Saturday, June 25, 2016



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.

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

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


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



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



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

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.