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Author: C.D. Watson

Friday Finds

Friday Finds

Header image:
Smoke has become a real problem across Western North Carolina and the surrounding areas as wildfires burn in several national forest locations.
Photograph courtesy of Cris Bessette.

A roundup of interesting books, movies, and tidbits, some old, some new, and some stuff I just wanted to share.

Halloween may be over (unless you're a Hobbit, in which case, Second Halloween!), but this movie is one I'll be watching again soon. 

Because I only watched it twice leading up to Halloween, thank you very much.

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman deliver outstanding performances in the lead roles, and are supported admirably by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest as The Aunts, and Goran Visnjic and Aidan Quinn as the Owens sisters' love interests. 

Now, some of you probably think that because I'm a writer, I should be pointing to the book on which the movie was based, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. Uh, no. This is one of the few cases where the movie was far, far better than the book. Stick with the movie. Don't watch it alone and, for pete's sake, "Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can."

Dubbed a techno-thriller by reviewers, Chuck Wendig's Zeroes is the story of a group of misfit hackers who are pulled together and coerced (read: imprisoned and forced) to work for a shadow government agency to an end that becomes clear after a terrifying and weird twisting journey. Technology geeks and nerds of all flavors will enjoy this one particularly, but anyone who likes a fast-paced, intense story should find a good read between the covers. I did, and no one can accuse me of being a geek... Oh, wait.

Every once in a while, I go on a mini-book-buying spree. A couple of days ago, for instance, I ordered five paperbacks ranging the gamut from Epic Fantasy to Urban Fantasy to Science Fiction. Amazon is my friend. 

So is Barnes & Noble. Whenever I'm in Asheville, I try to stop by the local B&N and browse the new releases, and usually come home with at least one book. On the trip before last, I picked up one by debut author Becky Chambers, whose first work is titled The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The title alone is worth the read.

Amazingly enough, Harper Collins, the publisher, has set the Kindle edition's price to $1.99, completely contravening the Big 5's usual practice of pricing digital editions as high as, or higher than, the paperback edition. (Or, at least, that was the price when I wrote this blog post at 4:38 p.m. on Thursday, 10 November 2016, EST.)

This was the book I took with me to read during my recent Kodak/Knoxville, Tennessee, trip. Unfortunately, I didn't get very far into it during the trip and had to turn my attention away from fun reads toward more serious, work-related reads (see the sidebar for what I'm currently reading). Don't tell me how it ends! I want to figure that out myself.

The crew working the Jones Gap fire northwest of Highlands, North Carolina, just a few miles from my current home.
Photo courtesy of the US Forest Service.

While most around the United States are preoccupied with the recent election results, folks here in the Southeast are more concerned about the wildfires spreading across the Southern Appalachians. Some of them are being set by an arsonist(s), including those in the Macon County, North Carolina, and Rabun County, Georgia, areas. Many are being forced to evacuate, while others are under a state of emergency, and many more try to find a way to cope with the smoke permeating our air.

This is my home area, friends. The smoke is so thick in some places, the roads are impassable. My son is asthmatic. A couple of nights ago, we drove from his home in Georgia up to Sylva, NC, to eat at Bogart's. (Best burgers in Jackson County!) The smoke was so bad and so hard on his lungs, we contemplated turning around.

Smoke from wildfires diminishes the sun in Franklin, NC. Photo courtesy of Brandon Ledford.
Thick smoke from wildfires obscures the sun in the Frogtown area of Franklin, North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Brandon Ledford.

Good thing we didn't. Halfway through our meal, a group of about eighteen forest rangers walked in, and that eventually led to my son and I visiting the Jackson County Command Center, where we spoke with a young man about donations. The folks fighting the fires include, from my understanding, forest rangers, members of the National Guard, and others flown in from at least nine states across the country, as well as local firefighters and other emergency service personnel. Under the harsh floodlights shining down on the command center, the men and women looked completely worn out. I later learned that they're shipped out to the fires after breakfast and don't come back until bedtime.

That's a long, hard day, especially considering that the only food they have in between is what they can carry in their packs and clothes.

I ended up going in with my editor (Richard, for those who don't know him) and donating a crap ton of Slim Jims, nuts and dried fruits, and sodas, the latter having been specifically requested by members of the fire crews. After the hours they work trying to stop the spread of these wildfires, the least we can do is provide something other than water and Gatorade for them to drink.

As far as I know, the command centers are still accepting donations. I only know of two, the one set up at the Holiday Inn Express just north of Dillsboro, NC, and the one set up at the old Caterpillar factory outside of Franklin, NC. (This article mentions a command center in Clay Co., NC, but I don't know the location.) Considering the scope of the fires, there have to be others, so if you're interested in donating or otherwise helping, try contacting local emergency services or ranger stations for more information.

The men and women who came here from outside the South have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the locals. Let's continue doing what we can to make their lives easier until they can return to their own families and communities.

Ledford Road smoke by Amy Watts
Smoke hangs over the road leading to property owned by my family near Franklin, North Carolina.
Photograph courtesy of Amy Watts.
Pumpkintown wildfire by Erica Welch Arvey
Fires burning across the road from a populated area in Pumpkintown, North Carolina. 
Photograph courtesy of Erica Welch Arvey.
Book News

Book News

Here's a round up of news about the books I write.

Alien Mine, the third novel in the Pruxnae Series, was released on 21 October 2016. The digital edition is available exclusively at Amazon for $3.99 and is also available in the Kindle Unlimited program through the end of the year. The print edition can be purchased for $11.99. An audio edition is in the works. The first scene can be read here.

The audio edition of A Warrior's Touch (The Pruxnae, Book 4) is nearing the final production phases. Look for more information on it to be announced soon.

The next release under the Lucy Varna name will be The Gathering Storm, the seventh installment in the Daughters of the People Series. While no release date has been set, it could arrive in stores as early as January or February 2017.

Sunshine Walkingstick popped into my head in September 2014. Over the past two years, I've been working on developing her world and eventually decided to write and release a four to five book series under a separate pen name, Celia Roman. I had planned on releasing these without telling anyone I wrote them, as one of the many experiments writers are prone to conducting.

Instead, I'm releasing Greenwood Cove, the first book in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, one chapter at a time throughout the month of November. The first chapter was released on Halloween day, a fitting date considering that the series is Urban Fantasy. Read it here and subscribe to my newsletter to receive a notice in your inbox when each chapter is released. 

I have a couple of GoodReads giveaways coming up in a few days and will do my best to put those giveaways on the sidebar so everyone will have a chance to enter. Plus, I have a few more goodies and surprises in store for fans, old and new alike.

A few months ago , I moved into an historic family home and have been (mostly) without Internet access since. I hope to begin blogging again soon and staying in touch more frequently on social media. If you've tried to visit me on the web under my pen names (Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, and Celia Roman), you've probably been disappointed to find the pages either deleted or inactive. That's because I've been trying to consolidate all my social media adventures in one place, so now I have one Facebook page, one Twitter feed, and one Pinterest account to accommodate all my pen names. This is much easier for me to manage and much easier for fans to follow.

More news soon!

 

A Vampyr Series Movie? Here’s How You Can Help.

A Vampyr Series Movie? Here’s How You Can Help.

My son recently attended DragonCon, and because he’s a good son, he sat in on a panel discussing how to turn a book into a TV series or movie. We’d been discussing this in particular with the Vampyr Series. I mean, let’s face it. Vampires make for good TV, so why not a Vampyr Series movie?

Here’s the thing. In order to do that, the most basic requirement is social credit, which translates (according to the panelists) into a minimum of 50,000 followers on one social media platform, plus great reviews on the books and so forth.

So I’m reaching out to my readers and asking each of you to follow me on Twitter, like my Facebook page, and comment on this blog post. If you haven’t already, please leave an honest review for each of the books on Amazon: The Vampire’s Pet, The Vampire’s Favorite, and The New Vampire. (Reviews at other online stores are welcome, too.) Finally, spread the word. Tell your book loving friends about the Vampyr Series and encourage them to dive into this story world. Don’t forget. The first e-book is currently available as a free download.

The Master Vampire is currently in the works, so keep an eye out for news on it. I’m also moving and updating all my websites and social media platforms, so please have patience while I rearrange everything.

Thank you all for your help!

Knitting Travel Clothes

Knitting Travel Clothes

A few months ago, after deciding I would definitely be traveling to the South Pacific by hook or by crook, I began planning for the journey by making notes on travel needs, getting a passport, and researching housing arrangements. I also took the not-quite-radical step of revamping my wardrobe with an eye toward natural fabrics that would travel well and hold up in a variety of climates.

Now, I’m not exactly easy to fit. Most clothes are geared toward women with skinny thighs and hips, and the rest are either made of non-natural fabric (like nylon) or patterned in a way that conflicts with my preferred style, which is pretty low-key. Neutral and earth tones, classic styles, durable, natural fabrics; these are all no-brainers for a woman who absolutely despises shopping for clothes.

When it came time to choose travel clothes, it was only natural for me to knit the tops and some accessories myself. With this in mind, I went on a buying spree and stocked up on a variety of yarns, needles, and notions. The gals at my local yarn store, Silver Threads & Golden Needles in Franklin, NC, were kind enough to listen politely to my tentative travel plans. Virginia, one of the proprietors, went so far as to discuss airplane travel with me and suggest stylish patterns and yarns. I’m knitting one of those patterns up now into a dressier top (Odele by Amy Christoffers) and will have more on that later.

While I’ve been knitting since the age of about eight when my grandmothers (both of them, separately) introduced me to knitting and crochet, I’m not really an experienced knitter. The great thing about the Digital Age, though, is that when I get stuck (and I almost always do), if I can’t get to my LYS, I can always turn to YouTube or do a search online for instructions on a particular stitch or pattern.

I’m a pretty slow knitter, especially when I’m writing, but knitting is relaxing and almost meditative, once you get into the groove. It makes for good thinking time or something to keep my hands busy while my son and I travel or watch a movie. (We’re unabashed movieholics.)

If you’re on Ravelry, my username is DreamingIf. Feel free to send a friend request or suggest patterns, groups, and whatnot.

And now it’s back to knitting travel clothes and watching Aliens.


Yarns from left to right, top to bottom: Louisa Harding Grace Hand-Dyed, Color 9; Juniper Moon Farms Zooey, Color 07; Shibui Linen, Color Field; Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, Color St. Charles; Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, Color October 2015: Walking Dead; Madelinetosh Twist Light, Color Dried Fruit; Shibui Linen, Color Fjord; Malabrigo Silkpaca Lace, Color Olive; Periwinkle Sheep Silky Single, Color Caramel.

Watsonomics

Watsonomics

It started with a spider.

One night, I wandered into my laundry room at oh-dark-thirty and happened to catch a glimpse of a shadow on top of my washing machine. That shadow shouldn’t have been there, crouching in the deeper shadows surrounding it, and like the cussed fool I am, I said what every woman trapped in a horror movie says right before the bad guy jumps her.

Let’s see what that is!

Eyes pinned on the shadow, I cautiously stretched out an arm and flipped on the light. There on top of my washing machine sat a spider as big as my palm.

I screamed. It jumped. I’m telling you, this scene had all the makings of a campy Steve Martin comedy.

Still squawking, I snagged the dust pan and tried to smash the spider. The dang thing kept scrambling out of the way. After three or four missed swats on my part, it retreated over the top of the washing machine, out of sight.

Undeterred, I called in the big guns, a 17.5 ounce can of Hot Shot Wasp & Hornet Spray, the only poison I have on hand. (It’s my editor’s. He left it here by accident.) Thus fortified, I stormed into the laundry room (all 5′ 1.5″ of me), climbed on top of the washing machine, and squirted half a bottle of bee poison at the hapless spider while it tried to skeedaddle out of the way. Once it was good and subdued (i.e. the skeedaddling dwindled to the wounded crawl of a dying soldier across a bloody battlefield), I hopped off the washing machine, grabbed a broom handle (sans bristles), and killed the sucker dead.

Good fortune, eh? So what if after my victorious triumph, I staggered out of the laundry room hacking and coughing and couldn’t fold my laundry, thanks to the excess fumes? I’d escaped having a spider jump on me or, worse, bite me or my son.

I should’ve known things would go downhill from there.

The next day, my son and I were in the parking lot about to leave for lunch. My dad happened to be outside at the same time (he lives next door, or rather, we live next door to him). He called us over and pointed to a six-inch hole in the asphalt, near where our driveway merges into his. Under that hole? A sinkhole. The asphalt had rippled and bucked from lack of support for a good three feet uphill of the hole. My son looked in and estimated the sink was only about a foot deep, and Dad deemed it repairable with a sledgehammer and a dose of gravel.

“Two years,” I told my dad. “We just needed two more years.”

“Two years for what?” he asked.

“Two years for us to move. If this had happened in a couple of years, it wouldn’t have been a problem, since nobody would be living here.”

“Where are you going again?” he deadpanned, and I threw up my hands and walked away, shaking my head. It wasn’t like Dad and I hadn’t just discussed (read: argued about) me and my son finding a bigger place so we’d both have the privacy we each needed. Dad acted like we were trying to abandon him. In reality, we’re just doing what humans have been doing for millennia: Roaming until we find where we belong.

In the meantime, there’s a six-inch hole in my driveway, my car has a short in it that continually drains the battery, and I’ve got a leaky bathtub to fix before water from the shower rots the floor.

Oh, yes, and a (I hope) dead spider in my trash can.

Did I mention the $1200 in car insurance, on two aging cars that are barely worth $2000 each, plus over $600 in house insurance, all due in the same week? No? Well, there ya go.

This here is what our side of the Watson branch calls Watsonomics, a term borrowed from Married with Children‘s Al Bundy, who explained Bundynomics like this:

AL)    Peg, have you ever heard of The Bundy Curse?

PEGGY) You mean that foot odor thing?

AL)    No, the other curse! You see, the minute a Bundy starts having good luck, he
       immediately starts building up an equal amount of bad luck! It's simple
       Bundynomics. For example: when I was 18 years old, scored four touchdowns in 
       one game, I became the greatest football player in the history of Polk High.

PEGGY) And what bad thing happened after that?

Al turns to Peg and glares at her.

PEGGY) Oh! Like I'm the one who said, "Al, show no ambition. We can live off your income
       of rocks and leaves." Honey, there is nothing wrong with having good luck.

AL)    Yes, there is! And you know what's worse then a Bundy having good luck? 

PEGGY) A Bundy wearing Speedos while having good luck?

AL)    Good guess, Peg, no. A Bundy admitting he's having good luck, because that when
       the bad luck starts!

Bad luck after good. That explains Watsonomics perfectly. Just when we hit smooth sailing, the Hand of God reaches down and smacks us, sort of the same way Emeril does when he’s seasoning a recipe.

Bam! You think that’s good luck? Ha! Wait ’til you see what I have in store for you. Bam, bam!

But hey. At least I didn’t wind up like Denny in “The Cocoon” by John B. L. Goodwin, as a cocoon after he had the gall to kill a moth for his collection. I read that tale as a kid the way anybody with any sense reads an Alfred Hitchcock anthology, at night under the covers with a flashlight. If strange knocks start alternating between the front door and the window, you can forget it. I’m not going outside to investigate no matter how much bug spray I have in hand.

Dreamland

Dreamland

I just finished watching both series (seasons) of Dreamland, originally titled Utopia, an Australian satire mocking bureaucratic waste and inefficiency centered on the fictional Nation Building Authority. The show is part of the research I’m conducting prior to traveling to Oz in the next couple of years. I want to have a good feel for the culture and language before I go, as I intend to set a story there.

Why else would I travel halfway around the world?

Oh, right. Vacation.

Anywho, if it’s a vacation, it’ll be a working one.

Dreamland is hilarious, if you understand the comedy inherent to this sort of satire. If not? Eh. You’ll be lost. Some of the humor is dry and some went completely over my head. (That depending on Australian slang, for instance.)

What makes Dreamland so great is the way the actors completely buy into their parts. There’s not one bit of incredulity, even under the most ridiculous situations, like when the WiFi goes out and the only place anyone can get a signal is in the men’s toilet.

Pre-trip Reading

Coincidentally, I also just finished reading Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt. It’s billed as a satire, but struck me as more of a smartassery than anything. I did learn more than I probably will ever need to know about Australia’s founding, and particularly of its early explorers and settlers. If you pick this one up, don’t skip the footnotes, as they contain the funniest bits.

I have a handful of other books on Australia stacked in my various to be read piles, one of which I’ve already started. Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey–and Even Iraq–Are Destined to become Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport was written by Simon Kuper (a sports writer) and Stefan Szymanski (an economist) as every footy’s answer to baseball’s Moneyball.

There are enough statistics in this thing to give even the most dedicated numbers man a headache. It’s taken me weeks to get ninety pages into it. Now, don’t get me wrong. Soccernomics is a fascinating look at the sport that captivates much of the world, but it’s a dense read, especially for a newbie like me. My closest brush with soccer was two seasons of rec ball a decade and a half ago when my son played. Yes, I coached both years, but what did I know? The other mom/coach did all the coaching and training. I stood on the sidelines and made sure the kids didn’t kill each other in a Gatorade-induced frenzy.

Soccer is apparently huge in Straya. The number of leagues and clubs is astounding. I think every ‘burb there must have at least one team (club?) for every age group. I’m not kidding. Since it seems to be something of a national past time, I reckon I’ll have to catch a few matches while there.

I’d really like to understand the game first, though. Since I don’t have a way to watch sports at home, every week, my son and I eat at least once at La Cabana (Dillard) so I can watch part of a match.

I’m the one wearing the wacky t-shirts while avidly watching the TVs mounted high on either end of the main dining room. My son is the one wearing the wacky t-shirts while avidly chatting away about work and such.

And a good ol’ time is had by all.

Bribery

The picture at the top of the page was taken by a good friend who lives in the state of Victoria. She’s bribing me to visit by sending gorgeous imagery of her vacations and off-day trips. Yup, it’s working. I don’t even like beaches, but after seeing the pictures she sends, I’m dying to go.

To satisfy visa requirements, my bucket list trip was originally supposed to alternate between two to three months in Australia and a month or so at home. I’m trying to work out the finances now so I can live in Australia for at least a year, the length of time I figure I’ll need to research and write the aforementioned book. It’s likely I’ll get other stories out of the visit, considering that satisfying visa regs only requires a trip out of country. I don’t have to go all the way home to do that.

Say, isn’t New Zealand nice this time of year? How about Niue?

No idea when I’ll pull everything together for the trip, but I did finally get a passport. Step one, fulfilled. Now on to step two: Global Entry and TSA preCheck. Fun. What was that about bureaucracies again?

Poverty Isn’t a “Black” Issue

Poverty Isn’t a “Black” Issue

Note: This post was originally published on my author blog on 15 January 2016.


I recently stumbled across an article on Gateway Pundit titled, “Tavis Smiley: On Every Leading Economic Issue Black Americans Have Lost Ground Under Obama.” In it, the author, citing sources without linking to them, states that, for various recent time periods:

  • Minority household income has fallen by nine to ten percent.
  • Non-white families’ net worth has fallen by around 20% while white families’ net worth has risen slightly.
  • White households were thirteen times wealthier than black households.
  • The black unemployment rate in 2014 was 10.1% while black labor force participation had dropped.

Whether the author was cherry-picking data or not really has no bearing here. Poverty has always been a larger problem in non-white households. What most people completely miss is that the poverty rate of minorities isn’t a “black” issue or an “Hispanic” issue: It’s an everybody issue.

Over the past seven years, President Obama has continued the progressive liberal tradition of fomenting race and class wars. He has, as many other minority leaders have, encouraged minorities to think of themselves as something other than part of the whole.

It’s well past time that attitude was discouraged.

The United States has always been called a melting pot, and for a very good reason. Every culture that immigrates here leaves its mark, even as it assimilates into the American culture, a continually morphing entity. African slaves, for example, contributed a wealth of foods, music, and beliefs to the South. Where would we be today without Negro spirituals? A helluva lot poorer.

We live in a time of abundance, of equal opportunity, of the free distribution of knowledge and information to anyone with access to a computer. In the US, that’s everyone. Even the small percentage of people who don’t own a computer have either a cell phone or ready access to a free technology center, like a local library. We as a nation contribute billions of dollars in foreign aid, in part to help poverty stricken nations, and yet, we still struggle with poverty here at home.

It’s a baffling situation, but it isn’t one restricted to those hit hardest. Poverty is a societal problem best solved on the grass roots level, in communities. But when I say that, I don’t mean that it’s a problem for the “black” community to solve. I mean it’s a problem for the physical community to solve. I mean it’s a problem for every member of that community, black, white, red, yellow, or pink polka dotted with purple stripes.

Poverty harms every member of society, regardless of how much “wealth” we do or do not possess. It scars us all. I don’t have the solution (God knows, I wish I did), but one thing is certain: We will never fix poverty if we don’t stop confining the solution to one race or another, and instead work together, like the one community we are.

Random (Holiday) Acts of Generosity

Random (Holiday) Acts of Generosity

Note: This post was originally published on my author blog on 16 December 2015.


I was having a little trouble coming up with a topic for today’s post. I kept thinking, what in my life is going on that people could possibly be interested in? All I got was a big fat empty in my brain, which is saying something, as it’s usually chock full of ideas.

During a break from writing (The Vampire’s Favorite), I dropped by Facebook and found this heart-touching video shared by the Fairview, Tennessee, Police Department.

Now, wherever I turn these days, it seems folks are denigrating the South and Southerners. We’re racist. We’re backwoods hicks. We’re knee-jerk reactionaries with too many guns and not enough good sense.

Frankly, I get a little tired of those attitudes. I’ve met people from all around the world and trust me, Southerners are by far the best folks I’ve ever met, and certainly among the most kind and generous.

The proof is in this video. The Cross Point Community Church has what they call a Dollar Club. Every month, every single member is asked to give one dollar, just one. The collected money is normally used for a Random Act of Generosity bestowed on one family or individual out in the community.

This month, the church decided to commit RAoGs on a whole host of random strangers, and roped local businesses and the local police department into helping. They surprised Christmas tree shoppers, bought groceries and gas, hunted down requested toys for children and grandchildren, and made one woman’s Christmas with a very special gift. Don’t take my word for it. Watch the video. Only the hardest heart will walk away without shedding a tear or two.

The RAoGs don’t have to stop there. Why not spread your own brand of kindness around this holiday season? There are a ton of things anyone can do to brighten someone else’s day without spending a single dime. How often do you walk out of a grocery store behind a parent struggling to get both children and groceries safely into the car? Or into a restaurant behind an elderly couple who might appreciate having the door held open so they don’t have to hurry in? Taking a few moments to lend a helping hand costs nothing save a little time, and isn’t that worth giving up in exchange for lending help where it’s needed?

And while we’re at it, why not make this kindness part of our every day lives and carry the habit into the new year? Even a simple smile and “Hello, how are ya?” can go a long way toward making the world a better place for the giver and the receiver.

So smile, be merry, and above all, share a little kindness with the people around you during this, the season of good will.

Reasoned Arguments against Gun Control

Reasoned Arguments against Gun Control

Note: This post was originally published on my author blog on 11 December 2015.


In light of recent shootings, many are calling for tighter gun control laws, ignoring the basic fact that laws already in place did nothing to stop those shootings in the first place. It is therefore irrational to think more legislation will solve the problem. As Jacob Sullum wrote in a recent post for Reason, “Autonomous Terrorism Calls for Autonomous Defense,”

“The perpetrators of last week’s attack in San Bernardino did not have criminal or psychiatric records that would have legally disqualified them from buying guns. In fact, one of them passed background checks when he bought pistols from California gun dealers. Obama’s recommendation of “universal background checks” in response to the San Bernardino massacre is therefore a non sequitur.”

Sullum goes on to note that other restrictions, including banning rifles and restricting firearm sales to those on “no fly” lists, are equally unreasonable.

A reasoned approach is not, however, favored by proponents of gun control legislation, in spite of ample evidence that it simply does not work and, in fact, that jurisdictions enacting strict gun control or gun-free zones are the hardest hit by gun-related violence, in spite of some organizations’ statistically flawed claims to the contrary.

The issue few people are addressing is this: Life is violent. There’s no getting around it. The universe is a violent place, and humans in particular are a violent species. We’ve had to be in order to survive. As someone noted in a recent discussion, that violence will continue regardless of what weapons are available. Confiscate guns and people will use blades. Confiscate blades and people will use sticks. Confiscate sticks and people will use their hands.

Guns have nothing to do with humanity’s innate violence, but they can be (and often are) used safely to defend users against the very violence gun control advocates despise, at a rate of more than one hundred times greater than the use of firearms in violent crimes. Even the Center for Disease Control acknowledges that “self-defense can be an important crime deterrent.”

I would argue that self-defense is the best crime deterrent, but that’s a post for another time.

For more on why gun control is an ineffective method of combating crime and violence, see “The Costs and Consequences of Gun Control” by David B. Kopel, published by The Cato Institute.

Bucket List: Australia

Bucket List: Australia

Note: This post originally appeared on my author blog on 9 December 2015.


My son and I love to travel and we have a ton of places we want to go. For the past few months, we’ve been dreaming of going to Australia. I have friends in the Melbourne and Brisbane areas, so we figured we’d hit both places in one go, since they’re only a couple of hours apart by plane.

One friend, knowing we’re hoping to travel there next year, sent me a few pictures she took during a recent vacation. The one here is of the Twelve Apostle Rocks near Port Campbell, Victoria. It’s summer there and just gorgeous. Who wouldn’t want to go?

The logistics of getting to and from Australia from the States are intricate to someone who’s only ever traveled overseas once. (My son has been out of the country more than I have. How sad is that?) I don’t even have a passport, so that’s the first order of business, and before I even book flights, we have to get visas. Only then will we be able to plan our itinerary.

My son only wants to stay about a week, but I’d like to take advantage of the short duration of Australian visas and linger for a month or so. There’s plenty to do, visits with friends, local historical and natural sights to soak up, soccer. Apparently, soccer is quite big in Australia.

I’ve been doing some preliminary research on the country and have been surprised by the differences between cultures here and there. But this is the great part about visiting a foreign country, even one with shared roots. Hopefully, the stars will align just right and we can make the trip in the next two years or so and experience Straya ourselves.