the reason for them. Most of the time it was insignificant and an annoyance, such as an irregular heartbeat in a patient everyone already knew suffered from the problem. But this was serious, and Allison thought she recalled a nurse sitting near the monitors for most of the night before Mr. Wetherly coded. She remembered that the nurse was Paula, an experienced ICU nurse who had worked in that unit for at least three years. Now Allison recalled that Paula had been sitting near the monitors that night and silencing alarms while she was charting. Had she silenced Mr. Wetherly’s alarms? Possibly. Probably. But Allison had not witnessed it. She could identify the nurse, but she couldn’t say for sure that this nurse had turned off any alarms, since she wasn’t specifically observing her behavior. But someone had to have silenced those alarms.

The sense of unease didn’t dissipate, and Allison wasn’t sure what she should do. If I don’t say anything, nobody will know and nothing will happen to my coworker. Allison had this gut feeling that if the alarms had not been silenced, Mr. Wetherly would never have had low oxygen saturation for a long enough time to cause him to stop breathing.

***

     For the next two days, her stomach was killing her as she couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Wetherly’s situation. Is it my responsibility to say something? Will it make any difference?

When she came back to work that night, she found out that Mr. Wetherly had died during the previous shift. The nurses had coded him with the family present, but the sepsis was too advanced and he didn’t survive. She tried to tell herself it was for the best, that he would never have been the same, but she knew better. Mr. Wetherly never should have arrested in the first place.

So readers?  What did you think?  Where can you connect with Margi Miklas?

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or send her an email!  But don’t wait!  Halloween’s coming up!  Treat yourself to this #mustread!

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A young Texas woman turns tragedy into triumph. Meet Belle of Steel #15 Emily Allen Colbert

It’s the doorbell that no one ever wants to answer.  “There’s been a horrific accident,” emily-colbertexplained the policemen.  “It’s your husband.” Emily, a young wife and mother of two fell to her knees on the floor. There had been a car accident on Highway 66 in Rockwall. “Oh my God,” she cried out through tears.  “Is everyone okay?” But everyone wasn’t okay.  A vehicle had struck her Garland Fire Department husband’s car from the side.  The impact caused it to spin violently and roll with their oldest child.  Rockwall Fire Department was on scene. Her husband Devon was trapped inside the vehicle. The jaws of life were being used to cut him out. The car seat of her child was covered in glass shards, but miraculously he was unscathed. In just an instant, Emily’s life changed forever.  It was seven days before Christmas, 2012.

Emily threw her things into a bag and frantically called her mother to drive her to Parkland, one of two major trauma centers in Dallas, TX.  According to the policeman it was controlled chaos and they were still cutting Devon out of the car. He was alive, but in critical condition.  In the trauma bay at Parkland, there were already thirty Garland firemen surrounding her for comfort.  “He’s gonna be okay. We promise.” But he wasn’t. Not totally. The next bad news Emily would hear was from the ER physicians.  Devon’s spinal cord had been sublux’d, or pinched at cervical spine number four. This dashing, young, strong fireman became a quadriplegic at age 29.

Emily’s mother, a nurse, knew what that would mean. Devon would never walk again. Never run again. Never be able to put out fires, the job he loved, again. He would live the rest of his life in a chair with wheels. For most young women, this would be the kiss of death to a relationship; just too large a tragedy with which to cope. Because at first, everyone is helpful. Everyone is there. But it’s the heavy burden of long term care. Bathing your husband. Toileting your husband. Helping him to dress. Finding uncomfortable challenges with intimacy. Helping him find meaning in life. Thank goodness for the brigade of Garland and Rockwall firemen who came to their aid.

The first few months were pure torture. Rollercoaster’s of hope and despair. Their tiny home was not wheelchair accessible. But it wasn’t just the pragmatic day to day. Emily was exhausted from the protracted hours at rehab and caring for their two small children. She was bereft of energy or strength. She missed her husband’s caress. She missed the way he made love to her. She felt alone and, at times, hopeless. She had only one thing – her faith in God. She trusted in God’s love to win the day.

Over months, Devon slowly gained the ability to power his chair with his hands and shoulders.  He regained some gross upper body movement. Emily gave in to the generous charity and time that people provided so that she could get meals on the table and care for her children. Through it all though, she never considered this her rock bottom.  This was just another challenge that God had laid before her.

For years ago, Emily had indeed hit rock bottom. She was a gorgeous young twenty-something. Her life involved parties and partying. She dabbled in drugs and had become an addict; even when she had first met  Devon. She was at her lowest low. “My only option was to go up. I wanted to leave a life story worth knowing and reading. Not a life story of worthlessness and addiction. I chose to ‘forget about it – and left drugs behind. I chose joy.”

Upon that decision, everything changed.  Emily had a new focus on life and chose living. So she channeled that same strength in overcoming Devon’s accident. It had to have meaning. So many people had given to them to help them survive a life of quadriplegia, she had to give back. Emily started The Colbert Project, a non-profit foundation which raises money to bridge gaps for other facing financial ruin from tragedies throughout the fire community brought on by illness or off duty injury. Their mission?  To do behind the scenes work so that all the glory is given to God.

At their first event, a silent auction and ball, the seed money was raised. Now three years later, The Firemen’s Ball is one of the largest fundraisers of its kind in the Dallas area.  They have raised thousands of dollars to assist three families on a large scale and helped countless others with hospitalization care packages, gas cards, grocery money and so much more.

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Emily believes that because God blessed her little family, it is her job to return the goodness.  As a mere high school graduate, “Never in a million years would I have seen myself where I am today.”  She is a mother of two lovely young boys; the wife and life-long partner to a husband with quadriplegia; Chairman and CEO of The Colbert Foundation.  “This is a path that God chose me to tackle. I want to be remembered as a warrior doing good for others, not someone of stature in society.”

The people in life that most inspired her and mentored her to overcome are her grandmother and her parents.  “They are beautiful, unique creatures inside. That’s what counts.”  Despite her success, Emily is extraordinarily humble.  “I’m no one special. I’m just me. I live minute by minute, day by day. I never expected to face the challenges in life that God sent me.  I’m living and screwing up just like anyone else. I really don’t see myself as a Belle of Steel, although I am honored.  I just walk in hope each day. In that hope, I pray to kick some ass along the way.  Maybe that’s what makes me a Belle of Steel. Bam!”

For these reasons and seeing/watching with joy as another strong women overcomes, AgeView Press is proud to celebrate Emily Allen Colbert as its fifteenth Belle of Steel.

You survived Vietnam, but what about its aftermath?

Four decades after the Vietnam War, many veterans are still questioning why me? Some still suffer form post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For many honorable service men and women, it is a condition that just won’t go away.  According to one veteran, “we all came back with some form of PTSD, some were just more affected than others.”

As a trauma nurse, I have seen this over and over in my patients. As a writer, I have heard this over and over from my military colleagues, whether they were in the air or on the ground. This issue was called shell shock in WWII. It was worse after Korea and continued it’s increase post-Vietnam. And now is horrific according the number of cases from our Iraq and Afghanistan vets.  In fact, the type of PTSD being seen in many of our current combat veterans is so bad, it is called moral bankruptcy. Our military are being asked to do and see such horrific things, going against the very fiber of their being for what they know to be just and right, the consequences are catastrophic.

Captain Robert “Gene” Lathrop was a USMC pilot who believes he went to Vietnam with a form of PTSD. He arrived there in 1968, interestingly enough, during the TET offensive. During fifteen months, he flew over 275 missions. While in Vietnam, his squadron VMA-311 flew 54,625 sorties dropping over 9 million tons of bombs. That record will never be broken.

picture of pilot Robert Gene Lathrop

Captain Robert “Gene” Lathrop, USMC

Lathrop returned seemingly unscathed until ten years after the fact. That delay in the onset of PTSD is common in vets. What started as nightmares and cold sweats, quickly progressed to anxiety and hallucinations involving the flames of napalm. Desperate to hold onto his second marriage, he and his wife initially sought counseling. Luckily,  a female psychotherapist up on the latest research broached the touchy subject – she suggested that Gene was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Initially he balked at the thought of treatment. But further conflict with family and an incident as work provocated his admission for in-patient treatment at American Lakes VA center.

During the 1980s, therapist and psychologists were treating the disorder the best way they knew how.  Oftentimes opening up a damn of emotion which release a hurricane of feelings for which the patient was not prepared.  Sessions were intense with profound rage, grief, tears, and sorrow as veterans were encouraged to bring out long repressed memories.  When the emotions became unmanageable, the answer was medication.  Heavy sedatives, anti-psychotics, and anti-anxiety drugs were the fixers. Or so they thought.

Through the love and support of his wife, Gene endured this therapy, its aftermath, and finally experienced an evolved standard of care for those with PTSD. In the research for the completion of his memoir ETERNALLY AT WAR, I came across many veterans who told a similar story. Much of this material came from the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University, the largest national repository of oral histories, photography, film and literature that has been converted by the graduate students into digital format such that the memories of those involved in Vietnam, from doughnut dollies to pilots can be preserved.eternally-at-war-ecoversmall

According to Dr. Richard Verrone, previous Director of the Oral History Project, “The archive is invaluable for many reasons but especially for preserving the history of the Vietnam War and, in the process of doing so, honoring those who served.  We tried to make sure our work was thorough, accurate, personal, and beneficial to future researchers. And, of course, our work was a way to honor those people we interviewed. It was incredibly rewarding to me to be able to help veterans with their PTSD issues as we did the interviews, if that was a possibility.  I certainly made the effort to broach the subject if they were willing, and I wanted to get it out there, to remove any layers that were there, to help those who would research in the interviews better understand this terrible condition.  As an instructor here at Texas Tech in the Department of History, I have had in my classes over the years many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Their PTSD issues mirror almost exactly those in the Vietnam interviews.”

Some veterans had coped by simply forgetting the past and moving on. Even talking about the war, brought heavy emotions back to the surface. Many of those interviewed for my research could not complete the process. Although some veterans find comfort in hanging out with their peers in the form of reunions or gatherings at a local VFW,  Lathrop found comfort in dealing with the aftermath of Vietnam through the written word. His powerful and frank poetry in THE DARK SIDE OF HEAVEN and now his brutally honest memoir are a brilliant window into the atrocities of a controversial war and the survival of its aftermath. He believed that society has a responsibility to care for all veterans when they return to peacetime and aid them to recovery after their sacrifices. “We owe it to the Vietnam generation, it’s an amazing sacrifice that they made. But it’s also the path ahead for the Iraq and Afghanistan generation. We have to do better than we did for Vietnam,” according to Dr. Charles Marmar, Director of The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. AgeView Press agrees and therefore is honored to produce Lathrop’s works.

 

 

The social media maze: how to effectively get the bang for your book

ImageSo you’ve written your book, set up your blog, twittered your tweets.   But no one is coming.  Your book cover it hip, your tweets twangy, your blog boisterous.  But still no one is coming.   There is an art to social media.   The basics just won’t cut it.   An author this weekend at the Lexicon Writer’s conference was overheard to say,”I write books.  I just don’t do that whole social media thing.”   Jaws dropped in amazement.  Even in the big publishing houses, they publish your book, but you are the one who will have to market it. 

It literally takes 3 or 4 times of contacting your customers before they might order the book.  The average self published book sells only about 100 copies.   The main bulk of books published by the big whig houses only about 200.   If you are ever going to make that top seller list, you must embrace social media.    That doesn’t just mean ebooks.   There will always be biliophiles that love to turn a page, but you have to get out to them.  Their must be buzz about your book, or you are a mere spec of dust amongst books a million.   

Here are few helpful links.   If you want someone to do it for you, then hire the right service.  Once such service is Ralph’s Design and Deli, a social media site specifically targeted to authors.  They know what you need and why you need it.   Their services are ala carte.  You only pay for what you need.  

So you have started a few things own your own, you do-it-yourselfer you, except one problem;  they aren’t working!  No customers.  In that case, you will want to get a consultation from Author Media.   They will take a look at your website, your blog and what yo have done and either blow it up and start over or point you in the direction of some things you have missed. 

For the adamant go-it-own-your-own author, this is the best $99 you will spend.  The Publishing Guru, Jason Rutheford.   He will write you a review and blast it out to milliions of radio talk show, newspapers, book bloggers and publicists who will review your book and the world out there.

Another author, with a book not selling said, “well the last thing I want to do is network with other authors, they aren’t the ones that will buy my book.”  Maybe not, but that isn’t the point.  They will network with their followers who will.   Again, the messge here?  Pay it forward.  Join groups that will help shout out your work.  If they won’t, why are you a member.

Tid bit for the day, don’t give up.  If what you have been doing isn’t working, scrap that plan and make another.  Don’t just sit in a dark corner and think, I have written it, they will come.   Not!!!