Border Walls, Mass Murder and Non-Sequitur Solutions. As Long as We Can Talk Crazy

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” – Of Mice and Men

The Washington Post reported on July 24th, 2015 that there had been 204 mass shootings in 204 days this year.

The murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, TV journalists in Roanoke, Virginia, last week on live TV, added to that statistic and buried the, same day, story of James Holmes‘ (the Colorado movie theater killer) sentencing to 3318 years in prison. A pessimist might say, “it could be worse” while a optimist could state, “it doesn’t get any worse than this.” Both statements are true. But what all of us can say in unison is “this is so sad.” It is numbing to the soul.


So the usual banter begins, yet again, of a group that believes the proof is in the pudding; we need more strict gun control. The other side professes the God given right to own a gun and that we need better laws in force to not let guns into the hands of mentally ill people. Each side gives compelling arguments with no room for compromise. I don’t know a particularly great answer. I love my freedom, and I detest anyone screwing with my rights.

As pathetic as it may be, there is a solution.

The facts are that in our techno-intrusive world, we know who the “bad guys” are. For example, web based databases identify registered sex offenders and other felons by neighborhood. The FBI and local law enforcement know who and where law breakers of any kind live. If you believe that the FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA, and local law enforcement agencies don’t know where the vast majority of criminals involved in human sex trafficking, pedophilia, and any other of the vilest form of human debasing creeps live and operate, you are naive.

If the Chinese military can hack into the Pentagon network to spy on us, and the Pentagon can infiltrate the Chinese government network, law enforcement surely knows who the “bad guys” are.

So as long as we have “crazies,” whom law enforcement knows, roaming the streets, who happen to own guns and are prepared to kill targeted individuals or worse yet, randomly kill strangers, let’s make it count. I mean, let’s show them how to take out the really bad people, instead of just shocking us with random, senseless murder.

Certainly, pedophiles or rapists have places they hang together, don’t they?

Tell the wacko, vengeful crazies where the next pedophile convention takes place. Let’s arm them with information about the horrible people and where to find them all in one place. Then let them loose with their god given, rightfully owned assault weapons. They might be doing us all a favor. It’s a “win-win” scenario. They kill the creeps and the police storm in before it’s all over, and kill the wacko.

Whatever we are doing now doesn’t seem to be working. Today’s televised crime scenes and solutions are dystopian. So the movie theater killer gets sentenced to 3318 years for the crimes. Do you think the guys who are planning the next mass shootings will be deterred by the fear of three thousand years? In other words, draconian solutions don’t enlighten the minds of the mentally ill and sociopaths.

Perhaps the most efficient solution is to build walls at the borders of the United States and keep everyone out during the next, yet to be named, American Dynasty.

The Ordinary Walter White

Cover of "Prizzi's Honor"

Cover of Prizzi’s Honor

“They say Sicilians would rather eat their children than part with their money. And they love their children very much.” ~ Prizzi’s Honor

With two episodes left and another unpredictable cliff hanger, Breaking Bad,” is now brutally honest. Hank and Gomez are dead along with their hi-jinx that kept the “bad,” somewhat sane. The ugly truth behind Walter White‘s calculated chess game has come to pass and our cult hero is rapidly falling out of grace with us but we still want him to finish business. He’s fled town, we assume, with a new identity. Jesse Pinkman is held hostage by the Aryan brotherhood and, perhaps most importantly, the creepy Todd.

Walt is Emerson’s man living a life “of quiet desperation.” Whether you or he likes it at all, the truth is that he is all of us– ordinary. The cancer diagnosis simply reminds him that he has a mediocre life. What makes him a bit different is having sold his billion dollar idea for five thousand dollars, and now, a barrel filled with ten million dollars.

Aaron Paul, Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston ...

Aaron Paul, Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston of AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’ with producers (left: Josh Sapan, President and Chief Executive Officer AMC Networks; right: Charles Collier, President and General Manager AMC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We felt his world crumble apart last weekend but we know he’ll be back. Junior knows everything and both of his idols are gone: one dead, the other fleeing for his life. Skylar and Marie are reunited with a common goal: get Walt. Saul‘s still out there but his highest paying customers are dead or awol. If Walt is the devil, Lydia is the evil step-sister and we have to assume her fate is sealed in the cinematic words of Don Corrado Prizzi, “the girl’s gotta go.” Don’t be surprised if Todd is the guy who “offs” the girl. There is not a particle of hope for a happy ending for anyone.

Maybe the best metaphor yet is Walt rolling his barrel in the desert. Jesse astutely said, “I’m coming to get you where you really live.” All Walt has left is the barrel of millions, a defiant revenge streak, and a hatred for anyone who has ever taken anything from him. Do you really think he’s going to let the Nazi‘s keep his $70 million? He’s not Sicilian but he sure loves what he thinks his money is doing for his family.

Jesse’s demons are represented by the three by five inch still pic of Andrea and Brock that Todd placed in the lab as a reminder that, in Todd’s world, there are no boundaries.

Jesse wrestles with his guilt, and sorrow like most of us while Teflon Walt enters the van with his barrel and a plan you can deliberate at the water cooler all week.

If it wasn’t crystal clear to us by now (we are very forgiving of folk heroes) it’s in our face: drugs, greed and pride are, literally and figuratively, deadly to you and the people around you.

In TV, movies and literature, there can always be a happy ending. Not this time. We loved Walt sticking it to “the man” and Fring, and Crazy Eight, and Jesse’s assassins and so many more. But he crossed the line at Jane and then Mike. Seeing his rage against the insurance companies, the traffic tickets, the stupid boss and job and the rest of the conformist rituals we all despise is our cartharsis. We now know for sure that our quirky folk hero is really evil. But he’s still got unfinished business. Finish the job, Walt. You are going to die anyway, so let’s see it unfold.

Walt lost his vision and got blinded to see what could have been, and he still believes it was all for the benefit of his family.

We’re still not sure if Walt, in all his apparent love and compassion for his wife and kids, really ever knew that ordinary is good, and like this: one day you wake up and see the last of your five children packing his car to go off to college. And when you see that, you realize that that home, fed by an unconditionally loving mother, is the only life that that kid knows and now he is leaving her nest. You hope that he remembers the love and laughter his parents and brothers and sisters shared with him. You hope that you’ve taught him well enough to handle the noise you are sending him into. And then you start remembering everything he means to you.

His leaving is the absolute truth that this part of your life is over. His leaving to conquer the world is a permanent change for you. Now, all five kids are gone and you remember every birth, birthday party and every kid who ever came to your house to those parties. You recall every first day of school, science experiment, father’s day card, little league game, play, piano lesson, pet, dance recital and bicycle. You remember every dance, middle school graduation, Homecoming, argument, Christmas, Thanksgiving, first girlfriend, first boyfriend, first date, prom, breakup, high school graduation and every kid going away to college.

You remember that each time your household grew smaller by way of college, you looked forward to that day when the last one would leave home and what would be left is you and that woman who did everything in her power to make sure you and those kids were loved. You two would be together, alone, like you were in the beginning– before you created those beautiful children with her and that it would be a glorious day knowing he was ready to leave.

But then you see him packing his car and preparing his bike for the trip to his first day away home and your heart hurts because you really love him and his brothers and sisters. And you miss them all. You realize that over the years, they have enriched your life beyond anything you ever imagined. And then you turn around and walk to your room and close the door as he continues packing and you cry like a baby because your youngest—your wife’s baby– is leaving home and you can’t do anything about it. You are really going to miss him and you’re afraid he doesn’t know that. He, just like the four before him, really wants to go take on the world. He is not leaving for the wrong reasons. He’s leaving because you taught him all along that this day would come and going away to college is something to look forward to. His leaving to start his own life is a good thing but it’s really hard to do. And all of it is so ordinary and beautiful.

Walt lost his perspective. Ordinary is okay. It is not filled with athletic, movie, or rock stars. It’s not winning the lottery. It is the kids, the friends, the school events and summer vacation. It is not living in a sitcom or scandalous drama. Ordinary is what everyone is. By day’s end the Mumbai rickshaw driver and the Wall Street CEO each goes home to have dinner with his family as do the celebrities, intellectuals, garbage collectors, drug dealers and cops.

As Walt travels to New Hampshire, I hope he is thinking about what he has done. But I assume he won’t for very long. He’ll be back, ricin in hand, with his next move: fully impersonal and calculated because he still believes his intellect is a get out of jail free card. He will refuse to die without trying to convince everyone that he is blameless for anything he ever did and that he is anything but ordinary. He’s smart enough to know, like everyone else who has done it before him, he will die alone. He probably does know that nobody will go to his funeral.

Ironically and scientifically he knows for certain that when he is six feet under, the miracle of the chemicals of his body human body that create the electrical impulses that make him what and who he is will be dead— a useless pool of liquid, and then dust, just like everyone else.

Wouldn’t it be fitting to bring Fring back from the dead to say, “is this the way you want to be remembered Walt: an ordinary rata?”

Mad Men: A horror about the natural man

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”  A Tale of Two Cities

Actress Christina Hendricks at Chivas Regal Pr...

Actress Christina Hendricks at Chivas Regal Presents a Night on the Town with “Mad Men” – El Rey Theater, Los Angeles – Oct. 21, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mad Men is the most profoundly disturbing show on TV today depicting horrible fictitious characters that resemble many people you and I have worked with over the  years. But I like it.What I most enjoy is the psychological torture of the common man addressed each week. I hate to say it but, I can relate. Sterling Cooper is a cesspool of lying, cheating, self-promoting, paranoid narcissists similar to many company offices in America. It is true: you can’t make this stuff up. The irony is the life lessons I’m reminded of on Sunday night when it regularly airs on AMC.

Here are five life lessons to mull over from the shows creators and writers:

1. Business is of the devil. One of the most disturbing transactions in the history of the show is Pete Campbell’s proposal to Joan(Christina Hendricks) to sleep with the sleazy, goombah Jaguar dealer to win the business. If you’ve never worked with a Pete Campbell in your life, raise your hand. They are all around and need to be punched in the face for just breathing.

Pete Campbell

Pete Campbell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Everyone has a secret life. Don Draper, the diabolical philanderer, is the most exposed as the central protagonist and the viewer and very few of his friends or co-workers know, the real Don Draper is dead. However, we see his compassion at moments such as his paying Pete’s partnership fees when Pete (for me, the most hated character in the show in a show cast with nothing but slimy men) was in a financial bind. Imagine what Don, ah, Dick Whitman, would do for a friend.

3. Infidelity screws up people’s lives. The gates of hell would be more crowded with the characters in this show than there are Thanksgiving night shoppers at Best Buy. But the damage that Don inflicts on his first wife, Betty(January Jones) is beyond comprehension. Worse yet is the domino effect it has on his kids. His cheating ways created an emotionally unavailable, paranoid wife who passes on the legacy to her offspring.

4. Despite all the purported progress of the women’s movement, we still live in a sexist culture. In the fifties and sixties, the show’s setting, objectifying women is overt and the women compete for the attention. Today, we call that behavior marketing.

Mad Men

Mad Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. Women hold all the cards. Some know it and some don’t. One of the great examples this season is Betty turning the tables on Don, her ex or course, at the cabin during Bobby’s summer camp. It changes him, at least for a moment, as we see later. Joan, the femme fatale extraordinaire, despite her giving up more than she wants to, is always confident of her control over men — including during the Jaguar incident. At times the show seems mundane. But once the back stories start to fill in, you have an intelligent, psychological drama similar to what you will see on the morning “news” circuits.


Creating Flawed but Likable Characters

Welcome to the tenth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS!

Today, A.L. Sowards is here discussing characters. She’s the author of Espionage, a Whitney Award finalist this year, set in France during World War II. The sequel, Sworn Enemy, is due out this April.

Cover_FRONT_Espionage updated, small version

Cover_FRONT_Sworn Enemy_lr






Creating Flawed (But Likable) Characters, by A. L. Sowards

The words stung a little because I knew they were true. One of my friends just emailed me her thoughts on an early draft of my second novel.

About the protagonist, she said, “I like him . . . but that’s all. I feel like I should have a crush on him, or want to be like him, or he should remind me of someone I admire, but I don’t feel any of that.” In another note, scribbled in red ink 2/3 of the way through the manuscript, she pinpointed the problem:


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Welcome to the fourth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS!


.Today, author Sharon Belknap is here. Sharon and I have been friends for about eight years. When I found out she was a writer, I was astounded because she’s one of those people who seems to do everything: crafts, photography, composing music, interior designing. She’s always stylish. She’s super nice. Plus, plus, plus, she has eight kids AND a clean house. So…yeah.

Sharon and I swap manuscripts, which means she’s read my stuff early on when it’s ugly and confusing. Yet, she makes comments that are not only helpful, but don’t tear out my soul. 🙂 I really value her insight. (And her book is awesome, btw. It’s a time-travel romance. I can’t wait to see in print someday.)

Last September, Sharon drove across the country with me to attend the first ever LDStorymaker’s Midwest Writer’s Conference in Kansas City, Missouri…

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Welcome to the ninth day of



Today, Anthony Mercado is tackling the subject of adverbs. 

Anthony is one of those talented people I mentioned above. He comes from a great background in journalism where he learned to write with power and brevity.

His wife, Mary, gave that great post last week about The Art of Accepting Criticism. They’re a fun couple to hang around. They know the coolest stuff and have entertaining stories.

Anthony is quick to make me laugh with his dry sense of humor. He and Mary are the kind of people I try to glean as much as I can while I’m with them.

Today Anthony is going to help us strengthen our writing with a great post entitled,


Never Pity the Adverb, by Anthony Mercado

“Just the facts verbs ma’am. Just the facts verbs.” ~ Joe Friday  A conscientious writer

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Welcome to the eighth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS!

Today, Christopher Rosche is talking about the amazing power of storytelling.

Chris has lived the kind of life us writers write about: journalism, terrorism consultant, congressional staffer. He’s had some amazing experiences, so I feel very lucky to not only know him, but to glean some knowledge from him in our new writing group.

And today.

He and his wife are the nicest people you can imagine — his kids, too. I’m so excited he’s writing a novel. It’s going to be amazing.

I’ll let him take over and educate you on the human brain. Very cool.


The Power of Storytelling, by Christopher Rosche

The First Attempt

Back in 2003, an opportunity opened up in my life that allowed me to finally launch the book-writing career I had dreamed about since I was nine years old.

One Monday morning I drove…

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MBM: The Art of Accepting Criticism, by Mary Bateman-Mercado

Other than those days that you wake up, sit at the keyboard and have nothing to say, the worst thing that happens to a writer is that gut-wrenching and valuable criticism of your work. My wife does a splendid job advising the squeamish types on how to take it.


Welcome to the sixth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS!

Today, Mary Bateman-Mercado is here talking about the Art of Accepting Criticism. I’ve known Mary for almost ten years. Like me, she has five kids; three boys and two girls. But unlike me, she seems to have her act together. 🙂

I’m constantly amazed by Mary’s abilities and talents. (Make sure to read her bio, although there’s a lot not included, like awards and cool people she’s met over her years in journalism — hello, Oprah!) But the best part is that she’s also a gracious, loving person, who’s more than willing to share her knowledge with us. Yay!

  • (Even as I type this, she’s working with a group of young women, including my daughter. She’s so awesome.)

The topic Mary chose is one most of us struggle with — me especially — so I’m thrilled she picked it. Here she is:

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Getting Your Writing Done

“If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”  ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut (Photo credit: Mez Love)

I own this fact in my life: Writing the way I want to write is hard work.

If I ever had a labor or love, it is writing. I don’t know why I like the puzzling parts of putting down on paper (or a computer screen) a story and rewriting and still not being completely satisfied. I prefer writing fiction. I did the journalist thing for while and loved the work. But it was never as much fun as making stuff up in my perpetual daydream mindset.

I always hate my first draft and I learned to hate it from editors and producers whose job it is to make sure readable material goes to print or on the air.

Writing never seems easy to me and I am a bit envious of those people I’ve known in my life who seem te be able to “bleed” their story onto a page without much effort. Then I remember that I’m not unique. We all carry the same fear, distractions and insecurities. It’s life, so I  convince myself it’s okay to keep on going.

This week, two writer friends posted blog articles about how to finish the job of writing a manuscript. They are both great reminders to me, and I hope to you, about why we write.

The post by Rebecca Belliston discusses seven reasons why writing takes so much courage, while Bob Yehling talks about the importance of setting deallines to get the job done.

Have a good weekend and happy writing. Get it done.