Irish Stew #63…

June 28th, 2017

International

Trump’s Saudi policies. Saudi Arabia wasn’t on Trump’s list of countries whose Muslim immigrants, many escaping horrible situations in their home countries, are the targets of his bans in his executive orders, contradicting his belief that all Muslims are terrorists. And Mr. Trump negotiated a weapons deal with the duplicitous Saudis to make the military-industrial complex happy during his whirlwind tour in the Mideast.

The Saudis aren’t our friends. They’re not even the enemies of our enemies. They are the enemy. The majority of the 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia because the Saudi royal family’s state-sponsored religious schools have a continuing policy of brainwashing young boys and men to hate the West. And they have continuously attacked Yemen where they are responsible for mass murders of innocents. They probably support ISIS too, because ISIS hates Shi’ites, and they’re the Saudis’ enemies.

Sad! Trump is supporting duplicity and murder. Guess he believes in that.

National

Malthusian politics? The CBO hasn’t published its financial analysis yet, but the Senate’s proposed healthcare bill is meaner than the House’s. They’re both an attack on the middle class and poor, especially those who don’t have any financial means and depend on Medicaid as a life preserver—elderly in nursing homes, people with serious disabilities, and very sick children. Too many without any other coverage.

Not just sad but doing the Grim Reaper’s work so the GOP can give tax breaks to the rich elites. These aren’t healthcare bills—they’re thinly disguised tax breaks. And Rand Paul thinks they don’t go far enough? This guy has no compassion at all. No wonder he was a failed doctor! Next thing we’ll see from the GOP? Maybe death ovens for the sick and infirm with Dr. Death running them?

Is Obama to blame? Not as much as the GOP and American media are saying! They’re still supporting the attack on the ex-president for not divulging what he knew about Putin’s personally directed attack on our electoral system. Why? It’s not “fake news” if they hide the real truth that Obama’s desire to secure bipartisan support to inform the American public was rejected by the GOP members of congress Obama approached. OK, maybe Obama was stupid to believe that HRC was a shoo-in, but Trump had been yammering all during the campaign that the system was rigged. What if Obama had decided to divulge all he knew? They’d have said he was unfairly supporting HRC! Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

For eight years the GOP practiced obstructionism against the Obama administration. And Trump dares to accuse the Dems and Obama of being obstructionists? Of course, I’m waiting for HRC to say Obama was responsible for her losing. Sad! You can’t trust politicians or the media these days.

Wild weather. Last Saturday morning NJ received a taste of Midwest weather. I saw my first tornado in Kansas when I was thirteen visiting my grandfather—an awesome sight even if it was off in the distance. Now we had two in Howell, NJ. A smack across the face from Mother Nature to wake us up to the problems of climate change? She should concentrate on Trump who believes it’s all a hoax. Hey Mother Nature, why don’t you go after Mar al Lago or one of his many golf courses—Bedminster would be a good start? Just give the innocents a warning.

Sports etc.

Cosby and Hernandez. I never bought into the theory that the ex-Patriot tight end committed suicide. He had just won acquittal for one charge and was going to appeal the conviction that put him in jail. Why would he be suicidal?

MA law says a conviction that is being appealed must be vacated. Sleazebag prosecutors want to change that law. They must be related to the DA prosecuting Bill Cosby.

DAs who are running for office or have nefarious agendas shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute anyone because they are just trying to win points for being “tough on crime.” Political campaigns interfere with objectivity. So do many careers in general. Of course, most lawyers, prosecutors or defense attorneys, aren’t known for objectivity or a commitment to the truth—they’ve sold their souls to the Devil for their clients.

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There’s a big book Summer/Winter Smashwords sitewide promo from July 1 – 31. You have be a member to receive the email catalog. Join Smashwords—it’s free, and it provides a large universe of reading entertainment. Almost of my ebooks are sale with price reductions from 25 – 50 %. That includes the first six books in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series.” Load your e-reader up for summer (northern hemisphere) or winter (southern hemisphere). And for additional great reading, don’t forget my new novels, Gaia and the Goliaths (#7 in the detective series) and Rembrandt’s Angel, both mystery/thriller novels. Enjoy!

And so it goes…

China Inc….

June 27th, 2017

[This is the second installment about our two main enemies, China and Russia. If you disagree, write a comment.]

Like many countries, China is one of contrasts. Chinese dynasties and empires predate most European history. Great Chinese fleets of mighty ship[s roamed the Pacific long before the Spanish Armada’s and Admiral Nelson’s tiny vessels were even imagined. Those Viking ships which conquered the seas and sowed destruction and fear in the North Atlantic are also gnats in comparison, although that’s a wee bit closer to China’s ancient domination of the Pacific.

From beautiful landscapes and grand bridges crossing mighty rivers, to slums and nauseous pollution, you now have a government that can best be described as fascist capitalism controlling things. It’s what capitalism can become when there are no controls exercised by the people (a warning to all in the U.S.). That government gives a wink and a nod to communism, but the very existence of this corrupt and despotic regime shows why communism is a debunked ideology with absolutely no relevance. Workers are exploited in China to enrich the lucky and often unscrupulous few. Human rights take a back seat to capitalistic profit and greed.

At the beginning of my sci-fi novel Survivors of the Chaos, the Chinese model has swept across the world. There’s no longer any pretense—corporations control the world, even in China. This change even reaches Mars where the first Chinese colony there succumbs. As in today’s China, corporate leaders wield all the power. Communism is no more, and the world has been reduced to small, feuding national tribes loosely stitched together by a UN controlled by the worldwide corporations. Is this the future awaiting all human beings?

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Monday words of wisdom…

June 26th, 2017

A Buddhist monk approaches a hotdog stand and says, “Make me one with everything.”  (Apologies to my Detective Castilblanco, who became a Buddhist.)

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Speaking of Castilblanco, there’s a big book Summer/Winter Smashwords site-wide promo from July 1 – 31. You have be a member to receive the email catalog. Join Smashwords—it’s free, and it provides a large universe of reading entertainment. Almost of my ebooks are sale with price reductions from 25 – 50 %. That includes the first six books in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series.” Load your ereader up for summer (northern hemisphere) or winter (southern hemisphere).

In libris libertas!

Book piracy…

June 22nd, 2017

Book piracy is a major problem that’s frustrating and discouraging for authors and publishers alike. It’s also a crime. Both pirated ebooks and print books are sold on illegal websites and illegally in many foreign countries. Almost every author is affected by this. Smashwords thinks this is no problem. Paulo Coelho thinks this is no problem. I do. So do many others.

Ebooks are just computer files and can be easily hacked—almost any software can be hacked! While DRM (Digital Rights Management) shouldn’t even be needed for ebooks, it exists. But it can be hacked, so scofflaws do that for illegal enterprises that sell stolen ebooks. Print books shouldn’t be copied and sold illegally, but they are, especially outside of the U.S.

You think U.S. readers aren’t involved in piracy? Dream on! While the average reader will pay to have his own copy of a book (if s/he doesn’t borrow it from a library), a significant number gleefully get off on reading something for free. I’m not speaking about book promos that offer books for free (you can have as much glee you want by participating in a free promo, but I wish authors wouldn’t) or take advantage of sales (I recently bought an ebook version of Dune for $1.99 on sale, just to have it on my Kindle). I’m speaking about readers who get their reading material illegally at whatever price, effectively supporting the pirates.

Here are the main types of book piracy: (1) Criminals who hack authors’ ebooks and illegally copy print versions. .mobi files (Kindles) and .epub files are the most common ebook formats. The first, if purchased on Amazon, have DRM; the second uses Adobe’s software. Both can be hacked. PDFs, so prevalent on the web, can be hacked. The worst case scenario is when the hacker provides material to someone else who puts their name on a book and sells it as their own. (2) Readers who download illegal ebook copies from an illegal website or purchase illegal print versions. They provide the market that criminals exploit, but these readers are willing recipients of stolen merchandise, so they’re just as guilty. (3) Readers who pass copies around to friends and family. We all do it, especially with print versions. One can argue that a purchased print version can have ownership reassigned, just like a car or some other physical object, but ebooks are software, so by purchasing one, you, the user, only have a license. DRM even tries to limit the usage to one device—not a single user, but a single device, which is a flaw that makes it less useful than the usual software license with its built-in protections. And while print books have a legitimate used book market, ebooks really don’t. But when you pass copies around to friends and family, you are pirating. Every time your Uncle Ned shares an ebook file or hands you a print book he’s already read, you’re both being book pirates. Bottom line: buy your own legal version. Otherwise, you’re committing piracy.

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Putin’s Russia…

June 20th, 2017

The case against Russia is growing. It’s now clear that they interfered in the 2016 election. Pursuing the possible collusion from Mr.Trump or his campaign staff and supporters, whether true of not, is detracting and liable to embolden Mr. Putin and his “patriotic” hackers to do it again in 2018 and 2020. They did it in France too. Not quite cyber warfare, it still distorts the democratic process. That’s Putin’s goal. He has no use for democracy.

Putin is a despot. His only positive quality, if it can be called that, is to remove the veneer that covered the Soviet mobsters in ideology. The latter and so-called “communist leaders” even today (Cuba and Venezuela are prime examples) have shown Communism to be a defunct ideology that exploits workers and champions human rights violations, including murder and torture. Removing that veneer has only exposed us all to the reality of Putin and his cronies, all despots who still run Russia like the mafia thugs they are.

Recent protests in Russia show that all is not well in the “worker’s paradise” that never was a paradise. Putin tries to maintain Russia’s image as a democracy, but the arrest of many protesters shows that he allows no opposition in Russia. Why is that different than Stalin and the mafia thugs who followed him?

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Monday words of wisdom…

June 19th, 2017

The word for “fake news” in Putin’s Russia is simply “news.”—Garry Kasparov

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The Collector. In #5 of the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” the detectives set out to solve the murder of a Manhattan art dealer. After twists and turns, they discover that the crime leads to something perverse financed by stolen artworks from the Gardner Museum in Boston as collateral. This intriguing and profoundly disturbing mystery/thriller/suspense novel is the crime-fighting duo’s toughest case so far. It also introduces Scotland Yard Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone, the protagonist of my new book Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press). The ebook The Collector is on sale now at Smashwords in all ebook formats; use coupon code SV28G.

My new book Rembrandt’s Angel is available in ebook format on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple and print format on Amazon, B&N, or at your local bookstore via Ingram (if they don’t have it, ask them to order it).

In libris libertas!

Dialects and regionalisms…

June 15th, 2017

By the time I became fluent in Spanish and could even dream in that language, I was able to appreciate some of the different ways of speaking it. Every Hispanic country in Latin America speaks it differently. In fact, in Colombia, where I lived a good many years, regional variations occur too. In Spain, the regional variations are even more marked (creating the so-called “nations of Spain”—fortunately for me, Colombia speaks primarily Castillian Spanish instead of Galician or Catalan).

Before I mastered Spanish, I had a nodding acquaintance with other foreign languages. On trips to Montreal and Quebec, I was struck by the difference between the French spoken there and Parisian French, which differs from what’s spoken in the rest of the country). Moscow’s Russian is different than St. Petersburg’s Russian. Many Americans and British have experienced their regional variations—Brooklyn English differs from Dallas’ English, and there are also variations even in London.

I write my novels in English. While I’m fluent in Spanish, I wouldn’t even attempt to write a novel in that language. But when there are Latino characters in my novel, I might mix some Spanish into their dialogue to make it more authentic (being careful to add “meaning X,” where X is a loose translation, if I think the average reader might not know the meaning).

All of the above is segue to one problem I had writing Rembrandt’s Angel, my new novel published by Penmore Press. To quote George Bernard Shaw: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” Did I dare use variations characteristic of British English? You see, a large part of the book takes place in Great Britain. The main character Esther Brookstone is an English woman schooled in a public school (what Americans would call a private school!). Her Jaguar uses petrol, and she keeps her driving gloves in the cubby.

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News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #145…

June 14th, 2017

Likes. I’m not referring to Facebook here. I’m referring instead to readers’ tastes. Some readers like action, others intrigue, snappy dialog, interesting 3D characters, a complex plot, and so forth in their fiction (these elements can be in biographies too, of course). Authors have to write stories that can appeal to all these readers’ likes. The best way for an author to do that is provide a mix. Striking that right balance is work, but it’s also fun.

Word count. There are times when an author has to respect a word count limit—a 3000-word short story s/he’s planning to submit to a ‘zine, for example. For most of my writing, I just spin the yarn and later determine if it’s a short story, novella, or novel. That’s better than trying to pad a story or cut out large sections of prose.

Readers shouldn’t care about any of this, of course. They just want a good story to read. But I think that some are neglecting the short stories and novellas in favor of novels. Story collections don’t sell well, and those ‘zines are fast disappearing.

Voting and reading. When I voted in the NJ primary last week, I noticed all the voters were older adults. I only had a small sample, of course, but I think that’s a national trend. Since I’m an author, I wondered if this voting behavior correlates with readership numbers. Do readers tend to be voters, and vice versa, and do readers share the same trend: are they older adults? That might be even more stimulus for getting kids to read at an early age.

Younger adults shouldn’t be put out by this. I’m worried about the trend because there are so many entertainment and other distractions today, and forgetting to read could affect a lot of things.

Reviews of Rembrandt’s Angel. If you would like to review a free copy of my new book in exchange for an honest review, email me via my contact page. This goes for any of my books, of course, but I limit the numbers. No author needs thousands of reviews, only enough to cover all the opinions and inform other readers about the book. Of course, I learn from the reviews too. (If you’d like the free PDF “Two Articles for Readers of Rembrandt’s Angel,” mention it in your query.)

Reviews and interviews. I do both.

My “official reviewing” is done via Bookpleasures.com; authors should query there because there’s a whole team of reviewers, and that improves your chances for a review. I do not accept direct queries, but they still arrive. When they do, and if the book is interesting enough, I’ll add it to my TBRoR-list (that’s “to be read or reviewed”)—no guarantee about when I’ll read the book, and I’ll review it only if I like it (you take your chances with Bookpleasures).

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Irish Stew #62…

June 13th, 2017

[Sometimes there are so many current events to comment on, I hit all of them a wee bit at one time.]

International

UK election. Prime Minister May gambled and lost big. Her Conservative Party will now be in the minority in Parliament. She will probably stay on, though, and create a minority government. Still a blow to Trump-like forces and her desire to have a strong voice in negotiating BREXIT strategy.

Paris Accord. Trump pulled out of it, causing condemnation from many Americans and the rest of the world. In the U.S., a recent poll asked whether the registered voter disapproved of this action. Among all regular voters, 69% disapproved, 13% were in favor (I guess the remainder don’t give a rat’s ass). Among GOP voters, 51% disapproved, 26% were in favor (same comment). And among voters who ID’d themselves as Trump supporters, 47% disapproved, 28% approved (same comment).

It’s clear that Trump is going against the rest of the country, even among his own party and avid supporters. His principal reason for this action was loss of jobs, but even now alt-energy employees outnumber those in coal mining, and alt-energy companies are trending up while old energy is trending down.

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Monday words of wisdom…

June 12th, 2017

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.—Oscar Wilde

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The Collector. In #5 of the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” the detectives set out to solve the murder of a Manhattan art dealer. After twists and turns, they discover that the crime leads to something perverse financed by stolen artworks from the Gardner Museum in Boston as collateral. This intriguing and profoundly disturbing mystery/thriller/suspense novel is the crime-fighting duo’s toughest case so far. It also introduces Scotland Yard Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone, the protagonist of my new book Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press). The ebook The Collector is on sale now at Smashwords in all ebook formats; use coupon code SV28G.

My new book Rembrandt’s Angel is available in ebook format on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple and print format on Amazon, B&N, or at your local bookstore via Ingram (if they don’t have it, ask them to order it).

In libris libertas!