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It’s About What You Believe

kind2I learned to love Kurt Vonnegut decades ago, based on reading only six of his earliest and most famous works. Much later, I tried to read Breakfast of Champions and couldn’t get through it. I never even tried his later novels. He’d changed. I’d changed. Or maybe, I’d just gotten from him the one message that I most needed to hear.

For all that I loved his cynicism and his humor, this one quote was it. The words have stuck with me through decades of living.

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” — God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

That’s right. All that wit and imagination of his, and this was my main take-away. I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that was disrespectful, although I think Mr. Vonnegut wouldn’t have minded a bit.

I’m attempting to summarize what I do believe in and it’s been an interesting exercise. Am I dying soon? Planing to run for public office? No, neither. I just really liked the movie “Wonder Woman” and it got me thinking.

What do I believe in so strongly that I want it to shape my behavior?

At this point, you might be concerned that too much of my personal philosophy comes from science fiction, but I’ll argue back. Stories of a speculative nature throw out a lot of societal constraints found in other frameworks, making it a fine realm in which to develop one’s code of ethics. It is absolutely where I have developed mine.

And I have the fictional Eliot Rosewater to thank for my most central belief. If I can’t be anything else, I want to be kind.

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in being better, other authors

 

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“The Martian” and why do we like what we like?

oscarWhen the motion picture academy opted to nominate 8 movies for best picture a few years ago instead of five, I was delighted. I enjoy watching the lengthy spectacle every year for reasons I don’t understand, and it is always more fun if I’ve seen at least one of the movies. Or at least heard of one. Some years are better than others and often I develop a deep emotional attachment with a certain movie. Last year it was The Imitation Game, the only one I’d seen by March, but I loved it no less for its lack of competition in my mind. Okay — maybe it is not entirely healthy to get so wrapped up in which picture wins, but hey, I live in a culture where fans actually cry when their sports teams lose, so cut me some slack.

This year, I have another such favorite. Science Fiction fanatic that I am, it is not surprising that I am cheering on “The Martian”. However, I’ve seen not one but two of the movies on the list this year, and I liked the other as well. Tom Hanks’ quietly ethical insurance lawyer had me rooting for him, and left me wondering why I preferred “The Martian” to “Bridge of Spies.” It’s not a better movie really. So what gives?

marsIt’s back to the old empathy thing, I think. I don’t have a personal link with spies or lawyers or the history of the cold war, but the astronaut wannabe in me identified so much with the man left behind. I’ve lived in Houston, toured NASA, read countless things about manned missions to Mars as background for my own book d4. But it goes further than that.

I am in awe of Andy Weir, who wrote the well researched and highly accurate book about an astronaut stranded on Mars. He was a little known science fiction author, well, just like me. Word is that he got frustrated having his stories turned down by publishers, and that in 2011 he started posting chapters of “The Martian” to his website instead. How could I not love this guy? Of course I want his movie to win.

There is another odd link, one that might even be less obvious but stronger. I have used music in each of my five books, and spent a lot of time selecting the songs that my heroes would like and possibly turn to as they developed their super powers. I have this goofy attachment to all 54 songs. So I’m watching the end of “The Martian,” thankful that the author went ahead and let me have a feel good movie without the need to kill off a character or two, and then it started.

http://www.gloriagaynor.com/One of the most pivotal songs referred to in x0 is Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” I have listened to that song countless times in the past four years as I wrote, revised and blogged about my book. And there it was! Someone had the good sense to let the song run in its entirety all the through the credits and by the end I was squirming in my seat at what a perfect addition it was to the movie. In fact, I wondered why it wasn’t included in the body of the movie itself. Was it an editing choice by the director or a stipulation by the musician? Either way, the song clinched it for me. “The Martian” has got to win.

Which brings me to the topic of personal taste. My preferences are not about how well done an artistic endeavor is. I like to think that some amount of quality is needed for me to like something, but it’s more than that. It includes what I am familiar with, what I understand, and what I enjoy. I like movies about basically good people that end well. No, I didn’t enjoy the Sopranos or Breaking Bad. On the other hand, I wasn’t a huge fan of any Rocky movie and probably won’t see Creed because I also like stories about science and smart people and care very little about sports. I do like to be surprised (“Sixth Sense” was fun) but not jerked around so much I get lost. I don’t like the disgusting. You get the idea. It isn’t about quality, it’s about me. And I suspect that when you pick things you like, it’s about you.

Are you an action-loving Mad Max Fury Road type? History? Wilderness survival? Maybe you are rooting for The Revenant. I don’t think there is a right answer here. Academy members are supposed to weigh in on the objective merits, but we consumers get to like what we like. It’s an important rule for a writer to remember, when she’s on the other side and a reader is judging her creations. Take a breath. Don’t take it personally. Everyone gets to like what they like.

One thing I do like is this video of Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive” superimposed with a clips of a a graceful yet vulnerable figure skater. If you are anything like me, it will have you standing up and yelling “Yes” by the end and possibly even twirling around yourself a few times while you belt out a “I Will Survive” or two along with Gloria. It makes me think of staying alive on Mars. It makes me believe that no matter how many bad reviews I get, I will survive as a writer. It makes me feel good.

And if your not anything like me? Well, that is fine too.

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in empathy, music for peace, other authors, writing

 

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flash fiction contest with real prizes

Meet Micheal Brookes. He is the author of “The Cult of Me” and “Conversations in the Abyss” and has been featured and interviewed on my y1 blog here and also on my z2 blog here. He has started a contest for flash fiction writers on his own blog and has asked me to help spread the word. He is handing out real prizes (that is, Amazon gift cards) for those who can produce the best stories of 500 words or less based on a photo.

Interested? Click here.  If you let me know that you did, I’ll watch for your entry and give you a little extra publicity myself if you win.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in other authors

 

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Conversations in the Abyss

The book sounds every bit as cool as its title.  Please check out an interview with the author on my z2 blog at Conversations in the Abyss.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in other authors

 

Come dance on Callisto

Join me in a sneak peak at another world. Callisto. Jupiter’s second largest moon. Rob Lopez writes that it is “Cold enough to suck the heat out of any pressure suit, and scoured by lethal levels of radiation every sixteen days as it orbits through Jupiter’s magnetotail. Nobody in their right mind would want to live there.”

But, in Rob’s newly created world in his latest book “Even the Dead Dance to Live”, people do live there. Read on for the rest of the book’s blurb, a little bit more about Rob, and a few questions Rob answered just for readers of this blog.

“Humanity built its first space city there. And for a while it looked like a good prospect. Mankind’s stepping stone to the stars. It’s all gone wrong though. Civilization is crumbling. And the cycle of life and death is whirling faster than was ever intended. Survival is a delicate balancing act that requires soft and careful steps.

Enter Shakespeare Cruz, a man on the run from his own dark past. He doesn’t do soft. And he’s anything but delicate. He’s got a price on his head, enemies on his tail and an ever tightening noose around his neck. He’s got a warlord who wants him to keep his appointment with death and a ghost who wants him to fulfill an impossible obligation. It’s not clear that either of them has picked the right man for the job. The time has come for him to make his choice however, and he’s got to make it fast. At stake is the soul of a city, the memory of a woman, and the life of one little girl. Only one thing is certain – it’s going to get ugly.”

About Rob Lopez:  Born in Leicester, UK, in 1966, Rob Lopez says  that he led a sheltered childhood, hermetically sealed inside his own head. He says ….. “I was vaguely aware of the 70’s – apparently a lot of stuff happened – but I was too busy reading war comics to notice….. When I left school my one qualification was daydreaming but I couldn’t seem to find a job for that. I saw an ad for a college course in electronics in a place that wasn’t Leicester. It was my first break away from home and I never looked back.”He adds that “College wasn’t a great place to learn ….[and] by then [I] had moved onto fantasy and science fiction, and, for some reason, it occurred to me that I might want to be a writer. Within seven months I was unemployed, homeless and in deep shit. I washed up in a seaside town for the winter, nursing a bleak depression and surviving on biscuits. But I carried on, walking every day to the library to work in the warm on my first novel. When spring came I gathered my saved dole money and got out of town, heading south with the aim of getting as far as I could before the money ran out. As it turned out that only took four days. The year was 1989 and the eighties were about to end, though I’d been too busy to really notice much about them. Apparently a lot of stuff happened.”He met his wife, had a daughter, finished his first novel, decided it was trash, and “decided  it was time to grow up and get a real job so I became a youth worker, then a mechanic, then a community worker, then a teaching assistant. By the time I got a job as a shop assistant the nineties were coming to an end and another empty era was nearly over. I mean, did anything happen in the nineties? I don’t know.”

“I got to work on my second novel. Then my third novel, then my fourth. Were they any good? No, but learning the hard way was a family motto by now and I gradually picked up the art of wrestling my dreams into paragraphs and tacking them together into a coherent form. My fifth novel, Even the dead dance to live, is the result, brought to you by the technology of the web and available on Kindle at Amazon here.

Rob answers a few questions just for this blog:
Your book has an attention grabbing name. Are you willing to share with those of us who haven’t read it yet where the name came from?
It’s a fairly urban novel, set as it is in a colony city, and dancing, jiving or ‘ducking and diving’ are common street terms for simply getting by in the face of things you can’t control, so I used that as a motif. I did a lot of research into conflict zones around the world, like Mogadishu, Beirut and Baghdad, and you just find these people who, no matter how bad things get, still have to get on with life. I tried to capture some of that in the novel, with different characters reacting in different ways to their environment, but all essentially seeking to do the same thing: survive. As for the part the dead play in all this, that’s a bit of sub-plot and back-story that will only make sense in the last line of the book.What’s the next project?  Will there be a more action on Callisto?
Yes, most definitely. Even as I type, there are several characters from the first novel struggling through the chaos and the anarchy, their lives on the line and with time running out. As it undoubtedly always is . When I completed the first novel I thought I had finished with Callisto, but Callisto clearly hadn’t finished with me, and there turned out to be more to tell. The next novel will probably be titled, There Are No Angels In Heaven, and it’s looking like a late 2013 completion date. But a lot can still happen, so don’t hold me to that.I read your author page at http://www.amazon.com/Rob-Lopez/e/B007SA1LIK and had to laugh. It is true that people hardly ever read these things.  You say that you aspire to write “kick-ass action with interesting characters and a little more depth”. This sounds like a very good plan.  So which of these did you think “Even The Dead Dance To Live”  achieves most effectively?  Or is there something else entirely about the book that you like better?
Oh. My. God. Someone read that! Do you ever have that moment when, after making a glib, throw-away comment, someone decides to hold you to it? No, me neither. Because I thought about every word of that statement carefully… well, sort of. But actually, it’s not so much a plan as a description of what I think  Even The Dead is. It’s certainly kick-ass. Quite violent in fact, so perhaps not for the faint hearted. The characters are certainly something I work hard on. They own the story. Science fiction is frequently accused of producing wafer-thin characters that are just cyphers for some nerdy concept, and I really, really wanted to avoid that. If it’s not really about the characters, their dilemmas, traumas, decisions, then I’m just not interested. Getting the characters right is what keeps me up at night. As for the little more depth – well, it’s not a Literary novel, but I did want more than just a series of actions. As reviewers have noted, it’s not a black and white, good guys versus bad guys book. I wanted some complexity in the character motivations, but also in the settings that they have to wade through. I don’t like the simplistic political backdrops that, again, are too frequent in sci-fi. Life’s never that simple, and I wanted to express a little of that. Not too much, as I’ve got to think about the pace. But enough to make the place feel lived in and real. As for aspiration – yes, I aim to write more like that, and to get even better at it. But that too is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. C’est la vie.

Check out Rob’s blog here.
 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in other authors

 

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Introducing y1’s kindred spirits and “The Cult of Me”

Please visit my other blog for a the start of a new series of kindred spirits, in this case other indie authors who are writing about themes explored in the novel y1. Michael Brookes leads off this series with his fascinating first novel.

Introducing y1’s kindred spirits and “The Cult of Me”.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in other authors

 

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Would you like to visit “The Palace of Eternity?”

Many of us share a fascination for books that cross genre lines, and I thought long and hard about whether to label my own magical realism collection as science fiction or as fantasy, knowing that each genre’s followers have fairly specific expectations.

This is why new indie writer Andre Jones has my staunch admiration.  He has written a three novel series that flies in the face of genre classifications, with multiple story lines firmly rooted in both science fiction and fantasy. Check out the information below on both Andre and on his first novel “The Palace of Eternity” and for a brief interview with this author.

You’d think riding wyverns, and being in the company of a shape-changer and an armoured telepath, you’d be safe enough. Prophecy, however, always turns one reality into another.

Shak’aran is a far away world full of exotic beings intrigue and magic. So how did humans get there?  Leonie is a feline thief, down on her luck and fighting for survival in the uncaring city of Delta. Various cults are after her, as is the Jart’lekk, the local assassins guild. And this is a good day.  In her travels to assist Fieron, her shape-changer companion, Leonie learns more about herself and her past. She also gains many enemies … even the dead ones still come after her. But, regardless of her prowess, her uncanny abilities (and being able to ride wyverns) magic is the cause of her undoing … on this world, at least.

Andre Jones was born and bred on the east coast of Australia. He had a varied childhood (mostly involving something to do with the beach) and developed an early interest in drawing and reading.

A friend introduced him to role playing games – and NOT those of the computer variety – real ones. As most gamers had no doubt realised at some point, a new gaming system could be designed with better rules (and omitting all those ‘nuisance’ rules). Andre developed such a system, then decided it needed its own world to test it. Joining the Navy put a dampener on the this scheme, so all the details were to be included in a book … or so he thought. Also being an avid scifi reader, it was only natural to include aspects of scifi.

‘In the Fullness of Time’ is a trilogy involving fantasy and futuristic Earth. Palace of Eternity is book one, Shadow of the Tower is book two and Depths of Time (working title) is the third and final book.

When pushed, he can’t decide who, if any, writer influenced him the most, but the names of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Harry Harrison adorn his bookshelves along with Katherine Kerr, Stephen Donaldson and Robin Hobb, just to name a few. He now lives in Victoria, Australia, and shares his life with his Scottish wife, daughter and two manic British Shorthair cats. When not writing, he still gets involved with Navy activities, permaculture and designing his straw bale home on his soon-to-be self-sufficient farm.

Sherrie: Have you found it difficult to blend the two different genres of fantasy and science fiction?

Andre: Maybe because I love Science Fiction and Fantasy so much, to me there was no border and therefore no difficulty. I know that may sound crazy to some – magic is fantasy and has no correlation with real science (so how can they be regarded as ‘the same’?) – but through my novels (more specifically in Shadow of the Tower) I tried this analogy: there are natural forces in the universe that, when harnessed correctly – can give you a desired outcome (ie harnessing electricity to give you light). A science-based civilisation uses technology to do this – making wires, filament, bulbs etc. In a low-tech world, ‘magic’ is prominent, they’ve learnt to utilise esoteric means to convert the natural forces to get a desired outcome. But you have to believe 100% that it will work (as well as knowledge and training). A scientist and a sourcer are one and the same – they just used different tools.So, other than the method of hanessing the forces – the results are the same. Its simply that attitude/belief-system of the user that determines what method to use. Spoiler alert – based on that premise, you just might find magic going head-to-head with hi-tech weapons and gadgetry on a futuristic earth … and winning.

Sherrie: What is the thing that  you like best so far about your three novel series?
Andre: A couple of things come to mind: I may be wrong (there could be bias ;), but I feel that there’s a slightly different aspect of the magic and hi-tech blend, the theory behind it and the way it manifests in the ‘real’ world. Also, timetravel is a concept that I find extremely intriguing and the various paradoxes that it can cause. You can’t travel through time without travelling through space. I remove the need to have massive engines for FTL travel or ‘hyperspace’.
Note that Andre will be publishing his series online soon and I will run information here on where one can purchase his book.  In the meantime, you can check out the first twenty chapters at Worthy of Publishing .

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in other authors

 

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