Doc’s Blog# 7- Abuse from police, fathers, humans

In a previous post, I made a half-jest noir that given the plethora of unjustified police killings, that perhaps such murders were a ritualistic “making bones.” Along similar lines comes the news that the NYPD has awarded Detective Ralph Friedman a Police Challenge Coin created in recognition of his service, notably shooting four people to death and wounding four more. The coin features four skulls to represent the four dead. All in all, Friedman has been in fifteen gun battles. (I wonder what the average is.) At the bottom of the coin is a black cross, evocative of the Nazi Iron Cross. Friedman is quoted as saying, “I was never traumatized. I never felt bad.”

I question how representative this attitude is. I was brought up to believe “The policeman is you friend.” When did that change? I welcome your thoughts.

Pat Conroy – My losing Season. I’m a Conroy fan. We both write of abusive fathers. We both endured The Citadel’s plebe year. And we both were ensnared by southern belles and fell into relationships that didn’t last. However, this is about his book, My Losing Season, which, if I liked basketball, I likely would have appreciated it more. The play by play descriptions of each and every game became a bit tedious for me with way too much attention paid to fanny pats. As much as the book is about his senior year playing basketball, it is equally about relationships: relationships with a tyrannical and abusive father, a similarly minded coach, with teammates, and with The Citadel itself. Conroy’s perseverance, and tolerance in various adverse situations provide illuminating insights into his character, although I found his capacity for forgiveness remarkable and upon occasion, unbelievable.

ANTHROPOCENE – Noun – this is a word we’ll see more frequently in the near future. It refers to the geological period marked by a significant human impact on climate and the environment. It is regarded as the time from the start of the Industrial Revolution onward.

In keeping with the word of the blog is Arizona State University’s hosting of a Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. There is no entry fee. First prize is $1000 with the winner being published as well. Maximum word count is 5000. The theme is the future of Earth and humanity as impacted by climate change. The deadline is 1/15/16.

Regarding the motif if abusive father-son relationships, I describe my own experiences in Escape From Xanadu: A Memoir of Survival, Adventure, and Coming of Age. It’s available at Kindle for the next thirty days for .99. Paperback is $1o.39.


Doc’s Blog# 6

I’ve always been fascinated with words and phrases, their meanings and histories. The latest one to grab my attention is “Holodomore,” meaning death by hunger. This word comes from the Ukraine in the 1930’s when the Soviet-contrived famine known as the Holodomore killed millions of Ukrainian peasants. Sara Topol in Harper’s Magazine describes the 1932 Soviet attempt to enforce collective farming by expropriating grain from unwilling peasants and preventing them from traveling elsewhere in search of food, effectively starving them into submission. Across the Ukraine, as well as parts of Russia and Kazakhstan, millions died. Reportedly, parents ate their children, and children ate their parents. A horrific and ugly tale.

I recently read Frederick Forsyth’s, The Afghan. Carrying on the tradition of intrigue, international spying and espionage, duplicity and murder Forsyth laid down in Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, and Dogs of War, The Afghan addresses the current dilemma of terrorism. Colonel Mike Martin is called out of retirement to disguise himself as an Afghan warrior, penetrate an extremist cell, and prevent a Jihad disaster. A deadly cat-and-mouse game ensues.

Forsyth’s research into and explication of the rise of various fundamentalist splinter groups advocating terror and Jihad is impressive and a must read for anyone trying to understand the unfolding drama in the Middle East.

It’s a hell of an exciting read and it gets a 5-star rating from me.

America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, has five percent of the world’s population and 33 percent of the world’s women prisoners. It’s estimated that of these incarcerated women, three to five percent are pregnant. When staff from In These Times sought information about their care and treatment, less than half of the institutions responded. When pressed, many refused outright.

From interviews with individual women prisoners, a picture emerged of frequent medical neglect–and when it was given, it was often inadequate. Dietary needs were typically ignored and they were told to make do with regular prison food, which in itself is barely adequate and often borders on the inedible.

After giving birth–a process often done in restraints in spite of bans on the practice in some states–the infant is not infrequently taken away by child welfare workers and placed in foster care. Under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act, if a child is in foster care for 15 of 22 months, the state must begin proceedings to terminate parental rights.

In flagrant disregard of the UN rules for the treatment of women prisoners, the US legal system rarely takes parenting and pregnancy into consideration.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

December 1, 2015 is the deadline for submission to the Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Prize. The entry fee is $10.00. The First Prize is $200.00 plus publication. 1500 words max.


Doc’s Blog# 5

   According to the September issue of In These Times, the jury is still out on whether police prevent crime. Most research indicates that the threat of punishment rarely deters criminals and that putting more police on patrol increases crime reports but does not decrease incidents. Studies show that police spend 80 to 90 percent of their patrol time on non-criminal matters, such as traffic violations.

And traffic violations brings up the question of criminal behavior of police themselves, as in the Sandra Bland fiasco….

Speaking of which, the Harper’s Index reports that the number of people fatally shot by British police in the past three years was 2. Compare that with the average number of people shot by U.S. police each day so far this year, 2.6.

I’ve read that some gangs’ initiation into membership require the recruit to “make their bones” by shooting someone. One might wonder if our police have a similar, secret ritual.

I recently read Michael Wallner’s, The Russian Affair (Doubleday, 2011). The protagonist, Anna, is a 29-year-old mother living with her father and her young son in a tiny apartment in Moscow. Her husband, a junior officer in the Red Army, is stationed several time zones away. Anna meets Alexey, a senior Soviet official, and they commence an affair. a KBG colonel intrudes into Anna’s life, demanding she spy on Alexy and report her information. And then life becomes complicated for Anna.

The plot line could have been a fast-paced spy thriller ,or it could have been an ill-starred love story, or it could have been a thinly disguised philosophical disquisition of the oppression of a communist state on individual expression. It was none of these. Rather, it trudged along like a Russian  peasant in a Siberian gulag: never very exciting, never very romantic, and never evocative of deep thought. It wasn’t a bad read, but neither was it a good one. On an A-F scale, I’d give it a C.

ESCAPE FROM XANADU: A Memoir of Survival, Adventure, and Coming of Age is finally done–except for putting it on Createspace and editing the proofs. the front cover, created by Al Musitano, is exciting, colorful, and directly alludes to chapters central to the story.

Read how our protagonist gets shot, discovers a Nazi spy hideout, escapes being trampled by a huge warhorse, and tries his hand at bronco-busting a 550-pound hog. It’s a rollicking, poignant, defiant, great adventure.

For those who are nostalgic for American life during the early 1950’s, ESCAPE FROM XANADU brings back memories of school dances, Glen Miller’s Orchestra, Patty Page, Howdy Doody, the rewards and travails of friendship, courtship, and coming of age.

Newsflash: Google Books is no longer accepting books. Supposedly, after remedying and improving the technology, they will resume business as usual.

The fad of eschewing adverbs and advocating barebones writing may have begun with Hemingway’s advice: “Cut all your adverbs, regard adjectives with extreme prejudice, turn every passive verb into an active one….Cherish sentence fragments….Above all show, don’t tell.” Hemingway’s minimalist approach has infected writers for decades and still chivies the writer’s muse with mantras of pare down, cut out, reduce and tighten up.

Such leanness of language risks ambiguity as well as limiting lyricism. Sparse sentences paint bleak, monochrome landscapes, and short, simple sentences, while perhaps amenable to those suffering A.D.H.D., are reminiscent of Look Dick, see Jane run–boring and infantilizing.

Barbara Baig in her book, Spellbinding Sentences, takes to task those who advocate eliminating all words ending in  -ly. She points out that a “writer determined to eliminate adverbs will be a seriously handicapped writer, for adverbs, like the other content parts of speech (nouns, verbs, and adjectives) are essential for every writer’s toolkit; they do things that the other parts of speech cannot….To advise young writers to get rid of all their adverbs is like advising a pitcher with four great pitches to throw only three of them–it’s professional suicide.”

My prejudice is readily apparent. What do you think?






“Doc’s” Blog# 4

Recently, I read the results of a PEW research report on American readers. Some of its findings are thought-provoking, others are not surprising. I thought I’d share a few findings with you.

1. The most likely person to read a book in any format is a black female who’s been to college.

2. Women read more books than men.

3. People who’ve been to college read more books than those that haven’t.

4. People who make more than $50,000. or more a year are more likely to read books.

5. It’s not the case that ebooks are rapidly gaining on traditional book books. More Americans own tablets or ereaders, but still 69% of Americans are reading paper books. Only 28% of Americans read an ebook last year (2013). Actually, that 69% figure is slightly over 2012, when only 65% of Americans did so.

6. The average American reads five books a year, a number that increases as the reader gets wealthier or older.

More fascinating stuff from the 10/8/13 issue of the New York Post:

Several studies done in the United States and Canada show the average reading skill level was estimated to be around 8th to 9th grade. However, one study found that about one in five adults had a reading skill level at the 5th grade or below. Interestingly, most newspapers and magazines are written to a 9th grade level. USA Today, the New York Times, and the New Yorker are written to a 10th grade level. John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and Clive Cussler write at the 7th grade level. And would you believe–romance novels are often written at a 5th grade level.

When parents forego discipline and don’t give their child responsibilities, and instead strive to be their best friend rather than their parent, they all too often produce a narcissistic individual with an over developed sense of entitlement. So it is with writers who dumb down their writing in the name of a few more sales and produce less than noteworthy work that only contributes to the dumbing down of America.

What do you think?

“Doc’s” Blog #3

When I was in high school, I, like most students had to read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I loved it. The characters were memorable. It was thought-provoking, and the action gripping. Golding won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. So when I ran across a copy of his book, The Spire, on sale for a measly dollar I snapped it up. Last weekend I settled down with it expecting an enjoyable read. What a disappointment! I gave up after sixty pages. There was nothing to grab my attention or interest. The protagonist bored me. The plot was a yawn. The collapse of the spire and Dean Jocelin’s faith, while riddled with symbolism, was old news before it happened. I begrudge the dollar.

I put The Spire back in the bookcase and pulled out David Morrell’s, The Shimmer. I had read his trilogy, Brotherhood of the Rose, many years ago and remembered my excitement in the read. In the first chapter–only four plus pages–of The Shimmer, major action of the hair-raising variety grips the reader and continues with brief respites to the end. Unexplainable natural phenomenon, heroism, love reclaimed, and horrific violence kept my attention all the way.

Golding strove for a literary work; Morrell presented a thriller. Very different. Nevertheless, whatever the genre, it should evoke interest.

I’m now writing the very last chapter of Escape From Xanadu. and hoping it will interest readers–given my rant in the last few paragraphs.

For Indie authors, the website, may be of interest. They seem to give a lot of service for not so much money. Check it out.


Doc’s Blog #2

A huge thank you to Rick Bettencourt who made this blog and my Newsletter (the first of which is in the works and will be sent out shortly) possible. Relatedly, Rick’s technological expertise has been instrumental in refurbishing my Facebook page as well (

I just finished reading Russell Bank’s Lost Memory of Skin, a memorable depiction of our society’s definition of and legal reaction to sexual offenders and the lives we throw away. Banks presents our troubled society’s blind demand for zero tolerance, while it hypocritically and salaciously  sexualizes its entertainment industry–and in the process loses all sense of compassion, reason, and common sense. It’s a thought-provoker. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work, eg. Rule of the Bone and the Sweet Hereafter.

I’m currently writing the last pages of the next to last chapter of Escape From Xanadu. The end is in sight–except for final editing, front and back covers, etc. If you liked Huckleberry Finn, The Great Santini, and Penrod, you’ll love Escape From Xanadu. Its got it all and then some. John Yeoman’s statement is appropriate here, “Our youthful adventures are the stuff of legend, retold in tranquility.”

Sign up for my Newsletter. It’ll be out soon.

“Doc’s” Blog

Welcome to Doc’s blog. If you’re wondering what it has to offer, here is a brief description—subject to change:

  1. I’ll be discussing what I’m writing about at the time, whether it’s a memoir, novel, short story, flash fiction—whatever.
  2. I plan on sharing my thoughts on what I’ve just finished reading–a sort of review.
  3. I expect to rant and rave about current trends, expectations, and aspects of the writing, publishing, marketing world.
  4. I shall comment on those current events that provoke me.

Additionally, you can sign up for my newsletter, which I plan on publishing monthly and which will contain a brief list of freebies, giveaways, several words-of-the-day and their definitions (a must for writers), up-coming writing contests, what’s going on with me and/or my writing, and interesting factoids that may inspire a writing frenzy—or not.