Monday, December 25, 2017
I hardly ever read a stand-alone book anymore. Maybe it is old age but I prefer series in which the characters are already tried and true and beloved. I pre-order my favorite authors as soon as you can do so.
The first series I ever remember being in love with was The Little Colonel books by Annie Fellows Johnston. I think there were sixteen of them and I'm sure I had them all. I know they'd sound dated and unrealistic now but back then, I thought the Little Colonel was the height of class. I remember practicing talking with a southern accent because it sounded to elegant.
I moved on to animals after that with The Sunnybank Collies (Albert Payson Terhune) and The Black Stallion (Walter Farley).
Next was Mazo de la Roche's Jalna series and then the 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain. Although I read the first of them long ago, my very favorite series is still probably the Burke series by Andrew Vachss.
Some authors have a force that can draw me in no matter what the subject matter is. For instance, I read everything by Iain Banks or Iain M Banks - the middle initial denotes a science fiction book. He's now deceased but he wrote a mainstream novel every other year and a scifi in the between years. I have never been a science fiction fan but Iain M Banks made me love his SF just by the force of his style and wit. The books don't include the same characters but they all involve the same planetary location - the Culture.
On the other hand, although I adore Harlen Coben's books that feature Myron Bolitar and his fascinating sidekick, Win Lockwood III, I never read the novels that aren't about these characters. I just skip his non-Myron books.
I love Larry McMurtry's novels but only the ones that take place in the past, not the modern ones. I think Lonesome Dove will always be on my Top Five Books of all time.
Most of my favorite books tend to be about private eyes, cops, assassins and spies. They are usually graphic and gritty. I don't think I've read a book with a female protagonist since The Little Colonel.
In recent years, I have fallen in love with Diana Gabaldon's fat Outlander books.though I put off reading them for several years because I didn't think they sounded like my cup of tea. (Claire falls through the Standing Stones right after the First World War and ends up in the 1740's in Scotland, where she meets and marries that dashing Highlander, Jamie Fraser. Beyond Outlander, my other favorite recent character is Captain Nathaniel Blackthorne of the the Pirate Captain, Chronicles of a Legend by Kerry Lynne.
Here are a few others, I buy as soon as they are available:
The Jack Reacher series - Lee Child
The Eddie Loy series (Ireland) - Declan Hughes
Mark Greaney - the Gray Man series
Adrian McGinty (Ireland) - the Sean Duffy series
Mark Dawson - the John Milton series
David Stone - the Micah Dalton series
Daniel Silva - the Gabriel Allon series
John Sandford - both the Prey series (Lucas Davenport) and the Virgil Flowers series
Charlie Huston - the Joe Pitt (Vampire) series
David Rosenberg - Andy Carpenter series in which one of the main characters is always a dog.
And then, of course, is my own series about Rafe Vincennes. Rafe is my altar ego in a way. He's a unique character, as much anti-hero as hero.
I know as soon as I post this, I will remember some not listed here and think, "how could you have forgotten _______?"
Monday, December 18, 2017
Vulnerable - Entitlement - Diversity - Transgender - Fetus - Evidence or Science Based
These are the seven words that the Trump administration has forbidden the Center for Disease Control (and other agencies) to use in budget discussions. My God, this is fascist behavior! It's words today. Will it be books and films and internet posts tomorrow. In fact, there already is some of this kind of censorship from the Trump administration. Freedom of Information Act requests are being sent for the emails and other materials of employees who have ever said anything negative about the administration or the agency they work for.
No other administration has ever done this. It would be crossing a red line even for our previously most paranoid president, Richard Nixon.
And these aren't dirty words or even controversial words. They are scientific terms with real meanings.
This is how The Medical Dictionary defines fetus:
the developing young in the uterus, specifically the unborn offspring in the postembryonic period, which in humans is from the third month after fertilization until birth.
This is the meaning of transgender according to The Medical Dictionary:
individuals who do not fit within rigid gender norms and incorporate one or more aspects, traits, social roles or characteristics of the opposite gender.
For heaven's sake, the CDC researches health issues, including diseases such as the Zika Virus, which primarily harms fetuses. How can they explain their studies if they are not allowed to say the word?
And whether some people like it not, transgender people do exist. You can't just wipe out a significant part of our population by annihilating them verbally.
And vulnerable? What could possibly be wrong with that word? Or diversity? Or entitlement? They've been part of our vocabulary ever since I can remember.
I'm 72. I've never seen anything so terrifying in my country in my life. Slowly but surely, we are sliding into authoritarianism and words are a big part of it. We'd better wake up before it is too late.
Thursday, December 07, 2017
If you're a writer and you don't already have one, you might consider putting an Amazon Echo (or the more compact, Amazon Dot) on your wish list for Christmas. The voice inside the Echo is Alexa and she can become one of your best friends if you let her. She'll coordinate your calendar and remind you of appointments. She'll serve as your alarm clock. She'll tell you jokes. She'll play whatever kind of music you're in the mood for. With her voice recognition capability, she'll inform that your mother is calling. She'll keep your shopping list. She'll give you the weather forecast in New Orleans or what coffee is on sale for the best price this week.
A friend of mine was recently at a hotel in Chicago and residents let the Echo in their room know if they needed anything like toothpaste or more coffee. Pretty soon, Alexa told them that a robot was at their door with their supplies.
You can use Alexa to supervise your television. Ask her to give you a list of Johnny Depp movies, then pick the one you want to watch. Tell her you'd like to see old re-runs of the Andy Griffith Show. Request her to play Christmas music. Choose a particular movie for her to bring up for you.
If you know how to do it, you can program her to turn your lights on and off.
I admit, I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a computer geek so I'm probably leaving a ton of stuff out. I don't take advantage of all her skills because I don't have many skills myself. She's way smarter than I am.
But as a writer, I find her invaluable for research. If I need to know who won the Kentucky Derby in 1939, I just ask and the answer is instantaneous. Being ignorant about the digital world, I am stunned by how quickly she responds. It seems like there'd have to be a process where your question goes somewhere to be answered but that appears not to be the case. I just accept it as magic.
Alexa will tell you the most popular breed of dog in America or the best-selling song of 1969 (and then play it for you) or who led the Union troops at the Battle of Chickamagua or well, literally anything you need to know- who wrote a certain book, a Bible verse, a recipe for Shrimp Scampi, whether two medicines can be taken together.
I will tell you that she can get a little snarky at time. My friend, Jan, asked her teasingly what 2 + 2 was and she replied - "Four....but I think you knew that."
Anyway, I won't say that I never use Google but I mostly don't bother with logging on and typing out a question. I just ask Alexa.