American Sniper: Check Your Criticism

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American Sniper is on the verge of leading the domestic box office for the third weekend in a row. It’s garnered Bradley Cooper his third Oscar nomination in as many years, and has many people calling it one of the best films of 2014. If you somehow haven’t heard anything about this movie, it tells the story of the most lethal sniper in American history.

But there’s more going on and being said. Many have directly criticized Chris Kyle for a number of things. He’s who the movie is about. And very recently Bill Maher had some hasty words to describe him. Again for those who don’t know, Chris Kyle was killed by a U.S. Marine Corps veteran about a year ago.

My reasoning for writing this post is because people are watching a movie adapted from a book and immediately criticizing Chris Kyle. Which is unacceptable. What right do I have to criticize any military veteran when I myself could never join the ranks to defend this country and its interests? None. I have no right. Because I have no idea what it’s like, and I never will. No matter how many war movies Hollywood makes, I’ll never have a clue what it’s really like. And neither do any of these people criticizing Chris Kyle or any other veteran.

If you want to criticize the actions that led to Chris Kyle’s deployment, then okay. If you want to criticize Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of the man, then okay. If you want to criticize the entirety of the movie, then okay. If you want to criticize the politicization of war in America, then okay. But do not criticize someone like Chris Kyle who went and served in another country in the midst of war. Because you have no idea what he experienced. And you weren’t right there alongside him.

The House is Burning Down…What do I Grab?

House Fire

Photo Credit: IW Blogger

Yesterday this was the daily prompt on The Daily Post:

Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

This is the first time I’ve ever done a writing prompt. But I read someone else’s response and decided I wanted to do this one.

So let me see. I can grab five things, right? Well I have my college diploma. I have my college class ring (still my single most expensive purchase). My laptop on which I type all of my blog posts. I have my cap and gown in my closet. Maybe that’s it?

But no. I wouldn’t grab any of those things. Not even my ring. Why? BECAUSE I MUST SAVE MY BOOKS! Seriously. I wrote in a post last year sometime that in this very situation I’d save my books. Let me refresh your memory as to how I’d do it. I have two shelves. Right around 180 books. A good number, but not too many. And there’s a window right in the middle of both of them. First, I’d break that window. Easy enough. Then I’d grab whatever trash bag I could find in the kitchen and just start throwing my books inside as fast as I possibly could. Yes, throwing. No time to be pretty about it. If it came time for me to have to get out of the house and all of my books weren’t saved yet, I’d start throwing them out the window without the bag. I’d rather have a dirty, wet book than no book.

What would you grab?

Ever Heard of Kindle First?

Amazon keeps rolling out the book-related programs. I think Kindle First was launched late last year, I think. Anyway, have you heard of it? I randomly received an email some time ago that told me a little about the program and I jotted down a few words on my list of topics to blog.

What happens is the Amazon editors pick four books each month to have in the program. The books become available a month before the public has access. Rather than pre-ordering and waiting for release day, the price of each Kindle book is $1.99 for non-Prime members. Prime members can read two of the four books for free. The books are from four different genres. Thriller. Romance. Mystery. Historical Fiction. I’m not sure if the genres change or not. But that’s it. The books count as purchases and remain in your Kindle library. Everyone is limited to two of the four books each month.

What do you think? Want to read some books that you probably haven’t heard of a month before they’re released? I’m a Prime member, so I just might download two of the January books to see if I can make using the program a regular thing.

One last note, all four January books are in the top 30 in the Kindle store. One of them has over a thousand reviews already and its release day is February 1. Hmm.

You can get more information about the program and the January titles here.

Guest Post: Writer Interrupted

Hey guys, John here. This is the first guest post of 2015 written by the always great John Callaghan. This was not a topic I chose or approved. I let him decide what to write and that’s what he did. The message he delivers in just a few hundred words should be known by every writer at all times. Now let’s welcome him with a nice round of applause. It’s all yours, Mr. Callaghan.


Writer Interrupted

From the time I was a child, I wanted to write. Not necessarily as a profession but merely as a hobby. Putting my thoughts on paper and creating something from nothing was thrilling. I wrote horror stories in which someone always ended up with a bloody stump. I wrote essays of sorts. And I wrote poetry.

In grade eight I entered a poem in a contest held every year by the Legion, a non-profit organization that provides support for military veterans in Canada. I worked hard on that poem. I wrote of loss and fear and memory—not a great poem but good for someone my age. And I won my region. I was going to get the opportunity to go to the Legion in Pembroke and read my poem for the veterans. It was my first tangible accomplishment as a writer and I was elated.

The day after I learned I had won, I went to school and in breathless excitement told some of my friends my good news.

“Hey guys, I won the Legion poetry contest,” I said, and then waited for a “way to go” or “that’s great” or even a “good for you.”

But instead what I got was: “Writing is for faggots. It’s gay.”

The boy who said this was a red-headed monster and he said it with such surety, such conviction (and he was the leader of our group), that I believed him. My world imploded, and rather than be upset about what he said, I was angry at myself, ashamed, for not knowing what everyone else so obviously knew: Writing was for the “Other,” misfits, outsiders. And I wanted to fit in—I was desperate to fit in.

I put my pen down that day and didn’t pick it up again for many, many years.

If I could go back in time and talk to that version of myself, I’d tell that boy, “You have to keep writing. No matter what. That red-headed monster is doomed to a life of misery. The world is so big. And he is so small, just a punchline in the joke of life.” I’d tell my younger self to laugh about it, or punch Monsterboy in the face, or just stare at him until he becomes uncomfortable and then stare a little more.

This experience wasn’t the only reason I stopped writing, but it was a contributing factor. I am careful, however, not to dwell on regret and live in that dangerous state of being where I think about wasted opportunity, wasted time. That is a dead-end road. But I do wonder from time to time what could have been if I had not been a writer interrupted.

John Callaghan

Get Off My Lawn

Do eBooks Count as Books you own?

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Photo Credit: The Next Web

I already know that I’m going to be the only one on this side of the fence, but that’s okay. Do eBooks count as books I own? Nope. I have an Excel Spreadsheet with only the number of books I own by individual authors and not one of them is from an eBook. I also have a Word document with all of my books listed in alphabetical order and not one of them is an eBook.

I honestly have no idea why I do this. I still count eBooks toward my reading goals and I time how long it takes to read them, but for whatever reason I’ve never included them in my lists of books I own. Perhaps it’s because I have right around 180 print books and maybe 20 eBooks? I don’t know. I really just think I’m crazy. Cause there’s no real reason not to count eBooks in my own little library of books.

I just realized something. I’ve had my Kindle almost FIVE years and I just counted the number of books on it. Guess how many. Quick. You don’t know? Okay. 15. That’s it! Suffice it to say that I’m not making the switch like some other readers are so eager to. Eh. Doesn’t really matter, right? Reading is reading. Except for Twitter. That’s not reading. That’s time wasting.

When you take a count of all of your books, do you count eBooks?

Writers, Rethink Your Twitter Strategy

Twitter-For-Writers-And-Authors

Photo Credit: Book Cover Cafe

First off, this isn’t geared toward a particular person. But I’m betting that some of you will realize that I’m speaking directly to you. Cause I see so many writers doing this. Of course, you have no idea what I’m even talking about yet. Let me explain.

One of the things you hear a lot about as a writer/author is your platform. Social media platform or author platform or whatever you want to call it. I know you’ve heard the term. Anyway, Twitter is obviously an avenue that many writers utilize. Maybe they’re trying to get the word out about their new book or they’re hosting a giveaway or whatever writers do on Twitter. But what I’ve seen A LOT of writers do just doesn’t work. And it’s not even a real strategy.

I first got on Twitter way back in 2009. I didn’t know anyone on the site. I then proceeded to abandon my account for four years until September of 2013. Why did I start using it again? My book, of course. I started out only tweeting writing tips. Yeah…because I know so much. Ha. And then I literally just said screw it and now my Twitter is as close as anyone can get to me unfiltered. But that’s not the point.

I tweet about all the same things I discuss on here. So I’ve attracted hundreds of other writers and bloggers to follow me on Twitter. And what do I find when I click on their name to view their profile?They follow EVERYONE. And this is basically an everyday thing. And it’s hilarious.

I’m talking things like this: Patty Green. Following: 5,918. Followers: 5,617.

Jason Rogers. Followers: 91k. Following: 84k.

I mean, really? Do y’all not see what a joke this is? You can’t even refresh your TL because there will be way too many tweets for you to possibly read. What can you possibly get from following so many other writers? And no, don’t you dare say that they’re going to be interested in your writing. THEY’RE PROBABLY DOING THE EXACT SAME THING YOU ARE!

A strategy is not following as many people as you possibly can, and then hoping that they’ll follow you back and eventually buy your book. You just look like a fool.

And the best part of this is seeing posts with titles like this, “Come see how I gained 5000 Twitter Followers in two Months!” *clicks Twitter link* And you come to realize that this particular person gained 5000 Twitter followers by following 15000 people on Twitter. *insert laughing emoji here*

Fun fact: most of my favorite authors don’t use Twitter at all.

PS: follow me on Twitter here. I don’t tweet all about writing 24/7. I tweet whatever I feel like tweeting. And I cuss. Oh how funny it is that I’d write all that and then say to follow me. Eh. I don’t care if you actually do.

Do You Have a Favorite Indie Bookstore?

Last year sometime I asked about favorite bookstores. But I was talking more about Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Borders, Books A Million, or whichever major chain you have near you in which you get your books. But now I’m only talking indies.

I have to first be honest, I very rarely shop in my favorite indie bookstore. It’s just too expensive for me. I buy all of my books new, but doing so there would be ridiculous. So there, that’s out of the way.

My favorite is a store called Murder by the Book in Houston. It’s been around since the 80s and they host a couple hundred author events every year, mostly for crime writers. And these events are well attended. I’ve only been to two, but I’ve seen pictures of others in which there were people lined up outside. Besides all the events the store hosts each year, one of my favorite aspects is the feel when you walk in. I mean, the Barnes and Noble a few miles away from me is nice. I just went for the first time in over a year last week. But it still has that store feel. At least for me. Murder by the Book feels more…like your neighbor’s house with a lot of books. I think. It’s hard to describe. And the people are rather nice.

Anyway, that’s all about my favorite indie bookstore. Here are a couple pictures from inside Murder by the Book.

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Tell me about your favorite indie bookstore.