Search This Blog

Friday, November 26, 2010

Chandler Didn't Pull Punches, Either

I just stumbled upon a quote of Raymond Chandler about the publishing industry and the literary elite that I need to share. Chandler was the pulp detective writer whose Phillip Marlowe character, along with Hammett's Sam Spade, defined the hard-boiled genre.

I'm lifting this directly from Black Horse Extra:

Pioneer hardboiled-crime writer Raymond Chandler, in The Simple Art of Murder, mentioned in his first paragraph Jane Austen's chronicles of "highly inhibited people against a background of rural gentility", and observed, "There is plenty of that kind of social and emotional hypocrisy around today [1950]."

He went on, "Add to it a liberal dose of intellectual pretentiousness and you get the tone of the book page in your daily paper and the earnest and fatuous atmosphere breathed by discussion groups in little clubs. These are the people who make bestsellers, which are promotional jobs based on a sort of indirect snob-appeal, carefully escorted by the trained seals of the critical fraternity, and lovingly tended and watered by certain much too powerful pressure groups whose business is selling books, although they would like you to think they are fostering culture."

Whoa. It seems some attitudes and hierarchies never change--even considering the radical changes in the entertainment industry since 1950 (most ultimately due to technological advances, many due to the ever-accelerating political radicalization of the "creative elite.")

Yet another reason I want to see endeavors like the Coalition of Independent Authors meet with wild success.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Give Thanks

Tomorrow is a uniquely American holiday. It is not about turkeys or corn or pumpkin pie. It was declared a holiday to give thanks to our Creator for His provision in the midst of hardship.

That's what I'm doing.

Times have been very tough. I've been brought to the brink of utter despair more than once, but God has given me the strength to get up every morning and keep fighting. And, in the dreary midst of the Great Recession, He's even blessed me to the point that I'm currently paying all my bills on time, and my family has not gone hungry.

But deeper than that, I'm thankful I was born in the United States of America.

Poor people here are more materially wealthy than the rich in most countries. Foreigners are still flooding into the USA by the droves, whether legally or illegally. (Unfortunately, few of them truly love this country--they just want to take advantage of the opportunities here that they can't find where they came from.) A whole lot more are trying to get in than are trying to get out.

Despite the concerted efforts of many to make America less exceptional and more like the nations so many are trying to escape, so far we are still unique. There's a lot wrong with America, and a lot more all the time, but so far it's still the best place on Earth to live.

I thank God that those wig-wearing radicals over two centuries ago sacrificed so much to forge a republic for us, "...if you can keep it."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

James Wesley Rawles' Survivalist Manual (in fiction form)

I'll start by applauding Rawles for what he tried to do with this book. The setting is a SHTF/EOTWAWKI scenario instigated by an economic collapse--something we might be seeing unfold right now. Along with all the chaos you'd expect with an overnight disintegration of the American way of life, political opportunists don't let this crisis go to waste, transforming the USA into a 3rd-world police state. Absolutely dead-on so far.

The novel was written around some survivalist information Rawles has obviously researched extensively. I didn't agree with all of it (particularly weapons choices and use), but what most readers won't forgive is the length of some of those digressions.

It is the fiction storycraft which is most lacking. Rawles didn't commit some of the most heinous acts of storytelling incompetence that make you toss the book away in disgust, but most of the characters were so unremarkable that I struggled to differentiate between them. Some get married and have kids, but it's all told from such an emotional distance that I had little feel for the personalities involved. Aside from a couple cannibal banditos, there was no individual villain on the reader's horizon until over halfway through the novel (though some of that character's dialog was spot-on perfect). There was a sub-plot about two brothers on the run which I kept expecting to merge with the main plot, but never did. Rawles devoted a chapter or two to their escape from the authorities, then apparently forgot he had written them. Worst of all, the ending was from the cookie-cutter I've seen used in this genre far too often. I'll just call it a "delusional optimistic assumption of victory and restoration." And they lived happily ever after.

I recognize and appreciate what Rawles was trying to do, and don't regret buying the book, but it falls short of its potential and is, unfortunately, lackluster.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Podler Reviews Hell and Gone

At first, I was just gonna post a link to this review. But I want to have a copy of the full text saved somewhere, so this is one such place. I've been quoting from the best reviews on my home page, but the more I get, the more I have to trim them for length (which is a great problem for a writer to have, lemme tell ya!). I just went through and trimmed them a little more, so I can excerpt the Podler review, which itself will have to be abbreviated.

Veteran's Day was yesterday (Thank you to all who served). In light of that, Hell and Gone seemed like an appropriate book to review.

The plot is pretty straightforward: Muslim terrorists have a nuclear bomb. The CIA recruits a dirty baker's dozen of veterans and mercenaries to neutralize the threat. There are only a few questions: "Will they succeed?", "How high will the body count be?" and "Who's going home in a body bag?" Instead, Brown focuses his creative energy on the characters and the action scenes.

In an action thriller it would be very easy for the characters to resemble cardboard props waiting their turn to become cannon fodder, but Brown doesn't go that route. Each of his characters has a story and Brown gives each one the time to tell it, although with the sheer number present some get more time than others. And they're a diverse, fractious lot. Yes, they're all dark-skinned (Caucasians would be a dead giveaway in the Sudan, where the action takes place) ex-military or mercenaries loaded up with testosterone, but the similarities end there. They're distinct individuals with their own sets of skills and shortcomings. They're men, not superheroes. You'll hate Mai for his arrogance and bigotry, but you'll admire Scarred Wolf's ability to execute his bloody job with honor and integrity.

The villains in Hell and Gone are truly evil. I don't say that lightly. The manipulation that the Jihadist leader, Ali, and his Chinese consultant, Chin, put fifteen-year old Bassam through is nothing short of diabolical. The scary part is, none of it comes across as far-fetched.

Brown, a veteran himself, uses his characters to address a range of issues. He explores veteran alienation through several men. We get to see how each dealt with feeling disconnected from friends, family and country once they were “back in the World.” There's also the matter of American foreign policy. At his weakest point, Brown's characters sound like they're reading neocon talking points from the back of a cereal box. But at his best, he presents an intelligent examination of our relationship to Israel and the Middle East. You'll wish our leaders would have such a frank discussion with all the facts, rather than dishing out the rhetoric.

The battle scenes are meticulously detailed. It wouldn't surprise me if Brown built scale models of the locales in his basement so that he could properly choreograph each step and shot. He'll have vets and military aficionados nodding their heads as he relates the pros and cons of various weapons down to their milspecs. Meanwhile, civvies will run to Wikipedia to look up the old planes that have been out-of-service in the Western World for decades. But he doesn't do it to impress anyone, he does it to stay true to his characters and himself.

While the dialogue is great, I do have gripes though. For a bunch of leathernecks, they never curse! "Shit" doesn't appear until three quarters of the way through the book. "Damned" has been replaced by "doomed." Every variation of profanity involving "dick" has been replaced by "Richard." For example, "limp Richard" and "Richard head." And there isn't a single F-bomb. This behavior is never explained and strikes me as disingenuous.

As for the technicals, a few homophones slipped through the cracks. There are a few point-of-view shifts that might violate some rule somewhere, but honestly they don't disorient the reader at all. Towards the end of the final battle, the writing breaks down into short, choppy sentences, which impart the feel of a grocery list of action rather than a flowing narrative.

Overall, Hell and Gone is a military thriller that delivers the goods on the action, has vivid, realistic characters who interact with great dialogue, and presents some food for thought. If enough people chew on it, maybe the all too plausible scenario presented here will remain fiction, assuming it hasn't happened already.

This was the most detailed review yet. It's not five-stars, and they highlighted some unflattering details (all the editing I did and some homophones still survived???). Frankly, I'm surprised somebody hasn't complained about the lack of profanity earlier--it's something I've anticipated. And they're right--my characters are not nearly as foul-mouthed as real-life GIs--or even high-schoolers. I explain this a bit at the end of the jargon/glossary pages on my website, but even considering that... I sacrificed some realism to make the novel more palatable for a broader audience.

Reading neocon talking points from the back of a cereal box? At first, I couldn't make up my mind to laugh or be offended. But now I'm actually pleased. I'm not sure exactly what dialog struck them this way, but it reassures me that I kept my characterization consistent (most of them could, in fact, accurately be labeled neocons) and successfully kept my own more radical worldview from skewing their thoughts and speech.

Off to glean the tastiest morsels for my home page.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Laina Molaski's Blog Tour Has Arrived!

My first-ever guest blogger is Laina Molaski, author of Chiczofrenia. She's offering a chance to win a free copy of Stilettos and Scoundrels, so read on.

Chiczofrenic is the term for the woman who is purposeful and intentional in how crazy their life may be. The goal with this book is to recognize many women drive themselves crazy, intentionally, by trying to be all they can. I firmly believe we can have it all. A great relationship, be a great mom, keep a good house (if that’s important to you), be a career woman, follow our dreams, work out, eat right, and many more. Women seem to have the knack of how to manage it all and not go crazy. Women seem to always take on more and more…and are successful at it.
Women have tried forever to pretend they fit in the norm even when the norm wasn’t what they wanted. I want women to embrace that more - without caring what anyone thinks. Learn to laugh at your own craziness and be cool at the same time. Be the strong individual you want to be while looking like a million bucks.
Being a woman is difficult and is a constant journey and evolution of self discovery. It’s not always an easy journey and through the process you realize everyone has her own issues. Her own brand of crazy which is my own kind of normal. Crazy but embracing it.
AVAILABLE at and get a FREE copy of Stilettos & Scoundrels with purchase through November 15th, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Indie Amazon?

Many years ago, Amazon was a guy with a website and a garage full of books. As huge as Amazon is now, it's difficult to imagine it had such a humble beginning.

Somebody perceived a need in the market that nobody knew was there until advancing technology revealed it. Sure, you could buy books mail-order from book clubs and such, but coupling that idea with the internet made it convenient for the ballooning home-computing population to browse through a virtual bookshelf and order a book with a couple mouse clicks. Depending on where you live and how much time you have, it beats the crud out of physically driving to the bookstore to find a good read.

As much as Amazon has revolutionized the book industry, and will continue to with e-books and the like, there are more disasters coming for the stodgy old dinosaur that is the New York Publishing Cartel. One person who may help take the revolution a step further is Sharon Kay Roberts.

Sharon has started an online bookstore called the CIA. No, it's not a pseudo-secret spy network doing infrared scans on your home via  satellite. It's the Coalition of Independent Authors. It's a timely concept that takes some of the marketing burden off of indie authors while giving readers ample opportunity to sample books outside the bottleneck that the New York Publishing Cartel has decided comprises what reading material should be available for consumers.

As both a reader and a writer, I'm sick of the NYPC's monopoly on the publishing industry. There's a whole lot of fiction (and non-fiction) out there that is good, but never gets past the corporate beancounters in Manhattan.

Unfortunately, the good indie stuff is outnumbered probably 10-to-1 by books so abysmal that they seem to validate the NYPC's stranglehold. And that brings up another edge to the sword of revolution: once the Manhattan gatekeepers are bypassed, the readers themselves (and whatever reviewers/bloggers they trust) become the gatekeepers, filtering through enormous mountains of slush to find the good stuff.

Personally, I don't see that as such a huge negative. I haven't been happy with the NYPC gatekeepers' work for the last couple decades, anyway. They've quashed plenty of books for not following approved formulas, for political reasons, or simply because the beancounters' crystal balls told them X would sell and Y would not, but that I would have enjoyed reading. And yet they've still failed to filter out some real literary sludge, too. I trust my own judgment more than theirs, when it comes to what I want to read. I've found plenty of worthless books out there, and will certainly weed through much more, but it will be worth it to find the good stuff that the suits in New York don't believe should be available for me to read.

Anyway, you can visit the Coalition of Independent Authors' Bookstore here, and happy shopping to you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comments on the Blog

My apologies to all who have posted comments here. I only recently realized they'd been made, and were waiting my approval. Some had been waiting for over a month.

I changed my settings so that comments no longer have to go through me, but will appear instantly, so this should not happen again.

Also, I thank everyone who took the time to post a comment.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Laina Molaski's Blog Tour Coming Soon


    Join us in a cross promotion by joining the Book Tour founded by Dr. Laina Molaski 

To join us Click on Dr. Laina's Link Below:

                                     Laina Turner-Molaski
Laina Turner-Molaski is a business woman, mom, author, Professor, and a major supporter of shopping. She has an undying love for shoes and coffee, which is why she created her main character and alter-ego Presley Thurman.
With a lot of letters after her name and a ton of student loan debt, she is always working to pay the bills. While she enjoys her day job, her passion is writing, and she uses a lot of company time writing her fiction or working on her social website for women, She is hoping to sell her book before she gets fired from her day job for goofing off.
Laina is currently living in Indiana, with her family, and is always writing something, whether it’s blogs, articles, business journals and books or ideas for her next novel. She is continuously doing what she loves which is writing or drinking coffee.

You can check out her ramblings at