Three or more ways to stymie Trump…

March 28th, 2017

Resisting Mr. Trump and his policies on a case by case basis—proving the connection with Russia, fighting the immigration executive order (the new one now), defeating the SCOTUS nominee, preventing the end of ACA, and so forth— makes Trump happy. Why? Because he’s spreading the progressive opposition so thin that we can’t really get organized. Along the way, he’s pandering to all the bigots, haters, and one-percenters in the country, a large crowd of anti-progressive people who return the favors shown by encouraging him—a run-away positive-feedback mechanism that is likely to destroy American democracy. He and his cronies work hard on their agendas as a result; they’ve become obsessed with sticking it to the American public. They will succeed if some strong and organized counterattack isn’t carefully planned and implemented.

Because the Dems are in disarray—too many faux-liberals are still pointing fingers at everyone except themselves with respect to the 2016 electoral loss—they can’t mount a good counterattack in the present circumstances. And it’s not just here but also abroad. Right-wing “populist movements,” like the one led by Le Pen in France, or BREXIT, have plagued Europe for some time—populist only in the sense that fascist-thinking leaders can bamboozle an ignorant public into thinking that demagoguery and isolationism will make the world better for them. That’s what happened in Germany, Italy, and Spain in the 1930’s. Maybe it’s just a cycle we have to go through. If so, that cycle becomes more dangerous each time it happens. Now human lemmings can jump over the atomic cliff to their death—remember they didn’t have the A-bomb until the end of World War Two. Even starving North Korea has about ten nukes or more by now, Pakistan and India have them, and, although they deny it, so does Israel, and Iran is on its way there, especially with Mr. Trump in office.

The least extreme measure we can take to stymie the Donald is to ensure that he has Congress against him after the 2018 congressional elections, if that’s not too late (remember he has those missile launch codes with him at all times); clear majorities in the House and Senate are needed not only to stymie future onslaughts by the GOP and the Trump administration, but to roll back everything he and McConnell and Ryan will do to con the American public in his first two years. Even if Trump’s successful with Gorsuch, the courts might continue to stymie him, but true progressives (and not faux-liberals!) need to take back the House and Senate so that nothing more can get passed that doesn’t serve the needs of the country and its citizens. That’s going to be difficult, especially in the House where districts have been gerrymandered by both the Dems (many faux-liberals contributing to that) and the GOP (many extreme right-wingers making their anti-democratic deals there) to guarantee perpetual re-electability.

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Monday words of wisdom…

March 27th, 2017

Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don’t you wish you could have something named after you?—Kurt Vonnegut

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Action on the southern border! No, it’s not Trump beginning the construction of The Wall. It’s Chen and Castilblanco fighting terrorists, a cartel, and neo-Nazi militias. In Angels Need Not Apply, this deadly duo from the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” goes undercover to fight crime as part of a national task force. On sale now at Smashwords until March 31—use coupon # KL38P on checkout. Last week, so don’t miss the opportunity to read this sizzler-thriller. Also available on Amazon but not on sale there.

In libris libertas!

Does fiction have to seem real?

March 23rd, 2017

One of the quotes on my website is from Tom Clancy. He’d answer the title question in the affirmative. He’s probably referring to thrillers in that quote, but most good fiction has to seem real. A few genres—horror and fantasy, for example—are exceptions, but even hard sci-fi and historical romance novels should seem real enough—the more believable, the better. I often see events from the latest tweet from our president to NYC crime scenes (they’ve become eerily similar in some ways) and say, “I couldn’t write anything like that because readers wouldn’t find it believable.” But maybe I’m limiting myself because readers don’t want believable?

Consider my arch-villain Vladimir Kalinin, first introduced in The Midas Bomb (he appears in many books). He’s a bit of a narcissist and psychotic, but I gave him a human side in No Amber Waves of Grain. Mr. Trump has no human side, yet Trump is real and Kalinin isn’t, although he seems more real to me than Trump because the latter seems to live in a fantasy world. When you consider real people like Charles Manson, Kalinin actually seems pretty tame.

Also consider Mary Jo Melendez of Muddlin’ Through. She represents what’s great about immigration in America (unless you’re Native American, you’re an immigrant or descended from immigrants). So do many of my characters. Bill Franklin, a gay man, and Kalidas Metropolis, a lesbian, play important roles in The Midas Bomb and Full Medical, respectively. None of these characters is real, but they also represent groups that many people don’t want to be real and would rather not have in fiction either.

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Waging war against Gaia…

March 21st, 2017

I’m expecting a bloodbath in the EPA, NASA, NOAA and possibly other agencies as Mr. Trump wages war on the environment. Many employees there are civil service, but that might not stop Il Duce AKA Narcissus le Grand—he’ll just close down the agencies if he wants to get rid of them. The EPA, NASA, and NOAA are where many of those “bad scientists” can be found who disagree with the GOP claim that climate control and taking care of the environment have low priority. Narcissus le Grand even believes global warming is a hoax.

What’s driving all this is Trump’s desire to end all environmental regulations so that companies, his included, can pollute and destroy the environment as much as they want, a particularly virulent and dangerous example of capitalism without controls. Even now, they ship high-tech toxic waste and other crap to places like Bangladesh. Il Duce and his minions probably think it would be cheaper just to dump it somewhere in the U.S. How ‘bout not doing it at all?!

Disasters like that BP oil well in the Gulf, destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, poisoning wells and water supplies—those kinds of things are just part of doing business, according to Trump and his cronies. He names Pruitt to head the EPA and one of the gnome’s first public acts is to deny the role of CO2 in global warming. C’mon!

Many scientists are worried. A week before Il Duce’s inauguration, more than 250 volunteers met at UPenn for a two-day binge of downloading climate data and storing it on independent servers. “If you don’t want to do anything about climate change,” said Texas A&M atmospheric scientist Andrew Dessler, “you are in a stronger position if you get rid of the data.” Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center of Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “With a president who doesn’t respect scientific information, one abuse could be data mysteriously disappearing from websites, or government scientific websites may suddenly have misinformation.” Most of the data that was saved was from NOAA, EPA, DoE, and NASA.

One of those infamous executive orders from Narcissus le Grand could restrict data access from outside the U.S. Trump’s evil minions are already talking about clamping down on the internet and allowing service providers to have multi-tier systems—that’s been on the GOP hit list for some time. And shortly after the inauguration, Trump ordered the EPA to delete climate change pages from the EPA’s website, but he then backtracked on that order when the roars of protest became deafening. The order for EPA scientists and other agencies’ scientists not to post on social media or communicate with reporters still stands, though. Inside the agencies that do climate-related research, Goldman says “morale is low. People are scared.” Scared for their jobs, because Il Duce likes to fire people who disagree with him!

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Monday words of wisdom…

March 20th, 2017

A perv, a con artist, and a fascist walk into a bar. Bartender says, “What’ll it be, Mr. President?”—seen on a church sign.

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Action on the southern border! No, it’s not Trump beginning the construction of The Wall. It’s Chen and Castilblanco fighting terrorists, a cartel, and neo-Nazi militias. In Angels Need Not Apply, this deadly duo from the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” goes undercover to fight crime as part of a national task force. On sale now at Smashwords until March 31—use coupon # KL38P on checkout. Don’t miss the opportunity to read this sizzler-thriller. Also available on Amazon but not on sale there.

In libris libertas!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

March 17th, 2017

Party a lot, drink responsibly, and drive carefully. May the luck of the Irish be with you all!

Person and POV…

March 16th, 2017

Let me take you back to your language lessons—English or some other language will do—and remind you that “person” tells us who is speaking, or, in the case of literature, who’s writing: I live; you (s) live; he, she, it lives; we live; you (pl) live; and they live. Sometimes the pronouns are understood—Russian and Spanish often do that—and if you’re a minimalist writer (“hard-boiled” for crime stories) you might write, “Went to the convenience store to pick up a burn phone,” when the pronoun is understood (in this case, it’s not–previous context is needed).

Person and point-of-view (POV) are often linked. First person singular, the “I-form” of English, is invariably that person’s POV, for example. Much literature is written in the third person singular though, and that’s where the connection breaks down. The author puts the reader in the POV of a character in that case so s/he can get inside that character’s head, so third person singular doesn’t define a unique POV. It can, but it’s not necessary.  If the author uses multiple POVs, it can be confusing. S/he’s probably not confused, but the reader can be.

The confusion is most egregious when a reader thinks one character X’s POV is being employed yet that character seems to know far too much about what character Y is thinking. If the reader stops and says, “Huh? How could X know that?” the author is in trouble. There are ways to get around this. X might be telepathic (sci-fi) or might be exceptionally skilled at reading body language (Y is nervous—he’s glancing at the door far too often). In other words, the author must supply reasons for X to know what’s going on in Y’s mind.

An author can jump from one POV to another but not too often. S/he should separate those jumps into independent sections or chapters. Jumping from one POV to another at a pace with dialogue jumps isn’t allowed, for example. All dialogue within a section or chapter should be in one character’s POV—that character can only observe or hear what others are saying, except for unusual circumstances like the ones I just mentioned. This is easy to control. The author only has to ask herself, who do I want doing the thinking and listening in this section or chapter?

Many writing gurus say to keep one POV throughout the entire book. That’s OK, but in fiction it’s a wee bit like putting on handcuffs. As a reader, I like more spice in my reading. I want the opportunity to understand what each character is thinking so that I can understand her or his actions. Sure, I can imagine what each character’s motivations might be, but what I imagine might not be what the author intended. By changing POVs, the author can provide the hints I need. Only hints are necessary—that’s good minimalist (or hard-boiled) writing.

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Trumpcare…

March 14th, 2017

So we have another horror story associated with the current White House AKA the DC Dark Place. The Warlock-in-Chief is championing his new healthcare bill, although people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have also pranced around the bubbling cauldron to conjure up the best poison they can find for the infirm and elderly in America. Let’s first analyze the chief features of this wicked potion.

The individual mandate of the ACA will be repealed. While even that wasn’t enough to drive millennials and other youthful citizens to participate in ACA and thus increase the healthy people in the insurance pool because in some areas the ACA insurers had stiffer premiums than the fine, instead of fixing the latter, Trumpcare will make it worse. The employer mandate will be repealed. Larger companies will now be able to tell people not to look for healthcare as an employee benefit. Subsidies for out-of-pocket expenses—deductibles and co-payments, will be repealed. Insurance companies will have a field day with that. Medicaid expansion will be killed. Planned Parenthood will be defunded (why aren’t anti-abortion activists more worried about the lives of the living?).

Premium subsidies will be eliminated and replaced by tax credits. Let’s consider the implications of that one a bit further. Will the GOP send money to a poor person if her or his tax credit is more than what s/he would pay in taxes (sometimes zero)? If the answer is yes, that’s a subsidy. If the answer is no, that person won’t bother with healthcare insurance and return back to the old days when s/he went to an ER after getting too sick, virtually eliminating preventative care, increasing death rates and lowering lifespans, and driving up hospital costs—not to mention the evil implicit in penalizing the poor and rewarding the rich. The latter is consistent with the overall reverse-Robin Hood policies of the GOP, of course. Until every American has the same healthcare as a congress person, America will still have a healthcare problem!

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Monday words of wisdom…

March 13th, 2017

The United States is the only major nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care as a right for its people.—Bernie Sanders

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Full Medical. One of my pet themes is the healthcare crisis in America. I’ve been thinking about it for years. This was my first book (now in an ebook second edition) and is still current today. With Obamacare now threatened by repeal and replacement by the horribly messy and unethical Trumpcare, the theme here seems more and more plausible. Only the privileged will be able to afford good healthcare, and the way they do it here in this sci-fi story will creep you out. Pay attention to the scherzos too—they show how bad healthcare coverage can become when it’s driven by greed and not a human right.

In libris libertas!

Author v. character…

March 9th, 2017

When an author writes her or his novel and opinions are expressed, readers might pause and ask, “Is this the author’s opinion or the character’s?” Here’s the danger: a reader might quote an author and say s/he supports a position when s/he really doesn’t! In today’s politically charged and toxic environment, that might create a PR and marketing nightmare. It could also be a matter of life and death in a country where opinions contrary to the regime aren’t allowed. Or where a religious majority is intent on stomping out heretics. (Sometimes a country can have both, of course.)

An author living in a more enlightened country that considers free speech to be a right can write what s/he wants, the argument being that the reader doesn’t have to read it if it seems disagreeable. (That implies censorship of any kind is questionable, of course.) It’s still a good idea, though, to make sure your opinions expressed in narrative not associated with a character, often written in the omniscient point of view (POV)—sci-fi world building, for example—are wants you want to be associated with. Otherwise, put them in a character’s POV so that character owns them, not you.

That sounds a bit sneaky, I know. And beware: this only works in fiction! There remains a danger even so: the reader might identify you, the author, with one character, especially if that character is using the first person singular. I don’t always agree with Detective Castilblanco, for example, but he’s in first person in the entire “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series”!

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