In the Spotlight: Black Rocks and Rainbows by Susan C. Riford

Author: Susan C. Riford
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Genre: YA / Historical


The journey of a lifetime told in the audiobook BLACK ROCKS AND RAINBOWS begins with a ship: “An enormous canoe, with great white wings like a magnificent bird.” This is the merchant schooner Triumph from New England, anchored offshore by what is now known as the Big Island of Hawaii, and in 1807, the sight of it captivates a young Hawaiian boy’s imagination and spirit of adventure. Fifteen-year-old Hiapo Opukahaia, orphaned as the result of a war between two rival island chiefs, has been contemplating his future. He dives into the sea and swims to the ship, where he is invited to stay for dinner. When the captain asks if he would like to go to America, he nods Yes.

The audiobook BLACK ROCKS AND RAINBOWS, an historical novel for young adults, edited and narrated by actress Suzanne Ford, was written by her late mother, Susan C. Riford.  The audiobook chronicles the gripping story of Hiapo – renamed “Henry” by his fellow crewmen – whose literal and figurative journey leads to the greatest adventure of all: a hunger for knowledge which ultimately changes Hawaii forever. The title refers to the lava rocks and beautiful rainbows of the Big Island, the vision of which Henry carries with him for the rest of his life.

Working as a cabin boy, Henry does encounter true-life adventures – pirates, storms – during the ship’s year-long voyage, via the Seal Islands and China, back to its home port of New Haven, Connecticut. He also learns to read and write English, unlocking his quest for further knowledge; upon arriving in New Haven, Henry realizes he desperately wants to keep learning, but has no idea how.

Weeping one day on the steps of Yale College, he is found by a kind student, a relative of the school’s president. Taken under the president’s wing, Henry becames a scholar. He wants to translate written works from English into Hawaiian, but at the time, there is no such written Hawaiian language. So he begins to apply the principles in an American spelling book – devised by Noah Webster, of dictionary fame – to the sounds of his native tongue. In doing so, he creates the alphabet-spelling-grammar system that is the basis for the Hawaiian written language in use to this day.

Sadly, Henry dies of typhus fever in 1818 at the age of 26. He is buried in Cornwall, Connecticut, until 1993, when he makes one final journey: a group of Hawaiian residents has successfully crusaded for the return of his remains to the Big Island for permanent burial. Hiapo Opukahaia has come home.

Suzanne Ford was inspired to create the audiobook BLACK ROCKS AND RAINBOWS originally written by her late mother, Susan Riford, a prolific author of children’s books and plays and founder of what is now known as the Rev Theatre Company in Auburn, New York. Her mother became fascinated with Henry’s story when she moved to Maui. “The novel was her final work before she died,” Ford says. “I took on the unfinished manuscript, wrote the last chapter, had a few copies printed and recorded the audiobook. The story is such a fascinating and compelling adventure, fun to listen to for anyone, but especially for young adults.”

Ford is working on an updated, illustrated book version of BLACK ROCKS AND RAINBOWS. “It’s noteworthy that there has never been a full-length historical novel about Opukahaia, who is such a major figure in Hawaiian history and whose story carries a timeless message about the importance of education,” she observes. “Especially in this era of the dawning of deeper recognition of indigenous peoples and their heritage, this as yet unfamiliar but universal coming-of-age story is resonant and relevant to youth of any culture.”


“This adventure story is riveting from start to finish and the action keeps coming. The ending, though sad because it’s a true story, was very uplifting and inspiring. A very satisfying audiobook experience.”


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here:

And here:

Suzanne Ford is an actress and writer working in film, television, and theatre. She has performed in more than100 stage productions in New York and Los Angeles, on tour and in regional theatres around the country. Her many film credits include the Duplass Brothers’ recent hit Manson Family VacationYou, Me and Dupree and The Apparition, and she has appeared on such television shows as Grace and Frankie, Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal MindsIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Friends. She has been an advertising copywriter, has written a biography of Mel Gibson, screenplays, and cookbooks, and has ghostwritten memoirs. She and her husband live in the Hollywood Hills.


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‘The Art of Betrayal,’ by Connie Berry

Plug Your Book!

AUTHOR: Connie Berry


PUBLISHER: Crooked Lane


1. Amazon: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery: Berry, Connie: 9781643855943: Books

2. Barnes&Noble: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (

3. Booksamillion: The Art of Betrayal : A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry (

4. Indiebound: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery |


American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. Kate is thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the Chinese jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI…

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The Story behind ‘Complicit’ by Amy Rivers

The Story Behind the Book

When you live in a small town, you sometimes think you know everything that happens. There are no secrets. Everyone knows your business. And in some cases, this is true. Small towns are usually close knit. People have known each other for years. Families have been friends (or enemies) for generations. But there are always secrets.

Having worked at a sexual assault service program in a small town, I know all too well how little we know about what goes on behind closed doors. It’s shocking. It’s sickening. But for those of use who have walked in that arena, we know that silence hides violence. Fear, intimidation, and shame keep victims from reporting. The criminal justice system isn’t always helpful or fair. There are a lot of really good people fighting an uphill battle, and one problem we face is the public perception that it can’t happen here or he/she…

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The Story behind ‘In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right’ by Rosemary Mild

The Story Behind the Book

I’d been a career editor, starting at Harper’s Magazine and ending as a writer for a major defense corporation. In 1993 Larry retired early as an engineer so we could spend winters in Honolulu with family. I agreed, but I suddenly realized I was no longer a professional editor/writer—I felt I’d lost my identity. So I began writing and publishing personal essays, which gave me my own special voice. Writing this book is a culmination of my thoughts, ideas, research, and experiences, all with a goal of entertaining readers.

The essays range from the hilarious to the serious. In “Character Floss,” published in the Washington Post, I reveal a ridiculous encounter I had in a parking lot.

My last chapter is called “Miriam.” How could I write this book without telling the world about my only child, Miriam Luby Wolfe? We lost Miriam in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am…

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Interview with Rosemary Mild, Author of ‘In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right’

The Dark Phantom Review

“To hope is normal, to expect is naïve”

—wise advice that Rosemary Mild’s psychoanalyst father taught her, and which she too often ignores. 

Rosemary is an award-winning writer of personal essays that have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Chess Life, Generations, and elsewhere. As a retired editor, she’s a long-time member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a Silver Owl (twenty-five-year member) of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Rosemary grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Smith College. In 2013, she and Larry moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they cherish time with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. When not dreaming up outrageous ideas for her essays, she and Larry stalk villains and solve crimes as coauthors of more than a dozen mystery and suspense novels and story collections. They’re members of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (Larry’s a Mister), and Hawaii Fiction…

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Book Review: ‘River Aria’ by Joan Schweighardt

From the pen of talented historical novelist Joan Schweighardt comes another well-crafted, meticulously researched story about family, community, immigration, oppression, the environment, and having to face the consequences of one’s actions.

It’s 1928 and the Great Depression is looming around the corner when two impoverish but talented mixed-raced—Amerindian and European—Brazilian immigrant cousins travel to NYC to find a better life and fulfill their dreams. Estela, a singer of arias and a product of the Teatro Amazonas during the time of the rubber boom, has a beautiful voice and dreams of becoming a famous opera singer; Jojo is a fisherman and a gifted artist. As a start, Estela is offered a seamstress position at the Metropolitan Opera House while Jojo is offered a scholarship at an art school. Will they achieve their dreams against all obstacles? If yes, at what price?

River Aria is the third installment in this author’s series and is focused on the next generation of the family featured in the first book. There is so much I enjoyed about this novel! The worlds of art and music in 1920s NYC come together engrossingly. The multifaceted, original characters—you don’t often read stories about indigenous people from Brazil—and their struggles to find purpose and meaning in a complex, ruthless city that is a character all on its own, kept me riveted. Parentage and identity are big themes with both Estela and Jojo as they struggle with their origins and how it affects their lives. Having read other books by Schweighardt, I’ve become familiar with her literary prose. She always strives for depth, and she pays great attention to detail.

The author visited the rainforest, as well as Manaus, the Amazon, and Rio Negro as part of her research, and considering the authentic feel of the plot and characters, I’m not surprised. In spite of this, however, the writing doesn’t get too heavy-handed, which is sometimes a problem in this type of book. I particularly recommend River Aria to historical fiction fans who have a special interest in the rubber boom that took place in Brazil in the early 1900s and how it affected the fishing villages and the indigenous people living there.

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Picture Book Review: Five Funny Tummy Men, by Jean Reed

Beyond the Books

Why does your tummy ache? Why does it make noises? What happens in your stomach after you eat? Why should you eat slowly?

In this educational picture book, the author answers these questions and more, describing the “five tummy men” that inhabit our stomachs and their specific jobs:

Mr. Boss, the one in charge

Mr. Swallow, catcher of food

Mr. Grinder, most happy when you chew well

Mr. Piler, sorter of nutrients into piles for different parts of your body

Mr. Deliveryman, carrier of piles to your body

FIVE FUNNY TUMMY MEN encourages dialogue between children and adults, making it a good resource for class or homeschooling discussions. Children are told to eat healthy and chew well and not snack a lot between meals, and in a simple, clear and friendly manner this cute little book explains exactly why. Recommend for readers 4-8. A multicultural edition of the book is…

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Picture Book Review: Five Funny Tummy Men, by Jean Reed

The Children's and Teens' Book Connection

Why does your tummy ache? Why does it make noises? What happens in your stomach after you eat? Why should you eat slowly?

In this educational picture book, the author answers these questions and more, describing the “five tummy men” that inhabit our stomachs and their specific jobs:

Mr. Boss, the one in charge

Mr. Swallow, catcher of food

Mr. Grinder, most happy when you chew well

Mr. Piler, sorter of nutrients into piles for different parts of your body

Mr. Deliveryman, carrier of piles to your body

FIVE FUNNY TUMMY MEN encourages dialogue between children and adults, making it a good resource for class or homeschooling discussions. Children are told to eat healthy and chew well and not snack a lot between meals, and in a simple, clear and friendly manner this cute little book explains exactly why. Recommend for readers 4-8.

Available atAmazonandB&NMulticultural edition…

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Meet Historical Novelist Joan Schweighardt

Joan Schweighardt is the author of River Aria , which is both a standalone novel and the third book in a trilogy, as well as other novels, nonfiction titles, and children’s books. She is also a freelance writer and ghostwriter.

As long as you are willing to bend a little…it is possible to make a living doing what you love.

Q: What’s inside the mind of a historical fiction author?

A: I wrote contemporary fiction for several years before I began to write historical. Historical novels are generally bigger projects, because they require so much research. If there is a fire in the year 1908 in the town of Hoboken, NJ—as was the case in my historical novel Before We Died—would it have been responded to by horse-drawn fire wagons or motorized fire engines? Both were operational in 1908, but which would have been used in Hoboken? It took me hours of research to decide on the horses, and even then I wasn’t one-hundred percent certain I’d made the right choice. The line about the arrival of the fire vehicles in that book was just that—one line.

I agonize over such details when I’m writing historical fiction. But the payoff, for me, is enormous. Writing historical fiction feels like I am working with a partner, a collaborator. In River Aria, I wanted Estela, my protagonist, who grows up in the early 20th century in an impoverished area of Brazil, to study opera. I could not simply have her study opera in high school, because schools in Manaus, the region of Brazil I’d committed to, would not have offered any kind of voice or music classes in that time. More likely, students of all grades studied in one or two school rooms and had very few extracurricular activities. My partner, Historical Authenticity, pushed me to come up with a fictional scenario that would make good sense within the historical context we had to work in. Unlike the horse-drawn fire wagons, the arrival in Manaus of a worldly voice instructor who would have reason to want to teach opera to a handful of “river brats” was not just a one-sentence matter. It drove the plot in a direction I never would have thought to take it if I had not been forced to come up with a fiction that would work side by side within a specific historical context. This is what I love about historical fiction. I get to be surprised.

Q: What makes River Aria special?

A: There are two main settings in River Aria. One is Manaus, Brazil, which, while hard-up economically in 1928, when the book begins, is located in the middle of the world’s largest rainforest and enriched by an amazing history (it had been the headquarters for the South American rubber boom until the boom’s abrupt end in 1912) and a wealth of superstitions, mythologies and folklore originating with the indigenous ancestors of its inhabitants. The other setting is New York City, riding high on the rewards of industrialization, a place where even bell boys are getting rich in a soaring stock market. You could say the two locations are polar opposites.

Estela, who, as mentioned above, has studied opera, and her cousin JoJo, a poor fisherman who happens to be a naturally-talented artist, are compelled to travel from Manaus to New York. But even though Estela has had a highly unique education and JoJo is exceptionally street smart, nothing prepares them for the challenges they face. Why should readers buy it? It’s a full story with lots of drama—speakeasies, rumrunners, people who would take advantage of immigrants, family members who fail to understand boundaries, opera, jazz, art, and even an unlikely romance… all within intriguing historical settings.


Q: What makes a good historical novel?

A: I guess it’s the balance of a vigorous plotline and the right amount of historical information. Strands of both need to be woven together in such a way that readers never feel they are reading a textbook but yet always feel immersed in a particular time and place.

Q: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?


Q: What has writing taught you?

A: Besides my own writing projects, I have written and edited for other people, including ghostwriting books for people with great stories to tell but lacking time or inclination or just needing support with the craft. I’ve also done some agenting for other authors, and I even had my own indie publishing company for a time. Writing has taught me that as long as you are willing to bend a little, to take a broad view of your career path, it is possible to make a living doing what you love.

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On the Spotlight: ‘Somebody Else’s Troubles,’ by J.A. English

An inventive, intriguing, and extraordinarily thought-provoking tale, Somebody Else’s Troubles centers on a titillating question: who among us hasn’t dreamed of walking to the corner store and simply disappearing?

About Somebody Else’s Troubles:  Ohio businessman Travers Landeman has plenty of troubles. Between a marriage that is loveless at best, a hateful, greedy, self-consumed wife, and a family business changing in unexpected and unwelcome ways, Travers copes in the best way he knows how: by making a conscious effort not to think.  But when his teenage nephew, Matthew Calkins, reaches out to him for help, Travers turns away. When his inaction causes unspeakable guilt, Travers fakes his death on the Caribbean Island of Mabuhay, an act that sets into motion a most unusual series of events—events that will bond together a most unusual cadre of people.

Years pass and it appears that Travers, now settled in to a new life with a new family and a new name, has gotten away with it.  Or has he?

The Atlantis Fidelity Insurance Company hires Albert Sydney McNab to bring Travers back to Ohio. But McNab, a bumbling, sore-footed, ne’er-do-well with a litany of failed careers—waiter, bus driver, door-to-door salesman—is surprisingly somehow hot on Travers’ trail.

Chicago bookseller Joe Rogers leads a group of amateur archaeologists to Mabuhay. Dealt a fistful of trouble when he acquired Chicago’s oldest bookstore, The Yellow Harp, Joe Rogers has a penchant for vodka, an abject ineptitude for following orders, and an abundance of useless knowledge. But at a dig site in Mabuhay, Rogers discovers an ancient treasure—a jeweled mask. Will Joe, who has his own axe to grind with Atlantis Fidelity Insurance, step off the sidelines and get back in the game?

Esmerelda McNab, United Nations Ambassador of the UN’s newest member nation, the Commonwealth of Mabuhay, has her own set of troubles—protestors who denounce her part in the sale of the mask that Joe Rogers discovered as “cultural genocide.”

Do love, peace, and redemption even exist on Mabuhay?  Or are somebody else’s troubles just that?

A brilliantly-rendered tale, Somebody Else’s Troubles takes readers on an unforgettable journey spanning from the streets of Chicago’s gritty Austin neighborhood to the remote island paradise of Mabuhay.  Resplendent with richly-drawn characters that spring to life in the novel’s pages, Somebody Else’s Troubles is peppered with wit and subtle humor. Novelist J.A. English delivers a clever, captivating, smart, seamless story replete with fascinating historical detail and literary allusion.   A beautifully written literary novel about escape and inertia, action and inaction, faith and doubt, and finding home—and hope—in the unlikeliest of places, Somebody Else’s Troubles is destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

About the author:

A proud native of Paterson, New Jersey, J.A. English came of age in Mexico City, Mexico. He received his B. A. cum laude from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and an M. A. from Rice University in Houston, Texas. English is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. He has lived for a half century in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side, where he still maintains a residence, but now spends much of his time in Sosua, Dominican Republic. English is a widely-published writer whose works have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader and Co-Existence, the literary journal which featured the works of Henry Miller.  Visit J.A. English online at:

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