The Gifted Ones Book 2 Cover Reveal

Argh! Here I go, once again, madly in love with my own, sadly, fictional creation. Meet Daniel Holybear, another of the Gifted Ones, and a descendant of the Manitoke Indian tribe in eastern North Carolina. When a nearby construction project uncovers an ancient artifact on tribal lands, Daniel calls in some of the Gifted folks that readers met in Book One to help unravel the mystery and protect the property from unscrupulous developers. But you needn’t worry yourselves with all that, just sigh and drink in all the lovely alpha-maleness you can stand. He does make a very fine cover model, doesn’t he? And for those of you who want more than a just a pretty picture, hang in there, the book is in final editing now, and will be released before pi day (3/14/15).
Cover Photo Credit: fatalsweets

Niagara Falls Freezes Over

Well, I’ve never been to Hell, but I’ve been to Niagara Falls, and I’ve never seen it like this! As a matter of fact, I was born in Niagara Falls and still have a few die-hard relatives up there. I hope they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to see it on one of its rare frozen-over days. Okay, it doesn’t actually freeze completely over, but the mist and falling water on top do freeze, creating the so-called ice bridge between the U.S. and Canada. It’s a rather incredible sight, as these pictures from the Daily Mail show.
Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the couple inches of pretty snow we got here in the southeast today. Down here, snow is a few times a year treat where the cities shut down, and the kids build snowmen. All this time trapped indoors, however, is helping me get Book 2 of The Gifted Ones series out the door. Be looking for it in the next couple weeks!
via: PHOTOS: Niagara Falls has frozen over

High School — Then and Now — Is This What We Want?

Go read this thing. It’s meant to be funny, but it’s so, so accurate. Is this really the direction we want our country to be heading? Where everyone is scared to death of everything that might possibly, conceivably, someday hurt them in some way? The world is not a safe place, people. It never has been. And contrary to what our leaders will have you believe, it’s a heck of a lot safer today than at any time in the past, and that’s despite, not because of, the numerous and sundry safety measures our governments have inflicted upon us. There will always be a balance between freedom and safety. If you don’t care about the freedom to drive a car wherever you’d like to go, to eat and drink the foods you choose, to live your life as you see fit, then don’t try to place those restrictions on others, even if you think your choices are superior. It’s their life, their body, and their decision! We can’t protect everyone from everything without sacrificing the joy of living.
via: Gettin High at High School (

Ah, Selecting the Perfect Christmas Gift

I saw this cartoon over at The Meta Picture, and couldn’t help but relate it to what I’ve been feeling for the last week or so. When Christmas shopping for loved ones, you want to find that perfect gift—that item that says “I know you. I know what you like. I know what’s important to you.” Or at least one that doesn’t scream, “I grabbed this off the check-out rack last night, while I was buying milk at the mini-mart.”

Rolling Stone Rape Story Reversal

So wow, you try to blog about stuff you learn from reliable, respected news sources, and look what happens. This week, Rolling Stone totally backpedaled on their blockbuster gang rape story from last week. Apparently, whatever they figured out in the last seven days, they were unable to determine in the prior many months of researching this story, and here’s what they have to say about it:
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.
I get their whole thing about wanting to respect the victim’s privacy, but they’re a news and commentary source, and a darn good one—usually. They had one job, dammit, and that was to write a well-researched, fair and balanced story. They didn’t even ensure that the date of the event was valid, or that there was a guy from the fraternity who worked at the place the victim worked. How can you call a source credible if you don’t check any facts?
Bottom line is they blew it, and that makes my original remarks about the story even more important. A college campus is no place to render justice, and neither is the court of public opinion. I have no doubt that something happened to this young woman, and it probably was awful, and my heart goes out to her, but unless she wanted to press charges with the police, the details should have stayed between her and those she chose to support her. I don’t blame her; it sounds like she was pushed to do this—the magazine sought her out to tell this story publicly, not the other way around. Spreading unverified rumors about something so heinous is as wrong as the act itself, and Rolling Stone should know better.
via: Rolling Stone Says It No Longer Trusts Woman in Gang Rape Account | TIME

Rape is NOT an Honor Code Violation

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week, you’ve no doubt read, seen, or at least heard about this Rolling Stone exposé detailing one young woman’s horrifying experience of gang rape at a UVA fraternity house. I recommend reading the article on an empty stomach, because the story will likely sicken you. It’s the sort of thing you read and wonder how one group of human beings could ever do that to another, particularly human beings who are smart enough and dedicated enough to be attending a high profile university. The focus of the article, however, is primarily on UVA’s and many other universities’ mishandling of rape cases and how the federal government is pressuring them to do a better job or face losing federal funding. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I fail to see how that’s really the big deal.
If you asked a mother and father to adjudicate an incest allegation between two of their children, would you expect an equitable resolution and a satisfactory outcome? For those who couldn’t read my sarcastic tone, the answer is no, of course not. You don’t ask strongly interested parties to adjudicate anything; generally, you ask them to recuse themselves in favor of neutral parties, preferably those with expertise in criminal and legal matters. University administrators and classmates are neither. Like the aforementioned parents, they are highly biased and ill-equipped. And understand, I say this as much for the accused as the accusers. An allegation of rape is not something that should be decided by a bunch of overachieving poli sci majors. Even if the case never makes it to the formal legal system, should students be allowed to be labeled as rapists by a kangaroo court? And potentially be expelled, lose scholarships, or be thrown off athletic teams? Such a ruling could unfairly effect the student’s entire life, if, in fact, they’re not guilty. I’m sorry, but the college honor council should not be imbued with that kind of power.
Sexual assault is a serious and despicable criminal act, not an honor code violation. In the FBI’s violent crime statistics, rape is second only to murder and non-negligent manslaughter. Plagiarism and stealing the rival team’s mascot don’t make the list. If a victim chooses to come forward, his or her case should be brought to the police, not the university cheerleading squad. To quote Robby Soave from his article in Reason magazine, “Cheating and raping are not related things. The former is an academic infraction deserving an academic punishment, like expulsion; the latter is a violent crime deserving a rigorous police investigation.” Universities don’t need to get better at handling rape allegations; they need to get the hell out of the way.
via: The UVA Rapists Should Not Have Been Expelled –

A Betty Crocker Thanksgiving

As any of you who read me regularly have probably gathered, I am no Betty Crocker and sure as hell not Martha Stewart. It’s not that I don’t like to cook or clean or decorate my house, so much as there are a hundred other things I’d rather be doing. When I do have a momentary lapse into domesticity, it usually turns out okay—that is to say, no one is poisoned, and the fire department isn’t on speed dial. Truthfully, my best such skill is sewing. When I was young, ready-made apparel was expensive, and the clothes didn’t come in “low-rise slim-fit boot-cut” and “mid-rise roomy ankle” and “curvy petite long” and every other fit combination, so there was a real advantage to being able to sew your own. Now that that is no longer the case, and my kids are too old for Halloween Costumes, my one domestic super-skill is now useless.
With that in mind, I decided to wander on over to Pinterest to look for some nifty Thanksgiving Day ideas for my home and family. Here’s what I found at Pinterest Thanksgiving Pins.
Rice Krispie Turkey Legs
Yes! I can do this. These are so cute and fun, and the recipe doesn’t involve baking, basting, roasting, or sautéing. I’m on it.
Pumpkin Skinny Dip
This low-calorie dessert dip is intended to delight your health-conscious Turkey Day guests. Right. Look, if it’s not going to pack a layer of flab on your fanny, I’m not including it in my holiday line-up.
Gourds & Greens Festive Table Decorations
Wait, you mean people actually do this? Other than professional home stagers, that is. Sorry, not happening. Besides, this would totally clash with the Autumn Leaves Chinet.
Sweet ‘n Spicy Chicken Bacon Wraps
OMG, for realz? Do you know how many ingredients this thing has? It takes five pictures just to show the steps! How am I gonna watch Miracle on 34th Street with this going on? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Five Ingredient Easy Crock Pot Creamed Corn
Yo, domestic goddesses, got a tip for ya: you can buy this stuff ready-made. That’s one ingredient. I’ll loan you my can opener.
Holiday Fork Caddy
Why? Seriously, why?
Autumn Fun Pie Crust
Also known as too-much-time-on-my-hands Pie Crust, this little beauty is just the kind of thing that would make me go, “Help! I’ve been abducted by the Stepford Wives!”.
Pretty Pumpkin Toilet Paper
No. Please. God. No.
Okay, so I’m going with the Rice Krispie things. Except I may not make them turkey-leg shaped. In fact, I may just leave them flat in the pan. Or maybe just eat them straight out of the mixing bowl before they’re cooled. Or better yet, just pour the Rice Krispies in a cereal bowl with milk and eat the marshmallows on the side. Yeah, that’ll work. And then I’ll do what I do every year on Thanksgiving: call Cracker Barrel. They do a mean Thanksgiving take-out. For like seventy-five bucks, you can get everything you need for a family of six (except the Chinet). And my kids are old enough to drive now, so I don’t even have to pick it up. Sweet.
Wishing you the Best Thanksgiving Ever,
😉 Maria

Why Do Teens Want to Argue about Everything?

A couple nights ago, after yet another silly argument between my husband and our teenage daughters over who-knows-what, he looked me and asked, “Why do they want to turn every little thing into an argument? And why do I let them suck me into it?” I had to bite my lip not to laugh out loud. Why indeed! And this is two entirely different questions. The first one, I actually know the answer to.
When I was working on the third book in the Unbreakable series, I had to do a lot of research into trauma and the teenage brain, some of which made it into the novel. One thing I learned is that, contrary to earlier assumptions that all the real growth in human brains takes place before the third birthday, we now know that the adolescent and teenage years are the powerhouse “pruning” years. During this time, the brain begins to weed out the less-used paths in favor of the more-used paths. While this might sound like a shrinking period, it’s not. Think of the young brain as a hunk of clay that needs to be chipped away at to form a beautiful sculpture. During the sculpting phase, the mind is organizing and prioritizing information, ideas, and skills to optimize each individual’s gray matter to suit their particular needs. If the young person is spending much of his time studying math or playing sports or learning the piano, his brain will optimize itself for these activities. That doesn’t mean he can’t acquire completely different skills at some point in life, just that it will be harder.
But there’s also this:
“Scientists have discovered that in the teen brain, the emotional center matures before the frontal lobes. Emotion therefore often holds sway over rational processing. When we realize that the prefrontal cortex allows reflection, while the amygdala is designed for reaction, we can begin to understand the often irrational and overly emotional reactions of teens.”
Unfortunately, as the above quote points out, the amygdala is fully formed a few years before the thinking center of the brain, and as a result, we get the “high-strung” teen, who responds first with emotion, and later, with rational thought. That’s just how it works, folks. Without those emotional outbursts, the mental reorg can’t complete. Junior really isn’t purposely trying to test your patience or hurt your feelings. Even if it seems that way in the moment. As the adult in the room, you have the benefit of a fully mature prefrontal cortex, so use it. The next time your little darling screams at you for not predicting the weather accurately, or dissolves into a puddle of tears over your choice of dinner entrée, remind yourself that there is an artist at work inside that pretty little head, and chunks of clay are flying everywhere. But I know that’s easier said than done. Just ask my husband.
Read more here: The Adolescent Brain: A Work in Progress – Pat Wolfe – Mind Matters, Inc.

Kids Love Realistic Barbie Doll

Here’s a great piece from Time about Nickolay Lamm’s new Lammily doll. Lammily is a Barbie-type doll that looks realistic, or as the kids who first tested her out put it, “She looks like my sister.” The doll is proportioned more like a typical teenager, complete with optional acne, moles, and scars. If you’re someone who has worried about presenting your daughter with highly unrealistic body images, you’ll appreciate Lammily. The video of the childrens’ reactions to the doll is especially interesting to watch. After seeing it, I understand better why my daughters’ most beloved fashion dolls were the ones who looked most like them.
via: TIME | Watch Little Kids React to a Realistic-Looking Barbie Alternative

Double-Blind or Double-Barrelled?

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