Sunday, February 27, 2011

Our Lost Children

By Mark W. Danielson

A missing child does not always refer to the physical sense. In fact, too many parents have lost a child and never realized it until there is a suicide attempt. In some cases, kids take others down with them before taking their own lives. It’s a tough world out there, and it’s getting tougher. With 24/7 media bombardment, I’m not sure how any child copes these days. The “lost boys” in Peter Pan and Lord of the Flies were reflections of our children decades ago. Technology has merely amplified this problem.

I’m constantly amazed at how many parents suffer from family tragedies. During a recent discussion with some fellow authors, two were sharing stories about deaths in their families. At my age, death is not uncommon, but child or young adult deaths are never expected, and always have staggering effects on family members and friends. When I mentioned that one of my children became so emotionally detached and distraught that she needed professional help, one of the other authors piped in saying that she had twice attempted suicide. Sadly, many have shared the thought. Though mental detachment is often curable, there are far too many failures.

We all have ways of dealing with loss. Some turn to religion, others join support groups, authors turn to writing. Such was the case when I wrote Diablo’s Shadow, a missing child story where the child, caught in the middle of two estranged parents, runs ahead of her father and disappears in the woods. The child’s disappearance forces her parents to work together to find her. In many cases, children hide to bring their parents together, but sometimes they simply vanish. Writing Diablo’s Shadow was my coping mechanism for what I experienced during a very dark period. It’s the most difficult story I’ve ever written and will be the only mystery I ever write on this subject.

When I meet other writers, it’s clear that our stories are driven by personal events. Where else would our characters’ passion and conflict come from? How else do we create characters that readers care about? Readers connect through their own experiences. Empathy gives our stories heart.

I frequently hear people say, “I can’t read missing children stories because I have kids.” Trust me, I understand. But stories like Diablo’s Shadow can help heal and offer guidance. Chances are good that one of your friends is or has experienced difficulty or loss with one of their children, but most bury this information so deep you will never know. The truth is you’re not alone.

How to live fulfilled lives is the greatest mystery of all. Some figure it out better than others. Parents must watch out for their children’s emotions as much as they do their children’s physical health. Kids who are withdrawing from society are at a huge risk for abuse and suicide. Be alert and bring them back before it’s too late. There are plenty of available resources to assist. A good start may be: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). , and The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Absinthe of Malice

Pat Browning
by Jean Henry Mead

Pearl's a gem of a town in the midst of the fertile San Joaquin Valley. When a skeleton is discovered in a cotton field, a series of events unfold that unearth long-held secrets, including murder.

Reporters Penny MacKenzie and her friend Maxie Harper discover the old bones and it isn’t long before Penny is investigating Maxie's death.Was she murdered or the victim of a genetic allergy? Complicated relationships within the town include Penny’s mother’s love affair with the police chief, who is somehow involved in the mystery surrounding the skeleton.

Absinthe of Malice
The town’s founding father was also involved as well as his descendant, who, with his attractive wife, represent Pearl’s societal elite. An affair is discovered after the pillar of society's paramour is found dead, and Penny’s former boyfriend Watt shows up in the middle of the investigation after nearly a two-decade absence. 

A number of Pearl's residents get involved, including the newspaper's photographer, Maxie’s neighbor and  her former informant at the police department. Browning carefully profiles each character, leaving the reader wondering who's a suspect or who's an innocent bystander.

Because Pat Browning and I worked for the same small town daily in California’s Central Valley, and ate at the same Chinese restaurant, which is a setting in the plot, I have a special interest in the book (although I didn't know her at the time). The town of Pearl was patterned after the town where we both lived and the author certainly captures the essence of the agricultural area as well as its residents.

The story is fast-paced, skillfully woven and humorous, and keeps the reader wondering whether Penny will unravel the secrets or become the next victim. The author’s portrayal of a small town reporter is spot on, I’m pleased to say, and not the aggressive, obnoxious journalist usually portrayed on film.

I highly recommend Absinthe of Malice as a good read, and look forward to the second novel in the series.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Family Fun

by Ben Small

Crisis in our family. Stress Week. Panic Central. The family is coming to visit, starting tomorrow. Six adults, one three year old girl.

So, of course, everything has gone wrong. First, we suffered a natural gas outing for four days. No warning, little advice on when  it would flow again. Cold showers, no heat, frigid Tucson.

Bundled up like an Eskimo, my wife laid out an agenda. Every visit day covered: activities, meals plus a birthday party for the three year old. So we went to Costco to stock up, and so my wife could hopefully do all the cooking in advance.

That's when we realized we had no room for all the frozen stuff.

So we bought a freezer, added it to the mess in the garage.

Then the refrigerator died. My wife swiped my beer refrigerator, emptied out all my coveted brews, and stacked it full with perishable stuff. Some of this stuff wouldn't fit, but the GE guy said he'd come over immediately and fix the fridge.

But the fridge needed a part, an expensive one. We weighed just buying a new fridge, and could have had it installed before the kids arrived, but GE said no sweat; they'd repair the problem well before deadline.

So we waited. Day after day, as the panic level rose and more unstashed food spoiled. We called GE. The technician was sick, they said. Had the flu. We asked for another technician, but were told the one assigned had the part, it was expensive, and GE wouldn't send another part and assign another technician.

So we waited again. Each day, we'd get a call, saying the technician was still sick but would be out "tomorrow."

Tomorrow took a week.

So the kids arrive in less than twenty-four hours, the fridge got fixed today, and we're off to Costco again to buy more of the stuff we bought before.

And that's the easy part. Now my wife is cooking up a storm, while I clean up and do other chores. Sweeping, vacuuming, assembling presents and a car seat.

Who said retirement is easy?

P.S. I saved the beer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It Should Never Have Happened

By Chester Campbell

I'm reading a book that is chilling to contemplate. It's The Shadow Factory by James Bamford, who wrote the original first inside look at the National Security Agency (NSA) titled The Puzzle Palace. The main portion of the book details how the NSA has become the most gigantic and intrusive spy organization ever known as a result of the 9/11 attack. But the first section, which I just finished, gives a close-up look at Osama bin Laden's fateful operation and the people who carried it out.

What chills your blood is seeing all the missteps by our intelligence agencies that could have prevented the attack. I had read bits and pieces of the story over the years, but this is the first time I had seen it all laid out in such stark fashion. He gives dates and times and even telephone numbers that give the feeling you're watching it all happen.

In his NOTES at the end of the book, Bamford says most of the hijackers' day-to-day activities were taken from The Chronology of Events for Hijackers (November 14, 2003), "a formerly secret three-hundred-page chronology released by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act."

By 1999, the NSA had been aware of bin Laden's Middle East operations center in Yemen for several years. In late December that year, it intercepted a call from the terrorist leader to Khalid al-Mihdhar, who would become a leader of the 9/ll plot. Earlier that year, NSA had picked up the name Nawaf al-Hazmi through an ops center intercept. The December message instructed "Khalid" and "Nawaf" to travel to Southeast Asia.

NSA passed on the information to the CIA and FBI with first names only. A computer check would have identified Nawaf by his full name, and the information would have been passed on to the State Department. This would have revealed that Nawaf al-Hazmi, a suspected terrorist, had recently received a visa to enter the United States. Another visa issued at almost the same time and in the same Saudi Arabian city went to Khalid al-Mihdhar.

Bamford says partly because of hostility between the agencies, NSA analysts didn't feel it was their job to further research Nawaf's name unless specifically asked to do so. The message to the CIA, however, said Khalid and Nawaf would be traveling to Kuala Lumpur and that a planning meeting of terrorist operatives was planned for Malaysia.

Concerned, the CIA alerted its stations in the area and discovered that Mihdhar's Saudi passport contained a multi-entry visa for the U.S. with the destination listed as New York. When this information reached the CIA's so-called Alec Station, dedicated to the elimination of Osama bin Laden, an FBI liaison read it and became instantly alarmed. A possible terrorist dispatched by al-Qaeda's Yemeni ops center would soon he headed for New York.

The agent immediately typed out a message to alert his superiors at FBI Headquarters. But all such messages had to go through the CIA's deputy chief of Alec Station, and he spiked it. One of his subordinates told the FBI agent the next attack would be in Southeast Asia and it wasn't the FBI's jurisdiction. Then the CIA lost track of Khalid and Nawaf when they detoured to Bangkok on the way to the U.S.

Since the State Department had not been told to put the men on its terrorist watch list, passport control knew nothing about them. On January 15, 2000, the concerned FBI agent sent an email to the Alec Station deputy chief again asking if he shouldn't inform his headquarters about the travelers' plans. He received no answer. That same day, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi were waived through immigration at Los Angeles Interntional Airport with hardly a glance.

For the next year and a half, they would travel freely about the country, taking lessons on flying large commercial airliners, and coordinating with the other seventeen hijackers on plans for 9/11. Al-Mihdhar even made trips back to Saudi Arabia and to a rendezvous in Europe with no problem. There were other opportunities to disrupt the operation that failed to materialize because of someone's failure to follow up on suspected activity.

Reading the book, you realize anew that 9/11 should never have happened. That it did is a monument to human failure. Incidentally, the book is filled with good background information for thriller writers.

Chester Campbell

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turkey City Lexicon

A couple of days ago, I was searching for some information in Google and one of the hits was a blast from the past--the Turkey City Lexicon. Back when I decided to make a serious effort at fiction writing, I took a community education creative writing class. One of the materials distributed in the class was a photocopied, typewritten document full of typos and hand-written corrections called the Turkey City Lexicon.

So what is the lexicon? It's a collection of terms for problems that often arise in science fiction writers workshops. By having a term for these problems, participants can recognize and discuss them without having to reinvent the wheel. It was a fixture of the first critique groups I was in.

Although developed in the context of science fiction, most of the problems are common to any genre. Here are a few of the entries:

                “Burly Detective” Syndrome
This useful term is taken from SF’s cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne’s proper name, preferring such euphemisms as “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.” This syndrome arises from a wrong-headed conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as “vertiginous.” Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.
                Tom Swifty
An unseemly compulsion to follow the word “said” with a colorful adverb, as in “‘We’d better hurry,’ Tom said swiftly.” This was a standard mannerism of the old Tom Swift adventure dime-novels. Good dialogue can stand on its own without a clutter of adverbial props.

                Bogus Alternatives
List of actions a character could have taken, but didn’t. Frequently includes all the reasons why. In this nervous mannerism, the author stops the action dead to work out complicated plot problems at the reader’s expense. “If I’d gone along with the cops they would have found the gun in my purse. And anyway, I didn’t want to spend the night in jail. I suppose I could have just run instead of stealing their car, but then … ” etc. Best dispensed with entirely.

The Lexicon has been edited and added to over the years as it has migrated from paper to web, but it still serves writers beginning and experienced, in helping them to recognize and avoid common writing problems. So here is a link to the lexicon in the hopes that you will find it useful like I did. And do.
Turkey City Lexicon Are there any terms that resonate with you?

As a side note, Lew Shiner, one of the editors, was one of the leaders of the first writing workshop I attended. He was a harsh critic and my writing is much better for it. 

Mark Troy

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Medical Examiners

In a recent issue of the Fresno Bee (Fresno is one of the biggest cities in California's Central Valley) there was an article about the incompetency of their medical examiners and how many autopsies had been botched.

Since we all watch TV shows where the medical examiner is the main source for deciding the cause of death and all sorts of clues as to how and when the person died often leading to the murderer, it makes me wonder if some murderers are running around free because an autopsy wasn't performed or performed incorrectly.

In the article it said that a couple of the people doing autopsies had no medical background at all and others had no training in doing autopsies. Sounds like the old days when an autopsy, if there was one, was done in by the mortician in the mortuary.

My first thought was, "Gee whiz, this would sure work in a murder mystery." My second thought, "Nope, no one would believe it." This goes back to the old adage, truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case it surely is.

Marilyn, who is counting down for the appearance of Angel Lost.

Books by Marilyn

Monday, February 14, 2011

If Wishes Were True by Morgan Mandel

Temporary Cover for Forever Young

Now that I'm older, I wish more and more that I could be younger and stay that way.

Such wishing for the impossible is the impetus for my work in progress, a paranormal thriller called Forever Young, where a 55 year old woman takes a pill to become 24 forever. That's not all that happens, but it was the spark that began the long haul of my manuscript, which is two-thirds done. I've set my mark on 1,000 words per day, and have been doing pretty well at keeping up to my goal, making up for it when I slip back. 

What about you? Did you ever write or read a book because you wished something were true?

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career 99 cents on Kindle
and on Smashwords

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Big Stretch

By Mark W. Danielson
Stretching the truth is normal for fiction writers, whether it’s for movies, television, or novels. Pick any TV detective show and you may find yourself cocking your head saying, “I’m enjoying the show, but how can this be?” Simply put, it is because they can.

I was assigned to Miramar Naval Air Station shortly after TOPGUN was made. Since I was in the adversary business, I met several of the pilots who flew in that movie. While discussing some of TOPGUN’s ludicrous flying scenes, the pilots defended themselves saying they kept telling the director, “That’s not how it is,” to which the director fervently replied, “We’re not making a documentary.” TOPGUN not only launched Tom Cruz’s careers, it became a top grossing movie. Had the story been accurate, it would have been boring because in real life, there is no TOPGUN competition, no trophy, and no inverted canopy-to-canopy finger waving. Just the Navy Fighter Weapons School that teachers advanced fighter tactics to a select few so they can pass the information on to their squadron mates. In the end, the director of TOPGUN found the perfect balance between accuracy and entertainment.

Another fine example of this is Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Admittedly, The Da Vinci Code isn’t one of my favorite books, but it serves as a fine example of a writer’s stretch, and Brown’s ability to convince the public (and the Catholic Church) that his fiction is actually the truth. This is the ultimate goal in writing reality-based fiction. Make it plausible enough to get the adrenaline flowing, then kick back and smile.

Think back to the shower scene in the movie Psycho. Sure, it was fiction, but the scene was real enough that people were afraid to step into their own showers. In Poe’s Pit and the Pendulum, each swing of the blade drew the reader in because they were certain someone out there might try it. The scene was a stretch on Poe’s part, yet it still reigns as one of horror fiction’s greatest.

The best thing about writing fiction is authors can create whatever they want. Gene Rodenberry faced a serious deadline in Star Trek when his shuttle models didn’t arrive in time for shooting the TV series. To solve this problem, he came up with the transporter, a means of vaporizing people and beaming them up or down from the Starship Enterprise. Although Rodenberry was the first to admit he just “made it up”, we still have scientists trying to prove or disprove it. Thus, the transporter became another successful stretch on the writer’s part.

Fiction should be fun, entertaining, and plausible, so writers should never hold back. Whether your idea makes it into the final cut is a moot point, so long as you enjoyed creating it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Axel Brand Unveiled

by Jean Henry Mead

Award-winning novelist Richard Wheeler has published more than 70 books, among them westerns, historicals, biographies and nonfiction. But few know that he's also Axel Brand, mystery writer. He kept his identity secret from critics since his debut mystery, The Hotel Dick, hit the bookstores. Next in his series is The Dead Genius.

Richard, why, after publishing 70 books of various genres, why did you decide to write a mystery series?

I love mysteries. These would be a change of pace for me. I'm always looking for new worlds to conquer.

Your pseudonym, Axel Brand, sounds more like a Western author. How did you come up with it?

It's at the top of the alphabet. That means the books will probably be shelved at eye level in any alpha-organized collection, which means they are more likely to be seen and read.

Why did you set your series in the 1940s as opposed to the present time?

There are few mysteries set in that period. Also, it allowed me to employ gumshoe detection without dealing with modern forensic sciences. The series is set in 1940s Milwaukee, where I grew up, a big industrial city I remember well, and one little resembling cities now. In my stories the cops sometimes catch streetcars to get where they're going.

How difficult was it to make the switch to the mystery genre? And did you read a lot of mystery novels before you began writing them?

It wasn't difficult at all. I had to begin with an apparent crime, and let my hero work on it. I've read mysteries much of my life, and have no idea how many. The thing is, mysteries are stories like other fiction, so one starts by spinning a story.

Briefly tell us about your protagonist, Lieutenant Joe Sonntag, and your debut novel, The Hotel Dick.

Well, I loved Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday when I was growing up, so I wanted a low-key detective who used shoe-leather to get down to the facts. I proposed calling my guy Joe Sunday, and the publishers axed that idea, but they bought Joe Sonntag, which amused everyone, and fit Milwaukee perfectly.

What kind of predicament did you get Sonntag into in your forthcoming novel, due to be released in July?

The novel is called The Dead Genius, and the dilemma is whether there was a crime at all. The victim seems to have died a natural death, but Sonntag's superior, Captain Ackerman, has a hunch it was not natural, and sends Sonntag out on a fruitless, dumb investigation that consumes a lot of the resources of the police. Sonntag, meanwhile, is annoyed to be on a case based only on a lousy hunch.

You mention a number of former Hollywood stars in your debut mystery novel. Was that the result of your years in Hollywood as an aspiring actor and screenwriter?

Not really. One of the things that intrigued me about the forties was the look-alike contests that were popular then. People who looked like Shirley Temple or Alan Ladd or Dorothy Lamour could compete, and win prizes for looking the most like the star. Sometimes they would get a trip to Hollywood and a studio tour as the prize, and get a signed picture of the person they resembled. All that, transplanted to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was intriguing, and I built on it. The victim, the hotel detective J. Adam Bark, was involved in the look-alike contests.

Advice to aspiring writers?

Give the stories meaning and make what happens consequential. I keep reading stories in which everything that happens is meaningless and has no impact, which makes a weak story. If it's a murder mystery, remember that death is consequential. People grieve. Families are upset. There are consequences in law, and upon society. I come across murder mysteries where no one cares, there are no funerals, it doesn't seem to matter, all of which undermine the story.

You can visit Richard/Axel at his blog site:

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Problem with Character

Carl Jung is quoted to have said,
“Honest writing cannot be separated from the person who wrote it.”

I rather tend to agree with Carl. I believe we create the best characters when we know ourselves—the depth of who we are, what we stand for, what we don't stand for, and what we won't stand for--and tap into that depth when we write.

Writers often have trouble creating believable, unusual characters. Instead, we make them cookie-cutter, stereotypical people, and as a result, bore our readers. Even though we might conduct extensive research, we resist the elements that end in helping us develop multi-faceted, exciting characters with emotions from the inside out. Research by itself won’t fix this problem.

Why? Because the most important element for creating characters with emotional and psychological depth—wishes, feelings, passion, depth and vision—resides within me, the writer. To write meaningfully, I must connect my inner world with the outer world of my creation.

It is easy to learn the craft of writing, but it takes more than just structure to make our writing and our characters come to life. Before our characters can stand out from all others we must tap into our inner self while creating that character. We must be present inside them and let our writing reflect that, or our story will lack depth. Our readers must hear our voice as the narrator—not some detached fact teller.

We must create a variety of different characters that express all the various voices we hear within ourselves.

WE, the writer, make the difference between a lackluster character portrayed over and over, and a character with a fresh, unique voice.

How do we do learn to do this? Stay tuned.

Friday, February 4, 2011

G-Whiz, the PI's Have It

I write two mystery series featuring PI's. In the first series, my protags are a couple in their latter sixties. Greg McKenzie is a sharp investigator and is fascinated by all the new surveillance gadgets, but when it comes to telephones he's a bit old-fashioned. He thinks telephones are communication devices for people to talk on, just like they were back when you stuck your finger in the correct holes to dial a number.

The G-revolution has changed all that. If you're like Greg, you've seen all the G signs around kiosks at the mall but never bothered to find out what it's all about. The modern PI knows. In my second series, Sid Chance's sidekick, Jaz LeMieux, has all the latest smart phone gadgetry and uses them to her advantage.

So what is this G business all about? Greg McKenzie stepped on the G1 rung when he bought an analog cell phone. For an investigator, it was a great time. You could buy a scanner that would sweep the cell-phone spectrum and listen in on your target's conversations. No need for a wiretap and all that business.

That ended when G2 came along, the digital cell phone. Digital transmission improved the quality of the signal but made it quite difficult to listen in on the conversations. You had to know the algorithms used by a particular cell company to unscramble a call.

Greg was okay with the G2 step, but then along came another advance known as G3. That was a bit much. Cell phones suddenly started sprouting up that would tune into the Internet, receive emails, text messages, pictures, most anything you could imagine. A bit slow for downloading large files, but doable.

Now we have the fourth generation (yes, G stands for Generation). The 4G phones are faster than ever, four to ten times faster than the previous generation. The high-speed addition will allow a PI to sit at a table watching his target chat with a potential bad guy, flip through photos on his cell phone and try to pick out a match. It provides all kinds of possibilities. Do a real-time background check.

This newest revolution won't affect Greg because he's still living in 2004, but you can bet Sid and Jaz will put it to good use. Have you encountered the G-whiz factor in a mystery?

Mystery Mania Blog

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who Would You Cast? by Mark Troy

My wife and I were at the movies this weekend and saw a trailer for Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer. It stars Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller. We turned to each other and said, "No, not him."

I don't think we would agree on who should play Haller, but we both have pictures in our minds of someone more mature and serious. Of course my pictures are not her pictures and our pictures are not those of the director or of the author. That is always an issue when books are made into movies. The pictures we form in our minds are based on personal interpretations of the clues the author gives us. We, as readers, play an active role in forming those pictures, therefore, I think they are more durable than the pictures that are dropped in by the movie. We're often disappointed when the movie images don't match the ones in our heads.

The movie we saw was True Grit. In this case the imagery is more complicated because True Grit is a remake of an earlier movie based on a book. So there are three images to reconcile. There is the image of the main character, Rooster Cogburn, as he appears in the book. Then there is the image of John Wayne who portrayed him in the first movie (and won an Oscar for the role). Finally, there is the image of Jeff Bridges as Rooster in the latest version. I had not read the book before seeing the first movie, so, for thirty years, John Wayne was Rooster Cogburn in my mind. This time around, I did purchase the book before seeing the movie, and, though I haven't finished the book, the picture that emerges from the book, doesn't quite match my picture of John Wayne. When I read the dialogue in the book, I hear and see Jeff Bridges, not the Duke.

I've seen some movies in which the portrayal of the main character, in my mind's eye, was a perfect match to the book's. Tommy Lee Jones as Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men and Sean Penn as Jimmie Markhum in Mystic River are two examples.

Who would the author cast? I've been told that Robert B. Parker thought Joe Montegna would make a better Spencer than the late Robert Urich, although most fans see Urich in their minds. It's well known that Parker had Helen Hunt in mind when he created Sunny Randall. S.J. Rozan said she thought Sandra Oh would make a fine Lydia Chin. Me, I don't know. Hunt, yes, Oh, no.

Most authors, I suspect, do not have any particular actor or actress in mind when they write their books. Our images are strong, developed out of intimacy. The characters we develop are as real to us as our children or spouses. We could no more imagine someone else playing the role of our character than we could imagine them playing our spouse.

Movie stardom is fleeting. An actor or actress will be in the spotlight for a brief time only to be replaced by a fresher face. Stars who do remain in the spotlight often have to remake themselves. The fickleness of fame makes it hard for an author to latch onto any one star as a model. Early on, I imagined Sigourney Weaver as Val Lyon. At another time, I thought Uma Thurman could play her. Once, as a joke, I told a Bouchercon audience that I thought the late Patrick Swayze could play her because he could kick ass and looked good in a dress. At the present time, I couldn't name anyone for the part. For one of my male characters, Moon Ito, I've thought of Chow Yun-Fat, based on his roles in Hard-boiled and The Replacement Killers. More recently, Daniel Dae Kim comes to mind. A few months from now, it will probably be someone else.

So as readers, which actors or actresses have nailed your favorite characters? Which have missed? For authors, do you have someone in mind to play your characters? If so, who?

Mark Troy
Hawaiian Eye Blog

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Burying One's Head in the Sand

I have friends, really nice people, who don't read any newspapers or watch the news on TV. They never know about anything that's going on in the world. Oh, and they don't have a computer either.

When the shooting happened in Texas and everyone was discussing how horrible it was, and the wife said, "What are you talking about?" When she was told, she kind of shrugged like she didn't care.

Years ago, I had a friend who was the same but happened to hear people talking about the Cuban crisis--for those too young to have heard, during Kennedy's presidency it was feared that the Russians had joined with the Cubans to attack the U.S. People were running out and stocking up their food supplies just in case--and she asked me if what was going on was anything she should be worried about. I told her "no." As it turned out it was the right answer.

It is hard to read and hear about all the horrible things that are going on in the world--something new every day--but it is a reality. I'm not sure that protecting yourself from bad news by refusing to read or hear about it is the way to go. What if there really is a big crisis that a person needs to prepare themselves for? Frankly, I think we all ought to be ready in case something like that happens. It might not be a threat from an outside source, an act of nature could happen--certainly they happen every day somewhere in the world. It's always better to be prepared.

Where this couple lives, in the foothills like we do, the biggest natural threat might be fire. However, recently during all of our big rains, where they live the road was so flooded many were stranded in their cars. A tow truck driver made a fortune hauling people out onto dryer land. And no matter where we live, there are bad guys lurking to take advantage of unsuspecting people.

My mother always said it was better to be prepared than sorry. Having grown up during World War II in Los Angeles, I can tell you that my mom did everything that we were told to be prepared. Besides all the mandatory black-out curtains, we had a good supply of non-perishable food stuffs in the cupboards of the inner room where we could have a light on during a black-out. Mom had a great vegetable garden and canned the excess. She took First Aid classes and had a supply of medicine and bandages.

So, what is your feeling about this? Do you think it's better to not know the awful things that go on in the world or should you pay attention and be prepared?

Books by Marilyn