Mixed In is here!

cropped-mixedinfinal.pngMixed In is available in paperback today. It will be released on Kindle on March 21st.

Here’s what it’s about:

When Catrina moves to Cochtonville to work as a chemist for Cochton Enterprises, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. A chance meeting with Ulysses, owner of the Union Station bar, plunges her into a world of illegal condoms, vibrators, and art. As their loneliness draws them together, they become allies in what will become the fight of their lives in the sexually repressive and culturally backward dystopia.
Catrina’s invention, No Regrets—a scanner to test for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections—brings increased scrutiny from the town’s Vice Patrol, made worse by an ambitious new agent who hangs around Union Station and takes up with Ulysses’s vindictive ex. Catrina’s relationship with Ulysses and her company’s new products put them both in peril as she begins to understand the dark side of her employer, her society, and science without humanity.
But science is all she’ll have to spare the men of Cochtonville a mortifying fate and to save the life of Ulysses.

It’s part of the Unstable States series. How do people fight an authoritarian state? What problems so such states cause for themselves and their citizens? Why is science without humanity doomed?  I’m busy researching for my next book. Expect more about empires and anthropology in that one.

Will you relate to any of the characters? Take this quiz and find out.

Will you relate to any of the molecules? I bet you will. Take this quiz and see.

Here are to buy links:

When passions are regulated, which laws will you break?


Thanks for your interest.

Women’s History: Suffragette fashion

Despite the inaccurate portrayal of our early feminist sisters as ugly and unlovable, Suffragettes/suffragists were aware of fashion and used it to their advantage.

They embraced a tri-color palette to hint at their cause no matter where they went:

“Suffragettes wore purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope.”  Not inconsequently, Green, White, and Violet also stood for Give Women the Vote.

Hats were importantly symbolic. They were larger than life and adorned with feminine flowers.  (As the movement gained steam and those opposed became afraid, hatpins were regulated to be short  so that they could not be used as weapons and the hats needed to be smaller or they wouldn’t stay on.)

Thanks to this website for the image: http://www.beyondretro.com/en/blog/2014/04/07/the-suffragettes-fashion-activists/

By necessity, stores began to support the cause.images


Oh those backwards, unfashionable folks who did not support equality for women. They would soon be left in the dust.


And there is a little bit of a lesson here. When confronting inequality, don’t be afraid to appeal to stereotypes and turn them to your advantage. And as history predicts, fashion is already on the side of women.

For more about the struggle for the vote, go here. Happy Women’s History Month. Mixed In is out! Support books with female leads.




Lead Linked to Violence

The link between lead and crime has been published everywhere from science journals to  Forbes to Mother Jones. Violent crime in the United States rose in the 1960s, spiked in the 90s, and has plummeted since then. Why did the generation associated with peace signs and hippies turn out to be the most violent in recent history?  Many scientists point to one reason–lead in gasoline during their childhoods.

Lead in the form of tetraethyl lead was added to gasoline in the 1920s in to help electric igniting engines operate more smoothly. It worked well despite one problem with it. The additive was known to cause “madness” and hallucinations. This had been first documented in the 1850s. In fact, workers at the first lead additive manufacturing plant died after going “looney.” Despite this, the additive worked effectively and was cheap so the companies that made it pushed forward to add it to gasoline. It was temporarily banned in parts of the nation–not the Midwest however–making the breadbasket of our nation a rich source of environmental lead. With careful marketing and lobbying by the companies that made the additive, the health effects were downplayed and the new technology was given a clean bill of health by the U.S. Surgeon General in the late 1920s.Thus, leaded gasoline was heavily used across the United States for over forty years.

Analytical chemistry upped its game in the 1970s, finding that the lead persisted in the environment and in people. Many states began phasing it out in the 70s and 80s. It was banned state by state and eliminated from car gasoline in 1996.  But since it is an element, lead can’t break down into anything simpler. Scientists believe that everyone over 40 in the U.S. has some degree of lead poisoning. Lead can be cleared from blood by the body but it resides in bones for 30 years or longer. Lead still lingers in many locations in the U.S.–including the poorest most violent neighborhoods. And of course, it has recently been found in water in Flint, Michigan thanks to corroding old pipes. Old paint and even old cans can also add lead to our bodies. However, lead in gasoline has been by far the most egregious contributor. As use was curtailed, lead in blood began to drop dramatically. Crime did as well.

This diagram is from the journal Analytical Chemistry, Feb. 1986

Why is lead so nasty? Lead impairs brain growth and poisons neurons.. It lows IQ and leads to life-long mental impairment. It damages the areas of the brain that control aggression and is more toxic to boys than to girls. It contributes to ADHD. It encourages cancer. Even teen-pregnancy has been linked to lead exposure. The poorer a person is, the more likely they are to have a high blood lead level.

It’s no surprise that lead is found at high levels in shooting ranges. These are regulated by OSHA and there are rules demanding clean up but these rules are not always followed. Eating meat shot with lead is also dangerous, especially for children. Adding vinegar to game shot with lead bullets makes the lead even more soluble in the meat and increases the toxicity.

Shooting ranges are not the only source of lead in the environment. Fuel for small airplanes contains lead and they are one of the major contributors to lead pollution today.

The link between lead poisoning and crime needs to be explored more fully. The tragedy of lead poisoning in the Unites States is a sad tale of greed and lack of regulation. Every one of us has suffered to some extent from exposure to lead. The cautionary take-away is that when it comes to chemicals, we need more regulations and more care taken before approving them for use in consumer products.

In which I face a crisis of lifestyle

Nobody gives out Nobel prizes for housecleaning–that’s long been my motto. This week my motto got a challenge, a setback, and today you’ll find me–gasp–cleaning up!

Being a chemist can have some serious drawbacks–such as the weekly news we get from the American Chemical Society. You think politics is un-nerving? Add to that a steady dose of news about the hidden life of chemicals. This week there was an excellent, but of course scary piece about house dust. To quote author Janet Pelley“More than just dirt, house dust is a mix of sloughed-off skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, dust mites, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic. It’s our detritus and, it turns out, has a lot to reveal about our lifestyle.”

Believe it or not, scientists study dust to learn about the lives and chemical exposure of the residents of a house. Dust can hold tiny particles of the solids that make up our lives. It also contains substances that stick to the surface of these particles. Sometimes these might be things you’d expect to blow away in the wind or wash away with water. Instead, they cling to the dust. They are what chemists would call sorbed or adsorbed.

Farm house dust, for example, contains a high amount of pesticides–often cancer causing ones. These can stick to carpets and even crawl down and reside in the carpet pads. OSHA scientists have found that farm house dust contains much more pesticide residue than non-farm house dust and that most of this lurks in the entry way or the laundry room. Roundup and “agent orange” are found most prevalently. OSHA suggests that removing carpet, regular vacuuming, and keeping shoes and boots outside can cut down on the levels of pollution in farm dust.

Farm houses might have an extra shot of pesticides in their dust but all homes contain plenty of worry. The most common toxic subtance in house dust is the plasticiser DEHP. This subtance can cause hormone disruption and even affect sperm. Where does it come from? Anything vinyl and also from plastic used in food coverings. Similar plasticisers found in paint and nail polish show up in household dust as do flame retardants and beauty product residues–all of which can cause reproductive system upsets. If the reproductive concerns don’t worry you consider this–the flame retardants have been implicated in weight gain.

If you live in Iowa there is even more lurking in dust as our all too common radon decays to lead and can be left in the dust.

Sadly, even cleaning products themselves are found in dust. Some of these can create a pleasant foamy cleaning power but are reproductive disruptors as well. It might be best to use these sparingly and stick to the old vinegar and baking soda.

I’m a lax housekeeper but I’m off to dust because to paraphrase Neal Young “Dust never sleeps.”

Birth control, gold crosses, and women’s rights under Hitler

Historically there have been many times that birth control was banned by governments. Hitler banned all forms of birth control– although his soldiers could have condoms wrapped in plain brown wrappers to “keep them healthy.” After all, syphilis was called the “Jewish Disease.”

Adolf disliked confident women, finding them unfeminine. Working women and women who were childless were scorned under his regime. He saw children as being akin to warriors for his cause and saw motherhood as the only calling a woman should have. It was even illegal to talk about birth control. He put forth laws to encourage marriage and his government paid cash bonuses for children born between 1933 and 1936. In addition, a mother got a medal upon the birth of her fourth and sixth child. A woman was awarded a gold cross for bearing her eighth child. Medals were awarded yearly on his mother’s birthday. On Dec. 16 the crosses were handed out. They were worn around the neck on a ribbon.

Would you have 8 kids for this? What every mother needs–an ugly cross to bear…I mean wear.

Abortions were considered crimes against “the body and the state” and were banned–the penalty was death!  But if the woman wasn’t white, doctors did not enforce this ban. Later, non-Aryans were encouraged to have abortions while they were strictly illegal for others. Although feminists put up resistance–and were jailed or sent to concentration camps– most German women agreed with Hitler and saw him as a savior. They were thrilled to be a part of something greater than themselves. However, his policies didn’t have much impact on the population.

Countries that fought against him benefited from the labor of their women and in England condoms were so common that they were used as waterproof covering on military microphones. As history proved, it doesn’t pay to oppress your women or ban your condoms.This could be why feminism stands strong in Germany today but as always, faces challenges from the ultra-right.

Birth control banned in the United States!

The idea that birth control is lewd and promotes bad behavior has a long history in the United States. Bans or partial bans were a part of our history from the 1870s to the 1960s and there is one figurehead presumed to be responsible for it all.

Morality crusader Anthony Comstock was at first assumed to be a buffoon or eccentric who was overly concerned with the morality of other people. He was from rural Connecticut but began his career in New York City because, of course, cities must be regulated and punished for they are filled with debauchery and filth. Unfortunately,while most city people laughed at this absurd notion and his antics which included chasing prostitutes with umbrellas, he was taken seriously by the country folk and by a few rich men including wealthy ultra-conservatives such as Samuel Colgate and J. Purport Morgan. Colgate was a prude and Morgan wanted to see banking deregulated. They decided that America needed a purity movement and politicians–who would also give them the legislation they wanted– to go with it. They hired Comstock to lead the purity movement which would help get their guys elected. It worked.

Backed by a corrupt Congress, Comstock was able to push through the Comstock Act which was the law of the land from 1873-1915. This legislation prevented the mailing, selling, teaching about, producing, or discussing any form of contraception. Comstock himself hated condoms and condom sellers in particular. He said that they had to be hunted down like rats. Fortunately, the underfunding of police and government forces allowed for home businesses creating condoms to pop up and condoms became black market items.

Noting their oppression, women took it upon themselves to give each other educational lectures about birth control and some of these educators were highly popular and experts at eluding arrest. As a nurse, Margaret Sanger became alarmed by the number of poor women dying from illegal abortions. She wrote pamphlets about birth control and became a hero to most married women of her day. It was well understood that too  many children inadequately spaced risks the health of both the mother and the child. Also, children of older, well-educated mothers have better survival rates and are healthier. Sanger became the first woman to openly run an illegal birth control clinic.

Sanger was from a large family and blamed lack of birth control for her mother’s death. She had greater fervor than Comstock did. Her work eventually overturned his laws and she helped develop and promote birth control pills. She even coined the term “birth control.” She lived to be 89–fifty years longer than her poor mother. Most of her success came in the last decades of her life. Never underestimate the power of a passionate little old lady! Sanger followed her own advice and had just two healthy sons who interestingly enough became football players and one had a career a coach. Comstock had no children–his detractors claimed he was a eunuch–but stood as an inspiration to ultra-conservatives for decades after this death. Here’s another interesting tidbit about Comstock, he praised women for trying their hardest to look good for men–their lords–but was against corsets because they might interfere with pregnancies and reduce milk supplies. Ladies, it’s all about the babies!

Today there is more data than ever that delaying and limiting childbirth produces children who are stronger, smarter, and even taller. If you are or plan to be happy with the number of children you have and look forward to an active and productive retirement, you can thank Sanger. And be on the look-out for modern day Comstocks!

A Quick and Questionable Post About Wearing Gloves

No longer considered taboo, condoms even have their own day of celebration.

If you’ve read the back of Mixed In you know that the plot involves condoms. This is nothing new. Literature about condoms goes way back. In 1655 “seed catchers” made from linen cloth tied on with ribbons  were celebrated in L’Escole de Filles (The Philosophy of Girls) which was both a novel and a play. In this popular work, the suggested use of a condom was to spare the woman. This was a revolutionary idea because they were only used as a disease protection device for men. The hero in the condemned but popular tale wore a condom. Thus, the association of heroes wearing condoms and scoundrels not wearing them was forged.

As the popularity of condoms spread throughout the 17th century, so did euphemisms for them. During Shakespeare’s time naughty slang words began with “qu” which was pronounced “k.” For example, a male’s private part was a “quipped” and a woman’s a “quaint.” Shakespeare used the word “quondam” much as one might used “condom.” He later used the word “glove “in this way and “glove” became the English term for condom for many years after. Let it be noted that gentlemen wore gloves out of respect for ladies.

This wasn’t the end of quondams as a topic for literature and conversation. In 1709 the Second Duke of Argyll waved one about in Parliament and blamed them for allowing gentlewomen  and women of quality–this means women who were financially independent– to be “debauched.”He wanted them to be outlawed. Fortunately, he was an unpopular fellow so his rant simply helped spread the word about quondams. In this same year, a poem about them called “Almonds for Parrots” became popular followed by “Ode to a Condom” which praised them for preventing big bellies, bubos (syphilis), and squabbling brats.

During the 18th century, women were the primary condom sellers and producers. Mrs. Phillips was a popular condom merchant in London with a shop near the Strand in the early 1700s. She made her wares from sheep caecum and brimstone (sulfur) vapors.  After 1843, rubber condoms became the norm.

As you can see, condoms have long been used, admired, and written about fondly.

I’d like to credit this book for the information used in this post with additional support from this one.

What do those color coded diamonds on trucks and buildings mean?


The hazards diamond, also known as the hazards icon.


Have you ever seen this posted on a building on a building or a truck and wondered what it was? This colorful symbol is known as the hazards diamond and is a quick way to identify the dangers of chemicals that lurk behind it. It was developed for firefighters but is used extensively by anyone working with chemical reagents.

Each color represents a type of hazard: blue for health, red for fire, yellow for reactivity, and white for anything else you need to know to be able to approach and use this chemical safely. Numbers inside each diamond range from 0 (no risk) to 4 (extreme risk).

Here is each risk shown more specifically,


For example, you might see this near a swimming pool.

Chlorine gas is a deadly health hazard and will oxidize (bleach) powerfully. But it won’t catch on fire or detonate.


And this near propane tanks since propane can be harmful to health if used incorrectly and–as we all know– it can catch on fire easily.



It’s fun to play guess the chemical. At least, it is for me. What do you think this is?is



Now you know what those diamonds mean and remember, they are a chemist’s best friend.



How long did it take to write and publish Mixed In?

I spent a good part of January going over edits for my soon to be published dystopian novel, Mixed In. This novel has been proof-read professionally, edited twice, and still I did find some mistakes. This is completely normal. Now, it moves forward to its publication date-March 7th.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the timeline and process I’ve gone through thus far.

May  2015 My previous novel, Natural Attraction was published. I began marketing efforts–blog tours, radio interviews, readings. I also read indie fiction and the news to get an idea of what was being published and what was happening in the world. I wanted my next novel to be more contemporary with a simpler plot.

My short story writing class at Central College discussed world and national events with concern. My analytical chemistry class gave presentations about new devices. One was a laser bubble device & a cell-phone spectrometer developed by one of my former professors-Alex Scheeline. This helped set the stage for Mixed In. It would be a dystopia.It would be set in the very near future. The protagonist would be a chemist. She’d help develop a device. Since I study chemicals in plants, the novel would also be about plants. And agriculture. It would be set in the midwest.

Late fall 2015 I further formulated and collected ideas for my second novel. I asked Facebook friends and posted blog quizzes about how much sex they’d like to see in a novel, what types of science they were interested in, and what might make a dystopia. The verdict was to have it be slightly naughty. Huffington Post provided some inspiration about women becoming in touch with their inner passion.I decided to make the dystopia close to home–something based in the world of agriculture. This would be a combination of A Handmaid’s Tale, Idiocracy, and chemistry.

January 2016 I earnestly began Mixed In, set in the authoritarian business focused city-state of Cochtonville. Cochtonville was also the setting for my short story “Grave to Cradle.” Grave to Cradle was first published by Slink Chunk Press, then added to an anthology published by Shade Mountain Press.  The working title for the novel was “No Regrets.”

March, 2015 Writing when I got up in the morning and before bed, I now had 50K words. For many authors, the abandonment point comes around 40K words. I was happy that I broke through. My goal was 73,000 words. (The final book is 76,00o words.)

October,2015 I finished the first draft. As you can imagine, it was filled with errors, inconsistencies, bad sentences, worse punctuation, and the worst proof-reading. I hated myself for even trying to write it. Yet I revised. Revision is the key to writing. For most of us, the first draft is terrible and embarrassing.

April 2016. I sent the revised novel to a professional editor for comments on plot, character, and continuity. I sent the first fifty pages to another reader for comment.(I pay people for this)

I got the comments back from the two hired editors. Both agreed that other than the first chapter, there were three boring chapters that needed to be cut or reworked before the book got interesting. I revised the manuscript, making Chapter Two more active and cutting Chapters Three and Four.

May 2016. I sent the manuscript out to be proof-read and copy edited. (I am an atrocious proof-reader. I hire people to help me.) During this time I looked over the City Owl editors’ wish lists. On Heather’s list was a dystopia that didn’t have to do with zombies or vampires. My dystopia had no vampires or zombies. But I wasn’t going to make the “open reading period” deadline because the manuscript was being proofed. I wrote Heather and asked her if I could submit after the deadline. She said yes. I sent the manuscript to her at the end of May. I began another novel to pass the time.

July 22, 2016 Acceptance!

July 31, 2016 Signed contract!

August 2016 First round of edits by City Owl editors.

Late September 2016 I discussed cover concepts with an editor and a cover artist.

We perfected the tag line and the pitch–thanks Facebook friends.

Later in the month, I began discussion with the editor and artist about the cover specifics. I wanted the cover to feature a splash of beer/dirty water.

November 2016 More edits.

December 2016 Cover approved. I love the splash.

January 2016 Second round of edits.

Received a copy of the sales sheet.

Official Cover reveal (January 24, 2017)

January 21-25. Final read.

As you can see, it has been a year since the first few pages were written. My head is spinning as the project moves ahead. It was meant to be a comic dystopia. Suddenly, I see parallels with current events…kind of like when you are pregnant and then it seems like pregnant women are everywhere.

Looking ahead: Pre-order date is March 5. Publication date March 7, 2017


Thoughts on ice

Water is perhaps the most unique and special molecule in the universe. It has one side with a partially positive charge and one side with a partially negative charge. It’s both ionic and covalent. A chemist would call this polar.
As a liquid, water molecules like to hang out together more than one might expect for such a light molecule. It’s just three atoms, two hydrogen and one oxygen. It’s close in weight to methane which is a gas and lighter than chlorine which is a gas. You might say that it has an overpowering attraction to itself which makes it a liquid even though it’s light. Even more importantly to this discussion, this polar molecule can make some neat structures as a solid.

Ice can take 15 forms with thirteen crystalline forms (Ice Ih, Ice Ic, and Ice II-XIV) and three amorphous forms LD, HD and VDH…low density, high density, and very high density. The temperature and pressure help determine which form ice will take. Here on Earth, the ice we get in nature is Ice Ih. The h stands for hexagon. In the figure below you can see the hydrogens (red centered dots) and oxygen (all blue) forming the hexagons.

This shows how oxygen(open circle) and hydrogen (with red dot) could arrange to form hexagons. Thanks to Steven Dutch at https://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/Petrology/Ice%20Structure.HTM
This link shows many ice forms and it is where I got the figures above.
Thanks to the hexagons, the crystalline structure of ice contains more space than liquid water. It’s less dense than water and so it floats.
Amorphous ice has no crystal structure. It’s formed in space at extremely cold temperatures. It can be found in icy moons such as Europa and comets might contain it too.
 All ice luminesces–when hit with ultraviolet light it emits light in the visible region, at 420 nm which is in the violet range. The shimmery bright world of ice and snow isn’t just an illusion. The ice really does emit light.
Besides being shimmery, we all know that ice is slippery. How slippery is it? Most materials have a coefficient of friction of o.3-.6. Human skin has a coefficient of friction of 0.9. Very nice for gripping and other things, isn’t it? Ice has a coefficient of friction that is ten times less than this .02-.05. Very slippery!  Ice near the freezing point is MORE slippery than very cold ice; it’s thought that the extra slip is due to melted water on the surface of the ice. But, this hasn’t been proven. Likewise, car tires slip more on a wet road than a dry one and way more on a wet one. The coefficient of friction for a well-treaded tire is 0.7 on a dry road,  0.4 on a wet one and only 0.1 on ice.
When walking on ice, put your weight on your front leg as penguins do,& wear sticky shoes.  And, don’t forget the sunglasses.