Envisioning the Unimaginable

As anyone who has read any of my last few entries here knows, I am a bit conflicted about my writing right now.  A bit conflicted, now there’s an understatement worthy of the ages!  At this moment, I don’t know whether I’ll ever write again, and last week I was sure I wouldn’t, but I’ll say a few more words about that at the end.  Right now, I just want to have some fun.

We’ve heard a lot over the past weeks about budget battles, government shutdowns, and the trillions and trillions of dollars being thrown around like we’re talking about some kid’s allowance.  Most people in the modern world have some idea of what a billion is (It’s 10% of an aircraft carrier), but a trillion . . .  We might be talking about the distance to the center of the galaxy for all that means to the average citizen, so I decided to do a bit of research, and see what a trillion might be compared to.  Buckle up, you’re going to love this!

If Jesus had sued the Romans for the way he was treated, and the courts of the day had awarded him a billion shekels (or whatever they used back then) to be paid at the rate of one million per day, it would have taken them two-and-a-half years to finish paying him.  If he had been awarded a trillion shekels, to be paid at the rate of one million per day, they would paying him until the year 2739.  Stunned yet?

Let’s say you won the SuperLotto or a settlement for $1,000,000, and it’s going to be handed to you in crisp new $1,000 bills, crisp and new so they lay close together with no air space making the stack fatter.  How tall will that stack be?  If you guessed 6½ inches, we have a winner!  If you win a billion dollars, you’d better bring a full-size pickup, because that stack will come in at 550 feet, about the same as the Washington Monument.  A trillion dollars?  Ninety-five miles high.  The Space Station will hit it when it comes over.

One more?  All right.  I particularly enjoy this one.  Approximately one billion seconds ago, John F. Kennedy was having his famous presidential debates with Richard Nixon; one trillion seconds ago, man was discovering fire.

And now, the promised few words:  Virtually all that I have completed of Stingaree is up and ready to read, twelve chapters of a prospective 24.  Half of Chapter Thirteen is complete, and will be added probably tomorrow.  That leaves me with half a book to write, and that will be done before I work on anything else.  Stingaree has proven to be one of my more popular endeavors, and if I can’t finish that for the wonderful people who have expressed their appreciation of it, then I won’t leave them hanging while I move on to other things.  Likewise, Chameleon is moving along.  That is complete, as is Broken English, which is coming along behind it, and both will be added a scene at a time.  I have other ideas tickling the back of my mind, but Stingaree first.  Then I’ll see whether I have any gas left in the tank for future projects.

Meanwhile, one thing I’m not conflicted about is what constitutes an interesting read, so let’s get this week’s expedition on the road to those particular discoveries, shall we?

Interesting Books . . .

ThingsI'veLearned

Things I’ve Learned from the Homeless by Glen Dunzweiler.  Glen Dunzweiler is a filmmaker, producer, writer and public speaker.  He started his work with homelessness in 2010 when making his documentary “yHomeless?”  After years of seeing the public bang their heads up against the same homeless issues, he was driven to write this primer.  Things I’ve Learned from the Homeless looks to explain the world that housed individuals are often frustrated by.  The goal is to flip viewpoints on homelessness, to create new dialogues, and to inspire action.  Glen Dunzweiler invites you to get into it with him, so we can all start to figure this out.  Do the homeless anger you?  Frustrate you?  Scare you?  Sadden you?  Confuse you?  Make you want to DO something?  Read this book.  99c on Kindle.

ShadowFiles

The Shadow Files: A Limited Edition Collection of Supernatural Suspense Stories.  Twenty-three novels by various authors.  Follow the lives of your favorite paranormal entities as they battle what lurks within the shadows of their supernatural worlds.  Dance with Lucifer, experience love from beyond the grave, solve a case . . .  Grimm-style.  Join the dark side with vampires, cursed bootleggers, a wicked succubus, a demon prince, and the Devil’s daughter herself.  Partner with private eyes with psychic third eyes, mages who resurrect rebel angels, and witches as they hunt down denizens of the dark.  Take a walk down a mysterious dark alley with a magician as you battle murderers, relic hunters, and Nazis.  And follow voodoo priestesses as they spy on nefarious secret societies and discover the literal heart of a serial killer in hopes of defeating the deadly creatures lurking in the shadows.  Tangle with vampires, discover relics and get ready for adventures more exciting than Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones!  Follow mages and rebel angels as they battle the evil threatening to end magic . . . forever.  All this and more can be found inside these exciting and mystical stories!  99¢ on Kindle.

SavingGrace

Saving Grace by Hannah Howe.  The Western Mail, 2 August 1876:  Sensation in the Charles Petrie Case!  “Readers may recall that a young banker, by name Mr Charles Petrie, with every opportunity of succeeding in his profession, and commanding a not illiberal income, returned home after riding his horse to dine with his wife, Grace, and her companion, Mrs Quinn.  During and after dinner he had nothing to excite him save the receipt of a letter which somewhat annoyed him, and that his wife consumed rather more wine than he considered to be good for her health.  Immediately after retiring to his room he was seized with symptoms of irritant poisoning, and despite every effort made on his behalf, he succumbed to its effects.  An inquest was held, which vexed the minds of the Coroner’s jury to a degree without precedent in Coroners’ Inquest Law, and an open verdict was returned.  However, the matter will not rest there, for after questions in Parliament, a second inquest has been called under suspicion that Mr Charles Petrie was murdered.”  Who poisoned Charles Petrie?  Dr James Collymore, a man familiar with poisons, a man harboring a dark secret that, if exposed, would ruin his career; Florrie, the maid who supplied Charles with his bedtime drink; Bert Kemp, a disgruntled groom, who used poisons in his work, who four months previously had predicted Charles’ dying day; Mrs Jennet Quinn, a lady’s companion with a deep knowledge of poisons, and a deep fear of dismissal; or Grace Petrie, Charles’ wife of four months, a woman with a scandalous past, a woman shunned by polite society.  With crowds flocking to the courtroom and the shadow of suspicion falling upon Grace in the shape of the hangman’s noose, could dashing young advocate, Daniel Morgan, save her?  99c on Kindle.

RogueStar

Rogue Star by Jasper T. Scott.  A dead star is headed for Earth . . .  The shift in Earth’s orbit will unleash a new ice age . . .  And this summer will be our last.  Logan Willis’s life is falling apart: he lost his job and found out that his wife is cheating on him all in the same day.  Thinking that his world has ended, Logan checks into a hotel and turns on the TV to see that he’s not far wrong—radio telescopes have detected mysterious signals coming from inside our solar system, and the source is moving toward us at over 500 miles per second.  The media concludes that these signals must be of an alien origin.  Still reeling from the news, Logan gets a phone call from his brother-in-law.  Richard is talking crazy about the end of the world again, but this time he doesn’t sound so crazy.  Meanwhile, Richard, who is an astronomer working with the James Webb Space Telescope, is at the White House briefing the president to announce what he and the government have known for almost a decade: aliens are not invading, a frozen ball of gas is.  The so-called rogue star is predicted to make a near pass with Earth, disrupting our orbit and unleashing an ice age, the likes of which we haven’t seen for millions of years.  Government insider, Billionaire Akron Massey, has received a steady flow of funding over the past decade for his company, Starcast, to put a colony on Mars.  Over the same period he’s been using his personal fortune to create a colony closer to home where he plans to ride out the coming storm along with a thousand of the smartest people on the planet.  Humanity will need seeds to plant in the ashes after the chaos clears.  When the true nature of the threat becomes known, the nations of Earth prepare to fight over all the warmest parts of the planet.  But as war fleets set sail and armies begin marching south, a stunning discovery is made that will change a lot more than just the weather.  $2.99 on Kindle.

Mysteria

Mysteria by David Hayes and friends.  Be prepared to be spooked, but also be prepared to expect the unexpected.  These are written to come at you from an entirely unexpected direction.  There is more than a touch of the Gothic and macabre about these stories.  In fact they are steeped in it.  They are flesh-crawlingly delicious, and a treat for devotees of the paranormal.  This is a collection of short stories.  They are long enough to grip the reader, but brief enough to be read in a tea break or on a train – but why not treat yourself to a good spook-fest, and read them in the comfort of your armchair as the rain patters against the windowpane, and the wind howls its mournful tune – well, you get the idea.  Read it wherever you feel most comfortable (or uncomfortable!).  Just for good measure, I have also included a handful of stories (and a poem) from other authors who are friends of mine.  You will find these scattered throughout the book at random intervals.  So if you see the story title, and then a name, this will be a story from one of my friends, so watch out for Bernie Morris, David Clarke, Ann Perry and Lesley Hanson. See you on the other side!  $2.99 on Kindle.

SinfulCinderella

Sinful Cinderella by Anita Valle. I’m not who they think I am, a docile girl who meekly obeys her stepmother and stepsisters.  Some kind of sick angel who cheerfully bears their mistreatment.  That’s what I WANT them to think.  Because then they won’t suspect what I’m really up to.  The ball, the prince – it’s all part of my plan to come out on top.  Stepmother and her demented daughters will pay for every floor I have scoured, every sneer I have borne.  They don’t know about the white magic, how I use it to enhance myself.  They can’t see that my heart is black as midnight, rotten as a poisoned apple.  They’re about to find out.  99¢ on Kindle.

StoneSeekersFront

The Stone Seekers by Jack Tyler.  The Settlements clung precariously to a hostile shore where the very ground opposed them.  The people, fleeing a vicious tyrant, had crossed an ocean to get here, and had nowhere else to go.  They bore with them a parting gift from a powerful mage, the Wellstone, an artifact that could locate clean water among the vile poisons their new land offered.  When it is stolen in a raid by creatures of the surrounding forest, there is no choice but to go in pursuit.  But with who?  The entire combined militia of all the towns haven’t the power to overcome the forest denizens, so a skilled tracker and a savage warrior are sent to achieve through stealth what cannot be accomplished by force.  What possible chance could two people have?  No dwarves, no elves, no sign of Tolkien’s vast shadow.  99¢ on Kindle.

Interesting Reads . . .

Richard Paolinelli, writing on his blog The Eclectic Scribe, begins this week’s offerings on a chilling note, as he discusses the aftermath and possible future course of events following the assault on Jeremy Hambly at last fortnight’s GenCon 2018.  The background situation he describes is news to me, but it bears looking into.

I was followed over the weekend by an entity known as Inmate Blogger.  I still have a great deal to learn about how they work, but they seem to be a clearing house for blogs written by inmates of our penal institutions.  Their intro states,

This site is a collection of blogs written by inmates. It serves as a platform which allows them to share their individual stories, opinions, talents, and their inner thoughts. You can lock up a man, but you can’t lock up their mind. We support, understand, and believe that writing can be a great source of rehabilitation, growth, and healing.”

I’m fairly certain that convicted criminals aren’t given free access to computers, so this may be an earned privilege, I don’t know.  I also don’t know whether you can expect replies when you offer comments, but these boys and girls don’t blog about their favorite little themed coffee shop or the latest hair trends for tweens.  There is some heavy stuff here.  Heavy and often amazing.  If you’re up for some of the more advanced reading to be found on the web, a few samples from those I received this morning are Introducing Michael Sammons, Forever Young, and Father Figure.  The grammar and spelling may not be up to the standard we published authors are accustomed to, but the power and feeling present in every sentence are often overwhelming; we could take lessons . . .

Richie Billing, another name that gets a lot of play on these pages, takes his readers deep with a study of the many sub-genres of fantasy.  From High to Low, Epic to Grimdark, come see what all the buzz is about in what is arguably the widest-ranging field in all of fiction.

Charles Phipps, prolific independent author, blogging on his United Federation of Charles site, lays out his 15 Tips for Indie Authors, very much worth a read if you’re still a babe in the woods trying to make sense of the complete, unfettered freedom available to you as an indie.  It’s a world with no rulebook, quite literally none, but there are some unwritten guidelines that it’s worthwhile to follow, and Charles touches on a lot of them here.

I’ve been contemplating writing some horror over the past couple of months, and in a timely coincidence, Ruthanna Emrys, blogging for NPR, writes about the modern function of the horror genre.  This is a wonderful read, and is highly recommended whether you’re thinking about looking into it, or are already steeped in the lore.

And that’s 30 for today.  Be here next Sunday, when I’ll have more brilliant reading for you, my own and that of others.  See you then!

Mind Your Language!

“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.”

~ MARK TWAIN

Before I get started on today’s post, I have a bit of news to offer:  I have invested some time, effort, and coin in the pursuit of being professional… or at least looking professional.   I have bought my domain name, and can now be found at simply blimprider.com.  No Blogspot, Weebly, WordPress, or anything else, just purely me.  Don’t worry, though, your old bookmarks will still work.  This is a substantial outlay for a guy on a fixed income, but I do have a small recreational allowance, and this is how I chose to spend it.  And what brought this about, you ask?

My dearly beloved has macular degeneration, and last week I drove her to her treatment, which involves having her pupils dilated, then a hypodermic injection into her eyeball!  It doesn’t seem to bother her much, but it freaks the hell out of me every time.  Anyway, this leaves her eyes hypersensitive to light for a few hours after, and ordinary shades don’t seem to help it much, so last visit, I told her that I’d wear my steampunk goggles on my patrol cap, and after her treatment, she could put them on.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Card

She did, and they worked great, but that isn’t the story.  All the time I was walking around the hospital in these, I was getting favorable comments and questions about them.  It felt like I could have moved a stack of books had I had some with me, and that gave me the idea to print up some business cards promoting this website.  If I wear this hat everywhere, and hand out cards to anyone who expresses an interest, I should generate at least some local sales, right?  Yeah, that’s not going to work, but I’ll sure have some fun while I’m doing it!

[For those who might want to try their own luck with this, the company is VistaPrint.  They offer cards, coffee mugs, hats, shirts, and a dozen or so other ways to promote your own activity.  Their prices are reasonable, and they offer a substantial first-order discount.  Very much worth a look if you’re looking for something to hand out at cons, etc.]

. . . . . . . . . .

In my last post I touted the wonders of a European website called Irevuo.  I stand by that glowing appraisal, as it really is a site based on high-quality content.  The thing is, Cristian’s computer has gone belly-up, and until he can replace it, he is limited to working with his phone, which is okay for some things, but not so hot for the wonderful graphics he’s known for.  You can read the disheartening story here.  Included in the story is a PayPal request he has initiated to try to get back in business.  I have a simple request to make of my readers, that you visit his site, read his work, and if you find it worth supporting and you can afford it, send him a few bucks.  Nothing you can’t spare, but if a lot of us each send him a modest donation, it could return him to operation much more quickly than he can get there himself.

During our conversation, he mentioned that he is in Romania, and that English is not his first language.  You’d never know it to read his posts; he handles what may be the most convoluted language on earth with the grace of a native speaker.  Inspired by his facility, I’m reposting an old article that I put together for writing.com a year or so ago.  I found it to be great fun.  I hope you will, too!

. . . . . . . . . .

Have you ever wondered at what a wonderful language English is?  Within its quarter-million words can be found reasonable ways to describe black as white, and up as down.  This comes largely from its proclivity to “borrow” useful words and terms from foreign tongues, and sometimes the rules that go with them.  We’ve all heard that old saw, “Why do we drive on a parkway, but park in a driveway?”  I always thought that was pretty funny, but then one day I heard, “Why isn’t Great Britain known as the United Queendom?” and I realized that, far from being the exception, these things must be as common as air!  I went on a quest to collect them during the early 90s, and cleaning out a box of old papers recently, I found a couple of sheets where I had gathered a good number of them in one place.  So, for those who enjoy this kind of thing, here are the oddisms that I’d gathered by the time I lost interest around twenty years ago.
~ Why do privates eat in the general mess, and generals eat in the private mess?
~ How is it that darkrooms can be lit?
~ Nightmares can take place in broad daylight while morning sickness and daydreaming can happen at night.
~ Hours, especially happy hours and rush hours, often last longer than sixty minutes, and others, especially lunch hours, can be far less.
~ Why is it that a woman can man a station, but a man can’t woman one? For that matter, how can a man father a movement, but a woman can’t mother one?
~ Why isn’t phonetic spelled phonetically?
~ Why is there no synonym for synonym or thesaurus?
~ If adults commit adultery, do infants commit infantry?
~ If the plural of tooth is teeth, is the plural of booth beeth?
~ If a person wrote a letter, is it not possible that he bote his tongue during the process?
~ We conceive at a conception, and receive at a reception.  Does it not follow that we should grieve at a greption and believe a beleption?
~ How are a caregiver and a caretaker the same thing?  How about sharp speech and blunt speech?
~ If bad and good, hard and soft, and up and down are opposites, how is it that badly and goodly, hardly and softly, and upright and downright aren’t?
~ Why are pertinent and impertinent, canny and uncanny, and famous and infamous neither opposites nor the same?
~ Why does night fall but never break, and day break but never fall?
~ Why do we pack suits in a garment bag and garments in a suitcase?
~ Is it still homework if you do it in school?
~ Does anyone remember why push-button telephones are dialed?
~ Why are they called apartments when they’re all together?
~ Why is the word abbreviation so long?
~ If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian consume?
~ If people ring a bell today, and rang a bell yesterday, why don’t we say they flang a ball?
~ If a horsehair mat is made from the hair of horses, what is a mohair coat made out of?
~ A slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing, but a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.
~ Appropriate and inappropriate are opposites, yet flammable and inflammable are the same.
~ Why do we play at a recital, and recite at a play?
~ How is that your nose runs, and your feet smell?
~ Hot dogs can be cold.
~ Boxing rings are square.
~ Why do they sell you a TV set, then only give you one?
~ Why is it so hard to remember how to spell mnemonic?
~ Why doesn’t onomatopoeia sound like what it is?
~ If olive oil is made from olives, then what, pray tell, is baby oil made from?
~ A writer is someone who writes, and a stinger is something that stings, yet fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham.  Nor, for that matter, do humdingers humding.
~ How is it that I flew out to see a World Series game in which my favorite player flied out?
~ How can the weather be hot as hell one day, and cold as hell the next?
~ If harmless and harmful are opposites, why aren’t shameless and shameful?
~ If passable and impassable roads are opposites, why are passive and impassive people the same?
~ Why is it that when the sun, moon, or stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they aren’t?
~ When I clip a coupon from a newspaper, I separate it, but when I clip a coupon to a newspaper, I fasten it.
~ Why is it that when we transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when we transport something by ship, it’s cargo?
~ Tablecloths can be made of paper, and what, exactly, is plastic silverware?
~ Why is diminutive so undiminutive?
~ One goose, two geese, so one moose, two meese?
~ If the teacher taught, why then hasn’t the preacher praught?
~ Last time I went swimming, I treaded water, then trod on the beach.
~ How is it that pricey objects are less expensive than priceless ones?
~ Tomboys are always girls, but midwives can be men.
~ Quicksand works very slowly.
~ Fact:  The majority of bathrooms contain no bath.  And isn’t it just a bit odd that we go to the bathroom in order to go to the bathroom?
~ Why does the word monosyllabic contain five syllables?
~ If button and unbutton, and tie and untie are opposites, why then are loosen and unloosen, and ravel and unravel the same?
~ Why does a man get a hernia, but a woman gets a hysterectomy?
~ If pro is the opposite of con, is congress the opposite of progress?
~ Why do we call people who ride motorcycles “bikers” while those who ride bikes are called “cyclists?”
~ By what logic does “lisp” have an S in it?
~ Quite a lot and quite a few are the same, but overlook and oversee are opposites.
~ How can raise and raze, and reckless and wreckless be opposites when each pair contains the same sound?
~ In what other language is the third hand on a clock called the second hand?
~ If a firefighter fights fire, what does a freedom fighter fight?
~ Why do we call it newsprint when it contains no printing, but after we print on it, it becomes a newspaper?
~ Why is it the sun shone yesterday while I shined my shoes?
~ Why is it that when I wind up my watch, I’m starting it, but when I wind up this blog, I’m stopping it?

I hope you had fun with these.  I must hasten to point out that the majority of them came from the years I spent working alone on many weekends.  I would turn on the radio to keep me company, and a regular stop was a PBS show called A Way With Words, hosted by Richard Lederer.  He had a series of co-hosts, and they often trotted these things out.  There were other sources, magazine articles, TV shows, and things I heard in conversations, and I diligently took note of them, thinking they might help some day in my writing career.  I guess I was right; twenty years on, I got a blog post out of it!

Survival Tool

“It’s not the most intellectual job in the world, but I do have to know the letters.”
~ VANNA WHITE

We’re all aware of survival tools.  Every creature has developed ways to keep itself alive.  From the rhino’s horn to the elephant’s bulk to the cheetah’s speed, we all have a master plan.  Pet owners know.  The dog’s survival tools are its teeth, and it constantly gnaws on stuff (hopefully not your favorite shoes!) to keep them sharp and polished.  With cats, it’s their claws, and anyone who has lived around a cat has experienced the joy of clawed-up possessions, from books to furniture.  A cat’s gotta be prepared, man!

So, what is your survival tool, fellow humanoid?  Our “claws” are pathetic fingernails, our teeth blunt seed-mashers, and we are one of the, if not the slowest large animal on the planet.  So, how have we risen to our position of dominance?  Why, our brains, of course!  That three pounds of fatty goo between our ears has placed us at the top of every food chain on earth.  But if dogs gnaw and cats claw, how, pray tell, do we exercise a lump of tissue that sits inside its armored case and is incapable of movement?  By having, and more importantly, giving free rein to an imagination, and the richer, the better.  Your brain solves problems.  From the early problems of making fire and inventing speech to the modern problems of exploring space and the ocean deeps, that’s what it does, but in order for it to maintain its health and youthful flexibility, you have to let it off the chain once in a while to go exploring.  Those who don’t grow up to wear gray suits to their bean-counting jobs, and likely keep their ties on when they go to bed.

This is where fiction comes in.  Some of us read it, and some of us write it, but we all partake in one way or another.  Every ancient myth of some monster in the woods, every legend of a great warrior, protector, or pied piper is a tale that someone made up.  Some were attempts to explain what couldn’t be explained by the knowledge of the time, others were cut from whole cloth.  Some were cautionary, warning the children, for example, not to go into the woods, but they were all fiction.  Every age has its flavor.  When the Ancient Greeks spoke of Hercules or Pegasus, these were beings that they thought there was a chance that they might meet during their lifetimes.  Victorians were heavily into seances, read stories of lost worlds, and hung on lurid tales of celebrity explorers describing humans being sacrificed to man-eating plants in darkest Africa.  Today, we favor alien abduction stories and conspiracy theories, but what these things all have in common is that they represent the free rein of imagination, and are at their core that big, active brain getting its exercise.

And this brings us to our niche as writers of fiction.  I have heard pundits say that the novel, a recent construct in the world of literature, is on its way out as an art form, that the electronic revolution has shortened the average attention span to where the writer has to get in, finish up, and get out within about two minutes.  That might be true, although that would sadden me greatly, but storytelling is going to exist in one form or another as long as homo sapiens endures as a species.  We perform an invaluable service to mankind; we are the personal trainers for the brains, and no advanced thinker who has expanded the horizons of mankind’s knowledge, no Carl Sagan, no Neil DeGrasse Tyson, no Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, would have been able to accomplish what he did without a free, active, and well-developed imagination, so if you’ve been making contributions to mind-expansion, no matter how small, stand up and take a bow.  Humanity wouldn’t have come a fraction as far as it has without your efforts.  Yours, and the sea of writers who came before you.  And make no mistake, movies, plays, TV shows, games, music, and any form of audio or visual entertainment, is first written before it is placed on film, tape, CD, or whatever, and that’s what you do.  What we do.  Without the efforts of writers, we’d still be living in the Dark Ages, if we were that far along, so the next time someone suggests that you’re “just” a writer, nod knowingly with an enigmatic smile, mutter, “Right,” and go about your business, knowing what your contribution is, and what that person’s isn’t.  It’ll make your day!