New Thriller about to be Relased.

I recently received a proof copy of Stoned for His Faith. My proofreader and I both carefully checked it out. Covenant Books did a great job assembling, designing the book and cover, and printing it as a paperback. I am excited how well it turned out. My proofreader likes it as well (She may be influenced that I named a character after her and that character gets married to a very charming minor character.).

I gave Covenant Books the approval to start production. I expect release before the end of the year. It will be available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Spring Arbor. It will be distributed through Ingram to brick and mortar book stores as well.

Because I am the author, it is already for sale on the book store attached to my website, ReynoldConger.com. If you go to my website, you can place a pre-release order in my book store at a discount. I will ship your book as soon as I am sent a stock of books. As always, I will sign your book. Books are sent free to USA addresses. Inquire about postage to other countries.

The book will also come out as an e-book. I do not have details yet, but it should be offered by Amazon, I-tunes and Barnes and Noble.

This book is a thriller about a pastor who writes a book teaching Christian how to witness to Muslims. The book is effective and popular. Of course, a US mullah takes offence. He orders his men to locate and kill the pastor. They chase the pastor down with the intent of stoning him, but the community coward arrives on the scene. . .

For more about Stoned for His Faith of about any of my books, go to ReynoldConger.com.

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New Book Coming

Stoned for His Faith, a Christian thriller is rushing toward its release date.

The other day, I received a package of books. They are test copies of Stoned for His Faith. My proofreader and I will examine the book for problems such as missing chapters, pages up side down or inconsistencies in format. Once I give my approval, the final step of the production process will start.

Of course we do not expect any problem, The manuscript was well proofread and edited at every step of the process. Nevertheless, it is better for us to catch any mistake than for a defective book to be shipped to you.

Information about the book is on my revised website, http://www.ReynoldConger.com. The book should show on the book-store page of the website for pre-release orders. By the way, pre-release orders are at a discount.

As usual, I will sign all of my books and ship them to you free to addresses in the USA. Please inquire the cost of shipping books outside of the country.

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Is Mother Nature Angry?

Right after Hurricane Irma hit Florida, a starlet who is called Jo-Law (I think her last name is Lawrence) broadcast the message, “Harvey and Irma are Mother Nature expressing her rage over Trump’s election.” Let us ignore the political implications. After all, each of us has an opinion. My question is how can Mother Nature be responsible for any gift or tragedy?

Mother Nature is a metaphor for the effects of natural activities. Some people think it is more poetic to say that Mother Nature gave us a good crop rather than  attributing the good crop to good rainfall, soil nutrients, and/or a long growing season. In doing so, they are not suggesting that there is a deity or a superhero who is making and acting upon rational decisions. By using Mother Nature, the writer is only saying we are blessed or cursed by factors found in nature that he or she can not easily express.

At first, I wondered why Ms. Jo-Law simply did not say that God was giving the bad weather to punish us for our political actions. That would make more sense than what she tweeted because God is a deity with the power to change weather patterns if he chooses. Then I saw a review about her soon to be released movie. According to the reviewer, the movie is anti-Christian. Apparently Ms. Jo-Law does not believe in God.

So if she does not believe in God, who or what does she believe in? One of the weaknesses of those who criticize religion, is that they offer no other viable alternative to an omnipotent and omniscient God. Certainly a metaphor like Mother Nature, Father Time, or Lady Luck lacks the wisdom to know how to run the world and certainly lacks the power to control it.

Yes, I know we are supposed to believe that the universe evolved by random chance. Survival of the fittest may explain changes within species, but it is a violation of the laws of thermodynamics for random actions to actually build something. When you play cards, why do you shuffle the deck? To mix them up, of course, and the more you shuffle the more the order of the cards is randomized. You can not shuffle a deck of cards long enough to put the cards in order by suit. Likewise, random action may cause changes, but changes based on random action can not create a new atom let alone a new universe. In order to create order out of disorder, someone must do some work.

I may be mistaken about the identity of the God I worship, but I am convinced that there is a deity that has the ability to build a universe and change weather patterns. This deity may be trying to help us or punish us. In either case it must be a deity with the omnipotence and omniscience one usually ascribes to God.

Let us recognize that metaphors are great for literature. Metaphors may be an easy way to identify something that is very complex or little understood. Metaphors are not a substitute for God.

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CAN YOU FIX SOMETHING THAT IS BROKEN?

Once upon a time people had to be prepared to fix almost anything that broke down. This was especially true to those on the frontier because there were few local servicemen. Even in the more populated areas, it was expected that you would have to fix most of your possessions when they broke. This was largely because of economic factors and because of the simplicity of construction of common items.

Of course some skills were so difficult and rare that most communities attracted a black smith, a wheel right, and others with specialized skills. Some rural communities thrived while others declined because of the skills or lack of skills of the local artisans, but the bulk of repairs were done by the owners themselves. Fathers became known as Dad the fix-it man because little children believed that Dad could fix anything.

As equipment and possessions became more complicated, more specialists were required. Appliance repairmen had to be called when the washing machine broke down. Almost anyone could fix a wagon or repair a harness, but those temperamental horseless carriages often required an auto mechanic to keep them running.

My father was part of the last generation of fathers who could repair almost anything. He kept a barrel of scrap metal and a pile of scrap lumber from which he often fabricated simple replacement parts.

When I became a husband and father in the mid ’60’s, I used the skills my father had taught me to fix toys, appliances, furniture and the family car, but as the ’70’s came upon us, the fix-it fathers found it more and more difficult to make repairs. Many new items were spot welded or glued together rather than being assembled with nuts and bolts. The newer appliances and machines were built to more complicated plans. Rather than repairing items, more and more society has found itself replacing things.

I was reminded of this the other day when a fan stopped working. My brother and I used that fan to cool our room in the ’50’s. When my mother died, we found the fan in her house and added it to our pile of treasures. Over the past twenty years, that fan found occasional use, but this summer, my wife started using it to ventilate our greenhouse. The two speed switch malfunctioned so that it only ran at one speed. Then the switch failed entirely so the fan would not run at all.

I purchased a new switch and set about repairing the fan. Because the fan had been built in the early ’50’s I had no problem disassembling it. All fasteners were nuts and bolts or screws. The switch was replaced and the fan reassembled in jig time. We had a fan again.

As I disassembled the fan, I noticed four extra screws on the plastic case of the fan, and the plastic, though unbroken, was slightly deformed. Once the fan was disassembled, I discovered a plate of thin metal inside the case. Obviously the case of the fan had been broken once upon a time. One of us had probably dropped it and then taken it to Dad to fix.

The plate and screws had held the edges of the crack together. Very obviously, Dad had used acetone to dissolve the plastic and make it to flow, sealing the crack. My father’s skill showed in that the repaired crack was not noticeable until I looked closely.

Could you have fixed the cracked case of a modern fan? Perhaps if you could at least take it apart, or if you had a solvent that would soften the modern plastic used. The cellulose acetate plastics of the ’40’s and 50’s were soluble in acetone. Many modern plastics are not.

While the men got all the good press about fixing things, the women could also do their part. Often, broken toys got fixed before my father got home from work because Mom fixed them.

My father was drafted near the end of 1943. He went through basic training in Illinois and then was shipped to Texas for advanced training. In the spring of 1944, he was given permission to live off base. My mother packed her one year old son into a used car that my father had been maintaining. Keep in mind that cars built in the ’30’s needed frequent maintenance. As she drove south from Chicago, my father got some leave and hitch hiked north. They met in Oklahoma so my father could drive us the rest of the way to his base. In the course of things, my father inspected the car. He found it well maintained and in good condition considering the 1000 mile trip except that there was a hair pin where a cotter pin should be.

“Hey, Babe, how did a hair pin get under the car?”

My mother calmly answered, “I put it there. The car needed fixing on the trip, and I had no cotter pin. I didn’t have one, so I pulled a pin out of my hair and used it to fix the car.”

(note: During WWII, women wore “bobbie pins” in their hair to keep stray locks under control. Though the bobbie pin is a lighter construction that a cotter pin, they are both about the same size and shape.)

It is sad that we no longer are able to fix our own broken possessions. In part, that is the result of the way things are made these days. I certainly hope us old timers and the generations who follow us have not lost the desire to make repairs. I would hope we at least look the broken item over. Some things still can be fixed with a screw driver and plyers, but you have to try.

The End

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Let’s Work Together.

Almost every election cycle, almost half of the population are dissatisfied with the person elected as president. Perhaps we should expect people to grumble or even protest because their man or woman did not win. Perhaps that is the nature of an election in a democracy. Those of us who vote, cast our ballots expecting our candidate to win. Those ballots are tabulated according to the rules laid out in the Constitution or state and federal laws. The tabulation determines who will be the next president. Unfortunately there can only be one winner which results a lot of unhappy voters.

(Note that only half of our registered voters actually cast ballots. The half who could have voted but did not, should not complain about the outcome. They have forfeited their right to complain.)

Regardless of who wins an election, the government continues to rule the country. The new president runs the executive branch of the government, and a somewhat revised legislative branch makes new laws. In principle, the president and the legislators should be working together to govern efficiently. When there is cooperation, the country runs smoothly.

Instead this year, we have democrats who have vowed to block President Trump’s entire agenda. Perhaps we can understand a desire to oppose certain programs or policies, but what we are seeing is the legislative equivalent of a sit down strike.  This is a violation of the principles of a democracy. While the majority rules, the majority is obligated to pay attention to the minority, and the minority is obligated to cooperate with the majority.

Certainly, we can not expect members of the minority party of rubber stamp everything the president asks. What a healthy democracy requires is that the minority party becomes the loyal opposition. This means they may oppose a proposal or a bill, but they will strive to get what they think is best for their constituents and the country.

Rather than simply trying to block an administration’s bill, they should be working during debate to amend the bill to better serve their constituents. While they may still vote against he final bill, it is possible that their amendment may soften what they think are the undesirable features of the bill. In short, the loyal opposition is obligated to work with the majority to put the bill into its best form.

Likewise, minority senators should not be voting against a nominee based only on whether they think a nominee is too conservative or too liberal. The senate needs to work together to determine the nominee is qualified or not based on their qualifications for the job.

My remarks would apply equally had Hillary become president. While there would have been disappointed republicans, my argument stands that they should be cooperating with her administration.

My concern is that members of our government are wasting a lot of time and energy looking for ways to tear each other down. In spite of anyone’s disappointment, this is not the time to be divisive or obstructive.

If we want a truly great America, we must all work together. Our elected officials must work together, and we, the voters, must support their efforts to work together in the interest of the United State of America.

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How I Develop a Heroine

Readers often ask how an author develops the heroine of his or her book. The temptation for a male author is to use his wife or girl friend as the heroine. I will admit that for my first book, Chased Across Australia, I did just that except that Chased Across Australia is not a romance, it is a thriller. All of the major characters are married so the only romance is the love they share with their mates. There are not even any romantic subplots. Technically in Chased Across Australia, I used my wife in the role of a co-protagonist. She and her husband are chased by terrorists and must work together against the antagonists to survive. In that book it helped for them to be in a stable marriage. By chance, the antagonists are also a couple in a strong marriage.

My second book, My Knight in Shining Armor, is a romance dedicated to a college friend who died in Vietnam. Of course he is the hero. In a romance, the hero is the man who is attracted to the romantic heroine and must strive to win her heart in spite of obstacles. Because the heroine is the woman who he is pursuing, she must be a special lady. She must be beautiful and charming enough to catch his attention in the first chapter, but illusive enough that by chapter three some seemingly insurmountable obstacle keeps them apart. For My Knight in Shining Armor, I blended together several girls who George had dated in college. I gave an edge to the personality of the girl I thought George loved the most.

Of course the personality traits that made these girls desirable to George also attracted other suitors to the heroine. This meant I had to give each of these suitors an undesirable trait that turned off the heroine so that she was ultimately attracted to George’s kind, loving and courageous personality.

My third book, Reducing Medical Costs (at the Cost of Health), is another thriller in which a group of protagonists, medical professionals, must deal with the policies of bureaucrats that endanger lives and with the hit men who are trying to cut costs by prematurely killing expensive patients. Because it has two romantic subplots, two of the protagonists are also romantic heroes. Both of these protagonists become widowed during the book. For the first one, I looked at two charming widows in our neighbor hood and combined their personalities. Why would not a newly widowed neighbor not be attracted to either of these women, and especially a combination of the two? The other protagonist is an emergency room doctor, so I gave him a nurse to fall in love with. For this nurse, I used a school nurse who had served at one of the schools where I taught. She was ideal for the role, so I only made minor adjustments. I am sure she will make an excellent second wife for the grieving doctor.

My next novel will be Stoned for His Faith, and will be released in December or January. It is a Christian thriller in which a pastor writes a book instructing Christians how to witness to Muslims. Of course, there is an enraged mullah who is insulted by the book and leads a party of Muslims to attack him. Because it is a Christian thriller, there would be no need for heroines, except that I have three romantic subplots. Because the protagonist is a widower, I have a widow living next door who is trying hard to use her cooking skills to start a relationship. A man needs more than just good meals, and even more than an attractive female body to get a romance going, so he eventually disappoints the widow next door.

In the mean time our protagonist feels called to reopen six little churches on an Indian reservation. There he meets a most charming woman who is the psychologist at the tribal clinic. There is an immediate attraction between the two, but she does not have Indian features. He thinks she must be a contract worker who will soon disappear back to wherever she is from. She thinks he has promised to marry his former next door neighbor. Both fear that a romance would become a disappointment. It was a real challenge to get a serious relationship going between the protagonist and the psychologist. This woman had to be professional and interested, like the protagonist, in helping people. She also had to share his love for hiking and camping. I more or less made the psychologist out of whole cloth, giving her personality traits that would have attracted me if I had been the protagonist. All I can say about the results of this romantic subplot, is that when one’s life is in danger, it is wonderful to have a loving woman at one’s side.

The second subplot is between a high school girl and the place kicker for the football team. Both were modeled after former students of mine. While they are minor characters, their romance helpes move the plot forward.

By this time, I was feeling sorry for the former next door neighbor. I had modeled her after a teacher with whom I had taught. This teacher has two endearing physical features: Her jet black hair did not even start to turn gray until she was in her mid seventies, and her fine complexion always looked ten years younger than her age. While her beauty and her cooking skills made her a temptation for the widowed pastor, they made her the perfect soul mate for the always hungry man who she meets late in the story.

I have also written The Richard Tracy Series, three novellas about a retired detective and a retired chef. (Published as e-books.) They are attracted by the fact they are both athletic in their retirement and they are both avid gardeners. They make a perfect pair except that he is a marathon runner while she is a serious bicycle rider. They meet on a two-day charity bike ride, but Richard really does not enjoy cycling. He has been encouraged by his adult children to join them on the bike ride. On the other hand, Mary Beth thinks cycling is much more fun than running. Running is something she only did in her youth to get ready for softball season.

How can a runner who hates cycling get along with a cyclist who thinks running is just hard work? Of course they are bonded together by things they have in common such as gardening, but this contrast in athletic specialties actually further bonds them as they each make sacrifices to support the other in his or her choice of sport. By the way, she is not a weakling. In some books, Richard must rescue her. In others, she must rescue Richard. So far through three novellas, they very happy and committed to each other. I hope this love will thrive through two or three more novellas.

In real life, a man and woman must be somewhat compatible to have a successful romance. Likewise in fiction, the author must find the right man and right woman to write a romance or even to write a romantic subplot in a book of another genre. Hopefully the reader will think the author simply threw the perfect man and the perfect woman into the plot, and eventually they lived happily ever after. It should look this easy, but in truth, it is hard work creating the right romantic heroine for her romantic hero.

More information about these books can be found on www.ReynoldConger.com.

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Can You Help Save the Bees?

I am a beekeeper, and my well meaning friends keep sending me articles about the impending total loss of honey bees. A friend referred me to an article (sorry link no longer open) telling the reader he or she could help save bees by building an exotic bee hive in which the bees build honey comb in glass jars and fill the combs with honey. I found the design interesting, but doubt it will save many bees. To build the hive will require more than the steps shown. To maintain such a hive, one needs to have beekeeping skills to keep the colony alive and equipment to tend the hive without being stung. Bees glue everything in the hive together with propolis. Thus the average person is likely to have difficulty removing the jars from the hive, and will probably have difficulty harvesting the jars of honey. Without protective equipment, they will get badly stung in the process.

We are losing bees. I myself lost half my hives two winters ago, and there are reports that my county’s largest beekeeper lost 100 hives last year. I have yet to confirm that Ken lost 100 hives, but he probably lost a large number. Part of the reason I am a beekeeper is that my back lot neighbor lost all of his bees six winters ago, I noticed decline in pollination of my garden. At the same time he and his wife were preparing to move to Albuquerque so he was willing to sell all of his equipment to me. In the process of loading hive boxes into my truck, he discovered a single box with a lid, and bees flying in and out of the entrance. After taking a peek under the lid, he said, “You have a live one here. Come back at sundown and haul them to your yard.”

As the sun set, I used duct tape to close the entrance and hauled the box around the block to my back yard. This was indeed a colony of survivors. The next day when I opened the hive I found it infested with wax worms. The larvae of this blue moth love to munch on bees wax. This box had contained ten frames on which the bees drew comb. In these combs the bees raise larvae and pupae and store honey and pollen. The wax worms had destroyed seven frames and filled 70% of the box with debris. Considering that most colonies live in a hive made of two boxes, this colony was reduced to living in 15% of the space they expect to have to live in. I placed the three good frames and bees in a clean box and gave them seven new frames. My first colony of bees has served me well. I still have the descendants of that colony.

wax worms are only one predator that can wipe out a colony of bees. Bears, skunks, mice, yellow jacket hornets, and several species of mites pray on honey bees. Any of them can weaken if not destroy a colony of bees. In addition, there are a number of diseases that can kill bees. In addition to predators, diseases, and pesticides, poor management can cause the demise of a colony. Bees store honey as their winter food. Beekeepers are careful not to harvest too much food. In addition, most beekeepers provide supplementary food in the form of syrup to help the bees survive the winter. I suspect this contributed to my neighbor’s loss of bees. We had an unusually cold winter, and he had not been feeding them. He sold me no feeders. It is likely that at least some of his colonies ran out of food in the cold weather.

For centuries beekeepers have know about the hazards mentioned above, but we have many colonies that get wiped out without explanation. Many bee hives have been left empty by a syndrome known as sudden colony collapse disorder (SCC). Researchers are working hard to learn why some hives are suddenly empty without explanation. Perhaps the bees went elsewhere to die because no dead bees are left in the hive. Some researchers suspect that SCC is the result of a virus. SCC has raised the alarm because the results are so catastrophic.

Yes, there are enormous numbers of colonies of bees being lost every year, but as a beekeeper, let me assure you that the honey bee is not about to become extinct in the immediate future. At the same time that bee colonies are being lost, new colonies are being formed. Overcrowded colonies will swarm. When they swarm they leave the old hive with a new queen and half the bees. The swarm flies off with the old queen and the other half of the bees. Given the opportunity, the swarm will establish a new colony. Now we have two colonies where we once had one. Beekeepers often prevent a hive from swarming by moving half the bees to a new hive. The half without the queen will rear a new queen. This creates a new colony, and there are breeders who grow and sell queens to beekeepers like me who may want to start more colonies of bees.

There is no crisis of the proportion being predicted by the media, but bees need our protection. Their pollination services are vital to the production of many of our crops. While I think the “save the bees” lobby is trying to start panic, they do have a point. We do need to protect the bees and minimize the losses of colonies. Obviously the proper use of pesticides and even the banning of some pesticides will greatly help. Good bee husbandry practices are also called for. You can also participate in saving the bees.

You are probably not a beekeeper dressed in a bee suit with veil and gloves, but your participation is as important as mine when you do the following:

  1. Use pesticides with care. Some pesticides are deadly to bees. Do not use them on or around blooming plants. Choose your pesticides carefully and then follow the directions. Many pesticides do not injure bees when used properly.
  1. Do not reflexively spray bees with your favorite pesticide. The only bees actively trying to sting you are those guarding the entrance of a hive. Simply ignore bees randomly flying around your yard. If there are a large number of bees pestering you, look for the source. You may have a colony of bees living in a hollow tree or in the wall of your house, or a swarm may have come into your yard. Seek the help of a beekeeper.
  2. If you think you need to call an exterminator, ask him to refer you to beekeeper for bee removal. My friend, Jim, is a professional exterminator, but he only kills those bees that can not safely be removed. Primarily these are colonies high up in trees or in walls that can not be opened. For anything else, Jim refers them to me or to another beekeeper.
  3. Occasionally, you will find a swarm in your yard. A large number of bees may fly in with a loud buzz. They will land on a solid object like a tree branch and form a ball. Sometimes, you may not hear them come, but suddenly see a large cluster of bees hanging on something. What you see hanging there is a swarm of bees. Do not panic. Leave them alone. Do not spray them with anything. Call a beekeeper. Our local association of Beekeepers maintains a hotline and a list of people prepared to capture swarms. In addition each spring, I give memos to the 911 dispatch center and all police and fire stations in our county. I get a large number of swarm calls either from 911 dispatchers or from people who are told by a dispatcher to call me. The beekeeper will capture the swarm and install it in a hive in his bee yard. I catch swarms for free, but some beekeepers charge a nominal fee.
  4. If you discover bees living in the wall of your house or an outbuilding, call a beekeeper. They can remove the colony of bees and move it to a hive in a bee yard. This procedure is called a cut out because it is usually necessary to open up the wall. A cut out is a labor intensive procedure and is expensive. An exterminator may tell you it is cheaper to kill the bees, but if you want to save the bees, call a beekeeper.
  5. The last thing you want is a swarm moving into the wall of your house. I hang swarm traps around my yard. To a bee, a swarm trap looks like a furnished condo. Frequently a swarm will move into a trap if it is available. Unfortunately you need a beekeeper to relocate the bees from the trap into a hive. I lease swarm traps, and I am sure some other beekeepers do the same. My lease arrangements include my services to empty the trap each time they catch a swarm. If you are concerned about bees in your wall, look into leasing a swarm trap.

The bees can be saved by a concerted effort of beekeepers, researchers, environmentalists, exterminators, and people like you.

If you are interested in keeping bees and harvesting honey, my recommendation is to take a beekeeping course so you know what you are doing. Buy protective equipment to minimize the stings. Buy tools and hive components so you can keep your bees healthy. A “standard” bee hive will be easier to manage than the fancy hive talked about in the first paragraph. You may not be able to see the bees storing honey, but you will be able to harvest the honey more easily. Beekeeping is fun and will enable you to save bees. Of course, the honey you harvest is good tasting.

For information or advice about keeping bees, you may contact me through my web page, www.ReynoldConger.com.

I have added a Bee Page to my website. It is under construction, but stop by for a look at short articles about bees and pictures of bees.

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