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.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Doctors earn every penny they’re paid

I recently read one of those viral letters posted on social media that began with the line, “Somebody asked: You’re a doctor? How much do you make?”

The author cleverly used another definition of “make” in the answer, citing the difference doctors “make” and the sacrifices their families routinely to “make” as part of their demanding profession.

Some of the answers were thought provoking:

·         “I can make holding your hand seem like the most important thing in the world when you're scared.”
·         “I can make your child breathe when they stop.”
·         “I can make myself get up at 4 a.m. to make sure your mother has the medicine she needs to live.”
·         “I make my family wait for dinner until I know your family member is taken care of.”

Comments on the letter were mainly positive. Some readers rightly extended those answers to nurses and other healthcare professionals who spend their lives handling our emergencies. Still, in an era when government rather than the free market is controlling much of our healthcare costs, doctors are sizable targets. Many believe they simply “make” too much money and that doctor salaries are part of the overall healthcare cost crisis.

“We pay our doctors way too much,” wrote economics writer Matthew Yglesias in Slate magazine, adding that “there’s no rational basis for leaving their interests unscathed when tackling unduly expensive medicine.”

To justify the claim he cited the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that reported the United States “has the highest-paid general practitioners in the world” and that our medical specialists “make more than specialists in every other country except the Netherlands.”

Good.

As with most goods and services, you get what you pay for. Rather than being envious of a doctor’s salary, or clumsily tinkering with the complex market that decides it, perhaps we should consider the value of their services.

Like many, I’ve had experience with a major medical issue. My wife recently developed a life-threatening condition and spent the last six-weeks of her pregnancy in the hospital.

The care was outstanding. The doctor visited my wife late at night only to show up again early the next morning, ensuring everything was correct. He left nothing to chance or to someone else to handle. He saw her on his days off and even returned from a serious out-of-town family emergency to perform my wife’s surgery during the time it was best for her condition. He was meticulous, cautious and thorough, and in the end he saved the lives of my wife and son.

The cost was enormous; two-thirds a year’s total earnings. Thankfully my insurance paid the lion’s share but our savings took a deep hit. I’m not sure what portion of the total bill went into the doctor’s pocket, but I hope it was a bundle. He earned it.

Most doctors I know pour an enormous amount of time, effort and money into their education, beginning when they’re only teenagers. Once they become doctors their level of effort – and expenses due to malpractice insurance and regulatory costs – seems to only increase. Simply put, doctors have worked harder and sacrificed more over a longer period of time than most people (including me). It stands to reason they should earn more.

That seems lost on the central planners at the Health and Human Services Department. They’re controlling much of the market already through Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare’s growing regulations. Control over access may soon follow, and if the trend continues, they’ll eventually decide how much doctors can earn. That’s how it’s done in the United Kingdom, often cited as an example of a healthcare utopia. 

Let’s hope the tide turns. Meanwhile, the author of that viral letter ended his answers by reminding us that most doctors enter their profession for more than just monetary reward. “How much do I make?” he asked. “All I know is, I make a difference.”

For my family, our doctor made all the difference. I only hope that despite the government’s continued meddling in his profession that future doctors can continue making that kind of a difference for other families, and collect every penny they’ve earned along the way.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Forgotten Man

This week I released A Forgotten Man, the first novel in The Life of Julia series. It’s a story of one father’s heroic struggle to provide for his family, of one mother’s heartbreaking sacrifices, and the tragic unraveling of a young girl’s once-promising future. The novel tells of the unseen impact of the Great Recession on American families and explores the changing relationships between citizens and their government.

It's available in paperback and ebook from Amazon.

The story follows the Bosarge family — Jack, Donita, and their three-year-old daughter Julia — after environmental regulations force a small town seafood company to close, costing Jack his job and sending his family deeply into debt. As Jack fails to find employment, Donita loses hope and their way of life begins to crumble beneath a society that has forgotten about working class men and women.

The novel was inspired by the controversial political advertisement “The Life of Julia,” by President Barrack Obama’s reelection campaign. The ad showed snapshots of how government programs helped a fictionalized woman named Julia during 12 pivotal years in her life, beginning at age 3 and ending at age 67. My series, however, will tell the rest of her story, showing the complete impact of an increasingly large and powerful central government, and what really happens to Julia and those around her.

So where did I get the title? I consider the character of Julia’s father to a “forgotten man” in our society, a term coined by William Graham Sumner in 1883.

“Now who is the Forgotten Man? He is the simple, honest laborer, ready to earn his living by productive work,” Sumner wrote in a series of essays in Harper’s Weekly. “We pass him by because he is independent, self-supporting, and asks no favors. We do not remember him because he makes no clamor; but I appeal to you whether he is not the man who ought to be remembered first of all.”

I wrote A Forgotten Man as a cautionary tale about what I believe is a “new lost generation” of American families who are beset by debt, burdened by government, and without the hopes and dreams that inspired, fueled, and built the great nation they inherited, but may not be able to sustain.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Newspaper Column


Last summer I was offered the exciting opportunity to write a weekly opinion column for a major newspaper chain that serves more than 900,000 weekly readers of The Birmingham News, The Mobile Press-Register, The Huntsville Times and The Mississippi Press. The column is also posted on AL.com, which has more than 4.5 million unique monthly visitors.

I’ve enjoyed writing about topics such as global warming, energy, abortion, health care, education, labor, party politics, and even the right to keep a few chickens in your backyard. 

They’re all posted here, and are accessible through the “Newspaper Column” tab above.

The column is an interesting development in my career because writing conservative-leaning editorials was the reason I studied journalism and began working as a newspaper reporter in the first place. But I got a little sidetracked. I left the newspaper business after a couple of years on the general assignment beat and started working as a political aide in D.C. Fifteen-years later, after working in the political and government sectors here and internationally, I found myself mostly handling communication strategy and managing personnel – not much of a writer’s dream.

I eventually made a few changes, returned to Alabama and started writing full-time again. I was thrilled when the newspaper chain unexpectedly offered me the opportunity to become a weekly columnist. They thought my conservative-leaning views would be an interesting addition to their opinion pages, which host several very talented and award-winning writers.

I mainly write conservative-leaning views about issues facing Alabama, or national issues as seen from the state’s perspective. I know Alabama and the Gulf Coast very well since I was born and raised here, and am from a family that’s been in Alabama since before statehood. I went to college here, served in the state’s National Guard, and worked for a former congressman and governor. I’ve also lived in all four of its largest cities – Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville – and spent plenty of time in its smaller communities when I was a reporter and political campaign aide. From its white-sand beaches that I played upon as a child, to its forested mountains that I hike as an adult, I love every square-mile of this place.

I’ll continue writing the weekly column as long as the newspaper chain lets me. I enjoy adding what I hope are thoughtful opinions and helpful insight into the issues we face. You may not agree with everything I write – maybe nothing at all. But in the end, I think it’s more important for us all to discuss the issues even if we don’t agree. We need more debate, not less, if we want to live peacefully in a nation with so many diverse traditions, lifestyles and personal preferences.

If you want to recommend something for me to write about, please use the “Contact” tab above and send me a note. I’d love to hear it. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy reading my column as much as I enjoy writing it.