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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How To Build a Killer - Five-Star Review!

5.0 out of 5 stars Society's Role In Creating Murderers From Throwaway Children, February 12, 2013
jt kalnay (cleveland, ohio) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How To Build A Killer (Kindle Edition)
The life of Tommy Pitt, aka Ethan Pierce, started in a dumpster where he'd been discarded by his 15 year old mother, who had been impregnated through incest. The next 21 years were spent in and out of foster care, in and out of detention, & in and out of all the corners of hell that a throwaway can experience. Like his eyes, which can shift from gold to green, Tommy, "like all helpless things, abused children, and battered wives and mistreated pets, learned early on to read and react quickly to the slightest nuances in the moods and expressions of his captors." After being convicted of murdering his father, Tommy spends months seducing his prison therapist and encouraging the reporter and attorney who have decided he needs to be helped.

How to Build A Killer is an extremely disturbing story that includes graphic descriptions of the horrible things that happen to the most vulnerable amongst us. This book is not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who doesn't want to have a light shone on a sordid corner of society. You'll want to believe that this is all fiction, but in the end you'll realize that the crystal clear mirror that Vicki Williams holds up to society reveals truths that few of us want to admit. Tommy describes how "humans want to believe there is a guiding force that controls everything and cares about them, but so far I haven't seen any proof that if there is a supreme being, he or she or it gives a damn." Tommy goes on to describe how "God tosses life out with a wildly profligate hand and if much of that life ends up as collateral damage, he appears perfectly comfortable with that."

At its heart, this book addresses the classic question of Nature vs. nurture. Would Tommy/Ethan have turned out differently if he'd been loved instead of tossed in a dumpster? A psychiatrist in the story wonders "how much of who Tom became was innate and how much was causation? Did society share a large part of the blame for literally creating a killer by failing so spectacularly to protect a child?" One possible conclusion is that "an uncaring and negligently society deliberately molded him and shaped him into what he was and then punished him for being their own creation."

I recommend this book, but warn the reader that it contains graphic sex, graphic violence, and disturbing imagery of child abuse.

Purchase your own copy at amazon or smashwords

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My New Kindle Fire HD

My new Kindle Fire HD was delivered a few day's ago. Did I need a new Kindle? No, I did not. All I do on my Kindle is read books and my old, original Kindle still worked perfectly fine. Am I skilled at justifying the purchase of something I want but don't need? Yes, I am. In this case, I easily convinced myself of the convenience of taking a new Kindle Fire HD on vacation to Florida in March to visit my kids. In addition to reading my books, I could check my e-mail and pop in on Facebook. All this on one small device easily carried in my purse! I could leave the heavy old laptop at home.

I am technologically-challenged and could often be used as a real-life example of the Peter Principle, which is, I upgrade to the level of my incompetence. My Smartphone was smarter than I was. I never learned to take advantage of its many features. Once I retired, I paid off my contract and pitched it into the desk drawer, never to be charged again.

I forget to hit the "ok" button when my t.v. asks if I want to watch in HD. This irritates my son no end. "Why did you spend the extra money on an HD-capable television if you're not going to use it?" I'm embarrassed to admit I can't really tell much difference. I don't have any channels listed in my favorites and I've never recorded a series. I haven't watched a tenth of the channels I have access to. Finding something I might be interested in just doesn't seem worth the effort it takes. Give me NASCAR and the news and I'm good.

John talked me out of asking for an I-pod for my birthday. "Mom," he said, "just admit that technology has passed you by and stick with cds."

So, you can see why I was somewhat intimidated by the box on my dining room table that contained my new Kindle Fire HD. I put off opening it for several days, afraid that it would prove to be one more high-tech device that instilled a sense of hopeless inferiority.

 One reason I was willing to take a chance is because I've learned to have faith in And sure enough, when I finally steeled my backbone and pulled my new device out of it's package, it greeted me by name and led me step-by-simple-step through the start-up process.

All my books were already installed and waiting for me. Setting up my e-mail took five minutes, following the Kindle's simple directions. It then instantly connected me to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

If anyone young and tech-savvy is reading this, they are probably shaking their heads in disgust but I was pathetically grateful to for making the Kindle equally as accessible to Dummies as experts. I spent hours trying to program my phone. I learned to resent it then and that feeling never changed. We were always opponents rather than partners.

This is's modus operandi. They make everything as convenient as possible for all their customers, whether it is buying books or publishing books, reading reviews to help make purchasing decisions, receiving recommendations, helping with start up. They are the most user-friendly of companies.   

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Where Do Characters Come From?

One of my good friends, J.T. Kalnay (also one of my favorite authors - check him out on Amazon!) and I were discussing how characters take over writers' heads. I know this must sound like a crazy concept to non-writers, but our characters aren't simply robotic products of our imaginations. They are their very own people, with minds of their own, who will resist their creator's attempts to force them to act in ways that are counter to their own views of themselves.

In my e-book, Magic Creek, one of the characters is married to an extremely abusive husband. I wanted the book to have a happy ending. One of the themes was meant to be how Tory found the courage to escape from her violent life. But...she didn't want to escape and no matter how I tried to make her, she simply dug in her heels and refused to go.

I tried to market my manuscript in the traditional way and found a publisher who told me how excited he would be to take it on....once the ending was changed, of course. It simply wasn't possible to approve of a victim of domestic battery who makes the choice to stay with her abuser.

Any first-time novelist is aware of how exceedingly difficult it is to find a publisher. They know how it hurts to receive rejection letter after rejection letter. They understand how difficult it is to get your spirits back up to try again...and again...and again. And here, I had my chance. Oh, I wanted to sell my book in the worst way! Honestly, I would have compromised any principle I had to see my name on the cover of a hardback novel!

I would....but Tory wouldn't. I made numerous attempts to re-write the ending to Magic Creek to satisfy the publisher. I argued and pleaded with my character. She was unyielding and I finally capitulated. "Sorry," I told my would-be publisher, regretfully,  "I can't do it your way."

I e-published the book so it could end the way Tory insisted that it end.

Even writers themselves wonder over the strange dynamic of characters who become real individuals, seemingly completely separate from you.  It reminds me of the old Buffalo Springfield lyric, "something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear." All I know is, it is what it is, even if the how and why ain't exactly clear.