Monday, June 30, 2014

Learning the lessons of history

Last week was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war to end all wars…World War I.  Most people were unaware of that anniversary, unless you are a history buff you probably don’t really care much about some royal Austrian dude from 100 years ago, but this one event still has major repercussions even today.  The literal shape of the modern world was drawn as a result of the conflicts, alliances, winners and losers of World War I. 

As you may have guessed – I love history.  I love learning about the events that helped to make us who and what we are.  This love has translated into my choice to write historical fiction.  I have been doing lots of historical research while working on my book, which is set in 1918.  Understanding the events and mindset of the time are critical to ensuring an accurate portrayal of my characters. 

World War I was a completely avoidable, yet totally inevitable war.  Yes, I know that is a contradiction – but so was World War I.  A small group of men saw war as a way to prove their country’s strength, and they used fears and a pretty slick media campaign to draw their fellow countrymen into a conflict that would lead to over 30 years of bloody conflict including two world wars, killing over 70 million men, women and children.  During those 30+ years, we saw the rise of the cruelest dictators that history has ever known.  We also saw some of the greatest acts of humanity and courage ever witnessed. 
We cannot go back and undo history.  I would love to have prevented Archduke Ferdinand and his lovely wife Sophie from getting into the car that day – but I’m not sure it would have made any difference, our world was on a collision course, and that day, June 28th in 1914, the Archduke and his wife were merely the pawns in a chess game that had been started long before they decided to visit Sarajevo.   
It is important to understand the events that led to this horrific war and all its unintended aftermath.  As the popular quote by Edmund Burke reminds us “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”  Understanding the roots of today’s modern conflicts, we can work toward a more peaceful future. 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Nothing says fun like an MRI

I had the pleasure of getting an MRI of my breasts this week, and I know that most of you don’t consider this a pleasure, but I try to look on the bright side.  I am so grateful that I have health insurance.  I am grateful that because of my extremely high risk of breast cancer (with two direct female relatives being diagnosed before they were 50) I am able to get diagnostic procedures to catch cancer at an early stage.  I try my very best to be vigilant and get yearly check-ups.  I can’t do anything about the fact that I have a higher than normal risk of getting breast cancer, but I can try to detect it early – which is why I had an MRI. 

I have had loads of mammograms, but I have very large breasts and often mamograms cannot effectively see through all of my dense breast tissue.  I must admit I am not sad about skipping the part where my enormous breasts are squished to the size of a sheet of paper between two very cold plates, but an MRI isn’t that much fun either. 

 If you have never had the pleasure of an MRI, you are missing out.  First I have to remove my jewelry, because the magnet does not play well with jewelry (if you didn’t know it – an MRI is basically just a big old magnet) so I take off my rings, earrings and my nosering.  Next I put on the obligatory ugly hospital gown and come into the freezing cold MRI lab.  Apparently there is something about the MRI equipment that requires it to be close to the climate of Antarctica when getting this procedure. 

I don’t consider myself a wimp, but I do have a strong aversion to needles and my least favorite medical experience is getting an IV, so practicing my best meditation/relaxation exercise I try to ignore the friendly technician when they put in an IV.  The IV allows them to put special contrast into my blood stream so they can take a picture of my breasts before and after the contrast to see if they notice anything.  Luckily for me, the technicians were efficient, they were able to get the IV in with only one try.  Once the IV is in I get to climb up on the table and lay face down, while fitting my enormous breasts into two distinct openings.  With ‘the girls’ just falling down into these two holes and simply hanging there, I have to lay perfectly still for about 45 minutes, with the ever present droning and clicking of the MRI.  I am extremely grateful that the technicians were kind enough to cover me with extra blankets to withstand the frigid temperatures.  It is incredibly hard to try to stay perfectly still for 45 minutes, but moving around will mess up the image. 
I know it would be easier to just ignore all of this, but at almost 50, my risk of cancer grows with each passing year.  My husband’s mother died of breast cancer when he was in his 20’s, so it is especially important to him that I take care of myself.  Yes it is uncomfortable, yes I hate needles and IV’s but taking the time to check for breast cancer is worth the inconvenience and pain.  And the best part is….as long as the results come back negative, I’m done for another whole year. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review: 1913: The Eve of War by Paul Ham

1913: The Eve of War1913: The Eve of War by Paul Ham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An incredibly well researched book that gives perspectives from multiple points of view on the causes of World war 1. The book offers insight into the personalities, economics and politics of the time - showing how the various factions did little to avoid the conflict and many, actively pursued conflict as an inevitable show of force. It is a very straightforward book, a bit dry at times, but a very interesting look at this time in history.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

taking a moment for meso

If you are like me, you may have heard the word mesothelioma, but didn’t really know much about it.  I was contacted by a lovely young lady named Heather Von St. James who is a mesothelioma cancer survivor.  She let me know that she has a goal to educate people who have never heard of mesothelioma, and I was happy to help her.  (To see her story click here

I decided to do some searching and learn more about this disease.  Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, thus it is an entirely preventable cancer.  Now I have to admit – I don’t really know too much about asbestos.  I do love watching HGTV, especially Property Brothers (they are so cute) and every once in a while during a renovation, they come across asbestos and have to call in special professionals to come and deal with its removal.  Every time I see that, it does make me wonder about the safety of older homes – if someone has to come in a hazmat suit just to remove something, it must be dangerous, but once the show is over I don’t give much thought to asbestos.  Unfortunately for Heather Von St. James, asbestos was much more than just something on a TV show – she lived through an incredible struggle to simply survive.  I am shocked to say that Asbestos is still not banned in the US. According to the Mesothelioma cancer alliance, roughly 30 million pounds are still used each year. I also learned that an average of 3000 people per year are diagnosed with mesothelioma.  Knowing this is an entirely preventable cancer – it makes me sad to think that so many people are suffering from something that we can stop. 

If you want to learn more about the dangers of asbestos or the struggles of mesothelioma, please visit  There is a ton of clinical information about all the types of mesothelioma and the dangers of exposure to asbestos.  As more and more people become aware of, and begin to talk about this, hopefully we can come 1 step closer to the day when no one is using asbestos and no one is ever getting sick from exposure to it – ever again. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni by Laurel A. Rockefeller

Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the IceniBoudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni by Laurel A. Rockefeller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting short story about Boudicca, she was a fascinating character, but I wish the story was longer and gave more insights into her background and her story, as well as the story of her husband and her daughters.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck

Call Me ZeldaCall Me Zelda by Erika Robuck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Erika Robuck is a gifted author, weaving historical figures into a compelling story. This book portrayed the characters of Zelda Fitgerald and Anna, a nurse who helps and befriends Zelda. The author is able to show Zelda with such compassion and depth, sharing her struggles with mental illness and a tumultuous relationship with her famous alcoholic husband, yet she avoids making Zelda seem like simply a tragic figure, but rather a woman with depth and complexity. The relationship between Anna and Zelda is a rare and special friendship. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those of us who love historical fiction.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

I'll be back in a few weeks

Just wanted to post a quick note to let you all know I will not be blogging for a couple weeks, If I didn't say it enough times already, I am heading to the incredible island of Antigua to marry the most wonderful guy in the world. 
I will be busy swimming, sunbathing and relaxing
and I won't have a chance to do much blogging. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Father's day

I am posting my Father's day blog early because I will be gone next week.

Father’s day is always a time of mixed emotions for me.  I love the chance to honor my dad – he is such an amazing man.  He is truly one of the greatest Generation, a World War II Navy Veteran and retired NYPD Detective, he has served others for his entire life.   He has been an incredible Dad, Grandpa and now even Great Grandpa and I am grateful every day to have had such a wonderful man in my life. 

That’s the easy part of Father’s Day.  Father’s day gets more complicated when I think about the fact that my daughter’s do not have their dad around anymore, my former husband took his own life (almost 7 years ago).  It was an incredibly difficult time, but my girls and I grew even closer as we went through everything together. I still remember the first Father’s day after he died; Danielle got me a father’s day gift, with a big hug & a smile she said – you are my Mom & Dad now.  My brothers have done their best to be amazing uncles, and I know that the girls appreciate having them in their lives. 

When I met my fiancĂ© Peter, it was obviously important to me that he and the girls would like each other & I am so happy to say that they do.  They have such a good relationship and by the time this father’s day gets here, the girls will officially have a new step-dad.   

I am so glad that Peter will be a part of their life, but there are some times when I still get sad about the things their dad missed and will miss in their lives, things like graduations, moving into the college dorm, prom.  I have such fond memories of my dad doing all of these special things with me, I did my best to make each event special, and my girls have always handled everything with such grace and dignity, but every once in a while I think about all that he missed and all the things he will not get to see.

Now that Rachael is engaged, I can envision her walking down the aisle, a beautiful bride, and I know that my dad, or Peter or any of her uncles would be thrilled to give her away.  It will be bittersweet.  We will enjoy celebrating another milestone in life, it’s too bad he will miss it. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Charlottes Restrained by Celia Kennedy

Charlottes RestrainedCharlottes Restrained by Celia Kennedy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charlottes Restrained is a fun lighthearted story, perfect for a summer beach read. Charlotte is funny & quirky and her vivacious personality gets her into some strange and wonderful situations, but when she has the chance to meet her Hollywood crush, Des Bannerman, everything seems to be going so well until it quickly escalates into hilarity involving tabloids and paparazzi. I recommend putting Charlottes Restrained on your summer reading list.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Have you heard of FIVERR?

I stumbled upon this crazy, fun website awhile back, and I love it.

It is described as the world largest marketplace for services, starting at $5.  What kind of services, well – almost anything you can think of.  Do you need a professional voice over for your video, do you need a quick article edited, do you want your picture photo shopped, do you need something translated into French or Thai?  There are ads (or gigs) offered by individuals and you can purchase a gig for any of these and hundreds of other similar services.  Some are useful and some are just hilarious. 

For only $5, you can have someone be your video spokesperson, design a business card, design a resume, sing a customized jingle or write a press release for your business.  Heck you can even have someone play a song on their ukulele.  All of this for only five dollars is a pretty amazing deal, but some of these budding entrepreneurs will ask for additional ‘gigs’ to complete the task or service you request. 

While I was still finishing and editing my book, I used an artist on FIVERR to create a book cover for my book.  I mainly wanted this cover as a way to visualize the completed product. 

As you can see – this cover was not the quality that I would use for an actual finished product, let’s face it…you do get what you pay for, so for only $5 this isn’t bad, but it’s not good enough for publication. 

I think this is a fun idea and a great way to help out some budding entrepreneurs, so if you need someone to record themselves saying something while jumping on a trampoline or write your company logo on their back, you should check out FIVERR. 





Monday, June 2, 2014

Another Blog Tour - Meet My Main Character Blog Hop

Yes folks, it’s time for another exciting round of blog tag J Amazing Author Celia Kennedy has asked me to join a blog tour and my responses are below.  Make sure you take time to check out Celia’s work, Charlotte's Restrained (2012) and Venus Rising in (2013). Look for Kathleen's Undressed, a companion novel to Charlottes Restrained, to be published in 2014. You’ll find Celia on

Meet My Main Character:
Here are the questions:

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? My current WIP is an historical fiction YA novel and the main character is a 14 year old girl named Anna.  She is a fictional character based on the events of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. 

2) When and where is the story set? The story takes place in Boston & Vermont during the chaotic time period of 1918, with WWI and the Spanish Flu creating havoc on our nation, Boston was the epicenter of the flu epidemic in America and it was a major kicking off point for sending soldiers over to Europe.  It was a time of great fear and mistrust.

3) What should we know about him/her? Anna is a strong and resilient character, she is forced to deal with unimaginable loss and yet she remains optimistic and hopeful for the future.  Anna is a survivor in every sense of the word. 

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? Anna is one of the very early victims of the strange new flu that begins to sweep across Boston, and she is sent up to Vermont to stay with her Aunt.  Having recovered from the earlier and not as lethal strain of the flu, Anna is left on her own as her Mother and father both succumb & perish from the horrible outbreak.  Anna and her Aunt soon find themselves facing the flu virus in Vermont as well.  Anna also meets a German boy who is hiding due to the vehement anti-German sentiment that has swept across the country.  Together they help to care for Anna’s Aunt, who gets sick with the flu as well. 

5) What is the personal goal of the character? Anna is doing her very best to deal with everything going on around her and still remain the caring and positive person that she always has been, but the Flu and the war are taking their toll

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? I am still struggling with a title & haven’t come up with anything that really seems to fit.  If anyone has ideas I would love to hear them (Please feel free to post your title ideas in the comments below)

7) When can we expect the book to be published? My goal is to have this ready and published before the end of this year – most likely sometime in the fall. 


The author I have tagged is: Natalie Martin, make sure to check out her book Together Apart and check out her blog tour answers at

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day

If you have been on Facebook I know you have seen dozens of those posts talking about   “Stupid cancer” and how someone with cancer just wants to win the battle.  I think everyone with cancer wants more than to just win the battle, they want to win the war once and for all.  I think they want Cancer to disappear forever.

Even the fear of having cancer can make people a little crazy.  Other than some nasty recurring skin cancers, I am happy to say that so far I have been lucky enough to be cancer free, despite a few close calls.  That does not mean cancer has not been part of my life.  My mom and sister both were survivors of breast cancer, my dad also had to deal with prostate cancer.  It is something I have to be aware of every single day.  I do all of my preventative checkups and I am vigilant about getting my breasts scanned each year because I have a much higher risk of breast cancer with my family history.   

My fiancĂ© lost both of his parents to cancer.  His mom died of breast cancer when he was a young man and his father died of a brain tumor.  He also lost both of his grandparents to cancer.  He has a unique attitude about cancer, he is not afraid of it, he pokes fun at cancer.  He explained that just like saying Voldemort’s name, he isn’t going to give cancer any more power over his life than it deserves. 

Peter is unique in his outlook, most people are very afraid of cancer.  For many of us, cancer is an extremely threatening and frightening word.  We see cancer as a death sentence, but the statistics show that many people do not die from a battle with cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, “In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the US.”  Those numbers sound really scary, but look closer, 1079820 people will NOT die from cancer - Early detection and treatment most often means survival.  In Arizona, the 1 -5 year survival rates from cancer range from 77-57%, depending on the type and location of the cancer.  Again, more people are surviving cancer!  We need to stop living in fear of cancer and work toward efforts at prevention and finding a cure. 

I am happy to celebrate National Cancer Survivors day today, and I hope that we continue to fight against cancer aggressively – so in the future we have many more survivors, until the day when cancer no longer takes a life. 

In honor of Cancer Survivors Day, for today only, I am offering a free copy of my book “The Misadventures of Me and MyUterus to all cancer survivors & their family and friends (and since we all know someone who has courageously battled cancer – that pretty much means free to everyone)

Visit Amazon today for your free book