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To Those Who Mourn in Silence (100,000)

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© To Those Who Mourn in Silence, Shari Lopatin, 2020

(written 5-28-2020)

 

I see your pain in

Silence.

As you curl

Away

Into your private world,

Lost, never found,

And missing your

100,000.

I sink with you

Alone.

And scoff at the smiles

That mock

Your loss.

If silence is your

Cry,

I will join you.

And together we

Will mourn

In darkness,

In darkness …

Does Atwood’s ‘The Testaments’ Measure Up to ‘Handmaid’s Tale’?

The Testaments cover

Book: The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Testaments-Novel-Margaret-Atwood/dp/0385543786

Stars: 3/5

A solid sequel to Atwood’s famous “Handmaid’s Tale” and worth the read for any true “Handmaid” fan

Three stars. I know. THREE STARS. Perhaps I gave Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited sequel to my favorite novel of hers only three stars because my expectations were so freaking high. And Atwood, despite how much I love her, didn’t QUITE meet them this time around. Nevertheless, I still recommend any true fan of “The Handmaid’s Tale” read “The Testaments.” Yes, you will find out what happened to Offred.

Perhaps what I loved most about “The Testaments” was how it dove into the backstory of one of my favorite villains of all time. I won’t say who, although you might have guessed. But the character development is phenomenal, in fact, perhaps Atwood’s strongest point in her novel.

What I found lacking was the plot. It was good–don’t get me wrong–but more predictable than I would have liked for an Atwood novel. Like all of her works, “The Testaments” was smart and strategic, and even a bit sly. Then again, doesn’t everyone require a hint of cunningness to survive within the borders of Gilead?

I felt satisfied at the end, like receiving closure from the end of a dear friendship after years of wondering what happened. If you loved “The Handmaid’s Tale” as much as I did, then read “The Testaments.” The book is worth your time and you will enjoy it. Just know it doesn’t move as consistently with the same urgency as “Handmaid,” but that’s OK. The closure is totally worth it.

4 Ways to Tell if Information is Real or Fake: Advice from a Former Journalist

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Photo by Aditya Doshi,, https://www.flickr.com/photos/avdoshi/8612921803

When I was a daily newspaper reporter, I always had to navigate through multiple versions of a story before I learned what really happened.

We have a saying in journalism. It goes, “There are three sides to every story: side one, side two, and the Truth.”

The Truth usually falls somewhere between the first two sides, and when I reported the Truth, both sides frequently accused me of bias. That’s how I knew I’d done my job.

In today’s age of information overflow, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are reading multiple stories and don’t know what to believe. This is causing rampant fear, confusion, and possibly poor decision-making.

When I shared some of the truth-finding strategies I used as a journalist with a dear friend after we discussed the Plandemic movie, she encouraged me to share my tips with the world. “Not many people know this stuff, Shari,” she told me. “Not everyone has a journalism degree, and I think these tips could really help a lot of people in today’s environment.”

So here I am, in hopes that I can help YOU navigate through the waves of information (and misinformation), thus landing on the Truth for yourself. Here are some of the basic building blocks that journalists use when investigating a story and getting down to the bottom of it:

1) Cross-Validation with Multiple Sources

Information should always be validated with a minimum of three independent sources to confirm its validity. As a journalist, you can never go with just one person’s story or perspective, no matter how viable it seems. You need to follow up and interview at least two more sources, check records or documents, and see if everything else backs up the story from your first source.

2) Attribution from Reputable, Primary Sources

Today, the moment I read an article, column, or blog post–or watch a video–where information is stated without citing a reputable and primary source, my radar goes off. THIS MIGHT BE FAKE!

In order to avoid slander and libel lawsuits, reporters must cite their sources. Otherwise, anyone can make any claim and it would be considered truth. Additionally, the sources must be:

  • Reputable. This means you cannot cite a psychic when making claims about a medical condition or the state of the economy. Instead, you would cite a doctor or an economist.
  • Primary. This means you cannot cite another article as your source, or a friend of the cousin who experienced the wrongdoing; the information needs to come directly from the person or entity.

3) Libel — The Accused are Given a Chance to Comment

How often have you read an article from Reuters or the Associated Press where it says, “_____ could not be reached for comment”? Reporters do this to avoid a libel lawsuit. They give the person or entity being accused of wrongdoing the opportunity to comment publicly before running the story. This is a common practice to remain within the bounds of law and avoid defamation, and any reputable news organization will follow it.

4) An Ulterior Motive or Agenda

People will try and use the media to push an agenda. Gee, ya don’t say?! But by this, I mean sometimes, a person has a beef with another person or entity, and his/her motivation for contacting the media is to “get back” at someone or something else (this is different than a legitimate whistleblower). Other times, a public relations representative is trying to sway public opinion in favor of his/her company, or a public policy that would benefit the company (lobbyists, anyone?).

As a reporter, I always had to be wary of someone’s motivation for contacting me with a potential story. This is also why cross-validation with multiple sources is so important in a balanced and well-researched news article.

The Bottom Line

I hope these basic journalism tips help you determine what’s correct and incorrect from all the information floating around the Internet and social media these days.

Remember: the intentional spread of misinformation can be just as dangerous as censorship.

(Shameless plug here: that’s a theme in my book!)

Don’t let yourself become a victim of misinformation. Keep your head on straight. I always tell people that facts drive journalism, while emotions drive propaganda.

If you found this helpful, I urge you to please share it with your friends and family!

Shari Lopatin headshot

 

*Shari Lopatin is a former award-winning journalist, mass communications professional, and author of “The Apollo Illusion,” a science fiction dystopia about a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology. 

 

I Have a Right to Protect Myself and My Loved Ones, Too

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To all those angry protestors out there, yelling at people for wearing masks, refusing to respect reporters’ requests to stay six feet back, and screaming in the faces of police officers, I have a message for you:

I HAVE A RIGHT TO PROTECT MYSELF AND MY FAMILY, TOO. 

If I want to wear a mask in public, let me wear a mask. If I want you to stay six feet back, stay six feet back. After all, as of May 5, 2020, the CDC reports that COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has killed 68,279 people in the United States, and has infected more than 1 million. Protestors, you’re not the only ones with rights in this country.

I’m angry, and I’m sick and tired of these people getting the limelight. I’m not in the streets counter-protesting because I believe in the importance of staying home right now. I WANT my governor to keep the re-opening of my home state, Arizona, slow and steady, because it protects my rights as a worker. It also protects my senior parents.

And yes, protestors: I have every right to wear a mask and tell you to stay six feet back. I have a right to my safety, health, and life as well. If you don’t listen after I tell you to stay back, and you approach me in a rage against my will, don’t be surprised if you get an elbow to the chin.

I’m a 5-foot-3 woman in her late 30s, and I will not put up with people threatening me because they believe I’m somehow part of the problem for wearing a mask and adhering to social distancing guidelines. People are growing increasingly bold, like the story of this Texas park ranger who was pushed into the water for reminding people to stay six feet apart, or this Family Dollar Store security guard and father of six who was murdered for asking a store patron to wear a mask.

I’m also sick of the brazen gun displays at protest rallies. Spare me the “second amendment” argument. I support the second amendment and my right to own a gun to protect myself, too. Those guns at the protests are meant for one thing, and one thing only: to intimidate others.

If people want to believe in conspiracy theories, or that the request to wear masks is somehow about government control, that’s fine. But the moment those beliefs turn into threatening actions against me, my family, and my loved ones, the gloves come off.

For anyone thinking this piece lacks supporting evidence, I’m venting without attribution for a reason. Conspiracy theories, and anti-science/anti-fact sentiment, have seemed to grip our American society lately. Those who believe the virus is a fake cover for the government trying to control the masses cannot be reasoned with. And I refuse to try.

I think the lunacy deserves an equally loud counter voice. That’s this blog post. If you agree with me, amplify it. SHARE NOW.

Read My New Short Story About Mental Health for Free: ‘Pomegranates’

“They say Arizona is a place for folks to start over, and that’s what I had in mind when I landed in the high desert of Prescott. I remember, it was the year the sun rose red over the United Kingdom, and boilin’ wine flowed across the hills of Northern California.”

~ Pomegranates ~

Sometimes, a story reaches so close to your heart, you decide to publish it for free. A gift to the world.

That’s how I feel about my new short story, “Pomegranates.” I’m giving it to you for free–to read, to ponder, to share with your friends, or family, or book club.

Read “Pomegranates” now.

What is ‘Pomegranates’ About?

“Pomegranates” is very different than my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, which was a science fiction dystopia. Rather, “Pomegranates” is contemporary realism, more akin to the styles of Where the Crawdads Sing or The Prince of Tides.

It’s about a young woman and her neighbor. It deals with themes of mental health, loneliness, and kindness. At the end of the story, in my “Note from the Author,” you’ll see why “Pomegranates” is so close to my heart.

I’ve published the story in PDF format so you can read it on your computer, download and print it out, or even save and email it to your Kindle. I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story in the comment section below.

Help #StopFakeBooks

I’m Launching a Campaign to Support Authors and #StopFakeBooks, but I Need Your Help

I recently came across an article from Vox, and then the New York Times, that (quite frankly) pissed me off. 

Apparently, Amazon has a problem with counterfeit books. I’m talking about entities that plagiarize an author’s book, print a fake copy (usually at much lower quality), and sell it as the real thing. The result?

The author doesn’t make any money, the reader receives a crappy copy, and the thief walks away richer.

The articles I’m referring to are:

What Can YOU Do?

Luckily, as a reader and consumer of books, you can help fight this! It’s an easy fix.

If you decide to buy a book on Amazon:

  • Always buy directly from either the book’s publisher, or from Amazon.
  • Do NOT buy from any “third-party” sellers.
  • Help spread the word on social media and to your friends using the hashtag #StopFakeBooks.

Many people are unaware of this issue and may purchase a counterfeit book without knowing it. Education and awareness are key. 

It’s personal for me, too.

I am concerned this might have already affected my book, The Apollo Illusion. I see several paperback versions of my book being sold by third-party sellers on Amazon that list it in “new” condition. However, the only place a reader can purchase a new version of The Apollo Illusion is directly from Amazon, not from these so-called bookstores. 

Many authors, such as myself, have invested years and thousands of dollars into the writing, editing, production, and marketing of our books. It hurts, both emotionally and financially,  to have one’s work and revenue stolen.

So help me #StopFakeBooks! Take to Twitter, to Facebook, to text, to WhatsApp, and to book clubs. Share this blog post with your friends, family, and book club members. And support your favorite writers by ensuring they’re getting paid for their work!

Would You Help Me Decide Whether to Open an Online, Used Bookstore?

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Should I open an online, used bookstore via Amazon? Help me decide, fellow readers and writers!

Happy Wednesday fellow readers, bloggers, and writers! I have a question to ask you.

I’ve recently tossed around the idea of opening an online, used bookstore via Amazon to go along with my own writing and publishing. I would carry used books from classics to recent bestsellers, and the hope would be to make pricing competitive. However, I’m trying to determine if the quest is worth my time.

Would you help me by taking one minute to answer three quick questions via the survey I developed about opening an online bookstore?

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Your anonymous feedback will help me make the final decision! And I always figure: who better to ask than other lovers of the literary scene? 🙂 Thank you so much for your time and help. Oh, and feel free to pass this survey along to your other reader and writer friends!

Why I’m Cutting Back on Social Media as an Indie Author

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This is me on a hike with my boyfriend months after getting sick.

A week before Christmas in 2018, a virus attacked my brain stem.

Technically, it was my vestibular nerve, which is responsible for communication between the eyes, inner ears, and brain. The condition is called vestibular neuritis (yes, you can Google it).

The result of this random, weird sickness was the world wouldn’t stop spinning and the horizon constantly quivered like riding a Shake Shack. I couldn’t drive, walk, read, cook, sit in a chair at a table, look at a phone or computer screen–and worst of all, I couldn’t write or work.

I took family medical leave for two months before I could return to my full-time job. And when I started coming back to life, I realized something:

Social media was giving me anxiety.

Which is kinda a conundrum, since I’ve worked as a social media manager. And I’m an indie author, and we rely on social media to help sell books. Nonetheless, every time I jumped onto Facebook, I no longer saw my friends having a fun hike or taking a family trip to Northern Arizona.

I saw activities I could no longer do and feared I would never be able to do again.

So I Decided to Quit Facebook for a Month

I also cut back on Instagram; same with Twitter (to be fair, I stopped using Twitter regularly a year ago).

Slowly, I found myself concentrating inwardly again: on my emotions, on my relationships with close friends, family, and my boyfriend. Life became a constant state of meditation, reflection, and observation as I worked to reduce the immense anxiety that consumed me during the recovery stages of this awful sickness.

And I found myself living in the moment more.

The Science Backs Up My Feelings, Too

Today, I’m slowly working some social media back into my life, but I like the way I feel when it’s not a dominant factor. I also realized that I value my privacy. I don’t mind sharing certain personal stories (like this one), but I want to control how much of my life is discussed publicly.

Maybe my subconscious knew these things years ago, when I wrote the first draft of my debut novel, The Apollo Illusionabout a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology.

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Either way, even though I might need social media to help promote my book, I’ll be more conscious of how much I’m using it in the future. I like feeling better. Don’t you?

‘The Apollo Illusion’ Now on Kindle Unlimited! (Yes, Read it for FREE)

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It’s true! I am so excited to announce that as of this week, my debut sci-fi dystopia, The Apollo Illusion, is now available on Kindle Unlimited.

Which means, if you have the service, you can read it FOR FREE.

[CLICK HERE  to start reading it now!]

What is ‘The Apollo Illusion’ About?

I describe it as Divergent meets Logan’s Run, an Orwellian science fiction dystopia about a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology. It’s targeted for young adults (ages 15+), but a lot of adults have gone kinda crazy over it.

Like this review from the Arizona Daily Sun: “The timely release of The Apollo Illusion comes in the wake of ‘alternative facts’ and attacks on the ‘fake news’ media from President Trump and his administration … It’s a dark look at a future more closely in alignment with the present than Lopatin anticipated when she completed the first draft four years ago.”

Or this review from John Coon, fellow journalist and author of the horror novel, Pandora Reborn: “This is a story that’s well-written and the mysteries contained within the plot draw you in and keep you hooked from one page to the next. The Apollo Illusion should occupy a spot on the to-read list of any true dystopian sci-fi fan.”

Enough tooting my own horn (wink). Seriously though, you can learn more about the story’s plot, and read more reviews, by checking out the book on its Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Apollo-Illusion-Shari-Lopatin-ebook/dp/B07BQHMFVP.

HAPPY READING!

Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’ Flips Girl Power on its Head (Book Review)

The Power book cover

The Power makes a strong societal and political statement meant for girls and women. The ending will chill you into your bone marrow and even make you question a woman’s role in ancient human life.

Book: The Power

Author: Naomi Alderman

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Published: Oct. 10, 2017

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Power-Naomi-Alderman/dp/0316547603

Stars: 4/5

Rarely do I find a new, recently published book that poses such a deep philosophical question, that I find myself pondering it two weeks after finishing.

I won’t lie: about halfway through Naomi Alderman’s The Power, I started wondering about the hype surrounding it. The book was good, and I was enjoying the story, but did it really deserve to be listed as one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and one of former President Obama’s favorite reads?

And then, I got to the end—the final part. And OH. MY. GOD. Yes it does!

The Power turns girl power on its head and really makes us #bossbabes ask ourselves: what would we do if we suddenly became more powerful than men? What if we really could run the world?

Are we as innocent as we believe?

The Story

The plotline is simple, so I’m taking this straight from the back cover of the book.

“All over the world, women and girls are discovering they have the power. With a flick of the fingers, they can inflict terrible pain and even death. And with this small twist of nature, everything changes drastically … The Power takes us on a journey to an alternate reality and exposes our own world in bold and surprising ways.”

My Take

Here’s the thing about The Power: its strength is not in character development or even astonishing plot twists (though, there are some of those). In fact, I sometimes felt detached from the characters, which is the main reason I scored this book with four stars, rather than five.

Instead, The Power makes a strong societal and political statement meant for girls and women. The ending will chill you into your bone marrow and even make you question a woman’s role in ancient human life.

More than anything, the book strikes me as a near-metaphor for #MeToo, with young women igniting “the power” in older women. However, although the story begins with messages of empowerment, it soon turns darker and poses deeper questions about human nature. At times, it’s hard to read.

Margaret Atwood called The Power “electrifying.” I’d have to say, I agree with her.

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Hey, guess what? I got two advanced reviewer copies of some hot new books coming out in July 2019! One is a contemporary dystopia, the other a science fiction. Don’t miss them! Follow my blog, or …