Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nittany Lion Death Penalty

I usually post about the writing craft: tips, book reviews, grammar nuances, essence of a story, etc.  Today, I wanted to rant a little.

First, I need to make it plain that I am in no way a Penn State fan.  Never liked Joe Pa, really. Thought it was silly that he hung on past his prime, past his ability to coach.  It was extremely egotistical and nostalgic for him to insist and the Penn State powers that be, to relent to his coaching past his 76th birthday.

There, I said my peace on that.

With all that behind me, I feel that the discussion of a "death penalty" for the university football team is a complete over-reaction to the sins of the father.  I have heard this "sins of the father" bit spat out by well-meaning journalists and critics.  The matter at hand is a larger, broader failure than a single football team, a single university. 

This phrase assumes first that Joe Pa was the father.  He allowed the criminal, Jerry Sandusky, to continue his role with the university even after learning of Mr. Sandusky's proclivities.  This was a grievous and unforgivable error, for sure.  His storied career, his influence on young men, his legacy were tarnished by this one error of judgment.  The crime, the criminal, his enablers, and the football department caused irreparable damage to the image of the school, the sport, and the NCAA in general. 

But, we are missing the point.   
The punishment of a "death penalty" does not fit the crime, nor does it fit as a proper punishment for the president, coach, athletic director, coaching staff, and student athletes of the university.  Sandusky deserves a life sentence without parole, or worse.  Joe's statue probably needs to come down, mostly due to the bad taste and the message of condoning it sends.  But, the death sentence is a poor, desperate attempt for those with righteous indignation (and well-deserved) to appease their sense of justice.

But, punishing a football program whose leader has passed from this life, whose athletic director, and school president no longer work for the university, serves to punish only those who had no direct bearing upon the crimes, the criminal that perpetrated them, or the blind eyes that were turned and allowed it to continue.  A death penalty only punishes the students, the personnel, the boosters, the fans, and the people who are left to pick up the pieces from this unprecedented mess.

Our society is guilty of doling out meaningless punishment of demanding justice in as many ways as possible.  The death penalty would be indicative of a punishment brought about because the public sentiment demands that a wrong was perpetrated and needs to be punished--justice must be meted out.  Employees of Penn State managed to look the other way while a co-worker committed heinous crimes against children.  These atrocities are both deserving of punishment.  A death penalty for the university is perhaps the wrong target for that punishment.  What do you think?

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Death On a High FloorDeath On a High Floor by Charles  Rosenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is a good novel, but suffers from believability issues. It reminded me of television police/court dramas, without the melodrama.

The problem stemmed from the narrator. We never get a legitimate explanation of why he trusts Ms. James (his defense counsel, also a suspect in the investigation of the murder). Perhaps even more serious is the constant nag in the back of my mind that this was a police set-up all along. My first clue? Early in the novel, the investigating officer insinuates that Ms. James should be a suspect but she is never investigated. That is in addition to the removal of the narrator's jacket. Then, clues of this conspiracy get dropped over and over with only a clueless shrug from the narrator: and this is told in past tense.

If a narrator tells a story in first person in the past tense and only drops HINTS of clues without some explanation makes that narrator untrustworthy. I understand that it would ruin the suspense, the reveal, but it is also cheap and dishonest. Either it needed a different narrator, a different voice, or a change of the circumstances.

Throughout the novel, we are led down the path of "Jenna might have done it....NAHH!! She would never do that!" Over and over again. The thing is, even at the end, we know she is not pristine, but we can't pinpoint what she has done wrong. She is painted as a femme fatale, a role playable by Angelina Jolie or Ali Larter. But, the author never comes full circle, never exposes her rougher side: it is always hinted at. And we never get the full picture of her uncle, either. Maybe the author is saving this for the next book, which might make sense. The reader, though, has the sense that we need to feel that she COULD have done it, but that she didn't and her motive to defend the narrator is her way of getting retribution for the murder of her lover.

In the end, the novel is good, but flawed. With the feel of a made-for-television court drama, the pacing of Grisham and Patterson with unique narrative voice, DEATH ON A HIGH FLOOR is a book I can recommend.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Production is King

As I watch the success of fellow self-publishers, I try to maintain a sense of calm.  I have one book, Dark Mountain, published so far and have had a mediocre first two months. I have learned a ton.  Perhaps the biggest thing that I have learned so far is to be patient. 

Failure tends to demand that reaction, doesn't it?  The Colts have a miserable season with Manning in the stands and the ownership flips the entire organization on its tail.  Be patient.  The economy is in the toilet, unemployment is rampant, drug use on the rise, housing prices plummeting, foreclosures skyrocketing.  Be patient.

So, the only remedy I can truly see is more production.  Write.  Write some more.  I wrote recently about a difficult scene in my current work-in-progress, Cry Me a River.  What a bunch of whiny dreck.  I just wrote it.  Powered through it and ate up 15,000 words in three days.  Finished with a 8,000 word flourish. 

The remedy, you see, is to get behind a keyboard and do what you do best.  So, with another productive week ahead (20,000 words should get me to the end of the book), I will get the next book out before November.  And, soon after that, I plan on having the first of a series of adventure/suspense novels, my Jake Monday series, ready for editing.

The more novels you have, the more legitimate you seem as a writer.  It is then easier to cross-market, to brand, to develop a fan base that no longer just reads your books in obscurity but recommends them to friends and family, tweet about them, adds them on Goodreads, and buys the merchandise.

This is truly a wonderful time to be a writer.  We can never lose sight of that.  But, in this new world of publishing, production is king.  Do you find an author with a "long tail" (multiple books published, big back-list) to have more legitimacy, or does this even factor in when looking for that new book for your Kindle/Nook/Kobo/Ipad?