Archive | September, 2020

You Are Completely Unprepared

20 Sep

My family are lazy preppers; we are keenly aware of how thin a thread we hang by in the modern world. However, when it comes to preparing for the unthinkable, we mostly do a head nod. So… how much do I really care about the apocalypse(s)?

Since the Days of Awe ™ are here, guess it’s time to consider how ready I am when the unthinkable occurs.

Armageddon

So when there’s a spiritual revelation and the end of days, I guess it depends which end times we’re talking about. If it’s the beginning of the Messianic Age ™ then the Messiah will be revealed to everyone. There won’t be any question whether or not this is the Chosen One. Rapture is also a good option, because although I won’t be lifted bodily into heaven, I’ll have plenty of time to repent before Judgement Day. Even in the Mormon faith, I still get to go to the Terrestrial Heaven, so I’ll still have to get missionaries in the limbo zone I find myself in.

The Days of Awe are all about examining yourself and determining whether or not God will write you in the Book of Life for another year. Although I take that seriously, just like Earth Day, there’s a reason it comes only once a year. If you had to consider the infinite all the time, you’d either be preaching on the street corner or in a constant state of fear. Either is not acceptable.

I was talking with a fundamentalist Christian once and I said, “Man, if Christ comes again in glory, I’m really screwed.” To which he answered, “There’s grace enough for all.” I found that rather comforting.

Terrorist Attack on Infrastructure

This is the one that’s the most likely and the most damaging. So much of modern life is dependent on electricity. Internet out would suck, and seriously impact my work, but power? Major problem. As I’ve learned modern life will continue on for at least two weeks without power. But more than that? We step into the Mad Max world.

This is why my wife is currently buying beans like there’s no tomorrow. Beans are great because they provide protein, they last a long time, and very portable. Of course, we aren’t storing water, which is a far greater concern in the desert where I live. So we have enough food to last us for a year… if only we get the #*$& out of the Valley of the Sun.

The Second Civil War

This one I’m the least concerned about. Because even with the inevitable riots after the election, people have to be willing to sacrifice their nice comfortable life to fight for their right to party… sorry, a new government. Sure, our system has flaws, but you want to roll the dice on a new government? You want to give up your social media life to pick up a gun and risk your life on the barricade? Sure, you can talk a good game online, but you want to starve and get shot at for years to bring about your utopia? The numbers of would-be freedom fighters drop considerably.

In Belarus, people who protest know they’re risking their lives. If they get imprisoned, they’re going to be tortured. They’re going to be killed. In the States, they’re going to be imprisoned for 48 hours and then released. You might never show up for the court date. Hell, you might never be charged. It’s easy to protest when there are few consequences.

So I’m not very well prepared for this. I don’t even own a shotgun. I’m more concerned about my kids shooting themselves than defending my own home. I can barricade the doors and take out my swords and see what happens.

I’m sure there’s an apocalypse I’m missing. What have you been doing to prepare for whichever apocalypse you have in mind? Did I miss one? Tell me in the comments below!

How Much Tech is Too Much Tech?

19 Sep

Ultratech – going beyond traditional science-fiction, using technology that can’t be conceived for even three generations. The problem is… does the lack of a cultural context alienate your readers?

So I’m struggling with my next story idea. After watching the Cyberpunk 2077 game trailers, I really got excited for doing “_____punk” again. However, I don’t want to do steampunk, I can’t finish my atompunk story, and I don’t have a good cyberpunk story. So how do I play with the ideas of extreme technology and societal collapse?

I made the mistake of picking up Ann Leckie’s award winning series at Book 3. So I had no context for the world she created. There was a human who’s the main character, but she used to be a ship, but somehow she gained command… okay, that I can move past and enjoy the book. However, it was the culture and the terminology that was so alien that I couldn’t connect with it. I finished the book, but I was left with a *bleh* at the end.

I feel like she was trying to do something different and cool but I had no way of appreciating it because I had nothing in the modern world to attach it to. It had something to do with the verbage and how that indicated how they ranked in their slave/less slave society, but it made it difficult to appreciate the story.

Now the best way to handle that is usually to have your point-of-view character be a normal human from our time, but that’s not going to work unless I want to pull a Buck Rogers or Planet of the Apes idea. Another solution is to have the society not changed much, but with the tech insane (this is the Star Trek: TNG theory of “technology changes, but man does not”), but that seems disingenuous and not authentic.

I don’t have to have all the characters speaking in future English or cityspeak: “Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem bitte!” As much as I love using alternative languages in my writing (my favorite is Oranje = Dutch/Afrikkans with English sentence structure), maybe just using some unusual words for slang can help without distorting my reader’s connection.

Have you got any ideas? If you have a solution – or a similar problem – let me know in the comments below!

My Superpower is Lame

18 Sep

My superpower sucks. I pass street lights and they dim slightly as I pass by. It’s not that exciting, and it’s also not consistent. I can’t even focus my superpower and make it happen on demand. It’s time to take my power and reach my true potential.

Imagine what I could do with this power if extended to the Nth degree. I could suck electricity from the grid and then shock people with it. Blow up things with several thousand volts. It’ll be pretty cool.

If comic books have taught me nothing, it’s that I must have a sensei. A mentor with equally badass power who can drive me to my full potential. The problem is I need to show a glimmer of hope in my superpower before I can draw his attention. So if I can start sparking people other than rubbing my feet on the carpet, that might be a good start.

The weakness to this superpower is that I can’t wear a watch. I already seem to drain the watch battery faster than most. It’s weird. I fear that as I reach my true potential, I’ll have to stop wearing my phone near me (or give it up at all) because I’ll have it suddenly explode in a flurry of sparks. Probably have to give up being online at all… not that that is a terrible loss. I figure if I have to give up my work-at-home gig, I can rob banks with my frightening destructive power. That should keep me going for a while. I would miss television, but there are plenty of books.

I could find a manual typewriter and still write books. Maybe hire someone with my ill gotten gains to keep running my online press… who knows? And of course, I’d get away with it because who would believe lightning coming out of someone’s hands! Might have to wear gloves to avoid accidentally zapping folks, but I figure that would be part of my training.

Anyone know a mystic sensei that could put me on the path to wealth and power? A supervillain I can be a powerful henchmen for? An apprenticeship for mutants? Let me know in the comments below!

“He could have been a professor, a journalist, a lawyer…”

17 Sep

It’s amazing how your word choice tells so much about you. The simple way you speak can tell me where you’re from, how you were raised, and how you see the world. It also makes me judge you far quicker than I should.

So the phrase I titled this post came from a commercial for a podcast. (beat) Yeah, that’s weird, but talking about this murder victim, this man’s voice comes in saying, “He could have been a professor, a journalist, a lawyer…” That struck me as odd. Notice the word choice and the order. Professor is obviously the first thought on what our murder victim could have been – he was that smart, is the implication.

Okay – let’s take that phrase further. His next two choices are journalist, then lawyer. Gee… what do these three jobs have in common? They’re all liberal professions. For those who prefer the “exception disproves the rule,” let me say conservative professors go to conservative universities (Texas A&M for example), conservative journalists work for Fox News, and… okay, there are plenty of conservative lawyers. However, I’m instantly judging them.

Is that fair? No. This was a five second clip. He could have been talking about the victim’s personality, not his own. But can we help it? Based on our experience, we make quick decisions based on people, on situations, and honestly… we might get it right. Most of the time we don’t have the time or inclination to find out the full story.

This got me in trouble recently. Often when we speed through life we’re going to make a mistake. In the case of a commercial, prejudging is going to do nothing apart from turn me off from the podcast (which I wasn’t going to listen to anyway because I’m not a fan of true crime). In the case of my wife, I took an honest request for help as a demand, and that hurt.

Have you run into problems with judging things too quickly? Do you think that it’s necessary or unavoidable? Let me know in the comments below!

Stylists vs. Storytellers

16 Sep

Books lie to you. All the time. Whether it’s the title or the cover picture or the description… all of its designed to get you to buy the book. This is accepted. But if you want a fun story about dogs and what you get is a literary experiment… oh, buddy…

This particular post is brought to you by the book The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams. He died four years ago at 96, so he had a good life and a good writing career, so I don’t want to blast an author I liked… a book of his… a LOT… but what the *#&$ you were thinking?!

I won’t even give Mr. Adams crap about keep writing about animals again because… hey, if that’s your thing, go for it. What I’m upset about is that this is supposed to be a story about dogs, right? It’s actually a) a travelogue of the Lake District in England, b) practicing how to write characters with the Geordie accent, and c) a jeremiad on the beauty of nature and the evils of man.

What… the… #*$&?! I remember picking this up as a 16-year-old (after reading Watership Down for the third time) and never getting past the Preface. I happened to find this book in a pile of forgotten books and decided to give it a try. No wonder it was sitting there! Even now, I had trouble getting past the first chapter. But I finished it because I wanted to see what happened to the dogs. I should have guessed; deus ex machina. Although I was a little amused to see the “god” in this case verbally criticizing the author.

Interestingly enough, a similar disappointment happened to my wife. She doesn’t read novels (mostly), but when she picked up a non-fiction book called “Judaism Online: Confronting spirituality on the internet,” you’d expect this to be a book about… well, online Jewish websites, the nature of discourse, dealing with anti-semitism. No. It’s the transcript of an email conversation between the two authors, one a recent convert, the other a Jewish scholar.

Really? This was published in 1998 – some press actually thought THIS was a good idea? Seventeen different publishers didn’t like my masterpiece, but they thought this was a good idea?! Maybe that’s why they came up with this deceptive cover, because they realized after saying yes that, “Oh, how do we polish this turd?”

That’s why I stopped submitting manuscripts; because publishers know their audience. They know that an unknown author with an original story is going to get zero interest. I’ve even written inspirational romance, but because it was set in an overseas school, it wasn’t going to speak to their Christian housewife audience. Occasionally, my brother-in-law gets me to write short stories for anthologies, but nowadays, I figure I’ll stick with my own press and pimp out my stories.

Speaking of which, pick up my latest book, Defending Our Sacred Honor! This time, the cover doesn’t lie to you! 😀

However, here’s your chance to tell me – have you ever been burned by a book? Add your book to the parade of shame below in the comments!

Big Trouble in Little China

15 Sep

Is it the art that speaks to the budding artist? Or does the observer simply seek out that which confirms their soul? You know what Jack Burton says at a time like this?

Who? Jack Burton! The hero of Big Trouble in Little China, a film from 1986 which… okay, is not high art. However, it hit me when I was twelve, so I was the most impressionable age to see this, however this film has grand scope, great characters, fun effects, and most importantly, does not take itself too seriously.

As a friend of mine said to me, “You are the connoisseur of 80’s B-movies.” That’s when I grew up, so sure, that’s what speaks to me. Ahead of its day, I think this film hired every single Asian actor in Hollywood… and they still didn’t have enough. There’s a scene where an obviously Russian looking dude is fighting in a Chinese street gang.

This also gave me a love of anything with Kurt Russell in it. Now, if you don’t think he’s amazing, watch Soldier (1998) and see how he delivers an almost wordless performance. You know exactly what the character is saying and doing in every scene without saying a G-D word. And he’s the main character!

I still quote this film all the time, even with the fact that most of the lines don’t make sense out of context. “Six demon bag, sensational!” “Yes, sir, the check is in the mail.” Even “Which Lo Pan? The little basketcase on wheels or the ten-foot-tall road block?!”

Ah… not my favorite movie of all time – that I had to finally admit was Dune (1984) – but one of my “quote-fest films” which along with Hudson Hawk (1991) and Army of Darkness (1992) I love to watch and quote all the time. Interestingly enough, I realized that all three have the same plot. Wise-cracking hero gets put in insanely weird situation and does precious little to save the day.

And all of them are generally considered bad films. However, I like action, I like comedy, and these are all three. I know I’m not alone in liking these “cult classics.” Of course, I like Buckaroo Banzai (1984) so your mileage may vary.

What do you think? Have you seen this film? Am I completely wrong? Tell me in the comments below!

Congestion on the Outbound Cat Path

14 Sep

My cats decided to both lay down right next to me, which is odd, because normally one tends to pounce the other if they’re that close. But just wait…

I’m afraid I’m not particularly inspired today, so my post is just a cat picture. The white one is named Odys – short for Odysseus, because we found her as a baby on her own, far from her… nest? Then we found out she was a girl, didn’t feel like renaming her, so shortened the name. The brownish one is Ramon, whom his previous family needed to remove because they were getting another dog.

(Pause) Yeah, I said that correctly; I didn’t get it either. Ramon’s brother went for a walk one day (because tomcats like to patrol) and never came back. (Probably coyote dinner.) After that, I guess they figured there was no point keeping the other cat. But he’s been a happy member of our family for some time.

Like cats? Hate them? Tell me your cat story in the comments below! Sorry for the post today, but as I said, I’m not particularly inspired.

Got it in the Mail!

13 Sep

Yep – got my author’s proof in the mail! Today my new book, Defending Our Sacred Honor, is now available for both Kindle and Print! Pick it up today for $1.99 electronically or $7.99 in paperback!

Release day is the best day!

Snafus and Sassafras

12 Sep

So I screwed up at work yesterday – my fault – forgot to check one of a billion things I have to do as part of my gig, and man, did the client blow a fuse on it. Do I need to up my game or do you need to chill the *#&$ out?

The answer is both. What should become my new maxim is “People don’t know what they want, but they do know what they DON’T want.” So if you keep making changes to your project, expect there to be errors, because I didn’t foresee what your change would do to the base file.

Unfortunately, this puts me in a “Man, I could lose my job” fear all the time… doubly so, because the only interactions I have with these people is online. I can’t hear your emotions in the text, so you could be majorly cheesed off or mildly annoyed.

So how hard do I have to take this snafu? Is it career-ending? Maybe… but then later that day, the client (different person) said that my work was some of the best stuff they’ve ever seen… so maybe I won’t get fired today. Or tomorrow. But I keep my head on a swivel.

Of course, it could be a phase. This is my screw-up phase, tomorrow will be amazing… man, I’m rambling. What do you think? Am I alone? Tell me in the comments below!

It’s Not a Lack of Empathy…

11 Sep

Never forget… Sure, I remember 9/11 and how everything changed. I also remember people losing their minds in fear. That’s the part I couldn’t understand; what made you think you were safe?

There’s a certain amount of functional ignorance that you have to live with to get on with life. The elevator could tumble many floors… But it’s unlikely. You’re far more likely to die from driving your car, but I have stuff to do. This food is going to kill me, but not for another twenty years.

I remember members of my family really worried and saying how nothing would be the same again. I didn’t understand that. Sure, nothing would be the same again… but nothing ever is. A restaurant opens over here, another closes over there. Construction blocks your normal commute and so on and so on.

I guess my lack of empathy with that level of fear comes from my life experience. I expect things to change… to mess up my day usually… and things to never be the same, regardless of how much I want them to. The longest I’ve ever had a job was five years, and part of the reason I left was that after those years, they reorganized the company and suddenly I lost all the reasons I liked the gig (working from home, good boss).

Here’s where I should make a COVID parallel, but I don’t have to. Accept the change or don’t – I just get pissy with people trying to make me feel afraid. My mom died one day at the age of 44–no warning–uterine tumor that we didn’t know was there burst and BAM… gone. Everything changed.

I’m older than she was then. I’ve been in two major bicycle accidents and several smaller ones. I’m not in the greatest shape, but I’m in better health than most. Yet I could drop dead of half a dozen things today. I’m not worried about it. I have wonderful children, I’ve written my books, and I think I have more credits than debts on the spiritual side. So there’s nothing to fear from death. It’s just a change and it’s not like you can do anything about it.

Man, did this post turn dark quick. Well, it’s a dark day. Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll try to be peppier later.

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