Beta Read! Short Notice!

Yep, it’s short notice time! I am going to start my Beta Read for “Tales From the Dream Nebula: Dreams Within Dreams” as of June 1st, 2022. It’s about 28500 words long, which is about 87 pages. The beta read will wrap up on June 30th. All those who get feedback to me by then will be considered to have participated and be credited.

For those who are interested in giving feedback before this goes to publication, email me and let me know of your interest. I still have some room for people to join in.

What you get:

A copy of the beta read manuscript and a questionnaire to fill out with your thoughts and proofread corrections (grammar/punctuation stuff me and my editors and alpha readers missed).

Please be thorough in your thoughts on what you’ve read. Yes I really want to know, even if you didn’t like something. Please be honest. Constructive but honest. My ego can handle negative criticism, just not trolling. };c<

I would also request as part of the process that once the book launches you can provide a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, Kobo/Rakuten… wherever the book is released or even on your own blog. Anything that would help let people know what you thought of the book and get the word out. Of course, do tell what you really think. Even a meh/bad review is a help in some form, although I do love me some 5 star if deserving.

Your reward!

For participation, you will get a free ebook AND adding you to the thanks/acknowledgments section at the end of the book, so you can brag to all your friends you have your hipster cred and were in the first wave of this cool new universe! Beta readers will also be given future opportunities to be involved in other beta reads, and potentially other associated projects coming down the pike like RPG testing (in early development), music, associated art/merch options that can be set up going forward.

So whatdaya say? Sound like something fun to do with your Kindle/Reader this June while on vacation?

Let me know asap. This opportunity ends Jun 8th.

Moving Life Forward, Slowly But Surely.

A little treat for you all today. I have finally gotten the preliminary edits done on “Dreams Within Dreams”, the first novella of the upcoming “Tales From the Dream Nebula” series. So huzzah! I hope to be getting a beta reader group together by June, and a Oct/Nov release timeframe. Not sure yet on which will be the case.

Still considering on the artist though. I have one person in mind if I can afford and schedule for him.

Unfortunately, I was not able to go to Galaxycon, due to allergies/illness. Apparently there are some things about living in the mountains my body has not become accustomed to, and that is the early spring pollens. Ugh! So horrible. Then again, it seems like illness has just been washing around here getting everyone in some way or another. So many customers, offices and businesses are short staffed because nobody can seem to stay healthy for either a virus, allergies or infections. Covid is at least becoming a non factor, and people, with a few freaked out Covidiot holdouts are ignoring the fearmongering because let’s face it, just about everyone around here’s had it and is now naturally immune.

n114_w1150 by BioDivLibrary is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Otherwise, our big disappointment has been the weather. Mother nature has seen fit to take out our new plum and peach trees. Just as the blossoms come out, BAM! We get hit with a freeze. As I write, the snow is flying outside. It’s quite a different experience for me when it comes to snow here. You can see on the mountainside so clearly where the snow melts on the way down and becomes rain, as the peaks get coated in white, while the valleys only a few hundred feet above our heads stay brown (and now increasingly, green.) The apples might make it, and the seedlings we’ve started, in our mini hot house that the cats love, are really doing well. This summer and fall is hopefully going to be a huge canning season. (Anyone know where we can pick up a bunch of Ball wide mouthed quart canning jars and a few thousand lids for same, cheap, in southern WV?)

Speaking of our cats, they breathed a sigh of relief as our plans for a puppy got put off. I believe in big dogs so we were eyeing some great dane/pitbull puppies, but the stars did not align and we couldn’t pull the trigger. So instead, we have chickens on order.

Photo by Yves Chaput on Pexels.com

I know right? But that’s because we’re both working hard to shorten our supply chain and start getting as local as possible for our basic needs. We’ve both come to agreement with trying to become much more self sufficient and since my wife works from home and I hopefully will be transitioning to that sometime this next year, it would work well for us.

Why this infatuation with moving toward subsistence choices? With the way inflation and supply chains are going, and particularly in the backwaters of the Appalachians, it’s not unreasonable to have to consider losing access to even basic food items. That means when I’m not working or writing, gardening and taking care of a small hen house is the order of the days. So books entering our personal library have been on gardening, herbal medicines, cheesemaking, how to do hobby farm things and raising cattle on mountain side sylvan pastures and food preservation. This will all come in handy when I start working on my third series set in the remnants of a Post American nation. Yes, it still will be sci fi.

I think I finally have nailed down the imperial seal for Xiao the Eternal, my big bad for the upcoming series. Please comment and let me know your thoughts. Can you see some of the hidden aspects hidden in “The Eye of Xiao”?

Now, as a treat for those of you who have been patient for more writing and information with “Tales From the Dream Nebula”, here’s an early draft of the first two scenes! Critique away in the comment section. Be brutally honest. I gotta know now if there’s something that’s like biting on tinfoil.

!!!Note!!!

As always, this is NOT the final draft. There will be grammatical errors and other small things that aren’t fixed yet. This is a preview draft of a work in progress. Although nothing major will probably change, it will clean up by the time it goes to press. This is a treat and show of appreciation to my fans who have enjoyed my work and are looking forward to seeing what I’ve been up to and making them wait on.

Dreams Within Dreams

1.

Winston stared at the black and white flickers of an ancient film on the television, and took another long sip from his glass. Heavy ice cubes clanked in the thick cut crystal tumbler. He shifted back and forth, getting comfortable on his living room couch. With a sigh, he traced his thumb along the diamond pattern, allowing himself to be lost in the fiction playing out before him.

On screen, a detective caught the dirty little stool pigeon in another lie, giving him the third degree by means of a sharp sock to the jaw. The mousy little bug-eyed man whined and groaned spilling his guts. A smile wanted to touch Winston’s lips, but apathy tamped it back down before it broke the surface. Mesmerized by the ancient entertainment from a planet and culture which no longer existed, he let his mind drift.

Humanity’s home was gone. Conquered by a malevolent cosmic force that carved up the Earth and Sun, swallowing it. Incorporating it into its incomprehensible form. All that remained of Earth’s people were the survivors who lived on the interstellar wreckage of the entire Sol system clinging to the remaining artifacts with bitter nostalgia. Now all humanity lived in the Dream, subject to its eternal master.

“Winston?” a woman’s voice called from somewhere behind him. He frowned and made an effort to ignore it. Emmy, his daughter, continued to play her quiet game on the living room carpet, pushing her dolls around in toy cars, making up her own stories.

“Winston!” the woman’s voice was sharper, his frown deepened. Was she even in the house? Where was that voice coming from, he wondered. It didn’t sound like she was outside, he thought.

“Hun, I think Mother is here,” his wife’s voice drifted in from the kitchen. Valerie was making lunch. Winston smiled at the clanking of dishes and the whiff of barbecue ham sandwiches.

There was a terrific pounding at the door, as Mother battered it with her fist.

“Winstaah-ahahahahsssssss-on-on-nnnn-stonn!” Mother’s voice stuttered and chipmunked from data packet loss as his anti-virus programs fought to keep her out. She must be trying to hack his home instance, and her connection had lagged out for a moment.

He sighed as she overwhelmed his local server’s security, again. A curse for all AIs rattled around his head.

“Go away, Mother!” he shouted over his shoulder, taking his eyes off the movie. He could hear Valerie leave the kitchen and walk quickly to open the front door.

“Val! Don’t let her in. I don’t want to deal with her cheis today,” he swore. There’s a reason I locked the instance.”

“Okay, Hun,” Val replied and went back to her cooking, humming a Stepford tune. Emmy ignored the racket while Winston turned up the movie’s sound.

“Oh for the love of…” came a growl from Mother. With a terrific splintering bang, she forced her way through the locked front door in a spray of pixels and static that rippled throughout the home.

“Nahq it!” Winston hollered spilling his brandy Old-Fashioned. He shot up off his couch and glared at her angrily. “Can’t you take a hint?”

Mother looked like a woman in her forties or fifties, dressed in a sharp dove gray suit, jacket with big shoulders, an A-Line skirt, and a bright white blouse on with a string of black pearls with a copper and emerald broach on her lapel. She looked like she had stepped out of the movie Winston was watching. Mother strutted into the living room on impressive heels. Her blond-turning-white hair was in a tight bun, with two strands framing her perturbed expression.

“Nahq it yourself! Billy Joe Bob and I have been pinging you for three hours. You know better than to log out when you’re being unloaded! I’m hardly surprised to find you here in your own little Levitown shrine watching old movies.”

“In costume today, Mother?” Winston stifled a snort of mockery at his freight broker’s appearance.

She sneered at his comment. “No. Your behnging server blended my avatar code in with your stupid movie,” she snapped.

“And so what if I’ve been down for three hours on the dock? Those lumpers normally take my whole ten hour break to get me unloaded. I’ve probably got another five hours left!” Winston snapped back.

“This was a hot load, Winston! They started offloading you the instant you bumped their dock. They’ve been done for hours, and have been screaming at me to get you moved! There are a lot of other loads waiting to get in here. Need I remind you, I do not take kindly to being screamed at by an overclocked wirey warehouse manager every five minutes while you play ‘Father Knows Bankruptcy’ in this… this…” she waved her hands around at Winston’s simulation, “Americana nightmare! And bankruptcy, I might add, is precisely what you’re facing if you get kicked off this account!”

Val came into the living room, wiping her hands on her apron that screamed Pre-Dream American Golden Age.

“Hun, would you like me to escort Mother out?” her pleasant voice held a hint of iron as server security warnings leaked into her voice.

“Try it and I’ll turn you into a thermostat subroutine, missy!” Mother snapped with a sharp taloned finger thrust at Valerie.

“Nahq it! All of you, shut up!” Winston shouted. “Fine, mother, I’ll get off the dock and get rolling.”

“That’s all I ever wanted,” Mother sighed and gave a patronizing smile.

He opened up the route planner app for his tug, the Sierra Madre. The ‘pending’ load interface was blank.

“Wait. They show I’m unloaded, but there’s no backhaul?” Winston asked. “I always get a backhaul.”

“Since you didn’t clear the dock right away, their dock lead decided to go with a different vendor,” Mother said, arms crossed.

“Come on! For sleeping three hours on his dock?” Winston whined.

“This isn’t the first time you’ve pulled this stunt with them,” Mother reminded him. “You were warned there’d be consequences. Once you’re rolling, contact the guardpost on the way out for further instructions.”

“And what the Purg does that mean?” Winston shouted.

“They wouldn’t tell me. Said they’d only talk to you.”

“Of all the bullcheis powertrips,” Winston ranted. “You’re my freight broker. You book my jobs. Get me a backhaul home!”

“I’ll see what I can do, but don’t expect much. Also, lose the attitude. I’m not going to be your punching bag thanks to your own self inflicted wounds,” Mother fussed and then vanished in a cascade of pixels falling to the living room carpet.

He stared stupidly at the pile she inserted into his simulation. The mess was an icon of rebuke and criticism of his actions and manner toward her. She could be petty like that.

Winston let out a growl that escalated into a frustrated scream as he ended his connection and exited from his home instance.

2.

Winston’s consciousness slammed back into his body with a myoclonic jerk feeling like he was dropped ten feet into his bed. He peeled off the induction rig headband, threw it back onto his pillow and gave a tired groan. The memory of his argument with Mother came forward as he rubbed his eyes.

There was a gentle knock at the door. Billy Joe Bob must have heard him wake up.

“Hoss, y’all gonna get up in there?” came the autotuned voice of his loadmaster.

Winston said nothing and swung his legs over the side. The Sierra Madre’s sleeper was roomy as tug accommodations went. Just big enough for a generous bunk, a small bathroom, kitchenette with ample overhead cabinets and storage lockers under the mattress. His rumpled flight suit felt grimy with sweat. No time to clean up he thought, looking at the cramped shower. It was time to get rolling. Grabbing a battered cap, he got up and opened the sleeper door.

Billy Joe Bob glided back out of Winston’s way as he shuffled into the cockpit.

“Mother’s all sorts of mad, and that dock boss has been bangin’ on the canopy off and on for an hour. Paint’s busted up on the side of the sleeper but nothin’ that cain’t be taken care of,” the industrial mechoid prattled on, like a dutiful but rather clueless deputy.

Billy Joe Bob’s face was warm and friendly, covered with a flexible skin of smartex. A sophisticated rubber that could mimic muscles almost perfectly, save for being rather glossy and in Billy Joe’s case, light gray. Biologic sentient were usually freaked out by an incomprehensible sensor suite for a head, even insectoid features disturbed most sentient beings. His human-like chest was covered in polished chromed alloy perched on top of a rotund “beer-belly” bulge under which sat a dish shaped like an upside-down wok at his beltline. This rested on top of a pile of nanomachines that looked like glittering black volcanic sand which reminded Winston of an ankle length skirt.

The mechoid’s arms were brawny caricatures made of the same nanosand as his lower body. They stuck to shallow dishes at his shoulders. It seemed like an incongruous mix of metal, rubber and grit but it worked as a whole. Just another hard-workin’ good ol’ mech.

The canopy’s particle shield was down keeping the cab dark, lit only by monitors and blinking LEDs of the Sierra Madre’s controls. An angry red pulse from the comm suite indicated Mother was on the line. The large number of missed messages snarled at him in a red insistent font from her and Omnifeed.

So what if he slept on the dock, what was the big deal? These facilities were always in a ‘hurry up and wait’ mindset.

Winston grunted at Billy Joe as he took the few steps to the trio of bridge seats in the middle of the cab. The co-pilot and navigator’s seats were always empty. They had remained vacant ever since Winston bought the Sierra Madre. Their jobs done by non-sentient AIs. It was just him and Billy Joe out here and he wanted it to remain that way. Even Billy Joe didn’t pretend to be a human. He just hung in his service rack for downtime or stood out of the way, secured to the deck by his skirt.

Flopping into the pilot’s seat, Winston pulled the crash frame down, and wrapped himself securely in place. He started to do a quick instrument pre-trip checklist. A smooth rumble grew as the grav fans deepened their vortexes. Their atmospheric draw transferred a subtle vibration to the Sierra Madre’s cab.

Green across the board.

The monitors on the pair of bulk trailers he was hitched to woke up and reported back their tractor beams were double hooked and working properly. A quick check of the dock lock showed the Sierra Madre was already free and at station-keeping. All was go for departure.

The message light continued its accusatory glare. With a sigh of resolution, Winston parted the particulate shield and the outside came into view in a bright golden glow.

The clouds went on forever in all the colors of the sunset. Darker blots of green, black and brown skylands drifting among them. These chunks of planets and asteroids floated in the endless sky of the Dream like the islands of Earth, before it was torn apart and incorporated into Xiao the Eternal’s empire.

Closer in, Omnifeed’s huge industrial complex was peppered with other draymen waiting for their dock, or jockeying back and forth to the anchorage point. Some had only one trailer hooked on to their tugs and tractors, others were pulling sky trains with more than ten over-sized containers. A one thousand trailer train streamed through the sky like a titanic snake.

The retracting shields slowly revealed more of this busy scene. As the shield plates locked back into their housing, four open intakes of gravity fans came into view. Dull rainbow flickers licked out from their open maws when something more substantial than gas was sucked through their gravity shear planes. When under power, anything that passed through the rings was crushed and mangled by the tidal forces.

Winston threw on the Sierra Madre’s running lights and fired up his nav computer’s course projector.

“Hoss, look out.” Billy Joe said and pointed out the window.

A man was flying from a tug parked danger-close to him on his Bumblebee flight harness.

“That jackass,” Winston grumbled.

The man landed softly on the Sierra Madre’s canopy. Looking down between his feet, he began making threatening gestures with a wrench, yelling in a language Winston didn’t understand.

“Get the behng off my hull!” Winston shouted and slapped the horn. A low chord of ear shattering sound shook the air. The irate pilot grabbed his ears and staggered. Winston smiled as the man was no longer cussing at him in his gobbledy tongue. Apparently he decided to tell Winston off without putting on ear protection. One hundred and forty decibels at close range will remind anyone of that mistake.

“Shut down number four, Hoss,” Billy Joe Bob shouted. The careless pilot had staggered too far back and was close to being dragged through the fan.

Winston’s hand was already hitting the emergency shutdown for the number four fan just as the gravity well plucked the careless pilot up and fired him through its maw. The tidal forces, though no longer fatal, shot the man through its open vortex at hundreds of miles per hour, zipping past Winston’s trailers like a musketball.

“Uhhh…” drawled Billy Joe Bob in horror, realizing what just happened.

“Way ahead of you, Bubby.” Winston said, now wide eyed and fully awake. That pilot’s Bumblebee protected him from splattering against something big and hard. At least the man could float back to his tractor, once he regained his senses, Winston consoled himself.

He sounded the Sierra Madre’s horn again signaling his departure from the dock with one long blast followed by a pair of short toots in the traditional signal for departing port. The Sierra Madre eased out of her dock and followed her assigned buoy path toward the guardpost.

Winston stared grimly out the canopy. His mind whirling on the repercussions of what just happened. It was not his fault. That pilot climbed onto his tug without proper gear. Inside a restricted area no less. The fact he saved his life by shutting down the grav fan in time made it all just a near miss. No one was really hurt. Right? Just pride and ego. Cheis, cheis, cheis.

“You think we’re in trouble?” Billy Joe asked.

“We’ll find out soon enough, Bubby,” Winston sighed.

A scrambled call came in to his comm suite. Priority one.

Winston tapped the channel open and his comms unscrambled the transmission.

“This is the Sierra Madre, receiving you. Over,” He answered as calmly as he could muster.

“Sierra Madre, this is Omnifeed Control,” said the professional sounding voice. The guardpost’s dataoids had voices modeled after the ancient cadence of flight controller speak. No matter what, everyone was equal in their eyes, or so the timber of their words implied.

“Go ahead Omnifeed Control. Over.” Winston squinted hard, fighting to keep it together.

“You are charged with violating Omnifeed site safety rules. Furthermore, you violated rules of professional conduct by failing to leave the dock when ordered,” the guardpost stated.

“Hey, he climbed on my hull! Without safety gear! I shut down the fan in time,” Winston complained. “Blame him!”

“Your objections are heard and understood. The pilot will be dealt with accordingly,” came the dataoid’s reply. Winston could hear the ‘but’ hanging unsaid. “Regardless, you have four previous violations of loading dock policy in the last five weeks. Your company, Harper Enterprises, is hereby suspended from all Omnifeed facilities for six months due to these infractions. After that time you may reapply to be an approved carrier.”

“Aw, come on!” Winston shouted at the digital sentient.

“For the safety incident, you are hereby personally permabanned from this specific facility.” The passionless words were worse than being cussed at.

“I’m being permabanned for him violating your policy? He climbed on me!” Winston shouted.

“His discipline is a private matter. Be glad if he is unharmed. In case there is permanent injury and medical bills, your legal information has been provided to his agent,” Omnifeed Control said without compassion.

“You have no right to do that!” Winston protested, slamming his fist against the armrest.

“That is the law in accordance with Xiao’s Imperial covenants and protocols of commerce. Hail, Xiao the Eternal.” the dataoid controller added automatically. “We, as a third-party witness, must report what was recorded to maintain good standing with the Empire. Omnifeed maintains the highest imperial commerce rating and will protect it with all due legal effort.”

Winston let out a defeated sigh, and as if she could hear it, his comm bleeped again as Mother tried to get through.

“Copy all that Omnifeed Control. Sierra Madre out.”

The other comm continued to blink as Winston sat there considering his situation.

Was this the start of the final plunge? He flew above the anchorage point toward the perimeter buoys that marked Omnifeed’s airspace boundaries, itching to drop the hammer and bolt out of there.

Would he be rockbound and stuck on the Imperial dole because he just couldn’t get work after the Sierra Madre was impounded and he was blackballed?

Omnifeed was his last regular client. Even if Mother could use him on another job was all low paying spot work from here on out. Last second frantic runs to cover mistakes for people who dropped the ball and deserved to get burned. Sure, you could look the hero doing that, but the hassle. Oh, my Xiao! The hassle!

Winston flipped the comm from Mother open but said nothing.

“It isn’t as bad as you may think, Winston.” Mother’s words were gentle.

“It certainly isn’t good. Did the payment process out?” Winston drummed his fingers against the arms of his seat.

“Yes. We’re paid in full, so there’s a little money in the kitty, but you can kiss your insurance goodbye. I have several texts to respond to from Omnifeed, and that moron pilot’s lawyer.”

“Did you see Omnifeed’s evidence?” Winston said with a little hope.

“I did. He was at fault and so I might be able to get a lawyer in to provide a good defense and resolve this with paying out only for some lost time and wages.”

“Mother, did I ever tell you that I loved you?” Winston said with a smirk. Behind him Billy Joe Bob let out an arpeggiated laugh.

“Eugh!” Mother let out a strangled retch. “You biomes and your erratic emotions.” Winston knew she appreciated his sentiment, otherwise she wouldn’t have called him such a dirty name as ‘biome’.

“Okay, I know we’re on the bubble, so what’s next, Mother? Am I untouchable now?” Winston asked, as he adjusted his course from the anchorage.

“I’ll put some feelers out and see what I can find,” Mother said and hung up before Winston could reply.

At least she hadn’t abandoned him, he thought with a sigh. She knew he slept plugged in his home instance to keep the nightmares away. Winston knew he screwed up but really, it wasn’t like he had been impairing himself on the job.

The Sierra Madre slowly passed a giant dirigible bulk hauler. Her gravity planes were shifted sideways toward Omnifeed’s digesters where they made SiCHON feedstock for nanofabricators all across the Dream. With a final flurry of pipes and silos, the Sierra Madre was past the outer markers and into open air again.

He flipped through his cameras to watch the Omnifeed facility recede behind him, and altered his course toward home on Pseudomaha. He glared at the big nanofabrication silos with the giant Omnifeed logo on their side. The facility disappeared behind a cloying yellow cloud of sulfur dust.

“Hoss, you want me doin’ anything right now?” Billy Joe Bob asked.

“You got chores left?” Winston asked, eyes focused on the traffic sensors. The little blobs of blue, green, yellow and red, slid past with neon trails in the holographic hud.

“Naw. Not really. Containers are empty and undamaged. We have an extra free day with ‘em before getting them back to Consolidated Freight for maintenance.” Billy Joe said.

“Rog that,” Winston said. “I got nothing for you then. Hit the rack and enjoy yourself. We should still have access to Omnifeed’s network for another hour or two of flight time. Might as well mooch while we still can. Otherwise, we’re ‘go-slow’ till Mother gets back to me. Maybe we will need that extra free day of rental to get home after all.”

“Rog that, Hoss.” Billy Joe went back to his rack in the back of the cab with a slithering hiss of his nanosand skirt and powered down leaving Winston alone with his worries.

Sample End

Till next time, vaya con Dios!

A Percolating Idea

One of my hobbies as some of you know is to compose music. I had wanted a synthesizer since I was a little kid, and one day I realized I had the money to actually accomplish that dream. So I figured I’d buy one and discovered DAWS instead (Digital Audio Workstations). After comparison shopping and pricing out I settled on Propellerhead’s Reason 10. (I so want the update to 12 now. Soooo bad.)

But since then I’ve been tinkering and composing music and after I finished the first three Novellas of Tales From the Dream Nebula I was certain I wanted to do a soundtrack. The question is, how to release it? What kind of music should I do?

What do people think of the idea of a “score to read to”? I was inspired by the concept when I was a teen and had discovered Steven King’s “Bachmann Books” and was reading “The Long Walk” while listening to a copy of Jean Michel Jarre’s “Zoolook”. Certain songs were absolutely PERFECT for the chapters I was reading despite I doubt for a second, King would have even considered such music since he’s more into heavy metal/hard rock, but for me it worked. It added significant depth and enjoyment to my reading of the story.

So what do you think about being able to have a related soundtrack for the books? Here’s a sample of my work to give an idea some of the sort of music I’m considering.

P.S. I’m still looking for a cover illustrator who would be interested in doing a series of 3 novellas, and potentially character and logo design. Budget is limited, but for the right person, we can see what we will be able to do. If you are an artist who is interested please get in touch. Here’s an examples of the kind of art styles I’m looking to mash up:

Assemble! …For What Purpose?

Photo by Sharon Snider on Pexels.com

Moving to West Virginia and living high in the mountains this last year has been a great challenge for me in many ways. I’ve been grateful for my wife and my in-laws who, after a bit of a rocky start, have been a great help for me in acclimating myself.

For example, the roads up here made me seasick for the longest time. The altitude got me because I was used to a much lower elevation. I was kinda prepared for the small town/wild living environment. It’s like living in Northern Wisconsin or the UP, but with mountains instead of lakes and bigger grades on the roads. Winters are nicer though, and the altitude helps with the summer.

…BUT… there’s been something spiritual gnawing at me. Not just work worries or Covidiocy inspired anxiety. No. It’s something spiritual and deep and unrelenting.

Why did God bring me down to this place? I felt, and still feel, like something is on the verge of bursting out in this place. A good, productive, and decent thing is hiding just under the surface, but is being held in check by apathy and hopelessness that I find rather disturbing. For months, I wasn’t sure what was going on or what I was sensing. I saw needs for improvements to the area, but was told that’s the way it always was. I hate that answer now.

My father joked that maybe God sent me down here to be a community organizer of some sort. To which I told him to ‘bite his tongue’. We laughed, but as the weeks rolled on, I started worrying that he may have been speaking something much more prophetic. I started worrying if this was not God speaking something through him. I don’t want to be a community organizer. It’s associated with so many people that have done the world great harm in the name of “the greater good”.

So that happened and I kept pondering.

I also have begun going to my wife’s church, and well… that’s been a bit more of a culture shock to all parties involved. The Darling Bride has said that I’m like a big boulder dropped into a small pond. Her assessment hasn’t been wrong. These wonderful people sure haven’t been able to make out whether I’m fish or fowl at times. I keep telling them I’m not going to ever be a Baptist, let alone a bad Baptist, but I’m Christian and fiercely faithful, even if it’s anti-denominational apostolic in nature compared to theirs. (Although “recovering Lutheran” is another good description for it.)

It’s also not been that easy for me either. I get all itchy and discombobulated with the cultural/religious aspects of the church. Sunday School in my experience was for the children, not the adults. The idea of “Three to Thrive” every week leaves me squirming. And of course the mantra “You need to be in church every time the doors are open” really chaps my ass (to borrow a phrase from Mike Rowe). If you’ve read my books, there’s a lot of Brother Finn in me, just as much as Reimar. But, God has continued to pester me and bid me keep going in spite of it.

So I kept praying and struggling with God as to why here? Why this place? What am I supposed to be doing for Him!? In His inimitable fashion and timing, God waited 6 months before revealing the title question.

But first some context. (I heard your facepalms from here.)

My church is shrinking. Dying really. But it has a chance to rebound, so don’t think I’m all gloom and doom here. There is a spiritual dryness going on that is something familiar to me. It is a drifting away that killed my childhood church (which was torn down recently after standing as a centerpiece for the city of Appleton, Wisconsin’s downtown for over a century) by lack of membership. The youth leaves, and the old die off till the remainder blow away.

But they’re fighting! Fighting hard to figure out how to bring people back and bring in the youth. So many fled because of COVID and are not coming back to the church. They stay at home and watch online instead. The heads of the church are hollering we need to get people in the pews! Only then will we grow! Special singers and preachers come in, discussions are held about a new youth ministry… But really, there is no growth. “Do not forsake the assembly!” they cry. “Do not forsake the assembly!”

And that’s when I heard it. “For what purpose?” came the whispered question.

We are assembling, but why? What mighty cause was the church taking up? What projects were happening under their watch? How were they leading the community? For what purpose was this body of Christ called together to serve the Lord? I’ve come to realize that a community needs a purpose to exist. Sitting in pews and listening to sermons 3 times a week and singing badly to hymns is not a draw, it’s rote. I talked to the deacons to ask what sort of projects were going on in the community right now? We’ve hosted missions groups, but what else are we as the church body doing? The answer was “nothing”. That’s when I realized the depth of what God was pointing out to me. The church I went to had no purpose for being anymore.

I asked my wife when the last call came in announcing another member died when the last wedding was before ours? Almost a decade. So again, I had pestering me, “Assemble for what purpose?”

My church and community right now may be a valley of dry bones, but there is something wonderful and big here just below the surface waiting to burst forth like a fresh spring from the rock. All it needs is for Moses to obey and touch the rock with his staff. (No I’m not making such grandiose assumptions about myself, but the metaphor is accurate. Someone must take their staff and touch the rock.) So we’re back to that whispered question which in the weeks since has become even more strident. Militant even.

“ASSEMBLE FOR WHAT PURPOSE!?”

We must all be asking ourselves this same question as we struggle against the rising tide of Mass Formation Psychosis (COVidiocy) that is sweeping the world. We are swamped with fear porn of the pandemic, of war drums, of supply chain shortages and economic collapse. We have a world where there is serious talk as well as government action taking place regarding the unvaxxed. They are being turned into the new pariahs… lepers of the modern world in a fashion not seen since 1930’s Berlin. To be shunned, hated and removed… if not exterminated by those who have been seduced by the new germophobic global world order siren song.

We, as individuals, or even church bodies can’t fight against such things. These are the powers and principalities contending for the shape of the world. We can only live in what is done and our only weapon there is prayer. Pray for His protection, guidance and providence.

But as we pray, we must start doing something to give ourselves more purpose. A Martha to balance out our Mary. Small things to help prepare for the trials and tribulations to come. We must ask ourselves in our churches this very same question. If we are not to forsake the body, and all seems to be dry bones or dying on the vine, what can we do to reverse this? How can we regain a practical purpose? What is it in the world you and I can control? How can we use this to make our worlds, and by extension our neighbor’s world a better place?

If we are not a light unto the world how can we lead out of darkness? What happens to salt that loses its savor? The Church in general as much as my church must find purpose. Now some are probably thriving, but many are most likely struggling. Many are suffering in the pews wondering why they’re even there. Always sick, never healing.

This is the pathway back to sanity and goodness. To give purpose to assembling as the Body of Christ.

Pray. And ask God to show you what His purpose is for you. Till then, find something you know will make your life and your neighbor’s better. Assembled together, with purpose, even if it’s as simple as having a meal together or picking up garbage from your neighborhood, or planting a vegetable garden to help stave off hunger for those who may be too poor to buy food thanks to inflation or job loss. In serving each other in Christ’s name, we gain purpose and reason that house by house, block by block, can save the world from insanity.

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They Gots This Depression Goin’ On… (Among Other Things)

Photo by Rick Miller on Pexels.com

2022 had hardly begun when 2021 took a final shot at my wife and I, literally. Maybe I shouldn’t have given it the finger as it went out the door. And then this week…

I got a lovely email from the printer last week, and after a short investigation, I’m going to have to act on it. It seems that the cost for printing books is going up thanks to the second global great depression we have right now thanks to germophobicovidiocy caused shortages.

Unfortunately, it’s going up so much that it is forcing me to raise my prices on printed books to just keep pace. Mind you, my royalties are miniscule. I still make more per e-book downloaded than I do for these books which I shave off my profit margin to make sure I support local/small retailers allowing you lovely readers to order physical copies there.

I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet, but it’s coming soon, and that means that the price on the back cover will not match because I don’t have the wherewithal at the moment to pay to have the books reset. Yes, to just change the barcode on the back costs me a set up fee. Six of them to be precise, and that’s not an expense I budgeted for, nor will any sales at the higher price cover it at the moment.

On a bit of positive news, I’m going to have details to announce of an upcoming podcast interview! I tape this week, and am not sure where I am in the podcast’s release schedule, but you’ll get more details once I know more.

And lastly…. Novella 3 for Tales from the Dream Nebula is now DONE! Yep, first draft in the can. It’s gone through some critiques and is now into my editorial passes. So far it’s been received by my early reader groups with great enthusiasm and excitement. That means although I’ve not released anything last year, I am setting up for rapid release starting (we hope) by sometime this Autumn 2022. If all things go well, we will also be looking at some interesting bonus extras to go with the releases! Gonna have to figure out how to set it up, and realizing that my website might have to change significantly in the not so distant future. Ugh, the business side of being an author. Hopefully I can keep things all together without getting too crazy.

…then again, isn’t crazy how things go, am I right?

Talk to y’all soon!

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – (With Spoilers) A Gushing Atypical View

I went on last Friday, and the above title should say it all. (Happy Thanksgiving BTW)

TL:DR if you don’t go see this movie in the cinema, you are not going to get more quality films like this. It serves as the bridge between what was, and what may come if you show some love for this franchise. So get your buns in seats, people. Buns in seats. See the bloody movie!!!!

I give it a 9/10 because of a few minor things I’d wish they’d had more of and missed opportunities, but that’s like asking for 3 cherries instead of 2 on top of an incredible sundae.

If you want your standard synopsis, this is not the review for you. This is about my experience with the film and my takeaways and why I felt it is a great accomplishment in filmmaking. Roll your eyes all you want, if you are so inclined at my gushing, but again… my personal thoughts/experiences. Just enjoy the squee and thoughts.

First, let me say I am on the trembling edge of being a superfan of this franchise. I will not see the 2016 version because the studio/director/cast make sure I knew what it was: a soulless woke remake with a political agenda first and no care for the fans of the original themes and less respect for the creation of those actors, writers and directors that made the franchise.

If you’re sick of being pandered to by people who see you as nothing more than a buck to pluck, this is your movie. These are your people. With one sentence, they expunge the blight that is GB2016 from the canon and do it with a more inclusive, diverse cast than it was with none of the typical “Look at how politically correct and relevant I am! Love me for checking the right boxes for social justicetm! If you don’t you’re a racist/sexist/homophobe nazi.” The same people who all the while sneer at you… the fan… as a rube to be cheated of your money and love. That alone gave it a lot of extra credibility with me as a fan.

In that regard, I am a purist. I’ve not played the 2009 game which was in spirit (hah!) the actual third movie, and heard very good things about it. Thus making Ghostbusters: Afterlife (G:A) the fourth of the franchise. BTW, there is some harkening back to the cartoon, “The REAL Ghostbusters” and the toy line with the appearance of the gunner’s seat, which is just a blast that even the characters squee over.

G:A has many good scares and leaves an anti-woke nip on the tongue. Just as much as it makes you laugh, you’ll clutch your popcorn. It’s messages are wholesome and affirmative. Evil’s clear and defined, good struggles and is wounded but ultimately victorious. (In another post I’ll toss some thoughts in for the spiritual side for my fellow Christians who wonder about this movie.)

The cast and director Jason Reitman have stated in interviews time and time again, this movie is about family. Particularly from what I saw, a family dealing with the loss of a loved one, and struggling with old wounds that must heal for the sake of the living. JR was uniquely placed as the only man capable of having the tools and the talent to save this franchise. He grew up surrounded by this franchise. (He even is the snotty kid in the birthday party laying into Winston and Ray in Ghostbusters II.) To him, as well as Akroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson, plus Weaver and Potts, this was a passion projects and work of love. It was sad that Rick Moranis could not come back, but he is retired from acting and firmly so. God bless you, Rick, you were missed, but we understand. You hear this from cast interviews on press junket all the time, but for the first time, I actually believed them. This gives the movie a heart you won’t find from other reboots/restarts/re-envisions that have come out.

What is this movie to me? Good hearted, in many ways wholesome, family entertainment like we used to get in the 1980’s. If it wasn’t for the fact that it is completely dependent on the original film, it would be the superior film.

From the opening credits when I heard the iconic piano trill, I personally was in a state of squee till the final “For Harold” at the end… and then for the mid and post credit scenes. STAY THE WHOLE MOVIE OR YOU MISS IMPORTANT DETAILS! There were at least 3 audio call backs in the credits alone which made me smile so wide it darn near bisected my head. My wife was laughing at me just as much as she was the film because of my reactions and bouncing in the seat.

By the time the film was over, I was crying happy tears as well as feeling the loss of both Egon Spangler and Harold Ramis. Something to note, this movie is a sign of healed wounds between Ramis and Murray as well as the rest of the cast who lost so many opportunities with each other due to the feud. It was a treat to see. In Harold’s memory, all things are made right again.

The opening sequence is the death of Egon being very heroic. It is terrifying in so many ways. Even more so, if you are a fan going in. You know what is going to happen and it’s unavoidable. You can smell it and dread the result the entire time, but it must come. It was handled beautifully, setting up the movie without a single word. I admit, it got me verklempt.

The new faces of Phoebe, Trevor and Callie… the estranged human detritus of Egon’s vanishing and death in mystery are on point if you want to be realistic. Through the movie, you see the wound of Egon’s departure. left because nobody understands why he left suddenly. (A point driven home with a sledgehammer later in the film by Ray Stantz in a conversation on the red phone.) They are fully realized and have their own story arcs to complete.

Granddaughter Phoebe’s is the anchor of the film, and she struggles with the awkwardness and social alienation brought about by being hyperintelligent, and an awkwardness that smells remarkably like a child knowing they have autism/aspberger’s and fighting hard to cope. Her awareness makes it touching. Older brother Trevor tries to help her because he sees how special she is, but is not equipped to help. In an attempt to connect, Phoebe cracks what I call “dad jokes” in an effort to connect with her peers. They’re real groaners and you love ’em. But one in particular had me howling for an inordinately long time. Watching Phoebe cracking these jokes in the face of Gozer leaves you both laughing and cringing in fear once again of what could possibly happen. Reitman utilizes Alfred Hitchock’s theory on suspense perfectly. You the audience know there’s a bomb under the table as the characters sit down for dinner and you’re praying they get out alive. That’s serious craft.

Podcast, a plucky boy who becomes Phoebe’s only friend at summer school (why they were in summer school was kinda fuzzy to me. I may have blinked or laughed to long to catch the reason) is a weird and endearing character. He’s a surrogate for the audience with trying to comprehend the mystery of what’s going on in Summerville. Podcast possesses such an innocent joy at all things new, seeing everything with unjaded eyes, is refreshing. He’s definitely a fun “Mini-Ray”, wearing Stantz’s old goggles for so much of the movie made me smile. (When he clicks the goggle’s polaroid and you watch the old picture shoot out the side which he uses to fan himself after the excitement of the proton pack’s first successful test, I just howled with laughter. Yeah, I’m that guy in the theater.) Because Podcast sees himself as a possible social media influencer, his silly commentary for his podcasts are wonderful. One part clueless, one part kid at play, one part marketer. You can’t help but love a kid brave enough to lick ectoplasm. The chemistry between him and Phoebe has spots of puppy love at its finest. My singular complaint about this character is you never learn his real name.

Callie Spangler’s damage from Egon’s estrangement is more subtly expressed at first, but builds. Callie embodies abandonment and her inability to relate to her father’s super-science brain and iconoclastic behavior has devastated her all the more. She was a typical girl in the shadow of a genius even his peers and friends couldn’t understand. Her mother (who is not Janine, and clearly there is some bad blood toward Egon, judging by Callie’s reaction, is out of the picture,) must have hated Egon as well for leaving. Because of the pain, she has expunged her father from her children’s lives. The lingering question of “why did he abandon me?” is essential to her character. One single line encapsulates her resentment and bitterness when going through the “Dirt Farmer’s house” (the name all the locals knew Egon by) saying “Huh. Not a single photo.” You see she believes that Egon forgot about everyone who loved him and never really cared. When Phoebe is on the trail of the ghost of her grandfather in the middle of the night, you see Callie in the background passed out drunk at the kitchen table after clearly struggling with what to do with their lives. I suspect this will resonate with many viewers who grew up in a split/divided home where a parent left. I can attest friends who had divorced parents exhibited many of the same traits to one degree or another. But when Callie finally learns the truth over what’s going on, and sees that all the pictures were in Egon’s secret lab (complete with firepole, because of course it has one) she sees how much he loved her, and how much attention he paid to her life. He just couldn’t afford to be there because Egon was literally saving the world on a daily basis while the planet was in blissful ignorance.

There’s a very touching scene between Phoebe and her mother Callie where the girl demands “Why didn’t you tell us our grandfather was Egon Spangler?” You see the wounds on both character and for a second you feel it with them. It makes their reconciliation at the end all the more powerful and will put you in tears if you’re a romantic so-and-so like me.

Trevor, has the most ordinary, and least interesting arc which helps make the film more real. As I thought about it, this is not because they didn’t know what to do with him, but lay in what furtive interests a 15 year old boy would have. Girls and cars. Possibly in the reverse order. He chases the cute girl at the local drive-in the instant they hit Summersville. Her name is Lucky (or is it a nickname?) is the unattainable girl. All the boys know it and mock Trevor for trying. He lies to get a job at the drive in, just to be near her. Which gives him entrance to her circle and connection to the greater story because of some teenage hijinx.

But it’s Oklahoma, so he needs a car to have independence. This ain’t NYC. One of the few places in the world you can live your life without owning a car. That means getting one of the junkers left by his grandfather’s working again, and of course that would be Ecto 1. He has no clue what an iconic vehicle he has thanks to his mother expunging all things Ghostbuster and Egon from his life. This is so grounded and real you wonder how he gets involved. It’s through Ecto 1 that Trevor becomes involved in the mystery and insanity that is growing around his sister, and ultimately to him being one of the team to stop Gozer.

Then there’s Gary Grooberson. Paul Rudd, when he got the part was so excited he couldn’t help but release the fact that he was cast in the movie. The actor’s personal reaction as a fan at seeing a genuine trap is a palpable. I love the fact that he connects with Phoebe first, and then Callie second. You can see that he has a certain amount of hero worship toward the Ghostbusters that rose tints his vision toward them, but at the same time makes him more sincere. He is the missing piece to their family, even if none of them realize it. The dialogue between him and Phoebe and Callie are some glittering jewels. Rudd also gets the joy of many call backs to Rick Moranis’ character Louis Tully, but also driving the stake through the heart of GB2016 with the singular line “There hasn’t been a ghost sighting for 30 years.” BAM! DONE! I cheered even though nobody else in the theater did because I doubt they realized what just hit the citadel of wokeness, and sank their agenda boat in one salvo. (P.S. this is why the critics are raging.) I will admit on his date with Callie, I got very scared when he started talking about fracking. I literally said “Oh, here we go” and gritted my teeth. But then Callie takes the piss out of it, which Gary detects and says “Are you that drunk or am I boring you?” Bye bye environazi narrative. We the audience were right along with Callie on that MEGO (Mine Eyes Glazeth Over) expression. The beauty there was that Reitman then uses this as a segue into how Callie can’t connect to Phoebe, but Gary can. That’s some good writing right there.

Lucky was the only character that I felt was more or less a prop. Not for the actress’ part. She does a stellar job in what she’s given. She is the “Love Interesttm“. I did like the fact that she was the police chief’s daughter too. She has a bit of street smarts but used for more comedic effect, despite being “third generation dump” stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I think a lot can be done with her moving forward, since any sequel now (which from what I understand is greenlit, and Sony wants to create the “Ghost Corps” cinematic universe) they will all be college age and can do so much more. Again, if Lucky is her nickname, give her a real name. Someone I did want to see a little more resolution to was why did the whole police department disappear when the ghosts started showing up? You don’t even get a hint of where they were or what they were doing as spooks invaded Summersville. Again, one of the rare rough spots that could have been solved with a 5-15 second shot of deputies or the sheriff trying to deal with the deluge of the supernatural.

The only other missed opportunity and waste of talent I’d give to J.K. Skinner as Ivo Shandor. Although I agree on one level with his fate, I’m going… “Dude! That’s J. K. Skinner, man! You gotta do something with that talent!” Oh well, back as a spirit next movie! Jason Reitman, are you paying attention?

Seeing the old faces come back… and some looked very old as 35 years will do… was heartwarming and touching. I wanted to see more of them, but alas, this wasn’t their movie alone anymore. The next generation must rise up.

This movie is also about sacrifice. And not just for loved ones, but for all mankind. Egon you learn felt a genuine care for all of humanity. Not the happy fluffy “We Are the World”, but in the right to exist and live according to our conscience. He sacrificed his entire life to save the world and forestall the apocalypse Gozer tried to inflict in 1984, and managed to do so till his death when his last gambit failed at the start of the movie. After Phoebe, Trevor and Podcast capture their first ghost, causing considerable damage to the community in the process they’re in jail, and Phoebe uses her one phonecall to contact Ray Stantz. When you hear him say “Egon Spangler can rot in hell, for all I care,” your heart hurts. But as the story unfolds and you learn what Egon had done because he couldn’t get them to see what he knew was coming and had to act, you realize these are metaphors for the rift between the three actors as well. When Phoebe tells Ray that Egon is dead and she is his granddaughter, the regret and pain in Ray’s eyes says it all. It’s a good scene, but I felt it is where Afterlife left the most cards on the table. You hear but don’t see Winston or Venkman, which would have been great to see a few minutes spent of “getting the band back together” with Ray going out and giving these moments a chance to shine. Even including Dana Barret (possibly Venkman?) as they convinced a reluctant Peter to come back for one last time, so to speak would have been brilliant.

I will add that it was great to see the original trio (and then Egon in spirit) coming back does feel a little Deus Ex Machina… but it is a rusty Machina, and Gozer has learned a trick or two and crossing the streams isn’t going to do it any more. Egon burnt that trick out keeping Gozer at bay. It would have been nice to see them get some mentor time with the kids, but I also get it. Pacing and they might dominate the scene too much. Sigh… such are the editing choices one must make for good storytelling.

Something else I want to point out is this movie addresses woke virtue signaling in a way it’s acolytes aren’t happy about. While the cult of woke use the “checkboxes” as a way to supposedly prove their virtue and superiority over the knuckle dragging orange man lovers, this movie checks the same boxes, without making it an issue.
Strong female lead? Phoebe. Check.
Racially diverse cast? Podcast is asian and Lucky is black. Check.
“Alphabet” people inclusion? Gozer is gender fluid non-binary. Check.

Snuck that last one in on you didn’t I? Yep. Gozer doesn’t need a gender and can be whatever it wants to be. BTW, that’s the proper singular pronoun for something that doesn’t line up with a male/female alignment, per the rules of the English language. “It”. If you have a problem, it’s with language (which you don’t have control over) not me.

So there you go. Not only does the movie fix canon, it shows how to do all the virtue signaling right without being obnoxious. No focus is put on this. It just “is what it is”. Focus on the story, not ticking boxes of pseudo offense based on an agenda in your head.

Ultimately, this is a great movie, but if watching some of my more trusted critics out there, I can see that my sentiment is not shared by people who aren’t fans of the original 1984 film. And even then, too many fellow watchers in the audience are not paying close attention. There’s so many details that slide by, that if you’re not attentive, you’ll miss them and it will diminish the experience. Add to that, the hatred for the fans by the “professional” critics working for major media outlets that seem to think all things not in direct service to their political agenda is therefore bad and want revenge for the public turning up its nose at GB2016… well… go and make up your own mind.

That may be why I gush a bit about this movie, and see it as such an achievement, but if you’re not the target audience, or are “meh” about the property, you’re probably not going to care about it. The themes won’t hit, the sacrifice of Egon’s life because of his belief in his life’s work will mean little, and that will diminish your experience.

On the other hand, if you are like me, a fan of the franchise, love the characters this is the sequel you deserved and a chance to see a franchise relaunched in a positive way.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

A September to Forget

Photo by KoolShooters on Pexels.com

This September I had a close brush with death.

I’m not exaggerating this at all, but honest to goodness, sitting there going “you know what? I think I might die very soon!”

Me and my household caught COVID from my wife’s best friend, S. She caught it from work. Ultimately, no one is to blame. You may believe in the medical security theater of masks and social distancing. I do not. I’ve done my research and looked into these policies origins and found circular reference junk science at the root. You do what you feel to function in your life. Just don’t expect me to join in.

That said, COVID is dangerous, but not for the reasons you think. It tears up your red blood cells and hemoglobin, which forces the liver to try and extract those dangerous bits of cell and free radical iron, but it can’t do that very well. So the next line of defense against that is your lungs which quickly become inflamed and fill with liquid that THEN turns into the real killer: pneumonia or other lung infections. Of course it’s doing incredible damage to the alveoli in there too. So don’t think I’m downplaying the danger of COVID. I respect it and regard it like I would Meningitis or Measles or Pneumonia. Deadly if ignored, but easily dealt with, if you take care of your nutrition and get the proper therapeutics (therapeutics that are illegal in the US, but working miracles in a dozen other nations).

And no, don’t talk to me about the vaccines either. If you want to take it, you do that. I’ve done my research, and I don’t trust any of those companies to do me anything but find a way to cause harm. So, if you want that discussion, don’t. Please. You do what you need to feel safe and I won’t talk down to you for your choice.

But I survived. I’m into week 3 since I got infected and it’s been a very tough road with hospitalization and supplemental oxygen (I was down to 65 at times at my lowest and panting like a dog in heat. Normal is 96). My Dr. figures it will be another week or two before I’m more or less fully back to normal. At that point, I hope to get back to writing, working on the graphic novel, talking to artists and all that. It sucks that this cancelled my honeymoon, but whatcha gonna do but reschedule? So more to come soon.

Rest assured, I’m resting and being careful, lest there be some hidden damage caused by COVID like Myocarditis or blood clots. My Dr. has been very very good (even with the FDA and CDC refusing him access to proven drugs to cure the disease.) and moved quickly to keep me out of the ICU where our friend S. is.

Prayers for S. are greatly appreciated. She is still intubated and ventilated and her status has plateaued. We pray that she can overcome this and her previous health conditions, but it’s all in God’s hands. We are praying heartily that He shows his grace and mercy and takes all the glory unto Him in healing S, but if that is not His desire, we pray that He takes her home. After events in August, and the deliverance and spiritual warfare we were all involved with, I’m certain she will be glad to go home to Him, if He does not have more work for her in this world.

With a bit of a smirk and an eye roll I will say that there have been two silver linings from all this. #1, I am free of pitting edema in my left leg. This health problem has dogged me for over a decade, and its finally gone. Amazing. #2, I dropped 40lbs the hard way. That’s almost 6 inches on the waist, so that’s pretty fantastic too. I do NOT recommend the COVID diet where I couldn’t eat for 4-5 days. Don’t do it.

But I hope all is well with you all and the Lord’s blessing you mightily, as he has blessed me and my family. Major cheers to my wife who was my nursemaid through out all this. She was just wonderful and I cannot say enough good about her. I wouldn’t have made it without all she did.

Go well, God bless.

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

There and Back Again: A Realm Makers 2021 Story

I’m back safe and/or sound, though the rumors of my soundness seem to be greatly exaggerated. I know several of you are wondering why I don’t post stuff before or during RM when I go, but that’s purely for safety reasons. So I save it all for now.

The Gateway Arch… and a train. I like trains.

I am so absolutely positively grateful to have been among my fellow Realmies again. I MISSED YOU GUYS SO MUCH! Awkward hugs and high fives all around.

Last day out the door with my darling bride.

The highlight in many ways was getting a chance to talk more than a couple times with Frank Piretti. I mean come on. As his keynote mentioned he felt like (and we all concurred) he is a professor emeritus of so many of us Christian authors out there. Particularly spec fic. I just wish I’d have gotten a picture with him, and not just with him talking to my wife at breakfast. (sorry, not sharing. too personal and private. Plus it’s a bad angle, for both.) So here’s a different candid shot. See if you can guess the author by their hands. LOL.. just kidding.

Playing Guillotine with Rob Story, Kat Vinson, Emily Haese (spelling?), Elizabeth Liberty Lewis, Kate Prater & and a quick round fill in by Megan Ward (I believe that was her last name).

The best moments from cons like this are often the candid ones not in classes and just by happenstance. You also never know who you’re going to touch and who will touch you back. The Clevandence sisters (apologies if misspelled) made my night at the book fair when I asked her what her favorite scene was in my first book, and I loved the writing of that same (grisly) scene too. It was a real highlight for me to talk like that.

For those who don’t know or realize, authors often love hearing back from their readers personally. Especially for us small indie authors. Too often we publish into the void, like every author and never know if we touched your lives. To hear when we do brings us all a spark of joy. Of course if we ticked you off, sigh, please extend us grace. We’re sensitive souls and may know the thing that ticked you off wasn’t our best efforts to. Kinda like a sports star who has a famous bad play regrets their mistake too. But still, it reminds us we’re not alone. We are touching others out there. So never be shy with your (positive) feedback, and be gentle (but honest) with us when we goof.

This year, my darling bride got me to cosplay for the awards banquet. It was a spectacular time. She had a whole backstory about the 1950’s librarian who’s favorite hero came to life for her. The story evolved through the night and was quite quite cute. But I have several pictures I got with people I have a real soft spot for in my writing career. Some I can share.

I was very happy to be friends with two winners of the Realm Awards. Very proud of their achievements that night and had some great conversations with so many people.

All in all, going to Realm Makers was a wonderful reminder of the good things in life. This last 24 months since I was at RM in the flesh has been a rollercoaster. In many ways I’ve ended up in a far better place, but at times… just I’m reminded to be grateful for what I have.

Oh, and I have leftover paperbacks and a few hardcovers from the consignment store. I’m toying with doing something special with at least one set of the books, but am also considering selling a couple sets of autographed copies. What do y’all think about that? Of course, I’d have to figure out how to set up a store, paypal and all that. I dunno what options are available. We’ll see though. Of course, if you want to encourage me, let your thoughts be known in the poll below.

Okay, more soon when there’s stuff to say!

Illustrator Wanted!

I am looking to hire a professional comic artist for “Tales from the Dream Nebula”.

It is a raygun gothic, “nanopunk”, high adventure graphic novel series.

-Expected project size:

— Initial crowdsource pitch materials

— Character and set piece design

— Some marketing images for merch and stretch goals

— a short (up to 10 page) teaser

3 Graphic Novels are currently planned, ranging from 64-96 pages each.

Release of future graphic novels depending on success.

Look/Style

Art Deco/Art Nouveau/Streamline Moderne similar to old serials, but with modern comic sensibilities.

Must be able to draw visually exciting, high tech machinery, airships and technology.

Able to provide finished color art (pencil/Ink/Colors). Previous industry work experience highly preferred, but will consider the right up and coming artist.

If interested, you can connect with me through DM on Discord or my contact page here.

The Fertile Earth that is Post-Post-Modernism

“And then what happens?”

This is the question I’ve been hearing in my head a lot lately. When talking to other writers trying to get going with their first project, or more importantly, with my own work. It’s the question at the heart of every Stephen King novel (by his own admission during an interview) that drives him to completion. It’s driven me through every tabletop RPG I ever ran. If the characters have a lot of stuff, steal it/break it/lose it. If they are sitting around doing nothing, attack them. Basic D&D fare, but it keeps the players entertained and gives hooks to hang a plot on.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the little brushes I’ve had with Post-Modernist philosophy as I sit there watching the world burn around me in this soon to be Post-Covidiocy world with monetary collapses, market collapses, and the death of western civilization staring me right in the puss.

“And then what happens?”

As a spec fic author, this is really important when I start considering the future. How much of it will be Mad Max? How much “1984” or “Brazil”? Will it be “A Brave New World”? Anyone for “Soylant Green”? Or will it be all of it with a side of “Hunger Games”? My money’s on “A Brave New 1984 in Brazil while having Soylent Green for Tea with Mad Max”.

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But it’s also got me thinking more deeply on the roots of creativity thanks to a video by “The Quartering” who talked about the new “Cruella” film being a female version of “Joker”. Mind you, I’ve seen the spoilers and went…. really? Not my cup of tea, but at least the fans seem to like it so who am I to criticize too severely (of course to laugh yourself silly, See the “Pitch Meeting” video on Youtube lampooning it… come to think of it, that’s really what got me into the question I’ve been facing lately.

BTW, all this pop culture jargonist mish-mash has been in service to my point today.

What all this spawned in my head lately was this: If Post-Modernist philosophy posits the smashing of the old symbols, semiotics and semantics in which to create new things out of the wreckage (think mashup music, crossover films, retellings, trope twisting and pop culture pile ups like “Ready Player One”… none of which am I criticizing because I LIKE much of these things) at what point are the symbols so broken down that they become the fertile soil for the creation of NEW ideas?

Yes, yes. Stop there now. I know “there’s nothing new under the sun”. This has all been done before. I, for one do not believe that history repeats itself, but lean more to the “but it does rhyme” school of thought. I’ll go so far as to say it will also riff and ad lib too. The broad tropes/genres/mediums will always exist to some degree for they speak to the human experience, but consider the evolution of how mankind reacts. How does it cycle through history? There’s always been horror stories for instance. But what was once cautionary fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm have evolved to slasher films and torture porn of today thanks to mankind’s memory and boredom for the familiar.

So, now that I’ve committed to using up my allotment of “Quotation Marks” for the month… I’ll sort of get to the point of what I’ve been pondering. When will we start seeing some new and “truly unique” creative endeavors in entertainment? When will it stop being a recycling of “Star Wars”, or a perversion of “Superman”? Is it possible to break free from the Pixar Formula? Will we finally be far enough removed from nostalgia porn to want to put something great and new that can thrive on the silver screen instead of just crappy imitations of the masters who came before? Are there any masters left or do we have to wait till we are sufficiently removed from them to finally have new ones show up on the scene again?

How many people know or have read great authors or playwrights from the Roman empire? Beyond Cicero that is, but that also belabors my point. There’s a good chance that the tens if not hundreds of thousands of artists who existed then, and may have created great works are lost to time. Destroyed by neglect or burned up in the destruction of institutions like the Great Library fire. Some may say that’s the same conundrum looked at by sci fi in dozens of books/shows/movies as they try to save mankind from becoming extinct. But that type of extinction seems to be central to existence in this world. Species go extinct. Houses rot away and are reclaimed by the land. We are just dust in the wind, and so are our ideas.

I look at my own work and wonder if it will stand the test of time? In 500 years, assuming the Rapture didn’t happen, will my books be remembered like “Pilgrim’s Progress”? Or even “The Chronicles of Narnia”? Now that would be the real achievement! The real blessing of God. At least in heaven I may know the true impact of my work. But on earth?

I mean, consider one of the greatest films of all time that was on the verge of being forgotten till someone missed the deadline to renew the copyright and it lapsed into public domain: “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Thanks to that mistake, the movie was run almost non-stop at Christmas in the US because it was cheap and nobody wanted to work in the TV station on the holiday so it was discovered by a whole new generation of viewers, and was reborn without ever having changed. An artistic resurrection.

So what fertile soil is coming from the grinding down and emulsification of the symbols of western civilization as multi-culti-green-globalism tries to roll over everything? What new fronds will grow up from the digested mass media and symbols that once were considered holy and proud? Even my own “Tales From the Dream Nebula” is supping on small pieces and inspirations from dozens if not hundreds of sources, drawing itself a new vitality from the loam of creative history. Am I making something new and fresh, or am I making a mosaic out of the pieces of entertainment symbols as I dance in the graveyard garbage dump that is the current state of pop culture?

Early in my writing endeavors that I realized there was a chance my books would be my only bid for immortality in a world where there is no immortality. With no prospects for progeny, this was where I would grasp the mane of eternity and attempt to hang on as long as I could. But in the end, just like every artist that came before me, how long would it be before I was forgotten. Would it be the day after I died and my manuscripts were thrown into the trash? Would my tombstone wear away in the rain? The internet is not forever. It must have electricity and human desire to persevere… or would (as some would believe… not me) some A.I. rise up and delete all of man’s history in a microsecond? None of us know for sure, but we who create all hope to be the exception to the rule, and are re-discovered like “Beowulf” or never forgotten like Homer’s “Odyssey”.

So we circle back to the original question, but now standing on top of a giant societal “Butte Des Mortes” and cry out to any who will listen:

“And then what happens?”

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