Saturday, October 19, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 42

Scott D. Parker

In book-related news, I witnessed something wonderful this week, and I have my wife to thank.

On Monday night, here in Houston, we traveled to Blue Willow Bookshop to attend an author event with Elin Hilderbrand (my review). The author event was not a new experience. Frankly, it was pretty much like most every author event I have attended before. No, what struck me was the clientele.

The audience was almost exclusively women.

Granted, the kinds of books Hildebrand writes generally appeal to women. But in most of the author events I've gone to tend to focus on books I like. Me. A dude. And most of those events have been sparsely attended.

Not so the folks at Blue Willow on Monday. It was packed.

We arrived about thirty minutes before show time and we managed to snag the last two side-by-side seats. By the time seven o'clock rolled around, the strangling guests were in standing room only. I literally think I could count the number of guys in the room on one hand. Yup. Exactly five that I can remember. The rest of the, say, fifty fans were ladies of all ages.

Ladies who read. Passionately. And follow everything Hilderbrand writes. In fact, she commented she had finished next summer's novel that very day. She dangled a tidbit about the book and the audience reacted with a combination of happiness and anticipation at having to wait until the summer of 2020.

All of this isn't news. More women read books than men. I knew that ahead of time. But I hadn't actually witnessed it. Now I have. I even commented on it to my wife and the fellow reader, Elizabeth, we met.

The following day, in a text, my wife asked when I planned on having an author event at Blue Willow. "When I have written a book I think Valerie's [owner] customers will like."

There's the key, right? Somehow align what readers want to read with books I want to write. Writing to market is as old as writing. Nothing new there, either. Which makes me think of all the stories on my immediate To Be Written pile and ponder which one of those might most appeal to women.

I think I'll write that one first, and then, on a day sometime in the not-too-distant future, I'll have my book signing at Blue Willow.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Seven Minutes With: Episode 212

While SoundCloud and I sort out our disagreement, you can listen to it here.

EPISODE 212: A Gone2Prison Cop


Welcome to Season 2 of the "7 Minutes With" podcast, brought to you by, with your host Steve Weddle.

This is episode 12 of the second season.

Jedidiah Ayres talks about film and Holly West discusses TV. Chris F. Holm is away.

Jedidiah Ayres on film:

Holly West on TV:


Music from
"Fork and Spoon" by Kevin MacLeod (
License: CC BY (


Holly West:
Jedidiah Ayres:

Listen here: Episode 212

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Problem of Faux-rensics in Crime Fiction

By Thomas Pluck

Do you believe that bite marks are unique and can identify a suspect with scientific accuracy? How about burn patterns in wood identifying use of an accelerant in a fire? And fingerprints are one hundred percent unique to a person, and all DNA processing is equal?

If you believe any of these non-truths, you may suffer from reading best-selling crime fiction, and your brain may be CSI-positive. (That series of shows has done more harm to justice than any other since Cops, and it is not "harmless" entertainment. Stories matter, and juries are affected by bad writing that parrots bad science.

There is no forensic "science." They call it a science, but it isn't one like physics, with reproducible results. And it is abused by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies widely. For example, the FBI now claims there is a "forensic science" of how denim jeans wear on a person, like a fingerprint, and tried to use it to identify a suspect caught on film. They also claim to be able to identify people from tiny pixels in a digital image, as if we had the technology Deckard uses in Blade Runner to zoom in infinitely with no loss detail. As the headline says,  "Scientists disagree." Which is my new favorite phrase for "you are selling a load of bullshit."

How did we get here? We worship "experts" without ever vetting their credentials. They are often highly paid, and their cash flow depends on putting people in prison. There are forensic sciences that are reproducible, such as ballistics, but humans are not firearms. We've been misled about the accuracy of DNA identification, as well. Now, DNA is science, but the collection of it is not.
There is often widespread contamination in DNA collection, and there's a "close enough" attitude, as with fingerprints. Then they pull statistics out of their Play-Doh DNA extruder to say "there's a one in a ten million chance that it's someone else" when that means it could be seven hundred people, or 33 in the United States alone.

We also take books written by FBI cheerleaders as gospel. Not all writers are investigative journalists, and parrot what they hear law enforcement say, without vetting it. You can't argue with your source if you want access! They don't like that. Or hearing that U.S. prosecutors fetishize 100% conviction rates, so if someone has to get railroaded, or five young men must be convicted of rape because they were "up to something," so be it. Eggs, omelets. What heroes.

It's been 18 years since 9/11, and I worked in Manhattan at the time. I have great respect for the first responders who run toward danger, but when we elevate all members to hero status and make them unquestionable, we become a police state and not a democracy interested in criminal justice, but "order." There are many heroes. But if you ask the responders who the heroes are, they are the ones who didn't come home that day. They don't want be above the law.

There are too many forensic lab scandals to count.

Some writers acknowledge this. It doesn't mean there are no criminals! Just that like any human construct, the criminal justice system is fallible at best, and rigged at worst. Which makes for more interesting stories, if you choose to write them. Prince of the City holds up better than TJ Hooker.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Sports, Politics, Killing, Healing

I've been watching the new Amazon Prime series, This is Football and so far, it's good. There are a total of six episodes, each written or at least co-written by journalist and author John Carlin, who also is one of the creators of the show.  He's someone who likes to write about the area where sports and politics mix; he's the person who wrote the book, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, on which the movie Invictus is based.  The film is pretty good, but the book is better and, not surprisingly, the book goes into a lot more detail about the events leading up to and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  

The core of the story revolves around how newly elected president Nelson Mandela used sports as a way to help unite a very divided country around one particular thing.  By the time the 1995 World Cup final was played, millions of black South Africans were rooting for the virtually all-white South African team, the Springboks, to win the tournament.  This was a remarkable turnabout because until then the Springboks, the pride of Afrikaaners, had represented apartheid and racism in most black South Africans' minds.  Earlier, Mandela himself had observed a game when the Springboks played the English national rugby team, and black South Africans had cheered the English group.  How Mandela strategized and worked to get the result he hoped for is compelling and could serve as a useful lesson to anyone who wants to learn it, and one leader who has picked up on it, as This Is Football makes clear, is Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda.  The role of soccer in helping to heal Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and the emphasis Kagame put on using soccer as a tool to help that healing is what This is Football's first episode is about.  It's titled "Redemption".

Not that anyone should need it, but the episode provides background information about the genocide and some of the historical conditions that led up to it.  Soccer has long been the country's most popular sport, and before the genocide there were various soccer leagues people played in as well as clubs where people would gather, Hutus and Tutsis, to watch international soccer on television or to listen to it on the radio. For some odd reason, which is explained in the episode, Liverpool in the Premier League, of all the teams in all the world, has for decades been the team most Rwandans favor.

Paul Kagame explains how the Rwandan capital city of Kigali was in total chaos when the military forces he led against the extremist Hutu government took control of the country and ended the genocide.  The country as a whole was devastated and chaotic, and obviously, the enmity between Tutsis, who had been massacred, and Hutus, who feared retribution, was at a severe point.  

In the context of the various other things undertaken to rebuild the country, This is Football shows how Kagame and others stressed soccer as a healer and how clubs and leagues began to reconstitute. These efforts were especially attractive to the young, both girls and boys, people who were children during the genocide period or born after it.  When you're playing soccer, as someone says, you don't really care who you're teammate is, Hutu or Tutsi; you just want to score and win the game.  The episode has lots of interviews with Rwandans, and these are talks that are funny and sad and quite illuminating.  You have people talking of taking the field and playing soccer with other people they know have killed their family members.  

I have to add that Liverpool, after everything Rwanda has gone through, remains very popular in the country, and the final image of three Rwandans making a recent pilgrimage to that city to watch their beloved team play, the three of them entering the stadium and chatting with British fans there, is a great one.

Monday, October 14, 2019

WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My daughter had a reading list for the summer. While we were able to find all of the books at the library, there was one she wanted to buy and keep. WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This book made it to the very exclusive “keep forever” shelf.

I read it. Both of my girls read it. Nana read it.

The author...

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a critically acclaimed Nigerian writer well known for her first novel, PURPLE HIBISCUS (2003). PURPLE HIBISCUS poetically relates the journey from childhood to adulthood, the fight for new freedoms, the battle between love and hatred, and the clash of old and new ways as told by a young girl living in Nigeria during a brutal military upheaval. The novel received wide critical acclaim and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book.

Her third novel AMERICANAH (2013), the story of young couple Ifemelu and Obinze as they expectantly escape military-ruled Nigeria for the West only to be separated and pushed into lives of loneliness, racism, and danger, was selected by The New York Times as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2013". Award winning actresses and directors Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira will be working together to bring the book to life on HBO.

Adichie has also released a book of short stories entitled THAT THING AROUND YOUR NECK (2009), which focuses her storytelling gift on important and intimate relationships between family and friends.

A coveted speaker, she delivered the "Connecting Cultures" Commonwealth Lecture of 2012 at the Guildhall in London. Adichie also gave two lectures on feminism for TED conferences. TED conferences are annual lectures featuring world-renowned speakers such as Jane Goodall, Greta Thunberg, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Hawking, David Cameron, Bill Gates, Pope Francis, and many others that can be freely viewed on the internet.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first lecture for TED was "The Danger of a Single Story" posted in July of 2009. In her lecture, she related personal stories of her childhood from a single point of view and then revealed the other stories underneath. She focused on the significance of telling different stories from different cultures and the equal representation that is necessary to form truth. 

In 2012 she gave her second TED lecture, entitled “We should all be feminists".[56] The lecture has been viewed over five million times and reinvigorated the worldwide conversation on feminism. In 2014 Harper Collins published WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS.

The book…

In WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives readers a unique and far reaching definition of feminism for the twenty-first century. This definition incorporates inclusion and awareness and looks toward equality for all people. A personal recollection and conversation as much as an essay, this book draws heavily on her experiences growing up in Nigeria, her life in the U.S. and her travels abroad.

Adichie puts forth that the fight for equality is a battle all people should fight. The typical, archaic expectations of our girls is prejudiced and suffocating, but our boys are also forced into boxes which are biased and outdated. Harmful. She describes how our treatment of both men and women contributes to a gender divide and by using personal accounts and examples Adichie makes this fiercely deliberated issue feel more familiar and personal.

There has long been a negative stigma attached to the word feminist. WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS pushes back the narrow definition of feminist and takes on the issue of feminism in the twenty-first century. Adichie rings a hopeful bell and encourages readers to redefine feminism and to work for a world where everyone is equal. This is a relevant, important and necessary essay which everyone should read.