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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The Dark Side of Heaven – one Vietnam pilot’s perspective on the atrocities of war

What does it take to erase memories of the atrocities of war? Many a veteran of conflict struggle with this question. Through withdrawal, social faux paux, story telling or even failed self-medication with mind altering substances they attempt to numb the horrific images, sounds, nightmares, panic attacks, moral questioning paranoia and psychoses as survivors of war.  Welcome to the world of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Our Vietnam veterans attempt to cope with this each and every day. They celebrate their successes in reunions and camaraderie, but for some, when they return home and are alone in their private thoughts, the negative thoughts return. Like an incessant, never-ending trauma.

A-4 Skyhawk

Marine A-4 Skyhawk

In 2012, I had the fortuitous luck to come upon a pilot’s manuscript called ETERNALLY AT WAR while researching the Vietnam Center and Archives at Texas Tech University.  From its first pages, I was captivated. Captain Robert “Gene” Lathrop was a Marine pilot for VMA 311 out of Chu Lai. He was writing about the base and USO club I wanted to feature, Chu Lai and was also writing about the air war in Vietnam.  He flew the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. The plane I wanted to write about. What luck!

Who knew that graduate students had taken scads of oral histories recorded, photographs, manuscripts, and memorabilia and converted them to digital medium for preservation. The Vietnam Center at TTU was a goldmine! How awesome that the intimate details of this controversial war were being preserved! As a Red Raider alum, I had no idea this even existed! Way to go Big Red!!

Using some sleuth techniques, I was able to track down Gene’s address in Washington. After thoroughly devouring his manuscript, I was anxious to speak to him about its content. I reached his wife who informed that sadly, Gene had passed away only months before. I was heartbroken. I explained that I was a writer and what I wished to do with the material. After some thought, she graciously granted me the rights to utilize some of his stories for my historical fiction novel SOLO VIETNAM.

As I was crafting SOLO VIETNAM, I propped Gene’s picture up next to the computer. It was like we were penning it together. I felt honored to be in his world and indeed his presence. SOLO VIETNAM featured many of Gene’s missions which were weaved into my feature character, a Navy pilot with VA 153 off the USS Coral Sea CVA-43 WestPac cruise of 1967-68.  SOLO VIETNAM was awarded the silver medal by the Military Writer’s Association, featured at Tailhook 2014 by the A-4 Skyhawk Association, and won fourth place in the Readers’ Favorite 2014 book awards. Gene would have been so proud.

picture of pilot Robert Gene Lathrop

Captain Robert “Gene” Lathrop

After reviewing the books, his wife asked if I would turn his entire manuscript into a memoir. I was honored and said “YES!!”  During the research for ETERNALLY AT WAR’s production, we discussed including how post-traumatic stress disorder greatly affected many of the veterans returning from Vietnam. She revealed how it had impacted Gene some ten years after his return. How initially, no one knew what it was. Gene’s sister related how many family members and friends would politely smile, yet roll their eyes, tired of his repeated stories. She requested that I cover that in the book, as a message to others. Again, I was humbled to be challenged with the task.

But Gene sent me an internal message from above. He had a better idea. Going back into the archive, I discovered that the graduate students had been very busy beavers indeed. There now were several documents in the archive, including a manuscript of Gene’s poems and an oral transcript. His family was thrilled. It was amazing to hear his voice.

Although I continue to work on ETERNALLY AT WAR, I am pleased to announce that Gene’s other book, a collection of poems written about his experiences flying in Vietnam, the conflict, and the aftermath will be released in time for Christmas 2015!!!!  It is called THE DARK SIDE OF HEAVEN. So make your plans now to reserve a copy of the beautiful collection of prose, photography, and pen and ink drawings depicting the Vietnam conflict and its aftermath to be published by AgeView Press.

pastel portrait of Robert Gene Lathrop

Gene Lathrop, USMC retired pastel painting by Susan Hirst

I feel strongly that Gene is dancing a jig to know that his words will find meaning in the comrades, friends, and families of Vietnam veterans affected by the perils of PTSD. He believed the required acts delegated to servicemen during war inflicted a moral bankruptcy which threatened their psyche and well being upon their return.  Thus provoking PTSD.

Enjoy an excerpt, indeed the title poem from the upcoming release THE DARK SIDE OF HEAVEN.

THE DARK SIDE OF HEAVEN

It’s two in the morning here comes the fire.

They’re still shooting low, but they’ll walk it up higher.

I’m on bearing to target, ten thousand to go.

“Roger, I copy, turning left three five oh.”

Out to the east, orange balls of flame

Are bursting right now, from where we just came

I’m approaching the target, five thousand to go

“Roger, I copy, fifteen knots slow.”

Only three thousand meters, and I’ll be headin’ back

For a shot of French cognac, and some time in the rack.

I feel a big buck and six eggs for free,

I’m clearing the target, heading east to the sea.”

Once clear of the target, I’ll fly just offshore

Heading south to recovery and just watch the war.

I’m totally drained and this planes not the best.

“This is Hellborne, Vice Squad; keep me clear to the nest.”

Look, there is a Spooky, a spittin’ out lead

to the west of Dong Ha, the ground will be red.

There’s a fire near that Base, it’s at three o’clock

“I see it, Vice Squad, it’s that big floating dock.

I’m coming up on the lights of the city of Hue

‘Twas overrun during Tet; taken back during May

That big flash at twelve, is the Jersey at play

“I’ve got her, Vice Squad, her salvo’s away

All those lights off to starboard are at Danang

Where the bomb dumps went up with a helluva bang

Those tracers at one are at little Ho’ An

“Chu Lai’s under fire; we’ll land if we can.”

I get so damned tired, flying three hops a day

I just get numb, that’s all I can say

The base is secure; no more enemy fire

“I’m coming in approach, and takin’ a wire.

There’s flares on final, but I’ve made the decision

 I’ll be going in hook down, without my night vision.

 If Hades was the earth and with firepits in the sky

 The center of Hell would be at Chu Lai.

I’ve got three down & locked, and dropping the hook

 I’ll be takin’ the wire, just like in a book.

The arrest was just perfect, I’m so good it’s a sin.

“What the hell do you mean? You got rockets comin in.”

The rockets are comin like a spew from a fount

But on the Dark Side of Heaven such matters don’t count.

 I’m back in the deck and out of the sky

It’s a hell of a home, but it’s ours at Chu Lai.

Written by Captain Robert “Gene” Lathrop, UMSC during treatment for PTSD on Ward 7A, VAMC American Lake, 1987

 

Touching the Face of God – meet pilot and aviation writer Ray Haas

Ray Haas at the John Gillespie Memorial

Touching greatness in aviation!

As a lover of aviation, one of my favorite poems is High Flight, by WWII pilot John Gillespie Magee, Jr.  How amazing that his beautiful words are spoken at almost every winging ceremony across the world?  That they are featured in Arlington National Cemetery.  The poem truly resonates with those who know the joy of flight.  I am very excited to share an interivew with Ray Haas, who is turning John’s story not only into a book, but a movie as well.  Can’t wait!

Ray Haas has written plenty in his life. However, it has all been in personal journals, small essays, and software. “Touching the Face of God” is his first official public offering, but certainly not the last. Aviation is certainly Ray’s passion, followed closely by speculative fiction. He is actively working on projects in both genres.

Ray currently lives in eastern North Carolina, having moved there from Portland, Oregon due to requirements of his day-job. He hopes to someday make it so that his writing eventually becomes his day-job!

Starting his professional career by washing windows, Ray enlisted in the Navy and became first an Electronics Technician, and then a Data Processing Technician. On a Navy research & development project, Ray worked on the first non-tactical shipboard-based computer. Getting his first email account in 1976, Ray started a career that lasts to the present day.

Also in 1976 Ray started taking flying lessons, first learning how to fly a sailplane. After earning his Private Pilot’s License (Gliders – aero-two), Ray went on to obtain his Single-Engine Land (SEL) and Instrument (IFR) ratings. Ray was the proud owner of a Piper Warrior for several years.

What sparked off the idea of your book?

I have always been interested in aircraft and flying. Growing up in the late 50s and 60s, I was entranced with the space program, and really wanted to become an astronaut. That dream was dashed when I found out that my extreme near-sightedness would prevent me from becoming a military pilot, which at that time was the only ticket to flying into space.

Another interest I had early on is in WWII, particularly the early part. Linked with my interest in aircraft and flying, the models I build tended to be of those used in WWII; both fighters and bombers. Of particular interest was the Battle of Britain, which occurred during the summer of 1940.

I had also wanted to be a writer of books and screenplays. I had always thought that there should be a “reboot” of the classic 1969 movie, “The Battle of Britain.” I started doing research about that period of time, and came across the poem, “High Flight.” I had heard the poem recited during the TV sign-off films during the 60s and 70s, and had read it several times while becoming a glider pilot in the 70s. While doing my research, I thought I would track down the exact wording of the poem as well as the story of its author, since there seemed to be a considerable amount of discrepancy in both.

Even with the somewhat limited Internet search capabilities of the time, I was able to start finding out many details about John Gillespie Magee, Jr. and his famous poem. The further I dug, the more fascinating a story it became. And though there had been a couple of books and articles published about Magee, I thought that these barely covered the surface story.

And so, the Battle of Britain story was moved to the back burner, and the Magee/High Flight story became paramount. I started research in earnest in 1990, and it took 24 years to finally feel that I could release the results of a tremendous amount of work! I will eventually get back to the Battle of Britain project, since I believe that that particular battle was the single most important battle of WWII.

Which character, if any, most resembles your personality?

Frankly, I identify (not surprisingly, I suppose) with John Magee. We’re both pretty smart, both pilots, both very stubborn, and both of us were in the military. I have always been somewhat of a rebel, and know what it’s like to be a “peacock among pigeons” (a phrase used to describe Magee). I can learn things quite quickly, as did Magee. I’m not nearly as smart as he was, and don’t have his gift of expression, but I do feel a certain kinship with him. I would’ve like to have known him.

Which character was the hardest to write and why?

I guess I had a bit of difficulty writing about Magee’s relationship with Elinor Lyon. Elinor was the Headmaster’s daughter that John fell in love with. But it was a case of unrequited love. I was actually able to communicate with Elinor and learned the true story from her directly. So it was hard to say that, on the one hand, John laboured long and hard to return to England and Elinor, but on the other hand, Elinor was not too receptive of his advances. Although… I truly think that given more time, Magee might have been able to win her over.

How do you plan/research your books?Touching the Face of God

There was never any real plan; the book really grew organically. At first I was going to write a screenplay, and then an A&E style documentary. I finally accumulated so much data that I thought that it would be a shame not to make it into a book, with the added advantage that the book could be used as a “bible” for the eventual making of a feature film and/or documentary. Only in the last year or so did I truly began to put everything else aside and concentrate of getting the book done.

Research also evolved over the years. I started with an article published in the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) magazine, which lead me to Hermann Hagedorn’s 1942 Magee biography (“Sunward I’ve Climbed”), which lead me to an entire range of research leads. I have worked with computers since 1976, so using the Internet & email was a natural thing for me. In the beginning the great search tool was AltaVista, eventually supplanted by Google. I found that more content was added to the Internet every day… so research became a daily practice (what is here today might not have been here yesterday, still true to this day). Simply put, the book would not have been possible without the Internet & email.

Another tool I used extensively was GoogleMaps. I was able to see detailed maps of areas, and also use StreetView to take a look at some of these places.

The final element that brought everything together was the discovery (through the Internet!) of the John Gillespie Magee Family Papers collection at the Yale Divinity Library. It was truly the “mother lode.” I spent five days scanning over 1,800 documents there, and goodness knows how long I spent in organizing all that data. I think it really “made” the book, as I was able to include photographs, quote letters, and so many other things that would have not been possible before. True source data.

 What are you working on at the moment?

I self-published the book, so I had to take off my author’s hat and put on the marketing hat. There’s so much to learn about this stuff!

I am also working on getting the book made into a feature film. It is such a great story that I strongly feel that it will attract some interest. And that is another area I need to learn about: how to get the work in front of those who make decisions about such things.

The Battle of Britain project has come off the back burner; not completely, but enough for the moment. I’ve got two books I would like to adapt for film, plus a couple of original screenplays.

Do you write for any websites?

Just my own:

Do you prefer to read paperbacks or ebooks? Why?

These days I prefer ebooks on my Kindle. I tend to read a bunch of books simultaneously, and it’s nice to have them all in my Kindle. But I still love paper books… there’s something about them that is in my blood. Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon remains one of my favourite places… just going through the stacks and leafing through books remains a wonderful experience.

Favorite book as a child and as an adult?

Well… I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books. Hard to pick out a favourite… Let’s see… as a child, I think “Dune” by Frank Herbert (which I read mostly under the covers by flashlight, no wonder I was extremely near-sighted!).

As an adult? Yikes… I’m tempted to break it down into fiction/non-fiction… but I’ll just say “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein.

 Whom do you admire and why?

  • James Cameron, for being a genius, an innovator and being always true to himself. My dream is to work with Cameron and turn my favourite adult book (shown above) into a movie… filmed, of course, on location (the Moon).
  • Anthony Robbins, for his audacity, compassion, and gift of being able to communicate what he has learned to the rest of us.
  • Robert Heinlein, one of my spiritual fathers, for taking me to worlds in my imagination, but also giving me some extremely good advice for day-to-day living.
  • Richard Bach, another of my spiritual guides. There are few people I have felt quite as connected to as Richard.

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

  • John Gillespie Magee, Jr. I think that John Magee had to have been a very interesting person to know. He was extraordinarily intelligent, well-travelled, and had a curiosity about the world that he lived in.
  • Robert Heinlein, for reasons detailed above.
  • I’d say Richard Bach, but I’ve actually had dinner with Richard, so that doesn’t count…
  • Tom Hanks. Another very intelligent and talented individual. He and I have quite a bit in common.

Now, enjoy a couple of excerpts from this amazing book! 

In the first excerpt, John is trying to decide whether or not he should attend Yale, or travel to Canada and join the Royal Canadian Air Force. John has been granted a generous scholarship to Yale, based on his record high scores in the Classics admission examination. And although he had, for all practical purposes, already made up his mind, it was felt that John should meet with Yale President Charles Seymour, if only to explain why John would not be attending Yale that year.

The indented & italicized sections are from a letter that President Seymour wrote to John’s father after the meeting.
John did indeed meet with President Seymour. In a letter written to John’s father, Seymour explains what happened during the meeting:

He [John Jr.] came in this morning and again this afternoon after lunch. He told me that he had practically reached the decision last night in his own mind, but that he did not want to make it final until he had talked to me. He was extremely courteous in expressing the hope that I did not feel that he was belittling the opportunity offered by Yale in admitting him. He said that the decision would have to be his own but that he would be grateful if I could throw any new light on his problem which might lead him to alter the decision he had reached.

Charles Seymour himself had been educated in England and might have had a good grasp of what John was struggling with.

In all honesty I had to tell him that this was a personal problem which he would have to decide himself, that in general I thought that young men in his position, or in positions similar to his, would do greater service if they accepted the educational opportunity offered, but that if his inclination against college at this time was so strong that he count not concentrate happily upon his work here, I on my side could not urge him to undertake it. He said that after balancing all the factors, he was quite clear that he would not be happy this year in New Haven and that the only peace of mind he could find would be by seeking his commission in Canada…

John seems to have decided to hedge his bet, and try to leave the door to Yale open:

He went on to say that he had also decided that it would be better for him to ultimately come to Yale rather than to go to Oxford, and he asked what arrangements could be made for admission in a later year. I advised him that if he had definitely made up his mind he should inform the Chairman of the Board of Admissions that he wished to defer matriculation and that later, when the opportunity offered, he should apply again for admission. In the circumstances such admission would be certain to be granted.

President Seymour then presented his final analysis of the conversation, as well as an apology to John Sr. for not making a more concerted effort to persuade John Jr. to attend Yale:

I was so taken with him and his approach to his problem that I am deeply disappointed in a personal sense that apparently he is not to be with us, but there can be no question of the depth of his feeling. I think that it is entirely likely that he would be unhappy here under present conditions…

I can understand your own feelings with regard to the immediate future of your boy. I hope that you will not feel that I let you down in not bringing the strongest sort of pressure to bear upon him, but in all conscience I believe that this is the kind of problem which can only be settled by the man himself.

Amidst all this conflicted opinion and in the pressure of seeing his adopted homeland viciously attacked, John made up his mind suddenly and finally: he had to return to England.

John had decided to give up a generous scholarship to Yale, give up the relative safety of his family and of the United States, and to go into harm’s way.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr., age 18, was going to war.

Get your copy of “Touching the Face of God” today!

 

 

 

A woman who tells it like it is, author and journalist Mary Lou Weisman

Author and Journalist Mary Lou Weisman

Author and Journalist Mary Lou Weisman

Putting a pen to words is an art, indeed a gift.  Especially when those words have the power to change lives.   Mary Lou Weisman was born in 1937 in Fairfield, Connecticut to a mother who believed that writing thank you notes was a high art, and to a father who was convinced that one of the great joys in life was the pursuit of the right word.   According to Mary Lou, he was right and so was her mother.   Mary Lou became a writer at the age of seven, mainly due to her father’s influence.  Although initially she protested writing anything at all, she ultimately came to learn about gratitude and enjoyed searching for the right words to put on the notes.  She couldn’t  just write “Thank you, love Mary-Lou” when she received gifts.  She felt compelled to both acknowledge it and graciously go on to tell the person who gave it to her exactly how she was going to use or enjoy their gift.

Later in life, unlike many of her classmates, she found she enjoyed writing term papers.   She recalls two college literature teachers who complimented her on her writing ability.  They were instrumental in helping Mary Lou take herself seriously as a writer.  She feels she owes them a lot.  Mary Lou obtained a solid liberal arts education, married, and secured a position as “clerk typist” in what was called, laughably, “a job in publishing.” The salary at that time during the 60s was a whopping  $62.50 a week.   She believed she was on her way to a career in journalism.

To this day, Mary Lou laughs at her unlikely success.  She believes she’s still a work in progress, despite having published numerous books, articles, and journalistic works.   At first she wasn’t sure she had the stamina for writing.  Every single writing job involved an initial anxiety attack, but once she delved into the project, she found she loved the process.  She describes the culmination of a writing project and the ultimate payoff as a thrilling sense of resolution and accomplishment.   For Mary Lou, writing has become not only her career, but a passion.   When she first began, she had no other ambition than merely to write.  But over the years, she has fallen in love with the process.   Of course Mary Lou still gets disappointed if her writing project gets rejected, but she never regrets having written.

Mary Lou is inspired still by her parents. Even though they had no intention of making a writer out of her, inadvertently through her mother’s interest in basic writing skills and good manners, and her father’s love of words, they did so. Later on, the professionals in her life, helped her to do her best. Mary Lou’s first newspaper editor, Paul Good, remarked, “You don’t write bad for a housewife, kiddo.”   Some women might have taken offense to that, but for Mary Lou, it made her day. He was no feminist, but, hey, she was happy for the compliment. Further into her career, the editor of Woman’s Day, Ellen Levine, would invariably return her work back two or three times. Saying it could be better, without giving details, Levine never revealed what about the work she didn’t like. Ultimately, Mary Lou realized that there wasn’t anything specific Levine didn’t like. What she was trying to teach her was the life lesson that everything can always be better.

Despite working during the sixties, pre-women’s lib, Mary Lou remained naïve of any ways in which she’d ever been discriminated against as a woman.  She believes this largely to be because she normally worked alone or among other women and did not compete with men directly in the marketplace.  Although she’s never experienced a male writer, for instance, being chosen over her, Mary Lou constantly runs into a prejudice against women writers.  She believes, that tendency is reflective of a lingering prejudice against women in general.  If someone, male or female, asks her what she“does,” Mary Lou answers that she’s a writer. Often their next question is, “Have you been published?”  She suspects that if she were a man, they wouldn’t ask her that question.

Mary Lou has written five books and scads of newspaper and magazine articles, all of which she considers to have been very rewarding. One of the books, MY MIDDLE-AGED BABY BOOK was a bestseller. Despite that commercial success, the book INTENSIVE CARE has given her the greatest sense of accomplishment.   Not just because the book is about her beloved son Peter, who died at the young age of sixteen from Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, although that was enough to make it her most rewarding experience.  -and not because it received high praise from literary critics, although she is humbled and rewarded by that, too. It is because so many mothers and fathers of children with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy and other life-threatening diseases have written to Mary Lou, including myself, to thank her for writing an honest, unsentimental  book.  Mary Lou’s description of the painful saga is frank and unforgiving.  From the very first chapter, she tells it like it is.  Organizations like The Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy recommend that all families read this valuable life lesson.  These families thank her for acknowledging how difficult their journey is, for inspiring them and for giving them the courage to go on.

Mary Lou Weisman Intensive Care

An intense look at demanding care.

Mary Lou is humbled that she was named a Belle of Steel.  For her, writing is her passion.  According the Mary Lou, “As anyone who has had a passion for anything – caring for the elderly, rearing children, playing the violin, fixing cars, teaching, — knows, passion is a strong driving force. If that passion is reinforced by talent, discipline, and a determination to persist in the face of rejection, you are likely to succeed.”

My Middle Aged Baby Book Mary Lou Weisman

Best Seller!

When asked what she hoped to be doing five years from now, again she was frank and honest.   First and foremost, she’d like to be 81 and alive. Given that gift, she’d still like to be writing, teaching writing, enjoying her husband, grandchildren and friends, and traveling.  But she supposes she won’t be riding her bike by then.

For her courage in writing the truth about an unpopular and devastating disease, and the book that has changed the lives of so many families, including mine, who face the battle of Duchenne’s, AgeView Press is proud to name Mary Lou Weisman its eleventh Belle of Steel.

Contact Mary Lou Weisman at www.marylouweisman.com

 

Tantatlizing Tidbits: Glimpse of a page turner – excerpt from FLYING SOLO

Picture of cover for FLYING SOLO

“Sassy, sexy 1960s drama in the skies over New Orleans. A must read.”

Welcome to Tantalizing Tidbits.  

Just to tantalize your tastebuds a bit, I will be featuring excerpts from various Indie published books in a column called Tantalizing Tidbits. Based on your feedback, I will post more excerpts. If you like an excerpt, please click like, Tweet it and facebook a link to it. That is how I will gage which excerpts you like the best.

Here we go. . . the first excerpt if from FLYING SOLO. This is a fast, page turner set in 1960s New Orleans. The gist of the story? A socialite, suburban housewife is filled with the wanderlust. On a whim, she takes flying lessons behind her powerful husband’s back. He’s livid when he finds out. An ogre, he threatens her with divorce. Which, she is glad to get until she looses custody of her children. Newly in love and desperate to get them back, she steals a plane! And that’s just the first half of the story!

Enjoy a read from FLYING SOLO:

     Her exhilaration when flying was not without fear today. But she was thankful for her courage and commitment to her children. She thought about the Navy ideals that Steve had told her about. Honor, courage, and commitment. Well at least she had two out of three. For there was certainly no honor in her first totally independent act as a pilot; which was now stealing a plane.
     Nora started to see dwellings increasing in numbers within proximity. She realized she was on the outskirts of Hattiesburg. Pinebelt Regional was north of the city. She would be flying over Hattiesburg’s western edge. Almost there. Just a few more moments and she would be home free.
     She made contact with Pinebelt tower when she was ten miles out. “Pinebelt tower. Twin Piper, November six, niner, one, five, foxtrot. Three miles south west, requesting permission to land.”
     “Twin piper six, niner, one, five, foxtrot clear to land runway three six.”
Nora recognized from studying her maps that runway three six required her to bank left when in proximity of the airport. She received another radio communication from the tower, “Twin Piper, niner, one. Winds are currently zero four five, at twenty-five knots, gusting to thirty-five. Clear to land runway three six.” Nora knew that meant she would be getting quite a bit of crosswind as she attempted to land the plane.
     It suddenly began to dawn on her how risky this mission was. If she somehow failed her landing, and crashed the plane killing herself; her children would not only be motherless, but stranded in Baton Rouge. Although these thoughts began to cross her mind in flashes, she tried to put them out of her head.
     “Come on Jack. Help me out here,” calling on her father’s spirit in heaven or hell, she really wasn’t sure. She took a deep breath, put her head on straight and mentally focused on the task at hand. When she saw the airport come into view several miles out, she pulled back on the throttles and began a gentle descent. A few minutes later she could visually see the numbers of runway three six.
Nora was also starting to feel the wind. It was difficult to hold her course and her wings were rocking like a boat on rough seas. To maintain her heading required lots of rudder input to compensate. Unfortunately, she was sometimes over compensating causing her to overshoot her course in the other direction. She was struggling to keep the nose up. It was going to be the landing from hell.
     In fact, it was so bad, she radioed the tower. She was dropping too much speed and couldn’t pull the nose of the plane up to stabilize the plane. “Pinebelt tower, Piper one, five, foxtrot, going around.” She had to bail the landing.
     “Piper one, five, foxtrot, clear for the go around. You’re the only one in the area; clear to land at your discretion.”
     She pushed the throttles forward and leveled off flying just above the runway. Once she started gaining airspeed, she pulled back on the yoke and began her climb into the sky.
     Sweat was pouring from her brow. This time it was going to take more skill and concentration. She made a climbing bank to the west, leveling off at one thousand five hundred feet. She was now re-established in the traffic pattern ready to attempt another approach. “Come on Nora, you can do this. You have to do this,” she coached herself.
     Making a sign of the cross, she approached the runway again. This time she was much more aggressive in her rudder control to compensate for the gusting crosswind. She pointed the nose in the direction of the gusts as Steve had taught her. Keeping her hands steady, she kept the nose up and lowered her speed to begin her descent. “Steady, steady,” she said. One hundred fifty, one hundred, fifty, twenty five feet. She was at the end of the runway and boom. Nora was down. Smoothly. A huge sigh of relief came over her as she lowered her speed and applied her brakes. She was here. Thank God she was here.
     Nora taxied the plane towards the hangars for general aviation. She had rented a temporary space from Grayson Aviation. The mechanic planned to meet her. Pulling the plane safely into the hangar, Nora ticked off yet another step of her strategy. Once she parked, she closed up the Piper and applied the pad lock to the outside door of the building.
     “Would you like us to hold the key for you here, Miss Broussard?” the mechanic asked her.
     “No, thank you. I will hold onto them. I appreciate the offer, but I know that the co-owner will be anxious to get them.” Nora then took off her glasses and baseball cap. It felt good to shake out her hair. Despite it being December, it was drenched with sweat. She walked from the FBO over to the general terminal. It would be another hour or so before Charlene arrived, so Nora ordered a Coca-cola and took a seat in the bar to relax.
She couldn’t help but watch the clock, wondering how Charlene was making it up Highway 11. Her friend had quite a lead foot; she hoped she wouldn’t be pulled over by the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Nora had given a detailed map to Charlene on how to find the airport.
     It was almost three o’clock and Charlene’s Caddy was nowhere to be found. Nora got up and walked outside the terminal to look for her. She didn’t want to appear like a loiterer in the terminal and she couldn’t drink too many Coca-colas due to the baby. The caffeine and sugar was already making the baby kick incessantly.
     Nora rubbed her tummy. “I wonder if you will be born with the spirit of Jack Broussard?” she questioned the life inside. Nora felt that although her recent actions were unlawful and bit dodgy, her father would be proud that she was a fighter.
A flash of baby blue rounded the corner, tires screeching. Charlene! The Cadillac pulled up to the curb. “Good golly miss molly! I thought you would never get here,” a relieved Nora exclaimed.
     “Well, heck sister. I had my eyes so glued on that detailed map that I missed a damned turn with all that construction. God, I need a drink.”
     “No time for that, we have to get back on the road and back to Baton Rouge. Especially before we hit rush hour traffic.” At this point, it looked like they might just make it.
     “Nora Jean, I’m at least going through the Dairy Mart drive-thru to get a coke float. This girl’s gotta have some sugar. I’m plum nearly wore out.”
     “Here, move over. I’ll drive then. And yes, I’ll stop at Dairy Mart.”
     “So, how was it?” Charlene had to get all the details.
     “Nerve wracking. But I made it.”
     They hugged and gave a big “yee-haw” out the windows of the Cadillac. Nora could breathe a sigh of relief. Now all that was left was to get back to her kids and call Frank. Devilish delight danced in her eyes as she imagined his face realizing his plane was gone.

So, there you go.  A tantalizing taste of what can be found in the novel FLYING SOLO.   If you liked this excerpt, please let me know by sharing it below with one of the share buttons.  Tweet itFacebook it.   Link others back.   You can purchase this book from AgeView Press if you would like a signed copy.   Or download it on Kindle for free as an Amazon Prime member.    Just $2.99 on Kindle purchase.    Also available in print via Amazon.  

Be looking forward to excerpt #2.   Again, if you like it, please share it!  Let’s get this party started.

Author Brinda Carey talks survival tips. Free yourself from domestic abuse!

Author Brinda Carey

Survivor and Author, Brinda Carey

Guest blog:   Flying Solo was one of my favorite reads of 2012. In this book by Jeanette Vaughan, the protagonist, Nora, came up with an ingenious and thrilling plan which worked for her.   She found a way to escape from a powerful husband and domestic abuse.  I found it fascinating that this was based on a true story. Most women could never pull off that kind of escape, yet it must be done. At the point of separation, the situation can become the most volatile as the abuser feels a loss of control and fights harder to gain it back.

So what steps should a person take to be prepared?  First of all, let me stress that in the case of an emergency, don’t delay leaving if you haven’t completed this checklist! The safety of you and any children you have is the first priority.

That said, start working on this checklist now.

  1. Determine which friends or neighbors you could tell      about the abuse. Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent      noises. If you have children, teach them how to dial 911. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.
  2. Talk to a friend or family member you can trust and      tell them about your fears and that you are planning a safe escape. Even      if you don’t know if and when you will leave, it is imperative to continue preparing for the day you decide you must leave.
  3. Have important phone numbers nearby for you and your children.  Numbers to have are the police, hotlines, friends, family, and the local women’s  shelter.
  4. Think about the various escape routes in your home just as you would for a fire drill.
  5. If there are any weapons in the house, find a way to get rid of them. At the very least, know where they are and attempt to      lead your abuser away from these areas during an altercation.
  6. Open a bank account or find a safe place to stash money. Perhaps one of your safe people will keep your emergency bag at      their home. Have coins or a prepaid cell or card to use. A charged cell phone will allow you to call 911 even if you do not currently have a      service plan.
  7. Make spare keys to your car, house, and any others you might need, and keep them with your emergency bag.
  8. Request replacement credit cards and bank cards. It is also a good idea to include your driver’s license. You may decide to have      them sent to a friend or family member’s home for placing in your bag.
  9. Make copies of all important papers such as:
    1. birth certificates
    2. social security cards
    3. school and medical records
    4. Car registration
    5. Welfare identification
    6.  Passports, green cards, work permits
    7.  Lease/rental agreement
    8.  Mortgage payment book, unpaid bills
    9.  Insurance papers
    10.  PPO, divorce papers, custody orders
  10. Other items to have in your bag: medicines, personal hygiene items, and extra clothes.
Don't Cry Daddy's Here book on Amazon

A must read for anyone dealing with abuse!

 I hope you found this guest blog, by Author Brinda Carey helpful.   She is a survivor of abuse and sexual exploit from Arkansas.  Brinda had the strength to not only overcome the abuse, but write about it to help others.   Her books and motivational materials can be found on Amazon here.   Her blog is at www.brindacarey.com  She travels the country speaking out to women, reaching out to help them find ways to be strong and survive.   AgeView Press is proud to announce that Belle of Steel number six is Brinda Carey.