Daddy issues in the Trump era

The other day a journalist asked me what parts of my anti-Trump satire Freedom City are true. Do I advocate violence or revolution? Am I a cuckold like Beach Sands? Was I a skinhead like Joseph Kaline? Do I make bombs in my spare time?

It’s fiction, I told her, but the underlying themes are true.

Asked for an example, I blurted out that two of my characters have “daddy issues”—something I didn’t even realize until the words left my mouth

For one character, Langston “FD” Hamdi, his father’s death upended his education and spurred him to becoming a graffiti artist. “With his father gone he couldn’t imagine anything more important and beautiful than a simple mural honoring his memory. And he didn’t need to go to school for that.”

For Joseph Kaline, a former Nazi skinhead, it was an epiphany about his father that made him turn his life around and renounce bigotry: “[For] the first time in Joe’s life he realized what an ignorant, homicidal asshole he had become, just like his father.”

When I created these characters with such different backgrounds I didn’t recognize what they have in common. FD’s father, who he idolized, died from cancer. Joe simply rejected his abusive father, who he loathed. The common denominator is that both their dads were irrevocably gone. In retrospect, it’s plain how this theme found its way into my story, because I haven’t talked to my own father since before Trump’s inauguration.

I know I’m not alone. With Trump’s most fervent base consisting primarily of white male Baby Boomers—the FOX “News” crowd—many of us born to these men are having our relationships tested. I’ve lost count how many friends have told me that they too have limited or cut off contact with their fathers for the same reason.

I certainly can’t speak for every progressive person who’s in the same situation, but I can describe my own turning point.

A graduate of the Naval Academy, successful, seemingly intelligent, in many ways my father is an admirable man. Now that he’s retired, he brews beer, which he drinks on his porch with a handyman named Rabbit. My father is generous, often funny, and he spoils his grandchildren. He’s also a far-right conservative—always has been—and so when he and Rabbit are drinking beer on the porch you might hear him parroting those FOX “News” taking points we’re all so sick of hearing about: entitlements, Obama, the liberal media, her emails, etc.

There was a time when I believed much of what he said, because he’s my dad and I once looked up to him. I didn’t know any better. By the time I finished college, however, I realized that his political views are more or less insane. Still, I assumed these whacky opinions were harmless. Everyone is entitled to his own beliefs, right? During the Republican primaries, my dad commented that he would vote for “the Donald.” I laughed. I assumed that was the appropriate response.

We all know how the election turned out.

And this is where my father’s beliefs went from being insane hypotheticals to an assault on my family and me. “The Donald”—big surprise—is a monster. The ways in which he’s destabilizing our democracy are countless, and I don’t want to delve into all of them here. The point is that, unlike the mere ephemeral rants of a man brainwashed by FOX “News,” now I have to worry about things like:

  • Will my elderly mother (divorced from my father when I was four), who is on untold medicines to prevent pulmonary embolisms, see cuts to her Medicare that could impact her health or even kill her?
  • Will my son, now fourteen, be drafted into the military in four years to fight whatever war Trump starts with his flippant tweets?
  • Will my partner and I, who live within sight of the U.S. Capitol, be incinerated in a nuclear blast because Trump refuses to read his daily intelligence briefs?
  • Will my son or my daughter, almost thirteen, be murdered at school by some psychopath in a Trump hat who was able to get a gun without a background check?
  • Should either of my kids be gay, will they be permitted to marry their partners? Will they be subject to legally sanctioned harassment and discrimination?
  • Should my daughter ever be raped and become pregnant, will she be forced to raise her rapist’s child because of Trump’s extremist judicial appointments?
  • When or if my kids have children—hopefully a very long time from now—will the United States even be a democracy anymore?

I can go on and on, but you get the point. These were not questions I took seriously before. Now they keep me up at night—and I mean that literally; I literally stare at the ceiling and worry my family is going to die. This is to say nothing about the racism, the sexism, the brazen corruption, and the hypocrisy.

And this takes me back to my father and to all the other white male Baby Boomers who helped carry Trump into the White House. I guess the clincher was my realization that an intelligent man can’t possibly be both a Trump supporter and a good person. For me, Trump’s election was when my perception of my father as an admirable or “good” person, like FD’s father, effectively died. Like Joe Kaline, I’ve chosen to limit my contact with what remains, because I can’t help but see that man as a willing accomplice in the existential threat against my mother, my children, my partner, my friends, my community, and every other thing that I love.

From a strictly emotional standpoint, I suppose, every word of Freedom City is true. Within its pages, my “daddy issues”—among other afflictions—are laid bare. I just didn’t see them until after the book was written.


The unusual, the aberrant, the saucy—and the lowbrow? My next reading will be in Chicago!

The adrenaline rush has barely subsided from my D.C. launch in January and my Brooklyn launch in February. Both events had upwards of thirty attendees. Online sales have been fantastic. The enthusiasm for Freedom City has been amazing!

Amid all this excitement, I’m thrilled to announce that my next reading will be at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago on June 22nd! They’re located at 1854 W. North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60622. The reading will start at 7 p.m. There is a Facebook page for the event here.

“We favor the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy, and the lowbrow,” reads Quimby’s website.

Although I think no novel that uses the word “kakistocracy” in its description can truly be called lowbrow, the other parts—unusual, aberrant, and saucy—certainly describe my book. Freedom City is foremost about an unusual band of rebels who join together in the year after Donald Trump’s death to wage a guerilla war against fascism in America. “But all revolutions are inherently internal,” as pointed out by one of the book’s four main characters, Langston “FD” Hamdi. The characters’ personal and sexual relationships are sticky. These relationships, which manifest in some frank and arguably aberrant sexual encounters, affect their choices throughout the novel.

A couple people who’ve reviewed me on Amazon have felt it necessary to point out some of my book’s, um, saucy content.

One person, who goes by the initials AM, wrote “… Becnel is a talented writer with creative imagination and a sharp wit, making for an entertaining read. Note there is some explicit content, for mature readers.”

“It is a fast read that I couldn’t put down,” wrote another reviewer with the initials JAF. “My only word of caution for some is that there are some graphic sex scenes (although no rape or violence – it is all consensual) that some might find off putting.”

I note, however, that these were both 5-star reviews.

Anyway, I can’t promise lowbrow, but I’m looking forward to celebrating the unusual, the aberrant, and the saucy at Quimby’s Bookstore this summer. If you’re in Chicago and want to come check me out, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for the latest news leading up to the event.

I hope to see you there!



Brooklyn launch resounding success!

When I kicked off my Freedom City event around seven o’clock on Saturday, February 10th, I knew exactly five people among the thirty or so attendees. As I stood up to introduce myself, I had no idea what to expect.

Were these people actually there to hear my reading, or had they just stumbled into Little King for a drink on a rainy night? Was that guy with the American flag on his hat a Trump supporter? Was I going to be heckled or booed?

I took a deep breath and read the prologue’s first line:

Despite the odium and widespread condemnation of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America, he passed with all the fanfare of a fart in a mesh sack.

The crowd cheered. I knew immediately I was in good company. I finished the prologue to another ovation and then read brief passages for each of the book’s four main characters. At the end, strangers asked a ton of great questions and then lined up to buy books. I was awestruck by their enthusiasm and felt foolish for ever doubting my reception in Williamsburg.

Two adorable French exchange students bought copies of Freedom City—they said to practice their English. One couple asked me to sign their copy with a quote from the Disney film Mulan, a jab at a ridiculous op-ed Mike Pence wrote about the movie being evidence as to why women shouldn’t be allowed in the military. The quote had something to with dishonor. It was brilliant.

Even the man in the American flag hat turned out to be a progressive visiting from Seattle, where he said that satirical “anti-Trump erotica” is currently all the rage there these days. It mostly includes jokes about “small penises,” he explained. Who knew?

Anyway, my point is that I fucking love New York. I had a great time, and the event exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. Thank you so much to Little King for hosting and to Zero Gravity Brewery for helping out the cause. Thank you also to the people who made my Brooklyn launch so memorable. It was a night I’ll never forget.

I have more fun events in the works through the spring and summer, so stay tuned!



Vermont brewery supports Freedom City Brooklyn launch

It’s an open secret that I dream of retiring from my investigations business and moving to Vermont. I’ve got it all worked out. My study will look out on a beautiful mountain. I’ll keep an annual pass to Jay Peak. I’ll raise a dairy cow—nothing too big, just a Miniature Jersey—who I’ll name Maud.

Also, one of the four main characters from Freedom City is a supplanted Vermonter who was a tad sheltered growing up and who is now trying to reconcile the relative sanity of her home state with the rest of America. This passage explains it best:

Mentally, she had come to terms with her self-destructiveness and had begun to understand its origins. Reared in Vermont’s pristine, blue bubble, she understood the world as governed by reasonable and fundamentally good people, despite ideological differences. When she had witnessed evidence of America’s fundamental rottenness and stupidity on TV (case in point: Duck Dynasty), she assumed, like many Americans, that it was solely for entertainment purposes. Such idiocy must be a Hollywood fantasy, intended solely to induce laughter and ridicule. Such vapidity must be satire, created to help “real Americans” appreciate the values that actually matter: compassion, empathy, and love.

Her cousin’s malevolent smile put a crack in her simulacrum: some Americans, even ones who had theretofore been dear to her, were in fact rotten. But the twelve-year-old Clare had glossed over this lesson and stitched her bubble back together with counseling and Band-Aids. Through high school, college, and law school she met plenty of people who did bad things, but never did she write them off as “bad people”; they were merely people whose situations caused them to make bad choices. Then, nearly a third of the population voted for Donald J. Trump—a demonstrable crook, racist, sociopath—and it was no longer possible for her to ignore the world’s evil. Her worldview imploded under the crushing force of America’s profound sickness.

So, given my long-distance love affair with the Green Mountain State, it’s fitting that a Vermont company, Zero Gravity Brewery, has generously offered up some of their delicious beer in support of my Brooklyn launch. Come to Little King at 6 p.m. this Saturday, February 10th and get a $5 can, which you can enjoy during the reading.

Supplies are limited though, so arrive early! See you there!


Where to buy books to maximize your favorite author’s advantage

A few people have asked me recently, “Where is the best place to purchase your book?” In other words, having already decided to buy the book, where will I (the author) derive the most benefit? The average reader might assume a sale is a sale, but there are actually several factors that influence a sale’s relative value to an author. Three factors jump to mind: royalties, reviews, and social conscience.

The easiest response to this question is that retailers, like Amazon and iBooks, must charge something for their platforms—so buying directly from the publisher, whenever possible, maximizes profit to the author. Strictly from the standpoint of royalties, this is your best bet, since it cuts out the middleman. For me, that would mean buying Freedom City directly from Lulu. But if buying a book directly from the publisher isn’t an option—and if you’re still only concerned about maximizing royalties to the author—then my suggestion would be to go with a platform other than Amazon, because they generally take a larger share of the pie from authors than other retailers.

However, another factor is that Amazon has a near monopoly on book sales in the United States, so reviews on that platform matter a whole lot to authors in terms of future sales. We’re dependent on our loyal readers to buy books from Amazon and to write glowing, verified reviews there, so that prospective readers in the future will know our books don’t suck. This is particularly important in the months following a book’s release. For Freedom City, released just last month, my current strategy has been to steer people to Amazon and to implore them to write a review afterward.

But wait—how could a progressive author in good conscience direct sales to Amazon? As the author of a book that flat-out ridicules companies like Yuengling and Coors for supporting Trump, it’s difficult to reconcile the fact that I’m promoting a company that funds racist propaganda though its advertisements on Breitbart. Once my book sells 10,000 copies I can take a firmer stand, but until then I have no choice, because to spurn Amazon is to commit author suicide. For now, when people ask where to buy my book I just add the asterisks—*maybe consider another retailer that isn’t evil.

To summarize, how to best help authors is complicated. It depends on what an author cares about most, and this likely depends on how long the book has been out. For me, the answer is

  • Today, buy the book from Amazon and write me a review.
  • Once I have 100 reviews, buy the book from Lulu or from a local bookstore like Upshur Street Books.
  • Once I sell 100,000 copies, buy the book from anywhere other than Amazon, assuming by then they’re still advertising on Brietbart.

However you buy my book—or any book—thanks for being a conscientious book consumer and supporting an indie author. For a complete list of where to purchase Freedom City, check out my website.

Thanks for reading!


Next up, Brooklyn!

Thank you all who came to my inaugural book launch in D.C. at Slash Run on January 19th! The crowd included some faces familiar to me, as well as many people who dropped in just to learn more about the book. It’s clear that Freedom City is on its way to becoming “a thing”—which is of course what I hoped for! I was extremely honored by the turnout and the excitement.

I started by reading the Prologue, which is set at the unveiling of Donald Trump’s mausoleum, followed by a short passage about each of the four main characters. I then gave away a couple of books, answered some questions, and introduced The Fuss, a ska band from D.C. It was without exception a great night!

My next event will be in New York—specifically, in Williamsburg—at Little King, which is located at 749 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11211. It will start at 6 p.m. on February 10th. I previously wrote about the Brooklyn launch here, and there is a Facebook page for the event here.

If the Slash Run event was any indicator, the Brooklyn launch at Little King should be a straight-up blast. I hope to see you there!

Thank you, Petworth!

I grew up with my mom in a small town in Northern California, then spent my formative years in New Orleans. I liked these places, but I’ve never felt more connected and loved than in Petworth, my neighborhood in Washington, D.C. I’ll never forget that when I first moved here back in 2008 a neighbor left cookies at our door—cookies!

With my book launch coming up this Friday night, I wanted to take a moment to thank my community for all their support, which has been tantamount to more delicious cookies. In the weeks leading up to the launch, which is scheduled to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, several local people and businesses have very graciously given me a hand.


  • Upshur Street Books, the cutest damn bookstore in D.C., has carried my title for almost two weeks now. It is now the only place in the city where you can get a copy, unless you order it online. This will likely change soon, but I strongly encourage everyone in the city to buy it there—or to buy any book there. It’s a great bookstore. You’ll dig it.
  • Slash Run, where I’ve seen many of my favorite bands, agreed to host my launch and cede the stage to me on a Friday night. It’s somewhat untraditional to host a book launch at a bar/restaurant—bookstores are the standard choice—but Freedom City is an untraditional book. Also, Slash Run exudes energy, which I love, plus it has a big space, which I aim to fill with subversive bookworm-types.
  • The Fuss, a fantastic local ska band, is performing their new album at my launch. I used to be neighbors with Andi, the lead singer, and when her band was practicing I’d walk my dog by her place just to be in their aura. They also have a new album coming out called “Ourselves,” reportedly with a song called “Tear it down.” I haven’t heard the song—nobody has, because the album hasn’t been released yet—but its title suggests it may become the Freedom City anthem.
  • Lastly, Petworth News wrote a great article inviting locals to, “Come ridicule the Trump kakistocracy in a fiction book release party at Slash Run!” I’ve bumped elbows with Drew, the chief writer at Petworth News, although I don’t personally know him. I want to know him though, as his writing is one of the primary ways I’ve learned new stuff about my neighborhood over the years. Besides, he just looks like a super nice guy.

As this adventure is just beginning for me, I’m sure there will be others to thank in due course—and also many cookies to give back to the community. For now, I just wanted to say I’m very appreciative of the folks who’ve helped me out so far. It means a lot to me.

Thank you, Petworth! I’m looking forward to seeing you at my launch on January 19th!