America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, March 25, 2017

I never say, “I told you so”, and I won’t now, but as my posts have been saying for the last couple of weeks, no other outcome was possible. There was no way Trump could keep his promise of wonderful, affordable health care for everyone and satisfy the right wing of his party, and the “moderate” Republicans couldn’t vote for a Draconian measure like the AHCA and run for re-election in nineteen months. I never believed Obamacare was going away, and having seen the alternatives, the majority of Americans are glad it isn’t.

Was Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare ever anything more than a campaign slogan to garner votes? His party committed itself to that goal the day Obamacare passed. The possibility that Trump never cared about repeal shouldn’t surprise anyone. For him words are tools to be used in whatever manner suits his…

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, March 20, 2017

Echoes of déjà vu and familiarity have been bouncing around in my head for almost two years now. Today, I happened across a brochure from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, titled ODD, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder.


The brochure states that the most common behaviors associated with ODD are defiance, spitefulness, negativity, hostility, and verbal aggression. I knew I’d seen those things before, along with lack of respect for others, insensitivity to people’s feelings, and a less than casual relationship with the truth. It’s not that my memory was failing; it’s been thirty years since I had adolescents living under my roof.

From the moment Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, twenty-one months ago, the image that most often popped into my mind after watching one of his rants was that of a petulant five-year-old throwing a tantrum, superimposed…

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, March 19, 2017

Agnes Gyorgyey Summers came to the United States as a young girl from Hungary during the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. She has spent most of her life as an American working to assure that people in need were cared for by some of the agencies whose budgets would suffer deep cuts in the proposed Trump budget. Yesterday, she posted this open letter to Trump voters.

Remember when Donald Trump said he wasn’t going to take a salary? He just accepted his second paycheck.

Remember when he said Mexico was going to pay for the wall? He has asked Congress to appropriate the $25 billion of taxpayer money to cover costs.

Remember when he said he wasn’t going to go on vacation or play golf like Obama? 5 of the last 7 weekends he went on vacation and played golf, costing taxpayers $11.1 million each time.

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, March 16, 2017

Game theory defines a zero-sum game as any situation in which all gains and losses must balance each other exactly. When all the inputs and outflows are added up there can be no net gain or loss. The concept of insurance is based on that principle.

If we apply it to Congress’ attempt to re-write national health care policy, it’s obvious that there is no way they can craft a bill that delivers what President Trump promised. I know I’ve said this before, but to get a clear picture of what’s happening, you essentially need to ignore everything you read and hear, and just think. If more people are covered it’s going to cost more. If fewer people are covered it will cost less.

Republicans in Congress are being torn in opposite directions by those who believe Trumpcare is too generous and those who think…

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, March 8, 2017

Most of what you read in the media about health care in the United States is exaggerated, spun for political reasons, or outright lies. Health care is a very complex issue until you strip away the special interests and politics. Then it becomes extremely simple.

Although our Constitution explicitly charges the government with promoting the general welfare of the population, in recent years, the word entitlement has become associated with greed and laziness. Our Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen the freedom of speech and worship, the right to bear arms, and host of other entitlements that we take for granted. The Declaration of Independence asserts that every American is entitled to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, yet none of our foundational documents makes explicit mention of health care.

Does that mean that our founding fathers didn’t believe the right to basic health…

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, March 6, 2017

Most of us have been conditioned since childhood to recognize warning signs and heed them before the trouble they portend hits us in the face. Most Americans are optimistic by nature. It’s one of our great strengths unless it morphs into denial about impending problems.

There’s a nearly irresistible temptation to assume that the brake fluid puddled under your car must have come from someone else’s vehicle or that the baggie filled with a suspicious substance you found in your teenager’s pocket must have been planted there by someone else. How many red flags does it take to wake us up?  I’ve even been shocked, lately, by the number of people who ignore tornado warnings.


I’m old enough to remember Watergate, when President Nixon’s denials of wrongdoing and his increasingly aberrant behavior over many months resulted in a crisis of confidence even among his most…

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, March 2, 2017

I often think of the 2000 film, Paying it Forward.  In retirement I tutor kids, mostly teenagers, in math and science, though our conversations tend to stray into many other areas. I find them surprisingly open and eager to discuss values, families, politics…you name it, and the issue of paying forward often comes up in two very different ways.

The majority of the kids are the children of immigrants. Their families come from India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Tibet, Vietnam, the Caribbean, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, and probably a few places I missed. They’re Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, even Jews. Remarkably, their families all have two things in common. The kids are taught to obey rules and respect adults, and their parents sacrifice everything to assure their futures. Since I’m old enough to be their grandfather, I hear all the complaints. Why are they so…

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, February 23, 2017

Google Hitler and Trump, and you’ll be shocked at the number of websites that come up.  The articles that discuss Trump in relation to Hitler by no means agree with each other, but I think it’s significant that so many diverse people thought to make the comparison. Even Harry Potter chimed in, as a Twitter war erupted between his creator, J. K. Rowling and the British interviewer, Piers Morgan (

I made my own comparison shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for President. It seemed to me that he was running his campaign directly out of the Hitler playbook, otherwise known as Mein Kampf. I imagined I had originated that notion, but Hitler biographer Ron Rosenbaum used it prominently in the weeks after Trump’s inauguration (

That is not to suggest that Trump will govern like Hitler or that he aspires…

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America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, February 20, 2017

On February 7th of this year, the lead article in James Hohmann’s The Daily 202 (a daily news capsule put out by The Washington Post) was Five books to Understand Stephen K. Bannon. The week before, a long-time associate of Bannon had told a cable news channel that his “bible” was The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.  Written in the fifth century A.D., that tract is still considered a classic work of military strategy.

Why was this important? Because President Trump appointed Bannon as his chief strategist. One can never say for certain who is whispering what in the President’s ear, but it’s safe to say that the advice of his chief strategist matters. So I obtained a copy of The Art of War and devoured it, looking for correlations with the first month of the President’s actions. Fortunately, I didn’t have…

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The Next Big Thing is an author interview series currently generating lots of buzz for its inside look into how writers, working in a variety of genres, create their best work. My special thanks to Toby Devens, who invited me to participate and provided the questions. You can see Toby’s interview about her book, Happy Any Day Now at: .

And now, it’s my turn to be The Next Big Thing!

1. What is the working title of your book?

My favorite among my five novels is “The Portal.”

2. What genre does your book fall under?

When I began writing “The Portal,” I thought I was writing a dystopian science fiction novel.  I was very angry at George W. Bush and the course on which he’d put our country after nine-eleven, and I had a terrible vision of what it might lead to a hundred years later.  As it turned out, I realized I’d written a futuristic story of undying love and determination.

3. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Lonely, misunderstood boy meets lonely misunderstood girl, loses her in a nation that’s crumbling around him, and spends the rest of his life trying to save her and it.

4. Where did the idea come from for the book?

“The Portal” was the coalescence of several ideas, all variations on the theme of loss and renewal.

A lonely child, intelligent and precocious, with thoughts and fears beyond his years, is misunderstood by everyone except a doting, cynical grandfather.  The desperate search for a soul-mate to fill the void left by his loss leads to a girl.  They bond in a way that only the very young can, and help each other escape the reality of their dismal existence.  When she disappears, Harry, the young protagonist fears that his very survival is at stake.

Harry’s situation is mirrored by everything around him.  His once-great nation has lost its way by failing to heed the lessons of history.  Despair has replaced hope, and honest hard work and initiative are losing out to greed and entropy.  The government, desperate to provide a symbol of hope, gambles the future on escape – a new Diaspora to the stars.

The overriding idea of “The Portal” is not doom and dissolution, however.  It’s about the power of love and determination to win out, and in the end it’s about believing in ourselves.

5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Harry is difficult to imagine because he’d have to be played from age six to sixty-five.  Young Harry reminds me of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting but the adult Harry is the embodiment of Jimmy Stewart, especially in his western films: that wonderfully soft-spoken, principled, unaggressive man who never ran from a fight when someone he cared about was threatened.

For Lorrie, Harry’s lost love, a young Ashley Judd would be perfect.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I self-published “The Portal” using the services of

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript for The Portal?

About seven months, though the actual writing time was much less.  The Portal is an episodic story that covers specific time periods in Harry’s life.  The first draft of each episode was written fairly quickly, never taking more than a week, with periods of breath-catching in between.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

None that I can think of, but being a hopeless romantic, I’ve always loved the classic film “An Affair to Remember” and all of its reincarnations.  I often think of “The Portal” as what that basic story might look like if it were set in a future dystopian America.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

There was no single thing that inspired this book, though there were three very powerful influences.  The inspiration for Lorrie was an old friend who had experienced hardship similar to Lorrie’s in her early life, and like Lorrie, had to fight through abuse and adversity to survive.

Harry, I confess, especially in his early years is more than a little autobiographical, so much so that my sister had trouble getting through those chapters because of the poignant memories they evoked.

In addition to being a hopeless romantic, I am also unabashedly patriotic.  As I noted earlier, I hated what I saw happening to our country after nine-eleven, and I’m still not convinced we can avoid the future I described in The Portal.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I said at the outset that I started out writing a science fiction novel.  The idea of a Diaspora to the stars is not new, nor is the notion of getting there instantaneously through some type of wormhole mechanism.  Thus, the Portal, which is just such a gateway.

The other idea which drew me in, which is not one that’s commonly explored in fiction, is the possibility that an Earth-like planet circling another star, no matter how similar to Earth it seemed, might be ultimately toxic for humans.  The Portal has its own solution to this dilemma which redefines what we mean by Diaspora.

Coming Up On Next Big Thing! Cindy Young-Turner writes that by day she edits and does business development for international development projects. In her free time, she works on inspiring her characters to fight for change and justice in their imaginary worlds. Her published works include her fantasy novel, Thief of Hope, and a short prequel, Journey to Hope. Cindy will discuss Thief of Hope next Friday at

In the meantime, I’d love to hear questions or comments about my Next Big Thing! interview.

Our books

Wednesday's Child
The Portal
Thief of Hope
Critical Focus by Alan Zendell


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