Forty Years Back


Nice, France

Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.

My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.

I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.

But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

It’s #RIAuthor Month – Meet Heather Rigney


Heather books

Not all mermaids are nice, some are nasty ... Enter the world of Evie (rhymes with heavy) McFagan–crappy mother, funeral director, functioning alcoholic and all around hot mess. While nursing a hangover at the local playground, Evie encounters a merrow, or a mermaid disguised as a nursery school mom. Evie instantly detects that the new chick is fishy–bad fishy–but who’s going to believe the town drunk? As Evie pulls on her Nancy Drew pants and does some half-baked detective work, she uncovers a nefarious kettle of fish dating back to the 1600s. Weaving storylines dealing with Irish immigration, colonial outrage, and nautical mishaps, Waking the Mermaid is a wild, hysterical ride through Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay and a small town known as Pawtuxet Village.
Nicole Hill from Barnes and Noble Book Blog writes: “You know what’s great about Rigney’s horror-ific (that’s horror-filled and terrific), hysterical debut novel? Besides the bloodthirsty merfolk, our antihero protagonist is an overweight, drunk, subpar mother, who also happens to be a funeral director. I can’t even describe the premise of this book without getting giddy, because how many times does a plot involve both vicious mermaids and Rhode Island colonists?”
Award-winning, Amazon bestseller Waking the Merrow is the first in the Merrow Trilogy, followed by Hunting the Merrow and the soon to be released (this December!) Caging the Merrow Due to the rising popularity of Heather Rigney’s trilogy, Rigney has attended over fourteen different book clubs in Rhode Island during the past three years.
You can find Heather’s books (print copies) at local bookstores or on Amazon
You’re welcome to attend the gala release of Caging the Merrow on Thursday, December 7, from 4:00-7:00pm at Nordstrom Cafe
Heather Rigney

Writer, artist, and underwater fire-breather, Heather Rigney likes to make stuff. Stuff with words, stuff with paint, stuff that’s pretty, and stuff that’s not. Heather’s stories reflect a dark, gothic childhood spent in the woods of northern Rhode Island. At the moment, she resides in Pawtuxet Village, RI with a family (both chosen and created) that she adores.

Follow Heather on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and at her website.

GIVEAWAY! Heather is giving away a signed paperback copy of Waking the Merrow to one lucky winner. All you have to do is comment on this blog post. The winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication of this blog post. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

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It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Mary Catherine Volk


Believe in Forever

 

Mary Catherine Volk is an author, spiritual medium, and inspirational speaker. Her book, Believe In Forever: How to Recognize Signs from Departed Loved Ones, is based on firsthand experiences and details the specific ways that contact with the other side occurs. Our loved ones send us signs to let us know they are at peace and that we will see each other again. This book teaches the reader how to navigate this new method of communication. The numerous stories in this book will give you chills as they touch your heart; teaching you to trust your own intuitive ability. Believe In Forever is a perfect book for anyone grieving a loss or curious about life after death. A personalized autographed copy of the book makes a wonderful holiday gift and is available on her website. www.marycatherinevolk.com

Mary Catherine Volk was given the gift of knowing that death is just a transition after experiencing a Near Death Experience at age six where she was greeted by her deceased grandfather, who told her that she would be all right and returned her to her hospital room. Mary has spent her life teaching and reassuring others that the signs they are receiving are indeed real messages of love. She is always delighted to see the shining light in people’s eyes when they receive confirmation of their unique signs. Once you acknowledge them, you will receive more. Ask and you shall receive!

Mary Catherine Volk

Mary Catherine lives by the sea in Narragansett, Rhode Island, where she enjoys the beach, writing, acting, learning, community and social activities and spending time with her daughters and two new grandchildren. She is founder and owner of www.insigniagems.com a jewelry company specializing in American flag jewelry. She is currently working on two new books: a sequel to Believe In Forever and a children’s book to teach parents how to answer their children’s questions about seeing departed loved ones or angels.

The book is available through Stillwater River Publicationsthe author’s website, on Amazon , and through local bookstores.

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering a print copy of Believe In Forever to one lucky recipient. All you have to do is leave a comment below. The winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

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It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Leah DeCesare


 

For the past few years, I’ve had intermittent intentions of getting a “real” job, but writing keeps winning out and dabbling in applying for corporate jobs fizzles away. Writing is all I ever really wanted to do and I’m finally living that dream. As I was updating my Linked-In profile and my resume a couple of years ago, I discovered a thread that links my divergent and seemingly unrelated career and volunteer paths: Empowerment. Before recognizing this life theme, I’d written my debut novel which is all about encouraging women to believe in themselves.

 I’ve carried the central idea of this book with me since 1988 when my own father sent me off to college with the advice that my character, Amy York’s, dad sends her off to Syracuse University with: There are three types of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That tidbit was true and when I shared this silly system with my college friends it took off, with everyone adding descriptions for new utensils and talking as if it were an understood concept, for example, “I met this complete fork last night.” 


That idea sat with me for decades, but there was no story around it, so when I finally sat to write this book, I had to build the characters and their arcs and let the Utensil Classification System (the UCS) become a backdrop and an organizing idea serving the characters and their growth. In the end, I had a story about friendship and learning to believe in oneself.

I feel strongly about bolstering and helping people to have true self-love and confidence, especially girls/women who often don’t get the same messages as boys/men from society, family, and media. How can we step out into the world and grab hold of what we want in life without believing in ourselves? It’s critical.
I’ve been a Big Sister to a young woman, now twenty-three, since she was seven years old and it’s something we’ve worked on consistently. I facilitate leadership experiences for collegiate women, middle school girls, and older women in various life stages and the time we share is often described as “life-changing,” and I know that’s because we all need to hear messages of empowerment and strength. Messages that tell us it’s not only okay to prioritize ourselves and our desires, but that it’s essential to our health and happiness. By going after our own dreams, we in turn model the way and empower our daughters, our friends, our peers.
As I’ve met with and heard from readers of Forks, Knives, and Spoons, I’m proud that I continue to hear sentiments such as: “This should be required reading for all young women,” “Every high school and college graduate should be reading this book,” “I will be getting this book for the young women in my life.” To me, that means the message I hold dear is coming through and being shared and that’s a joy to any writer.

Leah DeCesare is the award-winning author of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS and the nonfiction parenting series NAKED PARENTING, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. 

Leah’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, the International Doula and The Key, among others. In 2008, Leah co-founded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, Leah worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches and volunteers in Rhode Island where she lives with her family and their talking cockatiel. 
Visit Leah’s website, find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterestInstagramBookbub, and Amazon

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering one signed copy of Forks, Knives, and Spoons  plus one of the T-shirts pictured above (Men’s sizes M, L, or XL). Just comment below to be entered. Winner will be chosen at random and the author will contac you directly. Contest ends one week after publication. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Kim Arcand


Magnitude

Billions, Trillions, Quadrillions

Scientists recently announced that they had detected tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time cause by the merger of two cores of dead stars. Gravitational waves are extremely tiny, which is why scientists need to build special, super-sensitive detectors placed thousands of miles apart to make such detections. But how small are gravitational waves really?

When Taylor Swift launched her latest single this summer, it nearly, as they say, broke the Internet.  Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” released on August 25, was streamed over 10 million times on Spotify, and garnered 24 million views of the video over the course of its first weekend. We’re told that this is a new record, but by a lot or a little?

This is the crux of the issue: we are barraged with various numbers and figures, some of which sound incomprehensible, throughout our daily lives. From the economy to the environment, from popular culture to current science, and practically anything in between, there are many values that can be difficult to grasp: billions of tons of ice lost in Antarctica, trillions of U.S. dollars worth of debt, quadrillions of calculations per second in a super computer, and so forth (a quadrillion is a 10 with 24 zeroes after it).

This is where the simple, yet powerful, tool of comparisons can come to the rescue.

KimArcand1

Take the case of gravitational waves, ripples in space-time.  They can be measured like any other wave from one peak to the next. In the case of these cosmic ripples, the distance between these peaks is a mind-blowing 0.00000000000000000001 meters. That’s a decimal point followed by 18 zeroes. That’s smaller than one ten-thousandth the diameter of a proton, the tiny particle found in the center of an atom.  If that’s not a helpful comparison, consider too that a gravitational wave is about 1 billion times smaller than an atom itself, the basic building block of matter.  That would be like the difference between Earth (atom) and a marble (gravitational wave).

Circling back to Taylor Swift, her success comes at a time when the music industry has become heavily intertwined with our digital society. Every minute of low-resolution video played on YouTube uses about 4 MB of data per minute. A higher quality video (720 or 1080p) uses 12.4 MB for that same minute.

For reference, a typical 1990s hard drive could only store 4 MB of data. Swift’s video lasts just over four minutes and amassed 43.2 million views in 24 hours. That means, even with conservative estimates, her video caused the usage of more data in one day that all the personal computers could have stored across the country just two decades ago.

The long and the short of it is that understanding scale is not just a fun mental exercise or a way to impress the person sitting next to you on the subway. Understanding scale is a form of literacy in navigating our world.

Kim Arcand

Kim Arcand was working in molecular biology and public health when she was hired for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in 1998. Since she always wanted to be an astronaut when she was little, this opportunity got Kim close to the cosmos but without the long distance commute. Today, Kim uses data to help tell stories about science, whether in the form of a 3D model of an exploded star, a book about the Universe, or a tweet about how fireflies glow.

Follow Kim on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

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November is RI Authors Month! (well, at least on my blog)


Again this year, as a lead-up to the Fifth Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo, I’ll be featuring a different RI author on this blog. (The Year of Living Minimally posts will continue on Fridays, too.)

Here’s an opportunity to learn more about an author you may or may not know. Many of the authors are also giving away a book, and all you need to do to enter is comment on the post! Here in tiny Rhode Island we have hundreds of authors – some with one book written, some with many. Genres include romance, history, horror, literary, memoir. There’s something for everyone.

So I hope you enjoy the coming month’s posts and get to know some fabulous authors!