PIZZERIA FAKE NEWS STORY FREE ASSOCIATION EXERCISE

yeah, i’m looking at you NPRThe story sounds like a drug-inspired paranoia trip. But here it goes.

Some conspiracy whack jobs on the interwebs told everyone that a pizza shop in Washington D.C. was a front for child-sex trafficking and satanic illuminati shenanigans. The conspiracy loons said Hillary Clinton was involved. Their mindless bilge was all propagated as news, when in fact it was fake-news. Fake-news seems to be more profitable than real news.

People believed these lies unconditionally and didn’t bother to check the facts or consider the source.

Death threats were made. Innocent people were harassed. Someone went into the pizzeria and shot off a couple of rounds from an assault rifle. He said he was investigating the claims about Clinton.

I told you it sounded crazy, didn’t I?

In my novel The Little Girl Waits (which you should buy right now) I have a scene where the traffickers are using an auto repair shop as a front for their evil, and the good guys go in to investigate. It is one of the better scenes in the book, IMHO. But that is fiction. This loon took a real rifle into a real pizza restaurant. A PIZZA RESTAURANT! That is not fiction.

So, the next time someone tells me that the elements in my novel aren’t “believable” I’m just gonna point to this.

I’ve come to think that believability in a story is slightly overrated. (By the way, have you bought my novel The Little Girl Waits yet? Go Ahead and get the follow-up to it, How Great is The Darkness while you’re at it.) When I pick up a novel to read, I don’t want it to look exactly like my everyday world. I want it to be different. I want the unexpected. I want to see believable characters in unbelievable situations. In fact, I like that sentence so much, I’m gonna set it off in its own quote bracket to highlight the point like they do in fancy publications.

I want to see believable characters in unbelievable situations

This gets back to another thing I believe in so deeply. Character trumps plot. We love characters. We tolerate plots. The plot only exists to reveal the integrity and grit (or lack thereof) of the character(s). I’ll use Harry Potter because it is so easy. The plot of what is going on and the whose it, spell it, when it, is very inconsequential. We care about Harry, his friends, Dumbledore, and the showdown with Voldemort. The characters are the plot.

Of course, the plot matters. I don’t mean to say it doesn’t have a role to play in the development of a good story. What I am saying is that character development matters far more, and it is the characters that keep the reader engaged. The moment the reader stops caring about the character he or she is likely to put the book down and go turn the television on  and watch the Gilmore Girls–because that is all character.

But back to the pizza shop. It is actually a place called Comet Ping Pong Pizza. Disclosure–I’ve never been there, so the pizza might be lousy.

I think they should lawyer-up and start the lawsuits. If I owned that business, I would sue everyone I could find that pushed that fake news story. I’m not generally litigation happy, but for crying-out-loud there needs to be some accountability here. Free speech is important, but I can’t shout, “Fire” in a movie theater and fake news propagators must be held accountable.

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This is not a real news story

 

There are two problems at play here, as I see it. The first problem is, as this (click here) article on slate points out, conspiracies to hurt children exist. One only has to think of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or the Catholic Diocese of Boston highlighted in the film Spotlight. It is sickening to think about, but true. The second problem, though, is different. It is the problem that we attribute the worst possible societal crime to our political opponents. It is not enough to suspect a child-sex ring, but somehow it must be Hillary Clinton’s fault. Before the progresses get all high and mighty about this, they need to realize they are equally to blame when they all but accuse Donald Trump of having white hoods in his closet.

This is all problematic. But you know what else is problematic–who we blame. If  I hear one more person blame “the internet” or “social media” for this (yeah, I’m looking at you NPR), I’m gonna do something serious like eat an apple without washing it first. Dont’ try me!

This is not the internet’s fault. The internet is neutral, like a car. You can drive it wherever you want. The internet takes you places and grants you conversation. The problem is not the medium. The problem is that people have lost the ability to think critically. I don’t when it happened, somewhere since my childhood the important skill of analysis has vaporized.

Fake news stories have been here, since, like, forever! The National Enquirer was based on it in my childhood. People read it, but they knew it was garbage.

Somehow we’ve lot the ability to chuckle at the stupidity and move on.

The reason is we want to believe the garbage.

It reminds me a bit of my theology of zombies. You read that right. Zombies have a theology. The short of it is that the zombie genre and our fascination with it hints at a deep down feeling of unease that we have with our life. We have a sense that something is out of balance, something is not quite right in the world, and we are just one bad moment from ending the whole thing. This thinking has crept into our political world. We expect there to be a political apocalypse any day now, when our darkest nightmares are confirmed. It is fatalism that flows from a lack of spirituality. To read more about the theology of zombies, click here.

Therefore, the political enemy must, necessarily, be completely evil. He or she can’t just be wrong on the issue or the policy, he must be completely evil. So George Bush was compared with Hitler, Obama was a secret Muslim, Trump is a Nazi, Clinton is the Illuminati, and on and on and on. This kind of though pollutes our national discourse.

One more thought. Chew on this for a bit. A pastor friend of mine shared this week that someone he knew refused to pray for peace because he believed that the world needed to get worse and worse so that Jesus would come back.

That is how you end up with assault rifles at pizza joints where people are looking for presidential candidates sacrificing children.

 

 

 

LARRY MCMURTRY’S WRITING SPACE

Reading through this months Texas Monthly (just about the best magazine around) and there is an interview/article with Texas writing legend Larry McMurtry. The piece begins with this mesmerizing description of his writing space.

“McMurtry turned around and shuffled us to the other end of the hallway, to his and Faye’s bedroom. The room held a queen-sized bed, draped in a  white comforter and flanked on either side by bedside tables, on whose surfaces sat vitamin bottles and medications.  There was also a sofa, a small desk with a computer for Faye, and a large wooden table for McMurtry. On the table was a stack of typing paper, some manila folders containing manuscripts, a clock, a bottle of Advil, a box of tissues, and Mcmurtry’s Hermes 3000 typewriter.”

If this description of a writing stud’s creative workshop doesn’t make a person want to write, then nothing will.

 

A LITTLE SWEATY FUN

Yesterday I posted the following on the Facebooks

File Jan 06, 8 19 21 AM

It wasn’t long before many of my FB friends had ideas. At first it was helpful suggestions–people weighing in on whether they preferred “poured” or “ran” in the sentence. It wasn’t long before I was getting full fledged sentence ideas, complete with metaphor and plot devices. My post had turned into a writing prompt.

One writer friend wrote,

He sweat like a fat man chasing a donut through the Amazonian jungle.

Another friend channeled the classic film Throw Momma From the Train and suggested, “It’s sultry in here.” That would make the whole thing moist.

A wordy pastor friend of mine suggested the interjection of a medical condition, writing the sentence as,

It wasn’t the first time he was thankful for being born with anhidrosis.

The concept took a bizarre turn when someone suggested he word “glisten” in order to make the torture scene sexy, then this decidedly romantic idea was postulated by a friend from New Orleans:

He glistened as sweat poured down his face. His sultry eyes took long pauses when he blinked as he inhaled deeply to slow his racing heart.

A Star Wars fan tapped into the zeitgeist of the times and wrote,

Waving his hand like a Jedi Knight, ‘this is the phrase your shooting for.’

Then, the donut Amazon writer friend chimed back in with this gem:

Sweat shot from his face, head and back, like a fire hose in a five alarm fire, knocking everything down, drowning children and small woodland animals in the process.

How about this other one,

he sweat like a sieve held under a waterfall after a heavy rain.

Another writer friend took the time to send me an email suggestion.

Beads of sweat attacked his face like the rage of a thousand angry, wet dentists.

I never knew that tortured sweat could be so much fun.

In case your wondering, here is the way it currently looks in the WIP, which is part of the finale for my Deep Cove series–of which there will be big news in early spring. Keep in mind this is the WIP and not the final product.

Without saying anything else, Finn opened the door so quickly that it startled both Jack and A-Jay. Agent Finn swept into the jail cell and was on top of the prisoner with his knee in the chest of his target. From his coat pocket he produced something that looked like a ballpoint pin. He jammed it into the prisoner’s side. The victim began to shake, only slightly at first but then with the force of a major epileptic seizure.
Finn pulled the device away, then he brought the back of his hand hard against the victim’s jaw.
“Now, what is your name? What are you doing here? Are there any more with you?”
Sweat covered the prisoner’s face. His teeth rattled.
From where A-Jay was she thought his eyes were rolled back into his head. It occurred to her that she should intervene, but then, she was not in the best position herself. She felt vulnerable, and that was a feeling she didn’t like.
Finn yelled, “Answer me!”
There was a momentary silence. The prisoner grunted, then looked Finn in the eyes. In perfect English he said, “I will never tell you anything.”
“I believe you,” Finn said, jamming . . .

You’ll have to buy the story in March to find out more.

 

GREAT GIFTS FOR WRITERS

If you are cursed with having a writer in your circle of friends or family, then you know finding the perfect gift for paranoid neurotic personality types is often difficult. I recognize this, and have offered this blog post as a friendly help.

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  1. Buy their books. If you bought a paper copy, buy the Kindle or Nook too. Do not, under any circumstances, let someone else borrow your copy; buy them one of their own. Give them away as Christmas presents. It doesn’t really matter if you read them or not. Just buy.
  2. Write reviews. I can’t emphasize enough how much this is needed. Write a five star review on as many websites as possible (starting at Amazon, then Goodreads and Barnes&Noble). Do not mention that you know the writer personally in the review. It is important that you do not lie, but do emphasize the positive. If you’re going to review with less than four stars, don’t. A corollary of this is to Tweet, Facebook, Blog, Linkedin, Tumblr, and Google+ links and reviews about your favorite authors books.
  3. Host a writer meet and greet. Invite your favorite author friend to your home where she can talk about her books, sell books, and engage with possible buyers. Even if you live a long way from the writer, do it anyway. I wager the writer will travel. This is a win-win, because you get to support your favorite writer friend while showing off your new chocolate cake recipe.
  4. Give the gift of respect. Never belittle the writer, as if he doesn’t do anything all day long. Writing is hard work. Whether you like what the writer writes or not is irrelevant, the act of creating something is extremely difficult. It takes time and commitment.
  5. Coffee. Maybe tea. Whichever your writer prefers, a gift of coffee or tea will be appreciated. This gift signifies that you understand and are offering a comforting hand. Do not give gifts of notebooks, books on writing, pens, computer programs or other miscellany that is often associated with writing (unless the writer has asked for something specific, like a MacBook Pro or a box of pencils). A gift card to buy books is not a bad idea, but a specific book feels like an assignment. Books on writing feel like an insult. Would you give a book on how to teach to a teacher? Only if you thought that person needed help, right?

I hope this is the best Christmas ever for you and your significant writer friend or family member.