Keyboard Cowards

Back in late August 2013, I wrote a piece called “Think Before You Post, Because The Internet Will Expose You For The Idiot You Are” in response to the seemingly endless supply of keyboard jockeys who are content to hide behind their computer monitors and spew hate and insults toward people they don’t know – those who don’t agree with them on a particular issue, such as politics or gay marriage.  Now before you click on the little “x” in the upper corner of this particular computer window, please know that it is not my purpose here to opine on politics or gay marriage.  The gist of the article was, as the title suggests, thinking before you click on the “post” button, because once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back.  Sure, in most cases, you can delete a post, but if someone has seen it, and if it is inflammatory enough, it may just go viral.  Then you’re screwed.

The aforementioned article dealt with strangers being mean to other strangers.  But the phenomenon of keyboard cowardice extends to friends and family as well.  That is what I will discuss here.  Before I continue, I’d like to take a moment to thank “E” (you know who you are).  Your reaction to an innocuous post I made is a big part of why I am writing this.  More on that later.

As near as I can figure, I have been active on Facebook since 2008, over five years now.  During that five-year period, I’ve connected (or reconnected) with over three hundred people.  It has been nice to reacquaint myself with people that I haven’t seen in many years.

I have noticed that over the past couple of years that Facebook has increasingly become a forum for people to express their political beliefs.  I don’t have a problem with this.  Hell, I occasionally make a political post, but I find myself doing so less and less lately.  I am more inclined to respond to someone else’s post than to initiate a political post of my own.

I have also noticed that some people who make political posts on Facebook are wholly unprepared to be challenged on their opinions.  The most blatant example that I have experienced happened just recently.  An acquaintance (“E” that I mentioned above) that I had recently reconnected with posted a meme about a certain politician who has been in the news a lot lately.  That should narrow it down to about three-hundred.  The meme posited that this particular politician didn’t know what was going on in his own office.

I’d like to go back and pull up the text from my response, but alas, I can’t.  More on that later.  I said something like, “It’s too bad that [POLITICIAN] doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in his office either.”  Not my exact words, but you get the idea.  I didn’t tell “E” that he was wrong, because the meme he posted seems to have some merit.  I merely pointed out that this particular politician isn’t the only one who claims ignorance about what happens on their watch by providing an example of another politician who seems to have the same problem.

A few hours later, I went back on to see if “E” or anyone else had responded to my post.  Lo and behold, I couldn’t find “E”’s post.  I went to check my Facebook friends.  He was no longer on the list.  I did a search for his name, found it, and clicked on it to view his profile.  A message on the screen revealed that the profile was not available.   Perhaps, I thought, he deactivated his Facebook profile.  I know that people, on occasion, will do that because they’ve had enough of the social media rat race.  Just to make sure, I contacted my sister, who is also connected to “E” on Facebook.  She was able to pull up his profile, and was still among those he considered friends.  It turns out that “E” had blocked me.  And to top that off, he posted a terse response to my post after he blocked me, or at the very least, before I had a chance to respond.  Here is his response.  I purposely didn’t name the politician, political party, or news network he mentioned, not because I am ashamed of my politic beliefs, because I’m not.  I did so because this post isn’t about politics.  It’s about friends and acquaintances being able to agree to disagree, about politics, music, reality TV – whatever  –  while remaining civil, and dare I say, friendly.

“Just gotta drag [NATIONAL POLITICIAN] in it didn’t you Mark? Typical [POLITICAL PARTY NAME]. Man change the direction of what’s really going on. You must be a [NEWS CHANNEL] watcher…and then there’s right out lying and being a bully [LOCAL/STATE POLITICIAN].”

Instead of attacking my ideas, “E” chose to attack me.  Had he taken some time to get to know me a little better, perhaps he would have had a different opinion of me.  But he didn’t, so all I am to him is a [NEWS CHANNEL]-watching, bully [LOCAL/STATE POLITICIAN]-supporting, typical [POLITICAL PARTY NAME].  Had he taken some time to get to know me a little better, he would have known that I don’t define myself in such narrow terms, politically or otherwise.  But “E,” along with a lot of other people, are content to hide behind their keyboards and bash others who don’t share their beliefs.  That’s pretty closed-minded and intolerant in my book.  Sadly, all too often, these are people that we count among our friends and family.

There is hope though.  When I began to think about writing this blog, two of my friends came to mind: Micah and Rick.  Micah and Rick are on different sides of the political fence.  Anytime either of these guys posts something political, I make sure to read it.  You know why?  Because I know that I am going to learn something.  You see, Micah and Rick know how to do it right.  They use what many others do not in their political posts – FACTS.  I know that if I disagree with them, I might get set straight, again, with facts, but I’m not going to be called names, blocked on Facebook, or otherwise attacked.  So to my buddies Micah and Rick – keep ‘em coming.  We might not agree on everything, but you know what, that’s all right, because we can agree to disagree.  And, most important, we’re still friends when it’s done.


Interview: Robert Shaw, Writer and Fan of Classic Horror

Image of Robert ShawRobert Shaw has worked in film and television in Australia, England and the US, and has been involved in such films as Angel Heart, Homeboy, The Blob, A Chorus of Disapproval, Jack’s Back and many others. He was also involved in the development and packaging of Jericho, written by and set to star the late Marlon Brando, who personally picked him to assist with casting suggestions for the film.  Additionally, he co-wrote the indie action/horror film Mexican Devil starring Danny Trejo.

The Scare, his first novel, was adapted from a screenplay he wrote as a tribute to ‘80s and ‘90s-style horror films.  He currently lives in Australia, where he is writing his third novel, which he describes as “a thunderously violent, slightly sci-fi tale of the Old West featuring the fierce and lovely Emeline Bransford.”

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Robert.  I see from your bio on that you have lived and worked in several different countries.  Where are you from originally?

My pleasure, Mark, it’s great to be invited to your blog. Thanks for having me. I was born in a little cottage in Essex County, apparently the first male baby born there in a hundred years. I wonder if that can be my claim to fame.

Sounds like you’ve been involved with lots of films during your career.  Of these, which is your favorite?  Why?

Yes, I’ve worked on quite a few TV shows, movies and live events. I’m always much more nervous about live events because they have the inherent “something always goes wrong during the show” factor – and you can’t stop the cameras and do it over. The audience sees it warts and all. My favorite movie that I worked on was a little picture that, sadly, no one will ever see, called Joe Joe Angel and the Dead Guy. I was involved in this from concept to completion and made it with a group of my best friends from LA. I loved those times and will never forget how great it was to work with my best buddies on such an intense and sometimes difficult shoot. We went all over the place on that one and had a great time. Everyone was terrific and I miss those days. It’ll always be one of my fondest memories.

Who are some of your favorite authors?  What draws you to their work?

I love Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins – I never knew what a Victorian Novel was until I read those guys. The characters they create are funny and complex and the villains dastardly to the point where you’d like to reach into the book and strangle them. Pumblechook in Great Expectations is one of these. I wanted to throttle him! Dickens has a way of describing characters that is beyond compare. When describing a person, he’ll sometimes talk only about an old building or location but you’ll get a very distinct idea of what the person looks like. He’ll do likewise sometimes when talking about a place, describing a person and their traits and giving you a perfect image of the thing he’s talking about. I’m sure I’m not articulating what I mean very well, it’s almost something I can’t quite put my finger on.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing short stories in high school – I was the kid who was always wanted to keep writing when the bell went. My teacher once told me I would probably become an author. I wrote my first novel longhand when I was nineteen – a cheesy Dirty Harry knock-off set in Australia. But I thought it was terrible and threw it away. I started writing screenplays in my early twenties. When I saw Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior I was so impressed that it was an Australian film (in those days Aussie films were not what you’d call mainstream commercial and The Road Warrior was an impressive deviation from that) that I wrote a story for a third movie. I then wrote a letter to the producer, Byron Kennedy, asking if he’d look at my idea, and believe it or not he called me at home one night! At first I thought it was a friend playing tricks but once I got on the phone I realized it really was him. We talked about my idea and he told me to flesh it out into a sixty-page treatment and send it to him and then we would talk further. At that time, I had no idea what a treatment was so had to ask around. It turned out that a treatment is a short story told in present tense, so I fleshed this thing out into Mad Max III: The Steel Prince and sent it off. Byron’s secretary called to say he’d read it and liked it and would call me when he got back from a trip he was on. Sadly, he died in a helicopter crash while on that trip and so that was it. There were some similar elements from my treatment in Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome – I had a fight in a pit, they had the dome fight; I also had an oasis with kids but they weren’t airline crash survivors. Anyway, who knows if it was coincidence or plagiarism? There’s a new Mad Max movie being shot in Africa right now so I’m doing a quick novelization of my Steel Prince story to put on Amazon before that movie comes out.

Tell me about your daily writing routine.

I deal with Twitter first, it’s the only promoting I do for my book other than the infrequent interview by invitation (like this one). I don’t bother with FaceBook and I’m not a frequent blogger – I find it’s just as hard to get people to read my blog as it is to get them to read my books. After that, I sit down for a few hours and thrash out the words. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it blows. But eventually I get a first draft done… and then the real work begins.

When you finish a first draft, do you immediately begin work on the revision, or do you let it sit for a while?

I definitely let it sit for a while! By the time I’m done with a first draft I’m so close to the material that it’s hard to be objective and I tend to think the entire piece is a steaming pile of excrement. I get a proof and let my younger sister read it and give me her thoughts. While she does this I put it completely out of my mind and read, watch movies, and start on a new book. When I come back to the first draft, it’s fresh and I can look at it objectively, and I’m happy to say that by this time, with very few exceptions, I usually feel that the entire thing is not too bad at all. I can only hope that readers feel the same or better!

Your first novel, The Scare, was adapted from a screenplay that you wrote.  Any plans to develop it into a movie?

I have no current plans myself unless I suddenly inherited a ton of money, then I’d do a straight to DVD version. Back in the late nineties, when I first wrote the screenplay, a couple of producers optioned it and I met a couple of directors who showed some interest. One of them was the Aussie images (2)director, Jamie Blanks, who had just come off Urban Legend so I thought we were on a fast track. But his agent had other plans for his career and nothing ever came of The Scare with him attached. Jamie did Valentine’s Day next, which was not a hit, so his agent messed up there I reckon.

I reviewed The Scare before reading your bio.  You said that it was written as an homage to the horror films of the 80s and 90s.  That is exactly how the book struck me, which I mention in my review.  I love those old horror films.  What horror films from that era stand out as favorites?

My favorites will always be Nightmare on Elm Street and I Know What You Did Last Summer, which was a way better movie than book in my opinion (and in fact if I ever could get The Scare made I’d love Jim Gillespie to direct). Another favorite is the old TV movie of Salem’s Lot with David Soul. As well as vampires, it had all those great horror elements: a small town with a creepy house, misty, windy nights, and creepy graveyard scenes. When I wrote The Scare, I in fact played with the idea of actually making it a vampire story, but there were so many on the market that I went zombies instead – but mine are the old traditional zombies (like from the Bob Hope classic, The Ghost Breakers) – corpses that have been revived to do someone’s evil deeds. I also love old black & white horror movies. All the old Lugosi stuff, Vincent Price, the Val Lewiton and Jacques Tourneur films, and the Seth Holt/Jimmy Sangster classic Hammer Horror movie Scream of Fear. I’m not a big fan of new horror – they seem to lack in story and rely on loud music and sudden shocks that have grown old and tiresome. The Ring was the last modern movie I thought was scary.

Tell me about what you are currently working on?  Old West sci-fi?

Yes, a slightly sci-fi western – I say slightly because there’s no alien spaceships or tech or laser guns and no invading army of lizard men or anything like that. In fact I could take the sci-fi element out of it and it would play as just a great western – except for the fact that I have taken a few liberties with historical facts and landscape. But I think the story will be engrossing enough that only the most die-hard fact checkers would even notice. It’s really about the path Emeline Bransford and her daughters are on and the things they encounter and combat along the way. The sci-fi element is just another one of those things that they deal with and not really the main focus of the plot. I love very strong and capable female leads in any story, and I like to think that Emeline and her girls are three of the strongest ever created. There’s nothing they can’t handle. And they go through some really brutal stuff.

How do you cope with the stress of being a writer?  What do you do to take care of yourself?

The main stress for me comes from self-doubt so when I’m working on anything I try to shut “me” out of the process and just leave the “writer” switched on. Otherwise the analytical side of my mind takes over and I start fretting over what I’m writing and doubting it. I think Stephen King said once that a writer’s worst enemy is self-doubt, and he’s spot on. Other than that writing is just like any other job – it takes work. The sitting down and just doing it factor. One word at a time until it’s done. I take care of myself by keeping fit and relaxing with a good book or watching a movie or favorite old TV show on DVD. I never watch anything on actual TV because the ads just drive me crazy.

Give me a list of five things that people would be surprised to know about you.

I can’t think of five things – I guess I’m not sure what others would be surprised at, but the one thing I can think of is that I’m very shy. When I’ve worked on a show, whether as a stage manager on a live event or an assistant director on a movie, I’ve had to interact with and coordinate many people – and I’ve produced and directed my own short film and loved dealing with the prep and with the actors – so I think people might be surprised to find that I’m very shy. Put me to work handling a large crowd and I’m in my element, but set me down in a crowd at a party or in a bar and I head for the nearest corner to hide away in.

Learn more about Robert Shaw at:

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The Highlander by Zoe Saadia

downloadTitle: The Highlander

Author: Zoe Saadia

Genre: Historical, Action & Adventure

Series or Standalone: Book 1 in The Rise of the Aztecs series


Born in the Highlands, Kuini thought his life was simple. You hunt and you fight, defending your towns against the raids of the Lowlanders and then raiding their lands in turn. His father was the Warriors’ Leader, and he wanted to be just like him.

Yet, Texcoco, the mighty Capital of the Lowlands, seemed incredibly beautiful, sparkling, its pyramids magnificent. A friendship with the Lowlander boy, the First Son of the Texcoco Emperor, seemed harmless in the beginning. They were just boys, and their clandestine meetings were always fun, providing great entertainment.

However, on the day Kuini agrees to finally enter the magnificent city, it would all change. He expected to get into trouble, but he could not foresee the extent of the trouble and, worst of all, he did not expect to uncover hidden secrets concerning his own family.



I do’t read much historical fiction, but this one grabbed my attention because I have always been fascinated by ancient civilizations like the Aztecs.

I enjoyed the book’s plot, though it was a bit predictable at times, especially with regard to the relationship between Kuini and Iztac.  The actions scenes were well-written, with a fair amount of blood and violence, without being over-the-top.  I especially liked the twist that the author provided at the end of the book, and the moral message that was addressed.

All of the main characters and many of the secondary characters were well-developed, each with their own strengths and flaws.  The relationship dynamics seemed solid and true to life.  The book’s dialogue was well written, though there were a few times that I questioned some phrases used as they seemed to be of a contemporary nature.

While I enjoyed the characters and the plot of the novel, I was a bit disappointed at the lack of cultural information about the ancient civilizations depicted in the book.  Some cultural information was provided, but it was minimal.  I think that more cultural information woven into the fabric of the story would have really made the book come alive, and would have moved it beyond being just an action and adventure novel.

Bottom line: While this was a fun book to read, it could have used some additional cultural information, which I feel would have given it a more authentic feel.

Interview: Author Lucy Pireel Opens Up About Writing and Her Other Love, Yoga

P7140751Lucy Pireel is a writer who doesn’t let herself be restricted to any one genre. She loves to write in whatever direction her current story leads her.

When she’s not writing, or reading, she is practicing or teaching yoga, her other passion. Or she could be on a long hike somewhere in the beautiful British nature.

Being an author, it is almost a given she has a great love for chocolate and coffee to live on while writing, but she doesn’t shy away from trying to prepare intricate dishes, for cooking is another thing she enjoys.

Lucy, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions.  How are you doing today?

Not too bad I guess. Hey, I’m alive, live in a reasonably comfortable house, have a hot meal every day (if I choose so) and friends that care about me. What’s there to complain about? Hahaha, I could come up with a few things, but that would make me a moaning princess. 🙂

In your bio, you mention that you are a coffee lover.  What’s your favorite type of coffee and why?

Brazilian, fresh ground, strong and unsweetened. Why? It tastes like no other coffee, and I’ve tasted almost all varieties that are out there.

As someone who loves to cook, what are some of your favorite dishes?  How is cooking related to your writing?

Stir fries, pastas, and recreating restaurant food, or even better the favourite recipes authors I interview give me. It doesn’t really have a relation to my writing, because if you would ask me if there’s a food my characters consume regularly, there’s none. But I do like to have my characters poison each other. 🙂

Do they poison each other using food?

Ah, now that would be giving away the plot, but it does spring to mind. 🙂 And since poison is a woman’s choice of murder weapon…. So you can imagine where my stories lead to, right?

As an author, how do you promote your work?

I must admit that for all the promoting I do for others, my own work doesn’t get the time and attention it should get from me. But when I promote for myself, it’s usually Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. I have my site on which all my books can be found, and my blog, All That’s Written, where I showcase authors and books which I also use to promote my work. All that I post there automatically goes to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and then I am on Triberr, which increases my reach to 4-million plus. Which one does the most? My bet is on Google+ reader communities in combination with Twitter, but only if not all Tweets are of the spammy kind. You know? The “Buy My Book” kind of Tweets.

Who are some of your favorite authors?  What draws you to their work?

Hmmm, I haven’t really got favorite authors, it depends on the writing. For example, take Ender’s Game. I love this book by Orson Scott Card, but his Alvin series does nothing for me. The same goes for quite a few famous and indie authors. But to be honest, I’m not the kind of person who idolizes any single author. A book appeals to me or it doesn’t, independent of who the author is.

How long have you been a yoga practitioner?

You aren’t supposed to ask a lady for her age! Hahaha, let me answer that with a riddle. It’s quite a while. I had my first yoga lesson when I was eighteen and that’s eleven years less than how long ago I’ve first did yoga. 🙂

How did you become interested in yoga?

I had an accident and had to have extensive therapy to ever be able to function normally. My therapist told me about yoga and I tried it. Soon enough I fell in love with it and that love never died. Being the person that I am, I wanted to know all there is about yoga and became a teacher, which I still do.

How is yoga connected to your writing?

Everything, each person, all that’s living, is connected to my writing because I am connected to it, and through me, all that I do and love has a bond with my work. I am what I write. Or as they say, “Write what you know.” But apart from the belief that the real person behind the author is always to be found in the author’s work, I think that the connection between yoga and my work is in the fact that yoga allows my brain to focus and me to write.

Tell me about your daily yoga and writing routine?

Well, I start the day with at least an hour of yoga to clear the head of all the nightly clutter and get things aligned again, ready to tackle the day. Then I have a coffee or two and open up the good old Macbook to clear the inbox and answer any emails that need answering to tend to my blog, and then it’s writing time, or editing depending of the state of my work.

How long have you been writing?  When did you publish your first book?

I’ve been writing professionally for more than twenty six years, but fiction writing didn’t really start until my son asked for pirate stories in which real things happened, and I had to come up with something. My first book isn’t even those stories, but Red Gone Bad, and that was published in December 2012. But that wasn’t the first thing ever that I had published. My first publication was a sci-fy diptych for Isotropic Fiction, which even made it to cover article.

What are you currently working on?

My first full length novel, 90-thousand words. It’s a paranormal, erotic, crime novel, working title Origins Revealed, on which I’ve been working for the past two years, but now finally think I am in final draft and ready to get it to the editor.

I just finished the first draft of my first novel, which weighed in at just under 45-thousand words.  I know that I have a lot to add and to clean up.  How many revisions have you done for Origins Revealed?  Do you remember the word count after you finished the first draft?

After the first draft I had around the same word count as you. Second draft was almost 180K, but then came the weeding and cutting out of filling clutter, until after draft twenty, I am now ready for editing, and am confident to say this is the final draft, unless the last batch of betas come up with major gripes and more change is needed.

Like you, I am a lover of the outdoors.  I am especially drawn to the water- the ocean, a lake, or a river.  There is a quiet power in the water that fascinates me, and an element of the unknown – that which is unseen beneath the surface.  What draws you to nature?

To be honest, the absence of humans. Though I am a very social person, I also have a great need to be alone, to be absolutely without human contact. The rest and tranquil violence of nature is a great inspiration, and a way to show our own human nature.

How often do you get a chance to be alone, to disconnect from humanity?  Is it enough?

Not nearly often enough, but I am lucky to live close to a forest and some wonderful hiking trails, plus the neighbor’s dog is always happy to take a walk, so when things get too crowded I take off, even if it’s only for half an hour. But the past year has been crazy busy, and I’ve not had as much alone time as I would love to, and with writing, editing, blogging, and my yoga teaching picking up, even more it looks like 2014 is going to be a busy year too. So, no it’s not enough, and it gets me in a state of anxiety, but when I feel that coming, I take the proverbial hike. 🙂

Give me a list of five things that people would be surprised to know about you.

I don’t know if I want to share the last few secrets that I have left. 🙂 But I won’t be a party-pooper and give you at least one, or two.

Right, here goes nothing. I would love to get my chainsaw and climbing certificate to become a certified arborist. And that ties in with the next thing. I once almost chopped off my right index finger when I buried a small ax in the joint while chopping kindling.

But let me tell you a thing that’s really surprising, I can’t have a lie-in. No matter how late I’ve gone to bed, I’m awake with the rising of the sun.

Red_Gone_Bad_Smashwords cover AMOD site

You can connect with Lucy at the following sites:

The Lonely Mile by Allan Leverone


Title: The Lonely Mile

Author: Allan Leverone

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: Standalone


When struggling hardware store owner Bill Ferguson witnesses a kidnapping in progress, he reacts instinctively, breaking up the crime and saving a young girl. But the kidnapper, a sociopath known as the “I-90 Killer,” escapes and vows revenge, targeting Ferguson’s own daughter as his next victim. Now one terrified father must unravel a plot that may go much deeper than he realizes, racing against time to save his only child from an unthinkable fate.

4.5 star


The Lonely Mile tells the story of every parent’s worst nightmare: the kidnapping of a child and the hell of not knowing what has become of your child.

The story is told from a shifting perspective. Bill Ferguson gives us an insider’s view of a kidnapping victim’s parent, rife with the pain of not knowing, and the overwhelming guilt of what could have or should have been done differently.  Carli Ferguson provides a look into the mind of a cunning kidnap victim, always thinking about how to make her situation better.  Martin Krall is the consummate sexual sociopath.  He thinks he’s smarter than everyone else, and views his victims as objects that exist to provide him with pleasure.

As the father of three girls, and the grandfather of one girl, this novel hit me square in the gut.  It evoked in me an anger that few novels have.

I was pleasantly surprised that this novel broke away from what has become a conventional story line in books like this one: the divorced cop who can’t leave work at the office, and who has a terrible relationship with his ex-wife and children.  This has become a tiresome cliche.  I found it refreshing that the protagonist, Bill Ferguson, though divorced, was not a cop, but the owner of struggling hardware stores.  I also liked that he had a good relationship with his daughter.

Because the novel was told from a shifting perspective, the pacing was nearly perfect.  It didn’t move so quickly that I got lost, but moved quickly enough that there were times I struggled to put it down and turn the light off for bed.

Bottom line: The Lonely Mile is a great book with some great plot twists.  It’s a quick read for someone looking to escape for a few hours.