Sunday, April 24, 2022

Author Spotlight

From Rene's Getaway Blog

Books by Augustine Sam #WomensFiction #Poetry #Suspense #Romance #Mystery #RenesGetaway

Take Back The Memory

Paige Lyman, an accomplished psychiatrist, is on the verge of madness but she doesn’t know it yet. The madness begins when she gets it into her head to write her memoir. As her brilliant mind assembles bits and pieces of her life for the book, ugly skeletons, long forgotten in the closet, rear their heads.

It all begins with a simple act of love. And love, for her, is a blond-haired Irish boy named Bill, so when Bill abandons her for priesthood, the world around her collapses. Seized by a different passion—vengeance—she seeks her proverbial pound of flesh in the beds of various priests. But that’s before she meets Stern W, a medical researcher, who sweeps into her life like a hurricane and marries her. And they live happily after until he dies in a helicopter crash and she discovers the startling truth about who he really was. Now, Paige, transformed from psychiatrist to patient, is saddled with a damning memory she must decipher to be free.

Take Back the Memory is the saga of her compelling backward journey through her own life on a psychotherapist’s couch.

The Conspiracy of Silence

The conscience of a town steeped in sexism, vanity, and hypocrisy is pricked by the brutal murder of a mysterious woman in a park in Los Angeles. The shock is soon transformed into a steamy, seductive scandal when the victim turns out to be Susan Whitaker, the flamboyant wife of the governor of California. A dazzlingly intricate shuffle of volatile links leads the police to the delicate theory of secret lover/blackmailer, and the indictment of Benjamin Carlton, Hollywood’s most influential black celebrity.

Then curious things begin to happen when Carlton’s ambitious girlfriend, Rita Spencer suddenly unearths the shocking secret that Susan Whitaker did not, in fact, exist. She little realizes however that her discovery of this colossal fraud is a mere curtain-raiser to a chilling world of ugly skeletons dating back to the assassination of a U.S. senator in a Washington hotel sauna, skeletons connected to riveting sex scandals in high places, skeletons the FBI and political king-makers will kill for…

Flashes of Emotion

An anthology of romantic poetry, this work is both timely and timeless. It allows the reader to tap into the poet’s insights on a wide variety of topics from life and love to death and drudgery. It is contemporary poetry with a classical edge, highlighting a lively, refreshing, and innovative style – a “must-have” for anyone who has ever experienced love, pain, defeat, or joy…

Black Gold

They are young and carefree and broke…

Femi, a young, black graduate with a 1st class degree in Chemistry, has no long-term ambitions until he meets Jessica Rhodes, a blonde exchange student from San Diego. When they miraculously land two spectacular job offers within the first week of graduation, their bleak honeymoon is transformed into a dream. With a 30-day grace period to accept one offer and a free trip to New York to evaluate the other, they soon find themselves hopping from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, their once-uncertain future dangling over a multi-million dollar cliff-hanger. What they don’t know is that undisclosed details of the deal will drag them to the place where dreams end and nightmares begin.

Will their fragile marriage survive the greed, the captivating allure of Black Gold, and that vile, ancient tradition that seeks to determine who should be married and to whom? 

Meet Augustine Sam

Augustine Sam is a journalist by profession, a novelist by choice, and a poet by chance. A bilingual writer and an award-winning poet, he writes, not only hard news but literary works as well.

Journalists, they say, can be a pretty soul-less bunch at times, and while they are great at communicating hard facts they are generally less adept at expressing their feelings and their sensitivities. That’s not true of all journalists, according to Andy Smith, the editor of The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, U.K. “It certainly isn’t true of Augustine Sam who has somehow managed to combine a career in mainstream journalism with an equally successful career as a creative writer.”

It all began when he fell in love with poetry the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. He was the winner of the Editors’ Choice Award in the North America Open Poetry Contest. His poems have been published in international anthologies, including “Measures of the Heart” & “Sounds of Silence.”

His poetry collection: “Flashes of Emotion” was the finalist in the International Book Award Contest.

Augustine Sam’s Social Media


Monday, December 27, 2021

A look at 2021

 A Year of dashed hopes & Disappointments

No irony was greater, no hope more callously dashed than living through a year that promised a return to normalcy but ended up rudderless, with more chaos than the one that preceded it.


Coronavirus was still ravaging the world when the new year came along, and with it, a lot of hope, partially because of the availability of vaccines, though many governments continued to weigh the possibility of lockdowns. In the U.S., while former President Donald Trump continued to contest the outcome of the 2020 Presidential elections, the two remaining Senate races in Giorgia were won by Democrats, dealing a further blow to his grip on American politics through Congress. Then one of the most significant political events in American history happened when Trump encouraged his supporters to storm the Capitol to prevent the certification of a new President, an event that has been likened to an attempted coup. No matter, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, and, at his inauguration, a new poet was born.  


The second month of the year arrived with its surprises, even though hope for a return to
normalcy was still high. In the U.S., as in many parts of Europe, the distribution of vaccines had begun in earnest and so had the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump for inciting the January 6th insurrection. Then a familiar element—a shooting in Oklahoma quickly established the mood that would eventually become a defining disposition of the soul of America throughout the year. Elsewhere, the Army Generals in Myanmar, with whom Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, had collaborated and even defended over the Rohingya genocide, staged a coup that rubbished her victory at the polls. The bad news kept rolling in, with tensions continuing to flare in Russia over its deteriorating relationship with Ukraine, and an Ebola outbreak in Guinea. But it was not all bad news: In the U.S., the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, and Marijuana was decriminalized in New Jersey.  


This month witnessed what was described as the deadliest day in the military’s reaction to the Myanmar coup protests. It also witnessed the death of a head of state, John Magufuli, the 61-year-old president of Tanzania, a noted coronavirus skeptic who was believed to be killed, ironically, by the coronavirus. What followed were several more deaths by the virus in many parts of the world, and by a bomb explosion in Somalia.


For a month that’s easily identified by April Fool’s pranks, not much of what happened in April was laughable. Certainly not with the rising tension in Jerusalem between Arabs and Israeli soldiers, or with the violence that gripped Northern Ireland due to sore points in the Brexit deal. Or when Egypt seized the giant EverGreen ship that blocked the Suez Canal for two weeks. Or even when a fire in the Ibn al-Khatib hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, left 82 people dead and 110 others injured. In the U.K., Prince Philip, the queen’s husband of 75 years, died at age 99. And in Texas, a law that added several new restrictions and criminal penalties relating to voting came into effect, creating alarm and protests.


The month was heralded by protests and violence and death. There was a stabbing in New Zealand, a deadly drug raid in Brazil, a violent clash at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a school shooting in Russia, a bomb attack at a Kabul school in Afghanistan, and protests in Colombia and Berlin, mainly against coronavirus restrictions and the resultant economic difficulties. A Cable Car accident in Italy brought the country to tears and shattered the hopes of the tourism industry just as the nation was reopening after months of lockdown. In unrelated developments, hundreds of remains were found in Canada of indigenous people, renewing awareness of the atrocities perpetrated against them decades earlier.


In the U.S., the perennial gun violence did not disappoint. There were shootings throughout an entire week and an orgy of violent attacks across the country. While this was going on, Juneteenth was made a holiday by an act of Congress. In Africa, the military staged a coup in Mali, and the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, banned Twitter in retaliation for having his tweet about glorifying violence flagged. On the other side of the world, Israeli voters toppled long-time prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the country formed a multi-party coalition government. The month ended the way it began—in sorrow—when the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed.


As Florida struggled to come to terms with the aftermath of the collapse of the Champlain Towers, violence continued unabated across the U.S. A standoff in the Texas parliament led to lawmakers from the Democratic Party leaving the state. July also marked the seizure of firearms in Denver, Utah sandstorm crash, a political crisis in Nicaragua, rising tensions in Afghanistan, a plane crash in the Philipines, and the assassination of Haitian President, Jovenel Moise.   


After making steady gains across the country, it was not surprising when the Taliban took
control of Afghanistan and chaos erupted as the U.S. struggled to evacuate both its citizens and its Afghan allies. In Zambia, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema defeated President Edgar Lungu in a shocking landslide election victory. And Britain faced a rare mass shooting in Plymouth when a 22-year-old shot people across multiple areas, killing five and terrorizing the seaside town. In Lebanon, a fuel tank exploded in the Akkar region, killing 20 and injuring 75. At a German university, seven people were poisoned, and in Nigeria, on a rare bright note, kidnapped school children were released. In the meantime, the Tokyo Olympics continued.    


Bombings in Somalia, a coup in Guinea, and a terrorist attack in New Zealand ushered in the new month, which went downhill from there. A gunman at the Perm State University in Russia killed 8 students and wounded many, and, in an unneighborly disposition, both South and North Korea, launched missiles, creating fear of a renewed conflict. Ecuador saw its deadliest prison riot on record, allegedly sparked by clashes between rival gangs linked to drug trafficking at the Penitenciaria del Litoral, a facility in the coastal city of Guayaquil which resulted in the death of 119 inmates. Meanwhile, Afghanistan teetered on the verge of economic collapse as Lebanon announced the formation of a new government.


Across the world, as hope faded, violent protests, fuel shortages, and tragedies rocked many countries. In Haiti, a territory already in turmoil following the assassination of its president, a gang called Mawozo, kidnapped 17 missionaries of the Christian Aid Ministries—five men, seven women, and five children—demanding a $17 million ransom: $1million for each person. In Sudan, a military coup toppled the interim government, a low voter turnout marked the Iraqi election, and, amid this madness, amazingly, North Korea opened communication with South Korea.


As fear of the Omicron variant gripped the world, the Center for Disease Control, CDC, in the U.S. approved the Covid-19 booster shot for all people, irrespective of age. Meanwhile, the annual music festival, Astroworld, organized by Live Nation and headlined by Travis Scott, turned deadly this year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a 39-year-old man, in what seemed like a deliberate act of terror, drove through a Christmas parade in Wisconsin, killing 5 and injuring 48. In an unrelated development, Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist for President Trump, was charged with contempt of Congress after refusing to give information to the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol.


Due to the crippling effect of Omicron, now the dominant variant across the world, air travel was disrupted during the festivities as several airlines—from the U.S. to China and beyond—canceled hundreds of flights, ruining Christmas for many. Two notable deaths occurred this month: former Presidential candidate, Bob Dole in the U.S., and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent anti-apartheid voice in South Africa.

With about a week to go before the end of the year, it seemed 2021 would end the way it began—on its knees.  

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Politics of Book Reviews

“If nobody talks about books, if they are not discussed or somehow contended with, literature ceases to be a conversation, ceases to be dynamic. Most of all, it ceases to be intimate. It degenerates into a monologue or a mutter. An unreviewed book is a struck bell that gives no resonance. Without reviews, literature would be oddly mute in spite of all those words on all those pages of all those books.” 

~ Patricia Hampl 

The reality of the publishing industry today, particularly for indie authors and
writers with small publishers is that gaining recognition in a crowded marketplace with hundreds of new titles released every other month, has become a struggle. Getting written reviews on such websites as Amazon and Goodreads, therefore, is an excellent way of making their work stand out. Unfortunately, though, it can also be the quickest way to get their work trashed, and their reputation as authors tarnished by toxic reviewers. In recent days, stories have proliferated online that some trolls on Goodreads who’ve been posting one-star reviews on books, sometimes without even reading them, have demanded payoffs from authors to remove them.

Authors have no control over what readers think of their work, and that’s fine as long as readers are honest. Honesty, in this context, does not necessarily mean positive feedback, but it also doesn’t have to mean an unwarranted attack on the author. While criticism is an integral part of publishing, a dislike for a particular book does not justify ridiculing its author. In the same vein, a writer’s crave for recognition does not justify paying for positive reviews. Not only does this mislead potential readers, but it also deprives the authors themselves of a fair and balanced appraisal of their work. As the American journalist, Jack Shafer noted in his 2005 piece, Fair Is Square, “… book reviews aren’t yearbook photos for authors to treasure. They are for readers.”

But that appears to be a memo some authors have not received. Not only do they indulge in the now frowned upon practice of review swaps, some, ignoring the reputable review groups on Goodreads, partake in toxic review exchange groups online where, as someone puts it, “anything less than a four-star review is flat-out rejected and considered harsh and unhelpful.” The trouble with this practice is that those who relish being flattered by their fellow authors deny themselves the chance to learn of any structural weakness in their work that might need attention. Since books are written for the public, eventually, real people will buy them, and if they find such books to be mediocre works, not only will the authors lose credibility, but they’ll have to face the disappointment of their readers which might manifest itself in angry one-star reviews on Amazon. If many readers, decrying the deception, leave such reviews, it’d inevitably call the authenticity of the earlier positive reviews into question.

Another negative aspect of certain review exchange groups is that since members do not get to choose the books they must review, some end up with genres they have no affinity for, which often deprives the book’s author of unbiased feedback. It is also interesting to note that outside of these review exchange groups, while authors crave positive reviews from readers, they are sometimes not equally generous in their reviews of other writers’ works. There are cases in which authors take issue with certain characters in a book, and strangely enough, based their review of the book on the bias they have towards the character rather than on the literary merit of the book. 

Now the industry is riddled with so much bias that some readers claim they are no longer swayed by the reviews they read on Amazon or Goodreads. Having bought books on the strength of the starred reviews, only to find the writing quality wanting, a new reality is dawning on many readers. Yet, these starred reviews continue to determine which books are promoted, and to some extent, which ones are bought. Fairness—once the hallmark of literary assessment of 
fictional works—has been thrown out the window, and replaced by an obsession with star numbers, resulting in the exaltation of 5-star reviews as a sign of literary excellence while all the others are considered worthless, except perhaps 4-star reviews which are generally accepted as just fine. One fact, though, remains unchangeable - if a book has no literary merit, its five-star reviews—be they from friends and family or from literary magazines that thrive on paid reviews—can not give it the core it lacks. And if a book is excellent, no single-star review posted by a biased reviewer or by a disgruntled author envious of another’s work can rob it of its substance.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Go in Peace, 2020, But Please, Go

Not many people will argue with the assertion that the year 2020 will go down in history as the worst year in living memory—from the unprecedented wildfire that started in Australia in January, with 46 million acres burned, destroying the habitats of more than 800 vertebrate species, taking the homes and lives of many people with it. Then came the cruel murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man on whose neck a white Minneapolis police officer knelt until he had no breath left in his lungs, which sparked racial unrest in the U.S. that spread across the globe, with public properties and historic monuments destroyed in its wake. But 2020 was only just beginning to show its hand. Many western U.S. states, as if taking their cue from Australia went up in flames and the Hurricane season broke a slew of records. By then 2020 was all set to play its main card—Covid_19—the deadly coronavirus that sprang to life in Wuhan, China, and then swept across the world with unpredictable consequences, shutting down countries, closing borders, killing millions, suffocating the global economy and sparking restlessness


It began in a familiar, erratic fashion, with tensions between the U.S. and Iran over the killing of an Iranian military leader, Qasam Soleimani by a drone strike ordered by President Trump. A surprising royal matter provided a scandalous interlude on January 8, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan Markle announced they were stepping down as ‘senior’ royals and left Britain, first to Canada and then to the U.S. 

Qasam Soleimani
The U.S. soon returned to its old ways with a Texas school shooting, followed by another in Aurora. There was no time to absorb the news of the two shootings over the weekend. The Federal Depository Library Program’s website was hacked by Iranians, who replaced it with a picture of a bloodied President Trump, and posted pro-Iran messages.


An impeached President Trump was acquitted on February 5, by the Republican-controlled Senate, and three days later the president fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman who testified against him at the trial. 
The disgraced Hollywood kingmaker, Harvey Weinstein wasn’t so lucky.

On February 24, he was convicted of raping an aspiring actress and sexually abusing a TV and film production assistant. In an unrelated case two days later, a disgruntled employee at Molson Coors in Milwaukee, in keeping with the American tradition of gun madness, opened fire, killing five people.


The coronavirus, which arrived on U.S. soil in January, and downplayed by the president, had, by March 4, affected 129 people, including cases not yet investigated by the CDC - Center for Disease Control, with ten dead in the state of Washington, and another in California, prompting the state to declare a state of emergency. And as cases soared, President Trump signed an $8.3billion aid bill. Meanwhile, there was an explosion in Los Angeles, a shooting in Baltimore, a Teachers’ Strike in Minnesota, and the abolition of the Death Penalty in Colorado.


It was no April Fool joke when President Trump fired his senior official, Michael Atkinson believed to be the whistleblower that triggered the President’s impeachment trial. With coronavirus ravaging the country, some in California, defying the stay-home order, organisìzed a house party in Bakersfield and paid the ultimate prize when six people were shot.


On May, 16, Trump fired the State Department Inspector-General, Steve Linick who had previously begun investigating the secretary of State, Mike Pompeo for abuse of power while in office. Ten days later, at an intersection in Minneapolis, a black man, George Floyd was killed by a white police officer during an arrest for alleged forgery, when the officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck, ignoring the latter’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Following the killing, protests erupted all over America and quickly spread across the world, with the Black Lives Matter hashtag assuming a new potency. Soon what started as peaceful protests degenerated into violent confrontations with the police, burglary, destruction of property, and the toppling of historic monuments, which quickly eclipsed the earlier sympathy enjoyed by the protests against racial inequality in America.   


The Black Lives Matter protests continued unabated. On June 7, a man drove his car into a group of protesters in Seattle. The man allegedly fired shots into the crowd, injuring one person. On June 12, officers in Seattle expressed a desire to return to their abandoned precinct which had been occupied by protesters who called the area the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. City officials, either in support or fear of the protesters, allowed them to occupy the area, denying federal troops any entrance. And in response to the protests, Denver public schools decided to cut ties with the Denver Police Department which had provided security for the schools. On June 12, Louisville, Kentucky banned “no-knock” 
warrants after a black woman, Breonna Taylor was killed during a police raid months earlier, as it emerged the Police had the wrong house and shot Taylor while she was sleeping. On June 13, it was reported that 10 SWAT members in South Florida had resigned, stating that they feel unsafe on the job amidst the protests. Meanwhile, various police precincts voted to ban chokeholds as a form of restraint. Earlier in the month, former Vice President, Joe Biden was officially announced as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the upcoming Presidential elections after dominating Super Tuesday.


Just two days into the new month, federal officials arrested Ghislaine Maxwell in New Hampshire for her alleged involvement with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Not only was she charged with sexual crimes against underage girls, but investigators also revealed there was a potential link between Maxwell and Epstein's finances. Meanwhile, as the coronavirus ravaged America and the BLM protests against police brutality and racial inequality continued, gun violence surged in many cities including Washington DC, New York, South Carolina, Chicago, and Atlanta.


Democratic Party Presidential nominee, Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, ending months-long speculation in the media. In Washington DC, President Trump’s counsel, Kellyanne Conway resigned in a move triggered by her 15-year-old daughter, Claudia Conway’s tweet that her mother had ruined her life. There were also multiple shootings, continued protests against police brutality, a hot air balloon crash, and an investigation into the operations of the USPS.  


A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against the USPS that prevented it from sending ‘false’ statements. Colorado sued the company anyway for ‘misinformation’ regarding its untrue and conflicting guidelines about the upcoming presidential election mail-in ballots. The notable Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87, and as speculated, the Republican Party-controlled Senate decided it would fill the seat immediately. It was no surprise then when President Trump announced Justice Amy Coney Barrett as Ginsburg's successor. The much-anticipated first presidential debate between Trump and Biden took place on September 29, an event that turned out to be the most disgusting episode in presidential debates.


After months of playing down the coronavirus and holding political rallies and Rose Garden events with no social distancing, and even mocking his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden for wearing a mask, President Trump, his wife, Melania, his son, Barron, and several members of his inner circle tested positive for Covid_19, which made him and his administration a laughing stock on social media. He recovered after a brief stay in the hospital, but the uncertainty created by the state of his health resulted in the cancellation of the second presidential debate. Meanwhile, ahead of the November presidential elections, record-breaking numbers in early voting were reported in several states, with a dramatic increase in the number of absentee ballots, and a boom in U.S. postal ballot requests.      


On the first day of the month, a group of marchers heading to the polls in North Carolina was pepper-sprayed by the police to break them up when they held a moment of silence. That same day, Missouri officials removed a noose from a voting polling center. The following day, a federal judge ordered all USPS services to expedite all ballots and guarantee a one or two days delivery even after election day on November 3. By November 7, with votes still being counted and President Trump alleging voter fraud, requesting manual recounts in key swing states, various news outlets, called the election for Democratic Party candidate, Joe Biden based on the projected electoral college votes of 279 for him, with Trump at 214 electoral college votes. Determined not to concede, Trump mounted legal challenges, over fifty of which were thrown out by both state and federal judges for lack of evidence.


A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reinstate DACA, a program aimed at preventing the deportation of an estimated 700,000 undocumented immigrants called ‘dreamers’ who were brought to the U.S. as children.

On December 9, the courts again rejected a bid by Trump lawyers to overturn the election result in Pennsylvania, though the President continued to seek recounts, so far, with no results overturned. On December 11, in another blow to President Trump, the Supreme Court rejected Texas’ bid to block thousands of ballots. Soon afterward, the electoral college convened and finally confirmed Joe Biden’s win. 

On December 14, a Trump loyalist, Attorney-General William Barr who refused to go along with Trump’s claim of voter fraud, announced his resignation. By December 22, Trump began a pardon spree, favoring many of his allies, business associates, and loyalists.

15 Quotes That Define The Year 2020


1. “Day 7 of social distancing: Struck up a conversation with a spider today. Seems nice. He’s a web designer.” Unknown

2. “My life feels like a test I didn’t study for.” Unknown

3. “First time in history we can save the human race by laying in front of the TV and doing nothing. Let’s not screw this up.” Unknown

4. If you had asked me what the hardest part of battling a global pandemic would be, I would have never guessed ‘teaching elementary school math.'” Simon Holland

5. “The only thing I gained in 2020 was weight.” Unknown

6. “So far, 2020 is like looking both ways before you cross the street only to be hit by a passing drone.” Unknown

7. “Coronavirus has turned us all into dogs: We roam the house looking for food, we’re told ‘no’ if we get too close to strangers, and we get really excited about car rides and walks.” Unknown

8. “After all the stupid things I’ve done in my life, if I die because I touched my face, I’m gonna be pissed.” Unknown

9. “‘He chewed too loud’ became the number one cause of divorce.” Unknown

10. “I’m not saying I’m going to suck at homeschooling my kids but my daughter just asked, ‘Dad, what’s a synonym?’ And I replied, ‘It’s a spice.'” Joe Heenan

11. “2020 is the strictest parent I ever had.” Unknown

12. “I picked a hell of a time not to have learned how to cook for the past 29 years.” Alyssa Limperis

13. “My husband and I switched sides of the bed this weekend and that’s what we call ‘vacation’ now.” Ilana Glazer

14. I wish days of the week underwear was still a thing so I knew what the hell day of the week it is.” Mommy Owl

15. After years of swearing that I couldn’t clean my house because I didn’t have enough time, 2020 has proven that may have not been the reason.” The Super Mom Life