A friendly Ghost, two nice witches, a dirty demon, a hateful pedophile and an avenging father...what else do you need for a great late-night read? Set in Latvia, during early Soviet occupation, Wiggle Rooms is a mixed bag of old Baltic lore, superstitions, religious fervor, and diplomatic intrigue. Just days before a major Ministerial Summit between Russian and Latvian leaders is to begin in Riga, Ted Schwen is back to find answers, settle old scores, and take his son’s remains back to Atlanta. Toby had been taken and murdered ten years ago when Ted was the U.S. Ambassador to Latvia. Ted knows those at fault will never talk and those responsible for finding the truth will never truly search for it. He is back in Riga to find answers, and his constant companion–his dead son Toby–is there to assist…in spirit. Ted teams up with an officer from the American Embassy in Riga, Jules Bailey–a young woman with an old soul, an open mind and heart, and a gift handed down from generations past. Jules uses her gift with a similarly gifted woman, a mother who lost her son to the same monsters. The women must help Ted find answers hidden deep within the walls of a forbidding old house on the shores of the Baltic Sea. But it’s neither the house nor the sea they have to worry about; the ancient woods nearby reek of death, old pagan ways, and a demon named Biiel.
What would you do if you found creepy hidden rooms in a house kidnapped children had been held hostage? And what if inside those rooms were the victims’ drawings on the wall–detailing everything wrong with the world? Would you want to find out if the victims were still living, or would you choose to figure out what the drawings mean? In my novel Wiggle Rooms, my favorite Christian-witch, Jules Bailey, chose the latter journey. You see, in addition to seeing a lot of dead people, she also has an act for discerning demonic energy. In a falling-in haunted Victorian house in Jūrmala, Latvia, she feels the evil and knows the obvious: there are no survivors in this house. Your only choice is to deal with the dead left behind. In the end, I closed this story by using four words: “Boo! Who’s scared now?” I love to write about old lore and diplomatic intrigue that always seem to fit into my State Department past. But this story, the only thriller I’ve written, was different. To say the least, I didn’t like the negative energy it left behind. But I’m not a scaredy cat either. I still love to read certain parts sometimes, just to remind myself of a sad truth...if good exists, so must evil.
I’m never surprised when yet another small American town is forced to forego the Christmas tree for something more “politically correct.” This Christmas it will be my own little town in Georgia and, as I read the news today, I had to reflect on my own version of the Christmas tree as told in my third novel, Wiggle Rooms. This tale is set in Latvia, land of the most scary-looking forest I’ve ever seen. And if you believe everything on the Internet, you might already know that the first Christmas tree was cut from one of those Latvian forests and burned in medieval Riga on December 25, 1510. But it wasn’t burned to celebrate the birth of Jesus; instead, it was to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Was the burning of this tree a pagan ritual, or did someone’s candle get too close? Well, that depends on how much you believe in Google. I wrote Wiggle Rooms to scare people…on October 31, not to dissect the Bible. Dark forests are scary, and deep inside there are no boundaries and certainly no promises. That’s the way I’d like to view my Christmas tree. No boundaries. No promises. No negotiation. Keep your hand off my tree! But I must ask: Where is that damn Halloween tree anyway?
Southern Crosses captures the period in South Africa immediately following the Sharpeville massacre and traced the lives of a family that were forever changed following that fatal day. Now, fifty years later, Sarah Johnson is the epitome of success in the American Foreign Service. She is a successful, smart, and confident black female who seemingly has the world at her fingertips. Sarah's internal search for reason and faith in a hard and cold institution begins by reading an old endearing novel on a late-night flight that leads to Africa where two similar strong-soul, but worn-down women await her. Her alliance begins there, a place where she chooses to be kind to strangers and yet brutal to the hard and cold institution that made her. In Johannesburg, Sarah is placed in her first real battle between good and evil, right and wrong, revenge and forgiveness as she and her allies set out to protect a poor South African family that most lost it all after the March 21, 1960, Sharpeville Massacre. Her journey into post-apartheid life in South Africa-mixed with ancient bush rituals, religious fervor and a ghost named Mary Margaret-will leave her forever changed and on to her next journey, on that long road back home to rural North Carolina, where reason and hope have always resided. We all have our own unique ways of finding reason and hope, a new beginning, and the Southern Cross that shows us the way home.
Maybe I’m imagining things, but what’s with “Wagon Wheel” coming on the radio every time I drive into Raleigh? After a six-hour drive from Atlanta, a good song about getting back there always feels good. But the muse in me wonders whether Darius Rucker is trying to tell me something. Does he know more about damaged hearts than I do? Can I really go home again? What exactly is freedom? You see . . . I was in Sudan Islamic north when I wrote much of my first novel, The Seventh Priest, and the ease in writing the fictional bondage into the story was present from start to finish. My second book, Southern Crosses, was set in a peaceful post-Apartheid Johannesburg, and this story was as real as I could make it. Bondage was no more; black South Africa was finally free. But for reasons still unclear to me, free was far more difficult to write about. So as the song ends and my thoughts move from Africa and back to Raleigh, I regret not understanding the obvious earlier in life: it’s not enough just to die free, and it’s never right to value one’s freedom over another’s. Sometimes, we must help others die free too, regardless of where that struggle takes us.
To Kill A Mockingbird is the most incredible book and movie I’ve ever read and seen. And my love and respect for Harper Lee “almost” grew as fast as my fascination with Scout grew. I add this caveat maybe because the book was released the year i was born and the movie was one of those I remember best during my early years…with my two brothers, waiting to see that one scary movie we were allowed to watch. Scout is still the most interesting human being I ever thought I knew. And still today, at fifty-four, I believe I know her. I even wrote about Scout in my second work of fiction, Southern Crosses, and what I wrote is pretty close to the way I still feel. I wanted to know how Scout’s life turned out. “If only I knew, I would be so much more tomorrow than I am today,” I’d still cogitate sometimes. And then I find out by reading the doggone news that this version of Scout has always existed. All these years; all that wondering, worrying about those two children and Boo; all the what ifs and how comes; and now the truth is told. Damn. You fooled me, Harper Lee. But, I forgive you, Harper Lee. And I will love you forever.
When a colleague of mine told me she likes ghost stories of real people from places far away I gave her my Southern Crosses without adding much more to cover up my literary lack of confidence. When she told me later that she really enjoyed the read, I felt the need to dig deeper. You see, this colleague is a quiet, young yet old-soul kind of person; I can never tell what is in her head, but I know whatever she thinks and says is compassionate and kind. But the fact of the matter is few who have read that story get it. It isn’t about a family that was nearly destroyed during Apartheid. It’s about the question i wanted people to get on their own: When someone dies of a broken heart, what happens to those left behind to pick up the pieces? So this time I decided to reply differently. “You know that Mary Margaret died of a broken heart when she was just a young, angry mother. She just stayed around for seventy more years to pick up her own sordid pieces. And that’s what made her.” When my colleague responded with her own obvious truth, “I know that,” I just smiled and walked away. Someone finally gets it.
When you’re heading in the right direction and a voice still wrenches your soul, it just means something…utterly honest and real…is still yet to be said. In Southern Crosses: An African Ghost Story’s final three chapters, Anna’s hateful daddy has been disposed of, Jeremiah is dead, and everyone who believes in bush magic wants to blame her—she just wants to know what happened. I waited to the end to bring in the Muslim phenomena that is so powerful the ritual is still banned in most Islamic nations–the Ratiep. Taking a long knife and stabbing yourself over and over again to bring you closer to Allah is called faith. Mixing this with African bush magic is called syncretism. And the two don’t mix well in the world of Islam. Jeremiah and the lonely women of Kimberley, South Africa, learned the hard way—there are things you just don’t do to get back at your men.
Exactly what was Jeremiah Malik, and what would happen when he died? Jeremiah Malik, the witch doctor from Johannesburg, roamed the back roads of South Africa, ridding women of those they hated the most–deadbeat, hateful men. But for his Hoodoo curses to work, every rule had to be meticulously followed. Even the supply of wood used for the dolls had its own dark meaning; the bush’s magic wood had to come from rotten onyima trees located on land that dipped sharply downward toward hell. And its limbs flowed downward as well. If such trees were not readily available, casket wood from a Negro graveyard would also work. In Southern Crosses: An African Ghost Story, Mary Margaret, Gracie, and Ann had only one rule to follow: wrap the Hoodoo doll with a blessed Kappa, or wool cloth, that Cape Malay Muslims often used in their religious ceremonies. They had one rule to follow the night the little ancient ones showed up to steal Anna’s daddy away. They failed, and this set the scene for the horror that followed: Jeremiah was found dead the following morning, and every woman who’d lost a hated man in her life was forced to ponder the inevitable: When black magic fails, will all those cursed in the past rise from the dead?
Well…at least that’s the way old African lore explained it. To end my book Southern Crosses: An African Ghost Story, I searched and searched for bush superstitions about moving to the other side after death. I had a ghost who was still walking the roads of Kimberley, South Africa, a young child who was beginning her journey of faith and understanding of the afterlife, and a Sufi witchdoctor who thinks he has all the answers. I wanted my story to be rich with everything a reader would ever want to know about the African bush, animism, and its version of Heaven. The beginning of the book was all about what the old folks thought; the middle of the book was about what Jeremiah believed; and the end was about the little “colored” girl whose life never seemed quite right. I wanted Anna to be able to tell her own. When I found this marvelous “journey to the afterlife” story in an old African folklore book, I knew I had my ending. Anna finally figured it out all on her own. She got it, and in a lot of ways…so did I.
I guess the truth is obvious in Southern Crosses: Regardless of how much Anna’s father tortured her and Gracie, the idea of escaping wasn’t realized until Anna’s real mother showed up. It took Mary Margaret, a ghost who in real life loved the African bush ways, to bring the three to consensus: the man in their lives had to go. When the three merged forces, under the leadership of Mary Margaret, Christian ways took the backseat to animist bush beliefs and this made way for Jeremiah and his Hoodoo dolls. With the three women and a witch doctor on the same side, Anna’s father didn’t have a chance; the doll bearing his name was a hideous, ghastly thing. In my descriptions of the doll, I wanted to make it so scary no one in their right mind would want to go near…except, of course, those who are beaten down so much there is no…Christian…option.
At least that’s the way it was in Kimberley, South Africa during the early apartheid years. And those women’s greatest need was to rid themselves of their husbands. Anna, Gracie and Mary Margaret knew they needed a way to dispose of Anna’s father Tom Pickens; they found their answer after church when five church elders were confronted. It was Gracie who wondered how church-going Christians could be happy after their husbands just upped and disappeared. It was the witch doctor Jeremiah who showed up just in time to end the talk. This short meeting in front of Lost Coin Missionary Evangelical Church is where the church’s most needy met, all beaten down women, and it was there where Jeremiah found his next clients.
Isn’t that how it usually goes, but a “good” witch doctor like Jeremiah is going to have “good” clients, and maybe that’s why he was so attracted to Anna. As I wrote Southern Crosses, I struggled the most with developing the natural African connection between a colored girl who lives with an adopted white mother and the ghost of her real black mother. But I need to explain how the three came together in the first place. I used the Shi’a Muslim ritual named Day of Ashura to set the scene, even though this part of the book was set in Johannesburg, and it was a baby girl…Anna…who was prepared for her forehead to be slashed by her black mother Mary Margaret in order to vanquish Anna’s sins. Ashura takes place on the tenth day of the Islamic calendar and is still a national holiday in many Muslim countries. But in Southern Crosses, Anna comes out unscathed; her white Christian father shows up just in time, and the question of who is going to raise Anna is decided the very second the knife is pressed against Anna’s face.
Sometimes it takes the scariest person around to tell everyone else there is a ghost in the neighborhood. Sometimes it takes the one who cares the most for the haunted. Jeremiah, a Sufi Cape Town Muslim who dabbled carelessly in the dark side, was a character I used to tell my readers the woman they grew to love during Part I of Southern Crosses was actually a “friendly” ghost. I wanted my readers to view Mary Margaret as a real person before showing her haunting side. And I wanted Jeremiah to be that scary character that no one, not even a ghost, would go near. It was a Sunday morning and Gracie and Anna were walking to church, Mary Margaret following behind, when Jeremiah finally voiced the obvious. The confrontation was meant to start in a dark and scary manner, but quickly move to an endearing partnership.
I made my character Pastor Smiley a cross between Steve Harvey and Don King. He had to have that come-to-Jesus smile and eyes that dared you even to try to tell a lie in his House of the Lord. Who else could have gotten the truth out of two strong-willed stubborn women like Mary Margaret and Gracie? And who else but Pastor Smiley could invoke smoke sticks and spirit candles to get the truth started?
I made the church in Southern Crosses as dark and lonely as possible on the outside, but the inside was a different place. It had to be where Anna would go with Mary Margaret and Gracie, to be out of the house, but to interact with as few people as possible. People will not understand us. People will not like us. People will turn on us. People will hurt us just like they always hurt us. The three must have cogitated these thoughts every time they walked outside their little shack, and in most cases, those thoughts were right. But inside that church–the Lost Coin Evangelical Missionary Church of Kimberley, South Africa–it was a completely different world.
And old rundown church is a wonderful place to stage a dramatic showdown. Charismatic, bigger-than-life preachers rule from the pulpit in front of its masses of self-righteous do-gooders. In the back are those released from their parental possessions, and in the middle is where two parents are found anchoring those who are not yet free. In this middle is where I placed Anna and her two mothers, Mary Catherine and Gracie, and this where the two must explain Anna’s sad past in front of a church of nosy worshipers. I begin this scene with a deep and dirty visual of what old, rundown African churches “probably” mean to the poor who worship inside them…from a white man perspective, of course.
I’m just a white dude who is lucky to have lived in Africa. But does that give me the pedigree to write about the African people? Probably not, but I gave it my best shot when I wrote Southern Crosses. In retrospect, the ghost part of the story was easy; the paranormal is fierce there; there’s no other way of saying it. Paganism is as much part of the African landscape as animism itself, and if you’re going to write about Africa, you must be prepared to write about its darker sides. I’m drawn to something else about Africa, and over time, I learned to add soul food into my African world. The first time I had okra was in Khartoum. I had turnip greens in Juba, and fried fish in Bor, a few hundred miles up the Nile River. I went to Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Dakar, Ndjamena, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, and ate “soul” food every chance I got, and in a strange way, the food brought me closer to its past. So here is my advice to any outsider wishing to write about life in Africa: Eat a lot of soul food with a free heart and open mind, and then wait for that mystical side of Africa to seep in.
Have you ever written something completely against the grain of your thought process, something uncharacteristic of everything you believe? I did when I wrote this part of Southern Crosses: An African Ghost Story. It was the hardest piece of writing I’ve ever done, and it was my fault; I chose the antagonist, a poor African father later killed by the women who “tried” to love him. Would I use a father as an antagonist again? My answer is “No,” because now I have successfully launched Color Him Father Foundation, a non-profit that merges civil society with the private sector to create better ways to inspire and motivate African companies and their working fathers to create a nurturing home environment for their children. You see, a real writer should never write someone so opposite from his or her beliefs that an argument, or at least an explanation, can’t be justified. I don’t believe any father is innately bad; I prefer to believe that every father can care for and protect his offspring, if he is taught well and examples of good fatherhood surround him. Fiction isn’t rocket science, and neither is fatherhood.
International Publishers (IP) 2014 Illumination “Silver” winner. What happens when people do things they shouldn’t—things so horrible that they are left racked with guilt and longing for redemption? Jules Bailey, working for the U.S. Department of State, is going to find out in Dragon Bones, the latest D.A. Winstead’s latest thriller. Against a background of the lingering events of the Balkan War, Jules is working in the American embassy in Croatia when the ambassador there sends her to the old medieval town of Dubrovnik to aid a U.S. senator and his wife in trying to save their daughter Rachel. An old man involved in horrendous deeds associated with the war awaits death, while others like Rachel unexplainably enter an ancient church long since closed by the Catholic Church, and they refuse to leave. Jules arrives on the scene to befriend a handsome young priest, Father Tomas, who takes her to a site in the mountains where a dragon reputedly crashed into a cliff and died, he then tells her that the dragon’s bones are hidden inside the church. Jules begins to see the pieces coming together to reveal a mystery that will only make sense to people of faith, but sadly, the Vatican has members who want to control people’s faith, deciding what should and should not be known. The reader will continue guessing–can Jules and Father Tomas help the penitents within the church, or will organized religion once again try to control people’s faith?
I have to wonder how many people who believe they have ghosts in their lives actually have angels. There is no DIY manual, and there certainly isn’t a University of Angels. In fact, there are a lot more of the other types of gifted leaders—parapsychologists, metaphysicists, and even those dreadful exorcists. And with this labor shortage, I have to think back to the common denominator in my second, third, and fourth books. In Southern Crosses, no one knew my angel was around until the very end. My angel in Wiggle Rooms was menaced by a horribly evil force. And in Dragon Bones: Two Angels Leave at Sunrise…well, that one was special, and it certainly didn’t end the way the tragedy played out in my head. Midway through writing this story set in post-war Dubrovnik, Croatia, I just had to sit back and marvel at the miracle. You see, even in places where spiritualism is sky-high and weary followers are craving for answers, even the wisest can still be fooled into thinking too small. Even the wisest can wrongly believe that a dragon crashed in the mountains overlooking this majestic city and its bones just disappeared. Sadly, it’s a lot easier to follow others’ beliefs. But when another angel arrives to take home those angel bones, the open mind conquers all.
I did the Facebook “What Angel are You?” quiz and learned about myself: “You used to be good, until you fell from heaven. Now you're naughty and loving every moment of it. You're all about lust, gluttony, greed, and wrath. It's not fun when you have to be perfect all of the time. You are quite seductive and thrilling. People are drawn to you, even though you're probably bad for them. You are charming and charismatic. You do whatever you want, and you have a hell of a time doing it!” So now I know what I am…a “Fallen Angel”…and that’s fine with me. What I couldn’t understand was why during all the time I spent writing Dragon Bones I didn’t make my fictional fallen angel more like me. Dragon Bones is a story about an angel that crashed in the hillsides overlooking the old city of Dubrovnik, and the Church in Rome covers up the miracle. When a second angel arrives to take the bones back, it becomes clear to everyone involved that the story behind hidden bones is more than myth. Now deep down, I know my reason for writing the story the way I did: sometimes, even a Fallen Angel needs help finding the way home.
“The angel opens her eyes Pale blue colored iris Presents the circle And puts the glory out to hide.” The band Live’s lead singer Ed Kowalczyk wrote the song “Lightning Crashes” as he envisioned a hospital, where families continuously mourn the loss of one human being as others are born. The song is about the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and the angel’s opening and closing of her eyes depicts birth and death. Life’s circle is sung powerfully, and the glory of divine life hidden deep within each of us comes out to hide as magic flows like air. Kowalczyk explains this wonderful movement of life in words as simple as his lyrics. “It is there before us in plain sight, but hidden because we see the flesh rather than the spirit within.” “Lighting Crashes” lends itself to other interpretations, and mine is quite simple. What if an angel were to crash on earth one day? What if we hid it? Don’t you think another angel would come down to earth one day to take this fallen angel back to heaven? I was inspired by the song “Lightning Crashes” to write Dragon Bones: Two Angels Leave at Sunrise.
Fifteen years after a catastrophic economic collapse on June 22, 2015, a very different United States is led by a coalition of conservative Southern states credited for forging the greatest economic recovery in our nation’s history, the national economy is strong again, new laws have minimized Washington’s power, and progressive troublemakers have been forced into ghetto-like reform zones, a travesty most American's want to see ended. But first, two families must do so. Mary Catherine Marshall is the daughter of a powerful Red State senator living in Atlanta; Maddy Garner is the son of a Blue State refugee hidden away in dangerous and violent Cincinnati, a national reform zone known as Hell Town. With four of the last five reform zones set to be closed, leaving only Cincinnati to remain for the long-term, Mary Catherine goes there to be with Maddy, the only one she’s ever loved. When she goes missing inside the zone her father created, the two families find out quickly that getting over political ugliness isn’t their biggest problem. Deep in the bowels of the nation’s reform zone, where a hateful roamer has taken over, the two families must forget the past to unite and fight an even uglier and more revengeful reality.
Do we really need a U.S. Supreme Court Judge to tell us that the nation’s highest court will one day authorize another wartime abuse of civil rights such as the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II? Do we really need the infamous U.S. General Wesley Clark to do the same? If your eyes are open and you have a functioning brain, the answer is “No.” I wrote about near-future internment camps (actually sections of cities cut off from the world, full of white Americans; by 2017, there was nothing left for Islamic radicals to take; they fled to Canada and Mexico) in OHIO 2029. Following a world economic collapse that destroys the U.S. economy, our nation was left with Red State conservatives to rebuild the American Dream. Soon after this political takeover, a law was passed to “temporarily” intern anyone opposing them. The number of toxic I-Hate-America progressives dropped sharply after the collapse, so the number of those interned was relatively low, and manageable. That was the positive piece of the story; as always, bad policies result in bad consequences. Political fallout (societal nightmares) follows soon after. OHIO 2029 ends with a life lesson: Nightmares like these always hit close to home. Yes, America, There Will Be Internment Camps. But these will leave a scar on every American.
I believe in the not-too-distant future America will, in one major way, become that progressive Europe that everyone always seemed to love but never wanted to live in. And that is why I wrote Ohio 2029 without saying anything about religion. Tearing down the Christian faith of the American people will have consequences. Have you seem all the wonderful old churches in Europe? They’re all still there–icons of a silenced faith, empty and, for the most part, useless. But we are very different. Leading up to the Black Crash of June 22, 2015, all American's hoped that a more open-minded and tolerant Pope would somehow make it all right and we were all proven wrong. In my fictional take on politics and religion in a chaotic world that lost ninety percent of its wealth, progressives won the religious freedom battle. But when one group wins over another, it doesn’t necessarily mean that other is weakened. In fact, most times that other is empowered to fight even harder next time, all-be-it in wiser, less grandiose, quieter ways. One would think progressives would now be satisfied; it was our Waterloo. But they were forced to watch their own Waterloo…Jews abandoning their party; followers of Islam fleeing to Canada; and Evangelicals taking over the entire nation. Goodbye, organized religions. Hello, sleeping giant.
It’s college graduation time in America. The United States of America used to do one thing right: preparing our youth for a rewarding future in the workplace. But when graduation day is over, they still have to find a job in a not-so-nice economy that’s been straddling a recession fence since December 2007. The good news is: the job market for college graduates has improved, meaning there will be jobs for the taking. The bad news is: a large percentage of jobs will be outside of their fields of study; most of those jobs don’t even require a college degree, and after the Black Crash of June 22, 2015 is finished with us…it won’t matter. There is a reality we all must face: when the economy goes, so does everything around us. OHIO 2029 did a great job of showing just how quickly this will happen. By the time the fall came around, the concept of new jobs opening up was an urban myth. Within a year after the crash, more than half of our private universities had closed their doors. The demise of our public schools took longer, but even Uncle Sam couldn’t protect them from the reality our youth had to face alone: when the jobs go, so does our education.
The only thing worse than an overpaid union bureaucrat is an overpaid union bureaucrat who doesn’t know he’s just another overpaid bureaucrat. That said, it is never wrong to out any of them who bash private sector wealth. Take Terry O’Sullivan, President of the International Union of North America. He was being paid $670,403 in 2014 as he slammed rich businesspersons for…getting rich. And just as Washington, D.C. enjoys its own glass house—paid for by the working class—unions have weaseled in, too. Union representatives making more than $250,000 totaled 497 in 2014. This total was 472 in 2013. Not a bad wage for representing the working class. Deserved? Earned? I’d have to say, “No,” but big government is a slow learner and big union is, too. So heading into 2015, there was little doubt that the number of union “fat cats” would drop in 2015. Then the Black Crash hit on June 22, 2015, and overnight, union world was gone, and by 2020, most of its fat cats were living it down in economic recovery reform zones.
The IRS just announced this year’s national Tax Freedom Day: April 24. In other words, American workers have to work 114 days in 2015 to pay the nation’s tax burden. So, to put this into perspective, 2015’s Tax Freedom Day is three days later than 2014’s; 2014’s was three days later than 2013’s; and 2013’s was five days later than 2012’s. And if federal debt is included, which everyone in Washington, D.C. wants hidden, Tax Freedom Day would delay our “freedom” to May 8. I hope you are seeing the trend, but in case you’re not, let me make it a little more personal. Taxpayers will collectively spend more on 2015 taxes than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined, and the cost of our new…I-am-okay-being-Uncle Sam’s-slave…normal will not be fully calculated until after America’s post-economic collapse recovery is launched in early 2017. It will be too late for our nation to fend off the June 22, 2015 Black Crash, but there will be one positive change. And this brings me to my main point: In Ohio 2029, my fictional national Tax Freedom Day in 2017 is January 22, just three days later our first national Tax Freedom Day in 1913. Ah…the smell of a slow-leaking freedom. But always remember…freedom doesn’t come without great cost.
Moody’s recent decision to drop Chicago’s bond rating—from Baa1 to Baa2—will cost the city of Chicago tens of millions of dollars, but little on the political front is expected from its Democrat leadership. The city’s Baa2 status is just two levels above junk, and officials are more interested in renegotiating existing debt than in going after the real culprit: Chicago’s $20 billion pension liability. So Chicago sets the stage for a growing number of highly indebted U.S. cities all in the same situation: No major city-financed infrastructure projects needed to prepare these cities’ companies to compete on Wall Street, and no smaller short-term debt to prepare their citizens to compete on main street. Bond credit ratings across the nation are unlikely to improve, weakening an already stagnant national economy and leaving the already overtaxed taxpayers to pay the high premiums for future debt. Above all these warnings, these cities won’t last a week after the Black Crash of June 22, 2015.
Have you noticed lately how the mainstream news networks have stopped covering some vital pieces of our so-called economic recovery? I heard on the radio that the U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the first three months of 2014. I have yet to see this information covered on major news networks, and when I check on the Internet for the dismal show by the United States’ lackluster Gross Domestic Product, the measure of our national output of goods and services, it is over shadowed by other major economies (Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Russia, Italy, and Thailand, to name a few). Maybe I’m just missing the coverage, but that’s not my message. It seems to me that we’re heading toward somewhere we don’t want to go, and I feel that way every time I hear anything pertaining to our economic stability. And it’s not just because of the heavy snow. Here’s another analytic that, in the future, will help explain why everyday taxpayers so viciously took control over Washington, D.C. and Wall Street after the June 22, 2014 collapse: the latest data points are proving that the economic slowdown is hitting the middleclass a lot harder than those supposedly watching out backs.
I just read an interesting post on Facebook—'Suiciding' the Bankers and Billionaires—and suspicious ideas poured into my mind. You see, I wouldn’t have been able to write OHIO 2029 if I didn’t believe at least a little bit in conspiracies. The growing list of top bankers found dead with no natural causes and the growing corruption and lack of transparency of the true money puppet-masters (Federal Reserve, World Bank, and IMF) only deepen my lack of trust. But that’s not all I needed to create a post-economic collapse, where political payback is the center of gravity of a New World Order that a new, dangerously conservative America chooses not to join. This part required my lack of trust in Washington, where neither political party has a reputation for fixing corruption and transparency problems. It’s getting to the point where I see that city as a diseased, full of powerful people who don’t want to talk about this situation. Some even can’t talk about it, and that was the message that resonated from the article. The author said it best: “Dead men tell no tales and organized criminals refer to this as ‘omerta,’ a code of silence!” As another author who cares about our future, I’d like to think that I killed at least a little bit of our “omerta problem.”
News of wasteful spending in Washington usually trickles out quietly, but some headlines just take your breath away: “$6.8 million in foreign aid on tap for China in 2015.” This “old” news shouldn’t really surprise anyone; our taxpayer dollars will go to support the Administration’s key pro-democracy and climate change policies. But what should alarm readers is the growing proof that China has its eyes on more than our money. I wrote in OHIO 2029 that just a few years after our June 22, 2015 economic collapse, the United States handed over the Hawaiian Islands to China for debt forgiveness. I thought it was pretty farfetched at the time; I was trying to envision a 1930s-style America in 2029, but now others also see the possibility. China recently threatened to challenge American sovereignty by making legal claims to “all” of the Pacific islands, and some believe Beijing has already begun a friendly takeover by bankrolling and arming a growing Hawaiian Independence movement. Yes, you read it correctly…we give money to help China, and in return, China orchestrates our inevitable demise. After June 22, 2015, even the Hawaiians will want no part of our world. News Flash: Effective January 1, 2022, all American passport holders wishing to travel to the Hawaiian Islands of China must possess entry visas prior to arrival.
Last week, the European Central Bank (ECB) slashed economic growth forecasts for 2015, and this time it blamed problems in the Eurozone’s three largest economies: Italy, France, and Germany. The Zone’s combined economy now expects growth of just 1.1% in 2015, down from 1.7% previously, with the big elephant in the European Community, Germany, posting one of the highest drops. So let this all sink in: the ECB isn’t concerned about the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) economies. It didn’t even tie this to Russia’s ten-year low of oil shipments to EC-member countries. Uh, oh…buckle your seatbelts. The yea-sayers in Brussels aren’t happy, and we’re all going to feel it in our wallets. This warning from economic pundits should have echoed across the planet. But it didn’t; it barely made the back page of major newspapers, and neither did the ECB’s next move: approve its own QE (quantitative easing) program based on the United States’ success in printing money we can’t pay back. Remember what your teachers told you in Macro Economics 201. QE (or printing money we can’t pay back to stimulate the economy artificially can’t last forever. And when it ends…we’ll take a look at your own retirement investment portfolio. That money is not real, and it will disappear on June 22, 2015.
Last week’s $1.1 trillion bill, including provisions to loosen regulations on the banking sector, showed the world that neither political side in Washington, D.C. cares if and when we lose everything. Coupled with that realization is a survey of Wall Street insiders who predicted a 98% chance that a stock market crash–much, much worst than in 2008–will happen in the next “six months.” Survey results were compiled just a week before our bloated, oversized budget was approved to keep the bloated, oversized, and wasteful government running until September 30, 2015. But all of this will come to a screeching halt on June 22, 2015–a few days less than “six months” from today.
I’d like to claim I had some special intelligence at hand when I picked June 22, 2015 as the day the world economy imploded. I’d like to say I had a dream or a muse whispered the date in my ear. But the truth is: I picked June 22, 2015 because the day is a mid-summer Monday, the kind of day when the world is slowly, nonchalantly moving into another rat-race week. By this date, we all would have already planned…and budgeted…our summer vacations, down to the last minute, insignificant details. Small worlds require small and careless minds, but no one felt the need to comprehend what was going on elsewhere, in the bigger, real world. The global economy collapsed on June 22, 2015, but its systematic unraveling began months before, and no one saw it coming.
The Employee Longevity Severance Act (ELSA) set longevity limits for all government employees in all non-defense and security federal agencies, forcing high-salary management employees out after seven years of civil service and middle and clerical workers out after twelve. Employees hired before ELSA’s start on Monday, August 15, 2016 were “partially” grandfathered, but only up to twenty years. Those government employees with more than twenty years were terminated. Washington’s rich Northern Virginia and lower Maryland cities turned into ghost towns over night, but that didn’t stall progress in what the Republican-controlled Congress called the “Great Purge.” President Obama’s “lame duck” Administration was once again left blindsided when additional statutory language was added to ensure all money saved from ELSA be applied to temporary food and house assistance for those hit hardest by the Black Crash. Approval ratings shot sky high and left the Obama Administration and Democratic leaders with little to say or do. What little that was said was countered quickly: You can say we’re being unfair to hardworking, dedicated, and talented civil servants. But if they are so hardworking, dedicated, and talented, then just like everyone else, they can go out and find work elsewhere.
Reeducate the Future Generation...The Reeducation Act of 2018 mandated that all young persons entering high school after 2020 had to pass the State Freedoms Exam. Those who failed did not qualify for public service jobs involving federal funds and regulations. Private sector jobs in red states imposed similar restrictions, as did most institutions of higher learning. To mark the three-year anniversary of the Black Crash, Executive Order 37, signed by President Stokes Smith on June 22, 2018, called for all public and private colleges and universities to restructure interdisciplinary courses of study and faculty qualifications to adhere to Constitutional standards and core capitalism teachings. Over the next six months more than 2,500 professors were replaced with qualified non-partisan staff. A failed lawsuit filed by nine private schools in New England was not appealed. A second Executive Order provided funds for students in Blue States–high school and college–to attend schools in Red States. Less than ten thousand students took advantage of the new education funds during the 2019 school year. This number tripled in 2020.
Control the Money...With Congressional oversight vowing to set new reporting rules for the media and to go after journalists who “over-politicize” the news, those determining the storyline turned on the President. It wasn’t a surprise to see the earlier Obama statement–“I have a phone and I have a pen”–turned on its head. The 2014 Election did have consequences and the winners wanted the new conservative to take back the purse strings and marginalize all opposition. President Obama’s rejection of the first two budget resolutions for 2016 led to an eleven-week government shutdown in October 2015. But public support didn’t go his way this time. On December 4, a final budget for 2016–running from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016–that gutted federal agencies across the board, was signed by the President. The budget also included the movement of U.S. Government Inspector Generals to a proposed Government Leadership and Oversight campus in Atlanta and moved all Internal Revenue Service to Dallas.
Let the Hate Begin... The 2104 mid-term elections were the start of a dramatic change in Washington, D.C. The Presidency was still in liberal hands, but power on Capitol Hill was on the move, with Republicans taking an even larger majority in the House and Democrats holding a slim 51-49 lead in the Senate. Problem was: Nine Democrat senators kept their seats, but they all but abandoned Obama’s progressive policies. The “lame-duck presidency began on January, 2015, and the first action in Congress was to deliver the Federal Employee Actions Bill (FEAB), which mandated all civil service employees of the United States Government to cease and desist all political activities in the workplace. The bill was quickly vetoed by President Obama, but public opinion had already shifted–An August 10, 2015 Rasmussen poll showed 76 percent supported overreaching efforts to rid politics from Administration agencies. The same poll showed 71 percent supported FEAB requirements to fire government employees who actively engage in political activities.
"A combination of 1984 and Romeo and Juliet…You have an uncanny knack of revealing the dark side of politics. You said a lot here about what happens to people when politics is taken to the extreme. Common ground can aid people with different opinions to resolve problems together. Thanks for a great read and I am very serious about a prequel showing of the reform zones.” After a book reviewer posted the above, I realized that my struggle to stay focused on the lives of two families kept me from delving too deeply into the incomprehensible political shift fictionalized in OHIO 2029. The story is set in post-economic collapse America, fourteen years after the Red State party took over in 2016. In 2029, the nation is 80 percent conservative, Washington is empty and powerless, and "Orwellian" reform zones house progressive troublemakers. But during this “new normal” period–while tens of thousands are imprisoned in political ghettos simply because of their ideology–Americans still want the nation back closer to the middle. Most will not say it and others understand the basic: new “political” normal rarely goes back to the old ways. I decided to add such political details using Publish.com.
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