Monday, February 15, 2010

Some Scary Numbers

I'm getting close to finishing the first draft of my new thriller, tentatively titled THE LONELY MILE. I'm not going to get into plot specifics, partly because the manuscript is unsold and partly because if I'm fortunate enough to get this book published it will be a couple of years at the earliest before it sees the light of day.

But in writing THE LONELY MILE I have had occasion to do some research into the subject of human trafficking, and what I discovered shocked me. If you're like me, hearing the word "slavery" brings back memories of fifth grade civics class and basic U.S. history, and the fact that we fought a Civil War nearly one hundred fifty years ago to end slavery in this country.

But slavery still exists, both in the Unites States and the world as a whole. In fact, according to the U.S. State Department, between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders every year. Of these, seventy percent are female and fifty percent children, the majority of which are forced into commercial sex trade.

Human trafficking is the third most profitable criminal activity in the world, behind only drugs and arms trafficking. Within the United States alone, the State Department estimates between 14,000 and 18,000 people are trafficked annually. The report is careful to state that this figure does not include data on sexual exploitation alone, but rather the numbers include trafficking for any sort of forced labor.

Each year since 2001, the State Department has ranked the world's countries into three tiers, based on their efforts to eliminate human trafficking. In the 2009 report, the most recent available, seventeen countries have been identified as "Tier Three" nations, meaning they "do not comply with the minimum standards [of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000] and are not making significant efforts to do so."

Among those seventeen nations considered "Tier Three," - up from fourteen such nations identified in the 2005 report, by the way - are Cuba, Fiji, Iran, North Korea, and two countries American soldiers have fought and died trying to protect: Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Disturbing stuff. Hold on tight to your children and when they do things to try your patience, it might not be a bad idea to take a moment and give thanks they are around to do so.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Extreme Makeover, Web Edition

I launched my website,, in July, 2008 to near-universal cheers and acclaim.Okay, you're right, pretty much nobody noticed. But I wanted to begin establishing a web presence for that happy moment that I considered inevitable, when I signed my first book contract and released my first novel.

A lot has happened since then, but now that I have a contract for the release of my first novel, FINAL VECTOR, scheduled for release February 2011 from Medallion Press, one thing I am thankful for is that I did begin establishing that web presence two years ago.

However, one thing I'm not is a web designer, or any kind of IT specialist. You could take what I know about web design and computer graphics and coding and all that other mysterious stuff and stick it in your eye and not feel the least bit uncomfortable, although why you would want to do that is beyond me. The point is, though, that you could.

I worked nearly two full weeks back in July of 2008 to get that website online and when I was done, I felt proud of what I had accomplished, mostly because I had done something I didn't really believe possible in actually getting a website up and running.

However, in the time since then, I have had more and more trouble with the damned thing, until I reached the point where, when I signed the contract with Medallion, I wasn't even able to put the exciting news on my home page! I couldn't get anything on there, or on the Bio page either, for that matter.

Sometimes, it is best simply to admit defeat. I'm no web guru and never will be. The stuff just doesn't interest me enough to learn about it, plus I'm so busy writing and doing my day job as an air traffic controller that I don't have time to devote to maintaining a website.

The point is this, and sorry it took me seven paragraphs to get here: I needed help with my website. So I went and got some. My full redesigned site should be online sometime in April or early May, but for now, my web designer - - has come up with a fantastic holding page for, featuring the cover to my upcoming novel.

I'm really excited, because Maddee James from Xuni is everything I'm not when it comes to the Internet and web design. Specifically, talented.

If you have a free second, check out the holding page at and let me know what you think.