Phyllis Entis

Award-winning mystery writer and food safety microbiologist


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Jake – In the Beginning

Last month, I told the story of my nephew (and Godson), Jake Bloomfield, who died on May 1st at the age of thirty.

Yesterday, while unpacking some books, I found this letter. It was written by my husband, Michael Entis, just a couple of weeks before Jake’s seventh birthday.

“Sometime on Friday afternoon, March 1st, a special birthday party will take place at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Jake Bloomfield turns seven on that day.

Jake has been a patient at the Hospital more or less full time since the beginning of 1996. Jake has a brain tumor attached firmly to his brain stem. Since early January, Jake has heroically undergone four surgeries. This is Jake’s story.

Jake’s life began almost seven years ago in Mississauga. During his first two years of life, his speech and walking skills evolved at a much slower pace than the average child. With much patience on the part of his parents, the dedicated help of speech and physiotherapists, and especially Jake’s own willingness to see his way through the challenge that life had thrown at him, by the age of two, he was walking and making himself understood to all those that loved him.

img038At around the age of three, Jake’s father, Harvey, took a photo of Jake with a lopsided smirk on his face. That photo together with the caption “Make My Day” found its way into the Toronto Star (Mississauga Supplement). Little did Jake’s parents realize that Jake’s lopsided smirk was a reflection of the brain tumor that they were to discover only six months later.

It was a routine visit to the pediatrician that brought Jake and his parents, Barbara and Harvey, to the biggest challenge of their lives. Their doctor noticed a slight droop on one side of Jake’s face and suggested that they visit specialists at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Before very long, Jake and his parents met Dr. Humphreys, a highly respected pediatric neurosurgeon at the Hospital.

Dr. Humphreys determined that Jake had a very difficult brain stem tumor which had afflicted him since birth. An operation was scheduled and Dr. Humphreys was successful in removing about 1/3 of Jake’s tumor. The tumor was found to be benign (a low grade astrocytoma). Given Jake’s age, the doctors elected not to be more aggressive. They hoped that by disturbing the tumor and reducing its size, it might not develop further.

For three relatively peaceful years, Jake was able to resume the normal life of a youngster. Despite his disabilities, Jake’s endearing personality brought him close to his many friends, teachers and relatives.

In the summer of 1995, Jake began to suffer intolerable and persistent headaches. Jake was now six years of age. Once again, his parents escorted him to the Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. Humphreys determined that Jake was suffering high pressure headaches which could only be relieved by the implantation of a shunt, a device designed to relieve the pressure on the brain caused by excessive accumulation of cerebral spinal fluid. Jake had a shunt installed and a week later went home with his parents.

Then, it was December 1995. Jake’s world began to crumble. The headaches came on again, stronger than ever. And again, they marched back downtown to that hospital that was just too familiar. In mid-January 1996, Dr. Humphreys replaced Jake’s shunt due to low pressure headaches. A week later, he performed another surgery due to high pressure headaches. Jake was sent home for brief periods following each surgery. But the headaches continued to return to him relentlessly. In desperation, his parents once again rushed him back to the hospital. The doctors, using the most modern methods available in Canada, determined that Jake’s tumor had grown back and that he would, once again, have to undergo the surgeon’s knife.

Earlier in February (it feels like an age ago), Jake underwent his second major brain surgery to have his tumor “debulked”. Since that surgery, he has had still another surgery to remove his latest shunt device, which had become contaminated with a stubborn bacterial infection (Staph aureus). As I write this article, the doctors at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children are working tirelessly to rid Jake’s body of this bacterial alien.

On Friday, Jake turns seven. I’m his Uncle Michael (and also Jake’s Godfather). I would dearly love to wish Jake a wonderful seventh birthday and to express the fervent hope that Jake will enjoy many, many more birthdays surrounded by his many friends and devoted family.”

Michael sent this letter to Emery Worldwide. The international freight company orchestrated the delivery from San Diego, California of Jake’s birthday present – a model train set – to his hospital room, adding their own gift of a model airplane to the shipment.

Emery’s World (the magazine for Emery Worldwide employees) published a condensed version of the story in its July/August 1996 edition.

Version 2

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Journey’s End, Part Two

It’s time for another set of clues.

Here are some examples of the heritage architecture of our new Home Town, all within walking distance of each other.

Masonic Temple, built 1878

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Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Chinese Public School, built 1909

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Congregation Emanu-el, built 1863

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A peek down the length of Chinatown’s Fan Tan Alley

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One final hint. If you open one of the images from my first post in a new tab and magnify it, you will find the answer to the riddle embedded in the image.

Come on, mystery lovers. Prove yourselves worthy partners in the Dickens Detective Agency. Solve this riddle! 


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Journey’s End

We arrived at the start of our new adventure on May 20th.

We are here to stay.

Shalom is tired of all the moving about and is ready to settle down in our new home.

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“Where are we?”

We are in a town that loves dogs and bicycles. A town that cherishes its heritage. A town that welcomes newcomers and is conscious of the environment.

A town with its very own Gold Dragon!

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To get here, we crossed bodies of water. But we didn’t need to leave the car (except for our overnight stops along the way).

Here are a couple of visual clues to help you figure out the answer.

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This utility box has been wrapped with an enlarged 1954 aerial photo of the town.

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If you think you have figured out where we have landed, feel free to comment. In honour of our move, for the next 72 hours (or until supplies last) I shall give a free download code for the audiobook edition of The Gold Dragon Caper to everyone who gets it right.

If no one has the correct answer by then, I’ll post a couple of additional clues.

Please play fair. If I have already told you about our moving plans, do not post a spoiler.

Your time starts NOW!

GO!


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Presenting Kim McMahill

Today’s Gone Writing guest is Kim McMahill, whose new novel, A FOUNDATION OF FEAR, was released just a few days ago.

KimMcMahill

Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. She started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for exotic world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happily-ever-after endings soon drew her into a world of romantic suspense and adventure fiction. Along with writing novels Kim has also published over eighty travel and geographic articles, and contributed to a travel story anthology. Kim currently resides in Colorado, and when not writing, she enjoys gardening, traveling, hiking, and spending time with family.

Please join me in getting to know a bit more about Kim and the latest entry in her Risky Research Series.

GW: What inspired you to write A FOUNDATION OF FEAR?

Kim: A FOUNDATION OF FEAR is the third novel in the Risky Research Series. The series explores the diet, nutrition, research and pharmaceutical worlds. The book topics range from a miracle weight loss pill, to a deadly sweetener, to the political influence exerted in order to maximize profits from an industry worth roughly 40 to 100 billion dollars annually. Health and nutrition are such complex topics and impact nearly everyone, and the money involved is definitely worth killing for.

GW: How is your main character completely different than you?

Kim: Devyn is a fearless FBI agent who definitely leads a much more adventurous life than I do. Well, she has no fear of drug dealers, crime bosses, or back-alley thugs, but she does have a fear of relationships and having her heart broken.

GW: Tell us something about yourself we might not expect.

Kim: Hold on to your hats! I don’t own a Smart Phone. I don’t have anything against the device and suspect I’ll get one in the not so distant future, but for now I haven’t felt the need for one and fear it may consume time I don’t have to spare.

GW: If you were not a writer, what vocation would you pursue?

Kim: I always dreamed of being an archeologist, but when looking into college majors I thought I should pursue something more practical. Writing action, adventure, and suspense allows me to explore and solve mysteries. My goal in the next phase of my life is to find and take advantage of volunteer opportunities to participate on digs.

GW: Do you prefer to read in the same genre you write in, or do you avoid reading that genre?Why?

Kim: I love to read suspense and action adventure. I can’t imagine writing in any other genre. Action adventure and romantic suspense can take the reader on journeys to places they can only dream of and put them in situations that make their hearts race, something very far from most of our daily lives. 

GW: When you’re brainstorming for a new story, what usually comes first for you, the plot or the characters?

Kim: Usually the plot comes first. Once I know how the story will unfold it is easier to determine the types of characters that I need in order to accomplish the mission in an interesting and entertaining way.

Kim was kind enough to share a sample of A FOUNDATION OF FEAR with us.

A FOUNDATION OF FEAR

AFoundationOfFear_prw5435_680Kidnapping. Extortion. Antiquities smuggling. Add one light-fingered, bad-tempered monkey, and it’s all in a day’s work for novice bodyguard Casey Callahan when she’s hired to protect the five-year-old niece of a handsome archaeology professor.

Alec Bainbridge has been balancing excavation and teaching duties with single parenthood since the death of his sister. When a stranger attempts to kidnap his niece, he hires a bodyguard to pose as the little girl’s nanny. However, the young woman who shows up is a far cry from the matronly type he was expecting. 

Amid break-ins, anonymous threats, and arson, Casey and Alec race to identify the villains before they harm the child or make off with a priceless Egyptian artifact. All the while, their mutual attraction complicates an already volatile situation. With an innocent child’s life at stake, Casey and Alec risk everything to solve the mystery before their growing feelings become the final casualty.

Excerpt

Devyn stowed her gun, unable to discharge a round with Morgan so close. She leapt up and brought her elbow down near the back of the man’s neck with all the force she could muster. The impact was enough to make him release his grip on Morgan’s throat.

Morgan stumbled back and fell to the ground, gasping for breath. She crawled away.

The big man went down but grabbed Devyn’s ankle as he fell, taking her with him to the ground.  Before she could react, he pounced on her and pinned her arms under his knees. 

Devyn bucked and squirmed, trying to dislodge the massive bulk. She was clearly out-matched, and helpless in her current position. 

The man backhanded Deyvn across her cheek. She struggled to keep from blacking out as she braced herself for another blow.

The heel of Morgan’s remaining shoe came down hard on the man’s head.

He fell to the side, allowing Devyn to scramble to her feet and out of his reach.

He grabbed his head with one hand, cursing violently, while his other hand shot out towards Morgan. 

Morgan leapt back, narrowly missing being ensnared. 

“Go! I mean it. Go now!” Devyn screamed at Morgan.

Morgan hesitated, then ran.  

The man struggled to gain his footing, but Devyn kick out, connecting with his stomach, sending him toppling to the ground, gasping for breath. He staggered to his feet, his back toward Devyn. With his hand low on his stomach he slowly turned around until he faced her. Pulling his gun from his waistband, he raised his arm and took aim at Morgan.

 

You can purchase A FOUNDATION OF FEAR from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

CONNECT WITH KIM MCMAHILL

Blog: http://www.kimmcmahill.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimmcmahill
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KimMcMahillAuthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kimmcmahill/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/849945.Kim_McMahill


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Jake Edward Bloomfield, B’shalom

On May 1, 2019, our family lost its shining star.

img038Born in March 1989, my nephew, Jake, was our family’s miracle child. He was in and out of hospital multiple times before he reached his sixth birthday, surmounting challenge after challenge with a courage far beyond his years. And, somewhere along the way, Jake the miracle child evolved into Jake the wonderful young man.

I’ve been thinking back to Jake’s childhood these last several days. Living as far away as we did – and still do – my memories of him are best understood as a series of snapshots.

Jake was “all boy” as my mother used to say. He wanted to participate in all the sports activities other kids his age took for granted. Including the local mini-soccer league.

I remember watching him play in a soccer match. At his age level, all the players followed a simple strategy. They all ran after the ball, and the one who got there first gave it a kick. It was like watching a slow-moving comet, with the ball as the head and the string of boys forming a long, curved tail. And there was Jake at the tip of the tail, his little legs pumping hard as he fought to keep up.

Jake never gave in and he never gave up. He persevered and, on occasion, was rewarded with the chance to take his kick at the ball.

A few days before one of our too-infrequent visits, my husband and I were in Palm Springs. As we browsed through the souvenir shops, we kept a lookout for gifts to bring to our niece, Marla, and to Jake.  We found a piece of jewelry for Marla, but Jake was proving a challenge.

Then, scientist that I am, I spotted what I thought would be perfect. It was a crystal-growing kit. Just the thing for Jake and me to work on together.

I remember the two of us standing side-by-side in my sister Barbara’s kitchen, reading through the instructions and assembling the necessary components. I remember Barbara watching us, amused by the intensity of our concentration.

Well, Jake and I mixed those ingredients, we stirred, we made sure all of the conditions were exactly as specified. We nurtured that little kit. We waited and watched, then waited and watched some more. By the time my husband and I left, there still was not even a hint of a crystal.

Shortly after returning home, I spoke to Jake by phone. As he reported on the total failure of our crystal experiment, I could hear the disappointment in his voice. I told him that a good scientist sometimes learns more from a failed experiment than from a successful one.

“What do you think we learned from this?” I asked him.

He paused for a moment, trying to come up with an answer, before admitting that he didn’t know. “What?” he asked.

“Not to ever buy another crystal kit,” I replied.

He burst out laughing at my answer, catching on immediately to the humor of the situation as well as the truth behind it. He was all of eight or nine years old at the time and already capable of understanding the big picture.

Fast forward to Jake’s thirteenth birthday. His Bar Mitzvah.

Jake stood straight and proud at the bima, reciting his prayers and reading his Torah portion. There wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation that day. He was everyone’s favorite son or kid brother. Everyone’s miracle child.

That summer, Jake spent a week with my husband and me in San Diego. We did all the typical tourist activities: Disneyland, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, an afternoon at the beach. But what I remember most was the first time we drove Jake somewhere on the freeway after dark.

Freeways in California are equipped with reflective lane markings that stick up about an inch or two above the level of the pavement and are illuminated by headlights. Jake was fascinated at the concept, marveling at how easily the markers could be seen at night. He fell silent a minute, lost in thought, before sharing his conclusion with us. This was a great idea for California, he opined, but wouldn’t work in Canada as the raised markers would interfere with clearing snow after a storm.

This, too, was Jake. Logical, analytical. A conceptualizer.

135497_bloomfield,jake_0001Jake met every challenge he faced with grace, courage, humor, and persistence. He never let his health issues deter him from his goals. Like Jake the mini-soccer player, it might have taken him a little longer than his age-mates to reach his objectives, but he got there under his own steam.

A graduate of Sheridan College. A graduate of Ryerson University.

A credit to himself and to his family.

Our hero, Jake.


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Presenting Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia Chapter

An Anthology of Authors

What better collective noun is there to describe the Sisters in Crime?

This talented group of writers from Central Virginia has produced a collection of cozy crime stories that will have lovers of the genre begging for more.

DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM is a mystery anthology. The stories all have a female sleuth and are set in a locale in the southern United States.

The anthology was editied by Mary Burton and Mary Miley.

Frances Aylor, Mollie Cox Bryan, Lynn Cahoon, J.A. Chalkley, Stacie Giles, Barb Goffman, Libby Hall, Bradley Harper, Sherry Harris, Maggie King, Kristin Kisska, Samantha McGraw, K.L. Murphy, Genilee Swope Parente, Deb Rolfe, Rod Sterling, S.E. Warwick, and Heather Weidner wrote the stories.

Because of the number of authors involved, I have invited just a few of them to introduce themselves and their contribution to the anthology.

Heather Weidner: I write both short stories and a novel series, the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries. I enjoy writing both. I get to experiment more with techniques in the short stories. By nature, the short story has a limited number of characters and not too many story lines. I think it’s hard to write a short story. My story is called “Art Attack,” and it’s set in Richmond, Virginia. In the story, an art gallery owner’s flirtation with a mythical goblet and its promise of power turns deadly when he succumbs to its charm.

Lynn Cahoon: I rarely write short stories now, but I love writing novellas around my three cozy mystery series (The Tourist Trap Mysteries, The Cat Latimer Mysteries, and The Farm to Fork Mysteries.) I love the pacing of the novella since there’s usually one main story line. And I’m able to pick smaller mysteries that might not be enough for a full book to tell. “Cayce’s Treasures” is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Cayce receives money from an inheritance and moves home to purchase an antique business including the building. She finds the body of the former owner in his office her first day. Finding his killer will be her next project.

Maggie King: I love writing both [short stories and novels], but prefer short stories. They are simple, yet not easy, as it’s challenging to concisely tell a compelling story. Short stories give writers more freedom to be creative and explore different styles and techniques. I love writing stories with vigilante justice and morally ambiguous endings. “Keep Your Friends Close” is set in the Fan, a historical district of Richmond, Virginia. When Vicki Berenger is murdered by horrific means in her shower, the Richmond, Virginia police laser-focus on her husband, Kenny. But Kat Berenger knows her brother didn’t kill his wife—Kenny just isn’t the killing kind. So whodunnit? Kat teams up with Vicki’s best friend Meryl to find the real killer.

Kristin Kisska: I prefer writing short stories purely for the satisfaction of seeing a finished work in a matter of months versus years (at least for me) for a finished novel. “Unbridled” is set in an equestrian center in Low Country, South Carolina. When an equestrian rider goes missing, her bestie searches for her only to discover that old secrets may fade away, but never die.

Frances Aylor: My goal is to write a series of mystery novels, so that’s where I’m focusing most of my creative energy. However, short stories are much easier and faster to write. I’d like to use them as prequels for my novels, to give more background on the earlier lives of my characters. “The Girl in the Airport,” which is set in the Atlanta airport, is a prequel to my financial thriller Money Grab. In the short story, Robbie is a college student running off to England for the summer to escape an unfaithful boyfriend. She meets a woman with deadly ways of dealing with an unfaithful husband. In Money Grab Robbie is a wife, mother and career woman, still involved with some of the same characters she knew in college.

Genilee Swope Parente: Nothing compares to holding a book in your hands that you’ve helped create and realizing that people will be immersed for hours in the words and story you birthed. No one can figure out “Who Killed Billy Joe” because he’s an extremely popular figure in the small town of New Iberia, Louisiana. Police Chief Clareese Guidry must figure out why someone would shoot, stab and bludgeon the town coach and head of the fund to build a children’s medical clinic.

J.A. Chalkley: Short stories are more challenging. You can’t ramble in a short story. Just the facts, ma’am. Yet, at the same time the characters have to be interesting. Novels are more like movies where you can explore the characters and their world. Short stories are snapshots. A quick moment caught in an instant. Lynn Weber is a college student majoring in journalism. She has been researching a murder that occurred forty years ago on the banks of Lake Chesdin in Dinwiddie County Virginia. Her research leads her to the home of a wealth woman with an ‘interesting’ past. Will she find answers, more questions or something she never bargained on? 

 

DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM

This delightful anthology has garnered praise from several best-selling authors and award-winners. Here is what a few of them have to say.

DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM is a keep-you-up-at-night collection loaded with well-crafted characters and perfect plotting by some of today’s best mystery writers. Brava!

USA Today and NYT Best-selling author, Ellery Adams

Deliciously devious and absolutely delightful, these marvelous stories will keep you captivated! Sweeter than sweet tea on the surface, but with smartly sinister secrets only a true southern writer can provide.  What a joy to read!

Hank Phillippi Ryan best-selling Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark Awards winner

This collection of short crime fiction charms even as the stories immerse you in murder, revenge, and deadly deeds. Set all over the south, from Virginia to North and South Carolina, in Atlanta, Memphis, and New Orleans, the stories by eighteen authors engage and entertain with rich imagery and dialog from the region – and nefarious plots, too. Pour a glass of sweet tea and settle in on the porch swing for a fabulous read.

Edith Maxwell, Agatha and Macavity Awards nominee

This can’t-put-it-down collection of mystery short stories is flavored with the oft-eerie ambiance of the South, where the most genteel manners may hide a dark and murderous intent. Enjoy DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM with a Mint Julep in hand – a strong one.  

Ellen Byron, USA Today best-selling author, Agatha and Daphne Awards nominee and Lefty winner

 

WHERE TO PURCHASE

Wildside: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-paperback/ 

Wildside eBook: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-epub-kindle-pdf/?ctk=92a212b3-7ff7-473d-a5dd-78ab99163c27

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Southern-Charm-Mystery-Anthology/dp/1479448397 


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A desert island kind of day

I’ve been reading much too much lately. Too many books I would ordinarily pass on, but for a promise I made to read for review. Too many new authors I’ve taken a flyer on, then decided they weren’t my speed. Too many depressing Auschwitz-based books.

This morning, I picked up my iPad, thumbed through the list of books on hand, and decided I needed a complete change in pace, tone and topic.

Whenever this happens, my remedy is to take refuge in one of my ‘desert island’ books. These are books that I shall never sell, give away, or throw away, no matter how many times we move. Books that are old friends with whom I share an occasional visit to refresh my mental muscles.

This morning, I allowed my eyes to walk across the titles until they settled on this book.

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I first read The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok decades ago. I had already read some of his earlier books – The Promise, The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev – and looked forward to reading the sequel to the first of the Asher Lev books. I find a special joy in immersing myself in a book that speaks to my cultural heritage as well as to my desire to enjoy the work of an excellent writer.

I hope you will excuse the brevity of this post, as I am eager to return to Asher.

What books or authors qualify for your desert island list? Please share your favorites in the Comments, below.