Monday, April 21, 2014

The Big Blog Hop

Okay, so there I am, minding my own business, when out of the blue fellow Polis Books author Casey Doran (writer of the Jericho Sands series) drops into my e-mail inbox to ask if I wanted to be part of the International Blog Hop. "The whut?" I answered in my best Gomer Pyle accent.  It's simple, he said: you just answer four questions  about the way you write, add a pic of you, a cover pic of your latest book with a buying link; plus a link to your website and FB page. Your posting date would be Monday April 21st. You then need to invite three more authors, and tell them that if they agree, they will need their post scheduled for Monday April 28

Sure, I said, and so, here I am. 

What am I working on?

I recently turned in my fourth Jack Keller novel, DEVILS AND DUST, to Jason Pinter at Polis Books. I’m still waiting on notes for that, so in a sense, I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I’m working on what I call “my latest venture in career suicide.” See, the conventional wisdom is that your next book should be pretty much like your last one, only different enough so that the reader doesn’t feel ripped off. That’s why so many series go on longer than they should, and, I think, why an awful lot of writers burn out. So I’m constantly writing something different. In addition to the Jack Keller and Tony Wolf/Tim Buckthorn novels, I’ve written a standalone (STORM SURGE), a legal thriller (LAWYERS, GUNS AND MONEY), a military thriller (GALLOWS POLE) a military/space opera/vampire novel (MONSTER) and a medieval fantasy/mystery crossover (THE KING’S JUSTICE). It seems I want to write at least one book in every genre I enjoy. So for my next act, I’m trying a comic heist novel, a la Donald Westlake. It’s about a group of eccentric crooks who decide to steal this: 

No, not the model. The fantastic, outrageously expensive jewel-encrusted bra that Victoria’s Secret uses every year as a promotional gimmick. There are redneck crooks, Jersey mobsters, and, of course beautiful women. Working title: BOOBS: A COMEDY OF APPEARANCES. It’s a lot of fun to write. I was in the middle of it when Jason and I struck up the conversation that led to me picking up Keller again, and now I’m back at it. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Other than the fact that, as noted above, I’m all over the map genre-wise, I think my work tends to deal more than most with the effect of violence, even so-called “good” or “justified” violence, on the people who commit it. Jack Keller kills people, often for excellent reasons, but the violence takes its toll. Mark Bishop, the leader of an elite and highly clandestine anti-terrorist team in GALLOWS POLE, is still dealing with a terrible choice he had to make to save one of his people on an op gone wrong, a choice that violated his own sense of morality to the point where he literally built his own prison and locked himself in it, because no one else will do it. Laura So, the genetically engineered vampire commando of MONSTER, is literally born (or more accurately created) to kill, but even as she quests across the cosmos taking revenge on the people who murdered her unit, she struggles not to become the monster she was designed to be.

Why do you write what you do? 

Because these are the movies that are playing in my head. I tell you, I am not a well person. 

How does my writing process work?

The flippant answer that comes to mind is “only sporadically,” but I know that’s not very helpful. I’ve gone in recent years from being a total seat of the pants writer (or “pantser” as I’ve heard it called) to being a bit more of an outliner, especially once I got the hang of the wonderful program called Scrivener. But I still tend to only plot out a few chapters ahead in advance, with the vaguest of ideas as to where I want to go from there. And then, as usual, my characters look at what I’ve planned out for them, laugh, and go “Yah. As if.” Then they do whatever the hell they want anyway. 

So, anyway, there you are. My four questions. As for my latest, it's BROKEN SHIELD, the sequel to my best-selling BREAKING COVER, featuring sheriff's deputy Tim Buckthorn. Get it exclusively at Amazon (for now) in both e-book and trade paperback. 

As for who I'm tagging to follow up next Yes. Well. I seem to have let that skip my mind. Sorry. So let me get back to you on that, ASAP....anyone want to volunteer, drop me a line at

Review: Louise's War, by Sarah Shaber

Louise's WarLouise's War by Sarah R. Shaber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the height of World War 2, young widow Louise Pearlie comes up to Washington DC from her home in Wilmington, NC and finds a job as a file clerk at the ultra-secret OSS (precursor to the CIA). When her boss is murdered and a file with connections to an old friend of Louise's who's trapped and endangered in Vichy France disappears, she dives in to set things right.

Louise is an engaging character, the kind of tough, no-nonsense Southern girl I can't help but like. Sarah Shaber also perfectly evokes the setting of the nation's capital in time of war: the near-chaos, the paranoia, the unsettling sense that the world is changing in ways no one really understands or has any control over. I definitely recommend this one.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lo, Even As I Have Said It, So It Has Come To Pass

I ended the last column thusly:

Normally, when I pose these sorts of questions to my fellow Americans, I get attempts to change the subject or angry denunciations of President Obama and/or “libs,” “leftists,” “statists” or “Obama-bots,” none of which have any connection to the question asked.

And so far, here are the answers from the usual gang of chattering monkeys that make up the conservative commentariat at the Pilot: 

From "fugitiveguy" who comments every week, while claiming he doesn't read the column: 

I actually read the article in its entirety. This guy sure asks a lot of questions with the angle of defending his king and deity. To the majority of those questions I would just answer I don't know. I am glad I don't have the responsibility although I think I am just about as qualified to run the show as the president. I have seen recipes longer than his resume. But I digest [sic] so therefore I must go now.

I'm not sure if "But I digest" is a malapropism in an attempt at humor, or this person really doesn't know the language. "Fugitiveguy's" posts are usually so dimwitted, I suspect the latter. 

From "Pappy", another constant commenter: 

Mr, sure is a lot of questions !!
Before we can start a conversation, can I assume that you think your king handled each situation to the 12 questions / paragraphs correctly ??
This "king" bullshit is a constant refrain among these pathological liars, who claim, despite all the evidence, that I'm a mindless sycophant who never criticizes the President. (See my columns on getting involved in Syria and Libya in the first place for a refutation). 
From "OceanGypsy": 
Great way for the columnist to try to deflect attention from just a few of the many, crazy bad failures of this administration by using directed questions which deflect attention from the key failures of each, then piling them all on top of each other so that no one in their right mind will bother to try to tackle any of them. But hey, he's a lawyer after all.
Simple answer. If you truly read up on and objectively study each issue brought up you will find the answer to each. And quite possibly become a Libertarian too.
Ah. A Libertarian. The douchey, condescending tone should have clued me in. But, you'll notice, not even an attempt to answer one question, just another version of the lame old "look it up yourself" dodge that inept Internet debaters use when they're asked to back their bullshit up.

I am pleased to announce, I did actually get one attempt to actually address one question:


Let’s take a crack at your first question . “If you think President Obama’s weakness in Syria is what led Putin’s annexation of Crimea, what  do you think we should have done in Syria? 

If he (the president) was not willing  to take action he should have just kept his mouth shut. 

It was Obama’s bluster that led the world & Putin to see that Obama continued to be a  fleckless blow hard. When he stated that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would cross a red line that would have consequences and then nothing happened it proved it. Putin knows that Obama will do do nothing no matter what happens. 

Obama’s mantra is shoot your mouth off, carry a small stick and then try to change the subject

My answer:

Actually, at one point, I was in agreement with you about the "red line." You can look it up.

But then it actually worked and Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons, rather than be bombed. So the "red line" actually worked. And I had to admit I was wrong

Would you rather he still have those weapons? Because if President Obama had "kept his mouth shut", he'd still have them and would still be using them.

Thanks for reading. 

I'll let you know if I get a response. But I predict the same "you'll never criticize your king Obama" bushwa. These idiots are nothing if not predictable. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Question Time

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Today’s column is a grab bag of questions which, for some strange reason, I can never seem to get a straight answer to:
If you think President Obama’s “weakness” in Syria is what led to Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea, what do you think we should have done in Syria? Should we have bombed them for using chemical weapons even after they agreed to give up their chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities? If so, do you also think police officers should be ordered to shoot criminals who’ve thrown down their weapons?
Do you think America should have intervened or should now intervene militarily in Syria? If so, which side should we come in on, the side backed by Hezbollah, or the one fighting alongside al-Qaida?
If you think our current response to the Russian annexation of Crimea is too weak, do you favor military intervention? If so, please locate Ukraine on a map and tell us where American troops should be based for such an intervention and where they’d be supplied from.
If you blame President Obama’s “weakness” for the Russian annexation of Crimea, do you also blame President George W. Bush for the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia? If not, why not?
If you think Obamacare needs to be repealed, are you also willing to repeal the popular parts of it, like the part protecting people with pre-existing conditions and the part allowing parents to insure their children to age 26? If not, how do you propose to keep the insurance system alive if everyone isn’t required to pay into it?
What do you propose to do with the millions of people already insured through the exchanges when the mandate goes away and insurance companies can go back to charging people exorbitant amounts or denying them insurance altogether if they have pre-existing conditions?
If you were one of the people who insisted in 2012 that the polls putting President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney were “skewed” and that Romney was going to win in a landslide, please tell us why we should believe you when you claim that the Obama administration is “cooking the books” on Affordable Care Act enrollment and that Obamacare is doomed to fail?
If you believe that a single-payer, taxpayer supported, medical insurance plan is “socialism” and that it will destroy America, do you plan to refuse a Medicare card when you become eligible or turn yours in if you have one now? If not, why not? If your reason is “I already paid into this,” isn’t that just an acknowledgement that it’s a taxpayer-funded system?
If you claim Obamacare is a “socialist takeover” of the American health care system, please explain how the terms “socialism” and “takeover” apply to a system of privately owned insurers paying privately employed doctors with support from privately paid premiums.
If you don’t think “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, being locked in small boxes and subjected to extended “stress positions” are not torture and therefore not legally actionable, would you say the same if those techniques were used by terrorist groups against American citizens?
Would you consider being strapped to a board, having a cloth put over your face, then having water poured on the cloth until you had the sensation of drowning to be torture if you had to undergo that yourself? If waterboarding isn’t torture, do we need to apologize and pay reparations to the families of the Japanese officers we prosecuted for war crimes for using similar techniques?
If you’re upset about government gathering of private data, were you as upset about it when the government’s ability to do so was greatly expanded by the Patriot Act? If not, why not? Do you support rolling back the Patriot Act? Do you think we should re-examine the principles set out in Smith vs. Maryland, the 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled that getting “metadata” about American citizens’ phone calls (i.e., information about who called who when and for how long) was not a “search,” since that information was not “private” at all? If not, why not, if you claim to be angry about government spying on us?
Normally, when I pose these sorts of questions to my fellow Americans, I get attempts to change the subject or angry denunciations of President Obama and/or “libs,” “leftists,” “statists” or “Obama-bots,” none of which have any connection to the question asked.
Can you do any better?
(Author's note: if you follow the link to the paper's website and check out the comments, you'll see that the answer to that last question is "no").

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Whose Side Are They On?

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: Your neighbor has spilled toxic waste in your yard. You take him to court. Your lawyer stands up and tells the court the neighbor should clean up the mess he made in a “reasonable time.”

“I’ll do better,” His Honor says. “I’ll tell him to clean it up immediately.”
“Hooray!” you think. “I got more than I asked for!”
Then your lawyer announces he’s appealing the judge’s ruling. Immediately is too soon, he says. We want that nice, squishy “reasonable time” language.
You might be upset. You might wonder whose side your own lawyer is on. And you’d be right. But that’s pretty much what happened last week when our state Environmental Management Commission was in court over the problem of coal ash contamination by Duke Energy, aka Duke “Progress” Energy.
State regulators have known for years that coal ash is nasty stuff. It’s a byproduct of coal-fired power plants and contains poisons like arsenic, selenium and cadmium. It’s been piling up in wastewater ponds owned by Duke Energy for years.
But they’ve been sitting on their hands until a coalition of environmental groups sued last year under the Federal Clean Water Act. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources finally got off its butt and filed environmental violations against Duke’s coal ash pits, but only after meeting with Duke Energy’s chief lobbyist.
Then they immediately offered to settle with the $50 billion company for $99,112. Duke could probably pay that out of the change in the couch cushions at its headquarters.
After a stormwater pipe in one of the ponds sprang a leak, dumping as much as 39,000 tons of the ash into the Dan River, the public outcry caused DENR to back out of the sweetheart deal with Duke. So you might have thought that when the matter came to court, the EMC, which “oversees and adopts rules for several divisions” of DENR, might take a sterner line, especially after Gov. Pat McCrory suggested that his administration would get tougher with Duke.
You might have thought that, but you’d be wrong. The EMC argued that it didn’t have authority to order an “immediate” cleanup. When Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway said, “Actually, you do,” you might have thought that EMC might go, “Cool. We can do a better job defending North Carolina’s environment now.”
You might have thought that, but you’d be wrong again. EMC, apparently deciding that a toothless watchdog was a good thing to be, announced that it would be appealing the ruling to the N.C. Court of Appeals. Tell me again: Whose side are these guys supposed to be on?
I’m sure all this has nothing to do whatsoever with the fact that McCrory worked for Duke for more than 28 years. I’m sure the fact that Duke has provided more than $1.1 million in support to McCrory campaigns since 2008 has nothing at all to do with the fact that the people he tasked with protecting our environment are in court arguing for an easier ride for the people who are trashing it.
It’s true that the governor directly appointed eight of the commission’s 15 members (including one of Duke Energy’s former lawyers), and the remaining seven members were appointed by Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis and Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, both McCrory allies.
But I’m sure that has absolutely no influence over the way our so-called environmental regulators are bowing and scraping to McCrory’s former employer and biggest supporter and asking, “Sirs, we don’t want to bother you, sirs. How much time would you like to clean up the horrendous mess you made, sirs? … Until you’re doggone good and ready? That would be fine, sirs. Please excuse us, and feel free to kick us in our behinds on our way out.”
If you truly believe none of that is connected, I have some waterfront property to sell you on the Dan River. Cheap.
Oh, and by the way, shame on you, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, for your complicity in this farce. I actually had some hope for you for a while, but you’ve turned out to be just another remnant of the limp and weak Perdue administration, whose fecklessness and corruption made it possible for these oligarchs to take over and sell us out to the highest bidder while you drew up the sale papers.
Thanks to McCrory and his cronies, thanks to the people who voted for them, and thanks to the lame and wimpy Democrats who made it all possible, it’s Duke Energy’s state now. Their state, their water, their dumping ground.
They own it. We just live in it, unless we get off our own behinds and vote these rascals out.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Parrots Squawk About Obamacare (with commentary from the usual gang of idiots)

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

As I entered the shop, a string of bells attached to the door jingled to announce my presence.
The place was small and cluttered, with narrow aisles between shelves crammed with pet foods, aquarium gear, and cat litter. The air had a slightly rank animal smell.
A little old man with a wrinkled face and a fringe of white hair around the top of his bald head came out from the back, wiping his hands on a rag. “Welcome to GOPets,” he said. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I saw the sign, and I was wondering about it.”
He straightened up, beaming with pride. “We sell only genuine Republican pets to right-thinking individuals.”
“I don’t get it,” I said. “How can pets have political parties?”
“Come on back and see,” he said. He led me to a back room, where a line of parrots sat on perches. “Our latest shipment,” he said. “These parrots are specially trained by hours of watching Fox News to expose the problems of Obamacare.”
“Really,” I said. “And what problems would those be?”
“Check it out,” he said proudly. He pointed at the nearest bird, which spread its wings and squawked, “No one’s going to sign up for Obamacare! Everyone hates it! RAWK! It’ll fail! RAWK!”
“Guess this little guy hasn’t heard the news,” I said. “Despite the problems early in the rollout, looks like they hit the target, and then some — 7.1 million enrollees as of April 1. And that doesn’t count the young people who got coverage on their parents’ insurance till they’re 26 or the people who got coverage through Medicaid expansion.”
“Well, how about this one?” the old man said. He led me to an orange and yellow bird that crowed, “The people who signed up for Obamacare aren’t going to pay their premiums! RAWK! It’ll fail! RAWK!”
“Actually,” I said, “that’s pure speculation, since most of the people who signed up recently haven’t even gotten a bill yet. And the places that have reported in so far — California and Vermont — say 85 to 90 percent of the people who have gotten a bill are paying, which is plenty enough to sustain the program. What else you got?”
A green and yellow-striped bird called from a nearby perch. “People lost their coverage! Obama lied! RAWK!”
“Some people lost their old coverage because their plans were lousy and didn’t meet the minimum standards set by the ACA,” I said. “But Obama didn’t cancel them, the insurance companies did — and then most replaced them with new, compliant policies. And every single one of the ‘Obamascare’ news stories about people losing their coverage turned out to be bogus.
“When news organizations got off their butts and investigated rather than just repeating the scripts of attack ads, they found out that these fake ‘victims’ were ignoring the fact that they could have gotten cheaper, better insurance through the Exchanges, or that they were actually paying lower premiums and ignoring the cap on out-of-pocket costs. Fact is, millions more are now covered than were before.”
Cooking the books! Cooking the books! RAWK!” a nearby blue-feathered bird piped up.
“Let me guess,” I said, “back during the election, this bird was squawking about ‘skewed polls,’ right?”
He looked stunned. “How did you know?”
“They’re nothing if not predictable. And how’d that work out for you?”
As I spoke, I spotted one grizzled old bird whose feathers were ragged and faded. As I approached, he looked at me balefully with an eye filmy with age.
“I’m not a parrot,” he said in a croaking, pitiful voice. “The Democrats are the parrots. They’ll never criticize Obama. Rawk.”
“Wow,” I said, “that’s an old one, all right. Delusional as well. … So is anybody buying any of this?”
“Not as many people as used to,” the old man said sadly. “If it wasn’t for the news media repeating everything the parrots say without challenging it, no one would know about them at all.”
He began to cry. “I’m ruined,” he said. “All the talking points my parrots have learned are useless.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” I said. “There’ll always be some who’ll listen to a lie over and over and believe in it even after it’s debunked.”
A mynah bird in the corner stretched its wings and threw back its head. “BENGHAAAAAZI!” it hollered. “OBAMA LIED, PEOPLE DIED! CAW!”
“See what I mean?” I said.
The old man smiled. “I feel better already.”
I sighed. “I wish I did.”

Perennial anonymous coward fugitiveguy, commenting as he does every week on the Pilot website: 
Dusty would be right at home on a comedy central roast. Anyone who feels that the needless death of 4 brave Americans including the first ambassador killed in 3 decades is fodder for faux humor just to file a column would be in good company. I don't think it was just the string of bells that announced your presence.
This is a pretty frequent tactic of the wingnuts: make fun of their desperate attempts to create an Administration destroying scandal out of the Benghazi tragedy, and they cry all sort of crocodile tears about how you're mocking the dead. So let me make it clear: I'm not mocking the dead, dim-bulb, I'm mocking people like you. Hope this helps. 
Then there's my old pal Frank Staples aka "skylinefirepest", who posted this gem: 
Dusty, you're turning into a brazen liar trying to defend your idol's defenseless crapola. Your parents would not approve!
Frank's comments  constantly invoke my parents, because like most wingnuts, he's an asshole with no sense of boundaries. 
Actually, Frank, my mom tells me quite often how she likes my columns. She's told me she thinks you're a jerk, though. 
My favorite, though, is this one, from anonymous cowards "JK": 
Does anyone read Mr. Roades' [sic] columns.... certainly not me!
Gotta  love the idiots who spend time commenting on something they say they never read.