Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review -- City of Whores

Zingy one-line repartee and poolside parties with Clark Gable and Tallulah Bankhead, exquisitely decorated Hollywood mansions and the best tailor-made suits, trans-Atlantic European cruises and dinners with the rich and famous, such was the life of a nineteen fifties Hollywood star as depicted in the popular magazines  -- the dream for any small town boy or girl who wanted to make it big in Tinseltown.  But behind the glamour, behind all the success and glitz often lay hidden pools of stinking corruption and enough greed and lust to sink the Titanic. Working the well-cultivated ground of California depravity, City of Whores by Mark B. Perry weaves a fantastic and entirely captivating chronicle of the descent into madness and paranoia of a Hollywood threesome that can't ever face the truth or consequences of their illicit sexual attractions.

Underdog Texan Dan Root, a good looker with trembling hands and a self-medicating, Mary Jane jones, drives west to escape his small-town childhood and abusive parents, only to fall into the clutches of a powerful producer, Millie Langford and his famous actress wife Lilly Sinclair. The two provide Root with an alternative family and a ready made Hollywood career complete with screen tests and access to studio roles in exchange for sexual services for Lilly and, in good time, a sexual partner for the tortured and self-loathing Millie. When it becomes clear that he is being toyed with, Dan, now with the ironically ridiculous stage name of Dexter Gaines, tries to break loose but finds he is too enamored of the good life, and of Millie, to get away. It is only years later, with the sordid deaths of Millie and Lilly, that Dexter/Dan gains peace of mind.

Told from the first person perspective of the ingénue Root, City of Whores makes an entirely believable case, explaining and demystifying the world of closeted homosexual shame, pertinent still today. But as with many Hollywood exposes, our solidarity with the denizens of the city of whores comes clouded with a sense of inevitability as we witness the downfalls and tragic unravelings suffered by those enticed by such sordid and empty dreams. Nonetheless, Mr. Perry has produced a page-turner replete with authentic period details, excellent and witty dialogue, and a layered plot worthy of the finest of Hollywood's golden age.

This debut novel by Perry, a veteran television writer and producer of award winning shows such as Northern Exposure and Picket Fences, marks an impressive foray into the world of fiction, although at times it reads like a padded out screenplay with insert here tabs for expanded visual and other sensory details. But there is no doubt that City of Whores is sure to make a splash with readers fond of the behind the scenes, tell-all Hollywood memoirs which provided Mr. Perry with much of his inspiration.
Where to purchase City of Whores

Anthony Caplan is the author of Savior, available as an ebook from Harvard Square Editions and on Amazon.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Good Book for Fall Reading Pleasure - Savior by Anthony Caplan

It is fall now, the season of decay and death and what better thing could there be in this season than a good book to remind ourselves of our condition, either by looking at similar lives under the microscope of an expert observer or by looking at lives seemingly different.

I want you to read my book, Savior, published in April and currently available as an ebook from Harvard Square Editions. So why Savior? Why not the collected works of the esoteric yoga mystic Charles Schitsky or the bound volumes of the six masters of contemporary vampire urban noire? Here's my reason why:

Savior is about a man and his son, normal people, people like you. Let's talk about you.

You have nothing to fear. You are at home, trolling the internet for interesting tidbits, information to spark your interest. Your life proceeds as it always has. Not much changes from day to day and you like it that way. You do not fear for your life or for the lives of your friends and neighbors. There is no authority that is intent on quashing your liberty or your ability to support yourself or your inclinations to a life of pleasure. As far as you know tomorrow will be pretty much the same as today, except that you will be one day older. But you do not even fear the passage of time because you are largely in control, of your destiny, your thoughts and certainly of your actions.

You know that you are okay.

But what if one day you awoke at the bottom of a hole, a prisoner with no hope of mercy from a death cult that was about to take over the reins of power from a largely impotent military/industrial government? What if the one person in your life who might fight for you was a teenage boy who was happier surfing and hanging out with his girlfriend than pushing himself or risking discomfort? How would you keep hope alive? How would you survive?

You are intrigued. Here is an excerpt from the thoughts of Al Lyons, the man in question.

I'm breathing slowly in and out. I'm stringing one breath after another in a prayer chain. I'm thinking hard, focusing my mind on an image of Ricky. My son is fine. He is strong. I know it. Because he is good. And good will always triumph over evil. This is my faith. It is strong. I am strong. But when I hear the train overhead, a chill runs through me.
Maybe he will come today. Not my son. I'm talking Samael Chagnon. It has been many days and I do not miss him. Even so, the toxins he brings strengthen me. The stink of his words gives me the slightest purchase on life, better than the sheer nothingness of solitary imprisonment. The foulness of his ideas sharpens my mind. It is enough to go on. And worth the pain he brings in his wake. I have a high tolerance for pain, especially when I feel myself sinking closer to death. It is a fine line. This is how I demarcate it, one breath after another. Walking that line. But without that shock of contact with the death force of Chagnon, I am unmoored, floating in this sea of blackness. This is an ultimate sort of pain beyond pain, the despair of a wasted breath, a meaningless life that is not worth pursuing down the rat hole of what my mind is in danger of becoming.

The train rolls by again, like a corner of the world coming unhinged. My head is bursting with pulsating waves of pain. I hear my name. He's here again. The guard unbolts the door. I try to open my eyes to the light, but the pain is too much. A short, stoutish figure in a hooded sweatshirt, like a medieval monk, silhouetted by the light, walks in. Next to him are the two guards with shaved heads, black shirts and loose fitting pants who accompany him always, unquestioning, muscular loyalty, the cream of the Santos Muertos, barrio warriors from Tegucigalpa to Las Lomas. With nonchalant inattention, as if I were a sack of inert matter, they strap me down, pinning my arms and legs to the rough mat with rubber ligaments.

It is possible to keep alive in the worst possible conditions, under the worst of circumstances. Al is a prisoner of the Santos Muertos, a gang of thugs who use beheadings and human sacrifice as a tool of terror and subjugation. Sound familiar? I won't give any more away, but read it and let me know what you think. 

(Photo courtesy of New Your Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement

Monday, June 9, 2014

Jareds Juiced on Tea

When you get people full up of conspiracy theories about the government trying to enslave its own citizens, eventually there will be a crack and the weak link will go on a bender for blood. This is what seems to have happened again this weekend in Las Vegas. There is a spectrum of mass murder ailing us, running the gamut from an out and out crazy like Jared Lee Loughner - who shot Gabrielle Giffords in a psychotic haze, to Jerad and Amanda Miller, coherent and politically active Tea Partiers who apparently acted out of a desire to spark a political uprising.

It will be difficult but not impossible for right wingers to claim a distance from these two. It looks like even Cliven Bundy knew they were a couple slices short of a club sandwich - they were asked to leave the Bundy compound in the middle of that family's faux showdown over grazing rights. But what they have in common with Loughner besides a first name, is a propensity to blame the government for all the problems in the world, a propensity they seem to share with the Republican Party platform. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Literary Scene Today

I was going to write about social media. I don't really have any expertise, but who does? But instead I thought i'd touch on a broader idea, and that is the notion of grassroots literary culture. This is the  emerging world of self-publishing and independent publishing that is beginning to shake out authentic voices from the multitude, voices capable of gaining a readership on new literary platforms such as Amazon or Smashwords. Traditional publishing that once held a monopoly sway over opinion and access to print has crumbled under the rush of technological change and societal pressure for reform. Many have been resistant to the revolutionary sweep of the change, including writers who had gotten used to the familiar voice of the old master and his promise of easy living in the big house of belle letters where all writers would have to do was cogitate and dream, untouched by the drama of real life and the possibility of confrontation with authentic rejection. The critique of the new literary landscape until now had been an elitist lament that the unwashed masses were incapable of discerning quality in the written word. But I think this is nonsense on multiple levels. Literature is meant to serve the people and if they are directly engaged in the search for what pleases them, their tastes will be expanded by the variety of new voices they are exposed to.

Instead of a cloistered existence apart from the battlefield of the culture wars, writers now must get used to the fact that their work will be taken up into the whirlwind of debate and argument that marks every corner of our collective life as a people. This is a calling worth pursuing, and not just a new opportunity to chisel out a crust of bread in the form of cheap entertainment. Readers too, must take their responsibilities and opportunities for curation seriously, and help promote the voices that will bring this vision to light.

The reason this is a fresh topic for me is my book SAVIOR, in the middle of its first few months of existence on Amazon, is struggling to find a readership, and every review is like a touchstone marking a victory or defeat on the long march forward. Here's a shout out to Kateshine, for your honest and simple words of support and encouragement in the latest review. It's awesome to connect with readers who have taken the initiative to set down their support.

By the way, SAVIOR will be on sale for 99 cents this week from Thursday, June 5 to Sunday, June 8. Pick up a copy and spread the word by sharing the link:

Illustration from Wikimedia (The Editorial Staff of Krokodil by P Belyanin 1929)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Farm Bulletin: Managing the Wild and Cultivating the Feminine

I hoped my posts would stay inside their boundaries, but life is not that neat and we need to give up our illusions of mastery, especially in a male dominated society. I've said it all, now I just need to put it in the context of Farm and Country bulletin number two.

Weeds. Go easy on them. That's my advice in a  nutshell. Or go easy on yourself, because what is the mania for weed obliteration if not a masked male inferiority complex easily manipulated by the forces of Wall Street and Madison Avenue in a gruesome combination. Go easy on the weeds.

In my case, I spent several years eliminating milkweed from the fields, It took a fair amount of aggression and even hatred channeled into long afternoons of walking and hand pulling to get out the plants by the roots. I knew I was giving in to the forces of Madison Avenue and Wall Street in gruesome combination as referenced earlier, but I did not care. I was determined. I wanted green grass and that was it for my sheep. No offending and unsightly presence of the amazingly productive and almost magical flowering and swaying stalks that produce sustenance for the migrating monarch butterfly. Today I regret what I did and wish we had more monarchs. We used to get swarms of them. Maybe they'll come back. Maybe they won't.

Another example staying with the sheep. They are beautiful animals but prey to many including a parasite known as the barber pole worm that is endemic anywhere there  are sheep. I used to dose like crazy several times a year experimenting with combinations of medications, but then i learned the barber pole was developing massive immunity to all the known medications and I stopped trying. I lose less sheep now. Why? I let them graze on the fields that have not been mowed or weeded. When the grass is longer than four inches there is less chance of the sheep ingesting barber pole larvae. As a culture we need to step back from the impulse to dominate nature with our technological prowess and learn a knew approach. Of course I'm not trying to make a living from the land. As soon as you introduce market forces and you need to maximize profits you have to give up on the Tao of farming and it's open warfare a la Colin Powell with massive infusions of capital, technology and hatred for the wild in order to come out ahead. Is that what's happening to us as a society? We need smarter approaches across the board.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Reaping the Sacrifices

Memorial Day is a great day because it's about memory. And living in the present. And feeling good and feeling sad at the same time because people died for us. And when we feel good and do fun stuff we don't have to feel guilty about it because it's what they died for and would have wanted.

This morning I took one of my daughters down town to watch the parade, It was one of those perfect days, windy and not hot and the town felt clean and fresh as if the summer had not really started and that's largely because it was such a brutal winter people are wearing their tank tops and stuff but not quite believing it can be the right time for it and so being very appreciative of just the simple fact that it was a nice day and the river was running full of water you could tell below the stone bridge and the old people in the Drum Corps with the funny red hats and tassels and scarves wrapped around their too large bellies who march every year looking as immortal and nerdy as ever. Then the parade started and veterans marched by in their uniforms and then followed the town mahoots in the jeeps who came down the street waving followed by the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts and then the little league teams throwing candy. After they marched to the town hall and the little cemetery in the back and fired off some volleys we all adjourned to the bandstand to hear a speech from the high school principal, a 26 year military veteran who graduated from RPI on an ROTC scholarship, married someone from his hometown in Massachusetts and served in the two Gulf Wars before retiring as a colonel on the same day as his 16th wedding anniversary. In other words this was a man you could like and his speech was an exegesis of the Star Spangled Banner complete with facts about Francis Scott Key I did not know, such as he was a successful lawyer with a commission from the US Navy to negotiate the release of US prisoners on board the British warships blockading Fort McHenry. They released the prisoners to him and told him to sail behind their lines as they continued to bombard the fort through the night. So he watched the battle from the decks of his ship out on the water wondering whether the fort which stood between the British and the city of Baltimore could withstand the attack. I didn't know that. And the principal tied this in to questions we all have about whether our missions will succeed in life and whether the sacrifices we make will be worthwhile and remembered by others. It was a good speech as far as Memorial Day speeches go. And plus I saw a couple of people I hadn't spoken with in awhile, so there was that good feeling of reconnecting in the place where I live and liking probably almost all of the people that were there.

Thank you Memorial Day, for making us be appreciative of the need to remember.

Next week: A hike in the Minks.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Writing the Vida Loca -- Truth and Fantasy

All right, I said I would do it, so I am. A man of my word, here is the truth about the writing life. If I told you it was no life at all, I would be lying, but not by much.

In my younger days I was enamored of being the man of letters. I imagined a life of high adventure and interpersonal relationships marked by camaraderie and a code of honor shaped by bullfighting and deep sea fishing. You know what I'm talking about, that 1950s cultural icon that somehow survived into the seventies despite taking a beating at the hands of folk music and drugs and the sneaking suspicion that people cared more about the Mary Tyler Moore show than the latest tome from Norman Mailer. When it became apparent that the writer had been relegated by the culture to a sideshow, a carnival attraction, then for me writing became an underground war of attrition, a personal quest that kept me sane by clinging to a juvenile obsession that had not only marked me for life, but determined all the major choices I ever made: college, career, life partner,  etc. It was kind of like being a secret monk, scribbling away nights, typing up drafts of novels and stories from varied locales that all had in common a resolute distance from the centers of literary opinion.

And then last year came the breakthrough i'd been waiting for. A publisher willing to take a chance, put my name on their brand and launch me out into the world of legitimate writerhood, (authorship?). Despite the slap in the face of a contract that specified marketing and publicity would be up to me, I told myself that was just the state of play in the "industry" and I went all in, applying the marketing lessons gained from self-publishing previous titles, and when SAVIOR came out as a Kindle Ebook in April, I was like a proud parent, beaming with the new presence in the world of my book. The reviews were good, some were excellent, and sales have been solid, if not spectacular to date.

So how has my life changed and what have been the benefits and drawbacks of the experience? These are legitimate concerns and despite the fact that i know nobody cares, I'm going to try to spell it out anyway.

In most visible ways, nothing has changed. My kids still think I'm a doofus and remind me of it. My wife would rather I not spend as much time as I do on extraneous Twitter like marketing activity which she does not understand and does not want to understand. A couple of my Spanish students have asked me about my book and how it's doing and one even got excited when I told him it would be on sale in a couple of weeks. So I am that high school teacher guy with the mildly interesting hobby/sideline. (I remember my algebra teacher in 9th grade, Mr. Mucarzel, and his leather handbags.)

One of my neighbors won a free copy of SAVIOR in exchange for helping out with crowd funding, and another neighbor asked me at my daughter's soccer game how the book was doing.

My mother refuses to talk about my writing and changed the subject on Mother's Day when I brought it up in desperation. My father, who actually went out and bought a Kindle so he could buy a copy of SAVIOR, said I was improving but said he's not into dystopian fiction.

So that's it as far as the people around me and the impact the book has had.

Next week: Social media - Benefits vs. Pitfalls

SAVIOR is available as an Amazon Kindle Ebook.

Monday, May 19, 2014

MONDAY FARM AND COUNTRY -- The Garlic and Blackflies

As of today we have succeeded in tilling the garden, planting out potatoes, greens and some peas, mulching most of the blueberries and moved about half of the horse manure to the pile in the north field from the horses' fields below the sheep fold. The garlic has made a great start and the hay mulch should keep the weeds back for a month or so.

As one of my early farming mentors told me about 20 years ago, (has it really been that long, Francie?) most of farming consists of moving things around from one pile to another. It's called nutrient management. I wish I had a tractor but I don't. What you can do with a wheelbarrow and a plank of wood is pretty amazing, add a trailer and a vehicle, in my case a Kia Spectra hatchback, folks, yes I am talking making do, and you are good to go.

Now that it's half way through May, the only way I can work outside is with the full body armor, head and upper body netting, with tight collars at bottom and sleeves to prevent entry for the blackflies which invade at this time of year and swarm around faces and eyes and anything moist and heat giving. Their bites can inflict an amazing dose of toxins given their minuscule size, and the irritant can be so bad that infections develop and blood poisoning ensue. That's how bad they are. One of the confounding things about nature for many folks is the sheer itchiness of being outside in it. Why did God make blackflies and mosquitoes? That's easily one of the key questions to be able to answer for all the doubters in our offspring. For an answer just point to the sky at evening and the swooping blue and white arcs of gravity defying beauty known as swallows. Their aerobatics are more than just pleasurable, although they are surely that as well. It's feeding time for them all spring and summer long, payoff for the long trek up from Central American as they make nests and prepare for breeding. And the moist fields and swamps of New England provide the insect life they count on to live.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Little Eddy in the Tunnel of Love

Coming out of the tunnel of book marketing for SAVIOR, it's an opportunity to take stock of where we are.

The book seems to be selling. It hasn't snowballed into best seller status, but has held its own in the Kindle rankings over a month period. Yay. Thank you reviewers, in particular Diane Bylo of Tome Tender, Stacie Theis of Beach Bound Books, Dianne Nelson of Sand In My Shoes Reviews, Roberto Mattos, and Diane Donovan of Midwest Book Review.

I doubled my readership on the blog here during the April A to Z challenge, a byproduct of having daily posts on a current subject and flagging that subject beforehand. Like weapons technology that produces positive spinoffs for the civilian market, so book marketing has taught me a thing or two about blogging. I need to set up a schedule to get out more blog posts. So, presuming there is a readership that cares and takes note of these sorts of things, and you have to presume that there is or you'd go virtually crazy, here is what that schedule will look like going forward:

Farm and Country Monday (posts on land, sustainable living, farm life, animals, vegetables --including myself, etc.)

Fishbowl Thursday (looking out at the panorama of the world through the lens of my little life)

Writing Weekend (reflections on The Process, guest posts from fellow writers, reviews. etc.)

Suggestions for posts, submissions and rants can be sent to me in the comments section or if you prefer and find email easier, then by all means have at it:

 tcaplan (at) mcttelecom (dot) com

The sun is out after heavy rains last night. I can feel the current picking up. The tunnel of love is calling again. Gotta go.

(Overheard at Edmund's this morning.
Tourist: When exactly do the blackflies go away around here.
Shopkeeper: When the mosquitoes come out.
Me thinking to myself: Just in time. LOL)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A to Z: Z for Zeta

This is the end, my only friend, the end.
Of our elaborate plans the end, of everything that stands, the end.
Jim Morrison

Zeta is actually the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet. If this were a Greek blog we would be doing Omega, which stands for the end of all things -- being the last letter of that more classic and hence weightier alphabet. Zeta is actually a sort of frilly letter which reminds me of a fraternity house on a treelined college campus oddly quiet after the keg party the night before, the party to end all parties, the beer blast, raided by the campus police, you now only dimly remember although your pounding head is proof of living large for the moment, a moment now gone.

Speaking of living large for the moment, you can now pick up a free copy of my book, an appropriate end to the A to Z Challenge Book Launch Series for the publication of the new dystopian thriller about the end of the world, SAVIOR.

Yes. It is being offered free today through Sunday on Amazon Kindle as a promotional feature by Harvard Square Editions, the publisher, who hopes, as I do, that in this way you will spread the word and perhaps even be compelled to offer your feedback and insightful and praising comments on the Amazon page for SAVIOR.

So this is really not the end. It is just a beginning, possibly, as you pick up your free copy and begin a new adventure. I will quote now from a reviewer, who said of SAVIOR:

"Savior is a quest, a story of survival, a thrill ride, an exploration of youth finding the kind of truths parents dread … the kind that transform boy to man when the template exists outside the realm of normal and everyday." Diane Nelson, Beach Bound Books

And a heads up is in order here also. There will be a sequel. I'm working on it now. So do something good for yourself, pick up a free Kindle of SAVIOR and prepare to be amazed as you share a father's  and son's journey to the end of time and back again.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A to Z: V for Voice

Voice is the quality in writing that lends authenticity to the experience of reading and compels a reader to trust that what he is doing is worthwhile. Like singers, a writer's voice gets stronger with training. Almost all writers have a sense of what their voice is; it's that combination of story setting and characterization that fits the author's range of authority, knowledge and expertise. Although voice can be confused with character, because usually an author speaks through his characters, either through dialogue or interior monologue, voice is more than just finding the intonation, accent and authentic mood to fit a specific character. It is about having the competency to range above and beyond the character's diction and mental frame of reference. After all, an author is the creator of a world, and that world has to be seamless and apparently boundless in all directions in the reader's imagination. The trick is a type of illusion, a leading of the reader's attention with smoke and mirrors elsewhere while the stage is being set.
As citizens of a liberal culture in which we are urged towards self-actualization, we are all supposed to find our true voice in our actual lives. What does that really mean, when someone is said to have found his or her voice? It is a proxy for achieving a place in the world. Most adults need to feel useful and accomplished. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, acceptance and recognition come just below the apex of moral development. Acceptance and recognition from peers is usually reserved for people who have a voice, a say in what is being done and how it is being done. But as many people strive to have their voices heard, sometimes a cacophony results that leads nowhere. Look at Cliven Bundy in the news today as representative of a faction in adult America today that have lost their voice and never will find it again, seemingly.
In SAVIOR, I worked hard to get the voices of the characters right. I had the most fun with the villain, Samael Chagnon, whose voice is strong and compelling, and frightening in its lucidity. Al's voice is calm and sure and honest and therefore sometimes despairing. Ricky, Al's teenage boy, is hopeful, sometimes angry. For me, the greatest compliment so far in the reviews for Savior has come from a reviewer who had some difficulty with the book, but loved all the characters, even the minor ones, because they seemed alive and true. As a writer, that tells me I am on the right track.

SAVIOR is available as an Amazon Kindle Ebook. Go to SAVIOR and pick up your copy, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and additional publication month details.

(Photo by Melissa Rose)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A to Z: Underground

Underground is the region below the Earth's surface. It is dark and therefore considered lifeless, although in truth the soil teems with microbes and insects, a community of living organisms with as many as 170,000 species. But generally underground is represented as the land of the dead, where human souls were once thought to reside and where the damned must spend their eternity. Not many people work underground, but miners still do, spending their days in cramped tunnels, and subway workers maintaining the underground transportation  system in cities such as New York must sometimes descend deep into the Earth to carry out their jobs. Sometimes they are attacked by rats in the subway tunnels. Other hazards of being underground include getting lost in caves, which sometimes happens to spelunkers exploring labyrinths deep underground.

It's one of my recurring fears, getting trapped underground, cut off from all possibility of rescue, and so when I wrote SAVIOR, it was the worst fate i could imagine in which to place my character, Al Lyons -- in a prison complex deep below the Canadian oil tar sands, where he could die and never be found. The pressure cooker of isolation is one of the worst feelings we know. People are social creatures by instinct, although sometimes we wall ourselves off intentionally or unintentionally from others out of our very anxiety to escape the ultimate fate and evil of death. We sometimes hope that some unknown power or destiny will ride in to our rescue, but in the end, most of the time we have to save ourselves by tunneling until we see the light of day. How do we keep going? Where do we find inspiration? That is a question I think I am always trying to answer.

SAVIOR is available as an Amazon Kindle Ebook. Go to SAVIOR and pick up your copy, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and additional publication month details.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A to Z: Time Travel

Time travel is the idea that humans will one day master the technology necessary to bend the space-time continuum and break the observable laws of physics by traveling back in time. Although theories of space and time don't necessarily preclude time travel, many skeptics point to obvious paradoxes that could arise, namely that a time traveler could alter the course of events by acting in the past to change the way things happen. In this way, someone could for instance go back in time and kill their grandfather before he could procreate, rendering his/her own existence impossible. The way to solve this paradox is by using the quantum theory of multiverses. Under this theory, a time traveler would not alter the course of events in the world by acting in the past. Instead his actions would trigger the formation of an alternative, parallel universe, branching off and forming its own reality.

In my book SAVIOR, Los Santos Muertos are attempting to build a doomsday machine, the Resonator, which uses the ratios of sound waves present at the creation of matter to set off cataclysmic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and threaten civilization, The Resonator also has the capability, harnessing the power inherent in the sonic ratios, to bend space-time into a wormhole that allows time travel.

SAVIOR is available as an Amazon Kindle Ebook. Go to SAVIOR and pick up your copy, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and additional publication month details.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A to Z: S for Savior

(Abrahams Opfer, The Sacrifice of Isaac)
Savior is the book I just published. It took me a year or so to write, and it's been getting some good reviews in its first couple of days out.  One of the early reviewers, well not really a reviewer, a reader on a website called Library Thing, didn't get why it was called Savior. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to explain here and defend the book against what are some early misconceptions that I think are a sign of lazy reading. First of all let me say this is not a Christian book. What I mean by a Christian book is an act of apologetica for the Christian religion, a defense of the institutional structure of the faith. I am a practicing Catholic, and today being Easter I am happy with the coincidence that this gives me to defend my work. Because, despite not being an overt and formal exposition of Christian beliefs in a story setting, there are Christian elements that are an important part of the story. Except they are not obvious, which to me is one of the hallmarks of true religion, to fight against the obvious, tired, trite ideas that become a prison for the soul instead of a liberation. Jesus fought against the stereotypes of his day, that the faithful could not work to heal on the Sabbath, that the son of Man could in no way consort with the lowly and the rejects of society, that worldly success meant to be blessed by God. The new ideas he brought forth were hard to understand, and some of them have never been accepted. The idea of non-violence, for instance, continues to be a struggle for Christians as we speak.
In my book Savior, Ricky takes on a mission, to find his father who has been kidnapped by Los Santos Muertos, a criminal cult that wishes to replace Western civilization with the practices and devotion to a death goddess called Mixtecacihuatl. All right, so there is a Christian idea, a defense of life against the death wish and evil in the world, which by the way does exist. Also, Ricky's mission is a difficult one, and it does not come easily. He is waylaid by the world and its temptations on his journey, and some reviewers have complained that the plot loses steam when we see through Ricky's eyes.  For me this is a defense of truth and the main point of storytelling against the stereotypes and conventions which dictate that the eye can never be taken off the ball of the main plot, good guys vs. bad guys. But what about the internal struggle that goes on in the soul of a fifteen year old boy. Doesn't that make the story more interesting? Apparently not for everybody. But again, these are the lazy readers, in my opinion, who want their reading to push the buttons that always get pushed. A book doesn't have to be for everyone, and Savior is no exception. Ricky is a hero, but he is a human, a boy with flaws and doubts, like all of us. He is not your typical hunk of a guy who conquers through brute force and comes through in the end unscathed. And if you like your reading like that, to be brought through to the end through the brute force of conventions and stereotypes, so you end up unscathed, then Savior is probably not for you. If on the other hand you like to challenge yourself to a rare pleasure, a book that crosses genres and defies convention for the sake of a truer sort of story, then you might want to check Savior out.

SAVIOR is available as an Amazon Kindle Ebook. Go to SAVIOR and pick up your copy, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and additional publication month details.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z: R for Rejoice

Rejoice, for the day of deliverance has arrived. SAVIOR is here at last. Get on your Kindles, folks, and go get yourselves a copy. In honor of the day, I am releasing a video trailer as promised and here it is:

Say no more. R for rejoice, rejoice. we have no choice but to carry on.

SAVIOR is published Friday April 18th as an Amazon Kindle Ebook. Go to SAVIOR and pick up your copy, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and additional publication month details.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A to Z: Q for Quest

Quest comes from question. Is there a question you need answered? All of us share the basic questions that are answered in the course of our lives. What kind of person are we? Is there a purpose to our lives? Who do we love? What's the point? Everybody has a story because every life is a quest. It's the most basic of human experiences and if you don't have a quest, you probably don't have a pulse.
Heroes always have a quest, a journey they must accomplish, an object such as Lancelot's Holy Grail in the Arthurian tale that he/she must find in order to fulfill the mission. But even anti-heroes have quests; for example Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye could be seen to be questing for a purpose in his life. A quest without danger, or obstacles, is a meaningless exercise since it is always the lessons learned along the way that prove the most valuable, not the object or mission that seems to be driving us.
In Savior, Ricky's quest is to find his father, but in the process he is attempting to heal himself and his father from the wound represented by the death of Mary, mother and wife. And then there's the fate of world civilization hanging in the balance. Is this trite? I don't think so. We are all interconnected, and every individual's quest, every choice we make on the journey, decides the fate of the Universe.

(The Knight at the Crossroads by Viktor Vasnetsov)

SAVIOR is published Friday April 18th as an Amazon Kindle Ebook. Go to SAVIOR and pick up your copy, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A to Z: P for Power

Power has two basic dimensions among humans, physical power and social power. Physical power is measured as the ability to do work and feeds off energy. Energy to me is the key to both dimensions of power. Socially powerful people influence people and control behavior through their energy, either implicit or explicit. Explicit energy is exerted physically or coercively -- think of a police force or military might under the rule of a dictator as one extreme form of explicit energy yielding power, while implicit energy runs the gamut from the ability to hand out material rewards in a parent or a boss to the spiritual energy or ideas of a guru or historical religious figure.
I'm interested in weighing the various forms of energy involved in power to see which is stronger. My  hunch is that implicit energy is stronger than explicit energy. The story of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania on 9/11/2001 is a good example to illustrate the greater power of implicit energy. The knife-wielding Al-Qaeda terrorists were literally overpowered once the passengers, learning of the other hijacked planes that morning in cell phone conversations with loved ones, united and overcame their fear and rushed the cockpit. Overcoming a fear of death is a motif in many stories about power and perhaps is the key underlying theme in the Passion of Christ which Christians celebrate this week. Death of course wields the ultimate explicit expression of energy, which is to master all matter through entropy.

  1. (Photo by Stefan Krause)

In Savior, the leader of the Santos Muertos, Samael Chagnon, seeks power over men by both means, implicit and explicit energy. He's trying to build the Resonator, which will terrorize world leaders into capitulation, and he leads his own followers, the members of the LSM, through the cultish devotion to Lady Death, the Santa Muerte, (see my third post in the A to Z series - C for Cult). He's holding Al Lyons as a prisoner against his will in his facility beneath the Canadian oil tar sand belt in northern Alberta, while Al tries to resist defeat and death using the power of his memories of his family and faith in God.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A to Z: O for Oil

Oil is the black gold that makes the world go 'round. It's also called the devil's gold because of its corrupting influence on the societies of oil-producing countries. (I grew up in an expatriate, oil-company community in Venezuela in the nineteen seventies, so I speak from personal experience. For more on that reality, see my fictionalized memoir, Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home.) Additionally, the burning of oil is largely responsible for man-made global warming. There are people who deny the reality of human responsibility for global warming and its attendant climate change, but they are becoming thinner on the ground. The latest report, from McGill University physics professor Shaun Lovejoy, using statistical methodology along with refined computer models, claims a 99.9 percent certainty that the warming planet is caused by human influence, namely carbon accumulation in the atmosphere from oil and coal burning. Ironically, but not surprisingly using the logic of the devil's gold, the strongest protests about the need to shift away from oil come from big oil companies who have vowed to exploit their remaining oil reserves in order to maximize profits and keep their shareholders happy. The carbon bomb represented by burning these reserves in the short term will undoubtedly spell a doom-laden future for our children and grandchildren. These are not the gloomy prophecies of tree-hugging amateurs such as me, but the latest assessment of planetary risk from the eminent Intergovernmenatl Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, representing a consensus of scientific opinion from the world's best minds.

In SAVIOR, my new book out this Friday from Harvard Square Editions, the cult called Los Santos Muertos, LSM,  have located their weapon assembly plant and prison underneath the Alberta oil tar sands. It is no coincidence. The Canadian tar sand belt used to produce oil will impact the planet in the same way the LSM intends, by destabilizing world governments and bringing on chaos, anarchy and helplessness. That's the way the devil rolls.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A to Z: N for North

North, true north, is the direction of dreams. The land of the midnight sun is the land of the subconscious from which flow the primal images of the Jungian icons. The celestial night sky rotates around the star sign of the Ursa Major, which gave North its status as the prime direction around which all maps of the ancient world were oriented, at least in Western tradition. Still today, convention dictates that North is up on maps. The idea of North as the cardinal orientation for migratory man is as old as mankind itself.

Ricky's journey in SAVIOR winds northward towards Canada once he learns from the American military where his father is being held. It is a journey also towards self-knowledge and independence. Meanwhile, Al, in solitary confinement and sensorily deprived in the blackness of his underground cell, intuits somehow in which direction lies north. It is a comfort to him to be able to orient himself in space as he paces back and forth and tries to figure out where he is in between sessions with Samael Chagnon, leader of Los Santos Muertos, LSM, the former drug cartel that has morphed into an insurgent force bent on toppling Western civilization and establishing the theocracy that is the cult of Santa Muerte. North and south, life and death - the LSM is all about turning the world on its head.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A to Z: M is for Maya

Mayan rulers built pyramids and large urban centers in the Central American jungle, discovered astronomical and mathematical truths that would elude Europeans for several centuries, and enjoyed a flourishing society topped by royal kings and queens until they mysteriously disappeared. The Mayan people still are a force to be reckoned with in Guatemala and southern Mexico, however, and were only finally subdued by the Spanish in their strongholds in about 1690, more than 150 years after the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Nobody knows why the Mayan kings who built the world class cities at Copan and Chichen Itza disappeared, and it is only in the last ten or twenty years that archaeologists have finally unlocked the secrets of Mayan hieroglyphs that tell the story of their history and religious views. Misunderstandings about Mayan astronomy led to fears about the prophecy of the end of time in 2012, but there is still much to learn about their culture.

In Savior, Ricky comes across a Mayan tablet hidden in a back room of a Guatemalan surf shop in the town of Monterico. His father Al thinks it's a forgery but it turns out to be the Chocomal, a legendary artifact that contains a code that many believe holds the key to the creation of matter at the beginning of the Universe. Ricky wants to keep the Chocomal despite Al's misgivings, because it reminds him of his deceased mother, who loved all things having to do with Mayan culture. In fact, he thinks he hears her voice at times when he holds the tablet up close. Oddly, Al too has feelings of his former wife's presence when the tablet is near him. Until he is kidnapped by Los Santos Muertos, the LSM,  and taken off to their underground laboratory and tortured for the secrets of the tablet still in Ricky's possession.

Will Ricky find him and rescue him? It's his only hope besides death to escape the clutches of the LSM.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Photo by Chixoy - Mensaje Poptí en defensa de la cultura maya del maíz en Victoria 20 de Enero, IxcánGuatemala ("Florezca la palabra de los hombres y mujeres de maiz" - Let the words of the men and women of maize flourish) Que asi sea.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A to Z: L is for Light

Lux et veritas. The association between light and truth is an old one. In the Judeo Christian tradition, God creates light and therefore brings truth and guidance to his people. Jesus says he is the "light of the world" that will heal old sins and triumph over death itself. In the Zoroastrian tradition, the struggle between good and evil is also a struggle between the forces of light against the forces of darkness. In biology, the light of the sun is the source of plant energy through photosynthesis that is the foundation of the food chain and of all life. To me, there seems to be a dance between light and dark that implies a mutual dependence. But we definitely seem biased towards the light. Just think of the joy of seeing a sunrise. And the stars and moon at night that provide solace and direction.

In SAVIOR, Al is trapped in an underground prison where there is no light. He can only feel the walls that form his cell and intuit in which direction is north. The sensory deprivation that comes with  not being able to see and orient himself in space forces him inwards. It also unbalances him to the point where he is in danger of losing his mind. The forces of darkness that are the LSM also rely on water torture to extract the secrets of Mayan mathematics they believe Al has learned from the Chocomal. (See my previous posts and also watch for M is for Maya). This struggle of Al's between life and death, light and darkness, is literally a struggle for the future of mankind.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A to Z: K for Knowledge

Knowledge is power. We live in the information age where even our personal information is valuable. Governments scoop up this knowledge about our private lives off the Internet like gigantic vacuum cleaners, sweeping it into computers. The computers churn out patterns, connections made in the oceans of information. By deciphering these patterns, our governments gain knowledge that provides vast power and an access to the lives of individuals undreamed of in past ages. The gain in security may pale in comparison to the corrupting influence of such absolute knowledge and power.

(Photo Courtesy of Walters Art Museum)

Megalomaniacs like Samael Chagnon, the leader of Los Santos Muertos, or LSM, in my book SAVIOR, know that the path to power runs through the world of knowledge, in this case, ancient knowledge that has lied buried in secret for millennia -- the hard won mathematical knowledge of the Mayan empire that carries the code of creation. With it, Chagnon will build a doomsday machine and  render world governments helpless before him. He believes Ricky's father knows the code, and tortures him to get him to reveal it. Al doesn't know the code. The only knowledge that matters to him now is information about his son, but as a prisoner of the LSM in an underground facility beneath the Alberta oil tar sands, that knowledge is inaccessible to him. Ironically, in the absence of such information, and using only his memories, senses and intuitions, Al gains knowledge and power that helps him survive until the final confrontation with evil itself.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A to Z: J for Joy

Jump for joy! That feeling of elation is a high we seek throughout our lives. Some of us are thrill seekers, and there is evidence that we need that rush of chemical elation in the brain caused by peak experiences. The founding fathers laid out our right to it in the Constitution; life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are an American right, and by extension for some a universal right, but how do we find it? Many pursue fruitlessly throughout their lives and end up miserable, while others follow a quieter path differing gratification and still attain a state of contentment that we can recognize as.
joy by its settled and confident demeanor.

In Savior, Ricky decides not to play football because it's not fun for him any more. The stress involved in a pursuit that we follow for some reason other than the internal imperative to seek joy will eventually prove unsustainable, and there will be a break. This rupture can cause strife in any group that has set itself a common goal. Many families see success for their children as a reflection of the worth of the group, or tribe, if you will, and this group concept comes up hard against the individuation needs of the children to seek out their own paths. Al and Ricky, a father and son, struggle together to get past that moment of conflict when the individual's needs bumps against the parent's expectations.

As food for thought I'm sharing here the differences between happiness, and joy. This comparison is from A parent's obligation is to set a child on the path of joy, and that is never an easy task. Some of the deepest joy comes from struggles that may last a lifetime.



MeaningHappiness is an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure.Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion. Being connected to God or to others in a great cause and synergistic result.
Causesearthly experiences, material objectsSpiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude, thankfulness
Emotionoutward expression of elationinward peace and contentment
Time frametemporary, based on outward circumstanceslasting, based on inward circumstances
ExampleIn the midst of life's ups and downs happiness is still present.Serving others, sometimes through sacrifice with no possible personal gain. Witnessing justice for the less fortunate. Experiencing God's mercy and grace and feeling His love. All can result in joy.
AnalogyHappiness is a state. Think of it as a 100 story building and each level corresponds to a happiness value. And that happiness will persist for quite a long timeJoy is that sudden burst of happiness. Joy is like the elevator in that building that takes you up to higher levels of happiness only for a small amount of time and back.
LifeHappiness is a byproduct of a moral lifestyle.Joy can be experienced from any good activity, food or company.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A to Z: I for Indigenous

Indigenous refers to any thing or person native to a place. In the popular imagination, it can also mean authentic, a thing or person untainted or uncorrupted by external influences. In SAVIOR, Al seeks out answers not only to his personal or family issues, but answers as to what is happening in the larger world that he sees falling into violence and chaos. His search leads him to an old man of the mountains, Evelio, a native of the Guatemalan highlands, or descendant of the ancient Mayan people.

Evelio has answers, but before Al can learn more, the LSM, Los Santos Muertos, stage an ambush with some of their advanced aerial weaponry. It is up to Al's son Ricky to find Al and rescue him from the LSM. In the end, Ricky also gets help from his friends in Canada, some of them Native Americans. I like the idea that ancient wisdom can trump evil armed with advanced technological wizardry. It is an old idea in our popular imagination, and I hope that I have infused it not abused it with this new story.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A to Z: H is for Home

Home where my thought's escaping. Where my love lies waiting silently for me. These are the emotional longings that sustain Al Lyons, the main character of SAVIOR, as he lies underground in the secret prison of the Santos Muertos, not knowing where he is, whether he'll ever see daylight or his son or his home in Plymouth Beach, Florida again. He hallucinates apocalyptic visions and contemplates the release of breathing in the water while being water-boarded, but memories of home, and his son Ricky keep him from taking the easy route. Not that home is ever wholly there to get back to. His wife Mary is dead, and Ricky is on the verge of adulthood, ready to move on to the next phase of his life, finding a home, a place for himself.

(photo by Russell Lee)

The idea of home sustains us in the worst of times, but also every day. Getting home from work for me in the evenings is like shedding the false consciousness of the workplace and becoming again the person I can choose to be. It must be that way for most people, although there are the lucky few for whom the work world is a release into the desired persona. For me, getting home is that desired release. So to write about a man who longs to escape the torture chamber and get home again is a natural thought process to conceive of. Don't get me wrong, I do love my job, and appreciate the ability to get up every day and do it again, but home, that's where my thought's are escaping and my love lies waiting. And there's nothing wrong with that. Not in my book.

SAVIOR will be published April 18th on the Amazon Kindle platform by Harvard Square Editions. Visit the SAVIOR page on the HSE website, and then check back here throughout the A to Z challenge month to learn more about SAVIOR and publication launch details.