Thursday, October 30, 2014

Zion: A Louisiana Mystery Novel Free Oct. 30-Nov. 1


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OWN9S5Y/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_IDzuub0M6B8EY
Is anything better than a good mystery?

Dayne Sherman
October 30, 2014

I'm excited. Today is the release date for Zion, my Louisiana mystery novel. Seven year's work now in print. And it's free for three days as an ebook. Please download it, read, and let me know what you think. Sharing is appreciated.

Just click below: 


About the Book: From Dayne Sherman, the critically-acclaimed author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise, comes a gothic treatment of the American South: a hard-charging depiction of religion, family, friendship, deception, and evil. Zion is a mystery set in the rural South, the story of a war fought over the killing of hardwoods in Baxter Parish, Louisiana. The tale begins in 1964 and ends a decade later, but the Hardin family, faithful members of Little Zion Methodist Church, will carry the scars for life.

This edition of Zion includes a Reader's Guide for Book Clubs and Author Q and A.


Praise for Dayne Sherman and his work:


“Dayne Sherman writes like I wish I could if I was still young enough to change.” --Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story


“Sherman’s promising debut chronicles a young man’s thorny return to his Louisiana hometown… Sherman brilliantly reunites a land with its own set of vicious rules with a native of that land who, as a changed man, simply wants peace. Weaving his way through a series of complex characters and a terrain fertilized with a proud but bloody history, Sherman tells a spirited and engaging tale.” --Publishers Weekly


“Zion begins ballistic, turns tectonic and ends gothic. The people of this fraught Louisiana town suffer both the shifts of history and the tribulations of their pasts. In Sherman’s dark vision, wood kin burn and kin make hay, setting these troubled characters searching in a spiritual, and sometimes literal, wilderness to find and make right what they can. Get ready for a thrill ride that slams into modernity with Old Testament inevitability.” 

--Tim Parrish, author of Fear and What Follows & The Jumper

Thanks for reading.


--Dayne Sherman is the author of Zion: A Novel, released on October 30th. His website is daynesherman.com.
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Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
Web & Social Media: http://daynesherman.com/
Talk About the South Blog: http://daynesherman.blogspot.com/
Tweet the South - Twitter: http://twitter.com/TweettheSouth/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/dayneshermanauthor

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Writing about Louisiana



Dayne Sherman
Column
October 26, 2014
550 Words

The Richest Place on Earth

Seven years ago I was chatting with one of my distant cousins on the corner of North Magnolia and West Thomas in Hammond. Many readers will know the location as PJ’s Coffee, a place where I have written large sections of my books.

On this particular day I was given a great gift, the tale of a local conflict fought between hunters and a timber company. The timber company was killing hardwoods to make room for more valuable pine trees, and the local men used fire to even the score, burning hundreds of acres of young pines to protest the destruction of good hunting land.

The slogan back in the 1960s was catchy: “For every oak a pine!”

I went home and wrote 40 pages in a day or two, caught up in the spirit of a tale that I turned into fiction, setting it in “Baxter Parish,” a region all my own. Though it only took a few days to write the first section of my novel titled Zion, named for a little community surrounding Little Zion Methodist Church, it took seven years to write the rest of the book and to give the story adequate justice.

The key to writing is finishing a project. I never gave up on the long and complex mystery novel, and now I am proud that it will soon be available to readers.

Seven years ago I couldn’t have known that there would be a hotly contested marshal’s race in the 7th Ward. One of my main characters is Donald Brownlow, the marshal, and a decent guide for any of the candidates vying for the position on November 4. Some early readers have sent questions about the strange office of the marshal in my book. I tell them to drive down a street in South Tangipahoa, and let me know if there are more yard signs advertising candidates than people. We do have a marshal, and plenty of folks want to win the race.

There is no place more interesting as a subject than Tangipahoa Parish, a place so dangerous it was once called “Bloody Tangipahoa.”

I tend to think the stress and strain of the area is enormous, the transitory nature of a place near two interstates, the “Crosshairs of the South,” as I call it. This past week there was a horrifying story of a woman trying to sell her ten-year-old daughter to strangers at a gas station near I-55. You can’t make up stories like this.

All of the horror aside, our region is the richest place on earth for a fiction writer. You can bet on it.

I write to meet readers. I’d like to invite my readers to the national book launch for Zion, my latest novel, on October 30. The event will be held at the Hammond Regional Arts Center, 217 E. Thomas St. There will be a signing and reading from 4-6:30 PM. I'll read from 5:30-6 PM, and we’ll be done in time for the Saints game. Come and go as you please. Books will be available for purchase.

I hope to see you there.


--Dayne Sherman is the author of Zion: A Novel, which will be released on October 30th. His website is daynesherman.com.
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Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
Web & Social Media: http://daynesherman.com/
Talk About the South Blog: http://daynesherman.blogspot.com/
Tweet the South - Twitter: http://twitter.com/TweettheSouth/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/dayneshermanauthor

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Nightmare Called “Bobbycare”



Dayne Sherman
Column
September 27, 2014
600 Words

The End of Louisiana State Insurance

On Tuesday, September 23, our school-aged son was given a commonly prescribed medication by his physician. My wife attempted to get the pharmacy to fill it. We were shocked and horrified to find that it was rejected by our health insurance: Office of Group Benefits HMO Plan through BlueCross, a health insurance plan for Louisiana public employees.

For almost 16 years I have been a member of OGB, and my wife, a teacher, has been a member for 25 years. This is the second rejection we have received this year through MedImpact.  Rejecting my medicine is one thing, but rejecting our son's is another. We have never seen anything like this in our years with OGB.

You will recall that OGB was privatized under Gov. Bobby Jindal, and nearly all of the $500,000,000 trust fund has been stolen. Soon, all money dedicated to funding state workers’ insurance will be gone. The money was pilfered by Jindal in an effort to fill holes in his economically disastrous state budget. But this will mean 230,000 Louisiana citizens are about to lose all semblances of health coverage on January 1.

Earlier on Tuesday, the former Health and Hospitals head, Bruce Greenstein, was indicted, and the state attorney general declared the new state health insurance changes illegal through an opinion solicited by Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite. I thought this might stop the train wreck.

But later in the day I had to fight tooth and nail to get our child’s medicine. I had to contact state representatives and the media. We were finally able to get the meds filled on Friday afternoon. I wasn’t looking for a freebie. We pay hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance, have co-pays for everything, and we paid $55 for the prescription. We just wanted the doctor-prescribed medication. Not the insurance-mandated meds.

Most employees and retirees will not be so lucky. Louisiana state employees and retirees need to understand one fact. If all of the proposed OGB changes go through as Gov. Jindal plans, they are effectively uninsured. Health coverage is over, and it will not be coming back.

Sure, Kristy Nichols, Jindal’s spokesperson, says the OGB trust fund was too big (Insanity!), that they are “right-sizing” the insurance plans (Destroying them!), and they’re now offering better options called Pelican HRA 1000, Pelican HSA 775, Magnolia Local, and other names worthy of George Orwell’s 1984. According to Nichols, the new plans will be pure utopia. But when an OGB member gets a letter from MedImpact of San Diego, California, a cold memo rejecting a medication prescribed by a doctor here in Louisiana, let’s call it what it is: a “death panel” letter.

As one person put it, “Bobbycare” is health care without any care at all. How true.

While our governor flits from Iowa to New Hampshire playing presidential candidate, a delusional quest to anyone but himself, Louisiana goes the way of Rome on fire, burning, burning, burning. Jindal is like a hummingbird on crystal meth. The wings are moving at a blinding pace, but the overall flight is completely doomed.

I have three questions about the OGB privatization and the missing half billion dollars: Who will go to prison for stealing state funds through a scheme worthy of a bank heist? Will the FBI investigate the theft of public money? And will the legislators stop the train wreck?

Let’s all hope and pray that the FBI, the courts, or the Louisiana Legislature will prevent Jindal from destroying one more area of Louisiana that worked before he came into office: the Office of Group Benefits.


Dayne Sherman, author of Zion: A Novel by Accendo Books, to be released on October 30th. His website is daynesherman.com.

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Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
Web & Social Media: http://daynesherman.com/
Talk About the South Blog: http://daynesherman.blogspot.com/
Tweet the South - Twitter: http://twitter.com/TweettheSouth/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/dayneshermanauthor

***This message speaks only for the writer, a citizen, not for any present or past employer.***

Monday, August 25, 2014

Louisiana Universities in Decline

State of the Faculty Senate

Guest Column
Dr. James D. Kirylo
President of the Faculty Senate
Southeastern Louisiana University
Speech Delivered: August 20, 2014
1,600 Words


Welcome back to a new academic year.  It is a privilege to serve on the senate, and your service is greatly appreciated.   Our job here is very important one, indeed.

In preparing my few remarks, I was thinking what I was looking forward to as we begin a new academic year.  Among other things, I am looking forward to another historic year, seeing our football team bringing home an FCS national championship.  Good luck, Lions!

Also while preparing for today, I was thinking about last year’s realities compared to this year’s, and essentially concluded the same.  That is, leadership still seems to be rather elusive in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, especially when it comes to higher education.  You will have to excuse me for questioning why one would recently make the rounds at the Iowa state fair as something more important than what is happening right here in Hammond, LA.

There is one thing about education that we can all bank on and that is this: It is political.  “Take Common Core, for instance,” as the columnist, James Gill recently wrote in The New Orleans Advocate, “Gov. Bobby Jindal was for it before he was against it, and [David] Vitter, who used to be against it, has suddenly come out for it.”  I would say that between those two, with their diametrically opposite epiphanies, they really had that horse going in circles, chasing its tail, on the way to Damascus.  

High standards, of course, have always been important to effective educators, and have always taught them in a global contextualized way. This is nothing new.  But, the idea of standards is not what gets it done.  And the silly war of egos debate to go or not go with PARCC testing won’t get it done, other than lining the pockets of an out-of-control testing industry complex.

What gets it done are excellent teachers; what gets it done is assuring the professionalization of teaching; what gets it done is supporting teachers; and, what gets it done is supporting public spaces, like public education, like public universities, particularly regional ones, like Southeastern Louisiana University.

Now, we all know what universities have endured these past six years in Louisiana.  Yet, I do see a glimmer of hope in a change, perhaps a raise; perhaps not.  And, that is a good thing to be hopeful for.  But I urge all of us to keep an eye on the overall structural trajectory of that change.

Whether it is paying close attention to those voices who push to devalue tenure and academic freedom, and simply see the academy as a place of training to merely serve corporate interests, instead of seeing the academy as a place to receive an education in which critical thinking is fostered in order to attain the very tools, insights, and voice to critique, critically examine, to, if need be, question corporate or institutional interests.

Whether it is paying close attention to the WISE initiative that is now being hashed out, making sure it is not put forward at the expense of marginalizing the humanities.  And, finally, whether it is paying attention to the continuous defunding of higher education, only to place much burden on students who have had to endure a continuous stream of tuition increases the last several years.

Through the Grad Act, the idea of fostering a system that unduly taxes students to fund higher education is not sustainable, is Darwinian in nature, especially heightened in a poor state like ours.  It is a formula for failure, further widening the opportunity gap, and further widening the gap between the proverbial “haves” and “have-nots.”

Perhaps you are aware that students, who graduate, on average, leave with a loan debt of approximately $30,000 dollars. (See: Average Student Loan Debt Jumps 10 percent
http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/12/04/average-student-loan-debt-jumps-10-percent)

What does a teacher do with that kind of debt?  Or any other public servant?  What they do is less likely go into those fields.  In other words, as the scholar Henry Giroux points out, the current system is steering many away from public service.   They simply can’t afford it. (See: Henry A. Giroux: Neoliberalism, democracy and the university as a public sphere
http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23156-henry-a-giroux-neoliberalism-democracy-and-the-university-as-a-public-sphere).

The cumulative effect of this entire trajectory, places the very survival of the public square in jeopardy, meaning public schools, public universities, and any other public entity then become easy pickings for corporate/private interests, which in the end subverts democratic processes, the common good, and the public square.

With all due respect to Sandra Woodley, UL president of our system, I do have to scratch my head when she said that this legislative session “was the most successful legislative session our universities have seen in many years.” (See: Cuts to Louisiana colleges end this legislative session:
http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/06/cuts_to_louisiana_colleges_end.html).  

Now, I do understand the context in which she framed that.  Yet, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Louisiana’s per student higher education funding has fallen more than any other state between fiscal 2008 and the current budget year.(See: National report puts Louisiana at worst for state higher ed budget cuts
http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/2014/06/03/national-report-puts-louisiana-at-worst-for-state-higher-ed-budget-cuts/).

In addition, according to a Washington Post report, the state of Louisiana is expecting a $1.2 billion budget shortfall next year. And this is despite the Jindal administration hiring a New York-based consulting firm for $7.3 million to find ways to generate revenue.  And, this is also at a time when some states are seeing an upswing in their budget surplus. In short, critics are calling Jindal’s handling of the budget his blind-spot. (See: Louisiana projects $1.2 billion budget shortfall, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/08/15/louisiana-projects-1-2-billion-budget-shortfall/)

And higher education has paid a dear price for that blind spot.  We have paid a dear price; students have; the state of Louisiana has.  What do we do? Keep quiet? Not say anything?  Drown these realities watching the tigers, Saints, Lions, or drown them in even something stronger than that? Or move to Colorado where they have found other legal ways for people to get happy?

And, with all due respect to Dr. Crain, the President of Southeastern Louisiana University, I disagree with him when he suggested at convocation that we need to accept that the scarcity of resources is the new normal for higher education in Louisiana.   To do that is tantamount of me saying to my fellow very accomplished colleagues, the ones that are making near poverty wages, trying to raise a family—to accept this scarcity, --to accept their state, their station.  You will never get out of the processed-cheese-give-away-line, and Friday night Spam dinners will continue to remain a staple.

It was one thing, of course, to talk about what a successful legislative session is and dictating what normal is from a position of economic comfort, and quite another thing when listening to this type of talk, scrounging around to pay your house note, to pay your loan debt—in a state of economic hunger, in a position of economic need, working to make a go of it.

Indeed, as my mentor from afar, the Brazilian Paulo Freire, had always suggested, indignation or anger that is on the side of fairness and justice for all is not only a natural reaction to these aforementioned realities, but it is also our responsibility to respond, otherwise we become prey to cynicism, despair, fear, and acceptance of the status quo.

No, I will not accept this new normal, nor should any of you.  Accepting this new normal leaves the Governor off the hook.  Accepting this new normal leaves legislators off the hook.

Accepting this new normal leaves  city and parish officials off the hook.  Accepting this new normal suggests that we are resigned to the fact that Louisiana is not committed to higher education.  Accepting this new normal will further lead us down the road of mediocrity.   If all of that is the case, we all may as well close shop right here, right now and get out of Dodge.

I reject that path.  We are either committed to higher education or we are not.  We either will push back or we will not.  We either believe in the hope of a new normal that recognizes, honors, supports, and celebrates the extraordinary importance of higher education or we will not. 

In the end, as faculty senate president, it is my job to speak up, to assert; it is our job.  I would; we would be derelict of our duties, if we remain silent.  This is not as an act of defiance, but an act of responsible engagement in democratic processes.  Our job here is not to serve the administration; rather our job is to co-exist with them.  We need them; they need us, working hopefully in a harmonious, productive way.  

Certainly, there will be many challenges as we move forward this 2014-2015 academic year, but I remain hopeful, especially involved in bodies like this that possess the unique opportunity, the unique forum, and the unique privilege to make a difference because this town, this region, and this state needs this public institution because of the monumental impact it has on the public good, the economic good, the intellectual good, and the overall furthering of the quality of life in Louisiana. 

Thank you.  


James D. Kirylo latest book is titled A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance.  He can be reached at jkirylo@yahoo.com.

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Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
Web & Social Media: http://daynesherman.com/
Talk About the South Blog: http://daynesherman.blogspot.com/
Tweet the South - Twitter: http://twitter.com/TweettheSouth/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/dayneshermanauthor

***This message speaks only for the writer, a citizen, not for any present or past employer.***