With this post I’m sharing an another fact I learned by writing fiction. This one is from book three in my Aimee Machado Mystery series featuring a health sciences librarian. The mystery in BREACH OF ETHICS centers around a famous ten-year-old piano prodigy. The young girl falls ill from being restricted to a faulty vegan diet. This leads Aimee to wonder if an ongoing battle for the girl’s custody led to murder. Here’s what I learned by researching story details involving vegan diets for children.

Can young children fall ill or even die as a result of a faulty vegan diet?

FACT:  The answer is yes, and a national survey found that nearly 20 percent of people surveyed about knowledge of vegan diets for children were unaware that it was a risk.

A young child restricted to a faulty vegan diet by well-meaning parents who are not sufficiently informed is at risk of failure to thrive and may not grow at a normal rate. Leafy greens are not enough. The child may develop a broad range of health problems due deficiencies in amino acids, calcium, vitamin D, and B12.

Unfortunately for vegan families, B12 is readily available in meat and animal-based foods, but not in a plant-based diet. With malnourishment, there is risk of rickets and even more dire consequences. Lack of B12 can cause brain damage and even heart failure, so vegans must acquire this essential vitamin through fortified foods or supplements.

Although vegan diets are in many respects very healthy, they are more likely to cause nutrition problems for children than for adults. Any family contemplating a vegan lifestyle for young children would be well-advised to consult a qualified nutritionist before beginning.

For information on vegan diets and B12, visit The Vegan Society at:

Visit again soon for more facts I’ve learned by writing fiction.

Books in the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mysteries are published by Camel Press (an imprint of Epicenter Press) and are available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from your local bookstore in trade paperback and as ebooks.


Continuing with the topic from my previous post, I’m sharing more of the facts I’ve learned by writing fiction, and in particular, researching the Aimee Machado Mysteries, featuring a health sciences librarian.

Librarians are trained researchers. If they’re curious, they look things up. Here are facts I came across while my protagonist searched for the solution to the mystery in CHECKED OUT, the second book in the Aimee Machado Mystery series.


How many people in the U.S. get Lyme disease within a given year?

FACT: The Center for Disease Control estimates 300,000 cases per year.

In the U.S., Lyme disease is spread through the bite of a tiny blacklegged tick.

Most infections occur in three principal areas:

  • Northeast and mid-Atlantic, from northeastern Virginia to Maine
  • North central states, mostly in Wisconsin and Minnesota
  • West Coast, particularly northern California

The areas listed are based on where people live, not necessarily where they became infected. Cases diagnosed and reported from an area where Lyme disease is not expected are almost always travel-related.      

A national survey found that nearly 20 percent of people surveyed where Lyme disease is common were unaware that it was a risk. Half the people interviewed in another study did nothing to protect themselves against tick bites during warm weather.

For more complete information on Lyme disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Image courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How much can a champion cutting horse earn in one year?

FACT: A three-year-old cutting horse taking first place at a National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) event can win as much as $250,000. By competing in several events during a given year, the same horse can earn as much as a million dollars. Worldwide, total cutting horse event winnings in one year average more that 30 million dollars.

For more complete information on cutting horses, visit

To contact a cutting horse trainer, call 530-945-6079, or visit
Cutting horse photo courtesy of Randy Brooks.

Visit again soon for facts I learned by writing Book Three of the Aimee Machado Mysteries.

Books in the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mysteries, published by Camel Press, are available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from your local bookstore in trade paperback and as ebooks.

Heavy Traffic Got You Down? It’s Worse Than You Think!

While channel surfing the other day, I happened to land for a few moments on a program where a lovely twenty-eight-year-old Pakistani woman named Nelufar Hedayat was being interviewed. She spoke about a series titled The Traffickers on the Fusion Channel. My interest was aroused, as I had just finished the fourth book in my Aimee Machado Mystery series.


In my book, titled Spine Damage, a fifteen-year-old Portuguese girl goes missing from her home on an Azorean island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after she makes the mistake of accepting an invitation to a yacht party.

I can’t reveal here what happens to my character, a lovely, naïve and headstrong teenager named Liliana Ferrera, as that would be a spoiler, and the book isn’t due for release until May of 2017. What I can say is that I wish more attention were being paid to the devastating impact every sort of illegal trafficking makes on countries around the world, including the United States of America.

Not once during the recent, seemingly endless presidential campaign, did I hear a candidate express a workable solution to the problem of trafficking, whether the merchandise is drugs, stolen art, rhino horns, or human beings (often children) who are sold for purposes of slave labor or for sex. Nor did I hear any reference to the illegal trade in black market organs.

Yes, there was mention of building a wall. Of course, Paul Revere could have reminded us that not all invasions come by land. A wall will not stop drug boats from reaching our shores, or freighters from docking in our harbors laden with containers (only a fraction of which are searched). And how many airplanes touch down in our country on remote landing strips? What about autos and foot traffic arriving from the north? Will we build a second wall from coast to coast along the Canadian border?

I hold the fictional answers to lovely Liliana’s fate, but what of the thousands of real-life human souls who have been taken from their homes and forced into a black-market world, or the flood of other illicit trade that feeds the appetites of criminal buyers in this country and others throughout the world? For more on this subject, watch Nelufar Hedayat on the Fusion channel on Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m..

Will an innocent, trusting young teen be rescued in time? Find out when Spine Damage, book four in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, is released in May of 2017. And in book five, we’ll continue the theme with a mystery surrounding illegal organ harvesting. Meanwhile, the first three books in the series are available in print and e-book versions by shopping online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or upon request at your local bookstore.


CIMG1315It is possible that the practice of taxidermy dates all the way back to the beginning of man. Although there is no clear record of its start, it is known that the art form has  been around for centuries. A mount of a rhinoceros in a museum in Italy, believed to have been done in the 16th century, is said to be the oldest in the history of taxidermy.

Long before that time, Egyptians were mummifying their cats, dogs, and other animals at their death. This practice was actually a form of taxidermy.

CIMG1319Outdoor sports enthusiasts who enjoy fishing and hunting make up a large part of the taxidermy business. Many invest enormous sums of money and risk life and limb in remote and treacherous parts of the world.

In some cases, a hunt is a means of eradicating an animal that is doing great harm, as in the case of feral hogs that now do two billion dollars annually in agricultural damage and related problems. As one hunter explained it, “Taxidermy helps to preserve the memory of an experience that may happen only once in a lifetime.”

Hunters and fishermen are not the only clientele of taxidermists. Moviegoers who have enjoyed the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM franchise will recall the vast assortment of animals that came to life each night. Museums give taxidermists a great deal of business, and will continue to do so.

CIMG1321Modern taxidermists use forms placed inside the preserved skin of the animal instead of the original method of stuffing with straw or other materials. The forms have realistic shapes that are designed to look how the animal would appear if seen in the wild.

Taxidermy remains an art form that people continue to enjoy, either as reminders of memorable hunting and fishing experiences, or as displays in museums.

A word of caution though. It’s probably best to exit the museum well before closing time. That wild boar isn’t looking too happy.

Taxidermy plays a role in CHECKED OUT, book two of the Aimee Machado Mystery Series. Published by Camel Press, it is available both in print and ebook format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or by order from your local bookstore

AMA? Bad Idea, Sherlock!

An online resource called Acronym Finder lists 123 meanings for AMA, and makes note that there are another 250 definitions in their Acronym Attic. Perhaps the most recognizable definitions are the American Music Awards, the Automobile Manufacturers Association, and the American Medical Association. Lesser known are the Academy of Magical Arts (sorry, Harry Potter), and the American Mule Association (nice site, lots of great mule photos).

Another lesser known definition of the acronym AMA is the term, Against Medical Advice. This definition applies specifically to the situation that arises when a patient decides to leave the hospital against the treating physician’s advice.

If the patient wants to go home, what’s the problem? It’s not a prison, after all. We see it on TV often enough. Last year, BBC’s Sherlock Holmes took off from his hospital room after being admitted with a gunshot wound to his chest. No one mentioned that he should have signed an AMA form before leaving. But maybe it’s different in London. We’re here in America. Besides, it was Benedict Cumberbatch, and he’s so loveable, we’d forgive him anything.

It turns out there are a number of potential problems related to patients who sign out AMA. Problems for the patient, the treating physician, and the hospital. For the patient who bolts before allowing a full evaluation of his or her care, the consequences can be dire. That nagging pain between the shoulder blades could develop several hours later into a full-blown and fatal heart attack. For the physician who signs out an angry and hostile patient without fully explaining the dangers in leaving without treatment, there may be a medical liability lawsuit on the horizon.

Doctors are cautioned to try every avenue to avoid the AMA discharge situation. If all else fails, the patient must be asked to sign the AMA form. Even then, there have been many cases where plaintiffs successfully sued hospitals and doctors following AMA discharges.

If you are the patient, it would be wise to consider your treating physician’s advice, even if you’re either angry enough or fearful enough to want to escape from your hospital room to the imagined safety of home and hearth. Patients who leave AMA have a four times higher rate of readmission within thirty days than other patients. Often they are in far worse shape than they were on that initial admission. So remember that exitichecked_out_300 (1)ng your hospital AMA could be the worst decision you ever make—in spite of what you’ve seen the hero do on your favorite TV show. (We know it wasn’t your idea, Sherlock. The writers made you do it.)

In CHECKED OUT, rodeo cowboy Cody O’Brien suffers the fatal consequences of leaving Timbergate Medical Center against medical advice. Published by Camel Press, this second book in the Aimee Machado Mystery Series was released October 1, 2015. It can be purchased online in paperback and as an eBook through via this link:  Checked Out is also available online from Barnes and Noble, or by order at your local bookstore.



What is a Medical Staff?

119543789489042057caduceus_ryland_sanders_01.svg.thumbNot a question that comes up often in conversation, but when it does, many people will envision the caduceus, a staff associated with the messenger god, Hermes, in Greek mythology. With two wings at the top and entwined with two snakes, it is often mistakenly assumed to be a symbol of healing. In fact, Hermes, known as the  god of commerce, moved between the world of man and the world of gods, acting as a messenger and the link between mortals and the Olympians.

Sodownloadme may be familiar with the more correct, but lesser-known symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which is entwined with a single serpent and wielded by the Greek god, Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. In spite of the symbols carried by these gods, there is a more down-to-earth meaning to the term medical staff.

When a health crisis occurs, most patients put their lives in the hands of the doctors in the nearest hospital. They do so in good faith, without knowing what goes on behind the scenes in order to protect them from unqualified medical practitioners.

If you’ve ever been a patient in a hospital, you were probably admitted by your primary care physician. And that’s where the hospital’s medical staff comes in.

Hospital-based television shows are unlikely to demonstrate the rigorous process your doctor went through to earn the privilege of admitting you to a specific hospital. It would not pass as entertainment.

The process began when your physician was required to provide proof of medical education and training as well as letters of reference from any former hospital where he or she possessed privileges. A credentialing committee then scrutinized the request for membership and privileges and verified the physician’s credentials. Once privileges were granted, the physician spent a period of time being monitored by a senior member of the medical staff. And that’s just the beginning.

To remain on the medical staff, your doctor must regularly fulfill continuing education requirements by attending pertinent educational programs. To retain treatment privileges, he or she must serve on medical staff committees and must attend mandatory medical staff department meetings. On top of that, all physicians who are granted medical staff membership must abide by the medical staff bylaws and are subject to having the quality of their patient care scrutinized by their peers.

The next time you’re in a hospital, either as a patient or a visitor, rest assured that hospital’s medical staff organization is working in the background. Let the television version of hospital life entertain you, but be grateful for real life, where the less entertaining work of upholding the quality of the medical staff goes on, ensuring that you and your loved ones are in good hands.

checked_out_300 (1)CHECKED OUT, book two of the Aimee Machado Mystery series, will be released October 1, 2015. Available for pre-order now, it introduces Aimee’s colleague Cleo Cominoli, Director of Medical Staff Services at Timbergate Medical Center. When Cleo becomes suspicious of a controversial and potentially dangerous woman surgeon on the medical staff, she enlists Aimee’s help and the excitement begins.

Discovering the Azores

When I bring up the subject of the Azores Islands in conversations about vacation destinations, most people I know respond with a blank look. They may have heard of the archipelago, but in most cases, have no idea where the islands are located.

Manadas shoreline

That response changes when conversing with someone of Portuguese descent. Portuguese Americans whose great- or great-great-grandparents emigrated from the Azores know exactly where the islands are. They’re situated in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 900 miles off the coast of Portugal, somewhere in the vicinity of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. More than one theorist has explored the possibility that the Azores Islands are the remnants of Atlantis. But that’s another story.

In contrast to today’s typical island tourist traps, the Azores are relatively untouched by commercialism and have retained their charm. Tourists are welcome and find it very easy to enjoy the many lovely features of these islands. A four hour flight from Boston brings visitors to a refreshing world of islands with diverse vacation pastimes. Hiking, swimming, sailing, whale watching, or simply lying on a pristine beach under a Mediterranean sky.

Hydrangea Hedges

The visual feast alone is worth the trip. Green hills bordered by giant hydrangea hedges, rocky slopes dropping to a shoreline dotted by rustic villages untouched by time. Harbors filled with yachts making this ideal pit stop on their way to or from faraway destinations.Horta Marina

The gustatory feast is one to be savored and remembered long after the experience. The subtle green wine and the cheeses made from the truly happiest cows on earth would be enough to sustain most travelers. But that’s just the beginning. There is nothing as delightful as Portuguese cuisine. Fresh-baked breads, chicken prepared in succulent recipes, myriad seafood dishes, of course, and roast beef flavored with secrets handed down for who knows how many generations? Perhaps from the inhabitants of Atlantis.Atlantis

For folks who dream of finding that mythical location, the Azores Islands might be the next best thing.

The Aimee Machado Mysteries feature a protagonist whose parents have retired and moved to the island if Faial in the Azores. They are very happy with their new life. So far, they are unaware of Aimee’s tendency to get caught up in solving murders that involve her job as a hospital librarian in northern California.

Many websites feature visits to the Azores. One good example is