Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sci Fi/Middle Grade: Summer on Earth by Peter Thompson

Author: Peter Thompson
Publisher: Persnickety Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Sci-fi / Middle Grade

The night that eleven-year-old Grady Johnson looked out his window and wished upon a shooting star, his life changed forever.

Grady, his Ma, and younger sister Luanne are having a hard summer. Dad has died and the family isn’t the same. Though Ma is trying her best, Grady knows they don’t have enough money to get by.

The shooting star he saw was a space craft plunging to Earth, and landing at the back of their farm. Extraterrestrial engineer Ralwil Turth has one goal, to fix his power drive and go back home. But things don’t go as planned. Stuck in human form, he gets to know Grady and his family as he works on their farm. He starts to learn about what it means to be human, and the exotic charms of this planet like the taste of potatoes, and how amazing bugs are.

Ralwil grows to care for Grady and his family. On a trip to town, he realizes that money is what matters to humans, and is the cause of the family’s trouble. That night, he uses his technology to combine a twenty-dollar bill with an oak twig. Over the next week this grows to a towering tree, every leaf a twenty-dollar bill. This, Ralwil is sure, will solve all the family’s problems.

But the family’s wealth raises suspicion in this small town, and this soon leads to more trouble. With the family’s fate, and Ralwil’s life, on the line, Grady has to find the courage to help his family and save his friend.

Summer on Earth blends humor, adventure and poignancy to create an unforgettable story about finding home.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble

      It was hotter than usual that night, and Grady couldn’t get comfortable, even with the fan on high. The June bugs thumped against the window screen, and the crickets chirped so loudly it sounded like they were right there in the room. He could hear the TV on downstairs, so he knew Ma was still awake. Ever since Dad died she’d stayed up late most every night.
Grady just stared out the window and looked at the night sky. Where they lived, out in the country, there wasn’t much light at night and the stars stood out more than they did in the city. Grady tried to find the constellations his Dad had taught him, just letting his mind wander. At some point he started to get sleepy. But before he fell asleep, he saw a shooting star. And when he saw it, he made a wish.
      This is the story of how that wish came true. 

Peter Thompson grew up in Illinois, and lives near Chicago. He remembers how excited he was when the first astronaut stepped on to the moon. He has had an appreciation of space, and all its possibilities ever since. His love of children’s books developed while reading to his three sons. His first novel, Living Proof, was a thriller published by Berkeley Books. Summer on Earth is his first book for younger readers. It will be released in August of this year.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Brain is Out of Control: Memoirs of a Doctor as a Patient by Dr. Patrick Mbaya

Publication Date: September 2016
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Formats: Ebook
Pages: 76
Genre: Biography/Autobiography
Tour Dates: September 25-October 20

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Although Dr. Patrick Mbaya’s illness caused a lot distress and nearly took his life, the emotional symptoms of the depression he developed helped him understand and empathize with patients and how they feel when they become ill. In My Brain is Out of Control, Mbaya, fifty-five and at the peak of his career, shares a personal story of how he suffered from a brain infection in 2010 that caused loss of speech, right-sided weakness, and subsequent depression. He tells how he also dealt with the antibiotics complications of low white cell count and hepatitis. He narrates his experiences as a patient, the neurological and psychiatric complications he encountered, how he coped, and his journey to recovery. Presenting a personal perspective of Mbaya’s illness from the other side of the bed, My Brain is Out of Control, offers profound insight into battling a serious illness.


Clinical Depression is a common illness, different from ordinary sadness, which is a normal reaction. It can affect anyone, including doctors like myself, and indeed I suffered from this, during my illness. It is not a weakness. 

It may occur spontaneously in vulnerable individuals, like someone with a family history of depression. Severe stress or traumatic events in childhood, may also make an individual vulnerable to developing depressive illness, later on in life. Recent research has shown that this could be due to the effect of stress hormone cortisol, on the developing brain. Severe stress or loss events (like losing a family member) can cause (precipitate) it. In my case the brain infection I suffered, affected the limbic/emotional brain (see below). 

Emotions, and certain behaviours are controlled by the limbic (emotional) brain. This is like a circuit comprising of connections from the brain stem (stem of the brain), to the front part of the brain (prefrontal cortex, the part in front of the motor cortex), then to the medial (inner side) of the temporal lobe structures like amygdala and hippocampus. In my case, it is the left prefrontal cortex, which is next to the motor cortex (which caused weakness on my right side) and the speech (Broca’s) area. 

There are different theories about the biological causes of depression within the brain. However, there is a lot of clinical, and research evidence that depression is associated altered levels of chemicals (neurotransmitters) that control emotions, and behaviours. The two main chemicals (neurotransmitters) being serotonin and noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine). These chemicals are made by the brain from the food we eat, like bananas (I asked my daughter to get me bananas during my recovery phase). Emotions and behaviours like mood, sleep, appetite, enjoyment, concentration, short-term memory, energy, and some forms of thinking are controlled by these chemicals. 

There is both clinical, and research evidence that these chemicals become imbalanced, causing symptoms of clinical depression including persistent low mood, tearfulness, poor sleep, lack of enjoyment, poor concentration, short term memory, reduced interest in things, poor appetite, feeling negative (like focussing on past traumatic or unhappy events, or being emotionally affected by current sad events) up to including suicidal thoughts. (Recent research has shown that amygdala become very active in clinical depression, negative traumatic past events tend to re-surface and the individual becomes pre-occupied with these events, feels hopeless, worthless, and has suicidal thoughts, and these symptoms are reversed by effective treatment of depression). These symptoms tend to be worse in the morning (diurnal variation, possibly related to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol) and can improve later on during the day. Like in my case, my mood was worse in the morning. “I was emotional and found myself crying without a moment’s notice.” As depressive illness can affect confidence, energy, motivation, concentration, short term memory, level of functioning is impaired (the ability to carry out activities of daily living, even to the point of being unable to work, socialise or to go to school). The World Health Organization (WHO) found out in a study (1990), comparing medical illnesses, that depression was four in the league table, as a cause of health-related disability. They estimated that by 2020, it will rank second to heart disease! 

Current research has shown that severe stress increases the levels of stress hormone cortisol, which in turn reduces serotonin, noradrenaline, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, also known as brain fertilizer, which protects against cell death by cortisol), in the brain, causing depression. 

Antidepressants work by increasing these chemicals/neurotransmitters (improving symptoms, and level of functioning), and may protect against severe stress causing depression. Psychological treatment like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), is also effective in depression, especially in combination with antidepressants. Current guidelines recommend psychological treatment for mild to moderate depression, and antidepressant medication, plus psychological treatment for moderate to severe depression. 

Dr Patrick Mbaya MD FRCPsych. 

References: Duman Ronald. Depression: a cause of neuronal life and death. Biological Psychiatry, 1 August 2004, vol.56:140-145 

Global Burden of Disease, World Health Organization, 1990. 

Mbaya Patrick. My Brain Is Out Of Control. Author House. September, 2016 

Shimizu Fiji et al. Alterations of serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in depressed patients with or without antidepressants; Biological Psychiatry, 1 July 2003,Vol 54(1): 70-75 

Stahl Stephen M. Essential Psychopharmacology, Neuroscientific Basis and Practical Applications. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press. 

Stress and Plasticity in Limbic System, Robert M. Sapolsky; Neurochemical Research, Vol. 28, No. 11.

Dr. Patrick Mbaya is a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry. He is a consultant psychiatrist and honorary clinical lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. He has a special interest in mood and addiction disorders.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On the Spotlight: LIVIN’: From the Amsterdam Red Light to the African Bush, by Frankie Hogan

Front ADN3395 Digest-Soft-Cover (1)Title:
 LIVIN’:  From the Amsterdam Red Light to the African Bush
Genre: non fiction
Author:  Frankie Hogan
Publisher: Wharton Reed
Find out more on Amazon
About the Book: In spite of a lifelong passion for travel, author Frankie Hogan admits that he often fell victim to “life getting in the way” until he decided, once and for all, to stop giving in to easy excuses, stop yielding to the reasons not to—and stop the cycle of procrastinating, putting off and waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, and the right companions.  It was time, Frankie decided, to get out there and see the world, to take in the history, nature and nightlife of places far away from home.  It was time to get out of his own way and travel—really travel—to off-the-beaten-path, exotic, far-flung destinations.  And Hogan, a South Philly native and streetwise everyman, did just that.  Livin’ is the story of the ride, the road, and the reward.
A travel guide like no other, Livin’ presents a first person look at the joys, the wonders, and the occasional woes of busting out of the comfort zone and seeing the world.  A tale told by a tour guide like no other—the affable, outspoken, and hilariously observant Frankie Hogan,  Livin’ is part memoir, part adventure story, part unconventional travel guide,  part laugh-out-loud narrative and totally irresistible.  Consider what would happen if you traveled the world with a Charles Bukowski-Jack Kerouac hybrid leading the way, and you will get a sense of what this tantalizing tome has to offer…
Unfiltered, uncensored, and unapologetic, Livin’ takes readers beyond the glossy brochures and postcards and lays bare the good, the bad, and the ugly.  A memoir that celebrates wanderlust (with its fair share of both wandering and lust) Livin’ is vibrant and vivid, irreverent and inspiring, uproariously ribald but abundantly real.
Come along for the ride as Hogan leads a tour from Egypt to South Africa, Amsterdam to Vietnam, Peru to Cambodia, India, China and more.  Livin’ is a larger-than-life tale about taking chances, conquering fears, taking the road less traveled and rolling with the punches.  A book that could inspire even the most steadfast homebody to hit the road, Livin’ is a journey in itself.
A hell of a storyteller with one hell of a story to tell, Frankie Hogan pulls no punches in this refreshingly candid narrative. Eminently readable and wholly unforgettable, Livin’ charms with its friendly, conversational tone and mesmerizes with its fascinating accounts of some of the most enviable travel destinations in the world. Moreover, Livin’ comes alive with Hogan’s colorful observations, joie de vivre, unmistakable wit and keen eye for the comical, the sublime, and the absurd.   Quite simply, Livin’ is a real trip.   
About the Author: Frankie Hogan is an American writer, director and filmmaker. He is founder and principal partner of Corner Prophets Production Company, a film production company.  A native of South Philadelphia’s Grays Ferry neighborhood, Hogan lives in Los Angeles. Livin’ is Hogan’s first book—a book he wrote in hopes of inspiring others to stop making excuses, and make their dreams of travel a reality.
 As noon approached, we split into different groups, depending on which optional tours were scheduled that afternoon. Two of our group, Austin and Brett, stayed put. They had chosen to bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia, with the falls as the backdrop. We watched one of the jumpers, and I give them credit; it takes balls. Not that I would have been against jumping myself, but I had a scheduling conflict. I was joining with the bulk of the group downtown to visit a local craft village. We walked the outdoor markets for an hour. There was good haggling to be done. However, the locals dealt in US dollars, and that priced up even local crafts. I was glad I had made it down to the market to meet some locals, but I was also glad I had done most of my shopping in South Africa. When I ventured back to our pick-up location, I ran into Laura and Luis. Laura was our group’s lone Mexican woman (who usually took longer than the rest of us to get through border control). She had brought her nephew Luis with her on the trip. Luis was wise for his age, wide-eyed eleven-year-old who had a look of amazement almost everywhere we went.
“Frank, I am glad to find you,” she blurted out while I (self-deprecatingly) wondered why.
She had booked the falls helicopter ride, which didn’t allow children younger than teens. That’s right. It was babysitting time. Really, it was no big deal. He was a great kid. “No problema,” I assured her. She was relieved when she hopped on a bus to the chopper helipad. Luis, Tom (who was sick from malaria meds), Singh, and I hopped another bus back to the lodge.
We let Tom limp back to his room and sleep it off (poor guy). Now where to take the kid and what to do? What does the responsible adult decide? To the bar and poker table! All right, all right, I kid. It wasn’t a bar, per se. We took him to the outdoor deck of the main cabin that overlooked the watering hole. Singh and I grabbed a beer and ordered Luis a ginger ale, and we all looked down at a family of impala. The kid was right at home too. With a genuine fascination, he recited facts about impala. You came to the right place, Luis. I was no slouch on animal behavior, and Singh knew his shit too. This was a Nat Geo kind of table. We circled around and traded different animal facts for the first half hour. We took out binoculars and my camera long lens and looked for hidden gems in the bush. Luis took out the deck of cards he had bought at the market. We decided to have a go at a game of poker. We played a few hands and then he balked at the fact that we had nothing to bet with.
“Okay, let’s play for dollars,” I dared him.
His grin grew wide and he immediately accepted. I was dealt two pairs and chuckled to myself.
“How much you bet?” I taunted him a bit.
“Five dollars,” he proclaimed.
“Are you sure?” I teased.
He confirmed with a nod, I agreed, and he laid down four of a kind. He gave me a coy grin.
“All right, no more games for money,” I said.
Hustled by an eleven-year-old. Singh had a good laugh. We then went down to the deck below and watched as swarms of vultures circled overhead. The hotel held a daily vulture feeding that the giant birds must have timed, as over fifty of them seemed to come from nowhere ten minutes before a staff member brought a tray of meat to the lower level. Their size and wingspan took center stage as they flocked to the kill. When Laura returned, I promised Luis I’d get him his money when we all grouped back up. He was on his way to an elephant-ride safari but was envious of where I was going, which was another place he was too young to visit. My optional tour for the afternoon was a lion walk.
When I first booked the lion walk, I had preconceived notions. The main attraction for me was to be out in the bush, in the lions’ territory, and hiking with the future kings of the joint. Another assumption was that they would be future kings. I believed the lions on the lion walk would be knee-high youngsters. Maybe a hundred pounds, but far from fully grown. This might have been reinforced by online pics of the walk. My walk proved half of those assumptions incorrect. Lilly, Singh, and Sharon joined me as our bus picked up tourists and volunteers. Some of the volunteers were there on summer holidays from their universities. Man, to have your shit together that young. First clue of the reality when we arrived was the safety talk and precautions. The guide passed out indemnity forms and basic legal paperwork.
“Here is where we sign our life away,” I joked.
“Yes, death by lion is now your choice,” the guide agreed. He went over safety tips. “We have teenage lions right now, and as those of you who are parents know, teenagers can switch their moods very fast.”
The humor by the guides on this tour was tip-top.
“Let’s keep you safe. The lions are the leaders here. You are now a part of their pride. Never walk in front of them. Keep behind their back legs. If they stop to scratch or lie down or go to the bathroom, you stop.
Do not pass them. You will receive walking sticks. If a lion makes eye contact with you and then approaches you face-on, take your stick, hold it out at arm’s length, and say ‘No!'” he continued.
We chuckled a bit. He did too but then concluded, “They know this word. But if a lion decides you are a meal, it will be hard to stop him.” His face was serious now. “Stay safe. We want you to be safe. There will be a gunman leading our group. This gunman is for other wild animals, not our lions. We are here for the preservation of these animals, not to become their food.”
It was a good reminder of the pecking order. Let’s do this.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Interview with Mark S. Bacon, Author of 'Desert Kill Switch'

Mark S. Bacon began his career as a southern California newspaper police reporter, one of his crime stories becoming key evidence in a murder case that spanned decades.

After working for two newspapers, he moved to advertising and marketing when he became a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the freeway from Disneyland.  Experience working at Knott’s formed part of the inspiration for his creation of Nostalgia City theme park. 

Before turning to fiction, Bacon wrote business books including  one for John Wiley & Sons Publishers that was printed in four languages and three editions, named best business book of the year by Library Journal, and selected by the Book of the Month Club and two other book clubs.  His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express News, Denver Post, and many other publications.  Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Desert Kill Switch is the second book in the Nostalgia City mystery series that began with Death in Nostalgia City, an award winner at the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival.  The third book in the series will be published soon.
Bacon is the author of flash fiction mystery books including, Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words.  He  taught journalism as a member of the adjunct faculty at Cal Poly University – Pomona, University of Redlands, and the University of Nevada - Reno.  He earned an MA in mass media from UNLV and a BA in journalism from Fresno State.   
Find out more on Amazon    
Website and social media:
Twitter: @baconauthor


Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
A life-and-death chase across the Nevada desert in August highlights the action in this complex mystery spread across the southwest. Desert Kill Switch takes place first in Nostalgia City, a massive (and pricy) theme park with a unique appeal—particularly for anyone who remembers the 1970s.  The Arizona park re-creates in minute detail, a small town from the 1970s.  It’s complete with period cars, clothes, food, music, shops, fads, hair styles, restaurants—the works.
The story begins in the desert just outside the park.  Lyle Deming, a park employee and ex-cop, finds a bullet-riddled body next to a pristine 1970s model Pontiac Firebird.  But when he returns to the scene with sheriff’s deputies, no car, no body.
At the same time, Kate Sorensen, the park’s vice president of public relations is in Reno, Nev., representing Nostalgia City at a rock ’n’ roll and classic car festival.  When she’s accused of murdering the festival’s president, Lyle joins her in Nevada and the two embark on a wild, puzzling ride to exonerate Kate, save a witness’s life, trap a blackmailer and find the missing corpse.  They travel from Nostalgia City to Reno to Las Vegas and back.
In addition to automobile kill switches, which I’ll explain in a moment, the book also looks at the classic car market.  This is not the sale of repainted jalopies, but of beautifully restored muscle cars from the ’60s and ’70s that can sell in the low to high six figures. And can be counterfeited.
Inspiration for Nostalgia City theme park comes from one of my jobs early in my career.  I was a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park just up the freeway from Disneyland.  As a mystery fan—but not a mystery writer yet—I thought that a theme park, especially at night, would make a great setting for a murder novel.  I used my behind-the-scenes theme park experiences to create the retro park, Nostalgia City. 
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
This is the second book in my Nostalgia City mystery series.  My publisher is Black Opal Books and I’m under contract for the third book in the series which will be out next year.  Although I self-published a how-to book once, I wanted to find a traditional publisher to carry this novel series.  It gives me more time to write, rather than be involved in every production task. 
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing the story, or did it come later?
This was a challenge.  You can’t copyright a book title, thus often more than one book has the same title.  Confusing.  At least six relatively recent mystery/suspense books have the title “Kill Switch.”  Obviously I didn’t want to make mine the seventh book with that title.  But since automobile kill switches are so important to the book, I had to look for other ways to use those words.
As the book is set in Arizona and Nevada, it takes place in the Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin deserts.  I thought about using one of those desert names, but ultimately decided on the more simple, Desert Kill Switch.
Kill switches are devices that some auto dealers install in cars they sell.  Dealers sometimes put GPS trackers and kill switches in cars sold to people considered to be high-risk borrowers.  If a buyer misses a payment—sometimes by as little as a few days—the car is dead.  I discovered this practice in a news article, did follow-up research, and found out that about two million cars in the US contain remote-control kill switches. 
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
The credit for this stunning cover goes to its designer, Jacci Larsen and to James Mandas, the owner of the 1972 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am seen stranded in the desert.
My publisher permits authors to do their own covers and I had a pretty good idea what I wanted: a photo of a classic car surrounded by empty desert.  Since the book takes place in the desert, an arid landscape had to be part of the cover and the classic car trade would be represented by a good automotive example
Without spoiling too much of the plot, in the first chapter my protagonist, Lyle Deming, finds a Firebird on a lonely desert road.  The mystery—and the murder—proceeds from there. 
To set up the picture, I needed to find a restored classic car from the 1960s or 1970s. I didn’t really care what make or model it was.   I first tried local car clubs and happened to find reference to a Pontiac owners club.  After about twenty minutes more searching I found pictures of the white and blue Firebird at an auto show and was able to contact Mandas, its owner.
He graciously agreed to haul his beautiful car out to the desert. After several postponements due to bad weather, the photo shoot took place about 25 miles north of Reno, Nevada on a chilly, November day.  The car is an immaculate automobile artifact and it reflected the desert sun as it posed for the photos.
The cover design has the photo flowing across the spine to the back cover.  One clever design element that Larsen added on the spine is a US highway sign with the numeral 2 in it to indicate this is the second book in the series. The first book had the same highway sign on the spine, except it said, Route 66, representing the historic “mother road.”  Nostalgia City theme park is located near a restored portion of 66. 
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
Larsen is my daughter.  She’s a web designer, not a book designer by trade, but her sense of style and balance translates well to all media.  She did the design for my first book and has helped with designs on my website and printed promotional material.  
How was your experience working with the designer?
Excellent.  I appreciated she treated me as much like a client as her father.  She worked with deadlines, gave me updates on the work in progress and was open to suggestions. 
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
So far, so good.  The book has just come out so I’m waiting for more feedback.  I posted the cover on social media recently and several people wanted to read the book, just based on the cover. 
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Look at lots of samples. If a designer has not done many book covers, but has an extensive professional portfolio, study the work. 
Look at the covers of top-selling books in your genre.  See if you can spot trends.  If you’re a romance writer and the artist you’re considering has mostly designed high tech books, tell him or her to study your genre. Also, talk with other authors.  Ask them who designed their covers.  How much did it cost? 
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
The landscapes in Arizona and Nevada have many faces.  The bare, dark hills and tan and green scrub brush on my cover reflect the open spaces—and the daunting isolation—of the southwest deserts.