Articles

Swampwise by Okefenokee Joe

 

In this amazing book the author treats his readers to his incredible recollections and observations about the animals who lived with, and around him in the Okefenokee Swamp Park in the south east of Georgia.

When I finished reading this incredible book, I turned to my husband and said, “WOW, how can a review ever give this book the acclamation it deserves?”

The author had his first real taste of nature and the natural world when he was sent aged 9 to the YMCA Camp Carson, in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. At first he missed his mum and dad, however, before long, it was the wildness and natural world of Camp Carson he craved when back home. He loved being amongst the natural world, discovered a fascination for it — especially snakes. With this came, a deeper understanding of God’s work in giving us the wonderful natural world, which is all around us.

After a successful career as a singer/songwriter/entertainer for over twenty years, burnt out and tired of the Nashville scene, his marriage in tatters, he cancelled his remaining shows. A broken man, at the age of 41, in desperation, while others would have started on the way to ruin, he remembered those years he had spent at camp in childhood, and the love he had of camping. Searching for answers and with only a tent and other essentials provided by a friend, he set off in his jeep into the swamps of South Central Florida. Alone with his thoughts, he began to ask God for guidance and became one with nature. He learned how to trap and sell snakes, surviving by his skills, he was beginning to find inner peace.

It was the offer of work by another friend who managed the famous Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross in Georgia which was to take him onto the next stage of his life.

The great Okefenokee Swamp is in the south east of Georgia. It is not really a swamp and contains many small islands. Covering about seven hundred and fifty square miles, it is a large designated wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, and is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with all its wildlife protected by law. Heaven indeed, and the place which the author would call home for the next nine years. And what an interesting nine years they were.

Through the vividly descriptive writing of this talented man, we the readers are treated to some amazing stories and observations about the animals who live with, and around him. We discover how he befriends the abandoned dog, who is to become his canine companion Swampy before he moved to the park in South Central Florida, and how the next day Swampy appeared in the jeep ready to go with him on the adventure to his new home. Indeed, it is Swampy who finds the little calico kitten Skeeter, who becomes part of their small family, in the picnic area of the park.

However, we also learn through these tales of the animals, which are truly wild and live alongside him, and through his example realize that their territory is not automatically ours to walk over and claim. As he says, true wild animals are born to be self-reliant and self-sufficient; it is the way God intended them to be.

I loved the way that throughout this amazing book the emphasis is on understanding nature, living with it, respecting it, and recognizing that the creatures around us have just as much right to be on this earth as we do. There is so much to learn at the turn of every page, and even more if you read between the lines and take away from it the understanding that the natural world is out there for all to enjoy.

However, in the natural world there is also cruelty, and the author doesn’t hide this side from his readers; after all, ‘nature is not cruel, it is just sublimely indifferent’ as anyone with a pet cat will tell you.

After over nine years at the Okefenokee Swamp Park, ‘Okefenokee Joe’ as he had become known decided to spread the word, and for over four decades he has done just that. He has delivered his “Earth Day Every Day” message to school children of all ages, bringing along with him a selection of native venomous and non-venomous snakes, to help as visual aids, and in teaching the children to be ‘swampwise.’ He has written, recorded and sang songs praising all God’s creations, and now he has written this truly amazing book, and I for one am in total awe of what this man has achieved.

The author has also released an audiobook “Swampwise Secrets Songs and Stories from the Land of the Trembling Earth!” and will soon be releasing “Snake Hunter Snake Talk.”

In Summary: Throughout this amazing period of his life the author learned how to be ‘swampwise’ – really looking at, studying and taking notice of his surroundings. In this modern world, where ‘Mindfullness’ is very much the ‘in’ word, how I wish more people could be like the author and learn to appreciate the amazing natural world around us the same way. Highly Recommended!

About the Book:

Experience the thrill and amazement as Okefenokee Joe uncovers and explains “The Golden Rule of Nature”! Share with Joe the love & faithfulness of his two best friends in the swamp; Swampy the Dog & Skeeter the Cat! Come along with Joe step by step, as he plays momma’ & nursemaid to ‘Streak’ the Bobcat Kitten! Learn with Joe as he discovers the Character Lessons all wild swamp plants & animals so clearly demonstrate! Enjoy Okefenokee Joe’s Enlightening “Earth Day Every Day” message taught by, believe it or not, The Snakes themselves!

Author’s website: https://www.okefenokeejoe.com/

Swampwise is available in Paperback from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Swampwise-Okefenokee-Joe/dp/0997337109/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1567413824&refinements=p_27%3AOkefenokee+Joe&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Okefenokee+Joe

and the Author’s website https://www.okefenokeejoe.com/

 

Hide and Panic Stations: Super Speed Sam Book 1 by Monty J. McClaine

 

I first fell in love with this series of Super Speed Sam books when I downloaded book 5, just before last Christmas. My granddaughter and I so enjoyed reading of Super Speed Sam, the innocent looking Basset Hound’s adventure when he was Santa’s Rescue Dog that we just had to read the whole series.

In this, the first book we were introduced to the McClaine family, which consists of Mom, Dad whose real name is Marty, but who Mom calls Monty, Jack a typically mischievous six year old boy, and Molly (also known as moms little princess) who has just managed to start to crawl. The sworn defender of this family is their best friend and pet Super Speed Sam.

The character of Sam is adorable, my brother had as pets, and bred Basset Hounds for a number of years. Their strong characters and clever brains are cleverly hidden behind their sloppy loveable face, and they make wonderful childhood pets, as my children and nieces will attest to.

The affable Sam is the perfect companion for Jack on his adventures and in this story they are playing hide and seek, a game which every dog owner knows, dogs excel at.

Sam is very good at hiding but Jack finds him in the end. However, when it is Jack’s turn to hide he discovers the perfect place, somewhere nice and comfy, and being a boy he has his hands free flashlight and his MP3 player. Things get even better when Jack finds a hidden gem just waiting for him to look at. At this point Jack does what boys do best, he loses himself in the moment and goes off into his own world, innocently totally unaware of the bedlam he is causing.  Meanwhile poor Sam is confused, where could he be?

Sam looks in all the usual places and soon his desperate searching alerts the family to the fact that Jack is missing. Mom is panicking and even dad is getting worried. There is nothing left to do, Sam decides he must chant his special powers chant and become Super Speed Sam!

Donned in his special Sherlock Sam hat and in full sleuthing mode, as only Basset Hounds know how to, he begins his search. The question is, will Sherlock Sam find his young master safe and sound?

Well, the only way to discover the answer is to read this exciting adventure, and I am sure you will enjoy this wonderful story, which is beautifully illustrated, as much as we did!

About the Author:

Proud winner of the 7th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards (2018) in the “Environment” category for The Rescue Elves – The Plastic Pollution Adventure.

Proud winner of the 5th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards in the “Holiday” category for Super Speed Sam – Santa’s Rescue Dog.

I feel that some of the natural interactions between family and friends are gradually eroding, if not already completely worn away for some. And I was reminded of a C.S.Lewis quotation –

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

It also feels like the simple joy of laughing or crying among family and friends is being replaced by beeps, bops and demands to ‘add new features’ or ‘why doesn’t this work?’ or ‘who’s hogging the Wi-Fi?’.

So I set out to create a fun and exciting series of children’s short stories, with lots of adventure and splashes of humor, all paced to hold children’s attention whether reading or listening… at least that’s my hope!

Stories that will delight both boys and girls, the young and old, and, of course, moms and dads! Tales that allow a return to simpler values, kid-like imagination for both children and adults and, I sincerely hope, bring families closer together.

Author’s Website: http://superspeedsam.com/

 

About the Book:

Olly-olly-oxen-freak out!

Super Speed Sam is a boy’s best friend. But what will this super sleuthing, crime fighting, mystery solving wonder pup do when his boy goes missing?

It’s all in a dog-day’s work for old Sam. When he’s not lazing about with his boy Jack or sniffing out a good treat, Sam is hard at work saving the day and those he loves from danger. Because when no one’s looking Sam transforms into Super Speed Sam! With super-secret powers gifted to him by his ancestors, Sam becomes the fastest pup in town! Able to do amazing things, Sam uses his powers for good and helps those in need. So when a routine game of hide and seek with Jack goes terribly awry, Sam answers the call for help in no time flat!

Can Sam find Jack before this day goes from bad to worse? Find out what four fast legs and a nose for solving mysteries can do in this first installment of Super Speed Sam!

Hide and Panic Stations is available from Amazon in Paperback, Kindle and Audiobook formats https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CO4DYXY/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0

Are We French Yet? Keith and Val’s Adventures in Provence by Keith Van Sickle

 

A thoroughly entertaining glimpse into life in Provence.

I absolutely loved Keith Van Sickle’s first book ‘One Sip at a Time,’ and so was delighted to discover this new release.

Keith and his wife Val’s path in life changed five years previously when Keith was offered a work assignment in Switzerland. The experience opened their eyes to new opportunities and so back in America they took the bull by the horns and became self-employed. This brave move enabled them to take their destiny in their own hands and gave them the freedom to split their time between America and France.

The story commences with a restless Keith impatiently waiting for the time to pass so they can close down their American house and spend spring in Provence. However, his wife’s suggestion that they have a relaxing bike ride backfires when a squirrel decides to join in…

Finally, back in their beloved Provence, complete with their dog of course, Keith and Val settle into their rented property and become reacquainted with the area and their French friends. They are keen to learn conversation French so they take lessons with a teacher called Geneviève who takes no prisoners where pronunciation and attention to details are concerned.

Throughout this informative story the open and helpful characters of the French people they meet and befriend shine through, and also the completely different attitudes of the French and Americans to things in life. Perhaps to everyone the most obvious is the pace of life in each country, and this is something which you immediately notice whether you are an expat or you are just on holiday. However, as you spend more time here you can’t fail to notice the French peoples attitude to work and family life are so different.

The author’s wonderfully descriptive writing brings alive the  warmth, culture, food and wine enthused life in Provence, with meals out with friends, visits to vineyards, and of course the marvellous scenery. On this visit amongst other things we find out what it is like to go gluten free in France, discover the French reaction to the Eurovision Song Contest, and experience the famous Courses de Camarguaise.

To be able to live in two totally different countries must be a wonderful experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to savour Provencal life, and meet through his writing some of its people.

However, there is one thing which anybody new to France is in peril of getting wrong and that is the kiss, or is it kisses you give and receive when greeting, and also how many? Not to mention the worry of which side of the cheek you start on. Fear not, the answer to these questions and many more are weaved within the pages of this thoroughly entertaining book which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to relax and enjoy France from the comfort of their armchair.

About the Author:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keith Van Sickle grew up in Alameda, California, the son of public school teachers. He got his first taste of overseas life while spending a college term in England and later backpacked around the world for six months.

Grateful for the scholarships that helped him pay for college, in 1987 he started a foundation that helps students from Alameda pursue a college education.

Keith fell in love with Europe during a five-year expat assignment in Switzerland, where he and his wife Val lived in a village with more cows than people. After returning to the US, Keith helped start a company whose product was so geeky that he still doesn’t quite understand it.

Keith and Val dreamed of living abroad again but were unable to find another expat gig. So they decided to invent their own. Now consultants, they and their trusty dog split their time between Silicon Valley and Provence, delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating.

Read more at www.keithvansickle.com 

 

About the Book:

Can Two Americans Really Become French?

Val and Keith turned their lives upside down when they quit their jobs to begin a part-time life in Provence. But they wondered: Can we fit in? And maybe become French ourselves?

Follow their adventures as they slowly unlock the mysteries of France…
– Is it true that French people are like coconuts?
– Can you learn to argue like a French person?
– What books have changed French lives?
– Most important of all, how do you keep your soup from exploding?

There’s more to becoming French than just learning the language. If you want the inside scoop on la belle France, you won’t want to miss this delightful book!

From the Book

Vive La France!
The first clue that this was not going to be a simple apéritif was when we walked into the house and saw that it was full of people. I think word had gotten out that there were Americans coming over who sort of spoke French and everyone wanted to see this oddity, kind of like a three-headed cat. Or maybe they’d been watching old American movies and thought we would show up with cowboy hats and six shooters and do tricks with our lassoes.

Oops
Every driver was being pulled over and told to blow into a breathalyzer, which meant Val because she was the one driving. “I’m nervous,” she said, “because I’m feeling the wine a little bit. Here, check my hand!” It was cold and clammy. “What if they put me in handcuffs and haul me off to jail? Will you know how to bail me out?” I didn’t think I would but this was definitely not the time to point that out.

Bulls Go For A Swim
“The bull has escaped!” Val and I looked up to see a thousand pounds of anger barreling down the street right at us. We ran to safety as the bull thundered past, followed by French cowboys on horseback.

It’s All About The Tongue
The first time we had a class with Geneviève, she pulled a book off a shelf and asked us to each read a few paragraphs to test our pronunciation. I knew we were in trouble as soon as Val started. As she spoke, Geneviève began jotting notes on a pad of paper. After a few sentences she started grinning. Then she started giggling. When it was my turn she put down her pen and started laughing out loud and wiping her eyes.

Out of Gas
Between guests and food and exercise and reading and living a French life, our days are full. And then once in a while something unexpected comes along that takes even more time. Like the day the country ran out of gasoline.

Are We French Yet? is available from Amazon in Kindle format https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07L6N3JK7/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i1

Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure by Andrew Cotto

 

The sights and culture of Italy form the backdrop for this incredible Italian adventure.

I just loved this book! In it I was transported from the first page, with American Jacoby Pines and his fiancée Claire, from my adoptive country of France into beautiful Italy. The author, Andrew Cotto, who lives in Brooklyn, is a writer whose articles have appeared in many national journals. He is also a teacher and has taught composition courses and creative writing workshops in New York City.  This Italian adventure is his third novel and in it his wonderful storytelling abilities shine through.

When the story begins the disheartened Jacoby is unemployed following an unfortunate incident at work, and he finds himself soaking up the food, culture and customs of Italy with his accomplished travel writer fiancée Claire.

Arriving in France, together they travel along the French Riviera, then onto the eye-opening Italian Autostrada, enjoying the marvellous coastal views, and staying at a beautiful coastal hotel. Then the next day they head inland to the villa they have rented, in the hills above Florence, for the coming year.

However, although they are primarily in the region for Claire’s assignment for the prestigious Haxby’s Travel Guide, Jacoby has his own agenda. Having never known his mother, he discovered upon the death of his father a box containing a photograph of a woman standing on a great lawn, and written on the back is ‘Villa Floria-Zanobini 1939.’ Thoroughly intrigued, the newly orphaned Jacoby looks upon this opportunity to join Claire at this disastrous stage in his career as the hand of fate at work.

With him, we join Claire on her research trips, as she travels the countryside meeting people from all walks of life. These experiences give the reader a wonderful introduction into the food and culture of this part of Italy, and a very entertaining look into the mentality of the Italian males’ mind, regarding women.

However, this story is primarily Jacoby’s adventure, and left to his own devices, he finally tracks down a Hotel Floria-Zanobini, which he discovers is run by another expat American, the eccentric Bill.

When he shows Bill his picture, its story begins to unfold, and an excited Jacoby finds himself beginning an incredible adventure, with Bill showing him the Italy he has become part of in the previous 35 years. Together the friends set out on a mission to track down the mysterious lady in the photograph and discover the link she has with Jacoby.

Encounters with wild boar, incredible museums and artwork, wonderful buildings, and the marvellous traditional recipes, wines, and experiences, this story has it all. The author brings Florence and the countryside surrounding it to life, as with Jacoby his readers embark on a fantastic voyage of discovery of the beautiful experiences this country has to offer. Whilst throughout the story the tumultuous love story between Jacoby and Claire rides a roller coaster, helped in no mean way by Claire’s outrageous cousin Dolores.

Whether you love Italy, dream of visiting it one day (like myself) or just want to enjoy an incredibly enjoyable book set in a beautiful part of the world, I thoroughly recommend this story as the best I have ever read!

About the Author:

Andrew Cotto is the award-winning author of three novels. He has written for The New York Times, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Parade, Maxim, The Huffington Post, Salon, Conde Nast Traveler, Italy magazine and more. Andrew has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

New Release – La Petite Josette en Provence by Ashley Davidson-Fisher

 

France captured the hearts of southern California born and raised author Ashley and her husband Michael in 2003, when they arrived in Provence with their four young children. Ashley was studying abroad for degrees in French Culture Studies and Business, and whilst Ashley participated in her university work, Michael and the children became immersed in the French culture and language. Trips out exploring their adopted country led to a love of the region, and after returning to the USA to complete her degrees, Ashley and her husband returned with their youngest child to Provence in 2010.

It is perhaps these experiences into the French way of life as an expat which inspired Ashley to create this clever little story. It is written primarily in English, but also has many phrases written, and explained in French also. I think this enriches the story and enables the reader to enjoy a truly bilingual experience.

The setting is the beautiful village of Les Baux-de-Provence. It is a listed heritage site, is noted as “one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France” (“Station classée”). Its ruined castle, and history make it the ideal foil for the wonderful journey of discovery, which La Petite Josette and her big sister Anne-Laure embark upon in this story.

There is great excitement in the household, the family are going for a day out! The girls can’t wait for mum to pack the picnic, and dad to get the car ready. Eagerly they watch the beautiful countryside, the vast vineyards, and olive groves go by on their way to their hilltop destination, Les Baux-de-Provence. However it is the village’s hilltop ruined castle which captivates the girls’ imagination.

As they look around it, papa explains its history, and the girls are caught up in the atmosphere, looking over the ramparts, seeing the village below, and even some troglodyte caves!

What an exciting day, they have, there is so much to see and do! But all good things must come to an end, and it is two tired girls who return home at the end of a wonderful day, and clutched in her hand La Petite Josette holds a very special souvenir.

A lovely story, one to be treasured forever, beautifully illustrated by the author and her husband’s talented daughter Martinique Louise Fisher. – Highly Recommended!

About the Author: Ashley Davidson-Fisher

 
Born and raised in Southern California, Ashley and her husband, Michael, fell in love with France shortly after arriving in Provence with their four young children in 2003. While Ashley was participating in her university’s study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence, Michael enrolled the kids into French public school and additional language-learning classes. The children quickly made friends and learned the language at lightning speed, but it took a lot more time for Ashley and her husband to make progress in the language.

In between schoolwork and classes, what better way was there to practice those new-found language skills? Adventures, bien sûr! Thanks to their little, white, station wagon named “François” and PB&J croissants (say what??!!), weekend and holiday road trips allowed the family to immerse themselves into the French culture while taking in the magnificent sights of the Provençal countryside. And voilà……just like that, a love of all things French was born.

Upon the family’s return to the USA, Ashley completed her Bachelor of Arts degrees in French Culture Studies and Business at California State University-San Bernardino. She loves traveling, hiking, photography and reading. Since 2010 Ashley has lived in Provence, France with her husband and their youngest daughter, Presley.

About the Illustrator: Martinique Louise Fisher
 
Martinique is an illustrator from California. She is the oldest child of Ashley and Michael and has been drawing since she was two years old. At the age of thirteen she decided she wanted to become an illustrator and started building her portfolio. She has illustrated book covers, tarot cards, greeting cards, has been featured in online magazines, and has shown in galleries all over the United States.
Martinique has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts, in New York. You can find more of her art work at www.martiniquelouisefisher.com
 
About the Book: 

La Petite Josette loves adventures and history and she is super excited for her trip to one of the most beautiful villages in Provence, France. What will she find? A castle, knights, perhaps a “treasure” to take home? There’s so much to do before the trip, but with the help of her big sister, they’ll be on their way in no time. Beautifully illustrated by the author’s daughter, this bilingual, French and English language adventure and learning book is designed to help teach children and adults basic, multi-language skills and to foster a love for exploring the world.

“Wake up, La Petite, réveille-toi, we’re going on an adventure to a medieval village!”
 
La Petite loves adventures and history and she is super excited for her trip to Les Baux-de-Provence, one of the most beautiful villages in Provence, France.
 
What will she find?
 
A castle, knights, perhaps a “treasure” to take home? There’s so much to do before the trip, but with the help of her big sister they’ll be on their way in no time.
 
La Petite en Provence is an illustrated, bilingual, French and English language adventure and learning book.
 
It helps to teach children basic, multi-language skills and to foster a love for exploring the world.
 Author’s website: https://lapetitejosette.com/ 

 

One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence by Keith Van Sickle

 

Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence?

    

When Californian Keith Van Sickle accepted an overseas work post to the French speaking Neuchatel in Switzerland, he and his wife could have believed that this event would be the stimulus which would change their lives forever.

You see, they loved their time abroad so much that on their return to America they decided to become self-employed as consultants. This decision gave them the flexibility and freedom to follow their dream of living in Provence France for periods of time.

So, together with their dog Lucca, they headed for Provence, and in springtime, for three years they stayed in three different locations, Mollégès in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Ventabren in Aix-en-Provence, and Le Thor in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

They were keen to learn the language, make new friends, and immerse themselves in the culture and customs of this beautiful region of France.

Keith’s wonderfully descriptive writing brings alive for his reader the amazing scenery, majestic mountains, incredible chateaux, beautiful villages and culinary delights which they sampled on their visits, and gives a real feel for living there.

As an expat his experiences made me smile as he so eloquently describes the so very unique ways of the French people. There are many examples of how in many different ways they differ so much from the English, some make you smile and some are downright frustrating, but all are interesting to observe, unless of course you are waiting for something or someone to arrive, when their manana sense of time isn’t funny at all.

Reading this book you get a true sense of how important time spent with family, and friends is in France. They are very patriotic and loyal to their country and region, indeed each department has its own culinary specialities, and festivals to celebrate the harvesting of the local produce.

Who could not be amazed at the incredible range of breads, pastries and gateaux which are offered in the boulangeries, and the wide range of produce which can be bought at the markets which are in all the villages however large or small. These markets really are wonderful to investigate, there you can find everything you need from fruit, and fresh goats cheeses direct from the farm, to chickens ready to lay your breakfast eggs.

I highly recommend this fascinating and entertaining book. Whether you love reading about other people’s lives, want to know more about ‘real’ France, or would like to live or holiday there, this very interesting book will captivate and amuse you.

 

About the Author:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keith Van Sickle grew up in Alameda, California, the son of public school teachers. He got his first taste of overseas life while spending a college term in England and later backpacked around the world for six months.

Grateful for the scholarships that helped him pay for college, in 1987 he started a foundation that helps students from Alameda pursue a college education.

Keith fell in love with Europe during a five-year expat assignment in Switzerland, where he and his wife Val lived in a village with more cows than people. After returning to the US, Keith helped start a company whose product was so geeky that he still doesn’t quite understand it.

Keith and Val dreamed of living abroad again but were unable to find another expat gig. So they decided to invent their own. Now consultants, they and their trusty dog split their time between Silicon Valley and Provence, delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating.

Read more at www.keithvansickle.com

 

About the Book:

Keith and Val had a dream – to live in Provence, the land of brilliant sunlight and charming hilltop villages.

But there were two problems: they weren’t French speakers and they had full-time jobs. So they came up with a plan…

Follow their adventures (and misadventures) as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split their time between two countries. Laugh along as they build a life in Provence, slowly mastering a new language and making friends with the locals over long meals and just a bit too much wine.

This light and breezy memoir is full of wry observations on France, like the power of cheese to sway elections, the right and wrong ways for men to kiss each other, and the law requiring that blood donors must speak French.

If you’ve ever dreamed of changing gears and learning what joie de vivre is really all about, you won’t want to miss this delightful book.

From the Book

Joyeux Anniversaire: The chef had written a cookbook and I bought one for Val, which he signed. His inscription read, “Valérie, vous êtes jeune et délicieuse comme les fèves du printemps” (“Valerie, you are young and delicious like the fava beans of springtime.”) . . . I had so much to learn from the French.

How to Kiss a Frenchman: Here, not far from where we had stayed the year before, it was two kisses on the cheek rather than three. How were we supposed to know this? Was there a border we had crossed but somehow missed the sign? (“Welcome to Eastern Provence. Please Follow the Local Kissing Regulations. And Enjoy Your Lunch, Especially the Asparagus, Which is Delicious Right Now.”)

A Night at the Opera: There are many words that are the same in French and English, like nation, pause, and danger. If I don’t know a word in French, sometimes I will just fake it by using the English word with a French accent. It works most of the time. But you have to be careful. There are words that exist in both languages and have entirely different meanings. These are the infamous faux amis, or “false friends.” Ask Val about the time she shocked her co-workers by talking about preservatives in food. Oops, preservative means “condom.”

Interregnum: France had started to capture our hearts. It wasn’t just a place we visited; it was becoming one of the places we lived. Thomas Jefferson is supposed to have said, “Every man has two countries – his own and France.” Maybe he was on to something.

 

One Sip at a Time is available from Amazon in Paperback https://www.amazon.com/One-Sip-Time-Learning-Provence/dp/0998312002/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Kindle format https://www.amazon.com/One-Sip-Time-Learning-Provence-ebook/dp/B01N24CGEE/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

and as an Audiobook https://www.amazon.com/One-Sip-Time-Learning-Provence/dp/B073ZLMPVG/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Miles for Bonnie: Finding our Family by Irene Helenowski

 

A heart-warming and inspirational adventure story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a truly inspirational story which takes you on the rollercoaster which is Dave’s life.

Who is Dave? Well Dave was just your average man who runs a diner and gets on with life. That is he did, until his beloved wife Bonnie dies. Now he is a broken man, going through the motions, with a big house and business, but no sparkle in his eye. He has known his waitress Tammy for a long time and she has had her own fair share of misery, but she is a mother and must get on with life, with kids to feed and work she just gets on with things, there’s no place for self-pity.

Then, one evening just before Christmas, at the end of a busy day a client called Nicholas stays to natter, and his parting words have an incredible impact on Dave, taking him down a pathway he could never have imagined.

From that day he changes his life completely, and remembering his dear Bonnie’s words he decides to travel and help people…

As the reader joins Dave on his journey we meet people from all walks of life, each with their own story to tell, and Dave intuitively seems to know what they want, be it a shoulder to cry on, tough love or support. In return he receives love and respect from those who get to know him.

However, home is home and when the yearning for the diner becomes too much he returns. During his absence many alterations have been made to the place, and even bigger plans are afoot. Yet just after his homecoming Dave discovers he is not immune to disaster, and when it strikes he learns he needs help too. Encouraged to write his story, he finds peace in its telling, and then discovers that there are yet more adventure to be had…

With twists and turns, this amazing story simultaneously both pulls at your heart strings and fills you with inspiration. A great read and one which people from all walks of life will enjoy.

 

About the Author:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irene Helenowski would like to be a writer when she grows up but also loves her current day job, being a biostatistician at Northwestern University in Chicago. She has received a Master’s in Statistics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Ph.D. in Biostatistics from the University of Illinois – Chicago. She hopes to follow her trilogy with a series of fairy tales and additionally writes poetry and is attempting a screenplay based on her trilogy. Irene also enjoys travel, going to concerts and museums, and other activities with friends and family. Spreading the love of math and science to minority groups has also become a passion of hers.

 

About the Book:

For the longest time, he was just going through the motions. And then a stranger came into Dave Simpson’s diner, setting him on a journey to find what he and his late wife always wanted. It was not long before he would find their family.

Available from Amazon in Kindle format https://www.amazon.com/Miles-Bonnie-Finding-our-Family-ebook/dp/B07FC2885J/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531728777&sr=8-1&keywords=irene+helenowski

 

The Staircase of Fire by Ben Woodard

 

Can Tom overcome his secret demons, and use his strength to help others?

In writing this exciting adventure story, the author takes his reader back to Kentucky in 1923, a time when racial prejudice was rampant and the Ku Klux Klan were very much at large…

The main character in the story is a fourteen year old boy called Tom. He lives in Shakertown in Mercer County with his granddad, and is an orphan. The tragedies of his life so far, and the memories associated with this have left his mind tortured with guilt and regret. Tom is an Irish catholic and as such is subject to some of the racial hatred which is so apparent against the Negro’s in his town. Perhaps this is why he feels so sorry for the way Rose and her son James are treated when they go to the courthouse to enrol to vote. Rose knows she has the right to vote using the 19th Amendment, however not in Shakertown, here Negro’s are not yet equal to white folk. Watching the mother and son being ridiculed and taken back to their wagon by the town’s deputies, and not helping them, makes the guilt burns deep into Tom’s soul, he is so ashamed of his cowardliness. This shame turns to absolute horror when days later he is waiting to say goodbye to Rose and James as they head off for a new life elsewhere. Instead of escaping the hate, he witnesses a horrific incident which they are subject to, and the memory of it changes his life forever!

He is just starting high school, and life must go on. The only way he can cope is to supress what he witnessed, and being your typical young lad he has a mind full of girls, and football. However the recent guilt and past memories remain in the back of his mind and haunt his dreams. He knows he must find the legendary Shaker gold, hidden somewhere in the town during the Civil War, and escape the town forever. But can escaping a place mean you can escape the memories too?

Fired with determination, and with the help of his cousin Will, Tom begins his search to find the map to the treasure, but it was hidden so long ago and so much has changed since then. Will the boys find the treasure?

If they do, will the money be answer to everything, or will it bring its own demons, after all money is sometimes known to be the route of all evil.

So many questions, and the answers can be found in this exciting rollercoaster of an adventure. Through Tom, his friends, family and the townsfolk we discover what life was really like during this period of time for people of color in America.

An inspiring adventure where the reader discovers that strength of character, the belief in what is right, and facing your demons, is the only answer to true inner peace – Highly recommended.

About the Author:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spellbinding storyteller of high adventure, Ben has walked the Great Wall of China, hiked in Tibet, and climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest. And recently learned to surf in Hawaii.
Ben is active in SCBWI and a member of a local children’s writing critique group. He is a former Marketing Manager for a major corporation and ran his own marketing consulting business. He started writing children’s stories in 2008 and has written picture books, middle grade and young adult. Stories of adventure and wonder. Stories that inspire and educate, and, most of all, entertain.
Ben lives in Kentucky with his wife Lynda.

About the Book:

A quiet town in Kentucky explodes from a racial incident and fourteen-year-old Tom Wallace is in the thick of it. His past haunts him and now he’s witness to a horrific event leaving him devastated and afraid.
Tom and his cousin, Will, search for lost Shaker gold he believes can help him escape his town and memories. But leaving has consequences. He will lose his friends and his new love.
On a fiery staircase Tom finally realizes that he must face his inner demons and his terrifying nightmares. To do so he must take a stand that could change his life … or end it.
Author Ben Woodard relies on firsthand experience and family history to tell this moving story of personal tragedy and racial hatred set in the rolling countryside of Kentucky in 1923.

The Staircase of Fire is available from:

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Staircase-Fire-Shakertown-Adventure-Book-ebook/dp/B07C683RY9/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1529676369&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=the+staircase+of+fire&psc=1

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-staircase-of-fire-ben-woodard/1127706073?ean=9780997344899

Foyles http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/childrens/the-staircase-of-fire,ben-woodard-9780997344899?term=The+Staircase+of+fire#

 

Billy Gogan, American: A Novel by Roger Higgins

 

Billy Gogan’s epic adventure begins as he leaves Ireland for a new life in America.

Lose yourself in the pages of this exciting historical novel as you follow the adventures of Billy Gogan, an Irish orphan sent to America on the eve of the 1844 Irish Famine. Discover the dangers he faces as he lives by his wits, and does what he has to, to survive….

The author of this exciting adventure story, Roger Higgins was born in Cheshire, England, and he emigrated to America with his parents and younger brother just before he was seven. Today he lives with his wife in Chicago, Illinois and is immensely proud of his four children.

He served on a guided missile destroyer and other ships as a naval officer, he then became a lawyer, and had various other jobs, eventually becoming a partner at a firm with the grandest bankruptcy practice of them all. He still practices law on a smaller scale and enjoys writing novels.

It is this diversity of knowledge, and life experiences which the author has used to full effect in writing the story of Billy Gogan – American.

The book begins with the 15 year old Billy Gogan in school, however, suddenly his life changes forever when he learns that his father has died in mysterious circumstances in prison. Following this devastating news he is informed by Father O’Muirhily that he must leave his native Ireland and start a new life in America. Passage has been arranged for him on the Maryann.

Forced to travel in steerage he meets in the boarding queue Mary (Máire) Skiddy a young widow, and her young daughter Fiona. When a sailor mistakes them for a family they are bunked together, and a firm friendship is formed. However the voyage hasn’t even begun before Billy witnesses the death of Father O’Muirhily on the quay, but was he pushed, or did he fall?

The vividly descriptive historical writing of this author enables his reader to really get a feel for the lives of his characters. The harshness of life on board ship, the living conditions, and the terrible weather they endure during the voyage, are acute reminders of what travel used to be like.

When the Maryann eventually docks in Gotham, New York, Billy Gogan is distraught to discover that he has become separated from Mary and Fiona. Despite various attempts to find them, he is unlucky, the Five Points district of New York is a dangerous blend of ex-slaves, Americans, and Irish refugees, he can only hope they are safe.

Straight away he manages to find board and lodgings, and after starting work as a brick carrier, being quick to learn, he soon finds himself working as a bookkeeper for the notorious Magee. There, as if by fate, he is reunited with Mary and Fiona, and they begin to plan a future together…

Through Billy we discover what it was like in those times not only to travel to and survive in a foreign country, but also to make a new life, and learn about love, hate, and the myriad of emotions in between.

I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful historical novel and am looking forward to discovering what happens next in the life of Bill Gogan – American.

About the Author:

Roger J. Higgins and his wife reside in Chicago, Illinois, and they are immensely proud of their four children, one of whom is a serving U.S. Marine, and one of whom is Marine turned police officer (happily married to a wonderful high school chemistry and biology teacher).  Their daughter is a nurse, and she and her husband (a retired Coast Guard officer) are the proud parents of a baby boy.  Their youngest son is an aspiring doctor.  As Mrs. Higgins has patiently observed to her husband when he ruminates about the trials and tribulations of raising children, it was together that they went four-for-four with their children, hitting safely at every at-bat.  Not a bad day in the batter’s box.

Roger was born in England, in the County Cheshire, where he learned early of the orange-striped Cheshire cat, which disappears, leaving only its grin, full of teeth and gums.  Roger emigrated with his parents and younger brother to the United States when he was 6 ¾.  When his mother registered him at the local elementary school, he saw fit to wear his English grammar school uniform, which looked a lot like Harry Potter’s, except his cap was gray with purple piping and topped by a purple button, and he wore gray short trousers, gray knee socks and a purple clip-on tie with his dark gray blazer.  After his mother finished registering him for school, the principal gently asked whether he would like to leave the tie and cap with her for the day and pick them up after school.  Roger demurred.  He was fortunate enough to retain both tie and cap (which were never worn again) on the walk home from school.

At the advanced age of ten, Roger taught himself the art of swearing, a skill he found useful in his thirty-odd years of playing rugby, where he was noted for his stone hands, his lack of size for certain positions and lack of speed for all the rest.  As a young United States naval officer serving on a guided-missile destroyer many years ago with the lucky number “13” as her hull number (where he met some of the best friends a man can be lucky enough to have), he also learned, as did Captain Horatio Hornblower two centuries earlier, that sometimes having fifty-five oaths at your command can be entirely inadequate to the occasion.

Roger learned the art of leadership from his ships’ commanding officer and executive officer, who together led the tired, old ship, which was a bit of a laughing-stock along the waterfront, to win the Arleigh Burke award as the best destroyer in all of the Pacific Fleet.  Roger served another fifteen years after that, having had during that time the privilege of being the fire control officer for the U.S.S. Missouri’s 16-inch guns, and thus the only naval officer in the world (at that time) under the age of thirty proficient in the ancient—and wonderfully obsolescent—art of major caliber naval gunnery.

Roger became a lawyer after retiring from the Navy with a small pension fit to pay the property taxes.  After clerking for a Tax Court judge, who taught him the value of telling your story so as to win your reader to your side, Roger worked for a number of very large law firms, eventually becoming a partner at a firm with the grandest bankruptcy practice of them all.  Roger greatly admires the practice group leader’s philosophy of practicing law, which is to get the best outcome possible for your client, never re-trade on a deal, and if you must stab someone, don’t stab him (her) in the back; look the person in the eye and then stab her.  You’ll be treated the same way, when the time comes.  Oh, and never sell your reputation.  Once sold, you can never buy it back again.

Roger continues to practice law at a much smaller and less grand law firm and to write novels to his own taste.  He is having a wonderful time doing so.

 

About the Book: 

The Billy Gogan story is a fictional memoir told by an old Army general of his adventures as a young man. Billy Gogan, American, opens with recently orphaned Billy Gogan fleeing Ireland on the eve of the Great Hunger — either because he is the son of a dangerous revolutionary, or because his cousin doesn’t trust him around his daughter. Billy befriends a destitute Irish peasant named Máire and her young daughter Fíona, and together they endure a harsh passage to New York, America’s greatest city. They get separated as they debark, and Billy searches tirelessly for them in the dangerous Five Points, ground zero in the collision of Americans, ex-slaves, and Irish refugees.

Here, Billy completes his education. Already able to declaim Cicero and construe Aristotle, he learns voting fraud from Bill Tweed, the future head of Tammany Hall, and the numbers game from Charlie Backwell, Tammany’s top bookie. Finally, Brannagh O’Marran, the beautiful mulatta daughter of the Irish madam of Gotham’s finest brothel, teaches him about love.

Billy eventually finds Máire and Fíona, and the three of them plan their future together. But that future is taken in a cruel stroke, and nothing will ever be the same.

Author’s Website: http://billygogan.com/get-the-book/

 

Bily Gogan, American is available from Amazon in Paperback https://www.amazon.com/Billy-Gogan-American-Roger-Higgins/dp/1609521153/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1523446127&sr=8-1&keywords=billy+gogan+american 

and Kindle format https://www.amazon.com/Billy-Gogan-American-Roger-Higgins-ebook/dp/B01EEQ9LSW/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1523446127&sr=8-1 

and

Barnes and Noble in Paperback https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/billy-gogan-american-roger-higgins/1122741341?ean=9781609521158

and as a NOOK Book https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/billy-gogan-american-roger-higgins/1122741341?ean=9781609521165

 

Coming Soon – The Staircase of Fire by Ben Woodard

 

Can Tom overcome his secret demons, and use his strength to help others?

In writing this exciting adventure story, the author takes his reader back to Kentucky in 1923, a time when racial prejudice was rampant and the Ku Klux Klan were very much at large…

The main character in the story is a fourteen year old boy called Tom. He lives in Shakertown in Mercer County with his granddad, and is an orphan. The tragedies of his life so far, and the memories associated with this have left his mind tortured with guilt and regret. Tom is an Irish catholic and as such is subject to some of the racial hatred which is so apparent against the Negro’s in his town. Perhaps this is why he feels so sorry for the way Rose and her son James are treated when they go to the courthouse to enrol to vote. Rose knows she has the right to vote using the 19th Amendment, however not in Shakertown, here Negro’s are not yet equal to white folk. Watching the mother and son being ridiculed and taken back to their wagon by the town’s deputies, and not helping them, makes the guilt burns deep into Tom’s soul, he is so ashamed of his cowardliness. This shame turns to absolute horror when days later he is waiting to say goodbye to Rose and James as they head off for a new life elsewhere. Instead of escaping the hate, he witnesses a horrific incident which they are subject to, and the memory of it changes his life forever!

He is just starting high school, and life must go on. The only way he can cope is to supress what he witnessed, and being your typical young lad he has a mind full of girls, and football. However the recent guilt and past memories remain in the back of his mind and haunt his dreams. He knows he must find the legendary Shaker gold, hidden somewhere in the town during the Civil War, and escape the town forever. But can escaping a place mean you can escape the memories too?

Fired with determination, and with the help of his cousin Will, Tom begins his search to find the map to the treasure, but it was hidden so long ago and so much has changed since then. Will the boys find the treasure?

If they do, will the money be answer to everything, or will it bring its own demons, after all money is sometimes known to be the route of all evil.

So many questions, and the answers can be found in this exciting rollercoaster of an adventure. Through Tom, his friends, family and the townsfolk we discover what life was really like during this period of time for people of color in America.

An inspiring adventure where the reader discovers that strength of character, the belief in what is right, and facing your demons, is the only answer to true inner peace – Highly recommended.

About the Author:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spellbinding storyteller of high adventure, Ben has walked the Great Wall of China, hiked in Tibet, and climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest. And recently learned to surf in Hawaii.

Ben is active in SCBWI and a member of a local children’s writing critique group. He is a former Marketing Manager for a major corporation and ran his own marketing consulting business. He started writing children’s stories in 2008 and has written picture books, middle grade and young adult. Stories of adventure and wonder. Stories that inspire and educate, and, most of all, entertain.

Ben lives in Kentucky with his wife Lynda.

Author’s Website: http://www.booksbyben.com/

 

About the Book: 

A quiet town in Kentucky explodes from a racial incident and fourteen-year-old Tom Wallace is in the thick of it. His past haunts him and now he’s witness to a horrific event leaving him devastated and afraid.

Along with his cousin, Will, he searches for lost gold he believes can help him escape his town and memories. But leaving has consequences. He will lose his friends and his new love.

On a fiery staircase Tom finally realizes that he must face his inner demons and his horrific nightmares. To do so requires him to take a stand that could change his life … or end it.

Kentucky author, Ben Woodard, relies on personal experience and family history to tell this moving story of personal tragedy and racial hatred set in the rolling countryside of Kentucky in 1923.

The Staircase of Fire will be released on 25th May 2018 – it is available for pre-order now

Amazon in Hardcover https://www.amazon.com/Staircase-Fire-Shakertown-Adventure/dp/099734489X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522238479&sr=8-1&keywords=staircase+of+fire

and

Barnes and Noble in Hardcover https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-staircase-of-fire-ben-woodard/1127706073?ean=9780997344899

as a Nook Book https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-staircase-of-fire-ben-woodard/1127706073?ean=2940158838606