Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Languages…

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

When you get to be my age—old but young-at-heart—you start wondering if you had to do it all over again, what different choices would you make. Life is about choices, of course—choices covering an entire spectrum, from small to big. You might have some regrets too. That’s only human.

I don’t regret the choices I’ve made in my personal life. Given the same circumstances, I’d make the same ones. I wouldn’t have minded if some of them had turned out differently—I’d like to decrease the bad experiences and amplify the good ones—but I generally wouldn’t change the choices I made that led to these experiences.

I started publishing my fiction 10+ years ago (the first edition of my second novel, Full Medical, was published in 2006). At an early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m a practical person, though, so I made the choice to become a scientist, figuring that being a successful writer was too much like winning the lottery. It is, no matter what some authors or writing gurus say. Don’t give up on your day-job just yet. I think Dean Koontz’s wife gave him a year or so to achieve success. That’s unheard of nowadays, unless you win the lottery like Hugh Howey, J. K. Rowling, or Mark Weir. Writing good fiction is a necessary condition; there are no sufficient ones.

Science might not seem like a career that forms a basis for writing success (except maybe for sci-fi—many successful sci-fi writers are ex-scientists). One can wonder what careers are best for that. A love of languages has always accompanied my love for writing. I have a modest ability with languages. Given other circumstances, I might have become a linguist. That seems to be a fulfilling career for putting food on the table while you write stories and wait for some modicum of success. Probably not as lucrative as hard science and technology, though, which everyone calls STEM nowadays. While a journalism degree is probably better than an MFA (the former produces more understanding of and exposure to the human condition), the study of languages is undeniably related to what a writer does all the time: putting ideas into words and choosing the right words and logic to do so.

Of course, any writing career does this, even writing verses for Hallmark. But the study of languages goes far beyond writing skills. Understanding the linguistic history and structure of languages, especially one as dynamic as English, offers the future and present writer an incredible base for the logical choices s/he must make in her or his writing.

I don’t own many print books now. Although I have enough to keep bookshelves sagging, I generally find ebooks more practical—they’re easy to read, very accessible, and don’t take up any physical space beyond my Kindle. But there’s one print book on my reference shelf that I greatly value, David Crystal’s The Stories of English. Even if you ignore current dialects and regional variations, English is a complicated amalgam of many bits and pieces that has seen a dynamic and rapid development. The Spanish reader can still read Cervantes; we struggle with Shakespeare. And these men were almost contemporaries (Shakespeare died one day after Cervantes).

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What’s going on in Venezuela?

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

For decades Venezuela rode the wave of oil profits, suffered through incompetent governments and dictatorships, and betrayed the vision of Bolivar. Under Chavez and his cronies, the ideology changed but the sins did not. Sr. Chavez excited all the wannabe Lenins in the U.S. and Europe, but what they got was a mini-Stalin, mini in the sense that Venezuela is a smaller country than the Soviet Union, so Chavez couldn’t torture and kill as many people! Now Mr. Maduro is simply an overripe plantain (what “maduro” usually means in Latin America), ready for the garbage heap of history, but he still continues his predecessor’s oppression without any pretense of ideology.  Moreover, as Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela have shown, communism has become a debunked ideology that offers no real solution for the poor and oppressed. Those who swallow this ideological gruel end up exchanging one set of exploiters for another.

Unfortunately many naïve people confuse communism and its “dictatorship of the proletariat” with social democracy. Note the juxtaposition of words: dictatorship v. democracy. Iberian and Latin American governments often descend into oppressive dictatorships led by caudillos. Venezuela is only one in a long lineup of countries following the model of Franco’s Spain. I restrict my historical focus to the 20th and 21st centuries—Portugal, Spain, and their colonies in the New World certainly have a long history of oppression. And sometimes Europe and the U.S. have encouraged that (the generals’ “Dirty War” in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, even Castro in Cuba at first—he was on the Ed Sullivan Show!—and so forth).

The current low oil prices mean Venezuela has no real significant income beyond mom & pop enterprises that barely scrape by. Before the fall of prices, it could feed the greed and graft of its leaders with enough left over to satisfy the rest of the population. The graft and greed of the leadership still continues, but now many are without jobs and starving.

This is easily explainable. Oppressive governments are myopic. The focus is on satisfying the greed of an oligarchy, be they fascists or communists (in practice, they’re all the same) (any semblance to what’s happening in the U.S. capital is scary). There are no plans for improving the plight of the common citizen. When the economy fails, as it invariably does, the common citizen suffers while the leadership becomes even more oppressive as they try to hold onto power. Unrest becomes rampant. Sometimes the phoenix that rises out of the ashes is just another oppressive government. This was the case for Russia; it’s also often the case for Latin American countries. It was the case in Cuba. It is the case in Venezuela.

Caudillismo is a disease. Venezuela is suffering from it and is in its death throes. Other South American countries also suffer from it, like Brazil.  It’s sad. I love these people, their respect for family, and their enjoyment of life to the fullest. They deserve better. I don’t know if there’s any hope for that.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). Happy reading!

And so it goes…

Op-eds…

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

What’s this? An op-ed about op-eds? In general, my posts on Tuesdays are op-eds. They’re short articles expressing my opinions about current events and their implications in our lives. My inspiration was a pithy little book by Kurt Vonnegut titled A Man without a Country containing biting and entertaining sarcasm, its articles about some absurdities in our American lives.

Op-eds tend to rub people the wrong way if they don’t keep an open mind. Even if the writer presents views the reader doesn’t agree with, though, s/he can often learn something by reading them. At the very least, the disagreeing reader will reinforce her or his own opinions.

When I constructed this website (OK, web gurus at Monkey C Media constructed it—I can program in FORTRAN and C++, but not HTML—but I supervised and was in charge of content). The nice lady who runs Monkey C Media, Jeniffer Thompson, insisted I needed a blog—Google’s bots must be fed content to keep them happy. I’m not sure that’s still true, but, at the time, her arguments made sense. But what could I write?

Even back then (10+ years ago), there were book blogs galore—sites containing posts about books, writing, and the publishing business. I wanted something different. Vonnegut’s little book came to mind.

So, here I am still writing articles that comment about current events where I feel my opinions need to be read, mostly because I’m an independent and free thinker (most authors are) who says things that might not be considered politically correct. You think Saudi Arabia is a friend of the West—think again! Do you think progressivism or conservatism have no place in political discourse?—think again, because they both do. Do you think social democrats are commies?—think again! Do you think Wall Street bankers and “financial gurus” should be allowed to set the rules for controlling financial institutions?—think again!

I know my opinions aren’t liked by some people. Some readers read my op-ed articles and say, “I’ll never buy one of that SOB’s books!” While the reader is entitled to feel that way—after all, my books also have themes that make people uncomfortable interwoven through the plots—but readers should learn to look for the story in the author’s writing. Otherwise, they might miss some very good ones.

Let me list some authors whose opinions I find disagreeable: James Hogan, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, and Orson Scott Card. You might not have read any of their books, but they’ve all written some great, entertaining stories. If you take the attitude that you won’t read an author because s/he has opinions contrary to yours, you’ll be missing some great stories.

To take it out of the context of America’s genre fiction, what would the free world have missed if Garcia Marquez hadn’t been read because a shortsighted American government wouldn’t allow him to enter this country because he was a Marxist? The creator of magical realism has wonderful stories. Sure there are interwoven themes, notably criticism of power-hungry and despotic caudillos and regimes of Latin America, many of their corrupt governments supported by the U.S., from Bautista (Cuba) to Pinochet (Chile) and beyond.

Storytelling ability trumps an author’s personal views (I hate to use the verb “trump” now, but it works here). I don’t put myself in the class of the writing superstars I’ve named above. Far from it. But if you don’t read my stories because of my op-ed articles, I feel sorry for you. And you should read them, and others. They might contain something that leaves you saying, “Gee, I never thought about that in that way!” And, if you want a plain-vanilla book blog, you’ll find plenty online. Mine is unique.

God bless op-ed!

***

Rembrandt’s Angel. To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. Published by Penmore Press, this novel is available in ebook format at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple, and in print through Amazon, B&N, or your local bookstore (if they don’t have it, ask them to order it). Great summer reading!

And so it goes…

2018…

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Georgia 6 showed the problems Dems have to face if they want to win the House in 2018. As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local,” and congressional districts are more obsessed with local issues and less with state and national ones (or the national ones become local—here in my NJ district, our rep, Mr. Frelinghuysen, voted for the House healthcare bill, incurring the wrath of many in the district and endangering his re-election). That means a Dem or GOP House candidate has to appeal to a microcosm of the nation’s voters. The implication that follows is that the party that controls the House must offer the biggest tent—for Dems, the far left to center must be represented; for the GOP, the far right to center have to be.

To a lesser extent, the same goes for the Senate, where gerrymandered districts are mitigated a wee bit by entire states becoming involved—some huge, like CA, with a wide variety of voters, and some small, like Rhode Island (and still with a wide variety).

Congressional races serve as the foundation for presidential ones. But a presidential candidate must also construct that big tent to be successful. Obama did it; HRC did it too if you only consider the popular vote. Trump didn’t, but he managed to squeeze through with a victory using the Electoral College, an institution whose usefulness has long been questionable and existence from the beginning only due to an aristocratic-leaning bunch of Founding Fathers.

To win in 2018, the Dems must develop new leadership too, ones who tend to the needs of the people in their constituencies. This is a huge challenge, as Georgia 6 showed. While that special election is no omen for the future—indeed, in 2009, Dems won all their special elections too, and lost the House in the following year—Georgia 6 showed that no amount of money can sway voters who think the Dem candidate doesn’t pay attention to their needs. Ossoff failed to push their buttons when many voters were worried about the GOP’s plans for healthcare. He also followed the middle of the road, which matched his district, but he became a bland candidate in the process. And he made the big mistake of not even living in the 6th District.

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Irish Stew #63…

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

International

Trump’s Saudi policies. Saudi Arabia wasn’t on Trump’s list of countries whose Muslim immigrants, many escaping horrible situations in their home countries, are the targets of his bans in his executive orders, contradicting his belief that all Muslims are terrorists. And Mr. Trump negotiated a weapons deal with the duplicitous Saudis to make the military-industrial complex happy during his whirlwind tour in the Mideast.

The Saudis aren’t our friends. They’re not even the enemies of our enemies. They are the enemy. The majority of the 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia because the Saudi royal family’s state-sponsored religious schools have a continuing policy of brainwashing young boys and men to hate the West. And they have continuously attacked Yemen where they are responsible for mass murders of innocents. They probably support ISIS too, because ISIS hates Shi’ites, and they’re the Saudis’ enemies.

Sad! Trump is supporting duplicity and murder. Guess he believes in that.

National

Malthusian politics? The CBO hasn’t published its financial analysis yet, but the Senate’s proposed healthcare bill is meaner than the House’s. They’re both an attack on the middle class and poor, especially those who don’t have any financial means and depend on Medicaid as a life preserver—elderly in nursing homes, people with serious disabilities, and very sick children. Too many without any other coverage.

Not just sad but doing the Grim Reaper’s work so the GOP can give tax breaks to the rich elites. These aren’t healthcare bills—they’re thinly disguised tax breaks. And Rand Paul thinks they don’t go far enough? This guy has no compassion at all. No wonder he was a failed doctor! Next thing we’ll see from the GOP? Maybe death ovens for the sick and infirm with Dr. Death running them?

Is Obama to blame? Not as much as the GOP and American media are saying! They’re still supporting the attack on the ex-president for not divulging what he knew about Putin’s personally directed attack on our electoral system. Why? It’s not “fake news” if they hide the real truth that Obama’s desire to secure bipartisan support to inform the American public was rejected by the GOP members of congress Obama approached. OK, maybe Obama was stupid to believe that HRC was a shoo-in, but Trump had been yammering all during the campaign that the system was rigged. What if Obama had decided to divulge all he knew? They’d have said he was unfairly supporting HRC! Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

For eight years the GOP practiced obstructionism against the Obama administration. And Trump dares to accuse the Dems and Obama of being obstructionists? Of course, I’m waiting for HRC to say Obama was responsible for her losing. Sad! You can’t trust politicians or the media these days.

Wild weather. Last Saturday morning NJ received a taste of Midwest weather. I saw my first tornado in Kansas when I was thirteen visiting my grandfather—an awesome sight even if it was off in the distance. Now we had two in Howell, NJ. A smack across the face from Mother Nature to wake us up to the problems of climate change? She should concentrate on Trump who believes it’s all a hoax. Hey Mother Nature, why don’t you go after Mar al Lago or one of his many golf courses—Bedminster would be a good start? Just give the innocents a warning.

Sports etc.

Cosby and Hernandez. I never bought into the theory that the ex-Patriot tight end committed suicide. He had just won acquittal for one charge and was going to appeal the conviction that put him in jail. Why would he be suicidal?

MA law says a conviction that is being appealed must be vacated. Sleazebag prosecutors want to change that law. They must be related to the DA prosecuting Bill Cosby.

DAs who are running for office or have nefarious agendas shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute anyone because they are just trying to win points for being “tough on crime.” Political campaigns interfere with objectivity. So do many careers in general. Of course, most lawyers, prosecutors or defense attorneys, aren’t known for objectivity or a commitment to the truth—they’ve sold their souls to the Devil for their clients.

***

There’s a big book Summer/Winter Smashwords sitewide promo from July 1 – 31. You have be a member to receive the email catalog. Join Smashwords—it’s free, and it provides a large universe of reading entertainment. Almost of my ebooks are sale with price reductions from 25 – 50 %. That includes the first six books in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series.” Load your e-reader up for summer (northern hemisphere) or winter (southern hemisphere). And for additional great reading, don’t forget my new novels, Gaia and the Goliaths (#7 in the detective series) and Rembrandt’s Angel, both mystery/thriller novels. Enjoy!

And so it goes…

China Inc….

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

[This is the second installment about our two main enemies, China and Russia. If you disagree, write a comment.]

Like many countries, China is one of contrasts. Chinese dynasties and empires predate most European history. Great Chinese fleets of mighty ship[s roamed the Pacific long before the Spanish Armada’s and Admiral Nelson’s tiny vessels were even imagined. Those Viking ships which conquered the seas and sowed destruction and fear in the North Atlantic are also gnats in comparison, although that’s a wee bit closer to China’s ancient domination of the Pacific.

From beautiful landscapes and grand bridges crossing mighty rivers, to slums and nauseous pollution, you now have a government that can best be described as fascist capitalism controlling things. It’s what capitalism can become when there are no controls exercised by the people (a warning to all in the U.S.). That government gives a wink and a nod to communism, but the very existence of this corrupt and despotic regime shows why communism is a debunked ideology with absolutely no relevance. Workers are exploited in China to enrich the lucky and often unscrupulous few. Human rights take a back seat to capitalistic profit and greed.

At the beginning of my sci-fi novel Survivors of the Chaos, the Chinese model has swept across the world. There’s no longer any pretense—corporations control the world, even in China. This change even reaches Mars where the first Chinese colony there succumbs. As in today’s China, corporate leaders wield all the power. Communism is no more, and the world has been reduced to small, feuding national tribes loosely stitched together by a UN controlled by the worldwide corporations. Is this the future awaiting all human beings?

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Putin’s Russia…

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

The case against Russia is growing. It’s now clear that they interfered in the 2016 election. Pursuing the possible collusion from Mr.Trump or his campaign staff and supporters, whether true of not, is detracting and liable to embolden Mr. Putin and his “patriotic” hackers to do it again in 2018 and 2020. They did it in France too. Not quite cyber warfare, it still distorts the democratic process. That’s Putin’s goal. He has no use for democracy.

Putin is a despot. His only positive quality, if it can be called that, is to remove the veneer that covered the Soviet mobsters in ideology. The latter and so-called “communist leaders” even today (Cuba and Venezuela are prime examples) have shown Communism to be a defunct ideology that exploits workers and champions human rights violations, including murder and torture. Removing that veneer has only exposed us all to the reality of Putin and his cronies, all despots who still run Russia like the mafia thugs they are.

Recent protests in Russia show that all is not well in the “worker’s paradise” that never was a paradise. Putin tries to maintain Russia’s image as a democracy, but the arrest of many protesters shows that he allows no opposition in Russia. Why is that different than Stalin and the mafia thugs who followed him?

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Irish Stew #62…

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

[Sometimes there are so many current events to comment on, I hit all of them a wee bit at one time.]

International

UK election. Prime Minister May gambled and lost big. Her Conservative Party will now be in the minority in Parliament. She will probably stay on, though, and create a minority government. Still a blow to Trump-like forces and her desire to have a strong voice in negotiating BREXIT strategy.

Paris Accord. Trump pulled out of it, causing condemnation from many Americans and the rest of the world. In the U.S., a recent poll asked whether the registered voter disapproved of this action. Among all regular voters, 69% disapproved, 13% were in favor (I guess the remainder don’t give a rat’s ass). Among GOP voters, 51% disapproved, 26% were in favor (same comment). And among voters who ID’d themselves as Trump supporters, 47% disapproved, 28% approved (same comment).

It’s clear that Trump is going against the rest of the country, even among his own party and avid supporters. His principal reason for this action was loss of jobs, but even now alt-energy employees outnumber those in coal mining, and alt-energy companies are trending up while old energy is trending down.

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Book review of Shattered…

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes have written the best book so far about Hillary Clinton’s doomed presidential campaign in 2016. In spite of obvious omissions and questionable opinions, they present their case that HRC faced the perfect storm of incompetent campaign advisers and bad luck. She was a flawed candidate to begin with, of course. Rejoicing in getting what she considered to be the weakest of the GOP candidates, she trounced Trump in the debates and popular vote, but she still lost. For those disappointed Dems who have to face four years of Trump and see the party disarray as they prepare for 2018 and 2020, there are lessons to be learned here.

Here’s a list of reasons why she lost, with MoND signifying “minimally or not discussed” in the book: (1) the arrogance and the entitlement felt by the candidate and her staff (MoND); (2) letting Bill be a loose cannon (e.g. the meeting with SoJ Lynch) and not listening to him when they should have (e.g. ignoring working-class whites, especially in those “rust belt” states, and using analytics instead of old-fashioned polling); (3) being the “establishment candidate” and not being sensitive to voters at each end of the political spectrum fed up with “politics as usual—the Wasserman Schultz dustup was also crucial); (4) the private email server, a particular but telling example of number one; (5) being a candidate from another era unable to confront new political realities (MoND)—if she or Biden are thinking about running in 2020, they’ll lose; (6) winning a primary on the basis of super-delegates and ones from southern states she would lose in the general election (MoND); (7) not unifying the party, and (8) a plethora of historical mistakes from Bill’s administration, to Benghazi, and beyond.

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California dreamin’…

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

The state of my birth is becoming a world leader and taking up the slack when Washington (AKA Trump, his minions, and the GOP) fails. San Francisco recently was the site of a meeting involving Canadian and Mexican environmental ministers who discussed maintaining the Paris Accord, among other things, with state leaders. The state’s legal team is getting ready to block any Washington attempt to push back on their tough laws for vehicle emissions. Gov. Jerry Brown (AKA Gov. Moonbeam) is traveling to China to discuss global warming with Chinese officials. And the state is moving toward single-payer healthcare for all—the Cal Senate just approved it.

Calling it “slack” on the part of Washington is a bit too nice, of course. Trump and his cronies are attacking the environment in any way they can. From supporting the coal industry, which has done more to hurt our climate than almost anything else (it’s ironic that even in coal states, they’re moving away from coal in power plants), to emasculating the EPA and rolling back provisions to protect the environment to favor their rich friends in other industries, Washington seems bent on ruining the planet for our children and grandchildren—maybe us too, if they keep up with the onslaught. Remember Trump is the candidate who declared global warming a hoax. Should we put him on that Antarctic ice shelf and see what happens when it breaks off? Maybe the lobby of Trump Tower will be the first to be flooded when the sea level rises by six feet, as predicted.

The U.S. as a whole is the world’s second worse polluter—only China is worse. California doesn’t accept this all-out attack on the environment by Washington. They have led the nation in positive environmental actions and have boldly stepped up their efforts to counter the evil dark lord in the White House and his GOP goblins. Other states—all blue, of course—try to follow along with the state’s defense-of-environment plans. As the most populous state in the union, the food provider for much of the nation, and estimated to be the sixth or seventh most powerful nation in the world if it ever separates from the union, the Golden Bear is a heavyweight. If Washington doesn’t listen, the rest of the world does. California doesn’t need Washington, but the United States does.

Saving the environment is a no-brainer. This means that Washington is now brainless and California is an Einstein. Even China is getting on board, while Trump backed out of the Paris Accord, incurring the wrath of the rest of the world. It’s hypocritical for states with so much at stake—tourism to national parks in many red states, for example—to become anti-environment. Most big game hunters are NRA members who are hypocritical too—wild animals are part of the environment. Aquifers are being damaged all over the country, but you can bet the anti-environment zombies will be the first to complain when their water turns bad. I can go on and on, but the truth is being insensible to what we’re doing to the environment and the flora and fauna of the world is idiocy. No. Anyone who does this is immoral and evil. There’s a reason that the Pope has an encyclical on the environment. He gave a copy to Trump; will he ever read it? He certainly took no heed of the Pope’s advice when he made his decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. And his comment about Pittsburg v. Paris is the height of stupidity—Pittsburg went overwhelmingly for Clinton in 2016.

California has been leading environmental protection efforts for a long time. They did so out of necessity. If other American cities and states and countries in the world wait until necessity spurs them to action, it will be too late. If others don’t care, Earth will eventually end up like Mars. We all share this planet. Let’s be good tenants by keeping it clean and healthy. And letting the naysayers remain in power at the ballot box will make us accomplices of the thugs who would destroy the environment. Vote green today, not GOP-red. And work to get California rules to protect the environment adopted in your state.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel. To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. Published by Penmore Press, this novel is available in ebook format at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple, and in print through Amazon or your local bookstore (if they don’t have it, ask them to order it). Great summer reading!

And so it goes…