Behind the story of The Lemon Orchard with Luanne Rice

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne RiceLuanne Rice is the author of thirty-one novels, including several New York Times bestsellers, such as “Cloud Nine.” Her books have been made into movies and miniseries and adapted to the stage. The latest release from Rice, “The Lemon Orchard,” was reprinted in May 2014.

For this interview, Rice said her reasons for writing the book were, “Love, family, moving from one place to another, and leaving the old world behind in search of the new.” She feels that immigration is at the core of the human story. “We are in a humanitarian crisis—not just at the border, but all through our country. It makes me want to look back, see where my family comes from, realize what we have in common with the people coming today.”

Rice said that the idea for “The Lemon Orchard” came to her after she moved to Southern California. “Like Julia, the main character, I moved to Malibu after a lifetime on the East coast. My house looked out on a canyon where the Santa Monica Mountains meet the Pacific, and I was completely captivated by the landscape and wanted to use it as a setting for a novel. I had one lemon tree, and from that single tree an imaginary lemon orchard grew.

“I met a man like Roberto—an undocumented Mexican worker. He came to work at my house. I would give him coffee and ask him about his life, and I found myself eager to hear more each day, I was riveted to his story of leaving his home near Puebla, crossing the border through the desert, nearly dying along the way. He had come here for a better life. He remains close to his family in Mexico, and longs to see them. He has a beautiful heart, and he inspired the character of Roberto.”

Rice describes her childhood as one in which words and art were important elements. She said,”My mother was an English teacher and my father was a typewriter man.” Her mother, however, was more than just an English teacher, and her father may have helped determine the path his daughter would choose later in life.

“My mother painted and wrote,” Rice said. “She always had a painting in progress on an easel in the kitchen, so our house always smelled like oil paint. At night she wrote after she’d put my sisters and me to bed, and the sound of her typing was our lullaby. My father gave me an old Olympia portable when I was in fourth grade. Our ancestors came from Ireland. Our family stories of immigration helped me understand more about my characters in The Lemon Orchard.”

The subject of family dynamics fascinates Rice. She’s been through the ups and downs for family life, even endured abuse herself. So, what keeps her writing about the  difficult subject of family and loss?

Rice said, “Anyone with a heart, with a family, has experienced loss. No one escapes unscathed. Every story of separation is different, but I think we all understand that basic, wrenching emotion that comes from saying goodbye, not knowing if we’ll see that person again—or perhaps knowing that we won’t. I went to Cork, Ireland, and stood on the dock some of my ancestors had left from. I felt their ghosts gather round me, and I cried to imagine what it must have felt like—leaving that beautiful land and those beloved people, knowing it was forever.”

More information

Learn more about Luanne Rice and her novels on her website at luannerice.net.

 

Email health scams are on overload

Clark Stanley's Snake Oil Image from Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil

Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Image from Wikipedia.

If my email inbox is any indicator, my health is in jeopardy. I’m in need of male-enhancement pills, female-enhancement remedies, disease relief from a physician who is currently in jail, cures for my diabetic and neuropathy pain, and aromatherapy products. In addition, I’ve received tips about buying cheap drugs from online-med stores, how to have my blood sugar levels restored, and, should all else fail, I’m also qualified for cheap life insurance.

I should feel better just knowing that so many people care about my health and take the time to send me emails on the subject. Right? Well, let’s back up the bus for a minute. Each day we’re deluged by email campaigns intended to do nothing more than change my financial health, not my mental or physical well-being. We all know that, and yet the scammers stay in business. Why? Because there are still plenty of gullible people in the world.

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The vast majority of the junk mail I receive is so bad it shouldn’t fool a fifth-grader, yet it does. No matter how many times  the “forces of good” rail against the “forces of evil,” there are always people who are in the right situation at the right time and, therefore, make the mistake of seeing if “just this once” that too-good-to-believe offer is true. With that in mind, here’s this week’s Sunday Scam Tip and it’s a two-parter.

If you didn’t go looking for it, don’t trust it.

If you did go looking for it, verify the information.

Using today’s technology, it’s easy to set up a professional-looking website for the sole purpose of scamming visitors.

My Focus on vision scams post from two weeks ago provides a good example of how a convincing sales pitch can lure the unsuspecting into making a purchase without there ever being any proof that the product works.

The bottom line Is to be skeptical of any offer and check with independent sources before you give away your money.

When a series takes on its own life

Robert B Parker's LullabyI was asked by Kings River Life to write an article about writers who take over a series for other writers. It sounded like a fun assignment, but I really had no idea. Once I started doing research, I realized how often this happens. It became necessary to start leaving out examples, but the five that ended up in the article are blockbusters, including Dick Francis, Robert Ludlum, Robert B. Parker, Lawrence Sanders, and Mickey Spillane.

If you love crime fiction, you’re sure to have read one of these authors and probably more. Did you know that Robert B. Parker even wrote two novels for another bestseller? Find out who on Kings River Life.

In the hot seat – interview at Authors on the Air

Con Game 231x350Tonight I’ll be in the hot seat with radio talk-show host Pam Stack of Authors on the Air. I’ve been interviewed by Pam before and it was a wide-ranging interview. What crazy subjects will we cover this time? I don’t know, but it’s sure to be lots of fun.

You can bet I’ll want to discuss “Con Game,” but also we’ll surely get into the next McKenna Mystery, “Big Island Blues.”

The interview will be at Authors on the Air at 8:00 PM EDT on July 23. I hope you can listen in!

Behind the story of Dark Lava with Toby Neal

Dark LavaSome crime fiction writers shy away from the question of writing about issues. Hawaii novelist Toby Neal has no qualms about admitting her passion to deal with issues in the land she loves and calls home. Neal’s latest release, “Dark Lava,” bears the tag line, “Maui is sacred places, ancient artifacts, and the dark lava of deepest passions.”

If there’s a single word that best describes Hawaii, it may well be “passion.” The word  describes Neal’s writing and the issues she tackles. For this interview Neal said, “One of my priorities as a “regional” writer is to raise the issues we struggle with here in the Islands—economically, socially, politically, etc. I have moved the settings of the books around to each island to capture that island’s unique strengths, geography and challenges. There is an issue or crime we grapple with here in Hawaii that I’m highlighting in every book in the Lei Crime Series.”

In the first Lei Crimes mystery, “Blood Orchids,” Neal’s detective investigated child abuse and drugs. In “Torch Ginger” (book 2), the story revolved around the disappearance of the homeless and cult activity. Neal has also written about gambling and sex slavery/prostitution; wealth, suicide and assisted suicide; and the loss of habitat that has placed many of Hawaii’s native birds in an endangered status.

Readers should note that while Neal tackles difficult issues, she does it in a cross between a police procedural and a thriller that bears no resemblance to a lecture. For instance, in book 4, “Broken Ferns,” she writes about the race and class divide in the islands with a Robin Hood teen criminal “evening the score.”;

Neal’s writing is influenced by her career. She said, “I’m a clinical social worker in private practice as well as a writer, so I use my writing to shine a light on issues though an entertaining read. Readers tell me they’ve come to count on learning something new about the ‘real Hawaii’ in every book and I take that as a compliment!”

In fact, it was those readers who gave Neal the idea for the issue she dealt with in “Dark Lava.” She asked a question on Facebook and her eager fans responded. Neal said, “They wanted a plot involving Hawaiian artifacts, treasures, and sacred spaces (heiaus).”

One of the personal issues facing Neal is her race. As much as she loves Hawaii, she is Caucasian, and therefore classified as a haole, a term that may carry a very negative connotation in some circles. She said, “Hawaii is tattooed on my heart. I had to leave to get education (another struggle; our best and brightest leave, and too often they don’t come back) but my husband and I sacrificed to return to where the housing is as high as New York City and the wages as low as the South. We love it too much to leave.”

Neal is also passionate about the authenticity of her writing. She said, “I’m a third-generation kama’aina (child of the land) and I grew up here in Hawaii. I don’t come from an outsider’s perspective, googling everything and mispronouncing it. No. I’ve lived, worked, surfed, fished, canoed, farmed, sweated, swam, played, sailed, ran, hiked, dove, scuba-dived and sailed these islands, given birth to my children here and struggled to make a living here.”

A prolific writer who says her skills are constantly growing, Neal welcomed the self-publishing model after rejection in the traditional publishing world. “Self-publishing has allowed me to expand as a writer rapidly, across genres even, and build a reader base that would have taken years in the traditional model. I am thrilled to be one of the new successful indie author/publishers.”

In 2010, Neal’s agent decided to retire when the market was flooded with celebrity memoirs and cookbooks. “I was left without representation,” said Neal. “She’d had interest in them but not enough to make an offer on an unknown. So, I decided to just go ahead and self-publish, since it took me two years to get an agent and then another year lost ‘on sub.’That was the hardest decision ever and it felt like the death of a dream at the time.” She added, “But in the end, it’s been perfect.”

One of the biggest challenges Neal faces from the traditional publishing world is that her novels are called “too niche.” With more than 500,000 books sold, traditional publishers may just be missing the mark on this one. Neal said, “People love Hawaii, and everyone who’s been here wishes they could go again. That’s a lot of people, potentially, and if the story is strong and the characters are engaging, it’s a guaranteed good time.”

That guaranteed good time has been demonstrated several times by television series like “Magnum, PI” and two-time success “Hawaii Five-0.” Despite the giltz and lack of realism in the current “Five-O” series, Neal said, “I have to give that show credit for trying to show at least some of the issues I’ve tackled in my books—and showing that even though Hawaii is a physical paradise, it’s filled with people and a very complex, multi-racial, multi-cultural society with all sorts of conflicting agendas and undercurrents that tourists don’t even glimpse.”

Neal hopes that readers are captured by the authenticity of the world of the Lei Crime Series. Her intent is to keep writing stories that include colorful characters, the impetuous Detective Lei Texeira, and her heroic and damaged love interest, Michael Stevens.

For now, Neal has decided to stay the course. “I just keep doing what I’m doing and don’t listen to that ‘niche’ stuff. After all, Louise Penny is killing it in Three Pines, nowhere, Canada, while I have fire dancers, tattooed activists, broken but lovable people, and a dog that’s a hero. We’re bound to get the Golden Dagger award someday.”  She crosses her fingers and raises her eyes to heaven. “When they give it to an indie.”

Learn more about Toby Neal on her website at tobyneal.net.

Facebook phishing scams

keyboardscamFacebook users have a tendency to be lulled into a false sense of security by the social media giant. Cybercriminals are aware of this tendency and routinely set up fake Facebook accounts to lure new victims into phishing scams. How do you avoid becoming a victim? First, learn to spot the scam.

Spotting the scam

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When a Facebook friend sends you an email with a link or shares a post with a link, are you tempted to click it? If you do follow the link and your browser pops up a login form with a trite message such as sorry for the inconvenience, for your security, to prevent fraud, etc., you should be getting suspicious. Indeed, that login form is a clear signal you could be on a phishing site.

Other Facebook scams

While you’re on the lookout for phishing attempts on Facebook, watch for these lures designed to trick you into providing your personal information. These include profile viewers, the “free i-Phone” ads, free credits for games on Facebook, new Facebook features, and steamy messages designed to lure you elsewhere. All-in-all, Facebook can be a pretty unsafe place unless you’re careful.

Three tips to stay secure

Tip 1: Check first, click second. Get in the habit of checking links before you click them. By rolling your mouse over a link, you can see the address it will go to. If the address is unfamiliar or spelled incorrectly, don’t use the link, but if you do . . .

Tip 2: Don’t log in. If you do land on a page that is asking you to log in and you did not use a trusted link to get there, simply close the window. If they want other personal information, don’t provide it. Quite simply, if you take no action on a phishing site, you can leave with no harm done.

Tip 3: Change your password. And if you do get caught in the scammers web and your account starts spamming your friends? The first thing you should do is change your password. Don’t stop with Facebook, either. If you have any amount of personal information on Facebook, your other accounts might be compromised also. There’s one last step: after you’re done changing passwords, apologize to your friends for spamming them. Then, thank the one who told you your account had been hacked.

Focus on vision scams

Watching YouUnless you have 20-20 vision, you’re stuck with glasses, contacts, or a blurry world. So why not spend $37 to ditch the bad vision and get to 20-20 in a couple of weeks? Why not believe the slick internet marketing campaigns and buy into a “revolutionary program that you’ll soon discover has dared to challenge the billion-dollar Eyecare industry.” Let me count the ways.

First, you’ve probably received several email solicitations with a subject like “Improve Your Vision” or “Restore My Vision.” These emails contain a link to a websites that promote a program created by Dr. Sen and Samantha Pearson.

I’ve received two of these emails within the past three days, both from different sources. One was sent from “improve-your-vision” at consumerous.com. When I checked to see who owned this site, I discovered it was owned by Christopher Boreham in the Byadbo Wilderness. Personally, I’m a bit surprised that a guy who lives in the mountains of New South Wales wants to help me improve my vision, but maybe he’s just the altruistic type.

The second issue is the website where the Dr. Sen and Samantha Pearson program is sold. As a web designer, I appreciate how slick this website is. Right away, they’ll launch a video touting the benefits of this revolutionary vision-improvement program. Smooth Sam even tells us up front that the video is controversial. Nothing second rate here, everything is smooth and efficient on the surface—until you try to get content. Oh, did I mention that will cost you $37?

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And here’s the third strike. Internet marketers have learned that the best way to sell a product is not through high-pressure tactics, but via word of mouth. Imagine talking to a used-car salesman who brings in five or ten people who proceed to tell their own stories about what a caring and concerned guy your salesman is. He’d never sell you a car you didn’t need or couldn’t afford. This is exactly the technique internet marketers use. The only difference is that they don’t call in the referrals, they let you go find them. Search the web and you’ll find plenty of testimonials about this revolutionary program.

Should you invest your money in hopes of reversing vision loss? Right now, you might be thinking, what if it works just a little bit? It’s the same principle the snake-oil salesman used. Appeal to our desire to be healthier, happier, and stronger by doing nothing more than shelling out a few dollars.

The choice is yours, but personally, I’m thinking I’ll keep my cash rather than send it to someone on whom I can’t confirm credentials, who hides their identities using a domain guard service out of Panama, spams me with bogus affiliates, and won’t give me details about their program before I start turning over my money or contact information. How about you? Have you received these emails? Been enticed? I’d love to hear from you.

The notario publico immigration scam

dreamstimefree_198174

Image courtesy of dreamstime.com.

On July 8, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning regarding a new twist in immigration scams. Until recently, immigration scams had been advertised in store windows and newspapers. Now, immigration services are being offered by notarios, those professing to be knowledgeable in immigration law, in federal detention facilities. Joel Cruz-Esparza of the New Mexico Attorney General’s office called those receiving offers of assistance a “captive audience.”

According to Cruz-Esparza, “These folks are down on their luck, and the last thing they need is for a fast talking con artist to make them a bunch of bogus promises and take their last dollar.” In an effort to educate the immigrants, the Federal Trade Commission is offering free information in other languages to anyone who can help let others know about this issue.

The American Bar Association states, “Misrepresentations as to an individual’s qualification to offer legal advice can have severe implications for immigrants.” On their website, they describe notario fraud as involving false statements

Such representations can include false statements that the individual is an attorney, is authorized to appear before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) or before immigration courts to represent immigrants, or is a notario publico (notary public).

A notario publico in other countries may be someone who has some form of law degree or license. The American Bar Association calls this designation “particularly problematic” because in the United States a notary public is only authorized to witness signatures and those not aware of the difference can easily be deceived by con artists who make false claims.

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In the warning issued by the FTC, Tom Carter, Attorney for the Southwest Region of the FTC said, “We want to bring cases against them and shut them down. And so do the Attorneys General. And US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). And the Department of Justice. We talk to each other and share consumer complaints, so let us know when you see this kind of behavior.”

 

Review of The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

Lori Rader-Day’s debut novel THE BLACK HOUR is the powerful story of a sociology professor, Amelia Emmet, whose topic is violence. When Amelia is shot by a student she doesn’t know and has never met, her confidence is shattered and self-doubts set in. After ten months of recovery and rehabilitation, Amelia wants nothing more than to reclaim her life, return to teaching, and once again feel “normal”. It doesn’t take long for Amelia to realize her life may never be the normal it once was.

Amelia decides she must know why the student who shot her, Leonard Lehane, tried to kill her before committing suicide. To learn more about Lehane she asks for help from her new graduate assistant, Nathan Barber. Nathan, who is fascinated by the shooting of Dr. Emmet, agrees to help. He begins by getting close to Lehane’s roommate and the students who knew him.

Meanwhile, Amelia does some sleuthing on her own. When the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place, Amelia realizes the danger she’s placed Nathan in. Every day, every task, is an upward battle as Amelia pushes her broken body to its limit. With her new limitations, Amelia soon realizes she may not get to Nathan in time to save him.

During his investigation, Nathan is uncovering facts that lead him to believe Amelia may be in grave danger. Will he discover the truth in time to save her?

This riveting story contains smoothly written prose and a main character who must overcome the biggest obstacle of her life. It maintains a high level of suspense to the end. This is not a typical whodunit mystery—we know who did what—but the powerful burning question is why.

FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by its publisher.

How about them Apples?

512px-Apple-logo

Apple logo from http://archiveteam.org/index.php?title=File:Apple-logo.jpg

Apple products have been on fire lately. Apple stock is equally hot. The reason for these events is simple. People like simplicity and Apple helps them get there. Queue the upbeat, snazzy music and enter the Apple ID. For those who don’t know, your Apple ID is the way users access all things Apple. From I-Tunes to the App Store, you gotta have one to buy stuff, sync your devices, etc. With so much power behind one simple ID and password combination, is there any doubt the scammers would like to nab yours?

This past week, I received an email claiming to be from “Apple Support.” The email was simple and to the point—my Apple ID had been suspended. The important part is included here.

Apple Security Department has sent this email to inform you the following:

Your account has been flagged for review and your access was suspended until further notice.

This may be due to either of the following reasons:

* Billing / Payment Issues

* Abuse & Terms of Use Issues

We strongly suggest you to review and confirm your account information today by following the link below:

You should be able to guess where this is going. If your choice was “scam,” congratulations, you’re a winner (Congratulations! You get to avoid huge headaches and bills from the real Apple!). It appears that scammers have decided they don’t necessarily need to hack your Mac to get to the good stuff, all they need is get access to that prized Apple ID. This same scam has been used so many different times with other big names as the lure—Verizon, Microsoft, US banks, foreign banks—need I go on?

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If you receive this type of email, look for the following clues that it’s a scam:

  • It’s not addressed to you personally
  • The sender is a generic name (in my case, it was “Apple.”)—duh—and the sender’s email address isn’t from the company (in this case it was toluna.com—another duh for the scammer, that’s a social media site)
  • The email subject is something inane. In this email it was [notice][37888]. Methinks maybe the scammer hasn’t quite mastered his mail merge program yet.

What should you do if you get the Apple ID email? Ignore it. Then, fire up your Apple device and enjoy the simplicity.