Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Way of the Knife: A Book Review

9/11 had a ripple effect the world is still dealing with. Universal surveillance, endless cycles of war and the erosion of civil liberties are all by products of the attack on the World Trade Center. The Way of the Knife focuses on the way, waging war and declaring war have changed for America in the 21st Century. The book goes over familiar ground in great detail, but it is ultimately unsatisfying.

The central premise of the book revolves around the military developing increase spying capability while the intelligence community devoted more of it’s time to killing than spying. The book explores the high level infighting between the Pentagon and Langley for control of the War on Terror. It’s a catalog of greed, bickering, turf battles, mismanagement and failed opportunities. Way of the Knife reveals many of the political and financial gains made by Washington elites in the name of national security.

I hoped this book would focus more on the experience of spies and soldiers on the ground in places like Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I had little interest in the back room deals made at the White House or the juvenile temper tantrums of our highest officials. Way of the Knife is enlightening and educational, but it gives too much attention to men and women who deserve condemnation and not more fame for their manipulations

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Writing While the World Burns

by Gamal Hennessy

Police strangle a man in broad daylight.

I write.

Police gun down yet another unarmed man and I keep writing.

Protests turn into riots and police suppress the media, but I keep writing.

Gaza bombs Israel. Israel invades Gaza and I’m still writing.

Ebola spreads fear and death but that doesn’t stop me from writing.

Russia invades Ukraine.

Iraq and Syria crumble into civil war.

Fanatics behead journalists.

Athletes beat women and send them to the hospital.

I write.

Rape culture, racism and sexual repression remain fixtures in our culture.

I just keep writing.

What is the point?

Books and ideas can change the world, but I’m not writing some social manifesto. Very few people read what I write and even if they did, it wouldn’t change the relationship between cops and the community, women and men, or people and their own sexual expression. Writing, especially my writing, doesn’t change the world, but it might offer a way to cope.

Writing is an opportunity for catharsis. When anger and rage from police brutality, misogyny and other acts of human stupidity start to pile up, a writer can channel all those negative emotions into their work instead of holding it inside. A reader can feel the visceral impact without exposing themselves to more danger. Perhaps hiding an emotional truth inside a fictional lie is a good way to express the chaos of our lives. Maybe that’s why humans need stories. Maybe that’s why I write.  

I don’t know the right answer and I don’t have solutions to the problems we face. But I’m not trying to solve the world’s problems. I’m just trying to write.

So I keep writing.

Have fun.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Touch of Honey Beta Reader Request

I'm currently looking for beta readers for my third novel, A Touch of Honey.

If you're not familiar with the beta reading process, don't worry. Beta readers are like a focus group for books. They help the publisher predict audience reaction to a story by getting feedback from a small segment of the market (See On Using and Being a Beta Reader)

A Touch of Honey is a sequel to my last novel, A Taste of Honey. It continues the story of the spy Nikki Sirene as she tries to survive in a world of crime and passion.

If you enjoy adult crime thrillers, consider this premise:

In seduction, control is surrender and surrender is control…

Nikki Sirene uses her sexual charms to manipulate men and steal their secrets. She lives in constant fear because the man who used to love her is now trying to kill her.

Desperate for protection, she agrees to a relationship of mutual exploitation with a mysterious spy named Warren Baker. He agrees to protect her from her enemies if she agrees to help take down a sex slave operation in New York.

Entering into this world of depravity and pain pushes Nikki to the edge of sanity. Can she escape with her freedom and her life, or will she become just another human trafficking statistic?

If you're interested in being a beta reader for A Taste of Honey, please send an e-mail to and I'll put you on the list.

Have fun.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Being Wrong: A Book Review

Most people go through life thinking they are almost always right about pretty much everything virtually all the time. The reality is we are often wrong about things from the trivial to the universal. Being Wrong explores why we are wrong so often and how it is helpful to us.

Katheryn Shulz  breaks down various sources of error, from sensory perception and cognitive interpretation to group prejudices and cultural biases. She also looks at the mental, psychological and social consequences of both being wrong and knowing you are wrong. She had so many categories of how we get things wrong as well as compound combinations of error, I began to wonder how we ever get anything right. I also marveled at humanity’s ability to remain in existence considering how massive some of our mistakes are.

In the end, Being Wrong suggests error is a fundamental part of thinking. Developing the ability to use the brain also develops the ability to misuse it. Shulz took time to focus on the positive aspects of being wrong, including innovation, learning and adaptive behavior. She didn’t spend anytime discussing situations where subjective opinion is the basis of being “right” or when the “right answer” can’t be known or situations where people continued to maintain the “wrong” stance when it was in their best long term interests. Still, Being Wrong is an insightful look an ignored part of our mental processes. If you decide not to read it you will, once again, be wrong.

Have fun.Gamal

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who Watches the Watchers (Thoughts on the American Police Brutality)

The current strained relationship between police forces and some communities could be the result of military surplus weapons and training flowing from the War on Terror to local precincts (See Bill Maher: Police State).

It could be the result of the gradual expansion of police powers and a siege mentality in policing dating back to the American Revolution. (See Rise of the Warrior Cop).

Perhaps this occupying force mentality has always been present in our society and is only on the top of our minds now because the wider proliferation of personal video gives us weekly examples of minority and poor Americans being attacked and sometimes killed by police officers or even neighborhood watch members. (See NYC Official Wants Police to Wear Cameras After Chokehold Death).

It’s probably a combination of these factors and many others, but I think the most important thing to look at when thinking about or dealing with the police revolves around understanding their day to day motivation.

The articles I’ve seen about the killings in New York and Missouri frame the issue as racial, economic or social. (See FBI Steps In Amid Unrest After Police Kill Missouri Youth) I think all these things come into play, but why a person does what he does is based less on his socio-political position and more on his mental and emotional motivations. I’ve never been in the police department, but I don’t think it takes twenty years on the force to understand the things he care about:

A police officer wants to protect*:
  1. His life
  2. His partner’s life
  3. His family’s future
  4. His income
  5. His pension
  6. His career and/or promotion
  7. His reputation with other police
  8. His relationship to his superiors
  9. The relationship of his precinct to the others
  10. The relationship of his precinct to City Hall
  11. His relationship to the media and the court of public opinion

Please note: aiding the members of the community like you or me may or may not fit on this list. If it does, I doubt it will be higher than any of the things I’ve mentioned. I think this is accurate not because police are evil, but because police are human and every human in a society is motivated by self interest. If you or I decided to be a cop for whatever reason, this list would seem completely reasonable.

When you add the constant threat of sudden violence that comes with being a police officer, and increased access to military weapons and training to the list of motivations above, you create a situation where any actual or perceived threat to an officer or his motivations could result in a lethal force altercation.

To reiterate, I don’t believe all cops are evil. I don’t believe all cops are good. I believe all cops are human and are driven by what they perceive to be their best interests in stressful situations. Putting every police officer on camera for every civilian interaction can be effective because it impacts most of the officer’s motivations. But footage can be manipulated and evidence is not a guarantee of anyone being punished for a crime. Cameras treat the symptom, but they do not alter the underlying factors of behavior.

I’m not, nor do I plan to be engaged in any violent or criminal activity. Having said that, I limit my interactions with police to the same level as the characters in my writing. I avoid them when possible and do my best to avoid or disengage from any situation where police might become involved. If that isn’t possible I try to remove myself from the situation as soon as possible without making things worse (See 10 Rules for Dealing with Police)

Struggles between police and the people they protect is not a new phenomenon. In the first century AD, a Roman poet coined the phrase Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? or who watches the watchers? Through the magic of YouTube and Iphones we can all watch them, but until we can understand and change their motivations, is there anything we can do to stop them?

Have fun.

*Yes, I realize there are female police officers. Yes, I made a specific choice to single out men. I’m sure you can figure out why.

A Brief Introduction to the Crime and Passion Blog

You and I share something in common. Curiosity led you to this post. Curiosity inspires me to write. Most of my books focus on adult crime fiction and I plan to use this blog to explore the real world influences on my work. I want to share ideas to increase your understanding and interest in the forces that shape modern conflict. The conflict could be based on our internal struggles, our personal interactions or the challenges facing us as a group. All of them play a role in my creations.

I’ve renamed this blog, and my series of novels, Crime and Passion because those concepts describe the what and the why of my curiosity. The characters in my stories are spies, assassins, prostitutes, slave traders, gun runners, thieves, mercenaries and others who make crime and violence their way of life. They are driven by greed, pride, lust, envy, hatred and other expressions of our darker nature. My hope is to create stories you can relate to, even if you see a side of yourself you might not like.

Writing in this genre exposes me to a lot of fascinating real world stories. My research covers a wide net, including news stories, books and open source intelligence reports. I want to use this blog to share the information I find and hopefully have a dialogue on aspects of the real world that are far more fascinating than any fiction I create.

Because I write about real world issues for adults, this blog will explore some hot button issues concerning politics, sexuality, social issues and violence. I will offer my perspective on news stories relevant to my writing. Those perspectives might not conform to popular opinion or to your experience. I welcome discussion and alternative views, but I try not to waste time with trolls.

I hope Crime and Passion satisfies your curiosity and stimulates your imagination.

Have fun.
Gamal Hennessy

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Navigating the Waters of E-book Exposure

For the first time (and hopefully not the last time), we have a guest writer on IPN. Ms. Leti del Mar of Rock the Book has shared some of her classic and traditional methods of book marketing with us. As an independent publisher, I plan to borrow some of these techniques.
The publishing industry is changing. It is being flooded with affordable e-books by traditionally published authors, self-published authors, and authors published by small companies. E-books are one of the fastest growing facets of the publishing industry, and authors are taking control of their own marketing and book promotion.

The gatekeepers used by the big bad publishing houses are becoming irrelevant. Many authors are skipping the traditional steps: write a book, query an agent, get signed by said agent, agent submits to publisher, publisher publishes said book, and then publisher does little to promote it. Instead they bring their work directly to the reader.

What that means for readers is that the reading choices out there are endless.

What that means for authors is that, while it is easier to get your book out there, it is just as easy for your book to get overlooked.

So with no gatekeepers, how does an author get noticed? How does a writer find an audience for their book?

For just a moment, let’s forget all about technology, Amazon, e-books, e-readers and book bloggers.  Go back in time a decade or two to when these things didn’t exist. In those days of mortar and brick bookstores, how did people find books to read?

They asked a friend. Remember those conversations? You might even still be having them. They went something like this:

“Hey, have you read any good books lately?”

“Yes, I have! I just finished (insert name of book you read a decade ago), and it was fantastic! You have to read it”

“Okay, next time I go to Borders, I’ll pick it up.”

Back in the early '90s, I was reading Michael Crichton and John Grisham, even before the films. Why? My friends were. They would tell me about a title I hadn’t read, and I would go over to that bookstore that is no longer in business and pick up a copy.

Believe it or not, that is how people still discover new titles. Only now most of these conversations happen online.

We talk about what we are reading on Facebook, give a great title a shout out on Twitter, post a picture of the cover of a good read on Instagram or Pinterest. You too should join in on meaningful conversations about books and share what you are reading.

That’s right. I’m telling authors to frequently share what they have read, not what they have written, and here’s why:

People will listen when they like what you have to say. If you recommend good reads, they will pay attention. They will want to learn more about this person who has such great taste in books, and they will click on your picture, look at your profile, and discover that you too are an author.  This won’t happen 100% of the time, but when it does, it is powerful.

What makes this even more powerful is chatting about books in the same genre you write.

Let’s go back into that time machine and think about another way we used to find books to read. We browsed our favorite aisles.  If you read westerns, you would go directly to the western aisle. If you read historical romance, you explored those aisles.

This is where book bloggers come in. Find bloggers who read what you write. Ask them to read, review or feature your work. That way readers who love Young Adult Paranormal and go to Young Adult Paranormal blogs, will find your Young Adult Paranormal book.

Want to make this even more effective?

Don’t just solicit these blogs. Follow them and leave comments. Do this for a while before soliciting anything. That way, when you do ask the blogger to read, review, or feature your work, they will see you as a long-time follower and be more inclined to help.  

Over at Rock the Book, we found each other because we write in the same genre and frequent the same message boards. We enjoy reading similar things and share with each other books we have read and ideas about what we want to read.  The cool part is that we live all over the world and do our sharing online.  

So yes, the publishing world is changing, faster than we can keep up with it. But the old ways for finding a good book still work. Use those old ways with new twists, and with some elbow grease and a little luck, your book will get its due notice.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

You should be...

Horror lives in the shadows of our cities... 

Slaves are bought and sold in back alleys. 

Stranded commuters are kidnapped and tortured in abandoned subway tunnels.  

Abuse,  betrayal and corruption fester from the capitals of Europe to the streets of New York. 

If you want to find terror, you only need to go to the dark end of the street.

The Dark End of the Street is my new anthology of crime and horror stories. It will be released in time for Halloween and this is your first look at the cover.

I'll release more information soon. Until then...

Have fun.