Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sometimes I Despair

Society seems to be more divided than ever, with strong feelings on every side of every issue, and very little middle ground. How do you deal with putting your views out there? Have you ever had to deal with a flame war?

From Jim

I avoid airing my political views on social media.

But just this week I reached my limit with the cruel, un-American (and unchristian), inhumane separation of children from their parents at the border. I put up a couple of posts on Facebook to express my shame, outrage, and hope (via donations to organizations to help those poor, suffering people). A flaming war quickly ensued, and I spent the day in a shaking rage.

And so I’m back to keeping my political thoughts to myself on social media. The fact is I’m not going to change the opinion of anyone who believes that caging innocent, weeping children is somehow okay. And for the people who agree with me, I’m preaching to the choir. I will continue to voice my opinions in my private life, and I’LL VOTE.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Escape artist

Society seems to be more divided than ever, with strong feelings on every side of every issue, and very little middle ground. How do you deal with putting your views out there? Have you ever had to deal with a flame war?

by Dietrich Kalteis

I don’t regularly pick up a newspaper or turn on a newscast, at best I skim the news, a headline here and there. There’s little about it I need to know, most of it’s fear-based and often depressing. So at best, I’ve got a passing knowledge of current events, so I usually haven’t got much to offer about the issues of the day. Nothing wrong with a healthy discussion among friends, but sometimes talking about what’s making headlines can seem like striking a match and lighting a fuse — especially in a public forum. 

I write fiction, I make stuff up. When I stumble on a news gem that interests me — especially if there’s some dark humor attached — it might spark a story idea in my head. The kind of news that might get me thinking, “Well, what if this happened.” A number of my short stories and novels were influenced by actual events that I stumbled on. Ride the Lightning came about after I read on an article a few years back about the number of grow-ops in this province, how pot was the biggest cash crop, worth billions annually, rivaling softwood lumber. And not a tax dollar was being collected while talks of legalization continued. The spark for Triggerfish came after I read an article about a captured narco sub used by a cartel to transport cocaine from South America. Authorities established that the sub, which was constructed in the Amazon, could travel two thousand miles virtually undetected, and that got me thinking …

As a story takes shape in my head, so do the characters, and I like to let them loose and allow them to express their own views, which don’t have to line up with my own. I don’t step in and inject my own viewpoints.

There’s a natural seclusion that comes with writing a novel, which can take a year or longer, so I spend a lot of time working on my own. When I’m not writing, I like to spend time with family and friends, and there’s so much more to talk about than what’s making headlines. And of course, I sometimes add comments on social media sites, the perfect place not to get into heated discussions on hot-button issues of the day.

Some of my favorite authors were reclusive, greats like Lee Harper and J.D. Salinger. Some like Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy still are. While others are outspoken. At times Hunter S. Thompson came off half-mad in those dark glasses and golf hat, behaving like he’d been imbibing in something stronger than the office coffee, and often while wielding a firearm. But he wrote with passion and fury and had a great sense of humor. And if he was around today, he’d likely have a hell of a viewpoint to share on some of those hot-button issues.
I’m not reclusive and I don’t consider myself outspoken, so maybe it’s just the polite Canadian thing, but I tend to keep my two cents to myself, especially on public forums. One thing’s for sure, life’s far too short for flame wars. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Only when absolutely pushed

By R.J. Harlick

Society seems to be more divided than ever, with strong feelings on every side of every issue, and very little middle ground. How do you deal with putting your views out there? Have you ever had to deal with a flame war?

It’s a tricky question. As an author, I am ever mindful of my readership. I don’t want to turn off fans because of my political views. But I suppose given the types of issues I like to explore in my Meg Harris mysteries, I suspect most of my fans share a similar view of the world. 

Nonetheless, I do try to shy away from voicing political views on my social media platforms. I don’t want it to become a platform for divisive argumentation nor do I want it to take away from my main purpose for being on Facebook and Twitter, which funnily enough is to promote me as a writer and my Meg Harris series. 

But that said, there are times, when I feel I can’t keep quiet. Often this is when there is an election happening and I am convinced the winner projected by the polls will do more harm than good once in office.  At other times, it is when the powers that be are planning to implement something that I believe is unfair and blatantly wrong. Lately I’ve been posting articles from established Canadian media about happenings south of the border that affect my own country. I want to give my southern friends an opportunity to read perspectives that come from beyond their borders. What I won’t do is comment on internal happenings of another country no matter how much I dislike what is going on. I believe it is none of my business. 

We are only a few days from the longest day of the year, so I thought I would include a couple of photos taken during my research trip to Canada’s Far North for Arctic Blue Death. They were taken on June 21 at midnight in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, on Baffin Island.  The sun basically drew a circle in the sky. It slipped behind the ridge across the fjord for about an hour before popping up further along the ridge. I don’t think there was a single person asleep in the town. Everyone, including children were out cavorting, enjoying the white night. A magical moment. The building in the foreground of the second photo is the Hudson's Bay Company trading post built in 1921.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Public Views

Today we are dealing with the question of “the great divide”—how we handle putting our views “out there” in public.

Since I’m right about everything, it’s no big problem for me to spout my views. Okay, seriously, I handle it by saying exactly what I think and try to back it up with facts (remember back in the old days, when facts meant something?) I write letters to the editor of both the NY Times and the Chronicle and I freely post my opinions on social media.

I have never had to deal with a flame war, but I have had to moderate some very divergent opinions on my Facebook posts. I refuse to unfriend people whose opinions differ from mine because then not only will I not know what they are thinking (yes, I use the word "thinking" loosely), but the opposite is true as well. If I unfriend them, they won’t ever see my posts. I want them to see what I have to say. I want to argue with them. Maybe I won’t ever change any minds, but at least people know where I stand. They know I have strong opinions and that I am not afraid to air them.

That last statement says something very important to me. I think fear drives a great deal of what goes on in the country today. I constantly read opinion pieces discussing why we are in such a perilous internal war, about why he-who-shall-not-be-named got elected, why people are so angry. I have my own ideas about it. I think fear drives a lot of the division, and I think that fear can be traced back to 9/11. Many of our supposedly brave citizens reacted with abject terror to that event and the fear has been growing unrestricted ever since. To understand the stupidity of that fear, consider how many more people die every year from poorly monitored guns than died on 9/11. How many more people die of opiates; how many more die from smoking; from automobile accidents.

So, if I’m right, it means the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 won. They won by dividing the country into those who let fear guide them and those who are not afraid of “the other.” The other consists of: people without the same religious beliefs; people with a different skin color. But it also means scientists; journalists; questioners; people who refuse to follow blindly. Fearful people are afraid to step out of line. That's a dangerous problem, and I intend to fight it. It may not be judicious for my professional life, but I think this time in our country is more important than my career.

Just like gun owners who proudly proclaim, “They will take my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead hands,” I proclaim, “I’ll shut up when they tape my mouth closed, tie my hands behind me, and drag me offstage.

Friday, June 15, 2018

I Got My Ticket for the Long Way Round

Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? (no writing/reading/reviewing/marketing etc.) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?)

by Paul D. Marks

Before I get to the question at hand, I was researching some things the other day and came across a list of the “Top 50 Crime Novel Blogs For Crime Readers & Authors” at Feedspot. So out of curiosity I had to check and see if we were on there. And we are. At #22. The last update is May 30, 2018, so this is a pretty current list. Not sure how they chose these blogs, but Congratulations fellow Criminal Minds and thank you to Feedspot.

And now to today’s question:

I don’t know if a writing hiatus would be good for me, but I’m not sure it’s something I could do even if I wanted to. Though it might be good for my marriage, because writing is like having a mistress, who takes up a lot of your time and energy.

Clearly we all take breaks from writing. But no writing? No reading? What kind of torture is this? But okay, maybe no reviewing or marketing. So, what are supposed to do? For example, if we travel, I don’t know about you, but I know whenever I travel I always have good intentions to get some writing in. And I never do, so even that might work. But no reading – we’re supposed to take time off and do what? Watch TV all day, stare at our phones all day texting all the important things that people must text about every minute of every day. Or maybe cure cancer in our free time – yeah maybe. But my chemistry set is notoriously out of date.

I do get asked to do a lot of blurbs and reviews, so much so that I often don’t have time to read for pleasure so I’ve had to put a moratorium on blurbing. So I’d be happy to get a break from that.

The solution is a compromise: Yes, a break or hiatus. A cruise, but not on a cruise ship. That is my idea of H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS: HELL! HELL! HELL ON EARTH! HELL ON THE HIGH SEAS. And, while the food might be good, the idea of being stacked like pancakes or in a multi-layered ant-hill of drunken partying fools would make me want to jump overboard or walk the plank, be hanged—hung?—strung from the yardarm. If I go to sea—and I have been—to enjoy the ocean and peacefulness a cruise ship is not peaceful. It’s like Las Vegas but where you need a Dramamine fix every few hours, not from the rolling waves but from the rolling drunks.

I don’t think today’s cruise ships are the epitome of sedate, luxurious travel like we might see in the old movies on Turner Classics. People have changed. These days they see a cruise ship as the perfect place to get rid of that extraneous wife or superfluous husband. So they might be a good place for an Agatha Christie type story, Death on the Nile or Murder on the Disney Cruise Express.

Many freighters or cargo ships carry passengers, but usually a limited number. As an old salt, I love the sea. I’d bring a laptop and tablet, lots of books and movies. And Amy and the dogs. Now I know in reality you’re not allowed to bring dogs unless you ship them as cargo, but since this is my fantasy I can do whatever I want – and damn it, the dogs are coming!

How long would I take? Forever, as long as I had satellite internet to send my stories out, ’cause I’d cheat and get some writing in after all.  -----  What about you? Hiatus or no hiatus? And what would you do?


And now for the usual BSP:

Check out my recent interview with Terri Lynn Coop on The Blue Plate Special on Authors on the Air Radio:


Broken Windows is coming (September, 2018) from Down & Out Books! And you might be able to get an Advanced Reader’s Copy at Net Galley. It’s FREE, you just have to agree to their terms and agree to give a fair and honest review. Their terms are not onerous. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get a copy.

Broken Windows is the sequel to my Shamus Award-Winning novel White Heat, which Publishers Weekly calls a “…taut crime yarn.” It picks up where WH leaves off: A woman jumps to her death from the Hollywood Sign. A disbarred lawyer places an ad saying “Will do anything for money.” A day laborer is murdered. And Duke and Jack, the P.I.’s from White Heat, have to figure out how it all ties together. – In a nutshell.


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Thursday, June 14, 2018

All aboard!

"Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? No writing/reading/reviewing/marketing etc.) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?"

Catriona writes: Thus week I'm taking a blogging hiatus, well, I'm turning my day over to Linda Lovely, who's on a blog tour to celebrate the launch of PICKED OFF, the second in her South Carolina goat farm mystery series, the follow-up to the giggle-fest that was BONES TO PICK.

Over to Linda:

Here’s how old I am: I recall taking vacations from my full time job and packing only clothes, money, and, if we were driving to the coast, maybe beach towels. What didn’t I pack? Cell phones and laptops. All communication with my employer (early on) and partners (later) ceased. If my firm went bankrupt and I lost my job, I’d learn about it once I returned home. Meanwhile I was on vacation and couldn’t give a hoot.

Old fogey that I am I look back on this era as the good old days. Now when friends and family come to visit (often since we live on a very pretty lake), most never entirely escape work and worries. Colleagues call with questions. They answer texts. They check social media and websites several times a day. They never unplug.

That means they miss the joy of a total sabbatical—a timeout to do absolutely nothing or to lose oneself in a fantasy adventure. A chance to recharge our minds and bodies, give free reign to our imaginations. The real world calls us back soon enough.

So do I think a regular writing hiatus would be good for me (and others)? Absolutely. However, I can’t include reading in my potential list of retreat-from-authorhood prohibitions. I was reading for pleasure and escape long before I started writing fiction, and I’ll still be devouring books if I ever quit. Reading is part of the bedtime ritual for my husband and me. We always read for an hour or so before it’s lights out.

How long a hiatus makes sense? Depends on the individual. Some folks are so addicted to their cell phones that I doubt they could spend a day unplugged without psychotherapy. It would be torture, not vacation. For me, I’m a fan of the traditional two-week vacation. One week isn’t long enough. I’m usually worn out at the start of a vacation due to frantic efforts to put out any fires and get ready—even if my trip doesn’t involve leaving home. Three weeks is too long since playing catch up on my return to author responsibilities would just rekindle whatever stress I felt pre-vacation.

What is my ideal escape? Perhaps a train trip across Canada with my husband, if we had the freedom to disembark whenever and for as long as we chose. It’s been too long since we’ve visited with out niece in Saskatchewan who lives on a wheat farm. I’d love to revisit Quebec City, Toronto, and Nova Scotia. And I’ve always wanted to see Banff National Park, Calgary, and Vancouver. (Note to self, you do need to renew your passport for Canada.)

I think fear is the biggest reason we don’t unplug for any length of time. Some folks with nine-to-five jobs may fear their employers will realize they CAN function without them. For authors, it’s fear that should we abandon social media, our fans will move on or our publishers will decide we’re poor team players and undependable or poor communicators.

What I fear more is that if I don’t disconnect from the writing world at least once a year I’ll miss out on experiences and emotions that are what the good life’s all about. And those experience might just provide the inspiration for the best book I’ll ever write.

Linda's Bio: Over the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Henery Press just released PICKED OFF on June 5. It’s the second humorous installment in her new Brie Hooker Mystery series set on a goat farm in Upstate South Carolina. An active member of Sisters in Crime, Lovely served as her local chapter’s president for five years. She also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Breaking up is hard to Cathy Ace

LIFE: Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? (no writing/reading/reviewing/marketing etc) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?

In three words - yes and no. 

Let me try again - I'll break down the different functions listed, so I can give a fuller answer. 

I do already take a sort-of hiatus from writing during March-May, because I attend Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic and CrimeFest UK during those months (adding in a couple of weeks with Mum in Wales when I go to the UK) and therefore find it impossible to get a lot of writing done, so I’d rather do none at all. 
Interviewing Guests of Honor William Kent Kreuger, Naomi Hirahara and Todd Borg at Left Coast Crime 2018
I also fit in a vacation during those months (by which I mean lolling about in the sun on the deck of a cruise ship) so these are my months when I take “down time” from writing. However, I’m still plotting like a fiend, making notes and plans, and even carrying out research all that time. 

One of my favorite spots on a cruise ship - the library!

Reading? I only stop reading when I’m writing – not because I’m afraid I’ll pick up another author’s “voice” in my own work, but purely because I am so immersed in my own make-believe world that I don’t have room for anyone else’s…so I read most during the three months I’m not actively writing. I read on paper, Kindle and Kobo…yes, all three!
My rather splendid new Kindle cover!

I don’t do much reviewing – I have discovered I’m pretty poor at it, and few people ask me for blurbs simply because I’m not well-enough known for my opinion to count for much. Those requests I do get seem to mostly come from publishers/authors who have clearly never read what I write, because there’s little/no connection between my readers and theirs, so I (politely, I hope) decline.

Marketing’s a different thing – I NEVER take a break from it. Never. Ever. Even when I’m on vacation. Why? Because I've invested six years into building a presence, and I think it’s best to not stop now! it comes...please, consider reading one of my books? Thanks! 

Cathy Ace writes the Cait Morgan Mysteries and the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries. Find out more about Cathy and her work here: