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Apr 7 14

LIVE INTERVIEW FREE DOWNLOAD!

by Richard Sutton
Interviewer, author, Doug Dahlgren

Interviewer, author: Doug Dahlgren

Live Interview on the Doug Dahlgren Show with Richard Sutton last night discussed my process, inspiration and the story behind Troll and everything else you might need to know about my background. It was a lot of fun. Doug is an interviewer for Artist First Radio, a CBS affiliate program station, and his shows are also available as Free PodCast downloads. Listen in tonight and every show: FREE eBook copies for commentors with sharp ears. Just leave a comment with your memory of what brand beer I opened and drank during the interview.radioad1

Apr 1 14

W.T. Durand’s Debut Novel e-Releases Today!

by Richard Sutton

back2santafefrontcover2rgb96-smBack to Santa Fe, a new mystery novel by author W.T. Durand inaugurates a new Western-regional themed series of fiction for Saille Tales for adult readers.
Sullivan Ortega has just returned to his empty childhood home in Santa Fe to pay his respects to the last of his family, his sister Maggie, killed in a single-car crash. He’s trying to put his life back together, but along with a bad temper, he’s got few prospects or real friends. Learning what happened is taking him somewhere he doesn’t want to go back to . Second chances can get messy.

Available on launch day at Smashwords, in ALL eBook formats for only $2.99, BTSF will soon also be available in print and on Amazon and other booksellers sites. Watch for our announcements, here.

This is not your grand-parents’ tour of the city different. Be forewarned, and it might make sense to pop open a Tecate or two before reading this rollicking whodunnit!

Mar 21 14

My Review of Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc

by Richard Sutton

outofnowherecoverfivestars_smKnock-Out Urban Fantasy Thriller with Heart and Laughs!

I don’t read a lot of urban thriller fiction, but on the occasion that I need some real entertainment, I’ll pick one up. Patrick LeClerc has created a roller-coaster ride of pure fun with Out of Nowhere. My own family has always enjoyed the inter-agency trash talk and shift humor coming from our FDNY son-in-law, so if you enjoy a really humorous read, with lots of pure heart to back it up, you will love this book. It’s both a page turner and a page hugger as I found myself sharing passages constantly with my wife. The characters are well-drawn, completely recognizable folks, confronting an ancient blood-feud complete with knife-wielding heavies, in between ambulance calls. The main character, with his own very long past to hide, finds unexpected allies from within his own crew and from two women that set a new standard for living fully in the moment with none of the baggage of the past to weight them down. I hope we’ll hear more from all these folks and will look forward to Mr. LeClerc’s next novel

Out of Nowhere is available from Amazon in Paper and for Kindle and from B&N in paper and for Nook.

Mar 19 14

Keeping those little, what-if bits handy…

by Richard Sutton

typeslugsIf you’re a writer, no matter the content of your work, you find stories wherever you look. A quick flyover by a hawk, the sound of a bumblebee in the clover, a taxicab dashing past someone with their hand waving frantically, someone in a wheelchair, waiting out front to be picked up at the hospital. You get it.

It’s a natural inclination that we share, as well as our appreciation for well-wrought word pictures. However, like most natural talents, it can be improved upon with some regular exercise. Even if you write series novels in a strict genre, the stories you fill the waiting pages with, have come from somewhere. Usually the idea source is an external one that filters through our own experiences and feelings until a “what-if” springs up.

For years, I simply field these under “Hmmm. Neat idea or something.” The problem with that is that retrieving it when needed can get tricky. That’s a bigger issue, the more stuff you carry around in your filing cabinet. Once I passed sixty, I knew I had to come up with a better way to organize.

That sounded a lot like like work to me. I’ve never been a journal-keeper, except for a brief fling at it just after college, living ingloriously in the back of a candle store. So I turned to the keyboard and MS Notepad. It only takes a couple of seconds to pound out a what-if. A couple more, to give it a title, so you’ll recognize it three years later. I appreciate Notepad for what it doesn’t do, and how easy it is to pin it to your taskbar or desktop.

Once I began keeping most of my what-ifs, the habit built until it’s almost automatic. Of course, it’s not a beautifully hand-written journal of crisp, faintly lined pages, lying there in some box for one of your descendants to find and admire and add to your library of work. No, instead, it’s a personal collection of process tools and muse-jabs.

On those occasions that my hands get tired; or my brain gets tired; or the current work in progress just isn’t keeping me up all hours; or the endless tweets and FB postings are not doing much to hold my concentration (do they ever do that?); or my thinking ears are just getting plugged up, I have somewhere to turn.

I once was stumped as to the right ending for a novel. The characters had been quiet, the idea-store had closed, and for several weeks I sat with my fingers poised over the keyboard, just assuming that the solution would magically whisper into my ear. I tried reading other writers, Writing Course lit, nothing made a difference. I stumbled across my what-if files by accident, read a couple of them, and let the subconscious do its work. That night, the ending played out in a dream populated by the novel’s characters. Once it was keyboarded, I realized it hadn’t really come directly from a what-if note, but there was something in those notes that freed the logjam.

Now, I’m a believer. If a what-if springs to mind, especially in the middle of doing something markedly un-writerly, I assume it’s a keeper and jot it down or pound it out. On my hard drive, there are now scores of these little jots. They might not seem important or even connected, but there’s a little chunk of magic in them that’s wrapped up in the intricacies of my process. The hows of where stories come from have always baffled me. My own process is all over the map, but somehow, these little notes can occasionally save the day. I don’t have to understand them, I just have to keep them handy for emergencies.

Mar 15 14

The Green Heart of Saint Patrick’s Day

by Richard Sutton
The coastline of Western County Mayo

The coastline of Western County Mayo

Saint Patrick’s Day approaches fast, and we can all use the cheer it brings along. Especially after the winter we’ve endured. Still, the images that fly around the media usually include a few examples of drunken excess. More than a few. For many of us, those images and the prevailing attitudes about the day — somehow akin to Fat Tuesday — can dampen our spirits a bit. Not because we haven’t earned the right to a bit of fun. No, it’s because the accepted inebriation of the day often masks the identity of the Irish race behind stereotypes that can be hard to live with. These stereotypes also hide the true heart of the celebration.

First there’s the history of the man. Patrick was a patrician son of some privilege, raised in Roman Britain. His travails as he struggled to achieve freedom after being stolen into slavery, keeping sheep on a lonely mountain, by an Irish warlord. His break for that freedom, secreted and sustained along the way by simple, decent people. His decision to bring those people something he valued above everything else. All these illustrate the drive of a highly spiritual, motivated, compassionate man. Patrick, an Irish-Celtic name he later took, was a man who, through force of will was able to convince the Pope of the time that he could bring the Gospel to the Island that had resisted Roman rule successfully for hundreds of years. He won their hearts and minds through years of steadfast labor and his love of his new home.

Next there is the miracle of the monastic tradition he introduced and encouraged that sustained Western philosophy and literature through the collapse of Rome and the Dark Ages that followed. Historian Thomas Cahill’s exceptional book, How the Irish Saved Civilization (Anchor, 1996) illustrates the lasting legacy of this unique branch of academic pursuit. For the Irish, whose love of music, history and storytelling was firmly established in the ancient, bardic tradition long before Caesar ever glimpsed Britain, this reverence for the preservation of knowledge and the cultural arts is a matter of pride.

Finally, there is the often painful legacy of a people living under occupied oppression for “eight hundred long years” as author Frank McCourt put it. Though every possible pressure was applied against them; stripping away the land itself, their language, even their faith, they endured. From that evolved an unshakeable belief in the value of loyalty, honor and the love of family, no matter how far from their own soil they were driven. Many sons of Ireland, in fact, turned their love of words into powerful weapons against the injustice they were forced to live with. Their words are remembered, to this day, for their piercing, devastating passion. While there was also a lot of anger, failure, struggle and violence there has been lasting, worldwide benefit in the contributions of Irish culture and idealism.

On the day set aside for remembrance, we recall, too, that not so long ago, Irish men and women who had escaped famine-plagued poverty in their home came to these shores. They didn’t find welcome here either and it persisted until quite recently.

My wife recalls a conversation with a friend, many years ago. They were speaking of Saint Patrick’s Day, coming soon, and her friend told her a story of her great-aunt, who, with her sister, had saved their pennies for the day they would go shopping at Macy’s in Herald Square. They were at the jewelry counter, when one sister clutched the edge of the glass case, then collapsed on the floor, experiencing a major seizure.

“She’s an epileptic!” Her sister cried out for help, asking, “will someone please call the police? We need help!”

The counter clerk made no move for the telephone, cast a doubtful eye on the two women on the floor below the counter and replied, “You’re Irish, aren’t you? She’s drunk. Just get her out of here so she can sleep it off!” No help came, and the afflicted woman died there on Macy’s showroom floor.

My wife recounted the story to me last night, prompted by news footage of seriously intoxicated revelers along last year’s parade route. When she was finished, there were tears in her eyes. She daubed at her face with a nearby napkin, which she held up for me to see.

It was marked with green patches where her tears has soaked in. She’d been to the ophthamologist earlier and some of the medicines used by the doctor remained in her eyes. She smiled and said, “See? I even cry green tears.”

Our grandson turns eighteen on Monday. His father may march with his brothers in the parade in Manhattan, as he has so many times, wearing his dress FDNY uniform. If he takes the streets, it won’t be to wear a ridiculous oversized hat and fall down on a sidewalk outside of a bar. He’ll be marching with his brothers for all the things it means to be Irish, not just the invention of distilling of spirits and the brewing of the expression of God’s love known as Guinness.

Sure, we’ll all raise a few glasses as that’s tradition too, but for those of us who wear the green on the inside, our toasts won’t be the main point of the celebration. Having our family around us to enjoy the life we’ve built while honoring our forebears and their faith is what lies at the heart of Saint Patrick’s Day.

Mar 8 14

Brian Doyle, Take Your Bow! The Plover Shines…

by Richard Sutton

plover

Take a bow, Mr. Doyle, and publisher Thomas Dunne, too! A book like The Plover has becoming such a rarity lately, your work shines like a star breaking through the clouds. Now, I can see how the run-on sentences and dancing viewpoints might daunt some readers; but as a sailor with close to forty years on the water, I found the cadence of the main character’s almost steady chants of self-deprecation and fix-it preoccupations very familiar. This is not a book for every reader; but rather, for those who love the sea, love boats, and have a glimmer that there is much hidden in plain sight in our world.

The Plover is the last remaining love of a man who wants to free himself from expectations and involvement with others. He’s chosen an ungainly cedar planked fishing trawler jury-fitted with a mast and sailing gear. He’s named her for a small but plucky shore bird and launched himself into the immensity of the Pacific with only a single idea of course: West. His carefully constructed solitude is broken almost immediately by a friendly gull and an odd rag-tag passenger list that seems to grow with every landfall despite his best intentions to keep it simple.

Within these sometimes hilarious, sometime frightening and regularly mysterious pages, he discovers that he can love other people as much as he loves his little boat. Mr. Doyle has crafted some of the most beautiful descriptive passages I’ve read and some of the most harrowing action, too. His characters are all much deeper than I initially expected. To think that someone this driven to deny his humanity could find redemption in the loving grace of an afflicted young child, the easy humor of a close friend, the deeply spiritual grasp of an almost silent Island woman and the evolving, miraculous worldview of a former politician, is incredible. Fighting storms and a maniacal ship’s captain on the open seas, adds just the right amount of accessible conflict, but in the tradition of the fantasy writing of Yann Martel, the incredible can still be deeply moving. For me, the story of the seemingly aimless voyage of The Plover, found a landfall right in my heart.

This book will be available starting April 8, 2014 at your favorite bookseller and at Amazon

 

Feb 22 14

Manning the Barricades…

by Richard Sutton
 Dmitry Lovetsky/AP Photo

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP Photo

Recent media coverage of the Ukrainian protesters manning the barricades this morning, remind me that sometimes, what outwardly seems like a feeble attempt actually wins. The news from Kiev is finally, a little encouraging.

My own experience with barricaded protest was decidedly different and much safer. The early winter of 1970 found scores of us, undergrads and grad students, massed along a hastily-erected sandbag and pallet barricade. A student had been hurt when hit by a fast-moving truck along the main street through the campus. We all vowed to stop that from ever happening again, and began protesting to force the university administration to close the street off from through traffic. It didn’t do much good, so our protests took a new direction. We assembled one night, with shovels, and sandbags and oil drums and wooden pallets and just past midnight, we blocked the road off with a big, nasty-looking barricade.

We spent a chilly night, singing folksongs and warming our hands around a small, smoky oil drum fire. Next morning, those of us awake, saw the sunrise flanked by police in full riot gear. Our sum total experience with violence had been the occasional cat call or tossed beer bottle from the drunks leaving the two campus bars that had agreed to give us restroom privileges. Most of the student body – with the exception of the uniformed ROTC – had cheered our efforts, so we prepared for the confrontation we believed would prove our commitment to our cause.

Behind the line of police, however, loomed two big garbage trucks which said, more than anything else, that our commitment was soon to crumble. In the initial onslaught, after a couple of the most rabid SDS member protesters were bloodied by police batons, the rest of us ran like rabbits, leaving what few belongings lay strewn about what remained of the barricade. From a safe distance, hidden behind shrubbery, we watched as everything was dumped and trucked off.

I had stupidly taken a moment just before the first blows were struck, to clear the gravel from my worn-out sneakers. From the shelter of a nearby laurel bush, I watched the sanitation workers shovel the street clean and cart off my shoes. I stood there in just my socks.

That evening, after reading the local paper’s coverage of the event, I was crestfallen. We’d failed. Traffic was whizzing through the campus again, but a meeting of the steering committee had been called, so I guess the leadership hadn’t yet given up.

What a bold plan it was, too. One of the post-grad leaders had a buddy who was a mason. He, in turn had a buddy who could get several wheelbarrows, shovels and a load of concrete in a hurry. We were told to assemble at one o’clock, in the same spot where the barricade stood. We were going to quickly build two, almost street-spanning brick and concrete planter boxes. They would be filled with layered drainage gravel and soil, and planted with trees, supplied by another buddy who had a landscaping business. The temperatures were going to stay in the forties, so they’d accelerate the concrete mortar mix and we’d all learn how to be bricklayers in the dark. With more than forty of us working, it should take no time at all. We only had an hour between patrol car passes, so the strength of the work, not the finish quality was what counted. We all dashed off to prepare. I had a pair of work gloves, but no shoes, so I wrapped some rags around my socks, and at one the next morning, I became an apprentice bricklayer.

At some point in the night, I became aware that my feet were burning up! My ragged footwear had absorbed enough concrete mortar to actually begin to set. I tried to strip off my socks, but they were stiff. The rags had already set up. It took a friend with a bowie knife to cut them off my now baked feet. Almost numb, the red lime burns went well up both legs. I stumbled to the nearest sill-cock and ran the ice-cold water over them until I’d cleaned off any remaining concrete. The skin was puckered and the same color as a frog’s belly. I had another pair of socks in my pocket, so I  pulled them on. It was better than nothing. My commitment to the cause hadn’t allowed me to waste a single moment trying to find some cheap sneakers, so there I stood, defiantly behind the brick planter box, in wet stocking feet.

The next morning, the same line of police formed, but among them were three tear gas launchers. The administration was also there, trying to persuade our fearless leaders to abandon this now solid effort. They refused, and the bullhorn started shouting orders to disperse. A group of administrators walked through the bike lane we’d left between the planters and approached the police. There was hand waving, angry words and ample finger pointing. Even some finger in the chest pointing. The administrators walked back and the police withdrew. We waited with high hopes.

Turned out all the administrators had done was buy some time. The police were going to keep their eyes on us, but no confrontation was going to occur while the administration and the town highway supervisor went into negotiations. A soft light went off in my head. It seemed like the normally remote administration shared some of our anger at the traffic issues.

Meanwhile, we just settled down to wait out the rest of the day. Later one, there were cat calls from the bar crowd, some eggs tossed at us by infuriated ROTC cadets who felt we were somehow damaging their educational opportunities. Some local ya-hoos in a pick-up, dumped garbage all over the planters.

By afternoon, there were all kinds of banners strung across the planters as well as the nearby shrubbery. Not just the safety issues, but any other reasons for students to yell protests at authority, now boasted a say at our barricade. It was looking like a circus. Late in the day, a group of faculty and grad students came to pay us stalwarts a visit. One of them, a mathematician-scientist with a reputation for really outspoken political opinions, approached me with a package. He thrust a big, heavy box into my arms, saying, “No one can man a barricade with bare feet. Put these on if they fit.”

I croaked out a surprised, heartfelt thank you. The labeled size was close enough. I pulled them on: serious, brand-new, steel-toed work boots. They looked a bit odd, all bright and un-scuffed, sticking out from my ragged jeans, but it strengthened my commitment. Now in addition to the heart of the matter and street cred on the line, I couldn’t disappoint Professor Schoenfeld. His kindness had touched me and fired up my spirit. I couldn’t fail that spirit.

I didn’t. I manned the planters, along with a dwindling group of like-minded hard-core, for the rest of the week. Twenty-Four-Seven. Food and coffee came in shifts in big take-out bags. We’d all given up our semesters to make a point. No reason to head back to class. For me, those big yellow boots left big, important footprints. I couldn’t let them down.

Two weeks later, the agreements reached, the trees had been removed from the planters. The brick rectangles just gaped, and were slowly filling up with trash. Most of the banners had been torn down, but one remained, extolling the virtues of a safer campus. We’d all drifted away into other protests. I’d been asked to attend a meeting to support Democratic anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy, so the planters slipped out of my mind.

One morning, the town brought bulldozers, and with no warning, simply swept the pavement almost clean. By the time I’d heard the news, all that remained was the rugged base outline of the two planters in broken, set mortar. A week later, the street was permanently closed to through traffic and steel posts were set deep into the pavement.

So, you see, sometimes, tossing rocks and bottles from behind a pile of garbage actually works. We won that fight and as I remember, a few others, too. Some of them were big fight, some were smaller. I was tackled by a burly cop when I was on a picket line for some locked out mill workers and spent a night in the local jail until we were all released the next morning, our cases all dismissed.

Looking back, even the tiny victories meant a lot, as did the many failures. Eventually the work boots wore out, and years later, I heard that Professor Schoenfeld had died after fighting the good fight for a lifetime. Today, seeing the coverage of those hopeful masses trying to force change in their homeland, I remember the kindness of a man I didn’t really know, and how fast bricks can be laid down if enough motivation is there. Sometimes, the increments on the way to winning are tiny, but they all add up… they really do.

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 21 14

Too-Rye-Ay! One mo’ time…

by Richard Sutton

dexysOf all the bands that broke through in the 1980s, my favorite is also probably the least likely…

Last night, I finally saw the film, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” I’d been surfing around Netflix trying to find a DVD I hadn’t seen but might want to, and gave in to my memory of the hype surrounding the bestselling YA book. It turned out to be surprisingly good, and very touching. One scene especially grabbed me. It was the Sadie Hawkins Dance, when unexpectedly, the plaintive tones of a paired fiddle and pipe play the lead measures of the Victorian tune, “Endearing Young Charms”… then the insistent rhythm of “Come On, Eileen” filled my ears, sending me back to 1982…

I had been handling the identity campaign and promotional graphics for the local alternative, A.O.R.-FM radio station, WLIR. There were always concert tickets floating around, and someone asked me if I wanted to see a new punk band at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan. The Beacon was uptown and had been an evocative, very seminal place for both Jazz and R&B since the 1940s. It was supposed to be undergoing a renovation, so I said “Sure, why not? Can I get three? Who’s playing?”

This is an excerpt of the short article posted on ReadWave. To read the rest, click here, and if you enjoy reading it, like it, etc.

Feb 3 14

Quaint, old tools…

by Richard Sutton

gone

Last year, a writer I know decided to crowd-source fund his latest publishing adventure. He wanted to produce a hardbound book in letterpress printing. Needless to say, it became a labor of love: a very limited print run in high quality. Some prefer the intense, crisp typography possible with the best letterpress equipment and skilled press operators. Letterpress is also unique in its ability to imprint colored and metallic foils into a cover or text style paper stock. I was thinking about how fast that technology morphed from the mundane daily printing of everything, to the arena of fine-arts handmade book production. I thought of the tools of the craft. Things like wide ink brayers, printer’s devils and type case quoins, now oddities that turn up at garage sales. Quaint items that few actually remember using.

Letterpress requires a specific skillset with a very long learning curve. It takes much longer to produce a print run, as well, so the costs are much higher. In fact, in its most basic form, letterpress took Gutenberg’s ideas and tilted the whole thing on its side. An individual page was made up of separate elements of foundry purchased headline and text typography, line by line; pictorial elements of either photo halftone etchings, woodblock cuts or steel line engravings, locked together into the page frame with the rest so that the page could be inked, then pressed into the paper stock. One at a time, until the quantity was reached and the next page had to be made up. It was all done by hand, by men wearing magnifying loupe visors. High tolerances were regularly achieved by the most skilled pressmen.

At the beginning of my earlier career as a graphic designer – now some thirty years behind me – I had a whole chest of tools I needed to purchase to ply the trade. Things like a set of really high-quality dividers, several compasses and beam compasses, ink ruling nibs, Rapidograph pens, agate rulers with a pica scale, Haberules with point-sized baselines cast on them, Linen counters, Type sizing scales… the list is very long and includes sets of dye marker pens in hundreds of PMS matched colors as well as lead holders and leads of various softness and color including a non-repro blue one. Even a relatively short time later, these same tools are now considered quaint reminders of bygone technology in the graphic arts. Many recent graduates of college graphics programs might only recognize them from images they’ve seen in text books. My grandsons now enjoy using my drafting tools.

I recall that when I began my graphics career, letterpress printing had turned over almost the entire farm to offset printing. There were still a few things that letterpress was preferred for, but mostly at that time it was offset printing that had its day and still does. High speed production, photo-mechanical plating, faster color separation and paper handling made books much less expensive when offset printed. It was the same for all printed communications from magazines, to flyers to instruction manuals or corporate annual reports. Today, offset presses run faster than ever, but the rising cost of paper, production time and electricity have slowly made it much more expensive than it was initially.

On my desk, I recently lined up a series of antique tools of the letterpress days. I love the hand worn surfaces of the printer’s devil (type quoin key) and quoins. They were in their way, responsible for the fairly recent advent of majority literacy. If you think about the ways books were produced before high-speed letterpress, by hand: a page at a time, then bound by hand-stitching; it’s no wonder that the average person could never afford to actually own books. As the costs of print production came down, the rates of literacy went up all over the world.

Which brings us to the present. I imagine someday, someone will assemble a group of old tools on a table and take a similar picture. It might include a smart phone, a Paperwhite Kindle, maybe a usb cable tied around them and a CDROM lying nearby to reflect the rainbow. The photographer may want to use it to illustrate an article about vanishing technology. The quaint past.

We humans just never get tired of stories, and as the ways we devise to get stories from the storyteller’s lips into our ears change, so will the tools that those who make books will create and use to keep us all entertained and educated. The technologies and formats will change. Many won’t be around anymore, but the readers (or listeners) will always be there, waiting to be swept away in someone else’s words.

Jan 28 14

God’s Gift: Another one licks his wounds…

by Richard Sutton

sistine-chapel-michelangelo-paintings-6Pope Francis has called the internet recently, a gift from God, because it brings people together. It certainly does that. All of us who use it, know that open conversation between people of diverse nations and cultures is deeply rewarding. Sharing our thinking and our work, quickly and openly enhances our humanity and expands our minds. This strengthens our higher selves, and improves the quality and impact of our work.

However, there is another side of it. He also cautions against obsession with the web, as he concludes that this can actually leave us isolated. Recently, I’ve heard that an editor friend has been forced to abandon his social media involvements because of the trolling. In this particular case, a personal online vendetta by someone whose fragile ego was perceived to have been damaged by my friend, contributed to his depression until he could bear it no longer. His own words appear in his blog, where he apologizes for what he sees as a lapse of the high ethical standards he has always exhibited in his professional life. He seems to have been genuinely sorry that he just couldn’t bear up under a barrage that began in 2010. I certainly don’t blame him for sitting the next round out.

Agence France-Press 1/21/2014 Vatican Press

Agence France-Press 1/21/2014 Vatican Press

I have another friend, an accomplished novelist, who has fought the good fight against this type of behavior online, for several years now. He jumps into the trenches and digs down deeper, exposing the often pathological need among those who troll regularly, to lash out at others. He has also sustained injury from his fearless stance, but most of us who have been the target of online trolling or foul play take the course of least resistance. We tell ourselves it doesn’t mean anything. We try to let the handfuls of thrown shit, roll off our backs.

It doesn’t always work, though. Sometimes it piles up, forcing us to reconsider our own worth. This can lead to a downwards spiral into a closed-off, sad existence. You may think that this is hyperbole, but the stories of writers and artists whose writing stopped after repeated online assaults, are legion. People who choose self-expression in any form, whether fiction or fine art, usually have several things in common. One of these is an increased level of felt emotion and another, greater empathy than many others. Writers especially labor to make their thinking as accessible as possible in their work. Clarity and logic are important goals that require serious commitment to achieve. I know it’s a struggle for me, sometimes.

Writers tend to make good targets. Many writers strive to remain open-minded and detail-observant to multiple sides of each issue, to digest as much complication as they can. But it can leave us vulnerable to public attacks. Of course, that comes with the territory, but it also is one reason why schoolyard mentality pranks and public flayings cause many of us so much pain. Some may choose to react publicly, but most of us simply withdraw. In withdrawing, we do ourselves more damage as we cut ourselves off from the expansive freedom and contact we crave. This freedom is a key component in our ongoing writing, painting, or making music. Stifling another human being from pursuing their happiness is nothing to be proud of.

A benefit of the internet, often highly touted in posts and articles, is the anonymous freedom of speech it affords. But that is also a two-edged sword. Someone filled with obsessive rage or the need to get even in a big, public way, can easily adopt a new identity designed for ease in disseminating hate-filled bias, fringe rants or personal attacks. Even innocent fun can have a dangerous side to it when anonymity provides the perfect cover.

I hope that as the web matures, this kind of brainless, mean-spirited or obsessive behavior will diminish, but I seriously doubt it will in the near future. In the meantime, all I ask of people who have opinions that differ with mine, whose experiences differ from mine, and whose idea of what makes a book enjoyable differ from mine is try to apply the ethics they use in face-to-face living, to their behavior online. If you feel you’ve been hurt by something I’ve posted, or a book I’ve written, make an adult attempt to contact me so we can discuss it like adults. Lashing out online and trying to poison the well only results in magnifying the pain and discomfort.

Besides, shouldn’t we all really be engaged in trying to help each other whenever we can? If you feel the need to run a childish prank upon some unsuspecting author or blogger, at least apologize after the fact, publicly. Man up – or should I say, Human up. Think before you type or text. Your words online last a long, long time and even if your reaction was a momentary lapse of judgment, the potential it carries to do real harm will last and last. Especially, try to cut those of us who try to provide a good story or image or song for your entertainment, some slack. If you can do it better, then do it. Meeting your own goals is better revenge anyway, than finding a victim to tear down.