Falling In Potholes and Climbing Mountains of Disbelief

Secrets Book Writers read differently, whether we want to or not. I’ve known this for a long time. While I’m still able to lose myself in a fictional world, I’m almost always aware of little things the non-writing reader does not consciously consider. For instance, I notice an author’s word choices. I occasionally balk at the author’s choice and my mind spontaneously offers a better word for the situation. Sometimes I rewrite sentences that seem awkward, and other times I reread and savior one I find particularly captivating. (Often wishing I’d written that specific sentence.) I pay more attention to timelines and days of the week. (Why has this person worked 12 days in a row? Is there never a weekend?) I notice the way a mystery author leaves little clues as to the killer’s identity and the way a suspense author builds tension.

Dexter Show What I’ve come to realize more recently is that we writers also watch TV differently. I’m not a big fan of popular TV shows, but I do have some favorites. There are times I need to turn my mind off and let the TV do all the work. This brings me to the point of today’s post. Despite all the hype surrounding the program, I had not watched Dexter. People kept telling me I needed to. Some said the series reminded them a bit of my Michael Sykora Novels. Virtually everyone told me the show was great. And so, with this in mind, my husband and I embarked on our mission to watch the entire Dexter series. Thanks to Netflix, we have just finished season 7.

First, I have to thank my husband for his patience, not with the show, but with my constant outbursts. No doubt I am miserable to watch TV with.

I don’t want to give everyone the wrong idea. I don’t hate the show. The concept is intriguing and I do see a slight comparison with my Michael Sykora Series. But, honestly, the plot holes are wearing my patience thin.

Dexter Let’s take just season 7 for an example. Debra catches Dexter in the act of murder. After helping him cover it up, she decides she’s going to fix him or some such thing. She demands he move in with her so that she can watch him 24/7. Well that’s fine, right? Wrong. Dexter has a child. He is the single father of a toddler. Now Dexter moves in with his sister, but there is absolutely no mention of the son he presumably leaves at home with the nanny. Not once during the entire time Dexter lives with his sister is this explained. What excuse did he give the nanny for suddenly needing to abandon his son to go live with his sister? Why didn’t he take his kid with him? Why didn’t Deb move in with him, so that he could stay with his child? Why is the nanny okay with being left to raise Dexter’s kid? Why didn’t this huge plot hole bother anyone else?

The nanny is a whole other issue, my mountain of disbelief to climb. To be clear, she is not a live-in nanny. She is a young college girl who apparently has no problem with Dexter being gone for days at a time. How she manages to care for a toddler full-time while attending college classes is beyond me. She has this kid all the time. Dexter will make an appearance, literally for a minute or two, and he’s gone again. No explanation, aside from the vague, “I have things to do.”

Lost and Confused Signpost We just watched the last episodes of season 7. It’s Christmas Eve, and Dexter asks the nanny to stay overnight so that he can go kill someone. Of course, he doesn’t tell her this. Presumably the nanny thinks he and his girlfriend are going back to her place to have sex. Although this makes no sense as an excuse either. Why wouldn’t Dexter’s girlfriend simply stay at his place, so they could wake up on Christmas morning with his son? And, really, does this nanny, a beautiful college girl, have no life of her own? Does she not want to be somewhere else on Christmas?

And what about Dexter’s job? I swear that guy has the best job ever, because he’s never there! He no sooner gets to work, when suddenly he has to chase down someone he wants to kill. He just gets up and goes. He’s at a crime scene, but needs to be somewhere else to follow or kill someone, and so he simply says he needs to be leave. And he does. All the time. He has more days off and more job flexibility than anyone I’ve ever known.

plothole Sure, the show is fiction, and fiction is make-believe, but it still has to be believable. A leap of faith is one thing. Vaulting across a chasm is another thing entirely. Consequently, I spend a lot of time yelling at the TV and sputtering my disapproval. I’m the opposite of a cheerleader. To my husband’s credit, he tolerates my outbursts and occasionally joins in.

I don’t mean to pick solely on Dexter. It just happens to be the show I’m watching most these days. And, honestly, there is a lot to pick on with this series. Yet it’s oddly compelling, like a bad traffic accident I just have to see.

I wonder if the writers realize they’re leaving gaping plot holes. I don’t know anything about script writing, though I assume the writers didn’t forget Dexter had a kid when he went to live with his sister. I didn’t read the book series, so I don’t know if these holes are specific to the TV series, like a kind of lost in translation thing, or if they also exist in the print series. Either way, I’ve fallen in so many plot holes along the way that I’ll finish this series bruised and battered. Still, I’ll finish this series, partly to see if they manage to fill in some holes and mostly because my husband likes it.

Do you think people are more tolerant of plot holes in a TV show than they are with a novel? Or is it the other way around? I’m beginning to think I’m less tolerant of both overall. Whether I’m watching TV or reading a novel, I don’t want to fall in plot holes or climb mountains of disbelief. I want to take the journey without stumbling or exerting myself. I want the writer to do the work so that I don’t have to. Or maybe, for once, I want to watch and read like a spectator instead of a writer.

PhotoFunia-c03c47d

Early Review: Rain Girl by Gabi Kreslehner

Rain Girl

Veteran homicide detective Franza Oberwieser prefers her job in the winter. Summer is for growing, not for dying. So when the body of a beautiful young woman is found on the autobahn, dressed in a glittering party dress and bathed in June rain, Franza is determined to give her justice.

Revealing victims’ hidden lives is part of the job, but as Franza and her partner, Felix, peel back the layers shrouding the girl’s disturbing past, darker mysteries emerge. Everyone has something to hide—even Franza, who must face her own secrets to reveal the truth.

Publishing Date: August 1, 2014

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

Help came too late for the girl lying in the middle of the road – her name not yet known, she was just a ghost in the drizzling rain, broken and still.

My Review:

Rain girl is a meandering mystery, long on poetic observations and short on substance. While many reviewers are blaming the translation, I actually liked the word choices and I thought the prose flowed well. My problems arose from the overall story, which has nothing to do with the translator.

There are a lot of characters, most of them minor, moving in and out throughout short chapters. This makes it a hard book to put down and come back to. I read it in one day, and even then I was forgetting who certain people were and how they pertained to the issue at hand.

The tone of the book feels philosophical, and that aspect is sometimes overdone. The writing has a tendency to feel weighty and introspective, more suited to drama than mystery/suspense.

Ever since Franza had become a police detective she’d longed for the cold. When the snow crunched and the ice glittered in the sun, the dead looked different. Not as dead. More solemn. Better.

The characters, in a way, are difficult for me to judge. Being an Austrian book, some of my issues could be attributed to a difference in culture. Still, the characters did a lot of talking about trivial things but very little talking about important things. I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll just say that a lot of dangling threads needed to be pulled.

It was as if light and colors no longer existed, only their faces glowed bright in the darkness, letting their vulnerability show if you looked closely – if you knew how to look closely. Then in those eyes with the dark circles around them, you could see the vulnerability, how they had been hurt again and again. They knew what it was like when the pain flared up and burned them.

The story is wrapped up with an open-ended non-ending. This is an intentional choice by the author, but it has an incomplete feel for me. While leaving something for the reader to decide is fine, too many unanswered questions makes the book feel unfinished.

Death tasted of apple liqueur, love of elderberry schnapps, despair of nothing.

Overall, I neither loved nor hated this story. It’s like a person I met but learned nothing about. The impact is small and forgettable.

 

 

Thanks for reading. :)

#MusicMonday: 5 Great Rock Songs You Haven’t Heard

Music

Rather than feature one band, today I thought it would be fun to introduce five different indie musicians. Here are five great songs you probably haven’t heard:

This first one is a cool, trippy vibe called Sidewalk Zombies by The Open Feel:

Dead alive
And unaware
Crooked stride
And vacant stare…




Connect with The Open Feel on their website, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Stream their music free and/or purchase their songs on Bandcamp.

 

Here’s a bluesy rock song full of heartache. Feel The Rain is one of my favorites by a band called Pigeon Park. The song is off their Black Widow EP.

If you ever need me
You know where I’ll be
Cryin all alone…




Find out more about Pigeon Park’s music on their website. Connect with them on YouTube,  Twitter and Facebook.

Stream their music free and/or purchase their songs on Bandcamp. You can also download their music from iTunes and Amazon.

 

How about some killer guitar? This is Chris Buck playing Miss You:




You can stream lots of Chris’s music free on his YouTube channel and on Soundcloud. Learn more about him and his musical ventures on his website, and by following him on Facebook and Twitter.

Chris has a bluesy EP out with Sally Evans, who plays piano and sings. They call their band Buck & Evans. You can stream it free, as well as purchase the EP, on Bandcamp. And you can follow the band on Twitter.

 

This next one is Strangers In August by a band called Amaryllis. It’s off their new Revolt EP.

I’m staring at the walls, cause you’re not what I wake to anymore.

I’m losing control…




Connect with Amaryllis on Facebook and Twitter.

Stream and/or purchase both the Revolt EP and their first EP on Bandcamp. You can also purchase Revolt on Amazon.

 

Today’s last song is a metal rock tune called Whispering World, by Royal Thunder, and it’s off their CVI: A EP.

I am learning in life
That I have no control…

 

Connect with the band on Facebook and Twitter.

You can stream this song and all their others free on Bandcamp. You can also purchase their music there, as well as on iTunes and Amazon.


While it’s always cool when bands allow us to stream their music free, we all know it doesn’t help pay the bills or support future endeavors. Please help support the indie world by making a purchase.

Thanks for listening. :)

Is This Forever? Choices Made, Lessons Learned

LFP Today we’re back in prison with Tyler, who has a thoughtful and poignant piece of writing to share with us. If you have yet to meet Tyler, he is a young man serving life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for a nonviolent crime he committed as a teenager. Tyler was tried in adult court, where he was treated as adult, and where he was given a sentence far more befitting of an adult, career, violent criminal.

“Kids who commit serious crimes shouldn’t go scot-free. But if they are too young to vote or buy cigarettes, they are too young to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.” ~ Alison Parker, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch

Prison

Behind and Beyond the Wall
July 7, 2014 (Monday)

Recently, my father asked me, “If you could go back in time and talk to yourself, what would you say?”

The more I thought, the more I realized how complex a question that is. For example, when do you feel you could have used the advice from the future “you” the most? Do you think you would have listened? Do you know not only what you would say, but how to say it? These are only a few of the questions that come to mind. It makes me wonder…

How many of you out there can relate to this topic?

As for myself, I sure as hell wish I could go back in time. If I could, here is a little bit of what I would say to myself.

“Hey Tyler. It’s me. Well…by me, I actually mean you. The “future you,” that is. I’m here to talk to you about some of the choices you are going to make, and the paths you are going to walk if you continue on your course.

No, don’t shut down. Don’t tune me out, or try to explain. Don’t get angry and all worked up. I know what you are going to say. Hell, I am you, remember?

Ty, I want to address the immediate issue. I know that you are at your breaking point and have been thinking about becoming a gang member.

Actually, I take that back. Thinking is too strong a word. That’s part of the problem. Thinking is something you haven’t been doing much of lately.

You feel as though this is the life you want now – a life representing a “set.” A brotherhood of others who are just as screwed up as us. You find comfort in an identity of “Me against the world.” This inspires purpose and meaning within you. Believe me, I get it.

You ran away from home almost a year ago, and have felt the “freedom” of the streets ever since – late nights spent with the homeboys talking about how “fucked up” life is, a group of teenagers blind to the fact that they cannot see reality for what it is. No rules, no school and no one to point out how lost you really are. In your mind, you are in control and can handle whatever comes your way.

Tyler, the road that you are choosing is dark and cruel, kid. Things are going to become far crazier than you can keep up with. Oh, you will stay alive. You are lucky enough for that. But, how you feel right now will change. The way you look at life is going to shift drastically.

When you come out of this fog and the dust settles, the weight of your choices will bow your shoulders and bend your back. What I mean is you will feel so bad about who you have become, the decision you have made and the circumstances as a result of those choices that life will seem unbearable.

It is going to quickly become brutal for you, Tyler, and you will continue to lose yourself for a long time.

It is not too late! Go home! Life is going to become better with your family. They miss you more than you realize. Right now, you remember the bad times, but they think of the good. They want you back. They need you! The feelings you have of young comrades and “Us against it all” pale in comparison to Christmas with your brothers and sister, Mom tickling your back with her long fingernails, or hiking in the mountains with Dad.

Think Tyler! I know that it is painful to remember this, but don’t push it away. You have been angry long enough. Remember that you are smart, funny, likable. Life will be so much more if you would only go home and give up this way of living.

Damn It! You know this! All I want is for you to see! You are so stubborn, trying to prove that you can make it. Why not prove that you can handle something else? Can you handle a job? High School? College?

No…I can see it in your eyes. You have stopped listening. Even though it is me…you…us.

Instead, you will have to prove you can handle other situations. You will have to prove that you will fight for your shoes in juvenile hall. That you can handle the “hole” in county jail and the “bucket” in prison. You will prove that you can survive race riots and “Torpedoes,” broken bones, block guns and razor blade slashes.

You will have to make it through the betrayal of those “homeboys,” and the hurt you have caused your family and the shame of victimizing innocent people.

But the day will come that you will blink and suddenly you will start to think differently. You will crave the love of your family, and want to be a part of them again, so much it hurts. Realizations will set in that “this person” is not you, nor who you were raised to be. You will see others around you for the examples that they are. Men who went too far for too long and aren’t coming back.

Imagine extending your arms and touching both sides of a concrete cage you call “Home.” It will cause you to cringe, because you will finally be thinking, and your thought will be…

Is this Forever?”

Thanks for reading.

Tyler

 

The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that permit children to be sentenced to Life Without Parole. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia, forbids this practice

 

Tyler’s father – Nicholas Frank – has written a memoir of his family’s experiences, which I highly recommend. Nick’s publisher recommended he change all names to protect everyone’s privacy. In the book, Tyler is called Nathan. Here he would like to be known by his own name.

Destructive Justice A LOST BOY, A BROKEN SYSTEM
AND THE SMALL LIGHT OF HOPE

By all accounts, Nathan Frank started out as a terrific kid with the brightest of futures ahead of him. With the advent of adolescence, however, Nathan’s world and his relationships begin to unravel. No matter which way he turns, he seems to find conflict. Eventually, with his powerful personality, he becomes his own generator of conflict as he steadily enters a world of drugs, defiance and ultimately a criminal street gang. Finally, he runs off the rails at full throttle, coming to a hard stop at seventeen years old when he is arrested for his participation in a botched robbery. With his arrest, Nathan is swept into a justice system of condemnation and ruination for those who enter its control. There, the fact that he is a troubled teen means nothing – maybe less than nothing. Nathan is tried as an adult and sentenced to multiple life terms for his crimes. So at seventeen, he enters a world where exploitation, violence and abject hopelessness reign. Forgiveness, rehabilitation, redemption are hardly even notions within our justice and corrections systems. Logically, Nathan should be crushed by his fate. He very nearly is. But, the man Nathan becomes, a man who finds his strength in fundamentally good qualities that he suppressed for so many years, will not be crushed. Somehow, in one of the worst places on earth, he rediscovers the best parts of himself. Destructive Justice follows Nathan from the great promise of his earliest years, to the great tragedy of his adolescence, to the small light of hope for an even greater redemption.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

 

 

Links to Tyler’s previous essays:

http://quietfurybooks.com/blog/letters-from-prison-behind-and-beyond-the-wall
http://quietfurybooks.com/blog/letters-from-prison-time-to-live-not-just-exist
http://quietfurybooks.com/blog/letters-from-prison-dodging-bullets-on-the-prison-yard

 

I don’t know of anyone who got through his/her teen years without making mistakes. Some of us made bigger mistakes than others did. And many of us only escaped prison because we didn’t get caught. How is locking a teenager away for life, on his first offense, considered justice?

 

Thanks for reading.

Shapeshifters, Vampires, and Young Love: DESTINY AWAITS by Jaidis Shaw

Destiny-Awaits-Banner

Title: Destiny Awaits
Series: Juniper Grove Chronicles
Author: Jaidis Shaw
Published: July 19th, 2014
Publisher: Crushing Hearts & Black Butterfly Publishing
Word Count: approx. 50,000
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Recommended Age: 14+

Destiny-Awaits She wants a normal life. They want her dead. Destiny has other plans.

Twenty-year-old Alayna Scott receives visions around water, but even her foresight couldn’t prepare her for the tragic accident that claimed the lives of her parents. With everything she loves gone, Alayna packs up and moves to the small town of Juniper Grove in hopes of starting over.

Jayden McKnight can’t explain the attraction that he feels whenever Alayna is near, but he does know that he will do whatever it takes to win her heart. When a vampire selects Alayna as his next victim, Jayden will stop at nothing to ensure her safety – even if that means bringing Alayna into a world that she never knew existed.

Love blossoms, challenges are made, and Alayna will find herself fighting not only to survive, but to understand what she has become.

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Prologue from Destiny Awaits:

Sunlight caught the crystal that hung from the rear view mirror, and rainbow bursts of color radiated throughout the car. My parents and I had gotten up early so that we could make the three hour drive to my uncle’s house, but from the line of backed up traffic in front of us, it seemed that it would take us longer. I leaned back in my seat and let the music blaring in my earbuds help pass the time. My mother turned in her seat in the front, and I glanced at her. Seeing her mouth my name, I pulled one side of the earbuds out of my ear.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I asked if you were hungry,” she replied. “Your father thinks that we should get off the interstate at the next exit and grab something to eat while the traffic clears up.”

“Sure, that’s fine with me. It’s a good idea, anyway, since Uncle John turned vegetarian. There’s no telling what he’s going to try to get us to eat.”

My father’s hearty laugh rumbled through the car. “Do you remember that rolled up spinach thing he tried to feed us last time?”

“How could I forget?” I said.

Mom sprung to her brother’s defense. “It wasn’t so bad.”

“Then how come you didn’t eat it? I saw you slip it to the dog when you thought nobody was watching.” My father glanced at my mother while she tried to come up with a retort.

“If you saw that, then it’s obvious that I wasn’t sneaky enough.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stared out the window.

My dad laughed as he flipped on the turn signal and merged into the right lane, coming to a stop behind a logging truck. I looked at the long logs protruding from the flatbed. “It always makes me nervous when they hang off like that,” I said. A shiver raced over my body.

“It’s okay. They make sure to load them on so that they won’t come off,” my dad reassured me.

I opened my mouth to reply, but stopped when I heard a screech of tires behind us. Turning my head, I locked eyes with the man in the driver’s seat of the truck that was hurtling toward us. The truck slammed into the back of our car, and my mother’s scream echoed in the tight space around me. A shower of white stars filled my vision as pain ripped through my shoulder and cut off my own scream. As the darkness closed in around me, I heard the faint shrill of sirens in the distance.

 

Trailer:

 

 

About the Author:

Jaidis-Shaw-Author Jaidis Shaw currently resides in South Carolina with her husband and beautiful daughter (with another daughter on the way). With a passion for reading, Jaidis can always be found surrounded by books and dreaming of new stories. She enjoys challenging herself by writing in different genres and currently has several projects in the works.

Jaidis also owns and operates Juniper Grove Book Solutions, voted Top Three for Best Promotional Firm, Site, or Resource in the 2013 Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll. In her spare time, Jaidis maintains her two blogs, Juniper Grove and Blooming with Jaidis. One of her main goals in life is to encourage her daughters to let their imaginations run wild.

Amazon Author Page / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Blog / Pinterest / Instagram

 

Interview: The Writing Life

When you first begin writing a new book, is your main focus on the characters or the plot?

When I first start any of my books, or even short stories for that matter, I always focus on plot. I feel that the plot is the most essential part of writing. There has to be that drive that keeps the story moving forward. The characters can always (and usually will) change around the plot or as the story progresses so that they fit right in.

How much research goes into your fiction writing? What is your approach?

I do a little research for some of my stories if I feel that it needs to be authentic. The great thing about writing fiction is that anything can be sculpted into existence. You want a race of people who has skin that is like that of a chameleon and able to blend with its surrounding? Just create them. The research that I’ve done, particularly with a paranormal thriller book I’m working on, revolved around weapons. I felt that having a main character know her way around weapons needed to be realistic and so I sought out a few experts and did online research to make sure the weapons I gave her were feasible.

That said, I also think that it depends on what genre you are writing in. There are some genres, like historical romance for example, that may require research so you have your world and era set right to pull the reader in. With genres like paranormal, research isn’t as necessary, at least in my opinion.

Is there a time of day or night when you’re most creative?

I am most creative during the wee hours of the morning. Mainly because my days revolve around my work and being a stay-at-home mom so my focus is there. Once everyone is in bed and the house is quiet, that’s when I’m allowed to just tune everything out and let the words flow.

Do you write a book sequentially, from beginning to end? Or do you sometimes write scenes out of order?

With my first book, Destiny Awaits, yes. I always start with an outline of the entire story so I know exactly where I should be heading and what should go into each chapter to keep the story moving. However, that changed with the book I’m currently working on because there was a particular scene that I found difficult to finish. I had worked myself into a corner and strayed from my outline and so I was lost. I skipped ahead and wrote the upcoming scene so I knew how it would play out and then was able to go back and fill in the gaps.

Do your characters sometimes surprise you with their behavior? Or do you always have complete control?

Do you know how authors are always talking about how their muses changed the story, how they’re surprised at where the characters decided to go, or how their characters are talking to them? I’m so jealous of those authors. My characters don’t talk to me. All of my books start with an idea, usually occurring in a dream, and I outline from there. I know every major scene in my story, when it will take place, approximately what chapter it should appear, and so forth. If I stray from that path, I become lost and panic until I’m back on course.

Do you edit as your write? Or do you write an entire rough draft before doing any edits?

I have to do a little editing as I write because I’m always going back and reading over what I’ve done so far, especially if I’ve taken a break from the story for awhile. As I’m reading over it, I always find a few things to edit so I’ll fix them before I forget. After the whole story is complete, then I go back and do a deep edit.

Do you set your books in real locations or do you make them up?

I don’t like mentioning specific, real locations in my stories. Mainly because I don’t travel and so I feel like readers would be turned off by a story that takes place in a city where I’m unable to authentically set it up. For Destiny Awaits, my YA paranormal romance, I had the story take place in a fictional town called Juniper Grove. Since it’s fictional, I can have the town be anything I want it to be and yet hopefully the reader will get a sense of what it is meant to look like.

Have you ever received a negative review? If so, how did you handle the criticism?

I have received negative reviews, yes. I didn’t really consider myself a true author until I had received positive and negative reviews, and those in between. No matter how popular a book, there will always be some that love it and some that hate it. That’s just the way it is. I knew that before I published my first novel and so I was able to prepare myself for that. I know some authors who can’t handle the criticism and go on rants about giving up or calling out the reviewer for posting their honest opinion. That’s just not the type that I am. There have been times when a line in a review has made me cringe inside, but that’s okay. It’s their opinion. At the end of the day, I’m still proud of my work no matter what others think and that’s all that should matter. I embrace all honest reviews. I’d much rather someone tell me to my face that they hated my work than to lie to me just so I won’t have my feelings hurt.

 

Giveaway:

• A $20 Amazon Gift Card
• Winner’s choice of any one current Kindle eBook release from CHBB, Vamptasy, or Hot Ink Press

Giveaway is International.

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New Release Review – The War On Drugs: A Failed Experiment

How did we get here and why are we virtually alone in ramping up the demonization of certain drugs?

war on drugs

In 1971, President Richard Nixon coined the term “War on Drugs.” His campaign to eradicate illegal drug use was picked up by the media and championed by succeeding presidents, including Reagan. Canada was a willing ally in this “war,” and is currently cracking down on drug offences at a time when even the U.S. is beginning to climb down from its reliance on incarceration.

Elsewhere in the world, there has been a sea change. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, including international luminaries like Kofi Annan, declared that the War on Drugs “has not, and cannot, be won.” Former heads of state and drug warriors have come out in favour of this perspective. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton agree with legions of public health officials, scientists, politicians, and police officers that a new approach is essential.

Paula Mallea, in The War on Drugs, approaches this issue from a variety of points of view, offering insight into the history of drug use and abuse in the twentieth century; the pharmacology of illegal drugs; the economy of the illegal drug trade; and the complete lack of success that the war on drugs has had on drug cartels and the drug supply. She also looks ahead and discusses what can and is being done in Canada, the U.S., and the rest of the world to move on from the “war” and find better ways to address the issue of illegal drugs and their distribution, use, and abuse.

Published: July 2014

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

 

“We should reserve our prison space for people we are afraid of, instead of people we are mad at.”

My Review:

This book is a broad look at the 40-year war that has not only failed to make lives better, but has in fact made things much worse. The author’s main focus is on her home country of Canada, though she covers a lot of ground on US policies. She also briefly touches on other countries as examples of laws that work and laws that don’t.

I think this is an important read for everyone. Prohibition, particularly in the way we’ve been attempting to force it on society, simply does not work. We’re spending billions – trillions – of dollars fighting a war we cannot possibly win. In the process, we’re filling our prisons to overflowing, ruining lives, and giving gangs multiple ways to get rich and even more reason to fight bloody battles.

It is not going t0o far to suggest that drug prohibition has been employed as a means of social control.

Paula Mallea does an excellent job of laying out the facts. She has obviously done extensive research on this topic. The one drawback for me is the broad scope of material in a fairly short space doesn’t allow room to delve deep into certain areas. I felt some material was glossed over too quickly and would have liked more discussion. But, for the casual reader, this works well in that it provides what you need to make an informed decision about our war on drugs.

 

“Almost entirely, from the first moment, the orders given to the police as to how to deal with drugs were, “You don’t go into the suburbs and arrest the white stockbroker sniffing coke in the evenings, but you do go into the ghettos, and if a kid has a joint in his pocket, you put him in jail.”

Thanks for reading. :)

Review: The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow

execution

Near the beginning of The Autobiography of an Execution, David Dow lays his cards on the table. “People think that because I am against the death penalty and don’t think people should be executed, that I forgive those people for what they did. Well, it isn’t my place to forgive people, and if it were, I probably wouldn’t. I’m a judgmental and not very forgiving guy. Just ask my wife.”

It this spellbinding true crime narrative, Dow takes us inside of prisons, inside the complicated minds of judges, inside execution-administration chambers, into the lives of death row inmates (some shown to be innocent, others not) and even into his own home–where the toll of working on these gnarled and difficult cases is perhaps inevitably paid. He sheds insight onto unexpected phenomena– how even religious lawyer and justices can evince deep rooted support for putting criminals to death– and makes palpable the suspense that clings to every word and action when human lives hang in the balance.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

Almost all my clients should have been taken out of their homes when they were children. They weren’t. Nobody had any interest in them until, as a result of nobody’s having any interest in them, they became menaces, at which point society did become interested, if only to kill them.

My Review:

The Autobiography of an Execution is a compelling look at death penalty cases from the perspective of a death penalty lawyer. One of the things that makes this book unique is that Dow doesn’t focus on cases of the wrongly executed, which would easily gain more sympathy from readers. Instead we’re shown an array of condemned men, from the inexcusably guilty to the mentally incompetent killer to the one who was, in all likelihood, innocent.

People who form firm opinions with so little knowledge only pretend to be open-minded. They select their facts like food from a buffet.

Most people unfamiliar with the inner workings of our justice system would assume the appeals process is in place in order to ensure the guilt of those convicted prior to their execution. This is absolutely not the case. Appeals are about technicalities and administrative errors. They’re about filing exactly the right motion, worded exactly the right way, at exactly the right time. Dow takes us along through his workdays, showing us just how broken and corrupt our justice system has become.

Some people think that law is about truth. It isn’t, exactly. It’s about timing.

Another aspect making this a compelling read is Dow’s willingness to make it personal. He invites us into his world, letting us see how emotionally draining it is to race against the clock, only to then watch his clients die at the hands of the state. The transition between the darkness of his work and the bright light of his family is a difficult hurdle to jump over and over again. That bright light, though, is what keeps him grounded and allows him to work within such a bleak environment.

It’s easier to kill somebody if it’s someone else’s decision, and if somebody else does the killing. Our death-penalty regime depends for its functionality on moral cowardice.

When I consider the death penalty, I most often think of the men and women locked away waiting for us to kill them. I think about guilt and innocence, and the fact that executing even one innocent person is unacceptable. David Dow does a superb job of showing me the lawyer’s viewpoint. Maybe looking for the innocent needle in the guilty haystack is the wrong approach to reform. If the system worked the way it was supposed to, we would have no fear of executing an innocent or a mentally retarded person. Better yet, maybe this book can serve as a lesson that a reasonable society shouldn’t have the death penalty at all.

I used to support the death penalty. I changed my mind when I learned how lawless the system is. If you have reservations about supporting a racist, classist, unprincipled regime, a regime where white skin is valued far more highly than dark, where prosecutors hide evidence and policemen routinely lie, where judges decide what justice requires by consulting the most recent Gallop poll, where rich people sometimes get away with murder and never end up on death row, then the death-penalty system we have here in America will embarrass you to no end.


Thanks for reading. :)

#MusicMonday: The Enchantment of MERRY ELLEN KIRK

An entrancing voice, beautiful melodies, poetic lyrics… Today’s feature is a gifted singer-songwriter. Her music is captivating. She is…

Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk is a poet. Perhaps “songwriter” is a more commonly used term, but it’s also too commonplace for Merry Ellen’s glittering narratives, songs that spring up wildly from her subconscious and bloom into vibrant, lilting melodies. Her sparkling piano refrains sweep and spill into fresh, sweet rivulets of notes; her lyrics weave bright, halcyon tales of dream sequences, the light and dark polarities of the human experience, and beauty in its many forms.

“I write about light and dark a lot… good and evil, dreams and reality, the darker and lighter parts of the human soul.”

Merry Ellen currently has three albums out. I couldn’t decide which album to talk about here, so instead I’m going to feature songs from all three. I’ll do my best to offer a diverse sample, though I recommend listening to all three in their entirety.

First, from her first album, Invisible War, one of the most beautiful songs ever written and sung. This is Blinding Me:

And what do I see, please tell me
The dark is overwhelming
But when I close my eyes
I see paradise
And my eyes are blinding me

 

Also from Invisible War, this is Lay Your Hands On Me. She didn’t write this one. It’s a Peter Gabriel cover. I like Peter Gabriel, but I love the way Merry Ellen interprets this song:

I’m living way beyond my ways and means
Living in the zone of the in-betweens

 

This next song is called Masquerade, and it’s from Merry Ellen’s second album, Firefly Garden:

And when we dance
Knowing we could stay right here
Forever
Lost in this trance
Nothing else could ever really matter

 

And from Merry Ellen’s third album, a live EP called Feather & A Leaf, this is Used To Think:

So if you wanna stay then stay
And if you wanna go then leave…

 

You can stream all Merry Ellen Kirk’s music free on her Bandcamp page. While it’s always cool to be able to stream music free, we all know it doesn’t help support the artist. If you like what you hear, please consider making a purchase.

Check out Merry Ellen’s YouTube channel. All her music is available to stream there, and you’ll also find some brilliant covers of popular songs.

Learn more about Merry Ellen and her music on her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

You can purchase her music on Bandcamp, iTunes, and Amazon.

Merry Ellen Kirk

Thanks for listening. :)

Help! I’ve Been Branded: Racing A Mustang To McDonald’s While On Prozac

TV AD I don’t like commercials. Every one-hour program has between 15-20 minutes of ads spouting all the benefits of their products. To be cool, I need to buy a Mustang, eat at McDonald’s, shop at Walmart, use Tampax, and wear Levis. I am, of course, incapable of deciding any of this on my own, which is why these companies need to keep reminding me.

Side effects An absurd amount of TV commercial time is devoted to pharmaceutical companies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it my doctor’s job to decide which medications I need? It’s gotten so bad that even the FDA is fed up. (And that is no small feat!) But, wait. The FDA isn’t irritated with the sheer volume of pharmaceutical companies pandering their drugs to the masses. They are upset because the ads must include a list of side effects, and the lists are so long that they’re stressful for consumers to listen to. They are now seeking ways around this by shortening the mandated information. Yup, that’s our FDA at work. Information on a need-to-know basis. After all, they don’t want us stressing about the fact that an allergy pill could kill us.

Fortunately, I don’t watch a lot of TV and most of what I do watch is recorded on my DVR. That way I can fast forward through the commercials. When I’m watching in real-time, I use those breaks to read a magazine article, play with my dogs, pin silly photos to Pinterest, or (gasp) talk to my husband. (People do still talk to one another, right? Though there are days when I text him from the next room.)

Hitler I know some people still enjoy watching commercials, and I apologize if I’ve offended you. But I do think TV commercials have lost much of their effectiveness. And you don’t even want to get me started on political ads.

 

I have to admit, though, that while I dislike commercials, I am a fan of product placement. This technique works on a subconscious level. Because it’s part of what we’re watching, we aren’t processing it as an advertisement. Product placement also has the added bonus of being part of the show, so we aren’t fast forwarding through it all.

Mustang The star of our show jumps into his Mustang and races through the city. The camera briefly zooms in on the Mustang’s insignia, then we watch the sleek car pick up speed and spin around corners. That actually makes me want to drive the car. The 60-second dry commercial telling me why I should love the car does not make me want to drive it. As I’m watching the show, I’m not thinking of that bit as an advertisement. The car a character chooses is part of his/her personality. We’re caught up in the chase, the character is cool, and, therefore, so is the car.

Recently I’ve realized that product placement is nothing new in novels. Yet, while Ford is paying the TV show for using their Mustang in that 20-second chase scene, they are not paying authors for that same type of scene. But isn’t product placement just as effective in a book?

Starbucks The other day I was reading a novel in which the main character went to Starbucks and ordered a London fog latte. Because the drink is on Starbuck’s ‘secret menu’, the narrative followed with a brief description of the drink. (Earl grey tea, 2 pumps vanilla syrup, 2 pumps caramel syrup, and steamed milk.) I was immediately intrigued. I’m a tea-drinker with an addiction to Starbuck’s chai soy lattes. So guess what I did? Not a hard guess, right? I went to Starbucks and ordered a London fog latte. For the record, I didn’t like it as much as my usual chai. But the point is I tried it. Product placement in novels works.

Drinks That got me thinking about how much product placement I use in my own writing without even thinking about it as any sort of advertisement. My character Michael Sykora drinks a lot of Perrier. It’s a bit of a running joke with his friends. His associate Sean Riley, from the same series, loves Starbucks coffee. One of his favorites is the Komodo Dragon Blend. I wonder if any reader has come across that blend of coffee and decided to try it. If so, please let me know. I don’t like coffee and I’m curious if that blend is actually any good.

IHOP Sean and Michael often have breakfast meetings and middle of the night rendezvous at IHOP. The restaurant probably doesn’t want to be associated with contract killers, but I would think at least a few readers would crave blueberry pancakes after reading those scenes.

Chilis In my novel Into The Light, Max thinks he was killed over a set of Calloway golf clubs. (Max, the main character, is a ghost.) Sadly, Calloway didn’t pay me a cent for touting their brand. Max and Joe tend to hang out in Chili’s, where Max went for his last meal as a living person. Joe drinks a Calypso Cooler there, which might tempt a few readers to taste the drink on their next trip to Chili’s.

Maybe we writers need to band together and demand the same product placement deals that TV shows and movies are now getting. Okay, obviously most of us aren’t reaching as many people as a popular TV show, but our characters’ endorsements should be worth something, right? After all, Sean Riley could easily give up Starbucks and become a fan of Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Have you ever tried something based on product placement? If your favorite character only wore a specific brand of jeans or only used a specific kind of soap, would you be curious enough to give it a try yourself?

New Dark Psychological Thriller: THE POINT by G. Nykanen

Point Blast Banner

Title: The Point
Author: G. Nykanen
Publication Date: May 30, 2014
Genre: Psychological Thriller

The Point Cover Befuddled by her current relationship woes, Nora Reynolds leaves college at semester’s end to drive north of nowhere to her hometown of Iron Bay. Vulnerable and on the rebound, she is the perfect prey for fledgling felon Dane Buchman. Dane takes advantage of the unaware young woman, feeding his appetite for mischief until a rather violent shift in their relationship reveals to him what he’s really been craving. Driven by his new found hunger, Dane feels unstoppable, until former high school rival and town deputy, Doug Sanders, navigates the trail of Dane’s destruction.

The Point is a dark thriller that will allow you to witness a truly dangerous sociopath wander through madness guided by a treasured family heirloom, and a pensive young woman find her way after discovering, that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. With echoes of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, the folksy town of Iron Bay and the nearby north-woods community of Deer Lake are the destinations for Mr. Buchman’s many misdeeds.

Amazon / Goodreads

 

excerpt

Jake and Nora had already crossed the street, taking a moment to stop at a small park nestled between two of the old storefronts. The term “park” was a bit generous. There was a wooden bench beneath a large apple tree. A few apples still clung to the tree’s nearly bare branches. A statue of the town’s founder looked out onto Main Street from a planting bed filled with once-colorful perennials, now cut back in anticipation of the harsh winter that would soon arrive.

They sat kissing as Dane watched Jake hold Nora tenderly. He was looking longingly at her, while stroking the back of her short hair. Dane realized that even his best acting never achieved the depth of character that Jake’s did.

His insides began to twist. He reeled as a deep pang of jealousy grew in the pit of his stomach. He watched Jake with his hands and mouth all over her, and something deep down in the recesses of his gut squirmed. The parasite beckoned.

He placed his hand to the compass, which was still at rest beneath his sweater. *What should I do?* he wondered as he rubbed it. *I know. I know what you want,* he silently acknowledged. He simply wanted to use her to once again experience the surge he’d felt that wonderful day at the Point.

Jake stood and held his hand out to Nora. The lovebirds walked to the car, their fingers entwined.

He didn’t want to let her go; he needed to see her some more.

Trotting back to his car, he proceeded to follow the black BMW as it wound its way up the mountain pass. He knew this road all too well, and soon realized that they were staying at his cousin’s snotty cabin.

“I should’ve known that these two were staying at Cooper’s with his redheaded cunt of a girlfriend,” Dane sneered, his hateful words bouncing around his car as he tailed Nora and Jake up the mountain.

The Beamer turned off the main road as it entered the drive to the Buchman’s cabin. Dane continued past the driveway, parking a bit further up the road to avoid detection.

He hiked, cutting through the woods, his sights set on the lights of the stately vacation home.

“A cabin,” he scoffed sarcastically. “Only Uncle Hank would call that pretentious monstrosity a *cabin*.”

Creeping through the brush and towering pines, the leaves crunched and twigs snapped as he slogged along the mountain’s varied hillside.

The distant glow of the house grew closer as he hiked, his view only
possible because of the drop of the autumn leaves.

He crept up to the house’s base, his back flat against the siding, as he hid amongst the shadows cast by the towering residence.

Dane could hear the couples chatting and laughing as they prepared to sit down for dinner. He observed an extra vehicle parked in the drive: it seemed to be a catering truck of some sort. He rolled his eyes. “Cooper is showing off, what a dick.”

 

author

Gnykanenpub G. Nykanen was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This small, rural land mass seems to cultivate a wide variety of colorful characters who provide a plethora of inspiration. The Point, Nykanen’s first novel, is filled with nuances of these local characters and the landscapes one might find in the north woods.

Well traveled thanks to her husband’s government career, she has lived in Europe and many of our United States over the last twenty years. She has recently returned home, moving back to her beloved Upper Peninsula where she resides with her husband and three children.

With The Point now completed, she will continue working on her next novel, Accumulation, along with continuing to develop other stories in the works.

Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon

 

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