Saturday, September 28, 2013

Re-releasing a Book

By June Shaw

Getting a book published is exciting, especially when it's your first one. Getting it published again adds more excitement, mainly when it's a new edition with additional editing and a different cover.

I've had so much fun to finally be selling one and then another and so on of books I write. It been amazing to watch the various editions of the same book. For example, Five Star published RELATIVE DANGER, first book in my series of humorous mysteries, in hardcover with one cover. Harlequin put it out in paperback with a totally different cover. I had it published as an ebook and used a unique cover. It came out as an audiobook, again with a new look, and Untreed Reads recently re-released it as an e-book with a new cover again. (I just remembered RELATIVE DANGER came out in large print, too, but don't recall the cover on that edition.)

Getting to sell a book and then seeing how various editors envision my work has been a joy I never expected when I chose to become a writer.

I'm having a great time seeing the new editions of my mystery series with brand new covers. Untreed Reads just finished re-releasing all three of them. I hope you'll take a look and check them out. Thanks!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Doctor, There Is No Minor Surgery

By Jackie King

Writers share the same problems as the rest of the population, but we have the advantage of recycling our misery. We even have the audacity to call this “research.” The truth is anything we novelists experience, sooner or later turns up in our books.

I’ve been writing about the complications of aging. And believe it or not, I'm doing this in order to cheer myself up. (This sentence sounds dumb even to me, but it’s the truth.)

On September 16, I had a pacemaker implant. It seems that I had developed something called AFib. (Medical abbreviation for atrial fibrillation.) Listed among several causes are high blood pressure and sleep apnea; and I have both.

My first thought was that AFib was what old men got, not middle aged women like me. Then I remembered my actual age (which always comes as a shock to me) and had to admit that I had joined this rather large club. (And I do know that it’s better than the alternative, but I still like to gripe.)

AFib can cause strokes, so the doctor ordered me to stop driving until I had a pace maker implant. “This is a simple procedure and easy to recover from,” said the good doctor.

He lied!

No doubt it’s simple compared to open-heart surgery or having a brain transplant, but it has been no walk in the park. One of the inconveniences I’ve suffered has been the necessity of carrying my left arm in a sling so I don’t raise it over my shoulder. Have you ever tried to style your hair with one hand? So I spend all of my time explaining to all and sundry how I broke (or didn’t) break my arm.

As a writer I’m tempted to make up exciting stories about farfetched adventures instead of telling the boring truth, but so far I’ve resisted the urge. I don’t dare risking one of my friends breaking my right arm.

I’d love to hear your similar stories. And to repay you, next time I post you’ll hear about how I learned to live with a mask and bi-pap machine to control the sleep apnea.

I’m falling apart…God help me.



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Danger – MMORPGs

I think role playing games are fun. They call for the same sort of commitment readers make when they get involved in a story and suspend disbelief, feeling the fictional characters to be at least as real as they are themselves. My novella, Alternative Dimension, is about the attractions and the dangers of playing games and entering a virtual reality. For me, being part of a fantastical online community was a source of humour, a chance to indulge in some gentle satire, as well as a place where I met and got to know people I’d never have come across otherwise.

People are surprisingly unguarded there, revealing intimate secrets to others, even though they’re only interacting with an avatar and they have no idea of who the person behind it is. The risks in that are obvious, and the whole business of grooming and manipulation is very sinister and very real. And, of course, as someone unloads their childhood traumas onto you, you’ve no idea whether they’re true, whether the person’s male, female, Aryan supremacist or Jehovah’s Witness. (It could even be your partner on a laptop in another room – which is an even scarier thought.)

But games are making legitimate claims to be a separate art form in their own right. They’re like movies, they’re like books, but they have dimensions of interactivity which go beyond the traditional. The immersive atmosphere they create, the power of their music, which now has mainstream respectability (the London Philharmonic has recorded several of the best-known themes), the fact that you, as a player, actually inhabit the story and the settings – all of this makes different demands on the creative input of designers but also of players.

So the BBC radio programme I heard about the whole subject made for fascinating listening. One interviewee talked interestingly about how increases in computing power and the refinements in the disciplines involved in creating all aspects of a game meant that today’s ‘best’ experiences were constantly being superseded. Whereas Dickens, Hardy, Shakespeare and the rest continue to be read and performed, old computer games seem limp and passé.

As I said, all of this was very informative and interesting. But, as she continued to enthuse about the excitement and value of getting immersed in games, she made one throwaway remark which I found very chilling and which made me rethink the values she was ascribing to them. To make her point about how games do have an afterlife in the memories of those who’ve played them, she described a night she’d spent escaping from some captors, gathering weapons, fighting her way along and eventually dragging her boy friend’s body from where he’d been held captive. There was a smile in her voice as she described it all, and the residual excitement was obvious. But then, after all these ordeals, she said ‘God, I felt like I’d gone through Vietnam’.

And there, it seems to me, you have a hidden danger. Not just treating war as a game but diminishing reality itself. It’s a paradox. This isn't a criticism of her and I don't mean to imply thoughtlessness or insensitivity on her part. She was interesting, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. The experience for her was real, draining, even traumatic, but its ‘reality’ was immediately put into perspective by the inappropriate parallel she implied with true stress and horror. OK, it wasn’t a considered remark but, in a way, that makes it worse. As I said, I'm not condemning her, I'm asking whether our priorities and sensitivities are shifting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference 2013

I just got back from three days at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in Denver. This is the twelfth year I’ve added, and I always get great ideas and end up with a huge to-do list of follow up action items. This is an excellent conference for improving writing craft, honing pitch skills, learning more about book promotion and catching up on the latest trends in the publishing world.  

Some of the highlights:

-          Author Jeff Shelby taught a number of workshops on the emerging independently published world describing his journey from traditionally published to self-published. After ups and down in his publishing career, he has now gained traction with eighteen self-published books. He equated self-publishing to being a small business owner. It’s not traditional versus self-published; it’s traditional and self-published.

-          Dinner speaker Margaret George entertained us with stories of her career in publishing historical novels.

-          Lunch speaker Ronald Malfi inspired us with a message on perseverance and tenacity.

-          Cate Rowan cited e-book growth with the following statistics: in 2010 e-books represented 2% of dollars spent. In 2010 this increased to 7% with 14 % of book units. In 2012 e-books represented 11% of dollars and 22% of units.
Pictures show Margaret George and Ronald Malfi.

I’m now ready to dive into my to-do list.

 Mike Befeler

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Tudor Signet

by Carola

Romance, adventure, blackmail, spies, highway robbery, a persecuted widow, a mad sculptor, a card-sharp, a future inheritance: and the Tudor signet ring holds the answers. Dartmoor and Plymouth are the scenes of the crimes, where a dashing hero meets a determined young lady--in less than romantic circumstances. Positively embarrassing, in fact...

Almost as embarrassing is the error Zebra made in the title of the paperback: There is no Tudor secret. I'm glad I was able to get the correct title restored on the e-book!

Add a devoted dog and a wild ride through the night to a dramatic denouement. What more can you ask?

Available from most e-book sellers:

PS. CROSSED QUILLS e-book is still on sale on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to Promote Free Books to Sell More

Being published by a micropress has its drawbacks, mainly a dearth of distribution and promotion. I like to have my books available in paper for the few who decide to take one, but mainly I sell them at outdoor festivals and book events. Most of my mysteries and thrillers (now ten) are sold as ebooks. And since I decided to cast my lot with Amazon KDP, they're only available in the Kindle Store.

I have used their free days almost monthly over the past year to promote sales. KDP allows you to give a book away for five out of every ninety days. Despite how it sounds, the act of giving away books has a definite effect on book sales. The practice has brought less results as time progressed for several reasons. One has to do with the fact that more and more authors are using the free days route. There are several dozen Internet sites that promote free ebooks, but they get so many requests now that they limit what they do or charge for the service.

I have used several sites in recent months, paying from $5 to $25 for guaranteed listings. When I first began the practice, my books sold well after the three free days (that seems the most effective period) for two weeks or more. Not just the book that had been free, but the rest of my backlist. However, for the past few months, the lingering effect has been much shorter.

Recently I've read posts by my colleagues on some promo sites about their use of It sends out an email to its list of thousands of readers daily, promoting from two to four ebooks that are either free or on sale at a discount such as 99 cents. This one is not for the faint of heart. For mysteries that are free, the price is $240. For mysteries priced at $1 to $2, it's $720. They claim 700,000 subscribers to the mystery email list and show average downloads of 18,000.

I started three days for a free Kindle copy of my second Greg McKenzie mystery, Designed to Kill, on Saturday. It goes back to $2.99 tonight (Monday) at midnight PDT. As of 10 p.m., the time I'm writing this, the book has been downloaded 49,009 times. During this time, the first book in the series has sold 47 copies, book three 31 copies, book four 12 and book five 6.

If things go as expected (at least hoped), Designed to Kill should sell hundreds of copies in the coming days, while the other books in the series continue to do well. The theory is that if readers like the free book, they'll come back to buy the others. I've already gotten three new four-star and one five-star reviews since the giveaway began. People who take part in these promotions are good about writing reviews on Amazon.

I'll post in a couple of weeks how the after-effect turns out. Has anybody else tried this approach? How were your results?

Monday, September 16, 2013

When Life Gets in the Way

By Mark W. Danielson

I haven’t been writing much fiction lately because life got in the way.  To write well, one must be focused on what they are creating, but I’ve been terribly distracted monitoring the construction of our retirement home.  Spectral Gallows, my latest Maxx Watts novel, which is due out this fall, may be delayed because I was severely late in approving the final draft.  In my defense, our builder sucked the life out of my wife and me.  Somehow we managed to survive.

Now that our house is finished and we are getting settled, murderous musings literally come to mind – as in how to kill a builder, and whether to bury him or make him part of the foundation.  In this regard, fiction writing remains wonderful therapy.  Whether I write Building is Murder remains to be seen, but I cannot stop these thoughts from needling my brain.

The benefit of life’s experiences is they broaden our perspective and provide us with tremendous character development.  Tangles with builders, subs, and spouses spark countless ideas for stories, settings and conversations.  You cannot put a price on that.  Even so, writing shouldn't be about getting even.  To live that way means the bastards win, and I never want that.   

Neighbors who have gone through similar problems said it takes two weeks to stop being pissed off.  I’m well past that two week mark and have yet to let go, but I’m getting there.  It’s only a matter of time before we are unpacked and have landscaping.  No doubt our house will grow on us once we hang some art work and stop to smell the roses.

Lately, my computer has been my Jiminy Cricket, keeping me sane.  After letting me pound its keyboard in anger, it will stare back at me and say, “There – feel better?  Now purse your lips together and blow.”  Suddenly, I’m whistling while I work.  Ah, yes.  Plotting murder can be fun . . .       

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Aging Can Be a Writer’s Best Tool

by Jackie King

Being a woman of a certain age has its advantages, especially for a writer. Looking back on my life, each decade seems to be a series of stories filed in my head and ready to be played when needed. It’s convenient to think back to age ten or age 16 or age 33 and remember how I thought and felt and acted at that time. And of course, I use this history to form my characters and bring them to life.

The entire country is obsessed with staying young. This energy, in my opinion, could be put to better use. Improving and enjoying your situation whatever age you may be, being foremost.

“Old Age Ain’t No Place for Sissies,” said Bette Davis. Years ago, when I first read this quote, I laughed. Everyone does, I expect. I was much younger then and was very fond of older folks, but seldom considered that I might one day become one. (Here I smile and sigh.)

Recently, and all of a sudden, it occurred to me that I myself had grown old. Not overnight, of course, although it seems as if life passed very quickly. Advanced maturity creeps up on us. All of my life I’ve had friends of all ages and liked it that way, never giving thought to anyone’s age except in character developing.

After the initial shock of admitting the truth of this revelation, I decided that maybe it wasn’t so bad. Young men step up to open doors for me; I can get by with saying most anything, and can dress as eccentric as I wish. (Sometimes it’s convenient to wear your jammies to the grocery store.) Lots of perks for us old ladies. (Cats and old ladies do as they please. I hear.)

When we start falling apart it’s inconvenient to take time out for repairs. Years earlier, things started to deteriorate, and at the time I didn’t even notice. I just used this firsthand information in fleshing out people in my stories.

In my mid-forties my arms grew too short and I was forced to buy glasses. Not even Dorothy Parker’s words, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” bothered me. Dorothy was just plain wrong. I had lots of friends who wore glasses and received plenty of passes. (This was in the days before everyone wore contract.

Bifocals were a pain and then a few years later my hearing started to go. I knew this because my snarky husband (now Ex) kept making an issue about it.

“Huh?” I’d say when he mumbled something at me. Then he would yell the sentence at the top of his lungs, probably damaging what hearing I had left.

So I had a stapedectomy which was supposed to improve my middle ear. The procedure didn’t work, so I had another, which worked for a while. But finally, when technology improved, I bought a hearing aid.

The wonderful thing is, for a writer, each experience, regardless of how painful or embarrassing or ridiculous it may be, can be used as grist for our writing mill.

In the next few posts, I’m going to talk of some of the degeneration that happens in aging, and how I may use each experience into a story.

I’d love to hear your opinion about the world’s fixation with staying young. Let me know if you’re comfortable with your age wherever you are in life’s journey.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Day of Remembrance

By Mark W. Danielson

Ask any adult about where they were when two airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan and they can tell you without a pause.  Like Pearl Harbor, September 11th, 2001 was a day in infamy that left permanent emotional scars.  Last year on its eleventh anniversary, patriotic music blared from the 9/11 memorial in front of Newark’s cargo flight operations building, the new World Trade Center was lit up in red, white, and blue, and the two iconic blue beams representing the old World Trade Center stretched to Heaven.  This year when I flew out of Newark at virtually the same time there was none of that.  I found that odd, particularly since our nation is teetering on involving itself in yet another Middle Eastern War.

Considering this, I wondered if I was the only one confused by our forgetfulness.  I’m equally confused over video games portraying virtual combat with such authenticity that it numbs the senses and yet the majority of these gamers would never consider joining the military to defend their country.  When President Obama first addressed attacking Syria, the vast majority of those polled absolutely opposed intervention, but the legislators ignored their constituents, instead, swaying with the President to protect his reputation.  I am baffled by their actions.

My generation was the last to be affected by the Selective Service Draft.  For those too young to know, the draft was a lottery that determined whether you were going to enter the military service against your will or not.  A lot of young people who were drafted during the Vietnam War died there.  And even though statistically more volunteers died than draftees, people flocked the streets to protest our foreign occupation.  Twelve years after 9/11, we are still in Afghanistan, turmoil in the Middle East is spreading because cleric extremists are replacing toppled leaders, and few seem concerned as they scan their smart phones in Starbuck’s.  On this anniversary, how many will think about those who are still fighting and dying overseas, or remember the over three thousand civilians that died on that fateful 2001 day?

Each of us have an obligation to keep memories alive, particularly when it comes to important historical events.  We can do this by talking about it in casual conversation, or spreading it through the social media.  We need to come out of our shells and stand united against foreign occupations.  We need to recognize that the United States is a population rather than a geographical border.  We must focus less on ourselves and instead develop a greater social conscience.  We should all strive for peace.

If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to close your eyes and remember where you were on September 11, 2001.  Remember the horror of watching people leap to their deaths from the World Trade Center, splattering like watermelons on the streets of Manhattan.  Remember how our nation pulled together and stood united against Bin Laden.  Remember the over two thousand soldiers who have died in Afghanistan because their country sent them there.  Honor the fallen and injured, and understand that those without physical scars can be every bit as handicapped in their struggle to achieve normalcy.  If everyone took a moment to remember our past, we might begin to alter our future and bring our soldiers home.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Unsafe Acts

One of my claims to fame (he says, as if there were several) is that I earned an acknowledgement in Ian Rankin’s dagger prize winning novel Black and Blue. Members of the UK’s Crime Writers’ Association are asked to list any areas of ‘special expertise’ so that fellow members can contact them if they need information on different topics. I’ve written countless videos and DVDs  about offshore safety as well as actual safety induction programmes, so that was one of my ‘specialisations’. In Black and Blue, Rebus had to make a trip to an offshore platform and Ian wrote to ask what sort of thing that involved for a ‘visitor’. I wrote back and thereby got myself a mention.

So, apart from name-dropping, why am I writing this? Because I recently had to check the text of Unsafe Acts, the fifth novel in my Jack Carston series and, as the cover image and the title suggest, it involves an offshore platform and safety. It also involves homophobia and deplores the fact that, even in the 21st century, its corrosion is still highly active.

It’s been through several drafts and, as I was reading through it again, I experienced once more the strange feeling I often get that, while I know I’d written something and my name’s on the cover, it’s hard to remember how it happened. When something’s out there as a self-contained thing – whether in tangible form as a paperback or in the same completeness as an ebook – it somehow seems instantaneous. The book has become a self-contained fact. When you’re writing, you’re always poised on the edge of wondering what the characters are going to do, where they’re going to go. The process is one of ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’. So for me the writer, Unsafe Acts was a succession of instants which eventually stopped. But for me the reader, it’s a complete, set thing with its own internal logic and a journey which has only one path. I suppose for readers coming fresh to it, the uncertainties are still there because they don’t know where the characters will take them until they’ve arrived.

The other question I sometimes ask myself, when I’m reading a novel I’ve written, is the one that most writers hate: ‘Where did this idea come from?’ And again, it’s often difficult to answer. With Unsafe Acts, I know that the seed was sown in a casual remark from a friend, Mike Lloyd-Wiggins, who said one day ‘You ought to write about an offshore platform. There’s plenty of stuff going on out there.’ (This was the same friend who also said, a few years ago ‘You ought to write a story about a figurehead carver’. So thanks, Mike.) But that’s just the seed. When you see the dense vegetation that’s grown from it (I know, it’s a lousy metaphor, but I’m lazy) you really do wonder where all these people were hiding, what made them appear. Where did they get their attitudes?

One other interesting thing about this book (for me anyway) is that my detective is a different Jack Carston from the one I first met when I wrote Material Evidence. Of course, I’m different now from the person I was then but I don’t think that means we’ve followed the same path. He now seems so fed up with the hoops he has to jump through to satisfy his superiors and tick the right administrative boxes (this time, the metaphor’s not only lousy, it’s mixed, too), that I really wonder whether the next book will find him leaving the job altogether. The alchemy of reading is always fascinating but when it’s your own story you’re reading, the mystery has a different edge.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mystery Novels and Senior Housing Options

Since I write geezer-lit mysteries, I’m very interested in topics that affect seniors. Because of this, I volunteered to join the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council, a group that makes recommendations, reviews and allocates funding for programs that support older citizens. Given the explosive growth taking place in the older population, we need more housing options that include co-housing, shared housing, low cost rentals, independent living (retirement homes), assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The original concept of a three-legged financial stool of savings, pensions and social security to help older people get by has evaporated. Low income individuals have not been able to save, needing to use their funds for subsistence, few companies are offering pensions any more, and social security can’t cover all requirements. Consequently, there is a need for low cost housing alternative for the bow wave of seniors.

In my mystery novels I indirectly discuss some of the housing alternatives. Two of my novels, Retirement Homes Are Murder and The Back Wing, take place in retirement communities (independent living). My protagonist, Paul Jacobson, also lives with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter for a time in Living with Your Kids Is Murder. In Senior Moments Are Murder, he lives in an apartment above a garage. In my recent, Care Homes Are Murder, Paul visits friends who live in a care home (assisted living facility). Being released next year, in Nursing Homes Are Murder, Paul is in a nursing home. Not to worry. Paul doesn’t become decrepit and require around the clock nursing care; he helps the police solve a crime by going in undercover.

Mike Befeler

Friday, September 6, 2013

Historic Poisonings

The discovery of poisons occurred when prehistoric tribes foraged for food; an often deadly experience. Primitive poison experts were people to be reckoned with, and they either served as tribal sorcerers or were burned at the stake, depending on whom they practiced.

Our first written accounts of poisonings are from the Roman era over 2,000 years ago, although the Chinese, Egyptians, Sumerians and East Indians had practiced the art of poisoning for centuries. Cleopatra allegedly used her slaves and prisoners as guinea pigs while searching for the perfect suicidal poison. She tried belladonna and found that it killed quickly but was too painful for her own personal demise. She also tried an early form of strychnine but it caused facial distortions at death, so she chose instead the bite of an asp, a small African cobra, which produced a quick and painless death.

People in some cultures were so afraid of being poisoned that they consumed gradual amounts of various poisons on a regular basis to build up their immunity. Dorothy L. Sayers, in her book, Strong Poisons, had her villain doing just that, as did Alexander Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Food tasters were employed by most royals. If they survived after sampling each dish, the king would consent to eat his meal. The job must have paid well, or a steady stream of prisoners were employed against their will.

The use of poison-tipped arrows during the Renaissance period paved the way for modern pharmacology. Drugs such as astropine, digitalis and ouabain evolved from plant concoctions used for killing both people and animals. And as we now know, thousands of people are killed each year with pharmaceutical prescriptions.

The Roman Borgia family of the fifteenthnth century century was a dynasty of poisoners, according to Serita Deborah Stevens in her book, Deadly Doses. If Casare Borgia was offended by something someone said, the unsuspecting person was invited to attend a party and would leave seriously ill or in the back of a mortician’s wagon. Borgia's poison of choice was arsenic, the favorite of assassins of that era.

Bernard Serturner isolated morphine from opium in 1805, but the formal study of poisons began with Claude Bernard, a physiologist, who researched the effects of curare, a South American poison the Indians used to tip their arrows. Chemical analysis could detect most mineral compounds by 1830, although not organic poisons. By 1851, a Belgian chemist discovered the technique of extracting alkaloid poisons while investigating a homicide caused by nicotine, a very deadly poison. Jean Servais Stas was the first to isolate nicotine from postmortem tissue.

The use of poison as a means of murder declined when modern methods of detection were perfected and physicians began saving many of its victims.

~Jean Henry Mead

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chemical Weapons give New Thriller Immediacy

The history of my new thriller involving the theft of Soviet Army nerve gas has an interesting twist. It was written back in the early nineties and accepted by a large New York agency that let it sit on the shelf for a couple of years. Why? I have no clue. After changes in the agency's management, the book was submitted to editors. I only saw one rejection letter, which came from Tor-Forge. The editor liked the book but said it was "dated." The irony is that his comments came about the time of the sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in May of 1995. If the manuscript had been sold in the first year the agency accepted it, the book would have been published about the time of the sarin attack.

Fast forward eighteen years. After languishing on my office floor for eons, I re-edited and revised the manuscripts of my Post Cold War Political Thriller Trilogy. Night Shadows Press published the first two as ebooks, then paperbacks. The third, Overture to Disaster (click to view), has just been released for the Kindle. It appears in the midst of the widespread news coverage of a sarin gas attack on civilians in Syria. A different twist on history repeating itself.

The "political" slant of the book came from my reading of Gary Allen and Larry Abraham, whose conspiracy theories dwelt on the New World Order. I created the Foreign Affairs Roundtable (FAR) and Council of Lyon to mirror the organizations Allen and Abraham accused of being shadow groups behind efforts to create a New World Order.

Their writing claimed that international bankers helped finance the Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet Union over the years. I quote the FAR president as sharing their view that there was never any credible threat of a Soviet military strike against the West. He insisted "The top communists were not about to bite off the handouts that were feeding them. Gorbachev, good soldier that he was, had fought to the end to preserve the status quo. His big problem lay in his outmoded economy that was sinking of its own dead weight. He had just about worked out a method of holding the union together when that group of dull-witted underlings had staged their amateur coup."

This led the FAR to support a dissident group of hardliners with plans to reorganize the former Soviet republics into a new socialist government the one worlders could more easily deal with. What they didn't realize was the depths to which the plotters would go to keep the U.S. President out of the picture. The three principal characters in Overture to Disaster find themselves the only hope of thwarting the use of nerve agents against a large crowd.

Read more on my website.

Monday, September 2, 2013

War Eagle

Obama seeks Congressional approval for Syria strike.

By Mark W. Danielson

Most of this is a re-post.  At a time when our President seeks to involve the U.S. in yet another war, it seems appropriate that some of us make some noise.  Bear in mind that we cannot right all of the wrongs in this world, that no one else is interested in becoming involved in the Syrian mess, that this part of the world does not respect us, nor will be better off because of us, or that we have the highest deficit in our nation's history because we pay everyone off and start wars where we have no business.  With this in mind, please take a brief moment to reflect on what I previously posted and ask yourself why are we still "over there."

                                                      *   *   *   *   *   

The movie, Across the Universe, stirred thoughts about our military’s involvement in Vietnam and its current deployment to Iraq.  This movie accurately portrays life during the 60s and early 70s when thousands of young soldiers were dying for a cause that few believed in.  This war split our country apart in much the same manner as the Civil War of a century before.  During high school, I worked in downtown Berkeley, California, where protests frequently turned violent.  Eventually, National Guardsmen were situated on street corners while helicopters flew overhead spraying tear gas on unruly mobs.  Across the Universe vividly brought back those memories, and that is good, for we should never forget this turbulent period.

As a retired fighter pilot fortunate enough not to have dropped bombs in harms way, I compare Vietnam with our war in Iraq.  The draft may have ended after Vietnam, but that didn’t prevent thousands of volunteers from defending our country.  Every day, volunteer soldiers are giving their lives so ours can continue uninterrupted.  While time has made the Iraq War as unpopular as Vietnam, few people ever mention it.  I can only come up with two reasons why Americans are so indifferent.  First, it appears many believe those soldiers who died did so voluntarily.  Second, our populace is too self-absorbed to care about overseas matters.

As an international airline pilot, I see the world as few do.  I find the Internet a valuable tool, but it rarely portrays events accurately.  People would rather base their opinions on what the media portrays than seek the facts.  US newspapers gloss over world affairs while international newspapers devote entire sections to international issues.   

Sadly, our government has learned little about foreign policy since the Vietnam War.  Even worse, too many countries call upon the US for aid and then later blame our government for their woes.  No doubt, the US has made many serious foreign policy blunders since 1973, but if the United Nations had any clout, those errors would have been minimized.

If people wish to make noise about something, then question what the United Nations is doing to resolve the conflicts in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the numerous African countries in dire straights.  The United States cannot and should not be the World’s police force.  If our civilization is to survive, then every country must become involved in the process of spreading peace across the universe.