Blog Archives

Enter the Elsewhere Gate on 1 August

The Elsewhere Gate is the story of two students from modern America who are plunged into a strange world with unknown creatures, airships, and money based on magic — a place where almost everyone has magic but few have much money. Here, they are pursued by a covetous moneylender who believes they hold the key that will open new worlds for him to exploit.

This book will be released worldwide 1 August 2018.

You can preorder digital editions for 99¢ from:

What My Author Blog is For

I’ve been remiss about posting to this site. I first started it in 2011 mainly because I read that all authors should have a web presence, which at the time meant a blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I had none of these, and I had no idea what to do with them once I did. I figured they were for promoting my books.

Unfortunately, I don’t like selling any more than I like being sold to, so I initially used my blog for reviews of other people’s books. That just never seemed right to me, though. As a writer, I felt uncomfortable reviewing the works of other writers on my web page. I no longer do it, except for an occasional review of a nonfiction book, and I’ll stop posting those here as well. There’s a better place for reviews, anyway: Goodreads, which recently notified me that I’m in the top 1% of reviewers. I assume that’s a good thing, although I have no idea how they determine the ranking.

I also tried dabbling with posts about what I was learning as an indie writer, but I was hardly qualified to do that, having not yet published much. That has changed. My next novel will be my eighth, but I still don’t feel comfortable giving advice. I’ve learned a few things, but I’m far from an expert, and none of my books has made anyone’s bestseller lists. The only claim to success I can make is that copies of my eBooks are downloaded almost every day now. Many of these are freebies. I haven’t seen many reviews, but the few that have been posted are predominately quite nice. All of my books are rated between 4 and 5 stars on both Amazon and Goodreads. If you wrote one of those reviews or simply posted a rating, thanks!

So I’m now effectively between books, with just a final check of The Brane of the Space Pirates needed before it’s released next month. (A paperback galley proof should be in the mail today.) I have only a very rough idea about the book I’ll be writing after that. I stare at the planning worksheet for it every morning, though, hoping a stray inspiration particle will strike me. In the meantime, this seems like a fine opportunity to revise my blogs.

I’ve already made a few small changes to this one, including some different headers and revised menus. In the future, I’ll be using this site as an open, online journal devoted to the types of things most people use their blogs for: writing about what they’ve been up to. In my case, that will probably mean short posts about reading and writing. I doubt anyone wants to read about my exciting adventures to the grocery store, my never-ending battle with slugs in my garden, what my pets have done, or about what I’m having for lunch…although apparently many people do write about that. Some even post pictures.

If I have a new book release, promotion, or something along those lines, the news will be posted on my publisher site, Fuzzy Android. I also have a site for nonfiction reviews, opinions, and observations, mainly about science, culture, philosophy, history…. If you like that kind of thing, check out The Avery Slom Philosophical Laboratory. It’s only been up a short time, but it already has a few followers.

For now, though, I need to stare at the worksheet for my next project a bit longer. I’m sure something will come to me.

Release of The Scarecrow’s Brane

ScarecrowCover1aThe Scarecrow’s Brane, the second adventure of the Brane Child, will be released on 3 July 2015.

~*~

The Story: Commander Lisa Chang and the crew of the experimental spaceship Brane Child make a hasty emergency landing on a planet that resembles Oz and accidentally open Emerald City to the covetous ambitions of tyrannical Red Witch of the South. The only way to fix the mess they’ve made is to embark on a hazardous journey through the Wild Lands to Munchkinland, where Lisa must somehow convince the Great and Powerful Blue Wizards of the East to construct a new protector for Emerald City.

~*~

The digital edition of this book can now be preordered for only 99¢ (U.S.) from any of these fine online retailers:

Please note, regardless of where this book is sold, it is in one of the contemporary dialects of American English.

~*~

Questions and Answers about this book:

How does this book relate to your previous books?
The Scarecrow’s Brane is a sequel to Brane Child. Like the previous book, this one is positive science fiction—upbeat, hopeful, and sometimes even funny. There is also a smidgeon of cultural satire. In this episode, the crew finds themselves in a land a bit like Oz with lots of characters and situations from other stories and fairy tales.

Why is it only 99¢?
As far as my writing is concerned, I’m more concerned with obtaining readers than I am with making money. Everyone should have access to stories they enjoy regardless of their finances, and the price for the digital edition is the lowest many eBook distributors will allow. (The paperback editions are more because of the cost of printing.) The low cost does not imply a short book or poor editing. The trade paperback edition of The Scarecrow’s Brane is 328 pages or about 80,000 words. (For comparison, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Fahrenheit 451 are each about 47,000 words. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is over 587,000 words. My books tend to be around the same length as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone or Terry Pratchett’s earlier Discworld books. They are also edited, revised, and extensively proofread prior to publication to meet or exceed reader expectations.)

So, What comes next?
The next book in this series will be the third and final I currently have planned for it. All I can tell you right now is that it will bring Lisa and her crew somewhere unexpected.

Brane Child will be released on 21 December 2014

TBraneChildDigital10-14his is a story of humanity venturing into the unknown, as it has always done. One step leads to another, but not all are as sturdy as one might hope. Sometimes you just have to put your foot forward and hope for the best.

The Brane Skip Device, which may allow a spaceship to skip between layers of reality, bypass normal space, and avoid the universal speed limit—the speed of light—is unproven. The theory behind it is poorly understood. Lisa Chang, mission commander for its first crewed test, doesn’t trust it. It seems like magic to her, and she doesn’t believe in magic—not even after the ship skips to a fantasy version of Earth, complete with dragons, orcs, and wizards. This, ultimately, is her greatest advantage.

The release date for Brane Child is 21 December 2014 at the astoundingly low price of just 99¢ for digital editions.

The prices of all of my other books in eBook formats are also just 99¢ from now through December. (Due to the cost of production, prices for paper formats are not discounted and remain significantly higher.)

Brane Child is available for preorder here:
Amazon (US) Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PIPTRIS
Amazon (UK) Link: www.amazon.co.uk/Brane-Child-Science-Fiction-Counter-Fantasy-ebook/dp/B00PIPTRIS/
Smashwords Link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/492149

Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes Books, and other online retailers should also be accepting preorders soon. The trade paperback edition of the book is not available for preorder but will be released on or about the same time.

~*~

Questions and Answers about this book:

How does this book relate to your previous books?
In the immortal words of Monty Python, it’s ‘something completely different’. Well, Okay, maybe not completely different. I am still the author and it falls firmly in the same ‘counter-fantasy’ subgenre of science fiction that my other books do, but the setting and characters are new and (I think) original. It is positive science fiction—upbeat, hopeful, and sometimes even a bit funny. There is also a smidgeon of cultural satire. My goal for this book was to combine science, history, philosophy, fantasy, games, and humor into a satisfying story about stories.

A story about stories?
Yes, in part. It is about how readers shape stories as much as writers do. The writer sketches the characters and settings, but the reader completes them. No two readers experience exactly the same story. Brane Child is about how beliefs and expectations shape perspective. It touches on human achievement, quantum physics (specifically M-theory), and the idea that reality is much more complex than it seems. The physics (and metaphysics) are warped a bit (Okay, more than a bit) to fit this particular story, but I believe there is a thought or two in here that some people will find intriguing. I also think it’s a fun story.

~*~

And now for a short video..

Counter-Fantasy Novels for 99¢

Prices for digital editions of all my novels have been lowered for the holidays. These books provide a lighthearted and quirky mix of science fiction and fantasy. I coined the term ‘counter-fantasy’ to describe them because, although they take place in in a fantasy-like setting, there is always a speculative scientific basis behind them. If you haven’t yet read my books, I hope you will take this opportunity to give them a try.

(Amazon links for Kindle are provided by clicking on the book covers, but digital editions are also available from iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and other fine eBook retailers.)

DogTaleseBook11-13aAn Android Dog’s Tale: MO-126 is a dog, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. He is a construct and an employee of the Galactic Organic Development Corporation, which searches the galaxy for primitive sentient species to save from extinction and then creates colonies of them on Corporation agricultural planets where they can live happily and safely. The transplanted species survives, and its members produce some of the most expensive and sought-after food in the galaxy, which the Corporation profitably sells to developed worlds with this guarantee:
Caringly grown, cultivated and harvested by simple sentient life forms.
No artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, or mechanized equipment used in processing.
Guaranteed 100% organic.

Of course, keeping the primitives primitive enough to ensure the Corporation’s promise of natural purity can be a challenge, especially when they’re like those it found twenty thousand years ago huddling in caves and scraping a meager and precarious existence on a pale blue planet in the Milky Way’s Orion–Cygnus spiral arm. The humans keep trying to change things.

An Android Dog’s Tale is the 15,000-year episodic story of one canine mobile observer android who must make choices about what he wants to accomplish in his artificial life. Does he accept the wisdom of his makers or does he dare to question?

TWT EBookCover12(comp)The Warden Threat: Prince Donald, the idealistic third son of the king of Westgrove, believes he may be the only one able to protect his country from an invasion spearheaded by an ancient and massive magical stone warrior known as the Warden of Mystic Defiance. Donald, unfortunately, is woefully unprepared. His only real understanding of such things comes from his reading of adventure stories. When he finds an ancient scroll he believes may allow him to take control of the mysterious Warden, he eagerly takes on the task. He dreams of saving the kingdom and becoming a hero like those in his epic adventure stories. To his dismay, his quest turns out to be nothing like he imagined. He finds the stories in his library seriously understate the complexities and hardships involved. He also soon realizes that the real world can be much more confusing than fictional ones, and the hero is not necessarily predestined to save the day.

TWWEBookCover14(comp)The Warden War continues the quest begun by Prince Donald in The Warden Threat. His father, King Leonard of Westgrove, has been told that the neighboring kingdom of Gotrox has discovered a magical means to animate a mysterious and gigantic ancient stone warrior, the Warden of Mystic Defiance, which it plans to use it to spearhead an invasion of his country. Donald is convinced this is a hoax carefully crafted by his father’s chief adviser to bring about a war to gain control of Gotroxian resources. Donald is determined to thwart him. It will not be easy. Chief Adviser Horace Barter has resources, connections, influence, and the almost unquestioned trust of the king. Donald, sadly, has none of these. What the young prince does have is a nominal position with the diplomatic team being sent to Gotrox and the companionship of a few rather unique friends including a pair of 15,000-year-old androids, one of which is a dog — or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

DF Cover13-10

Defying Fate, the Kindle edition that combines The Warden Threat and The Warden War in one easy download is available exclusively from Amazon for $1.50.

Pendant e-book Cover 13-2Amy’s Pendant: Amy, the only child of a poor family living in the bustling city of Dolphin Point, is given an amazing and potentially dangerous pendant as a present for her fourteenth birthday. She does not know how amazing or how potentially dangerous it is. If she did, she would cherish it even more. She is that kind of girl.
Through her investigations of the mysterious pendant, she uncovers an ancient mystery—the remnants of a vast alien commercial enterprise buried beneath surface of the planet. Unfortunately, the central computer for the complex is aware of her intrusion and it cannot let her escape with knowledge of its existence.

ClockworkEbook13-3Disturbing Clockwork: On a small island called Bob off the southern shore of the great Kingdom of Westgrove, Benkin, a brilliant if somewhat quirky scientist, discovers something extraordinary — clockwork automatons that can obey commands. For Benkin, this is an amazing scientific discovery, one he wants to explore; one he believes may revolutionize mankind’s understanding of the world. For Snyde, a fugitive from the king’s justice, it is something he can use…

This humorous, exciting, and charming story sees the return of several characters from the three previous novels set in this world, plus a few endearing additions. If you were wondering what happened to the thoroughly evil Snyde, or if Trixie and Prince Donald ever got together, this book provides the answers.

Free Book Promotion

It’s Read and Ebook week on Smashwords! From now until Saturday March 8 2014, over 39,000 books are absolutely free. This includes mine. Use the code RW100 at checkout to get these books free during the site-wide promotion!

DogTaleseBook11-13aMO-126 is a dog, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. He is a construct and an employee of the Galactic Organic Development Corporation, which searches the galaxy for primitive sentient species to save from extinction and then creates colonies of them on Corporation agricultural planets where they can live happily and safely. The transplanted species survives, and its members produce some of the most expensive and sought-after food in the galaxy, which the Corporation profitably sells to developed worlds with this guarantee:
Caringly grown, cultivated and harvested by simple sentient life forms. No artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, or mechanized equipment used in processing. Guaranteed 100% organic.

Of course, keeping the primitives primitive enough to ensure the Corporation’s promise of natural purity can be a challenge, especially when they’re like those it found twenty thousand years ago huddling in caves and scraping a meager and precarious existence on a pale blue planet in the Milky Way’s Orion–Cygnus spiral arm. The humans keep trying to change things.

An Android Dog’s Tale is the 15,000-year episodic story of one canine mobile observer android who must make choices about what he wants to accomplish in his artificial life. Does he accept the wisdom of his makers or does he dare to question?

Use the promo code to get your free copy of An Android Dog’s Tale from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/378268

TWT EBookCover12(comp)Prince Donald, the idealistic third son of the king of Westgrove, believes he may be the only one able to protect his country from an invasion spearheaded by an ancient and massive magical stone warrior known as the Warden of Mystic Defiance. Donald, unfortunately, is woefully unprepared. His only real understanding of such things comes from his reading of adventure stories. When he finds an ancient scroll he believes may allow him to take control of the mysterious Warden, he eagerly takes on the task. He dreams of saving the kingdom and becoming a hero like those in his epic adventure stories. To his dismay, his quest turns out to be nothing like he imagined. He finds the stories in his library seriously understate the complexities and hardships involved. He also soon realizes that the real world can be much more confusing than fictional ones, and the hero is not necessarily predestined to save the day.

Use the promo code to get your free copy of The Warden Threat from Smashwords here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/87730

TWWEBookCover14(comp)The Warden War continues the quest begun by Prince Donald in The Warden Threat. His father, King Leonard of Westgrove, has been told that the neighboring kingdom of Gotrox has discovered a magical means to animate a mysterious and gigantic ancient stone warrior, the Warden of Mystic Defiance, which it plans to use it to spearhead an invasion of his country. Donald is convinced this is a hoax carefully crafted by his father’s chief adviser to bring about a war to gain control of Gotroxian resources. Donald is determined to thwart him. It will not be easy. Chief Adviser Horace Barter has resources, connections, influence, and the almost unquestioned trust of the king. Donald, sadly, has none of these. What the young prince does have is a nominal position with the diplomatic team being sent to Gotrox and the companionship of a few rather unique friends including a pair of 15,000-year-old androids, one of which is a dog — or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Use the promo code to get your free copy of The Warden War from Smashwords here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/88548

Pendant Cover ebook 13-2 (comp)AP https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/294488 Amy, the only child of a poor family living in the bustling city of Dolphin Point, is given an amazing and potentially dangerous pendant as a present for her fourteenth birthday. She does not know how amazing or how potentially dangerous it is. If she did, she would cherish it even more. She is that kind of girl.

Through her investigations of the mysterious pendant, she uncovers an ancient mystery—the remnants of a vast alien commercial enterprise buried beneath surface of the planet. Unfortunately, the central computer for the complex is aware of her intrusion and it cannot let her escape with knowledge of its existence.

Use the promo code to get your free copy of Amy’s Pendant from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/294488

ClockworkEbook13-3On a small island called Bob off the southern shore of the great Kingdom of Westgrove, Benkin, a brilliant if somewhat quirky scientist, discovers something extraordinary — clockwork automatons that can obey commands. For Benkin, this is an amazing scientific discovery, one he wants to explore; one he believes may revolutionize mankind’s understanding of the world. For Snyde, a fugitive from the king’s justice, it is something he can use…

This humorous, exciting, and charming story sees the return of several characters from the three previous novels set in this world, plus a few endearing additions. If you were wondering what happened to the thoroughly evil Snyde, or if Trixie and Prince Donald ever got together, this book provides the answers.

Use the promo code to get your free copy of Disturbing Clockwork from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/308615

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 1 to 5 January 2014

DF Cover13-10Amazon will be running a free promotion for Defying Fate starting New Years Day. This exclusive Kindle edition includes the award-winning novel The Warden Threat and the sequel, The Warden War. They tell the exciting and often humorous tale of a young, naive prince and his quest to prevent an unnecessary war prompted by exaggerated claims of a mysterious WMD (Warden of Mystic Defiance).

I hope you’ll give it a try. If you enjoy the book, I invite you to let the rest of world know. I also would not object to you checking out my other books. Actually, I’d quite appreciate it.

This e-book is available in Kindle format (translated from the original Westgrovian into American English) in the following countries. Click the one that suits you best and enjoy the journey.

(Note: Kindle free promotions start at approximately 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on the specified start date. They end at approximately 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on the specified end date. Depending on system latencies, these times may be off by a few minutes to several hours.)

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 2 to 3 November 2013

DF Cover13-10Amazon will be running a free promotion for Defying Fate, this weekend (2 & 3 November 2013). This exclusive Kindle edition includes the award-winning novel The Warden Threat and the sequel, The Warden War. They tell the exciting and often humorous tale of a young, naive prince and his quest to prevent an unnecessary war prompted by exaggerated claims of a mysterious WMD (Warden of Mystic Defiance).

This combined Kindle edition is currently rated five stars on Amazon.

I hope you’ll give it a try. If you enjoy the book, I invite you to let the rest of world know. I also would not object to you checking out my other books. Actually, I’d quite appreciate it.

This e-book is available in Kindle format (translated from the original Westgrovian into American English) in the following countries. Click the one that suits you best and enjoy the journey.

(Note: Kindle free promotions start at approximately 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on the specified start date. They end at approximately 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on the specified end date. Depending on system latencies, these times may be off by a few minutes to several hours.)

Boomenbust and the Shoemaker – A short fairytale of productivity

BoomenbustBoomenbust and the Shoemaker – A fairytale of productivity
by D.L. Morrese

 Once upon a time, a long time ago, a young elf by the name of Boomenbust, together with many of his elfish clan, worked for a kindly old shoemaker in a fairytale kingdom far, far away. A lot of stories take place there, so it must be a real place, unlike those we hear about from time to time that are just far too silly to exist, such as Europe or China or America.

Now, the shoemaker was very grateful for the elves’ help because their skill and dedication made it possible for him to make a great many quality shoes, one hundred pairs every day, and the shoemaker sold them all.

He paid the elves well from the profit, and they used their wages to buy modest little homes, shoes for themselves, and food and clothes and other things for their families, with enough left over for an occasional book they could read to warm their hearts and minds on cold nights, or to visit the country for a picnic when the weather was nice.

The shoemaker, who had become fairly wealthy, bought a new coat for his wife and new clothes for his children and a fine new house on a hill for them to live in.

The elves made even more shoes, and with experience, these shoes were of even better quality and were very popular. The elves were so good at what they did, the shoemaker no longer had to make shoes himself, but he did make more money.

ThisendupOne day, four men delivered a large crate to the shoemaker’s shop. Boomenbust the elf had no idea what it contained. The letters painted on the outside just said, ‘From: Gizmo’s Machines. Deliver to: the Shoemaker’s Shop on Feet Street.’ There was also an arrow pointing to the side, under which it said ‘This End Up.’

Soon after the delivery men left, the shoemaker arrived in a fancy new carriage pulled by a sleek black horse. He was wearing a silky coat and matching top-hat— the shoemaker, that is, not the horse. Not that it would be silly for a horse to wear a coat and top-hat. These things happen all the time. It is just that in this case, it was the shoemaker who wore them. They would not have fit the horse. The shoemaker had gained some weight over the years, but he was not yet so large that his clothes would fit a horse, unless it was a very small horse.

“This machine can make two hundred pairs of shoes every day,” the shoemaker told Boomenbust, “and it needs only one elf to operate it. You are my best worker, so I have chosen you for this honor.”

“What of all my friends and relatives?” the elf asked. “What will they do if only one elf is needed to run the machine?”

“Well,” the shoemaker said, “I no longer have work for them, so I must let them go. This is how business works, you know? I can’t pay people for doing nothing.”

“Um, will I be paid more, then?” Boomenbust asked. He felt a bit guilty about this, considering that the other elves would no longer be paid at all, but if he were paid more, perhaps he could help them out for a while until they found new jobs.

“More?” The shoemaker pretended to think about the question. “No. I don’t see how that would be right. I paid a lot of money for this machine, and I must make that good. Besides, operating this machine will be much easier for you than making shoes by hand, won’t it? It would not be right to pay you more for less work.” Boomenbust followed the path of the shoemaker’s logic, but it somehow seemed a bit twisty.

“Please let the others know about their jobs,” the shoemaker continued. “I’d do it myself, but I have to go now. I am taking my family to a very expensive restaurant for dinner soon to celebrate our new machine.”

With this, the shoemaker left, and Boomenbust sadly went to inform the others of his clan that they no longer had jobs. He asked them to help him unpack the box first, of course. He felt they might be less inclined to do so afterwards.

OperatorsManual“What’s this, then?” one of the older elves asked, eyeing the machine skeptically. It was a monstrous device with big cogs, levers, cutting blades, and chutes. It looked like something that might eat elves more than it did like something to make shoes. Boomenbust imagined it also looked hungry. A thick operator’s manual was taped to the side.

He told them what it was and what it meant.

“But, what will we do?” one of them asked. “We have children to feed and mortgages to pay.”

Boomenbust thought about this. He was not a quick thinker or even a deep thinker, but a simple idea presented itself for his examination, and he liked how it looked.

“Well,” he said, “the people who made this machine might have work for you. After all, if this does what I’m told it does, I imagine a lot of places would want things like this.”

The elves paused a moment to consider this idea, and then the quickest among them rushed out to find Gizmo the machine maker. When the last of them had left, Boomenbust unpacked the operating manual and began to read.

The next day, he learned that some members of his clan were given jobs with Gizmo. Others were not. He felt bad for them, but what could he do? At least some of his clan had found work.

elfshoebellsAs time went on, the elves working for Gizmo helped him make even better machines. The shoemaker bought one of these to replace the old one. This allowed Boomenbust to make more shoes even faster. He was very proud of himself because he had learned all of the quirks of the new machine, and the shoes he made were just as good as those the elves had once made by hand, perhaps better. He thought of all those shoes keeping feet safe, dry and warm that might otherwise be bare. He was doing something good.

The shoemaker was pleased, too. “We’re doing very well,” he told him one day. People all across the kingdom are buying our shoes. We’re doing so well, in fact, that I’m buying another of Gizmo’s improved shoe making machines and I’m hiring more people.”

This was good news to Boomenbust because the machine was not quite as easy to keep running properly as the shoemaker seemed to believe.

“Yes, now that we are such a big business, we need executives to help me manage it. I’m making my daughter the new vice president in charge of customer research; my wife will be vice president for marketing, and my son will be vice president for manufacturing.”

“Does this mean your son is going to help me run the machines?” Boomenbust asked, suspecting that he already knew the unfortunate answer.

The shoemaker raised his bushy white eyebrows in disbelief. “Run the machines? Of course not, my good elf. Executives don’t run machines. They manage. Managing is very difficult and important work for a business with as much, um, business as ours.”

The next day, the new machine from Gizmo’s arrived, and the deliverymen helped him unpack it and place it beside the other. It operated much the same, which came as a relief, and he soon had it running. He was now making as many as a thousand pairs of shoes a day, and the shoemaker may have been right about the new executives because they were selling almost all of them— for a while. But then, for some unknown reason, sales fell.

Then, they fell some more. The better shoes, those that were expensive and stylish and didn’t last long, still sold well enough, but they made few of those. Common shoes that regular people wore to work or to school or just to go out to shops or whatever had stopped selling well, and those were most of the ones they made.

elfshoesredyellowThe shoemaker’s daughter who was the vice president for consumer research thought they weren’t selling because they were ugly, so Boomenbust tried to make them prettier with different colors and fancy stitching. It didn’t help.

BuyshoesThe shoemaker’s wife who was the vice president for marketing thought they just needed to advertise more, so they did. They hung posters and put ads in the newspaper. This also did not help.

The shoemaker’s son who was the vice president for manufacturing thought that someone else might be selling shoes even cheaper, but he walked all over town and found no one who was.

Soon, it was quite clear that Boomenbust was able to make more shoes than the shoemaker could sell.

“I’m sorry, Boomenbust,” the shoemaker said to him one day. “I don’t have enough work for you anymore. I’m going to have to cut your hours.”

“Does this mean…?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. It has to come with a cut in pay. It would not be fair to full time workers if I paid you as much as them.”

“But you don’t have any—”

“That’s beside the point. If I did have any, I would pay them more. You’re a good worker and you’ve been with me a long time, but with sales not increasing as much as I would like, I just don’t have enough work for you to do anymore.”

When Boomenbust finished his four-hour shift at the shoemaker’s that day, he went to Gizmo’s machine shop. He knew his former coworkers would put in a good word for him, and, after all, two part time jobs were almost as good as one full time job.

The elf who met him at Gizmo’s shop was one who used to work with him at the shoemaker’s. He did not look happy.

“A job?” the elf asked. “I think not, my good Boomenbust. I am the only elf working here now, and Gizmo just told me he’s cutting my hours!”

“But why?” Gizmo said. “You must be selling a great many of his fabulous machines.”

“We are. We’re doing so well that Gizmo bought a big house on a hill next door to the shoemaker’s, but we’re also making a great many machines. You see, once we learned all about the machines by making them, we helped Gizmo make a machine that makes machines. It only needs one elf to operate, so he let all of the other elves go.”

“Oh, my!” Boomenbust said.

“Oh, me, too!” said the other elf. “I was hoping the shoemaker might have more work by now and hire me back.”

Boomenbust shook his head. “No. Sales are down, and we don’t know why, but the simple fact is that I’m making more shoes than he can sell.”

Both elves sighed. They did not know where else to go, so they went everywhere. They went to the tailor, to the potter, to the weaver…. All the shops and businesses in town were much the same. Productivity was up but sales were down, and no one was looking for more worker elves.

“On the positive side,” said Boomenbust who always tried to not feel negative, “we have more free time, now. Let’s go see how the other elves are doing. They must have found other work to do.”

So they walked to the elfish sector of town and past the small school where a number of pointy-eared children were running about on the playground. Now, neither of the two adult elves walking by was ever out this time of day because both of them were normally busy working in town. It is therefore not surprising that what Boomenbust noticed is something he had never noticed before. He stopped and stared. He could not believe it. Most of the children were barefoot. Those who were not barefoot were wearing worn and obviously secondhand shoes. How could this be? He made enough shoes for everyone. There should not be a naked toe in town.

“Excuse me, young man,” he said to one of the boys. “Why aren’t you wearing shoes?”

The boy looked at him as if the question was so simple a child could answer it, which he did. “Don’t have any, duh!”

“Why not?” Boomenbust responded.

“I’ve got no older brothers to pass any down to me.”

This was perplexing, so Boomenbust asked the question he probably should have asked to begin with. “Why don’t your parents buy you new shoes?”

“Shoes cost money.”

“Yes…?”

“Don’t have any, duh!” the boy repeated.

“Oh, I see. They lost their jobs, didn’t they?”

“Duh!” the boy said again, and then he ran off to join his friends.

Boomenbust asked a few more children similar questions, and their responses were always the same. Their parents were out of work because shops and businesses had become more productive. They could make all they could sell with fewer hours of work. The owners’ solved the imbalance by firing workers.

Boomenbust now knew why the shoemaker and the rest were not selling as many things as they would hope, but, as has been said before, he was neither a quick thinker nor a deep thinker, and he did not know how to solve the problem.

Do you?

© Copyright 2013 D.L. Morrese

Alpha/Beta readers for An Android’s Dog’s Tale

I haven’t been blogging much recently. I’d like to excuse this by saying I’ve been busy, and I have, but part of it must be attributed to priorities. I’m not really a blogger. I’m a fiction writer, and a dad, and several other things that all take priority over writing book reviews or posting updates to my blog.

Most of my behind-the-keyboard time over the last few months has been devoted to completing two novels. The first is the Gelfling Gathering, a short (52,000 word) young adult novel that I wrote for a contest being sponsored by the Jim Henson Company. It is a prequel to The Dark Crystal and takes place about nine hundred years before the events in the movie. My novel is complete, and I am ready (and eager) to submit a 10,000 word extract when the contest submission period opens in two weeks.

Once I felt satisfied I had done all I could in preparation for the contest, I resumed work on the book I laid aside when I learned of (and decided to enter) the Dark Crystal Author Quest. I completed the first draft of that novel a few weeks ago. I was only three chapters away from finishing when I stopped work on it to focus on the Gelfling Gathering, so this was not some kind of super accomplishment.

This novel, An Android Dog’s Tale, is also a prequel. It precedes the events that are related in the two stories that together comprise my lighthearted epic Defying Fate (The Warden Threat and The Warden War) and, of course, the novels that come after (Amy’s Pendant and Disturbing Clockwork).

This is the book description I’ve come up with for An Android’s Dog Tale and the ‘back cover’ blurb for the paperback edition.

Book Description:
The Galactic Organic Development Corporation searches the galaxy for primitive sentient species to save from extinction, and then transplants colonies of them to Corporation agricultural planets where they can live happily and safely. The transplanted species survives, and the Corporation Project planets produce some of the most expensive and sought-after food in the galaxy, which it sells to developed worlds with this guarantee:

Caringly grown, cultivated and harvested by simple sentient life forms.
No artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, or mechanical equipment used in processing.
Guaranteed 100% organic.

 Of course, keeping the primitives primitive enough to ensure the Corporation’s promise of natural purity can be a challenge, especially when they’re like those it found twenty thousand years ago huddling in caves and scraping a meager and precarious existence on a pale blue planet in the Milky Way’s Orion–Cygnus spiral arm. The humans keep trying to change things.

From the Back Cover:
His job is to observe humans and make sure they aren’t doing anything that will upset either their simple lifestyles or the profitability of the Corporation. But MO-126 is not a robot. He is a Mobile Observer android, albeit one in the form of a dog of no remarkable pedigree or distinction. Still, he has free will. He can make choices. After millennia of observing humans, he questions whether the Corporation’s plans for them have priority over those they might choose for themselves. His decision will determine how well he does his job as well as the fate of humanity on this planet.

When I posted on Facebook that I finished the novel, I was thrilled that several people living in different countries around the world offered to give it a test run as alpha/beta readers. I can’t thank them enough for volunteering to do this for me. I eagerly await their feedback, positive or negative. This novel is a bit different from my others. It’s shorter (about 72,000 words), and it follows a single character over a 15,000 year period through ten different stories. I was a bit hesitant about writing a book structured this way. It’s not revolutionary, but it is uncommon. I remain anxious about how it will be received.

I also did a bit of work designing a cover for the book. The one below is formatted for the paperback edition.
DogTalesPB1
How much editing needs to be done will depend on the feedback I receive from my kind volunteers. I look forward to doing the final revisions.

In the meantime, I have begun taking notes for future books. I have at least three ideas I would like to develop over the next year. One is loosely related to my previous novels. The other two are (as in the immortal words Monty Python’s Flying Circus) something completely different. One of the latter will probably be the basis for my next novel, but it’s too early to say more. All I will say is that I am still writing and more books are planned.

I offer my thanks to all who have read my stories and even more to those who have written and posted reviews. I really appreciate these. Reviews are probably the best way for obscure, independent writers (such as me) to become noticed… well, that and an outrageous number of sales. Most of all, thank you to those brave alpha/beta readers of An Android Dog’s Tale. I hope you like it.

The Dark Crystal Gelfling Gathering – Update

DarkCrystalFacebookLogoToday I finished the first draft of the novel I am writing for my entry to The Dark Crystal Author Quest. The target goal for the finished novel dictated by the contest sponsors is ‘upwards of 50,000 words.’ My completed draft has 51,792 words (about 200 pages). This represents about 47 days of intensive effort. Fortunately, I had the freedom to do this, being a full time writer and not under contract with a deadline for anything else at the moment.

My next step is to review and revise what I’ve completed. I expect that this will take a few weeks. After this, I’ll decide what I will submit for the contest and make sure those sections are as good as I can make them. The limit for the submission is 10,000 words, and I’ll probably provide the first chapter (currently 4,912 words) and one of the middle chapters.

A few people who have read and enjoyed my previous books have volunteered to be beta readers and proofreaders, and I appreciate this. Unfortunately, the work as it is (although I think it is quite good) is probably not ready to subject to others just yet.

My thanks to all who have encouraged me in this endeavor, and I apologize for the interruption this is causing to my previous work in progress, blogging, book reviews, and other activities. But it’s the Dark Crystal. How could I refuse?

Related Links:

The Gelfling Gathering – A Dark Crystal Prequel

DarkCrystalFacebookLogoAs those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter may already know, I have suspended work on my next book set in the world of the Warden to write a prequel to The Dark Crystal. I did not take this action without some hesitation. My Warden novels have received excellent reviews and I can even boast of having a fan or two. I am eager to complete the next one, but I have long been an admirer of Jim Henson’s work, so when my oldest daughter told me that the Jim Henson Company had just announced a call for submissions for a Dark Crystal prequel, I checked it out.

This open call for submissions is technically a contest, although I suppose all are when you get right down to it. This one has three distinct stages. In the first round, entrants will submit 7,500 to 10,000 words (about 27 to 36 double spaced pages), which can be “the first chapters, final chapters, a collection of middle chapters, or a short piece that would form the inspiration for a novel-length story.” These will be reviewed by the contest sponsors and five will be selected to go on to the next stage in which the authors will provide detailed outlines for their proposed novels. The one winner of this stage will receive a $10,000 contract with Penguin to provide a 50,000 word Young Adult novel.

I decided to go for it, although it does present some challenges. The first is that the submission period is between 1 October and 31 December 2013. That is not a lot of time to write a full novel.

But, I hear you ask, why write a complete novel when all that is required for the first round is what amounts to a couple of chapters?

That’s a good question, and the answer boils down to how I go about building my novels. They always begin with a rough idea from which I write an initial sketch of the major plot elements, settings and characters. Then I do an outline for the complete story that will be told in the novel. Once I have this, I begin work on the first chapter and go on to write the initial draft of the complete novel. After this comes revision, editing, and creating the final draft. But these steps are not as strictly sequential as they may appear. Each stage in the process inevitably necessitates changes to those that came before. I may not have an accurate outline, for example, until the final draft of the novel is complete. In order to have the best possible sample chapters and outline of the work I will submit, I must have at least a complete first draft of the entire novel.

I can see that several people are now questioning my sanity. I am, after all, committing myself to several months of intensive effort on a slim chance of earning not a lot of money. When you calculate the first prize value against the hours that go into creating the novel, you would be better off financially spending that time smiling and asking customers if they want fries with their burgers— and that’s if you win.

There is one other thing you may not have considered that will convince you of my madness.

The novel I submit will be considered a derivative work dependent on the copyright of the Dark Crystal, so if it does not win, I cannot publish it anywhere, ever. Discounting the experience and what I may have learned from writing it, all the months of intensive work will have been wasted.

Another challenge for me personally is that this is a work of Fantasy set in a world created by others. My previous novels are set in a world of my own imagination and they are Science Fiction , albeit in a setting more typical of Fantasy, but I have never written a story in which magic plays a central role. Also, at 50,000 words, the final novel required by the contract is shorter than the more epic stories I’ve written to date. My shortest, which is intended for a YA audience, is Amy’s Pendant, which has about 76,000 words. The time spent working on this Dark Crystal novel also delays the completion of my next Warden book, and I do not wish to disappoint my current fan base.

So, why am I doing it?

Well, I’ve asked myself that. The first prize contract is not terribly large. It’s certainly not feed for metaphorical chickens, but the money is not a motivator. The selfishly rational part of me says that winning this would be good publicity, and I believe it would be. I would love to have my name associated with that of Jim Henson and the Dark Crystal. This, I think, gets down to the real reason I’m taking a chance at this. I have always loved the things Jim Henson produced. In the media of film, no one could create thought provoking, insightful, and uplifting fantasy worlds that are as believable and intricate. I would like to see his work appreciated for generations to come. Extending what he began to original and well written new novels can help do this.

So, how am I coming along?

After researching all available information, I completed a sketch and initial outline for the story I have in mind. Some of the characters and details of the setting already exist, so I do not have to recreate these, although I do have to be faithful to them and have taken copious notes to help ensure that I do. The sponsors of the contest say they will be providing additional information, a kind of Dark Crystal encyclopedia, which should fill in some of the existing gaps. I look forward to seeing that, although it may lead to some revision of the work I have already done.

As for my first draft, I completed Chapter 7 last night. This brings the total word count to over 26,000, which is about the midpoint of the story. In other words, I’m on target to have it completed before the end of the submission period (and which is why I have time to write this post.)

If you share my insanity and you also wish to try your hand at this, a link to the Dark Crystal Author Quest site is provided below, or you can click on the image at the start of this post to see the Dark Crystal Facebook page. It also provides applicable links.

Update: I didn’t win, but you can read or download the completed novel here: https://dlmorrese.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/gelflinggathering5x8dlmorrese.pdf

Related Links:

Rereading Pratchett — Gaspode

GaspodeThere as some books on my shelves that I reread every few years. Dragging out an old, dusty favorite is like visiting a favorite friend or relative. There is something comfortable, familiar, and relaxing about it. The books we find ourselves especially drawn to tell us something about who and what we are, and they can help us remember that when everyday life is doing its best to turn us into someone else, someone we may not especially like.

Pratchett’s style of writing is different. He violates several ‘rules’ of fiction writing, not least of which is the one against author intrusion into the story. His presence is always clearly evident. The stories are told from the outside looking in, by someone from our world observing one much like it, and he occasionally points out* how odd both places can be. The reader isn’t supposed to believe that the Disc is a real place or that the characters are real people. There is never any doubt that the stories are fiction, but there is also no doubt that the fiction is reflecting something about the real world in often very humorous ways.

Pratchett sums up this idea in the beginning of his novel Moving Pictures. Here is his description of the Discworld, which rests upon the back of Great A’Tuin the star turtle.

“On its back, four giant elephants. On their shoulders, rimmed with water, flittering under its tiny orbiting sunlet, spinning majestically around the mountains at its frozen Hub, lies the Discworld, world and mirror of worlds.
Nearly unreal.

The Discworld is as unreal as it is possible to be while still being just real enough to exist.

He’s letting us know that none what he’s going to relate in the story about to unfold is to be taken seriously in any kind of literal sense. It’s a fairytale, which, like all good fairytales, points out something about the real world and the people who live there.

Yesterday, I finished rereading Moving Pictures. At one level, this story is about the magically inspired development of movies on Discworld. At another, it is about the ability of people to believe unreal things and the dangers of doing so.

I picked this particular book from my list of favorites to reread now because it features Gaspode, a sentient but otherwise unimpressive mongrel, and I was searching for inspiration. I have a somewhat similar character in my books, although my sentient dog, Moe, is an android rather than being magically enhanced, but they share a similar, knee level perspective. Moe makes an appearance in three of my books as a minor character, but he’s more prominent in my current work in progress.

I plan to reread the other stories featuring Gaspode in the coming weeks, not so much for inspiration, but because I enjoy them. If you aren’t familiar with Discworld, you should visit. It’s the most believable unbelievable place you’ll ever read about.

_______________________

*sometimes in footnotes

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 30 April to 4 May 2013

DF Cover5To celebrate the release of my fourth book (Disturbing Clockwork), I’m giving away digital copies of my first two books (but only for five days and only for Kindle).

Defying Fate includes the novels, The Warden Threat and The Warden War.  They tell the exciting and often humorous tale of young, naive Prince Donald and his quest to prevent an unnecessary war prompted by exaggerated claims of the threat posed by the mysterious WMD (Warden of Mystic Defiance). This a character driven science fiction tale in a fantasy-like setting — a parody of epic fantasy with a bit of cultural satire and a lot of fun for readers of all genres who may be looking for something fresh and different.

This combined Kindle edition is currently rated five stars on Amazon.

I hope you’ll give it a try. If you enjoy the book, I invite you to let the rest of world know. I also would not object to you checking out my other books. Actually, I’d quite appreciate it.

(Note: Kindle free promotions start at approximately 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on the specified start date. They end at approximately 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on the specified end date. Depending on system latencies, these times may be off by a few minutes to several hours.)

The Release of Disturbing Clockwork

ClockworkEbook13-3My latest book is now available, at least in digital formats. The trade paperback edition will be out soon.

This humorous and exciting story sees the return of several characters from my previous books, plus a few endearing additions. My Warden stories (Defying Fate) were about Prince Donald and his quest to prevent an unnecessary war prompted by exaggerated claims of a WMD (Warden of Mystic Defiance). Disturbing Clockwork focuses on one of his companions, the messenger Trixie.

The prince, now in charge of the Westgrove Center for Scientific Advancement, asks her to deliver a personal invention to a brilliant natural philosopher (Benkin) living in distant city. When she arrives, she finds he has mysteriously disappeared. His friends in town do not know where he has gone, and they are concerned. He often disappears, but never without telling them where he is going. This time, he didn’t, and they suspect foul play. They also don’t know about his discovery of incredibly powerful and versatile clockwork automatons that he found buried under some rocks on a small, uninhabited island. Trixie’s old nemesis, Snyde, however, does, and he sees them as a means for regaining the kind of power and position she and her friends helped deny him the year before.

If you were wondering what happened to the thoroughly evil Snyde, or if Trixie and Prince Donald ever got together, this book provides the answers.

Digital editions of this new novel are currently available on Amazon for Kindle and at Smashwords for all other devices. The paperback should be out on the first of May.

A Book and Its Cover

As you may know, my first two novels, The Warden Threat and The Warden War, are offered together in one volume exclusively for Kindle under the title Defying Fate. Recently, a reader submitted the following unsolicited review, which was titled “Good characters, good story.”

 This somewhat quirky, somewhat light sci-fi/fantasy story was just what I was looking for. The characters were interesting and believable, and it made for a really fun, well-written, well-edited book. Have to say that I just hate the cover and if I had seen it before buying the book I probably wouldn’t have gotten it. I could so picture our hero doing his ‘resurrection dance’. There were some loose ends that I would enjoy seeing tied up and I hope there is another book to follow.

 She liked the book enough to give it five stars, but she hated this cover.

DF Cover4 (comp)

I have to admit that I was not entirely pleased with it, myself, but I didn’t hate it. But if it is so bad it is deterring people from downloading and enjoying this book, it must go! I spent a fair amount of time this morning coming up with something different. This was the result.

 DF Cover5

My concern with this one is that it may appear too… dramatic. The book is fun. There is a good, exciting story, too, of course, but what sets it apart is the lighthearted tone throughout the story. I’m just not sure how to convey this in the cover. I suppose this is also a problem for other authors who mix genres.

There is a simple convention for some story genres. If the book is romance, put a young, shirtless guy in a dramatic pose of the cover. If it’s epic fantasy, include a sword. Space opera — a spaceship…. But a lighthearted science fiction story in a fantasy-like setting? There’s no standard for that, so you have to wing it. The closest well-known books to mine might be something like The Princess Bride or the later Discworld novels, but neither of these have a science fiction element.

This revised cover reuses part of the background I bought from a professional cover designer for the cover of The Warden Threat (which I decided not to use because it made it look like an angst-filled romance novel). I hope it will meet with approval, or at least not scare away readers.

(As for the loose ends, yes, those are tied up in the next book, Disturbing Clockwork, which will be available any day now.)

Amy’s Pendant is now Available

Pendant e-book Cover 13-2A day late, but the paperback edition of my latest published book is now available on Amazon.

Amy’s Pendant is set in the same world as my ‘Warden’ novels but features a 14-year-old protagonist. I hesitate to call it YA because I did not ‘dumb down’ the vocabulary or simplify the ideas in the book for children. There is no sex, violence, or extremely vulgar language, but it is more of a YA for MA type of book, suitable, I think, for readers 14 and older.

Her father’s inventions aren’t selling, her mother has just lost her job, and there is chance Amy and her parents may soon find themselves homeless. When her aunt suggests that the mysterious pendant Amy received from her cousin for her fourteenth birthday might be a magical treasure finder, she is more determined than ever to solve the puzzle it represents. At first, her efforts lead nowhere, and then they lead to disaster when she becomes trapped inside an underground alien labyrinth populated with strange robots, android animals, and a central intelligence that does not want her to leave.

 

You can get your very own copy at these fine online retailers:
Paperback ($8.99) CreateSpace / Amazon.com
eBook ($1.75) Amazon.com (Kindle) / Smashwords (all eBook formats)

(It is also available from other Amazon sites worldwide.)

ARCs of Amy’s Pendant

Pendant e-book Cover 13-2The official release date of my next book, Amy’s Pendant is 12 March. I can provide free Advance Reader Copies in digital format to anyone who would like to read it and do a review. Just let me know if you’re interested. All I need is your email address and what format you need the ARC to be in. (Requests must be submitted by 12 March but reviews can be done later.)

The Myth of the Lone Hero

PhilSpecs1Last year, a disturbingly large number of incidents involving lone gunman here in the United States dominated the headlines. Any sane person would have to wonder why. Can anything be done to prevent such things? The tragic events at a Colorado theater in July, and at a Connecticut elementary school in December, were especially disturbing. The latter was quickly followed by the shooting of firefighters near Rochester, New York. I expect such things will continue.

I think our gun violence problem is far more complex than just the easy availability of guns, although that is certainly a big part of it. Guns are the means, but the motives for such acts involve culture, psychology, economics, and possibly even biology. These are difficult things to change, but perhaps we can at least recognize them. Culture seems a good place to begin.

Americans, well, some Americans, have an unrealistic and overly glamorous concept of ‘individualism.’ There is meme in our culture that one man (usually a man and often with a gun) can right wrongs, solve problems, protect the weak and defend the innocent by simply taking a determined (and violent) stand against evildoers. It’s evident in our movies, pulp novels, and other stories.

I think this is how many of the worst offenders in cases of gun violence see themselves. They are taking a stand against something they regard as wrong, allowing the meme of the lone hero to completely overwhelm their ethical instincts and their reason. They don’t see themselves as villains. They see themselves as heroes or perhaps as victims, and they may be somehow rationalizing their sick delusions on the mythic figure of the lone defender of justice.

Lone heroes are fine icons for fiction, and we all like to cheer for them, but in real life, no one is that self-reliant. Each of us is the result of tens of thousands of years of biological, cultural, and technological development. We are dependent on the invention and labor of many people who have worked together to do things we could never accomplish alone. Even if we are stranded alone and naked on a desert island, we still hold within us a storehouse of knowledge, painfully acquired by others and passed down to us in a variety of different ways. We are who we are because of the contributions of others, including many who are currently alive and others who are long dead. From a philosophical perspective, we have never been and we will never be alone.

Yet our culture perpetuates and glorifies the myth of the lone hero. From our fiction, which includes much of what politicians and ‘news’ programs report, you might think that none of this communal interdependence exists, as if the food, clothes, and guns we have such easy access to are somehow ‘natural,’ and that ‘real’ men should stand apart and alone. In reality, they don’t and they can’t.

I’m not saying one person cannot make a difference. If, at the end of the day, you have spread some joy, well being, or understanding, then you have, but the myth of the lone defender of justice is a fiction. And, with all due respect to Batman and talk radio hosts, believing it true is, at the very least, a sign of dangerous arrogance. There are exceptional people, but I think there is one clear truth. If you think you are one, it proves you are not.

None of us is the sole competent judge of what is right, of what is best, or of how things should be— at least not for others. We have the inherent right and duty to make choices for ourselves, but no individual has the omniscient wisdom to pass judgment on the worthiness of another person or on humanity as a whole. This is why we have society. Our collective decisions on such things may be no more accurate or even more ethical than those of any individual, and we each may object and even oppose them (peacefully) as they apply to us, but they do tend to mitigate the impact of the truly insane.

So, one filter I try to keep in my philosophical spectacles is the just this. Heroes exist, but they do not stand alone. Those who believe they do, are most likely villains.

Embracing Uncertainty

PhilSpecs1When we are young, I think we are all looking for certainty, and there are good evolutionary reasons for this. Unknown things can kill you. Anything from not knowing where your next meal is coming from to being surprised by a leopard hiding in tall grass can have seriously unpleasant consequences. We want to know what is out there, what we can expect, and we want to know with certainty.

Unfortunately, the universe is not required to provide what we want. In cases when it appears that it does, it’s time to step back and ask if our philosophical spectacles are distorting our perspective. We may be seeing what we want to see because we want to see it, not because it is there.

It was not until I was well into adulthood that I appreciated that uncertainty is a good thing to maintain, both for individuals and for cultures. It is, I think, a much better attitude to adopt toward life, the universe, and everything than the alternative. For one thing, it is arrogant to think we can know anything with one hundred percent certainty, whether it concerns philosophy, religion, physical reality, our romantic relationships, or the absolute best way to run a government or to make scrambled eggs.

The universe is a complex place, and we are just a small part of it. We’re an insatiably curious part of it, though, so we explore, we observe, we reach out physically and intellectually to discover new things. We ask questions and we get answers, and then we question those answers. Still, no matter how much we learn, there will always be more to discover, and no matter how certain we are of our conclusions about any particular subject, I think it is important to leave room for doubt. We must always humbly admit that we could be wrong.

Even when we are tempted to think there is no room for doubt, there is. Say, for example, your mother tells you the Easter Bunny left a wonderful basket filled with candy and colored eggs for you in the backyard. Eagerly, you look out the window. On the picnic table, you see a large, decorated basket overflowing with goodies, and that’s not all! Peeking from behind a tree is a large, white rabbit — and it’s wearing a vest, which looks a lot like a picture in one of your storybooks. It must be the Easter Bunny! She tells you to put on a jacket and some shoes and then go get your basket. You rush to your room to comply, and when you get outside, the basket is there, but the bunny is gone. You’re certain about how the basket got there, though. The Easter Bunny brought it. You have the word of someone you trust, the corroborating support of a favorite book, and the evidence of your own eyes. What more could anyone require?

Some kids might be convinced. The existence of the basket and the glimpse of the bunny provide clear evidence of both effect and cause. You, however, being a bit wiser, might remain skeptical. After all, Easter Bunnies don’t really fit well with most of your other observations about the world. Your parents might have provided the basket. The bunny could be an escaped pet. It could be a stuffed toy put there as a joke or as a willful act of deception (because parents everywhere seem to think it’s somehow good for kids to believe in all sorts of unlikely things). You might be dreaming. The wild mushrooms your mom put in the spaghetti sauce you ate with dinner last night may not have been as healthfully nutritious as she thought they were, and they are causing you to hallucinate. There are a large number of possibilities, and though they may all be exceedingly unlikely, they do exist.

Still, with the evidence at hand, the existence of the Easter Bunny might provide a good working hypothesis that you could accept as if it were true. This truth, however, should be accepted as provisional, and you should be willing to reexamine your conclusion in the light of new evidence or a better explanation. If you don’t, you, or at least your kids, are likely to be unpleasantly surprised when the Easter Bunny fails to make an expected delivery some day.

Although I suspect that uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of the universe, as well as a rational recognition of our own limitations, some adults may still find the idea uncomfortable. It is a truism that we know what we like, and we like what we know. Some may not want to consider new facts or new ideas that challenge what they ‘know,’ and they may feel no need to. Imagined certainty provides a comforting sense of security, which is a difficult thing to sacrifice for some philosophical generalization.

I think part of this discomfort comes from our instinctive need for as much certainty as possible, and the failure to appreciate that this is different from absolute certainty, which is realistically unattainable. Absolute certainty is also counter-productive.

I have observed that certainty seems to take two forms. There is certainty that the full answer to a question is already known, and there is certainty that the answer is unknowable. Both, I think, are derived from arrogance about our own abilities. With dark lenses like these in our philosophical spectacles, we fail to recognize the simple fact that we might be mistaken. When our minds close, our eyes shut, and we become blinded to new information and new ideas, unless it is to disparage them. We close ourselves to the possibility of finding better explanations or solutions to our problems. What’s the point in continuing to ask questions if we are already sure of the answers? Certainty is like intellectual quicksand. It bogs us down and prevents us from moving forward. If we are certain that our current view is the best one possible, we remain stuck where we are. It prevents us from looking elsewhere. If we have no doubt, we lose our sense of wonder and make no additional progress. There is no need for more learning and no chance of further discovery.

But how can we hope to accomplish anything if we are constantly unsure?

That’s a good question. I’m glad I asked it. In our daily lives, we act as if we are certain while knowing we never can be, at least not entirely. When I get in my car in the morning and turn the key in the ignition, I’m certain it’s going to start. It always has. I plan my day on this being true. This kind of thing, however, is the type of certainty we all accept as provisional and with good reason. Although my current car has always started, I have had others that did not.

But what of other certainties? At one time, everyone ‘knew’ that Earth was flat and had been appropriately placed by God in the center of the universe. Some were certain that a woman’s place was in the home and that Rock and Roll was evil. Most of the people who held these positions were not fringe lunatics, at least not by the standards of their time. These were prevalent beliefs held by people of power and position, acknowledged experts in their fields. Today, some experts are certain that cold fusion is impossible, that the speed of light is unbreakable, and that low tax rates on the unearned income of the very wealthy somehow improves a nation’s economy. They accept these ideas and proceed as if they are true. They may be right, although I personally am not convinced of the veracity of at least one of them. But, true or not, we must always accept that some new discovery or fresh idea can challenge any notion we may hold as an absolute truth and be willing to reconsider our cherished certainties in light of them. We must remember that understanding is a process. It’s a journey more than it is a destination.

This is how science, generally speaking, approaches things. It takes what is known, or at least what has been observed about some aspect of the universe, and it works with it to learn other things. It formulates hypotheses about how various things interrelate, which provide clues and predictions about other things. And although the scientific method has been very successful in making new discoveries, it offers no certainties, just probabilities. Some may approach 100% confidence but none reaches it. The next bit of evidence or a better theory can come tomorrow, which may cause a revision to a previously accepted idea, and thousands of scientists around the world are constantly observing, testing, and forming hypotheses to discover it. There seems to be no greater goal for a scientist than to modify or overturn an accepted theory. This is what can earn them a Nobel Prize.

Yeah, but what about the big questions science can’t answer?

This question itself implies that some things may not be testable. This may be the case for things such as the existence and nature of gods and ghosts, string theory, and the question of whether or not our dogs really love us or if they’re just faking it for the biscuits. If we’re convinced the questions make sense, there’s nothing wrong with accepting an answer as if it were true or, better yet, simply accepting that we don’t know. If it matters to us, we can make a choice about what to believe, but we should leave some space for doubt. Others may choose differently, but if we are honest with ourselves about why we prefer one answer to another, we will better understand why it works for us. We may also better appreciate why it may not work as well for others.

I’m not saying there are no “right” answers. Some are clearly better than others are in that they are consistent with what can be observed, but if we are honest about our own limitations, we will be better able to make good choices about what to accept as if it were true and change our minds when circumstances warrant. Our current understanding may be quite serviceable about a great many things, but we should never conclude from this that we know everything about anything or that our present understanding of something is necessarily much more than a useful fiction.

I try, therefore, to maintain a good, healthy uncertainty. I make choices like everyone and I would like to think they are sometimes good ones, but I endeavor to keep in mind that those choices were made with incomplete knowledge by an inherently imperfect decision maker. I may need to change my mind at some time, and acknowledging my own limitations from the start makes this easier to do.

Philosophical spectacle lenses that tint uncertainty as something positive can prevent us from becoming intellectually stubborn or philosophical arrogant. They can inoculate us against zealotry, and they may allow us to adapt more easily to new ideas and new information. Uncertainty is a good thing.

Philosophical Spectacles

PhilSpecs1Everyone has opinions about a great many things. This much is obvious, but I think there may be a relatively small number, perhaps a few dozen underlying ideas, that shape most of our separate opinions. I know I have them, although I’m not entirely sure I could make an accurate list. They can be thought of as philosophical spectacles because it is through these ideas that we see the world and ourselves.

Our philosophical spectacles are important. They can tint what we see to a lovely rose color or make it appear dark and foreboding. They can distort it, bring it into sharper focus, or obscure it entirely. What we see depends as much on our perceptual filters as the thing we are looking at.

I’m not talking about brain chemistry. Our brains take the signals transmitted by our senses and impose meaning on them based on our neural construction, our instincts, and our experiences. This is the only way we can experience a mass of subatomic particles and electromagnetic waves as something like a table, or an apple pie, or anything else. That is a different aspect of subjective perception. What I’m talking about here is more personal, more philosophical than scientific.

Everything we have ever seen, read, or experienced has gone into creating our philosophical spectacles and has shaped whom we are today. I don’t think we normally even consider how our previous experiences alter our current perceptions. We tend to assume that we observe things, events, and ideas as if they are unobstructed, as if we somehow witness them objectively. We don’t, and because we don’t, it seems to me to be a good idea to try to recognize what our philosophical spectacles are made of.

As a means to examine the components of my own philosophical spectacles, I’m planning to write occasional blog posts in which I will try to identify the big, overarching ideas that most affect how I see things. Since I’ll be looking at my spectacles through my spectacles, there are likely to be inconsistencies and contradictions in my observations. That is also a good reason to do something like this. If we discover that the components of our spectacles don’t fit well together, it may be time to change some of them. What we end up with may not clarify our worldview, but at least it will distort it consistently, possibly showing everything slanting a bit to the left or a bit to the right.

What I’m going to focus on in this series of blog posts are those basic thoughts and ideas that I suspect shape my view of the world, things I think are important to remember. The first of these big, overarching thoughts is that we all have philosophical spectacles.

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 25 to 29 December 2012

Defying Fate, Kindle EditionIt has been a tough year, and I wanted to give everyone something very special for the holidays. Unfortunately, I can’t find a way to bring about world peace. I can’t end crime, hunger, poverty, or disease. I can’t even help you find a job, but I do have a book you might like, and between December 25th and 29th you can have a Kindle edition of it free.

I know, it’s not exactly a gift of infinite value, but it has gotten some very good reviews. I hope you will accept it as my gift to you.

The book is called Defying Fate. It is a fun parody of fantasy adventure epics, which is actually two books in one, The Warden Threat and The Warden War. They are set on a planet much like earth and follow the exploits of Prince Donald of Westgrove as he discovers that the true nature of the threat to his kingdom is not what his father, the king, believes it to be. With the assistance of his cynical guide, a goodhearted bodyguard, a beautiful messenger, and a couple of ancient androids, he tries to prevent three nations from going to war.

Technically science fiction, Defying Fate is a character driven tale in a fantasy-like setting. It pokes some good-natured fun at the serious tone and dependence on magic common to many epic adventure novels, turning all of these common fantasy stereotypes on their collective heads for readers of all genres who may be looking for something fresh and different. Often insightful and frequently funny, this book is a great way to spend some leisure time.

There are no gimmicks and no qualifications. Just go to Amazon on one of these five days and download a copy for your Kindle, then sit back, read, smile, and enjoy the journey.

 Click your country flag between Tuesday 25 December and Saturday 29 December 2012 to get your gift copy.

Defying Fate, U.S. Kindle EditionDefying Fate, U.K. Kindle EditionDefying Fate, Canada Kindle EditionDefying Fate, Germany Kindle EditionDefying Fate, France Kindle EditionDefying Fate, Spain Kindle EditionDefying Fate, Italy Kindle Edition

A Cheap Adventure

Do you have a Kindle or some other e-reader? Are you giving one to someone else? Why not load it with a fun epic adventure? In celebration of the upcoming holidays, prices on the digital versions of the first two books set in the Warden’s World have been lowered. Now you can get The Warden Threat and The Warden War for only $1.99 each! This is a full dollar off the regular low price of $2.99.

 

For even a more savings, you can get both books together in one convenient download exclusively for Kindle. The Kindle edition of Defying Fate, which includes both of these novels, is now priced at just $2.99, a full $2.00 off the normal price of $4.99 and almost $1.00 less than the cost of buying them separately. These discounts will be in effect through the end of the year, so take advantage of them while they last.

 

 Due to the cost of production, similar discounts cannot be offered on the paperback editions. If, however, paper is what you prefer, The Warden Threat and The Warden War are both available as trade paperbacks from Amazon for the low price of $9.99 each.

 Links for the U.S. (Amazon.com)
The Warden Threat
The Warden War
Defying Fate

Links for those in the U.K. (Amazon.co.uk)
The Warden Threat
The Warden War
Defying Fate

Other e-book formats are available from Smashwords
The Warden Threat
The Warden War

On Rejection

As you may know, I submitted queries for my third book to three publishers a little over four months ago. I just heard back from the last one. Another rejection.

It would be a lie to say I’m not disappointed. Actually, it would be a lie to say I’m not surprised. I am surprised. I think Amy’s Pendant is a very good book and I was cautiously optimistic that it would be grabbed by one of the three.

It is difficult not to take this as a criticism of the quality of my book. A person would have to be exceptionally thick-skinned not to. Whereas I can be fairly stoic, I’m not a robot (although there are some in my stories), and it twinges. But I’m adult. I can take criticism, so I must consider that there may be a quality issue, something about the plot or characters or prose that don’t quite measure up.

I read a lot, quite a lot compared to most, and if there are flaws like these, I’m not seeing them. My books compare favorably to those I’ve enjoyed most. When I reread them now, I can almost forget I wrote them, and I find myself wishing there were more books like these. Then I think that perhaps I’ve pinpointed the problem. It’s a matter of taste, and when it comes to books (and, quite honestly, many other things) my taste often falls outside the norm. I have enjoyed a few bestsellers, but more often than not, I’ve picked one up and wondered why it became so popular.

If this is the problem, I may have an insurmountable obstacle ahead of me. Taste is personal. It tends to change over time, but I can’t change a person’s taste to match mine, nor would I if I could.

I could, I suppose, write books like those that are popular, but I won’t. I won’t write what I wouldn’t want to read — and reread. An author will end up rereading his or her own work perhaps scores of times before it is submitted to anyone else, so they had better like it or have a fondness for aspirin an antacids.

I could give it up and just not write. This is theoretically possible. But it would redefine who I am, and I don’t wish to do that. I’m good with who I am, for the most part, although I wouldn’t mind being a bit taller, a few years younger, and considerably wealthier.

No, I’m going to have to continue as I have, writing what I like, and making it available to others as best I can. They can judge my books for themselves. Not everyone likes the same things. What a dull world it would be if they did.

My next step is to query agents. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m hoping I can attract the attention of a few. Agents have access to publishers that authors do not.

In other news, my fourth book is coming along well. I think I’ll be proud of it once it is complete, as I am the others. It may be done by the end of the year. When and how it will be published is another matter.

Related Posts:
My Self Publishing Adventure
Ode to an Overconfident Wordsmith

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 1 and 2 July 2012

For two days only, Sunday 1 July and Monday 2 July 2012, you can get a free Kindle edition of Defying Fate, a fun parody of fantasy adventure epics, from Amazon. This special Kindle exclusive contains both The Warden Threat and The Warden War in one convenient download. There are no gimmicks and no qualifications. Just go to Amazon on one of these two days and snag a copy for your Kindle, then sit back, read, smile, and enjoy the journey.

Defying Fate is a charming and witty science fiction parody of epic fantasy adventure stories. Set on a planet much like earth, this tale follows the exploits of Prince Donald of Westgrove as he discovers that the true nature of the threat to his kingdom is not what his father, the king, believes it to be. With the assistance of his cynical guide, a goodhearted bodyguard, a beautiful messenger, and a couple of ancient androids, he tries to prevent three nations from going to war.

Technically science fiction, Defying Fate is almost an anti-fantasy, which pokes a fair, or perhaps an unfair amount of good-natured fun at the serious tone and dependence on magic common to many epic fantasy adventure novels. This book turns all of these common fantasy stereotypes on their collective heads for readers who may be looking for something fresh and different. Often insightful and frequently funny, this book is a great way to spend a leisure weekend.

Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005E1JBBO

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