Sunday, May 22, 2016

Welcome Veronica Scott



I’d like to welcome fellow sci-fi romance author, Veronica Scott to my blog! It’s so good to have you here!

RW: Would you like to write a different genre or sub-genre than you do now?

VS:  I’d love to write a Regency romance! Regencies are some of my favorite things to read, but I’ve never written one. I’d have a Duke and a governess, either stranded at an inn or at a big house party, and… I need the rest of the plot, LOL!

RW: Bubble baths or steamy showers? Ocean or mountains? Puppies or kittens? Chocolate or caramel?
VS:  Shower, mountains, kittens and chocolate.

RW: Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
VS:  Four to six weeks, depending on the length of the story, with another four to six weeks for the entire editing process. I have a developmental editor and a copy editor, both of whom are really good and thorough.

RW: If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
VS:  Has no patience, gets lost easily.

RW: List two authors we would find you reading when taking a break from your own writing.
VS:  Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews!

RW: If I were a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
VS:  Each is a standalone story but I’d probably recommend Star Cruise: Outbreak because it’s pretty representative of a “Veronica Scott sci-fi romance,” with action and adventure, high stakes and romance, including some medium-hot love scenes. I write ‘disaster movie’ type books, where you spend a little time getting to know the characters and then wham, catastrophe strikes and people have to work hard to solve the problem and survive to the HEA.

RW: You'd never be able to tell…
VS:  but I’m actually an introvert.

RW: I can never fill in the blank…
VS:  because I always have multi-part answers!

Thanks so much for talking with us today! Let’s find out more about Star Cruise: Outbreak.

The Plot:

Dr. Emily Shane, a war veteran, is known as “The Angel of Fantalar” for bravery under fire. However, the doctor has her own wounds–PTSD and guilt over those she failed to save.

Persuaded to fill a berth as ship’s doctor on the luxurious interstellar cruise liner Nebula Zephyr, she finds the job brings unexpected perks, including Security Officer Jake Dilon, a fellow veteran.

However, Emily learns she and Jake didn’t leave all peril behind in the war. A mysterious ailment begins to claim victim after victim…and they must race against time and space to find the cause and a cure! Trapped on a ship no spaceport will allow to dock, their efforts are complicated by a temperamental princess and a terrorist–one who won’t hesitate to take down any being in the way of his target. If anyone’s left when the disease is through with them.

Excerpt:

The portal to the corridor burst open, and Mr. Enzell struggled into the lobby, half carrying his wife and surrounded by their white-faced children. Syl was sobbing in great gasps, and the boys’ faces were set in expressions of terror. The oldest had a blood-soaked wad of cloth pressed to his nose. Mrs. Enzell’s head lolled, and she looked as if she was crying tears of blood. Clint immediately moved to support the woman on the other side, calling for Emily as he did so.

“Seven hells, here we go.” Emily was right behind them as the men helped Mrs. Enzell to an exam room and onto the bed.

“Trynna started bleeding a few minutes ago, Doctor,” Mr. Enzell said as medical personnel hurried to get their new patient hooked up to monitors. “She said she was dizzy and then—then her eyes—she was—the tears were blood. And next thing I knew, my son’s nose was bleeding. What’s going on?”

Emily caught Relba’s attention. “Call Bevar in, stat. I’ve got this, Vicente. Take the boy into room two and get him in bed, please.” As her staff moved to carry out the orders, Emily busied herself setting up the intravenous flow of fluids for Mrs. Enzell and added a basic clotting factor. “This is apparently a complication of the intestinal virus, Mr. Enzell. Do you have any symptoms?”

He blinked. “I’m fine. Marc, my oldest, he’s not doing too well.”

Bio:


Best-selling science fiction and paranormal romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history, and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Three-time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “City On the Edge of Forever.”

Contact Veronica:


Buy Links for Her Books:

Star Cruise: Outbreak


Lady of the Star Wind

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pagans v Christians


Awhile ago, I reviewed a book called Thy Kingdom Fall that portrayed Pagans as godless villains out to take over the world and do away with all other religions.  The book made me so angry, I wanted to hurl my Kindle across the room.  It’s bad enough that so many Christians paint Pagans as Devil worshipers, but this man vilified us in a novel, portraying us as the exact opposite of who and what we are.

Yes, I am a Pagan.  I was raised Lutheran, spent eleven years as a Catholic and am now Pagan.  I believe there’s a power greater than myself.  I believe that power has both feminine and masculine energies and I honor both.  My patron Goddesses are Diana and Rhiannon, and my patron God is Dwe (a Celtic God/King whose symbol was the dragon—ironic, eh?).  Wiccans believe in karma and the power of three—what you send out will come back to you threefold.  That adds some punch to the Golden Rule.  You’d better think thrice before you send out negative energy.

As for Jesus, I think he was a great man, and that the Nicene Council edited out a whole lot of his life and message. The Gospels they kept in the New Testament were not written down when he lived—they were written decades, even a century later. Have you ever played Operator? How garbled was the message by the time it got around the table? How garbled do you think Christ's message may have been by the time it was written down a century after he gave it? Or after a power and money-greedy Roman Emperor and his cronies got through with it? There are eighteen years gone. Do you really think the kid who sat in the Temple in Jerusalem discussing theology with the elders of the church for three days and never missed his parents went home and worked as a carpenter with his dad for the next eighteen years? Isn't it possible he traveled with his uncle, Joseph of Arimethea, to the East? Could the Catholic concept of going to "Purgatory" to "work off a few demerits before you get into Heaven" (as my ex explained it to me when I converted) possibly be the same as reincarnating until you work out your issues and go to Nirvana? Only "Purgatory" gives more control to the leaders of the church. After all, one of them sold tickets to get out of Purgatory and into Heaven faster when he wanted to raise money to build St. Peter's Basilica, thus prompting Martin Luther to say, "Hey, that's wrong! We need to reform the Catholic Church." Which, of course, got him ex-communicated, started The Reformation, and the entire "Protestant" movement. I didn't become Pagan because I knew nothing about the Judeo/Christian paradigm. I guess I knew too much about it.

I advocate the separation of church and state.  I think it is inappropriate for the words “In God we Trust” to appear on our currency.  So did President Theodore Roosevelt.  The words “under God” were not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until June, 1954, when everyone was afraid Communists were lurking around each corner.  The country did fine without those words in the Pledge in the decade prior to that when it first became official, and had done since 1892 when it was first composed.

I advocate these actions not because I want to wipe out anyone else’s religion, but because these words fail to honor the freedom of religion upon which our country was based.  That freedom is guaranteed in the First Amendment of our Constitution—a document I took an oath to uphold and protect.  As it stands, including them goes against the principle of separation of church and state our forefathers advocated.

The United States is home to people who practice a plethora of religions, calling their deities by a multitude of names, including God, Yahweh, Allah, Great Spirit, Buddha, and Vishnu to name a few.  Yes, I included Allah in there, even though many people consider Arabs to be our enemies right now.  Most people don’t realize it, but Muslims and Judeo/Christians worship the same God.  That’s why they fight over Jerusalem—they share many sacred religious sites.  Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael.  The Israelites descended from Isaac, and the Arabs descended from Ishmael.  They all worship the God of Abraham.  The difference in name comes only from the difference in the development of their languages. For that matter, extremist groups like Isis and Al Qaeda are to Islam what the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity.  They aren't practicing the tenets of their religion any more than the Klan.  The Koran does not tell Arabs to kill non-believers.  It says Allah will punish them. Again, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." It preaches the Golden Rule, just as the Bible does.

I even knew a person in a Twelve Step program once who called her higher power Irving until eventually she said, “Well, maybe there’s a God and maybe I can stop calling him Irving.”  I knew someone else who simply referred to “H.P.”  That was my nickname for the deity during my transition from the Judeo/Christian belief system to paganism, and I still often say, “Thanks H.P.,” when I’m grateful for something.

Pagans won the right to have Pentacles carved on our headstones in National Cemeteries.  It took us a couple of decades to win that right.  We did not request the government remove the crosses, stars of David or any of the other thirty-some symbols allowed.  All we asked for was recognition of our beliefs.  Austin Dragon, author of Thy Kingdom Fall, along with many conservative Facebookers, portrays us as trying to rip the crosses out of that hallowed ground.  We do not do that.

Pagans are accepting people.  We do not judge; at least we try not to.  Nor do we proselytize.  When was the last time a pagan knocked on your door at some ridiculous hour of the morning or in the middle of your supper and tried to convert you?

Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Poverty Level—Really?

According to the Health and Human Services website, the poverty level for a single person living in the United States is $26,000.* That comes to $2,166 per month. I live on $1,228 per month, which is almost half that amount. One would think a person living that far below the poverty level would qualify for all kinds of assistance.

I get some help, but since I do not have any children living with me, it’s limited. There’s Medicare. I paid into that for over thirty years, but I can’t afford to use it. That’s because Medicare only pays 80% of each bill. I have to come up with the other 20%, and that can be a lot. Oh, and that does not cover transportation. I had chest pains last year and called 911. The ride to a civilian hospital cost me almost a thousand dollars. Well, actually, I still owe the Fire Department. I haven’t been able to afford to pay it.

After Medicare paid the hospital, I owed them another thousand, and I still owe several hundred to various doctors. I have no idea when I’ll be able to pay them. When I make it onto the New York Times Best Seller List? Get on Jeopardy and win? When my number comes up in the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes? When I remember to play the lottery and win? Get struck by lightning, sue God, and get a settlement?

And Medicare doesn’t include glasses or teeth at all. A few years ago, I had a bad tooth. Know how I treated it? A string, a door knob, and a good, swift kick.


You may have noticed above I said they took me to a civilian hospital. That’s right. I’m a veteran. At a time in our history when most people were spitting on guys in uniform, I said, “Hey, they didn’t ask to go over to some God-forsaken jungle and get all shot up. They need people to fix ’em up when they come home.” Besides, I wanted to be a nurse, but I couldn’t afford nursing school and I figured the GI Bill would pay for it when I got out. So I joined the Navy. I never thought the day would come when I’d use any of the other benefits that came with it—like getting care at a VA hospital.

But, I’m bi-polar, and that doesn’t make for a very steady work history. I was a bang-up temp. Everybody loved me, and clients would request me. As long as I didn’t stay in one office too long, I did a great job. But if I was anywhere for more than a few months, the cracks started to show. The depression set in, or I got to know people well enough to go off on them. That’s not a pretty picture, let me tell you. The thing is, the way to keep busy as a temp is to work for more than one agency. And temp agencies don’t provide things like health, dental, or pensions. They’re supposed to be stepping-stones to permanent employment. But I only made that transition once or twice, and each of those jobs only lasted a few years. So when I finally realized I was bi-polar and went on disability, I had no nest-egg. Nothing. No net. Try living on $1228/month and see how far you get.


So, let’s see what else is out there. The VA. Free medical care! Not quite. Since I never served in combat and I was perfectly healthy (albeit suffering from morning sickness and the exhaustion of pregnancy), my disability is not considered “service-connected.” I keep telling the VA a sailor got me pregnant, but somehow my honeymoon doesn’t count. But I’m well under the poverty level, so I should get free care. Right? Well, I can see my docs for free, but I have to pay for my meds.  That’s $8.00 per med per 30 days’ supply. I’m on six medications right now, so that’s $64.00/month. Unless I get a ninety-day supply of something. Then I have to pay $24.00 for that med that month. If I get an infection and one of my docs orders a seven-day course of an antibiotic—yup. That’s $8.00. If I can’t pay these bills, the Federal Government can and will garnish my Social Security.

Glasses? I luck out there. I’m diabetic and I have a long history of eye problems including a detached vitreous humor, so they do cover those. Teeth? Nope. Only veterans who have a service-connected disability of at least sixty or seventy percent get dental care. Or people who have retired from the military. Back to the door and string.

I do qualify for subsidized senior housing. Just barely. Actually, being a vet helped there. It moved my name to the top of a years’-long list. My rent is one-third of my income. I would either have to live with my kids or in a box if I didn’t qualify for this. That would mean having to give up my cats. Thank goodness this building allowed me to keep both of my cats.

I qualify for help with my energy bills. I get about $100 per year. That goes a long way. In the summer if I run my air conditioner, my bills can get up to $50 per month. The rest of the year, they average $30. I don’t use that much juice. The charge for electricity is somewhere under $10. The rest of the bill is the charge for “delivery.” I guess it costs a lot of money to maintain the grid. One of my neighbors pointed out that there are a hundred units in this building, and the electric company’s charging twenty bucks for “delivery” to each unit.  They’re collecting $2,000 from this building alone for one wire coming into the place.

Finally, there are “Food Stamps.” Today the program is called SNAP. I read the average person on this program receives $29.00 a month. Gwyneth Paltrow tried to live on $29.00 worth of groceries for a month. She didn’t even make it through a week. Remember, I’m at about half the poverty level for a single person? Yes, I get SNAP benefits. I get all of $16.00 per month. If I lived on mac & cheese and ramen noodles with tap water, that’d be plenty of money. You can get five packages of ramen noodles for a buck, and Aldi’s has generic mac & cheese for about 33 cents a box for weekends.

However, they’re made with wheat. I don’t have celiac disease, but I am “sensitive” to glutens, which are found in wheat, rye and barley. When I eat them, my fingers swell and hurt, I get bloated, gassy, and have other intestinal problems, and it exacerbates my fibro-myalgia, chronic fatigue, and depression. Not only can I not live on a ramen noodle/mac & cheese diet, the cheapest gluten-free bread I’ve found is at Aldi’s for four bucks a loaf. $16.00 in SNAP benefits might keep me in bread for a month, but nothing else. I’m also diabetic, so I have to watch my intake of carbs in general. That means I need to eat fresh foods—salads, fresh or frozen veggies, non-processed meats, etc. I have high blood pressure and a tendency toward high cholesterol, so I have to watch my sodium and saturated fats. Those foods are all more expensive than their processed counterparts.

As for tap water—ours comes out cloudy and tastes like chlorinated dish water. Most people around here either buy bottled water or have filtration systems. I don’t like water anyway. But I keep bottles of tap water in my fridge and make tea with lots of artificial sweetener. Everyone tells me I should use Stevia because it’s natural. Have you seen what that stuff costs? I’ll take my chances with cancer and stick with aspartame.

I would love to live at or even just above the poverty level. Two thousand dollars a month? I know of apartment complexes downstate that don’t charge much more for rent than I’m paying now, include dishwashers, and are larger than my place. They also allow my cats. I had to move out of one when I bought a newer car. I moved up to the Chicago area and lived with my daughter until she got engaged and moved in with her then-fiancé and his kids. That’s when I moved in here. There just wasn’t room for all of us. My bed was in the living room. I cracked up the morning their priest came by and woke me. He about had a cardiac arrest when he came in and realized he was in my bedroom. I said, “Take a step to the left and you’ll be in my office, Father.”

I just don’t get why the government sets the poverty level so high, and then sets the ceiling for assistance so low. It simply doesn’t make sense. And if the Tea-baggers get their way, there will be no Social Security, no Medicare, no SNAP, no Planned Parenthood, and no Head Start.


But you know who haven’t had to worry a bit about where their next meals were coming from, or how to pay for their meds, or whether or not they’d be able to make their rent for the past forty years? Charles Manson and his cronies. How is that fair? I served my country and there I was with a string tied around my tooth. Yet those people killed a bunch of people, carved a baby out of a woman’s abdomen, and they gets better care than thousands of veterans like me. What’s wrong with this picture? Think about that, Tea-baggers.

Thanks for visiting.