Friday Fotos — respite for Hawaii from rain

I know you need the rain, Hawaii, but all at once? Here’s a day or two of blue skies to let the rain soak in. And by the way, if Mother Nature needs to shed some moisture, we’d sure be happy to see it in California. So, how about we make a trade? You take a day or two of our sunshine and we’ll take a day or two of your rain. After that, we can all go back to normal. Deal?

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Feeling cool Thursday on #Instagram

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Wet Wednesday on #Instagram

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Behind James Hayman’s The Girl in the Glass

The Girl in the Glass by James Hayman“I’m not entirely sure why, but Madison Avenue seems to be an excellent breeding ground for mystery and thriller writers,” said James Hayman, the author of “The Girl in the Glass.”

A former Madison Avenue ad man himself, Hayman noted his fellow ad-business alumni include James Patterson, Stuart Woods, and Dorothy Sayers, who wrote “Murder Must Advertise.” Good company, indeed. And, an excellent training ground for Hayman, who spent thirty years as a copywriter and creative director. He wrote and produced TV commercials for clients like the US Army, Ford, J&J, and Procter & Gamble.

When the time came to leave the field of advertising, Hayman decided to pen a mystery series. “The Girl in the Glass” was inspired by the beginning of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story:

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand…Even when they enter deep into our world…they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

“The Girl in the Glass” is the fourth book in the McCabe/Savage series. “It examines the assumptions of privilege and superiority that, in today’s society, make the very rich just as ‘different from you and me’ as they were in 1925 when Fitzgerald wrote those words. It is this attitude of the rich that leads to the tragic 1904 death of a beautiful young woman named Aimée Whitby.

“One hundred and eight years later this same sense of entitlement results in the murder of Aimée’s great-great-grand-daughter, a young woman who looks exactly like her ancestor and is also called Aimée. Like others of her class, the younger Aimée behaves as if ordinary people, Fitzgerald’s ‘you and me,’ exist only to serve her whims and desires. That they are available to be used, possibly abused and ultimately discarded when she has tired of them. It is this solipsistic attitude that, in the end, leads to her own death.”

I’ve always had a hankering to include some of that history in one of my books. I decided to write ‘The Girl in the Glass’ as two parallel stories, one set in the Portland of 1904, the other in the Portland of today.

James Hayman said he’s always been fascinated by the rich history of the City of Portland, Maine. “I’ve always had a hankering to include some of that history in one of my books. I decided to write ‘The Girl in the Glass’ as two parallel stories, one set in the Portland of 1904, the other in the Portland of today. The book goes back and forth between the two, and the challenge for me, as the writer, was to keep both stories compelling to the reader and to make the shifts between the two time periods as seamless as possible.”

Many authors pattern their protagonists after themselves. Hayman said he’s no different. “Michael McCabe is very much like me. We are both native New Yorkers. We both moved to Maine when we were good and done with the big city. We both enjoy good Scotch, old movies, soft jazz and the New York Giants football team. But, perhaps more importantly than any of these things, we both think and feel about life in the same way. The same things make us angry. The same things make us happy. We share the same values.”

Readers of police procedurals like the details to be accurate. To accomplish this goal, Hayman said he’s developed some relationships with people he can turn to when he has questions. “I also have become good friends with several retired Portland Police Detectives, most notably one named Tom Joyce who once held McCabe’s job as head of Portland’s Crimes Against People unit.

“Whenever I need to know something new about being a cop or police procedures, I call or email Tom. He either knows the answer or, if it’s something really specialized, he refers me to someone else who does. For the 1904 sections of ‘The Girl in the Glass,’ Tom referred me to Steve Roberts, who has become kind of the unofficial historian of the Portland PD. Steve provided a wealth of material and information about the Portland Police of that era.”

Learn more about James Hayman on his website at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.

Sandy Beach on Instagram

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Germ killer company claims go too far

zadro_uv-wand germ killerNobody likes germs. With words like “super-germ” and pandemic floating around these days, it’s easy to see how many of us will leap at a promising new germ killer technology…of course, sometimes the promised performance is far more than the actual.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently went after two companies who promoted their ultraviolet light (UV) germ killer devices with claims that their solutions killed nearly all nasty viruses and bacteria.

According to Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “The defendants said their devices’ UV rays would kill dangerous microorganisms, but they didn’t have scientific evidence to back that up.”

The germ killer products

Angel Sales marketed a device called shUVee, which it claimed took less than an hour to destroy more than 95% of viruses, bacteria, and fungus in a pair of shoes.

Zadro Health Solutions marketed a Nano-UV disinfectant device it claimed would disinfect anything. Yes, anything. They said it could kill germs in public toilets, bedding, and food. Supposedly, the germs killed included E. Coli, Salmonella, Staph infection, swine flu, fungus, and bed bug eggs. All this in 10 seconds.

In both cases, the products were sold not only on the company websites, but also on Amazon.com, Skymall.com, and in retail stores.

In both cases, the products were sold not only on the company websites, but also on Amazon.com, Skymall.com, and in retail stores. Customers paid from $60-$140 for the products. Consumers may receive compensation based on the judgments against the companies, but the compensation will fall short of what the products sold for.

The bottom line is not only must we watch out for scams via mail, phone, and email, but also with trusted retailers. The next time you’re looking at a product whose manufacturer claims is breaking new ground, recognize you’re on the bleeding edge of technology. The product may work. It may not.

Tips to avoid germ killer scams

Tip 1: If you feel the risk of buying something that doesn’t do what it claims is worth the potential reward, go for it. You could be wasting your money, but you might also be in on a germ killer destined to save us all.

Tip 2: Buy from a reputable retailer and find out if their refund policy will allow you to return your germ killer product if you feel it doesn’t work.

Tip 3: Do online research about the claims being made by the company. I’ve pointed out previously how companies use affiliate marketers to bolster their claims with “independent reviews.” These reviews may be far from independent and actually come from someone who is being paid by the company making the germ killer product.

Friday Fotos — Does this place ever open?

I’m not sure how many times we’ve driven past Ambrose’s in Kapaa on Kauai, but it’s been a lot of times. In all the times we’ve been on island, we’ve never seen this place open. Have you? I’d like to know if you have! Mahalo.DSC01061

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High tide Thursday with Instagram

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Wow on Wednesday — a view from Lana`i

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Lisa Brackmann’s love of China drives her writing

Dragon Day by  Lisa BrackmannLisa Brackmann is the critically acclaimed author of the Ellie McEnroe novels, which are set in today’s China. The books include “Rock Paper Tiger,” “Hour of the Rat,” and “Dragon Day.” In “Dragon Day,” Brackmann says she posed serious questions. How much can people really change, especially in a positive direction? What does it take for them to do so?

“My books generally have some kind of real-world issue or issues woven into them,“ said Brackmann. “The books tell the story of Ellie McEnroe, an Iraq War vet with a bum leg and a worse attitude who ends up in Beijing, China. One of the overarching themes of the series is that a war doesn’t stop just because the fighting does—the effects linger on in the countries that waged them and in the soldiers who fought in them.”

While she deals with serious issues, Brackmann said her books also include humor. “I can’t seem to help that, no matter how serious a subject I’m dealing with. I take what I do seriously. I’m driven by a need to understand the world better and to communicate some of what I’ve learned. I’m not interested in writing the same thing over and over again. There has to be something compelling about each project that gets me through the long and, at times, tedious slog that is writing a novel.”

Characters are the most important of all, because they are what really drive the story.

According to Brackmann, Ellie constantly wrestles with what she sees as her own moral failings. “Her attempts to make up for those failings, and her inability to compensate, lead her in some very dangerous directions. Ellie is really fun to write because she’s kind of like my id—she doesn’t have a lot in the way of social skills and tends to say the things you shouldn’t say, but are really tempted to.”

One of the worst things a novelist can do is to become what Brackmann calls, “overly didactic.” Brackmann sees other elements being far more important to a good story. “For novels, good prose is important. Tension is important. Characters are the most important of all, because they are what really drive the story.”

What about setting? Brackmann is a native of San Diego and finds it ordinary. She said, “When I travel outside of the state, I get a lot of reaction about my being from strange, eccentric, exotic California. So this is one of the things I try to do when I portray a place, wherever it is: Bring the ordinary to the exotic, and the exotic to the ordinary.

“The changes in China have been staggering since I started going there in 1979. One of the things that’s been interesting has been this rise of tremendous wealth since the Cultural Revolution. It’s so extravagant at times that it seems like a parody of itself. Every other day it seemed like there would be a story about rich a guy or high official crashing his Ferrari full of hookers while drag-racing through Beijing.”

I’ve always thought it was very important to strike a balance in portraying China. It’s an endlessly fascinating place, and it’s rarely boring.

Lisa Brackmann was also fascinated by the factional infighting, with roots in the Cultural Revolution, and the corruption that is embedded in the system. “I had a character I introduced in the last book, Sidney Cao, an eccentric, art-obsessed Shanghai billionaire with tight connections to the Chinese leadership who seemed like a perfect vehicle to dig a little deeper into this world.”

“I’ve been going to China for most of my life now,” said Brackmann. “I felt there weren’t many portrayals of contemporary China in Western fiction, and I wanted to share some of the things I’d seen and experienced over the years. Most of the locations and many of the small details in the books are based on places I’ve been and things I’ve experienced.

“I’ve always thought it was very important to strike a balance in portraying China. It’s an endlessly fascinating place, and it’s rarely boring. At the same time, it’s a place where over a billion people wake up every morning and live their lives, a place like any other.”

Learn more about Lisa Brackmann on her website at www.lisabrackmann.com.