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Freedom under the open sky

Over at Ars Gratia Libertatis, reviewer J.P. Medved (writing as “Aducknamedjoe”) focuses on the outdoor aspect of High Desert Barbecue (a not insignificant aspect of the novel, which takes place almost entirely under the open sky):

There is no shortage of novels devoted to the outdoors whose stories appeal to backpackers, campers and hikers (the granola sort, we call them in Colorado). It takes only a minute’s thought to conjure up such titles as Into the Wild, Hatchet, or Hemingway’s famous short story, Big Two-Hearted River. Many of these seriously and studiously explore nature as a vast healing power, a thunderous force not to be trifled with, or a dangerous coming of age challenge.

Rare are those stories that depict nature with a lighthearted chuckle, to be respected, sure, but also to be enjoyed by people who know what they’re doing in the Great Outdoors. Rarer still is such a story written from a free market, libertarian perspective. Luckily, author J.D. Tuccille has taken it upon himself to rectify that deficit with his new novel, High Desert Barbecue.

I’m glad this review notes this point. As a trail runner, mountain biker, backpacker. etc., I spend muchas horas (this is Arizona, folks) under the sun, and I enjoy fiction about the great outdoors. But I’m more than a little put-off by quasi-theological, neo-primitivist tripe that treats the wilderness as a morally redemptive alternative to horrible, horrible civilization and its nasty antibiotics, arts, knowledge and reduced infant mortality. *shudder*

Look, I like the outdoors. The wilderness is fun, beautiful, challenging — and it can kill you. I’ve drunk bad water when I was two days from a trailhead — an uphill climb from the bottom of Grand Canyon, at that. I’ve stumbled over rattle snakes. I’ve been chilled to the bone far from fire or shelter. I’ve been bit by things I still can’t identify, that made parts of my anatomy swell up and turn fascinating colors.

But I like being outside. I also, especially, appreciate the refuge the wilderness offers from the strictures of everyday life. It’s a place to run to escape expectations, condemnations and, especially intrusive laws and red tape. Edward Abbey spilled a lot of ink on this last point — the wilderness as a place to flee from tyranny — which probably helps to explain his mixed reputation in progressive circles, but he also indulged in nature-worship and civilization-bashing to an absurdly misanthropic degree.

Truthfully, if the wilderness is a refuge from civilization, so is civilization a refuge from wilderness. We need a place to escape from busybodies, bigots and control-freaks, but we also need a place to develop art, medicine and technology in order to explore and use our human potential.

Civil liberties are too precious to waste on enemies

Among the things that make rights — in particular, that basket of rights commonly referred to as “civil liberties” — actual rights as opposed to privileges, is that they are inviolable and universal. That is, even people you don’t like enjoy these rights, and are entitled to the protection of the same. And even people you do like have to respect these rights, or suffer the consequences for violating them.

Which brings us to the media reaction to the hassle Sen. Rand Paul went through with the TSA goons at the Nashville, Tennessee, airport. From an OpEd Paul wrote about the incident for the Washington Times:

Today, while en route to Washington to speak to hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Life, I was detained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for not agreeing to a patdown after an irregularity was found in my full body scan. Despite removing my belt, glasses, wallet and shoes, the scanner and TSA also wanted my dignity. I refused.

I showed them the potentially offending part of my body, my leg. They were not interested. They wanted to touch me and to pat me down. I requested to be rescanned. They refused and detained me in a 10-foot-by-10-foot area reserved for potential terrorists.

The OpEd goes on to describe the TSA and its procedures as a “blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment,” though it ends on a weak — even impotent — note calling for nothing more than “legislation that will allow for adults to be rescreened if they so choose” so they don’t have to submit to pat-downs.

Anger at the TSA is nothing new, and it’s hardly partisan. People screamed about TSA intrusions under Bush, and they scream about them under Obama. Oddly, at least so far as bureaucrats are concerned, many people seem to object to being groped, electronically stripped, herded, told to shut up and otherwise abused just so they can make an early-morning  business meeting or drag the kiddies through the purgatory that is a Disney theme park.

But the Paul incident raises problems for some pundits — specifically, because the victim was a (presumptively evil) libertarian-ish conservative Republican, and the perpetrators were (presumptively angelic) unionized government workers. The result, at least at Gawker, was an odd rant about white, educated libertarians (author Max Read doesn’t seem too well-endowed with melanin himself, though I know nothing of his educational bona fides), followed by a bizarre tantrum about the supposed low stakes and “inconsequential” violations inherent in TSA procedures, so that libertarians should just shut up already about travel restrictions and pay more attention to the war on drugs.

Because … libertarians have been sadly overlooking the drug prohibition issue for lo, these many years, I guess.

Read then concludes by taking a labor-meathead route to a neo-conservative, law-and-order conclusion:

[T]he act of refusing a pat down, and calling it a “detention,” comes across as an unbelievably petty dramatic fit instead of the imagined noble stand against an oppressive government. Couple that with the fact that TSA agents are union workers, often minorities, just trying to do their jobs, and it’s really difficult to feel like this is a “stand” worth taking at all. Just let them pat you down, guy. Stop holding up the line.

Wow, Max. It must be embarrassing to be you. But it’s worse for your mom, I’ll bet.

Esquire‘s Charles P. Pierce didn’t even try for coherent, simply smirking about the incident and speculating that Rand Paul would have had no objections to a grope conducted by Tennessee authorities because — ha! ha! — ummm …

I guess because Paul necessarily supports civil liberties protections only against federal authorities? Pierce really needs to add a footnote there. Just to clarify.

Jessica Pieklo of Care2 suggests that the universe has a sense of humor, because Rand Paul was on his way to an anti-abortion rally when he was detained, and only people who share her overall views are entitled to have any of their rights protected.

That’s also Steve Benen’s position, at the Washington Monthly.

And Library Grape reads from the same script.

Oh, c’mon. I’m pro-choice, too, but do we really want to go to the position of “if you don’t agree with me, then this is just an exercise in irony and you get what you deserve”? That path seems a little … messy. I guarantee you that few, if any of these bloggers will satisfy even each others’ civil liberties purity tests (and certainly not mine), which is likely to leave us all grabbing our ankles, unprotected because of our ideological imperfections.

Which, I guess, is OK, so long as the violators are good, unionized, blue-collar types. Right?

A little Vonnegut, a little Coen brothers …

The latest review of High Desert Barbecue is from Prometheus Unbound, “a libertarian review of fiction and literature.” It’s a thoughtful and, I’m happy to say, very positive review. My favorite part is this:

I think the best word to describe the book is ‘fun’. The peculiar characters and the humor they create fit perfectly with the lean style and fast story. It is equal parts prose that Kurt Vonnegut would approve of, eccentricity like you might find in a Coen brothers dark comedy, and libertarian morals embracing the permissive side.

You can find the full review here (but be sure to check out the rest of the site).

Marijuana less damaging to lungs than tobacco

Very interesting report from the Los Angeles Times. I suggest you spark up a bowl to celebrate:

Marijuana smoke does not damage lungs in the same manner as tobacco smoke, according to a study released Tuesday. But that conclusion probably will not change minds as to whether the drug should be legalized.

The study found that smoking marijuana on an occasional basis does not appear to significantly damage the lungs. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., the paper supports previous research that has also failed to find a link between low or moderate exposure to marijuana smoke and lung damage. Marijuana contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke.

Unfortunately, the article is likely right that “the conclusion probably will not change minds as to whether the drug should be legalized.” That’s because prohibition has more to do with power and fear of pleasure than it does with science.

‘I don’t care if they are shot themselves’

Today is the funeral for Officer Jared Francom, the Ogden, Utah, police officer killed last week in a shootout with Matthew David Stewart at Stewart’s home. Five other police officers were injured in the gun battle, as was Stewart. The reason police were at the scene? Stewart was suspected of growing marijuana for personal use. His father said he used marijuana to treat his severe depression.

As you might guess, my take on the incident is a contrarian departure from the fervent celebration of the sacrifices made by the thin blue line. To that end, let me quote Herbert Spencer who, when told that British troops were at risk during their latest uninvited venture through the Khyber Pass, replied, “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”

Yes, that’s harsh stuff, but I think that Spencer’s argument that human beings are moral actors who have to shoulder the consequences of their choice to support imperialist adventures can just as easily be applied to the actions of police officers who willingly don badge and gun to enforce immoral laws against consensual activities. British troops in Spencer’s time were volunteers, and so are police officers in modern America. Nobody forced them to take the job, and they have a responsibility to consider the moral consequences of their actions.

Spencer believed that wars of aggression would be less likely if men considered the justification for each war before donning uniforms, and it’s just as likely that intrusive laws would be harder to enforce if people thought through the laws for which they’d act as muscle before pinning badges to their chests. It would be equally helpful if bystanders would refrain from automatic accolades for soldiers and cops, just because they decided to serve the state.

Even when the folks in uniform are courageous, they deserve praise only when their efforts are in a good cause.

So, for now, I’ll reserve my strongest sympathies for Matthew David Stewart, whose life is now essentially over, whether he ends it in prison or strapped to a gurney. After all, he was defending himself and his property in that battle, even if his cause was as doomed as that of the Afghan army in 1878.

Fast and Furious scandal looks increasingly like a plot from a bad novel

“ATF officials didn’t intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called ‘Demand Letter 3’. That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or ‘long guns.’ Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.”

That’s what CBS is reporting today, in the latest news on the Fast and Furious scandal, in which ATF agents leaned on gun dealers to sell weapons to obvious criminals to … see what would happen? That’s what it seemed like at first, anyway. Of course, what happened is that some of the guns — whoopsies! — were used in murders.

Now, it seems, there was another purpose behind Fast and Furious. According to emails exchanged by ATF officials themselves, the ATF applied pressure to gun dealers to continue sales with which the gun dealers were uncomfortable so that they could point to the purchase of guns by Mexican drug dealers as evidence that further legal restrictions were required on the sale of firearms.

Y’know, if I wrote a novel with this as a storyline, I’d be accused of paranoia and unrealistic plotting.

You can keep your not-so-new nationalism

I’ve always found Teddy Roosevelt to be among the more repugnant of the already repulsive batch of grifters and autocrats we’ve been unfortunate enough to call “Mr. President.” He managed to combine militarism, authoritarianism and economic collectivism with a cult of the state that he called “new nationalism.” As presidential scholar Richard M. Abrams puts it in his discussion of the 26th president, “He spoke righteously for freedom but placed individual liberty in the context of a greater obligation to the nation. He acknowledged that most individuals probably preferred business as usual, to be left to cultivate their own gardens and to pursue modest livelihoods and comforts, but he viewed such an outlook with scorn.”

In economic terms, TR was obsessed with “national efficiency” — a principle he expounded in his (in)famous new nationalism speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. He called for powerful federal and state governments, with all-encompassing powers that allow for no “neutral ground” where people might hide from the government. Said he, “I do not ask for the over centralization; but I do ask that we work in a spirit of broad and far-reaching nationalism where we work for what concerns our people as a whole.”

People who disagreed with his views, he implied (or explicitly stated) were unpatriotic.

If he’d made his speech 20 years later, Teddy Roosevelt’s views could have comfortably clothed themselves in brown shirts (as could those of his cousin who was actually in office at that time).

So, when Barack Obama tramps back to Osawatomie to deliberately echo TR’s speech and views, color me nauseated. “[I]n America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share. … [A]s a nation, we have always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed.”

Once again, the appeal to tribal identity, the call to submerge individual interests in the name of the greater good of the group — as identified by the speaker. And if you don’t agree with the speaker’s very specific idea of what’s good and right? Well, Teddy Roosevelt called you a “reactionary”; Obama, in our psychologized age, insists you and your co-dissidents have “collective amnesia.”

But we live in an age that’s not just psychologized, but fact-checked, and even the Washington Post called bullshit on much of Barry’s supporting evidence for his exhumed not-so-new nationalism.

On Obama’s insistence that “expensive” tax cuts for the “wealthy” are responsible for the current economic mess:

Obama certainly inherited an economic mess, and we have argued he does not deserve blame for the massive loss of jobs early in his administration. But it seems odd to keep blaming poor job growth on the Bush tax cut, especially because Obama himself pushed through a nearly $1-trillion stimulus and took other actions that have affected the economy, for better or worse.

Finally, Obama blames the Bush tax cuts for “massive deficits.” It is certainly true that the Bush tax cuts helped blow a hole in the budget. But they did not do it all by themselves. We looked at length at this issue earlier this year, assisted by new Congressional Budget Office data.

The data showed that the biggest contributor to the disappearance of projected surpluses was increased spending, which accounted for 36.5 percent of the decline in the nation’s fiscal position, followed by incorrect CBO estimates, which accounted for 28 percent. The Bush tax cuts (along with some Obama tax cuts) were responsible for just 24 percent.

And on the president’s insistence that the uber-wealthy are even more successful at tax avoidance than even the Occupiers have charged in their wildest fever-dream accusations:

“Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent — 1 percent. That is the height of unfairness.”

This is a striking statistic. But the only evidence that the White House could offer for it was a TV clip of a conversation on Bloomberg TV, in which correspondent Gigi Stone made this assertion during a discussion about the tax strategies that the very wealthy use to avoid paying taxes.  The TV clip was promoted by the left-leaning website Think Progress.

Stone quoted from a Bloomberg News article last month that reported on such tax strategies, which mostly involve complicated ways to defer paying capital gains taxes. But the article never made the one-percent claim. It also noted that the IRS had gotten more hostile to such transactions in recent years.

An administration official conceded the White House had no actual data to back up the president’s assertion, but argued that other reports showed that some of the wealthy pay little in taxes.

The Post even quoted Judge Learned Hand pointing out that “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury.”

So, calls for authoritarianism founded on appeals to tribal identity, based on manufactured data. Thanks anyway, but I’ll pass.

Police officers overwhelmingly think I’m right. Or not.

Government officials are fond of deferring to the opinion of police officers when defending restrictive laws and intrusive procedures. Time and again, we’re told that “rank-and-file police officers overwhelmingly support this law banning the sale of X” or “police officers overwhelmingly favor the extension of this law requiring Y.” That’s supposed to be the conversation-killer. Cops want this or oppose that, and so the debate is finished!

The presumption, of course, is that it not only matters what police officers think, but that the preferences of the folks in blue (and plainclothes) should carry overwhelming weight. That’s a dubious premise, but one that goes, all too frequently, unchallenged in debates over public policy in the United States. To hear politicians talk, you might as well replace legislatures with random delegations from local police departments and scrap public-opinion polling in favor of whatever you can overhear at a neighborhood cop-bar.

But even for people who accept the unassailable value of the political and legal preferences harbored by the gendarmerie, the assumption is that we actually hear and know what police officers think — that we have been presented an accurate representation of their beliefs.

But what if what we’re hearing is bowdlerized to the point of being unrepresentative? What if many cops are afraid to speak their minds, so instead hold their tongues or feed us bullshit?

That’s the question raised by a New York Times article that tells the whole tale in a headline: “Police officers find that dissent on drug laws may come with a price.” The article features stories such as that of a Border Patrol officer who found his pro-legalization musings had pretty stiff consequences:

Stationed in Deming, N.M., Mr. Gonzalez was in his green-and-white Border Patrol vehicle just a few feet from the international boundary when he pulled up next to a fellow agent to chat about the frustrations of the job. If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.

Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”

After citing similar cases, the Times quotes an anonymous police officer who sees such penalties for ideological non-conformity breeding a culture of closed-mouths among law-enforcers.

Among those not yet ready to publicly urge the legalization of drugs is a veteran Texas police officer who quietly supports LEAP and spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “We all know the drug war is a bad joke,” he said in a telephone interview. “But we also know that you’ll never get promoted if you’re seen as soft on drugs.”

It’s not only drugs, either. In 1994, the Free Lance Star of Virginia reported that the police officers who had publicly appeared in support of the just-passed federal “assault weapons” ban hadn’t been informed of the nature of the photo-op until they arrived. And they weren’t all on board with the gun ban to which they were supposed to provide a supportive backdrop.

Not all of the officers supported the ban, however, and one of them, John Donaggio, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria that claims [Chief] Stover violated his rights.

Donaggio, 29, said he was ordered to go to the Capitol, stand on the steps, pose for photographs, and keep his objections private. His lawsuit says that the chief and the county illegally forced him into political activity and violated his right to free speech.

It’s not hard to extrapolate from cases like this to others involving high political stakes. If police officers can be disciplined for opposing the received wisdom on drug prohibition and gun control, why wouldn’t they also face consequences for dissenting on search and seizure, SWAT tactics, immigration …

Police officers work under tight discipline in government agencies under leaders who are political appointees, or politicians themselves. That’s not a good recipe for the fair airing of unvarnished opinions that oppose those of people further up the hierarchical food chain.

So, police officers overwhelmingly support Policy X when they’re ordered to? Or, at least, when they fear for their job security if they don’t?

That’s a somewhat less compelling argument, don’t you think?

High Desert Barbecue — now without icky DRM

If I had it to do over again, I probably would have published the Kindle and Nook editions of High Desert Barbecue without digital rights management. After all, DRM has gone by the wayside for music, and people eagerly hand over their cash to Amazon and other vendors for mp3 albums that can be copies again and again. Honestly, I don’t think there’s an eager underground market salivating at the opportunity to pirate my novel rather than hand me a penny shy of three bucks.

But I used the DRM defaults on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and you’re locked in after you do that, unless you want to unpublish a book, republish it and start over from scratch. I’m not doing that.

So, perceiving that there is some demand for a DRM-free version of my book, as well as hostility to Amazon, I went to Lulu. Originally, I was going to publish an epub version of the book through Lulu, but after several hours of frustration, Lulu is still refusing an epub that is at least as meticulously formatted as the version Barnes and Noble is peddling with no difficulty (and Lulu’s in-house conversion of my doc files — which the company would, apparently, willingly sell — looks like somebody puked alphabet soup onto a page). So those of you seeking an alternative will have to settle, for now, for a pdf file of High Desert Barbecue. Lulu also sells its wares around the world, which should alleviate some of the frustration international buyers are having with Amazon and B&N.

High Desert Barbecue (No DRM)

The reviews are coming in

I’m happy to say that not only are the reviews starting to roll in for High Desert Barbecue, but they’ve all concluded, so far, that the book is worth reading. That’s not to say that I’m getting unalloyed praise, Two of the reviews, in particular, have pointed out what the authors perceive as flaws in the story, analyzed the pluses and minuses, and ultimately concluded that High Desert Barbecue is still worth buying and reading.

The reviews so far:

“[B]reezy tone and brisk pacing carry the reader along a novel that combines action and satire the whole way through.”
–Scott Stein, author of Mean Martin Manning, in When Falls the Coliseum

“[A] very polished novel. The plot rolls smoothly forward, propelled by multiple shifts of perspective, and by a careful balance between narrative and libertarian preaching.”
— Sean Gabb, author of The Churchill Memorandum and (as Richard Blake) the excellent Aelric historical-novel series, at the UK Libertarian Alliance blog

“I found the way his protagonists dealt with their dilemma quite easy to follow, and the story delightful.”
Joel Simon, author of Walt’s Gulch and Songs of Bad Men and Good

“This is a fun read. It’s lively. It’s funny. The protagonists are likeable, believable characters.”
— Claire Wolfe, author of Hardyville Tales, in Backwoods Home Magazine

I like praise as much as the next guy. Well, I probably like it more, actually. So my thanks to all of the reviewers for taking the time to read High Desert Barbecue, and then putting aside even more time to think about what they read and to write down their reactions. Extra special thanks because they all liked the book and recommended its purchase.

Sean Gabb raised an interesting point in his review when he wrote “the state socialists have had popular culture as their transmission mechanism, and our movement is filled with people who think that novel writing is somehow letting the side down. Of course, if we are to get anywhere at all, we need our Hoppes and we need our L. Neil Smiths. And we need Jerome Tuccille.” Needless to say, I agree with Dr. Gabb on this point (you need me, people!). Libertarians and conservatives often complain about the saturation of popular media with anti-freedom ideas, including hostility to private enterprise and excessive deference to the state. I think those complaints are often justified. But since the control freaks of the world show no inclination to give up movie-making or writing songs and novels, the burden falls to us to counter ideas we dislike with work of our own that (this is important) stands on its own artistic merits while incorporating an appreciation for freedom, small government, individual initiative and the like. And the DIY revolution has made the creation and marketing of music and books, in particular, easier than ever before.

Those contributions to the culture have to be good, though, not just “correct.”

Claire Wolfe and Joel Simon (who wrote his review based on a book he bought, may I add!) were tougher on Higher Desert Barbecue than were Stein or Gabb, but I think their reviews are very thoughtful and fair. In both cases, their criticisms may come from the style to which I aspired, and which I, perhaps, did not execute with complete success.

Wolfe wrote, “Tuccille stuffed this book with such a huge crew of villains I only began to be able to tell them apart halfway through the story, and some remained vague blurs all the way to the end.” Simon similarly criticized my bad guys as “almost uniformly one-dimensional and whose actions often descend into slapstick.”

Well … I admit it. I had fun with the villains in the book, but I liked the protagonists. Rollo, Scott and Lani are constructed as real people (yes, I knew a guy like Rollo, and he lived for a while in a tent I loaned him after he was cut off from his campsite by a wildfire), while Jason, Van Kamp, Greenfield and company are types, drawn from people I have met, but pushed to extremes. Although, to be honest, some people can seem awfully cartoonish even in real life — because, I think, they themselves aspire to be more types than to be fully developed people. That’s especially true of “followers” who … Never mind; this takes me in a more psychological direction than I ever intended with High Desert Barbecue.

Wolfe also wrote, “it mostly lacks a feeling of peril (until near the end) … [a]nd the ending is just too pat; no way would things have come together so neatly.” This squares with Simon’s point that “[t]he ending is rather pat, and smacks of deus ex machina in a way I wish Tuccille had been able to find a way around but honestly I can’t think of a way to improve it …”

Simon also wrote, “Because HDB treats its subject matter lightly but it is really not a light subject, the book sometimes veers rather unevenly between drama and comedy.”

As I said above, I think the criticisms of both Claire Wolfe and Joel Simon stem from my effort to write a farce that’s both absurd and a bit dark. Tom Sharpe handled that balancing act well, I think, in The Throwback and, especially in his South Africa novels, such as Riotous Assembly. There’s quite a bit of that to Harry Crews’s writing as well.  I’m thinking “grenade” in the book Body.

But I don’t want to argue “they didn’t get what I was doing” because it’s up to the author to clearly transmit what he’s doing. Intending to write dark comedy isn’t the same thing as doing it well. I don’t think I blew it, but I think it’s quite likely, on this first outing into fiction, that I didn’t handle the story and the style quite as deftly as I would have liked. It is very likely true that, as Claire Wolfe says, High Desert Barbecue is “very much a first novel, with all the imperfections of that breed.”

In the end, I’m very pleased that, even after dissecting the flaws in the novel both Claire Wolfe and Joel Simon agreed with Gabb and Stein that High Desert Barbecue is worth buying, reading and keeping in your library. Wolfe writes, “Its very unseriousness, its wackiness, its ‘gang that couldn’t shoot straight’ bad guys, even its over-simplification, would make it a terrific movie,” while Simon says, simply, “[y]ou should buy it.”

I’m quite proud of what I accomplished with the book, and I’m pleased that the people reading it seem to be enjoying it so far.

And, of course, I’m going to take Claire Wolfe’s and Joel Simon’s criticisms into account — along with others to come — so that my future work is that much better.

But, remember, folks. You can’t know if the critics are on the mark unless you buy the book (only $2.99 for the Kindle and Nook ebooks and $11.99 for the trade paperback) and read it for yourselves!