Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why Put Yourself Through It?


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I just finished a big book project (yay! And more on that soon). But at the end of it I said to Jonathan, "Well, that’s that. I have no idea how to write a book, I don’t know how I did this one, and promise you, I will NEVER write another one. Done and Done."

The next day, I had a good idea. Hmm, I thought. Maybe.

Have you ever thought that? Have you ever wondered—not only for a book project, but for anything that you do—how the heck did I do that? And how can I do it again?

And equally important: Why am I doing this?

The wonderful Darden North, MD—as genuinely charmingly wonderful as anyone you’ll ever meet, says writing a book is kind of like giving birth to a baby.

And for him, that is not cliché.  That is reality.

DARDEN NORTH: A lot of people ask: “So what number novel is this for you? Your fourth? Your third?”

Sure, that’s awkward sentence structure. Unfortunately, most people express themselves that way, but we tortured souls who write true-to-life character dialogue are used to it. Those who like stereotypes would suggest that lack of eloquent diction is confined to my native South. However, I think not, and let’s leave the Mississippi stereotypes behind.

No matter how spoken, the interest in another Darden North novel is never ignored and always appreciated by me. That curiosity could not come at a better time with the June 2017 release of my fifth novel and thriller, The FiveManners of Death (WordCrafts Press). That’s the upside to the inquiry. 

The downside to the question is that the curious reader obviously missed one or two of my novels and has some catching up to do. The author and bookseller in me hopes that he or she will also pick up those missing volume.

Now, for the other side of the professional aisle. A companion question often asked of me is: “How many babies have you delivered?”

For a physician who has practiced obstetrics and gynecology for over 30 years and hopes he does not look like it, this is not an unusual query. My typical answer generally earns a chuckle or two: “Enough babies to populate a small town in Mississippi, but one with more than just a post office and gas station.”

By the way, despite the 30-plus years on the job, I can still run down the hall to a patient’s labor room when time is short and not appear at all short-winded when entering the room. (Remember, I’m a fiction writer.)

So, why plan the sixth novel after the release of number five? So, why plan to deliver another baby after 4000 or more? A better inquiry and one more recently asked of me by a journalist was: “Why put yourself through it?”    

Anyone who writes novels has faced that same question, no matter what life situation hangs in balance with being a published author. My other profession is full-time partnership in a large ob/gyn single-specialty group. “Why put yourself through it?” I have a standard answer for both sides of the coin.

For the literary facet: “I’ve got more stories to tell and they’re getting better and better!” and regarding my medical practice: “I’m on call this weekend and there’s no way to get out of it!” Seriously, practicing ob/gyn is fulfilling and rewarding. However, there are few professional fields more demanding, considering new procedures to master like robotic minimally invasive surgery and the increased pressures from government regulation and cost containment concerns. Yet, becoming a part of so many families by helping them to expand theirs is a lot of fun.  

Back to the writing thing …The truth is I do have a sixth story to tell and a seventh and an eighth and …well, you get it. There is a real internal drive to get better and better, to be a regular on the best seller lists.

My novels have been billed as murder mysteries and/or thrillers. I settled into the thriller genre with the last three including the newest, The 5 Manners of Death. Because of who I am, most describe my work as medical thrillers. Since I’m not always writing about a deadly virus on the rampage or an evil scientist bent on altering genomes and not for the common good, I describe my novels simply as thrillers, written with medical characters—flawed human beings like everyone else, chased by others, new mistakes and problems around every bend.

Maybe I do need to include more evil scientists in my novels. And, of course, if one is a thriller or mystery novelist, it doesn’t hurt to have a lot of patients who like to read them. 

Hank and Mom
HANK: And of course, all those babies are instant fans, right? So Reds, do you have any idea about the doctor who delivered you? Funny, I’ve seen my birth certificate a million times, but never noticed that. (And now I have another book idea.)
            Were you born in a hospital? Or where? 
         And if you write--WHY do you do it?
And if you have questions for Darden, he’ll be coming to visit—house call!—throughout the day. Unless, of course, a new baby needs him.

     A native of the Mississippi Delta and a board-certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology, Darden North is the nationally awarded author of five novels in the mystery/thriller genre, including an IPPY for Points of Origin. He practices ob/gyn full-time at Jackson Healthcare for Women in Flowood, Mississippi, where he is a certified daVinci robotic surgeon and delivers babies. North also serves as Chairman of the Board of the Mississippi Public Broadcasting Foundation and on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association
     A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Mississippi, he begin his writing and publishing career as Editor-in-Chief of the 1978 Ole Miss yearbook and continued for the 1982 Medic while in medical school. He participated as an author panelist at “Murder in the Magic City,” “Killer Nashville,” “Murder on the Menu,” and “SIBA Thriller Author Panel.”   Darden North lives with his wife Sally in Jackson, Mississippi. In his spare time, he gardens, enjoys family, walks for exercise, and travels. Sally and Darden have two young adult children who also work in the medical field.



           After a construction worker unearths a human skull on the campus of the University of Mississippi dating to the 1960s, an older woman’s desperate attempt to erase history counts down the five ways to die in the thriller, The Five Manners of Death. The woman is the niece of Dr. Diana Bratton, a surgeon surrounded by bodies after the discovery of her Aunt Phoebe’s 50-year-old note detailing the manners of death. Suicide, accident, natural causes, and one death classified undetermined are soon crossed off this list—leaving Diana to believe that only homicide remains. Yet the police prove her wrong. Diana believes that family trumps the truth but discovers that murder is her family secret.

 Website: www.dardennorth.com
www.facebook.com/DardenNorthAuthor         www.facebook.com/DardenNorth 
    chapter one typewriter . Copyright: ragsac / 123RF Stock Photo


95 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the new book, Darden . . . it sounds quite intriguing and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Jean and I were born in a hospital, but I have absolutely no clue about the doctor . . . and I’ve never given it any thought --- until now . . . .

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    1. Isn't that funny? I mean--its the first person who ever saw us! And we have no idea who that was.

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    2. Thank you, Joan. Dr. Callender delivered me at St. Dominic Memorial in Jackson, MS. My mother mentioned that the fee was $50!

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  2. Congrats on the new book!

    I was born on a dark and stormy night. Or so my parents tell me. (This really isn't the start of a Snoopy story.) I don't know the doctor who delivered me, however.

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    1. Dark and stormy night! So cute. And that's why you love mysteries, right?

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    2. Hi Mark. Dark and stormy nights many times fill up the labor and delivery unit. Thank you for reading!

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  3. Darden, you win in the 'you and Sally have two young adult children??' category! Delivering all those babies and books must keep you young! Your latest has me intrigued--guess I'll be adding a few more books to my TBR pile....

    Delivered by one of the partners in a practice that has taken care of my extended family for nearly 70 years now. The son of the doctor who delivered me is now my GP! Writing? Breathing? Same thing....

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    1. Oh, a family doctor. And a doctor family! Very turn turn turn. So funny,right Flora, that he was the very first person who ever saw you?

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    2. Yep--and that was two doctor families--sons, grandsons, maybe some great-grandchildren by now! All pretty remarkable, too--

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    3. Hi Flora! You made my day! Those "young children" still keep us busy.

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  4. Congratulations on the new book, Darden. You are a new author to me, and I am adding your titles to my TBR lists.

    Yes, I know I was born in a Toronto hospital (St. Michael's) since I was a premmie weighing less than 3.5 pounds. There were plenty of photos taken of me there in the incubator during my first month until I reached 5 pounds, but I have no idea which doctor delivered me.

    Lots of technical writing done for my job with the federal government, but I am now retired.

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    1. Aw, Grace! What's it like to look at the photos of tiny tiny you?

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    2. Hank, my family could not believe the tiny preemie baby became the giant in the family! I towered over both my mom and dad.

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  5. Wow, Darden, how in the world do you do all those things in one life? And yay for you, chair of Mississippi Public Broadcasting Network!

    I don't know about my obstetrician either, though my husband's was apparently drinking too much by the time John was delivered. So he has a funny belly button that will always tie him to that man!

    As for writing, I have no idea either. Was just thinking yesterday about this question why put myself through this!!!

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    1. That way lies madness, Lucy. :-) Don't ask. Just write.

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    2. The reader who just got a signed book from you at a signing who's dancing around from joy in the bookstore parking lot ... That's why we do it!

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  6. Great to hear about your books, Darden. As the Reds know, one of my series features a Quaker midwife sleuth in the late 1880s. So I'm catching babies regularly in my fiction, but writing is my full-time job now. Good for you for keeping up both sides of your life. Do you include obstetric issues in your books, or do you prefer to stay away from the specifics of the day job in your writing?

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    1. So interesting, Edith! It must have been fun to keep track of what you know now--versus what Rose knew then.

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    2. It is, But really, births without medical intervention haven't changed much in a few thousand years. And she knew by then to wash her hands and to cut the cord with a sterile blade, plus all the other tricks midwives have known for a long time.

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    3. Edith, my first novel, "House Call," included more medical issues than the four that have followed. If fact, earlier drafts included even tidbits of medical history but editors suggested less. I include medical facts and references when necessary to advance my plots.

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  7. Congrats on the new book!

    I have no idea who my doctor was or anything about them. I was born in a hospital.

    As for writing, while I don't write books, the writing that I do is done because I like to share my opinions on the things I read, watch or listen to. Getting to share it (and now getting paid for some of it) is the gravy.

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    1. And such a responsibility, too, right, Jay? And hey--that's definitely writing!

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    2. Hi Jay. "Getting paid." Now that's a "novel" idea!

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    4. Hank, my stuff is definitely writing, I just think of it differently because it isn't "creative" compared to you and all other other novelists whose work I love and adore. (By the way, my review of Joseph Kanon's new thriller is now online at Mystery Scene's website).

      If I could ever focus myself long enough to put down any of the many story ideas in my head on a computer screen, that would be a good day.

      And it is definitely a responsibility. Between providing a fair assessment of the book, it is the first bit of writing where I have a deadline to meet on a consistent basis. That has led to some long nights of just reading a book so as to not blow the deadline.

      I still think the best feedback I ever got on a review I did was when the leader of a band said that I must be "a stupid, unintelligent American" because of the middling review I gave their DVD.

      I've written reviews on CDs, DVDs, TV shows, movies, comics, comic conventions, author signings. Interviewed you. And now with the book reviews.


      And Darden, yes getting paid is a "novel" concept. For years, my parents wished I would do something with all the writing I did that would get me some money. And then I somehow accidentally stumbled into the paying gig. But I love it since it shares my work on a wider platform than I could do myself and it is for one of my favorite magazines, so I strive to keep doing a good job with my reviews.

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    5. A stupid, unintelligent American! Awesome.

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  8. I was born in the Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, delivers by Steve (I think) Rosen. I even have a picture of us, he in the ubiquitous white coat with me on his lap. My mother spent two weeks in the hospital, and the bill, including tax, title and tot, was $14.00.

    Times have changed, eh?

    I am interested in your books, Darden. As a health care professional, I usually avoid medical thrillers, finding I no longer have that capacity to suspend disbelief. But I am fairly sure your details will be both possible and probable.

    In another life I was a labor and delivery nurse, Parkland Hospital, back in the day of Jack Pritchard and Norman Gant, and I have delivered hundreds of babies, usually in the dark of night. The last one was in the front seat of a car parked in front of the Long Beach Memorial Birth Center. I always wanted to deliver one in a Chinese restaurant, and that is still on my bucket list!

    There is nothing like it, is there, being present at the beginning of life, except perhaps the privilege of attending a death.

    Ann in Rochester

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    1. I've ordered the first book, because beginning at the beginning is often a good idea. I look forward to reading it. And thank you for being here today

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    2. tax, title and tot! SO funny. and $14.00! That the price now of what, one bandaid?

      Ann--do medical thrillers often get it wrong?

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    3. Pretty much always, maybe except for Abraham Verghese, and he takes liberties. I don't suppose anyone notices except for people like me, always the critic. And don't even start with the TV shows. Even Call the Midwife, which is the best. All those women who go into labor and deliver within the next 45 minutes? Fiction mostly. Unless the surname is Dugger.

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    4. Hi Ann. I interviewed at Parkland for residences but returned home to Mississippi for Ob/Gyn training. I remember how exhausted the resident-in-training physicians looked at Parkland. They fed us interviewees our lunch out of snack machines. Regarding restaurants and on-site deliveries...seems that might be more probable at a Mexican restaurant.

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  9. I was born in a hospital, and my doctor was most likely Barbara Russell, a GP who handled all my family's stuff back in those days. I remember her name because, waaaay back then, it was unusual to have a female doctor.

    As for writing, sometimes I write simply because it's part of my work, but sometimes I write because an idea or a set of characters won't let go of my imagination. Either way, I work hard to tell a compelling story that readers will enjoy.

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    1. Oh, yes, I bet it was unusual! Where was that,Gigi?

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    2. Rolla! Such an interesting name! (Rolling on the river?)

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    3. It's pronounced Raw-luh, and local lore says the town was founded by folks who wanted to name it Raleigh, but couldn't spell. Which, considering Missouri, makes perfect sense to me. It's about in the middle of the state, but not on any of the major rivers. It was, however, an important railhead during the Civil War. Lots of history there.

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    4. Oh, that's a wonderful story! Love that!

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  10. It never occurred to me that there was a doctor involved! I was born back in the days when they knocked the mother out and she woke up with a baby. I know, that's not considered a great idea these days, but really giving birth isn't all that much fun.

    Welcome to Jungle Red, Darden! So what else happened on the day YOU were born is you got named. Darden. Is that an old Southern family name? Where I grew up people often combined the parents names to come up with a child's name (Darlene/Dennis?) And how nice to have a name that just about no one else has.

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    1. Oh, good question! And you have to admit, Darden North is a perfect author name!

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    2. I met someone on vacation - a group of families in the hotel pool. Upon hearing my name, one guy commented: "That sounds like an author's name." The comment made me very happy.
      BTW, "Darden" is a family surname.

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    3. Darden,

      Since Darden is a family surname, does it make it easier to research your family tree?

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    4. Yes. And I recently came across such research in my mother's things. There's a family cemetery somewhere near Bolton,Mississippi.

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    5. Yes, hi Darden, and I want to know about the name, too, as it's my maiden name!! I have always figured my family came from somewhere in the south (to Texas) but don't know for sure.

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    6. My Louisiana father-in-law's first name was Marsden. And no. Not a family name. No one is too sure where it came from but joke he was named for a handyman.

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    7. Wow, I just saw your answer here, Debs.

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  11. I just came across my birth certificate, tattered and torn though it was. No doctor was specified; probably no one had the nerve! I was born in a maternity home in a tiny town and maybe certain amenities were lacking. Doctor? Who knows. Looking forward to reading your books, Darden. Always interested in all things medical.

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    1. Laughing--you mean no one wanted to take the responsibility for your existence? Doubtful--but we are glad you persisted. What tiny town?

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    2. That would be Cobleskill in Schoharie County. (Glad I made you laugh!)

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    3. Hi Judi. My mother recently passed away and in going through her things I came across my maternal grandmother's birth certificate. It seems that my cousin was correct. I had incorrectly listed her given name in Mom's obituary! However, my mother always said that her mother wished her name had been Augusta instead of Auggie. And thanks to me, I corrected that in print for Grandmother and for eternity!

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  12. Congrats on the new book, Darden!

    I was born in a hospital. Never given a thought to the doctor, except for knowing he forbade my father from being in the delivery room because he thought fathers just got in the way.

    Why do I write? I think I'd go insane if I didn't.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Let's ask the expert! Darden--do fathers get in the way?

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    2. Hi Mary and Hank. See my note to Jim about the father that got out of the way via a trip to the ER. Fortunately, the poor guy is OK and, hopefully, at home helping with the diaper changes.

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    3. My kind of funny (well, funny to me) dad story is from my son's delivery.

      My husband was at both deliveries. But for my son, The Hubby was still in the army and was away at a field exercise when I called him. "If you want to be present at the birth of your son, you'd better get on the road." He informed me he would and would be back in an hour or so.

      But The Boy and I could not wait. A friend drove me to the hospital and stayed in the delivery suite until The Hubby arrived. Of course, nurses came in while this happened. Eventually The Hubby walked in, still in his field uniform (camo fatigues) and combat boots, looking very intense. The nurse said something about my friend being the dad and I said (in between contractions), "No, the guy in camo is the dad."

      The look on the nurse's face was priceless.

      Mary/Liz

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  13. Fathers *should* get in the way, until someone's health is endangered. I was in the room for both of our sons' births, the one that took twenty hours and the one that took eight minutes. Theoretically I was coaching, but it certainly wasn't needed with the second one, who just made it past the parking lot.

    The obstetrician who helped my mother deliver me was an acquaintance of my parents, probably through the Knights of Columbus. I believe he delivered my oldest sister too before retiring. I was born in Doctors Hospital in DC, which isn't there any more, having gone bankrupt in the seventies.

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    1. Hi Jim. The fathers can sometimes be as much the patient as the mothers. One recently literally passed out, hitting his head on the foot of a rolling hospital tray and earning himself a trip to the ER. Poor guy missed the delivery!

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  14. Congrats on the new book, Darden! I have met the doctor who delivered me, Dr. Reilly, who still has a lovely Irish brogue despite being in Boston for decades. It's so amazing and weird to think he was the first person to see me! I actually put him in my most recent book, DUPLICITY. One of the characters has to see an OB/GYN, and I made him Dr. Reilly. I don't think he knows this, so I'll have to make sure my Mum brings him a book at her next appointment!

    As for why I write, there's nothing else I'd rather do, but it's not easy!

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    1. Hi Ingrid and thank you for the congrats! I love it when my patients bring one of my books with them to the office for me to sign and discuss.

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    2. Ingrid, it may not be easy for you but the finished product is freaking awesome!

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    3. Ingrid,

      Then my work here is done. :D

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  15. Congratulations on the new book, Darden and welcome to JRW! I was born in a small hospital, which closed a long time ago.

    Love to write. Though I am not sure if my writing is publishable. I have difficulties developing dialogue. I am great with character development, though.

    Look forward to reading your book.

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    1. when I was born, my Dad had brought me a toy gun, thinking that I would be a boy. The doctor came out of the delivery room and said "I am sorry it is a girl" LOL. I think it was funny. My Dad had gone out for dinner to a shopping center across the street to grab dinner and buy a gift while my Mom was in labor.

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    2. Thank you, Bibliophile. Actually, the characters came first with my first novel. Unique, twisted characters - that's a good thing and a great start to a novel.

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    3. Your Dad brought almost-you a gun? And--"I'm sorry"? Maybe he could have named you Annie! But he was just being Dad-sweet.

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  17. I know I was born in Dallas's Baylor Hospital, Florence Nightgale wing (so was Rick) but have no idea of the doctor's name. As Hallie said, they knocked you out and you woke up with a baby in those days, so I doubt my mom even remembered.

    Sixteen months ago, I got see my granddaughter born, and it was the most amazing experience (and not too bad for her mom and dad, either:-)) It must be a joyous thing to bring babies into the world.

    Darden, of course I will be looking up your books! (Deborah Darden Crombie!)

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    1. Debs, is that your real name? SMALL World!

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    2. Indeed! I spent my youth explaining that it was not "Garden" LOL

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    3. And Crombie is my ex-husband's name...

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    4. Does darden sound like garden?

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  18. Hi cousin, Deborah! No grand babies yet for us, but our son is getting married next month. My wife questioned the timing of this new book release -- right in the middle of all the wedding prep! However, when the publisher is ready, everything must be on go.

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    1. Yes, it'd probably be easier to move the wedding, right? :-) (maybe the book is a natural for table favors? Your son's fiancée would LOVE it. Truly, she would.)

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    2. At least your son knows to not get married during college football season!

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  19. Dr North, welcome! I'll have to start looking for your books.

    I was born in a hospital. I'm the oldest of five. All of us were delivered by Dr McFarland, as were my dad and all his siblings AND his two youngest aunts, my grandmother's sisters!

    When my mom was in labor with child number four, there were some frightening complications. Mom and baby pulled through, mom had my youngest sibling two years later, and child number four is still around and is a happy grandmother!

    Deb Romano

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    1. Oh, how scary… Glad everything worked out OK!

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  20. I must read your series! My mother-in-law is from Hattiesburg and she still has a few relations in Mississippi. Such a pretty state. My older brother was born at Seton Hospital in Austin; my three younger siblings at St Luke's in Houston. Me? In Houston, but whatever the hospital was, it was torn down not too long afterwards. I will have to check my birth certificate.

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  21. I was born at Brady Maternity Hospital in Albany, NY. The doctor who delivered me was Kalman Rosenblatt, and he remained our family doctor throughout my childhood. My first apartment was just down the street from Brady, which had been repurposed by then.

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    1. Hi PlumGaga. Seems you were coming home ... moving into that first apartment not far from the old Brady Hospital site.

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  22. Coincidentally, the name of my future daughter-in-law is Kelsey, a name I used for a character in "The 5 Manners of Death" and "Wiggle Room," my fourth novel. Spelling is the same. I think the real Kelsey will be Ok with it because the fictional one isn't the bad guy.

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  23. Hi Pat. Come on down and visit. They don't call it "The Hospitality State" for nothing.

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  24. My family doctor delivered me, and my brother 9 years before me. He was my doctor until I went to college. Never saw anyone but him except for one time. When Dr. Schechtman was on vacation just before school I needed a small pox update. My mother took me to the local doctor - William Carlos William's son. He was the local pediatrician. I lived in Rutherford NJ at the time. The house is still on the corner from what I'm told. And I believe there's still a medical practice on the first floor.

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    1. Kait, it seems you are blessed with good health and a great memory!

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  25. Hello, Dr. North, This is quite the timely post as I just finished a book and am feeling that never again syndrome. I'm looking forward to reading The Five Manners of Death. I could use a good medical thriller! I know I was born in Yale New Haven Hospital by the OB my mother loved but sadly i can't remember his name. Now, of course, I have to go call her and ask...

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    1. Oh, definitely, you have to make him or her a character!

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    2. Hi Jenn. I'm so glad you're going to read my new novel. I have a really good feeling that you're going to enjoy the characters in "The 5 Manners of Death," and I look forward to a review. Not trying to be presumptuous, but the "5" in the title looks great with "stars" too. Ha!

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  26. Hi Dr. North, welcome. I gave up on medical thrillers a long time ago because the pseudo science go to be too much. Time to return and start again with your works.

    I just asked my daughter if she knew the name of the doctor. Now she does. My mother was an ob nurse early in her career, so I can assume a doctor was present. I was born in a hospital on a rainy day. Not really sure about the weather but it was in Seattle. logical guess. I


    Why do I keep on writing? Because I still want to be of service. The doing in the long run is easier than the agony of not doing. Truth be told I am much more in the reader group than the writer group. still fun to dream.

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  27. Thanks for your comment, Coralee. You have to dream to write, and I hope that my dreams tonight will point me in the direction of the plot for novel #6.
    And again to everyone ... I have thoroughly enjoyed my day with Jungle Red. You are great!

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