Looking back v. looking ahead…

November 23rd, 2017

To my U.S. readers…Happy Thanksgiving! This holiday involves both looking back and looking ahead. Be thankful for the good things in your life and your abilities to fight the good fights, and help those in the world who are downtrodden and exploited and have neither. Celebrate the good things in your past and forge your better future.

Readers, do you want your favorite writers to get on to that next book? Writers, do you rest on your laurels, or do you push on to that next book? Some writers in the past only had one good book in them. Harper Lee and her friend Truman Capote are examples; although the former published a rejected version of To Kill a Mockingbird that became its sequel, and the latter had other works besides In Cold Blood, they are known only for those two books. This happens a lot for authors whose books are placed in that catch-all category “literary fiction.” Some writers write many books, and, for genre fiction, publishers as well as readers want them just to get on to that next book.

I push myself to write the next book. I jokingly describe this as my muses getting after me; they’re really banshees with Tasers, who know I have many good stories in me (I’ve never had writer’s block). But I’m really talking about pushing myself. Actually, not pushing—writing is so much fun that I want to tell the next story to the world (but the muses should learn that takes some time!). So I rarely look back to the books I’ve written and get on to that next book. Yeah, it’s a bit like an addiction. I consider it a healthy one.

It consequently cost me some angst to look back at the “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy” in order to make the bundle I call Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection.  Why do I call it angst?

First, preparing the bundle required editing, lots of it, the only other thing in my writing life more tedious than PR and marketing my books. I’m good at editing and bad at PR and marketing, but both are tedious, and I’d rather be writing—that causes angst.

Second, the bundle is an experiment. I’ve never published one before. I’ve seen and heard mixed reports about how effective bundles are. Some of the ones I’ve tried as a reader didn’t satisfy and were instead like buying an LP for a few good songs, because the unrelated novels contained in the bundles were by different authors and just didn’t hold my interest. If you don’t know what an LP is, think of a CD collection of oldies where you only like one or two songs. Or a Baskins & Robbins ice cream store with only one or two flavors you like. I’ve had better luck when the bundled novels are all by the same author, though, so that mitigated my fears a wee bit.

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An interview with Brent Mueller…

November 22nd, 2017

[Sometimes I interview my characters. I know it sounds a wee bit schizoid, but they often spur me on when I’m writing their stories. I often feel I don’t give them enough credit. Here’s one of them who’s an old friend.]

Steve: Brent, you appear in all the novels in the Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection. You must be pleased that your many adventures during many centuries are now found in just one ebook.

Brent: Yes, thanks to you. Both Jenny and I are happy with how that came about. Maybe more readers will get to know us.

Steve: Speaking of Jenny, did you ever think you’d find her after all those years? When she disappeared in that ET ship entombed on Saturn’s moon Helene, it must have been quite a blow to you.

Brent: That can’t begin to describe it. And losing Rita was a second blow. It’s hard to get beyond losses like that.

Steve: Were you jealous that Jenny was with Henry Posada all that time in the ET ship?

Brent: I got beyond that. First, I found Jenny. Second, Jenny and Henry were just computer memories stored in that ship’s AI along with those ETs. Besides, Jenny and Henry were good friends when they worked for Isha Bai at the U. N. Space Agency.

Steve: Did losing Jenny lead to your becoming a Guide to the Way?

Brent: Yes. That helped me get through that ordeal. But losing Rita at the Battle of Sanctuary fractured my belief that I could help anyone find the Way. If I lost it myself, how could I lead anyone to it?

Steve: And you participated in many more space battles. If you’ll forgive me for changing the subject, what was it like to have those ETs who were with Jenny and Henry on the ship in your own head?

Brent: Weird. Jenny helped me through that. I think she felt a little guilty about it. It was a side effect of finding her, after all, but I never blamed her. That event sort of got lost in the shuffle because we became very busy, first saving Swarm from going crazy and then outwitting Negrini, that mad merchant. Near-Earth space was a lot more peaceful after that.

Steve: Do you regret that stopping that mad merchant ended all possibility for interstellar communication that is faster than that achieved by starships carrying messages, reminiscent of the old Pony Express? Read the rest of this entry »

Power corrupts in many ways…

November 21st, 2017

A priest, a politician, and a Hollywood director walk into a bar. What do they have in common? If this is the start of a joke, it’s a very bad one, because there’s nothing good or funny about sexual perversion and exploitation. Is the reason found in our institutions? Maybe. But it’s surely found in powerful men taking advantage of their position, men who lust for victims and use their power to dominate them.

Jimmy Swaggart, Bill Clinton, Weinstein, Franken, Spacey, Donald Trump, Ailes, O’Reilly, Roy Moore (no relation, thank God), and many others have abused their power by sexually harassing and molesting victims…and more. Men doing that (it’s rarely women) aren’t uncommon, historically speaking—it’s been going on since Ugh the caveman clobbered another tribe’s cavewoman and hauled her off to his cave. Maybe it’s a manifestation of male human beings wanting to be the alpha male in the pack, which would make it even older…but that’s an oversimplification.

The men named above embarrass me. All men who do this embarrass me. Of course, they’re just as likely to harass and exploit other men who they consider inferior—I’ve seen and experienced a lot of that—but sexual exploitation makes it worse. Other men are just seen as competition by these jerks; the victims of sexual exploitation, all too often women, are treated as sexual objects to be dominated as an expression of their narcissism and virility. I’ve had it with them!

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Monday words of wisdom…

November 20th, 2017

No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says:  He is always convinced that it says what he means.  – Voltaire

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Now’s your chance to read epic sci-fi! The “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy” is now a bundle. You can read the Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection for $5.99—one ebook that costs less than the ebook for the first novel in the trilogy. The novels, Survivors of the Chaos, Sing a Zamba Galactica, and Come Dance a Cumbia…with Stars in Your Hand!, take you from the Chaos years of an Earth dominated by multinationals and controlled by their mercenaries to Humans’ first interstellar colonies and a first encounter. You will meet strange ETs, good and bad, bipeds and collective intelligences, and experience mystery and intrigue, as Humans expand into near-Earth space. Now available on Amazon and Smashwords and soon at all the latter’s distributors (Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc).

In libris libertas!

Movie Reviews # 56…

November 17th, 2017

Victoria and Abdul. Stephen Fears, dir. I’d been meaning to see this one for a while. First, it’s based on a book. Second, it’s a true story. Third, it points out the racial and social prejudice in Queen Victoria’s court, which the Queen found despicable. Fourth, it shows how arrogant and the British upper class was in the Victorian age (they still are, of course)—even the Queen’s servants were complicit in the snobbery. Fifth, it’s a grand story about a class of cultures, how a lowly Indian gives many lessons about civility, courage, and humanity to those same Brits. All save Victoria. When she passes, the royal family, led by future King Edward, deports Victoria’s friend, Karim, and tries to obliterate any mention of him from British history.

Victoria is played by Judy Dench, and she deserves an Oscar for her performance. Abdul Karim, her faithful friend and poor Muslim from a country dominated by India’s own racist and social prejudice, is played by Ali Fazal, and he does a great job at it too. Karim teaches Victoria Urdu and many other things, including what asses her son, peers, and servants are, already she was already having doubts about all of them, yet felt trap in her inherited job.

George Bernard Shaw’s quotes are featured in my novel Rembrandt’s Angel (see below). The Irish playwright poked fun at the British aristocracy and their arrogance toward the common man. This movies does more than that. It’s an indictment of a gilded but tarnished age and an empire that caused many problems in the modern world, not just India.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). Check out the review and interview on Feathered Quill. Happy reading!

In libris libertas!

The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection…

November 16th, 2017

Survivors of the Chaos, Sing a Zamba Galactica, and Come Dance a Cumbia…with Stars in Your Hand! are the books in my “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy.” Now you can obtain them all in one ebook, The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection, for a price less than all three, and even less than the first book! This bundle is a new experiment for yours truly and represents my continuing efforts to entertain as many readers as possible.

First, what is a bundle? They have become popular, but they’re collections of several books. They might be all by the same author or by different ones writing on the same theme or in the same genre. Every bundle offers readers a lot of good entertainment at the best price they can find in fiction books. My bundle is only an experiment because it’s my first bundle, but modern readers probably see a lot of them offered.

Second, are there economic reasons for publishing a bundle for the author, not just readers? Sure there are. In my case, books #2 and #3 above have never done well because ebook #1 was overpriced and the print book wasn’t competitive either. All too often people understandably didn’t want to read #2 and #3 without reading #1. The latter was published in my POD era by Infinity; I didn’t determine the prices. At that time, ebooks were new to publishing. Of course, Big Five publishers still charge as much for ebooks as print books, but Infinity and other PODs were often worse. That’s nothing against them. Infinity was a lot nicer to me than Xlibris, for example, but being nice doesn’t cut it when outmoded business models are concerned. Publishing is a competitive business. An author has to compete with many good books and good authors these days.

For The Midas Bomb and Soldiers of God, also Infinity books originally, I simply created second edition ebooks; I also did that for Full Medical, an Xlibris print book originally. But for the trilogy I had two goals: create a second ebook edition of Survivors of the Chaos as well as encourage readers to read books #2 and #3, Sing a Zamba Galactica and Come Dance a Cumbia…with Stars in Your Hand! They make the trilogy one continuous and epic story about humanity’s future in the galaxy.

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Irish Stew # 64…

November 14th, 2017

[As most readers of this blog know, I use the “Irish Stew” format when I want to comment on many news items. It’s been a while, but this last week seemed like a news tsunami!]

International…

Saudi Arabia. Their new leader is consolidating his power. His excuse: he wants to make the reclusive and longtime reincarnation of a caliphate before ISIS even thought of it more “open.” Give me a break! “Consolidating” is a code word for “becoming more fascist.” And Trump isn’t the only one holding hands with the fascist Saudis. Corporate America in general, and tech industries and the military-industrial complex in particular, are just tickled pink with this consolidation. Nothing like a dictator to ensure a stable marketplace.

I wonder if any of the dictator’s reforms will end those religious schools who teach hatred for the West in general and anything not radical Sunni in particular….

Backing down? How’s it feel, Mr. President, to back down? I think some Trump aides are trying to convince him that starting World War Three isn’t a good idea. War should always be a last resort when nukes could be involved. Not only that, Japan and South Korea would have millions of casualties even in a more conventional battle against the evil North Korea and their psychopathic leader, Kim Jong-Un. Trump is talking diplomacy on this trip to Asia. For how long? Maybe only to the next tweet.

There are military solutions. None of them are good. There are interceptors that might protect the U.S. against nuclear-tipped NK missiles. None of them are reliable. If an arrow is arcing down towards you, would you be confident that another archer can target it and knock it away?

The only thing that can possibly work with the paranoid and psychotic NK leader is economic strangulation. That requires China’s cooperation, and that can only be achieved by diplomacy. If you believe Mr. Trump has a diplomatic bone in his body, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you!

National…

Gun Control. The Air Force dropped the ball on informing the FBI about the Texas assassin’s proclivity for violence: he should have been put on that FBI list maintained for background checks on gun purchases. That’s a major glitch in the system—you can bet the armed forces are checking all their records right now! But that snafu detracts from the issue. Texas allowed that sporting goods store to sell those kinds of guns. All military-style weapons should be banned in this country—semi-automatics as well as automatics.

In its article on 11/8/2017, the NY Times had an interesting graphic on what sets us apart from the rest of the world with respect to mass killings. Answer: too many guns! Overall the U.S. is the worst in the world for recent mass killings: there are 270 million guns in the U.S., almost one for every man, woman, and child, and 90 mass shooters. No other country has more than 46 million guns or more than 18 mass shooters, and the U.S. is far worse than Yemen. Even adjusted for population, the U.S. is the worst case, and again only Yemen comes close. We’re worse than Yemen! (OK, maybe Yemen would be worse if one counted all the people Saudi Arabia has killed in their ethnic cleansing of non-Sunni heretics.) Along with the Times, I’d say the only explanation for mass shootings in America IS guns!

So sorry, Mr. Trump, guns are the problem!  These two indictments and stats fly in the face of your denials after the Las Vegas and Texas massacres, and make your pathetic plug of your immigration program after the NYC truck attack seem like a delusional political response. The Texas massacre is a gun control issue!  So are Las Vegas and Orlando. So is Colorado and Connecticut. Etc. Etc. Stop playing politics and do something right for a change!

Dark web and all that. Saipov, the New York City truck assassin was radicalized by ISIS websites and their propaganda on the web. Dark web or not, can’t we do something about this?

Immigration reform won’t help much. The terrorist immigrated here legally and became radicalized IN THIS COUNTRY. That has to stop. With all the smart hackers in this country, can’t we block evil propaganda that radicalizes psychotics? I can already hear the ACLU and other wackos screaming about First Amendment rights and free speech.

Sorry, folks, with freedoms come responsibilities and the courage to protect those freedoms. The only responsible solution is to shut down radical terrorist propaganda. Why should we give ISIS and other terrorist groups licenses to spout their hate-filled ideology? Why should we even allow them on the web?

By the way, Mr. Trump’s comments about the death penalty for Saipov will actually help the terrorist because the court will wonder if he can get a fair trial in this country.  Maybe Gitmo is the better place for him?

Hollywood perversion exposed. No longer can Hollywood moguls give a wink and a nod to the pervasive sexual harassment and rape that goes on in tinsel town. There’s been a tsunami of exposes. I don’t buy the label “nonconsensual sex” for “rape” any more than I buy our pervert-in-chief’s excuse of “locker room talk.” Although we have yet to see cases come to trial, they will. Rape is a crime, but so is sexual harassment and exploitation. Let’s hope the tsunami washes away this awful aspect of Hollywood and Washington D.C. culture.

The Ten Commandants don’t ban sexual perversion. I should be fair: it’s not just Hollywood! The Alabama GOP Senate candidate, in a special election to replace disgraced HHS Price, has been accused in an expose backed up by thirty people. When asked if he “dated” young girls, Roy Moore (no relation, thank God!) answered, “Only with their mothers consent.” Some defender of that Ten Commandants judge (kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court twice) said that Mary was a teenager and Joseph was a thirty-year-old carpenter and their son was Jesus. Maybe the most original excuse for sexual perversion I’ve heard, but just as sicko as Roy Moore himself.

Local…

Campaign ads. Now that the election is past and the dust (or should I say mud?) has settled, was it just my impression? Are campaign ads now worse than ever before? Has Mr. Trump and his minions set a new and insidious level of sleaze in American politics?

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November 13th, 2017

Save your breath; don’t worry about Death.  A better praxis is to worry about taxes.

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Now’s your chance to read epic sci-fi! The “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy” is now a bundle. You can read the Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection for $5.99—one ebook that costs less than the ebook for the first novel in the trilogy. The novels, Survivors of the Chaos, Sing a Zamba Galactica, and Come Dance a Cumbia…with Stars in Your Hand!, take you from the Chaos years of an Earth dominated by multinationals and controlled by their mercenaries to Humans’ first interstellar colonies and a first encounter. You will meet strange ETs, good and bad, bipeds and collective intelligences, and experience mystery and intrigue, as Humans expand into near-Earth space. Now available on Amazon and Smashwords and soon at all the latter’s distributors (Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc).

In libris libertas!

I made this!

November 9th, 2017

We have a justifiable pride when we complete a DIY project (that’s “Do It Yourself” for the acronym challenged). I remember putting together several Heathkit electronic devices—that defunct company sold many kits for DIY projects from radio amateur equipment to stereo component and color TVs (my mother’s first color TV was a Heathkit). You have to be careful with DIY, though, when you write a novel. In this month of NaNoWriMo (“National Novel Writing Month”), the ultimate take on DIY in the writing business, watch out!

First, you can’t rip through it from your what-if or plot idea to a finished MS (that’s “manuscript”—acronymese is a disease!). Whether your content editing comes after a rough draft that follows an outline (making you a “plodder”—so why are you participating in NaNoWriMo?), or during your writing (making you a “pantser”—the only way you could possibly be successful in NaNoWriMo), it takes time to get anywhere near a polished MS. You can’t write a novel in a month—at least not one I’d ever want to read!

Second, don’t try 100% DIY after you have that MS. You’ll need copy-editing, formatting, and cover art to turn that MS into a publishable book. The smart indie author pays for that because s/he knows that even though she might be a skillful writer, s/he doesn’t do those three things as well as a pro editor, formatter, or cover artist. Pay for those. Or find a small press that will pay for it. It’s like that Heathkit electronics component—one couldn’t put something so complex together without that little book of instructions that comes with the kit. Pros make it easy for the kit builder; DIY can lead to disaster.

Third, in today’s competitive publishing world, don’t try 100% DIY for PR and marketing. A small press might help some with that, but almost all authors need to add a bit of pro help to the mix. If you’re good at social media, you can do a lot of DIY, and here’s one place your DIY-self can go forth and conquer—in fact, it’s best that you personally do a lot of it with your website, Facebook and Goodreads author pages, and participating in online discussions. But there are groups and websites who’ll promote your book at a reasonable cost, and they’ll reach many more readers than you can. A bit of DIY is required to set that up, of course. Beware, though: higher cost does NOT necessarily mean more effectiveness.

Pride in your book should go far beyond just writing your story. It must include doing your best to offer readers a polished and entertaining product. Whether you have many readers or not, there still should be pride in doing your best. And you don’t have to be 100% DIY to do that–and shouldn’t be. I felt pride in those finished Heathkit projects. I could say “I made this!” even though it was Heathkit that did a lot of the work. So, write your story, whether short fiction or novel length, and finish it correctly by NOT being 100% DIY!

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Now’s your chance to read epic sci-fi! The “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy” is now a bundle. You can read all the books in the “Chaos Chronicles Collection,” a $5.99 ebook that costs less than the ebook for the first novel in the trilogy. The novels, Survivors of the Chaos, Sing a Zamba Galactica, and Come Dance a Cumbia…with Stars in Your Hand!, take you from the Chaos years of an Earth dominated by multinationals and controlled by their mercenaries to Humans’ first interstellar colonies and a first encounter. You will meet strange ETs, good and bad, bipeds and collective intelligences, and experience mystery and intrigue, as Humans expand into near-Earth space. Soon available on Amazon and Smashwords.

In libris libertas!

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #152…

November 8th, 2017

C&W v. books. Don’t get me wrong. I like some Country and Western music—Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Dylan’s C&W period, for example. But I also like to read a book on a long flight, either a PB from one of those airport stands or on my Kindle. And during those in-flight movies, when everyone glares at you if you put that little overhead light on, I snooze. I can’t read or snooze with some wannabe C&W stars singing with a Nashville twang, though. Pox on Southwest Airlines for their new policy that allows this intrusion.

Sales and contests. I offer few sales of my books, and they are for ebooks I have on Smashwords. Two major things motivate this: (1) For ebook sales on Amazon, I need to be exclusive to that internet giant, but they don’t have the distribution network Smashwords has, so I’m not. (2) My ebook prices are already low prices—sales prices, if you will, so, in a sense, they’re permanently on sale. (See the last item for the most recent Smashwords sale.)

Many authors have contests where they give away books. I don’t have many, but two are continuously running. Graduates from Mt. Whitney HS in 1964 and UMass Amherst in 1985 can drop me a line via my contact page, answering the questions on my webpage “Free Stuff & Contests,” and receive a free ebook of their choice. The limit is ten books for each group of alums.

Authors and journalists. Non-fiction writers (of textbookss, how-to, and self-help books, for example) often possess skills and expertise, so they can help a reporter out when a reporter is looking for information or an expert’s opinion. Even if you’re not an expert, you can maybe help point the reporter to one.

Even fiction writers develop some expertise about subjects by searching out background material for a story (as I did for Rembrandt’s Angel)—again, at the very least, they might help a reporter on her way to preparing a good article on a subject). A good fiction book will contain some serious themes that weave in and around a plot, and that’s where the author’s “research” usually lies.

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