What Happens in Vagus

Sunny Frazier 5Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today with thoughts of finding joy in life, in the little things.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

No, I didn’t spell that wrong. While a lot can happen in Vegas, I want to talk about a nerve you never knew you had in your body. But first, I want to tell you how I got acquainted with mine.

I was at a friend’s house and just finished lunch. I went to use the bathroom. All of a sudden I got unbearably hot. Not menopause hot. I inexplicably started tearing off my clothes. I was sweating and anything against my body felt awful. After awhile, my friend came to check on me. I asked if she had a very loose garment I could wear. She gave me a duster. I managed to make it to the couch and just lay there until I had the strength to get up and get dressed.

Months later, on my birthday, I was at the same friend’s house having ice cream and cake. My sister was there and (important to the story) she happens to be a critical care nurse. Again, I left to use the restroom. All of a sudden I was throwing up. I felt weak. The pristine bathroom tiles looked inviting. I lowered myself to the floor and experienced bliss.

Eventually, I was missed and they came looking for me. I couldn’t open the door and I wouldn’t get off the floor. When I was able to sit up, I opened the door a bit. They tried luring me to the bed, which seemed far too high. No, I was very happy right where I was.

That’s when my sister told me about the Vagus Nerve. You see, she’d had a similar episode while at work in the hospital. She went from feeling okay to sliding down to the floor. And, like me, it was cool and inviting. She didn’t want to get up despite the worry of the other nurses.

Fools Rush In 2The Vagus Nerve is one of the longest nerves in the body. It goes from the brain stem to the heart and stomach. It regulates your involuntary nervous system and controls things like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, sweating and gag reflexes. If you faint at the sight of blood, blame it on your Vagus Nerve.

Although it’s unclear what triggered my episodes, I had all the symptoms: clammy skin, excessive sweating, pallor, nausea, drop in blood pressure and the urge to get flat on the floor. Oh, did I mention I asked for and ate toothpaste? I wanted something cool, minty and creamy in my mouth and that seemed like the perfect treat. Fortunately, my friend had an unopened tube and didn’t think I was a complete idiot.

Apparently, being prone on the floor was the right move. Blood leaves the brain and fainting often occurs. I went down before I reached that stage. That gave my body a chance to get the blood flowing again and push the heart rate up.

What if this had happened in public? Often mistaken for a heart attack, that’s how paramedics would treat it. At a conference, I saw this happen to an author and I spent all night in the hospital emergency ward with her. People thought it was stage fright as she was supposed to sing in the talent show. She proved them wrong by belting out the song at the closing ceremony.

Sunny Frazier-Inappropriate-giving-water-after-fainting

Last week it happened to one of the techs at my dialysis clinic. It was diagnosed as an anxiety attack. I’m betting it was the Vagus Nerve.

So, now you know. Spread the word. What happens in Vagus shouldn’t stay in Vagus.

Book Review: The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls in the GardenThe Girls in the Garden
Lisa Jewell
Atria Books, June 2016
ISBN 978-1-4767-9221-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

What an interesting book this is! I was initially drawn to it by the idea of a community garden and how it could be seen almost as a locked room situation when one of the children is attacked. What really came about, though, is less the kind of mystery I might have expected and more a study of the people living in the community.

The tale is told from three points of view—Pip, sister of Grace; Adele, who’s lived in the community for 20 years; and Clare, mother of Pip and Grace. There are quite a few other characters but it’s these three whose stories are most important. Each has a distinctive presence and drawings done by Pip in letters to her absent father add a sort of charm while they also convey a good deal of pathos. That pathos is real once the reader understands the reason for his absence but Pip’s is not the only emotional upheaval. Certainly Clare has much to deal with and Adele adds a sense of normality and warmth to her observations of others who share the garden while she’s also a textbook enabler.

When I first started reading, I was put off by the use of third person present tense which for me is like nails on a chalkboard. Unfortunately, the depth and appeal of a storyline can’t overcome the way I’m constantly aware of the writing style, and I do mean constantly but, happily, the author switched to third person past tense after the first few pages. The tale takes a somewhat leisurely pace but is filled with the essence of this small community. The resolution of who attacked Grace is sort of anti-climactic but that’s okay because this is really a look at how people affect each other and cope with the vagaries of life.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

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About the Author

Lisa JewellLisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of twelve novels, including The House We Grew Up In and The Third Wife.

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Renovations Week 4—Done and Almost Finished!

The guys have made lots of progress in the past
seven or eight days. The bathroom started out like this:

Renovations New Bathroom

And now we have tile with accent and the new gray floor😉

Renovations Bathroom Floor

Meanwhile, the new laundry room has progressed from this:

Renovations New Laundry Room

To this (but no hookups yet):

Renovations Washer and Dryer Pre-Hookup

And Annie has her new floor, same as in the laundry room.

Renovations Anne's Room Floor

Meanwhile, furry critter nerves are getting
kind of frayed from so much togetherness but…

Trixie spends much of her time in the cat tower…

Renovations Trixie

…when she’s not playing mindgames with Giselle and Holly
who are hiding under the chair from the bully.

Renovations Trixie the Bully

But Giselle and Holly have their own time in the tower…

Renovations Holly and Giselle

…and snuggling with one or both of us on the sofa.

Renovations Holly and Giselle 2

While Rosie pretends she’s a cat and steals a cuddle with Giselle.

Renovations Giselle and Rosie

Best of all, the end is in sight!

Book Review: Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais

Breaking ButterfliesBreaking Butterflies
M. Anjelais
Chicken House, August 2014
ISBN: 978-0-545-66766-1
Hardcover

When we think of arranged marriages, what usually comes to mind are child brides in foreign countries or royalty in olden days. For Sphinx and Cadence, things were different, very much so, in fact. Their connection began when their mothers, Sarah and Leigh, met when they were seven. Leigh was the leader, Sarah the follower. As their friendship blossomed, Leigh began scripting everything that would happen to them, beginning with what they’d have as careers, that Sarah would have a girl, while she would have a boy and the two would bond, eventually marrying and provide another connected generation.

Leigh’s plan worked until it didn’t. Both married and got pregnant two months apart. Leigh had a boy, Sarah a girl and they were raised together. Like their moms, one took the lead, the other became a follower. Cadence thought up the best games and Spinx was happy to follow. Happy until the day Cadence took out a knife and sliced her face open.

Sarah’s father was furious, more at not heeding his suspicions about Cadence, raised when at age five, the boy crushed a butterfly and showed neither emotion or remorse. Leigh was devastated and hauled her son off to her house in England where her marriage soon fell apart.

Fast forward to when the kids are sixteen. Spinx has a modest social life, but has never had a boyfriend. She’s mostly content playing soccer and spending time with her girlfriends. Every morning, however, she sees the thin scar on her cheek before applying concealer and it reminds her of Cadence and her still conflicted feelings about him and what he said the day it happened.

A phone call from Leigh, who has remained friends with Sarah, starts in motion a strange journey for Spinx, one that’s both physical and emotional. Cadence has an aggressive form of leukemia and wants her to come see him before he dies. Despite her fear, she realizes that something inside is telling her she has to do this, so she and Sarah agree to come to England for one week.

Despite Cadence’s abruptness and rudeness, Spinx comes to believe that coming was the right thing to do and when it’s time to go, she convinces her mother to let her stay until Cadence dies.

What transpires as she waits for his passing, particularly in terms of her growing insight and understanding make for a compelling read. I expected this to be more of a horror story, but it’s sad and Spinx’s growing awareness of how intertwined the two of them really are is quite insightful, particularly in terms of portraying Cadence and what’s really wrong with him.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, July 2016.

No Fleas On Reacher

Jeanne Matthews 2Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at http://www.jeannematthews.com

I haven’t gotten as much writing done this summer as I’d hoped and my dearth of accomplishment started me thinking about Colette. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was the avant-garde French novelist whose works explored the problems encountered by women in their struggle for independence in a male-dominated society.  In addition to her writing, she was a journalist and a stage actress, while leading what can only be described as a lively, not to say strenuous, love life.  I couldn’t help but wonder what accounted for her productivity.

Like most writers, Colette had a few kinky rituals.  The ritual I’ve been contemplating is the one about fleas.  She couldn’t sit down and write the first word until she’d spent several hours plucking fleas off her beloved French bulldogs, Toby Chien and Souci.  Her cat, Kiki-la-Doucette, offered an equal plentitude of fleas and Colette certainly didn’t neglect Kiki’s grooming.  But it was Toby Chien whom the author regarded as her muse, and presumably it was the time she spent scouting for fleas beneath his short, sleek fur that whetted her imagination.  Her third husband said that when she finished her daily flea-picking, she leapt up and bounded to her typewriter as if seized by sudden inspiration.

I’ve not read any scientific opinions on the benefits of flea-picking, but it occurs to me that Colette may have attributed her itch to write to the wrong muse.  Fleas are remarkable jumpers, able to leap over a hundred times their height, and they’re not finicky about which species they prefer.  It occurs to me that Colette may have leapt off the divan and dashed to her typewriter because she’d been bitten by une puce.  Not that le chien didn’t contribute some good ideas.  I so want to believe in the inspirational potential of les chiens.

Jeanne Matthews Reacher

A few months ago, I acquired a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher, after Lee Child’s fictional knight-errant.  Through the modern miracle of Frontline and NexGard, Reacher has no fleas.  He’s all flealess energy and enthusiasm and curiosity.  He is approximately fifty-five inches shorter than Child’s Reacher, but he has amazing – well, reach.  Nothing left on the chairs or a low shelf is safe.  I’m more likely to leap off the divan to rescue a chewable thesaurus or my husband’s iPod than I am to race to the computer and begin writing.  In fact, Reacher Chien is something of an anti-muse.

Like all terriers, he loves games.  Remember the movie, “After the Thin Man”?  In one scene, someone has thrown a rock through Nick and Nora’s window.  The rock has a piece of paper wrapped around it, but before they can get to it, their fox terrier Asta snatches it and gleefully darts away. When Nick and Nora finally chase Asta down and retrieve the message, most of it is missing.  “Bad dog,” says Nora.  “You ate the clue.”  Metaphorically speaking, Reacher is eating my clues before I can write them.

Whenever I feel an idea coming on and head for the computer, Reacher comes roaring through the house with a ball in his mouth, looking irresistibly adorable.  Then diabolically, he rolls the ball under the furniture and barks incessantly until I go down on my hands and knees and retrieve it for Where the Bones are Buriedhim.  I spend a lot of the day trying to locate and retrieve stolen items – socks, pens, books, eyeglasses.  Often they aren’t discovered in their original, pristine condition.  My eyeglasses have only one earpiece and Shakespeare’s Bawdy could not be glued back together.  He demands at least two walks each day and, in between walks, he wants to sit in my lap – displacing the laptop.

It’s evil, I know, but I’ve considered skipping the Nexgard for a month.  If hand-plucking Reacher’s fleas meant that I could finally finish my novel, I might do it.  Then again, maybe I’m just suffering from a case of the summer blahs.  I’ll look into the customs and rituals of other prolific writers.  I read somewhere that Sir Walter Scott wrote while riding his horse.  There’s a thought.  Reacher could never keep up with a horse.

Book Review: Buffalo Jump Blues by Keith McCafferty

Buffalo Jump BluesBuffalo Jump Blues
A Sean Stranahan Mystery #5
Keith McCafferty
Viking, June 2016
ISBN 978-0-5254-2959-3
Hardcover

From the publisher:  In the wake of Fourth of July fireworks in Montana’s Madison Valley, Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather and Hyalite County Sheriff Martha Ettinger investigate a horrific scene at the Palisades cliffs, where a herd of bison [a/k/a buffalo] have fallen to their deaths.  Are they victims of blind panic caused by the pyrotechnics, or a ritualistic hunting practice dating back thousands of years?  The person who would know is beyond asking, an Indian man found dead among the bison, his leg pierced by an arrow.  Farther up the valley, fly fisherman, painter and sometime private detective Sean Stranahan has been hired by the beautiful Ida Evening Star – – a Chippewa Cree woman who moonlights as a mermaid at the Trout Tails Bar & Grill  – to find her old flame, John Running Boy.  The cases seem unrelated, until Sean’s search leads him right to the brink of the buffalo jump.

This is the fifth entry in the series, and to call it eclectic would be an understatement.  Both the fishing and wildlife aspects of it, which predominate in the early sections, are entirely foreign to this reader, whose usual preference is for character-driven novels.  But the header for Chapter 8, “A Mermaid, an Arrowhead, and True Love,” captures the elements of most of the rest of the book.  The aforementioned Ida is the first of these, the arrowhead a piece of evidence in the search for the murderer of the Indian Man, and true love is – well, as Sean says: “True love knows not logic nor lust, but the synchronized bearing of hearts.”

The bison was the “icon of the West” that only a century ago had stood at the brink of extinction.  When Harold comes upon the first body, he puts the dying animal out of its misery.  He muses, “The irony of what he had done, killing the first bison to have returned to these ancient hunting grounds in one hundred and fifty years, was not lost on him.”  But he had done what he had to do, and cannot second-guess himself.  Shanahan is a terrific protagonist, of whom Martha says “You’re what I call a Montana Renaissance man.  You have about five different jobs and still you have to stick a hose down a gas tank to siphon up enough fuel to get to the store.”  (He guides during the trout season, writes for fishing magazines and paints in the winter (or when he gets a commission).  He says of himself “I’m a better artist than I am a detective.  Or fishing guide.”  But he is selling himself short, as he demonstrates during the ensuing investigation, assisting Martha in the search for the man or men behind the events.  The geography of Montana is vividly presented.  The writing is terrific and filled with humor, e.g., “Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it.”  The beauty of Montana is vivid, and that and the wonderful writing have pointed me to the fourth novel in the series which I had somehow missed, Crazy Mountain Kiss, next up for this reader.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2016.

Waiting On Wednesday (41)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

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