What Gets You Hot and Bothered During This Crazy Summer of Ours?

Hanging out on the beach during a recent trip to The Hamptons

Remember that old song: “Roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of summer — those days of soda and pretzels and beer”? At the time I first heard Nat King Cole croon it, I was a kid and enjoyed the romantic notion.

Now I still love the summer. But when I consider my laziness, thoughts of a little something that happened last week spring to mind. There weren’t any pretzels or beer involved (unfortunately), but I avoided doing some solid work by dipping into “The Baby Name Wizard,” by Laura Wattenberg. It was delicious to contemplate possible names for characters in my new novel. “Wizard” is divided into categories like “Celestial Names,” “Demon Spawn” and “X Name Master List.” (Xristina, anyone?) You might say I took a little too long with that.

As for the rest of that lyrical line: It’s a crazy and hazy time for sure. There’s a pandemic still raging and massive, devastating fires in the West, with the ash-filled haze drifting all the way East. Clearly, my cynical mind is not fully wrapped around the song’s intended meaning.

How could I get back on track with my new book? That was my problem.

I discovered a way by asking myself two questions that I want to pose to you here: If I asked you what you pray for, consistently, what would it be (assuming you pray at all)?

Here’s another big-bazooka question: What makes you angry, scared or depressed right now?

“WTF Janet!” you may be thinking. “I don’t want to think about that.”

I understand that, but the line of questioning has helped me get at my passions. And I need that stuff, good and bad, as I formulate the new book, which is a sequel to my sci-fi dystopian novel about the media industry, THE JUICE. If the new novel going to be any good, it has to come from a deep, deep place of emotion and personal truth.

So what gets me all hot and bothered? What do I pray for? I pray for journalists and seekers of justice who expose what’s real, cutting through streams of lies and half-truths. In many cases their lives are at stake when they speak truth to power.

So far this year, 22 journalists have been killed around the world, according to the International Press Institute. Countries where this has occurred range from Mexico to India. In the U.S., 77 journalists have been assaulted, and there have been nine subpoenas issued to journalists or news organizations, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Sometimes, the future of entire news operations is at stake. For example, the current Polish ruling party, ironically named the Law and Justice party, would dearly love to muzzle a news outlet called TV24. The channel isn’t a mouthpiece for the government, and it takes regular pot shots at Law and Justice at a time when the party is likely to become unseated in the next election. TV24 is owned by Discovery – which recently joined forces with WarnerMedia to become Warner Bros. Discovery. An opinion piece in The Washington Post lays out TV24’s situation in more detail.

News also surfaced in the Washington Post recently that military-grade spyware licensed to governments for tracking terrorist and criminals was used to hack 37 mobile phones owned by journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in 2018.

Yeah, you might say I’m a teensy bit hot and bothered by stuff like this. I won’t get into how this will play out in my new book. It’s going to be surprising. But in the “here and now,” I’d like to ask you my questions again: What are you fired up about? Is there something that’s causing you to take action in specific ways? What are they? I’d love to know.

The trick, I think, in all of this is to ask yet another question: “How can I find compassion – how can I act in a constructive, meaningful manner?” I want to layer that into my new novel as well. Every “yin” needs a “yang,” and expressing both is so key to my sense of storytelling.

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