EU Proposes 70MPH Speed Limiters for all Cars

September 1st, 2013

New EU new road safety measures attempting to reduce deaths from road accidents by a third are being proposed to fit all cars with devices to prevent cars from exceeding 70MPH, according to The Telegraph.

Why would anyone buy a Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini if they had a top speed of 70MPH? How many of those 30,000 auto deaths in Europe were from cars exceeding 70MPH?

In the United States, during 2009, according to the Census Bureau, 31% of the traffic fatalities were speeding related; however, only a little over 10% were exceeding 55MPH and less than 3% of the fatalities were due to speeding over 55MPH on the Interstates. Did you know that more fatalities had occurred while speeding under 40MPH (4768) than fatalities for speeding in excess of 55MPH (3665)? Common logic suggests even fewer happened while exceeding 70MPH.

What stop at 70MPH? Speed limiters set to 25MPH (about the gallop speed of a horse) might eliminate most if not all of the speeding-relating traffic fatalities, but who wants to live in a world like that?

It just makes sense.

You can discover more about my books at my FaceBook Fan Page which I invite you to like, or you can check out my Amazon Author’s Page. For details on my first novel, check out this page.

The Impending War With Syria

September 1st, 2013

Jesus said, “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, but don’t be worry because these things will but come, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6)

Clausewitz said, “War is just a continuation of politics by violent means.”

War is the consequence of failed deterrence. The United States failed to deter the Syrian regime from using weapons of mass destruction on their citizenry, thus the United States is about to wage war on Syria. The question yet to answered is, will the war on Syria end in success or not?

To achieve success any violence must be in accord with US law and be appropriate to the unacceptable behavior of the antagonist. If the action is not in accord with US law, the political consequences could result in impeachment or at the least a continued degradation of the United States deterrence ability. If the force is inappropriate, the result could range from increased unacceptable behavior from the antagonist or international condemnation of the United States for excessive death and destruction.

Even with our shrinking military, the tactical capacity of the United States is tremendous. No nation desires an attack from us. Our decision makers are responsible for predetermining the objectives before tasking our warriors to execute the campaign.

There are many possible objectives, but success of any campaign is measured by the establishment of a better state of peace when all is done.

Unless the regime is changed, an appropriate force should leave the antagonist without the means to repeat their former sin. Anything less suggests either malpractice or a crime on the part of our decision makers.

The management of violence is brain surgery. Elections have consequences.

It just makes sense.

You can discover more about my books at my FaceBook Fan Page which I invite you to like, or you can check out my Amazon Author’s Page. For details on my first novel, check out this page.

 


To Protect and Defend

March 23rd, 2013

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a tribe of people, called Americans who refused to accept the rule of a mortal king.

Following the Boston Tea Party, almost 240 years ago, that tribe dumped 342 containers of tea into the Boston harbor, prompting their mortal king to enact a series of taxes called Acts of Parliament in response to the rebellion in Massachusetts. Collecting those taxes required putting more police on the streets.  A few months later, General Thomas Gage, arrived in Boston with four regiments of British troops.

The First Continental Congress met in the fall of 1774 in Philadelphia with 56 American delegates, representing every colony, except Georgia. On September 17th, the Congress declared its opposition to the repressive Acts of Parliament, saying they are “not to be obeyed,” and also promoted the formation of local militia units.

Thus economic and military tensions between the Americans and their mortal king’s police escalated. In February of 1775, a Provincial Congress was held in Massachusetts during which John Hancock and Joseph Warren began defensive preparations for a state of war. The British Parliament then declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. Without the other colonies joining in the fight, Massachusetts would fail.

On March 23rd 1775, 238 years ago delegates of the most populous and powerful colony of Virginia met in St. John’s church in Richmond. Resolutions were presented by Patrick Henry putting the colony of Virginia “into a posture of defense…embodying, arming, and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient for that purpose.” Before the vote was taken on his resolutions, Henry delivered the speech below, imploring the delegates to vote in favor.

He spoke without any notes or cue cards in a voice that became louder and louder, climaxing with the now famous ending. Following his speech, the vote was taken in which his resolutions passed by a narrow margin, and thus Virginia joined in the American Revolution.

“… They tell us, sir, that we are weak — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field!

Why stand we here idle?

What is it that gentlemen wish?

What would they have?

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

What followed was a long and bloody war known today as the American Revolutionary War or sometimes the American War of Independence (1775-1783).

Patrick Henry was an attorney, farmer and politician who became known as an orator during the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia, from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1786.After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia. Initially he opposed ratification the proposed United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered the rights of the States as well as the freedoms of individuals until it adopted the Bill of Rights–also known at the first ten Amendments of the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights is the list of the most important rights of Americans. The citizen rights often most contested are the inalienable rights–those rights not given to the citizens by the government, but instead affirmed by the Constitution as given to them by a higher authority. A Bill of Rights hinders would-be tyrants. A detailed study of the rights included there, and the behavior of the most terrible tyrants of history shows they are exactly the rights removed before tyranny was possible. Once tyranny is established it has never been removed peacefully. The wisdom and boldness of men like Patrick Henry were essential for Americans and others to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for more than two centuries. With the addition of the Bill of Rights, opposition waned, and the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788 so it could replace the Articles of Confederation from 1777.

It is interesting to note and understand that the Constitution of the United States was created by the American citizens through the authority of the preexisting states. The American tribe is comprised of a free and armed people who have a history of not being ruled by any personality or government, instead the people have permitted a few of their tribe to temporarily enjoy elected positions of limited authority so as to govern according to an established set of laws and rules, the supreme law of the land being The United States Constitution. For it is the power of The Constitution of the United States which makes the Federal government and all of its supporting agencies legal.

That’s why when our fellow citizens are elected or appointed to positions of authority we require them to take an oath to protect and preserve The Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

It just makes sense.

Forgive to Survive

March 8th, 2013

We all struggle with it. Forgiveness. Somebody wronged you, and you don’t like it. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything, or at least you don’t have a memory of doing anything to justify the immensity of the crime committed against you. The shadow of the crime keeps you awake at night. It prevents food from digesting as it should. Your stomach feels like it’s tied in knots. Your eyes are dry and red. Maybe your hair or your eyebrows are falling out. You’re losing weight, or gaining too much of it. Then as if adding insult to your injury, somebody tells you to forgive them.

Forgive?

But you don’t want to forgive. You want to render unto your tormenter the harvest from the seeds of misery they planted in your flesh. Give them back some of what they gave you. Maybe you don’t want to personally harm them, but you’ve imagined your joy at hearing about them falling into great suffering. You might even have wished for them to experience a car accident, leaving them disfigured for life. Or maybe you’d prefer to hear how they fell victim to a random act of violence by another truly evil person because, after all, you’ve already judged them to be evil. They deserve the worst.

You’ve discovered your thoughts about your nemesis are embarrassing. It’s not comfortable talking to anyone except maybe your closest friends, because you’re afraid other people will think there is something wrong with you. A character flaw, which prevents you from doing one simple thing, forgive. You consider having to forgive that evil person the same as making a sacrifice, and you think you’ve sacrificed enough as the victim.

Maybe you’ve gone so far as to pray for God’s judgement to come early. You wait, but day after day, it doesn’t. Ironically, if you continue to cling to those dark feelings, you’ll only destroy your future, finishing whatever damage your nemesis started.

After you share some of the details of your problem with one of your Bible-reading friends, they might offer you one of many Bible verses to help you forgive. For example:

Colossians 3:13 says, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do.”

If that verse was sufficient for you, you’re probably not reading this article. So I’ll continue for the rest of us.

Even if you’re a Christian, hearing advice based on the example of Christ might not help you understand why you need to forgive. Without understanding the why, you’re stuck in a paradigm which prevents you from doing the very thing you must do to survive.

Let’s put this all in a different framework by taking a walk through a distant forest.

There’s an earthen trail here that leads to a quiet pond where you can fish if you like, or just sit quietly and maybe read your favorite book. It’s so far out of town, your cell phone can’t even pick up a signal. You’ll be undisturbed for as long as you desire.

In preparation for this hike, you wear a brimmed hat to protect your face from thin branches along the trail. Wisely you wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt to protect your skin from any biting insects. Covering your feet, inside your hiking shoes, are thick cotton socks to help prevent the hike from forming any blisters on your toes. Your backpack not only has a couple of water bottles and granola bars, but also a first aid kit and hunting knife. You’re prepared for a wonderful, relaxing journey.

But you didn’t think of everything.

Just before you get to the pond, a rattlesnake shoots out of the weeds by the trail and strikes your calf, sinking its fangs through your jeans and into your flesh. The pain is immediate, feels like fire.

What do you do?

You could try to understand the snake. Did you startle it? Was it your fault? You don’t want to get bit again, do you? Eventually you’ll come to the conclusion that it was not your fault. You had merely been walking down the path, intending to enjoy the pond, and for whatever reason the snake attacked you. Maybe you should have avoided the snake, but you can’t start where you were. You have to move on from where you are.

Now what do you do?

You could take your knife out of the backpack and pursue the snake. After all, it had wounded you for no justifiable reason. It bit you. The audacity of the vile creature. Certainly you could find it. Snakes are not so fast that even when wounded, you couldn’t run it down. Once you finally caught it, you could drive your knife into its flesh. How does that feel? Maybe you could make the death slow and painful, just to salve the building hate for snakes bubbling up deep from within your soul.

But you wouldn’t do that. That would be stupid.

A human is smart. You know other things are more important than mindless revenge. The time you would invest into hunting down and killing the snake, would be better spent dealing with the poison killing your body.

You’d almost instinctively put some distance between you and the snake, at the very minimum, you’d move beyond striking distance. If it really was a rattlesnake, you know you’ll need anti-venom treatment. That’s something that’s not in your backpack. You know you shouldn’t panic, because everything you’ve read about snake bites have told you to remain calm. So be calm and think. What to do?

Maybe you’d look at the first aid kit. But this is more than a scratch, and you’re not a doctor. The pain tells you there is precious little time to waste and you need someone to help you now.

Get help.

You could try sitting down and yelling, maybe somebody might hear and come to you. If they don’t, you need to get up and go to where the help is, or you will die. Calmly walk back to your car or at least as far as needed to where you can pick up a signal on your phone and make the call. In order to survive, you get away from the snake and get some help so you can save yourself.  In other words:

Forgive the snake.

Life is too short to chase snakes through the brush because when you do, your life becomes even shorter and meaningless. Do the smart things: just walk away; let the snake go; go to the people who are able to help you; let your body heal with time; in the future try to avoid other snakes if possible; and enjoy the rest of your life.

It just makes sense.

You can discover more about my books at my FaceBook Fan Page which I invite you to like, or you can check out my Amazon Author’s Page.

Word Count to Number of Pages

February 7th, 2013

QUESTION: How do I convert my manuscript’s word count into a expected number of pages for a published novel?

THEORY-BASED ANSWER: Divide your word count by 250.

PRACTICE-BASED ANSWER: It depends on: the font type; font size; page size; paragraph format; margin; and medium.

Font type matters
Font type matters
Font type matters
Font type matters

font size matters
font size matters
font size matters
font size matters

Other than those obvious contextual elements, the indentation, margin size, and paragraph spacing can make a substantial different in the overall number of pages in a printed book.

I have two novels which are available not only in kindle format but also from Amazon via CreateSpace as printed books.

My first novel, THE DRAGONEERS was Amazon’s #1 top-rate Religious Fantasy for the first 279 days of 2012. Even though most of the 18,000 copies of it in circulation are eBooks there was a demand for some printed copies. The adventure is slightly over 100,000 words. Formatting it to a page size of 6 x 9 using an 11 point font produced 244 pages. Which computes to an average of 409 words per page–not the theoretical 250 words of the legacy formula. Of course some pages have fewer and some have more, we all know that’s what average means.

My second novel, THE LOST DRAGONEER is slightly over 123,000 words. Formatting it to a page size of 6 x 9 using a 12 point font produced 342 pages, computing to an average of 360 words per page.  Additionally, there is a large print edition formatted to a page size of 8.5 x 11 using 18 point font. That resulted in 428 pages for an average word per page of 287.

Did you know the techniques of your writing can drastically affect the number of pages? For example, if your novel has a lot of dialogue, there will be more “white space” on the page.

“How’s that?” you say.

“Dialogue usually requires a hard return,” says me. “Resulting in less words per line.”

“I don’t get it,” you say.

“You will.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

“Oh,” says you, glancing at the dialogue above. “I get it now.”

“Of course you do,” says me as I smiled.

The “divide by 250” formula might have actually worked when Courier was the only typeface and typewriters had dominion over manuscripts, not so much now.

Additionally, since eBooks are more common that tree books, the reader selects their desired font size based on their fixed-size viewing platform and their personal desires. Those platforms can vary from a 3.5” smart phone screen to a 36” or larger monitor on a PC or MAC, common logic suggests the actual page count is almost a non sequitur.

In this information age with a world of designer fonts and formats, myriad variables influence our final readers edition.

So in theory it’s fairly simple to estimate the number of pages of your future book. In practice, getting an accurate answer can be more challenging than simple math.

It just makes sense.

You can discover more about my books at my FaceBook Fan Page which I invite you to like, or my Amazon Author’s Page.
 

Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award ABNA

December 7th, 2012

Timing is so important, some people have said, “Timing is everything.”

I’d no sooner finished my interview with Mary Metcalfe concerning the new genre of Antediluvian Steampunk and Amazon announced the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). My writing and this contest have a history together which began in 2007:

After experiencing the sting of new-writer rejection from TOR, I surfed across an announcement for the first ABNA. Submissions were open to the first 5000 authors starting on that very day, October 1, 2007. Believing my writing was publisher ready, I submitted my manuscript, which eventually placed in the top 836 semi-finalists, but was eliminated when the field was cut to 100 in February 2008. The grand prize winner was Bill Loehfelm with his murder mystery/thriller, FRESH KILLS.

Metaphorically hanging my head in sorrow, I slipped back into my writer’s cave. Adapting to the critiques I’d received during the 2008 contest, I eventually crossed the threshold of repeat contender, and entered ABNA 2009.

I discovered that many other budding authors returned with their improved manuscripts. While mine made it to the top 250, it was eliminated when the cut to 50 was made. The grand prize winner was James King with his road trip novel, BILL WARRINGTON’S LAST CHANCE.

Somewhat encouraged I’d placed higher than the previous year, I survived. Along the way I acquired friends and allies to help me hone my craft until I returned in 2010 to discover the field was expanded to 10,000 entrants. I had to chose either Young Adult (YA) Fiction or General Fiction for my manuscript. Still uncertain how to classify my Antediluvian Steampunk novel, I chose YA. We made it to the top 50, but elimination came with the cut to the final six. Amy Ackley won the grand prize for the YA Fiction category with her SIGN LANGUAGE and Patricia McArdle’s FARISHTA won the General Fiction category.

After that, life got really busy for me. I didn’t participate in the 2011 or the 2012 contests. My writing eventually produced THE DRAGONEERS, published by Narrow Way Press. Though published on a shoe-string budget, it sold well over 17,000 copies in 2012. That same year, I wrote the sequel: THE LOST DRAGONEER.

My recent interview with Mary Metcalfe explained how I intended to have the novel in circulation in time for a Christmas read. With the novel in the final stages of editing, I heard of Amazon’s ABNA 2013 having a $50,000 advance as part of the grand prize.

Over on the sequel’s Facebook fan page, (you’re invited to go there and LIKE the page) we floated the idea of postponing the Christmas 2012 publishing and entering THE LOST DRAGONEERS into ABNA 2013. Thankfully, all comments were positive and encouraging.

More important than the $50,000 advance is the prospect of getting the support infrastructure of  Amazon Publishing behind the novel. Narrow Way Press has limited resources, the advantage is clear.

A few questions remain:

1. Does THE LOST DRAGONEER honestly have a chance to win?

The story and writing of this series has vastly improved since the early years. THE DRAGONEERS evolved into a clearly superior product when compared to the manuscript entered during previous ABNAs–nearly 18,000 copies are in circulation and for the first 279 days of 2012–it was a #1 top-rated book. Today, all of our trusted proof-readers and editors agree, THE LOST DRAGONEERS is superior to the first book. Ultimately the answer depends on the opinions of the judges, however if I have ever written a book which can win ABNA–this one is it.

2. What if THE LOST DRAGONEERS don’t win?

Then we’ll collect our lessons learned, adapt and overcome. Most probably, Narrow Way Press will publish the book shortly after elimination. Being Executive Editor has its privileges.

3. What will become of Narrow Way Press if you win and Amazon Publishing becomes the primary publisher for the remainder of THE CHRONICLES OF SUSAH series?

The bittersweet of a the victory will change the focus of Narrow Way Press, everything to this date has been gearing up for the production, marketing, and distribution of the eleven Sutherland novels. The company could continue to operate using a genre expansion plan and a proposed children books line.

If THE LOST DRAGONEER is published by Amazon Publishing, common logic suggests it will be able to climb upward more rapidly than it would via NWP. With the expected success, it is logical to assume Amazon Publishing will want to negotiate and win the continuing books of the series. It is also logic to come to acceptable terms for that to happen. NWP will not be destroyed, but it will have to change focus toward alternative projects.

What do you think? Will ABNA 2013 be the event where I return with elixir, or one where I get sent back to the dragon writer’s cave?

Only time will tell. I’ll keep you posted here and over in the book’s Facebook Fan Page and on my Amazon Author’s Page.

Taking this chance is the logical course as . . .

It just makes sense.  

Antediluvian Steampunk

November 11th, 2012

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, traditionally featuring steam-powered machinery–as in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen–but not always as in Back to the Future. The key element of Steampunk is anachronism.

Anachronism is an perceptional error in chronology, especially a misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other.

Still don’t get it?

That’s okay.

Not everyone of the 60 million watching understood Elvis when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.

Ed Sullivan said, “I can’t figure this darn thing out. He does this and everybody yells.”

Elvis didn’t invent Rock and Roll. As early as 1942, the term was used in Billboard magazine to describe Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s Rock Me recording. While some folks find that trivia interesting, you don’t have to know that to like Rock and Roll music.

Science fiction author, K.W. Jeter is credited with using “Steampunk” in the 1980s as a variant of cyberpunk (postmodern science fiction genre noted for its focus on high tech and low life). Since then, the Steampunk awareness folks have realized many classic anachronistic science fiction conveniently fit into this genre.

Like Rock and Roll, Steampunk is here to stay. You don’t have to like it, but pretending it doesn’t exist makes you look silly.

Classic Steampunk is set in the British Victorian era or the American “Wild West” with enhanced steam-power technologies seasoning the characters interaction within the plot. Examples include: Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Steampunk expanded beyond those classic works via speculative historical, fantasy and horror works.  Along with the explosion in literature, you see it in games, television and film.  Creative tribute is given to Jules Verne in Back to the Future Part III not only by the mention of the patriarch of Steampunk, but also by adapting the time-travel technology to a steam-powered train with protagonist Emmett Brown as the engineer.

With THE DRAGONEERS, yet another expansion of Steampunk’s web of influence arrived for interested readers.

No, we didn’t call it Steampunk at first. In all honesty, I was quite ignorant of the term. I’d merely written the story inside of me, and it just came out that way.

Before it was published, it placed well in a few contests under the misguided genre of “historical fiction” then “young adult fiction” then “Fantasy,” all of which didn’t properly describe the novel.

I should have figured it out when Publishers Weekly said, “This novel defies conventional classification…”

When it showed up for public consumption, THE DRAGONEERS was listed under Epic/Religious Fantasy at Amazon back in late November 2011. A fan on C. D. Sutherland’s FaceBook Fan Page   commented it was a new genre. While I was deep into writing the sequel, I let the idea percolate for a while. Looking at it now, I agree Antediluvian Steampunk fits better than anything else.

Antediluvian refers to the novel’s setting. THE DRAGONEERS opens eighty years prior to the flood described in the seventh chapter of Genesis. Just about everybody is familiar with the old story of Noah building the ark and the forty days of rain, but when we look in Genesis to get all the details, we’re left hanging, relying on our imagination, or that of the Church Lady, to fill in all the grey area between the black and white on the page.

Exactly what THE DRAGONEERS and THE LOST DRAGONEER go about doing–that is filling in the grey area. After you read these books, you might revisit some of those Sunday School lessons you’re familiar with and rethink them. For instance, why does the image of Noah seem to be one that would fit in with the New Testament times? Are we really supposed to believe God created a nearly-perfect race of humans but they couldn’t figure out anything new for the first several thousand years? And what’s with those pyramids? How did they built those things anyway? Then somehow–they forgot how to build them! What’s up with that?

The Chronicles of Susah series is fiction, but after you read it, you can’t help but wondering if some parts of it is more reasonable than the image painted on the nursery walls at your local church daycare.

Got you thinking yet?

Well, that’s what puts the “punk” in Steampunk. Stepping out of “acceptable” thought and looking at things with a different point of view.

Why should you have to accept somebody else’s interpretation of the way things were, especially when they don’t have any evidence to support it? Let them prove your interpretation wrong, if they can. No more free rides from folks who got it wrong.

Don’t worry, these novels don’t try to redefine God. God is real–we’re not disputing Him or His power at all. We’re not even disputing the smallest dot or tittle in the Bible.

But when it comes to Antediluvian Steampunk, the rest of it is up for grabs. We’ll proudly hide behind the “fiction” deflector-shield as we take you on an adventure of epic proportions in the antediluvian world. That world has forever been lost to us due to catastrophic events beyond our control.

After you’ve tasted THE DRAGONEERS and especially the sequel, THE LOST DRAGONEER (available on Kindle in time for a Christmas read), you’ll find yourself wondering if that amazing world where they had technologies as good as, or in some ways even better than ours, is really that far off the mark. Even if our version is wrong, there has to be more of the story.

It just makes sense.  

Reading for Fun

May 15th, 2012

“Do you do any recreational reading?” said I to two teenage girls, one the granddaughter of my step-brother and the other her close friend.  They both shook their heads, looking at me as if I had asked them if they like liver.

Since the advent of social media and texting, today’s teenagers read all the time.  Literacy is common place in 21st century America, but I wasn’t asking if they could read, I was asking if they read for entertainment.  The answer to that question was an unequivocal, “No.”

As an author, especially of a novel that comfortably fits into the Young Adult (YA) category, I feel something much like a cross between disappointment and guilt when I meet teenagers who don’t read for fun.  Disappointment because naturally I believe my literature would not only entertain them but would also teach them something about the world outside of the book’s cover, which would not only make them smarter but also happier as they grow into adults.  Guilt because of my selfish feelings of disappointment and also that I am one of the myriad authors who have failed to convince the upcoming generation about the joy of reading.

I looked at two copies of THE DRAGONEERS, which I held in my hands.  Just minutes prior, one of the girls’ grandmother had told me they didn’t have time to read as school kept them plenty busy.  They already had too much to read and they’d never be interested in reading for entertainment.  Those are cold, biting words, challenging words, to an author.

Since THE DRAGONEERS had passed the 10,000 copies sold mark, I’ve become comfortable calling myself an author.  Previously the novel had placed increasingly well three years in a row in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  Of course the book didn’t win, or it would have been published by Penguin, which was the grand prize.  Getting close in a writing contest is a two-edged sword, an ordeal which often come with a small whisper saying, “Nice try, your book is okay, but face it, you’re just not that good.”  Many a promising author allowed that devil’s breath to invade their muse, eat away at them, eventually to bury their hopes in a shallow grave of despair.  In order to resurrect themselves, authors need to edit that foul whisper, like so:  “Nice try, your book is okay, but face it, you’re just not that good yet.”

One word makes all the difference.

The author’s journey requires you to collect those critiques then educate yourself as required so you can filter them, and return to the page with elixir.  Out of the ashes of a nice try and an okay start, a great story can arise.  This is pretty much what happened with my debut novel, THE DRAGONEERS.

Published by Narrow Way Press in November 2011, it rapidly rose to the top of the charts with customer reviews.  Currently it is the #1 top-rated Epic Fantasy book and the #1 top-rated Religious Science Fiction book at Amazon.  The novel has a Facebook fan page with over 214 followers and almost 100 reviews at Amazon, the vast majority of them are the highest rating, giving it an over 4.8 out of 5 stars.  The few initial reviewers, as with most books, were from people who either knew the author, me, or knew someone who knew me, but after several weeks, more than a score of people I’d never heard of were also saying how much they enjoyed reading THE DRAGONEERS.  Eventually the book collected a few negative comments, which I understand now as the normal course of book reviews.  Search at Amazon for any book you believe to be a great book, even the best book ever, and you’re sure to find a small percentage of people who hated it.  That’s just the way it goes.

In the marketing of THE DRAGONEERS, four trailers were developed and posted on YouTube and on the Facebook Fan page.  Hundreds of people have viewed the trailers and many people have told me how much they enjoy them and the book.  I’m convinced THE DRAGONEERS is a good book, yet I know it’s not perfect.  If I were writing it today, I’d do somethings differently, as I’m continuing learning better ways to write–perfecting my craft.  I’m putting that knowledge to work in Book Two.  Anyone who enjoyed THE DRAGONEERS, Book One of the Chronicles of Susah, is going to be very pleased with Book Two.

But my challenge was to interest two young girls in Book One.

I said, “I’ll like you to help me with an experiment, then I’ll leave you alone.”  They nodded in agreement, anything to get rid of the old guy talking about reading for fun.

“Please read the first sentence of this book.  When you get to the end of the first sentence you can stop.”  I handed the open book to them and they huddled around it.  Their eyes fell to the page and they read.

Pain, gnawing emptiness, hunger so loud it dominated all thoughts, not mine—even though I could feel it—it came from them.

They whispered something to each other and I took the book back.

“What do you think?”

One of them said, “Well, we’d kinda like to know what happens next.”  The other sheepishly nodded in tacit agreement.

“Well, if you want to–if you’d like to read it–I’ll give you each a copy.  I’m not forcing this on you, but it you want it, you can have it.”

They both smiled and eagerly nodded their heads.  I left them each with their own copy of THE DRAGONEERS and returned to the adult filled room next door.

While we adults talked politics, finance, guns, and religion in the dining room, I kept wondering if the teenagers had just patronized me, you know, took the books to get rid of me.  It’s not a crime.  Had they argued with me, I would have been able to counter and parry, but with passive acceptance, there was nothing left for me to do. Wondering if they laughed at my sincerity after I’d left them, I hoped they would someday read the story.  After all, I was certain they could find something in there to relate to, something they would like.

While the title sounds like just another dragon-book, it is really a coming of age story about Susah, a talented young woman, who refuses to join her three brothers in helping her father advance the family business. She wants to do something exciting with her life. While this story could have been set in any time, the fantastical world she lives in amplifies each step nearly beyond the bounds of imagination.

Against her parents’ wishes, Susah leaves home on a quest to become one of the dragoneers—an elite fraternity of warriors sworn to defend the ancient garden of Eden against all trespassers.

Meanwhile, deep in a lair inside of Sethopolis’ roughest neighborhood, an evil giantess dreams of seizing the secrets of immortality and other powers, which she believes are hidden within the walls of the forbidden garden. Realizing she can’t achieve her dream with just her own resources, she joins forces with a fallen angel, nearly as old as time itself.

Seemingly unaware of the dangers awaiting her, Susah faces the greatest of all challenges. With the fate of the human race depending on their performance, will the dragoneers succeed in defending the garden of Eden against the forces of evil? And even if they succeed, will Susah survive the pivotal battle of good verses evil?

The adventure builds on the little we know about the antediluvian world and overlays it with a blend of technology, supernatural powers, fire-and-ice-breathing, flying dragons, giants, and martial arts to begin Susah’s adventure to discover herself.

THE DRAGONEERS is advertised as a 100,000 word, Genesis-based epic fantasy, which will attract those interested in speculative fiction, especially about the antediluvian world, and will also appeal to readers of contemporary fantasy as well as military fiction.

But what about young people who haven’t developed a love for reading?  Even the terms “speculative fiction” and “antediluvian” may be foreign to them.  Accustomed to reading only school-assigned books, often followed by a test and a grade, which could easily be interpreted as work or even punishment–how do they even know what they’ll like?

I tried to introduce them to the wonderful world of fiction by convincing them to read the first sentence, but would that be enough?  Time would tell.

As the social event came to a close, and it was time to rally young and old alike from throughout the house, I stood against a wall near the kitchen watching as the two young girls filed out of the living room, headed to the car.  As they walked, their eyes scanned slightly left to right and their noses were buried into roughly the first quarter of THE DRAGONEERS.  I smiled.

That was a good day.

Reading can be fun, but you have to try it before you realize it.

It just makes sense.

Where There is No Vision, the People Perish

December 22nd, 2011

Five days after U.S. forces hastily withdrew from Iraq, fourteen bomb blasts in Baghdad killed 63 people and injured 185 others.  Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the attack as “cowardly” but what did we really expect to happen?

When the U.S. forces left Germany shortly after WWII ended nothing of the sort happened.  Exactly, nothing of the sort happened because the forces did not leave.  In 2011, Germany is a stellar member of the peaceful, productive nations of this planet.  While that is mostly due to the Germans, as they are as civilized as any people on Earth, had the conquerors of 1945 followed the model set by the U.S. in Iraqi, I venture to speculate they would not be the same today.  It takes organization, determination, and time to convert a totalitarian-warlike nation into a free and contributing nation.  Maybe it wouldn’t have taken 70 years, but it needed more than seven.

During the force-fed rehabilitation of Germany, the U.S. forces kept the Soviet antagonists at bay with a constant threat of war.  That threat of war included not just armed soldiers at checkpoints but also the promised use of annihilating-force against any large muscle movements by the Soviets.  We called that the “Cold War” back then.

With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949: the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR). The democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organizations, the EC, which became the EU, and NATO, while the Communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The decline of the USSR and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990. Since then, Germany has expended considerable funds to bring Eastern productivity and wages up to Western standards. In January 1999, Germany and 10 other EU countries introduced a common European exchange currency, the euro. In January 2011, Germany assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2011-12 term–that’s a success story.

The Soviets couldn’t logically risk their total destruction so they postured campaigns all around the world hoping to exhaust the U.S. and then they could have their way with Germany and the rest of the world.  But that didn’t happen, the Soviets were exhausted by the American double-blessings of leading-edge technological developments and the greatest economy in history of mankind, which enabled the U.S. forces to be unbeatable.

This “War in Iraq” mess went differently.  The rehabilitation program was mostly designed by the patient, while the U.S. forces allowed Iranian antagonists to leak into the county to lead the locals bandits in organized violent actions.  The U.S. political machine went out of its way to soften any demands or threats against Iran, which appeared to encourage their schemes.  Today the American technological programs have mostly been hacked into by the Chinese and others, which have mostly encouraged opposition to the U.S. and the American economy has been disassembled by a legislative branch which hasn’t produced a budget for over 1000 days, while the Democrat Party leaders have plunged the national debt to a greater level than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first time since the American Revolution.  For political reasons, which escape strategic reasoning, the U.S. has abandoned maybe the last opportunity to establish and maintain a civilized stronghold in a totalitarian-aggressive region without having to resort to annihilating-force.

Ironically, many are blaming U.S. intervention in Iraq as the reason for the current situation.  As a reminder, in August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait’s liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the Saddam Hussein regime.

The invasion of Iraq was the result of Saddam Hussein’s failure to comply with U.N. sanctions, which was magnified through the prism of 9-11 and the resultant Global War on Terrorism.  Today’s revisionists are quick to say, “Saddam Hussein did not bomb the World Trade Center on 9-11,” which is just as true as the equally interesting but not compelling declaration, “Adolf Hitler did not bomb Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941.”

To do great things, even great nations need great leadership.  Great leadership at the national level is usually manifest in the leaders ability to communicate his vision to the people.  “Hope and change” was a bumper sticker which appears to have been used as a blindfold on the American people.

The 44th U.S. President outlawed the use of the previous administration’s somewhat nebulous term “Global War on Terrorism” opting instead for the completely ambiguous term  “Overseas Contingency Operations.”  The resultant failure of national leadership to educate the American people as to why we were at war since 9-11 has all but squandered the investment of lives and treasure, which should have been used as a lever to move world opinion and policy against aggression and to deter what may prove to be the most destructive war ever.

It just makes sense.

Will the World Change Following the Death of Kim Jong-Il?

December 19th, 2011

Kim Jong-Il is dead—his heart failed him.  The country he leaves behind is economically dead, its population is mostly starving, as what resources it didn’t use to support the lavish comfort of the now dead 69 year-old dictator was pumped into maintaining an offensive military and the development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.  Most likely, Kim Jong-Il’s death won’t end hunger in North Korea, reduce the threat of war, or work towards reuniting the Korean peninsula.

The area we now call North Korea and South Korean was an independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. Five years later, Japan formally annexed the entire peninsula and ruled with a brutality, which characterized the Japanese Empire of that day.

Historians and a few others know that the Soviets declared war on Japan the day after the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  In a mad rush to claim territory before it could be liberated, Soviet-sponsored Communists, under the leadership of Kim Il Sung took control of the northern half of Korea.  After the US and the rest of the free world disarmed, the Communist North Korea invaded liberated South Korea but failed to conquer the UN and US-backed Republic of Korea (ROK).

President Kim Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic “self-reliance” as a check against outside influence. They demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang’s control.  In 1994, Kim Il Sung died and Kim Jong Il assumed the dictators position.
After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, North Korea relies heavily on international aid to feed its population. North Korea’s history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, long-range missile development, WMD programs including tests of nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, and massive conventional armed forces are of major concern to the international community.

Kim Jong-un, the third son of the dead dictator, is the new “dear leader” and get this—he’s 20 years old.  How will he lead?  But come to think of it, a lot of things were said about Kim Jong-Il which made one wonder how a Hennessey-sipping, sashimi-carving, caviar-chomping, DVD-watching, golf-cheating, people-starving megalomaniac could run an entire country, even one with such limitations as North Korea.  But we know the answer, don’t we?

Since Kim Il-Song heart failed him at 82 years of age, other people have been running the country.  Having a “dear leader” for the people to worship helped them keep the people motivated.  Following Kim-Il Song’s death, many people reportedly “committed suicide” which probably goes to explain the consolidation of power by the winners.  Those folks, with their logical replacements, will continue to pull the strings on their new puppet—Kim Il-un.

Therefore, not much of anything will change.

It just makes sense.