Saturday, June 25, 2016

A RISING “STAR” OF SCI-FI/ FANTASY


A RISING “STAR” OF SCI-FI/ FANTASY:


With the forthcoming release of Nine of Stars, critically acclaimed author Laura Bickle is first author to transition from Harper Voyager’s digital-original line to traditional print!


New York, NY, June 2016 – Today, Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, is proud to announce a major milestone for its Harper Voyager Impulse e-book original line: on December 27, 2016, critically acclaimed author Laura Bickle will be the first author to transition from Harper Voyager’s digital-original line to the traditional print publishing Harper Voyager program. Her Harper Voyager print debut, Nine of Stars (mass market paperback, 12/27/2016, ISBN: 9780062437662; $7.99), will be the start of Wildlands, a Weird West-tinged Contemporary Fantasy series revolving around the adventures of geologist Petra Dee.

As the SFF industry begins to celebrate outstanding works of speculative fiction at the upcoming Locus and Hugo Awards, among others, Harper Voyager feels that Bickle’s books are equally outstanding and worthy of celebration! Says Harper Voyager Executive Editor, David Pomerico: “The critical attention of Laura’s work is what drew us to the books in the first place, and we feel Nine of Stars is a novel that showcases her talent at the highest level. Whether on the print or eBook list, Voyager is committed to publishing the very best speculative fiction, and with Laura’s writing, we felt we had a truly unique project we couldn’t wait to help find an even wider audience.”

Harper Voyager is incredibly proud and excited to be publishing Laura Bickle’s novels; her original contributions to the Harper Voyager Impulse line, Dark Alchemy and Mercury Retrograde, both received multiple starred and top-tiered reviews. Nine of Stars will revolve around many of the same characters that populated these prequel novels, although it will effectively function as the starting point for a great new series.

MORE ABOUT LAURA BICKLE:
Laura Bickle is an award-winning author of multiple works of YA fiction. She grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology - Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016. More information about Laura’s work can be found at www.laurabickle.com.

MORE ABOUT NINE OF STARS:
Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there's more to fear than just the cold…

From critically acclaimed author Laura Bickle comes the first novel in the Wildlands series

As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors - especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can't explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.

The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn't helping matters. He's a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill - a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra's partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he's all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.

It's up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all - before the trail turns deathly cold.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

THEY SAY A GIRL DIED HERE ONCE




THEY SAY A GIRL DIED HERE ONC
E, Sarah Pinborough, Earthling Publications (Halloween Series), $35, reviewed by Jim Brock.

I try to walk 30 minutes most every morning. Over where I walk I often see a man with his dog. That dog is a small terrier of some sort. Its name is Cujo.

I’ve told you that to tell you this: not since Stephen King’s CUJO have I read a book whose ending was as strong a gut punch as is THEY SAY A GIRL DIED HERE ONCE. My gut is more ample than it used to be but Sarah Pinborough absolutely twisted and shocked and disturbed it (to my delight) as much King did all those years ago.

Anna is a 17-year-old dropout who, along with her Grandma, Mother, and 10-year-old sister have moved back to Grandma’s hometown. They have fled the city because Anna was involved in some internet/social media disgrace. Mom works the nightshift as a nurse. Anna waitresses at a diner and looks after her sister and Grandma at night. That is complicated by the fact that Grandma is slowly failing with Alzheimer’s.

When Grandma starts scratching at the door leading down to the basement in their creepy old house and begins speaking some strange thoughts, an already unsettled Anna becomes more and more unsettled.

THEY SAY A GIRL DIED HERE ONCE slowly builds the tension and suspense. Pinborough parcels out the clues and story slowly, and I found myself I was in the middle of a teen angst or a ghost story or a murder mystery when, in reality, I was in the middle of an incredible read that was all of this and so much more.

Much like the little dog I told you about earlier, the friendly little terrier whose character took on such a strong meaning due to being named Cujo, THEY SAY A GIRL DIED HERE ONCE is a short novel with a huge impact. And the last pages are incredibly creative.

Monday, June 13, 2016

VA WASTES TIME WITH OUTDATED PROCEDURES


#VAFAIL – VA WASTES TIME WITH OUTDATED PROCEDURES

By Emilye Bell

It is no secret that the implementation of the Veterans Choice Program, which is meant to give veterans quicker and more flexible access to health care, has been creating a whole new list of problems. Multiple private providers have taken to turning away Choice participants because they are not being paid by the VA.

The reason for this? Typical government bureaucracy and outdated procedures. Rather than taking advantage of technology such as computers or the internet, the VA is using paper filing systems for doctors to fill out when treating a Choice Program participant, as well as using regular mail to communicate back and forth with these doctors. Additionally, when the documentation, which can be up to 75 pages, is returned to VA facilities, “employees then feed the pages into consumer-grade scanners that only take a few pages at a time.” In other words, the VA is utilizing the slowest methods of completing benefit and payment forms during every step of the process.

The Daily Caller and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that in February “VA only paid 66 percent of doctors within a month of entering them into the system, while Medicare and Tricare manage to pay 99 percent of doctors in that time.” They also point out that this does not account for the backlogged claims, so the numbers are probably not painting the full picture.

The staff handling this information say that because of all the paperwork and veterans who are using the Choice Program, they are short staffed. Side note: there are allegations that some of these employees watch movies on the job, then charge overtime for the hours they are actually doing work.

While claims stay backlogged and doctors go unpaid to the point they are turning away patients, the VA is hiring more employees to meet its bureaucratic needs rather than implementing a system that would ensure quicker payment and claims processing. It continues to use a paper system for communicating and benefit processing, stating that it does not “have the capacity to accept medical documentation electronically from the providers.”

We can add VA’s inability to accept electronic documents to their inability to schedule an appointment within 30 days and their inability to fire bad employees.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

CARING FOR OUR HEROES IN THE 21ST CENTURY ACT: THE REFORM VA NEEDS

CARING FOR OUR HEROES IN THE 21ST CENTURY ACT: THE REFORM VA NEEDS

By Shaun Rieley

Just over two years have passed since it was revealed that numerous veterans died waiting for care on secret VA hospital waiting lists that had been intentionally manipulated, resulting in the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. In the wake of that scandal, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which took steps toward providing veterans with access and choice that are the hallmarks of good health care, and toward improving accountability for VA employees.

These reforms were a step in the right direction, but in the years since they were enacted, implementation of the Choice Program has proven less than satisfactory, and it has become clear that the accountability measures have failed to hold accountable many problematic VA employees. This is because the reforms failed to address certain systemic and structural issues in VA that serve to perpetuate a toxic culture which results, all too often, in failure to take care of the veterans that it exists to serve.

In fact, the independent assessment of VA care, mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, found that true reform would require “no less than a system-wide reworking.”

Congress will now have the opportunity to bring those changes. U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) has released a discussion draft of the Caring for Our Heroes in the 21st Century Act—legislation which would comprehensively overhaul the Veterans Health Administration.

Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ bill seeks to go to the root of the problems. It restructures VA, shifting the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to governance by a board of directors, allowing it to be run like a high-performance health care organization, rather than as a government bureaucracy, improving both accountability and access, while allowing the system to right-size itself, which is projected to save money over the long term.

Furthermore, it allows veterans increased choice on both private health care and VA providers. Thus allowing veterans who are satisfied with their care at VA to remain in the system with no cost-sharing, and those who prefer to leverage the resources in their local community can do so, while receiving premium support to help cover costs.

Despite the often-repeated assertion that VA’s problems stem from a lack of money, the VA budget has grown precipitously over the past decade. Yet, VA’s problems continue. Clearly increasing VA’s budget has not appreciably improved outcomes.

The plan is bold and real reform is never easy—even when it is clearly needed. But to provide veterans with the best care possible—care that they have earned through their service and sacrifice—we will need to think beyond the tired talking points and failed status quo. Honoring veterans means asking the hard questions and doing the right thing, even when it is difficult.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Our veterans deserve real reform at VA



Our veterans deserve real reform at VA
By LEO GARCIA


It’s been two years since the nationwide scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs first erupted, yet veterans across the country still continue to face excessive waits for care. Las Vegas is no exception. No less than 13 percent of veterans with appointments scheduled last month were waiting more than 30 days for a medical appointment.

Meanwhile, administrators have continued to downplay the significance of the agency’s problem.

Recently, VA Secretary Robert McDonald even argued that Disney doesn’t use wait times to measure performance, so neither should his agency.

By any standard, however, wait times do measure performance. And the wait times for veterans reflect very poor performance — nearly half a million veterans nationwide last month faced that same, long wait of over 30 days.

But here in Las Vegas, wait times aren’t the only issue.

In January we learned that the North Las Vegas suicide hotline actually instructed veterans in crisis to hang up and try another number. It wasn’t a small glitch, either. The VA had been aware of the problem since at least May 2015 and did nothing.

With issue after issue, it’s no wonder that thousands of veterans have chosen to avoid the controversy at VA facilities and use their Choice Card benefits, which allow them to see outside health-care providers. But now these veterans, too, are facing issues due to VA incompetence.

Under the Choice Program, the agency is supposed to reimburse physicians who provide care to veterans outside of the VA system. Yet the agency has done so in an unreasonably slow process — they paid less than 70 percent of claims within 30 days, and some doctors have waited as long as six months for payment.

The delayed payments have led a number of private physicians to reschedule important surgeries while some have opted to deny appointments to Choice recipients altogether.

The VA’s constant failures certainly can’t be blamed on a lack of funding — its budget has increased 68 percent since President Obama took office. But this money isn’t necessarily going to health care. In fact, of the 39,454 new positions created at the agency between 2012 and 2015, more than 90 percent were non-medical jobs.

The agency has also spent money on a number of wasteful projects while our nation’s veterans continue to wait for care. Our new Las Vegas medical facility went $400 million over its initial budget. What’s more, we recently learned that $325,000 was spent on three guard booths at the hospital’s entrances that have gone unused.

The fact is, the VA continues to throw money away while veterans continue to suffer.

This trend of wasteful and inefficient spending is far too common in Washington. Our nation now has a record national debt of more than $19 trillion. Careless spending by Washington politicians and bureaucrats is even beginning to undermine the very security our veterans fought to protect.

Much of this debt comes from the Department of Defense itself. The department is rife with wasteful and inefficient spending, all the while the military often struggles to provide our troops with the supplies needed to perform their daily duties.

This is not what veterans deserve after putting their lives on the line for the safety of our country.

It’s time for Nevada veterans to demand real change.

We must make sure that VA administrators acknowledge the problems at the agency’s facilities. At the same time, we must urge our lawmakers to pass legislation to reform the VA by holding problem staff accountable for their actions and by providing our veterans with more options for better care.

Our veterans risked their lives for us. It’s time they receive the timely and quality care they deserve.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Remembering Harriett


It's been a strange week, three doctors visits and arrangement for two cataract surgeries later in the year.That's one of the reasons I'm not reading much; too many meds that cloud my mind; and, work.

There is a new Baryon ready and it will consist of Harriett's reviews only. It's my attempt at paying tribute to her memory and how much she is missed.

The following are a couple of articles written about her that some of you might have missed. he first is from the Wall Street Journal and the second is from Time when she was called one of the People of the year.


A Novel Heroine

Meet Harriet Klausner, Amazon.com's most prolific reviewer.


BY JOANNE KAUFMAN
Tuesday, March 29, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

Harriet Klausner read four books yesterday. Frankly, this was no big whoop for Ms. Klausner. The only days she doesn't read four books are the days she reads five. Her peregrinations through the printed word are charted in the critiques she posts on Amazon.com--she's been voted its No. 1 reviewer--and other online book sites.

Reviewing on Amazon isn't a singular achievement. The site welcomes all those eager to tap into their inner Orville Prescott, often posting multiple reviews of a single book. All that's required is literacy, a point of view--and, of course, adherence to the Amazon's stern fiats about profanity, spiteful remarks, and injudicious blabbing about crucial plot points.

Still, in terms of productivity (8,649 reviews as of mid-March) and the ability to turn out what the site calls helpful information, Ms. Klausner is in a league of her own.
More than 53,000 Amazon visitors have given a thumbs up to commentary like "the fast-paced story line contains intriguing heroes battling with one another as much as with their common foes." That was Ms. Klausner on the thriller "No Man's Dog" by Jon A. Jackson. "Exhilarating British police procedural" was her word on "Flesh Wounds" by John Lawton. "Daniel's Veil" by R.H. Stavis, meanwhile, was deemed "a fascinating and enthralling paranormal tale."

It would be overstating things to suggest that Ms. Klausner, 53, has never met a book she didn't like. It would be more on the money to say she's of the "if you don't have anything nice to write, don't write anything at all" school of literary criticism. "If a book doesn't hold my interest by page 50 I'll stop reading, which is one of the reasons I give a lot of good ratings," says Ms. Klausner, whose voice suggests she's taken more than a few nips of helium. "And why review a book to give it a low rating or to tear it apart? Nothing in that."
But rest assured she can cut the motor on her enthusiasm when necessary. "I give Ralph McInerny, the author of the 'Father Dowling' mysteries, a low rating and tell why I can't stand the books," says Ms. Klausner, who's contributed reviews to Amazon since 2000. "It's basically the same story over and over."
She has the same "been there, read that" problem with Cassie Edwards, a scribe of Native American romances. "It's either a half-breed Indian male or a full-breed Indian male and a white virgin," sighs Ms. Klausner, running down the essential plot of titles like "Savage Joy," "Savage Devotion," "Savage innocence," "Savage Hope," "Savage Courage" and "Savage Torment." "She gets kidnapped, returns to white society, then comes back to Native American society to be with her lover, who ends up as her husband.
"Her books individually are good," adds Ms. Klausner. "If she wrote five of them they would be great, but if you write 75 or 80, which she's written . . . enough is enough.
"I have one basic criterion: A book should entertain me and take me away from the rest of the world."
A recent day's entertainment comprised "The Hidden Quest," a fantasy by New Zealand-born author Alma Alexander; a novel Ms. Klausner describes as "a Christian legal thriller" by Randy Alexander ("I forget the title, but the book was very good"); "Hitler's Peace," a thriller by Phillip Kerr about Germany trying to negotiate a peace in 1943, and a mystery by Nevada Barr. "I can't remember that title either. Just look it up on Amazon." Aha: "Hard Truth."
As may be clear by now, Ms. Klausner's taste runs to fantasy, chick-lit romance--particularly the paranormal and supernatural variety--horror and science fiction. Pet authors include Laurell K. Hamilton, Jan Burke, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz and particularly Patricia Cornwell. "I need a lot of variety. There's never enough for me to read," says Ms. Klausner, who has zero truck with poetry, westerns ("You put on a cowboy hat, place the story in the wild west and you have a police procedural") or nonfiction ("unless it's a subject I'm really into. Otherwise it's too time-consuming.")

While Amazon declined to comment specifically on Ms. Klausner to avoid the appearance of showcasing one particular reviewer, others in publishing were less demure. "I'm sure there are people who go online and think, 'I wonder what Harriet has to say about this book,' " notes Knopf publicity director Nicholas Latimer. He sends Ms. Klausner every fiction title his house publishes "because I'd like her to weigh in. There are authors she covers that don't get covered by a lot of major review outlets because of space limitations. Harriet's their champion."

It's not that Ms. Klausner is immune to the charms--and plot turns--of marquee names like Ms. Roberts and Ms. Cornwell, but "you'll see that I often review lesser-known names. Some of those authors are just as good as John Grisham," she says. "It's just that they don't have a publicity machine behind them. That's the whole purpose of my doing this on Amazon. It's a way of bringing writers to the attention of audiences who wouldn't otherwise buy their books. That's the whole purpose of my doing this on Amazon," continues Ms. Klausner, whose sole remuneration is the thanks of newly enlightened readers (they sometimes send appreciative e-mails) and grateful authors (they sometimes send promotional bookmarks).

More tangible compensation comes from Ms. Klausner's book reviews for periodicals like Affaire de Coeur and I Love a Mystery, the online 'zine Baryon, and from her work as an advance reader for the Doubleday Book Club. "It's like magic when you find that gem of a great new author," says Ms. Klausner, who claims she saw gold in a then-unknown Tess Gerritsen, now a perennial on bestseller lists. "People say I have influence over book sales, but I don't see it. If I thought about it, I would get nervous."

The elder of two children, Ms. Klausner grew up in the Bronx. Her father worked for the publisher McGraw-Hill, a bonanza posting for a young bookworm. "I got a lot of free books. I was very lucky," says Ms. Klausner, who worked her way through series like Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames with dispatch.

A master's degree in library science seemed like nothing short of manifest destiny. Subsequent gigs in bookstores catering to fans of horror and science fiction, and stewardship of various library newsletters, were good prep work for Amazon, a connection Ms. Klausner made simply because "it seemed like a good idea. I need to review."

On more than one occasion, she says, publishers have approached her to push the envelope--to write a novel of her own. "I think it's sweet as can be that they ask. It's just not something I could do."
Daily, books come by the cartload to Ms. Klausner's Atlanta home, putting her at odds with the mailman, the UPS delivery guy and her husband, Stan, a business analyst for the Army. "He says we have to get rid of some," says Ms. Klausner, who stacks the overflow on the kitchen table and in a shed out back--and makes covert online purchases of new favorites like legal-thriller author Christine McGuire. "But don't tell my husband."
Friends encourage her to get a hobby, to develop some new interests. One pal recently gave her a combination VCR-DVD player with the directive to "go to a new venue." "It was a great present," says Ms. Klausner. "It's still in the box."

Ms. Kaufman covers arts and entertainment for The Wall Street Journal.



Harriet Klausner
By LEV GROSSMAN Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006


Without the web, Harriet Klausner would be just an ordinary human being with an extraordinary talent. Instead she is one of the world's most prolific and influential book reviewers. At 54, Klausner, a former librarian from Georgia, has posted more book reviews on Amazon.com than any other user—12,896, as of this writing, almost twice as many as her nearest competitor. That's a book a day for 35 years.

Klausner isn't paid to do this. She's just, as she puts it, "a freaky kind of speed-reader." In elementary school, her teacher was shocked when Klausner handed in a 31⁄2-hour reading-comprehension test in less than an hour. Now she goes through four to six books a day. "It's incomprehensible to me that most people read only one book a week," she says. "I don't understand how anyone can read that slow." All TIME 100 Best Novels
Klausner is part of a quiet revolution in the way American taste gets made. The influence of newspaper and magazine critics is on the wane. People don't care to be lectured by professionals on what they should read or listen to or see. They're increasingly likely to pay attention to amateur online reviewers, bloggers and Amazon critics like Klausner. Online critics have a kind of just-plain-folks authenticity that the professionals just can't match. They're not fancy. They don't have an agenda. They just read for fun, the way you do. Publishers treat Klausner as a pro, sending her free books—50 a week—in hopes of getting her attention. Like any other good critic, Klausner has her share of enemies. "Harriet, please get a life," someone begged her on a message board, "and leave us poor Amazon customers alone."

Klausner is a bookworm, but she's no snob. She likes genre fiction: romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror. One of Klausner's lifetime goals—as yet unfulfilled—is to read every vampire book ever published. "I love vampires and werewolves and demons," she says. "Maybe I like being spooked." Maybe she's a little bit superhuman herself.

—Reported by Jeremy Caplan and Kathleen Kingsbury/New York, Susan Jakes/Beijing, Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles, Grant Rosenberg/Paris and Bryan Walsh/Seoul

Friday, May 27, 2016

Update


I'm about six months behind on getting Baryon out. Checking with Pete on it.

VA visit on Monday - shrink changed my meds - PTSD getting worse. Fitted for new diabetic shoes and getting appointments for cataract surgery on both eyes. Hopefully, this will allow me to start reading moree with out so much trouble.

It's hell to get old and physically unable to do things.

OH, by the way, Elvis is not dead, he's at the VA waiting for his appointment.