People ask me why I spend winters away from Canada. Of course, there's the weather. I've never liked the cold, so I've avoided brutal winters for most of the past twenty years. But as much as I hate cold weather, I love walking. I'll walk indoors if I must, but it's the outdoors that truly stimulates my senses. I escape northern cold mainly to maintain my preferred lifestyle and regimen of walking 3-5 days a week in comfortable climes.
I walk as fast as I can to elevate my heart rate. I walk proper distances to burn calories. But mainly, I walk to think. There are no headsets. No earbuds. Just an opportunity to look, listen and feel the environment, while I process and reprocess thoughts, ideas, and plans.
Mostly, I focus on writing. But every walk also includes time for philosophic questions, political issues, challenges or opportunities, and relationships. This winter, I've had the good fortune to take long walks in Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, and Portugal.
Each locale had stimulants and distractions – everything from potentially lethal traffic to almost isolated boardwalks where the only sounds were ocean waves lapping against sandy beaches or birds cheerfully calling out from hiding spots in trees. Regardless of the environment, I returned from each outing recharged physically and creatively.
One recent day, I remembered hearing some people claim great writers like Hemmingway or artists like van Gogh become masters, in part, because of their travel experiences. The American lived twenty years in Cuba, and the Dutch painter lived a year in the south of France after two years in Paris. Both produced works that have become classics. During that recent walk, it occurred to me that while I'll probably never be mentioned in the same paragraph as those geniuses, experiences away from Canada have influenced even my own modest works.
You see, each year my wife and I choose different places to make our temporary home. And every year we experience towns and cities that are sources of information, background, and inspiration.
I try to impart bits of knowledge about places I've lived or visited, weaving them into my stories as seamlessly as possible. In "Three Weeks Less a Day," a favorite passage involving Suzanne Simpson probably would not have been as captivating if I hadn't spent considerable time in Japan. My long stays in Ft. Myers, Florida added color to John George Mortimer's company in "The Multima Scheme." And in ‘Unrelenting Peril', I would never have marooned Howard Knight in a town as exquisite and intriguing as Colonia del Sacramento if I hadn't lived there for a few weeks while I was writing the story.
Much of the knowledge I've accumulated about villages, towns, and cities around the world came while walking. Even moving as fast as I can, I see more. I notice details often missed from a car or tour bus. I hear the heartbeat of a town's activities. But most important, at some time during a stay, I invariably feel the place has become a part of me. As you read my stories, I hope you detect and enjoy some the personal attachment I've made to locales around the world from walking their streets and trails.
I looked at the date of my last Rendezvous Blog and was astonished to see it was more than a year since my last communication. For that I apologize. I owe readers and site visitors more frequent updates. And for 2019 I’ll be here more often.
First, what happened to 2018? When I last communicated with you, it was to announce that TellWell would publish my second novel “The Multima Scheme”. Naturally, I was inundated with a myriad of small details from January to March as I worked with the team from TellWell to publish the book. Thankfully, we released it on schedule in April.
Meanwhile, I wrote the first 30 chapters of Unrelenting Peril. Mixed into the finishing touches for one book and starting to write another, we squeezed in a trip to South America, followed by 2 months in Costa Rica. There, several family members and friends visited for a week or two at a time. I loved their company and enjoyed our sightseeing but neglected my blog.
Back in Canada, it was time to start promoting The Multima Scheme. For the first time, Canada’s largest book retailer was interested in working with me and we scheduled 30 personal appearances in the greater Toronto area. It was a real pleasure to meet so many new readers and sign copies of both Three Weeks Less a Day and The Multima Scheme. Books started to sell, reprinting became necessary, and I continued writing Unrelenting Peril through the remainder of the year. Meanwhile, the blog was forgotten.
We slipped into 2019 almost without realizing it as preparation for publishing Unrelenting Peril took over. Last week we announced that mission accomplished—one month ahead of plan—and now it’s time to work on sales of the books again.
As you may know, unknown authors get very little support from publishers. So, this time I decided to self-publish and take ownership of not only the rights to the book but its commercial success. For 2019, I plan to take a break from writing another novel to concentrate on sales of the existing three. I’m delighted support from Chapters-Indigo continues and grows. Already, we have 35 signing events planned in the GTA for the period April-August. I’m expecting to schedule at least that number for the following five months throughout other cities in Ontario.
So, in 2019 I have no excuses. There will be adequate time to share thoughts and ideas with you and I plan to do that every month, right here in the Rendevous Blog. I’ll explain some of the joys and tribulations of an author. I’ll let you know about some of the great people I encounter during my personal appearances. And I’ll probably share a thought or two about other things in our world.
In return, I ask only for your continued interest and support. I’m profoundly grateful for every social media ‘like’ and ‘share’, every visit to a signing event, and every recommendation about my novels to a friend, family member or neighbor. Thank you for every one!
It’s been over three months since my last blog communication. Apologies, faithful followers! It won’t happen again. But here’s where we are with preparation for Novel Number 2.
I always try to craft a good story that readers will enjoy. My methods may differ from other authors because I actively seek and welcome input. During August, I asked two professional editors to meticulously review the latest manuscript of my second novel and suggest ways to improve the final product. I also asked six readers whose judgment I value – male and female, young and not so young – to swear confidentiality and read the manuscript. From them too, I encouraged feedback and critical input.
Despite my best efforts to provide these people a clean, well-written, and error-free manuscript, they’ve managed to identify lots of little issues that I, Word spellcheck, and Grammarly all missed. They also offered some good suggestions about ways to thicken the plot or improve the storyline. Some wondered if I went a little heavy on sex. Others simply loved the story without changing a thing. I take all feedback very seriously, so for the next few weeks I was busy touching up typos, spelling, and grammar. Then, I read every word from cover to cover again – six times in all -- considering each suggestion for improvement. With each reading I re-wrote or tweaked passages to incorporate ideas I decided work well for this novel.
Since November, I’ve been negotiating with publishers. I’ll be changing publishers for this book because I’m determined to work with one who will offer more competitive pricing. Within a few days, I’ll make an announcement. In the meantime, I value your support to boost sales of Three Weeks Less a Day. Reviews are especially useful. It seems with almost every new review on Amazon, GoodReads, Indigo, or any of the online book retailers we see a few more sales. If you can make a few moments to post a review, I’ll be grateful.
Please also share this post with your friends so they can keep pace with progress on the coming story. And be sure to let them know they’ll find the new novel even more enjoyable if they’ve read Three Weeks Less a Day. I can tell you some of the characters you enjoyed in that story will play even more exciting roles in the story to come!
Some of you have been wondering what I’ve been up to since release of Three Weeks Less a Day. Regular followers know that we had a surge of promotional activity immediately after publishing the novel, then some publicity and signings in Florida.
In Spring, I built some selling momentum around Mother’s and Father’s Day advertising. Next, I’ll be arranging some book signings and publicity for the autumn book selling season. I value your support to help spread the word about Three Weeks a Day. And, I particularly appreciate all who have made time to rate and review the book on Amazon, GoodReads, and other popular sites. Thank you!
Throughout these promotional activities, I’ve also been hard at work on a second novel! Many of you know I don’t like questions about a book while I’m writing, and I especially appreciate those who don’t ask “how’s it coming?” But I can share a bit.
Progress has picked up significantly since I’m back in Canada. Over the past sixty days, I’ve managed to expand the output to more than 235 pages and read, edited and improved the entire work twice. My target is to complete an acceptable first draft by early August. Then, I’ll be asking professional editors and a few ‘beta’ readers to review the manuscript. I’ll be looking for their critical impressions of the early work and, by September, I should have an idea how much additional work will be needed.
I can tell you this. I’m really enjoying the story so far. If you enjoyed reading Three Weeks Less a Day, I think you’ll love this new story even more!
Still untitled, my new novel involves a few characters working at Multima Corporation and several new ones. The story takes place across North, South and Central America. It will again be quick-paced -- with short chapters, short paragraphs and short sentences. There will be more action and more mystery. And, that’s all I’m willing to share right now!
Thanks again for all your help to make family and friends aware of Three Weeks Less a Day! I couldn’t do it without your support. If you haven’t yet ordered your personal copy, now is good time. It’s also a great time to remind your friends they’ll want to learn all about the fascinating characters of Multima Corporation before the new story is released early next year!
Despite many good wishes, flowers, and thoughtful gifts from your family for Mother’s Day, I expect some of you may still be a little disappointed today. Despite all your helpful hints, my Facebook promotion, and positive reviews everywhere, you didn’t find a personal copy of “Three Weeks Less a Day” among the generous bounty you received! It seems you now have only a limited number of options available.
The first option is to do nothing. Just wait and hope family or friends will buy a copy for you on an upcoming birthday, holiday or some other special occasion at some time in the future.
Another option? Purchase a copy of “Three Weeks Less a Day” for your significant other for Father’s Day! Once you give him a copy, it would surely be easy to ‘borrow’ and read for yourself. And if you order it quickly, you’d still know you’re not only giving a great gift both will appreciate, you’ll also know all royalties for purchases in May still go to Cancer Societies.
The third option – and my preferred course of action – is simply to get out your favorite credit card and order a copy for yourself from one of the many online retailers who can deliver a copy within just a few days! That way, you can be immersed in this great story quickly! To help you with this third option, here’s a useful link to several of those retailers. Enjoy!
It’s true. I’m donating all royalties I receive from sales of Three Weeks Less a Day during April and May 2017 to cancer research in the USA and Canada.
Why? One reason is to promote my novel. As a new author, I always look for ways to encourage people to talk about and buy my book. More importantly, I want not only to entertain readers, I also want to encourage people to think about cancer. As explained in the first Rendezvous blog, (http://www.garydmcguganbooks.com/rendezvous-blog/john-george-mortimer-has-breast-cancer), I want fictional character John George Mortimer to increase awareness about breast cancer and shine a light on a reality that men, too, can be afflicted with this insidious disease.
If promoting Three Weeks Less a Day can help people think about cancer, that’s a good thing. We should all examine our bodies and get unusual changes checked out. We should all think about our lifestyle choices and things we consume. And, we should all do our best to finance research towards a cure for all cancers. Promoting my novel helps readers be more aware of cancer while they enjoy a good story. We all win!
But I know skeptics might wonder if royalties I receive when people buy books during April and May will actually end up with the American and Canadian Cancer Societies as advertised. For any who doubt, let me assure every dollar will be donated. I’ve already made a donation of $500.00 to each Cancer Society in advance. When I receive my actual sales results for April and May, I’ll cheerfully remit whatever amount exceeds the $1000.00 already donated.
I hope you’ll share this message with your family and friends. Three Weeks Less a Day is a really entertaining story (check out the reviews!). It makes a great gift for upcoming Mother’s and Father’s Days too. Encourage your friends to order copies now. They’ll improve awareness while they help fund cancer research and enjoy an exciting story of corporate intrigue!
Click here to link with retailers: http://www.garydmcguganbooks.com/books.html
Tucked away in a “Three Weeks Less a Day” passage where I tell some fictional background history about my main character, John George Mortimer, readers might detect my passion for critical thinking skills. It’s a passion I developed early in my business career and one that intensifies today.
Last week, in a blog about social media (http://www.garydmcguganbooks.com/rendezvous-blog/it-depends-on-us), I wrote about the emphasis educators and governments in Finland place on critical thinking skills to fend off continuous, malicious Russian disinformation campaigns. It’s important for us, too.
Perhaps even more crucial is the role critical thinking can play to generate greater harmony in our society, but it’s a habit many of us use all too seldom.
I once asked a colleague who studied law what part of his legal training prepared him to become a successful chief executive officer. “Critical thinking skills,” he told me. “The only thing I learned at law school that helped me become a better company president was training to think about subjects from every possible perspective. That was an invaluable skill to make better decisions.” As I thought about this bit of wisdom, it occurred to me that critical thinking skills could actually make people more effective in many different ways.
What if salespeople thought about their sales proposition from a potential buyer’s perspective? What if negotiators focused their energies on understanding the other side’s perspective? What if managers tried to see a subject from the point of view of their direct reports and vice versa. It turns out that people who use critical thinking skills in this way are invariably the best performers in their industries.
Writing for http://learn.filtered.com/blog/6-benefits-of-critical-thinking, Kadie Regan explains, “An appreciation of differing worldviews is a direct result of learning how to empathize with other points of view. Critical thinking enables you to see beyond -- not judge -- cultural norms and learn how to understand other factors that can influence decision-making. This empathy and understanding is crucial to effective teamwork and leadership.” It’s also essential to social harmony. So, what happens if we apply critical thinking skills to some social media memes?
Here’s a recent example. A dear relative by marriage recently ‘shared’ a Facebook meme that screamed “Do Not Stop Sharing This Until Every Person Who Cares About Women Sees This,” picturing a woman in traditional Muslim attire being whipped by a man. The meme was circulated about the time of International Women’s Day and included a video.
Clicking on the video icon, I watched a slickly produced narrative that talked about female circumcision, child marriages, honor killings, spousal punishments and female child abuse, including murder. The production used multiple clips of human rights representatives and TV news articles to build their case. They included a couple brief clips from the UK, Canada, and the USA to justify their claims. No viewer of the video could help but be emotionally concerned about the treatment depicted and many could easily be enticed to follow the meme’s admonition to share, share, share.
But it struck me odd such a video focused only on Muslim women. In fact, the subtitle on the meme exclaimed “Do you really know what is happening to women in the Muslim World?” But aren’t the tragedies of female circumcision, child marriages, honor killings, spousal punishments, female child abuse, and murder also prevalent in other societies?
What about the forced child marriage problems in predominantly Christian Guatemala, a problem that even extends to immigrant Guatemalans currently living in Southwest Florida? What about the horrific rapes and treatment of girls and women in Hindu-dominated India or the senseless murders of unwanted baby girls throughout Asia. Or the plight of hundreds of unsolved killings of Canadian indigenous women? And, is human-trafficking not a deplorable crime that touches women in almost every society on Earth?
Why should a video that screams “Do Not Stop Sharing This Until Every Person Who Cares About Women Sees This” talk only about negative issues framed in a context of exclusively Muslim women? And why mention such incidents for countries like the USA and Canada – where Muslim populations are tiny and occurrences so rare the researchers must have spent many hours to find one or two examples that fit their narrative?
A little more research helped me to understand better. An outfit known as Israel Video Network produced the meme. Now, why would an organization from Israel create a video about Muslim women and abuse of their human rights, I wondered. A quick scroll down their site explained why. Other featured videos include titles like: “In just 50 years, if we don’t act now, Islam will take over the world”; “The Muslim Brotherhood’s plan to overthrow your country”; or this fabricated gem “You won’t believe what Germany is doing to fight Muslim migrant rape epidemic.”
I stopped watching the rubbish they spewed about half-way through one titled “The fake news Nazi hunters about to abolish Canadian free speech.” I don’t think very elevated critical thinking skills were required to determine that organization is one of several groups publicizing an ongoing hurtful narrative that Muslims are not only different from us; they want us to think that Muslim people don’t belong among us.
So, I started to wonder what reading such memes, and watching such videos, might mean to a Muslim man or woman living in Canada or the USA. Because the actions of violence and the Muslim practices that site described are virtually non-existent in North America, I can only imagine that most North American Muslims would just shake their heads in despair. Then I wondered what perspective a twenty-something Muslim person -- maybe one born in Canada or the USA, or one who arrived at a very early age -- might think.
I suspect their reaction might represent something more than despair, something like anger or total exasperation. Many modern followers of Islam might interpret such derogatory messages as a continuing sign of unwelcome or lack of acceptance. Behavioral experts realize such rejection over time -- combined with radical enticements from thugs who want to cause harm to western societies -- find occasional fertile terrain for converts to terrorist causes. It’s a fundamental reason we have ‘home-grown’ terrorists – and home-grown terrorists have been the only perpetrators of all terrorist acts in North America in the past 15 years.
From another perspective, such memes and videos perpetuate a narrative that Muslim people are not only different from us, but don’t fit our western values and societies. This dehumanizing line of thinking provides motivation for disaffected folks like the Quebec City university student who developed no apparent apprehension about shooting 14 defenseless Muslims at prayer.
From every rational perspective, this sort of meme and video is harmful and led me to characterize it as ‘garbage’ and ‘trash.' One person suggested I was a little ‘harsh’ to use such terminology. With what’s at stake – tolerance of others in our community, social harmony, and even our public security -- I’ll leave it to you to decide if my comments were too harsh.
Regardless, I again ask all my readers, followers, and friends to be vigilant. Look carefully at every social media meme. Take a moment to study them for truth, accuracy, and fairness before you ‘like’ or ‘share.' Think about the group targeted and try to imagine how they might perceive the message. Then do what you think is right. I hope that includes calling out such memes for what they are: intolerant, dehumanizing, demonizing, and fear-mongering, with no place in our social media conversations.
In the 2-year run-up to the last US elections, social media memes became progressively more absurd and mean-spirited. I felt concern but studiously avoided comments for either party or candidate. As a Canadian, I thought it inappropriate to comment – even though some messages were unquestionably hurtful and others clearly false. I now know I made the wrong decision.
Over the past few months, we’ve learned that hateful messages can spread far beyond US borders and affect societies around the world if left unchecked. There have been recent examples of shootings of people targeted as Muslims in the USA and elsewhere.
You probably heard of the tragic shooting of 14 innocent Muslims at prayer in Quebec City in January. Six hardworking, productive immigrants to Canada were killed, and eight others were seriously injured. Police quickly arrested the sole suspect in the shooting. He’s a Quebecois student, born in Canada and attending one of its best universities.
His arrest concerns me, and it should concern all of us. His situation is probably complex and likely involves multiple contributing factors. We’ll learn much more over the next few years, but we should be aware of two disturbing pieces of evidence we know already. First, he recently started visiting several extremely intolerant websites that received lots of free publicity during and after the US elections. Second, his social media posts suggest he developed a great admiration for the new US president during the recent election campaign.
I don’t suggest the president or his followers directly motivated his action. I do suggest the demonization and hatred towards Muslims created during the campaign -- and spread in some supporter’s Facebook messages -- probably helped one individual to rationalize that he was justified committing such a horrible crime. Repeated, hateful and intolerant messages have unleashed forces that spread far beyond American politics and are now negatively impacting thoughts -- and possibly actions -- of people around the world.
Some experts believe the continuing barrage of inaccurate, intolerant, and thinly-veiled racist social media messages may be poisoning the logical thought process of a generation. We now also know that governments – Russia and possibly China – are funding and encouraging false information to sow seeds of mistrust and confusion in Western societies and even try to influence the outcome of democratic elections.
In a recent Toronto Star article (https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/03/01/why-is-finland-better-at-fending-off-russian-linked-fake-news.html) we learn that Finland has -- for years --successfully fought Russian disinformation by constantly emphasizing critical thinking skills in their schools. The Finnish government also encourages its citizens to think logically when they encounter such messages and challenge all claims that are hurtful, inaccurate or untrue.
I’ve decided to adopt the same posture with social media memes. I’ve started to confront wrong and biased messages when they appear on my Facebook feed and I’ll continue to do this. I want us all to remember that truth and accuracy is crucial in communication. I’ll also remind my friends that demonization of any person or group is wrong. Full stop.
I encourage you to do the same with your social media feeds and join my personal battle for tolerance, truth, and civility. When you see a claim that seems odd, check the facts with www.snopes.com or any reputable media source that publishes a real paper newspaper. They have people and processes to check facts and sort out misinformation every day.
If a meme is questionable, take time to think about it. Please don’t ‘like’ or ‘share’ it unless you are sure of the facts and are prepared to defend the statement. Otherwise, you can expect me to take you to task – challenging misinformation or biased statements. In this way, we keep our social media civil, tolerant and fair.
As I pursue these goals, I’ll try to be reasonable and fair with my questions and comments. I’ve spent a lifetime making friends and building relationships, so my goal is not to embarrass or make anyone uncomfortable. But, should this quest for fairness offend you, I guess you always have an option to “unfriend” me, either on Facebook or in person. I really hope that won’t happen. It would be sad, but “c’est la vie!” To keep our social media useful, it really is up to us.
Dictionaries might define the word ‘rendezvous’ as a meeting with someone that is arranged for a particular time and place (and that is often secret); or a place where people agree to meet at a particular time; or perhaps a place where many people go to spend time. Here, Rendezvous is a place where we can share information and get to know each other better.