Wednesday, April 25, 2018

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Paul Toolan and “The View from Memory Hill,” a Collection of Short Stories

By Paul Toolan

I live in an English rural village with a demographic weighted towards retirees. I’m one of them, I suppose.

There are young people too, but older bodies tend to fill the shops and the midday streets. I find myself reflecting on these sometimes solitary folk, about their past lives and the people they’ve known. Have they forgotten more than they care to remember – or just forgotten?

The stories in A View from Memory Hill were triggered by such images, nudged along by Kierkegaard’s idea that we live life forward but only really understand it backwards. Their settings come from the everyday world – a chemist’s shop, a village square, a railway station, a College, a pub, the bus journey from work to home – as well as real places. In the first and last stories in the book I used local outdoor settings. The title story is based on Ham Hill, an ancient hill fort in Somerset which I often visit. I take photographs to help me remember!

For perspective, I introduced younger voices too, and enjoyed exploring that sometimes-land of modern misunderstanding, where the old and the young coincide. A range of characters evolved, and broad themes firmed up as I continued to write: memory, the past, ageing, and loneliness - and the positive antidote of choosing to take action to avoid being lonely.

For structure, I opened and closed the 12 stories with the same pair of characters: Jack - who has Alzheimer's - and Maeve, his wife. I guess they are distillations of various articles and documentaries I’d read and seen about dementia, and about Alzheimer's in particular. Maeve has become Jack’s carer. Alzheimer's couples may recognise her predicament:

“Jack was sleeping on the day-bed she’d rigged up in the conservatory. When he was bad, any sleep would do. She was Jack’s dictionary now, non-stop, exhausting, the reference book for all the objects, all the people he could no longer name. The butt, too, of each resulting outburst.

‘Do you know nothing?’ he would yell. ‘Nothing?’”

Despite Jack and Maeve’s difficulties, memory still breaks through, and with it, joy and laughter.

In between, the other stories explore the book’s themes through a range of genres, including crime, social satire, gothic noir, and romance, to give a variety of reader experiences.

So far, reviewers have enjoyed these “wonderful insights on ageing.”

“I felt nostalgic when I finished reading,” said one reviewer. “Where have the years gone? So many memories had me a bit emotional, truthfully.”

For me, if I’ve triggered emotion and insight in my readers, on such important themes, then I’m a happy man.

About the Author

Paul Toolan hails from the United Kingdom, a Northerner who now cheerfully admits being a southern softie living in rural Somerset. After a successful career in Colleges and Universities, he wrote book/lyrics for stage musicals, before "turning to crime." A Killing Tree and A January Killing, the first two books in the Detective Inspector Zig Batten series, are set in the apple orchard landscape of the West of England. Look out for the third, An Easter KillingA View from Memory Hill, is Paul's first short story collection, exploring themes of ageing, memory, and personal realisation. Like Inspector Batten, Paul enjoys walking, gardens, fishing, music, and the occasional whisky. Unlike him, he enjoys sport and the taste of mushrooms, and loves travelling to sunnier climes - Greece in particular.

Connect with Paul Toolan

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thoughts on the 5th Anniversary of My First Novel

Today I’m celebrating the 5th birthday of my first novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story. These past five years have been full of opportunity, joy, and sadness as I learned how to be an independent author, an advocate for Alzheimer’s and dementia awareness, and a daughter of dementia.

Blue Hydrangeas is a story very precious to me as it’s a testament to the hundreds of families I helped navigate through the dementia journey during my nursing career. Little did I know, that three years after publication, I would start living my own story and become the medical, legal, and financial representative of my stepfather, who was diagnosed with three types of dementia. 

When I wrote the book, I thought I knew a lot about the caregiver's role in dementia care. Wrong! I was humbled by my new responsibilities and frustrated by the process of managing his care and business. I don't think anyone is ever ready to step into those shoes, and in spite of my years as a nurse and case manager, as well as the years of research that went into my book, I was still ill-prepared. Without the support and understanding of the fine people at AlzAuthors I would not have come through it intact.

Blue Hydrangeas has given me many lovely gifts, including dozens of five star reviews, status as a Kindle bestseller, recognition as IndieReader Approved, a Library Journal Self-e Selection, and a BookWorks featured book, but the best gift was leading me to my wonderful friends Jean Lee and Vicki Tapia, also daughters of dementia. As strangers united by our books and Twitter, together we cofounded and now manage the AlzAuthors blog. This project started in 2015 as a month-long Alzheimer’s awareness campaign in June, Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. 

Successful from the start, it grew into a weekly blog featuring vetted books on dementia and caregiving - almost 150 books and their authors to date! -  and is scheduled five months ahead. And three additional daughters of dementia have joined our team, admins Kathryn Harrison and Ann Campanella, and Special Projects coordinator, Jay Artale. 

We soon ventured beyond our little blog, and are partnered with the September 2018 Alzheimer's and Dementia Friendly Cruise and Conference to Alaska, with Holland America Cruise Lines, and are currently working on our first AlzAuthors Anthology, featuring authors from our first year, 2016-2017. We maintain an active presence on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads. 

None of this would be possible without the support and help of our dedicated and hardworking admins and authors, who retweet, post, share, and pin for us regularly. Together we have become a positive force in the Alzheimer's and dementia community, helping caregivers to find the knowledge and tools they need to manage their daily lives.

When I published Blue Hydrangeas in 2013,  I had no idea it would take me on such a meaningful journey, not only allowing me to share my Alzheimer's story but to make beautiful friends, bound together in pursuit of an often overlooked but necessary mission. 

After publication, when I opened the subject of Alzheimer's to new acquaintances, most were not familiar with the disease, but years later I rarely talk to anyone who has not had someone they love affected by it. This is a sobering and alarming reality, but also speaks to the removal of the stigma that once constrained people from sharing their stories. An open dialogue is necessary to educate the public and caregivers about this and other dementia diseases, and the resources that are available to help those affected live productive, enjoyable, and meaningful lives.

Blue Hydrangeas is more than just a book, a novel, a story. It’s changed my life, and has helped me make an impact in the lives of many others. 

That above all makes it my greatest achievement and joy.

Available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Norman McNamara Lives with Lewy Body dementia and has Written "The Lewy Body Soldier"

by Norrms McNamara

My name is Norrms McNamara. Someone once told me having Lewy Body`s Type Dementia is like having two diseases: you HAVE Dementia, and you KNOW you have Dementia. The same person, a Consultant, also told me that right up to the end of life, the person with Lewy Body’s will still have moments, if not hours/days, of clarity. I lost both my Father and incredibly wonderful grandmother to Dementia. (I say that because she brought me up. I am who I am today because of her.)

I have read the book, seen the last page, read the last line, I know what happens and know what can happen unless they find a cure for this awful disease. So when I was diagnosed myself nine years ago, aged just 50, I was absolutely petrified, and with good reason.

No cure, no sign of a cure on the horizon, and after checking out what help there was available for somebody my age with dementia, which turned out to be practically non-existent, I was at a loss at what to do. I was so lucky in one way because my wife Elaine had been, and still is, a carer for 30+ years, and it was she who helped me get my diagnosis as she recognised the signs.

So what’s changed in the last nine / ten years? A huge amount actually. We now have memory cafes all over the world, we have so many groups globally connecting up and beginning to talk about this disease. We have TV adverts, politician’s talking about it in Governments, and generally a better understanding, so why, oh why, is it still in the shadows when it comes to TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS DISEASE!!?

It is only because relatives of those with Dementia and those actually living with dementia have started to write books about it that we are starting to know the real truth about this disease, and this is exactly what my book The Lewy Body Soldier is all about. This is a book written by someone who has Lewy Body’s type dementia but is still lucky enough to have the abilities, with a LOT of help, to write it, but let’s make one thing clear:

This book is not for the faint-hearted.

This book is not about Clever Medical Terms or graphs.

This book doesn’t wear rose-tinted glasses.

This book is about not only about how hard it is to live with this awful disease, how hard it is to get help etc., but ALSO a book of helpful hints about HOW to get help, what to do when you go for a diagnosis and what to do after. It’s a book of hope, but most of all it’s a book of truth, and about, as they say, “Hearing it right from the horse’s mouth.”

I am at peace with my illness. I believe every day is a bonus and every breath I take is a blessing, and no matter what happens, if I can give a little back to all those around me who have helped me along my way, then so be it.

Purchase The Lewy Body Soldier

About the Author

Founder of Global Purple Angel Dementia Awareness Campaign, now recognised in 55 Countries around the world with 860 Global Purple Angel dementia ambassador’s. To find out more please contact

Connect with Norrms McNamara

Friday, April 13, 2018

New Release Spotlight: "Chasing Love," YA Fiction by Kayla Tirrell

Professional wallflower Nicole Andrews can’t wait to get out of Marlowe Junction. With only one year to go, she is eager to become the best college applicant at Rosemark High.

There’s only one problem: she still hasn’t found a niche to make her appear more well-rounded.

When a chance encounter with hottie-extraordinaire Chase Saunders pushes her in the direction of cross country, Nicole thinks she’s finally found her answer. If only she could focus on her race times, and stop getting distracted by Chase.

Will joining the team be enough to make Nicole stand out from the crowd? Or will she lose her heart in the process?

A throwback to the early 2000’s, Chasing Love will have you longing for the days when Blockbuster was the coolest job in town and varsity letters were prized possessions. Back to when Friday nights were made for football games and sleepovers with the friends you’d do anything for. 

Purchase  Chasing Love

About the Author

Kayla has loved to read as long as she can remember. While she started out reading spooky stories that had her hiding under her covers, she now prefers stories with a bit more kissing. When she gets a chance to watch TV, she enjoys cheesy sci-fi and superhero shows. Most days, you’ll catch her burning dinner in an attempt to cook while reading just one more chapter. Kayla lives in the sunshine state with her husband and three boys.

Connect with Kayla



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Vicki Kaufmann, Author of "Elegy for Mom, A Memoir of Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and Devotion"

By Vicki Kaufmann, MA, MPSt

“Cobwebs in my mind!” was how my mother depicted the disease that ravaged her brain. Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia in May 2000, after episodes of TIA’s and early signs of dementia. She was 82 years of age. This was a major turning point in the life of our family. For me, it was the birth of a challenging new creative phase.

I was in my 50’s, at the top of my professional career as CEO of a large social service agency. Even with professional training and master's degrees in family studies and family counseling, I was not prepared to take on the role of daughter caregiver, looking after my frail, elderly parents.

I began to write poetry and keep a journal, jotting down what worked for me as each new trial unfolded in dealing with an unsympathetic health care system and the bewildering assisted living scene. I made a promise to myself that, when I had the time, I would write a book for family caregivers, filled with tips and ideas that I found helpful during my seven years of caregiving. Nine years later, after the deaths of both parents and shortly after I retired, I fulfilled this promise, completing my book, Elegy for Mom, A Memoir of Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and Devotion, November 2015. On August 6, 2016, my book won gold and silver medals at the “President’s Awards” event of the prestigious Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Being retired, I can now give back to the community in other ways. In June 2015, I initiated a website, “,” along with a free e-newsletter dedicated to providing tips and resources to family caregivers of loved ones with dementia. I blog twice a month on aspects of dementia caregiving, and I maintain a “Caregiver Families” Facebook Page, an Author Facebook Page, and a “Caregiver Families” Pinterest Page. I also volunteer with my local Alzheimer’s Association for their Speakers’ Bureau, and make myself available for other speaking engagements.

Two of the greatest compliments I could ever receive about my memoir came from the national Dementia Action Alliance’s Board Chair, and from Alzheimer’s advocate/author Maria Shriver. “It’s outstanding! It was so inspiring, so warm! I don’t have the words to describe your book,” claimed Jackie Pinkowicz of the Dementia Action Alliance, leaving this message on my cell phone in the spring of 2016. This past December, after Ms. Shriver read my book, her assistant made a request to post one of the book’s chapters on their website, “The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.” I invite you to read Chapter 11 at their site:

A decade ago when I was caring for my mother there were few resources to support my role. I am glad that caregivers and those living with the disease are coming forward to write and discuss their challenges, joys and heartaches, and advocate for a cure. I hope that my writings and contributions are making some impact for good in the lives of fellow caregivers.

About the Author

Through and her award-winning book, Elegy for Mom: A Memoir of Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and Devotion, Vicki Kaufmann hopes to provide “tender loving care,” support for the caregiver, and practical tools and resources to educate family members about Alzheimer’s and related dementia. Her mission is to provide information on the stages of Alzheimer’s, better coping methods, and assurance, so you know you are not alone in this journey.

Vicki Kaufmann, MA, MPSt, is a retired certified family life educator and counselor. She discovered great joy and blessings in the seven- year period, from 1999–2006, when she was a caregiver for her elderly parents. Her mother suffered from vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Read about Vicki’s journey.

Vicki knows the importance of a family support system, having counseled hundreds of couples and families during her twelve years as a certified family life educator, and marital and family counselor. In addition, she has over thirty years experience in nonprofit management, professional fundraising, community and public relations, and collaborating with numerous social service and ecumenical organizations.

Connect with Vicki Kaufmann

For more vetted books about Alzheimer's 
and dementia visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore.

Monday, April 9, 2018

New Release Spotlight: "Because...Anonymous", Contemporary YA Mystery by Diana L. Sharples

On the run from an abusive father, Noah Dickerson is supposed to be laying low and staying out of trouble.

Mistake #1, falling in with a group of anime fans who aren’t as harmless as they seem.

Mistake #2, crushing on a beautiful girl who isn’t fooled by Noah’s good looks and charm.

Mistake #3, being in the wrong place when she receives disturbing notes in her locker.

But the biggest mistake, Noah learns, is when his mother escapes North Carolina with him. Because, it turns out, transporting a minor over state lines in the middle of the night is a felony.

Purchase Because...Anonymous

About the Author

Diana L. Sharples is an award-winning author and illustrator who lives with her husband and daughter in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains. She’s an animal lover and an avid Harley rider. Learn about her books and artwork on her
website, and on  Twitter  and  Facebook.

Friday, April 6, 2018

New Release Spotlight: You Can Lead a Horse to Murder, Cozy Mystery by Tara Meyers

There’s a killer in Sanctuary, and the prime suspect is a horse.

When spirited Ember Burns is led back home to open her own veterinary practice, her first client lands her in the middle of a mystery. It starts as a desire for Ember to clear her name, and turns into a personal entanglement in a rapidly unfolding story of lies and deceit.

The small mountain town of Sanctuary has always had its secrets. Who can be trusted? It’s been ten years since Ember lived there but roots run deep. Discerning friend from foe isn’t an easy task. Relying on her intelligence and instinct, Ember tries to piece the clues together as the town gears up for its centennial celebration.

From the quaint historic shops, to the rugged mountains surrounding them, Ember works to unveil the true culprit before they get away with murder.

About Tara Meyers

At nineteen, I was recruited into a secret government program, where my memory was erased ... wait -- that's the outline for a potential book. Sorry, my real biography isn't quite as interesting, but I'll give it a shot!

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and when I'm not writing, I'm out beach combing with my dogs for sea glass or hiking in the rugged Cascade Mountains. It's the perfect backdrop to fuel my creative genius. *rubs hands together evilly*

You'll find all my adult romantic suspense and cozy mysteries here, and on my OTHER profile (secret identity ;)) Tara Ellis, I keep my middle grade and young adult books. Check them out, you might like those, too!