Monday, October 26, 2015

Please Don't Buy This Book...yet

A funny thing happened this year.  Around January 2015, I self-published a small collection of short stories, Alcatraz Burning. Shortly thereafter, I began to receive great and constructive feedback from readers.  After some particularly helpful input from a young member of the Catholic Writers' Guild and a mystery author named Suzi Albracht, I took the tale down from Amazon.  Six months later, I edited and revised the collection.  I uploaded the corrections, and I figured that was it; it was a wrap.

Sadly, things didn't work out quite that way.  People who had downloaded the original work, were not getting the corrected and revised version.  People figured I was just wasting their time, which, of course, was not my intention.  After communicating with Amazon, I realized that this problem was not going to be corrected except by re-issuing the book from scratch.  Yesterday, I took down the original version of the book on Amazon and submitted its revised replacement.

Starting Friday, this new title will be available from Kindle for free.  You can grab a copy of the eBook between Friday and Monday.  Go HERE to check it out...but don't click Buy until Friday!

By the way, I'm back as a university student for the next couple years (English Literature & New Media).  While I complete my degree, you likely won't see much new fiction from me for quite a while.  With two possible exceptions, you also won't see as much marketing and promotion.  (I know that last one's gotta hurt...)  Continue to watch for my articles, and please don't forget to share your reviews of my past fiction!  

Thank you for being a reader.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Short Discussion of School Shootings

Why the recent school shootings? We've turned our backs on God, working tirelessly to remove signs of faith from daily lives, deadened the value of life with the Culture of Death, attacked empathy with invasive technology, and refused to take any degree of responsibility for our family's personal safety... Is it any wonder these shootings are happening more regularly? 

In my opinion, we're witnessing a perfect storm of a variety of societal factors: loss of sacredness of life (Culture of Death), loss of spiritual dimension to lives, loss of empathy attributed to both technology and media (glorification of violence), fatherlessness, and even a faltering capacity for language. You notice people can't debate like they used to. Inability to effectively articulate feelings may heighten elements of aggression. Look at the 1950s and ask yourself whether, or not, it was easier or more difficult to get one's hands on a gun. In general, I think most would agree that it was easier. If liberal logic were accurate or consistent, then we'd expect to see a decrease in gun violence as access has been more and restricted; that's clearly not the case.  Here's what a relative remembers about guns in the 1950s and 1960s.

I remember well the 1950's. We had a lot of bullying in & after school, but none of this violence. And yes, I remember how easy it was for kids to access guns through the 1960's. Dad had shotguns & .22 rifle propped in a corner of the basement, with ammo in the hall closet. I had a .22 rifle & ammo in my room. But honestly it never even occurred to me to ever shoot another person, or even point a gun at anyone. We played cowboys & Indians when I was a kid...running all over the neighborhood with cap pistols, "shooting" each other. We called it "guns," by the way, never cowboys & Indians. "Hey Mom, we're going out to play guns. Be back by 6:00 for dinner." I grew up on TV shows that depicted violence, & John Wayne movies, and I liked going out to a deserted place to shoot grasshoppers with a .22. Taking my bike down to the river in junior high...I carried my .22 rifle over the handlebars of my bike, and you recall how long a ride that was. No one bothered me. My first 2 rifles I bought I got at Montgomery Wards downtown, bought them at age 16 or so, no questions asked. I bought a Ruger .357 Magnum revolver at age 17... Dad had to go down with me, since I was under 21, but it was mine & he never blinked at my having a magnum revolver at that age. Dad gave Don a .22 revolver for Christmas when he was about 17, and Don and I shot it so much out at Terrace Heights we practically wore it out. Dad never gave a thought to giving him that, or us going out unsupervised to shoot it. I recall that until the 1968 Gun Control Act (following the murders of Jack Kennedy & Martin Luther King) I could have bought rifles mail-order from numerous magazines. Hundreds of different rifles, in dozens of outdoor magazines. Send a check, get a rifle in the mail. But no, absolutely no, mass shooting violence. So the availability of guns is absolutely not connected to today's mass shootings. Plus, as the number of guns in America has exponentially grown in the past 30 years, and it most certainly has, the rate of violence has steadily & commensurately decreased to the lowest in recent memory (& not coincidentally, prison populations have soared.) More violent people are in prison. This data is easily accessed in the FBI's website.

The news media also bears a great deal of blame here.  Years ago, I wrote a newspaper editor to suggest they stop printing the names of school shooters.  He replied that, while he understood my concerns, there was too great a public desire and right to know the details.  Well, it's those details that are partly responsible for the proliferation of copycat school shootings.  The Roseburg, Oregon shooter reportedly said as much in his sick online ramblings.  The Douglas County Sheriff certainly understood this when he refused to name the Roseburg shooter.  A friend and retired educator of incarcerated youngsters commented the following.

They seemed to have no ability to foresee their future and had fantasies about either doing something big or doing something bad that would get them into the newspapers. Wanting to find some sense of "self-worth" in violence that would get them noticed was prominent. Those who had committed murder did not seem to understand death. Suicide is often the expected outcome or to be shot by the police. 

Another dimension of my thinking on this topic is the fact that I'm a fellow who can say that I've saved lives both by use of a weapon as well as the use of emergency medical knowledge--CPR. That reminds me that the most important thing in this debate is to avoid becoming either kind of bystander--e.g. one who fails to participate in the debate in a constructive way and one who is shot. (Of course, we have less control over the latter, but I suggest there is a responsibility for our own protection that many ignore.)

Three short-term suggestions for readers' consideration.  First, increase plainclothes police in schools.  They should be patrolling schools on a random, yet thorough, basis.  Second, as Rob Myers suggested, engage more with those on the margins of society, the outsiders.  Teach your children to be kind and to treat others with respect and love.  Third...take your family to church and limit the influence of the internet and technology within your family.

I'll conclude with some final thoughts from the same relative quoted earlier in this post. (In early 2016, or so, watch for a short story pertaining to this serious cultural issue.)

Because this particular ugly phenomenon is with us for now, but aside from it, there are massive numbers (more than ever) of peaceful people who walk among us armed, with a concealed pistol license, who never hurt anyone. Half a million CPL holders in WA State alone. These people see themselves as sheepdogs, keeping an eye on the herd, watching for the occasional wolf, expecting that if forced to they'll act to save innocent life. I can personally attest to the fact that hundreds of women are getting CPL's, not necessarily running out to buy a gun, but getting emotionally ready for the day when they may feel compelled to become a sheepdog. Every state now has, for the first time since the 1930 Gun Control Act, a CPL system, so there are more citizens going about armed than at any time in almost a hundred years, yet violence continues to drop, relentlessly, every year. In every way except mass killings. Is the next thing we face going to be suicide bombings?