Author, Fantasy, Science Fiction, AD&D

The Martian

I recently finished the book, The Martian, a novel by Andy Weir. As an epic Fantasy and Sci-Fi lover, I figured this would be a good book to read.  The praise for this book moved my book club to choose it, and I expected it to really shine. I like to study the tools and craft of an accomplished author to see what I may be able to add to my own style. Truthfully, I’ve never written a Sci-Fi novel before, but I’ve been jotting down some ideas for awhile now.

I really enjoyed The Martian. Mr. Weir’s vision is believable and not far from becoming reality. I think situations like those presented in The Martian can be expected as we begin to branch out into our solar system, and the rest of the universe. I liked the insider’s view of NASA, and the manner in which they operate.

There was  a great deal  of terminology I had to learn which slowed down the flow of the story; still, I have a much better understanding of all the things they have to work out and why things are built the way they are, and  why they operate the way they do. For me, a little drag on the momentum for knowledge is a worthy sacrifice.

In truth, this was more a science science-fiction than a science-fiction fiction. I bring this up because if you are the kind of person that enjoys the fast driven adventurous science fiction of Star Trek, Transformers, Avatar, and Star Wars for example, you’re probably going to feel the protagonist’s pain early. The book itself was quite dry.

The protagonist, Watney, is a botanist and engineer. He is interesting in his own way, but I didn’t feel any significant character curvature in terms of personality growth. He did, however, grow greatly where his professions were concerned while learning how to overcome the many problems he faced. There are many other characters as well, and I found their character growth more evenly spread between personality and profession.

One thing I noticed fairly early on that did not work well for me was the number of times that Watney repeated himself while recording messages on his computer. At first, I thought, “Quit nitpicking, there’s going to be a point to this, and it will present itself later.”  That didn’t happen. Here’s my thinking. If someone was receiving Watney’s messages, and he knew that, there would be no reason to repeat anything from the previous message. It would make more sense to simply provide new information, saving time and energy for a variety of other more important tasks. Unless there was something causing him to not remember things well, such as thin atmosphere, lack of air, water, food, or something else that is above my head, there would be no reason to repeat messages for himself as he could just go back and listen to what  was previously recorded.  For myself, rereading things repeated from the previous chapter detracted from the flow of the story’s momentum. The other thing that began to grind on me around chapter ten was the sheer predictability of the main plot line.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the many amazingly brilliant and creative solutions that Watney and others came up with to solve his many problems.  There are plenty of personalities, and they were all quite believable. The secondary plots bounce back and forth so as to regulate a balance between dry and damp. Mr Weir did a great job with this in my opinion. He also did a very good job at making me feel the joy of the characters as they overcame boundaries that they thought impossible and the frustrations when things weren’t going well.  He also added a good amount of humor throughout the book which helped in some of the slower spots.

Overall, The Martian was well-written and held my interest to the end.  I openly suggest The Martian to anyone that likes space-odyssey SciFi.  I’m guessing that this story will resonate best with teen and adult readers. The opening pulled me right in, and the ending was very satisfying.

As an addendum, I have also seen the movie, and they left some really good parts out.  If you liked the movie, I recommend you read the book.If you didn’t like the movie, I also recommend you read the book. Finally, in the defense of all author’s works, I hasten to remind you, the readers, that books are like shoes and opinions are like raindrops.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment.

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The Road Not Traveled

Two of my long lasting and deeply respected friends have asked me to look into Gary Johnson’s views more thoroughly after my last posting. After doing so, I took a step further and dredged up some debates between Gary and Jill Stein as I believe she is their favored candidate. Each was very interesting for many different reasons; the first of which was a professional debate by two mature and well educated adults rather than a couple squalling six-year-olds fighting over a paper mache crown. I advise you to take the time to watch all of their debates and interviews which can easily be found on YouTube by typing in: Governor Gary Johnson vs Dr. Jill Stein.

Here a few of the many things that stuck out for me: both of these candidates have good ideas and not so good ideas—no different than any other candidate until Trump and Clinton. I agree we need to return our work force to our own soil, and reattain the self sufficiency we had up until the fifties. But removing corporate taxes to do it is not the answer.

There can be no self sufficiency until all corporation kingdoms are de-monopolized like we did with Mountain Bell and other such conglomerates back in the seventies.  I like the idea of the removal of income tax, but remember, since corporations consider themselves a single person, that would be the loophole they need to free themselves from the same tax.

I suggest one way to approach this would be to pose the question in superior court that if a corporation is indeed a single individual, then as equally true of any other single individual, also the product of a collective of cells, any corporation should be held to the same sentence of probations, fines, and incarceration—just as any other individual collective of cells. Case in point: every living being who has ever been imprisoned.

If that can’t be accomplished, ie: the incarceration of every corporate cell from the most mundane employee  to the most powerful of shareholders, we have successfully proven without question that a corporation is more than a single collective of individual cells; therefore, proving unanimously the corporation’s previous arguments are clearly false. At that point, the tax breaks garnered from that previous ruling must at once be overturned, and all previous taxes avoided by the previous ruling must be repaid to the government in full.

The TTP, which I hadn’t taken as close a look at as I should have, is certainly tied to my previous statements.  Jill has been very clear that she will dissolve that and the NAFTA agreement and any other such trade agreements. However, she made no mention of the manner in which she will gain the cooperation of the senate, house, and corporations in attaining that goal. The same remains true of Gary and his intent to remove government programs like social security and the like.

The problem here still remains the same. Neither he nor Jill nor any former candidate is really saying, “This is what I will do,” but rather, “this is what I intend to do,” vs the rest of the government’s collective intent to go on doing what they have been doing all along.

We’ve seen those kinds of promises rained down on us election after election. How many of those promises were delivered as they were described?

Have either the Democrats or Republicans been consistent in this regard?

If the Democrats and Republicans are so very different, and their stances so very different, and their excuse for literally bringing the entire government to a standstill over and over again remains based in those unbendable differences of opinion, then how is it that the single ship they both travel upon continues to sail without hindrance in the same direction with all hands on deck in obvious agreement to continue that course? Moreover, how often have we seen someone jump ship without being pushed off a gangplank?

Once we as a country embrace the truth of those facts, all the veils will be torn from our eyes. We will understand there are no real differences. The truth is our government is made up of only a single-minded entity who has agreed to present to We The People a reality that is no more than a woven tapestry of illusions solely for their benefit and delivered directly to us through every branch of media we are connected to. But we have for many decades given little credence to the many other choices we’ve been offered including The Libertarians and The Green Party.

This is why I want to see Trump and Clinton in national debates alongside Gary Johnson and Jill Stein:

I am all for less government, I am all for less taxes. I am all for keeping government out of the bedroom. I am all for an end to illegal immigration by offering those without criminal records entry with a work visa. Also, we cannot allow a two tier system of wages whereby business owners and corporations alike can capitalize on the suffrage of any one group for their own profiteering. I also agree with the legalization of marijuana.

I would like to see a manageable system that provides simple and nonconvoluted programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran compensations for their service which should include lower interest loans for home loans, honest help with securing employment, and government paid health care, including any required psychological services since each veteran’s condition was brought about through service and sacrifice to our government and for our collective rights as a country. To not offer this would be beyond irresponsible.

I certainly agree with sustainable green energy in place of fossil fuels. Fracking needs to be illegalized as part of that process. I agree we need to take climate change seriously, and although I vehemently disagree with the idea that it can simply be stopped instantly by doing all the things Jill suggests, it can certainly be slowly choked out.  But we’ll still have to ride out the current momentum we have allowed it to reach as of this moment. There is no such thing as an emergency brake we can use to avert it instantly.

Lastly, I do not agree we should just write off all student debt. That is a debt accepted in complete and conscious agreement. We knew precisely what we were agreeing to when we accepted it. We knew without question that there were no guarantees of immediate employment upon graduation in the field of any student’s study. If we say, “ohhh, don’t worry about that, forget about it.” What have we really said?

We’ve really said, “In America, if you are a student, you don’t have to embrace your personal responsibilities in lieu of your own decisions—the same responsibility which the rest of us students who’ve already paid off our loans under the same or similar conditions have managed to do. Why should that expectation  be any different for the students of the present?”

We have more than enough irresponsibility in this country as things stand now—this will only encourage more of that same mentality.

There are other issues, pro and con, I have as well, but I’ve already gone on much longer than I intended to, so I’ll shut the hell up now.

Cheers everyone, and please seriously consider supporting both of these two candidates.  It’s way past time we took a risk on something other than the same losing bet.

Surfing The Tides

Ever felt like had you kept your mouth shut, somehow that one thing would change the next thing that happened? The day after I posted my book’s release date, I received an email from Booktrope, and I should clarify, everyone at Booktrope received it.

We’ve been told that our publishing co-op/company will be shutting down completely as of the end of May. It was on the news a couple weeks back as well.

I’m still determined to publish Atolovus, and I continue writing in a number of other stories. I will have purchased the front cover for Atolovus this Friday from my cover artist Greg Simanson. I expect we will continue to work with each other.

My editor and I are in discussions about finishing the edits for Atolovus, and hopefully signing on for the many other books I am working on. The same is true of my project/book manager.

I’ve heard nothing from my proofreader. I’m guessing that is her answer.

For more about me and my books,  please like https://www.facebook.com/David-Covenant-Author-850048818349745/

I About Choked

Friday, I was watching the news and caught a piece about Belgium issuing Iodine pills countrywide. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/belgium-issues-iodine-pills-all-citizens-nuclear-emergency-plan-n564606

My first thought was, Nice! Wish they would do that here. My second thought was; I wonder how easy it is to purchase some for my family just as a backup option in the event of a nuclear leak or other calamity.

 Today, while checking out TSA stuff while packing for Ireland, I thought I’d take a look at what Iodine pills do, how they work, and what the benefits and risks consists of.

If you’ve already watched or read another such report, I’m advising you to visit the above link, and read it carefully before making any other decisions.

You’ll note that they specifically say in the second sentence, “A dose of iodine, which helps to limit the effects of radiation on the body, will be made available to all 11 million people in the small country, Health Minister Maggie De Block told reporters Thursday.”

But after reading on, I stumble over a small adjustment to their first statement in the eighth sentence. “…iodine tablets, which work by filling the thyroid gland and preventing the absorption of radioactive iodide.”

Later, I reach the third to last sentence where I read this, “The substance in the tablets, Potassium iodide, can’t protect the body from other radioactive elements and can cause side effects including gastro-intestinal upset, allergic reactions, rashes, and inflammation of the salivary glands, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Understandably irritated at the apparent factoid camo tactic, I elected to find a more precise and reliable source before making any decision one way or the other. This is where I ended up: http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/ki.html

Here, I received a very matter-of-fact answer. It absolutely will not protect anything other than your thyroid from radiation. So basically, we can rest easy in the solace that while the rest of our bodies slowly rot away, we can be thankful that our thyroids will still be nearly untouched and completely recognizable following our slow death or the faster one more likely to insue by my own hand with several bullets to my brain.

And yet this site goes on to report, “In the last several years the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency have written and released recommendations and reports on the use of KI in emergency situations. In December 2001, the NRC sent a letter to states informing them that if they wanted, and if they met certain conditions in their emergency-response planning, the NRC would provide stockpiles of KI for populations within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant. As of May 2002, 13 states have either requested or received KI supplies.”

I about choked on my coffee as I finished the paragraph which left me wondering, Huh? What exactly are the certain conditions in their emergency-response planning which would validate the need to use or store even one of these pills?

Yet another example of our hard-earned tax dollars at work for us!

It’s Finally Set!

I’ve not had any more excerpts to post because we have had a deep-freeze on the editing front that has yet to thaw, but I am very excited to report we have arrived on an agreed estimation of Atolovus’ release date: May 1, 2017! What this should mean is that the edits should soon be getting back under way. In addition, my team has agreed on Atolovus’ front cover as well. I couldn’t be happier with it for so many different reasons. Why? Well I’m going to have to leave that answer hidden in the mists.

Cheers everyone:)

Disenchanted

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I just finished this story yesterday afternoon. When I picked this book up, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. The title was vague to me, and it left me wondering what the book was actually about. Obviously, the title did the job it was meant to do; make the peruser curious enough to investigate further.

In the beginning, Disenchanted begins with a small group of travelers climbing out a cave. They appear to be escaping a life of violence, only to begin their first day of freedom with just such an act as they had hoped to escape. It leaves many questions in the reader’s mind and was well thought out. Ms. Ursel did a great job of connecting every dot, and answering any dangling questions left to tantalize her readers by the end of the story.

Disenchanted is dialogue driven, and the author did a superb job with this. It also possesses a wide variety of colorful characters, each very believable, and many of their lives intertwine. I found it very easy to connect with a number of them.

I discovered plenty of not so commonly used words throughout her work. I’ve heard plenty of complaints by other readers about other such writers doing this. I personally like finding words I have to look up. As a writer myself, widening my own vocabulary is part of the job, and a facet I really do enjoy.  If you are a reader put off by big words, you might have to look up, this may not be the book for you.

Although Disenchanted is driven mostly by dialogue, Ms. Ursel did a great job balancing dialogue with action. In this quote, we see one of many such examples:

““As they left the tanners, the leather in a roll under Blayn’s arm, he heard a noise behind him and wheeled around to find Morwen in the grip of Richard, the tanners son. He had shot up tall and broad shouldered since his days of schoolyard bullying.

“Well, my pretty hussy. You came around to see me but you didn’t stay for a roll in the hay.”

“Don’t talk to her like that.”

Richard looked down at Blayn. He sneered.

“And who’s going to stop me, a scarecrow like you?”

“Just so. You can’t keep a civil tongue in your head, you’ll have to do without one altogether.” Blaine raised his arms and chanted a rapid incantation while Morwen, taking advantage of Richard’s distraction, drove her knee into his crotch with all her strength.

Richard doubled forward and fell, writhing in agony, his mouth working. No sound emerged. Morwen and Blayn took to their heels.

Back among the terebinths, Morwen gulped for air. “You didn’t really take out his tongue, did you?””
Disenchanted offers a prologue, forty-six chapters, and an epilogue. The switching between one set of characters to another keeps the pace reasonable and allows the reader a number of places to stop if the need arises. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and fantasy. YA and Adult are likely to be the largest groups of Disenchanted’s readers.

Lastly, just one note of caution: if you are a reader who shies away from Christian oriented works, which this isn’t entirely, or you are a follower of western religious doctrines, which this also isn’t entirely, this may not be the book for you unless you can look upon this as a window into philosophic evolution. Whatever the case, don’t take my word for it. Read it yourself—chances are you will be glad you did.

My editor and I are tearing through chapter six. One of the things I really like about my editor is that she is very good at asking about anything that doesn’t make sense or she doesn’t recognize or understand. The reason I like this so much is because she challenges me to explain my reasoning and indeed provide believable scenarios, personalities, plots, and environments—just to name a few. This is all great help, and drives me to peer deeper into my characters, their plots, and even into the history of the whole planet.

As an example, in one such inquiry, my editor asked, “So he doesn’t think much of them, but wants to help them anyway? Does this indicate a White Man’s Burden mindset?” That wasn’t at all what it was, but to explain it to her would require something more than a simple “No, that’s not it at all.” This is what I ended up saying to her after some serious thought:

No, this character is a complicated mon, and quite frankly a complicated character to write. There are many facets to his personality, and very good reasons for each of them. I don’t want to reveal too much, but for the sake of answering your question, I’ll choose one branch.

On the one hand, the Tawl-Korian’s dislike of him, their disrespect, their loathing, even their fear cast at him behind his back and from the shadows makes them look like cowards in his eyes. On the other hand, you can’t teach a sheep to be become a bear. So whether or not you like sheep, because they may be your food, your income, or your lawnmower, you will still watch over them knowing they cannot do it for themselves. It would immoral and unethical to do otherwise.

Now, let’s take this a step further. Imagine you hate sheep. You have never owned one, nor do you have any desire to. Then one evening, seven of them come bleating through the field behind your home, leap the fence, and trample your garden on their way up to your porch where they knock over your potted plants and chairs.

Now what?

Are you pissed off? Maybe just a little or a whole bunch? As you get to the sliding glass door to get a better look at the damage, you realize three of them are lambs, and they are quite young.

Still, you don’t have the ability to care for them, you can’t hope to keep them fed, and you don’t have the facilities to keep them dry and protected until they are ready to leave. They got to go back over the fence, that’s the only way this’ll end, right?

So, you go get your shoes on, grab a light jacket, and slip through the back door. Once shut, you begin to try to usher them back to the fence, but they just run away from you. If you weren’t mad before, chances are they are trying your patience now! And then it happens–

You sneeze.

Then again, and after ten or fifteen more minutes, your nose is getting stuffy. If it wasn’t bad enough already, you now realize you are allergic to them, or maybe to their coat, even something they have rubbed up against somewhere earlier. Whatever the case, it’s hard to tell for sure, but that doesn’t help your allergy to it or them, nor does it make you like them anymore.

Finally, you manage to get the four adults back over the fence. You’re about to drop one of the lambs over when the adults start acting very nervous and start trying to push back through the fence.

As you look out at the field, a set of pointed ears pops up from the weeds and grass. A bushy tail follows them; then another, and then another, and before long, you’ve counted at least twelve pairs. They all slow as they get nearer. Soon, one by one, they pop their heads into view through the weeds. Wolves!

Now what? Are you going to leave them all on the other side of the fence to their obvious fate? Are you going to grab the adults and lift them back over the fence? Maybe you have a shotgun near the back door for just such a case. Maybe a cougar wandered on to your property last year and that rattled you enough to purchase one for self preservation.

You could run to the house, slam the door behind you, and close the drapes, but you know what will happen next, and if you don’t see it, it’s likely you’ll hear it. Once done, you’re stuck with that memory.

You could just get to the door and grab the gun and the box of shells beside it, load it, and return to the fence, but having not used it much, how sure are you of hitting every one of them? What if all the wolves charge at once?

Or, you could walk backwards toward the garden where you have a rake leaning up against the fence, and then slowly make for the house still walking backwards knowing the adult sheep will leap back over the fence out of fear, which in hindsight, you suspect is what caused them to do it the first time.

We will assume that you decide on the last option. Things happen much the way you anticipated, but by the time you make it to the middle of the yard, the wolves start growling and suddenly leap from the brush and race toward you.

Your adrenaline kicks in, and your feet burst into overdrive with the bleating sheep nearly tripping you they are so close. Leaping up to the deck past three steps, you glance back as you reach the door. The wolves are bounding over the fence! Shoving the door open, you try to run through, but the sheep are scrambling into your house leaving no room in the doorway for yourself. As the last two squeeze in, you verily fly inside, slamming the door behind you and locking it.

You and the sheep are safe. Your hands and legs shake and your heart pounds. The wolves investigate the yard, then climb up on your porch. Quickly, you shut the drapes and back away from the door still breathing heavily. The sheep have lain down near your couch, their ears turning this way and that, their noses quivering, and their eyes wide and jittery.

You sneeze again.

So what now? Are you going to send them back over that fence tomorrow? Maybe the following weekend? Would you want them to send you back to field?

Perhaps, you could manage to keep them long enough to find them a safe place to go. You could put some ads in the paper and make some phone calls in the morning. Tomorrow, it wouldn’t take much to empty your tool shed and throw a few bales of hay on the floor for them. You probably could get a bale or two of alfalfa from the local feed store. You might even give some thought to a hot wire strung a foot higher than the fence all the way around the back yard, after all, if the wolves jumped it once, they could easily do it again, even without any sheep in the yard. Next time, it might just be you, your husband, or your children.

But it is very likely there will be no further consideration to putting those sheep back over that fence because whatever else you think of them, it would be unethical and immoral to do so—just like this character.

He will not under any circumstance, regardless of his personal feelings, put those people out for the Darkfeeders to hunt until there is a better choice, or all the Darkfeeders are dead. Like you, he will do his duty and follow his conscience.