Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brad Meltzer, Super Genius

Yes, I admit it. Brad Meltzer is my hero. Brad has written some serious best sellers. Before that, he wrote some of the best comics in history, including the “Identity Crisis” storyline in Justice League of America. I also learned at the Virginia Festival of the Book’s Crime Wave Luncheon that Brad is the best keynote speaker I’ve ever heard. But beyond all that, Brad is my hero because he’s at the cutting edge of book promotion.

Ten years ago Brad had what some say was the very first professional author web site. He set that up for his first published novel, Tenth Justice. He posted a lot of the things I’ve tried to emulate, like sample chapters and character interviews. It wasn’t super high tech at the time, but since no one else was doing it, it was pretty spectacular.

Over the years he has stayed at the leading edge of book promotion. He made not one, not two but three videos for his latest thriller, The Book of Lies. One of them has Christopher Hitchens and Joss Whedon in the cast (yes, the guy who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) The video itself is a fine piece of writing, about a theoretical missing book of the Bible.

Of course my book trailer for Russian Roulette will be produced by Circle of Seven Productions, the company that invented the things back in 2002, and I’ll be debuting it soon. It won’t be nearly as impressive as any of Brad’s but I’m starting small like he did and following in the great man’s footsteps. It’s good to have such a great and successful example to follow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guns, shooting rampages and bullies

For years now, people have been discussing the gun issue and the "right to bear arms". Is it a God-given right? Or should guns for the general public be outlawed completely? How many innocent children and adults have to die before something is done to solve this epidemic?

On Wednesday, March 11th, at the Albertville school in Winnenden, Germany, a 17-year-old gunman dressed all in black brought a gun into his school and opened fire. He killed 2 boys, 7 girls and 3 female teachers.

The gunman, later identified as Tim Kretschmer, then killed a gardener at the clinic next door and hijacked a car, ordering the driver to take him 40K out of town. After the driver jumped out of the car, Kretschmer ran into a car dealership where he shot a sales rep and a customer. His final act? He turned the gun on himself.

Kretschmer had a murder list in his home, a list of people who had wronged him. He'd gotten the handgun from his father's collection. It hadn't been locked away with the others. It was left in a drawer where anyone could have access to it. And someone did, and look at the deaths it has caused. Should the father be charged?

On the same day, in Samson, Alabama, 28-year-old Michael McLendon, an ex-cop, set his mother's house on fire, killing his mother and her dog. Next he shot and killed five others, including the wife and 18-month-old baby of a local sheriff's deputy.

McLendon randomly shot at townspeople as he drove through the streets, then he killed his own grandmother. In the end, he killed 10 people before turning the gun on himself at the metals plant in the town of Geneva, where he had worked.

Some reports say that he, too, had left a murder list. It is suggested that his parent's bitter divorce caused McLendon to lash out at his own family. There are reports that he had issues at his former jobs, problems with some of his co-workers. Was he a victim of bullying? Did he suffer from depression?

Some questions will never be answered, but one thing is for sure in both cases: these two men were seriously messed up and no one noticed. Both men felt that others had done them wrong; neither of them got help for their depression. These are the common emotional elements in rampage shooters.

The other common element is that both men had access to guns. The handguns used in both cases were apparently registered legally. The assault rifles that McLendon also carried were illegal. This tells us that it doesn't matter if people carry permits; a weapon is a weapon.

I get why people in some countries and cities feel they need a gun to protect themselves. I get wanting to protect your family and children. I get why some people feel it necessary to have a gun in the house; it makes them feel safer. But at what cost, people? At the cost of innocent and young lives? How many more unnecessary deaths like these do there have to be before people start realizing how dangerous it is to have a gun in the house, especially one that is not locked up securely? And why is it that depressed or bullied people feel the necessity to get revenge by killing innocent people? Get help!

I was bullied as a kid, and in this day and age that seems to mean I can grab a weapon and gun down my enemies. Sure there were days in my youth where I imagined pushing my bully down a flight of stairs or smacking her in the head or worse. I am sure I even wished her dead at times. That's how kids think; expecially ones who are being bullied. Mostly I imagined the day I'd be able to stand up to her.

I never had to. Eventually she moved on to someone else, then I moved away. I bumped into her years later and she inspired only one emotion from me--pity. While my life had continually gotten better, hers had gotten worse. I heard rumors about her life and I began to understand why she had acted the way she had in school. She was actually the inspiration for "Annie", a character in my novel Whale Song.

My message to those who feel they're being bullied or mistreated: It WILL pass. Years from now you'll barely remember it. You'll get over it; yes, maybe with counseling or therapy, but you'll get over it. Years from now you'll realize that the school bully taught you something about yourself. Mine taught me to stand up for myself and not let people walk all over me. That lesson, while traumatic at the time, has come in handy over the past few years, and not once have I felt the need for a gun to solve my problems. Time and forgiveness heals all things.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Mister's a Sister

You know I’m a believer in writer’s organization. I pay my dues to Mystery Writers of America , Private Eye Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, American Independent Writers, the Virginia Writers Club and even the Maryland Writers Association in the next state over. But why would an otherwise masculine guy like me be a member of Sisters in Crime?

Well, originally I joined because I wanted to support the cause - to combat discrimination against women in the mystery field and raise awareness of their contribution to the field. Soon after I joined I realized that I knew more female mystery writers than male, so maybe they didn’t need my help. But then I began to feel the advantages of membership.

This group is more proactive than any of the other national organizations from the point of view of training. While the MWA is focused on enhancing the reputation of mystery writing, and the ITW are all about marketing, Sisters in Crime focuses on nurturing new writers and helping them to improve their craft. They are also big on networking and maintaining close ties to publishers and agents, which helps members get into the business.

But perhaps the biggest advantage to me is the electronic newsletter, In SinC. The editors do a very good job of scanning the industry and letting me know which articles in Publishers Weekly or other pubs I need to read. They link me to the most useful and informative articles and interviews with agents and publishers who have the inside view of the publishing industry.

The best part of the newsletter to me is the encouraging news. While we’re all hearing about how the publishing industry is going into the toilet they print the details of new deals members have landed. When I read that Clea Simon has sold the first book in a new paranormal mystery series to Severn House in a nice two-book deal, that Lorraine Bartlett sold the next three books in her series, and that Carolyn Hart's next three books sold to Harper in a significant deal (significant deal = somewhere between $250K and 500K) I know that editors are still buying, and I find that fact very encouraging.