Our fifth book, ‘Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State’ has been out for a few short months, and we are bringing it to our readers’ attention!
Like Fiona in ‘Enchanting The Swan’, Francine, the bright and beautiful West Virginian, was born at the College of William & Mary. She was one of those fabulous young students I met in the midst of our daughter’s sorority circle, their sorority house, and the sunken garden.
But it was the mountains of beautiful West Virginia and the contrasting devastation of its coal country, which spirited Francine’s story. How could such bad economic and adverse environmental management destroy so many happy families and throw them into desperation and suffering? A repetition of Upton Sinclair’s gripping tale of King Coal?
Francine is graduating first in class at William & Mary’s Mason Business School in 2010 when she is confronted with the horrible mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville along Coal River in West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners lost their lives due to gross mismanagement of mine safety. It spurs her to forego a lucrative career in investment banking and join OHARA Mining Inc., the New York-based international mining company which has its roots in West Virginia. She will never forget the fate of those twenty-nine miners and attends the unveiling of their memorial in Whitesville in 2012 on behalf of her company. Her whole life will be dedicated to advance the lives of the company’s miners she works for.
Why place a novel about a promising girl in a mining company? Why not jewelry, fashion or music like A Coal Miner’s Daughter, agents asked whom I offered the story at Writers conferences. It would choke off a certain group of readers. Well, so be it: Francine took up the fight, and she made it up in the corporate world.
Throughout the novel, she faces difficult issues, from fights in Congress and with a belligerent anti-coal EPA to financial and pollution problems with OHARA’s gold and bauxite investments in the Guyanas of the Caribbean, in Georgetown Guyana, Paramaribo and Suriname River, Suriname. She is sent to Sumatra for her mining engineering expertise to help rescue miners in an OHARA mine who got trapped inside after an earthquake.
And she battles with China on corruptive practices she discovers in OHARA. She participates in rallies of the United Mine Workers with Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Manchin speaking for miners’ rights for health care and pensions.
I found Francine’s family home in Beckley, on Timber Ridge Drive, visited the nearby Woodrow Wilson Highschool where she graduated, and admired the spectacular West Virginian scenery where she went trout-fishing with her father in the New Gorge River.
To their credit, Kirkus Reviews recognized Francine’s perseverance and that of the miners she stands up for and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/.
Just one click takes you to a good read!
Ever invited to lunch to celebrate the tenth birthday of your grandson? Well, we were. So, Grandma and Grandpa trot to the restaurant. Grandson Preston John (PJ for short) is the ‘All-American boy’ who likes to play foot, basket, and baseball (the sports his father likes). He’s actually quite good at it (his Grandpa being a Dutchman likes soccer better and has never been able to understand American football with those harnessed bulky guys tumbling over each other all the time). PJ’s eight-year-old sister Sadie likes soccer too, even makes goals, but is more into ballet dancing. PJ is reportedly good at math but doesn’t like reading books (his dad doesn’t either), this to this writing Grandpa’s chagrin. But I am digressing.
Grandpa, having been invited, ordered some kind of overpriced steak salade with French fries, a meal on the menu that reminded him of his old Brussels’ times where the weather is always gray too. Had he known he had to pay the bill even though invited, he would have ordered just a plain chicken soup. Anyway, toward the end of the chatty lunch, Grandma signals with her handy fingers (so that everybody sees it) Grandpa has to pay the bill. Up he goes, but on his way to the cashier (his daughter – ‘Aunty Sammie’- says she checked it for correctness – how nice these kids are), he is ‘accosted’ by PJ:
In so many words PJ says, “You must give twenty percent.”
“Give twenty percent? What for? Who says?”
“Is he paying the bill, then?” Grandpa asks.
“No, you pay.”
“You know what that means, give twenty percent?”
“A tip for the waiter. But why should I give the waiter money? The bill is already far too high.”
“Daddie likes him.”
“Oh, yeah? So why doesn’t he pay the waiter himself? You know how much that is, twenty percent?”
“How much is twenty percent of say one hundred?”
PJ shifts his feet. No answer.
“I heard you were good at math.”
“How many twenties go into one hundred?”
“Good! So how much then is twenty percent of one hundred?”
“OK, tell your dad I give five dollars tip.”
PJ looks as if he’s being fleeced. He had apparently not learned yet what ‘giving twenty percent’ meant.
“Five times twenty is one hundred, no?” PJ asks, showing doubts.
“Right, you know your tables! So, if five twenties make one hundred, your dad wants to give one of the five twenties to the waiter?”
“Yeah…”PJ says, not sure.
“Let’s go to the cashier. Suzy, this invoice is five twenties, but my grandson PJ wants to give one twenty to the waiter. Is that OK?”
Suzy looks at PJ, who smiles his seductive smile, his eyes shining.
“But PJ, these five twenties are for me. Emilio didn’t cook the meal, he only took it to you guys.”
“My daddie says give twenty percent…”
“Oh, I see, PJ, I’ll add another twenty to the bill to give Emilio his gift, OK?”
PJ nods, not sure if he fully grasps Suzy’s math. Grandpa thinks he sees an educational opportunity.
“PJ,” Grandpa lectures, “percent means per hundred. You see this penny? In Holland, we call it a cent. How many pennies or cents go into a dollar?”
“Hundred!” says PJ, with enthusiasm.
Suzy enters the discussion. She’s a teacher in addition to her fly-by-night waitress job. “So one percent of a dollar is what?”
“A penny!” cries PJ.
“So what is twenty percent of one hundred dollars?”
PJ wonders, his eyes exploring the ceiling. Suzy takes a piece of paper and draws a fraction of 20 dollars divided by 100 hundred dollars multiplied by one hundred dollars. “How much is that?”
“Twenty,” PJ shouts. He knows fractions from class!
“So, what does it mean give twenty percent of this 0ne-hundred dollar bill to Emilio? It means I have to add another twenty dollars to the bill to tip Emilio for his service, not give away one of my twenties. Got it?”
PJ returns to his dad. “Grandpa doesn’t want to give twenty percent. He says you pay it yourself.” He treasures the twenty dollar note Grandma gave him in a small envelope. “Your birthday gift.” The tip seems to click. His dad smiles and tells him to hug Grandpa to thank him for the birthday lunch and he does. How sweet. Then Emilio arrives with a piece of cake and a burning candle, which PJ blows out (or maybe his sister Sadie does, as she sits across, jealous).
Emilio comes by on the way out and high-fives PJ’s dad. “Mucho gracias, Senor!” PJ high-fives him too.
Grandpa doesn’t even get a smile.