Are the Political Parties Cults?

I’m probably nowhere close to being the first person to realize this. The problem is, us independents are very definitely a minority, so things we notice like this don’t get bandied about on Facebook and other social media. We’re drowned out by the faithful, yammering as they do about their candidates.

And the majority of them actually do act like they’re in a cult.

donald-trump-is-still-soaring-in-iowa--but-there-are-now-some-clear-warning-signsConsider: you have the Trumpites (Trumpets?), who seem to be the majority on the Republican side of things at the moment. Of course, in political terms, it’s a long, long time till November, so anything can happen by the time the election comes around, but right now he seems to be the one riding the wave. I think it interesting—and a bit disturbing—that the Republican leadership differs with their members on this one, as they don’t like the man. Do they know more than the average Republican voter? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: it’s a disturbing trend—and reflective of a larger issue I see in our government in general—that they are determined not to listen to their constituents on this matter.

Then there are the Cruzerians, following a man many are questioning as they did Obama ted_cruz13before him: as a Canadian born to an American mother, does he have the right to even be president? This has plagued Obama for his entire eight-year stint, and will likely follow him to his grave. I imagine the same will happen to Ted Cruz, should he win. Or, for that matter, should he lose the nomination or bid for the presidency. Talking heads will no doubt point to this as a major factor in his defeat—along with the fact he has the gall to actually be religious.

RubioThe Rubiomites seem to have a hard row to hoe, as Rubio has flip-flopped on some issues—especially illegal immigration—about as much as John Kerry flip-flopped on our Middle Eastern ventures. He seems to have earned his sobriquet of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only), at least if you ask a Trumpite or a Cruzerian.

On the opposite side, you have the Hillaryans, who apparently believe we need to follow upHillary-Clinton-Crazy-Face the first black president with the first woman president, which is fuzzy logic at best. But then, politics and logic rarely coincide. In fact, I was once derided on Facebook for uttering the blasphemous phrase Logic dictates. Apparently the commenter thought making decisions based on knee-jerk reactions (PATRIOT Act, anyone?) and emotions was a much better method than examining facts to make an informed choice. But I digress. Much like the Cruzerians, the Hillaryans have to face the fact their candidate is (yet again) under investigation for something. But hey, since when has a scandal meant anything in American politics?

socialist-bernie-sandersAnd last but not least, there is the Church of Bernie, where any day now, he will usher in a utopia where there’s all kinds of free stuff and the lions will lie down with the lambs and all that. I wouldn’t say they’re any worse than the others—after all, I don’t support any of the current crop—but they do seem the least pragmatic, since it’s pretty easy to see nothing is free. But I’m not here to argue policy, and saying he’s the least pragmatic is like saying his shit stinks less: it really doesn’t matter, cuz it’s all crap.

I realize there are likely sensible people who have decided on one of the above candidates for what to them are sensible reasons. The problem is, they’re not the ones you see commenting and foaming at the mouth on social media. They stay more or less quiet—with a few exceptions—and make their voices heard at the polls. I don’t know if they’re in the minority or not, though I suspect they’re not. After all, there aren’t as many rabid dogs as there are good ones, so I imagine those who spout off about anything and everything and resort to name-calling to make their points are an embarrassment to the rest.

And the thing is, the mouth-foamers are the ones you can’t reason with. I have a man I now consider to be a good friend, Gordon Bonnet, with whom I agree on very little politically. But you know what? We can have intelligent discussions about it without insulting one another, and he’s made me rethink some things, as I hope I have him. I don’t want to bring him over to my way of thinking, and I don’t believe he does me, but we can talk about these things and do it with respect for one another. That’s a rare thing these days, at least on the discussion threads I see online.

As an independent, I tend to like to go onto these threads and be a troll, and it’s amazing to me how alike both sides actually are. Not in what theyposts believe, but in the fervency of that belief. They absolutely refuse to entertain any viewpoint but their own—much like, say, Christians and Muslims, to use just two examples—and if you dare suggest anything different, they yell at you and call you names. And when you point out the fallacy of their argument by stating facts and figures—or simply point out that what they’re spouting is an opinion and they haven’t backed it up with fact—they go silent. I don’t know if they’re pouting or what.

And one last thing to consider: both parties are having something of an identity crisis (I suppose that’s the correct term) at the moment. On the Republican side, you have the schism between the party leadership and the voters, where many of the latter support Trump, mostly as a major sea change in the way the party does things (that in itself isn’t a bad thing), while the leaders themselves threaten to boycott him at their national convention.

On the Democrat side of things, the contentions between followers of Hillary and Bernie also seem to threaten to tear the party apart, with supporters on both sides saying if the other candidate wins the nomination, they’ll vote Republican. Or stay home.

genetic ignoranceThe bottom line is, the hate and vitriol I see both sides spewing is very much reminiscent of religion. I saw a meme on Facebook positing that anyone who is against Obama is not only a racist, but also a victim of genetically inherited ignorance. This was put out by Occupy Democrats. I have no idea how radical they may be, but if this is one of their beliefs, I’d say fairly radical. My first thought on reading this was to wonder if they were going to start espousing their own form of eugenics at some point in the future. You know, instead of eliminating “inferior” races, just eliminate those with genetically inherited ignorance, or at least decide they can’t vote.

Cult, indeed.



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Want to Be a Successful Writer? Ten Ways to GO PRO!

But saying we want to go PRO is easier than knowing what one actually looks like. To be blunt, there are far more people “playing writer” than “going pro.” Even those of us …

Source: Want to Be a Successful Writer? Ten Ways to GO PRO!

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Editing a Master

16947Since we announced it a month or more back, it’s no secret that the publisher I work for, Oghma Creative Media, has secured a contract to republish several of Harold Robbins’s books, starting with his debut novel, Never Love a Stranger, under our Iridium imprint.

If you’re not familiar with Harold Robbins, look him up. He’s the fifth bestselling author of all time, and nine of his novels were made into movies, including Never Love a Stranger, which starred a young Steve McQueen.

I just finished “editing” Never Love a Stranger yesterday. I put the word editing in quote marks because, let’s face it, Mr. Robbins’s novels were already edited professionally years ago. The books we’ve contracted to publish are only available (new) as ebooks at present, and we’re releasing them in new editions, with new covers and layouts.

Mr. Robbins writes long, long books. Stranger clocks in at just a few thousand words shy of 160,000. It’s the story of Francis Kane, an orphan, who grew up to eventually become a big-time criminal figure. It takes place mostly in the 1930s (the novel was originally published in 1948), so there were things I had to ignore that we generally would change. Our philosophy at Oghma is that colons and semicolons—for example—don’t belong in modern fiction, yet Mr. Robbins uses both quite often.

We actually had a bit of a debate about this, but in the end elected to leave it as is. Why? Because, in essence, it would be akin to modernizing hrMark Twain or Charles Dickens—you just don’t do it. The aim of Iridium is to make works that are largely out of print available to the public again. At present, we only have a contract for selected works of Harold Robbins, but we hope to expand those offerings in the future.

If you read this book—or, I’m assuming, any of his other works dealing with criminal figures—I think you’ll be surprised. At least I was. Probably the biggest surprise—actually, a confirmation of what I’d seen elsewhere—was that terms I’d thought peculiar to the gangsta culture were actually stolen from the old gangsters of the thirties—terms like calling gangsters gees and guns gats. And while the book isn’t exactly rife with profanity, there are some off-color words that surprised me, considering the era in which it was published.

All in all, it was a pleasure to edit it, despite the time it took (remember, it’s a looong book lol). I’d known about 23240_1Harold Robbins for years, but never read one of his books, which I classify as money/sex/power books, though that might be selling them short. Never Love a Stranger is an epic story, one that tells the entire life story of its protagonist, both from his eyes and—briefly, at least—from the eyes of his friends. Mostly, all I did was look for typos—I think it had been transcribed for the ebook versions Jann Robbins, his widow, published—and a few misused words. Other than that, I was just reading it, hoping I found all the little mistakes that always and inevitably creep into things like this, especially when they’re as long as this one was.

At this point, Never Love a Stranger is due to be published in May, coming from Iridium Press. It’ll be available in print and ebook versions, and you’ll be able to get it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, among other places.

I think you’ll be glad you read it.



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Shame on You AOL/Huffington! NO More Literary Booty Calls

If Money and Power are two of the metrics and Ms. Huffington calls them LEGS then what exactly is this THIRD METRIC she wants me to embrace and why do I suddenly feel dirty all over again?

Source: Shame on You AOL/Huffington! NO More Literary Booty Calls

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New Books

Well, I finally have a new book out. Two, in fact: Startup, the first in my Rural Empires setting, and A Temporary Thing, which I wrote as a prequel to Startup (it’s complicated).

How do I feel? About the same as before. I don’t expect overnight greatness from this. I didn’t get it with my first novel, Spree, and I highly doubt it’ll happen with these two books. Just being pragmatic here. The so-called overnight success stories are exceptions to the rule, and are generally no as sudden as they might seem at first glance.

Take Stephen King. His first novel, Carrie, took off like a shot and catapulted him to fame and fortune. It was a novel he threw away and only gave a second chance because his wife urged him to. And he’s stated he still doesn’t really like the book.

Understandable. But he’s also cognizant of what it did for him, so he doesn’t exactly disown it, either.

Either way, Carrie was not his first published work. It was just his breakthrough work. He’d published short stories—a favorite medium of his and one I can’t do well at all—in magazines, most of them men’s magazines such as Cavalier. By the time Carrie came out, he’d been slaving away getting low pay for his work. And all this had honed his craft so that the success Carrie had was well-deserved.

And I’m sure if you read the back story of pretty much any successful author who’s worth reading, you’ll find the same narrative. We may be born with the talent to write—an arguable position—but we still have to work at it to make it better, and we have to keep working at it our whole lives.
And then we have to get noticed.

That’s never been easy. Back when Mr. King was first published, there were gatekeepers—i.e. editors and publishers—who decided whether or not you got noticed. And, quite often, despite the fact they might decide to publish your work, that didn’t necessarily mean they’d do their best to make sure it sold well. One of the many reasons the New York model is falling flat on its face.

Even still, there were lots of books published, and I find them in used bookstores all the time: books by authors I’ve never heard of, and when I crack them open, I see why. These days of self-publishing don’t have a corner on the market of bad writers, necessarily, it’s just that it’s easier for them to see the light of day.

But even when you’re good—and I’ve been told by several people that I am, so I suppose it’s true, at least to an extent—getting noticed is hard. It’s a big sea, and there are a lot of fish in it. Being the one who rises to the top isn’t an easy thing.

So. I have two new books out. They’re available on Amazon. And from me, if you happen to see me. It’s not like I sold out at my release party this past Sunday. That’s the reality of publishing these days, and I’m not looking to quit my day job anytime soon.

But it still feels good to finally have more books out, because that means I’m a bit closer to being able to quit my day job.

And that’s the goal: to tell that day job goodbye.



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The New Western

the-revenant-compA little over a week ago, I went to see The Revenant, the fictionalized version of the Hugh Glass story, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, and I have to say it was a great movie. Unlike most movies today, they eschewed the use of CGI, even when filming the bear attack that is the pivotal event of the story. And they filmed only in natural light, so the scenery is spectacular, and you can practically feel the cold seeping into your bones. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and correct that discrepancy.

The Revenant is among a crop of recent westerns, including the direct-to-DVD Bone Tomahawk, The Hateful Eight, and Jane Got a Gun, none of which I have seen. But I did read an article about how the newer westerns, while a welcome sight, were much more violent than westerns of yore.

Of course, one of them is a Quentin Tarantino movie, so you can expect it’ll be violent. A Tarantino movie without violence would be like Star Wars without spaceships: it just ain’t happenin. Obviously, not having seen any of these other movies, all I have to go on is what the article said, but I have to wonder about the author’s motivations (and I can’t seem to find the article now, or I’d link to it).

The west was a violent place, though that violence was probably not as prevalent as the movies would have us believe. After all, take people who really don’t fit in in the first place, put them in an area where the law doesn’t exist and there’s no one to curb their antisocial tendencies, and you’re gonna have violence. It’s just human nature.

However, I would guess that, based on what I’ve read, the violence was about like becoming a tornado victim in Tornado Alley: it’s very much a possibility, but if you look atThe-Hateful-Eight-banner-620x467 the statistics, actually not as likely as urban legend would have us believe. The period we call the Wild West didn’t last very long, in fact. The vast majority who traveled west were settlers, men with families in tow who were seeking a better life, something they simply couldn’t find in the stratified east. They were chasing a dream of having their own land. They formed towns and quickly hired law enforcement officers of various types. The Texas Rangers patrolled that huge area under the motto One riot, one Ranger. The US Marshals were also present throughout this period. And that doesn’t even include the town sheriffs and marshals populating the landscape.

That’s why there were places like Robber’s Roost and Hole-in-the-Wall. The bad guys needed places to hide out because, in all honesty, the vast majority of people in the west were against them. And they were armed.

What we read when we pick up a Dusty Richards or a Louis L’Amour novel is a romanticized version of the west, where the good guys were gooder and the bad guys were badder, and the honest citizens were often caught in between. Call it a nineteenth century version of The Avengers. Yes, there were the larger than life figures, some of which switched sides, like Bat Masterson.

When it comes to movies, the classics have actors like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Randolph Scott, and so on. More recent stars would include Sam Elliot, Tom Selleck, and Jeff Bridges. When we pick up a movie with one of these actors in it, we expect more or less classic western action, where the good guys win and the bad guys get their comeuppance.

High_Plains_Drifter_posterThe 1960s saw a different type of movie come along, though, the fabled spaghetti western. Made with low budgets, they generally featured up and coming actors such as Clint Eastwood (who has also starred in more classic western movies), strident music, and lots of close-ups of actors making various noises in reaction to horrible deeds and a more violent, less idealized version of the west.

And now we have the more modern, more violent western, where the characters aren’t so clean cut, and they get dirty, and tired, and the action is more in touch with reality—albeit still a somewhat romanticized reality—than the classic westerns. There’s more grit and fewer Guys in White Hats who always get the girl.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. I can’t see how it would hurt to have a modern western made in the classic way. At the same time, I enjoy the grit and dirt I see, because, as much as we idealize those who settled the west, it wasn’t a clean or easy job. It was backbreaking labor, whether you were a cowboy or a sodbuster. Taming a frontier isn’t for the faint of heart or the spoiled. You gotta get your hands dirty to get anywhere.

And I’m sure the violent western is a reflection of our times, as so many movies are. It’s escapism, plain and simple. So while the author of the article I mentioned above seemed to deplore the violence in the new westerns, I’d say it’s here to stay, in all likelihood, and the best we can do is enjoy the stories. Or not. After all, no one is forcing you to go to these movies, or read the books.

Having grown up reading westerns, I think I’ll give them a chance. After all, the only constant we have in life is change, so this too shall pass.


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Long Ago Spring

7022544797_ba8bdde317We’ve had a few nice days here in Northwest Arkansas. Temperatures in the sixties, warm sunshine, pleasant southerly breeze, birds singing, water sparkling so bright it blinds you. Spring in the middle of winter.

In some ways, I hate it, because I know winter isn’t over and this is like Nature teasing us before slamming the lid down again. On the other hand, it’s a bit like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Any break from winter is a welcome one.

Driving home from grocery shopping with the windows down, having a hard time paying attention to the road because it was so pleasant, I got to thinking. For some reason, the pleasant weather put me in mind of spring when I was young. The winters were harsher then, and lasted longer. More snow, more cold, and spring was definitely a welcome occurrence.

I grew up out in the country, and it didn’t matter what the weather was, my friends and I tromped all over. We had some favorite places we like to go, but pretty much everything was fair game. I lived not far from Glade Creek in Madison County, and I couldn’t tell you how many trips we made up and down that creek bed, in all kinds of weather. Hot, cold, snowy, icy, it didn’t matter. If we got it in our head to do it, we did it. I’ve walked miles of it on ice, stumbled along the banks in summer trying to keep my feet dry, made our way to some select pools to go swimming… the adventures were endless.

In the spring, though, there was something special about exploring the countryside after a long, cold winter. The creek beds had great piles of debris washed up from winter rains, and there was no telling what you’d find. The days were warm and pleasant, birds sang everywhere, and even the sparkles off the water seemed brighter, as if the water was laughing at being cut loose for another warm season.

All our familiar haunts looked strangely new, and the urge to explore them all again and again grew as the grass became greener and the trees leafed out. Birds were131 - Castle media (2) everywhere, building nests, singing in the trees. I grew up on a farm, so we’d see calves playing in the fields, get to watch hawks soaring overhead. Going to school was torture. Why be cooped up in a classroom when there was so much to do outside?

This was before gaming consoles turned into babysitters. My friends had an Atari (I don’t know which one, wasn’t aware there was more than one model), and I can remember us playing Pong on it at times. There were other games as well, but I can’t recall them. But our time on the console was rationed. And we’d grow tired of it eventually anyway. It wasn’t quite the same as playing games in the arcade, for one, and for another… well, there were things to do outside. We’d already spent too many days cooped up due to nasty weather. Sure, we went out in it a lot, but you can only take so much of that bone-shaking cold and wet feet before you figure it’s time to go back in and do something where it’s warm.

Remembering all this made me want to get out and tromp around again, maybe recapture some of the feeling I had when I was a kid. Unfortunately, that was almost forty years ago. I’m older, more jaded and, unfortunately, fatter and lazier. Of course, maybe if I tromped around out there, I’d not feel so fat and lazy, and maybe even not so old anymore. It’s something to think about.

But I’ve got the memories, memories from a time before cell phones and internet, GPS and Facebook. I don’t know that we actually had it better than the kids do today, but it sure feels like we did.

I’m glad I got to grow up like that.


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