Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cover Reveal-- Messenger

Messenger – Book One of Behind the Walls of Sleep
(YA Fantasy, 75K words)

When we close our eyes at night, we all see the same ancient place. Exploring Astra is like living a videogame. Tomorrow, I’m going goblin-tipping with some of the other wizards. The first rule of being a dream wizard is “no photos.” You don’t want the bad guys finding you where you have no powers. The waking world sucks.

Since Mom went to prison, the Nevada foster system sent me to Minnesota to meet an Uncle Joe I never knew I had. Snow loses its charm after five days. Only music and the dreams make my life bearable.
The weird thing is that elements of the worlds are bleeding into each other. Someone is trying to kill me, and I’m not sure who: the criminal underworld, the elves, or the crazy wizard causing these freaky storms.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Futurism, an Agent of Change

I just finished my first YA fantasy, and it's in edit now. My next project will be to finish the Jezebel series. The target is about 40 from now--2054. There will be 9 billion people on the planet by then, one and a half today's levels, most of the growth occurring in Africa and Asia. Extrapolating the technology won't be as hard as finding possible solutions. There are a few problems to tackle, such as the fact that more than a billion, perhaps two, of that enormous population will be so poor they will be starving. Health care and education are also critical, but human dignity will take center stage in this story.

The female lead characters are already concentrating on solving the problems through:
  1. educating woman in third-world countries in science, math, and technology in a program that encourages beneficiaries to pay forward.
  2. kindle schools for elementary education in remote areas
  3. cheap universally available male birth control (nanotech called the genilock).
  4. genetically engineering people immune to aids and several other life-threatening conditions.
  5. access to close, clean water so that women don't need to spend all day gathering it.
  6. processing of human waste and trash by insects that can in-turn be eaten, making slums more self sustaining.
  7. factory jobs that produce things the people need for their own uplift.
The hardest part of any great endeavor is not the technology; rather, it is changing the tacit opinions of the society. Most of this education revolves around the treatment of women. Ultimately, parents and communities should handle the moral education of young boys. Corporations should also be leaders, paying living and equal wages instead of spending profits to maintain the status quo. (Can you guess who the villains in this story are going to be?) However, where they fail, media will need to pick up the slack. Therefore, the number one net show in my next story will be "Ball Busters", like Myth Busters, where they tackle a different public egregious wrong against women each episode. With over a million in revenue each week (plus corporate donations of gadgets in exchange for advertisement) they can tackle almost any issue. 

The first issue they tackle is men who have the means but don't pay child support. Picture any episode of Cops where former military women from the US and Israel are given a photo of an offender and a warrant for a forced genilock. The chase him down and zap him in the balls with a device which prevents him from having any more kids until he takes care of the ones he's already made. His genitals have a "boot" on them like a car with too many tickets. The woman reporting the problem has all child support paid by the show as incentive. As far as reality shows, this would be dirt cheap. With population growth and abandonment so out of control, this practice could be accepted.

The larger issue they need to address is the tolerance of rape.The team finds a problem spot (gang rapes in country X, police non-enforcement, rape kits unprocessed, refugees attacked when they go for water, etc) where they sweep in, brain storm, and then address the issue. Hopefully others with the same problem are shamed into fixing it before the team needs to intervene. The mindset of the show is follow the laws that already exist and restate the mantra "No one should be subjected to this."

Technology available will be:
  1. inexpensive fabrication of key drugs.
  2. inexpensive basic construction through "printing".
  3. cheap and plentiful web cameras.
  4. watcher participation to spot infractions.
  5. genetic testing to prove paternity.
  6. a way to trace the strain of a given venereal disease to force the man spreading it to pay for the treatment.
We have all this to some degree today. I'll just extend it and combine it. For example, they will distribute a mace-like spray with a built-in signal for help and a video feed. When used, the spray releases pink dye onto the suspect along with an enzyme like PDE5 which gets rid of any erection. Given that help is on the way, prosecution of the tagged and videoed man will be much easier. 

Right now, only about 3 percent of all rapists spend any time behind bars. What I want to show in Jezebel 5 is a society that works to fix this problem, because until we do, we're shooting our future before it can be formed. A society that can address this problem can accomplish anything.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Geneology Homework

My son Pierce was just in the hospital for a week and recovered on pain meds for another week. Now he's catching up on homework. For one assignment, he needed to interview a family member about a great grandparent. Since Pierce interviewed me, I figured I would publish the interview in my blog.

Albert was my great grandfather. He was born in East Hanover Township, 1/11/1902 on his family’s farm in Pennsylvania. His family, descended from a Philadelphia cabinet maker from the Rhine Valley in Germany, still spoke Pennsylvania Dutch. He attended Findlay Divinity College in Ohio on a work-study program and shoveled coal to keep the school heated. He was ordained in the Church of God (before the split over tongues) and found his calling “repairing churches.” Whenever there was a problem, they would call him in. He could talk to anyone and always had a joke about any subject. His family moved a lot.
He was married to a younger Vera Valentine Eshlemann and had six children: Marlin, David, Stan, Eloise, Shirley, and Ken (my grandfather). She was good at baking pies, and after every meal she would hold up her hands and say, “I never owned a dishwasher my whole life, these were my dishwashers.”
By the time my grandfather was born, Albert’s oldest children were in the military. My grandfather joined too, because they were too poor to go to college without the GI Bill. When asked about President Eisenhower, Albert complained, “Ike promised our children would never again fight in foreign wars, and now my boys are in Korea.” He preferred reading the comics in the newspaper. He told his grandchildren jokes like
“Who was the shortest man in the Bible? Nehemiah (pronounced Knee-high-miah) or Bart the shoe-height.”
“Where is baseball mentioned in the Bible? In the big inning.”
“Where are there cars in the Bible? The apostles gathered together and were in one Accord. Before that they only had motorcycles, the Triumph of Gideon was heard throughout the land.”
His last official church was in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where he married my Great Aunt Shirley and Great Uncle Larry. This is the place he lived the longest. After he retired, he bought a row house there a block from the church, where he could hear the clock bells. He maintained a long, narrow flower garden with snapdragons, Peruvian daffodils, and roses, which he gave clippings of to my grandparents. My grandfather gave children of the same daffodils to my parents. Even retired, Albert drove a 20 year old Dodge Dart to preach at two small local churches. He only stopped after a stroke ruined his night vision because he didn’t want to hurt anyone.
Albert and Vera visited one summer when Grandpa Ken was stationed in Alaska. Ken took him salmon fishing that weekend when he had off work. On Sunday, in the stream, Albert reeled in a prize on steel leader, a salmon so big it took five people to help wrestle into the net. His response was, “This is God’s joke on me. It’s the biggest fish I’ll ever catch in my life, and I can’t tell anyone because I caught it on the Lord’s day.”

When he died in late May 1984, the funeral was huge. The line to view the casket stretched around the block. The oddest person there was a mentally challenged woman in a raccoon-skin coat (in summer). Nobody recognized her. When asked, she said she met him at the bus stop. He was the only one who would talk to her, and he would be missed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ten Goals for the New Year

I saw a friend in Facebook with some interesting goals for the New Year, so I thought I might make up a few. One of his was to get one of those Shriner cars with a helicopter blade on top. He can't afford one, so he was planning the theoretical heist. I helped. (Writers can do that without getting arrested.) I pointed out that right in the confusion before or after a parade was the best time. A clown costume could get him in and out without suspicion. Of course, then he had to add "Learn to ride a unicycle" to his goals. Small price to pay for a dream.
Here's what I came up with, in no particular order. I'll consider myself successful if I accomplish half, in addition to what life throws at me every day, but I'll still try for all ten.

  1. Write three more books: hopefully a young adult fantasy, the finale of my Jezebel series, and something brand new. The new is always the hardest, more dangerous, and most exciting.
  2. Get my son through hip surgery safely and with decent grades and happy, which is why I aimed for only three books not four like normal. He's going to be in a wheelchair for six weeks. We're not sure when it's going to be scheduled yet. I think we've had three rounds of X-rays, a computer gait analysis, and a CT scan so far.
  3. Improve my hit ratio with books. Only about half hit the top 100 lists and pay for themselves. About a sixth don't even sell copies every month on Amazon. This means getting feedback from a content editor early so I can change stories if one isn't likely to pan out. It may also mean paying for more marketing.
  4. Sign up for new health insurance. My two-year HP retirement benefits run out at the end of August. I can either pay for double coverage starting in March or pay the full amount to continue HP coverage for four months. Obamacare makes it possible for independent writers to see doctors!
  5. Read four new authors. This is harder than it sounds. With my glasses problems, I only read about 20 a year and most of those are from old favorites or shared with my family. I want to start with the author of "Fight Club", Chuck Palahniuk. Since my early sci-fi has been compared to the Canadian Cory Doctorow, I thought I should find out why.
  6. Create my first audio book (while the kids are at school). It takes about two hours of total silence to generate one hour of story. I even bought the equipment for it already, and Tammy has volunteered to do women's voices. I should do so soon to ride the current wave, but I want to have quality. I also want to make all that time count. Part of me wants to advertise "Foundation for the Lost" to increase its popularity. Another part wants to do Jezebel to boost my biggest money earner and the one most likely to be purchased.
  7. Finish importing all my cassette tapes from the 80s into itunes, including converting the .wav files to mp3 for the first ten albums I did. Twice in the last year, I wanted to listen to a given song while writing a particular scene. However, this is tedious. I'll need to download new software and buy a tape player that doesn't hiss. Then I need to spend hours editing the albums into songs with Audacity.
  8. Buy albums from four new artists. Again, difficult. I have about 4000 tunes in my collection, 980 in my current writing playlist. However, I don't want to become a barnacle and become stuck in the 90s.
  9. Surprise my wife with a romantic gesture once a season. This is difficult because she doesn't like me to kill plants unnecessarily, and we don't have family nearby to watch the kids. She knows me well enough that this is even harder. I also admit to being a complacent. This means I have to make it a point to put forth the effort. She's worth itl.
  10. Apply to teach at the local college. After the surgery but before signing up for insurance for next year. Notice this is pretty low on my priorities. As a retiree, any task that takes over 20 minutes of work I don't enjoy goes to the "later" pile. Hmm. That list it pretty long now. I could be an instructor for math or computers, but secretly hope to teach writing. This won't happen, which is another reason it's on the bottom. It's a scientific fact that only three people in any math class actually want to be there.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Family Film Reminders

I recently spent two full days dubbing five years of microcassettes onto DVD for my Dad's Christmas gift. Watching my children again reminded me of many things I had forgotten.

  1. Young children are incredibly enthusiastic. When my son opened his third birthday presents, everything was the best, and he was so grateful. That excitement didn't begin to diminish until his first school bus ride at age five.
  2. Bath time was play time. They seemed to have more toys in the tub than the rest of the house. I was particularly fond of the rubber ducky cover for the spigot.
  3. My daughter loved to dance, even as a baby. She would bop to the rhythm of a basketball or 80s music. Dancing with the Stars awed her.
  4. Firsts are fantastic: walking up a staircase, playing in snow, building a block tower taller than yourself, or climbing a ladder to your fort with your loyal puppy.
  5. Jumping is fun: leaves, sofas, trampolines, or your new big-boy/girl bed.
  6. Newborns have a different cry for each thing they need and train parents to tell them apart. One of them is "I dropped my binkie". We often referred to Mean Mr. Gravity, a young child's nemesis.
  7. Spontaneous laughter is contagious. Giggles that well up from a child spread to everyone. Anything can start it, from a feather duster sword fight to a belly zerbert. My daughter had several laughs as well. My favorite was on we called the pirate laugh.
  8. Children are kind and believe easily. I played with my kids with a cat puppet and a doctor kit. They talked to the puppet as if it were real, calming its fears and making sure it was healthy. Imagination is contagious as well.
  9. School holiday presentation are an hour of sitting for five minutes of your child. Everyone has a moment, but you have to be present to win. Meanwhile, cheer for everyone else's moment. My son was so proud of winning best costume as a penguin that he wore the same outfit for the next five Halloweens. Tammy eventually had to make him a bigger one.
  10. My wife, when I managed to catch her on camera, was really cute. I could see her glow whenever the kids ran up to her for a hug or she handed out a Christmas present. I'm really lucky.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book 4 of Jezebel Released: Approaching Oblivion

I'm really excited by the release of the latest in the Jezebel's Ladder series. Last one, Sanctuary, hit a top hundred Amazon sci-fi list after the first week. Approaching Oblivion hit three lists on day three. Thanks so much to people who continue to read. I tried to pack Oblivion with drama, humor, science, and action. Enjoy.

Book five should be the finale in the series. I'll probably open with a couple childhood scenes on the spaceship. Then the astronauts go back to a strange and potentially hostile Earth. There will be a lot of discussion about companies copyrighting human genetic enhancements. I'll also have fun with media as a tool for social change. I may even have male on the cover for the first time. (Someone wanted me to put Herk in a Hawaiian shirt on this cover)

The main character so far is Stu. He will feel like a demigod in the starship, but be a fish out of water on Earth. After having a long crush on Mira, he's going to fall head over heels for the aura of his primary opponent for control over the incredibly powerful Fortune Enterprises--Mira's biological daughter. She starts out mildly evil, but there will be enough hit squads and double-crosses that she'll figure out old-fashioned Stu is the only one she can trust. I'll have fun with parents being almost the same ages as their children due to space travel.

Right now, two stories are wrestling in my head. While I'm brainstorming Jez 5, I am also writing section 1 of the YA fantasy "Behind the Walls of Sleep"--Winter. It's flowing well, and I've had the idea lodged in my brain for over 30 years. Maybe getting the first 17K words to a content editor in the next week or so will help me decide which novel to focus on for my St. Patrick's Day cover and line edit slots.

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Short Story Collection--Epic Fails

I had a lot of fun writing these between books.

Eight epic fantasy stories that have a common theme—failure. Sometimes dark but often funny, these tales paint other worlds where things didn’t work out the way the main character planned.
  • A Lesson in Summoning—an apprentice learns how summon Shrong demons.
  • A Boy with No Name on a Horse Called Spot—a young man must earn his adult name.
  • Cheating Death—an untrustworthy Greek wizard finds a way to live forever.
  • The Loneliness Drug—a new drug hits the market with side effects.
  • Of Mycenaean Men: an ancient foible—a Monty Pythonesque spoof of the Odyssey.
  • Native Intelligence—a teenaged Indian learns magic from his grandfather.
  • Agents of Fortune—an Appalachian witch helps people by listening to the right voice.
  • Zaboath Must Die—a post-apocalypse where one person’s heaven is another’s hell.