With the completion of a few tweaks, we’ve now finalized the video book trailer for my new Faulk Carpenter Thriller debut novel, THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.

The video is now online at:

The book itself is also online as an Amazon E-Book Original… (wink) but posting it there was an experiment of sorts. I completed the m/s early in the summer, and normally would have sent it around to other authors for pre-revision insights and comments.

But (as we writers all know) that oft tempts commenters to veer into the “if this were MY manuscript, I’d…” -sort of reaction. That’s often less helpful than it might be.

So I mocked up a cover, published it at Amazon, and only then did I ask a list of selected authors & editors to give it a read. My theory was that they would then be reacting to a “book,” not a m/s.

Willy-nilly, that’s precisely what happened. A number of “this worked for me, this didn’t” -comments helped me refine a final version of the novel… based on MY story, rather than what “they” would have written.

And now I feel confident in taking THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES to market with “traditional” publishing houses— or, should we go the other way, selling an improved version as a self-pub release.

In any event, LAW is still up on Amazon for e-purchase. If I sell it to a trad-publisher, we’ll pull it from there… (grin) and the publisher’s version will likely be more expensive.

So better buy it NOW, eh? That way, you get a bargain book… and I get to keep the full royalties.

Enjoy the video book trailer, I hope!

— Earl Merkel

It’s Not About (That) Flag, Folks. It’s About Us…

By Earl Merkel

Commentary & Op-Ed Opinion

June 25, 2015

These days, omnipresent outrage is both a product to peddle AND a tactic for all ideologies to exploit. Even campaigns that begin with the best of intentions routinely turn into a feeding frenzy that makes Godzilla’s cinematic tantrums of urban “renewal” pale in comparison.

The current example: the “outrage” regarding the so-called “Confederate battle-flag.” Sadly, it’s turned a “symbol” —of racism, or of regional pride, or simply of a historical fact; you choose— into a “symptom.”  And that, of a disease that is both highly contagious and potentially fatal to the body-politic.

It’s Orwellian, this rush to stuff inconvenient “symbols” down the Memory Hole; it’s reminiscent of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and carries with it the stench-whiff of other forms of “cleansing”… in Uganda, Serbia, the Middle East, and Nazi Germany.

No, I am not a fan of racism. I have no personal stake in “preserving” the Confederate battle-flag.

But I HAVE witnessed folks turn into a group-think mob; some of them have even been people I personally knew, and I considered some of them to be as “rational” as they were “ethical.” But they weren’t immune to becoming part of that mob; perhaps few people are, when the momentum gathers enough steam.

It would likely be expedient for me to shrug and keep silent about this issue. But I’ve also seen what expedient decisions often lead to, and it’s seldom beneficial.

But neither is any knee-jerk default to yet-another emotion-fueled “outrage.” The ramifications can be perilous, and the results horrific.

— Earl Merkel

“Shure ‘n… What Was That Word?”

FULL DISCLOSURE: Aside from in several movies filmed in the ’30s and ’40s…

…I have NEVER heard a person of Irish extraction actually use the word “begorrah.”

<chuckle> On the other hand, they’ve oft been voracious readers. Even the “Little People” among ’em…

— Earl Merkel

Ransom Me, For The Love Of Heaven!!!

Fallout shoot author

From our “Every Dog Has His Day” -archives: Times have changed since the infamous National Lampoon cover in 1973; today, the extortion notes are being written —and the gun held— by a different paw entirely.

Turnabout is, truly, fair play— but I already hear the snarky chorus-from-critics:

“Fire away, Fido…”

So—since I’m pretty sure the Dog is serious here—clicking on this link may save a life:

— Earl Merkel

POSTSCRIPT NOTE: This is no joke. My She-Beagle is demanding a better grade of Puppy Chow. —EM

This One Is My Grad-Nite Memory. It May Also Be Yours…

Not having updated my iCalendar for years, my Electronic Nagging Device displayed a snarky finger-jab to my ribcage with this morning’s pop-up reminder: “Have you sent out that ‘Grad Nite’ as a freelance submission yet, Slacker?”

No. I haven’t, and don’t intend to do so.

In its various annual re-writes & updates, the kol earned for me some nice bucks over the years. It’s also earned a well-deserved retirement from active service, likely on a warm beach where magazines and op-ed pages are legally banned as unwanted distractions.

But to get iCal off my weary back, I’ll re-print it here. That way, I also won’t have to wait the usual three months before a publication’s future-edition planners schedule it in for their May publication date.

Enjoy, I hope; I still do, myself…          —EM


Bittersweet Reflections On The Untimely End of Innocence…

Op-Ed Column, Commentary by Earl Merkel

Throughout the week, the stories had been in the newspaper: lists of graduating seniors, final high school honors, stories of valedictorians and speakers, all destined for an ultimate fate as clippings in seldom-to-be-opened scrapbooks.

He had read the stories. They had all been happy, optimistic, sounding just as such items always do: This is the beginning, you are embarked on a great adventure! Nowhere could he find an explanation for the vague disquiet the stories caused him. It was just… there, lumps under the wallpaper of an old house.

All he knew was that somehow, the catch-phrases rang hollow– too hearty, like the pitch of a telephone solicitor. It was as if some alarm had been triggered, a warning that should be passed on to the smiling graduates as they walked out the high school doors forever.

The gloom, he decided, must have had its roots in the past: perhaps in another graduation night, now decades ago…

• • •

It is a cool night outside, but in the crowded hallway that flanks the high school gym the temperature is causing sweat to stain the shirts and dresses beneath the graduation robes.

We are all laughing– too loud, too rowdy for school.

But no teacher comes to silence us, no administrator glares us into submission. It is as if they, and we, are suddenly possessed of a wildly liberating fact: we are no longer students here!

That realization seems to have struck each of us at the same instant, a pulsing current that energizes us en masse. As a group, we are each responding to it, true to our own natures.

The guys are punching each other on the arms or chest in the way that high school friends express affection, male to male. The girls are laughing, straightening the mortarboard hats of friends they have known since the first grade. “Steadies” are holding hands that are weighted down with class rings wrapped in wool to fit girlish fingers. “Jocks” are leaning against the school trophy case, cracking crude jokes and trading scatological insults about mistakes made in games that ended years before.

Somebody has smuggled in a transistor radio. It has been providing mainly static, mixed with soft snatches of music: California surfing songs, mostly –the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, or the myriad of one-hit-wonders who imitate them. It is an incongruously popular sound for children of the landlocked Midwest, but one which has been the background soundtrack for our proms, sock hops and moonlight gatherings in fields or empty parking lots over the past four years.

There is a sudden shout over the din — “Listen to this! We’re on the radio!” — and the chaos moderates just enough to hear.

“And to the graduates of” –the disk jockey names our school– “congratulations and good luck. Remember, kids… rock o-o-on!”

It is a minor enough tribute, but on this night it is as if we had been awarded a Nobel Prize.

Pandemonium breaks out. Linda, the effervescent one, the co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, raises her voice to give it form and substance.

“School song! School song!” she yells, and starts to sing the hackneyed embarrassment that had always been guaranteed to elicit catcalls (or worse) during school assemblies.

But not this time.

As Linda’s voice rings out, something curious happens. It affects those closest to her first: the clamor of several hundred frenzied teenagers fades away, the hush rippling outward as if a stone had been thrown into water.

Finally, there is a moment of complete silence from the rest of us, and for an instant Linda’s voice is the only one heard.

Then, from somewhere down the crowded hallway, another joins in.

And then another.

And suddenly we are all singing it, jocks and brains and geeks and hippies; even the small and private knot that invariably formed around Larry, our resident detention-hall thug, has joined in.

We are all singing now, shouting out a tuneless melody that at this moment is more moving than any other music could possibly be.

And we are marching, all four hundred of us. It is a spontaneous victory lap around the hallways that we first slinked along as freshmen and later, as upperclassmen, strode with the arrogance of ownership.

In the tumult, we look around at faces that we have watched change over the past four years– shape-shifting in ways our own must have done while we were looking elsewhere.

There is squeaky-clean Marc, tall and bespeckled and the “brain” of the school. Somehow, in a way that belies our own social-status pyramid, he is wildly popular and has been our class president three of his four years here. A few years hence, he will drop out from Northwestern University; a year after that, he will be immortalized in local legend as the “dirty one with the beard” standing behind Jane Fonda at an antiwar rally.

His name will not be printed in the caption. Still, most of us will recognize him, or think we do. We will stare at the photo in numb shock, using Marc as a yardstick against the distances we too will have traveled since this night.

And there is Tommy, class athlete and letterman in four sports; he too is singing and marching with us. For the first time since any of us have known him, the “superjock cool” is gone, lost in the elation of graduation excitement. Before the summer is out, Tommy will be married and working at the Ford assembly plant across the river.

And there is Jim, who will go on to an engineering degree and a nervous ulcer in college; and Rusty, who will give up a dream of becoming an architect and return to teach in this very school; and Tony, who will return from Vietnam in a uniform and a box.

And there are others, many others, whose names we will at some point lose the ability to recall, but whose faces this night we will never forget.

We sing and remember football games, drama club presentations, lunchroom food fights, and more– the trivial but all-important events that have defined for us our high school years.

We know, particularly on this night, that we will never, never forget these moments.

And we know, with the absolute certainty of youth, that we will always have what we have now: these friends, even these enemies, who jostle alongside us at this wonderful, terrible moment of emancipation.

We know this beyond doubt– for have they not always been there, with us?

All too soon, we are finally herded into the brightly lighted gymnasium where our families await. We file in, flushed with our exertions and our emotions– and perhaps with something else besides; but mercifully, we have no name for it, not yet, and so we deem it of little importance.

Later, after we have received the leatherette folders with our diplomas and have drifted away from the cameras and handshakes of our families, we are at one of the half-dozen graduation parties –planned or impromptu– that are being thrown around town.

We have put off our summer farewells to classmates, thinking we will see them at the parties– all of which we plan to attend…

Somehow, it doesn’t work out that way. After drifting to one or two of the parties, you forget previous intentions and settle back where you are.

It is only later, much later, when you are driving home alone in the almost-new 1968 Chevy that a parent has allowed you this night, that you begin to listen to the car radio through a slightly self-satisfied haze.

The Happenings, a Beach Boys’ sound-alike, are singing. “Will I see you… in September…”

For the first time, you realize that you won’t. — EM

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Putting A Pin (Or Hypodermic Needle) In A “False” Meme…

Blog Post By Earl Merkel

February 17, 2015

There’s a fabricated “quote” —i.e., the “it never happened” sort— STILL making the rounds on social media… despite being debunked as a publication’s (un-labled as) “satire.” I’ve posted it below as the an illustration at the end of this blog.

<chuckle> In fairness, it might be the time to put a pin (or, more fittingly, a hypodermic needle) in the “common knowledge” that the anti-vaccination crowd consists of politically-conservative stereotypes, no?

I’ll quote Seth Mnookin —whom I’ve interviewed in the past and who is by no means a right-winger… but who IS the author of “The Panic Virus: A True Story Of Medicine, Science And Fear,” which focuses on the vaccine-and-autism phenom:

Q: There’s a perception that vaccine refusal is especially common among affluent, well-educated, politically liberal parents—is there any truth to that?

Mnookin: “It’s dangerous to make broad generalizations about a group, but anecdotally and from the overall data that’s been collected it seems to be people who are very actively involved in every possible decision regarding their children’s lives…”

Q: But why liberals?

Mnookin: “I think it taps into the organic natural movement in a lot of ways.

“I talked to a public health official and asked him what’s the best way to anticipate where there might be higher than normal rates of vaccine noncompliance, and he said take a map and put a pin wherever there’s a Whole Foods. I sort of laughed, and he said, ‘No, really, I’m not joking.’ It’s those communities with the Prius driving, composting, organic food-eating people.”

• • •

Okay, I’m sure there are ignorant people from BOTH sides of our gaping-wide political spectrum who have bought into this autism/vaccine stupidity. But let’s admit—honestly and fairly, and particularly on this issue of public health & safety— that using fraudulent Internet “memes” to stoke political division is both inane and rather childish, eh?

If you re-published this particular one without question—or knee-jerk’d a vitriolic comment in response— you should be ashamed… and should apologize, in public.

For the “debunking” of this Raging Rumor, see:

— Earl Merkel

This is the fake— repeat, FAKE— meme mentioned in the above blog. ‚ EM

This is the fake— repeat, FAKE— meme mentioned in the above blog. ‚ EM

(CLICK!) Don’t Move– You’re In A Literary Minefield!

Blog Posting by Earl Merkel

Okay, fellow thriller-writers– having just seen this literary device in yet-another “would you look this over for me” m/s (and having once used it myself in a first draft, mercifully short-circuited by several military folks who stopped me before it was too late), let me suggest an early re-write:

That scene of yours? The one where the guy steps on a buried mine, hears the “click!” and freezes? Cuz if he lifts his foot, it explodes?

My sources inform me that there is not, nor has been, any such mine used by the military.

“Why the &@*% would we?” one of ’em told me. “Step on it, it blows. We’re not using minefields for a &@*%-ing ‘practical joke,’ for $#/^‘s sake…”

I cannot, personally& thankfully, testify to the accuracy of his statement. But he DID seem pretty emphatic about it.

I removed the scene. You might want to do the same. — EM