Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wednesday's Writer - Mona Risk

Today's guest is award-winning and best-selling author Mona Risk talking about series in general and her own latest series in particular.  

Series by Mona Risk

Years ago I read a series of six Regency novels by Stephanie Laurens who at the time was my favorite author. Later I became disappointed with series where the books tend to have similar stories and similar characters. I promised myself that if I wrote a series, my stories would be completely different from each other and would suit the character of each heroine.
When I published CHRISTMAS BABIES as Book I of the Holiday Babies Series, it was received with a huge success. I couldn’t believe the number of emails requesting Book II. So I wrote VALENTINE BABIES. The story flew from my mind and practically wrote itself. Readers loved it and asked for the next story.

CHRISTMAS BABIES is Madelyn’s story, the hard-working Dr M. Ramsay who suffers from an unexpected health problem. 

VALENTINE BABIES is Roxanne’s story, the head-strong and independent, second Ramsay daughter, who roams the world as a TV reporter. 

MOTHER’S DAY BABIES is Barbara Ramsey’s story, the mamma who looks like her daughters’ oldest sister. Barbara is attracted to Roxanne’s boss, Lou Roland, the powerful TV director. But how can a mother of five grown up daughters and a widow loyal to her husband’s memory abandon her kitchen’s haven and jump into dating mode after so long? 

My stories are heart-warming but funny. You may wipe a tear but you’ll laugh and smile a lot. The heroines have only one common trait: They are strong and won’t let obstacles stand in their ways. The heroes are very different from each other. Dr Nick Prescott who’s been in love with Madelyn for several years is a charming playboy, dedicated to his patients. Dr Greg Hayes is a quiet, reserved young man who can’t help falling in love with the sassy Roxanne at first glance. Lou Rolland, the powerful TV Director, longs for the cozy family atmosphere the vivacious Barbara creates around her.

And there may be more stories to come with two daughters still not married.

A heartwarming holiday story, set in South Florida, CHRISTMAS BABIES spent two months on the bestsellers' list with an Amazon rank between 200 and 500 and garnered 95 reviews. 

Dedicated to her patients, the serious Dr Madelyn Ramsay never had time for fun. An unexpected health problem jolts her into the realization that there's more to life than just work. She longs to surrender to the magic of Christmas. But can she handle the charming and secretive Dr Nick Preston who carries his own package of disillusions? Can she allow two newborn twins to worm their way into her heart?

VALENTINE BABIES is a heart-warming story that will take you from the heart of Kentucky to South Florida and Atlanta, and then to Iraq and Germany.  VALENTINE BABIES spent one month on the bestsellers' list with an Amazon rank between 300 and 500, and garnered 44 reviews.

Fearless reporter, Roxanne Ramsay, doesn’t think twice before traveling for important assignments, even in a war zone—until her last trip leads her to a life-altering mistake.

At his best friends’ wedding, Dr Greg Hayes, who has a serious phobia of planes, can’t take his eyes off the lovely maid of honor. But why is Roxanne blinking away tears? Getting involved with the strong-headed and too generous reporter involves more complications than the bright doctor has ever faced in the OR. Yet what wouldn’t he do to save the love of his life and her baby?

Excerpt from Chapter One of VALENTINE BABIES:

“Go now. And smile for heaven’s sake,” the wedding coordinator sputtered against Roxanne’s ear. “It’s your sister’s happiest day.”

The Mendelssohn Wedding March chimed through the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Kentucky.
Roxanne Ramsay plastered a wide smile on her face and clutched her poinsettia bouquet to stop the trembling of her hands. God only knew how happy she was for Madelyn and Nick.

But why did she have to receive that horrible email yesterday? Two days before Christmas. Last night, she’d claimed to suffer a twenty-four hour bug to avoid the church rehearsal and dinner. Honestly, she didn’t have to fake stomach cramps. Her guts had twisted the moment she read and re-read the missive announcing Nabil’s death. Alone in her room in the big empty house, she’d cried her heart out.

A new bout of tears invaded her eyes. She blinked furiously and shuffled forward. Had the aisle lengthened all of a sudden? Gliding on the white carpet, she thought she’d already covered a mile. Behind her, the four bridesmaids progressed at the same snail’s pace.

Finally Roxanne reached the altar and sidled to the left. The fresh pine scent of the Christmas trees decorating the church mingled with the sweet fragrance of white roses in two vases adorning the altar. A delightful smell. Her stomach heaved.

Oh God, no. She braced herself and swallowed. The nausea passed.

The ushers and bridesmaids smiled as Nick took Madelyn’s hand. Roxanne’s face hurt from the effort of stretching her lips. In the first row, Mom sniffled and wiped her eyes with a lacy handkerchief. Could the sister of the bride cry as freely without attracting attention?

Why should she smile? There was no groom and no happy ending in her future.

“Since when were you such a mushy one? You’re crying even more than Mom,” her sister Heather mumbled in her ear.

“Sorry. It’s a... a special moment.” She exhaled and almost hiccupped. Please, God, help me stop crying.
“Still people are wondering,” Heather muttered in the same hushed tone.

“What people? We’re facing the altar. Father O’Brien is too busy reading his holy words.”

“The man standing next to Nick’s dad’s wheelchair hasn’t stopped staring at you.”

Roxanne’s head spun to the right. That gorgeous groomsman in a black tux and neatly combed brown hair?
His hazel eyes captured her gaze. She hadn’t attended last night’s rehearsal and hadn’t met Nick’s friends. His frown relaxed and he smiled. She tried to avert her eyes, and then threw another glance in his direction. He winked.

Her nerves already a shambles, she burst out laughing and caught his silent chuckle.

About the Author
Mona Risk
When her Ph.D. and work in chemistry landed her international contracts to refurbish laboratories, Mona Risk traveled to more than sixty countries on business or vacation. To relax from her hectic schedule, she avidly read romance novels and mentally plotted her own books. Eventually she left a scientific career to share with her readers the many stories brewing in her head. M. Risk likes to set her novels in the fascinating places she visited, from exotic Belarus, and historical France, to the beaches of Greece, the monuments of Egypt and the mysterious Islands of Seychelles. 

Her books have garnered: Top Picks; Outstanding Read; Sweetheart of the Week; Best Book of the Week at various reviewers, received two mentions in Publisher’s Weekly, and have won several awards, from Best Contemporary Romance of the Year at READERS FAVORITE, to Best Romance Novel of the Year at Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.

Mona Risk continues to write and read while traveling and discovering unchartered territories and fresh inspiration for new stories and different settings. 

Find out more about Mona from her website and/or her blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Readers Writes - All About Reading from a Reader's POV

Emily Eva Hetherington

After a little break last week, I'm very pleased to bring back Readers Writes today, especially because my guest is Emily Eva Hetherington, who is not just a discerning reader but also an excellent editor.  That makes her opinions doubly worthwhile and interesting.  You can find out about Emily's editing services via her website.  In the meantime she's here with us today to talk about her reading habits and preferences.  Here are her answers to some of my standard readers' questions.

Did you have a favourite book or author as a child?

There were so many that I enjoyed as a child, but Tony Ross stands out above any others. I loved all of his books and read them countless times. When I was a little older I enjoyed Anne Fine’s books among others.

Yes, I'd happily recommend Anne Fine's books to any young readers.  Do you have a treasured book from your childhood?  If yes, what is it?

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, which was given to me when I was a baby.

It must be very special for you to have preserved it.  How important was reading to you as a child?

It was extremely important. Our parents read to us frequently and my sister and I both learned to read at a very young age and loved it.

Music to my ears!  I do believe all parents should read regularly to their children to instil a love of reading from a very early age.  How important is reading in your life now?

More important than ever! I now work as an editor, so I’m reading every day for that, but I also currently have two books on the go at once that I’m reading for pleasure.

Have you ever revisited books you read in childhood to try to recapture the magic?

Of course! All the time! Unfortunately I had to leave a lot of my childhood books in my old place and can’t get them back now, but if I could have brought them with me I would still be reading them now, without a doubt.

What a shame.  I've moved around a lot too and of all the things I've ever regretted having to leave behind, books are highest on the list. 

Have you ever wished you could change places with any character from a story?

Occasionally, when I read a good romance novel, of course. Usually, though, I picture myself as the main character, but I don’t often wish I could change places with them. It’s enough just to lose myself in their world for a while.

Ah yes, definitely the sign of a good story.  Is there a fictional world you would love to visit or live in?

Discworld. You just have to!

Snap!  That would be one of my choices too. 

Do you think the young of today read enough, and if not, how might you try to encourage them to read more?

I don’t think they do read enough anymore. I would first target the parents and urge them to read with their children more often. Reading should be fun, but when certain books are forced on older children for schoolwork, the fun is often removed. They need to be taught that reading isn’t just for boring school stuff and then hopefully they would want to read more often.

I couldn't agree more.  Do you have a favourite book or author as an adult?  If so, who/why and have you read it more than once?
Jenny Twist. Now, I may be a little biased as this is my grandma, but I do truly love all her work to date. Most people would say that her first novel, Domingo’s Angel, was the best one, but I think her latest novel, All in the Mind, just tops it. I’m reading it for the third time now!

I love Jenny Twist as well and All in the Mind is certainly a lovely story, but Domingo's Angel must be one of the best books I've ever read.  Do you have a preference between print and e-books?

I do prefer print books in theory, but for practicality and convenience (never mind cost) I find e-books are far easier and I rarely read print books these days.

A sign of the times, perhaps.  What are you currently reading and in what format (hardback, paperback, e-book)?

All in the Mind by Jenny Twist – paperback, and a friend’s unpublished book – e-book

Lol, best of both worlds.  Do you think e-books will ever totally replace printed books?

No. I think they might come close, but there is still a lot of love for print books. I would have them even if they only sat on the shelf and looked good! It encourages me to read more when I have books on display anyway.

I know what you mean and actually, when I've read an excellent book on my Kindle, I sometimes buy a hard copy just to sit on my bookshelf. 

What about films?  Do you think books transfer to films well?  What is your favourite/worst book-to-film transfer?

My thoughts on that often depend on how well I know the books. In general I think that the films work well, but there are almost always small deviations from the book or details have changed a little. Usually that doesn’t bother me because I have a terrible memory for the details. If there are obvious changes that I feel were unnecessary then it does annoy me.

Have you discovered any new writers you'd recommend to other readers?  If so, what was great about their work?

Apart from yourself (the lovely Lynette Sofras) and my grandma (Jenny Twist), I’d say Tori L. Ridgewood, Tara Fox Hall and Daphne Olivier. All of whom are very clean, succinct writers who make reading their work effortless. You just escape into their world. The characterisation is great, the descriptions are great, and the plots are great! (Same goes for Lynette and Jenny!)

It's a good job you can't see my face right now - thank you for the compliment.  Now let's change the subject.   Is there a book you know you'll never read or found impossible to finish?

At school, when we had to read Wuthering Heights, Little Women and Pride and Prejudice, I found it really hard to follow the plot. It was hard enough to get my head around the language – it’s surprising just how different the language was then! However, I would like to try reading all of those again to see whether I find it easier now. Who knows whether I’ll manage it or not!

Oh I think you should, especially the first and last.  Some of the dialect in Wuthering Heights is a bit tricky to read but once you've got the hang of it, you can hear it very vividly in your head.  Pride and Prejudice has such beautiful prose and gentle wit, I do hope you'll give them another go

What is the most memorable or exciting plot or story opening to any story you can recall?

The first to spring to mind is Daphne Olivier’s latest (which I don’t think has been published yet), in which a man stumbles in a greenhouse breaking the glass dome surrounding one of several strange plants proceeds to have some sort of reaction. He calls for help, but when people arrive they are wearing strange suits, they ignore him lying on the ground and they start a fire before leaving, closing the door on him as they go. That’s just in the prologue! I was hooked before the first word of the main story!

It sounds awesome.  Do let us know the title - that's definitely one to watch out for.  Do you think there is anything new and exciting in modern fiction, or has it "all been said before"?

As hard as it might be to believe, there are always new ideas. Granted, some plots or ideas have been done again and again, but there are new ones out there and I believe there always will be.

I certainly hope so.  Emily, it's been wonderful chatting with you and thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us.

Don't forget, for details of Emily's editing services, click:

And if you're an avid reader and would like to air your views about books on this blog, please contact me at 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday's Writer - Jade Kerrion Reveals her Deleted Scene

Jade Kerrion is one of those increasingly popular authors whose names I'm seeing around more and more.  She's an impressive and extremely talented story-teller, and it's a real honour to have her as my guest writer today.  So, without wasting any more words, I'll hand over to Jade.

Deleted Scene from Perfection Unleashed

I love the extra features that accompany movie DVDs, like the director’s commentary, movie bloopers, and deleted scenes. My debut novel, Perfection Unleashed, which won multiple awards, is frequently compared to an action movie, anime, or graphic novel, and today, I thought I’d give you a peek into one of its deleted scenes.

But first, what was the scene in question, and why did I delete it?

The deleted scene was the prologue, and it set the context for the entire Double Helix series. The scene helped transport readers from “today” into the “not-so-distant future,” and described key players in a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution, including mutants with psychic powers. It also introduced Galahad, the perfect human being, and foreshadowed the existence of the abominations, inhuman by-products of the path to perfection.

Clearly it was an important scene, but why did I delete it?

The prologue didn’t do much more than the first chapter did. By the first chapter, readers are introduced to Galahad, and hear the banshee-like wails of the abominations. By the first chapter, we know that mutants with psychic powers populate our world, even though we have to wait until chapter three to meet Danyael, the alpha empath, Galahad’s physical template, and the protagonist of Perfection Unleashed.

It was a hard decision. The prologue was the scene that launched the movie in my mind, which eventually became the Double Helix series. I was, perhaps not irrationally, deeply attached to the scene. Still, in the final count, the prologue slowed down my attempt to plunge my readers straight into the action. I took a deep breath and hit delete.

Figuratively speaking, of course. The prologue never made it into Perfection Unleashed, but I did save it as a deleted scene, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with you today. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The large octagon-shaped building that housed Pioneer Laboratories seemed especially desolate on that Christmas Eve when the child was born. It brooded as it kept watch over the manicured lawns all around, unimpressed by the gently falling snow. The lights that usually spilled from its many windows had been extinguished, save for one glowing softly from the highest floor.

Shepherds did not keep watch over the child that night, but scientists did. Two gray haired men whose seeming age was belied by the youthful vigor in their lithe frames waited in the dimly lit birthing chamber, speaking in lowered tones about nothing in particular. It would have been bad luck to speak about the only thing on their minds—the child—even though they knew, logically, that that no amount of conversation could change the outcome of that night. Still, they could not bring themselves to anticipate success or even discuss outcomes, not after having failed so many times before.

No angels heralded the birth of this child. It was the soft beep of the incubator as the timer ticked down to zero. Conversation stilled as the scientists moved quickly to the machine. They exchanged glances but said nothing as one scientist held his hand over the incubator’s controls. The moment of truth was at hand; the successful birth of this child would redefine the boundaries of genetic manipulation.

The scientist inhaled deeply before pressing down on the switch that would open the incubator and release the infant from the now-perfected artificial birthing process. Both scientists held their breaths as the translucent cover of the incubator swung silently to the side to reveal its precious contents.

The rules of life were broken. The science of life was rewritten in that single magical moment when the child was delivered into the world.

The perfectly formed, healthy male infant was the most beautiful thing the scientists had ever seen. With trembling hands and near reverence, they lifted the child from the chamber and wiped the birthing fluids from its soft skin before wrapping it in warm clothes. Warm and content, the child transitioned from incubator to world without the slightest fuss, making a soft gurgling sound—a happy sound—as it snuggled into the scientist’s arms.

The other scientist gingerly touched the child’s tiny, perfect hands and then smiled as the delicate, little fingers closed tightly around his. He looked up at the other man, almost afraid to hope even though he longed to believe. “Do you think…?”

“We would need to run tests over the course of the child’s life, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s done.”

Yes, it was finally done. Genetic manipulation had always been part art, part science, and completely magical. What began with the unraveling of the double helix and the cracking of the code of life in the Human Genome Project had finally led to mastery over life itself. The human genome had been mapped, scrutinized, and analyzed. Gene therapy, genetically modified food products, and cloned pets were parts of everyday life. Cloned human beings, once deemed impossible and outrageous, were steadily becoming the norm.

The journey was also littered with failures. Mutants tarnished the purity of the human race, typically created inadvertently as a result of genetic selection taken to an extreme. And in the past few years, increasingly dangerous psychic-level mutations threatened to tip the balance of power entirely.

But there was still that last step—the creation of a human being from a swirling mixture of nucleotides, building the double helix of life a base pair at a time, one gene at a time, to create the perfect human being. For the two scientists, it had been a lonely and difficult road, littered with failures, but the child born on a cold and quiet night made it worthwhile. They forgot the nagging despair they had felt during those long nights of painstakingly careful genetic coding, forgot the helpless anger they’d felt at the mocking derision of their colleagues. They held success now—sweet success—in their hands.

“What shall we name the Gene Child?” one scientist asked as they left the birthing chamber together. Their footsteps echoed hollowly down the empty corridors as they walked towards the nursery, carefully carrying the product of thousands of hours of work. “Gene Child” was an interesting and potentially acceptable scientific classification for this unique creature that had neither father nor mother, but it would need another name. “How about Galahad, after the last, the peerless knight of the mythical Round Table?”

The name seemed appropriate for the perfect little being. The scientist carrying the child set it down in the crib that had been prepared, a smile curving his lips as he gazed upon the sleepy infant. “Welcome, Galahad,” he said. The birth of the Gene Child was their ultimate gift to the world on this quiet Christmas Eve.

But another voice was heard that night. Deep within the bowels of the building, a low, inhuman moan, aching with pain and anger, shuddered its way from behind the thick walls of its prison to break the calm silence of that perfect starless night as something far too grotesque to be human welcomed Galahad—its brother—into the world.

Author Bio:

Jade Kerrion
Jade Kerrion unites cutting-edge science and bioethics with fast-paced action in her award-winning Double Helix series. Perfection Unleashed and its sequels, Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, have been described as “a breakout piece of science fiction” and drawn rave reviews for their originality and vision. Her latest novel, When the Silence Ends, is a Young Adult spinoff of the Double Helix series.

About The Double Helix series: 

His genetic code sourced from the best that humanity offers, Galahad embodies the pinnacle of perfection. When Zara Itani, a mercenary whose abrasive arrogance exceeds her beauty, frees him from his laboratory prison, she offers him the chance to claim everything that had ever been denied him, beginning with his humanity.

Perfection cannot be unleashed without repercussions, and Galahad’s freedom shatters Danyael Sabre’s life.

An alpha empath, Danyael is rare and coveted, even among the alpha mutants who dominate the Genetic Revolution. He wields the power to heal or kill with a touch, but craves only privacy and solitude—both impossible dreams for the man who was used as Galahad’s physical template.

Galahad and Danyael, two men, one face. One man seeks to embrace destiny, and the other to escape it.

The award-winning Double Helix series, consisting of Perfection Unleashed, Perfect Betrayal, and Perfect Weapon, will challenge your notions of perfection and humanity, and lead you in a celebration of courage and compassion. Science fiction, urban fantasy, and action-adventure readers will enjoy this thrilling roller-coaster ride as it twists and turns through a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution.

Social media and buy links:

Connect with Jade Kerrion: Blog / Facebook / Twitter
Perfection Unleashed: Amazon / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords
Perfect Betrayal: Amazon / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords
When the Silence Ends: Amazon


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Gun Culture by Jenny Twist

I completely understand Tara’s belief that guns are necessary for protection, but the argument smacks to me of the double-think practised in George Orwell’s ‘1984’.

Guns are not for protection. They are weapons. Their purpose is to kill. Bullet-proof vests are for protection.

If you take the argument to its logical conclusion everybody in the world would have to go about armed all the time. School would be manned by armed guards. Do we really want to live in a society where we spend our lives being prepared to kill our neighbours and fellow citizens?

Guns don’t make you safe. They put you in perpetual danger.

You are 40 times more likely to be a victim of gun crime in the USA than in England, where the gun laws are very strict indeed. (See my previous article).

I know that the American people hold their right to bear arms very dear and I appreciate that. But two things occur to me.

1.     The promise was made at a time when the most lethal weapons available were muskets and long rifles, firing one round at a time and taking between one and two minutes to re-load. The legislators at the time could hardly have envisaged the kind of sophisticated weapons available now and surely did not intend the law to extend to any weapon that might be invented in the future.  To interpret the law this way is the same principle as refusing a blood transfusion to a dying child because of the way you choose to interpret the biblical passage “Thou shalt not eat blood.”

2.     Why do the American people care so much about the right to bear arms? Surely the only reason the average citizen in a civilised country would need a lethal weapon would be if the country was attacked by an invader and the military was unable to protect the people. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. Personally, I’d rather risk that scenario than risk the lives of innocent children on an everyday basis.

Here is an extract from Domingo’s Angel where the good guys don’t win:

Later the men returned. But they returned without their guns and with their hands bound roughly behind them with rope. Behind them came the soldiers, their guns pointing at the prisoners, their faces like stone. Carlos was at the front, his face twisted in anger, a great red stain on the front of his shirt, spreading as he walked. Rosalba ran forward, but a soldier came up and pushed her to the ground.

When they reached the square, the ragged band of men stopped and a soldier came to the front and began to speak.

“People of the village of Amendillas, We have come to liberate you from the oppressive forces of the Republicans. We are going to Madrid to fight the upstart rebels and restore the old ways.”

The villagers listened, unmoving, their faces entirely without expression. They had been liberated before and had not enjoyed the experience.

The man stood up straighter and went on, “Our orders are to recruit all the able-bodied men for the army and to shoot all those who refuse.” He frowned and gave a piercing look to the band of prisoners. “It would seem that all the men of this village have chosen to oppose us. But we will be merciful on this occasion. We will only shoot the ringleaders and the rest will have a choice.”

He raised his voice. “Bring forth the ringleaders!”

Carlos and two others, the Gálvez brothers, stumbled forward, propelled by a rough thrust from the soldiers behind them.

“No!” screamed Rosalba and tried to get up from the ground. Her head ached abominably and a wave of dizziness swept over her. She sank back onto the cobbles.

There were murmurings from the villagers and shuffling of feet, but nobody attempted to intervene.

As Rosalba struggled once again to get up, she heard Carlos call her name, but before she could stand, the captain barked out the order “Fire!” and she rose in time to see Carlos slump down against the wall, leaving a trail of blood on the plaster. It was the same wall where they had shot her father.

The captain turned again to the prisoners. “Is there anyone here who is not prepared to fight for the Fatherland?”

Nobody answered.

“Very well. Forward, march!”

As a post script, I’d like to respond to Tara’s comments on the gun culture.

I agree heartily with everything she says. We are bringing our children up to worship guns and violence. We buy them video games in which they can massacre people in droves. We train them to be killers and then we give them real guns to play with when they grow up.

It is most certainly time to change the culture.

Let’s teach our children to love and respect each other. Let them grow up in a world where they do not have to live in fear. Get rid of the vile killing games and lock away the guns!

I rest my case.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Right to Bear Arms…is it Right? by Tara Fox Hall

You may have read my previous article about gun control. I’m here today to reflect on why I think it’s a good thing for people to own guns.

Take a look at some of the pics my excellent host Lyn has used that are pro-gun. We all might agree that many are over the top, but the messages they convey—guns are necessary for a woman’s protection, gun ownership is both patriotic and necessary to keep the government from overstepping its bounds—resonate with a good many Americans, myself included.

Let’s take guns as a means for protection first. If you are a woman, having a gun in your home may or may not make you feel empowered. Taking a training class, developing marksmanship with a gun, and being familiar with one to the point you view the gun as a tool WILL make you feel empowered, no question.  Self-reliance is a trait I think is important.  Do I advocate calling the police in an emergency? Of course! But the facts are it will take them a while to show up to save you and your loved ones. Be aware of that, and plan accordingly. I’m not advocating private justice instead of the police. I’m advocating survival, so that you can be alive when the police get there to help you.

Many Americans take their right to bear arms seriously as a patriotic duty, and as a democratic right.  It is a fact that a government with a disarmed populace can more easily turn into a dictatorship or be invaded than one with an armed populace. Look at the dictators listed in the pic. ALL of these dictators disarmed their people as one of their steps to assuming power.  Is the US in danger of being a dictatorship? Probably not anytime soon.  But the framers of the constitution put the second amendment in place so that Americans would always retain that right, especially against our friends the British, whose gun control measure of 1776 was one of the causes of the American Revolution:

Here are some facts on US gun use, comparing criminals shot to innocents shot:

You might argue that the facts being presented in the above link are from a pro-gun organization. So here is an interview with author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, John Lotts,  who has no political agenda and used a university press to publish his findings: . He was asked about the difference in UK and US violent crimes, which I excerpt below:

Question: What about other countries? It’s often argued that Britain, for instance, has a lower violent crime rate than the USA because guns are much harder to obtain and own.

Lott: The data analyzed in this book is from the USA. Many countries, such as Switzerland, New Zealand, Finland, and Israel have high gun-ownership rates and low crime rates, while other countries have low gun ownership rates and either low or high crime rates. It is difficult to obtain comparable data on crime rates both over time and across countries, and to control for all the other differences across the legal systems and cultures across countries. Even the cross country polling data on gun ownership is difficult to assess, because ownership is underreported in countries where gun ownership is illegal and the same polls are never used across countries.

Mr. Lott  raises an important issue, one I’ve debated with my pro-gun coworkers at the metal fabrication shop where I work: that it is not having guns available to a populace that encourages violent acts, but instead the CULTURE of that populace—and glorification of violent acts—which leads to mass killings. Whenever there is a mass killing in the United States, we have TONS of media coverage telling us not only all the statistics of the current tragedy, but comparing it to all the past ones.  A media spotlight is shown not usually on the victims so much as the perpetrators, investigating all the aspects of their lives and the crime to the umpteenth degree, keeping the story in the media for months after it happened (as I write this, 3 more news stories about the Sandy Hook Massacre were published by various media in the last four hours). This tragedy already has a complete Wikipedia page complete with pictures, links and a very detailed timeline of the events:
There is a photo of the shooter, and a section devoted to his accomplishments, birthday, schooling and other info. In comparison, his young  victims are listed by name only. We don’t know anything about them except what grade they were in, and that he murdered them.  Yet at the bottom of the page is a list of 148 media references for the article, and a list of mass shootings and school shootings from 1700s to present. All of them have their own Wikipedia pages.

Take a closer look at the shootings listed, and how many are at schools; so many that they have a separate list just for school shootings. That is not an accident, or aberration. If a perpetrator is looking for the highest body count, they will target an area where it’s very unlikely anyone will be able to shoot back. Schools are universally gun-free zones in the United States, something that is supposed to protect our children. But it doesn’t seem to be working that way, if you look at the number of school shootings from 2000-2010.

Finally, in closing, I want to add that I did not grow up in a family who had guns.  I became a fan of the late William W. Johnstone’s fiction books in college (, and his message of being able to protect yourself resonated enough with me that I learned to shoot, with the help of a friend and later a training class.  I also encouraged my family to learn to use guns.  I am not pro-gun at the expense of logic or life. But this problem can’t be legislated away. If we as a people truly want to decrease gun violence, we need to take a fair look at the way our culture views not only guns but gun violence…and work together to make some changes.

I hope you'll return tomorrow for Jenny Twist's final summing up.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Guns in America and England by Jenny Twist

Jenny Twist
Like just about everybody in the world I was shocked and horrified by the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Gun crime is particularly abhorrent to me because I was brought up in England where it is practically unheard of. I found it hard to understand how this lunatic had been able to get hold of a weapon that had allowed him to kill twenty children before anyone could stop him.

My American friend, Tara, asked me what the rules were in England.

Since anything to do with guns is completely outside my experience – I have never even seen one – I looked up the English law in Wikipedia. This is what it says:

In the United Kingdom firearms are tightly controlled by law, and while there is opposition to existing legislation from shooting organisations, there is little wider political debate, and public opinion favours stronger control. The British Shooting Sports Council now believes that the law needs to be consolidated but it does not call for a review.
The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world with 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 compared to the United States' 3.0 (over 40 times higher) and to Germany's 0.21 (3 times higher).
With the exception of Northern Ireland, it has been public policy that police officers in the United Kingdom should not generally be armed with firearms. Shooting fatalities of members of the police are extremely rare; there were three in England and Wales in the eleven-year period from 2000/01 to 2010/11. About 7,000 police officers have received firearms training.

Prohibited firearms

The following are generally prohibited.
Fully automatic or burst-fire weapons, which may include some air guns.
Firearms disguised as another item (e.g. walking sticks, mobile telephones, etc.)
Rockets and mortars.
Air guns chambered for self-contained gas cartridges.
Any weapon of whatever description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid gas or other thing. This would generally include stun guns, or electric shock devices, and CS gas.

Tara points out that gun control laws affect only the people who obey them and she is, of course, absolutely right. No amount of gun control will stop criminals from carrying weapons. They are, after all, already operating outside the law. But the Sandy Hook massacre was not carried out by a career criminal, but a madman. Gun control laws would have prevented ordinary people from buying the weapon he used.  He might still have run amok and killed someone, but with any other weapon it would surely have been impossible to kill TWENTY before he was stopped.

I told Tara I couldn’t use examples from my own work to illustrate my point, as I don’t have guns in my books, and she said, “What about Domingo’s Angel?”

Of course I have written about guns, and indeed at one point it is the good guys who wield them. So just to show I’m not a complete hypocrite, here is that passage. It is a scene from the Spanish Civil War. The Republican Army has marched into the village of Amendillas and hanged the priest.

Excerpt from Domingo's Angel

“We did not know what to do,” María José said again. “We did not believe what was happening. Someone went to fetch the mayor and he came into the square and held up his hand and shouted at them to stop.”
“What happened?”
“They shot him. And then......and then.....” she hesitated, not wanting to say the next thing.
“Go on,” said Rosalba.
“They went to your father’s house and they dragged him out and pushed him against the wall.”
“How did he look?”
María José bit her lip. “He looked confused. I don’t think he had the slightest idea what was going on. And they shouted, ‘Death to the landlords!’ and some of them lined up and pointed their guns at him. And then Old Juan ran out of the house and they grabbed him and pushed him against the wall too. And they shot them both,” she finished, her eyes downcast.
“So the blood was not all my father’s,” thought Rosalba.
“And then,” María José looked up at Rosalba, her eyes haunted, “one of them grabbed Little Rosa by the arm and pulled her to him and said, ‘Have you got a kiss for your rescuers?’ and she spat in his face and he snarled and twisted her arm. I heard it snap. And she gave a little cry, but that was all. And then he threw her down to the ground and pointed his gun at her and then there was a loud crack and his head snapped back and he fell backwards on to the ground and nobody knew what had happened. I thought he had somehow shot himself. And everyone was looking round trying to see where the shot had come from. And then a voice came from the top of the church. It was Don Carlos.”
“What, my Carlos?” demanded Rosalba.
María José nodded. “He was on the church roof and he was holding a gun, like so.” She mimed holding a rifle to her shoulder with her chin resting on the stock. “And he said, ‘ You are not Republicans. You are filthy, murdering scum. And you will put down your guns and leave Amendillas immediately or every one of you will receive the same as him. And he spat towards the dead man in the square. And the men looked uncertain, but none of them put down their guns. And one of the others, I think he was the leader, he was wearing a red kerchief, said ‘And who will make us go?” And raised his gun. And there was another crack and he jerked forward and fell on his face in the dust. And we looked round and there was Salva the Baker on the roof of your father’s house. And he was pointing a gun like so. And there was another man on the roof of Juan the Shoemaker’s house. I could not see him clearly, because he was against the sun, but I think it was..”
“José Goatherd,” Rosalba finished for her.

There are occasions when the good guys need to be armed and on this occasion the good guys won. But I would argue that the risks of allowing the population at large to own guns far outweighs the risk of an occasion arising when they really need them for self-defence. 

Domingo's Angel is available from 

And please don't forget to return tomorrow and Tuesday for Tara and Jenny's summing up of their respective arguments.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Who is controlled by Gun Control? by Tara Fox Hall

Tara Fox Hall

Being American—and a former member of the NRA (National Rifle Association)—I admit to being pro-gun.  In most of my works, my hero or heroine has a working knowledge of guns. Sarelle, heroine of the Promise Me Series, shoots and kills an average of at least 1 bad guy in each book, as do heroes Danial and Theo. Lash, my antihero of the Lash Series,  has a far higher shoot and kill rate per book. I have used guns in real life, and view them as necessary tools for rural living, as do all of my neighbors. So it probably comes to no surprise to you that I am against the recent gun control measures passed in my home state of New York (NYS).
I am very bothered by the issue of gun control in the United States, in terms of mass killings. My gripe with the measure passed regarding guns in NYS is that:

 a) It was done on the sly, i.e., I went to bed with one set of laws and woke up to another;

 b) While some measures do close important loopholes in the law, like rules on waiting periods and background checks on gun sales, others like reducing clip size from ten bullets to seven does NOTHING. (All mass murders as a rule bring large number of clips with them to their massacres, and they never expend all of them. The only thing changing clip size really did to stop massacres is…NOTHING. Criminals won’t care if their clip has a few more bullets than is allowed! All the better to kill you with! But it sure will prompt a rise for the gun manufacturing business  when everyone who cares about being legal has to run out to get new clips to be compliant.);

c) NYS already HAS strict gun laws.  Pistol permits in NYS take at least 6-8 months for processing…and it takes a few months just to compile all the data needed for application.

Even if you do all of this, you may have a licensing judge in your county who frowns on pistol ownership. Or one of the four references you have to provide as character witnesses may say they are not comfortable with you having a gun. In that case, you may be denied out of hand for a permit, and that $20-115 you paid for photos, processing, and other fees to apply is gone. Yes, that amount of cash is not a misprint: In Rockland County, pistol permits run $150:

And guess what? Even if you go through all those hoops above to get your permit, you still aren’t allowed in New York City—probably the most dangerous city in NYS—with your pistol:

In order for an upstate licensee to lawfully carry a handgun in New York City, he/she must first make application with the New York City Police Department to have their permit "validated." An investigation will be conducted to determine the authenticity of the license, after which a "needs assessment" will be conducted to determine whether the applicant has sufficiently demonstrated a "need" to possess a handgun under the circumstances provided. The simple desire to possess a handgun while in New York City, without some other extenuating circumstances, will not serve to present a "need" suitable to receive authorization. In cases where "need" is sufficiently demonstrated, permission will be given, usually for a specific period of time, after which the process would start over again

A recurring NRA argument for less gun control is that any laws that are made to increase gun control affect only the people that obey them. It’s reasonable to think that criminals who have illegal guns are not going to rush out to buy legal clips, or hurry to sell any illegal rifles that the new law mandates are assault rifles (which are now illegal to own in NYS).  While there is truth to this argument, it is not a measure for advocating against all gun control measures.  Rather I present to you that some gun control measures ARE needed, especially to close loopholes in current law, such as making longer wait times, requiring background checks, and requiring sellers to keep records at all gun shows, which before the new law took effect were exempt from many laws that gun shop owners had to comply with. I just believe that measures legislated in the dead of night in order to be the first state to comply with the president’s new hard line on gun control is not in anyone’s best interest, especially the law-abiding gun owners of New York State.

Here is a passage from my vampire romance Promise Me’s first chapter, in which the human heroine Sar goes out to confront someone trespassing on her land:

            I cursed aloud and decided I’d better take a look. Whoever had decided to take a little side route to adventure had first gotten through the heavy steel chain that blocked the access road. Bolt cutters would have been needed to cut through that thing, and who carries bolt cutters in their car? Someone had planned this, and if they were willing to cut a chain, they might be planning worse than some drinking and partying.
            Throwing on some clothes and collecting my waist-length hair in a plastic clip, I gathered a flashlight and my keys. I debated taking a weapon, but I talked myself out of it. Then, on the way to the door, I talked myself back into it, and got my .38 Special revolver. It was loaded. Depending on the size of the car, there could be six people at the most. Six bullets were enough.
            I buckled on my gun belt and knife and went out the front door. Walking to the barn, it occurred to me that I might be overreacting. But I wasn’t one for hiding in the house, waiting to see if someone would leave me alone. It wasn’t my way and had never been.
            The first fall I’d owned the farm, I’d seen a hunter parked by my barn during deer season. I hadn’t called the police, hoping they would show up before he either left or put a bullet through one of my windows. I’d loaded my shotgun and walked over to his truck. I’d racked the weapon within hearing range, and when his head had whipped around, I’d asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. He’d been properly apologetic and left. More importantly, he’d spread the word, and I didn’t get many trespassing hunters anymore. People who wanted to hunt on my land respected me enough to ask me, and if I thought they hunted with care, I let them. That was that.
            Tonight, I hoped I could just ask them to leave nicely and have them agree. Most times, despite my worries, that’s exactly what happened. But I didn’t hear the usual sounds I expected: loud talking, music, the sort of giggling that meant sex was a definite possibility but not a surety. Odd that whoever was in the quarry wasn’t laughing it up.
            I got to the barn. Its outside light was on and welcoming. I slid the door open and walked into the darkness inside. I knew the barn in and out, and I wasn’t afraid. There was nothing that was going to hurt me in there. I’d never been afraid of ghosts. I believed in God, and I had faith. And what my faith couldn’t handle, my .38 Special was sure to be able to take care of.

Now, in reflection, is Sar being a little reckless going out to handle things on her own? Possibly.  Most women would not feel comfortable going outside in the dark to confront someone, even if they were armed, myself included.  However, if this situation occurred in daylight, it would be a normal thing that you’d do if you lived in a rural area. Just as the passage above states, most people who trespass will leave if you ask them nicely. But in the event that someone does something unpredictable—such as the hunter that killed several other hunters who attempted to kick him out of their tree stand a few years ago in the U.S.—it’s good to have backup in the form of a gun.  A gun is not something to wave about, or idly threaten people with. It’s a tool that can be useful when you’re living out in the country by yourself…and it’s something that you hope you never have to use on another human being.

Promise Me is available from the following sites:

Jenny Twist's argument will follow in a few hours' time.