Cover Reveal, Pre-Order, and NaNoWriMo
A couple of weeks ago, I teased the cover of the upcoming sequel to Who Watches the Watchmen?, and now, it’s time to show the whole thing!
And here it is, the cover for Hidden Agendas!
Lots of secrecy and hiding implied there. I found the graphic of the hand and eyes on pixabay.com, where you can download and use public domain images for limited commercial use.
I’m no graphic artist, but I’m becoming more adept at using Canva to design covers for some of my smaller work. For my upcoming series of novels, A Perfect Hatred, I’ll be using professionals!
Pretty cool, and even more exciting is it should be ready for pre-ordering for your Kindle by Monday, October 16, 2017.
As I explained in the previous post, this sequel details a significant change for The Directorate. I didn’t know it at the time I wrote it, but Hidden Agendas perfectly sets up the story I want to write for this year’s National Novel Writing Month.
This year’s NaNoWriMo project has a working title of A Squalid Procession of Vain Fools.
I love it, right? But where does it come from, you ask?
I recently finished re-reading John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Toward the end of the book, the protagonist, Alec Leamas, is having a heated discussion with his former lover, who questions the ethics of spies. Taken back by her naiveté, Leamas says,
“What do you think spies are: priests, saints, and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists, and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.”
That second sentence stood out for me, and I decided it was a perfect working title.
What do you think?
And if I have a working title, I should have a working cover, right?
This cover holds a certain amount of symbolism as well. The final scene of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold takes place at the Berlin Wall in the 1960s. The public domain image I used for the cover is a portion of a photo of graffiti on the Wall before it came down.
I’m ready for November!
Just in time for the one year anniversary of when-it-all-changed-for-the-worst, I’m releasing the conclusion to a story I published earlier this year. Who Watches the Watchmen? is a novelette about people colluding to rig an election. (Timely, right?)
You can get Who Watches the Watchmen? for your Kindle by clicking here, or if you want a paperback, click here.
Who Watches the Watchmen? is a standalone, but other aspects of the story still rattled about in my brain. So, I wrote some more, a natural extension of the original story.
The second novelette is called Hidden Agendas, and those sneaky agendas are everywhere–from my fictional espionage agency The Directorate to the White House itself. Yes, ripped from the headlines, as they say, but fictionalized.
Here’s the back cover copy:
In this sequel to WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?, all good things must come to an end…and a new beginning.
For Mai Fisher, the political climate in the United States after the election of a conservative billionaire, who’s surrounded himself with deconstructionist, ultra-rightwing advisors, has become too uncertain. After the incident where her own assistant director betrayed information to a political campaign, she’s on edge, especially after learning he intended to “give” The Directorate to the new administration as its private intelligence service.
She comes to the reluctant conclusion The Directorate has to cut ties with the U.S. and move to a more neutral location. Then, she has to convince her husband and former partner it’s necessary to leave their home of twenty-five years behind and move to a new country.
Mai can’t resist, however, executing one final act of subterfuge before she leaves, a reminder to those alt-right advisors…she’ll be watching.
Cover Sneak Peek
Here’s a peek at part of the cover:
Want to see the full cover? Hidden Agendas will be released for your Kindle and as a paperback on November 1, 2017.
Politics Wednesday – Bad Apples
You’re on a business trip, well away from home, on a different continent even. The country you’re in offers amenities rarely available at home. You’re with a group of your buds. You have an intense job, adrenaline levels spike all the time, and your job has long been a male bastion of bravado and camaraderie.
What would it hurt to go to a strip club? Who would know? And it’s cheap; you easily hide the cost on your expense account–you get a certain amount for “incidentals,” and you don’t have to explain what they are.
At the strip club, the drinks are cheap, too, and there are plenty of young, willing women. You’re a prime, male specimen, after all. You keep yourself in shape; you work out. Of course you attract their attention. You buy them and you drinks, a lot of drinks, and, well, it’s inevitable that you head back to your hotel with them. It doesn’t matter who suggested it; it’s a chance for a wild, uncomplicated ride. Besides, who’s going to find out? You don’t even care when you return to the hotel that you have to register the women as guests, per local law. You’re special. You’re elite–the elite of the elite with a hugely important job.
It doesn’t really matter when you find out the women want to be paid afterwards. Prostitution is legal in this country, but when one of the women wants more money because there were two of you and one of her, you balk. Why would a whore think she’s worth more money just because she’s serviced two men?
Because prostitution is legal in this country, the woman goes to the police. She’s a business woman, and she’s just been cheated. The policeman comes to your room, demanding entry. You refuse. Don’t the cops know who you are? Local police are beneath you, the elite ones.
But the local cops aren’t so dumb. They check the hotel register and see what country you’re from, then they go to that embassy and let them know what happens. Now, all hell breaks loose. You’ve compromised not just yourself, but your work, the security of your country, and possibly the security of your head of state.
You didn’t stop to think any one of those women could have been a honey-trap to lure you into a compromising situation her handlers could blackmail you with. Her handlers could be anyone from that foreign country’s intelligence service to narco-terrorists to al Qaeda. You didn’t stop to think that in a few weeks you might get a copy of a video in the mail or by e-mail, showing just what you and a strange woman did. The accompanying message might mention your wife and children or your family or your boss and how they’d feel upon seeing this. You want this to go away, just, you know, pass along a code word or two, a secure frequency, where a government official is going to be at a specific time.
This is an old espionage ploy and dates beyond the Cold War or even Mata Hari. The honey trap was a favorite of Soviet intelligence entities, and though the U.S. intelligence services may deny they did the same, they did.
What I’ve outlined above is not the plot for my next book–though, it’s tempting. It’s something that’s under investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Army CID. The people being investigated are members of the uniformed section of the Secret Service and the U.S. Army who were in Colombia to make certain the President’s visit had no security issues. Yet, at the last minute, when the dispute over $40 to $60 became public, those agents and soldiers had to be removed and replaced. Never a good security situation.
If what is alleged is true, I hope the book gets thrown at all the guilty. I hope asses are fired and careers ruined. The sexual aspect of it is not what’s unacceptable to me–just disappointing, but who really cares what consenting adults do or pay for on their own dimes? What bothers me is the potential bullet–perhaps literal–that we dodged. If those Secret Service agents and soldiers did what’s being investigated, they put the President in danger.
And it shouldn’t matter whom that President is. Secret Service agents protect the holder of the office, regardless of political party. (However, if I really wanted to write a good book about it, I’d posit that a right-wing cabal was behind it all, but that would just be fiction. Right?)
From pissing on Taliban corpses, to burning Q’urans, to posing for pictures with the body parts of suicide bombers, more than a decade of war and fear of the next act of terrorism have ripped sensibility from our military and our law enforcement. How else do you explain spying on female Muslim college students five states away from your jurisdiction or leaving your post in Afghanistan to murder civilians in a village in the dark of night?
It’s proper to put our military and police on pedestals–when they deserve it–but, just as with most of life, some in the military and in the police are bad apples who spoil the whole barrel. Other soldiers and police need to distance themselves from those bad apples, or they will lose our respect. In fact, remember respect is earned, and donning a uniform doesn’t automatically imbue it. Right actions gain respect. Right now, my respect for the Secret Service is qualified, as it probably is for most Americans.
It’ll take a lot for that respect to return.
Politics Wednesday – So Long, Mr. Santorum, and Good Riddance
I actually respect the public reason given for why Rick Santorum quit the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Parents need to be with a child they know will never make it to adolescence, not to mention adulthood. I respect him for wanting to make his ill child’s life full and happy for however long she will be with that family. There is nothing more devastating to a parent than to lose a child, and knowing since her birth that you were going to lose her, that your time with her would be short, is unfathomable.
I won’t even mention the months the family has been on the campaign trail, other, home-schooled children in tow, while Bella remained at home in the care of others.
Well, you knew the snark had to come in an some point.
In truth, campaigns are exhausting and debilitating for not just the candidate, and Bella was better off at home and not exposed to those rigors.
I don’t respect what’s probably the reason behind Santorum’s “suspension of my campaign,” which is that he was about to be rejected again by his home state. Rick, nobody thinks well of a quitter, especially one who quits when he knows he’s going to lose. Just a few weeks ago, he had a commanding lead over Willard Mitt Romney, a lead significant enough to encourage him to stay in the race and prolong it. As Republicans began to accept The Inevitable Romney, that lead shrank, then Santorum lagged behind Romney. Despite that hard shell of sanctimonious judging Santorum surrounds himself with, that had to hurt.
Of course, Santorum’s exit just encourages Newt Gingrich, who has vowed to stay in until Tampa, though what good it will do him is beyond me. Oh, wait. It’s no longer a campaign. It’s an extended book-selling, picture-with-Newt-and-Callista-selling tour, funded by people deluded enough to think Gingrich cares about them.
Ron Paul is still just your eccentric grandfather you wish you could relegate to a locked room in the house where no one can hear his backwards, racist ranting and worship of Ayn Rand. (Didja figure out why his senator son’s first name is Rand?)
And now we have the Inevitable Mitt, who stayed in his place in line, dutifully, like most Republicans, and waited his turn. Some people think this Republican penchant for “bide your time, and it’ll be your go” is somehow orderly and logical. At one time it was, but when the Republican Party was co-opted by first the pro-lifers (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) then by the wiggy Tea Party, from your perspective in line, you decide you have to lurch right as well. That’s why we got to hear Romney say he’s always been a “severe Republican.” No, Mitt, you haven’t. You were indistinguishable in some areas from a liberal Democrat, except for the whole Bain Capital, make a gazillion dollars and hide it in off-shore accounts thing.
Democrats are more like a pinball machine–bouncing from the likes of Carter to Dukakis to Mondale to Clinton to Gore to Kerry to Obama. Republicans always sneered at the disorganization (their term) of the Democratic Party, but from chaos we got President Obama, and that’s enough for me and a lot of like-minded people.
Over the weekend, when rumors of Santorum’s exit stirred, someone suggested that he should wait as all good Republicans do because in “eight years” he’ll still be younger than Romney is now. (The pundit’s assumption was that we’d have two Romney terms–fat chance of that.) After eight years, what will an older, more judgemental, more self-righteous Santorum look like? I shudder to think–except that he’ll have morphed into some Gollum-like creature no one can stomach, and that’ll be a good thing.
So, Republican Party, how’s that whole inevitability thing working for ya?
My thoughts go out to little Bella Santorum, that she may have a happy life without pain or suffering. She is the best of them.
A Note to Nikki Haley
Dear Gov. Haley,
You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I mean, I’ve known many women politicians who go against their own interests simply to win an election and curry the favor (no pun intended) of men, and not just Republicans like you.
On a recent broadcast of “The View,” you said something to the effect of “Women aren’t concerned about birth control. They’re concerned about the economy and jobs.” Respectfully, ma’am, your chief of staff needs to change the channel on the gubernatorial television from Fox News to some alternative. Then, you will see women are concerned about birth control and the loss of access to it because, well, it’s pretty simple–women can’t participate in the economy and have jobs if they’re perpetually pregnant. And the other, simple matter is that women get to decide whether or not to be pregnant, something I’m sure you’ve done at some point in your life. I suspect you were very careful not to get pregnant during that alleged affair you supposedly had, so I bet you were pretty concerned about birth control then and gave no thought to the economy.
I can understand–but not excuse–your dismissal of the importance of birth control. After all, the country of your heritage once used abortion as birth control when couples discovered they were having a daughter. I can see how that would mark you, that is, if you bothered to acknowledge that heritage. India, by the way, distributes birth control, free of charge, because they’ve grasped the concept of over-population and its deleterious effect on the economy.
Let me tell you a little story about my Irish grandmother. (Ireland is the country just west of England–I remind you because your narrow-mindedness about birth control makes me wonder if you know of anything beyond our shores.) My grandmother was a midwife in Virginia. One of her patients in the 1930’s had married at the age of 15, quite common in rural areas back then, even rural areas of South Carolina. By the time that woman was 30, my grandmother had delivered her 13 children. The thing that stood out for my grandmother, who was only a few years older than her patient, was that this 30 year old woman, who had been “a beautiful child,” according to Gramma, had gray, thin hair, weighed barely 100 pounds, had lost half her teeth, looked 60, and could barely stand. My grandmother tried to teach her the rhythm method of birth control, but the woman explained she couldn’t say no to her husband. She was dead before she was 35 and had three more children. The last one killed her.
Is this what you want us to go back to? Is this what you want for your daughter? Or your son, for that matter?
If you think women aren’t concerned about birth control, you haven’t paid much attention to the polls showing that independent, women voters are not supporting Republican candidates or their policies and are citing the recent birth control brouhaha as their reason. As a Virginia woman’s sign said at a recent protest in Richmond, “I can’t believe I’m still fighting about this shit.”
Women are concerned about birth control because that’s the single thing which has allowed us to be full partners in the economy. We’re concerned about birth control because we understand family planning is to the benefit of the family. You might say birth control is a family value.
A Post-Menopausal Woman Who Always Will Be Concerned About Birth Control
Politics Wednesday – Rhetorical (or not) Questions
Why is it that the health care mandate is infringing upon our freedom but forcing a woman to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound is not?
Why does health insurance cover the cost of Viagra but not birth control? Or vasectomies but not tubal ligations?
Why would we entertain the presidency of a man who needs a car elevator in his oceanside mansion in California?
Why would Rick Santorum call Romney the “worst possible Republican to run against Barack Obama” one day then concede he’d do whatever the country needed for him to do when asked if he’d be Romney’s VEEP?
Why did Justice Clarence Thomas “forget” to include his wife’s income from various right-wing, anti-health care organizations on his financial disclosure statements when the documents clearly ask for that information? Ancillary question: Why wasn’t he disciplined for that? Second ancillary question: Why hasn’t he recused himself? Third ancillary question: Why doesn’t he ever speak during oral arguments?
Did Medicare pay for Dick Cheney’s heart implant? (No, that’s not a typo.) If so, do the Republicans (especially Rep. Paul Ryan) know that?
Can George Zimmerman sleep at night, knowing he stalked and killed a 17-year old holding a can of Arizona Tea and a bag of Skittles? No, seriously, how does he live with himself?
Why does anyone with a vagina support Republicans?
When did conservatives decide being mean, vindictive, and hateful was an election strategy?
Why are we still fighting two wars and contemplating others, because, you know, the others have been so successful? (That was sarcasm.)
Why do people who call themselves Christians act so un-Christ-like to other religions or to Atheists?
Why do Republicans lie about, well, just about anything?
Why does a Presidential candidate need a lobbyist to get his house plans approved by a local government entity?
Has Newt Gingrich forgotten what hypocrisy means? Or does he really just believe that we should listen to him and ignore his actions, past and present?
Is Ron Paul really that cantankerous or is it an act?
Since Rick Santorum is a devout, practicing Catholic who believes that sex is only for the purpose of procreation, have he and his wife stopped having sex? Same question for Newt and Callista.
Don’t you think people who are sanctimonious about religion should be above reproach or else just shut up about it?
Since when did having a college education, something that the Greatest Generation fought to assure for their children, make you a snob?
Why was an Iraq vet who asked a perfectly legitimate question of a Republican governor called an idiot? Is this how we’re supposed to treat the people whose asses were actually in danger while your large posterior occupied any number of creaking chairs?
Why are we blaming an article of clothing for the death of a 17 year-old youth instead of the man who put a 9 mm round in his chest for the audacity of walking in a gated community? Why isn’t anyone talking about the fact that if black Trayvon Martin had shot and killed white George Zimmerman, Martin would be in jail now or, more likely, would have been shot by the police responding to the 9-1-1 calls?
Why do I persist in asking questions that only upset me and should upset you?
Because someone has to.
Politics Wednesday – From Emmett to Trayvon
I was too young to remember Emmett Till. In fact I’d never heard of Emmett Till until the early 1990’s when I read Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle, a novel based on what happened to Emmett Till. Till was a fourteen year old black youth from Chicago, IL, visiting family in Mississippi and not attuned to the racial protocols in the South in 1955. He spoke to a white girl, an offense that got him killed. His killers mutilated his body hideously, so much so everyone encouraged his mother to have a closed-casket funeral. “No,” she said, “let them see what they did to my boy.”
If you Google “Emmett Till” and click on the Wikipedia article, you’ll see a picture of Emmett taken the Christmas before he died. You’ll see a smooth-faced, handsome kid, sporting a man’s hat at a jaunty angle on his head. If you scroll down, you’ll see what his mother wanted the world to see, and it’s tough to look at; but don’t you dare look away.
Till’s death didn’t stop the wave of violence against blacks in the 1950’s or 1960’s, but it put a face to it. Till was a diminutive young man, small for his age and no match for the two, grown men who kidnapped him, beat him, gouged an eye out, shot him, then disposed of his body in the Tallahatchie River after they tied a seventy-pound cotton gin fan to his neck. Months after their acquittal, his murderers admitted to the killing in an interview; double jeopardy prevented a re-trial.
Today, what happened to Emmett Till is abbreviated to KWB–Killed While Black–and too many of us think, “That was the past. That doesn’t happen anymore.” Flash forward almost sixty years to a time when Emmett, had he lived, would likely have grown grandchildren, and hear the name Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon was murdered and buried before we ever learned how he died. We may be past the time where Trayvon could be executed for speaking to a white woman; however, he couldn’t survive a walk to a convenience store and a return to a “gated community.”
I’ll digress for a moment and say I abhor gated communities. The thought of putting up a gate to keep out the riff-raff is medieval. Oh, the homeowners would never say “riff-raff,” but, wink, wink, you know what they mean. When I was looking for a house after retirement, someone recommended a community in Haymarket, VA, near where I grew up, so I went to have a look. I had an appointment with a realtor, but the rent-a-cop at the gate wouldn’t let me inside unless he Xeroxed my driver’s license. I refused and left. When the realtor called later to find out why I stood her up, I said, “I didn’t know it was a gated community.” “What’s wrong with that?” she asked. “They’re fucking elitist.” Digression over.
Trayvon was allowed to be in that gated community; his father was visiting someone who lived there. They had been watching a basketball game, and the seventeen year old, probably needing a break from the adults, walked a short distance to a convenience store to purchase an Arizona Iced Tea and a box of Skittles. It was a rainy, February afternoon in Florida, and Trayvon wore a hoodie.
Trayvon committed the “crime” of being a young, black man dressed in a hoodie while walking in a gated community in a state where you can say anything short of shooting someone in the back is self-defense and get away with it. Trayvon had the misfortune of piquing the attention of a self-ordained neighborhood watcher and wannabe cop who followed him after a 9-1-1 Dispatcher told him not to, who apparently accosted Trayvon, and who, though he out-weighed Trayvon by more than 100 pounds, was so frightened of that can of tea and that box of candy that he put a single 9mm round in Trayvon’s chest. Trayvon’s body was drug-tested; the shooter wasn’t. The shooter claimed self-defense, and the cops looked at a dead, young, black man in a hoodie and decided no arrest was in order.
We all know the shooter’s name, but I’m not acknowledging him as a person right now. Yes, my religion tells me to appreciate the inherent goodness in every person, and eventually I’ll forgive. The name we need to have on our lips every minute of every day until the shooter is behind bars is Trayvon Martin. White or black, or any color in between, sit your children down and tell them Trayvon’s name. Tell them Trayvon was a good kid, a good student. Tell them he loved airplanes and wanted to be an aviation mechanic. Tell them he played football and loved basketball. Tell them he was murdered because he was black. What? You don’t want to tell your children that? Tell them anyway.
Because Trayvon has to be the last one. Do you understand? The last time this happens.
Politics Wednesday – Shared Responsibility
At some point in a not-too-distant future, we may pay a high price for waging a war based on lies.
Reams have been written on the problems of multiple deployments into combat zones, and the psychology on this is not a flawed science. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the rule, not the exception. Studies have shown even one combat tour, even a single fire-fight, in a high-fire zone can foster PTSD, and the military culture and, in some cases, the American tendency to turn a face away from mental disorder, leave our soldiers, sailors, and marines without support or acknowledgement.
This weekend when I heard of the Army staff sergeant who left his base, walked to a nearby Afghan village, and systematically executed sixteen people, including nine children, I was horrified and angry. When I learned he was on his fourth deployment in a combat zone, my anger returned to the people who got us into a two-war situation in the first place. This staff sergeant, who returned to his base and surrendered, is allegedly (innocent until proven guilty) responsible for the physical event, but in a way I hold the Bush Administration just as responsible.
Whether some of my fellow Liberals accept it or not, there was a case for action in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. However, I preferred Special Operations over “Shock and Awe.” As we’ve seen, the case for a war in Iraq was based on false intelligence and out-right lies. It emerged from the deranged philosophy of neo-conservatism and American exceptionalism and a perversion of global manifest destiny. And for Halliburton’s profit margin.
And now we have a thirty-eight year old man who suffered traumatic brain injury in a Humvee roll-over back on duty in Afghanistan after an evaluation wherein a diagnosis of PTSD may or may not have been covered up because treating PTSD is expensive. And of course the media has to get some “let’s blame the woman” in the mix, speculating that a message the sergeant’s wife sent him shortly before his apparent rampage “set him off.”
The Afghan villagers want the staff sergeant to be given to them, but with the Taliban returning to supremacy there, we all know what that justice would be like. The Army is considering a court martial on site at his base in Afghanistan, which would certainly give the Afghan people small assurance. Because this could be a military death penalty case–very rare indeed–I would rather it happen here in the states and with more transparency than a typical military trial.
I also wish he’d have sitting with him in the dock Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et. al. There should be shared responsibility for this latest murder of innocents.
I’m sure there are troglodytes out there who consider any Afghan–even a child–an enemy and who will try to justify the unthinkable. I can only ponder about what my father would have thought of this–the man who, for a time, was responsible for guarding WWII war criminals. He would have been disappointed in this soldier, but he would have been outraged at the circumstances that put him in that time and place and mental state.
When we first went to war in Iraq, I wondered how many Timothy McVeigh’s we were creating. Now I wonder how many military men and women are here, at home, operating with a hair trigger. What we need to say to them is “It’s not your fault.” The best thing we can do for them is acknowledge PTSD without being afraid and make certain our Senators and Representatives find the funds to restore their normalcy.
Yeah, that’s going to happen.