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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fiction Entwines with Reality

In a recent post on my political blog, RedStateBlueCollar, I made the point that we have become a Fifty Shades of Gray nation, at least half of us, the Republican half, has. We have reached a point in America where the top 1 percent own more of our assets than ever before in modern history. They control more of our GDP. The ratio between the salaries of executives and the wages of workers is vastly farther apart. They pay fewer taxes than teachers or secretaries. They buy our elections for their own self-interest. Their banks are "too big to fail". In their eyes, our world belongs to the them and we're just living in it.

They don't even bother to hide their intention to be our Dominants. They tell us right up front. "We are going to lower our own taxes even more." "We are going to de-regulate our own businesses even more". "We are going to take away your pre-existing condition coverage." "Our goal is to voucherize your Medicare and privatize your Social Security." "And oh, we'd love to do away with public schools and FEMA and Big Bird and food stamps and unemployment insurance and the minimum wage while we're at it." (If you want to go back even farther in fictional time than 50 Shades of Grey you might call this the Atlas Shrugged mentality.)

And what do the Submissive Republicans say to all this? Why, they beg for more. They hold out their wrists for the handcuffs. They bare their bottoms in delicious anticipation of the spanking.

I myself read the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy of books and enjoyed them immensely. I thought Christian Grey was hot. What I didn't do was confuse fictional titillation with real life. I didn't actually want to be tied up in the Room of Pain with Mitt wielding the riding crop.

I think it's past time for America to find a new favorite read.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rafe Gets Two New Five-Star Reviews!

Rafe gets two-new five-star reviews on SmashwordsOf course, he got two one-star reviews too. Those are on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/vwilliams. I didn't know how to copy them so you'll have to go there to read them, along with the positive reviews there. One of the reviewers called Rafe appalling an even felt strongly enough to report him to Amazon.

I'll be the first to admit that Rafe Vincennes isn't everyone's cup of tea but as you can see below, some readers find him compelling. In fact, one of them called him "the most compelling anti-hero ever". What I will say is that I believe there is no one else quite like him. He is uniquely himself and love him or hate him, he doesn't really care one way or the other.

Sociopath? is the first in the Rafe Vincennes series. It is free from either Smashwords or Amazon. See what you think. Do you love him or hate him or maybe, some of each? If you enjoy reading about him, you can go on to the next five books in the series.

Here are what his positive reviewers have said -

Review by Angie130 - 5 Stars
I have to say parts of this book are very disturbing and not for the weak at heart. However, having said that I could not put this book down. This book is written so well you feel like you really can get inside Rafe's head and understand his way of thinking. As much as you want to hate him for the way he is you can't quite get there. After having read this book I had to get the others of this series so I could see what Rafe was going to do next. I hope she keeps writing about him!

Review by Tanya S - 5 Stars
Your story was one of the best written, most compelling tales that I have read in decades. Despite a difficult premise (or maybe because of it), the entire story held together from start to finish. THANK YOU. Please keep trying your hand at writing fiction. I will try to take at look at your other works as well. Please accept these very since sincere 5 stars from a long-time prolific reader. Thanks to Smashwords for giving me the opportunity to "stumble" across Ms. Williams story.

MC Doll  (5 Stars)
I had a hard time with some of the content but I couldn't put it down. As much as I might want to hate him or even be a tad envious, I found myself falling love with his deep dark eyes, white smile and the unwavering, maybe unsettling, way he drew me in.

JT Kalnay - 5 Stars
No one will be ambivalent about this book. Don't stop reading. Keep reading to get inside the head of one of the cruelest, most sociopathic characters you will ever encounter....I couldn't put this book down even though morals or society or someone in the back of my head was telling me the subject matter was verboten. I am anxiously awaiting the second book in this series.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Book That Changed My Life

Cover art for SUNDAY MONEY

I have never been a sports fan. I used to go to the horse races with my father when I was a kid growing up in California until we moved back to Indiana. At that time, Indiana had no thoroughbred racing tracks; state newspapers didn't print horse racing results; Hoosier bookstores didn't sell Turf Magazine or any other publication related to racing. So, my interest waned and for forty years after that, I had no passion for any sport. My husband tried to get me interested in Indiana University basketball but it left me cold. My kids attempted to lure me into supporting the Colts but the NFL didn't turn me on. And so it went.

Then I decided to write a novel and to make my main character a race car driver. I chose that profession simply because it seemed that race car drivers embodied courage and daring and sex appeal and those were all the qualities I wanted my hero to have. I had attended a few drag races with my friends many decades before and of course, being a Hoosier, I'd was familiar with the Indianapolis 500 but stock car racing? No way.

I realized I'd have to do some research, at least enough to be able to write somewhat knowledgeably about NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing). I went to the library and got a book - Sunday Money, by Jeff MacGregor. At this time of my life, I was the unlikeliest candidate for becoming a NASCAR fan-atic you would ever find - older single female, political junkie of the liberal persuasion. I'm a religious agnostic and my patriotism isn't of the "my country right or wrong" variety. I'm not an aficionado of either beer or barbeque (though I do love guns and country music).

I dreaded the thought of actually having to read Sunday Money so I picked it up reluctantly, in the way you'd open a textbook to study for a homework assignment.

I turned to page one....and fell in love. Sunday Money chronicles a season in the life of NASCAR as McGregor and his (long-suffering) new wife criss-cross the country in a motor home, going from track to track. (NASCAR has the longest season in professional sports, starting in February at Daytona and ending in November at Homestead-Miami). This was no puff piece by a long-time NASCAR enthusiast, written for people who are already fans. MacGregor covers the good, the bad, the ugly and the profane of the sport and does it with colorful language and biting wit, mixed in with an affectionate appreciation for the drivers, the cars and the verging-on-maniacal fans. In short, MacGregor captures and shares the fascinating spectacle that is NASCAR.

It turns out that stock car drivers really are courageous and daring...but they are also human and accessible in a way you don't expect from stick and ball superstars. It turns out the tracks are all different, requiring different driving styles and strategies to master. (Super-speedways are nothing like road courses are nothing like short tracks are nothing like mile-and-a-halfs.) It turns out that NASCAR, unlike other sports, does not rely on franchising, rather teams must convince private enterprise to support them. That's why drivers' firesuits are covered with sponsor logos and a field of cars is a mosaic of colors and advertisements - from Miller Lite to Wheaties to Lowe's to Mountain Dew. It turns out that the sound of 43 Sprint Cup cars starting their engines is the sexiest sound in the world.

NASCAR is a celebration and a lifestyle as much as it is a sporting event. Forget traditional tailgating - NASCAR fans camp out in the infield in their motorhomes for a week, barbequeing and drinking and partying, the flag of their team flying high above their site. Most of them own a small fortune in driver gear - clothing and diecast cars and license plates and key chains and coolers. Some of them sport green mohawks and others feature tattoos of Dale Earnhardt's face or Jeff Gordon's car number (24).

I tiptoed into NASCAR fandom. I visited NASCAR.com, poking around without understanding much of what I was reading. I joined a NASCAR discussion group though many of the e-mails that came to my inbox were bewildering. What did they mean by fuel strategy and restrictor plates, why are pit stops so important and what is the Chase?

Meanwhile, my liberal friends were confounded by my new incarnation to NASCAR fan. One of them commented on my screensaver - "There's a NASCAR screensaver on your computer," she informed me, as if I didn't know.

"Yes," I agreed.

"How did that happen?"

"The usual way. I downloaded it."

"On purpose?"

"Yes," I laughed. "On purpose."

"I figured you'd have Barack."

"Nope. NASCAR."

While that was happening, my new friends told me I must choose a driver to cheer for in order to get the full NASCAR experience so I picked Jimmie Johnson, who was a rookie when Jeff McGregor wrote Sunday Money. Jimmie won the first race I ever watched - the 2008 Indianapolis Brickyard 400. That was the year of the exploding tires. Old fans bitched their heads off but I was enthralled, not knowing any better.

By now, I've been to several races in person. I got to see Jimmie win his fifth championship at Homestead-Miami. The cars are even louder and more heart-thrilling up close and personal as they roar around the track - 200 miles an hour and inches apart. Who knew how heady the smell of exhaust and burning rubber could be? I now hold my breath during Jimmie's pit stops (hopefully, less than 13 seconds). I set my alarm clock for 6:48 a.m. in honor of his Lowe's 48 Chevrolet. (No, I do NOT have a tattoo!)

My weekends now revolve around racing. The Sirius radio in my car is tuned permanently to the NASCAR channel rather than NPR. I watch SPEED t.v. rather than C-Span. I obsess over NASCAR stats rather than political polls results.

All this because a man wrote a book. A writer, who was not an experienced expert himself, was able to write 367 pages in such a way as to convince someone totally disinterested in his subject matter to do a 180-degree turn on the strength of his skill. I appreciate Jeff MacGregor for all the hours of joy I would not have experienced without him. As a writer, I appreciate him even more for making me personally aware that we truly can change lives with our words.