Russians, Ukrainians (And Some Others) Fight to Rescue Cats in New York

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Are You Prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse?

Zombies have been on my mind lately partly because I’m enjoying “The Last of Us,” the fungus-pandemic horror series on HBO, and partly because of something that showed up in my inbox. Many data tidbits are pushed to me, so they don’t always stop me in my scrolling tracks. But this one did just that. Did you know that more than one in 10 Americans think a zombie apocalypse is inevitable? Among the believers, more than half apparently believe it’s coming in the next 30 years.

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Sharing the Love, or Stealing?

Say you have a friend named Monique who’s lost her job. You know she can barely scrape together enough change to pay the rent, and she really needs some positive distraction. You give her the passcode to your Netflix account so she can get some laughs out of “The Extraordinary Attorney Woo.” Heck, you’ve already given the code to some of your other friends, who have in turn shared their Apple TV+ and HBOMax account codes with you.

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Will The Truth Set Us Free In These Polarized Times?

Deep in the heart of Becky Chambers’ award-winning “Wayfarers” sci-fi novel trilogy there’s mention of a show that changed the course of relations between regular humans and some sentient beings on another planet. At first, any meaningful friendship between the two types of “creatures” was impossible. They kept their distance. But then they started to reach the middle ground after some entertaining content emerged in which an alien and a human became friends. It grew wildly popular, and after 10 years, the two civilizations warmed to each other, turning the course of history.

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Why They Die — Mastering the Art of Killing Off Characters in Fiction

“He’s scared to look at me in the eyes and start to understand what’s about to happen to him. You know, he picked the wrong family. We’re not scared of conflict. We’re not running. We’re coming at him.”

Those are the words of Steve Goncalves, speaking to CNN’s Jim Sciutto about the alleged murderer of four University of Idaho students. Among them was Gonclaves’ daughter, Kaylee.

This recent example of senseless violence is horrifying, and it’s so easy to get behind Goncalves’ rage and overpowering need for justice. And at the same time, we can be haunted by other forms of death, which might seem quiet by comparison but are devastating.

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Love and Caring in a World of Senseless Tragedies

In early November I was hit by a car. At the time, I was walking down a residential street in the early evening, wearing an orange jacket and crossing a well-lit intersection. I was thrown onto the entrance ramp of a highway running down the side of the Hudson River, from The Bronx into Manhattan.

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California Romance and Culinary Delights — The Making of ‘Casserole Courtship’

What do you get when you marry up one of California’s gorgeous Central Coast beaches with scrumptious food and romance? In the hands of Elizabeth Guider, those elements have become a page-turner novel called “The Casserole Courtship.” Her seasoned, realistic approach to fiction explores how some pretty fascinating people find love — or not.

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Elves and Magpies: The Mysterious Ways Writers Tap Into Rich Veins of Inspiration

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the pods of people who support and sustain our lives. Pods of family members, pods of friends, and (in my case) pods of people who are obsessed with writing fiction. The writer group is made up of people that I know personally and others whose work I admire and who give me a greater understanding of the craft.

I turned to the writer pod recently to gather some thoughts about an enigma when it comes to fiction. It involves a question that writers get asked all the time but many of us find it hard to answer: Where do you get your ideas?

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The Comparison Trap: How to Get Back on Track When Others Succeed

There once was a belly dancer named Carmen. She wowed crowds from Coney Island to Cairo. Really hot men dropped at her feet when she did the Turkish Figure Eight. They didn’t call her Magic Hips for nothin’. Another dancer named Stardust won the International Belly Dance Championship, and Carmen was back a ways in the rankings. She just couldn’t curb her sense of despair and jealousy. She felt like calling the whole shimmy-thing off. Maybe she should just become a bookkeeper for her shady uncle’s dump truck biz like he always wanted.

My fictional Carmen just danced into a very particular circle of hell: comparing herself to someone with similar aspirations who scored a coveted victory.

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‘Where Then Is Paradise?’ — Reflections on Asteroids, Putin, Scarcity, and Love

You may have heard the news that scientists uncovered new understandings about the asteroid that hit planet Earth 66 million years ago, destroying three-quarters of all plant and animal species, including dinosaurs.

Two researchers from the University of Michigan initially reported the findings in NGU Advances. And a later report in The Washington Postdescribed the asteroid this way: “The researchers drew on previous research and assumed the meteor had a diameter of 8.7 miles and a density of about 165 pounds per cubic foot — roughly the weight of an average adult male crammed within a volume the size of a milk crate.”

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Top 8 Things About a Friend With a Richly Lived Life

Her parents were part of the French Resistance. To evade Nazi detection, her mother hid tiny bits of paper with secret messages in the curly locks of her children’s hair.

A treasured friend of mine who lived in the United States for 45 years recently emigrated back to her native country, France. I’m coming to grips with the reality that our frequent visits are at an end. And I’ve written a list of things about her that I want to remember, always.

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Elon Musk and the Future

It was like a musket shot when Elon Musk pursued a deal to acquire Twitter. (And actually snagged a deal after this story originaly went to press.) But the most striking thing about it, for me, is his use of the word “freedom.”

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Red Beans and Rice: Memories of a Creole Love Affair

The cookbook lost its cover countless years ago. It’s spattered with roux (that baseline sauce of many a Creole recipe) and other unidentified marks from meals long gone by. The spiral binding has been a little derailed, but still holds the pages together. And part of the index was unintentionally ripped out of its original place somewhere along the way and is now a bookmark.

” is like a bible for some people utterly smitten with New Orleans cuisine. And its author sure has one snobby attitude. Leon E. Soniat Jr. prefaced his recipe for red beans and rice: “If you insist on cooking sausage with your red beans, try this recipe.”

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Fantastic Worlds Coming Our Way: How Metaverses Will Evolve

The cascading crises that the world is facing tear me in two directions. I pay attention to it in a pretty big way. But at the end of the day, escaping into far-flung fictional worlds is even more vital to my state of mind than before. If there were a bookstore version of a deli, where you could order novels instead of sandwiches, I’d be yelling: “Hold the futuristic disasters and smear on something fantastic.”

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How to Increase Your Powers of Charisma and Seduction

The dominatrix wasn’t what I expected. It seemed like anyone earning money from erotic bondage-and-submission services would be seedy, down-market, and a bit of a loser.

I was so wrong.

When we met several years ago, I discovered that she had her very own dungeon, with an assortment of whips and other trappings of the trade. Even a bed of nails. Anyone who hired her wouldn’t be disappointed — and she had some powerful clients.

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Six Tips on Building a Creative Writing Bonfire

It seems to me that desire to tell stories is universal among humans — almost as necessary as it is for a bird to sing. The urge must be written into the DNA of who we are. There are tales we want to blurt out to our friends in casual conversations. Or maybe we dream about getting our stories produced or published, wowing much larger audiences.

When bigger goals are at play, many people don’t know how to begin. It’s a fantasy they keep tucked away for their retirement years, or when they can cajole someone else to write a story for them.

I understand. The prospect of putting down words on a page can seem overwhelming. But there are ways to do it, one word at a time.

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Choosing Painful New Paths That Just Might Lead to Joy

Some of the hardest things that I’ve ever done have involved a sharp, painful turn in a new direction. If I didn’t make a needed change, another person pushed me hard. I had to do it.

In a lot of situations, it seemed like someone was forcing me into some gawd-awful situation. Maybe they laid me off (a.k.a., fired me). Maybe someone broke off a passionate relationship. However, if I step back and look at the circumstances that led up to the heave-ho, it often comes down to my own actions. At least partially.

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A Free Read for You – THE JUICE’s First Chapter

What were you doing around this time a year ago? It was the best of times and worst of times for yours truly. On the negative end, my husband was a month away from dying of cancer. When I wasn’t helping him, I was desperately trying to find anti-COVID vaccines. On the positive end, David and I had an amazing group of friends and family supporting us. And while that was all going on, my novel, THE JUICE, was published.

Chances are, if you’ve drilled down to this blog on my site, you already know that the title of the book refers to a chemical substance that makes people extraordinarily charismatic. I threw in a lot of romance and suspense over the course of writing the novel. Because it’s also a commentary on the future of media and advertising, and dystopian in nature, I like to think follows in the footsteps of some sci-fi greats, like William Gibson. In honor of the book’s publication last February by Dragon Moon Press, the first chapter follows below. Many hopes you enjoy it.

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To My Beloved Dead Husband: Science Fiction Is Here Now

Dear David,

Now that you’ve been gone for nearly a year, I’ve developed a new theory that I want to tell you about. It has to do with science fiction — that passion of mine that you so encouraged.

Perhaps the sci-fi genre first came about when someone wanted to tell a dead loved one what has transpired since their passing — how fantastical it all might seem.

Wouldn’t your father have been startled to learn that millions of people, of all social classes, were felled by a virus? That people would be afraid to touch each other, breathe the same air?

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Can’t We Just Get Along? A New Path to Harmony (or Not)

There’s a simple solution to get rid of all the hatred, contempt, and distaste expressed across the great gulf that separates so many of us — Democrats vs. Republicans, vaccination proponents vs. anti-vaxxers — the factions go on and on. If only this solution to our growing antagonism was utilized, we’d all get along. No more gatherings with friends or family that are marred by arguments about differing beliefs and opinions.

As I sketched out plans for my sci-fi novel, THE JUICE, I saw an end to all that. I envisioned a time in the future when we’ll live much more harmonious lives, like we haven’t in years, maybe decades. It’s not that we’ll believe in exactly the same things. We’ll just agree with ideas or opinions that are complementary to each other, like red and yellow blossoms artfully arranged in a floral bouquet.

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CBD to the Rescue: Responsible Ways to Live Without Booze

By Janet Stilson / November 22, 2021 /

Do you ever wonder if there will come a time when humans will no longer need to swallow and smoke chemical substances to relieve their pain and relieve anxiety? As the relationship between humans and computers continues to evolve, maybe future generations will implant a chip in their bodies to counteract whatever whacked-out thing they’re…

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The Confessions of a Stick-in-the-Mud: Searching for Spontaneous Joy

By Janet Stilson / November 9, 2021 /

There’s a defect in my personality that I have only recently identified. Those of you who know me may immediately think, “Uh huh. Maybe Stilson is actually going to stop (fill in the blank). She drives me nuts.’” Whatever that might be, today, right now, the defect du jour that I’ve pinpointed is a lack…

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Cherishing the Small Stuff: Porting Into Lost Times, Distant People

By Janet Stilson / October 26, 2021 /

I once owned a locket of no particular value. It might have been made out of tin with gold plating on top. And it was a little dented. But it was something my grandmother had cherished. Inside were tiny little photos of her parents, a dairy farmer and his wife who raised her in a…

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The Woman Who Looked Like a Chicken, and Other Inspirations

By Janet Stilson / October 12, 2021 /

I once met a woman who reminded me of a chicken, and another one who often stored muffins between her breasts. At the time I met them, they were both well into their 70s, if not older. Though many, many years have passed since then, they were so memorable that I based two of my…

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A Dark, Steamy Movie and a New Isaac Asimov Series Splash Down

By Janet Stilson / September 28, 2021 /

  The new Apple TV+ series, FOUNDATION, based on Isaac Asimov’s landmark sci-fi novel series, is blowing my mind. Although I’m still trying to decide whether I like the gender switching and romantic frisson touches that weren’t in the original work. It’s not fair to deliver final judgement, because I’m still on episode 2, but…

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How Beauty Helps Me Look on the Bright Side of Life

By Janet Stilson / September 13, 2021 /

It’s almost like I’ve been in a science fiction story over the last week. I’ve inhabited a world in which all niggling and gargantuan points of tension lifted away. All I did was gaze at exquisite wildlife and scenery, breathed pungently healing air, listened to sweet bird cries. Nothing could crowd out those wonders; nothing…

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It’s All in Your Head: Feeling Future Happiness Today

By Janet Stilson / August 31, 2021 /

Do you know how WD-40 got its name? I recently discovered that the 40 refers to the number of versions of the formula that were created before its makers finally got a lubricant that worked just right. Chances are, you’ve used it to make cranky windows open more easily, or get rid of that squeak…

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Why I Love Ishiguro’s ‘Klara and the Sun’

By Janet Stilson / August 17, 2021 /

What if it were possible to walk into a store and buy a best friend with artificial intelligence – a humanoid robot able to love you and serve your best interests? That is the central premise behind a novel that rocketed up close to the top of my personal “favorite book” chart. And that was…

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Growing Up Like a Wild Bird in a Town Called Franklin

By Janet Stilson / August 3, 2021 /

Imagine a lottery system that runs across the entire universe. And each time someone is about to be born, a ga-zillion colored balls ping around, and as a select few are pulled out, your fate is sealed. Perhaps you will become Rusty Redsnore, and you are foisted off on an alcoholic old aunt in a…

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

By Janet Stilson / July 20, 2021 /

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…

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