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GREED is good

Greed-300dpiIt’s official peeps, book number two has a cover. And it’s another beauty. I thought the Exhibit A folk had caught lightning in a bottle with PENANCE, but the cover for GREED is even better. Seriously, if there is a publisher out there consistently coming up with better cover art than the Angry Robot family, I’d like to know who they are. Have you seen the cover of Chuck Wendig’s BLACKBIRDS? Or Chris Holm’s Collector series? Or any of the titles by my fellow Exhibit A authors?

For my devoted followers (yes, all three of you, and we’ll be having the annual appreciation dinner in the corner booth at Denny’s soon, watch for your invites), GREED may throw you. You saw the book go through its first draft live on the blog as THE GRAVITY OF MAMMON, which was actually a shorter version of my first working title, THE INEXORABLE GRAVITY OF MAMMON. After we’d settled on PENANCE as the title of my debut, though, the title was cut down to MAMMON – the thinking being we’d brand the series with one-word, biblical sounding titles. Ran into some concern that too many readers may be unfamiliar with the word mammon, though, so we’ve settled on GREED. And those who raised that concern may have a point. When I ran this post through spell check, it kept lighting up mammon. For the record, Matthew 6:24 from the King James Bible:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Be that as it may, GREED works just fine. Still one word, still biblical – one of the seven deadlies, after all. After you’ve read the book, I’m betting you’ll agree.

You may recall my excitement at the PENANCE cover because of its connection to Chicago’s history. And that was fitting because the city’s history played a major role in that novel. I’m excited about the cover of GREED for another reason. When I saw Marina Towers (the round building for you non-Chicagoans) I couldn’t help but think of the climatic scene from Steve McQueen’s last movie, The Hunter. If it’s good enough for Steve McQueen, it’s good enough for me.

Watch for GREED right after Christmas, when you’re looking to cash out all those bookstore gift cards you asked for.

To celebrate my new cover, I’m giving away an autographed copy of PENANCE. Just leave a comment on this post. In a week or so, I’ll drop all the names in an empty highball glass and pick a winner.

So I don’t blog for a couple of months, then, when I finally decide to break radio silence, it’s about Obamacare? Sure, why not. Go ahead and alienate at least half the population no matter what I say.

Anyway, here’s the thing. The premium numbers are in – first year numbers anyway. All along, a big part of the Republican narrative has been that premiums under Obamacare would be far too expensive. But the national average comes in at $328 a month. I’ve got pretty good health insurance through my employer, and I pay $314.28 a month – and that’s after what my employer chips in. Not to mention that, under Obamacare, health insurers are required to cover a wide range of preventative care items that insurers are not required to cover currently and they also can’t disqualify people because of pre-existing conditions. All in, it looks like a fair deal.

Here’s another thing. With Obamacare in place, I don’t have to base my employment decisions on health insurance anymore. And I’ve had to do that for the last twenty-some years. I’ve got kids, two of whom have disabilities. You add up drugs, therapy, doctor’s visits, those disabilities get real damn expensive. Drop out of an employer plan, and those disabilities turn into pre-existing conditions. That happens, not only would I end up paying at least twice what I pay now in premiums just to have coverage, the coverage I get wouldn’t include the bulk of the medical expenses I rack up.

The employment thing is a two-way street. Another scare tactic that the right has been throwing around is that employers are going to stop offering coverage (never mind that the legislation actually will force more of them to offer coverage or else pay a penalty). But suppose they do? If you can buy coverage on your own for more or less what you’d pay if you were buying it through your employer, then what difference does it make?

Let me make one thing real clear here. I’m not bashing employers. The way the healthcare system has evolved in this country has put too many of them in a real trick bag. For a variety of very complex reasons, health care in the US costs way more than it does in other countries, and that cost keeps going up faster than the rate of inflation. So the cost of providing insurance as an employee benefit keeps going up, too. To stay competitive in the talent market, employers have to figure out a way to afford that. I don’t blame them for wondering how your health care became their problem. If, eventually, Obamacare ends up weaning employees off the employer tit, if it ends up making your health care decisions independent of your employment decisions, I say that’s a good thing. Good for you and good for your employer.

And here’s another thing. If, in the long run, Obamacare ends up defragmenting the heath care market in the US, if it ends up providing an overarching structure that will finally allow market forces to force some rationality and consistency on to health care pricing, then our ridiculously expensive and Byzantine health care industry might get less expensive simply because it will get less Byzantine.

Yet another thing – the name. See, it’s really called The Affordable Care Act. The Tea Party types dubbed it Obamacare in the mistaken belief that their reflexive antipathy to every action taken by the black guy with the funny name was universally held and that, by tying the plan directly to the man they could insure its defeat. Didn’t work out that way. Ironic, really. The basic design of Obamacare was the product of the Heritage Foundation – a right-wing think tank. It was famously instituted in a very similar form in Massachusetts by a republican governor, Mitt Romney. And why not? The inexorably intertwined issues of health care coverage for all Americans and our irrationally expensive health care system have been begging for an effective policy response for decades. If Obamacare works, and the early signs are that it just might, it will go down in history as one of the most important public policy initiatives in the post-war era. It could have been a policy that the right claimed as its own, or at least one of bipartisan lineage. Instead, the far right has given full credit to the man they hate the most.

One final thing. Like it or not, Obamacare is the law. It was passed by the house and the senate. It was signed by the president. It was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. The right doesn’t like it. Everybody understands that. The Tea Party wing that has hijacked the Republican party has attempted over and over to repeal the law without success. They did their best to make the last presidential election a referendum on Obamacare. They lost. Unable to scuttle Obamacare through the democratic process, they are now threatening to shut down the government and even default on our nation’s obligations – every penny of which Congress had to vote to incur – in an effort to try to stop Obamacare. They are willing to risk tipping a still-fragile economic recovery back into recession because they can’t get their way at the ballot box. They are holding an economic gun to your head.

We have a name for people who try to frighten populations into complying with the will of the minority by threatening their well being.

We used to call them terrorists. Now, I guess, we can start calling them republicans.

Reading to the Book Mouse crowd in my tough-guy pink shirt

Reading to the Book Mouse crowd in my tough-guy pink shirt

One of the first things I remember crime uber agent Stacia Decker telling me was to make friends with indie book stores – how they were the ones who were going to hand-sell your books and could really make a difference in attracting new readers. Last night was a perfect example of that.

Just before my book launched, I got an email from The Book Mouse, an indie in Ottawa, IL. Ottawa’s a town of 18,000 or so about a hundred miles southwest of Chicago, located on the banks of the Illinois River (the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate for you history fans out there). They asked if I’d be willing to come down for one of their author dinners. For these, they sell tickets. The ticket gets you a copy of the book and dinner with the author at a local restaurant. You eat, socialize, and after dinner do a reading and answer questions. I said I’d love to, but I was wondering how much luck they’d have selling tickets for a debut author nobody’s heard of.

The dinner was last night. Turns out they do pretty well.

The dinner was at a place called Hank’s Farm, a charming, rustic joint in a converted barn on Illinois 71. I was a little unsure on travel times and erred on the side of caution, so I got there a little early, just as Greg, the host from the bookshop, was setting up in a private dining room. The u-shaped table looked like it was set for about 30. I had visions of sitting in this expanse of plates and glasses with maybe four or five people.

But, by 5:00, the place had filled up. I had a delightful dinner talking with the people seated near me. I wish I’d been able to visit more with some of the other guests. Some of them had already read PENANCE, some of them were just picking up their copy that night. I learned a lot about Ottawa and environs – and now I really need to read up on these murdered nurses at the local state park. After the meal and a gracious introduction from Greg, I got up to do my reading.

I was a little worried. The chapter I usually use at my readings is pretty raw. The first sentence reads “Jesus Stosh, I knew you’d stick your dick in a light socket if you thought you’d get away with it, but this is fucking nuts.” The thing is, the crowd tended a little older and a little female. I warned them that I was going to use some bad language and that there would be blood. I had visions of a mass exodus of disgusted solid citizens filing out after stopping to see Greg to demand refunds.

But they were great. They seemed to enjoy the reading and they asked some pretty insightful questions for probably half an hour. I had a wonderful time and, unless they were just exceedingly polite, it seems the folks who turned out did, too.

Talked with Greg a little before I left. The Book Mouse had sold 30 copies of PENANCE as part of the dinner and, he thought at least 15 or 20 copies independent of that. Sold them largely, I think, because Greg liked the book and had been pushing it. He had a pile of stock for me to sign before I left, so it looks like he’s planning on selling more. But, so far, maybe 50 copies out of a small indie in a town of 18,000 in rural Illinois.

Forget pimps, it’s tough out there for a writer these days. We need all the friends we can get. I have to count The Book Mouse as a very good friend indeed.

Today’s my daughter’s birthday. She’s 23. She’s bright, she’s tough, she’s compassionate and she makes me proud everyday.

Today is also day three of Chuck Wendig’s sermon on misogyny, rape culture, and the disgusting tribe of jackass dickweeds who think that the girls getting into their gaming clubhouse is going to get menses all over everything and ruin their fun.

I’m old enough that I missed the whole video-gaming thing. The more I hear about these freaks, the happier I am about that. But it makes me sad. See, I work in the real, grown-up world with people who, by and large, realize that men and women are all individuals with their own issues and problems; that testosterone and estrogen are just hormones – hormones that each of us have in varying amounts by the way – not toxins; a world where the kind of laughable woman-hating crap these freaks are throwing around would get you laughed at. And then fired.

Now I find that my daughter still has to live with this bullshit – and that her own generation is leading the charge.

There have always been terrified little men hiding in basements who could never quite make their way in the world and who settled on women as the reason why. Women were busting their balls. Women were making them want to do unspeakable things and then not responding to their awkward advances in the way they hoped. Women inflamed their weird little pathologies, so women MUST have caused them. Why, if it weren’t for women, they’d be out of the basement and having a life just like everyone else.

Thing is, those guys used to be alone or, if not alone, maybe they had this one friend, one other guy who stayed stuck in the girls-have-cooties stage with them, one other guy who couldn’t get a date and didn’t understand why, and the two of them would play Risk alone in the basement and talk about how women ruined their lives, hell, how women ruined everything. And then they’d yell up the stairs at their mothers every few hours about how they were out of root beer and cheese puffs.

But they knew they were alone. They knew they weren’t normal. They knew that everybody else managed somehow. If they were smart, they got help. If they weren’t they stayed in that basement and got older and weirder and did it alone.

Then the Internet came along. They could google “women ruin everything” and find crap like this. Suddenly, these psychologically stunted untermensch didn’t feel alone. They had a community. They validated each other. They imagined that, instead of being maladjusted dweebs blaming their own failures on the mysterious power of women, they were generals in some underground game-nerd army fighting a guerilla war against the estrogen toxin, especially when it tried to worm its way into to their secret tech lairs.

And not just poor little boys permanently stuck in an imaginary pre-adolescent gender war either. Skinheads found their racist ilk. Religious nutjobs of every stripe could band together in their often misogynistic little tribes. Every hateful mental pathology found its own twisted echo chamber where its members could convince each other that they weren’t fuck ups, they were RIGHT.

Sometimes I miss the old days.

Chuck’s point today is that we have to speak out, all of us, even the men. That doesn’t make us heroes or anything any more than saying gravity makes us stick to the ground would make us Isaac Newton. But there has to be noise in the system, enough of it so that these stunted twits realize that, while they might have found a few hundred or a few thousand like-mined losers in the vastness of cyberspace, there are hundreds of thousands, even millions of people out there to remind them they are still wrong, they are still maladjusted and lost little boys hiding in basements. They might have found a few more silly little friends, but they are still what they always were. Frightened children who never managed to grow up.

Penance-144dpiMy debut novel is finally out. You can pick up PENANCE at bookstores, well, not everywhere exactly, but it’s at a lot of them, or through the usual online suspects like Indiebound, Barnes & Noble or Amazon, or, if you’re the ebook type, you can get it direct from Exhibit A. So run out and get a copy. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back already? Purty, ain’t it?

Chicago’s dubious political history figures prominently in PENANCE, so, to celebrate, I thought I’d commemorate Illinois’s delightful political heritage with an election of my own. What political heritage you ask? Well, a University of Illinois study found more than 1,000 politicians and businesspeople convicted of public corruption in Illinois since 1970. And name another state whose last two governors have spent time in the clink.

So here’s the deal. I’m running a contest to find THE MOST CORRUPT POLITICIAN OF ALL TIME! That’s right, the granddaddy of political malfeasance, the capitain of clout, the ayatollah of pay-ola, the… aw hell, you get the idea.

And ya’ll are gonna help.

Send me a one-paragraph nomination for your political scumbag of choice. It can be anyone from anywhere at anytime in history. I’ll pick the four that amuse me most and then we’ll have us an election. Nominators for each of the Final Four will get to hijack my blog for a day to make their nominating speech, then everybody will get to vote for their favorite.

Remember, this is a Chicago election. Dirty tricks and bribes are not only allowed, they’re encouraged. Vote early, vote often and use any means necessary to curry my favor. You wanna mail me bacon? Cool. Wanna pose au natural with your copy of PENANCE? Who am I to stifle your political creativity. Go ahead, have some fun.

Nominations are due by June 1. June will be convention month. I’ll pick the Final Four and assign guest blog dates. Polls open on July 1 with the winner announced on July 11, to mark a really fun date in Chicago history (more on that later).

The winner gets a signed copy of PENANCE along with a copy of my short fiction collection OLD SCHOOL.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! The good folks at Exhibit A are throwing in a one-year ebook subscription that’s worth fifty-two entire British Pounds. I don’t know what that comes to in real American money, but c’mon, what a haul.

STILL NOT ENOUGH? The winner will also be my guest for either burgers at Kuma’s or deep dish pizza at Gulliver’s. (I’ll mail you the books and you get the ebook thingee through the magic of the Interwebs, but you gotta get your own ass to Chicago to collect on the grub.)

So get your nominations in now and start smearing your competitors and sending in your bribes.

May the worst man win.

Old dogs

As I get older, I try to keep the sense of my own decline from infecting my view of everything else. Solipsism is a vice more commonly associated with the young and their often reckless insistence that nothing outside their own minds can possibly matter. They pinball their way through lives, their own and others, until the damage caused and encountered finally breeds a little caution, a realization that there is wisdom in the experience of others, that there are more things on heaven and earth than they had dreamt of in their unseasoned and hormonal philosophies.

There is solipsism in aging, too, the false triumph of experience over memory. The idea that your own creaky knees are the only knees, that the litheness and grace of youth were lies and that decline is truth. The ease with which the optimism and hope you once envisioned is now blotted out by the inexorable yawning maw of the grave.

In short, just because you have your third colonoscopy coming up in a week, you don’t get to assume the whole world is going to shit, too. Your life is esoteric; it’s history that’s universal.

As a younger man, I viewed the arc of history as incontrovertible evidence of the march of progress. Writ large, it still is. Most of us, certainly almost anyone reading this blog, live lives of luxury and privilege that would be the envy of kings and princes in centuries not too long past. Diseases that have been the scourge of man since the dawn of time have been largely eradicated. Instead of regularly confronting starvation we deal with obesity as our bodies, tempered through evolution and tens of thousands of years of scarcity choke on the unexpected largess we have wrung from nature. Politically most of us in the developed world no longer suffer the constant and capricious whims and crushing repression of tyrants and live instead with a balance of security and liberty that, even a few centuries ago, would have seemed the unattainable Utopia of idealistic fools.

As a boy, I watched bull-necked sheriffs turn dogs and fire hoses on my fellow citizens because they dared march for their rights. I saw a huge swath of Chicago burn in riot and rage when their champion was shot down on a Memphis hotel balcony. But I saw laws change, attitudes change, realities change – not enough, not yet, but a lot and in the right directions. Nigger was still common currency in my youth, still tossed around casually by many of my race. Now I only hear it in rap songs.

Fag, homo, queer – these weren’t just pejoratives. For a high school jock in the 1970s they were pedagogical tools. Not tough enough? Not man enough? Then that’s what a coach would call you to goad you back into your rightful place in the world of real men. A coach, an officially sanctioned symbol of authority and the guy who also taught history, who would pound the podium in righteous indignation when decrying the treatment of blacks, of the American Indians, hell of pretty much everybody. In my youth, it would have been progress for homosexuality to even be considered a mental illness. Then it was just a disgusting perversion, one I assumed, given the seeming unanimity of that opinion, to be exceedingly rare. It never occurred to me that, every time those words were used, some of my own team mates, my own classmates, for Christ’s sake my own friends, suffered in shamed and secret silence. It never occurred to me to even think about it. I wasn’t tortured with any horrid homophobia beyond maybe a passing thought that the sexual mechanics of it seemed, well, gross, but in hindsight, I was pretty comfortable with the idea that, should I ever encounter and actual fag, I’d know him right off by his limp wrists, lisping voice and mincing manner. And I wouldn’t like him much.

Until college, until I heard the whispers that the guy down at the end of the dorm room hall was gay, him and the other guy, the guy from the other dorm who used to visit him a lot. Well shit, they both seemed, I dunno, normal. I mean the one guy, he played sports and everything. And maybe, just maybe, if that’s what being a homo was, then it was nothing more than whatever the two of them decided to do while they were behind that closed door. Maybe everything I’d been taught was wrong.

Thirty-five years on, I’ve seen laws change, I’ve seen attitudes change, I’ve seen realities change. Not enough, not yet, but in the right direction.

And then there were the women. Nobody hated them when I was a kid as far as I could tell. People loved their mothers. Most of us thought our sisters were OK. But yeah, things were different. In grade school, girls couldn’t be altar boys, couldn’t be patrol boys – well of course they couldn’t, right? I mean “boy” was part of the title. Girls didn’t have sports teams. They were the cheerleaders. When the nuns picked a handful of us to take an ad hoc field trip into Chicago to see these fancy new computer things our classmate’s dad ran, they just picked boys. Never mind that most of the girls had better grades. Never mind that the dad’s kid was a girl. It’s not like the girls were going to be running those things when they grew up. They were going to be moms. There was a natural order to things, that’s all.

I think I already knew that was wrong. I already knew my own sister was at least as smart as I was, that she wasn’t going to settle like that, and that she shouldn’t have to. By college, the idea that the women in my classes were going to do the same jobs as the guys when they graduated, that felt like a given to me. Yeah, they were going to have a harder time because the old farts who still ran things were dickheads, but surely that would all have changed by now, right? I mean my generation wasn’t going to perpetuate this bullshit, was it?

I’ve seen laws change. I’ve seen attitudes change. I’ve seen realities change. Not just in the right direction, but, in this case, I thought maybe close to enough. I thought maybe society was over the hump on this thing. Sure, there were always going to be some reactionary troglodytes that would never get their misogynistic heads out of there asses, there would always be some bible (or Koran) thumping dickheads so drunk on Jesus juice that they really thought women were just spare ribs cooked up by the hand of their bizarre idea of god in the their science-denying Eden and left here for their use and pleasure. There would always be some of those idiots, but fewer and fewer of them, and more and more marginalized. I thought, as a whole, we were past that.

I guess I was sheltered. I’ve seen young women I know go to Division I schools on athletic scholarships. I’ve been treated by female doctors. In the fields I’ve worked in, women are so common, increasingly even in leadership positions, that the idea of them being sexual chattel in anyone’s mind just seemed laughable. I wasn’t paying enough attention. I was too ready to dismiss the idea that things had not progressed as far as I believed as the strident ranting of overly sensitive feminist types.

Then this Steubenville thing happened. Live and on camera. A girl, either unconscious or barely conscious, being used as a sex toy by a laughing, preening crowd so certain of the propriety of their revolting behavior that they not only weren’t conducting their rape in secret down some dark alley, but that they were taping it, photographing it, tweeting it, celebrating it. And the rapists weren’t products of some distant culture that had indoctrinated them into a woman-hating mindset foreign to our shores. They weren’t even deprived and impoverished inner-city youths desensitized to violence from an anti-childhood spent in an urban war zone. They were normal small-town Midwestern kids.

When their unconscionable acts were revealed, this horrific rape was not met with universal condemnation, but rather with equivocation, as a subject of controversy, as if there was some lens through which it could be viewed that made this rape other than monstrous, that made these rapists other than monsters. When these monsters were found guilty, but guilty as juveniles and so sentenced to one and two years, with the likelihood that their records will be sealed when they are adults, the focus was not on the scars that the victim would bear for the rest of her life, it was on how these fine young gentleman with their shiny GPAs and football skills would now face a tougher lot in life, as though the choice to commit a felony was a tragedy that had befallen the poor boys, not a conscious act of narcissistic and rapacious greed.

The people making these excuses? They weren’t hate-mongering Westboro-baptist nutjobs, they were reporters on CNN. Christ, they were people like me.

And it hit me. Things weren’t moving in the right direction. They were going backwards.

I’m no prude. I think sex is fine. I think it’s great. I think the US has an unhealthy puritanical attitude toward a normal biological impulse, an attitude that is far too influenced by religious traditions bent on the oppression of women and too little influenced by common sense. Paradoxically, we are also a culture that has taken the objectification of women to levels that far exceed those of my youth.

Sure, when I was a kid, women were often used as sex symbols, were often objectified – hell, were usually objectified. But there as the attendant idea that they should be protected. Neither idea was right. Sex should be part of being human, not what makes you inhuman. And nobody should be protected because she is a woman. We all should be protected equally because we are human beings.

Instead, the objectification of women has been amplified as our culture has coarsened. The sexualization is more overt, starts younger and is more constant as technology bombards us through more devices, with more types of media and with fewer constraints. Simultaneously, any idea that a man shouldn’t take advantage of a woman, should instead protect a woman, has been jettisoned as paternalistic sexist garbage. Steubenville is the predictable result.

Should mature, healthy adults be able to celebrate their sexuality in any consensual fashion they choose? Sure. But instead we seem to be raising a society of males turned into voracious sexual gluttons, too many of whom now see the female gender as a self-serve buffet of breasts and genitalia from which they have license to take whatever they want, whenever they want, and with so little fear of consequence that they can tape and tweet their rapes as if life was nothing but a YouTube video, each act itself just a momentary diversion, the reality of it gone when you click the next link. And we seem to be conditioning a generation of young women to accept this as their lot in life, or worse, to encourage and defend it, if the two young women just arrested for threatening the Steubenville rape victim are any indication.

The arc of history, it turns out, does not tilt automatically toward progress. It goes where we drag it.

When it comes to the right of women to control their own sexuality safe from coercion or outright force, when it comes to their right to be seen as complete human beings whose sexuality is no more or less important than that of someone with a penis, when it comes to their right to be treated equally and fairly, we are dragging history in the wrong direction.

PENANCE is coming on April 30.

PENANCE is coming on April 30.

For most of my life people have been telling me I’m inordinately fond of the sound of my own voice. Well, it turns out a few other people like it too. Chuck Wendig had me do a book trailer, John Hornor Jacobs has borrowed my pipes a couple of times, I’ve recorded a mess of my short fiction, and now I’ll be reading the audio book for my debut novel, PENANCE.

(A hat tip here to the folks at AudioGo, who are producing the audio book, for giving a first-timer a shot, and to Emlyn Rees, my editor at Exhibit A, for going to bat for me when I told him that reading the book is something I’d very much like to do. Going to bat, Emlyn, that’s an American thing, has to do with baseball.)

Now, though, I gotta deliver.

See, I like doing voice work. I like the challenge of bringing a story to life by reading it out loud. I’d like to do more of it. But that ain’t gonna happen if I gum this up. Not to mention PENANCE is my book It’s my first book. So I really don’t want to fuck it up.

But I haven’t been a big audio book consumer over the years. Long car trips a couple of times. I still remember the time I was driving the family down to squat at the joint my parents used to rent for the winter in Florida. My Dad did a fair bit of driving in those days and was an audio book fan. We had compatible tastes and he’d just finished Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith. He knew I’d have some long late-night stretches when the kids were asleep and I could finally shut off that damn Raffi tape, so he lent me the cassettes. It was a great production of a great story. (It’s not like nobody’s heard of Martin Cruz Smith or his Arkady Renko novels, but they’re a few years back now, maybe something some of you newer or younger readers haven’t read. I heartily endorse them. In fact, I just finished Stallion Gate, another Smith novel, this one centered around the final weeks of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico that was also tremendous – so a write to check out if you haven’t yet.)

Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, I’m driving to Florida and listening to Polar Star. Now remember, I’m kinda old, so this thing was on a mess of cassette tapes. It’s asshole dark thirty AM somewhere in the bowels of southern Georgia and the story is rocketing along to its climax. The tape ends, one more tape to go. And it’s not there. I even pull over to look for it, and I never pulled over. You can ask my kids. As a parent, I was usually a pretty tolerant, easy going guy. But stick me in a minivan with three young kids and 1,200 miles to cover and I changed. Maybe it was just the daunting task. Maybe it was a side effect of my standard travel diet – Diet Dr. Pepper, Hershey’s Minatures and No-Doz. Stopping was not on my agenda. You need to go to the bathroom? Really? You can take a leak when I need gas, kid. So pulling over, that was a big deal. But I did. I pulled over, woke up the kids and ransacked the van. The tape wasn’t there.

We finally get to my parents’ joint and the first thing my old man does is wiggle that last tape at me with a nasty little smile on his face and say “Looking for this?” Dad didn’t let his evil streak off the leash often, but when he did he knew how to stick it in and break it off.

Anyway, the point is I understand how good an audio book can be. And I’m looking for some help here. Are you and audio book fan? What makes one work for you? Or not work? How much “acting” do you expect – how much differentiation between characters’s voices and such?

Finally, what’s one of your favorites – especially in the thriller genre. I’m listening to several as I prep for my taping, and I’m looking to learn from the best.

So drop your tips and favorites in the comments box. To reward you, I’ll pick two comments at random and send the lucky ducks signed ARCs of PENANCE.