Showing posts with label Book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book. Show all posts

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Attention Hollywood: Enough with the Remakes

I like being entertained, it's probably one of the reasons I enjoy being an author. There is something very rewarding about being able to craft new worlds in your books for a reader to immerse themselves in.

For the time it takes to watch a movie, catch a television show or read a book, you are able to suspend belief and transport yourself far away from the trials and tribulations of the real world. That being said, you really do need to have a new world to go, but for some odd reason, Hollywood has apparently run out of new ideas. 

Now, I will be the first to admit that I loved Ronald Moore's re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series. Having grown up watching the original TV show I was not at all upset when they brought it back with a more mature theme. They kept true to the original premise, but managed to add a darkness and complexity that I don't think would have worked nearly as well back in the 70's. 

But, it seems that this is one of the true exceptions these days.

Hollywood seems hell bent and determined to remake everything and I just don't understand why. There is an abundance of new material out there to draw ideas from. Take my books as a prime example. Yes, I know it's a shameless plug, but that doesn't make it untrue.

One book reviewer opined that James Maguire was the new Jack Reacher. I'll confess that I think Maguire is a helluva lot more bad-ass, but I'm biased. And, as good as Maguire is, he also has a very complimentary cast of fellow characters, including a number of strong female ones, that provide something for everyone.

My motivation in writing riveting story-lines stems from the fact that I grew up as a voracious reader. I whiled away the hours journeying to far away places, traveling side by side with some amazing heroes and heroines. It didn't matter if it was Paul Artreides (Dune), Jack Ryan (Patriot Games) or Han Solo (Star Wars). The one thing these characters had was the ability to suspend my belief, but in a very plausible way. It is one of the things I strive for in my books. 

I write characters that the reader gets invested in, whether they are the protagonist or the antagonist. The biggest reward for me is when a reader says: "You know, I hated so-and-so, but I read that chapter and couldn't help but feel bad for them." There is no greater reward, and no greater curse, then when you finish a book and the next thing you are getting are emails from your readers asking when they next book is coming out. 

Today, Hollywood has simply gotten lazy. Rather than take the time to invest in new stories, they seem determined to prove that they can capture lightening once again. Often with dismal results. 

Case in Point: CHiPs (The Movie)

To put it mildly this was a debacle. First, it was a slap in the face to the original series. Say what you will, but CHiPs was a positive television show that cast law enforcement in a good light. The movie, not so much. The $25 million dollar production managed to bring in an amazing  $25.5 million dollar box office haul. That's right, for their effort they eeked out half a million in profit and garnered a dismal 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Sadly, this level of movie buffoonery seems to be all the rage these days.

Whether they are remaking Carrie, Planet of the Apes, Starsky & Hutch, The Magnificent Seven, Rollerball, The Bad News Bears, Arthur, Baywatch, The Goodbye Girl, Total Recall, Conan, Ghostbusters (shudder), or even the 27th incarnation of SPIDERMAN, the bottom line is more often than not they fall flat on their face.  I mean really, what's next in the queue? Dirty Harriett?

To a certain extent I can understand the appeal. You have a vehicle that had a following and you figure you can re-capture that for a new generation. Unfortunately, very few take the approach of Ron Moore and up their cinematic game. I think it is also one of the reasons why Netflix and Amazon Studios are enjoying such success.

There comes a point when you have hit rock-bottom and begin to re-evaluate things. Unfortunately, Hollywood seems intent to keep digging or, at the very least, beating the proverbial dead horse.

So if you folks in Tinseltown have reached the end of your rope, and want to secure a lucrative book franchise, have your people contact my people and we'll do lunch. 




Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Heart of the American (Political) Problem

As an author, it is my job to engage my readers with substantive characters and plot-lines that get them invested in my books. I enjoy hearing their passionate responses, when we have an occasion to chat, whether in-person or through social media engagement. While it is rewarding to me as a fictional author it scares me to the core when it crosses over to the non-fiction world.

A few weeks back I wrote an article asking the question: What Happened to Civility in America. In it, I pointed the finger of blame at politicians and pundits who have worked hand in hand to ramp up the level of acrimony in the United States for their personal gain.  They have gotten remarkably good at being bullies, but when there is pushback, they play the victim card. Now I am here to tell you that the heart of the problem is not that they do this, but that a large swath of the U.S. population actually believes them.

To be fair this truly is bi-partisan and has been going on for a very long time. It is a condition that has plagued both the Right and the Left. In fact I have spoken out about this in the past: The End of Political Party Dominance in America.

But now the lies, half-truths and attacks, like a proverbial snowball, which started its glacial existence as a magnificent little snowflake, have metastasized into a malevolent icy mass that threatens all in its path.

Case in point this tweet from Senator Kamala Harris (D - Ca.)


Now, it’s not so much the tweet from her that bothers me, but its existence as a vehicle. See, I get the fact that she is trying to score political points and that is what politicians do. No, what truly bothers me is the vast amount of replies, likes and re-tweets that serve to take it to its intended destination, Kamala’s political base.  My first inclination was to reply directly, but I fundamentally know that it is a waste of time, so I decided to use this as a premise for this blog.

You see, Senator Harris is engaging in one of three things: Lying, telling a half-truth or she is simply incompetent.

Now that may sound like some serious accusations, but give me a moment to spell this out for you.
Consider the premise. An article by Vox, which boldly claims “Senate Republicans exempt own health coverage from part of latest proposal,” coupled with Senator Harris’ reply, a simple, but substantive: “This is a disgrace.”

The casual reader, as exemplified by the replies to this tweet, would take away two things from this. 1) Republicans are disgusting, greedy, and unethical hypocrites and 2) Sen. Harris, who by virtue of her position as a United States Senator, intimately understands the issue and concurs with the Vox piece.

You would believe that, but you would be wrong.

The opening paragraph of the article charges that: “Senate Republicans included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan.”  It goes on to say that “This exemption could have the effect of ensuring that members of Congress have coverage for a wider array of benefits than other Americans who purchase their own coverage.”

That would be pretty staggering, and point to a serious disconnect between politicians and the people, if it were true, but it’s not. Unlike the thousands of folks that responded to that Tweet, I’m not a casual reader.

The underlying problem with this whole issue goes back to semantics.

Did the Republicans include a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan? The short answer is: Yes, which is precisely where Senator Harris wants you to stop reading and re-tweet her post. However, as is true with most things in politics, the long answer is not as cut and dry.

Now we can debate the entirety of the health care issue in America, but the truth, as it pertains to this matter, is that the Republicans are getting ZERO support from Democrats when it comes to this. As a result, they have to pursue this through a process which is called Reconciliation that is bound by several conditions, often referred to as the Byrd Rule, after former Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Bumper sticker version: Without the hope of Democrats coming on board, there is no chance to get the 60+ Filibuster-proof votes needed to pass any health care legislation. Therefore, Republicans have to go for a simple majority (51) vote and this this now becomes an issue of the Rules of the Senate as it pertains to Reconciliation.

What that means is that committees (in this case: Finance and HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions)) drafting a bill cannot make changes that are the jurisdiction of other committees (In this case: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee). A Senate parliamentarian could rule that any proposed insurance change for members of Congress would rightly fall to the HSGAC, which covers insurance issues for members of Congress, and that ruling could jeopardize the bill’s reconciliation status. If this were to occur, then the entire bill would lose privilege and it could then be filibustered. 

But wait a minute; shouldn’t a member of the Senate know this stuff?

The long and short answer is a resounding YES.

So if Senator Harris knows this, then why is she posting something as fallacious as this?
It’s a good question.  

As I mentioned earlier, it’s my belief that she is engaging in one of three things:  Lying, telling a half-truth or is simply incompetent.

Prior to becoming a United States senator, Kamala Harris served as the District Attorney for San Francisco (2003-2011) and California Attorney General (2010-2016). So the idea that she is simply incompetent has little traction. That brings us to lying or telling a half-truth.

Conveniently, Senator Harris never actually makes the false claim against her fellow (Republican) senators, so she escapes the mantle of liar. Rather, she simply tosses out the link, along with her commentary, in an attempt to bait her constituents into running with the lie, which, since they are already pre-disposed to disliking Republicans, they gladly do.

And therein lies the true Heart of the American Problem: US.

We need to understand that politicians and pundits sell a product. One does it to get elected (or re-elected as the case may be) while the other does it for ratings, but in the end we are the consumer that supports it.

I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, Animal House, where Dean Wormer says: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

I fear that is what we have become in America.

We have become fat through all the things available to us here in the U.S. Say what you will about systemic poverty, but the truth is that for the overwhelming majority of folks that live here, we know nothing about what true poverty is. It’s kind of hard to claim how bad things are when you’re lamenting about how miserable your life is on a social media post that you uploaded from your smart phone.

We have become drunk in our own hubris. We have come to believe that we are smarter than we actually are. Yesterday I was talking to my wife about things I consider generational shortcomings. I remarked that when we were younger there was actual work involved in research; including numerous trips to the library where we studied and took copious notes. This generation literally has access to the entire world, at its fingertips, yet they rarely touch on anything more than the surface of a particular topic.    

We have become stupid in our belief that we are being told the truth.  

At worse, the pundits and politicians lie to us simply because they know they can. Often they skew things so that it is only a half-truth, as is the case here, but it is still wrong.  I truly believe that things will not change in this country until we, as Americans, wake up to the deceit that is being perpetrated against us.

It is interesting to note that, in the early days of trying to put together the Affordable Care Act, Democrats were roundly criticized for exempting Congress and their staffers from the exchanges. Ironically, it was the Republicans who pushed the idea that if the exchanges were good enough for other Americans that they should be good enough for Congress. It was an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R – IA) to the Senate bill that required the federal government offer only health plans that were part of an exchange to members of Congress and their staffs.

Maybe we should demand actual facts and not skewed talking points.

Maybe we should hold politicians and pundits accountable.

Maybe we should, but that won’t happen until we stop being casual readers and start educating ourselves about the issues, rather than relying on cute sound bites.

Maybe we should, but honestly I think we just might be too far gone. I think we have become too invested in all the lies to admit that we have been duped, but that is a topic I will discuss at a later date.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 United States House of Representatives Gun Control Sit-In

The Democrats staged a congressional sit-in over failure to pass new gun legislation.


Seriously? This is what allegedly passes as 'adult' leadership in this country, a sit-in? What the hell are you, children? This is the idiotic thing we see kids do in high school?

Is there any wonder why the overall approval rating for Congress is abysmally low? 

See this for what it is folks, a political publicity stunt, and I am begging you not to fall for it. The fact is that they could not care less about you. It's like Charlie Rangel saying to a reporter how he (and his fellow lawmakers) deserves protection, but apparently you and your family; not so much. Have you ever stopped to wonder why places like the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and Federal Court House’s, are all gun-free zones, yet they surround them with armed protection, but our schools, which hold our most precious assets, are labeled as gun free zones and give no protection? How does that make any sense?

First, let's be clear that the measures put forth didn't pass because they were ill-conceived, knee-jerk reactions. It has gotten to the point in this country that our representatives don’t look to actually fix anything, they just want to slap a Band-Aid on it and ignore the real problems. Seriously, have you heard anyone call for actually fixing the highly problematic terrorist no-fly list?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

No, right from the beginning all you hear about are calls for re-instituting the ‘assault weapons ban’ and how these horrific weapons of war don’t belong in civilian hands, unless they are in the hands of those protecting the politicians.

In terms of the latest gun fix we have this pesky little thing called due process, which for some strange reason doesn’t seem to matter to certain elected officials who are charged with: (repeat after me) ‘Upholding the Constitution.’ I can only assume that they believe the laws only apply to us lowly rabble.

Now I know a lot of folks think our Constitution can be a tad bit difficult to deal with, or even understand, sometimes. Especially when it comes to that damned 2nd Amendment, but consider that the Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be ‘deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.’ The Fourteenth Amendment, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. Yet our vaunted representatives want to be able to toss you onto a list, without any evidence or due process, and let you fight with the government after-the-fact to get off said list. 

Did you know that the Orlando terrorist, Omar Mateen, was on not one, but two terror watch lists? He was subsequently removed from them in 2014, after twice being interviewed by the FBI, in 2013 and 2014, for potential terror ties.  In theory, for an individual to be included on the no-fly list or selectee list, additional evidence of his threat to aviation security and clear identifying information is needed above and beyond the standard of reasonable suspicion. I say in theory, because the list has included such notables as the late Senator Ted Kennedy, Congressmen John Lewis and Don Young, Journalist Stephen Hayes, not to mention a number of Federal Air Marshals. You know the guys who are supposed to keep us safe in the skies! Even poor David Nelson, or Ozzie & Harriet fame, was on the list and don’t even get me started on the young children who found themselves listed. One Canadian businessman went so far as to legally change his name, in order to avoid being delayed every time he flew.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have the Constitution in this country for a very good reason. It arose out of a need to protect us from things that were actually happening to us when we were under British rule. Yet now, we are seeing our very own government begin to act in the same way.

Trust me people, we are heading down a very slippery slope here and we really need to proceed with extreme caution. There is a lot going on that doesn’t make the news, but should give you pause. It is also one of the topics which I am currently writing about in my latest book. I’m sure no one reading this would be okay if the feds just seized the property from your home, without any explanation or court order, and told you that it was up to you to prove your innocence.  Yet the minute it becomes about evil guns, a large swath of society seem okay with that very premise. Perhaps many of the younger generation need an overall refresher course on American History.

Despite what they will say, the problem is not a gun control issue. As someone who spent over two decades in law enforcement I can speak on this subject from actual real-world experience. The truth is that we have tons of gun laws, already on the books, that either not being prosecuted or are simply plea bargained down for a quick conviction. 

This is an 'individual' problem and they refuse to acknowledge or address it. It is the reason why murders in Chicago, a city with some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, has had 313 killed so far this year, yet NO ONE will address this problem because they have no answer for it. Likewise, they have no answer for why other U.S. cities, with a comparable population, have relatively low crime numbers.

At every turn they have coddled, praised, and emboldened criminals and so-called activists, while calling the police brutal, racist and stupid. Guess what, I imagine things will get a lot worse in the country, but don't worry, your petulant elected leaders will all be fine, surrounded by armed officers to protect them while they 'sit-in'..... You? Well, I guess you're pretty much on your own.

Oh, and as for the ‘sit-in’ that the Democrats engaged in, you’ll be happy to note that there bold statement was used as a fundraising solicitation. That’s right; the Orlando terror attack was hijacked to raise funds for the party!

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out an email, signed by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, which read: "This is an historically important moment! John Lewis has been leading a sit-in on the House floor for 11 long hours now. We’re fighting to prevent gun violence. The Republicans refuse to lift a finger. It’s shameful. I need your help to defeat them once and for all." The email asks for 6,000 donations and provided several options to donate amounts between $1 and $250. It was at least the sixth such email from the DCCC, which also included several that were signed by sit-in leader, John Lewis.  

But hey, it really is about those evil guns……. So will that be MasterCard or Visa?

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Cover Reveal - Little Boy Lost (An Alex Taylor Novel)

I know that a lot of you have been asking when my next book would be coming out and I am happy to announce that your wait is nearly over.

This is the sequel to Small Town Secrets, which was the first book in the Alex Taylor series. If you are going chronologically, it is book number five in the overall series.

As most of you already know, while the story-line is a stand-alone, characters and events will cross over into the James Maguire series as well.

This novel, which takes place after the events in Bishop's Gate, involve Alex's investigation into the disappearance of a young boy during the Penobscot Founder's Day celebration.

We just finished the final editing on the book and it will be released on November 25th, just in time for Thanksgiving. There will be a pre-order available for this book, which should be in place sometime tomorrow.