2 New Insurance CE Webinars Approved in Montana

We’re happy to announce that the Montana Insurance Continuing Education Program has approved two new webinars, which we’ve added to our curriculum:

  • Insurance Claims … and Fraud has been approved for 3 hours CE credit and addresses the following topics:
    • Unauthorized insurance entities
    • Unfair insurance trade practices
    • Claims and fraud pertaining to disasters and the following types of insurance claims: property, liability, auto, and WC
    • Tips for detecting and preventing insurance fraud
  • Personal Lines Coverage Issues has been approved for 3 hours of CE credit and addresses the following topics:
    • Who is insured on various PL policies
    • Coverage gaps in the HO and auto policies for certain types of recreational vehicles
    • PL insurance policies available to insure recreational vehicles
    • Property exposures best insured in inland marine floaters and policies

Our first presentations of these webinars will be held on the following dates – times shown are EASTERN time:

  • Insurance Claims … and Fraud – October 29 at 11 a.m. EASTERN time
  • Personal Lines Coverage Issues – December 11 at 2 p.m. EASTERN time

5 More Insurance CE Courses Approved

We’ve have 5 more insurance CE courses approved in Montana: three classroom seminars and two webinars:

  • The three 4-hour classroom seminars will be presented in both Missoula and Kalispell during the week of September 22:
    • 4 Must-Have Commercial Lines Coverages
    • Personal Lines Coverage Issues
    • Insurance Claims … and Fraud
  • We will begin presenting the two 2-hour webinars in late June or early July:
    • 4 Must-Have Commercial Lines Coverages – Part 1
    • 4 Must-Have Commercial Lines Coverages – Part 2

We will be submitting the webinars to the state of Oregon later this month and will be submitting additional webinars in both Montana and Oregon next month.

We’ll have more details on our website  sometime next week, well as in our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe to our monthly insurance CE newsletter.

 

THE GUILLOTINE CHOICE by Michael J. Malone

THE GUILLOTINE CHOICE by Michael J. Malone

This is a must-read book by the award-winning author of crime novels (the DI Ray McBain series), poetry, and Carnegie’s Call.

Hop on over to the website where I do my fiction stuff for a review and tips about where you can get it in paperback or for your Kindle: http://lindamchenry.com/2014/05/book-review-the-guillotine-choice-by-michael-j-malone/

 

Insurance CE webinars approved in Oregon!

We’re happy to announce that three of our insurance continuing education webinars have been approved for producer CE credit in the state of Oregon:

  • Ethics and E&O: A Professional Relationship is approved for 3 hours
  • Flood Insurance Training Course is approved for 3 hours
  • Understanding Insurance Fraud is approved for 4 hours

As we submit additional webinars to Montana for approval, we will also submit them to Oregon.

For more information, visit our Insurance CE Webinars or Shop pages.

Montana Legislative Changes and Ethics CE Courses Approved

Our five most recent submissions to the Montana Department of Insurance were approved for CE credit for producers and adjusters:

Our webinar and classroom seminars do NOT require an exam to earn CE credit. They’re interactive and fun … considering all we do is talk about insurance!

Our self-study courses require the student to complete and pass a monitored exam. They’re not as much fun as our webinars and seminars, but they’re easy to read and understand and our exams don’t include any “tricky” questions.

Free informational webinar about our 2014 CE offerings

Join us for a free webinar about our 2014 insurance CE and training curriculum. During this webinar, we will:

  • Introduce you to our webinar format
  • Discuss our upcoming 2014 insurance CE curriculum (classroom seminars, live webinars, and self-study courses)
  • Discuss our upcoming insurance training products that will be available for purchase and download from our website
  • Answer your questions and collect your feedback about the types of courses and products you’d like us to add to our curriculum

The actual webinar presentation will last 20-30 minutes and will be followed by a Q&A session. To register, click here.

 

Book Review: SAFE HOUSE by Chris Ewan

I’d never read any of Ewan’s work before Safe House but that issue is to be remedied … and soon.

Safe House is a complex whodunit that begins when Rob Hale finds himself recovering in the hospital after a motorcycle accident. Problem is, his doctors and the authorities don’t believe him when he insists his passenger was taken away by ambulance before he was rescued.  In fact, only one ambulance was called to the scene–and it transported him to the hospital.

Other complications involve the woman’s resemblance to his sister, who recently committed suicide, and the private detective his mother hired to look into his sister’s death.

Safe House is set on the Isle of Man, where Ewan lives and works as a celebrated crime writer.  The setting is unique but did not overtake the story, which centers around the the motives and hidden agendas of all the characters.  Although the cast is extensive, every single character is clear and sharp, and you can’t help wondering what’s really going on in the minds of each.  The plot is intricate and keeps you guessing until the very end, something I don’t find as often as I used to.

This is a terrific read.

Safe HouseChris Ewan

To be released 10/29/2013 by Minotaur Books

ISBN 978-1-250-03815-9

 

5 Things BUSINESSES Need to Know About ObamaCare

As a follow-up to the blog I wrote earlier in the week (6 Things INDIVIDUALS Need to Know about ObamaCare), hare are 5 things businesses need to know about the Employer Mandate (“employer requirements”) under the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA–commonly referred to as ObamaCare of the Affordable Care Act [ACA]):

(1)  Only employers defined as “large employers” will be subject to a shared responsibility payment (a tax) if they don’t provide their employees with health insurance.  For purposes of the PPACA, a full time employee works 30 or more hours a week.

  • A large employer is one with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs)
  • A full-time equivalent employee is NOT a person – it’s the number of hours a full-time employee works in a calendar year (2,080 hours), i.e., 40 hours x 52 weeks = 2,080
    • If the total number of hours worked by all of employees of a business in a year (including full-time and part-time employee) is 208,000, the employer has 100 full-time equivalent employees
    • It doesn’t matter how many of those hours are worked by full-timers or part-timers

(2) The shared responsibility payment will be imposed on large employers under two circumstances:

  • The employer does NOT provide health insurance approved under the PPACA to its employees AND at least one of those employees purchases coverage through an exchange and receives a premium tax-credit
  • The employer DOES provide health insurance approved under the PPACA to its employees  AND at least one of those employees purchases coverage through an exchange and receives a premium tax-credit

The shared responsibility payment is lower for large employers that DO provide coverage … and it’s calculated differently.

(3) The Employer Mandate has NOT been deferred or postponed.  However, three of its provisions have been delayed.  The IRS published Notice 2013-45 to explain how the delay works and refers to the process as transitional relief.

(4) Small employers are eligible for tax credits if they provide approved health insurance to their employees–and have been receiving them for some time (the PPACA was enacted in March 2010–at which time its provisions began being phased in).  Eligible employers include those:

  • With up to 25 full-time equivalent employees
  • The average annual salary of employees is no more than $50,000
  • The employer pays at least 50% of the employee-only cost of health insurance

Beginning in 2014, the tax credit for eligible small businesses will increase from 35% to 50% (for non-profits, it will increase from 25% to 35%).

(5) Here are some Web links for more information about how the PPACA affects businesses:

You don’t have to be an insurance agent to attend the A.D. Banker webinars I’m presenting on the Affordable Care Act … although you do have to pay for the presentations and CE filing fees. Cost: $27. Click this link for more information about A.D. Banker’s PPACA webinar. Upon arriving at the A.D. Banker website, click on Webinar and choose Health Insurance and the PPACA.

Click this link f you’d like to subscribe to my mailing list to be notified of about other webinars and presentations. I plan to begin presenting informational webinars about insurance to the general public before January. A nominal fee will be charged for these presentation (i.e., $5 – $10)

 

6 Things INDIVIDUALS Need to Know About ObamaCare

You’re hearing all kinds of things about health care reform, commonly referred to as ObamaCare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [PPACA] or Affordable Care Act [ACA]).  But how much of what you’re hearing is TRUE?  In addition to misinformation being passed around, scammers have been cropping up at an alarming rate.  Here is a list of 6 things you need to know about ObamaCare if you’re an INDIVIDUAL:

(1) Unless you’re exempt under law, if you don’t have federally approved health insurance in place by January 1, 2014, you’ll be subject to a “shared responsibility payment.”  Technically, this payment is NOT a fine or penalty–it’s a tax payable when you file your federal income tax return.  [This provision of the PPACA is referred to as the Individual Mandate.]

(2) If you have insurance in place right now, the following plans meet requirements of “approved” health insurance under the PPACA beginning in 2014:

    • Medicare Part A
    • Medicaid, CHIP
    • TRICARE
    • Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP)
    • any government plan
    • any Indian tribal government plan
    • any health plan offered in the individual or group marketplaces

The following plans will NOT be considered “approved” health insurance under the PPACA beginning in 2014:  Medicare and TRICARE supplements, long-term care, disability, dental or vision plans (when issued without health insurance), accident-only, and workers’ compensation.

(3) The shared responsibility payment for individuals is the greater of an established amount per person (a family maximum applies) or a percentage of the family’s household income. For example, in 2014, each adult will be required to pay $95, each child will be required to pay $47.50, the family maximum is $285, and the percentage of family income is 1%.  These figures increase until 2016, after which they’ll be adjusted by annual cost of living increases. In 2016, they’ll be $695 per adult, $347.50 per child, $2,085 family maximum, and 2.5% of family income.

(4) Exempt Americans (those who are not subject to the shared responsibility payment) include:

  • individuals who are NOT required to file an income tax return based on income
  • undocumented immigrants
  • individuals serving time in jail or prison
  • members of an Indian tribe
  • members of a religion that is opposed to receiving health care (meaning the religion AND members are opposed)
  • individuals whose employee-only cost of group health insurance is more than 9.5% of their household incomes

(5) Beginning in 2014, the manner in which health insurance is rated will change.  NO health insurance rates may be based on a person’s health status or medical condition(s)–meaning pre-existing conditions exclusions and limits will no longer be permitted by law. Only four elements may be used when establishing premium rates beginning in 2014:  age, the geographic location of residence, tobacco use, and whether enrollment is for an individual or a family.

(6) Premium tax-credits (i.e., federally approved reductions in the cost of health insurance) will be made available to Americans who buy health insurance from one of the Health Insurance Exchanges IF the following eligibility requirements are met:

    • the individual is not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, employer-sponsored health insurance, a grandfathered plan, and a few other types of coverage (a few exceptions apply)
    • household income must fall between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL); in 2013, the FPL for a single individual is $11,490 and for a family of four it’s $23,550

Individuals purchasing insurance directly from an agent, as opposed to through an exchange, are NOT eligible for premium tax credits.

(7) Fraudsters are already capitalizing on consumers’ lack of familiarity with the provisions of the PPACA and people are being defrauded EVERY day as the deadline for compliance approaches. Here are some links for you to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how to avoid becoming the victim of health insurance fraud as the PPACA rolls out:

P.S. I’m qualified to talk about health insurance because I’ve worked for more than 30 years in the insurance industry as a licensed agent, consultant, instructor, and education provider. In fact, after selling the second of my two insurance agencies in 2011, I began working full-time as a course developer and writer, putting together insurance courses for continuing education and pre-licensing purposes. My clients are insurance companies, professional insurance organizations, and national and regional insurance education providers. I’ve developed and written several continuing education courses on the subject of the PPACA, including a two-hour webinar for A.D. Banker and Company that I present on a monthly basis.

P.P.S.  Check in later in the week to learn about what businesses need to know about ObamaCare.

You don’t have to be an insurance agent to attend the A.D. Banker webinars I’m presenting on the Affordable Care Act … although you do have to pay for the presentations and CE filing fees. Cost: $27. Click this link for more information about A.D. Banker’s PPACA webinar. Upon arriving at the A.D. Banker website, click on Webinar and choose Health Insurance and the PPACA.

Click this link f you’d like to subscribe to my mailing list to be notified of about other webinars and presentations. I plan to begin presenting informational webinars about insurance to the general public before January. A nominal fee will be charged for these presentation (i.e., $5 – $10)

Book Review: LOST by S.J. Bolton

Lost may just be the most suspenseful book I’ve ever read.

Set in London, where a serial killer’s  abducting and killing ten- and eleven-year-old boys, Lost weaves together the emotional stories of a number of people living in same neighborhood. Enter Barney, an 11-year-old who’s searching for his mother … and whose father just happens to have been out on the nights the murdered boys disappeared.  Enter Lacey, Barney’s next door neighbor, a Detective Constable on the London police force who’s  on leave from her job and having a difficult time recovering from a recent job-related trauma.  Enter Lacey’s coworker DI Mark Joesbury–and his 10-year-old son…

As the number of murdered boys mounts, Bolton  delves into the lives of Barney and his friends, who are trying to find the murderer on their own.  And as Lacey struggles to remain autonomous and sane, she can’t help but be drawn back to her job and DI Joesbury.

The rapid pacing, exquisitely depicted characters, and unremitting suspense make this a must-read.

Lost by S.J. Bolton

ISBN 9781250028563

Minotaur Books – released June 6, 2013

Book Review: A TASTE FOR MALICE by Michael J. Malone

A Taste for Malice is the second book in the DI Ray McBain series by Michael J. Malone.  (Blood Tears is the first and the third is scheduled for release in November 2014.)

I came up with a one word description of this book after reading the first chapter and am sticking by it now that I’ve finished the book:  brilliant.

Malone’s characters are real–with all their kindnesses, cruelties, and quirks.  And although this crime novel doesn’t have a single dead body in it, the tension continues ratcheting upward, causing you to hold your breath as you’re sure you know what’s going to happen next … only it doesn’t.

That’s it for me.  I’m going back to my original assessment:  brilliant.  You should be adding this to your summer reading list.  NOW!

Book Blurb:

DI Ray McBain is back at work and on filing duty. Desperate for something to do, a pair of old files intrigue him. In the first a woman pushes her way into a vulnerable family. The children adore her. At first. Then she has some ‘fun’, which soon becomes torture and mental cruelty. Then she disappears. Meanwhile, in Ayrshire, another young family is relieved when a stranger comes into their lives to help them out. McBain makes the link, but nobody is interested in what he has to say. Is it even the same woman?

A Taste for Malice by Michael J. Malone

ISBN:  978-1907869754

Published by Five Leaves Publications

GUEST BLOGGER: Michael J. Malone

My guest blogger today is Michael J. Malone, a Scots writer published in crime fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  I “met” Michael several years ago through a mutual friend–just before his first novel, Blood Tears, was sold.  That book’s follow-up novel, A Taste for Malice, was recently released and my review will appear on this blog later in the week.  (Hint:  you DON’T want to miss this book … or my review!)  Without further blabbering from me, here’s Michael:

More and more authors are writing across genres.  What motivated you to do so?

There wasn’t much aforethought going on here. I just went where the ideas took me.  Something came at me as a poem. Something else as a work of fiction and something else as a piece of non-fiction.

Perhaps that’s a benefit of working with a smaller publisher? I can go with the idea, express myself, and not worry that the bean-counters will forbid me from publishing what I want.

A friend of mine did point out, however, that there are similarities with my approach to each of these areas of writing – in all of them there is a narrative. A novel speaks for itself in that regard. With the non-fiction book I was telling the story of some remarkable countrymen and women of mine. And with my poems there is more often than not some kind of story layered into the language.

It appears – bottom line -  that I’m a storyteller. Who knew?

As a writer of poetry and crime novels, tell us about the different mindsets you need to write each type of work … and what writerly approaches are similar.

With poetry I often start with pen on paper. I draft an outline and then re-draft it on to the screen, cleaning and pruning the language as I go. Then I’ll set it aside for a few hours/days/weeks – months even, before going back over it. I try not to leave it too long as the motivation for the poem can wane – as can my enthusiasm for it – and then it appears on the page as a muddle. I prefer to get it on the page as soon as I can and then worry about the editing later.

When I edit a poem I’m looking for the sense of it. Does each and every word merit its place? Would another word say it better? Does what I want to say appear on the page? Am I spelling it all out for the readers or am I trusting them to bring a little bit of themselves  to the reading? Does the poem even have a point or is it a nice piece of word play with a big fat SO WHAT running after it?

Often, it’s a sprint with a massage and ice bath afterwards. A novel, is of course a marathon and requires much more in the way of dedication, persistence, and focus. But sometimes, depending on how much writing time I have, it can feel like a whole series of sprints.

I think the part of my brain that has been exercised by looking for interesting word choices in poetry also gets a workout when I’m writing the longer pieces, but I can’t afford to be that deliberate for a stretch of 100,000+ words. I’m writing what I hope is a thrilling piece of fiction and using the right words for the job. Readers want pace – a variation in pace, to be sure – but pace all the same. And interesting word play can slow that down. There are moments of description when I will allow access to the poetic part of my brain (if I can call it that) and moments of action and dialogue when I’m aware the reader will want to race through to find out what happens.

In essence, any form of writing is all about the right words in the right order. It’s all about word choice. It’s just different combinations depending on the effect I want to create in the reader’s mind. And often that is all done by instinct. It’s only later in the editing process when I can try to assess whether or not it works.

The majority of your fans live in the U.K. but you have a following in the U.S., as well.  Do you believe readers are readers, regardless of where they live, or do you find differences that other writers might want to consider when writing for international audiences?

The only reader I have in mind as I write is me. Thinking of your audience as you write is the way madness lies. Or sub-standard work.

I remember reading and loving Angela’s Ashes. And then being deeply disappointed by the follow up, Tis. Paddy McCourt hadn’t become a poor writer overnight, it was just that he became too aware of his audience. It was like the narrator in Tis kept apologising for what he was like as a young man instead of letting the words just tell the story.

I’m not sure that answers your question. But yes, readers are readers and they like what they like. You can’t try to second guess that. Which is why I write the book I think I would want to read – and then hope that if it satisfies me it will please others.

In terms of changes in taste when it comes to books transferring across the pond, there has been enough books over the last few decades that work on both sides of the Atlantic to suggest a whole lot of similarities. And certainly from the UK side, we have been heavily influenced by popular American culture, from music, TV, film, and books – and perhaps in my own case that influence has worked its way into my style and folks in the US connect with that AND the Scottish stuff. You guys do appear to like the Scots.

What always amuses me is the changes in covers. We might like lots of the same books, but we prefer them to be dressed differently. The marketing people know what they are doing. Right?

Do you think having a twin sister has given you an edge when it comes to creating female characters?

Good question.

I remember some time ago I was commissioned to write a group of poems for a novel by Margaret Thomson Davis. Margaret told me the character whose perspective I was writing from was a young girl from a repressed background. Her mother knew she was in Art School but thought she was studying embroidery – when in fact she was falling in love with a young fireman who was posing nude in the life drawing class. In these poems, I was to highlight the sexual awakening of this young woman.

At first I was daunted. I had to get in to the mind of a young woman who was, in effect, lusting over this naked young man.  How the hell was I going to manage that? And it was while talking it over with a friend I realised that ultimately we all (men and women) want the same things – love, validation, kindness etc – but just different body parts. (The friend I was discussing this with was gay. And he just scoffed at my different body part comment.) With that thought, I was freed to write what I needed to write.

I understand that some men struggle to write from a female perspective, but equally lots of men don’t.  The thing is, I often write poems from a female point of view. Perhaps being so close to my twin sister has helped create a mindset that encourages that. She has been filling my head with her worries for as long as I can remember.  (Sorry, sis.) That’s bound to have had an effect.

What is the timeline of your future releases and where can we purchase your titles that are already in print?

The next McBain book (#3 after Blood Tears and A Taste for Malice) is still in my head and has been penciled in for release in November 2014.

I have a book coming out in February 2014 that’s a blend of fact and fiction. It is called The Guillotine Choice and it is based on the true story of an innocent young Algerian, during the French colonisation of his country. He was effectively given the choice of 25 years hard labour in Devil’s Island or to send his cousin to the guillotine. To learn more, you’ll just need to wait and read the book. The man this novel is based on led a remarkable life and I can’t wait to get the book out there.

My other books are available through all good bookshops, if you live in the UK. If you insist on using the interwebs, Foyles is a proper bookshop with good online discount: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/a-taste-for-malice,michael-j-malone-9781907869754

Sadly, Amazon is pretty much the only party in town when it comes to ebooks.  So, go here for my author page, which, BTW,  is seriously in need of an update:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-J-Malone/e/B009WV9V4Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1370197713&sr=1-2-ent

For American readers, you can buy my books from the Book Depository with your credit card … and FREE shipping:  http://www.bookdepository.com/author/Michael-J-Malone

Here’s the blurb for  A Taste for Malice …

DI Ray McBain is back at work and on filing duty. Desperate for something to do, a pair of old files intrigue him. In the first a woman pushes her way into a vulnerable family. The children adore her. At first. Then she has some ‘fun’, which soon becomes torture and mental cruelty. Then she disappears. Meanwhile, in Ayrshire, another young family is relieved when a stranger comes into their lives to help them out. McBain makes the link, but nobody is interested in what he has to say. Is it even the same woman?

Here’s an excerpt from the Undiscovered Scotland review:

“He has produced one of the more unusual detective novels we can remember reading. Most crime novels kick off with a dead body within the first few pages, and build from there. What is particularly fascinating about “A Taste for Malice” is that the story does not revolve around the tracking down of a killer or serial killer. The central story, which develops in two parallel strands that steadily converge as the book moves towards its climax, deals with something altogether less wholesome.”

Book Review: SCRATCHGRAVEL ROAD by Tricia Fields

Scratchgravel Road by Tricia Fields is a gripping mystery with enough plot twists and quirky characters to keep you reading from start to finish without coming up for air.

Why did a local woman abandon her car by the side of the road in the Texas desert … and why was her unconscious body found beside that of a dead Mexican immigrant?  Why won’t the young woman answer the questions posed by Josie Grey, the police chief of the small Texas town?  And more importantly, what caused the man’s death–and the alarming wounds found on his body that just may signal something sinister going on at the dead man’s place of employment?

As the story unfolds, the small town of Artemis, Texas is embroiled in something much bigger than whatever it is Josie Grey discovered out in the desert.  And it’s her job to figure it all out before anyone else winds up dead.

Scratchgravel Road by Tricia Fields

by Minotaur Books

ISBN 978-1-250-02136-6 (hardcover)

ISBN 978-1-250-02278-3 (eBook)

Book Review: BLACK SHEEP by CJ Lyons

Here’s another book to be added to your list of must-reads.  In Black SheepCJ Lyons‘ characterization of FBI Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney is excellent–especially if you’ve ever asked yourself why people behave the way they do–especially your parents…

It’s the only mystery Supervisory Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney has never solved:  her father’s unexplained suicide after arresting his best friend for murder.  It drove Caitlyn to become one of the FBI’s best agents–and often the most unorthodox.  Her latest case is no exception:  when the man she holds responsible for her father’s death asks for help in finding his missing daughter, Caitlyn’s search brings her back to her North Carolina hometown.  The town is now vibrant with new money, old lies, and an unknown enemy who will do anything to keep Caitlyn from learning the truth–and who will kill to keep it buried.

The characters in this book come alive and the suspense kept me turning the pages.  And all the while I thought I knew whodunit, and why, I kept changing my mind.  Yep, this was one of those books I read straight through … ’til 2:00 a.m.

Black Sheep by CJ Lyons

Published by St. Martin’s Press February 26, 2013

ISBN 978-1-250-01534-1

Contact Sarah Melnyk

 

 

Writer’s Market reports “4 Book Publishers Looking for Writers”

I subscribe to Writer’s Market, as well as an email feed.  Couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this information:

4 BOOK PUBLISHERS LOOKING FOR WRITERSWritersMarket.com lists hundreds of book publishers for writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, writing for children, and more. Here are four open to submissions from writers:

  • Avon Romance publishes high quality romance novels. In fact, this HarperCollins imprint publishes 400 novels per year, and they take submissions directly from prospective authors. Use their online submission form.
  • Free Spirit Publishing produces 20-25 titles per year “to provide children and teens with the tools they need to succeed in life and to make a difference in the world.” Prospective authors should submit a proposal.
  • Seal Press publishes 30 titles per year. The publisher proclaims they publish books by women for women and hopes writers will take that into consideration when submitting. Prospective authors should send a query letter or proposal.
  • Shambhala Publications publishes 90-100 titles per year. This publisher is mostly focused on nonfiction topics, especially related to Buddhism, yoga, mindfulness, creativity, martial arts, natural health, and green living. Prospective authors should submit a book proposal by post.

(NOTE: If you’re unable to access the listing, it means you either need to log in or sign up for WritersMarket.com first.)

WritersMarket.com lists more than 8,000 publishing opportunities, including listings for contests, magazines, book publishers, literary agents, conferences, and more. Log in or sign up today to start submitting your work.

Click to continue.

Interested in Insurance CE Webinars?

I’m proud to announce that my client, A.D. Banker & Companyis offering a full line-up of CE Webinar courses beginning May 15, 2013.  These are attendance based sessions with NO final exams.  Courses are led by insurance professionals with years of industry experience and can be attended from anywhere the internet is available.  CE Webinars are currently approved in the following states:  AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, MO, MS, NC, NE, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, TX, UT, VA.

I developed and wrote several of the webinars and will be presenting two of the them:  Health Insurance and the PPACA and Cyber Liability.  I’m scheduled to present Health Insurance and the PPACA on May 15, June 12, July 11, August 8, September 10, October 22, November 19, and December 17.  I’m scheduled to present Cyber Liability on May 30, June 28, August 27, October 10, and November 13.

For a list of topics, click here; from that page, click on Continuing Education at the top of the page for dates, times, and pricing.

Why the Government’s Health Program (PCIP) is Running Out of Money

An article in today’s LifeHealthPro prompted my blog post today.  It’s about the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) that was established by the Affordable Care Act to guarantee health insurance for the unfortunate individuals who had health conditions so serious insurers wouldn’t write insurance on them.

Well, folks, the federally-run PCIP is running out of money to pay for the claims of all the sick people who purchased coverage through the plan.  Why is that? you may wonder.  Well, the government paid more in claims that it expected to pay.  Here’s my question:  Why did the government think insurance companies didn’t want to write coverage for those people?  And here’s my answer:  Because people with health issues have more claims than people without health issues do.

I’m not saying unhealthy people shouldn’t be able to have coverage.  However, since the very nature of insurance–and state insurance regulations–REQUIRES premiums to be adequate enough to pull in enough funds to pay claims, there’s only one things premiums can do when the costs of claims rise.  Yep, you guessed it.  So when the PCIP provided “affordable” insurance, it wasn’t charging enough premiums to pay the claims.  Which is really BAD news for the folks enrolled in the plan.  Which those of us who understand the nature of insurance expected to happen.  [P.S.   The PCIP stopped accepting new enrollees some time ago because the government saw the handwriting on the wall.]

I’m a nonsmoker in my late 50s who has no health issues:  my blood pressure is 120/80, my cholesterol is below 200, and I don’t take regular medication.  I don’t have diabetes or any other condition.  And I pay, personally, out of my own pocket (because I’m self-employed), $563 a month for health insurance.  I understand precisely what consumers are faced with concerning the costs of healthcare.

I’m also one of the few people who has a copy of the text of the Affordable Care Act on her computer, and who has read a good portion of that text.  (I admit it:  I haven’t read the whole thing.)  There are all kinds of provisions most consumers don’t know about.  And I’ll bet a lot of politicians don’t know about them, either.

If you’re interested in reading a brief, consumer-friendly timeline of what will be happening under the Affordable Care Act, you can visit Healtcare.gov at What’s Changing and When. Although many people know more about the Affordable Care Act than I do, I’ve  researched it extensively, written a couple of insurance courses on it, and presented a number of webinars on the topic.  I welcome your questions.

Book Review: COME HOME by Lisa Scottoline

I enjoy all of Lisa Scottline’s books but Come Home is by far one of the most emotionally wringing novels I’ve read in years.

After divorcing, pediatrician Jill Farrow has finally gotten her life back on track.  Her 13-year-old daughter Megan is happy and Jill is engaged to marry a wonderful man.  But when her former stepdaughter suddenly appears one night with the news that Jill’s ex-husband was murdered, Jill’s world is turned upside down.  Abby insists her father was murdered and enlists Jill’s help to find the killer.

Come Home combines the nail-biting tension of an expert thriller with the unbreakable ties of family.  As Jill’s obligations to her fiance, the daughter she loves, and the daughter of her heart pull her in different directions, she battles to do what is right and bring her family home.  If you’ve ever struggled with family ties and loyalty, this novel taps into all those turbulent emotions … and love.

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline

Released 04/10/2013 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN (hardcover) 978-0312380823

ISBN (ebook) 978-1429942324

P.S.  If you click the link above to Come Home, you’ll be taken to Lisa’s website where you can read the first chapter.

Book Review: DON’T GO by Lisa Scottoline

I love emotionally-charged stories and characters who grow and evolve throughout them.  Don’t Go is a powerful story and as emotionally charged as any story I’ve read in a long time.

While Dr. Mike Scanlon is serving in Afghanistan, his wife Chloe falls victim to a fatal household accident.  Devastated, he returns home only to discover he’s a stranger to his baby girl, and the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death are not as simple as they seem.  Now, he must fight to discover the truth and to reclaim his life–and his daughter.

This novel touches on all a parents’ fears, and all the things that go through your mind when you’re dealing with a tragedy you’re woefully under-equipped to handle.  Scottoline taps into all our fears and the guilty thoughts and recriminations that keep us up at night–not to mention our tendency to avoid when life is simply too awful to bear.

Don’t Go is a must-read.

Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline

ISBN (hardcover) 978-1-250-010070

ISBN (ebook) 978-1-250-025999

Release date April 9, 2013

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

 

Book Review: THE PERFECT GHOST by Linda Barnes

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Linda Barnes, including the books in the Carlotta Carlyle series, but she’s outdone herself with The Perfect Ghost.   I was truly awed by Barnes’  ability to build the character of Em Moore layer by exquisite layer in this tale of an agoraphobic biographer who is compelled to push her personal boundaries after the death of her writing partner.

The shy and insecure Em is forced to leave her structured world to visit Cape Cod to tackle alone the project she and her partner had begun before his death:  interviewing the dashing filmmaker and director Garrett Malcolm.  Normally the silent half of the writing partnership, Em becomes privy to family secrets and longstanding feuds, as well as the odd comings and goings of a washed-up movie star.

Everything about this novel is spectacular:  the characters, the storyline, and and the unique narrative of Em Moore.  You definitely need to add this book to your reading list.

The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes

Published by Minotaur Books

hardcover ISBN 978-1-250-023636

e-book ISBN 978-1-250-02364-3

 

Proof that Perseverance Pays Off

Have you ever given up on pursuing a dream because it seemed unattainable?  Or worse, quit because someone told you your dream was unrealistic?

Take a lesson from my friend, Jaclyn:  don’t give up and don’t quit.  On April 1st, and at age 83, Jaclyn is going to see her first romance novel published.  Talk about perseverance!

I first met Jaclyn  in 1989 when I joined Romance Writers of America.  She and I served on the board of directors for the New England Chapter of RWA from 1990 to 1994 and, for years, supported each other by critiquing each other’s work.  I’m SO proud of her and her accomplishments:  she’s won numerous awards for her writing and never gave up.

Her time travel romance, The Ring, will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing on 04/01/2013; here’s more info:

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Good Cop by Brad Parks

One of the things I like best about Brad Parks is that he’s funny. Downright hilarious, in fact. He’s also a terrific writer.

In The Good Cop, Carter Ross–a newspaper reporter in Newark, New Jersey, finds himself wondering why a cop committed suicide when he had everything to live for.  He had a terrific wife, two children he planned to take to Disney World, and the respect of all who knew him. When the local cops accept the suicide theory, despite the protests of the widow and others in the know, Ross does what all good reporters do:  he digs and keeps digging, despite a number of challenges, including attempts on his life.

Parks nails the setting, transforming Newark and all its many flavors into a top-notch character. The plot moves along at a good clip, tossing surprises and action with enjoyable regularity. And I love Carter Ross:  smart, witty, and human–the perfect blend between Alpha and Beta.

Brad Parks’ Bio (excerpted from his website):  Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus Award and Nero Award for the same novel.  That book, FACES OF THE GONE, introduced Carter Ross, the sometimes-dashing investigative reporter, who has gone on to star in EYES OF THE INNOCENT and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, which was named to the Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction of 2012 list and nominated for a Lefty Award for best humorous mystery. The series, which Shelf Awareness has called “perfect for the reader who loves an LOL moment but wants a mystery that’s more than empty calories,” has earned starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. It continues with THE GOOD COP and a fifth, as-yet-unnamed installment. Parks is a graduate of Dartmouth College and spent a dozen years as a reporter for The Washington Post and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger. He is now a full-time novelist who lives in Virginia with his wife and two small children.

The Good Cop

Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-1-250-00552-6

Release date:  March 5, 2013

 

Click here to read my 2009 interview with Brad Parks after he published Faces of the Gone, his first Carter Ross novel.

 

 

Free Webinar – Insurance Fraud

In partnership with A.D. Banker and Company, I’ll be presenting a 45-minute webinar preview of A.D. Banker’s insurance CE course, Identifying Insurance Fraud, at 1:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 7th and again on Thursday, March 21st.  The CE course is available online as a self-study course and, depending upon your state, has been approved for 5 to 7 credit hours for producers and adjusters.

Click here to register for the free webinar.

To review the courses offered by A.D. Banker (many of which I developed and wrote), visit their website and choose your state and preferred method of course delivery (classroom, online, or self-study).

All my webinars, trainings, and CE classroom presentations appear in my events calendar, which appears at the bottom of each page on this website, as soon as they’re scheduled.

Montana, Here I Come

Newsflash:

The response to my proposal for offering insurance continuing education classes in Missoula in September was SUCCESSFUL!  So, thanks to all those wonderful people who were able to receive my inquiry and respond so quickly, I’m in the process of negotiating conference space and mapping out the curriculum.

Of course, I need to submit everything to the Montana DOI for course approval, but I’m hoping to have that done within the next couple of weeks.  Once I’ve booked the hotel and scheduled the curriculum, I’ll put up a “Montana CE” page on the website for you to look things over and download a registration form.

Montana, here I come!

Shall I Head West to Montana?

I moved back to Massachusetts from Montana two years ago.  (Actually, my puppy and I headed out for the 2,700-mile drive on February 26, 2011.)  Since that time, many of the insurance professionals who attended the classroom insurance continuing education courses I offered during the 7 years I lived in Montana have contacted me to see when I would be returning.

Well, how can I resist all the love and devotion of those people … especially after all this time? In two words: I can’t.

I’ve decided to put together 2 days of classroom CE seminars in Missoula during the mid-September if enough people register for them.  Each day will offer two different seminars totaling 8 hours of CE credit.  At the moment, my plans for topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Flood Insurance (meeting FEMA training guidelines)
  • Healthcare Reform
  • Professional Liability (E&O, D&O, EPL, and Cyber)
  • Insurance Fraud
  • Mold
  • Terrorism

If you, or someone you know, are interested in attending and want to be included on my mailing list once I’ve settled on the curriculum and reserved the date and location, email me at Linda@LindaFaulkner.com

Free Webinar Presentations

I’ve partnered with  my client, A.D. Banker and Company, to develop and present a series of free webinars to preview new insurance continuing education courses, many of which I wrote.

The first of the webinars, which I presented on January 24th, was a preview of the two-hour insurance continuing education course, The PPACA: What Consumers Need to Know, which discusses highlights of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act–more commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve scheduled repeat performances at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 7th and Thursday, February 21st.

In March, I’ll presenting webinars on the subject of insurance fraud, the first of which is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 7th.  More details about these individual webinars is contained in my Events Calendar, which appears at the bottom of your screen.

It’s Us … It’s Not the Guns

It isn’t guns that kill people; it’s the people who wield guns who kill.

A gun sitting on a table, on your front lawn, or in the back seat of my car is never going to cause a single injury.  Yes, firearms are made by humans–as are smog, poisonous chemicals, and acid rain.  Why aren’t we trying to ban smog, poisonous chemicals, and acid rain?  Unlike those man-made substances, guns have no inherent ability to cause injury or death. It’s only when guns interact with humans that fatal outcomes occur.

Cars and trucks sitting in driveways and parking lots don’t cause deaths either.  But when people get behind the wheel, cars and trucks can become killers.  If people get behind the wheel and drive while impaired (in a variety of ways), their potential for causing fatalities increases exponentially.

The same can be said when people with impairments own and use guns.  Some people are impaired by anger, or sadness, or mental illness.  Others are impaired by bad judgment or momentary insanity.  In insurance language, a human was the proximate cause of the event in Connecticut.  Human impairment was the first event in an unbroken chain of events that led to the tragic deaths.

Our society must find the proximate causes of problems before prevent them. We must identify people who are likely to use guns for inappropriate purposes and prevent them from owning, or having access to, guns.  We must not turn away when we see an impaired individual owns, possesses, or has access to a gun–regardless of the type of impairment or the reason for it.  Far too often, every one of us chooses to look the other way rather than make an “issue” of something we know in our heart is wrong or may lead to injury. We must dig beneath the surface until we reach the root, and then rip it out from where it’s buried.

Blaming guns for the heartbreaking deaths of shooting victims is understandable … but its a form of denial. It reminds me of something I heard recently about rape:  Why do we teach people about  how to avoid being raped instead of teaching them how NOT to rape?

How Much do YOU Know about Car Accidents and Renting Replacement Vehicles?

I’m proud to announce that my magazine article, Rental Reimbursement Coverage:  Minor Coverage with Major Impact is the featured article in the Fall 2012 issue of the  national trade magazine, Today’s Insurance Professional.  It’s actually been so well-received, I’m receiving reprint requests!

I was asked to write the article by the International Association of Insurance Professionals after being contracted by a client to develop and write several insurance education courses on the topic of Rental Reimbursement insurance–which I then presented around the country and at two of the associations’ annual conventions.

Although the article was written with insurance professionals as its intended audience, consumers will certainly benefit from ” tips” about what the coverage provides and how both personal and business auto policies seldom offer “good enough” rental coverage without the addition of an endorsement.

Care to share any of your stories about car accidents and renting replacement vehicles?

What the Average American DOESN’T Know about the Affordable Care Act – Part II

Continuing from the blog post on Monday, here are few of the major provisions of the PPACA that will go into effect beginning in January 2014.

Most Americans will be required to be covered by health insurance or pay a penalty.  This is what is referred to as the individual mandate.   The following Americans will NOT be subject to a penalty if they aren’t covered by health insurance:

  • Members of a religion opposed to acceptance of health care benefits
  • Undocumented immigrants
  • Individuals serving time in jail
  • Members of an Indian tribe
  • Individuals with household income that doesn’t require the filing of a tax return
  • Individuals who must pay more than 8% of their income for health insurance—after application of any employer contributions and tax credits

A few facts about penalties:

  • They aren’t imposed until an individual has been uninsured for 90 days
  • Penalties are charged per person, with a family maximum, OR as a percentage of family income—whichever is more
  • Penalties, per person, per adult (children’s penalties are one-half the adult penalty) will be:  In 2014:  $95; in 2015:  $325; in 2016:  $695; and after 2016:  adjusted by annual cost of living increases
  • Penalties as a percentage of family income:  In 2014:  1%; in 2015:  2%; and in 2016:  2.5%

The following eligibility and rating restrictions will apply:

  • Coverage cannot be denied or non-renewed because of health status
  • Pre-existing conditions can’t be excluded
  • Premium rates may only be based on:  age, state of residence, individual or family enrollment, and tobacco use
  • Coverage cannot be cancelled or denied because of the enrollee’s participation in clinical trials for cancer or other life-threatening conditions

I’ll continue with more scintillating info on Friday!  So, what do you think so far?  Did you know these facts?  How do you feel about them?  How do you think they’ll affect you and your family?

What You Probably Don’t Know About the Affordable Care Act – Part I

During the past couple of years, I’ve written numerous insurance texts that are either devoted entirely to the Affordable Care Act or that contain chapters about it.  Formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the media refers to this recent federal legislation as Obamacare.

I won’t bore you with details about provisions you already know, like the individual mandate and employer requirements going into effect on January 1, 2014.  I will provide you with lesser-known details that will either affect you directly or affect someone you know.  This first blog post discusses some changes that will go into effect in 2013.

(By the way, I have the text of the PPACA on my computer in PDF format; although I haven’t read all 974 pages of it, I have read significant portions of it and have conducted extensive research about it.)

As a warm-up, here are some of the provisions of the PPACA that have already been put into place:

  • Dependent coverage for adult children must now be provided on their parents’ health policies until age 26 (subject to requirements for being a “dependent”)
  • Certain types of preventive care is no longer subject to deductibles and copayments, such as mammograms and colonoscopies
  • Lifetime benefits have been eliminated
  • Annual benefits limits have been restricted
  • Pre-existing conditions limits may not be imposed upon children under age 19

Beginning in 2013, tax-deductibility of medical expenses will change.  At present, taxpayers are permitted to itemize and deduct medical expenses if those expenses exceed 7.5% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.  This means if you earn $50,000 per year, you may itemize and deduct your medical expenses that exceed $3,750.  In 2013, the threshold increases to 10%.  So, if you earn $50,000 in 2013, you may only itemize and deduct your medical expenses that exceed $5,000.

If a person has a flexible spending account, the maximum contribution will be $2,500 beginning in 2013.  Up until that time, there has been no limit to contributions to this tax-advantaged plan that allows employees to designate a portion of their annual earnings to pay for qualified medical expenses.  (These funds are not taxed if used for qualified medical expenses.)

Also beginning in 2013, the Medicare tax rate for individuals who earn more than $200,000 per year will increase.  The same holds true for married taxpayers filing jointly if their combined wages are in excess of $250,000.  The increased tax rate applies to wages in excess of the thresholds.  These same individuals will also pay a higher Medicare tax rate on their investment income.

So, did you know these facts?  What are your thoughts?

Link to the text of the PPACA

Link to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation site about the PPACA

Link to the U.S. Department of HHS about the PPACA

LifeHealthPro’s list of articles about the PPACA

Link to Healthcare Reform Article by the New York Times

 

Book Review: When the Past Haunts You by L.C. Hayden

This is the second book I’ve read from the Harry Bronson series and it’s just as good as the first one.  Hayden sucks you into the story on the first page with her talent for devising unique and unexpected plot twists.

In a nutshell, retired police detective Harry Bronson is reluctant to even talk to his estranged sister when she calls, begging him for help.  Decades after the tragedy that destroyed his family, Bronson finds himself not only flying cross-country to his sister’s aid but also committed to solving a murder.  He winds up digging through years-old family secrets and dealing with a multitude of corruption among his sister’s wealthy and powerful friends and business associates.

The action is non-stop and, as Harry struggles to learn the identity of the murder, he must face his past.  I highly recommend When the Past Haunts You, which is available from Amazon in both trade paperback and for Kindle.

L. C. Hayden is an award winning author. Her Harry Bronson series have been the finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Novel (Why Casey Had to Die) as well as finalist for Left Coast Crime’s Best Mystery (What Others Know).

How to Protect Yourself from Violence

Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, may just be the single most important book I’ve ever read.  The sub-title of the book is “and other survival signals that protect us from violence.”

My biggest takeaway from reading the book is confirmation and validation of something I’ve always believed … but didn’t always know how spot on the belief was and didn’t always practice.  Here’s the takeaway:  our instincts are always right.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, if your instincts, guts, inner voice–whatever it is you want to call it–tell you something’s wrong, something’s wrong!

Contrary to what many will try to tell you, what de Becker calls instinct isn’t a 6th sense.  It’s not something woo-woo, it’s not clairvoyance, it’s not ESP.  Actually, it’s way more logical than that.  In fact, it’s precisely like the processing of a computer.  For example, I’m 56 years old.  I’ve lived on this earth for 56 years and have experienced 56 years’ worth of interactions with other people.  Every single moment of my life was recorded by the computer inside my head.  And, like a computer, my brain processed those sights, sounds, smells, and stored them away for future use.  My instincts are the embodied in the future.  When my instincts tell me something’s wrong, something’s wrong.   I may not know exactly what’s wrong, or why, but I can take the warning to the bank because the processor in my brain has evaluated all the facts and has spotted something out of kilter.

de Becker talks about pre-incident indicators, what he calls PINs.  No one is ever violent without first giving clues to the impending violence.  And, the majority of violence can be avoided if we pay attention to our surroundings and the people in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  The PINs are always there.  He also proves that fear, when respected, is not only a survival instinct, it’s your friend.

I read The Gift of Fear on the heels of reading Fight Like a Girl … and Win by Lori Hartman Gervasi.  Although Fight Like a Girl is  touted as a self-defense book (the sub-title is Defense Decisions for Women), it’s more a how-to about how to prevent putting ourselves in situations that are threatening or violent than it is about how to physically defend ourselves.  It’s practical and after reading it, I picked up dozens of tips about how to keep myself safe.  I especially liked Gervasi’s advice about how all sorts of everyday household contents have the potential to be serious weapons in the event an unwanted person (read:  man) enters your home, threatens you, and you need to defend yourself.

You can’t go wrong reading this books.  In fact, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you do so.  Especially if you read them in the order I did:  Gervasi’s book first, from a woman’s perspective, which views all the potential violence that’s out there and then de Becker’s book, from a man’s perspective, which is also that of a person who lived with violence as a child and grew up to be the premier security expert in the world.

P.S.  Many thanks to Alain Burrese, for recommending Gervasi’s book when he helped me with some research I was doing, and to both Alain and Gervasi for recommending The Gift of Fear.

Life’s Rule Book

Life’s Rule Book by Linda McHenry

Rule #1 - No lying.  Not to yourself or from anyone else.  P.S.  Silence equals lying by omission.

Rule #2 - Never try to change someone else—it’s disrespectful to both of you.  People are entitled to their own opinions, beliefs, and Rule Books.  Accept this fact, work out a compromise, or move on.  P.S.  Manipulation and bullying = lying.

Rule #3 - Listen to, and heed, your instincts.  Always.  You know how to shut down your mind and heart and listen to God.  He speaks through your instincts.  Listen to Him (or Her).

Rule #4 - Being open to people and experiences doesn’t mean you have to choose them.  Ultimately, people are responsible for themselves and their choices.  If you follow Rule #3, you’ll make your choices for the right reasons.

Rule #5 - You are not a fixer.  Just because you can fix things doesn’t mean you have to fix them.  P.S.  There is no rule that says you even have to try to fix something.

Rule #6 - Today’s feelings won’t necessarily be tomorrow’s feelings.  Forever is an illusion … its path can always be changed.  Live for today.  Embrace today’s feelings for what they are instead of trying to mold them into what you want them to become.  P.S.  This rule applies to other people’s feelings, too.

Rule #7 - The most important human emotions are caring, kindness, and compassion.  True love is a combination of these three.  A person who doesn’t care, isn’t kind, or lacks compassion doesn’t truly love … nor is that person able to love truly.

Rule #8 - A sense of humor is required.  If you don’t have one, get one.  Fact:  Laughing always feels better than crying feels.  It makes your face look better, too.

Rule #9 - Faith is required.  The only people who experience true happiness and love are those with faith in their Gods and in themselves.

Rule #10 - Trust is required.  You must give the gift of your trust, knowing it will sometimes be spurned or mistreated.  Trust is a demonstration of your faith and the knowledge that life is more enjoyable when shared with others.  If you misplace your trust, it doesn’t mean you failed, you’re flawed, or that life sucks.  No one knows what it means. There is no reason … other than “because.”  How do you deal with that?  See Rules #1 through #9.

This is What Happens When You Don’t Have Car Insurance

This is What Happens When You Don’t Have Car Insurance

I worked in the insurance business for over 30 years and, during that time, heard some really wild stuff.  This week’s story takes the cake.

My son-in-law was sitting on the couch in his living room yesterday morning at 7 a.m. when he heard squealing tires and felt the earth shake in unison with a loud bang.  A few minutes later he took the photo that appears at the top of this blog post.

Yep.  That’s his truck snuggled up next to my daughter’s car.  Both were towed away to the salvage yard today.  Total losses.  Both of them.

Their house is the second one in on their very short street.  Seems a young woman turned the corner (with no brakes, mind you), snagged the tow hitch on the truck, dragged the truck into the car, and then dragged them both into the cement retaining wall surrounding the kids’ driveway.  She claims to have passed out.  Funny how a comatose person can back up her car and drive to the end of the street before her car gives out on her…

Funnier still how the insurance I.D. card she gave the police officer at the scene isn’t valid. Wonder if that has anything to do with her leaving the scene–which, technically, she didn’t do because in that state, if you’re still around when the cops come, and you give them your info, you didn’t leave the scene.  Or if it has anything to do with the “rare blood disorder” she has that caused her to pass out in the first place.

So, because this woman doesn’t have insurance, my kids missed two days of work, have no cars, need to buy two replacement vehicles, and need to rent a car until they can buy two new ones.  Oh, and did I mention they can’t go on vacation next week because … THEY HAVE TO BUY TWO CARS?

All I can say is I’m really proud of my kids for being smart enough to take care of themselves by purchasing their own insurance and for buying adequate enough protection.  It’s a shame that so may other people simply don’t care about the consequences of their actions and how their irresponsibility can hurt other people.

Book Review:  UNSAFE ACTS by Bill Kirton

Book Review: UNSAFE ACTS by Bill Kirton

Here’s another excellent Jack Carson crime novel.  Set in Scotland, this story centers around an offshore platform in the North Sea and the people who work there.  Despite the fact that Ally Baxter has a girlfriend, his co-workers decide he’s gay and murder is the consequence of their extreme views on the subject.

When another murder victim is discovered, DCI Jack Carston finds himself embroiled in a much more complicated crime than a gay-bashing.  Issues arise with a subordinate officer and disciplinary charges  result from their interactions, making the crime that much harder to resolve.

Kirton tackles a number of issues in this novel, and they’re layered craftily.  His ability to combine ugliness with compassion, and then to top it off with a sense of humor, is only one of the reasons to read this book.

Unsafe Acts  was released in February 2012 by Pfoxmoor Publishing and is available in hardcover and for Kindle (free to Prime members)

ISBN 978-1936827213

Bill Kirton was born in England but has lived most of his life in Scotland.  He’s the author of stage and radio plays, flash fiction and short stories, novels, children’s books, and how-to books for college students.   He’s been a university lecturer, actor, director, TV presenter, visiting professor and artist at the University of Rhode Island and spent a few years as a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow in universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.  (Since I live about 10 miles from URI, I’m hoping he returns!)

Book Review: DIE A STRANGER by Steve Hamilton

This was the first book I’ve read by Steve Hamilton and I can’t wait to get my hands on another.  What I liked most about this book was the realistic portrayal of the characters and the fact that on the few occasions I put it down, I kept thinking about it and how urgently I wanted to get back to it.

DIE A STRANGER is a compelling thriller that takes us along on Alex McKnight’s trek across Michigan’s upper peninsula to find his friend Vinnie.  Vinnnie, a straight-as-an-arrow and  reclusive Objibwa tribal member, suddenly disappears and is suspected of being involved in a drug delivery gone wrong that results in the death of five men.

The suspense mounts as Vinnie’s father, an ex-con who disappeared years ago, returns to the U.P. and insists on forming an alliance with McKnight to track down his only son.  Alex is beleaguered not only by the questionable motives of  Vinnie’s father but also  by the taciturn and protective residents of the nearby reservation.  As Alex and Vinnie’s father team up to uncover clue after clue, they face the very real possibility that Vinnie’s days are numbered because of his mysterious link to a drug operation on the U.P.

DIE A STRANGER by Steve Hamilton

Release date:  July 3, 2012 by Minotaur Books

ISBN:  978-0-312-64021-7

Steve Hamilton is the author of the award-winning The Lock Artist and the New York Times bestseller, Misery Bay.

 

 

 

Review: MORE FORENSICS and FICTION by D.P. Lyle, M.D.

Review: MORE FORENSICS and FICTION by D.P. Lyle, M.D.

More Forensics and Fiction:  Crime Writers’ Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered is a wonderful book.  Not only does it answer the questions posed by some extremely creative crime writers, it also does some from two perspectives.  If you’re the kind of writer who wants the technical details, Lyle provides them.  But if you want an answer in English, he gives you that too.

For a fellow who’s a practicing cardiologist, teacher of forensic science classes in the criminal justice program at DeSales University, and author of many thrillers and non-fiction novels, he’s extremely generous with his time and expertise.  If you want to know about traumatic injuries or illnesses (i.e., Can nasal trauma cause my character to lose his sense of smell? or Could a doctor save an unborn child if the mother is shot and killed?), this is your book.  It’s also your book if you want to know about poisons, toxins, and how to effectively kill off a character, (i.e., Could my sleuth suspect that someone was planning a poisoning simply by seeing what he purchased at a grocery store? or Can my murderous gardener use autumn crocus to kill his victims?)

Other topics include The Police, The Crime Scene, and the Crime Lab; the Coroner, the Body, and the Autopsy; and Odds and Ends, Mostly Odds (i.e., How long could my character survive if buried alive?).

This is a straight-forward Q & A with a lot of helpful advice, from both a medical professional and a successful author.  Lyle shares questions he’s been asked by numerous authors (most of whom he identifies) in their quest for technical accuracy and then provides answers.  What I found both helpful and fascinating is that after D.P. Lyle, M.D. gave the specific answer the author wanted, Doug the author often suggested a variety of options that might work (or not) and then explained why.

Call me morbidly curious, but I found the book vastly entertaining aside from my perspective as a writer.  Even if you’re not the author of crime, mystery, or thriller novels, you’ll be fascinated by the tremendous amount of information and varying perspectives Lyle offers his readers.

D.P. Lyle, M.D. is the Macavity Award-winning author of Forensics for Dummies and has been nominated for both Edgar and Scribe awards.  He’s also been a consultant for a number of popular television series such as CSI: Miami, House, and Cold Case.  Visit Doug on his author website or at The Writer’s Forensics Blog.  His next Dub Walker thriller, Run to Ground, will be released in August.

More Forensics and Fiction - ISBN 978-1605423-94-4

Published by Medallion Press, Inc.

Released April 2012

 

Review:  BLOOD TEARS by Michael J. Malone

Review: BLOOD TEARS by Michael J. Malone

Michael J. Malone’s debut crime novel sold out its first printing within a week of being released.  Not bad.  And not the least bit surprising, either.

Blood Tears is a heartrendingly wonderful read and its protagonist, DI Ray McBain, is a flawed character you can’t help liking and identifying with.  McBain’s most recent murder case involves a victim who once worked in Bethlehem House, the Catholic orphanage in which McBain was raised.  The victim was tortured, killed, and left with wounds that clearly shout “Stigmata!”  The deeper McBain digs to uncover the killer and his motivation, the more firmly he entrenches himself in the past … and in recurring nightmares that threaten his sanity.

When McBain learns the murdered man was a pedophile, and that he’d actually worked at Bethlehem House while McBain was a resident, he withholds that information from his colleagues because he has a deep, personal, urgency to solve the case.  Unfortunately, when his colleagues discover his unprofessional behavior, they believe it has a more sinister motivation and McBain is arrested and charged with murder.  As McBain escaped jail and mounted his own investigation, I found myself not only sympathizing but also performing a lot of introspection and philosophizing.  And not just about Catholicism (into which I was born), either.

The cleverness of Malone’s dialogue and prose, along with his wit and ability to keep me turning the pages long after bedtime, make this novel a must read.

Malone’s poetry, over 200 works, has been published in Scotland and broadcast on radio to much acclaim and many awards.  His upcoming publications include a non-fiction book later this year (or is it early next year?) and the second in his McBain series.  Michael can be found  on his blog, May Contain Nuts, and as a reviewer on Crimesquad.

For those of us in the U.S. who aren’t able to hop over to Scotland to purchase the book in hardcover or on Amazon U.K., here’s a link to purchase it–shipping should take about 14 days and is free.  (P.S.  Although I was provided with an electronic Advance Reader Copy, I bought my own paperback and anxiously await its arrival.  Yep, I’m gonna read it again.)

How Hard Did You Practice?

How Hard Did You Practice?

I remember my mother having what seemed like hundreds of pairs of shoes when I was a little girl.  Way back in her closet, behind the sneakers and slippers and boxes of out-of-season clothes, hundreds of lovely high heels hung in the pockets of a nifty storage unit.  Brown, navy blue, black, tan, green, and my favorite:  red.  You know what the best thing was bout those shoes?  Every single pair had its personal matching handbag.

Although Mom never wore those high heels, they were cherished from the days before I was born … when she worked.  Outside the house, that is.  When, according to Mom, she had nice clothes.

On special days, she’d let me stroll around the house wearing a pair of those heels, the matching handbag slung over my shoulder.  On a really special day, she’d clip a pair of earrings on my tiny ear lobes and let me choose a necklace to match.  Matching was very important, you know.  So was not wearing white after Labor Day or before Easter.  But I digress.

What brought this memory on was the sound of clopping outside my front door yesterday afternoon.  It was a gorgeous spring day.  Sunny, warm, pollen-filled air filled the house after I flung open all the windows and doors.

I couldn’t imagine what the clopping was.  When I lived in Montana, it could certainly have been a horse.  Or a deer or a moose.  But here?  In Attleboro?  In the complex outside my townhouse?  I didn’t think so.

A peek through the screen door revealed three people and a Jack Russell terrier strolling by.    The mother looked normal–a bit on the harried side, her face lifted to the sunshine.  The little boy looked normal, dashing around in circles and kicking his sneakered feet in the air a la Karate Kid.  The dog looked normal, if on the small side, attached to the little girl by his leash. 

The little girl, however, looked splendid!

Clad in a pair of her mother’s tall black high heels  and her mother’s long gauzy red skirt, the little girl’s lips had been painted bright red to match the skirt.  A long black necklace bounced against her stomach in time with the clomping of those high heels.  She managed to get some really good hip action going as she paraded  down the street, imagining herself to be all grown up and gorgeous in those fancy high heels and glamourous skirt. 

I don’t think I ever consciously realized, before watching that little girl sashayed by my front door, how hard some little kids practice at being a grown up.  I still can’t figure out if I practiced too much … or not enough.

Reasons to Love April

Reasons to Love April

Although I’m sure plenty of girls and women named April are lovable, I’m not referring to them.  I refer to the month of April.

April’s my favorite month of the year for a number of reasons:  pink and red tulips, blossoming trees, baby bunnies, warm sunshine…  Oh, and my birthday.  Yes, I like having birthdays.  As my dad says, it beats the alternative…

Seriously, I do a lot reflection this time of year.  I don’t know if it’s because of all the birthing that goes on, literally and figuratively, or the new beginnings I’m forced to make … and that I choose to make.  Maybe it’s because I’m so happy during this month, or because I’m open to the wonderful experiences spring has in store for me.  In any event, I always seem to stumble across life-altering events and circumstances during these 30 days.

I learned that a boy I had a serious crush on in middle school grew up to be a convicted felon/sex offender.  No, I haven’t heard anything about him since I was 15 years old–which is a time span of 40 years–until now, that is.  Still, his situation got me thinking.  And asking myself questions like:  When he was 12, did he exhibit signs that he’d grow up to molest young boys?  Was he already on that path at age 13 … or did an awful, significant experience direct him that way?  How does his mother feel, knowing he’s done these awful things … and that his face is plastered on the Internet via Mugshots.com?  And finally, angry thoughts that won’t serve anyone by being published here.

Then, there was the little medical “issue” I experienced on Easter Sunday that forced me to step back from my life and re-evaluate.  There’s nothing like spending 26 hours in the hospital, with people who are are really, truly suffering from illness, to convince you that you don’t ever want to be sick.  Or in the hospital.  Ever!

And finally, there’s love.  The unconditional love of my furry, adopted offspring, who always make me smile–and who always give just as much as they take.  Unlike some people I know…  Due to changes in my life during the past year, I’ve learned some significant lessons in the L department.  Letting go of people you wish would love you is hard.  But hanging onto to those who really do love you is amazing:  their strength soothes hurts and they re-teach you that genuine love, the two-way kind, really does exist.

This April, I’ve decided to focus my energy on people (and critters and pastimes) that make me happy, make me feel valued, and who practice reciprocity.  I guess I do spring resolutions instead of New Year’s resolutions.

P.S.  If you want to know some other famous people with birthdays in April, here goes:

  • Eddie Murphy and Alec Baldwin
  • Maya Angelou and Queen Elizabeth
  • Scott Turow, Tom Clancy, and Beverly Cleary
  •  Matt Medeiros and Joe Azzopardi
  • Kia, the Siberian Husky we had when my kids were little (that’s him on the right)

P.S.S.  My mother snipped a poem out of an edition of Reader’s Digest a long time ago.  I can’t remember all of it, but it began “Linda swings in the April elm.”  It ends with, “Linda keeps her eyes on heaven, after all she’s only seven.”  I’m suer it wasn’t about me, but it should have been!

What are YOUR thoughts about the month of April?

Are You a Middle Child?

Are You a Middle Child?

A lot of people have griped about being a middle child.  I’ve heard that Mom and Dad trust the oldest more and let the youngest do more.  What say you about being a middle child?

If you’re a middle child, I’d love to receive your input for some  research I’m doing.

Feel free to make a comment here OR copy and paste the following questions into an email and send your responses to me at linda@lindfaulkner.com:

  1. As a child, did you resent your older or younger siblings?  If yes, whom did you resent the most … and why/why not?
  2. As an adult, do you still resent those siblings .. and why/why not?
  3. What are the advantages of being a middle child?
  4. What are the disadvantages of being a middle child?
  5. Do you think you’re more, or less, well-adjusted than children with a different birth order (i.e., firstborn, lastborn, or only)?
  6. In an emotional sense, which sibling are you the closest to … and why?
  7. Provide me with the birth order of you and your sibs, including only gender and age and where you fit into the sequence.  For example, I’m the oldest of four, so I’d say:  Me/Female; brother/2 years younger; brother/4 years younger; sister/8.5 years younger.
  8. Volunteer one or two other highlights (or lowlights) of being a middle child.

I will conduct a drawing of all the people who respond to my shout out.  If you’re the winner, here’s how you’ll contribute to the first book in my new series–the one with the middle child as the protagonist/lead character:

  • You’ll be able to name one of the characters, AND
  • You can choose one of the personality traits of the lead character.

 Thanks!

Shameless Promotion

Shameless Promotion

If you live in southern New England and want a beautiful lawn, contact New England Green Lawn Care, Inc.

No, it’s not my business.  Yes, it’s my son’s business … or, more accurately, the business he and his partner own. 

Who, you might ask, is my son?  Michael Murphy.  Who, you might also ask, is his partner?  Michael King.  Yes, it gets confusing when someone calls and asks to speak to Mike.  But people are calling–which is the most important thing, right?

Want to learn more about them and what they do?  Visit their website at http://NEGreenLawns.com.

Thanks!

 

Book Review: ICE CAP by Chris Knopf

Jackie Swaitkowski is an attorney practicing law in the Hamptons of Long Island.  Her client is accused of murdering her late husband’s uncle … and nobody wants to believe her client’s innocent.

The worst winter on record dumps endless snow on the Hamptons, which hampers our heroine’s attempts to discover who really committed the murder.  Of course, Jackie’s the only person who believes Franco Raffinni is innocent and she really has to work at it.  Also hampering her efforts to solve the mystery are members of her husband’s family and the Polish-American community in which they live, the victim’s widow, and emissaries of a local mob boss whose visits become increasingly more threatening and violent.

As a former resident of Long Island, I found myself skimming over the numerous references to the Hamptons; however, Jackie’s clever, witty, and entertaining personality MORE than made up for that minor flaw and I certainly didn’t skim anywhere else!  I laughed out loud numerous times as I read this book in one sitting.  Knopf does an excellent job writing from the perspective of his female character and I’ll be checking out more of Jackie’s adventures.

You shouldn’t miss this one.

ICE CAP by Chris Knopf

Available in hardcover on June 5, 2012 by Minotaur Books

ISBN 978-1-250-00517-5

How can you tell when a writer has writer’s block?

Dad and I were having a chat about my writing earlier today.  I shared that I’ve never had writer’s block because I can always write about something … even if it isn’t my current project or book.

To this Dad responds, How can you tell when a writer has writer’s block?  She has clause-trophobia.

Yeesh!

Book Review: Bonefire of the Vanities by Carolyn Haines

Bonefire of the Vanities, the 12th in Carolyn Haines‘ series about PI Sarah Booth Delaney, needs to be added to your summer reading list.  It’s a clever, funny, adventurous mystery you won’t want to put down once you start reading.  Chock full of entertainment, this novel’s focus is a religious cult’s attempt to bilk an elderly billionaire of her fortune … and the PI who masquerades as a maid in her attempt to put an end to the scam.

Filled with charlatans, spooks, murder, and plot that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking, Bonefire of the Vanities is simply an excellent read.  I was very impressed by Haines’ ability to simultaneously make me laugh out loud and shudder about the prospects of what just might happen next.

I need to go out and buy 1 through 11…

BONEFIRE OF THE VANITIES by Carolyn Haines (ISBN 978-0-312-64187-0)

Minotaur Books; hardcover on sale June 19, 2012

 

Today is March Pourteenth

Today is March Pourteenth

Happy birthday to my granddaughter, Bridget, who turns 13 today. 

Love, Grammy

What Does an Insurance CE Seminar Look Like?

What Does an Insurance CE Seminar Look Like?

Thought I’d share with you some of the photos taken in St. Louis at the world headquarters of Enterprise Holdings, the people who rent cars under the Enterprise, Alamo, and National brands.

As one of my clients, Enterprise Holdings hires me to write insurance and training courses and to present seminars, webinars, and other training workshops.  Earlier this week, we collaborated for the benefit of American Family Insurance and had a terrific time!  (The breakfast burrito was excellent, as were the chocolate chip cookies.)

 The gentleman in the photo featured above is Don Ross, Vice Chairman of Enterprise Holdings.  He introduced me to the American Family claims professionals and agents who travelled from across the country to attend the two training sessions I conducted yesterday … and earned this place of honor  by telling me I didn’t need lipstick to look beautiful.  Sigh.  Now if he could only pass his people skills along to a few other people I know…

Many thanks to Mary M.  for always making my trips to St. Louis special.  Thanks, also, to Donna H. for providing me with these photos and to Keith H. for being a wonderful host.

What’s Your Birth Order?

What’s Your Birth Order?

I’m preparing to begin writing the first book in a series that revolves around a family:  two parents and four children.  I’ve researched birth order in the past and agreed a great deal with the opinions of Dr. Kevin Leman, who wrote The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.  I’m using the information gleaned from his book, and other sources, as I create my characters and–more importantly–their motivations.

Although I’m a firstborn, I admire the traits of the middleborn the most but get along better with lastborns.  Why do you think that is? 

Well, according to Dr. Leman (who’s a psychologist) people get along best with others who are opposites–personality-wise.  He claims  the majority of married couples he’s counseled during the past 30 years have been firstborns, onlies, or a combination of the two.  (I surely fit that demographic!)

Anyway, here are a few of the things Dr. Leman has to say, followed by brief descriptions of traits that are universally accepted to belong to certain birth orders (by people who agree with the concept, of course!).

  • In a family, each child is most directly affected by the next oldest child.
  • Each child typically behaves opposite the next oldest child. However, if he believes he can compete successfully with the next oldest child (and “overthrow” that child), role reversal takes place.
  • All children want attention from their parents and begin seeking it in infancy; if they don’t get it, they seek either power or revenge–in that order.

Firstborn traits:  Goal-oriented, seek control and approval; aggressive; type-A personality; responsible; conservative; organized; serious; self-sacrificing; puts self and others under stress and pressure; perfectionist

Middleborn traits:  Peacemaker; easy-going; peer-oriented rather than family-oriented; excellent people skills; adaptable; agreeable; may feel overlooked, unheard, ignored; compromising; loyal to friends; secretive; risk-taker; may be cynical or suspicious

Lastborn traits:  Creative; charming; manipulative; identifies with underdog; can be too dependent upon others; risk-taker; spoiled; lazy; temperamental; clown or comedian; entertainer; fun-loving; affectionate; reads people well

Only child traits:  (Very similar to firstborn):  Struggles with parental expectations; perfectionist; doesn’t handle criticism well; critical of self and others; confident; doesn’t relate well to peers when a child; self-motivated; fearful and/or cautions; self-centered

So, what say you?

Karma … and Perspective

Karma … and Perspective

Do you believe in Fate?  Or What goes around comes around?  Or any of the other phrases and cliches that address the vagaries in life?

I surely do.  I recently spent twelve tortuous days that were an illustration by God:  somewhere, sometime, I did a very bad something.  And He remembered.

On the other hand, if I look that those days from a different perspective:  the fact that they weren’t worse–and didn’t involve a couple of circumstances that surely should have happened–given Mother Nature and the law of averages–I was clearly rewarded for being a saint.

I started out believing Karma had it in for me … and ended being grateful for my wonderful good luck.  As the famous Donald McHenry is quoted in Taking the Mystery Out of Business:  9 Fundamentals for Professional Success:

“Why is it that successful people seem to have a lot of good luck?  Successful people make their own luck by putting themselves in so many good situations good luck seems to follow them.  Ergo: the harder you work, the luckier you are.”

These days, I work real hard at maintaining a positive attitude.  And I’m lucky–it’s working for me.

How’s Karma treating you lately?

A Couple of Characters…

A Couple of Characters…

My friend, Lois McElravy, is a national speaker who uses humor to motivate and inspire.  The survivor of a serious brain injury, Lois knows all about challenges and hardships.  She sometimes uses a character, Louis, to help make her points when she tours the country talking to business men and women, brain injury survivors, and a host of other audiences.

I thought I’d share an article Lois co-wrote with fellow speaker, Steve Weber, not only because it’s interesting but also to illustrate that if you think it’s tough speaking in public as yourself, imagine what it would be like to be Louis or Forrest Gump!  Here’s the link to the article they co-wrote for the national magazine, Speaker Article.

Feel free to share your thoughts about public speaking…

And remember that true friends are just as important on Valentine’s Day as our other loved ones!  I love you, Lois!

My 4th (and probably final) Wagon Train

My 4th (and probably final) Wagon Train

Have you ever driven cross-country?  Neither have I.  But I have driven 75% of the way across the country … four times!

In October 2003, I moved to Montana where I lived until last February, and it’s a 2,700-mile drive from Attleboro to Evaro, the tiny town 20 miles north of Missoula where I settled in the mountains on 10 acres of forested land.  (I was born in New York City and moved to Massachusetts when I was 11 years old; I’ve lived most of my life in Massachusetts.)

Yes, the picture appearing at the top of this post is what I saw when I stood on the front porch of my Montana house and looked north.  It’s pretty much what I saw when I looked south, east, and west as well–although only between the months of November and April!  A few of my favorite Montana pics, taken by yours truly, pepper this post.

When you head west by car, you can literally feel things calm down:  the frenetic pace of motorists disappears, speech patterns slow, and people become more warm and open.  The landscape, as you’d imagine, changes too.  The rolling hills of New England and Pennsylvania turn flat as you drive between endless cornfields, silver silos, and big, red barns.  Fog embraces you when you skirt Lake Michigan, obscuring the skyline of Chicago, and the wind nearly blows you off the arrow-straight highway as you make your way across the badlands of South Dakota.

When you head east on the way back, the scenery is even more beautiful.  There’s nothing quite like looking down as you drive through  a mountain pass over the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,300 feet.  The stark beauty of the Crow Indian Reservation reminds you about the history of the wild west and prepares you to drive through the towns of Sundance and Buffalo in Wyoming and Spearfish and Deadwood in South Dakota.

In addition to the awe-inspiring views, the variety of wildlife takes your breath away:  the enormous bald eagle standing right beside the highway, trying to figure a way to chase off the three turkey vultures munching on a carcass.  White-tail deer, mule deer, elks, antelope, coyotes, hawks, marmots, muskrats, raccoons–you name it, we saw it.

I didn’t take any pictures as I completed this fourth, and probably final, trip between Attleboro and Evaro.  I want to remember all the joy I experienced in Montana–not the sadness of leaving it.  They say people are the same everywhere but I don’t believe it.  The people in Montana were the warmest, most welcoming people I ever met.  (Click here for my magazine article, I’m Home, which was published in Three Rivers Lifestyle magazine in 2006.)

My family, however, is here in Masschusetts and they hold a bigger piece of my heart than Montana does.  Which is as it should be.  My family taught me about love, and about following my heart wherever it leads me.  I’m a richer, happier person for having lived in Montana and experienced the last best place.  I’m richer still as I surround myself with my father, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Home isn’t a place.  It’s a safe haven wrapped in the arms of people who love you.

Why won’t that song get out of my head?

Why won’t that song get out of my head?

We’ve all experienced the tune that plays over and over in our minds like it’s related to the Energizer Bunny.  Lately, however, the never-ending-tunes have been paying me a visit several times a day.  Every day.  And yes, it’s tunes–as in plural.  About half a dozen songs simply can’t get enough of my attention.

Yes, I’m more of an auditory communicator and learner than a visual or kinesthetic one.  Yes, I can play musical instruments.  And yes, I listen to music often–but not all the time.

What do you think it means?  Is my unconscious trying to tell me something?  Should I sift through the musical messages to find fodder for the new mystery novel I’m writing?  Am I too dense to realize I have ESP and someone’s speaking to me?  Am I going nuts?

Do you know what prompts your never-ending-tune?  What do you do about it?

What self-publishing is … and is not

A lot of unpublished folks seem to think self-publishing is the way to go these days.  Unfortunately, the two people I spoke with during the past few days didn’t really understand what self-publishing is.

So, in an effort to educate those without any publishing experience, here’s a brief outline of some facts I think you should know when considering to self-publish.  Of course, this is only my personal opinion so I’m counting on the rest of you–published and self-published alike–to chime in here to assist the uneducated.

Traditional publishing:  The writer sells his or her work to a publisher, who pays the author for the rights to publish it.  The publisher pays the costs associated with transforming the writer’s manuscript into a book–whether it’s a hardcover, paperback, or ebook.  This includes editing, printing, some publicity, etc.  The author doesn’t pay the publisher anything.  Depending upon whether the publisher is a large conglomerate  or a small press, the writer will either receive an advance and royalties in exchange for the rights to publish the book or will simply receive royalties. 

Self-publishing:  The writer controls all aspects of the publication of the work–and pays all the costs associated with publication.  This includes editing, printing, and publicity.  The self-published author may pay a publisher to handle publication (sometimes called a vanity, or subsidy, publisher) or can handle everything himself or herself.

All the details about book publication are negotiated and spelled out in a contract when a writer contracts with any type of publisher.

The popularity of print on demand services (the publisher prints books as they’re ordered rather than printing a large quantity at one time, before most orders are received) has given many people the impression that writers published by small, independent presses are self-published.  Not true.  A self-published writer may certainly get his or her books to market via print on demand services, but so can an independent press or a traditional publisher.

With the proliferation of small, independent presses, it’s a lot easier for writers to get published these days.  The publication of ebooks is also helping writers get published more easily.

I provided a couple of links for you to check out if you’d like a little more detail.  What does anyone else have to add?

Using Two Monitors

Using Two Monitors

If you’re a writer–or anyone who sits in front of a computer all day–you might want to consider using dual monitors.  I pooh-poohed the idea before I tried it, too.  But I wouldn’t work any other way now.

With the wide screen monitors in the photo shown above (which sit on the desk in my office), I can have 4 documents or screens open at the same time.  This eliminates the need for much of the paper on my desk, including the easel that took up a lot of space in the area I preferred to use for writing notes.  Of course, if you’re not blind as a bat like I am, you might be able to move the easel more than arm’s distance away!

I find the dual monitors especially helpful when I’m conducting online research or when I’m writing and have to copy information or need to refer to details.  The larger the monitor, the large the font size I can use, which really saves on eye strain.  Hint:  my super-smart, computer geek son-in-law informed me you can reduce eye strain by making sure the room in which you sit when working at the computer is neither too bright nor too dark.  I always thought bright light was best but he says it isn’t–and he’s right!  I also found that if the light in the room is indirect (not overhead and not within my field of vision when looking straight ahead) I don’t suffer as much eye strain.

I purchased my second monitor (the one on the right side of the photo) for $99.  Brendon (the genius son-in-law) referred me to an online site where I purchased the video card for my computer.  For under $200 and one beer (that was Brendon’s fee), my monitor was installed and operational in about 15 minutes.  Of course, that was after I ordered the video card online and waited for it to be delivered!

Seriously, you should consider the dual monitors.  Anyone else out there use them?  Care to share your thoughts?

Apostrophe Abuse:  A Lesson

Apostrophe Abuse: A Lesson

I’m seeing a lot of apostrophe abuse lately.  Everywhere.  I can’t pick up any reading material, or look online, without seeing people misusing apostrophes:  In the newspaper, in advertisements, on Facebook and Linked In, and on slates hanging outside front doors, for Pete’s sake!

Here’s the free lesson.  Apostrophes are used for the following major purposes:  (1) To indicate one or more letters have been omitted, as in a contraction: don’t (the “o” is missing); and (2) To indicate possession, as in Linda’s rant about apostrophes.

There are other reasons to use apostrophes, but they are all related to the preceding.  So, how do I see apostrophes being misused? Let me count the ways:

I heard that song in the 1970′s. What’s the omitted letter? Where is the possession? It should be the 1970s.

The slate outside your front door says The Faulkner’s. If you want the sign to indicate that the house belongs to the Faulkners (i.e., possession), I guess it’s okay. But if you want the sign to indicate two or more people named Faulkner live in the house, the slate should say The Faulkners – as in the plural of a singular Faulkner.  (Each of us is exceptionally singular, by the way.)

Merry Christmas from the Smith’s:  Bert, Bertha, Bertie, and Bertina.  NO APOSTROPHE!  The Smiths is the plural of a singular Smith. 4 Smiths = plural; 1 Smith = singular. The Christmas message isn’t about possession.

Now that you get the idea, please report apostrophe abuse by commenting here.  Maybe we can eradicate the damned nuisances.

Censorship and SOPA

I’ve never liked the idea that anyone, especially a government, can tell people what to say.  As a writer, the prospect terrifies me.

Personally, I don’t care for pornography.  But you know what?  No one has ever forced me to watch it.  In fact, I’ve never accidentally “stumbled” upon it, either–unless you count one or two pop-ups on my computer.  And once I had the proper Internet security in place, that stopped!

If you don’t like the idea of censorship, here are a few links I checked out while I researched this SOPA thing.  Hope they help!

Feel free to comment and provide us with additional links and perspectives.

People Who Change Your Life

People Who Change Your Life

I just had an email conversation with my 7th grade English teacher.  She’s the person who convinced me, 43 years ago, that I could become published if I kept working at it.

I was 12 years old when she explained what I needed to do to contact the publishers of magazines to submit my work for consideration.  No one was interested in buying stories about the adventures of Throckmorton the frog, but the experience of submitting my work–and receiving rejections–stayed with me for years.  In a good sense.  I felt important because the publishers actually responded to my submissions!  You see, my family didn’t think it was possible for a kid to get published.

Fast forward 34 years to the event of the publication of my first newspaper column.  During the next 7 years I published numerous magazine articles, insurance education books and courses, and my first novel.  During a radio interview about the upcoming release of my mystery Second Time Around,  the interviewer asked me what motivated me to be a published writer.

I immediately thought of two women:  my mother–who told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and Pat Goldman–who showed me how to do what I’d set my mind to.

My life wouldn’t be the same without those two women and their support … and belief in me.

Who changed YOUR life?

And the winner is…

Maureen Roy!

I bribed my friends, fans, and business associates to visit my new website with the promise of entering them in a drawing for a free book if they’d comment in response to my January 4th blog post.  Well, it worked.  I got lots of visits to the website, many comments on the blog, and even more personal emails.

If you left your website along with your comment, I’ll be cross-promoting and marketing you on Twitter and/or Facebook as a thank you for your support.

And, if you didn’t leave your website with a previous comment, doing so in the future will net the same results.

Thanks for all your kind comments and good wishes.

Happy, healthy, prosperous 2012!

 

Book Giveaway Winner to be Announced

Thanks, everyone, for responding to the announcement of my new website launch!

The deadline for entering the giveaway to win a free copy of one of my books is Monday, January 9th at 11:59 p.m.  In order to enter, simply make a comment in response to my Januray 4, 2012 blog post.

The winner will be announced on the blog in the morning of Tuesday, January 10th.

If you win, which book do you want?

How YOU Can Benefit from my New Website Launch

2012 is going to be a terrific year … I can just tell!

It’s going to be terrific for one of you readers, too.  Because I’m so excited about the new website, everyone who enters a comment after this blog post will be entered into a drawing to win one of my two books (winner’s choice).  If we can get enough comments going, I’m sure I can be persuaded to offer more than one free book.  How many comments do you think I should collect in order to offer a 2nd free book?  Should I offer one free book for every 20 comments?

You may comment about anything you wish but remarks about how wonderful I am, and how wonderful the new website is, will be especially appreciated.  Many thanks to Matt, Jeff, Jonathan, Derek and the entire team at Slocum Design Studio for their creativity and efforts on my behalf.  What a great WordPress team!

P.S.  All kidding aside, I truly do welcome all your comments. 

P.P.S.  All three of my websites now feed into this one site:  my fiction site, my non-fiction site, and the Faulkner Education Services site.

P.P.P.S.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Attainable New Year’s Resolutions

We all know about New Year’s resolutions … about how we always make them and never seem to accomplish them.

Well, I’ve managed to accomplish my last two New Year’s resolutions.  Of course, they were rather vague and not very specific.  For that reason, however, they allowed some flexibility and managed to be not only reasonable but also attainable.

For many years, I actually quit making New Year’s resolutions because I always failed to lose weight or acquire large sums of money.  Our of sheer desperation one year, I decided I really needed to take care of myself … instead of everyone else: family, clients, even strangers in line at the grocery store who had far fewer items to check out and were really in a hurry.

Why do so many of us actually believe other people are busier than we are,  live more stressful lives, and face more challenges?  Well, I got over that.  We all have 24 hours in our days.  Most of us have parents, siblings, children, co-workers, bosses, employees, friends, neighbors, strangers, etc. who bring joy to our lives and/or manage to seriously mess with them.

Two years ago, my New Year’s resolution was to take better care of myself–as in, every single day I thought of something I could do to take care of myself.  I accomplished that goal by putting a sticky note on the bathroom mirror (Take care of yourself today!).  I accomplished a lot more thinking about taking care of myself than actually doing it, but the point is I truly thought about my own well-being each and every day.  And managed to take better care of myself in 2010 than in previous years.

I began 2011 with the goal:  Be Selfish.  This was the result of 2010′s goal being too vague.  Being selfish is a lot more specific.  Or so I thought.  About a month into the year, I realized selfish was too harsh a word.  (Of course, I should have looked it up in the dictionary before making my resolution.)  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, selfish means “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”  Since I’m a writer, I decided to take poetic license with the definition and, for my purposes, simply eliminated the “without regard for others.”  It worked for me and I did a terrific job.  Resolution accomplished.

So, there I was on December 31, 2011, and I still hadn’t come up with a New Year’s resolution.  I admit it’s tough coming up with one that beats those of the last previous years.  And, being the over-achiever I am, I really do prefer to keep beating past records.  Instead, I decided to pitch my competitiveness (even with myself) and go a little deeper with my goal of taking care of myself.

So, here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2012:  Do something for myself each and every day that improves my personal well-being.

Yes, it’s posted where I can read it every day–although not on my bathroom mirror.  And I’m more than happy to share it with you.  Feel free to take it for yourself.

If you have one, what’s YOUR New Year’s resolution?  How did you arrive at it.  If you don’t have one, why not?

Regardless, here’s wishing you good health, weight loss (if you want it), large sums of money (if you get them and don’t want them, feel free to donate to the Linda Fund), and much happiness in 2012.

Dreams

When we’re little, most of us want to grow up to be someone wonderful and/or famous: a brain surgeon, an astronaut, a professional athlete, an Oscar-winning movie star, a chart-topping singer, a bestselling author … and the list goes on.

Somewhere along the line, however, most of us begin to believe our dreams are not only far-fetched but unattainable. According to Webster, a dream is a ”strongly desired goal or purpose.” But our parents, or brothers and sisters, or teachers, or friends tell us we’re nuts to think we’ll ever hit number one on the country charts … or the New York Times bestseller list. They lay out the odds, in explicit detail, against us becoming the first-string quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

We buy into all the ”good advice” about how we’re being unrealistic and immature and selfish when we plan to skip college to join a rock ‘n’ roll band or submit our applications to NASA.

My job here today is to tell you that all that “good advice” is bullshit. And those people don’t know what they’re talking about.

How do I know? Because I began living my dream on 11/11/11–which would have been my mother’s 78th birthday if she were still alive. Which is ironic, since she was one of the biggest supporters of my dream … while also being one of those people who nagged me to put my dream on hold while I attended to the responsibilities of living in the “real world.”

I always wanted to be a published writer. As in: a writer who supports herself with her writing. Yes, part of that dream was being a bestselling author of fiction–which hasn’t happened yet. But I am supporting myself with my writing. Exclusively.

Am I doing it exactly as I’d dreamed? No. Am I doing it as quickly as I’d dreamed. Hell, no. But am I doing it? Yes. Imagine how quickly I could have done it if I hadn’t allowed myself to believe all the garbage…

Then again, maybe this is exactly the way it was supposed to be. Maybe the lessons I learned along the way– and the patience I acquired and the flexibility and adaptability that are so much a part of my professional repertoire–were an essential part of the journey.

Here’s the lesson: don’t give up on your dreams. Even if you have to put them on hold while you live your life in the “real world,” take them out and examine them on a regular basis. Do what you have to do to fulfill those dreams. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Because if you do, your dreams will come true.

DARK MIND by Jennifer Chase

Emily Stone is hot on the trail of an abducted child and the clues take her to the beautiful island paradise of Kauai. It doesn’t take long for her to get thrown into the middle of murder, mayhem, and conspiracies. A serial killer stalks the island, taking women in a brutal frenzy of ancient superstitions and folklore. Local cops are stumped without any clues or suspects.

Can Emily find the killer before it’s too late?

Scheduled release date: November 21, 2011

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Y6V0RfvFQ

Blog: www.authorjenniferchase.com

Website: www.jenniferchase.vpweb.com

Crime Watch Blog: www.emilystonecrimewatch.wordpress.com

Book & Crime Talk: www.blogtalkradio.com/jennifer-chase

Books: Compulsion = Dead Game = Silent Partner = Screenwriting

EIKO, a new release by Kenan Brack

In this martial-arts fantasy, a young girl is raised by the assassins who killed her family. When she comes of age, she becomes their next target. Eiko follows a dangerous and fascinating journey as she grows from child to young woman, along the way experiencing a world few could understand.

Eiko was released on October 1, 2011 and is published by GrayBooks, LLC. It can be found at http://graybooks.net/aisleseatbooks/eiko.

EIKO, a new release by Kenan Black

In this martial-arts fantasy, a young girl is raised by the assassins who killed her family. When she comes of age, she becomes their next target. Eiko follows a dangerous and fascinating journey as she grows from child to young woman, along the way experiencing a world few could understand.

Eiko was released on October 1, 2011 and is published by GrayBooks, LLC. It can be found at http://graybooks.net/aisleseatbooks/eiko.

Does YOUR auto policy pay for a rental car?

Here are some facts about auto insurance losses in the United States:

  • Approximately 1 in 8 drivers will be involved in an accident in a given year (National Safety Council)
  • Nationwide in 2005, 2 cars were stolen every minute (Better Business Bureau)
  • Speed is one of the most common factors causing car wrecks (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
  • The highest incidence of claim frequency and severity among vehicles of model year 2007, 2008, and 2009 occurred with very large luxury sport utility vehicles (Highway Loss Data Institute)
  • Only 75% of all costs related to car accidents are covered by insurance (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • After an accident, the average car is in the repair shop for nearly 2 weeks
  • Nationwide, 19% of all motor vehicles involved in accidents are uninsured (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

So let me ask you this: if you can’t drive your car after it’s been involved in a wreck–or struck by a tree, or stolen, or vandalized–what are you going to do? Hitchhike to work? Take a cab? Inconvenience friends and/or family? Rent a car?

If you rent a car, who’s going to pay for it–you or your insurance company?

On average, the annual cost to buy rental reimbursement coverage on your auto policy is less than the cost to rent a car for two days.

Want to know more? Just ask!

Murder on the Interstate by Jean Henry Mead

Murder on the Interstate is the third novel in Jean Henry Mead’s mystery/suspense series. The book features continuing characters Dana Logan & Sarah Cafferty, two 60-year-old amateur sleuths traveling Interstate 40 in northern Arizona in their mothorhome when they discover the body of a beautiful young woman recently shot to death in her Mercedes convertible. They soon learn that the killer is stalking them. Their murder investigation leads them into danger and they’re kidnapped by homegrown terrorists plotting to take down the government.

Murder on the Interstate has received the following blurbs and reviews:

“Careen into crime with two intrepid sleuths who outwit terrorists in a fast-paced plot taken from today’s headlines. A page turner. ”

~Carolyn Hart

“Murder on the Interstate burns rubber right out of the gate and exceeds the speed limit on every page. With all the car chases, gun shots, screeching breaks, and crashes, the movie version could be the sequel to one of those car-heist action-films. Except for the fact that the protagonists are two women approaching Medicare, and their vehicle is a motorhome. Dana and Sarah are stalwart, clever and funny characters, and author Jean Henry Mead caroms them from one tight situation to another as they weave along the Interstate and into a high stakes mystery.”

~J. Michael Orenduff, Lefty Award winning author of The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein

“Full of surprising twists and turns, Jean Henry Mead has produced an RV adventure with her two senior sleuths in hot pursuit of a murderer, but the tables turn and the two women learn that not only are they in danger but so is our national security. An exciting mystery that will keep you turning pages.”

–F. M. Meredith, author of Angel Lost

(Murder on the Interstate is the third novel in my Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series.)

.Murder on the Interstate is currently available from Oak Tree Press in print and will soon appear on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Interstate-Jean-Henry-Mead/dp/1610090144/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1305156555&sr=8-1 and at Barnes and Noble: http://my.barnesandnoble.com/communityportal/WriteReview.aspx?EAN=9781610090148

Interview with Peggy Frezon

Peggy Frezon is a freelance writer and pet enthusiast. This interview is about her writing and, if you’re interested in learning more about her “animal” side, check out her interview over at Forever Friends which appears on March 23rd..

You do a lot of freelance writing and submit work to a lot of places. Share with us what it’s like to be a freelance writer.

The best part of being a freelance writer is doing what you love, and working from home. No commute. No problem if you’re sick or just want a day off. And yes, sometimes I do work in my pajamas!

I generally write every day from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., with a break midday to take Kelly for a walk. Sometimes I write at midnight–freelancing usually means you can have a flexible schedule.

The most difficult part about being a freelance writer is the isolation. It helps to meet people with similar interests through social media, and join a few face-to-face writers’ groups and attend conferences.

Your latest book is about dieting with your dog. What sets it apart, why should we buy it, and where can we buy it?

Dieting With My Dog is unique because, sure, it’s a dieting story, but it’s also about a reciprocal relationship. When I learned that my dog was headed toward some serious medical concerns if she didn’t lose weight, I was ready to do anything to help her. The funny thing is, my doctor had given me the same warnings for myself for years, and I never took action. Kelly, however, became the motivating factor to help me face down the physical and emotional reasons for overeating (and overfeeding my dog).

This book is “for anyone who has ever loved a pet–through thick and thin.” Parents and pet parents will relate to the emotional struggles of motherhood and the empty nest.

Dieting with My Dog will be released September 15 (August 15 in the UK). You can pre-order the book now on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Dieting-My-Dog-Figures-Unconditional/dp/1845844068/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295758203&sr=8-1

What did you learn while Dieting with My Dog?

Keeping fit is a lifelong challenge. Humor helps. And everything’s easier with a best friend.

What’s your take on the furor about eBooks and how they’re going to change the world of publishing?

I think it’s inevitable. I don’t own an e-reader yet, but I assume that in time I will. I love books, holding a book, turning the pages. But I am comfortable with technology and there is no use fighting it. I write for several magazines and we are constantly figuring out ways to integrate our website and Facebook pages with the print pages. Most authors today need to understand and embrace blogs, twitter, etc. to survive.

What are the addresses of your websites, blogs, and other online presences?

Peggy’s Website

Peggy’s Pet Palace

Pawsitively Pets (Guideposts website column)

 

Stanley Moves in by Jack Rosse

When you think of fairies, the name Stanley doesn’t automatically come to mind. Come to think of it, grumpy doesn’t come to mind when you think about fairies, either.

All that aside, Jack Rosse (also known as crime writer Bill Kirton) has crafted a children’s story in the same fashion as the stories he’s been telling his grandkids for years. Stanley lives in a wash basin in Jack’s bathroom…

Wait! Why don’t I let Stanley tell his own story?

Here’s the book trailer, narrated by none other than Stanley himself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ci7qZhzKA90#!

You can find Stanley Moves In on Amazon and you can find the author’s website here: http://www.bill-kirton.co.uk/