Not A Scientist

Not A Scientist

Did you go to the March for Science on Earth Day? Did you feel the swell of pride for all the people who lent their support in favor of science? Do you worry about the current state of science in America, especially when politicians are holding the purse strings? Then Not A Scientist, How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science by Dave Levitan is your next read. Not a Scientist is loaded with examples of real life politicians ditching the facts, disputing the evidence, and generally disrupting the scientific status quo on topics of which they know little to nothing about.

Today, there is an ever-growing divide between science and politics. Maybe it’s because the problems are too big, the solutions too expensive, the public loathe to change. There’s little disagreement in the scientific community that humanity is on the brink of critical mass, a 6th extinction, if you will, but to hear the politicians talk one would think that great controversy exists among scientists where it concerns the environment since politicians are always doing their best not just to ignore, but to call into question the most fundamental of scientific principles and method, rolling back regulations, and naysaying whenever possible.

Politicians aren’t dumb. They know it’s easier to lie then tell constituents that it’s going to cost a kajillion dollars of hard-earned cash to address some of the more intractable environmental issues. Fix climate change? cha-ching. Repair or replace an aging water infrastructure under every large metropolis in the country? cha-ching. Stop a new development in order to preserve an endangered species? Lost profits. It’s all too much for the overburdened consumer. Politicians know this and have offered to do the thinking for us. And since they take their jobs seriously, they’ve devised clever phrases that should help ease the burden and obfuscate the truth. All you have to do is keep voting for them on election day.

Levitan searched the internet to find the first time a politician used the phrase, “I’m not a scientist…,” tracing it back to Ronald Reagan in 1980. During his campaign against Jimmy Carter, Reagan waxed philosophically about the amount of sulfur dioxide (a component of acid rain) Mount St. Helens had released into the atmosphere following its eruption: “more … than has been released in the last 10 years of automobile driving.” Turns out that you can be really REALLY wrong when you don’t understand the science. In Reagan’s case, it was many orders of magnitude off the mark — the volcano’s eruption released 2,000 tons of SO2 per day into the atmosphere while at the time, the U.S. population was releasing 81,000 tons of SO2 and the world population was at 300,000 tons!

Not a Scientist is great for science geeks and everyone else who lives on planet earth (notice I didn’t say “anyone who cares about the environment”?), but let’s just get this out — you’re not going to walk away with a warm fuzzy feeling after reading it. You will gain a few tools to help you spot and then navigate around the many lies you’ll hear about the environment from those elected to represent you, so go for it. As they say, knowledge is power. Read Not A Scientist and get on with your powerful self.

pjlazos 10.15.17

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Interview with Dave Levitan

Interview with Dave Levitan

       This past Saturday, I had the privilege of moderating a Q&A session with author Dave Levitan at the 15th annual Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, New Jersey. Levitan’s book, Not a Scientist, How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science was the topic of lively debate. One of the organizers told me she’d been involved since the Festival’s inception when it was just a few authors sitting around in the library discussing their books. Today, it’s grown to over five city blocks along Main Street, chock full of authors selling their works. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, the Collingswood Book Festival a great way to spend a Saturday in autumn.

The following is an email interview of Dave Levitan that we did as a warm up to the moderation session.  I, of course, didn’t ask him all these questions at the live event as the audience wanted their chance, too, but I wanted to share his answers to give you a feel for Dave’s wit and good humor. Enjoy!

PJL:  I read your essay entitled, “The Squid Will Not Be Happy,” which explains how you came to your career in journalism, starting out as a physics major and then switching to English but never losing your love of science. I happen to think that there’s a gap in this country when it comes to understanding science fundamentals and a real need for a translator who can bridge the gap of understanding between the nerdy science geeks and the rest of the world. You do that brilliantly in your book, “Not A Scientist.” Do you ever just wish you would have stayed with physics (or chemistry, or math) and became a scientist?

DL: In general, no, I feel like I made the right choice. Scientists generally have to focus in on some tiny bit of their field, and work for years or even decades on that little thing, and I just don’t think I have the attention span. I’m much more comfortable flitting around a bit from topic to topic, which makes science journalism a good match. I will say, though, that there have been exceptions—every time I watch SpaceX launch one of its rockets and then land it perfectly back on the landing pad, and they show the people who work in the control room cheering their heads off, I wonder if I ended up in the wrong field. It just looks so collaborative and joyful! But most of the time I feel okay about that decision.

PJL: Obviously, your idea for the book came out of your extensive science background. How did that first come about? Were either of your parents scientists? Did you have a great science teacher that sparked your curiosity? Or was it something else?

DL: Yup, my father is a neuroscientist, and I’m sure that helped to some degree. When I was growing up, we would spend summers in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod, which is a weird little summer town almost entirely populated by scientists and their families – the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is there (they’re the ones who found the wreck of the Titanic), the Marine Biological Laboratory, and like four other scientific institutions. In other words, it just sort of surrounded me as a kid, and while I didn’t feel any urge to take after my father or anything, I think the appreciation for science and scientific method and evidence just sort of seeped in over the years.

PJL:  This past Earth Day we had a March for Science in lots of cities around the country. What I got from that is that lots of people are simply out of touch with the role of science in their every day lives. What would you do to educate the layman on the importance of science, but also to the prevalence.

DL: That’s a great question, but a really far-reaching one. I think the long-term answer involves improvements to science education in the country – if we all grew up with a better appreciation for the scientific method, and for the ways science plays a role in our lives, then we probably wouldn’t need marches to remind us. But again, that’s a long-term solution. In the nearer term, I think the media needs to be more willing to drive the conversation rather than reacting to it, and science is the place to start. If network news (and local tv news) would talk about scientific issues from climate change to pesticide regulation, people would start to feel it surrounding them they way it actually does. But that’s a steep hill to climb.

PJL:  In the days of Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schroedinger, and Neils Bohr to name a few, science was cool. Crowds would wait for Marie Curie at the airport as if she was a celebrity. When did all that rock star behavior stop? What do you think happened,

DL: One answer that just occurred to me, as to when that stopped: when we got actual rock stars! Celebrities weren’t much of a thing back when Marie Curie was rockin’ the literal runway in front of her fans, so maybe it’s just that scientists, who are not in movies or on tv, got pushed toward the back by the handsome folks who ARE on our screens all the time. I’d say the last generation of real celebrity scientists were maybe the early astronauts, but they were also air force pilots and generally cool people themselves, so maybe it’s not the greatest comparison. But yeah, I think the main answer is that we have a lot of other things to entertain ourselves with, and scientists are often so specialized now that they may not have as wide-ranging an impact as Curie or Einstein, so breaking that rock star barrier might be a bit tough.

PJL:  How do you think future humans will relate to science. Does that disturb you or fire you up?

DL: To be honest, that’s not something I’ve given a ton of thought to, really. Again, if we can improve our science education, then maybe we’ll all treat it less as some unknowable far-off thing and more as just a regular part of existence. But it’s tough to say! Part of me feels like the coming catastrophes – climate change, antibiotic resistance, a few others – may force us into a deeper relationship with science, because we simply have to be thinking about it all the time. But that’s not exactly an inspiring thought.

PJL:  Why do you write and when did you officially become a writer.

DL: I don’t think I ever made it official! I got a job pretty much right out of college at a medical publishing company, and became a staff writer for them pretty quickly, writing about various medical research, so I guess that’s when I started. As for why… I guess I don’t claim to have some intrinsic, heartfelt need or anything, it’s just a meaningful way to describe and examine things happening in the world. I’m glad that I’ve figured out a way to write about things I find interesting, I suppose!

PJL:  What made you sit down and start writing, “Not A Scientist.”

DL: The idea arose when I was a staff science writer at FactCheck.org, and I started to notice some repeating patterns of how politicians were getting science wrong. I began collecting those tricks and techniques, and pretty quickly had a pile that seemed worth putting down in one place, and lucky for me, a publisher agreed. Toward the end of 2015 I left that full-time job to work on the book, so that’s when I really got started with it. It didn’t take long after that, only about a month and a half or so, since I had done a bunch of the research already.

PJL:  Do you have a spacial place to write?

DL: It’s not all that special, unfortunately – just my office at home. Nice enough, though, view to the backyard, and so on. I’ve never had much luck working elsewhere, like coffeeshops or anything – too much distraction.

PJL:  If you could ask Schrodinger’s cat one question, what would it be?

DL: Sorry! Been gone all day crawling around inside a giant cave system. In answer to your Schrodinger’s cat question, I would ask: “Heads or tails?” That is about as nerdy, cryptic, and dumb a physics joke I can muster. Hope it works!

Thanks, Dave!  Next post will be a review of Not A Scientist.

pjlazos 10.13.17

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Evolve or Revolve

EVOLVE OR REVOLVE

Let me start by saying that I do not now and never have owned a gun.  There was that brief period of time when I was the titular owner of a handgun.  It had belonged to my father and when he died, my mom gave it to me and I stuck it in the back of a drawer and forgot about it.  I have since given it to my husband who does own guns because I have no real use for one, but didn’t want to get rid of it because it was my dad’s.

My dad was a reluctant gun owner, his gun, a 22 short, which means the bullet casing is short with half the fire power of a normal 22.  It’s barely a gun, especially by the Las Vegas shooter’s standards.  My dad kept his gun in a dresser next to his bed, ostensibly so he could get it should the bad guys burst in, but because he didn’t want his kids to find it and get hurt, he kept the bullets in another drawer.  If there would have been a home invasion — a term that wasn’t even coined when I was a kid — I doubt whether he would have been able to put the gun together in time while in the dark, but whatever, it made him feel better to know it was there.

My husband owns an array of guns — one he even built — because the men in his family like to hunt, a tradition that he is passing along to our son.  I don’t like the idea of hunting, but I realize the need for it — the deer would eat everything if we didn’t cull the population — and I think people should be allowed to be who they are and not have to change for someone else.  Hunting, even though they only go once or twice a year, is as much a part of his family’s heritage as drinking coffee and arguing about politics is a part of mine.  I like that we are able to think about an issue from two entirely different points of view and retain our individuality while still maintaining a peaceful abode.  I’ve never gone hunting with him, but I have gone to the shooting range a couple of times and am deadly at 25 or 30 feet.  Under the right conditions, gun ownership is fine, and can even be fun for a liberal like me.

Of the maybe dozen guns my husband owns, four are muzzleloaders, which means that you have to load the gun powder in through the end of the barrel and pack it down with a ramrod, the same way they did it back in the 1791 when the 2nd Amendment was ratified.  There is no way the Congress at the time had any idea that assault rifles were going to be a thing.  If they did, I can guarantee they would have thought that amendment through a little more.

Almost five years ago now, soon after the Sandy Hook shooting, I wrote the following piece  on gun control.  I hesitated then as I do now to jump into the fray because it seems that no matter  how high the death toll or how much we raise our voices, Congress does nothing to reign in the terror that is the result of a lack of gun control.

 

This time around, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of bump stock equipment, and, amazingly, some Republicans are considering supporting it.  It’s a tentative, positive step, and while we may never figure out the motives of Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, eliminating at least one of the reasons for his success is a small, tentative start.  Let us hope that reason reigns and Congress, for the first time in a what seems like forever, does the right thing.

 

pjlazos 10.6.17

 

 

EVOLVE OR REVOLVE

Perhaps if Congress jumps off the fiscal cliff the rest of us can have a shot at redemption. We’re mired waist deep in arguments about economic policy, gun control, and women’s reproductive rights, among others, and the level of divisiveness, at a new high, has left us feeling uncharacteristically low. Our elected officials behave like kindergarteners disagreeing on the playground, the difference being that in kindergarten they teach you kindness, truth, respect and forgiveness so there’s a good chance those same kids will play nice tomorrow. That’s not even a remote possibility where Congress is concerned and maybe where our kids are concerned as well. By the time they get through college, the stress of competing with each other for spots on the team, A’s in the classroom and the few jobs still left out there, in addition to paying back mounds of debt, all the kindness, truth and respect will have been wrung from them and replaced by a need to win at any cost. And one day, some of them will be Congressmen.

While the American ideal of going for what you want no matter the cost settled this country, assuring our sense of individuality and a “can-do” spirit, the pendulum has swung too far. Witness Lance Armstrong who thought he was so above the fray that truth didn’t apply to him. Bernie Madoff. John Edwards. The Enron guys. Half of AIG. Even General Petraeus. We’ve become a nation of psychopathic egoists. If I could, I’d blame Ronald Reagan for most of it. Ronald Reagan, the actor turned President, who was lionized, romanticized, aggrandized and super-sized. Ronald Reagan, who Republicans fondly remember as the greatest Republican President of all time (why is it the Democrats remember Lincoln as the greatest Republican President?), the “Way Shower” of the modern right who ended the Cold War and proved to the world America was still boss. I could, but I’d be wrong to blame him for everything.

Reagan did a lot of things that were antithetical to a democratic society. I’m a little fuzzy on all of them since 1984 was a year after I was graduated college and I busy celebrating my freedom and the fact that I had a few extra bucks in my pocket. However, I did notice one or two things. One: For purely economic reasons, Reagan closed a lot of the mental health institutions, turning crazy people into crazy homeless people. America said little about this and since it was happening to the disenfranchised who had no voice, it all went through without guilt or remorse. Two: Reagan made popular the term “trickle down economics” which later became Reaganomics, a theory embraced by the rich and hardly anyone else. The last thirty years have proven that the trickle down theory doesn’t work, rather it has contributed to the huge dichotomy of wealth in this country. Decades later, the tricklers are still trying to sell us the same piece of crap car, thinking we’re still not going to look under the hood. Currently, 1% of the people own 99% of the rest of us. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but what are we, the 99%, waiting for? The Messiah? Rush Limbaugh or Fox News to stop spewing fake news? A half-price deal on Groupon?

 

Reagan’s policies set generations of people back. They just didn’t know it then because it’s only started happening now. Reagan knew trickle down would take years to catch up with him and when it did, chances are he’d be dead (surprise!). But now it’s arrived (surprise, surprise!) and people are borrowing against their 401(k) plans, the ones the government suggested they set up in lieu of their soon-to-be-extinct pension plans, because they can no longer meet their mortgage payments or pay their electric bills given the 30% cut in salary they’ve been forced to take to keep their jobs. It’s the new 60-hour-just-be-happy-you-still-have-a-job mentality rolled out by corporate we’re-people-too-America.

“How did we get here?” we ask. The answer is karma — cause and effect. Unfortunately, because we don’t always immediately see the effect of our actions we irrationally assume that things are not related. Some effects, especially those of a policy nature, take years, maybe decades to manifest. A person involved in a car accident sustains immediate injuries and is rushed to the nearest hospital, but a person who eats pesticide-laden food every day for 30 years may take that long to develop cancer or an auto immune disease, or have their organs start breaking down. You don’t get lung cancer from smoking your first cigarette, and the economic s*** doesn’t hit the fan the first time a company lays off its American workforce and sends the whole shebang to Mexico.

What do you have when you gut a company’s assets, do nothing to rehab or reconstruct the infrastructure, and give all the profits to the corporate shareholders? You have a shell. A shell by definition is “an outer form without substance,” an exterior whose interior consists of empty space — no heart, no brain, no guts and no soul. Without conscious intent and conscientious enterprise karma will get you every time. Reagan’s trickle down theory is why we’re in such a mess today. Our self-serving, purely economically motivated decisions are why so many live without health care. Republicans are bitching about the upfront cost, but do you know what the downstream cost of no health care is? What the societal cost is of one bipolar guy not on his meds is, one guy who needs a facility with trained health care professionals to make sure he takes them? Surely more than what it costs to keep him in a facility, especially if he decides to start shooting. In the end, somebody always has to pick up the tab, and the front end is always cheaper than the screwed up, triage-laden, wow, I didn’t see that coming back end. Typically, Congress chooses the back end, but that’s only so others can deal with it thirty years down the road. That’s because they’re cowards.

In a wrongful death action, the court will valuate a life, i.e., put a value on the deceased’s earning capacity over his potential lifetime as a way to calculate the individual’s worth and make whole the loved ones left behind with cash (unfortunately, it’s the only way we know how to do it). But how can we even begin to assess the loss of the love light of a single one of those first-graders in Sandy Hook Elementary? Can you put a value on the sun? Impossible.

In Pennsylvania in 2011, we had no qualms about allocating $2.1 billion out of the General Fund to cover the cost of the state’s prison system, but in a less punitive, less primitive society — i.e., more heart-centered — most of those people wouldn’t even be on the prison track. They would have had an education, a job, people who care about them, a sense of self-worth. Hidden truths (cause) may take years to come to fruition (effect).

Despite all of that, I withhold judgment on Ronnie and here’s why: the uber-Republican Reagan supported a ban on assault rifles. Even with the Second Amendment’s hallowed place in our shared history, Reagan was against unfettered freedom when it came to owning assault rifles. True, he had a change of heart from his own presidency, but in 1994 he wrote to Congress, asking them to support the Clinton ban on assault weapons.

Reagan himself, his press secretary, a cop, and a Secret Service agent had been victims of a deranged man’s shooting spree in 1986. Even so, calling for support for Clinton’s ban was a ballsy thing for a Republican to do, and for this I’m admire the guy. He lobbied specific members of Congress and the measure passed by two votes in 1994. (It expired in 2004.) Sometimes you have to do the right thing, make amends, say your sorry. Our current Congress never seems able to do this. Do they simply lack the moral fiber to legislate responsibly or is the NRA lobby that freaking strong?

Recently. the NRA ran an ad calling Obama an elitist and a monarch because his kids go to school with armed guards protecting them while the rest of the country’s children do without. Last time I checked, there was only one POTUS and Secret Service protection for him and his family came with the job. It has to because it’s like the Wild West out there and without protection, some psycho would have taken the First Family out a long time ago. However, most of America’s children don’t have such high profile parents, and armed guards aren’t necessary although at times it seems like we’re trying our darnedest to make them so. Did twenty little school children give their lives in vain? How many more will it take to get people to put their murderous toys away, sit down at the table and talk to each other with respect? What kind of world do we live in when TSA pulls you out of line at the airport for a Swiss Army knife, yet people walk around freely carrying concealed weapons?

Here’s the difference in how a child and an adult deal with their stuff. It was the night before the first day of school and my daughter was nervous. After we talked awhile, I kissed her goodnight and left her to deal with her anxiousness. The next day she reported trouble sleeping, fear, circadian rhythms in disarray.

 

“I couldn’t sleep last night.”

“Did you hear the rain?”

“No, I didn’t hear anything.”

“Well, it poured so you must have slept.”

She actually did sleep, and what’s stellar about it all was her coping mechanism; she realized she needed to take action in order to be at peace. After an hour and a half where anxiety barred the gate, refusing to let her eyelids shut, she decided to have a “closing ceremony” a la the Olympics games, and wave a fond farewell to the summer she thoroughly enjoyed. She enjoys every summer, but this year she was on the cusp of something big, of going from child to adolescent and it was happening so fast she wasn’t quite ready for it.

My daughter recalled all the events of the summer, the vacations, the swim meets, the week-long sleepovers with cousins at our house, the friends, new and old. She thanked them all for their part in her amazing summer, blessed them and sent them on their way with nothing but well wishes. Moments later, relaxed and in a state of completion, she fell asleep. The endless summer was over; her new chapter about to begin. What she did was to shift her awareness from fear to love. Instead of clinging to the old and fearing the new, she blessed the old and embraced the new. Here again the wisdom of a child surpasses.

I’m always amazed by how hard people fight evolution, how they argue for their limitations. Sometimes it’s only when they get to their deathbed, taking those last few remorseful breaths that they finally get their affairs in order. Some people cross over without ever changing their minds. I guarantee those people will be back to try again. Evolve or revolve — those are the only options. There are secrets waiting to be discovered in this vast and mysterious universe, but in order to do so we have to open our hands and let go of the past otherwise they’ll be too full to grasp what’s coming. Scientists say time is speeding up, faster and faster, and one day it will finally collapse. Then it’s bye-bye 3D, and hello to the 4th, 5th and beyond dimensions. So until time literally runs out, let’s shift our awareness before what’s left of it collapses and shifts it for us. Call it an evolution of the spirit. Either we evolve or in ten years, or even ten minutes, we’re going to have a revolution on our hands — and some of us are going to be armed to the teeth.

 

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Jitterbug Perfume

Jitterbug Perfume

What the heck, I may as well pack it in right now. I just finished rereading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins and not only did I shed a tear of joy for the rowdy and philosophical magnificence of this book, but there went a second one for the lusty, enigmatic curiosity with which Robbins imbues all of his work, plus the man has a knack for simile and metaphor that’s unbeatable. How can the rest of us even hope to compete? I rarely read a book twice. There are too many other books out there and despite the deliciousness of the first reading, I feel it indulgent to circle back, but it had been thirty years since I first read Jitterbug Perfume so I allowed this one decadent revisit. Did I think it would make me weep? Technically, it didn’t. A few tears does not an episode of weeping make — it’s those kinds of nuances Robbins happily points out (it’s draperies, not drapes) — but it did make me think that I’ve got a long way to go if I’m ever going put out a masterpiece like Jitterbug Perfume.

 

Where to start? Somewhere in ancient Bohemia where Alobar was the feisty ruler of a band of warriors and wenches who fought hard, played hard, and disposed of their king the minute he showed the first sign of weakness. A king must be strong so he can protect the people. When Alobar finds a grey hair after catching his visage in the looking-glass his life is forfeit. He felt no less strong this day than yesterday, but the rules of tribe dictated otherwise and once they found out they would kill him and select a new ruler. As one of those rare men who think outside the customs and mores of the times, there was no way Alobar was accepting this fate. He called for his favorite wife, Wren, and convinced her to be his eyes each morning, plucking whatever grey hairs revealed themselves in the night. This caused a bit of consternation among the other wives who all wanted equal time with the king, and to show his energy was not sagging, Alobar serviced them all, an exhausting proposition. As with all plots, however well-devised, eventually, Alobar was discovered. Refusing to accept a death sentence, Alobar, with Wren’s help, is soon on his way out of town with all of his body parts intact.

Meanwhile, a few centuries later, Kudra is living in India and has a few problems of her own. Kudra came from a family of incense makers, having learned the trade from her father, but as a woman living in a society that didn’t think much of women, she was only allowed to work with him until an arranged marriage forced her to live with her husband’s family. At first, Kudra was heartbroken, but the pair were well-suited and eventually happy. Kudra learned her husband’s family’s rope trade and raised three children. Life was good until destiny went haywire and Kudra’s husband was killed in a freak riding accident. Indian law dictated that Kudra be burned on the funeral pyre next to her husband to honor his memory, and rather than face the flame, Kudra kissed her children while they were sleeping and snuck out during the night. Her wanderings aligned with Alobar who at first repelled her, but later won her over and that is when the real adventure began. If you think I’ve given away the entire plot, you would be wrong. These are just two of a slew of hilarious characters still to come, traversing time and smells and continents.

Jitterbug Perfume is a love letter to life and death, to religion and paganism, and to perfume and the sense of smell that can evoke memory more than any of the other senses. Ready to put your nose to the test? Then Jitterbug Perfume is your book.

pjlazos 9.19.17

 

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Look the Other Way

Look the Other Way

Time for another Indie Author Interview, this one with Kristina Stanley, a Canadian-born author, editor, blogger, favorite aunt to eight lovely nieces and nephews, and dog lover!  She’s been married for 29 years and she’s lived on a boat!  Here are a few more fun facts about Kristina:

She’s the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series, and the recently released stand-alone mystery, Look the Other Way.

Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is also the author of The Author’s Guide to Selling Books to Non-Bookstores.

She is the co-founder and CEO of Fictionary.com, a company started to help writers rewrite better fiction. She loves the self-editing process and wants to help other writers learn how to do a structural edit on their own work.

Her latest book, Look the Other Way was just released on August 1, 2017 by Imajin Books.

 

Synopsis for Look the Other Way

SUBMERGED BENEATH THE DEPTHS IS A SEA OF SECRETS . . . .  

A year after her Uncle Bobby mysteriously disappears in the turquoise waters surrounding the Bahamas, Shannon Payne joins her grieving aunt to trace Bobby’s last voyage. Shannon hopes the serenity of the sea might help her recover from a devastating breakup with her fiancé.

Sailing the 38-foot catamaran, A Dog’s Cat, is Captain Jake Hunter, a disillusioned cop who has sworn off women. While Shannon tries to resist her growing attraction to the rugged captain, she uncovers dark truths about her uncle’s death that might send them all to the depths.

 

And now, how about a few questions for our mystery author?

What’s your writing background, where do you work at writing, and how did your journey begin?

I have a degree in Computer Mathematics. I’ve worked in telecommunications and a ski resort. I spent 3 years living in Japan and 4 years living in Germany. I’ve lived on a sailboat for 9 years. I now run a company that created Fictionary – an online tool for serious writers who want to turn a first draft into a great story.

I started writing when I was working at the ski resort – too many great stories to spark my imagination.  I write wherever I happen to be living. I do all my writing on a computer – no paper anywhere – as I’m usually traveling or living in a small space (my boat).

Why mysteries?

I love to read mysteries. Late one night in Unteruhldingen, Germany I was reading Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark. The opening—a woman trapped in a grave. Darkness and silence surround her, and she doesn’t know where she is. I can still see her fingers clawing at the edges of the coffin.

Tucked in my bed, I knew a driver would arrive at 4 a.m. to carry me to the Zurich airport for a flight to London, England. The sensible thing to do was sleep. But I couldn’t. I turned pages until the car arrived. I was exhausted, bleary-eyed and excited. At that moment I knew I wanted to write something that forced a person to read and to forget about life for a while. And I knew it would be a mystery.

That’s an awesome story!  From where do your ideas come? What inspires you? How do you keep the creative spark going?

Where I live inspires me. My first three novels are based in a ski resort. I worked at a ski resort for six years as the head of security. My latest novel is a murder mystery that takes place in the Bahamas. I lived on a sailboat for 9 years.

What’s your routine? Do you work out while writing, take breaks, or simply gut it out?

I don’t have a routine. I love to write, so I always find time for it.

Do you think writing is a form of therapy and, if so, has it helped you work through anything in particular?

I guess you could call it therapy because it makes me happy.

Do you work outside of writing, i.e., do you have day job?

I’m the CEO of Fictionary.co. a company started to help writers rewrite better fiction. I love the self-editing process and want to help other writers learn how to do a structural edit on their own work.

Pantser or perfectionist who meticulously plots out their stories?

Oh, panster until I have a first draft. Then I use Fictionary to be very organized and perform a structural edit.  

Your perfect day – go.

Snowshoeing with my dog before breakfast. Downhill skiing with my husband for the day. Hot tub after skiing. Dinner in front of the fireplace.

Favorite author?

I love to read mysteries and don’t have a favorite author.

What has been your greatest writing lesson? How about life lesson?

That would be to keep writing. Don’t give up in the early days when is seems so hard. My greatest life lesson – be kind.

If you could be a character in any novel, what character would you be?

I don’t know how to answer this one. I’ve read so many novels, and in a mystery it doesn’t always go well for the characters…

Haha — true!  So how many books do you have out and who is your publisher?

Five books out.  Publishers are Imajin Books and Luzifer-Verlag are my publishers.

And the final question, do you think writing can save the world and if so, why?

Yikes. That’s a big question. I think education can save the world, and writing is a part of that.

That’s a wrap.  Good luck to you, Kristina, in these and your future writing endeavors.

pjlazos 9.9.17

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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

You Can Heal Your Life

You Can Heal Your Life

On August 30, 2017 Louis Hay, New Age icon, entrepreneur, pioneer, and positive thinker transitioned to her light body. Hay had been living in an elightened body for years, embodying what our best lives could look like and banishing negativity from her surroundings with her wonderful all is well attitude.

Louise’s life was tumultuous and often fraught with difficulty:  sexually abused as a child and raped by a neighbor around the age of five, a high school drop out following a teen pregnancy — she gave the baby up for adoption — followed by a move to New York where she became a fashion model and later married Andrew Hay, an English businessman from whom she was divorced fourteen years later.  Following the divorce, Louise attended the First Church of Religious Sciences where she was introduced to the idea of taking control of your life through positive thinking. The concept was like breathing new life and Louise began to study that philosophy in earnest.

She developed cervical cancer in her early 50’s, and after determining that the disease was the result of lingering resentment related to her early sexual abuse, she refused cancer medications and instead thought her way to health through affirmations and positive thinking. Louise contemporaneously wrote a book called Heal Your Body which she later expanded, along with her backstory, to become You Can Heal Your Life. Released in 1984, has sold 50 million copies worldwide and spawned a much-beloved publishing empire, Hay House.

My first foray into New Age thinking was with You Can Heal Your Life. I credit that book, now a standard issue primer, with starting me on my spiritual journey. I remember being blown away by the simplicity of the concepts that were often so hard to put into practice, but Louise’s unassuming spirit and true desire to advance understanding in this realm by reducing things to their smallest components made it easy for everyone to grasp, even those of us long-indoctrinated in religious dogma. I remember her describing her move from the East to the West Coast. She sold everything but her juicer, determined to start anew, making the monumental shift as pleasant as going on vacation. Louise had a rule against the over accumulation of things which I try to live by (although I’m not always successful): “if you haven’t used it in the last year, get rid of it.” The woman who thought she was stupid until she embraced the power of positive thought left behind a multimillion dollar publishing empire.

You Can Heal Your Life was published at the height of the Aids epidemic and those with HIV flocked to Louise and her teachings. She held the first workshops in her home, called Hayrides, without a clue as to what she was going to do — she just knew it would be positive — and in the process started a movement. She eventually moved Hayrides to an auditorium in West Hollywood as the number of participants continued to grow.

Louise died at the age of 90, clearly fulfilling her soul’s purpose on earth. Lucky for the rest of us, she wrote a few things down. “Every thought you think is creating your future,” Louise was fond of saying.  

Creating the world we want to live in with just our thoughts sounds like the superhighway to self-awareness. If you need directions, see Louise. She may have transitioned, but her spirit lives on in her own works and those of the people she has published and supported through Hay House.  Go check it out.  Louise has written it all down there.

 

pjlazos 9.4.17

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Posted in all is well, Hay House publishing, Louise Hay, Uncategorized, unique | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Minister of Happiness

We Are the World Blogfest

It’s time again for the #WATWB and what could be better talking about happiness?  First let’s find out what is #WATWB?

Thinking about joining the fun.  Here are the guidelines for #WATWB:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.
5. Spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hastag to help us trend!

Want to join.  click Here to enter their link and join us! Bigger the #WATWB group each month, more the joy!

Our cohosts for this month are:

Simon Falk, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Inderpreet Uppal, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, and Mary J Giese,Please link to them in your WATWB posts and go say hi!

And now, on to the post!

The United Arabs Emirates (UAE) have appointed a Minister of Happiness.

                   HER EXCELLENCY OHOUD BINT KHALFAN AL ROUMI

What exactly is a Minister of Happiness?  Well, someone who can help make society happier, of course.

The idea didn’t start with the UAE, but in 1972 with the King of the Buddhist country of Bhutan who asked that the country consider starting a “gross national happiness” (GNH) index.  Bhutan determined that the nine components of happiness should be:  psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance.”  The government collected data on each and then used the information in its decision-making for the country.

What a splendid world it would be if we structured society around the concept of happiness.  Perhaps we should all give it a try.  I’m calling my Congressman tomorrow!

pjlazos 8.25.17

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