Steve’s shorts: Lifeboat…

September 6th, 2017

Lifeboat

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

“Can we keep it?”

Jerry looked at the creature in his daughter’s hand. He had stopped sprinkling the new grass seed and considered her question. He held out his free hand, still gloved from raking the soil.

“Give it to me and let me rinse your hand off!” The creature looked like fancy lime Jello from a mold, except it wasn’t completely transparent. “Where did you get this?”

Susie pointed under the hedge. He saw something the size of a small, shiny, stainless steel garbage can. The rounded end was blackened as if it had gone through a fire. The flat end was emitting white smoke. There were strange characters on the side that looked a bit like Chinese writing. A bio attack launched from China?

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The anti-GMO movement…

September 5th, 2017

It’s surprising how many people are anti-GMO, playing into the hands of unscrupulous marketers who have made a lot of money attending to their whims. The whole idea is absurd, of course. Humans have been making GMOs since prehistoric times. Their creations weren’t called such a nasty, degrading name as GMO, to be sure, because the usual name until hysteria took hold was “domesticated variety” or something similar. New technologies just speed up the process, but they just continue this process.

A recent article in Science News should be read by every anti-GMO activist on this planet, many of them in the U.S. (These probably overlap considerably with the anti-immunization crowd, PETA members, vegetarians, and vegans.) OK, I’m being a bit snarky here—I don’t really care about what your belief and behavioral choices are as long as you don’t proselytize about them by shouting in my face.

Back to the Science News article; it’s titled “The Road to Tameness” (SN, p. 21, July 8, 2017). I’ll extract from that articale a short list of ancient GMOs: golden hamsters, horses, silkworms, dogs, cats, chickens, honeybees, rice, foxes, watermelons, wheat, llamas, alpacas, turkeys, camels, ducks, sheep, corn, tulips, and roses. There are many more. Human beings have been genetically tinkering for ages. One really impressive sight is to drive through Holland when all those tulips are in bloom. Guess how many varieties in those fields of color are wild.

The article’s title is politically correct; SN always tries to stand above the cultural and political wars. They talk about “tameness” and “domestication” in the article. I talk about ancient GMOs and genetic engineering. Po-tah-toe v. po-tay-toe. No matter what you call it, human beings have been genetically tinkering for a long time.

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Monday words of wisdom…

September 4th, 2017

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.—Aldous Huxley

***

Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day, but let’s celebrate the workers who form the backbone of America.

Book sale: Some authors bundle a series or part of a series.  Here’s an alternative: from now through September 30, all three books in the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy” are on sale only AT SMASHWORDS, $1.99 for each ebook, reduced from $2.99—that’s one-third off.  The clones make their appearance in Full Medical as part of a complex government conspiracy, they combine forces with the mutant in Evil Agenda to thwart another plot, and they all save the world in No Amber Waves of Grain.  These aren’t comic book characters like X-Men—they’re real people who work to halt an apocalyptic future.  Use the link and go directly to Smashwords, enter the coupon codes during checkout, and get hours of fall reading for only $3.  (Amazon addicts, did you know Smashwords also sells .mobi files for your Kindle? They handle all popular ebook formats and distribute to many retailers.) Pass the word about this sale to your relatives and friends. And, for librarians purchasing ebooks for their libraries, I’ve reduced the price of most of my ebooks on Smashwords. Use the link to see my entire catalog. Great fall reading.

In libris libertas!

Notes on the eclipse…

September 1st, 2017

Isaac Asimov in his extended Foundation series (it brings together the Foundation Trilogy, the robot novels, and The End of Eternity) commented toward the end during the search for Earth that humans’ home is an E-type planet with a very large moon. Some gas giants have even larger moons, of course, but Earth’s satisfies the Goldilocks Principle twice over: its distance from the Sun and its diameter are just right so that it just blocks the Sun. That occurs about every eighteen months on Earth, but most eclipses aren’t seen by many people because the Earth’s surface is 70% covered by water.

Eclipses have left their observers agog from prehistoric times to present day. Originally explained via magic and superstition, we now use the magic of technology to observe them. These observations have aided and will continue to aid us in understanding our home star. The eclipse of May 1919 confirmed a prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. While telescopes can now block the solar disk to study the sun’s corona and prominences, there’s something special about the moon doing it for us.

The eclipse occurred a week ago. Because the NYC area wasn’t in the path of totality, I decided to watch the totality multiple times with ABC’s reporters stationed along the totality path. Here are some notes (with annotations from yours truly) that I made during that experience:

The last cross-country total eclipse was 1776. I need to check that. If correct, that eclipse was the most patriotic one.

People were saying all viewers in the U.S. were at a “Woodstock for Nerds.” I was happier just seeing ordinary people, not Sheldons and Leonards, getting excited. Even the Great Denier of Science Fact seemed into it.

I’m not sure the two making their wedding vows during the eclipse got the wedding present they’d bargained for. It rained on them.

ABC’s left-clock announcing the “next totality” must have been created by a lover of oxymoronic phrases. There was no “next”; the moon’s shadow swept continuously across the country. They should have said “next report about totality” or something similar.

“Diamond ring”? Not a bad name, but that and the Bailey’s beads (named after astronomer Francis Bailey) are both due to the sun either peeking and/or diffracting through craters and valleys on the moon. Its limb isn’t smooth by any stretch of the imagination.

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Looking for a publisher?

August 31st, 2017

I don’t have much experience with this, but let me quote UK’s The Guardian: “These days, it is minimally staffed and funded firms who invest in new authors. The giants avoid such risk, only picking the writers once their names are made….” “The giants…” refers to the Big Five publishing conglomerates, of course. A contract with one of their subsidiary publishing houses might please most authors, so how are we to explain The Guardian’s comment?

Readers will find that new authors publish in various ways—with a major publisher; a smaller, independent one; or by going indie. The first two are considered traditional publishing. In spite of some readers’ beliefs and those of many professionals in the field, none of these has much to do with the quality of the book. You can have great books in all three; you can also have bombs in all three.

Full DIY (complete indie) isn’t very satisfying if you’re a new author looking for a bit more interaction with people who know the book business. A service like Draft2Digital can be helpful to the newbie and great for the seasoned author as well (my relationship with Carrick Publishing is similar, although probably more interactive in a pleasant way, and began before Draft2Digital was even born). Using reasonably priced PR and marketing services can always be useful even for most traditionally published authors (traditional contracts aren’t known to be much help there).

As is often the case, the bigger the traditional publisher, the more an author becomes a lost soul in a huge purgatory or hell of lost authors. This what The Guardian means. You won’t develop many personal relationships or receive much personal attention from a huge publishing house unless you’re one of their superstars. In either case, traditional or indie, you might be lucky enough to have a personal relationship with an agent, but that’s iffy too. And agents come and go from the agencies, so you might find yourself soon looking for another agent.

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Steve’s shorts: Marci…

August 30th, 2017

Marci

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

Anjum opened the invitation, read it, and then tore it up. No way am I going to send my daughter to a party to be bullied by those brats!

She smiled as her daughter started to play another piece. Her birth-mother had rejected her; Anjum and her husband had adopted her. I think that’s a Debussy étude.

She’d always wanted to give Hakeem a son or daughter, but she couldn’t. Now all their parental love was for their adopted daughter, who came with the name Marcia, but they called her Marci. It was the only name the child recognized.

Perhaps the parents inviting her child meant well. Perhaps they didn’t understand that Marci’s differences with other children were a blessing. Perhaps they didn’t know that so-called “normal children” picked on her.

Anjum and Hakeem knew their child had special talents. She had started to play the piano at three and they found her drawing complicated geometrical shapes and constructing elaborate sequences of numbers when she was four. Hakeem showed some of the latter to a mathematician where they both worked. The mathematician told Hakeem that one sequence was a list containing natural numbers with more and more crossed out revealing the prime numbers. “She’s mentally applying Eratosthenes’s sieve,” the mathematician had said.

What will my daughter’s future be like?

***

Marci took out her tablet and typed, “Are you nervous?”

Her husband looked at his iPhone and shook his head. “I’m just reading your speech, hon,” he texted back to her.

When the time came, they went on stage together. He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and began reading her speech to the audience.

“Mathematics and music were my faithful friends. I love them almost as much as I love my husband.” He paused and winked at her. “I am humbled that you have decided to award me the Fields Medal, often considered to be the Nobel Prize of mathematics. As Newton said, though, I was fortunate to be able to stand on the shoulders of giants, in particular Ramanujan. My work only continued the work of many mathematicians, so this award is also their award. Thank you.”

The applause was so deafening that she wanted to cover her ears. But she only smiled at Anjum and Hakeem in the front row. The “thank you” was mostly for them. Her old mother and father smiled back.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art 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 the Second World War. 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 also available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

In libris libertas…

 

Identity politics…

August 29th, 2017

If one thing can be singled out to be the cause of America’s problems right now, it’s “identity politics.” Consider this the antithesis of “melting pot,” or the idea expressed in the Constitution that “all men are created equal.” (Unfortunately, back in those days, the word “men” didn’t refer to blacks or women; today we’d be more politically correct and simply write “persons.”) “Identity politics” is more like adding the famous “…but some animals are more equal than others” from Orwell’s Animal Farm. “Melting pot” expresses togetherness or synthesis in the abstract; “identity politics” expresses just the opposite, and it’s often all too real, not abstract. People crying out to be heard, equating that to seeking and expressing their own identities, form tribes of similarly thinking people. These tribes can become violently fascistic because those who want to blend in and live in peace and good will with their fellow human beings far outnumber them.

The goal of pulling together has been morphed by some into the goal of tearing apart at all levels—national, state, and local—and even worldwide. Since the sixties,the U.S. mostly used to be the champion of the first goal, at least inside the country (our actions outside are often questionable). While my novel Survivors of the Chaos expressed my fear that these divisive attitudes could destroy the country, the cause of this destruction in the novel could now be called “identity politics.” The world will become Balkanized into homogeneous identity groups we might as well call tribes.

Radical fanatics are a dime-a-dozen—I saw them in a New Jersey diner on CNN, in Charlottesville, and in Barcelona—but there are clever, power-hungry, and warped people who manipulate the fanatics. One subgroup can be found in Breitbart’s current and ex-staff members, some of them still among the White House staff like Julia Hahn, Stephen Miller, and Ben Shapiro. Another subgroup of fanatics is AntiFa; their credo of meeting KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi violence with more violence goes against the credos of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. And the violence can be found just in the words of fanatics too.

Fanaticism is a mental aberration. Sometimes the lines between it and simply having a political, sexual, or religious preference become blurred, especially when those preferences become so strong that those holding them want to attack anyone who doesn’t. It also feeds off superstition and ignorance. I’d prefer that people understand history by not toppling monuments, simply adding plaques explaining the pros and cons of that person’s life. Or placing them in museums like the Holocaust Museums where we can encourage people not to forget the sins of human history on this planet when human beings do violence to other human beings.

Fanaticism creates icons of history but does little to promote understanding of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Surrendering to fanaticism is often touted as free speech. BS. If everyone in the 1940s had surrendered to it, the Nazis would have won the Second World War.

Recall Rodney King’s famous words: “Can we all get along? Can we, can we get along?” Identity politics can become the fanatical way of saying, “No, we can’t.” But it’s self-destructive to say that. Let’s answer his questions in the positive. We’ll have a better world that way.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art 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 during the Second World War. 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 also available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

And so it goes….

 

Monday words of wisdom…

August 28th, 2017

The word for “fake news” in Putin’s Russia is simply “news.”—Garry Kasparov

***

Rogue Planet. Hard sci-fi with Game-of-Thrones fantasy, shaken and stirred. This sequel to the “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy” is a stand-alone that differs from the trilogy’s novels. Prince Kaushal of the Second Tribe is a survivor of the First Tribe’s rebellion and creation of a theocracy so brutal that the Interstellar Trade Union of Independent Planets (ITUIP) has quarantined his home planet Eden. He and his companions struggle to change that. This sci-fi adventure is available in both ebook format on Amazon and Smashwords (and their affiliated retailers like Apple, B&N, Kobo, and others), and in print book format on Amazon. Great summer reading!

In libris libertas.

Mini-Reviews of Books #31…

August 25th, 2017

Ice Cold. Tess Gerritsen, author. I usually can’t afford Ms. Gerritsen’s books, so I snap one up when I see them on sale. The Rizzoli and Isles TV show doesn’t do justice to them, and this one is a gripper and a fun read.

While R & I are the main characters, it’s more about Isles than Rizzoli. The good M.E. is attending a convention in Wyoming, and she and some casual friends she encounters there get lost in a snowstorm. Surviving the cold is only part of the story, though, as we discover there are some violent bad guys in them thar hills—OK, the action mostly occurs in a valley, but you get the idea.

I always wind a good theme or two around and through my own plots, but here an important theme is the story, and to talk about it would be a spoiler. It’s a well written novel that will take you on an enjoyable roller coaster ride (maybe I should say skis and snowshoes), but don’t look for those TV characters here: they’re completely different and much more interesting.

Hey, since when does Jane have a kid? (Part of the difference, of course.)

Shoulders of Giants. Jim Cliff, author. I found this novel less serious than the above but very enjoyable too. It’s a standard mystery written in a tongue-in-cheek Parker-style (lots of name droppings of American crime fiction writers and TV shows). The main character is a new PI who gets quite a first case. There’s a love interest a la Hollywood too (I could have done without that) and a cop-buddy for the newly minted sleuth. A search for an old cop’s daughter turns into a search for a serial killer, and the killings seem random.

Good plotting, characterization, and snappy dialogue make for interesting reading, but unfortunately the editing was a wee bit lacking. And the use of a few very British terms made me wonder why Chicago was picked for the setting. Mr. Cliff is from Essex, England, so they were bound to creep in, I suppose, and I can’t and shouldn’t complain because he could probably say the same thing about my Rembrandt’s Angel with its English and Scottish settings. Maybe the anti-cultural appropriation crowd hates it when an author sets his story in another culture; I think it’s a skill to be admired and congratulate Mr. Cliff for doing the job so well.

Lots of fun, this novel makes me want to try some more of the young sleuth’s cases. Never figured out whether the title had to do with anything, though. (Maybe because I’m an ex-physicist?)

***

The Midas Bomb (Second Edition). With a plot motivated by signs of the impending financial collapse of 2007-2008, Ponzi plots, and international terrorism, this first novel in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” is as current today as it was back then. The story connects an unscrupulous hedge fund CEO with two Manhattan murders and terrorist attacks. The two detectives team up for the first time. Connecting the two murders undercovers the larger conspiracy. Available in ebook format from Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords (and its lending affiliates) as well as in paper format from Amazon, this novel starts off the series with a bang. Good summer reading!

In libris libertas…

Waiting for Hollywood?

August 24th, 2017

If you read this blog regularly, you know I see quite a few movies—some blockbusters, others more artistic films that don’t draw crowds. In spite of Hollywood’s attempts to halt its influence, my favorite review site is Rotten Tomatoes, but to be honest, I don’t put much stock in either book or movie reviews, except my own, of course. That’s not being smug; it’s simply a recognition that anyone’s opinion of a book or film is subjective.

As an author, though, I can’t help wondering how my many novels would fare on the silver screen. I’ve been asked that a lot. I’d like to include m short stories and novellas for consideration too. Phillip K. Dick probably holds the Guinness record for the number of stories that became movies, and many of these weren’t novels. Short fiction is probably better matched to a two-hour movie.

Most authors are just happy to have a successful book, however that’s defined. Hollywood has two sources for its screenplays: popular stories and original screenplays. The second are often weak in plot and overloaded with sex, violence, and action, especially if they’re of the blockbuster type. The plots are often non-existent. The first, if they’re novels, are often too complex and Hollywood dumbs them down and misses most of the plot, characterization, themes, settings, and dialogue that the fiction author worked so hard on.

My novels tend to be complex; I don’t do simple. I’m almost certain that Hollywood wouldn’t know what to do with them. In Rembrandt’s Angel, I even provided a cast of main characters, more because some of their names are also complicated and hard to remember (Bastiann van Coevorden, the Dutch Interpol agent, is an example). That might help the reader with the complex plot too. Maybe the George Bernard Shaw quotes introducing the theme of each part of the novel could help as well.

The next question I sometimes get is: Who should play character X? Because I’ve never expected Hollywood to make a movie based on one of my stories, this is always a tough question. I don’t imagine an actor and mold my character to that person. Actors really don’t have personalities—they portray different ones. The question is really about which actor looks like my character. Taken in that way, the question is better suited to a casting professional. I’m not that person, although I could have fun imagining the actor who plays one of my characters…or working with a casting professional to find one.

These questions are common but probably wasted on most novelists. Maybe a movie based on one of their books will bring them more fame and income, but they shouldn’t be sad when it doesn’t happen. In fact, it might be a good thing.

***

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. See the review and interview at Feathered Quill. 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).

In libris libertas….