Why yes, this is an attempt to ban books

Down the road from me in a Houston suburb, a minister has petitioned the city council to purge 75 fantasy books from the public library.

Pastor Wants ‘Demonic’ Books Removed from Public Library

Pastor Phillip Missick of King of Saints Tabernacle, a Messianic church, filed a complaint with Austin Memorial Library, Cleveland’s public library, asking that many fiction books on vampires, demons and the supernatural be purged. He says he was stunned to find the young adult section full of books like “Blood Promise,” “Twilight,” and the “Vampire Knight” series.

“This is dark. There’s a sexual element. You have creatures that aren’t human. I think it’s dangerous for our kids,” said Missick.

This wearies me. I hope I don’t need to explain why I think this is wrongheaded, fearful, oppressive, and ignorant. It’s against the spirit of free speech and inquiry. It wants to shut down imagination for the sake of dogma. I do want to remind everyone that well into the 21st century, based on sectarian doctrine, people still try to restrain what the American public can read.

That’s why The American Library Association still has an annual Banned Books Week. It’s why the First Amendment Center has an entire section on the history of book banning in the United States. It’s a shameful history. Harry Potter isn’t the only work that gets challenged. So do books by Langston Hughes, and Kurt Vonnegut, and Chaucer, and Aristophanes.

Holt said he is not calling for a ban on books and feels the responsibility should be on the parents to censor what their children read.

“The word ‘censorship’ is not an ugly word. If you don’t censor what your children see, hear and read, then guess what, your child is going to be spending a lot of time with Pastor Holt later on in life dealing with twisted-up and torn-up lives,” he said.

I absolutely agree that it’s my responsibility as a parent to know about and nurture my kids’ reading. So: hands off the library, Pastor Holt. I don’t want you anywhere near its books, or telling my family what we can and cannot read.

Have some music: Three Nights Live

Here on the blog I don’t talk much about the Husband’s career. But he’s not just an Internet wizard, or a musician, or a spy, or my arm candy. He’s the co-owner of a record company, Goose Creek Music. It’s an independent label that features Americana artists. It specializes in capturing live performances.

Three Nights Live is Goose Creek’s brand new album. It was recorded over — yeah, three nights — at roadhouses in Houston, Austin, and Oklahoma City. The Husband co-executive produced with his partner Mike Pugh. He worked as a roadie. He put 1,200 miles on our Toyota in a couple of days, and shlepped the gear, and set up the sound system, and put the album together.

Here’s one of the songs from the album: “Act of God” by Raina Rose. She’s singing, along with Rebecca Loebe and Bernice Hembree. (Fans of The Voice might remember Rebecca from Season 1.)


Anybody who wants to support these musicians can get the album from iTunes, CDBaby, or Amazon.

What’s everybody watching this summer?

The world continues to be its messed up self. How’s everybody taking a break from the news? Aside from reading, I mean. Reading is assumed.

Here’s what I’ve been watching this summer.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Edge of Tomorrow
Into the Storm


Game of Thrones
House of Cards
The Strain

You may notice a thick thread of SF/F escapism, overlaid with Machiavellian politics. That’s my summer* fun. What’s yours?

*If you live in the southern hemisphere, please tell us how you’re staying toasty warm in these winter days.

My writing advice: Know who’s behind the headlights

At Interviewing Authors, Tim Knox gets me to talk about thrillers, editing, and the winding road I took to becoming a novelist.

You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript:

Meg Gardiner: There are such things as starter novels. Some things are better used for instruction and practice and then lovingly put in a drawer and locked up and thrown over a cliff into a quarry where they’ll be covered with rocks and never seen again.

More at the link.

Writing links: How to Write Good; Grammar “Rules” It’s Okay to Break

Here are a couple of entertaining and educational articles about the art and craft of writing. Enjoy.

First, from the late Michael O’Donohue, writer for Saturday Night Live and editor at the National Lampoon:

How to Write Good

Lesson 4: Exposition

Perhaps the most difficult technique for the fledgling writer to master is proper treatment of exposition. Yet watch the sly, subtle way I “set the scene” of my smash play, The Last to Know, with a minimum of words and effort.

(The curtain opens on a tastefully appointed dining room, the table ringed by men in tuxedos and women in costly gowns. There is a knock at the door.)

LORD OVERBROOKE: Oh, come in, Lydia. Allow me to introduce my dinner guests to you. This is Cheryl Heatherton, the madcap soybean heiress whose zany antics actually mask a heart broken by her inability to meaningfully communicate with her father, E. J. Heatherton, seated to her left, who is too caught up in the heady world of high finance to sit down and have a quiet chat with his own daughter, unwanted to begin with, disposing of his paternal obligations by giving her everything, everything but love, that is.

Next to them sits Geoffrey Drake, a seemingly successful merchant banker trapped in an unfortunate marriage with a woman half his age, who wistfully looks back upon his days as the raffish Group Captain of an R.A.F. bomber squadron that flew eighty-one missions over Berlin, his tortured psyche refusing to admit, despite frequent nightmares in which, dripping with sweat, he wakes screaming, “Pull it up! Pull it up, I say! I can’t hold her any longer! We’re losing altitude! We’re going down! Jerry at three o’clock Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggh!”, that his cowardice and his cowardice alone was responsible for the loss of his crew and “Digger,” the little Manchester terrier who was their mascot.

Second, for all members of the Grammar Geeks Unit, here’s one of the best essays on writing with good grammar — instead of cramped pedantic adherence to wrongheaded grammar dogma — that I’ve read. It’s by Steven Pinker. Here he is on the “rule” about never ending a sentence with a preposition:

The prohibition against clause-final prepositions is considered a superstition even by the language mavens, and it persists only among know-it-alls who have never opened a dictionary or style manual to check. There is nothing, repeat nothing, wrong with “Who are you looking at?” or “The better to see you with” or “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” or “It’s you she’s thinking of”. The pseudo-rule was invented by John Dryden based on a silly analogy with Latin (where the equivalent to a preposition is attached to the noun and cannot be separated from it) in an effort to show that Ben Jonson was an inferior poet. As the linguist Mark Liberman remarked, “It’s a shame that Jonson had been dead for 35 years at the time, since he would otherwise have challenged Dryden to a duel, and saved subsequent generations a lot of grief.”

Steven Pinker: 10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s OK to break (sometimes)

The mail I get: Endings

Readers email me.

I just finished your new book “Phantom Instinct” which I thought was good. But…. It seems there must be something in the new journalistic style where authors are leaving the reader with lots of unanswered questions at the end of the book. I do not understand this new style and don’t like it. There is so much minutia in the beginning, middle and in the end left hanging. It is frustrating. And while I understand that you may be tired towards the end and just want it to be done, you leave the reader hanging. Please consider the reader and understand that when we get towards the end of the book, with just a few pages left, you know you are going to be unsatisfied because it just kind of ends. What ever happened to beginning, middle and end? I believe there should be as much emphasis on the end as in the beginning. Please consider my comments on your next book. Thank you.

I really do enjoy your books!

I appreciate this reader’s courtesy. It was thoughtful of her to tell me that she enjoys my novels even though she was writing with a complaint.

I replied:

Thanks for your message. I’m glad you enjoyed Phantom Instinct. It’s true that modern novels often don’t tie up all loose ends in a story. Honestly, it’s not because of fatigue — I spend a year writing a novel, and would never just end a story because I was tired of working on it. But I will remember that some readers do wish to know how all threads in a story wrap up.

Of course, there are also sequels.

I don’t write epilogues that lay out how all the characters resolve every issue in the story. I don’t have an Animal House-style “Where are they now?” postscript. Though, if any of my books become movies, that would be awesome.

Does anybody else have an opinion on this?

My Penguin podcast about Phantom Instinct

A few weeks ago in New York, I did an interview with “Beaks and Geeks,” the Penguin podcast, about Phantom Instinct. If you’d like to listen to me gabbing about Harper Flynn, Aiden Garrison, thrillers, writing, shootouts, and why I don’t like to “cast” characters for imaginary movies, here you go.