Monday, January 31, 2011

Red Flags Pointing to a Con Artist

Photo By Kenneth Lu

Being scammed is an eye-opening experience for victims who, because of greed, recklessness, or a general lack of attention to detail, just do not see it coming. While there are victims who fall prey to the best of con artists, often through no fault of their own, most scams have identifiable warning signs for those who know what to look for.

Alan Sakowitz’s Miles Away…Worlds Apart: Empowering Lessons Gleaned from Experiences of a Whistleblower uncovers the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme, the largest that the South Florida has ever seen, to demonstrate the power of outrageous rewards, and how it can turn well-to-do people into criminals and accomplices. Sakowitz states, “Amazingly, so many people willingly and sheepishly surrendered their own good judgment for the promise of unreasonably high rewards. I saw up close the unbelievable power of greed.”

Despite having government officials, police officers, and many other influential figures convinced of his legitimacy, Rothstein’s charm did not fool Alan Sakowitz. The red flags were visible and Sakowitz’s judgment was not blinded by too-good-to-be-true rewards.

According to The Merriam Webster Dictionary, a red flag is defined as a warning signal or something that attracts usually irritated attention. Scott Rothstein’s firm was full of red flags—there just wasn’t anyone to expose them. One such warning signal that should have been quite obvious was that Rothstein was claiming he was settling 3,000 annually, without a single case turning into a lawsuit. The minimum settlement amount per case: $500,000. Doing the math, it’s easy to conclude that Rothstein shelled out over 1.5 billion dollars in settlements. Red flag? I would say so.

When a person is living well beyond his/her means, a brain signal should go off, indicating something gone awry. For example, Scott Rothstein, a lawyer, buys a $5,000,000 yacht, leases a jet, owns a Bentley, a Rolls- Royce, two Lamborghinis, two Ferraris, a mansion, and the list goes on. “Needless to say, Rothstein’s lifestyle was inconsistent with his position. Scott was living as if he was earning tens of millions of dollars a year, but there was no indication that his firm was generating the kind of money he was spending.”

Red flags were everywhere. For example, Melissa Lewis, partner of RRA—Scott Rothstein’s firm—was suspiciously murdered. Even in layman’s terms, this is cause for concern. Perhaps Lewis found out about the Ponzi scheme. What’s worse is that Rothstein, a man who paid $100,000 for a band to dedicate a song to he and his wife—and routinely tosses around upwards of $50,000 in donations—donates only $20,000 to Melissa’s foundation. While the amount is a large sum, it should be noted that Melissa was an integral part of his life and firm, making it unusual, if not suspicious, that Scott downgraded his donation amount.

In the 21st century, con artists can be associated with law firms, brokerage firms, the web, anywhere—absolutely anywhere. The important thing is to be mindful of potential red flags. If something doesn’t make sense, don’t try to rationalize it until it does. If it looks wrong, it probably is.

Alan Sakowitz’s Miles Away…Worlds Apart: Empowering Lessons Gleaned from Experiences of a Whistleblower offers a common sense perspective on schemes and scams that will enlighten readers and equip them with knowledge that they can use to protect themselves from scams.  This is a must read for anyone interested in learning how to recognize red flags in deals that are just too good to be true.

Monday, January 24, 2011

3 Must-Have Reference Works for Writers

Almanacs, atlases, and thesauruses are wonderful, inexpensive reference works that are a must-have for serious writers. You can even decrease look-up time and avoid the tiny print in the paperback versions of world almanacs if you can find ones you like on disk or online.

World almanacs list about anything you could ever want for basic research. You can even use them to name your characters. For example, when naming a foreign character, look up his country of origin, scan the current government leaders for a last name, combine that with the first name from the country’s history (say, a war hero), and bingo, you have a legitimate, ethnically accurate name.

Almanacs also give the gross national product, offer tourism information, and list major industries and resources. They show which countries are on the metric system, so when your character is racing through a metrics-using country in a rental car, he’ll buy fuel in liters.

If your characters travel the world and you want them to be believable, use a world atlas. You have to know time zones, current country names, monetary units, populations, average temperatures, etc. Atlases provide detailed maps, and internet atlases even offer street maps — crucial to realistic action scenes.

When you use a thesaurus, don’t make it obvious that you have done so. Inexperienced writers tend to find the most exotic word in the thesaurus, when a thesaurus should ideally be used to remind you of alternative ordinary words that best convey your meaning.

Using a world almanac, world atlas, and thesaurus makes it easier to get minuscule details right, which makes for a more entertaining read. When you get the details wrong, they’re suddenly not so minuscule anymore.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to Start a Group Blog for Writers

Photo by Pieter Musterd

An excellent way for writers or novelists to create an online presence and establish themselves in the publishing industry is by creating a blog. If you think that you may have trouble finding the time to keep a blog updated with fresh, original blog posts, start a group blog! With a group blog, several writers have access to the blog and are responsible for maintenance and posting.  Here are a few tips on how to get a group blog up and running:

Find Fellow Writers

One of the advantages of a group blog is that you get a wealth of differing opinions and styles.  While this may make your blog more interesting, it is best if your group shares at least one common general interest. For example, a group blog of travel writers would be effective, as each blogger would have different destinations and experiences about which to blog. It would be ideal for the writers in your group to be familiar with each other’s writing styles; it’s a good way to determine whether or not you will mesh as a group.

Choose a Theme

Readers should know what to expect when visiting a blog. Because there are already numerous writing blogs on the web, you will probably need to find a specific niche for your blog. For example, a group of murder mystery writers might focus their blog on writing and reading mysteries. A group blog of food writers might show its expertise with regular posts about putting new twists on favorite dishes. Strive to make your blog unique by providing information that can’t be found in every other writing blog on the net.

Create Your Group Blog

Go to a website like Wordpress, Blogger, or Tumbler and register for a new blog. Give each writer administrative access to the blog so that he/she is free to publish and format his/her own blog post. Choose a blog title and template that reflects the theme of the blog. Then, all you need to do is to organize blogging duties. Also, your group can avoid writing about similar subjects if members plan their topics a few days in advance.

Whether it is your own personal blog or a group blog, blogging is an excellent way to network and get your name out there. You never know where a casual connection might lead!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finding Deeper Meaning This Year

With a new year upon us, we are presented with an opportunity for reflection and change-a time when many plan to start the year with a clean slate and make up for the missed opportunities of last year.   For many, this means working toward a more meaningful life. As you carry out your New Year's Resolutions this year, consider picking up a copy of Norm Grant's spiritually transformative You Want Me to.What? Risking Life Change to Answer God's Call. Grant's book will guide you toward a better understanding of God's will for you this new year, and it will show you how to use the new year to find a new you, a you full of potential, hope, meaning, and love-all in the interest of becoming the person you were created to be.

Grant offers us the invitation from God to find deeper meaning this year, for us to discover our given destinies. The journey from our Heavenly Father starts as soon as we take his Son's hand and trust him. God will show us the way because we've all been called to do great things. Rather than functioning in the ordinary this year, Grant teaches us by inspiration, example, and anecdote that we've all been called to the extraordinary, if only we would respond.

Rather than setting goals for weight loss or getting organized, Grant prompts us to ask ourselves real questions like: "How is God trying to get your attention?" "What is He calling you to do?" and "How are you going to respond?" Norm Grant's New Year's Resolution list for us would look something like this:

1. Step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
2. Don't let daily noise drown out the voice of God; be listening when He calls.
3. Don't be afraid to dive into our faith. Exhibit trust and faith, and open up to a deeper experience in the spiritual realm.
4. Rather than trying to control and script our own lives, hand the pen over to God, who has a story for everyone "and.each story is filled with more adventure and excitement than the one we're in the midst of living. If only we could hand the pen over to God and let Him write His story for each of our lives and then have the courage to participate with Him in living it out. It would be incredible."
5. Stop making excuses or succumbing to insecurities about being too old, too fat, or too unworthy; God has a calling for each of us, regardless of our circumstances.
6. Never accept defeat; take the example of such inspirations as Mary Clark, who was rejected as a nun for being too old and twice divorced, and found a way to accomplish her own charitable works.
7. Instead of questioning our faith, question ourselves.
8. Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zones, for if we never step out of our comfort zones, we will never discover our deeper calling from God. We could miss out on the extraordinary path that God has planned for us.

Use your time at home with your family to curl up by the fireplace and read Norm Grant's You Want Me to What?... Risking Life Change to Answer God's Call, reflecting on the past year and how you will prepare for the coming year. Grant is certain to shatter the mundane in your life and help you to set your resolutions for taking the journey that God has planned for you and your family.

Review copies and author interviews are available for the media.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wit and Wisdom in Exclusive Private Clubs

In this post-recession economy, luxury items are often the first to go for many Americans, and memberships to private clubs are not immune to cut-backs that are the result of tenuous financial times. According to research, 51% of the 4,400 private clubs across the country are experiencing financial stress.

The business environment in which private clubs operate is very unique. While generously giving back to society by employing more than 290,000 individuals with a payroll equaling $5.3 billion, they also face the challenge of providing their members with optimum quality, service, and the luxurious amenities to which the members are accustomed, while controlling rising costs. They must also constantly react to changes in government regulations, tax laws, operational advancements, and member expectations.

The foremost expert in the world on the management of private clubs is Norm Spitzig (aka Clive Endive Ogive, IV).  “Private clubs are ‘under attack’ by needless bureaucracy, excessive governmental interference and regulation and an increasing array of ‘creative’ new state and federal taxes,” Mr. Ogive explains. “But such an approach is clearly penny wise and pound foolish.”

In an effort to bring recognition to the many benefits that private clubs offer to society, Mr. Ogive has written two widely popular comedies that introduce readers to the wit and wisdom of life in the world’s most exclusive private clubs. His most recent book, Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury is the hilarious tale of a private club president and busybody waitress who team up to solve a grisly murder on the golf course of the Old Bunbury Golf Links and Reading Room.

From the intolerable room temperature in the Ladies Card Room to the grave decisions which must be made by the Pillow Committee, this entertaining sequel to Private Clubs in America and Around the World keeps readers laughing at the impossibly funny situations and zany characters who are members of these elite private clubs. To learn more about Mr. Clive Endive Ogive, IV and his newest book, Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury, visit    

Norm Spitzig, MCM (aka Clive Endive Ogive, IV) is internationally recognized as “the go-to person” in the world of private club management and governance. As such, he is an eloquent and visionary spokesman for the private club industry, both here in the United States and around the globe. His groundbreaking book Perspectives on Club Management – now over 20 years old - continues to inspire and challenge club directors, managers, and students around the world.

Mr. Clive Endive Ogive IV is available for personal appearances, comments, interviews and, readings. For every book purchased on the author's website (, the author will donate $1.00 to The Club Foundation (, the only 501(c)(3) charitable organization for the private club industry.

Private Clubs in America and Around the World and Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury are available on the author's website, and through Dog Ear Publishing (, Baker&Taylor,, Barnes&Noble, Borders, and other fine bookstores nationwide.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Avoiding the Road to Poverty

Not many are born with silver spoons in their mouths. In fact, most people make choices in life that either lead them down the road to poverty or up the high road to success.  There are many circumstances in life that set the stage for failure, and often success boils down to the choices we make.  Do we follow the path of familiarity and perpetuate the cycle of poverty?  Or . . . do we choose the road less taken and break the cycle of failure only to realize success?

In Song of the Snowman, by Rhonda Tibbs, we find a young man in just such circumstances. His choice is clear and what some would deem "impossible," Brian Burnette tackles head-on in his decision to break free from a life of poverty. He takes the musical gift that he has been given by God and turns it into the gateway that leads to fame and riches. He bravely chooses to rise above his circumstances.

Breaking the cycle isn’t easy, yet that is most commonly the case among those raised in poverty—as though it were a curse. The “curse” is often passed on generation to generation, thus creating an ongoing pattern of hardship that can last for decades. This, unfortunately often leads to lives of crime, addictions, and a general sense of hopelessness that seems impossible from which to break free.

The common misconception is that this vicious cycle is one’s destiny. It is not. On the contrary, what we become is an open canvas, and like Brain, we can take the time to create a beautiful picture, one of a bright future, one of prosperity. It’s all about the choices we make. The decision was Brian Burnette's, and in spite of what society said about him, he chose to make something better of himself.

Using our God-given talents forces us out of our comfort zones, into places and situations that will bring about growth and success.  Taking inspiration from Brian, many who otherwise might remain in a downward cycle of abuse or poverty, can take the necessary steps to break the cycle.  To be sure, Song of the Snowman is a must read for anyone who has ever known failure, but is willing to step out and make the choice for a brighter future.
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