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.
2017 is underway. For a writer, that means new resolutions on focus, productivity, and output. It also demands a reassessment of book promotion and sales activities. Like most new authors, my goal is not to become rich with a best seller.
Rather, I want to write stories people read and enjoy. The target is to sell enough books to recover the expenses of creating the novel so we can write and produce more! For new writers, sales depend almost entirely on our readers and us.
No matter how great a story, the harsh reality of today’s publishing business is that few are willing to risk failure. And for bookstores, the best way to avoid failure with a particular book is to avoid stocking it in the first place! So, it’s up to an author to first tell a story in a book format, then inform the media and book retailers about the novel’s merits. And the compelling way to tell that story is to share readers’ opinions.
That’s where you come in! If you haven’t ordered a copy of Three Weeks Less a Day, I encourage you to read some of the reviews and order your copy here:
If you’ve bought or received a copy already, I urge you to read it as soon as you can. You’ll find it entertaining, and you’ll finish before you realize it!
If you’ve read your copy – and enjoyed it just like I promised – pass your copy on to a spouse, friend or family member so they can enjoy it too! Then, rate and review your impressions of the book on amazon.ca, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, chapters/indigo.com, friesenpress.com or on my website by leaving a comment at http://www.garydmcguganbooks.com/contact.html.
None of these sites require you to purchase books directly from them to perform reviews, and none of these have any charge or expense for doing a review. Every time you click the number of ‘stars’ you think appropriate for “Three Weeks Less a Day” and leave a few words of opinion, you’ll encourage another potential reader to take a chance and buy a book!
One last request, this message is distributed to my author page followers, and I value your support. If you can also take a moment to ‘share’ this blog post with your friends, and request them to forward it to their friends, we’ll get this message out to many more people.
Thank you for all your outstanding support over the past few months, and thank you in advance for your help to spread the word about “Three Weeks Less a Day”. I truly appreciate it!
The past few weeks have been extremely gratifying! I’ve received many calls, emails, and instant messages from readers on 3 continents telling me how much they enjoyed reading Three Weeks Less a Day. As a writer, it’s very rewarding to learn that a story resonates with so many.
Now, I’m asking each of you satisfied readers to take a few minutes from your busy schedules to tell other potential readers what a great story it is. Nothing influences prospective buyers of a book more than a review. With so many thousands to choose from, we all want to focus our valuable time on stories we think we might enjoy. So, most of us read and consider reviews, ratings, and opinions before we invest our money and time.
Your opinion of Three Weeks Less a Day is vital and can play a significant role in any commercial success I achieve. For that reason, I ask you to go to one (or more) of the following websites and share your opinion of the novel. All sites are absolutely free. None require you to purchase a book there before commenting. Some may ask you to register with them, but all make it easy for you to avoid follow-up emails or solicitation.
I’ll value whatever rating you think appropriate, and will appreciate equally a few sentences to describe your opinion in a way that will help buyers decide if Three Weeks Less a Day is the type of story they might enjoy.
Thank you again for purchasing Three Weeks a Day and thank you in advance for your valuable review to help me maintain and grow sales momentum for this novel!
I just recently discovered this excellent resource for readers as part of my ‘technology education’ related to the launch of Three Weeks Less a Day. You might like to check out Goodreads yourself with this link:
You’ll need to sign-up to get all the benefits but it’s very quick, and there is no cost to register. One of the nice attributes of the site is a link to social media platforms so you can let your friends know about books you’re reading or have read. You can also receive updates on your friends’ reading.
The best feature: You and your friends can rate and do reviews to share information about books you enjoy and avoid books that might not suit your tastes. It’s a great tool to be sure you’re buying books that you’re most likely to enjoy when you spend your hard-earned money!
You’ll find lots of other benefits. Based on your interests, Goodreads can make recommendations for books you might like to explore. There are book giveaway programs. You might like to keep up with new releases of your favorite authors. Or, perhaps read news about or interviews with writers. You can also join discussion groups and ask questions to authors directly.
If you decide to sign-up, please also take a moment to visit the page for Three Weeks Less a Day. It would be great if you can leave a rating and review if you’ve read my novel. Let people know it’s a book you’d like to read if you haven’t ordered yet. Or, start a dialog with me by asking some questions!
One last incentive to explore Goodreads: Between October 31 and November 10, you can enter a contest to win one of 10 free paperback copies of Three Weeks Less a Day! See the Goodreads site next week for details. I predict you’re going to become a Goodreads fan!
To achieve commercial success with a novel, writing a great story may actually be the easier part!
New, unknown authors have a great challenge attracting the attention and support of traditional bookstores. Regardless the book quality and appeal of the tale, traditional outlets prefer to stock and sell works of proven performers. So, new arrivals, like Three Weeks Less a Day, rely almost entirely on the digital world to promote and sell our stories.
First, we count on our network of family, friends and business associates to help us spread the word and let people know about our books. You help that cause every time you ‘share’ a story like this and ask your friends to share it with theirs. If you add a personal note to a blog article or update, it carries even more importance with your friends. As the number of posts and shares multiply, many people eventually become aware of books like Three Weeks Less a Day.
Next, we have to let people know where they can buy a book if it’s not in stores. I like to use this link to my website where buyers can read a synopsis and choose from 3 popular online retailers who sell and stock the book.
Buyers can also link directly from this site to ebook retailers. With just a couple additional clicks, a buyer can be reading Three Weeks Less a Day within minutes of receiving your ‘share’! Feel welcome to use this link anytime anyone asks you where they can buy a copy.
It also helps authors if you publicize your book purchase on Facebook or Instagram. You may have already seen some photos of buyers who show their purchase with a photo and comment to let their friends know. Authors appreciate every one!
Most important, some readers are understandably reluctant to invest their valuable time and hard-earned money unless they’re confident they’ll enjoy a story. If you read a novel like Three Weeks Less a Day, it really helps a new author if you let your friends know on social media and on the websites of book retailers. It’s free. You can rate books on a scale of 1-5 and leave a brief review that let’s others know your opinion.
I’ve used Three Weeks Less a Day as my example in this article, and I appreciate all the support I receive from my network. But, please keep this article in mind as you explore the works of all new authors. Every ‘share’ counts!
Who could have guessed that writing a novel would dramatically improve my technology skills?
When I started writing my first novel, Three Weeks Less a Day, I supposed that my two-finger keyboarding skills might improve and my vocabulary might expand with research and careful thought. But, it never occurred to me that I might become much more comfortable with technology during the process!
Fairly quickly, I learned more about formatting and word processing shortcuts than I had previously imagined. I discovered a software package that helped to check grammar, spelling and punctuation better than Word’s basic system. But these incremental improvements paled in comparison to my technology education after actually writing my story.
First, I learned that today editors and publishers do almost everything digitally. All versions of my book were up-and-downloaded numerous times using passwords to access revisions and marked up copies. Our 'conversations' seemed most often to take place with comments shared in the margins of pages, and the entire process worked quite well. However, the real technology education started as the book readied for publication.
I had realized before I started writing the novel that publishing today is in dire straits, even survival mode. First-time novelists without celebrity really get very little support from a publisher. Most help comes in the form of an extensive author to-do list and some coaching on strategies that might work to promote a book. As a result, over the past few weeks I’ve learned to do some interesting things to expand my technology universe!
To start, I followed coaching from Facebook to expand my social media presence from a purely social communication medium to create a page devoted entirely to Three Weeks Less a Day. Here, I work to stimulate and maintain interest in the novel. (If you haven’t already done so, please ‘like’ the author page so you’ll get messages like this one automatically in the future.) After a few weeks, I realized that I could also create a “button” on this new page.
Of course, a button needs to do something when a reader clicks it. So I had to learn how to design a website with patient coaching from the publisher and our seventeen-year-old grandson.
Now, what to do with this new web presence? Well, it seems every site needs a good blog. So, we now have Rendezvous Blog where I can have conversations readers and potential readers like you. And, you can communicate with me here by asking questions, sharing comments, or posting reviews about the book.
Then, a new dilemma. How can interested family, friends, and business associates around the world order copies personally signed by the author? Well, the answer is a “storefront”. So, I’ve learned how to incorporate a PayPal relationship into the website, so buyers can purchase signed books directly from me using their credit cards or PayPal account.
Like me, you probably think that with a great story and all this new technology I must now be fully equipped to become a New York Times best-selling author, right? Well, it seems the correct answer is no. Apparently, I now need to learn how to become an Amazon Author and a Good Reads Author so I can encourage reviews and ratings that encourage more people to buy my book. And, squeezed in among my writing for a second novel, that’s my mission for this week! Watch here for updates, or on Amazon or Good Reads soon!
Some people have asked how to get signed copies of my new novel Three Weeks Less a Day. Because this book is launching during the busy Christmas selling season, it might be difficult to arrange in-store signings immediately. Anticipating this, I’ve purchased copies that I will sign personally and mail to you.
You can place orders for either hard cover or paperback versions. Here’s a link you can use to place your order and also let me know if there is any particular name or inscription you would like to appear in the book.
Please be aware prices charged at this site are a little higher than those listed online or in retail stores because I include the costs of shipping and applicable Canadian taxes in the prices charged. Although prices on the site are shown in Canadian dollars, you can pay with a credit card through PayPal and your credit card company will automatically convert the CAD amount shown into the currency of your card at their normal rates.
If you’ve already ordered a book online and would like me to sign it, I’ll always be happy to oblige the next time we see each other.
Heartfelt thanks for all of your support with the launch of Three Weeks Less a Day!
My novel is now available to buy!
Published September 21, 2016, Three Weeks Less a Day will soon be available through more than 35,000 book retailers around the world! Published by FriesenPress and distributed by Ingram Book Company, this exciting new novel is now available in hard cover, soft cover and ebook versions.
For the first several months, buyers may find it easiest to order copies online. Today, few book shops immediately stock works of new authors. Initially, they watch how well a book sells online, check out the reviews and monitor how often they get requests to order a specific title. Your early orders -- and positive reviews -- will have a great impact on the commercial success of my novel.
The publisher, FriesenPress, currently has both hard and soft cover versions of Three Weeks Less a Day available now. Naturally, when you buy from a publisher, they pay more generous royalties to an author than retail outlets.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Chapters/Indigo all have Three Weeks Less a Day listed for immediate sale. Many other online retailers will include my novel as they regularly update their listings.
Ebooks are immediately available to download from Kindle, IBooks, Kobo, Nook and Google Play. This is the most inexpensive way to order a book. Please take a few minutes to also review and rate my novel on these sites after you read it. This really helps support promotion efforts!
To purchase a signed copy of Three Weeks Less a Day, click here to contact me. Be sure to let me know if you’d like any special notation in your personalized version.
I hope you’ll order today and enjoy reading your copy soon! Watch for more news as we start promoting Three Weeks Less a Day. And, please be sure to tell all your friends about this newly published novel!
Even before Three Weeks Less a Day is published, people are asking why I created a fictional main character with breast cancer. Good question.
The answer? To increase awareness about breast cancer and shine a light on a reality that men, too, can be afflicted with this insidious disease.
Three Weeks Less a Day tells a good story people will enjoy reading, and my novel certainly doesn't dwell on the subject of cancer. Rather, discovery of breast cancer is a trigger for some decisions John George Mortimer makes and hovers in the background as the story unfolds. I use this device because I think a novel should entertain, but also deal with real issues.
Two people inspired me to create a character with breast cancer. During a routine medical exam in her thirties, our daughter learned she had breast cancer. Tracy is a survivor because of outstanding medical treatment and her overwhelming determination to overcome the disease and get on with her life. She stoically battled the pain of surgery and withstood the nasty effects of chemotherapy and radiation with quiet grace and stalwart good humour. Perhaps most important, she survived because she was otherwise very fit and cancer was detected early.
About the same time, I learned that Murray, a former colleague and friend, was fighting his own battle. Previously, I had never known someone with male breast cancer. In fact, it had never occurred to me that men should even be concerned! Murray, too, confronted cancer with positive determination and credits early detection as a key factor in his survival.
Both incidents motivated me to create a major character with breast cancer. Hopefully, after you enjoy reading Three Weeks Less a Day, you’ll also think about checking your body for any signs of breast cancer. Further, medical science has learned that many cases may be preventable with a healthy lifestyle and exercise. If Three Weeks Less a Day can play any role in making you more aware of cancer, while you enjoy a few hours of good reading, my mission will be accomplished.
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.