Debunking the Writer's Block Fallacy #LBF16

The London Book Fair (#lbf16) starts tomorrow and I thought I'd mark the occasion with celebrating writers and the writing process, while at the same time paying homage to our most precious, most valued resource: readers!

Quite often we find ourselves staring at a blank piece of paper or a computer monitor, hard-pressed to create something meaningful. They call it writer's block, but that's a fallacy. Writers aren never blocked from writing, we just go through phases when the elements that feed our creative core fade. And to rectify that, we need to reboot our external conditions to find inspiration.

I often compare writing to eating. I only eat when I am hungry, and failing to follow that basic biological principle is always detrimental. No matter how busy I am or how impractical it is for me to just sit down and write, when the writing hunger strikes, I invariably find the time and create the necessary conditions to sit down and 'eat'. Using the same analogy, when you are unable to write, it means you must figure out a way to work up an appetite.

To test this theory, I ran a little experiment on my Facebook page. I challenged my readers to come up with a name, age, profession and location of a fictitious character (or the equivalent of trying to work up an appetite when I was feeling quite full), and I promised them I would come up with a unique back story for each entry.

I wanted to test if I could write on demand if handed as motivation the most basic ingredients to flesh out a story.

The result was surprising, invigorating and empowering. Although sloppy and raw as it's minimally edited, it's part flash fiction, part character study, and 100 percent proof that as a writer, your most effective weapon is your imagination, but that you can't wait for the world around you to fuel it.

Sure, it may feel like your writing engine is stalling a little when the raw ingredients of creativity are dry, but your ability to write is always there. If you must write, all you need to do is actively introduce fresh ingredients and do something to boost your creative hunger.

But never step away from the writing arena defeated, hoping that the block will resolve itself. It never does.

Enjoy, and much gratitude to my delightful readers for gifting me these characters!

Arnold's Addiction

Lance Bravin wrote:
Arnold, 56, male, Construction inspector, tucson AZ
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For half his life Arnold has been a slave. Living with a woman he detested, making love to a body that repulsed him. Twenty-eight years ago when he first shunned her aggressive advances at the Buffet Bar and Crackpot, Arnold should have trusted his instinct and not gone back home with her. But he couldn't score better that night, and figured what the hell, cover the face and.... He didn't even bother to ask her name or what she did for a living. He woke up in her tiny apartment in Yuma with a throbbing headache, a foul taste in his mouth, and a new master. She hadn't locked him up in a dungeon or chained him down. But he was all hers.

Swimming in his blood stream was a synthetic drug she had injected. An evil concoction of her making that would morph and transform into venom that would kill him in exactly twenty-eight days, if he didn't come back for the antidote.

He didn't believe her and ran away. But on the twenty-seventh day, he felt death was creeping closer. Arnold went back pleading for his life. As she flushed the life-saving liquid in his veins, she warned him never again to walk out on her, and explained why. The very antidote that she was administering to save his life, would itself morph into the poison in twenty-eight days.
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The Drugs are on Rae


Lisa Cobb Hart wrote:
Rae, 31, female, chemical engineer, Miami, Florida
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A. M. Khalifa, Author replied:

No one knows Rachel Chang is a super hero. Not her friends, not her family, and certainly not her coworkers. Even the man she sleeps next to every night, her high school sweetheart and husband of seven years, Brad, is certifiably clueless about that aspect of her life.

As far as everyone is concerned, she’s just bubbly, vivacious, unassuming Rae. Doting mother of three-year-old Adrian. Drives a beat up Subaru that's just gagging for the junkyard. Kicks ass in Sudoko. Buys all her clothes at the Dolphin outlet mall. Senior chemical engineer with Cristol Boven Pharmaceuticals. Loves her French toast and mimosas for Sunday brunch at the News Cafe of South Beach. Wears tight skirts and skimpy bikinis when she wants to, embracing and lovering the skin she's in, all size 16 of it, in a town that has more than one world-famous diet named after it.

But when her phone dins in the dead of the night with incoming messages, she lies to Brad when she tells him she has to rush to work to attend to some urgent matter at the lab. Instead, it's her super hero alter ego beckoning Rae to duty.

But Rae doesn’t battle with invading aliens or duel with evil villains. She doesn't wear a cape and her Subaru certainly doesn’t transform into a high-tech crime fighting vehicle. All she does is drop off a box of contraband cancer fighting drugs to those who respond to her anonymous ads. Life-saving miracle medicines she cooks at home in her basement lab and donates to terminally ill patients. Game-changing futuristic nano pharmaceuticals she was responsible for inventing at work, but which her despicable employers are refusing to release to the public, until all the necessary patents have been approved, to ensure maximum profitability.
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It's all about the Plumbing

11701045_10152895394525759_2658069889362207067_nPatricia Barbeyron wrote: Amanda, 48 but never admits to being a day over 35 (which, incidentally, was when she left her former self, Armando, behind for good). Born in Colombia, but now dividing her time between Zurich, New York and Panama City, she may indeed have forgotten her real age.
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As she ran on the tarmac away from the airplane, Amanda knew she would never again miss having a penis. There were many times after her sex reassignment surgery fourteen years ago, when Amanda regretted her decision. Not because she missed being a man—she never felt like one—it was just the convenience and the mechanical engineering of the male organ that she was nostalgic about. It made peeing a more intuitive, more practical experience. A delivery method that eliminated the need to squat or sit to do your business.

But who needs a damn penis if it can get you killed?

When she and the other women and the only child on the flight had been huddled to safety by the counterterrorism forces at the airport in Tocumen International Airport, Amanda thought hard of their deranged hijacker wearing a suicide vest, and what he would do to the men with penises he was holding hostage.

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The Countess of Burlesque

Eva Zseller-Karlsen12440653_10154390788266664_2338913063410288571_o wrote: Lola, 55, female, ex-burlesque dancer, Transylvania.
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A. M. Khalifa, Author replied:
Every Friday night when Lola walks her French Terrier by the Gambrinus Pub in Cluj-Napoca, she takes a peek at the troupe of three dancers performing inside. One of them in particular captivates her attention the most, Vika Vãduva. Once-upon-a-time Lola had a supple body that looked and moved just like that. Tight, silky, perky and buttery. More than her body, it was Vika’s face that Lola couldn’t stop looking at, furtively hidden behind a diamond encrusted mask.

Not that Lola herself looked anything less than spectacular. When they first met her, there weren’t many people in life who wouldn't earnestly discount her age by at least a decade and a half.

But it wasn't Lola’s years or body that had forced her to retire prematurely, change her name and leave behind the only life she knew—that of a Burlesque dancer perpetually on the road. These delectable young dancers were to blame, and her insatiable addiction to lying on top of them in bed. Whenever she found one she liked, Lola would quit the tour and stay behind in whatever city her object of desire happened to be living in. She’d mentor her and teach her the sort of tricks only years of experience can bequeath. Like a slow-simmering stew, she would earn the young dancer’s trust, and when the time was right, she’d make her move and invite her back home, ply her with expensive French wine and Russian vodka until she’d claim her delicious prize, hoping this one would be the one who would stay.

But none of them every did.

Each and every one of those bitches would suck her dry, have their token ‘woman-on-woman’ moment in life, before going back to their wretched boyfriends and insipid middle class dreams of marital bliss.

Until one day Lola couldn’t handle all the rejection and snapped.

In a fit of deranged lust, she sprang on Vika Vãduva in a dark alley of Timisoara and scorched her once-beautiful face with hydrochloric acid. 

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A Balmoral Blunder 


Vida Weber Johnson wrote: Anhsteciny-22-Female-Student-Sydney, Australia



A. M. Khalifa, AuthorThere is only one thing in life Anhsteciny chose of her own volition. She didn't ask for a genetic code that turned her immune system into her biggest enemy. Or that her mother, not some heartless bully at her all girls school in Lakemba, would decimate her self confidence and body image. She wouldn't have picked a father too weak to stand up against her mother's tyranny. Or her eyes. She hated her eyes.

Standing here, wearing this vest, her hand on the trigger button on a glorious day on Balmoral beach, surrounded by oblivious men, women and children, is the only path in life she got to handpick.

Music of the Devil


Christof Unterberger wrote: Kenji, 32, male, composer, Fukushima, Japan.
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A. M. Khalifa, Author
replied Kenji wasn’t even in Japan, let alone Fukushima, when a tsunami struck a nuclear plant there half a decade ago.

Thousands of miles across the world, at the time of impact, Kenji was at the swanky LA Studio in Hollywood, recording a haunting piano track for his maiden score of a major motion picture. At twenty-seven, he was prodigious back then, and the world was his for the grabbing if he wanted it. Five years later, the composer who was going to dethrone the biggest names in the business had self-imploded.

Something terrifying had transformed Kenji from a gifted musician and composer to a freak of nature. A change no less corporeal than the victims who lost their lives in the disaster, or the effects of radiation on the survivors in the worst affected areas. No, it wasn’t leukemia or thyroid cancer that destroyed his life. Kenji’s disease was that he could no longer read music. Instead of notes and time signature, all he can see when he looks at notation are three Japanese characters in endless repetition: 助けて.

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I, Judas


Chantelle Jahara Pinto wrote: Judas, 41, Male, Camel ride attendant at country fair markets, Australia.

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A. M. Khalifa, Author replied: Since 1975, Judas, the camel ride attendant at the Royal Melbourne Show, has been the star attraction. There was nothing special about his job. It was all rather trivial and automated. All Judas had to do was check the tickets were valid, make sure the kids were strapped safely to the camel, then towed the beast across and around the fair ground. The entire experience didn’t last longer than seven minutes, tops. Judas did not understand what all the commotion was about. He couldn't quite fathom why the children and their parents were more intrigued by him than the beautiful camels. Why they wanted to touch his body all over, pull his hair, poke his eyes, and take pictures with him. But there were many things in life Judas didn’t understand. Including the word ‘robot’, and why everyone seemed to think it was his name. He was Judas, not Robot.

On terrorism, radicalization and gun control

Ever noticed how the debate on terrorism seems to be monopolized by those least qualified to address the matter? Bloggers, television personalities, and wannabe politicians like Donald Trump who wouldn't be able to tell an ISIS terrorist from a Williamsburg hipster if their lives depended on it.

Which is why I reached out to my friend, Scott Nelson, to pick his brain. Scott is a former and highly decorated marine who served across the globe and was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Citation. He rose to head the FBI's public affairs office and was awarded the FBI Star for valor. Scott is the founder and president of Security & Risk Management Group, and is also an adjunct professor at Webster University, George Herbert Walker Graduate School of Business & Technology.

Scott Photo 2011 57-SNelson-014RT (3)AMK: The ISIS business model is about creating havoc, unleashing relentless global attacks targeting soft civilian targets. Is this inherently at odds with the conventional approach to law enforcement and counter-terrorism? In other words, are the security agencies prepared for this kind of threat?

SN: This has always been the challenge of law enforcement and security services. Since the dawn of time, crooks, thugs, terrorists, and child abusers have been changing with the times and so too must those whose job is to thwart them.Security forces face a daunting, ever-changing criminal landscape and must become smarter and more aggressive. Law enforcement concentrates on prevention, which is tantamount to reading tea leaves, but it does work most of the time. Prevention requires sophisticated investigative techniques, including the cooperation and participation of community members including, for example, all Muslims. Prevention is a shared responsibility.

In this article, I argue that counter-terrorism needs to be a complementary approach to counter-radicalization in the long-range fight against terrorism. Have our politicians and governments failed in containing the threat of Islamic radicalization now reaching feverish heights?

We absolutely need to focus more on counter-radicalization, the pipeline that feeds the terrorist ranks. It is as important as getting body counts on the battlefield which is the other side of the equation. While the military and security experts have long concentrated on "winning the hearts and minds" of the civilian populations, it hasn't been easy nor necessarily successful. I recall for example my time as a young infantry Marine Corps officer in Vietnam. Even way back then, we worked the counter-radicalization gig against the indigenous Viet Cong. We met, we cooperated, we paid, we helped and we preached. And law enforcement has long concentrated on "community policing".

But the counter-radicalization required today needs to be far more sophisticated. Dropping pamphlets on a villages simply won't do. We must insist that all right thinking Muslim nations put boots on the ground, fight to protect their own territory, deny the Islamic terrorists their moral high ground, and most importantly, loudly and forcefully rail against these terrorist thugs. Not only must we kill the terrorists and lock up those we capture but we must dissuade others from joining the fight. We can't counter anger and religious fervor by simply wishing it away.

As attacks like Paris and San Bernardino cut closer to home, the average man and woman must be asking themselves "What can I do to better protect myself and my family? Some say gun ownership is what makes deadly attacks easier to implement in the first place, others say if all civilians had guns, these attacks would be far less deadly. Is the threat of terrorism skewing and overly politicizing the debate on gun control, and what is the happy medium that would allow us to protect ourselves, without having guns fall in the wrong hands? 

The gun debate is loud and contentious. Certainly guns in the hands of terrorists, crooks, hoodlums, hooligans, idiots, thugs, bullies, thrill seekers, and punks is bad. But guns in the hands of law abiding, reasonable people who are authorized to have them is a constitutional right and a good thing. How do we prevent guns from getting in the hands of those who would use them to harm others? Like all violent crime, we can control gun possession but we can't rid the world of guns. The sad reality is that people have been murdering people for thousands of years and will continue to do so for thousands of years to come. Bombs, rocks, knives, poison, choking, sticks and stones, and fists will always be available to those intent on harming others. Violence is part of the human psyche and guns are only one means to that end.

That said, gun control is important and worthy of our best efforts. Comprehensive background checks for all handguns and rifles is necessary and specific licenses should be issued, and like vehicle drivers, re-licensing and re-checking should periodically be done. Law enforcement should step-up its efforts to identify and arrest gun violators, and that includes enforcement at our borders.  Gun violators should be sentenced to long mandatory prison sentences with no hope of early release. Hollywood should stop glamorizing guns and violence. Families should be responsible for family members. Schools should teach anger management and personal responsibility. Churches should emphasize ethics and goodness. Politicians should promote harsh legislation for gun abusers. Businesses should have workplace violence programs. Professional athletes and entertainers should become real role models. Mental health solutions should be identified and enforced. Frankly, it is not so much about the guns as it is about the people who use them.

I've heard mixed advice on what to do if you are caught in a dangerous situation. Some say run, others say to play dead. As a veteran of law enforcement with years of experience, what's your gold-standard advice? 

If you are caught in a dangerous situation, then your options at very best are limited. The gold standard is to avoid those situations. However, running, hiding, fighting, and even playing dead are all good options depending on the circumstances. Negotiation might also work in some situations. Regardless, keep a level head, be brave, and be smart. Passively accepting your own demise is not an option.

Terminal Deception

The countdown has started for the sequel to Terminal Rage. Set your clocks to July 25, 2016.


Egypt: Why the world should stop trying to change it

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Egypt is one the most fascinating countries in the world. Not just because of the ancient civilization, the Pyramids, the Nile, or any of the well documented cultural and historic privileges, but because it defies all logic, and obliterates all reason.

Consider that it's the only Arab country to have been through the revolutionary transition of the Arab Spring, only to replace the old guard with pretty much an identical regime, if only just a little younger. The world is splitting hairs on whether the current regime came to power via a coup or a revolution, but for most Egyptians, it's a moot point. It's the same regime they've had for the last 5,000 years. The only reason they paid attention during the Arab Spring is because it was the flavor of the season. Other Arabs were in on the action, and Egyptians can never be upstaged. Most analysts are wondering why it took Egyptians so long to rise up against the tyranny of Mubarak, and the dirty answer that no one will admit is that it's not that they couldn't revolt, they just didn't feel like it.

Across the rest of the Arabic world, radical Islamic forces are ravaging millennial old social structures, with the explicit intent to reset the region back to the stone-age. But in Egypt, instead of resisting the Islamic current, the country embraced it. The Muslim Brotherhood were the first to rule after the first revolution. Then promptly they were gobbled up, chewed and spat back like they had never existed. This is even more awe inspiring considering that the very fabric of political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood as its most visible face was actually invented in Egypt. Yes, the Muslim Brotherhood was voted in democratically, but barely lasted a year before Egyptians realized they were not much fun and would cramp their style. Limit tourism? Ban alcohol? No soft-porn music videos staring Lebanese singers? Yeah, right. Forget the religious facade most Egyptians put on for show. Egyptians, at their core are fun loving, sexually obsessed, hedonists who've been around for such a long time that they figured the best response to any crisis is an amazing sense of humor and exceptionally thick skin.

But perhaps the most amazing feat of nationstate hustling ever achieved, is the fact that Egypt is everybody's friend, but no body's girlfriend. It's honoring its peace treaty with Israel, on paper, but in practice, there is hardly any normalization of ties. It's got the United States AND Russia paying up the nose in hush money and to maintain whatever is left of the status quo in the region. Not to mention China, Europe, Saudi Arabia, AND it's most loathed nemesis, the tiny blip of a state Qatar that's taken it upon itself to put its natural gas wealth in the service of exporting turbulence and havoc. Egypt lambasts Doha in public, but everyone knows Al Jazeera's puppet masters are paying up the you know what. Or else.

ISIS pays only lip service to bringing the war to Egyptian shores, but they probably know they wouldn't stand a chance.

Ask any Egyptian now if life is better after the revolution and they will laugh at you and give you a laundry list of how everything is far worse than before. Now turn around and ask someone else if they miss the Mubarak days and they will laugh at you and give you a laundry list of how everything is far better than before.

In other words, everything has changed in Egypt since the revolution, yet NOTHING has changed since the revolution.

Or to be more specific, for external powers vying to meddle in Egypt, the message is clear, don't Fu#$ with Egypt. The rational laws of physics involved with Fu#$!ng with a population are no more applicable in that country than gravity is in space.

What to do if you find yourself in a terrorist attack or any violent or dangerous situation

Chances are, if you live in a major metropolis and work for a fairly large company or organization, your Monday morning was all about security briefings as a result of what happened in Paris over the weekend.

A friend of mine (more like a brother from another mother to be precise) who works for the United Nations in Rome, wrote a letter to his three children back in the US about this, and I wanted to share it because it's the best advice I've seen. I hope you never have to use it.

Stay safe, and after reading this, never again make fun of a red neck! I mean it.

From: "◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙"
Subject: the rules
Date: November 16, 2015 at 10:03:19 AM GMT+1
To: ◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙, ◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙, ◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙◙

Dear Kids,

I am being bombarded with warnings from the US Embassy in Rome, the United Nations security office, and the Italian government. There was a mile long queue to get inside the office today. It almost felt like I worked for a top secret military installation.

As your dad, I can’t help but take note of the news: a night club fire in Romania, the Paris shootings, explosions in Lebanon. And of course, there are shootings in the US every day.

So let’s go over the rules. You know them, but it’s time to refresh your memories.

All of you:

- Live in the United States
- Are international travelers
- Go to schools, attend concerts, and sporting events

So in theory, that puts you at the highest risk level. But there is nothing you can do to predict or avoid these situations.

Your best defense is to be ready and prepared if you find yourselves in the midst of a dangerous situation like a shootout, a fire, a bomb threat—any craziness really. Kids, remember that you come from good redneck stock, y’all know how to react, you’ve been around guns and know the rules.

So, if you find yourselves in a bad situation, here are your four rules.

Rule 1 - Get down on the floor, don’t run
- People who run are targets
- People who run risk getting trampled to death at the exit
- Cover yourself if you can, and play dead

Rule 2- Calm down and assess the situation
- Where is the shooter or shooters?
- Where is the nearest exit?
- Where is the fire?
- What exactly is going on?

Take a deep breath and think for a second, this will save your life. It could be over quickly, and staying put for one minute is the best thing you can do. Even if it is a fire, be smart and try to tamper your your survival instinct to bolt away.

Rule 3 - Make a plan
- Think of an exit strategy
- What are the others doing, what’s working and what’s not?
- What is really going on?
- If it is fire, cover your mouth and nose with a wet cloth if possible

Whatever you decide to do, do it calmly and when you act, don’t hesitate.

Rule 4 - Help those around you, if you can

You guys are all athletes, all of you. You know pain is weakness leaving your
body and it goes away. Stay calm, take the pain, and act with your brain and your
inner redneck and you will live a long life and be happy.

I love you all.