Anyone who’s read the Unbreakable series knows I have strong opinions about Big Pharma. What they may not know is that those opinions are based on my own experience working as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry. Ten years of massaging the numbers left me a permanent skeptic. Every time I hear someone talk about such-and-such a drug or treatment being backed by “good science” like double-blind studies, I just roll my eyes.
This story in Newsweek focuses on one particular drug, Tamiflu, but it’s just one of many. Trust me, all the positive results are twisted to sound way better than they are, and the side effects are always downplayed or explained away as not related to the drug. Just know this: for every prescription drug you take, every vaccine you receive, every treatment you subject yourself to, it’s the same—neither you nor your doctor nor the FDA knows the true risks and benefits of these chemical concoctions. Caveat emptor.
Read the full article here: Big Pharma Plays Hide-the-Ball With Data
Here’s another recent “Sample Sunday” sample of Little Miss Straight Lace:
Buy Little Miss Straight Lace now.“Charlie, hit me again. Please.”Charlie cocked a brow at the man seated at the end of the bar. “Don’t you need a little break, Spidey? That’s three in an hour, fella. Give ’em time to digest, for God’s sake.”“Do I tell you how to pour, Charlie?” But the stocky man knew when he’d been cut off. He huddled over his empty glass, then glanced surreptitiously around him at the almost empty room. Little early yet for the regular Thursday night crowd, but vigilance had become a habit with him. He had seen that Doc guy—the PsyOps dude—a couple times, and he was making sure to keep out of his way. Wasn’t sure if the guy knew he was involved in the whole mess, but he didn’t want to find out the hard way. The guy had made him nervous enough when he’d thought it was all just a little drunken machismo, but once he’d figured out the truth about Doc’s gal…sh*t, he knew he was lucky to be alive, and he wanted to stay that way. And he had never forgotten that he had her to thank for that. Maybe someday he’d thank her for the ten grand he now had hidden in his grandmother’s basement. Not that he hadn’t earned it. Fair and square. He was an honorable fellow.So why did he still feel so lousy about the whole thing? He’d done the best he could, hadn’t he? Under the circumstances. If he hadn’t done what he did, surely it would have been worse for her, right? ’Course, what could be worse than having your gray matter grilled? Looked like the lady still didn’t know her own name. Third Street. Jesus. Not like she didn’t know how to take care of herself, but…three against one? Nobody likes those odds. Then again, maybe she didn’t know how to take care of herself. Not anymore. Not with a hard-boiled head. A toasted tomato. The stocky man grimaced.Such a nice lady, too. Maybe he should’ve done more to help her. Or maybe he should’ve moved to another town. Still could. He was bound to run into one of those PsyOps people sooner or later, just like he did today. And the next one would probably kill him.
Here’s a Sunday Sample from one of the lighter moments in Maria Romana’s Little Miss Straight Lace.
Buy Little Miss Straight Lace now.Nic watched with amusement. Clearly, the older woman was just relieved not to have a screaming child in her arms any longer, but all Josie was worried about was soothing the woman’s feelings that the baby preferred a family friend to his own grandmother when he was most upset. Mama K just sighed and headed back out to the porch. Nic resumed drying the dishes, and Josie returned to the sink, but only to lean her back against it, while she held Nate, still comforting him, stroking and kissing the little red curls on his head, and patting his behind. The boy remained alert and awake, but gradually his tense muscles loosened and drooped, one of his legs flopped, and the hand firmly gripping Josie’s hair finally released.“He is unusually attached to you.”“Attached, yes. Unusual? I don’t think so. He’s just used to having me around. The twins were still really little when he came along, and twins, as you can imagine, are very demanding. Especially those little girls. I mean, it was just boobs, boobs, boobs, twenty-four-seven.” Nic laughed out loud, and then Josie did, too. “Oh, but I’m serious. Poor Maggie. And then to find out she was pregnant again so soon…” Josie looked up in her head and muttered, “Shawn—horny b*stard.” Nic quirked an eyebrow at her, and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”Nic had to fight not to laugh again. Boobs, twenty-four-seven. Horny b*stard. Being around Josie was like putting on your favorite old pair of slippers.“Anyhow, there was no way Maggie could handle all three kids with Shawn gone to work all day. He’s a great dad and all, but he works really long hours, and it was just a zoo around here, so I came to help. I pretty much moved in for the first six months of Nate’s life.” She touched the boy’s cheek gently, and he pulled his thumb out of his mouth to clasp onto her fingers. “Granted, I’m not much use in the kitchen or the laundry or whatever, but what these guys need, I got.” She lifted the boy up, so they were face to face, and grinned at him, wrinkling up her nose. He reached gleefully toward her face, then snagged one of the bright purple earrings she was wearing. “Ooh, oh, ouch! Honey, Aunt Jo needs that ear. Sweetie, let go, please…”Nic quickly set down the drying and turned to them. He gently lifted the hook out of Josie’s ear, leaving the earring in Nate’s hand. “Is it all right if he has it?”“As long as he doesn’t poke it in his eye.” She lowered him so he sat around her waist while he played with it.“But how did you work while you helped Maggie with the children?”She tipped her head slightly, “Oh, I just cut down on my contracts for a while…way down.” She seemed far away for a moment, then came back, “I’d been working too much. I needed a break.”“You were not worried about your business, or your reputation…”“No. I’m good at what I do. I figured they’d call back, and most of them have. The ones that haven’t—” She shrugged. “Their loss. Besides, what’s more important?” She looked straight at him.“The family, of course.”“You agree?”“Completely.” He smiled, then intercepted the earring just as Nate was about to shove it up his nose.Nic nodded to himself—question answered. Five hundred points to the little lady in the t-shirt and sarong. It would be a cold day in hell before Linda Coleridge put family before work. And a bitterly freezing one before she shrugged her shoulders at the thought of losing a client over a friend’s child care needs. Hey, wait a minute—Linda Coleridge? Linda Remedian! He hadn’t thought of his ex by her maiden name in years…Nic picked up the towel again. Wasn’t there something else that needed drying?
“Sample Sunday” is a weekly treat for readers in search of new books or new authors. One way to find free samples is to search the Twitter hashtag #SampleSunday. Another is to head over to Pixel of Ink, a popular blog for ebook readers, which hosts its own Sample Sunday event via Facebook. Here is a Sunday Sample of Maria Romana’s Little Miss Straight Lace that was recently linked on Pixel of Ink’s page.
When Nic returned to the balcony, Nina was bending over the half-wall, apparently looking for Josie. Robert grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back upright. “Hey, Babe, take it easy. I don’t want you to fall. She’ll get here.”“You see her now?” asked Nic.Nina spun around and looked at him. She tilted her head. “Purple. I like it, Nic. You needed some color.”Nic ran his hands down the front of the golf shirt and said, “Josie gave it to me.”Nina grinned. “Well, aren’t you two cute?” Then she pointed in the general direction from which Josie was apparently coming and added, “Because she’s wearing some lavender dress she said you bought for her. Awwwww.” Nina batted her eyelashes furiously.“Oh, so that’s her,” said Robert, now leaning on the half-wall himself, and pointing. “Gee, and I thought she was that big lady in the yellow tent dress.” He started laughing at his own joke.Nic joined them at the half-wall. “Oh, you are so funny, Robert. Now you know why Josie could not drag herself out of bed this morning to meet you before we left.”Robert turned to Nic and gave him a cockeyed grin. “Somehow, Nic, I doubt my sense of humor has anything to do with how incredibly exhausted your girlfriend always seems to be.”“Or how hungry,” added Nina.Nic tried to scowl at them, but couldn’t keep the corners of his mouth from turning up.Robert pressed a hand down onto the half-wall, and pushed his bangs off his forehead again, as he looked out. “Hey, I can see her pretty well now. Gee, she’s really cute, Nic.” He waved to her. Josie’s walk slowed, and she seemed to stare at him oddly. “Uh, yeah—she doesn’t have a clue who I am. Nic, you wave.”She was still some distance away and kept coming. Nic waved at her as she crossed the boardwalk and approached the building. He called to her, “Hey, Jos, come on up, honey. You are missing the sunset.” He beckoned to her, but her eyes were focused on Robert. She stopped walking and just stood.Nina called to her, “C’mon, Josie. We want to open the wine.” She turned to Nic, “What’s wrong? Why did she stop?”“I don’t know.” He beckoned and yelled down to her again, “Josie! Sweetheart. Come on!” Josie’s gaze drifted over to Nic for a moment. She looked a little pale. Then suddenly, she spun around and headed back the way she’d come, breaking into a run. “JOSIE! Wait! Come back! What the hell is she doing?”“Maybe she left something on the boat?” offered Nina.Nic started across the balcony. “I’m going after her.”“Just wait a minute, Nic. I’m sure she’ll be right back,” said Robert.But Nic was already at the French doors. “Uh-uh. It is getting dark.” Then he stopped and stepped back to the umbrella table. He snatched his cell phone off it, and added, “Something is not right.”
As some of you may have noticed, I recently had a new cover made for Little Miss Straight Lace. To go along with my new look, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the story that recently appeared on Red Adept’s Book Review blog. Hope you enjoy it!Buy Little Miss Straight Lace now.Josie pulled her laptop toward her, but peered out the corner of her eye. Shit. They were sitting right up at the bar. Probably waiting for a table for dinner. Six o’clock, too. Why didn’t they make reservations? Losers. She saw Gary shift in his seat, opening his view to the room. Then, as he glanced around, acting casual, he caught her eye and grinned ever so slightly. A twinge poked in her belly. She quickly shifted her focus back to her laptop. Ignore him, Josie. Your club, your friends, not his.“Jos!”She looked up. It was Shawn, grinning from ear to ear. She smiled back, “So…did you work it out?”“Better.” He plunked down in his seat and picked up his wine. “Guy was kissing my ass.” He tossed back the last of his glass. Josie grinned and leaned in to hear the scoop, but before Shawn could say any more, they were interrupted.“Shawn, Josie, how are you two?”Goldman. Great.Shawn answered for both of them, “Gary. Is there something we can do for you? Josie and I are in the middle of a very important meeting.”Gary brushed the top of their empty wine bottle with his thumb. “Looks like it.” He turned to Josie, “Shawn tells me you’re getting married soon. Kind of hoping I might get to meet your fiancé. Oscar says he’s a real swell guy. Nic, right? Not gone to South America again, is he?”Pins and needles started pricking the back of her neck. Why was Gary asking about Nic? How was it he cared enough to remember Nic’s name and where he was from? An image flashed in her mind of the day at the airport, of Gary watching Nic load his bags in the trunk of the car. Was he going to do something to Nic? Try to get back at her by hurting him? Not while she was alive! Josie looked up and faced Goldman as she hadn’t before. Stupid sardonic grin. Ice cold green eyes—nothing like Daddy’s. She looked Gary in the eye and answered him, “None of your damn business.”Both Shawn’s and Gary’s eyebrows shot up. After a second, Gary recovered and reached out toward her, running his finger along the top edge of her computer. “Well now, that wasn’t very friendly.”Not very friendly, is she? Three guys standing around her and one behind—surrounded!Huh? What was that? What was she thinking of? Josie felt the color draining from her face.Before anyone could say anything else, Gina suddenly reappeared at the table. “Josie, hun, sorry to interrupt, but would you taste test these for me? New recipe I’m trying. It’s called chocolate covered golden hearts. See, it’s these little flaky pastries with a layer of…”But Josie wasn’t listening. Chocolate covered golden hearts. Chocolate covered. Chocolate covers. Gold hearts. Josie could see it—a bed with a chocolate brown coverlet. Windows with chocolate brown drapes. A bathroom with chocolate brown towels. All with gold accents. Where? When? And Gary Goldman. Huh? Why was all this stuff floating around in her head today?“Josie? Will you, hun? Will you try them for me?”She tried to focus on Gina’s face and her pretty red hair, but Gina was standing right next to Gary, who was still grinning his stupid grin and no doubt seeing the confusion on Josie’s face. The voices in the room were pulling away, sounding distant. Someone had lowered the lights. And turned up the thermostat.“Jos, you okay?” Shawn’s voice.“What is your name? Where do you live? Do you know who I am?” Gary’s voice. But the words didn’t match his lips. How was he asking that? Why was he asking that?“Doctor, should I increase the dose now?” Gina’s voice. But her lips weren’t moving at all. And why would she call him ‘doctor’? Well, he was a doctor—of finance, right? But Gina didn’t know that.The room was getting darker still, and the voices in it further and further away. Crap—she was losing it. No, no, no. Not now. Not right in front of world’s biggest jackass. Not right after she’d finally stood up to him. Josie pushed herself up from the table…wobbly as shit. Just need to get out of here, get some fresh air. She backed away from the table, knocking her chair down as she went, and ran toward the veranda door. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.When I was in high school, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was required reading. It was one of the better books we were given to read, and it stuck with me. Fahrenheit 451, if you haven’t read it, is about a future world where books deemed dangerous to society are banned and burned, in order to protect people from their potentially inflammatory ideas (pun intended). The books so designated included anything historical and most of classic literature and poetry, lest anyone reading them be inspired to an original thought. I’m reminded of this book today after reading an editorial in the September 18th Springfield, MO News-Leader, entitled “Filthy Books Demeaning to Republic Education”. In this piece, Dr. Wesley Scroggins reports on some books that are part of the Republic, MO school curriculum, which he feels are inappropriate for the school system and should be removed. Which tasteless tomes has he targeted? Besides some sex education materials designed to explain the birds and the bees to the eighth-graders before they figure it all out for themselves, he picks on Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel Speak. This highly acclaimed, award-winning book is extremely popular with both teachers and students, because it presents an ugly topic—teenage acquaintance rape—in a fictional, non-preachy, easily accessible format. Speak takes a painful subject, ordinarily relegated to whispered conversations, and places it squarely in the hands and minds of those who need it most. Dr. Scroggins objects to two passages in the book which hint at the rape of a high school freshman by a boy she met at a party. Dr. Scroggins refers to these passages as “soft pornography”. Pardon me while I laugh so hard I choke on my own spit. Speak is told in the voice of the victim, a young girl whose description of the experience is perfectly age appropriate and about as objectionable as an evening with the Disney Channel. Maybe less so. I find myself wondering what his real motive is, as I can’t see any reasonable person being offended by the material in this book. The Scarlet Letter was a whole lot racier, and does nowhere near what Speak can do to encourage young people to open up about their problems, rather than keeping it all inside. But what am I saying? I’m sure Dr. Scroggins hates The Scarlett Letter, too, since it opens up that nasty can of worms about religious leaders who abuse their positions of power… This attack on free speech hit a little closer to home for me, since it was my discovery of Speak several years ago that inspired me to write Little Miss Straight Lace. Speak was the first book I ever read that managed to explore the unpleasant aftermath of teenage sexual abuse in a realistic, but fictional format that would appeal to anyone. LMSL takes a similar approach, but focuses on mature adults embroiled in a conspiracy tying back to traumatic experiences in their youth. I can only hope that my words will carry a fraction of the impact that Ms. Anderson’s have. And I can also hope that some future-world maniac will threaten to ban my work from schools and libraries, as I could use the publicity. I suppose Ms. Anderson owes Mr. Scroggins a debt of gratitude for his very public, ultra-conservative tirade, since it has already spurred a renewed interest in her already popular book. Sorry, Dr. Scroggins, your book-burning plan just backfired.
—Ray Bradbury, Coda to a later edition of Fahrenheit 451