Author’s Thoughts

Make Way for Seeing Double

A whole new cast of characters join the familiar collection of Chicago characters you met in Relentless and these characters are complex, compelling and completely unique in tone, mission and personality. I cannot wait to hear your reaction to this newest group and to hear which of them you love the most! Our newest novel, set in the Middle East will introduce you to characters from several different countries and cultural backgrounds and will walk you through a number of intriguing covert adventures that will leave you guessing until the very end. You will meet the leader of a new extreme Islamic faction and listen as their goals and views emerge. You will see into the personal lives of leaders and spies and peek behind the scenes into some powerful political and governmental offices and in the end you may still not know exactly who is doing what.

Seeing Double is a work of fiction, but it captures many of the concepts and conflicts that are real and apparent in the world today, it walks the reader through an inside view of those conflicts as they are experienced by the characters who are breathing life into them. This is a fast paced action packed novel filled with personable, engaging characters that will embrace you from the first page through the last. Be sure to get your copy of Seeing Double. It will be available in hardcover, Kindle and audiobook and please be sure to let me know what you think by rating the book on Amazon.com and by visiting me at NancyJAlexander.com.

 

Is Violence Contagious?

I had been watching Baltimore’s mayor on TV.  She reported that in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody, massive riots had erupted in Charm City. The National Guard was deployed to help restore peace; a strict curfew was instituted; neighboring police departments sent reinforcements and the city was in the midst of riots the likes of which had not been seen since Martin Luther King’s assassination. Large numbers of city residents had been peacefully demonstrating, but those protests, peaceful though they were, set off pockets of opportunistic violence across the city in an ever escalating series of destructive acts. Police officers were attacked, many injured, stores were damaged and robbed, fires were set, property was destroyed and the city erupted into stampedes of rioting, thieving teenagers.

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Spotlight on Hattie Raines

A simple-minded woman, totally dominated by her husband, Hattie Raines emerges in Relentless as a central, albeit flawed character. She is pivotal to the plot. Were she not exactly who she is the story could not have proceeded as it did. Although she appears to be a rather dull, unimportant character she is exactly the opposite. Because of her conflict-avoidant nature she fails to protect her child which is central to our heroine’s decisions; and because of her naiveté, Hattie is manipulated into the dangerous role of killer’s secret-keeper. Hattie is first and foremost Earl’s wife and he rules his family with an iron fist. Accommodating to him is her life-long pattern and to maintain that pattern she is determinedly narrow in her focus. Uneducated and removed from the world around her, Hattie persists in maintaining fixed, rigid ideas about herself and the people in her life only questioning her perceptions at the very end.

In some ways, Hattie Raines represents ‘every-woman.’ She embodies the plight facing many women in the world today, those who are bound by culture, religion, economics or tradition, who are dominated and controlled by their husbands or fathers, who are rigidly role-bound and unable to see beyond the constraints of everyday life. As I wrote about her, I saw a woman caught up in moral dilemmas she didn’t even notice. And I think had she but seen one of these issues, had she but recognized one place where she could change, she could have turned the whole situation around. Earl knew that, most dominators/abusers do. They keep their women hidden away from other people, away from institutions of learning, away from books, newspapers, TV. Anything other than ‘their way’ is regarded as a threat to the status quo and the status quo is what preserves their power so it must be maintained at all cost.

If we look at Relentless from this angle, Hattie and Earl Raines represent flaws inherent in the human condition but they also highlight the importance continuing growth, learning and expanding beyond the boundaries of yesterday.

 

Where Would We Be Without Them?

If the press and TV media are called the 4th estate, would Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Steven Colbert be the 5th estate?  Late night political commentator/comedians spin the serious stories of today with sprinklings or globs of outrageous humor that help their audience view the world and its leaders from different angles. Where would we be without humorists, cartoonists and satirists? These smart and talented people enable us to see the humor in serious issues; encourage us to become critical, analytical thinkers while maintaining some emotional distance through humor, sarcasm and sharp wit. Taking on some of the most sobering, complex issues in the world today they guide and shape our thinking, encourage us to ask questions, to look behind the staged photos and film clips, to perceive the flaws in news stories and see the contradictions, hypocrisies and deceptions in leaders across the world. They give us a glimpse of ‘behind-the-scene action so the bright lights and stagecraft fail to blind us to the reality of world-wide political events have become.

Jon Stewart has been called ‘the funniest smart man’ or ‘the smartest funny man’ and both attributions are true. He is the leader if not creator of the 5th estate; he is unique in the world of humorous political commentators. He has made an enormous contribution to the field of news/commentary, he is greatly appreciated and will be greatly missed when he retires from The Daily Show to move on and express his keen insights in other arenas.

 

How to Get Away With More Murders

When Viola Davis’s character (Annalise Keating) called and asked her Mama (Cicely Tyson) to come help her, none of us were prepared for the powerfully explosive exchanges that produced major revelations in this edgy courtroom drama. How to Get Away with Murder has hammered out some hard hitting scenes since it was launched in September 2014. In this episode, “Mama’s Here Now,” ‘Mama’ is a small, seemingly fragile, black woman from a poor rural southern background who packs a surprising punch that has her tyrant-in-the-courtroom daughter reeling and punching back. In an intimate mother-daughter moment ‘Mama’ reveals how, years before, she dealt with her child’s tormentor saying, “….sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Even if all you have is a long match and some very flammable hooch.” With that line, ‘Mama’ shows Annalise/Anna Mae that she was a protective mother and just how alike they are. With emotions spilling out, Mama reveals how she exacted her own brand of justice for her violated child and, unbeknownst to Annalise, became the unconsciously embedded role model for how to get away with murder.

In one fell swoop, the pair demonstrates the impact of addiction, child-abuse, poverty and family ties, creating dynamic shifts in perception and relationships. There is just no going back. From the shattered vodka glass in the kitchen, to the traditional hair combing in the bedroom, we are stunned by the stark reality of their experiences. Life, now different in retrospect, can be embraced as it never had been and the future sees Annalise summoning up the courage to leave her self-imposed prison and begin to de-construct the entanglements she created.

 

A Hero Of Our Times

Selma is a must see movie that speaks to the explosive power of social change characterizing the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. It speaks to the charisma, vision and indisputable eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr. who’s oratorical and leadership skills remain unparalleled in US history. As a man, King embraced not only the faith and hope of his people but also their needs. He felt, deeply felt, their need for social equality. He felt their pain as a disadvantaged minority. He knew that the key to social change rested in the hands of the President and the Congress. He knew that true equality, social and political justice can never exist without sufficient and adequate laws to support it. He knew that the power to create legislative change required enormous public pressure. And he knew that the way to create public pressure started with feet on the ground in Selma, Alabama.

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Chicken Broth Options

If you’re in need of chicken broth, here are two options for you:

In a 5- 6 quart slow cooker, combine the carcasses and skin from two 2 ½ pound purchased roasted chickens or 1/1/2 pounds chicken wings and backs; 4 large carrots, chopped, 1 onion coarsely chopped, 1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped; ½ cup loosely packed coarsely snipped fresh Italian parsley with stems; 3 sprigs fresh thyme; 3 cloves garlic, smashed; ½ teaspoon salt; and 10 whole black peppercorns. Add cold water, cover and cook on low for 12 hours. Strain broth through a large colander lined with damp cheesecloth; discard solids. Cover broth chill overnight. Before using, lift off lid and discard fat layer. Makes about 8 cups of broth.

Or

While you’re at the store, instead of buying the two 2 ½ pound roasted chickens, the 4 carrots, the onion, the bunch of celery, the fresh Italian parsley, the sprigs of thyme, cloves of garlic, salt, peppercorns and the cheesecloth, go to the soup aisle and buy Swanson’s Chicken broth, 100% fat free $1.19 for a 14 oz. can! Voila!

 

Is It Human Nature?

Fox News says they got it wrong. They apologized this week to millions of viewers here and across the globe for inaccurate, prejudicial statements either they or their guests made in the wake of terrorist attacks in Eastern Europe. They reported that there were ‘no-go-zones’ in Europe where ‘Islamic law supersedes local law’ and they said ‘Birmingham, England is a totally Muslim city where non-Muslims don’t go…’ Further they stated that the ‘EU poll shows that 69% of Muslims in France support ISIS…’ an inaccurate comment designed to terrify all of Europe. Their reports went on to vilify, exaggerate and yes, insult Muslims and non-Muslims across the globe. But here’s the thing. We all do the same thing. Not on the air but in our homes and jobs and minds. We cast aspersions on those we don’t know, make judgments, quote and re-quote inaccurate information and build the foundation for hatred. And we do it every day.

In Iraq we have ISIS capturing and killing Yazidis, (OK they released 250 of them mostly children and the elderly, thanks for that). But then we ask why. What is it about the Yazidis that would make anyone want to kill them? They are one of Iraq’s smallest minority populations, whose religion is considered a pre-Islamic sect that draws from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.  That sounds innocent enough but according to CNN, they have been persecuted because many Muslims see them as ‘devil worshippers.’ Doesn’t that translate to ‘they’re different’? And so, what if they are? Aren’t we all? How many kinds of Christian churches are there? How many different types of Jewish synagogues are there? How many religions are there? Look in the Yellow pages!  Read a book on World Religions!

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Deck the Halls

Every year about this time many people, especially in the northern states, have a tradition of driving around at night to admire their neighbors’ Christmas decorations. For some people, preparing for Christmas is a simple matter of tastefully decorating a tree that sits in front of their living room window. For others, it’s the decorated tree and nice little candles sitting on their window sills. For others, it’s the decorated tree, the nice little candles and string of white lights wound around their bushes. For others, it’s the decorated tree, the nice little candles, the string of white lights and a backlit nativity scene on the front lawn.

For still others, it’s the tree, the candles, the string of lights, the nativity scene and a huge inflated snowman surrounded by colored lights. For others, it’s the tree, the candles, the lights, the nativity scene, the inflated snowman and a cheerful animated Santa waving merrily as his reindeer team readies for flight. For still others, it’s the tree, the candles, the string of lights, the nativity scene, the inflated snowman, the animated Santa and his reindeer and eight robotic elves working at their workbench.

For still others, it’s the decorated tree, the candles in the windows, the string of lights, the nativity scene, the inflated snowman, the cheerful Santa and his reindeer, the robotic elves and 18 foot high letters that dance across the lawn spelling out MERRY CHRISTMAS. And in the background Dean Martin serenades onlookers with a deafening rendition of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” on continuous loop.

I Guess “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot like Christmas!”

 

Another one bites the dust

Our icons are falling one after the other. Most recent among our fallen heroes is Bill Cosby, a man we’ve known and loved since his hallmark role in I SPY in the mid-60’s (that’s 19… BTW). When he co-starred with Robert Culp on weeknight TV in the first spy series of its kind, he became the first black man to have a starring role on a TV series and brought his character Scotty into the limelight. As Scotty he was funny, warm, stable, rather shy and generally understated. He was focused on the job and not on the seductive women who were always getting Kelly Robinson (a world class tennis player) in trouble.  From there, Bill Cosby went on to star in and be loved for other roles as through the years he became someone we all, but especially young minority men looked up to, a leader, a funny man, a wise man.

Who didn’t love Bill Cosby? No one! We all did. He was terrific and loveable and spontaneous with his homey self-effacing anecdotes, his tales about his mother in Philadelphia. And what I loved the most about him was how sincerely human and real he seemed. So imagine my shock, no doubt our collective shock, when one woman after another came forward to tell her story about the Bill Cosby she knew.

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