Bad Reviews I’ve Had on Amazon and My Less-Than-Subtle Rebuttals

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I never smile that much.

Amazon.com is fantastic.  It has changed the way we buy almost everything – especially books.  What sucks about it is the review capability.  Basically anyone who purchases your book, can post a review of it.  At first that seems benign, but in reality, it gives every troll on the internet the capability to voice their opinion – no matter how crazy.  Worse yet, it is nearly impossible to get reviews removed from a book…trust me, I’ve tried.  Reddit is even worse…it is the freshman dormitory for internet trolldom.

While merely my opinion, I strongly believe that the internet turns normal idiots into connected idiots who proffer their pointless opinions to the world with the same credibility as geniuses.  Feel free to use this quote on Twitter.  I think it would make a swell t-shirt.

Not every negative comment is the result of a troll.  Some people have issues with my writing style or structure of the book. Unfortunately, just because you don’t like the style, doesn’t mean that others won’t love it.

Amazon does let writers respond to comments, but I have found this only feeds the narcissistic needs of the trolls that post the negative comments.  I don’t have the time or inclination to get into a pissing match with some stranger.  At the risk of sounding egotistical (which I am); it is beneath my dignity and a waste of my time.

Bear in mind I write in a number of genres, business management, military history, science fiction, and of course, true crime.

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I understand (now) that being a successful writer means you are a public figure of sorts.  That means you are open to critique, good and bad.  I had no idea when I began this journey back at Central Michigan University in 1980 that I would find myself being reviewed by total strangers.  I wonder if it would have changed some of my decisions?

Naa…

I get far more positive reviews over bad ones, but still, I read them all. Every time I tell myself it is the last.  Here’s some of the more insipid comments I’ve seen and my rebuttal to them:

“This book could have used an editor.”  “This book is poorly edited…”  I’ve seen this one with a variety of books from different publishers.  To be upfront, I am not perfect (my wife will love this.)  Let me say this, I have and utilize editors.  They often have master’s degrees in English.  They edit the books carefully, meticulously, and with precision.  The real problem is people who think they know the English language better than those that edit books for a living.  Trust me, if my editors sucked, they would be out of a job.  Most, however, are very talented.  Often time’s my books are read 3-5 times, by different people/editors, checking and rechecking.  It is a labor-intensive process done by skilled professionals.  I don’t always agree with my editors and I love to torment them; but they are thorough and do a good job.  Just because you don’t agree with my/their decisions, does not make them or me wrong.  The English language is not a law etched in stone, it is not formulaic in nature.  It is a guide that sometimes is stretched to its limits by creative people.  Just because your second grade teacher told you something, doesn’t make you an expert.  Sidebar:  I deliberately violated several rules of English in this rebuttal, just to give you self-appointed editors cerebral aneurisms.

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“This book is repetitive in parts.”  The insinuation is that my restating of something is a mistake.  It is not.  I repeat some elements solely to make a point.  Where not appropriate, the editor will point it out to me; see above douchebag.  On my new books, we will be introducing something in the introduction, then explaining it in great nauseating detail in its own chapter later in the book.  That’s not repetitive, it is deliberate and planned.  Also, other writers do this all of the time – Ann Rule did in several of her works.  Oh, I get it, if Ann did it, it’s okay…

“This book is almost too perfect…”  I actually saw this on a three-star review recently.  Three stars?  What a pompous asshat.  In other words, I wrote a great book, so they had to rake it over the coals.

“There’s nothing new in this book that I haven’t seen before.”  Just to be clear, the individuals that post this stuff are either lying or wrong.  Every non-fiction book I have ever written has introduced new material that has never been made public before.  I pride myself on that as does my daughter.  Anyone writing this is really trying to say, “Look at me, I know more than the person that spent over a year researching this.”

 “The author(s) overlook obvious suspects.”  Let’s be clear, there are people out there with agendas of their own.  I know of one woman that has posted two reviews of my book under alias’s she has created.  Her purpose is nefarious – she has someone she wants to link to some murders to draw attention to her own suspect/research in a non-related crime.  It is bat-shit crazy, but there are people out there that are so focused on their own twisted agendas that they load up reviews and post things on various blogs and web sites to further their plans.  Sad, yet sick.

“The author doesn’t know the BattleTech universe well.” “This story is a retcon of established BattleTech history…” These came up years ago and made me laugh pretty hard. It still does from time-to-time.  It’s the damned Clan Wolverine haters.  Like a dog with a bone they will not let it go.

I wrote a lot of the early BattleTech history.  Here’s my bibliography:  Bibliography  Also, anything I have ever written had to be approved by the powers-that-be to become canon in the universe.  So, to be concise, if I wrote it and it was published, it IS canon, dillweed.  I make stuff up, but I always get my work approved by seasoned veterans of the intellectual property.  I won’t go into the whole Wolverine-thing in detail, but since I created that Clan and wrote the only bio information on Nicholas Kerensky, I feel pretty safe in what I did with them.  I have been writing BattleTech since 1986.  Don’t tell me that I don’t know the universe well. I am fu*king proud of my body of work.

 “Reads Like a High School Term Paper.”  This review was on a book that was a New York Times Bestseller my daughter and I wrote.  I do understand that the presentation of facts can be burdensome.  When you are writing a true crime about a cold case, you don’t want to get too flowery in the text or present a great deal of speculation.  Nonfiction books tend to be a presentation of facts.  I’m probably more offended with the “high school” part more than the actual review.  Seriously?  I have a master’s degree and have completed about 1/3 of a doctorate program.  Bite me.

 “This was a good story but no closure.” Many of the cases I write about are cold cases.  Some authors do this and claim they have “solved” the cases.  I tend to lean away from those books.  If you solved the case, then where is the prosecution or the announcement from authorities that they consider the case closed?  With cold cases, I maintain that the writers need to present the facts and let the readers arrive at their own conclusions.  People need to form their own opinions – not have the author craft the facts around their pet-theory.  Almost always, I make sure in the introduction that we tell readers that the case is unresolved.  Let me be clear, if you are reading a book about a cold case I have written, you will not get that closure at the end…BECAUSE IT IS A COLD CASE.

“True crime books are supposed to end in a trial.”  Most of my books in this genre are on cold cases.  I appreciate the vote of confidence from the reviewer…that somehow we might solve the crime and inflict overdue justice.  This is the real-world.  I am a writer.  Our books generate tips for the authorities, but we do not solve the case on our own.

“His fiction does not reflect gameplay.”  Okay, this is a BattleTech one.  My response is, “good, because I was writing fiction, not documenting a game of BattleTech.”  I follow the rules, but in the fictionalizing of a battle, things happen that rules do not exist for.  If I merely played out a battle and wrote about it, it would be dull and boring.  I strive to adhere to the rules, but at the same time, I feel empowered to push the limits with battles.

Personal attacks.  These come in a number of nasty comments, so let me focus on one in particular.  I have been accused of be a Confederate sympathizer in one review.  WTF?  Not true.  First, I am a historian. Second, I have incorporated the Civil War into many of my military sci-fi novels just for parallels.  I respect Southern military leader’s prowess without lamenting about the Confederacy’s fate.  Third, I am against tearing down historic statues and renaming things out of idiotic fits of political correctness or someone having hurt feelings.  I have voiced my opinion on that because I believe it is wrong to destroy or obscure history.  I also believe that you do not have a right to not be offended in this country.  In fact, one things Americans excel at is offending people. Grow a pair and stop whining and labeling.

I am not a Confederate or Lost Cause sympathizer.  In my entire writing career I wrote three whole pages about the Lost Cause and then only in non-fiction, in the story of Bert Hall in my biography, The Bad Boy.  In other words, no big deal.  None of this makes me a Confederate sympathizer.  I empower none of you to slap a label on me without my consent.  Calling me a Confederate Sympathizer; that simply makes me want to be one.  People that run around labeling people to attempt to damage their reputation are low forms of life.  You can take your social justice-self-anointed sense of empowerment and shove it high-and-hard.

Ahh…that felt great.  If I have offended anyone who gave me negative feedback; good.

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Some Humor – Things I Want Said or Done at My Funeral

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He he he.  

When you hit my age (55 ish) you start to realize a little bit about your own mortality.  I even wrote a book about my life’s knowledge for my grandson (The Life Book: A Grandfather’s Gift) Yes, I wrote a whole long list of funny stuff just as a means to plug a book.  So kill me…oh…

I don’t fear death at all, it is wasted effort.  I view my funeral as my last chance to make people smile – if only for a moment.  If not smile, then feel a bit uncomfortable.  I like thinking that only I could put the fun in funeral.  So here’s my list of things I want said or done at my funeral.  Feel free to pick any three after I’m gone:

One of the people in this room is responsible for Blaine’s death…you know who you are…

Blaine wanted all of you to know that he’s not funding a buffet dinner afterwards.  You get a show, not a meal.

He is gone to that place where all lost socks disappear to – the great beyond.

His final last words were, ‘The treasure is buried under the–”

The family insists he’s not really dead.  He is simply playing possum.

He asked that you all donate money in his name to the Society of Writer’s Faking Their Deaths.

The deceased has asked that the remainder of the eulogy be done in Klingon.

He wanted you all to know that his wife is cremating him to hide the evidence.

This is an awkward time to bring this up, but Blaine insisted that anyone attending pay a cover charge.

The irony is he is wearing a suit he never really liked.

His last words were, “I set the bomb to go off at–”

His final words were, “I intend to haunt one of you…you know who you are.”

He has asked that on his tombstone they carve, “I honestly expected this carved on a pyramid…”

He wanted me to say, “If you are thinking of dating my wife, I will come back you bastard!”

Mrs. Pardoe has asked that you not poke him to make sure this isn’t a practical joke. She has already checked.

His last wish was for a smoking hot body – and it looks like he’s going to get that.  Cremation is at noon tomorrow.

He wanted everyone to know that a life of avoiding manual labor actually paid off.

His last wish was that his ashes be shared with everyone attending today.  Your ziplock baggies of Blaine will be arriving in the next two weeks or so.

Blaine said that he came into this room with a ring on his left hand and he damn well better leave this room with it, or you’re all going to get frisked.

Mr. Pardoe laid out the agenda for this funeral prior to his death.  There will be a break in 10 minutes while the stripper poles are installed…

On his grave marker, he asked that the following be inscribed, “I thought there would be cookies…”

Blaine will be frozen in Carbonite and hanging on his wife’s wall after this ceremony, should any of you wish to come and visit him.

Mr. Pardoe has asked that his tombstone have the line, “The wireless service down here sucks,” added to it.

He has asked that none of you cry.  He passed on his katra to a good friend and will be returned to Mt. Selaya on Vulcan after this ceremony.

If you check under your seats, one of you will find an envelope with the name of Blaine’s killer in it.

Mr. Pardoe had just surfaced new information for a book on the Kennedy assassination, and now he is dead.  Make of that what you will.

The use of flash photography, holy water, and video footage has been expressly banned at the request of the deceased.

Mr. Pardoe wanted me to say that you should all take out your phones and unfriend him on Facebook and stop following him on Twitter.  He tweetith no more.

Blaine has asked to quote from The Lord of the Rings:  “”I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

(Have the funeral director look at my body).  Did anyone else see his arm move?

Blaine wanted all of you to know that this is all a grave mistake.

He has asked that his tombstone be inscribed with the words, “This is what happens when you finally win an argument with your wife.”

Today’s eulogy will be followed with a viewing of Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan, Director’s Cut, with Commentary – Blaine’s parting gift to you all. “You’re welcome!”

He asked that his leadership team from his office in New Jersey act as pall bearers so that they could let him down one more time.

Blaine asked for one more joke.  (Close the coffin lid)  It begins, “Knock Knock…”

I would continue on with this eulogy, but he indicated that by now, most of you would be bored and wondering if there was an open bar afterwards, so let me wrap this up.

Blaine has asked that the following be inscribed on his tombstone, “It is a lot darker and hotter down here than I expected.”

(Put a cell phone in my pocket on speaker and call it during the prayer).  Someone leave a message, “Hi Blaine – oh, there you are!  I was just leaving you a message…” then hang up.

Blaine would like to say that drinks afterwards are half-price for the ladies.

Blaine asked that those of you who borrowed his tools over the years, please return them to his wife.

The family wants everyone here to know that this final request, a 21 gun salute, cannot be fulfilled because he asked that it be done with tanks, live ammunition, and that the US Capitol be downrange.

Mrs. Pardoe wants everyone to know that Blaine will be buried with an air compressor, the worst Christmas gift he ever gave her.

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Blaine’s last words were, “Hold this beer and watch this…”

I was just informed prior to this eulogy that it has already received at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and is already up for a Golden Globe Award.

The music you hear playing in the background was chosen specifically by Blaine.  His co-workers will recognize it as the waiting music for conference calls.  It is his last bit of revenge for all of those times you showed up late for calls and he had to listen to this muzac.

He wanted all of you to know his final confession, it was not the dog that was farting all of those years.  Sorry Maya.
Blaine’s life was cut far too short by a Highlander driving a sword through him…there can only be one.

Mr. Pardoe never was a believer in organized religion, but just in case, we will be replaying his funeral as a Jewish and Muslim ceremonies at 3 and 5 respectively this afternoon – just to hedge his bets.

He has asked that the following be carved on his grave marker: “A Life Well Lived – Unfortunately There Will Be No Sequel.”

The family wants you to know that he has asked to be buried wearing flame retardant underwear.  Read into that whatever you will about his final resting place.

Blaine asked that he be buried in a Starfleet uniform but, as you can clearly see, his wife got in the last word on that…though she has assured me it too will be burned in a separate ceremony later this afternoon at their house.

His only regret is the Steve still hasn’t finished work on the patio in the back yard.

He has asked that on his grave marker, the words, “You’re standing on my crotch.”

Blaine asked that a set of his red gaming dice be buried with him, “Because those bastards never failed to let me down.”

He would like to point out that even with him being dead, this eulogy is better than The Last Jedi.

Blaine wanted me to tell you all the following:  This is merely the next phase of his evil plan unfolding exactly as he planned.  You’ve been warned.  Mwah hah ha ha.

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I want the following songs played as background music, just to make everyone uncomfortable or make them smile:

  • Celebration – Kool and the Gang
  • Wake me up before you go-go – Wham
  • Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees
  • Another one bites the dust – Queen
  • Highway to Hell – AC/DC

While you all may have a good time at this show, Mr. Pardoe wants to remind you, “You may be next!”

Blaine wanted me to say this to all of you.  “I’ve written about a lot of true crime cold cases.  This may look accidental, but I insist you do an autopsy to be sure.”

Just to upset the visitors, I want a replica Viking longboat parked out in front of the funeral home, along with a row of archers.

I want one of my friends to lean over my open coffin and say, “Hey, he came in here with a watch!”  Then look over the visitors with a slow accusatory glare.

Please have the entire back row of eulogy filled with people wearing clowns.  Don’t say anything as to why they are there.  I just want to freak people out.

A line of Irish folk dancers that appear (complete with Riverdance music) mid-eulogy and tap dance across the front of the room unannounced would confuse and daze those in attendance.  Please arrange.

Put seven or eight shovels along the wall.  If anyone asks, “Well, to save money, Blaine is going to ask for volunteers to dig his grave.  Say, you look like you’re in good shape…”

To any BattleTech fans, Blaine wanted me to say the following, “It’s all true – the Star League, the Clans, everything!”

New Book Available – The Life Book – A Grandfather’s Gift

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Just to be clear, I am not getting soft in my old age.  I am as grizzled and stubbornly determined as ever – more so now that Victoria and I are delving into a new string of unsolved cold cases.

When I crossed into my fifth decade of life, I started to come to the grim realization that I could just drop dead at any moment. Seriously.  The sheer amount of Diet Mountain Dew in my system at any given moment defies the medical community. Death can come randomly or be long and dragged out. I personally hope mine is somewhat spectacular, involving an epic last stand or bringing a heinous criminal to justice, but we don’t get much of a choice do we?

As a sidebar, I have instructions with my wife that if that happens at home, drag me down to my work PC and take a photo so that she can claim that my employer caused my demise.  Not lying one bit here.  It is worth her strain on her part for the extra insurance money having me die at work…trust me. If she calls you to help drag my body to my office, just come over and help.  No questions need be asked.

I’m not preoccupied with death or anything.  I have written about death many times in my author-career.  In my sci-fi novels I have covered the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands.  In true crime I have stared at autopsy photos and interviewed people about horrific demises.  Death doesn’t frighten me. What is scary to me is that the knowledge and wit I have accumulated over a lifetime will simply disappear.  That seems like a terrible waste.

My kids are grown up and pretty smart.  Well, mostly smart.  We all have our moments, don’t we?  For the most part they have mastered life quite well.  My son is a successful stylist/entrepreneur and my daughter is a nurse/mother/NYT Bestselling author.  There’s not a lot left that I can teach them. We are now at a point where they are teaching me things.

My grandson has not mastered life yet.  He’s just a little guy and the thought of not passing on what I know to him was depressing.  So I started to write it down, everything.  Each tiny tip and hint I could think of to help him through life. I don’t know why, but it seemed like a great idea at the time.  Little did I realize it would take five years.

Thus The Life Book – A Grandfather’s Gift, was born.

I will admit, some of the content is snarky, all of it is candid, and some of it is funny.  I wanted to give him a guidebook to life itself, an instruction manual.  It was intended originally to be just between us – a gift from me to him.

I started talking to some of my friends and others have thought about this idea, but no one seems to have the time to do it.  Part if that is none of us like coping with our own mortality. I am quite content to undertake that retrospective.  Life is hard enough. Why not make it easier for others?

I will grant you, it’s not the usual book I write.  I have never considered myself locked into authoring in one genre.  Sci-Fi, military history, true crime, business management, horror…yes, I have done them all.  So now I can add spiritual/self-help to the list.

Here’s some sample nuggets:

  • Your two greatest enemies in life are impatience and self-doubt. The best part is, you have complete control over both of these monsters.
  • When someone is stroking your ego the most is when they can be trusted the least.
  • Success is its own punishment. I have learned that once I demonstrated that I was good at something, people expected me to do more of that thing.
  • Idiots swarm. They are attracted to other idiots like moths to a flame. It’s almost like they have their own form of gravity. As such, all gatherings are subject to suspicion of being filled with idiots. As a corollary:  Never underestimate the power and risk of idiots in large crowds. Large groups of unintelligent people will do things that individuals would never consider. Riots, beatings, arson, and even murder can take place when groups of dullards gather. Large groups are difficult if not impossible to manage and if left on their own, they will do things that defy stupidity. Avoid mobs of people when possible.
  • When you deal with the government, understand that it love rules and processes much more than human beings. Bureaucracy is the machinery of any government. Corollary:  Bureaucracies always exist at the expense of individuals or their rights. As such, most bureaucracies cannot be trusted.
  • Your best friends are those that are willing to tell you the truth about yourself.
  • When dealing with idiots count on them doing something stupid, and you will never be disappointed.  Expectations in life are important. People of low intelligence are, by their very nature, going to do things that validate their stupidity with intelligent people. Just make sure you’re in the number that is validated.
  • Most people say they want the truth, but really they don’t.

Below are the links on Amazon and you should be able to order it through bookstores sometime in the next few weeks.  If you are into this kind of thing, let me know what you think.  In the meantime, I’m crawling back into researching and writing true crime.

Kindle:  The Life Book – ebook

Paperback:  The Life Book – paperback

Things People Say to, or Ask of an Author

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Being a writer is cool, I am not going to kid you.  It pays crap, but it can be emotionally and mentally rewarding.  For me, it is a form of therapy. Perhaps some of it is atonement for something I did in a previous life; it’s hard to say. I love it because when I am writing, my life is more in balance.  It provides me a way to be more human.  I have met some of the most interesting and colorful people being a writer.

There are some downsides to being an author though.  People say things to authors that they would never say to people in other professions.  They make “requests” (demands) of us that are sometimes unreasonable; and other times, bat-shit crazy. When I think I have heard them all, someone hits me with something new and frustrating.

As a proviso, you have to bear in mind, I write true crime, science fiction, military history, business leadership, humor, and other genres.  So I get questions about a wide range of topics.

For my fellow writers out there, I am sure you can appreciate the wry humor here.  Feel free to share.

Can you give me a copy of your latest book?  (Or the more irritating, “Where can I download a free copy of your book as a PDF?”)  By and large this question comes up the most.  While it sounds mercenary on my part, I don’t write books to give them away.  Even my mom purchases a Kindle copy when a new book comes out.  This would be like me walking to your house and saying, “Hey, can I have one of your kitchen chairs?”  Asking me where you can steal/bootleg a copy of my book, well, there’s a special kind of douchbag hell for you.  I actually had one guy argue with me that he was a fan, but couldn’t afford to purchase a book…as if I was the bad person in that conversation.  Don’t ask for freebies.  This response also applies to someone asking for a copy of a book that I wrote two decades ago…yes, people send me these kinds of queries as well.  If all else fails, go to your local library and do an interlibrary loan if they don’t have my stuff on the shelves.

Eighteen years ago, in book X, you wrote something I disagreed with.  Why did you do that? I am tempted to respond to this query with, “I did it for this very moment, when I ruined your reading experience.”  In fairness, I write books I would like to read. At the same time, I don’t pander to play off of what readers want.  If you didn’t like it, I’m sorry.  It wasn’t personal.  Whatever I wrote I did so with purpose.

You true crime authors just make money off of other people’s misery.  I have heard this one several times, ironically from some people holding a copy of our book asking for an autograph. People that say this are often attempting to impose their uninformed self-determined moral authority on my work, and I don’t take that lightly.  Allow me to refute this with the following points.  First, the illusion that all authors get rich from books is a speculative fantasy.  Given the number of hours at nights, on weekends, on days off, etc., that are expended to write a book, sometimes over the course of years, what little compensation I make is often less than the minimum wage. This is a hobby I have where I get to tell stories – not a get rich quick scheme.  Some of those stories I tell are heroic, others are tragic.  All take massive amounts of time and effort.  Second, I believe I deserve to be paid for the work I put into a book, regardless of the topic.  I have to pay for research trips and materials, copying, supplies, postage, legal expenses and a myriad of other out of pocket costs to write any non-fiction book.  Just getting a set of court or police documents can run hundreds of dollars.  This is all paid out of pocket before I write one single word.  What money I make on a true crime book sometimes doesn’t even make a dent in those costs for years.  Third, the entire genre of true crime are about crimes and victims.  Under your logic, no such books could be written.  I do not appreciate your attempt at censorship.  Fourth, my books on cold cases generate new and often actionable tips and leads for law enforcement.  Before you pass judgment on me, let me ask, what have you done to try and solve a cold case in your community?  That’s what I thought.  Fifth, I almost always (where possible) offer family members of victims an opportunity to be a part of the writing process so that their stories can be told too.  My books are not just about the dead, but about the living.  So you would deny such people a voice?  Sixth, I write historical biographies as well.  So why is it okay to write about events and people in history but not about crimes, which are part of history?  Crimes often define us as a people.  Look at the Kennedy assassination, or the OJ Simpson trial – these are crimes that often reflect our culture and shatter our beliefs.  Finally, and foremost, if you don’t like true crime books and feel that the authors are opportunists feasting on the dead, why are you purchasing and reading them in the first place?  Whew!  Time for a deep breath.

I have a great idea for a book.  Why don’t we do it together?  I’ll give you the ideas and you do the writing.  Um, this is all about me doing all of the work and you getting half of the credit and royalties.  Seriously?  If you want to write a book, then write a book. This may shock you but most serious authors are not sitting around waiting for ideas.  I have far more ideas than I will ever have time in a lifetime to write.

Can you read my manuscript?  Many years ago I got sucked into reading manuscripts.  First, it takes a lot of time…time I don’t have.  Second, don’t ask if you don’t want honest feedback.  I learned that most would-be writers, don’t want that.  They desire compliments.  Third, I had someone once accuse me of stealing their idea, from a manuscript I never read.  Lesson learned – I will NOT read your draft material.

Can I have the name of your agent?  No. I don’t use my agent any more but I also don’t refer total strangers to him or anyone else for that matter.

When are you going to be in city X to do a book signing?  I think some folks have the illusion that writers travel the country, randomly wandering into bookstores and setting up book signings.  Usually I am very selective about where I do events and they are tired to subject matter I wrote about in the book.  Also, I tend to do events for the six months or so after the book comes out.  It is very hard to get a store to do a signing on a book you wrote a decade ago. If I am coming to your town, I will be posting on this blog – so follow it.

Why don’t you write more X type of books?  They are your only really good ones.  A compliment and insult at the same time. I write books based on what I feel like writing.  Sometimes that is fiction, sometimes that is non-fiction.  I don’t do a poll of readers and take their advice.  What is life without whimsy?  And for the record, I think all of my books are the “really good ones,” at the time they come out. Well, except that one I wrote in 1997…

I want to be a full-time writer – so how hard is it?  I have no idea.  I am a part-time author.  The reason is that it is very hard to make a living being an author.  I need a full time job to help pay for my habit/hobby. I admire people who make a living writing, but I’m not the person to ask about that.

How do you become a New York Times bestseller?  I appreciate you acknowledge that my daughter and I did write a NYT bestseller.  Having said that, we didn’t set out to get on the list – it just happened.  If it was easy enough to simply recite, everyone would do it.  Luck, fate, and a good subject seem to be the keys.

Can I just buy a book from you?  Then can you autograph it and send it to me? (I don’t have time to go to the bookstore or use Amazon.com).   This may shock you, but I don’t have boxes of my books here in my bunker/office.  Further, I don’t want to get into the book reseller business.  I have a process on my web site where you can send me a book and return postage, I will sign it, and send it back to you.  I have been stuck paying $7.00 postage on a book that I make $2.38 in royalties far too many times in the past.  Lesson learned.

Can you give me a copy of your research files?  I had a guy once ask, then demand, that I provide him a case file I paid $300 + to obtain.  I initially agreed, but realized that all of my notes were on the pages and it would take far too much time to redact those.  Then he got mad as hell that I wouldn’t make him a free copy of 500+ pages and take hours to blacken out my notes. I will try to help others with specific requests, but if you want access to my entire archives on a case – the answer is a resounding “no.”  Go file a FOIA on your own to get the material.

How much do you make on a book?  I’ll tell you if you tell me your salary annually.  First off, it is a rude question, and one I get quite often.  For some reason people feel it is okay to ask authors about this.  It’s personal and professional.  Don’t ask.  Simply assume that it is far too little and you’ll be pretty close to reality.

Why don’t you put this book on TV or in a movie? While I appreciate the compliment, I don’t have that kind of influence…not yet anyway. Production companies and the networks decide what goes on the air, not the authors.  If I did, TV and film would be far better.

Your characters/books suck. I get this from time to time. Look, it’s simple. If you don’t like my work, don’t read it. Telling me you hate a character is pointless, because I won’t change it in a future edition.  Funny side story – I had someone do this once with a non-fiction book’s subject/character.  Seriously.  It was one of those rare moments were I didn’t have a snarky comment to come back with.

Writing 4

Your book doesn’t fit the canon in the BattleTech universe. This one pops up from time to time.  Let me say this, my books DO fit the BattleTech canon.  They are checked specifically for that.  I wrote a lot of that canon. If they book didn’t past canon, it would have been sent back for a rewrite.  Deal with it…Clan Wolverine exists and it went down exactly as I described.  You people…grr…

Have you considered donating the profits from you book to cause X?  No.  It is amazing that some people emerge to ask you to give your money to their cause in such a manner. Per my previous response, there’s not a lot of profit to be found.

Why did you only write two books last year?  Some years I write more, some less.  I don’t do this full time, so it is a boatload of work to crank through a book.  Also, just because I have finished a book, that doesn’t mean it will come out that year.  I have a completed trilogy that is ready to rock, we’re just waiting for the right time.   

I want you to do me as a character in your next novel.  No. Don’t ask.  I have a BattleTech novel coming out this year where I pulled down the names of some fans, mostly at random from Facebook groups, and included them in the book as either people, places, or something else.  I thought it was a fun gesture, a nod to the fans, a chance for them to be part of the canon of the universe.  Then a few bad people ruined it.  “I want you to use my MechWarrior’s name, and he pilots an Awesome – make sure you include that.  His units is the Whitehall Banshees – make sure you include that.  Here’s his hair color and descriptions of his tattoo…”  Ugh.  Yes, a few fans took a nice gesture and decided to do make it all about them.  I did not include them, but I am VERY selective now about such efforts in the future.  Don’t ask and certainly don’t demand I do this for you.

Can I call you to talk about a novel you wrote years ago?  I will do this, but my schedule is pretty tight.  Also, just keep in mind I have written 60 books-ish, so keeping track of every minuscule detail or character is challenging.  I recommend you send me your questions via email.

Someone murdered my mother/father/brother/sister.  You need to write a book on that.  First, I am sorry for your loss.  Second, if you have specifics about the case, I’d be happy to glance at them.  Third, please keep in mind, that while ever murder is a tragedy, it does not mean that every murder is book-worthy.  There are very specific things that I look at when I consider a project for a book.  While your loss is staggering, there might not be something there that sparks enough intrigue for a true crime book.   

I have a book club.  Can you fly in and attend one of our meetings?  I appreciate the fact you think I am living a Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark lifestyle and have the money to fly to Pigsknuckle, Arkansas for a book club.  I have, however done book clubs on conference calls and via Skype.  It is all a matter of scheduling.   

I got to the end of the book and you didn’t tell me who did it.  What’s with that? When I write about cold cases…you’re right.  That’s because an arrest hasn’t been made.  My co-author and I are always pretty up-front in the book and say that the case remains unsolved.  If we had solved the case, you would have heard about it on the news.

(At a book lecture)  Why didn’t you bring a box of books to sell? When I do a lecture on a book, I am there to talk about the subject. I don’t want to cheapen the event by selling stuff.  If you want the book, pick it up on Amazon or at a local book store.  I don’t drive around with boxes of books in the back of my truck.  Also dealing with credit cards and personal checks has proven problematic over the years.  Lugging a box of books around just seems cheesy to me.

My father served in (insert war here).  You should interview him for a book.  I sincerely appreciate his service to our country.  Individual soldier memoirs are hard to write or sell because unless they witnessed something extraordinary, they can be dull. I do encourage you to get him to contribute to any number of a veteran memory projects out there, including the Library of Congress, which would be happy to capture his experiences.

Writer2

I encourage my fellow authors to add in their own experiences in the comments…

Episode 4 – The Stockwell Strangler (Part 2)

Part II of a fascinating case.

The True Crime Enthusiast

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-bwq2p-7836e9

Join The True Crime Enthusiast as this week on the podcast we conclude the disturbing case of The Stockwell Strangler – the evil killer who caused fear and carnage to the elderly throughout South London over the hot summer of 1986…

Facebook – The True Crime Enthusiast

Facebook Discussion Group – The True Crime Enthusiast Podcast Discussion Group

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RPG Humor – Famous Last Words

tpk

I remember seeing some lists out there years ago, so I thought a fresh perspective might be in order.  This applies to a wide range of role playing games (with an emphasis on fantasy games) and is provided solely to give you a chuckle.  I didn’t cheat and look at the old lists out there, so any similarities are coincidental.

He’s got to be out of offensive spells at this point.  Let’s rush him!

He’s probably only got a few more hit points.

No, I’m not familiar with a polymorph spell.  What does it do to me?

They will never expect us to come at them from this angle.

We can survive in a vacuum long enough to pull it off.

They’ll never see us coming.

That dragon is bluffing.

Don’t worry – we’re well out of range of their (fireballs, catapults, arrows, trebuchet, ballista, machineguns, BattleMechs, lightning bolts, spears, lasers, missiles, etc.)

We have them right where we want them.

Ignore them, it’s a diversionary attack.

Gas?  No problem – we’ll just hold our breath as we fight.

The only thing these guys understand is brute force.

If we run fast enough through the fire it should minimize the damage.

Let’s pile all of the ammo crates in one spot, real close to our position.

Liches are not nearly as tough as you might think.

If we rush them, they can’t possibly hit all of us.

I don’t know what this wand does, but we’re about to find out!

I thought you said it was just a bunch of farmers in this village?

Freeze.  If we don’t make a sound or move, they’ll go right on by us.

We’ve got to win…we’re the good guys.

Don’t worry, it can’t get any worse than this.

What do you mean, “That’s no moon…?”

I’m only a little bit on fire…

Why yes, I give that lever a good hard yank.

(To the enemy) I dare you to use that wand again!

He’s not so tough now…wait…what do you mean he stands up and starts grinning?

We’ve taken out all of their heavy hitters.

He’s just a tiny dragon.

I disbelieve!

What do you mean it’s no longer in my backpack?  Where did it go?

Those are just statues – not everything is a golem.

We’ll let them have the first shot, just to show them what badasses we are.

For the record, they started it…

I’m out of arrows…I didn’t know you were keeping track.

I moon them Braveheart-style.

I get a running start and jump the pit/gap/chasm.

I wonder what this rope is attached to?  (Tug)

I spit in Zeus’ face to show him I’m not afraid.

We have them surrounded – so why are they laughing?

As long as they don’t have a magic user, we should be safe here.

It’s storming?  I move under the tall tree for shelter.

You’ll never take us alive!

I bitch-slap the head of the Thieves Guild, just to get my point across.

We don’t have time to make the light speed calculations — punch it!

I wonder what that whooshing sound is?

I take off my armor to intimidate them and show them I am not afraid.

I kill our hostage – that should prove we were serious.

No, I didn’t take off my armor before I jumped in…why?

I never would have set it on fire if I’d known that was the only exit!

The dragon’s asleep?  This is going to be a cake walk.

What do you mean ‘that’s the controls to the airlock?’

Owlbear?  That sounds more cuddly than dangerous.  How tough could that be?

I drink all of the unmarked potion – what happens?

It’s just fog guys.

Don’t waste your time burning those trolls – we need to see what is in their den.

What do you mean I don’t see the pin on the grenade?

I’m not going to waste time checking for traps.

We can relax, this room is secure.

(To the DM)  Blah, blah, blah.  Skip the flavor text and start rolling some dice.  Daddy needs the EP’s…

I look that Medusa right in the eye and I tell her…

Who was watching the horses?  Where is he?  Where are they?

I thought you were keeping the map so we could find our way out!

No problem – I’m invisible.

It’s probably a bad time to remind you that I was against this idea.

That has to be an illusion.

(To the DM) No, I’m not familiar with Greek Fire.  Why?

What do you mean he shrugs off my 18 points of damage and winks at me?

When you say the cave floor is moist and squishy, what exactly do you mean?

The only way I can miss is if I roll a one.

Watch out for that crossfire!

They’re not fooling me with that diversion.  We stand our ground here.

Guys, this probably is a good time to point out that we apparently are standing on a pentagram.

Kevlar stops everything – right?

For this plan to work, I need a volunteer to act as bait…

(To the DM)  Did you say thirty orcs?  I thought you said thirteen.

Where’s that guy we just killed?

I smash the dragon’s eggs.  How does that leather-winged bitch react to that?

I make a run between the giant’s legs.

When you say I detect a trap everywhere…what do you mean by ‘everywhere?’

What kind of a sick bastard fills a pit with acid?

Why are you handing me a blank character sheet?  You haven’t even rolled for the damage yet.

Of course I’m reading the scroll out loud.

What do you mean my sword is missing?

Split up – they can’t possibly follow all of us.

I swear to God I didn’t know those things could fly like that.

I just start randomly pushing buttons – does anything happen?

Why do you want to know if I have swimming as a skill?

Liche?  No problem, I can turn the undead.

Quick mix all of the potions together and drink them.  It’s do or die time!

Did their captain just yell, “Leave no one alive?”

I’ve got a 17 charisma, so I naturally put the moves on the princess…

I saw this once in a Roadrunner cartoon…we can do this…

There’s five of us and one of him…this should be easy.

How was I supposed to know she was married/intended as a virgin sacrifice/possessed by a demon?

I wonder why they are all chanting?

We run across the rope suspension bridge to get away.

Don’t worry, we’re safe here in this keep.

We can do this, I saw this scene in (Insert movie or TV show)

We torch the forest/town/tavern/castle – that should get their attention.

I climb into the catapult and give the signal…

What do you mean fireball’s expand?

This is usually the part where they break and run…but this time they’re not.  Hmm…

You’re darned right I refuse to bow down to the king.  I didn’t get to fifth level by being a wuss.

If we don’t move, they’ll never spot us.

I’m hearing his voice inside my head?  That can’t be good.

Yes I AM trying to jump wearing full armor.  Why are you looking so puzzled?

I don’t know if the spell needs components.  Is that important?

(After ten minutes to hacking through the door) Do we surprise them?

What do you mean I am out of ammunition?

I quickly dive out of the window…wait…what floor were we on again?

I told you that it was a waste of money to pay for maintenance on the ship.

I run across the flowing lava really fast so I don’t sink in.

Why yes, I am holding the torch while I prepare the oil flasks to throw them.  Why?

I start the auto-destruct sequence to bluff him into standing down.

What do you mean you need a shit-load of D20’s for the damage?

I’m low on hit points, I’ll take the rear guard.  There’s no way they will hit us from there.

We’ll be safe in that cave/up those trees/in that house/etc…

Of course we have a campfire going, why?

Don’t worry, if these guys were any good they wouldn’t be city guards.

It’s just a ballista…it’s probably like being hit with an arrow.

(To the DM)  Why are you checking the starvation tables?

Yes, of course we are still tied to each other in case one of us falls off the cliff…why do you ask?

I don’t have to take that kind of backtalk from a wizard.

I yell to the angry mob and tell them to bite me.

You didn’t just kill the pilot did you?

It’s almost as if they are acting as bait for us.

(About the DM) When I said, “what else could he throw at us,” I didn’t mean it as some sort of challenge.

That bright light in the sky is getting bigger and brighter?  Hmm…

Slow down, what plane of Hell did we open a portal to again?

The vampire turns into a cloud of mist…so we won, right?

I told you it would be easy…look, they’re running away.

How many spears are incoming?

Avalanche, smavalanche…

The crew abandoned ship?  How hard could it be to sail a vessel in a storm?

He’s just a little Beholder.

I cross the rope tightrope-style.

How many vampires coffins are in the room with us?

Everybody try and hide!

The only way to get his respect is to insult his wife.

Sure, I agree to a battle of wits with him.

Which colored flare do I use to call off the in-bound air strike?

We leap off the cliff and aim for the lake.  Wait…how deep is that water?

We’re safe.  You’d have to be a ninja or a monk to climb those walls to get to us.

I’m telling you, that dragon has breathed its last blast of fire.

I’m calling in an artillery strike – danger-close!

Wait…how many giants did you say were running at us?

It’s just an earthquake.

Damn right I’m going to mock that stupid bard.

This is a hell of a time to be getting a physics lesson.

That’s not how you desecrate a temple — THIS is how you desecrate temple…

I think we lost them.

(To the DM)  What do you mean there’s no point in me rolling for initiative?

Screw the druid…torch the forest.

I stick my head above the battlement walls to see if they are still there.

I discrete their temple…that should get their attention.

They’ve walked right into our trap.

I’m sure we’re out of the blast radius.

Did he really just yell, “Release the Kraken!”?

I’m counting on it swallowing me whole so I can gut it from the inside…

I know I’m blinded – I’m casting the spell in the direction of his voice.

Everybody spread out, it will force them to divide their fire.

Yes I did just refer to the Drow queen as a ‘Hot Black Chick’…why?

So shaman can cast spells?

Stop wasting time in looking up its stats and let’s just get on killing this thing.

Why is that goblin hoard laughing at us?

I’ve worded this wish so well there’s no way the DM can screw with us…

So that’s why they call it the Prison of Souls…

I’m pretty sure we aren’t all in its cone of fire.

I’m taking it off, armor just slows me down.

(To the DM)  When you say ‘tornado,’ what exactly do you mean?

(After five days of desert travel)  Look, and oasis….we’re gonna make it!

Who cares what the impact is – I’m changing alignment right here and right now.

Give me a hand prying open that coffin.

Mindflayers sure don’t look very tough.

We will never surrender!  You’ll have to kill us first.

What do you mean there’s a duration on that spell?

No one brought flint and steel?

Which walls are moving?

I really wish I’d bought a copy of the Monster Manual.

(To the DM) Of course I’ve seen the movie Alien.  Why do you ask…ut oh…

Alright, I sit down to barter with that Devil.

Before you throw the switch, what is the percentage chance that the noose/rope will break?

I don’t care what’s carved on the floor, everybody into the room.

What do you mean he’s kicking that grenade back at me?

Yes I’m putting the moves on the barkeep’s daughter.

Then I say, “Are all the city guards as stupid or ugly as you?”

I can’t believe that none of us bought rope.

I can’t parry a lightning bolt?  Are you sure?

It’s never too late to beg for forgiveness.

(To the DM) There’s a chart for explosive decompression?  Why are you asking for it?

Dive into the sewer, we’ll be safe there.

These guys only respect you when you respond forcefully.

How close is that star?

Why are our scouts running back towards us?

When you said the Thieves Guild was coming after us, I didn’t think you meant the whole guild.

When you said the ship lost power, you didn’t mean the whole ship, did you?

When you say the room is getting hot – how hot is that?

This isn’t the time to get all Paladinny on me – kill her.

Why do you want to borrow my copy of the Dungeon’s Master’s Guide?

If Butch and Sundance can make it – I’m sure we can.

Was that a “morpal” blade he’s swinging at me?  Oh crap…

They’ve stopped chasing us, we’re in the clear.

What do you mean I didn’t damage him with a roll of a 20?

When you say “transporter malfunction,” what exactly do you mean?

I’m beginning to think someone switched that road sign back there…

I have not begun to die!

Our line of retreat is blocked by what?

I ignore the radiation warning alarm and enter the room.

So that’s why they call them blink dogs…

Don’t listen to him, he’s just a bard.

I’m sure the “Rapids of Death” is just a name the locals use to scare travelers.

The joke’s on him – I cast featherfall.  No, it’s not slotted, why is that important?

That’s got to be the last charge on his wand/staff…

A demon – no problem – magic missile.

Who cares if they have the high ground?

These guys aren’t beating us – they’re tenderizing us.

Everybody into the portable hole!

I switch to my old trusty bronze sword.

I break the wizards staff over my knee.

I don’t need a physics lesson – just tell me how much damage do I take after a 300 foot fall into the river?

What do you mean I hear the sound of wheels?  They can’t have any siege equipment…

Don’t worry about him…he’s dead.

Why are you rolling that many dice for initiative?

(To the DM) I call foul.  That’s not in the Monster Manual.

They’re immune to fire?  Are you sure?

Bob – why are your eyes glowing?  Bob??

Wow…that was easier than I thought it would be.

Why is our scout running back to us so fast?

Set the self-destruct for a twenty-second count down.  That should be plenty of time.

I have a two for driving skill – why?

Hey guys, I think we’re standing in some sort of oil.

Yes I do remember being bit by that wolf…why bring it up now?

The ring can only be used once a day?

We can make it – I saw this on Survivor once.

On the count of three…one…two…

Finally, a safe place to camp.

That noise in the bush is probably just another rabbit.

I can’t be dehydrated…my character has been drinking regularly from his wineskin.

No my sword isn’t magical or silvered — is that important?

Death Stare – that’s a real thing?

Weapons lock?  Who’s locking onto–

What do you mean they can see in the dark?

I’m not wasting power on the cloaking device.

When you say giant snake – how big is giant?

I don’t care if he is standing in the same pool as the rest of our party – I fire lightning bolt!

Fine, leave us!  We don’t need your cleric anyway.

He gets how many attacks per round?

Who drank the last of the healing potion?

I taunt them, their mothers, and their sisters.

Is that incoming artillery barrage ours or the enemies?

Don’t bother me with the details.

Hey, why are our hirelings running?

You guys will back me up…right?

That abandoned mine should give us cover.

None of our spells or magic weapons work?  That’s impossible.

Who cares what my character smells?  Tell me something important.

Does anybody have any silver weapons?

Summoning that fire elemental may have made things worse.

The joke’s on you…I took my armor off to fight this rust monster!

Everyone run through the portal!

Ramming speed!

My ribs are now poking through my back?  That doesn’t sound good.

So he pulled the battle axe out of his chest and licked the blood off of it?  That can’t be a good sign.

What do you mean, I don’t detect that statue moving?

I’m tying the bag of gold onto my belt so I don’t lose them while swimming the river.

Boy, you kill one High Priest and the whole temple takes it the wrong way.

We’ve been fighting for an hour.  Maybe I can convince them to negotiate now.

I stand before the charging cavalry like Jon Snow and draw my sword.

If the dwarf thief says he’s disarmed all of the traps, then he’s disarmed all the traps.

Yes I’m concerned, that giant just sprinkled me with seasoning salt!

I’m not pulling the ripcord until the last possible second.

Quick, dive into this old lava vent!

It’s just a tiny hole (in a spacesuit, in a vacuum).

Did he just say he was calculating the in-flight velocity and splash radius of a fully armored dwarf?

They get how many attacks per turn?

Wait – did he just say that the mountain moved?

There was only one hag here a minute ago.

The joke’s on them.  It’s going to take a lot more than that to knock down that castle wall.

Sure it’s a 200 foot plummet but I’ll survive – I’m wearing armor.

I don’t have time to confirm the coordinates of that air strike.

You suck as a dungeon master…

zombie

Review of Patriots Day

patriot-day

I can’t say this is a spoiler-free review.  The bombing of the Boston Marathon was just three years ago, though it seems like more time has passed.  This movie proves how fallible human memory is. There were so many things about those few fear filled days that I had forgotten about.

This movie is a powerful docudrama starring Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, and John Goodman.  There’s no glitzy Hollywood intro – from the start you are immersed in the prelude to the race.  The story is told from many perspectives, most of those through the eyes of the law enforcement officers involved with tracking down and capturing and killing the terrorists.

It is gripping and compelling.  No matter what you remember about the incidents tied to this horrific crime, you are sucked into the character stories.  It is a tense ride for the viewer, one where your emotions are torn and tugged at by the performances of the actors.

There were times I cried, times I wanted to cheer, and times I cringed and averted my eyes. The images of gore and ghastly human damage from the bombing are necessary, but still cringe-worthy.  Mark Wahlberg’s performance is top-notch, as is Kevin Bacon’s.  You are sucked into the story from the start and you cannot afford a bio-break during the movie, the pacing is so rigid.

I loved this movie, plain and simple.  It is one of the better film adaptions of historical events that I ‘ve seen since Sully.  You come away wiping away tears and remembering those hours where we were all Boston Strong – when we all stood behind law enforcement.  I know that doesn’t fit the current narrative that the media shoves down our throats; that police are racist murderers.  This film flies right in the face of that kind of story and does so with class, grace, and with honor.

I honestly can’t believe that this movie isn’t getting more press. Trust me, it is well worth your time to go see it.

No matter what you think you remember about those painful hours, I highly recommend this film.  Five out of five stars.

#PatriotsDay