Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What's On Your Nightstand?

A few days ago I was walking through my bedroom and happened to notice the striking difference in the books that my wife and I were reading. 

Here's the picture from our nightstands ... guess who was reaching which book? 

This wasn't really an anomaly. It's a typical representation of what you can find on our nightstands during any given week. My wife (the saint that she is) tends to read things that are meant to improve her life somehow, while I read things that scare the heck out of me.

Believe it or not, we're still a pretty good pair.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pictures Climate Change Proponents Don’t Show

Stories about man-made abrupt climate change are usually accompanied by pictures of all sorts of terrible things: burnt crops due to drought, a lonesome polar bear without a home due to melting ice, and the erosion of coastline due to rising sea levels, among a variety of other calamities. The line of thinking goes something like this: "See this awful picture of this awful thing caused by this awful global warming caused by all those awful capitalists...how can you not believe in climate change?" But they'll never show you any pictures that don't fit their politically-driven narrative. We have to find and share those ourselves.

Earlier this month I visited by hometown of Mobile, Alabama, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and took my children to the nearby barrier island -- Dauphin Island. I’ve read several stories about parts of the island eroding, mostly toward the western end that has always been skinny and full of expensive beach houses. The stories often show some million-dollar house that now sits uncomfortably close to the shore -- thanks to global warming, of course. But as most global warming skeptics believe, climate is cyclical and while one area may erode, another may gain.

The first picture shown here is taken from a postcard of Dauphin Island's public pier several decades ago. Notice the location of the Gulf of Mexico -- under the pier, of course. I remember walking to the end of that pier when I was a little boy, lowering nets off the side into deep water and pulling up dozens of blue crabs. Ah, the good old days.
Dauphin Island Pier -- then

The rest of the pictures were taken during my recent visit to the island. Notice the location of the Gulf of Mexico -- not under the pier!

Dauphin Island Pier - now
The beach has grown several hundred yards south, well past the end of the old wooden structure. Over the past few years a sometimes-submerged sandbar has migrated north and combined with the island's beach. Some historians say it’s the way the island looked when French explorers first came there a few hundred years ago. I bet that the western end was just as skinny then as it is now. Again, a cyclical pattern.

Dauphin Island Pier - now
But global warming believers don't want to look at the full picture, seeing how one side grows while the other side shrinks. They'll only look at whatever proves their point, and ignore the rest.
Dauphin Island Pier - now
The start of the coast line today, far away from the end of the pier

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Speaking about man-made climate change on ClimateWire

ClimateWire recently published a three-part series reporting on global warming and its alleged impacts along the Gulf Coast, with a special focus on my hometown -- Mobile, Alabama.

The journalist -- Daniel Cusick -- did a pretty good job (I knew him from back in my newspaper days). In three very detailed stories he reported all sides fairly, I think, and showed how this isn't just an international or national issue, but very much a local one.

Here's the section where I appear in the first story, which is titled "Ala., which has much at risk from climate change, argues it doesn't exist":
The state (Alabama) also has its share of climate skeptic political pundits.
J. Pepper Bryars, a Huntsville-based writer and former press secretary and speechwriter to Alabama's previous governor, Bob Riley, has cited Christy's work in a handful of op-eds written for the state's major news outlets. He has characterized climate scientists and activists who adhere to warming theories as being "more like Nostradamus staring down into a bowl of water" than "Galileo peering through a telescope."
In an email exchange with ClimateWire, Bryars laid out his views more fully, including some caveats that give credence to the known effects of climate change in the state but ultimately dismissing the science behind it.
"Skeptics of man-made abrupt climate change aren't questioning thermometers or yardsticks. Temperature and sea-level measurements taken in the past and present are facts that we don't dispute," he said.
"However, we're skeptical of future predictions based on computer models that have been proven inaccurate, especially when the proposed remedies sound a lot like long-held political goals of the far left: transfers of wealth via cap-and-trade schemes, greater government control over production and consumption, and regulation over sovereign democracies by non-elected international bodies of supposed experts."
The next article in ClimateWire's series focused on the small barrier island off the coast of Mobile County -- Dauphin Island. It's a great little fishing village, with the same soft white sands of Panama City Beach and Destin but without all of the crowds. It still has the feel of a small town, which it is. For years some of the island's beaches have been eroding, though, and many blame global warming.

The article is titled "Ala.'s Dauphin Island meets 'Years of Living Dangerously,'" and here's the part where I'm quoted:
But there are others in Alabama who view Dauphin Island's fate on different terms and who believe any relationship between the island's slow destruction and climate change is an abstract scientific theory looking for a landscape to fit its fuzzy assumptions.
Such arguments, made by residents like Mobile native J. Pepper Bryars, a former press secretary and speechwriter for Alabama's last governor, Bob Riley, in a recent op-ed in the Mobile Press-Register is that barrier islands like Dauphin Island are ephemeral landscapes, where "every few years it shifts, shakes and remakes itself like Mother Nature's personal Etch-a-Sketch."
It's Mother Nature, not climate change
As for the role that human-induced climate change has in aiding that process, Bryars and like-minded Alabamians remain deeply skeptical.
They point to data compiled by Christy, the state climatologist, that show Alabama's climate has experienced only modest warming over the last half-century and that extreme weather events happen with no greater frequency or intensity than they ever did.
"Why are the changes and threats any different from past decades? Global warming advocates usually rely on two arguments: There's been a lot of bad weather lately, and the computer models show it's only getting worse," Bryars wrote.
"But is that accurate, at least on a global scale? No," he added.
In a subsequent email exchange, Bryars acknowledged that "parts of Dauphin Island may be in greater danger of erosion that they were a few decades ago, but how about a few centuries ago? We must understand that the shoreline now wasn't what Mother Nature made 500 years ago, and it won't be what she makes 500 years from now, either."
On the question of beach nourishment, Bryars added, "We may win, but it may come at a great cost. Residents and taxpayers will have to weigh the gains, risks and costs as the battle continues."
Again, I think Climatewire did a fine job with the series. Sure, they have a perspective on the issue, as most well-informed people do (especially journalists), but to their credit the reporter and editors certainly allowed me plenty of room to make my point.

Friday, April 25, 2014

My inspiration for the “Warfighter” series

Some readers have asked where I got the idea to do a series of oral history stories on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The idea to focus on the men and women who fought the conflict, and hear the story in their own words, came from a book titled The Good War by Studs Terkel

In the book, the way Terkel asks the veterans questions and helps them tell the story is remarkable. It’s much better than reading a history book written by someone who wasn’t there – this is how it really was, as told by those who were really there. The stories of these “real people” spoken in plain language was remarkable to read.

So…I began to look at books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some are great – those written by the veterans. Most are political - which is sad. But I haven’t seen a collection like “The Good War” was, and I think we owe it to our men and women who served there, and the generations that will follow, to record, collect and publish these stories.

I’ll begin to conduct interviews during the next several months and hope to publish something later this year.

If you know of anyone I should interview, please let me know!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My inspiration for volumn two of "The Life of Julia"

I'm busy writing the first draft of volume two in the "Life of Julia" series, which will be titled "Into the Closet."

The story will catch up with Julia when she is 17-years old -- the second year of her life highlighted in the campaign ad. The ad showed Julia doing very well in public school, which will also be the case in the book. However, I will tackle the issue of religious liberty and the growing trend of the government trampling upon traditional views in the name of mandating universal diversity -- which is kind of an oxy-moron. 

Where am I drawing my inspiration? I don't want to give away too much of the plot while it is still being written, but it is safe to say that the theme was inspired by the case of Owen and Eunice Johns of the United Kingdom. The couple, both Pentecostal Christians, had fostered children for years in Derby, England...until a social worker came by for a routine interview and asked about their views of homosexuality. They said, as Bible-believing Christians (in their words), that it is a sin. The social worker asked what they would tell any of their foster children about homosexuality if they were asked. Owen and Eunice said they would say their faith teaches them that homosexuality is wrong, but that if the child was homosexual, they would love and care for the child and treat them no differently than anyone else - also as their faith teaches. 

They thought wrong. Their license to continue fostering was denied, and the case went all the way to a high court in England who refused to act. The court did, however, issue an amazing opinion revealing the degree to which the U.K. has trampled on religious freedom in the name of "valuing diversity." British citizens can believe whatever they want -- inside their own head and heart -- but the court believes they cannot express or practice it in any form that doesn't comply with the government views.

The opinion, and the arguments backing it up, was straight out of a dystopian novel. I read it, and watched a few interviews about the case, and the idea for the next installment of Julia began to form in my mind. This may have happened in the U.K., but it is already happening to some degree here, and it will only get worse. I recently watched a video from a meeting of the Boston Bar Association where a state employee says they're "weeding out" potential caregivers who share the views of Owen and Eunice Johns. Passive acceptance of homosexuality isn't enough, the speakers at the meeting warned, a full endorsement is required. 

I am trying to keep the second story short, perhaps the size of a novella (about 100 pages), and want to published it sometime later this summer. 

Meanwhile, take a look at this clip from a BBC interview show where the issue was discussed.
BBC's "Question Time" program debates the Derby Foster Care Case

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fact behind the Fiction

A few readers of "A Forgotten Man" have asked where I received my inspiration for one of the novel's early plot catalysts -- the government's forced closing of Bienville Bay Oyster Company. A couple of readers even said it didn't seem realistic. I wish that were true.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company is a small, family-owned oyster farm on the coast of California. The federal government has been trying to close it for the past couple of years. After watching this short documentary in early 2013, the idea of Bienville Bay Oyster Company was born.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Forgotten Man hits #1 on two Amazon genre lists!

"A Forgotten Man," my debut novel inspired by President Obama's "Life of Julia" campaign advertisement, surged to the #1 bestseller spots on Amazon's political fiction and literary fiction genre lists during its three-day free promotion in late February.
Screenshot of my book's Amazon Genre Rankings

More than 5,400 readers downloaded the book in just 72-hours! Reviews are already coming in, including:

"This work changed me." 
- M. Domashinski

"There is something quite haunting about this book that makes you search your soul and rethink things within your own life." 
- S. Grayson

"I finished this book three-days ago and it is still running through my mind." 
- G. Buccheri

Promotional giveaways can sometimes help an unknown work get discovered, but now that free books are often available most authors can only expect a few hundred new readers during a promotional event, maybe a thousand if it’s in a popular genre like romance or thriller. I calculated that a successful promotion for “A Forgotten Man” would be between 400-500...but 5,400 was well beyond my expectations, and charting #1 on two genre lists was totally unexpected.

So...a big THANK YOU to everyone who made it happen, and a double THANK YOU to those who left reviews. Your interest in my work, and your thoughts about it, mean more to me than you could imagine.