Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Eww, Gross! Why Would I Want That!?

People who fight fire with fire
usually end up with ashes.
Abigail Van Buren
Over the years, I’ve engaged with people I don’t know on issues where I wasn’t likely to change my mind, and found nothing but anger and vitriol.  Perhaps I’m getting old, but I no longer find the clash of insults and character assassination to be fun or worthwhile. 

Weird, huh?

With that in mind, I’ve made a pretty simple rule about social and political discussion with people I don’t know and probably won’t meet—I don’t.

With a wide range of diverse friends, some online and some in real life, I have more than enough people who are happy and willing to challenge my preconceived notions on a subject.  I don’t really need a stranger, a friend of a friend of an acquaintance, to tell me how wrong I am, how misguided, how pretentious my opinion is.  That’s what friends are for.

Disagree?  I say we dust off and nuke the site from orbit.
It's the only way to be sure.
If I can’t buy you a beer (or whatever your poison) after we’ve thrown our rhetorical punches, what’s the point?  An example came from my recent criticism about the misapplication of a misstated Pope Francis quote.  The particulars aren’t important, only the insulting response:

So, Mr. RobRoy... I'd like to know exactly what you mean by the full quote? I've looked at many other sources and can only find a few minor additions, but the core issue being presented through these multiple memes is the same. If you're not too high and mighty to not address someone who you can't "have a beer with" then I'd like to see what the "full quote" is.

That being said, if you DON'T answer, I'm only left to assume that A: You lack the composure to have a discussion with someone you disagree with without the ability to "kiss and make-up" afterward or B: You actually have an entirely unfounded argument and are just defending what he said for the simple fact that he is the Pope, which in and of itself is an almost entirely pitiful endeavor.

I like that he called me “Mr. RobRoy”.  In the future, I'd like everyone who considers my opinion beneath their consideration to address me this way.  It will save a lot of time!

Usually, I don’t respond at all, but I know some people are tired of this kind of negative engagement, so here’s a little something I put together that you’re welcome to cut and paste whenever the occasion should arise:

Hi! I’d love to have a conversation on this topic, but I'm afraid not with you. I assure you, that’s not an insult. Perhaps you’re a nice guy. I simply don’t know. But I don't know you, and you don't know me. Even with that, you've deemed it necessary to insult me and arrive at preconceived, unwarranted notions of my beliefs and my character without any other information or previous engagement. Hardly a good starting place for a friendly conversation, wouldn't you say?

Life is simply too short to get angry at people you don't know and may never meet on issues that you're not willing to change your mind. Good luck!

You don’t even need to source me on this.  It’s yours for the taking and the using.  You can always thank me by buying my book.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cover Mission—Hell Becomes Her

Live streaming feed.
No, really!
Friends, Maltese, Countrymen and Countrywomen, City Folk—Habemus Teges!

We have a cover!

We also had an interesting development which I’m dying to share, but which I can’t confirm or deny at this point. The details aren’t worked out yet, so I don’t know what is or isn’t fact.  Always get the facts first.

I can tell you that I’m excited (no, Audrey, not that way!), and that if all goes according to plan (which it never does, right Chuck?), I could be announcing multiple things.

All I’m asking from you is to keep your fingers and toes crossed for me (Michael, you’re off the hook this time).  But the stage is certainly set and the curtain is ready to raise . . . just as soon as everything is ironed out.

Anyhow, in the next week or so I should have a firm schedule for cover release (it’s beautiful) and book release!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

If You Aren't Going to Wrap it!

No shoes, no shirt, no problem!
An friend asked if I’d had any bad experiences with sharing ideas on Facebook or other social media.  In short, she was asking if my “work” had been stolen.

It never has.

Fortunately, ideas don't sell books.

For example, here’s all the ideas behind Hell Becomes Her:

Del, a half-angel, who didn’t think there was anything worse than angels, or their fallen kin, demons. She and her partner Marrin helped to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons for generations. But when Del’s daughter is kidnapped by a shadowy group, Del will find that the world is even more dangerous than she suspected.

Please, feel free to “steal” this idea and write my book.  Hell, steal my name too, put it on the book, and make the checks out to me.  It would save me a lot of time!

Covet this!
I used to be incredibly covetous of my “ideas” until I realized that there is literally (and literature-arily) nothing new under the sun. What is original is the way in which you take ideas—inspired by others across a wide range of genres and mediums—and use them like a jazz riff.  You pick up the theme, play off it like the boss you are, change some aspects, and come out with an original piece of work.

This is why a themed-anthology, with twelve different writers— even if they're writing in the same universe and about the same character(s)—will have at least twelve different stories!

Now, plagiarism, the taking of someone else's work, whole body, and passing it off as your own—that remains a problem. In some ways, it's more of a problem now than ever, due to digital downloads and the explosion of indie authors. But if you keep your work safe and restrict the number of people who get to see large portions of it until it's published, then you shouldn't have much to worry about.

But simply sharing an idea, no big deal. A candle, lighting another candle, loses nothing.

In short, as Brenda Clough told me, “Ideas are easy and cheap. Writing is hard. Don't worry about people stealing your ideas -- it's not worth the energy.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

World Wide Statistics

I hear there's a new version of Jane Eyre in the offing!
Blogger provides all kinds of interesting stats that can help inform the kind of blogging that is done.  Mostly, it’s not much of a surprise.  By far, those of us writing in English have a very large English-speaking audience. Malta, has been a long-time supporter.  I’m surprised, after actually meeting me, that Malta continues to maintain a special place in their heart.  Hi everyone!

But a few might surprise:

United States 12236
Russia 1074
France 649
Malta 576
Germany 405
Ukraine 346
United Kingdom 317
Turkey 176
Canada 174
Belgium 151

Pretty much says it all.
For example, hi Russia!  Coming in second to the United States might be a flashback of US propaganda, or maybe it’s just porn bot spammers crawling across the web and hitting this blog.  Either way, here’s a shout out to the comrades!

Germany.  Ja ja!

And France, you sexy nation.  Have a cigarette, a glass of wine, and a deep, gray-scale conversation on me!

Maybe it’s all one globe-trotting fan, dashing about the world, seeing amazing sites, eating exotic foods and, in the spare time at the airport, reading this blog.  Whatever the case, thanks to you all (or you one).  These numbers make my day.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Long, Long Haul

Pew! Pew! Pew!
A fellow writer shared this link about another writer asking a third writer for advice about writing.  It starts to sound like a bad “three writers walk into a bar” joke, but it is funny when the second writer says, "Don't give me a pep talk!" and gets a pep talk.

The article is still full of good advice for writers.

When Tears of Heaven was accepted for publication about three years ago, I was cautiously optimistic and reasonably naive about a lot of things. I was, however, somewhat armored against despair, given years of rejections and reading about other authors who were able to make the transition from "hobby" to "working writer". The process can takes years, if ever, to achieve.

The author at work in his office.
Being reminded of that is usually a good thing, because the tunnel is long and dark and full of unseen bottomless pits.  With sharks.  Sharks with friggin’ lasers on their heads.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s usually a long way off.  Going from mad-passionate-desire-to-write to actually making a career of it might only be big enough to squeeze through.

Sucks to be hit in the face like that, but if you aren't ready for the long, long, REALLY LONG marathon, you’re going to end up on the sidelines at mile three wondering how everyone else keeps running.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is it Long Enough?

How big is big?
Let’s get down to brass tacks right here, right now: How long should a chapter be?

Simple—Long enough to get the job done.

[Insert your own clever double-entendre here.  I’ll wait.]

Even in our digital age of e-readers that automatically maintain your spot (excellent) chapters still have a purpose.  They give your author a point to sigh in exhaustion and relief, and celebrate with a well-deserved Scotch.  They also provide a (hopefully) natural break in the action for the reader to pause and take care of things like, life and kids and watching Supernatural (Seriously? Eleven seasons and counting!?).

But what about length?  Is the size of the chapter important?

In speaking with a wife of “a certain age”, she suggested it’s not the size of the ship in the sea, but the boat’s motion in the ocean that really counts.

No really, that's what she said!
I assure you, that’s what she said.

Since we know what a chapter’s purpose is, on multiple levels, the only question left to an author is not “Is it long enough?” but rather “Does it get the job done?”  Average (and I use that term extremely loosely) chapters range from 3,000 words to 6,000 words. Authors don’t deal in page count because font, size, and layout aren’t good indicators of length.

That’s also what she said.

Thus, a chapter can be short, sweet and to the point, and should not be held as wanting against other longer, meatier, thicker chapters that drip with description, dialogue and exposition.  The ability to fill out 6,000 full words (or more) doesn’t make a chapter better than one well under 3,000.  A quick, thin, sleek, capable chapter is just as satisfying as one that takes its time.

As an author, you certainly don’t want to try to force a chapter to fill a certain predetermined length—your readers will know what you’re doing and may lose interest.  A chapter can be as short as a single sentence, phrase or even one solitary word.  

The right word, in the right place will take care of business—sausage!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Running Naked - No Headphones

Meh, I've run better.
The chief obstacle of long-distance running, for long-distance runners, isn’t the distance, but the general boredom.  Once you’ve run one majestic, beautiful natural skyscape or urban wonderland, you’ve pretty much run them all.  The desert, the forest, the amber waves of grain—it becomes redundant as you rack up the miles (or kilometers, if you like to measure things the hard way).

During college, and competitive NCAA cross-country, I’d run in a group—mostly, the fast women on our team—which would help wile away the hours.  If nothing else, we were all suffering together.  After I graduated college running behind, I began to wear headphones of one kind or another.  I strapped a gramophone onto my back, then moved to the player piano, 8-track, Walkman portable cassette deck, and finally an iPod shuffle/nano.

Take the cobbled street to the cobbled street and then
run down the cobbled street to the cobbled street . . .
Today, I ran without any headphones, music or podcasts whatsoever.  My nano died, and I’m angry with my shuffle because Apple has made it incredibly hard to download an entire podcast series with any degree of ease.  Without the headphones, I was immediately reminded of the Malta race I competed in nearly two years ago.  I usually run races with something in my ears, but in Malta I’d just arrived the night before, barely slept because of the time difference, the bed, the odd conditions, etc., and couldn’t be bothered to dig out my iPod.

Malta is a fun place to run (history, architecture, exotic locale), but not a friendly one.  My
Not ANOTHER boring bit
of Malta scenery. *sigh*
Maltese friends (who were friendly), believed me to be insane for running in general, let alone a race the day after travelling 15+ hours, had picked up my race packet which DID NOT include safety pins for the bib.  The race course was mostly open, so it was hard to find the start line, which did not have a registration table nearby at all.  I asked a couple of fellow runners—normally a group that commiserates like the best of dysfunctional families, and thus is always happy to help—and was mostly laughed at or given a few angry glares.

In the end, I ran with the bib folded up in my pocket, and I pulled it out to show at the finish line.  The run itself was fun, taking me through a cityscape that is (or looks) several hundred years old.  I’m pretty certain we passed no fewer than six churches.  Malta is something like 98% Catholic and 101% Super Catholic.  Some of the roads were incredibly clogged with very small cars and drivers all angry and yelling at each other.

Fun, but not friendly.

I hope my Malta friends are all doing well.  Drop me a line, folks!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

John Hennessy Reviews Eric Lahti's ARRISE

Some days it's hard to be one
of the henchmen!
The MC, Steven, narrates both tales, and the first person narrative totally works. It's interesting to see in book one how he becomes of the Henchmen, and yet if you're expecting more of the same in Arise, yes you do get that, but so much more too.

There's greater character development in this second story, with the delectable Jessica taking more of a central role. She was introduced to readers in a rather unique way in book one, and her role is so much more satisfying here. Every time Jessica is on the page, expect fireworks. You'll get 'em.

One of the most beautiful things about Eric Lahti's series is how he places you in New Mexico, or over the border in Tijuana. The places are described so well, you can feel the sand dust crunch under your tyres. Just make sure you're driving a Lamborghini, otherwise you might not fit into this story.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thor the Thunderer—If He Was Three

"Whosever holds this hammer, if he be worthy,
Shall posses the power of Nerf."
My boys have a whole arsenal, nearly a weapon-take, of Nerf-themed swords, and shields.  I was so excited by the short-sword and shield combination that I taught my boys how to form a shield wall.  Two boys doesn’t make a very effective wall, but if Vikings ever storm the front room, my sons are prepared.

Among the treasure-trove or weapons we also have Nerf Mjolnir.  This was a gift from Tara and Dave, a couple we’ve known almost since forever.  This weekend, while my oldest boys, Tris and Porter, were practicing their sword art, my youngest, Xavi, found Mjolnir.
What Xavi thought he was doing.

The newest Thunder God began to test his hammer against the Ice Giants around our living room.  He smashed sparks from the back of the couch (Xavi, please don’t).  He struck down fell demons found in my foot (Xavi, you’re going to get time out).  Finally, he attacked Loki, who apparently was hidden in the back of my chair.

At this point Xavi was found unworthy of
What Xvai was actually doing.
Mjolnir.  As his father, I took it away from him, and placed it in another realm—Ontopofthefrig.  There was much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of clothing, as the Thunder God began his protestations of innocence.  Alas, I had seen and witnessed all these actions with my own eye.  Xavi the Thunderer, will have to prove his worth again before Mjolnir is returned.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Xavi and (Imaginary) Crab Pond

Happy Friday.  It’s time to get your “aww” on with my youngest son, Xavi and his (imaginary) Crab Pond (as told through pictures and commentary).

Xavi stands by Crab Pond eating an apple. He is apprehensive because the crabs pinch which is why he's wearing his sandals in doors. Please note the fallen bear in the background!  This is important to the story.

Oh no!  Bear!  He's been pinched by the (imaginary) crabs from Crab Pond.  Xavi helps Bear and puts a (imaginary) Band-aid on Bear’s nose.

Xavi and Bear still want to enjoy the luxurious waves of Crab Pond, but how?  Xavi knows.  He builds a “giant” Lego boat.  Bear boards, but is, understandably, skeptical.

The "giant" Lego boat is a success.  Xavi and Bear can now float around Crab Pond, much to the chagrin of all the pinching crabs!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I'll be in My Bunker

You're denying people their legal rights?
Tell me again how you're not a bigot!
All other arguments aside (most of which don’t matter at all), the biggest reason that people should be upset with Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is not her hypocrisy, her contradictions or her personal history.  It should be that, because of bigotry, she is refusing to do her job.

That's where this starts and ends. Whether or not she has a personal "moral objection" or even a "moral obligation," her job is to issue pieces of paper to people so they can get married under the eyes of the law. The law has said that same-sex couples can be issued their piece of paper. She's not letting them.

With any kind of claimed moral objection/obligation there is a certain responsibility.  You don’t beat up or cripple people because your club doesn’t like someone else’s life philosophy or lifestyle (choice or not choice).  You don’t shoot unarmed civilians (men, women or children) because your superior officer orders it.  You don’t gas an entire religious group because they stand out and it’s in fashion to lay blame on them.  Stances against that kind of behavior, which most laws already protect against, are understandable and justifiable.

This ain’t that.  Davis' denying anyone and everyone the right to their piece of paper, which their tax dollars paid for her to provide, isn’t based on preventing pain, death or mass murder.  Not only has it been ruled that people have the right to marry regardless of gender, but it’s been proved there is no harm whatsoever in such unions.

That bears repeating.  There is no harm in same-sex marriage.  No harm to the people getting married.  No harm to other marriages.  No harm to any children (biological or adopted) raised under the union.  No harm to the next door neighbors, or the nation as a whole.

There is no harm.

Frumpy ain't all bad!
And yet, there remains Davis.  She can't be fired, because she's an elected official.  It would take a special, and costly, session of the Kentucky State legislature to impeach and remove her.  It's already taken special and costly judicial action to repeatedly tell Davis that her "moral objections" are not outweighed by the her legal obligation.  This is like denying someone a driver’s license because, well, they've been married four times previously.  It’s like not allowing someone to have a hunting or fishing license because they dress frumpy or are consider plain or unattractive.  One has nothing to do with the other.

We're in for at least one more round of judicial review as Davis' actions can now be found in contempt of court.

So if you’re going to be upset with Davis, be upset for the right reasons.  She's not doing her job because of her bigotry.  Her personal history, her beliefs and how she applies them, her own lifestyle choices don’t matter.  It’s her job to issue pieces of paper to people who have a legal right to them.  Her bigotry has stopped her from doing her job.

There's really nothing more to it.

Meanwhile, on Malta — Part II

Looks like a good day to be a Knight!
On this week of September 1565, on the tiny island nation of Malta, the massive Turkish army was at their wits end.  The goal had been to take the island and create a staging point for invasion of the rest of Europe.  With the entire might of the Ottoman Empire behind the machine that was their army, they aimed at the island.  It was believed the defenders would fail in a matter of days, if not a few weeks.  Some 48,000 Turkish soldiers landed on the island arrayed against the 8,000 defenders.

Although they’d met with some early successes, the combined Knights Hospitaller and Maltese soldiers had proved to be a nearly immovable obstacle to Turkish success.  Morale on both sides was tenuous at best, but at the end of August, the Turkish attempt to seize control of Fort St. Michael failed due to the skill and courage of Maltese engineers.
Victory, for both sides, was still far from certain.  Vincenzo Anastagi, one of the Knights Hospitaller, wrote:

Our men are in large part dead, the walls have fallen, it is easy to see inside and we live in danger of being overwhelmed by force.  But it is not seemly to talk of this.  First the Grand Master, then all the Order have determined not to listen to anything [negative] that is whispered outside.

C'mon bro, let us crash on your couch!
With the coming of September, the weather turned.  As a Mediterranean island, Malta is subject to sudden and torrential downpours throughout its winter.  The Ottoman army had already suffered heavily from disease during the campaign, and without proper shelter, they would be devastated.  There were also increasing rumors of a rescue fleet being mounted on the mainland, willing to stand toe-to-toe with the Turks and defeat them utterly no matter the cost.  The Turkish commanders, the pashas, turned their eyes toward the ancient city of Mdina.

Mdina sits roughly in the center of Malta on a rocky outcropping.  Its medieval fortifications had been reinforced and improved since the last time the Ottomans had attempted to take it some 14 years earlier in 1551.  With a larger, more determined and now desperate force, the Turkish pashas saw the city as the perfect refuge to winter and potentially win the rest of the island.  The alternative was to leave Malta without the victory they’d been ordered to secure.  Reports were that Mdina, while structurally strong, was not well-defended.  This was true.  Almost all of the men, cannon, powder and shot had been removed from the city for use by the defenders in other places.

Pasha Mustapha ordered the march on Mdina.  The city’s defenders knew they were in
Well there's your problem, right there!
trouble, and only had powder for a few shots from their cannons.  Not enough against Turks.  But if the Mdina was taken, the Ottomans would be able to weather the winter, regain their strength and strike out across the island at will.  As the Turks approached the walls, the city punted and fired their cannons as if they were fully armed and fully stocked for a full siege.  It was a complete bluff.  They were exhausting what meager supplies they had, but the effects of three and a half months of bloody siege warfare and disease, coupled with the recent losses and the looming winter months with no shelter had taken their toll.  The pashas believed Mdina had the capacity to withstand a sustained assault.  New information made the rumored reinforcements from mainland Europe a reality, and by the end of September 8, 1565, the Ottomans loaded their cannons onto their ships and began the process of retreating their army to leave the island.