March 18, 2018

Fiona McGier of Illinois, the Rodney Dangerfield of States-No Respect

No respect? Yup. We seem to be the laughing stock of the country. We have our useless governor who blows with the wind, and who forced us to live without a budget for two years, leading to a backlog of bills we might never get out from under. Then we have our entrenched state representatives, who gerrymandered every section of the state to preserve their power. Between those two things, nothing ever gets done. "Vote the bums out," you suggest? Nah. In Illinois, we send our ex-governors to jail.

Downstate is the capital, but our economic powerhouse, Chicago, is on the northwest end of the state. Whenever we get mentioned in the news, it's for the ridiculous rate of gun violence on the South side. See, Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. So while not every "hood" has daily shootings, the ones that do are overwhelmed by poverty and violence. Unfortunately, those who live in hoods where this isn't a problem, pay no attention unless it creeps into their neighborhoods. So, yes, Chicago does have a gun violence problem. But after the recent school shootings, I think we can all agree that the country as a whole has the same problem.

The Chicagoland area has restaurants and grocery stores that cater to almost every ethnic group. In the city proper, you can find neighborhoods like Greektown, Chinatown, Boystown (just what you think it is), and many others. Skokie is north of the city, with a huge population of devout Hasidic Jews. Many of the streets are crowded on certain days of the week, with men with long black hair and beards, wearing long black coats and tall hats, accompanying their families to the temples. This is where, years ago, the Skokie Council reluctantly agreed to give a permit to Nazi-wannabes, to march through their streets. The march never happened...maybe the Nazis were afraid of the streets being lined with the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. 
Go a little bit south, into Chicago proper, and you can find many ethnic neighborhoods, like along Devon Avenue on the near north, where you'll find many Indian and Middle-Eastern immigrants, eager to share their culture and their foods with their new American neighbors. Here you find many women wearing hijabs, celebrating Ramadan, and others who celebrate Divali, the Hindu Celebration of Light.

The near west neighborhood where my Polish mom was raised, gradually changed to Hispanic, and now is gentrifying. This means that young professionals who work downtown are buying up the old two-flats, renovating them, living in one of the flats, and charging exorbitant rent for the other. I wonder what my Busia's place goes for today!

Illinois also gets no respect for the many fine areas surrounding Chicago, in which to live and raise a family. I'm most familiar with the collar communities and suburbs west of Chicago. I was raised in Bensenville, which used to be a small farming community on the northwest side of the city. When my parents bought in B'ville, there was a small army base on the eastern edge of the town, where a small number of military planes were stored. Then the first Mayor Daley decided to make it a world-class airport, and he annexed the land, though none of it abutted Chicago-proper, and he renamed it O'Hare International Airport, or ORD. I liked B'ville well enough, though as a teen I found it boring. So I'd hop the train for the 40-minute ride into downtown, and hang out on the streets of Chicago, pretending to be a city kid. I'm sure it was obvious that I wasn't...but I didn't care.

The collar communities are Rockford, Elgin, Aurora, Joliet, and Kankakee. All of these are cities in their own rights, and all are about two hours from downtown Chi-town. They all have downtowns, and due to ridiculously typical Illinois laws, the ones that have water access have floating casinos. The law says casinos aren't allowed on land. But Rockford, Elgin, Aurora, and Joliet are along the Fox River, so they all have permanently anchored casinos conveniently located in their downtowns. We may have outlived Al Capone and his devious ways, but we still manage to work around laws we don't like.

Naperville has grown from being a small farming community, to being a huge, rambling suburb, home to many white collar companies, with a wide variety of price points in housing. The joke is that it's called IBM town, because no one lives there for more than a few years, until their companies move them again...hence, "I Been Moved."

For many years I've lived in Wheaton, which is home to Wheaton College, founded by Billy Graham. They train missionaries to go all over the world to proselytize. This means that they funnel refugees into the country whenever there is a "hotspot" anywhere, and those families are given housing very close to my house. The schools my kids went to had 15% of the children living in houses where English was not spoken at home. I liked the multi-cultural exposure for my kids, despite us living 30-miles west of the city.

Two towns west of Wheaton is West Chicago. That's where I set my Reyes Family Romances. West Chicago has a large population of Hispanic people, since it's close to Aurora, the bigger city that has lots of employment opportunities. There are currently six books in this series about a large Hispanic family, and the romances experienced by the various family members, over a couple of generations. The heroes and heroines of past books make guest appearances in subsequent books, so you can enjoy finding out how their HEAs are working out.

This excerpt is from Love Therapy, the sixth book in the series.
Set-up: Miguel Reyes fell in love in high school, with the woman he wanted to marry. She had other ideas, and left town. Now it's twenty years later, and he still lives locally. He reluctantly accepts the invitation to his 20th reunion. He is not consciously hoping she'll be there, but still...

The twentieth reunion for the West Chicago High School class of 1988 was on a Saturday night in mid-September.  The weather was pleasant enough, with a chill to the air at night, after a moderate day that had started out rainy, but ended with warm golden sunshine that made everyone glad that the heat of the summer had finally ended.

Since the invitation had said Business casual as the dress code, Miguel decided that the clothes he wore to work when he had to meet with clients, were what was called for.  As a computer engineer, he usually wore jeans with polo shirts, or flannel shirts, depending on the weather.  But when he had to meet with clients, he had to dress more professionally.  So for the reunion, he chose a pair of khakis, a light brown short-sleeved shirt, and a tie that tied the colors together.  He also threw a dark brown jacket on over the shirt, in case the night got chilly during his drive home. 
 Miguel looked at himself in the mirror as he applied gel, to make his short black hair stand up straight, instead of curl on his forehead, the way it did when he was sweating…in fact, the way it had looked all summer.
He made a face at himself, saying ruefully, “Not bad for a thirty-eight year old man.  Let’s see how the rest of the class looks, after twenty years of living after high school.”
     Then he got into his car, and drove to the same banquet hall that their prom had been held at.  As he got out of the car in the parking lot, he lit a cigarette, and stood leaning against his car for a long moment.  Memories began to flood his mind, and since the woman he had taken to prom was a memory he did not want to revisit, he had to force himself to think about other things, in order to get his mind ready to go in and make small talk with the rest of the people who were arriving and entering the place.  He shook his head to physically clear his mind, then he resolutely walked up to the front door, stubbed out his cigarette in the convenient ashtray there, and entered the building.
     Immediately, the sound of music from twenty years ago, blasted its way into his consciousness.  He smiled briefly, having not missed most of it in the ensuing years.  Yes, there were some songs that he still would listen to, once in a great while…but most of it was the kind of pablum popular on the hit radio stations, and most of it deserved to be forgotten.  He heard his name called, and was pulled into conversation with people he had not thought about in at least ten years, since their last reunion. 
*                                        *                        *                          *                             *
Of course, his prom date appears, so he has to deal with memories. This is a romance,
after all, but with the baggage she carries, it's not easy for them to get to their HEA.

If you want to read one of the Reyes novels, leave a comment here, and on Sunday, March 25th, I'll choose someone who comments, to win a free eBook of their choice of the Reyes Family Romances.
Head over to my website,, and check out all of the titles. If you wish, you can leave your preferred title in the comment you submit. Make sure to also leave a form of contact.

And since one of the titles, Prescription For Love, the fifth book, is a free eBook on Smashwords, you'll be able to enjoy getting to know my Reyes people.
(Info Provided by Author)

March 11, 2018

A Virtual Library of Idaho

Continuing on my virtual library search, here’s one in Idaho.  They host a mountain of services at your fingertips including book checkout and renewals plus there’s tons of links to relevant sites.  Check this virtual library out here: 
McKay Library Services

3D Printing
Print your 3D models in the library. Visit the link below to upload your file and get an instant cost estimate.

Learn about campus policy as well as provide resources that hopefully will reduce your doubts, fear and indecision in using copyrighted materials in the pursuit and delivery of education.

Course Reserve
Place course-specific items on reserve in the library with limited checkout periods.

Digitization Center (DCAM)
The digitization center specializes in quick, high quality scanning of materials ranging from book chapters to family slides.

Grandin Press
Come visit the Iron Acorn Press. It is located in McKay 249 of the library and is open for free tours, Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 pm. Come learn about the printing of the Book of Mormon.
The Press features a replica of the Grandin press used to print the 1830 Book of Mormon. Once a month, the Iron Acorn Press hosts an Open Print Day. Visitors can use the Press to print a souvenir page.

Interlibrary Loan
If the Library doesn't have what you're looking for, Interlibrary Loan will get it for you.

Mac Lab
The Library Mac Lab is an open media/computer lab with technology specialists available to assist you with your projects. Our lab computers are equipped with a variety of software including Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office. The Library Mac Lab provides one-on-one and group technology tutoring.
Schedule a class orientation or assign students to attend a session outside of class. During the orientation a professional librarian will introduce your class to the research tools and resources available through the David O. McKay Library. For more information or to schedule an orientation, please contact Julianna Self.

Special Collections
Special Collections & Archives houses items unique to University history and campus curriculum, the history of the Upper Snake River Valley, and changes in recordkeeping. Collections range from prehistoric artifacts demonstrating early writing, to primary source documents detailing pioneer history in Rexburg, to more modern electronic records documenting campus events.

Subject Librarians
A subject Librarian has been assigned to each department on campus. Your subject librarian can help you find and order library materials

Teacher Library Center (TLC)
The Teachers Library Center (TLC) is located on the 3rd floor of the David O. McKay Library. It includes K-12 curriculum materials adopted by the state of Idaho, teaching aids, and the library's juvenile book collection. helps students improve their writing by preventing plagiarism and providing increased opportunities for feedback.Christmas Break Hours
All info downloaded from and if you're from Idaho and have a connection to the writing world, contact me thru the tabs at the top of the blog if you'd like to be involved in this opportunity in 2019.  Have a great week! 

March 4, 2018

Amy Reade Loves the Islands of Aloha

 The Hawaiian Archipelago (called “Ka Pae ‘Aina O Hawai’i Nei” in Hawaiian) consists of eight major inlands and almost 125 reefs, shoals, atolls, and other islands. It stretches through the Pacific Ocean for over 1,500 miles. Hawai’i is the only state that gets bigger every year—lava erupting from an underwater volcano off the coast of the Island of Hawai’i is constantly creating additional land mass.
The eight major islands are, in alphabetical order, Hawai’i, Kaho’olawe, Kaua’i, Lanai, Maui, Moloka’i, Ni’ihau, and O’ahu.

The island I’m going to tell you about, the island which is my favorite, is Hawai’i, which is often referred to as The Big Island. The island of Hawai’i, which is the southernmost island in the archipelago, is a place of contrasts:
Though it is the largest island in the chain, it claims only thirteen percent of the human population.

Traversing the island, one will experience all but four of the world’s climate zones, from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra.
One can ski in the morning and swim in the ocean in the afternoon on Hawaii. From the snow-capped heights of Mauna Kea to the soft beaches of the Kona Coast, one will see a huge variety of weather over the course of just a few hours.

One can find white sand beaches, black sand beaches, and green sand beaches on the island.
Every island in the Hawaiian chain is different. Each has its own personality, though they all shine against the backdrop of rain forests, blue sky, warm weather, and endless bright blue water.
The Island of Hawai’i is special to me for a number of reasons.

First, there’s just something about being on the southernmost island of a chain in the middle of the Pacific that ignites my imagination. I look to the south and there’s no land for thousands of miles. I try to imagine what it must have been like when the Polynesians first came to the islands, without the aid of modern navigation technology, without even knowing what they might find. 

Second, there’s a volcano on the island that has been erupting steadily since 1983 and, to me, there are few things more fascinating. I’ve seen the lava flow into the sea and set the water boiling and I’ve seen the reflection of the lava as it seethes in the caldera. I’ve seen steam vents that appear in cracks in the earth and I’ve seen how lava dries and hardens into amazing caves and tubes. I’ve hiked across hardened lava fields where I’m stunned by the ability of nature to thrive in that desolate landscape. 

Third, it’s pretty cool to be in the hot sun on the western side of the island in the morning and in the cool rain forest on the eastern side in the afternoon. There’s a climatic diversity on Hawai’i that I don’t see in many other places. 

So what’s your favorite place to appreciate everything Mother Nature has to offer?

I’m offering an ebook of Murder in Thistlecross, which releases on Tuesday.  Comment here to win this BRAND NEW release.

USA Today bestselling author Amy M. Reade is also the author of Secrets of Hallstead House and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. She grew up in northern New York, just south of the Canadian border, and spent her weekends and summers on the St. Lawrence River. She graduated from Cornell University and then went on to law school at Indiana University in Bloomington. She practiced law in New York City before moving to southern New Jersey, where, in addition to writing, she is a wife, a full-time mom and a volunteer in school, church and community groups. She lives just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean with her husband and three children as well as a dog and two cats. She loves cooking and all things Hawaii and is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her on the web at or at
(all info author provided)

February 25, 2018

Georgia on My Mind-Fran Orenstein

Fran Orenstein, Ed.D.
Over my lifetime, I have lived in about eight states all over our beautiful country. As a writer, location is a factor in my novels and poetry, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the desert to lush mountains, and great cities to suburbia. Since I wrote my first poem and some tiny books at age seven and eight, I have been involved in writing academically, professionally and as an author for more
decades than I care to admit. I am currently writing my sixteenth book, Murder in Disguise, the sequel to Murder in Duplicate (World Castle Publishing). Writing for kids, teens and adults, in diverse genres, adds something I crave, variety.

Welcome to Georgia, the peach state with its beautiful with mountains, rivers and amazing beaches. The Chatahoochee River winds like a snake through the state cutting off roads and streets. Before highways and overpasses and the steady stream of cars making traffic a nightmare today, travelers in wagons, on horseback, or on foot crossed the river using small bridges or ferries, hence street names like Jones Bridge Rd. or McGinnis Ferry Rd. Despite the same roads disappearing and then popping in another place, and a multitude named Peachtree, it’s lovely to drive along old oak and pine-lined roads, under trees that saw the varied history that marked Georgia. 
The capital, Atlanta is a cosmopolitan city with sky scrapers, shopping, hotels, and great restaurants, surrounded by spreading suburbs called the perimeter.  It is also becoming the movie industry center of the south.

Drive east from Atlanta and you can swim in the Atlantic Ocean, and visit one of the most beautiful cities in this country, Savannah.
The oldest city in Georgia (1733) it sits on the Savannah River and was the first capital of the British Province of Georgia. After the American Revolution, Savannah became the first capital of the State of Georgia. Nearby Tybee Island is an inviting and fun seaside resort, but Savannah with its amazing parks, landscape and old homes, plus a promenade along the ocean with restaurants and terrific night life has something for everyone. For the brave, Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in the USA. There are ghost walks at night, and a haunted old hotel where a woman in white roams the halls.

Drive north from Atlanta to the charming town of Helen, where you will believe you are in Bavaria.  Then there is the Appalachian Trail, with Blood Mountain or the De Soto waterfall. This is a state where one can find many outdoor activities such as hiking the many trails, climbing in the mountains, canoeing down the Chatahoochie, or swimming in the ocean. There are museums and parks galore, especially for children, as well as concerts and the arts. And…after nearly 16 years of living in Florida and Arizona, I can finally look outside and see the trees change color. Put Georgia on your list of states to visit in fall or spring for the best weather.

Thank you for traveling with me through Georgia. One winner will be chosen from those who comment and leave contact info, and have a choice of one of my signed published books from kids to adults.

My Links:

(Info Provided by Author)