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Guest Blogger: Gayle Lynds: It’s Good Fortune To Marry a Writer

It is with great pleasure that I welcome my friend Gayle Lynds as she tells us about her life with the late Dennis Lynds. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to know him. He was a character–in the truest sense of the word—and an iconic writer. Thank you. Gayle, for sharing with us.

Gayle & Den on SB wharf

Gayle and Dennis Lynds

 

It’s Good Fortune To Marry a Writer

Who knew falling in love with an author could lead to such adventure — in fact, to bigamy. I had a lot of fun being married to mystery novelist Dennis Lynds, who died in 2005 after we’d been together more than twenty good years. He was 81 and still young. Iconoclastic, witty, and generous, he’s credited with bringing the detective novel into the modern age.

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In the process, he enriched the world with some 60 books and 200 short stories.

Dan Fortune Speaks

Here’s where my bigamy comes in: Den wrote under a dozen pseudonyms, many of them his own. For instance, I was married to Mark Sadler, John Crowe, and William Arden. He also wrote as the Shadow, Mike Shayne, and Nick Carter, to name a few more.

When we met, I was at the beginning of my career, publishing literary short stories. He was an award-winning author a couple of well-preserved decades older than me.

“You should write mystery novels,” he advised me.

“My brain doesn’t work that way,” I advised him. “I want to write thrillers.”

“You can do a lot with mysteries,” he insisted. He discussed each alias’s social themes, first person versus third person, setting choices, and favorite characters.

“Yes, but I figure I can do a lot with thrillers, too,” I insisted back.

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He was not impressed, but he humored me. Thus began our life together, with the push-pull of two authors working in similar fields. The marriage was smooth sailing. The only times we disagreed (well, figure passionately disagreed) was over our books. It was incredibly fun, and an opportunity for growth for me, and an opportunity for him to discover he wasn’t the only workaholic. And yes, he grew, too. It’s inevitable with a fine writer.

Of all his novels, my favorites are those in the Dan Fortune series, written as Michael Collins. Dan is iconic, the much beloved main character of one of America’s longest-running detective series.

I particularly enjoy how evocative the stories are of the eras in which they were written. For instance, in Act of Fear, the first Dan Fortune mystery, New York City is alive on the pages.

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Back in the 1970s, Chelsea was colorful, with characters straight out of a Damon Runyon tale. It’s here that Dan Fortune grew up.  His best friend was Andy Pappas. They were poor kids, and Dan and Andy broke into ships together, stealing cargo.  Then Dan lost his arm in a failed robbery, and he decided it was time to put out his shingle: Dan Fortune, Private Detective.  But Andy was good at crime. Taking over the docks, he became boss of bosses, a vicious racketeer. Still, he’d let Dan be familiar, call him by his first name, even give him crap – until now….

What a story it is. In fact, Act of Fear, won the Edgar. Our family is proud to finally be able to republish all of the Dan Fortunes, for the first time in eBooks and in trade paperback.  I hope you’ll consider trying just one.

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For links and more information, please visit www.DennisLynds.com

New York Times bestseller Gayle Lynds is the award-winning author of 10 international spy novels, including The Assassins, The Book of Spies, and The Last Spymaster. Her books have won numerous awards.  Library Journal hails her as “the reigning queen of espionage fiction.” Associated Press calls her “a master of the Modern Cold War spy thriller.” Her novel, Masquerade, was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 10 spy novels of all time.  With Robert Ludlum, she created the Covert-One series. A member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, she is co-founder (with David Morrell) of International Thriller Writers. Please visit her at www.GayleLynds.com and read her blog posts at www.RogueWomenWriters.com

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Posted by on February 13, 2018 in Writing

 

Guest Blogger: Lisa Black: Predators and Prey

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PREDATORS AND PREY

When my husband and I were buying our second home, the bank we went to suggested an adjustable-rate mortgage. It had a nice rate, much lower than the 30-year fixed, which “couldn’t go up more than 2% per year,” and we “could lock it in at any time.” Period. For some reason I cannot recall, something made me check into this further. I was not good at math and certainly had no head for business, which had always bored me silly, but I did have a job as a secretary, which meant I had a phone, an office in which to use it all day long, and time. I wound up talking to four different people at three different banks before I got the situation clear. The rate that could be “locked in” was a completely different rate—not the adjustable rate at all, but the prime rate plus whatever the bank currently tacked on, a rate that was already higher than the 30-year fixed. When we met with the loan officer I reconfirmed this, and she said only, “But the adjustable rate might go down.” (As it turned out, it did, but still—I’m going to base thirty years of payments on “might”? I don’t think so.)

We passed on the ARM.

But questionable, risky and downright deceptive loaning practices went on, and my hometown, the setting of my books, suffered greatly. As a consumer activist explains to my detectives in Perish:

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“If you remember the housing bust, 2008, thirty percent of Slavic village homes went into foreclosure, Cleveland led the country in vacant homes, etcetera etcetera?”

Riley said only, “Yes.”

“Because mortgage originators like Sterling made loans to people they knew bloody well could never pay them. They set it up, collect their fees for doing a little paperwork, the investors get monthly payments, borrowers begin paying off their house, everybody’s happy.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“You know how that Greek guy said everything had to be in moderation?”

“Yeah?”

“When there’s money being made, moderation goes out the window. Even people with bad credit don’t want to pay high rates and, obviously, don’t have the money to pay high payments, so . . . creative math. Adjustable rates that you can ‘lock in’—except the rate you’re locking in is a completely different rate, prime plus whatever the bank feels like tacking on, so from day one this will already be higher than a thirty-year fixed. Low rates with balloon payments, which would work out fine if you know you’re going to win the lottery in three years. Interest-only payments, in which you aren’t paying a penny of the principal until the payment leaps up by one or two hundred percent in, say, seven years.”

“But—” Riley began.

“Exactly. Why make loans you know are going to fail? Because Wall Street compensation is based on that year’s performance. All the higher-ups get bonuses based on a percentage of profit—for CEOs this can be millions, double- and triple-digit millions. So when they will make more in one year than most people could make in several lifetimes, they don’t think in the long run.

“These firms—Ameriquest, Long-Term Capital, Long Beach Mortgage, and now Sterling—they don’t care if they falsify paperwork, whether they let their clients lie about their income, whether they flat out defraud their clients by pretending to sign them up for a fixed rate and then fake the papers to put them in an adjustable rate—because by the time their monthly payment suddenly triples and they default, the original firm is long out of it and the borrower is arguing with a company that never knew them and only knows what the original firm told it.” Ned went on, using both hands for emphasis. “People have to fight back. Cleveland and a bunch of other cities sued the lenders, but the mortgage banker’s association donated a few million to the state political parties and the lawsuits were thrown out. The Federal Reserve, the SEC, Congress threw up their hands and said there was nothing they could do. In 2008 the music finally stopped and some dancers collapsed, the government bailed out the rest, and our lawmakers were supposed to make laws so this couldn’t happen again.”

Jack’s legs twitched, aching to move, to do something.

“Except with caps on their compensation the investment banks and mortgage banks had plenty of money to keep up the kickbacks to the political parties, so the new laws wound up watered down into trickles.”

“Wait,” Jack said. “Are you protesting things that happened ten years ago, or things that are happening now?”

“The past is preface,” Swift said, but wiped away the smug tone when he saw Jack’s lack of appreciation for it. “The behavior I protested in 2008 slunk away for a while, laid low but never went away. Mortgage securities were a cash cow, and just because we slaughtered the cow doesn’t mean people lost their taste for milk. The big firms reined it in because no one, not even them, wants to go through that again, but little places like Joanna’s saw opportunity. Have you noticed commercials for instant credit and cold calls from barely legal sharks offering anyone who answers a no-collateral, pick-a-payment loan? They’re baaack—doing all the bad things they did before, but this time having the sense to get out before someone blows too hard on their house of cards.”

Borrower beware.

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Lisa Black has spent over twenty years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into six languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s list and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series.

www.lisa-black.com
@LisaBlackAuthor

 

ITW’s Fifth Annual Online Thriller School

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Last year’s Thriller School was a great success and students came away with many new skills for their writing toolbox. And this year will be just as useful to writers of all skill levels.

This year’s seven-week program begins April 2nd, 2018, and as before the craft of thriller writing will be front and center. Each instructor will teach an aspect of the craft through a real-time, Facebook Live video available exclusively to the students who are registered for the Online Thriller School.

Students will have an opportunity to ask questions of each week’s instructor either during or immediately after the video presentation. The video will be available for the entire week in case some students are unable to make the live presentation on Monday. Any questions that aren’t answered on Monday of each week will be addressed on Thursday either through a follow-up Facebook Live video or in writing (instructor’s choice).

All videos and Q&As will be available throughout the entire course, and for approximately 6 months thereafter.

Every writer knows that learning to write well is a life-long pursuit and writers must never cease improving their craft. There are many wonderful books, classes, and online sources that will help you improve your storytelling craft, but where can you learn directly from the best? From New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors?

Right here. At ITW’s Fifth Annual Online Thriller School.

We have assembled a cadre of excellent teachers and topics so please join us and let us help you take your writing and storytelling to the next level.

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The Current Class Schedule:

4/2/18: Storytelling: The Art and Craft Of Story—Steven James

4-9: Plot: What’s Happening Here?—Grant Blackwood

4-16: Character: The People Who Drive The Story—F. Paul Wilson

4-23: Point Of View: Whose Eyes Are You Looking Through?—HP Ryan

4-30: Dialog: It’s Not Like Real Conversation==James Scott Bell

5-7: Setting, Mood, Atmosphere: Bringing the Right “Feel” to Your Story?—Gayle Lynds

5-14: Voice: What Does A Good Story “Sound” Like?—DP Lyle

Attendance is limited, and we sold out last year, so register today!

Details: http://thrillerwriters.org/thrillerschool/

Register: http://thrillerwriters.org/thrillerschool/register/

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2018 in Writing

 

Improved GHB Testing

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NMR Spectrograph

GHB is one of the so-called Date Rape Drugs—along with Ecstasy, Rohypnol, and Ketamine. I have an article on these on my website (See Below).

GHB has been difficult to detect, primarily because it’s rapidly metabolized (destroyed) by the body. But new techniques employing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy allow the detection of GHB metabolites (breakdown products) as much as 24 hours later. This gives investigators a longer time period to uncover GHB in a victim.

GHB can also often be found in the victim’s hair up to a month or more after exposure, but this testing is not as yet perfected.

https://www.forensicmag.com/news/2017/08/chemists-discover-marker-date-rape-drug-testing

http://www.dplylemd.com/articles/date-rape-drugs.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25433016

More on the fascinating world of Forensic Toxicology can be found in FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES:

http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/forensics-for-dummies.html

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Getting Lost in Your Own Home

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What if you couldn’t navigate your own home? What if your child is calling for you in another room, but you can’t figure out how to get there? You just might have Developmental Topographical Disorientation (DTD). Some resort to making detailed maps of their home just to navigate life.

An odd neurological condition for sure.

The Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/05/when-the-brain-cant-make-its-own-maps/392273/

New Scientist article: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25578-mindscapes-the-woman-who-gets-lost-in-her-own-home/?full=true&print=true#.U4neU16aGzA

Medical Daily article: http://www.medicaldaily.com/getting-lost-what-happens-when-brains-gps-mapping-malfunctions-245400

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2018 in Medical Issues

 

Guest Blogger: Lance Mason: The Mechanics of Showing

The Mechanics of Showing

This essay was inspired by, and is based on, a discussion with the novelist and teacher Lee Martin at the Vermont College of Fine Art’s 2016 Postgraduate Writers Conference, directed by Ellen Lesser.

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Show, don’t tell is a recognized dictum of the writer’s art and the editor’s science, aimed at a product that breathes on the page.  Yet the vivid pictures that writers must draw when showing are not photographs or etchings, oil paintings or cinema, but mental images conjured from words, so the work at which writers daily pound away will always be an assemblage of written language, and the reason we call it story-telling.  The good telling, though, becomes showing.  This happens when the written form, merging skill, insight, and experience, coaxes the reader out of sentence structure and the alphabet and into the reader’s private imagination.  The writer then helps the reader navigate that place and find—or even create—his/her own bank of images, hoping to ignite those visions for the reader that best capture the intent of the writer’s words.  The writing then burns more brightly when (paraphrasing from Stephen King’s On Writing) the reader reads what’s in the writer’s mind, i.e. what the writer is showing.

Why can this be a vehicle of enjoyment for both reader and writer?  When the work stirs true intimacy in the heart of the reader, he or she feels validated for having the imagination to see what’s in the writer’s creative effort, much as a music buff feels validated in the grasp of Beethoven’s Fifth, or a viewer senses the embrace in Rodin’s The Kiss.  Perhaps this “bridge to intimacy” is why Jane Austen’s writing exerts so much power 200 years on, or why The Iliad does after three millennia.

For the writer, this “image ignition” will prove that his/her invention works, that this “machine of words” does carry to another person the ideas created in the writer’s mind and written on the page.  It has done what its inventor intended: to bring enjoyment, even ecstasy, to the reader.  Seeing the bulb light up is as joyful for the writer as the one that lit up for Thomas Edison in Menlo Park.

Still, this machine and its incandescent bulb are built from words, leaving the writer’s mind and, if stirring enough in efficacy, rising off the page and into the reader’s thoughts and emotions, riding into his/her mind and re-appearing there as pictures that show the writer’s intent.  Yet where does the author find the concoction that will transport to the reader the story-image the writer means to depict?

The cheap answer is “Many places,” but renowned author, teacher, and novelist Lee Martin (The Bright Forever, Late One Night) espouses three necessary elements for every story: a) the chronology of events, b) the cause-and-effect forces at work, and c) the consequences of (characters’) actions.  The inspiration, imagination, and erudition by which the writer tells these to the reader will determine the efficacy with which he or she shows the story through the images evoked.

Naturally, with someone like Martin campaigning this triumvirate, we all can see its necessity.  Once the master artisan has shown me how to nail on the bootheel, the method is self-evident—no deep mysteries to it, right?  Yet the process is worth a disciplined look because creative eliciting of what I will call Martin’s Triad can put real magic into a story, memoir, or essay.

Chronology is simply the order-in-time of all the events that will be revealed.  The chain of cause-and-effect puts weight into the showing with details of each event’s timing, breadth, and outcomes.  Outcomes (consequences) derive from the intersection of chronology and causes, intended and unintended; they are the penalties or rewards, big or small, final or intermediate, which answer the question, “What happened?”  Without that answer, there is no story, but without Martin’s formula of: a) an orderly chronology plus b) a logical chain of cause and effect, the c) consequences are neither inevitable nor believable.

Of course, a flawless sequence-in-time, an inarguable series of causal links, and a logically connected set of outcomes do not guarantee a wonderful—or even bearable—story.  Lee Martin wouldn’t say so.  However, without them, you almost surely will not have one.  (It should—but doesn’t—go without saying that these three “story struts” must be imbued with conflict, the fuel that makes them glow with energy and emotion.  A train’s timetable, the traction of the locomotive, and the stations on the route are just scribblings on a schedule; but put a bomb on the tracks, a criminal gang in the baggage car, and a Pinkerton Agent in pursuit, and you have a story.)

How, then, do we use these three struts to fashion the story of our dreams?

First, in a seeming contradiction, there is no need to use the Triad logically or sequentially in the storytelling (though we also must not violate them).  The narrative may open with the chronology’s last act, rather than the first.  It may reveal characters’ actions that, initially, have no apparent ties to cause-and-effect.  A consequence may impose itself from an origin nowhere in sight, or in a way that seems illogically rendered.  However, good writing, rewarding to the writer as well as the reader, will execute this apparent jumbling in a way that doesn’t confuse or humble the reader, stint on the action, or, ultimately, violate the chronology, cause-and-effect, and inevitability of the (often unexpected) consequences.

Wonderful writing can cascade from the imaginative disassembly-reassembly of these three components, flowing into a narrative that satisfies the basics of a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Further, if you want to introduce the “Big Five” early (main characters, MCs’ goals and motivations, your “hook,” plot expectations, and launching the story), you may need to defer until later the orderly chronology that will eventually complete the story, and much of the causality tied to that opening.  In addition, we may open with consequences, but give evidence for their cause or justification much later.  Yet, in reassembling the narrative order you choose to use for Martin’s Triad, the ultimate integrity of the three must be protected.  The underlying logic and causes must remain intact and, in fact, be bolstered, even if in ways only gradually revealed.  In the end, the three elements must be resolved and kept whole, for they are the mechanics of the showing.

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BIO: Raised in rural California, Mason worked blue-collar jobs during his studies at UCSB, Loyola (BSc), and UCLA (doctorate).  He has taught at UCLA, the National University in Natal, Brazil, and Otago University in New Zealand; has presented at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies; attended VCFA 2016 Post-grad Writers Conference on scholarship.

Mason’s work has appeared in Upstreet, The Santa Barbara Independent, The Packinghouse Review, Newborders, Solo Novo, Travelers’ Tales, Tales to Go, The Roar, The Evening Street Review, Sport Literate, New Millennium Writing, and several other magazines and professional journals. ]

Pieces of Mason’s nonfiction were selected for 2017’s The Soul of a Great Traveler, an anthology of award-winning travel memoirs; The Best Travel Writing, Vol 11 (2016); Sport Literate’s Best of 2016.  His first publication a piece in Voices Of Survival, (Capra Press, 1986), alongside Arthur C. Clarke, Indira Ghandi, Carl Sagan, and the Pope.  His most recognized short piece is “The Train to Harare,” an African travel memoir with half a dozen awards and honors.

Published in 2016, A Proficiency in Billiards is a book-length collection of essays and memoirs that has met with favorable reviews.  The writer is completing his fifth novel Loan Star, on the power and greed of banking and political corruption in America.  He has also completed The Killing of Chuy Muro, The China Contract, its sequel The Eunuch of Shanghai, and The Brass Ring.  Mason and Gary Byrne, PhD, published The Seven Paths to Poverty, a guide for young adults to avoid financial hardship.

Mason has spent forty years exploring, living, and working overseas, including a half dozen round-the-world trips by every conveyance from boots to bicycle to dugout canoe.  Mason lived in New Zealand for thirteen years, the setting for portions of several long and short works.  Rugby, cycle-racing, live theater, wine, and fishing have all interfered at times with his writing life.

Lance Mason Website: https://lance-mason.com

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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in Writing

 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: Review of Criminology of Homicidal Poisoning

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The Subtle Art of Poisoning

Expert discusses investigative criminological toxicology.

In 1993, Glenn Turner, a police officer in Georgia, named his wife, Lynn, as the beneficiary on his life insurance policy. After she began an affair with a firefighter named Randy Thompson, Turner grew sick and died. The medical examiner ruled it natural. Lynn quickly moved in with Randy. He purchased a life insurance policy but her overspending threatened a potential rift. Pretty soon, he, too, was sick. When he died, it was another “natural death.”

The mothers of these men joined forces and got a new investigation. By the fall of 2001, it became clear that both men had been poisoned with ethylene glycol, i.e., antifreeze, which causes organ failure. Lynn was arrested. An abundance of circumstantial and behavioral evidence linked her to the deaths, and the “black widow” was found guilty. In 2010, she committed suicide in prison by poisoning herself with a prescription medication.

This is just one of the seven “instructive” cases that Dr. Michael Farrell provides in his book, Criminology of Homicidal Poisoning. Others are “American Beauty Killer” Kristin Rossum and the Cooper brothers. He also discusses healthcare killers like Harold Shipman, many of whom used lethal levels of medications. Farrell, a private consultant on the use of poison in homicides, has a substantial background in psychiatry and medical research. This comprehensive textbook links forensic toxicology with criminology, making an important contribution to both fields.

Farrell not only describes how homicidal poisoning fits the most popular criminological theories for why people kill but also examines the nature and lethality of various poisons, identifies trends in poisoning, provides a history, and shows offender traits and victim characteristics. In one chapter, he even discusses issues for investigators and prosecutors who will be taking a poisoning case to trial.

These perpetrators have a lot on their side, and case reconstruction often depends largely on circumstantial evidence, with an emphasis on motive. (Kristin Rossum, for example, was having an affair, for example, and her husband, who’d supposedly committed suicide by fentanyl overdose, was known to be pill-aversive. Rossum had access to the drug.) It took years and persistent family members, along with acknowledgment of investigative errors, to bring Lynn Turner to justice.

Cold case investigators should take note! Many poisonings initially look natural or accidental, or can be passed off as a suicide. Suspicious circumstances, no matter how seemingly slight, should be investigated. Intentionality is key – what do these suspects gain from it? Poisoners can go undetected for years, especially if their victims are members of populations who are expected to die (the sick and elderly).

Successful poisoners are cunning, remorseless, and often greedy or looking for a way out of a difficult situation. They must have the intelligence to study the behavior of a poison and to plan ahead for its use and consequences. They need to know if they prefer a quick or slow death and how to hide the symptoms. Staging plays a significant part.

Stagers find ways to mask symptoms or defer investigation. They might oppose an autopsy and have a body cremated. They might write a suicide note or “confide” to a doctor that the victim was suicidal. They might clean up the scene, wipe a computer search, or surround a search with context that subtracts evidentiary value. They might have a ready explanation if poison is detected. (A minister who “discovered” his overdosed wife dead told police that she was a sleepwalker and must have taken the pills by accident.)

It’s a popular notion that females are more likely to use poison than any other means, which gives the false impression that males rarely poison. Male poisoners apparently outnumber females – at least, of those who are caught. Medical professionals are over-represented, possibly because they have more knowledge of, and access to, drugs and potential poisons. Over and over, we find that healthcare serial killers have administered the “wrong” meds or given an overdose. It’s important that we understand those who decide to kill someone in this manner.

Farrell believes that homicidal poisoning is underestimated. Given how easy it can be to overlook evidence, to accept other explanations, and make investigative missteps, he’s probably right. Poisons can be easy to acquire, and motives to use it are all-too-human.

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches criminal justice. She holds a master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master’s in clinical psychology from Duquesne University, a master’s in criminal justice from DeSales University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers. She has been a therapist and a consultant. Dr. Ramsland has published over 1,000 articles and 60 books.

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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Book Review, Guest Blogger, Poisons & Drugs

 
 
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