Don’t Mess With Bird Flu: THE HAN AGENT by Amy Rogers

A good friend of mine, Amy Rogers, is launching a new book today, so help us welcome this new science thriller onto our bookshelves!

“Fans of Michael Crichton, Tess Gerritsen, James Rollins, Robin Cook, and Richard Preston should check out this new science thriller novel by Amy Rogers.”

The Han Agent

By Amy Rogers

Release date: September 5, 2017

Modern biotechnology propels an ancient ethnic rivalry to a terrifying new level… A Japanese pharmaceutical company with ties to war crimes during WWII hires Dr. Amika Nakamura, a Japanese-American scientist, after she is fired for creating mutant flu viruses in a university lab. During a visit to the disputed Senkaku Islands of Japan, Amika becomes entangled in a geopolitical struggle with China. Little does she know that Japanese ultranationalists believe she has the solution to an eighty-year-old quest for the ultimate biological weapon. From the shadows, someone around her is manipulating people, politics, and science. But DNA doesn’t lie. Amika uncovers a shocking truth: a deadly virus is about to put the “gene” in genocide.

About the Author:

Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, educator, critic, and publisher who specializes in all things science-y. Her novels Petroplague,  Reversion, and The Han Agent use real science and medicine to create plausible, frightening scenarios in the style of Michael Crichton.

Video shorts: https://youtu.be/Jngs2STv9A4 and https://youtu.be/_TDd21dpza8

Read THE HAN AGENT by Amy Rogers.

“gripping…a surefire genre hit”—FOREWORD REVIEWS

“frighteningly realistic”—James Rollins, #1 NYT bestseller

“a stunning what-if”—Barry Lancet, author of JAPANTOWN

http://www.sciencethrillersmedia.com/publish/han-agent/

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Hyphens and Dashes – The Dread of Misuse!

Hyphens and dashes are two distinctly different punctuation marks and a proper understanding of each will avoid embarrassing mistakes in your writing.

Will anyone get MURDERED as a result of using the wrong one in the wrong place? No, but their proper use is part of the process that makes a writer stand out as exceptional. Use them erroneously and your editor or publisher might just KILL your story without reading further.

There are three distinct types of dashes—one is the commonly used Hyphen, and the other two are called the En Dash and the Em Dash

Let’s take a separate look at each for a better understanding of how and when to use them.

The Hyphen: This literary device, a short dash, is used in three areas of punctuation to link words or parts of words together.

They can be used to join compound words (like good-natured). The joining can be between an adjective and a noun (sugar-free), between a noun and a participle (custom-building) and between an adjective and a participle (good-looking). Modern literature has relaxed the use of hyphens some and such connections are not utilized as much as they once were. Often now you’ll see the words smashed together as one, or simply used separately.

Hyphens also join prefixes to other words in such a way as to convey a specific meaning, as in re-cover meaning to cover over something as opposed to recover meaning to overcome some difficulty.

Lastly, hyphens show a word break, like at the end of a sentence when the word is broken into syllables and part remains on one line while the rest of the word goes onto the following line.

Thus, hyphens only join words together and separate syllables. When phrasing punctuation is needed, that’s when the other two, and longer, dashes are utilized.

The En Dash: This mark is used to express a range of values or a distance, and is often used in place of the word “to.” We can express an age range (from 40 – 60) or a distance (from New York – California) by using such a dash. It’s called the En dash because it takes the space of a lower case n in print. Usually, your computer will convert double dashes to an En Dash when adding a space between the previous word and the dashes and a space before the next word.

The Em Dash: This punctuation mark is the most interesting because its use can create heightened drama. For that reason, it’s being used more often by modern fiction writers. This type of dash is a mark of separation, not of words but of phrases or thoughts. It’s used for three specific reasons—when something stronger than a comma is needed, when the writer wants punctuation less formal than a colon or when more relaxed punctuation than a set of parentheses is appropriate. On most computers, it automatically comes up when double hyphens are used without spacing between the previous and following words. It’s a longer dash and called the Em Dash because it takes up the spacing of a capital M in print.

This punctuation device is used when the writer wants extra emphasis on a phrase or part of a sentence. The famous grammarian William Strunk, Jr. is credited with specifying the proper use of the Em Dash. He said that it is used to indicate an abrupt stop or change in tone or thought (such as, “But I thought you’d—wait a minute, what are you doing?”), to insert a second thought, update or correction (such as, “I thought you’d be interested—but then you’re never interested in what I say.”) or to emphasize a dramatic pause (such as, “You said you’d come early—and you’re late!”).

In conclusion, the process of editing the written word is a painstaking process. The proper use of punctuation is extremely important to enhancing your reputation as a GREAT WRITER.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Propofol – The Milk of Amnesia

Propofol is a short-acting sedative-hypnotic that’s used to initiate and maintain general anesthesia. It also decreases levels of consciousness along with a loss of memory for sedation during minor medical procedures. It is administered intravenously.

The drug was discovered in 1977. It is considered an effective and safe medication when used properly in the clinical setting. It has largely replaced the drug sodium thiopental because propofol clears from a patient’s body faster and, therefore, recovery from anesthesia is more rapid. It has been referred to as the “milk of amnesia” because of its milky appearance.

It is sometimes used off-label for “non-medical” sedation, and the Missouri Supreme Court ruled to allow the drug to be used as part of the lethal cocktail given to execute prisoners condemned to death. For that reason, the United Kingdom banned exports of propofol drug products to the United States, and countries in the European Union are threatening to do the same. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, no other state allows its use in the execution process at present.

Profofol became the drug of focus in the death of Michael Jackson in which the drug was used in combination with other sedative and hypnotic drugs in what turned out to be a lethal cocktail.

Recreational use of the drug is rare because of its use only in a clinical setting, its high potency and the need for monitoring to assure safe use. There are reports, however, of recreational use among medical staff, notably anesthetists, who have easy access to the drug. Common side effects with recreational use include extreme respiratory depression, decreased heart rate and possible oxygen deprivation. More extreme, but rare, side effects include dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that resembles a tremor. Seizures and priapism, a long-lasting erection, are also reported side effects.

Although propofol is most effective when given intravenously, there have been studies in which the drug was given orally with mild sedative results. If one considers that the drug given intravenously produces 100% bioavailability (100% therapeutic effect), an oral dose of the same quantity was shown to be only about 20% effective.

In animal studies, a 16-fold higher oral dose was needed to produce a similar sedative effect as compared to an intravenous dose. This is because of the drug’s limited water-soluble nature (oil soluble), and the fact that the stomach lining and liver filter out the potency of the drug before it can enter the blood stream.

I find propofol to be an interesting drug and might use it one day in a murder mystery. Maybe you will too!

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, Better Fiction Writing, Blog About Poisons in Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Deadly Drugs in America, Deciding How to Kill Off a Character in a Novel, Designer Drug Deaths, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Misadventures, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs That Create Memory Loss, Drugs Used For Murder, Drugs Used for Near Death Experiences (NDE), Drugs Used to Murder, Elements of Murder, Growing As A Writer, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Writing, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Chemicals in Murder Mysteries, Methods of Murder, Milk of Amnesia, Misuses of Propofol, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Drugs, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Plotting Murder Scenes, Plotting The Perfect Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, Propofol, Propofol and its Uses, The Science of Murder, The Writings of James J. Murray, Thrilling Short Stories, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Uses of Propofol, Ways to Murder, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Prescription Medications Are So Expensive

In last week’s blog, I discussed how patients can take back control of their medication costs. I suggested seven simple ways to reduce the costs of your prescription drugs.

Taking steps as an individual to hold down prescription costs, however, will only go so far. The core issue is that prescription medications in the United States are some of the highest in the world on a per capita basis. The same medications in other countries are less expensive than in the States, and US citizens spend almost two-and-a-half times (on average) what people in other nations spend on medications.

New treatment options often cost between $100,000 and $300,000 per year. Even older medications are not immune to what some call “outrageous” price increases. The cost of insulin tripled in the decade between 2002 and 2013. The four-decade old EpiPen, a lifesaving treatment for severe allergic reactions, experienced a staggering 500% price hike since 2007.

The American public and many politicians are asking the simple question, “Why?” The simple answer is because there is nothing stopping “big pharma companies” from charging these exorbitant prices. The better answer, however, is much more complex.

In this nation’s free market system, when demand is high for a product, companies often raise prices. That’s the case with prescription drugs. Millions of Americans suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and other lifelong diseases. Demand is high for medications that treat these diseases. Therefore, their pricing is ripe for periodic increases as demand rises.

The supply and costs of new medications are controlled entirely by the drug manufacturer that holds the patent rights. That’s a 20-year monopoly on a new drug before that medication could be offered as a less expensive generic version (competition). In that 20-year period, drug makers are free to increase prices as often and by as much as the market will bear.

I’m not saying that drug manufacturers should not make profits from newly developed drugs. That’s the basis of our capitalistic society and free market enterprise. If drug prices were highly controlled, new drug development would stall and the potential for new lifesaving medications would come to a halt.

Certainly, the US government could step in to regulate medication pricing and even take over all research for new drug development, but that runs counter to the ideals of our founding fathers—and that’s a discussion I’d rather not have in this blog.

The question is, “What is a middle-ground solution to the high cost of drugs?” Other industrialized, democratic nations seem to have developed systems that result in more affordable prescription drugs.

Possible solutions that other first-world nations successfully have adopted include:

Letting Government Programs Negotiate Drug Pricing: Medicare has almost 60 million beneficiaries. That’s tremendous bargaining power to negotiate more reasonable pricing. It’s been estimated that, if Medicare would initiate competitive bidding for similar drugs, the savings could total over $16 billion per year.

Allowing More Drug Imports: The costs of brand-name drugs are typically much higher in the United States than in other developed nations. A system of importation that assures safe and legal procurement of less expensive medications could put pressure on manufacturers to hold price increases to more reasonable levels in this country.

Creating Better Transparency Regarding Drug Pricing: Presently, there is no mechanism to verify a drug manufacturer’s claim that higher prices are linked to costs associated with research and development. Often, higher costs are the result of extensive advertising of a drug’s benefits to the public and healthcare professionals.

Providing Easier Drug Comparisons: The public, and often even medical professionals, have little means of determining whether a newly-approved drug is more effective than existing treatments. There is a potential for tremendous savings on unnecessary duplications that do not exceed the effectiveness of present medications.

Implementing “Value-Based” Pricing: This is an extension of the above idea of more effective drug comparison research. Shifting the United States to a system in which drug pricing is based on how well the drug works (the value) rather than what the market will bear could make a real difference in what a drug costs. An example is a new drug that cures a disease. It would have more value and therefore be priced higher than a drug that doesn’t substantially improve on existing treatments.

This last suggestion is somewhat futuristic in the sense that there is presently no real universal definition of a drug’s value, other than a drug that stands alone as the ONLY effective cure for a disease. Another possible added value for a new drug is disease control or a cure without drug interactions or side effects.

The suggestions for controlling medication costs are numerous, albeit all with arguable faults, but the solutions may well be a composite of all the above to come up with a reasonable, workable plan.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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How to Make Prescription Drugs More Affordable!

An estimated 49% of Americans report using at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days, and a staggering 19% report that they have skipped taking a prescribed medication, or taken less drug than indicated, because of the drug’s high cost.

The cost of prescriptions has more than doubled in the last ten years, and medication costs top the list of concerns that Americans have regarding their health care.

Too many people struggle to pay for needed prescription drug regimens. They often end up waiting to fill a prescription, taking less medication to make it last longer, or deciding not to fill a prescribed drug at all.

In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss some of the key points on why prescription drugs are so much more expensive in the United States as compared to other first world countries, and I’ll suggest a few possible solutions. But that’s a whole other blog subject, and that’s best left for next time.

Today, let’s discuss what patients can control. There are steps that individuals can take to reduce their own medication costs, regardless of the drug regimen their physicians prescribe.

Here are seven simple ways to reduce the cost of your prescriptions:

Ask for ONLY Generic Drugs: Although all medications do not have generic equivalents available, many do. By switching to a generic version of a brand-name drug, you can save up to 80%. I take two prescriptions to lower my blood pressure, and the generic versions save me a bundle.

Know Your Prescription Plan Coverage: Each drug insurance plan has its own formulary of drugs that they cover. Those drugs are tiered by costs. The higher the tier, the higher the copay. Ask your doctor if a drug that costs less would work as well. That less expensive drug usually means a drug in a lower tier that may work just as well. For me, I used to take a medication that was a combination of two drugs in one pill, and that combo was only available as the expensive branded drug. I found that by asking my doctor to order the two drugs separately instead of in the branded combo form, I could get the two drugs as generics and that saved me considerable money.

Use Mail Order Prescription Plans: Many drug plans allow for mail order service, and there is usually a three-month order option. Use this for drugs that you take on a regular basis. By ordering a 90-day supply, you could save up to a third on the copay costs.

Use the Preferred Pharmacy for Your Prescription Plan: Most drug coverage plans these days have contracts with national pharmacy chains. The copay costs are often lower when you use these contracted (called “preferred”) pharmacies. Additionally, an estimated 36% of large employers have a preferred pharmacy that has agreed to provide extra discounts to their employees.

Use Prescription Discount Cards: There are many discount cards available that offer significant savings on your prescription drugs. I had a situation in which I used such a discount card when filling a prescription for my mother-in-law. Her prescription plan did not cover a specific drug and the cost was well over $100 for a month’s supply. I told the pharmacist that she could not afford that and he found a prescription discount card online that he could use when filling her prescription. That discount card lowered the drug’s cost to around $10. I was astounded and very thankful for that pharmacist thinking outside the box! It should be noted that these discount prescription cards cannot be used in combination with health insurance plans, including Medicare. So, if your prescription drug plan does not cover a drug, ask your pharmacist if there is a discount card program that might be used instead to lower the drug’s cost.

Seek Assistance: Many pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance programs to patients who cannot afford expensive medications. These programs sometimes cover the entire cost of the prescribed drug. These programs are need-based and there are several. Here are links to a few: pparx.org, PatientAdvocate.org, and NeedyMeds.org.

Cut Pills When Safe: Instead of getting a 5mg version of a drug, ask your doctor to prescribe the 10mg version and cut the pill in half. Many medications are scored down the middle to allow an accurate split. There are also inexpensive devices available for purchase in most pharmacies that will split the pill for you. Please note that some medications are the time-release type, and these CANNOT be cut because it would allow the entire dose to be delivered at once rather than gradually. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if a pill can be split safely before doing so on your own.

By taking some of these simple measures, I’ve cut my monthly medication bill by more than 70%, and you can take steps to control the cost of your prescriptions also.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Affordable Prescription Drugs, Blog Writers, Blogging, Controlling Drug Costs, Increasing Costs of US Pharmaceuticals, James J. Murray Blog, Making Medications Affordable, Medication Cost Increases, Medication Safety Issues, New Blog, Non-Compliance in Medication Therapies, Non-Compliance to Physician Orders, Non-Compliance to Prescription Therapies, Non-Compliance with Medication Therapies, Patient Therapy Compliance Issues, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription Drug Safety, Prescription For Murder Blog, Reasons for Medication Therapy Non-Compliance, Solutions To The High Cost of Drugs, Te Practice of Pharmacy, The High Cost Of Medications in the US, The Pharmacy Profession, The Practice of Pharmacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Self Defense 101 (Part 2)

Last week I wrote a blog on various self-defense techniques, and I detailed the top seven to protect oneself from an assault. Possibly a character in one of your upcoming storylines will need such skills. I know I’ve considered using a few in a series of short stories I’ve plotted out already. I’ll eventually write these stories using many of those techniques.

The key to a good fight scene is using what’s available to your hero to incapacitate the attacker. Here are a few more techniques that may stimulate the imagination to create a dramatic confrontation using only the hands.

Seven of the best methods to kill or incapacitate with your bare hands are:

Full Nelson: While standing behind an enemy, put your arms under his and lock your hands behind his head. Bending the neck forward will do one of several things—break the neck, asphyxiate him, or impede spinal fluid to the brain and cause brain damage or death. The key is to get your hero to spin behind the attacker as soon as possible.

Half Nelson: Again, while maneuvering behind an enemy, place only one arm under the attacker to pin that arm and lock down behind the head in the same manner as above. This tactic is less effective and possibly not lethal, but it can incapacitate to some degree.

Pinned Drop Kick: Standing behind the enemy and holding his arms straight back, a drop kick to the back without releasing his arms may severe the spine.

Brain Buster: With the enemy facing toward your hero, bend the person forward while placing him in a headlock. Grab the back of his belt and haul him into the air upside down while your hero falls backwards. The likely result is that your hero will fall on the enemy’s head and knock out the attacker.

Ear Slap: Oddly enough, coming up behind an enemy and cupping your hands in a clapping motion over the victim’s ears can kill him immediately. The vibrations caused from the clapping motion will likely burst the eardrums and cause internal bleeding in the brain.

Abdomen Assault: A substantial blow to this area will stun the attacker and may rupture a vital organ.

Kidney Punch: A large nerve that branches off from the spinal cord comes close to the skin near the kidneys. A direct “knife” blow with the knuckles of one hand may be lethal.

As mentioned in my last blog, an effective counter attack is extremely important. It’s said that a battle is never won by defensive action alone. If assaulted, attack back with all your might and look for areas of the aggressor’s body that may be vulnerable and open to attack.

Doing so could mean the difference between life and death!

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Self Defense 101 (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog on how to write a bloodless death scene. It detailed some interesting assault techniques, both physical and by chemical means, to incapacitate and likely kill a character whose demise is a necessary part of your storyline.

That blog made me think of a portion of the storyline from my current work in process, a novel in which there is mention of attacks on women while running on a trail. It’s not actually part of the main plot, but I used that piece of information as a device to explain security cameras in a park.

Since I’m a runner and many of those I run with are women, there are always safety concerns from my female runner friends about running on trails. Many have attended self-defense classes and are trained to protect themselves from sudden attacks. I’d like to share a few of those self-defense techniques with you.

Although these actions may not necessarily kill an attacker, they will certainly incapacitate someone trying to do harm to you or another person. Hopefully, these techniques may prove useful in one of your storylines as well; and, of course, my wish is that you NEVER need them to protect yourself in a real-life situation.

The top seven techniques to protect against an attacker are as follows:

Nasion Strike: The nasion is the intersection of the frontal bone and two nasal bones of the skull. It’s located in that depressed area directly between the eyes, just superior to the bridge of the nose. A strike there will certainly stun the aggressor. Although debatable if lethal when struck with sufficient force, it may possibly cause death.

Philtrum Strike: The philtrum is the medial cleft or the vertical groove between the base of the nose and the border of the upper lip. Attack someone there and it will often render the individual unconscious, and could possibly be lethal—again debatable, but if struck with enough force, a blow could crush underlying bone.

Jaw Punch: Making a tight fist and giving a powerful hook punch to the front side of the jaw will at least stun an attacker and often result in a release of grip so that the victim can get away. A powerful enough punch could prove to be fatal by snapping the aggressor’s neck.

Base of the Cerebellum: If able to initiate a powerful blow to the nape of the neck of an attacker, it could cause lethal damage and death. Less powerful blows would at least stun the aggressor.

Uppercut Punch: An upward strike to the bottom of the jaw with the heel of one’s hand will cause the attacker to become disoriented, or at least cause an imbalance long enough for victims to free themselves from an aggressor’s grip. A powerful strike may snap back the attacker’s neck enough to shatter neck vertebrae, an injury that might prove fatal.

Heart Punch: This is simply a strong punch to the heart area and may require both hands to achieve a powerful enough strike to incapacitate the attacker. A lethal punch to the chest over the heart may cause a lethal disruption of the heart rhythm, and at least stun the attacker.

Rib Cage Punch: This is like the heart punch but in a slightly lower area on either side of the chest. A rib cage punch performed hard enough can cause one or more ribs to shatter, a painful strike that will stun the attacker and could possibly lead to grave internal bleeding.

A final suggestion is that an effective counter attack is extremely important. It’s said that a battle is never won by defensive action alone. If assaulted, attack back with all your strength and look for areas of the aggressor’s body that may be vulnerable and open to attack.

Doing so could mean the difference between life and death.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, A Writer's Psyche, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, Accuracy in Editing, Accuracy in Writing, Achieving Writing Perfection, All About Murder, All About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Characteristics of Killing, Characteristics of Murder, Deciding How to Kill Off a Character in a Novel, Deciding What Types of Fictional Characters Fit Into Your Plot, Defining Murder, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Developing Writing Skills, Evidence Free Murder, Fiction Based on Facts, Fiction Based on Real Life, Fiction Writing - A Believable Lie, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, James J. Murray Blog, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plot Development, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Plotting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, Self Defense Ideas, Self Defense Lessons, Story Development, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, the perfect murder weapon, The Psychology of Murder, The Science of Murder, Ways To Kill, Ways to Murder, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment