Available now: Free, limited-time download of my first TFAWP story!

Mother Earth Insurgency cover

The Mother Earth Insurgency, the first release in my Tales From A Warming Planet series, is available for a limited time as a free download.

Today is the official launch of my new dystopian thriller series, Tales From A Warming Planet. I’m celebrating by offering a free novelette, The Mother Earth Insurgency. It’s available for a limited time only via Instafreebie and Bookfunnel. Set in the future when climate change has taken hold of our planet, The Mother Earth Insurgency tells the story of Nick Sorrows, an agent of the Bureau of Environmental Security.

Instafreebie logo

Download from Instafreebie

Bookfunnel logo

Download from Bookfunnel

Nick infiltrates a terrorist organization opposed to corporate monopolization of wind and solar energy companies. Led by Jon Janicks, the Mother Earth Insurgency believes the takeovers harm the planet, and it’s planning a major action. Nick must stop Janicks before he kills thousands and destroys the tallest structure on the planet.

Instafreebie members can download it as an ebook. If you’re not a member, signup is easy, and costs nothing to join. Bookfunnel downloads include online support if you have trouble loading it into your reader.

Bundled with The Mother Earth Insurgency is a free sample of the first ten pages of Carbon Run, the first full-length novel in the series. Carbon Run will be released in the fall on Amazon as a print book and an ebook.

Please let me know what you think of the Mother Earth Insurgency and my Tales From A Warming Planet series.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me during this amazing journey, including my editor John Paine, my cover artist Christian Bentalan, the South Seattle Writers Meetup, and my wife, Edith Follansbee.

I plan to make The Mother Earth Insurgency available on Amazon in the fall. Watch for the cover reveal for Carbon Run in the next few days!

Grow or die: What happens when a story’s protagonist doesn’t change?

Alexander Dreyman

Alexander Dreymon stars at Uhtred of Bebbanburg in The Last Kingdom. Image courtesy Carnival Film & Television.

Fishermen love a good fish story, especially the one that got away. I was hooked by the BBC America television series The Last Kingdom, but the hook is loosening and I may spit it out. Why? Because the writers made a huge narrative mistake.

Premiering in 2015, The Last Kingdom stars Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a dispossessed Saxon noble who fights, often reluctantly, for a united England envisioned by the ninth century king of Wessex, Alfred the Great. The series is based on novels by Bernard Cornwell, who counts the historical Uhtred as an ancestor.

I’m halfway through season two, but I’m fast losing interest. It’s too bad, because this historical drama dives deep into each of its characters, from the intelligent, fearless warrior Uhtred to the pious, visionary Alfred. Each of the series’ minor characters are multi-dimensional, all fully fleshed by uniformly good performances. With a forceful plot driven by internal court intrigue and external enemies—the Viking raiders that still frighten English children—The Last Kingdom presses all my buttons.

Possible spoilers ahead.

Unfortunately, the series stumbles badly in episode three, when Uhtred returns after an enemy in an allied camp has him seized and sold as a slave. After six months as a galley slave a la Charleton Heston in Ben Hur, Uhtred is broken in body and nearly in spirit.

The protagonist is the biblical Jonah after the whale vomits him out.

Herein lies the rub. One of the great joys of reading and watching fiction is seeing how a character changes over time. How do his experiences within the story change him? What does he learn? This mimics the normal growth of most people; I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago, due in part to my unique experiences as a worker, a husband, a parent, and as a writer. Good fiction compresses this universal process.

In The Last Kingdom, Uhtred goes through a horrific experience as a slave. Up to this point, the character of Uhtred is predictably immature and self-serving. By the time he returns, he has lost virtually all his dignity as a man and a nobleman, feels responsible for the death of a companion, and is nearly handed over to his ultimate enemies, the Danes. His recovery is slow and painful, physically and emotionally. He is the biblical Jonah after the whale vomits him out.

The experience poses fascinating questions, broad and narrow. What happens to your personality when abuse is routine and escape from captivity is out of reach? Will Uhtred understand how his womanizing hurts himself as well as the women he’s lost? Will he see that theft as a way of gaining wealth invites deadly retribution? How does this experience affect his view of life?

The answer: Not at all. A short time after his rescue from the slaver, Uhtred kills the man who orchestrated his betrayal. It’s a murder that shocks everyone, except Uhtred. Even if he hadn’t been sold into slavery, Uhtred might kill his enemy, because that’s what he does. It’s who he is. What’s more, he resumes his former life without offering the audience any reflections on his experience or more importantly, change in his behavior. No reference is made to the experience in succeeding episodes; Uhtred is the same warrior who fears nothing, chafes at his obligations, and acts almost entirely out of self-interest.

It’s hard to believe that a human being could go through six months of degradation without some damage that affects how he lives afterward. It’s a scenario for hopelessness, suggesting humans are forever trapped by their own prejudices and habits, and not even a daily brush with death can alter the course of a life. While one could argue this reflects real life, it makes for a disappointing narrative, because nothing emotionally substantive has changed after 11 episodes. A viewer could almost turn from liking Uhtred to not liking him, and perhaps abandoning him.

I have a few more episodes to go, and the producers could still redeem themselves with Uhtred showing that he is not the same man he was when he lost his family in the early episodes of season one. If he doesn’t, I’m not sure I’ll make the time to see how he fares in season three.

Netflix has yet to announce a season three for The Last Kingdom.

Review: Don’t worry. Everything will be fixed by 2037. Or will it?

artwork

Art by Saiful Haque from Seat14C.com

In the year 2037, all the uber-wealthy will be Canadian. Because they will have all the NiceCoin.

In 2037, you earn NiceCoin by being nice. For example, you open the door to let a lady through before you, instead of hitting her up for sex. Canadians, by reputation at least, are the nicest people on earth. Therefore, they will snatch up NiceCoin as if it were poutine.

NiceCoin is a fantasy, one of nearly two dozen visions of the future at Seat14C.com, a project of the XPrize Foundation, best known for its high-tech contests. In 2004, the foundation awarded its inaugural prize to SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded craft to make a suborbital flight.

XPrize wants to encourage ideas, not just firsts, and sci-fi writers love to speculate.

Continue reading

What’s my indie publishing plan? Go all in.

not sure meme

Either way is a good move, Fry.

The publisher who signed me last week is a demanding asshole. He not only wants perfect manuscripts for my series Tales From A Warming Planet, he wants me to manage production and marketing for the entire project. I’m the guy who has to make everything happen, from hiring the cover artist to creating content for the social media accounts.

“Remember what that architect Daniel Burnham said back in 1907: ‘Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.'”

Okay, boss.

Who is this heartless overlord? Me.

What’s the first thing he demanded? A strategic plan.

Here it is, in truncated form to avoid boring you with too much detail. The list is in launch order, first book to last.

The Mother Earth Insurgency – I wrote this 16,000 word novella for submission to magazines and contests to gain visibility for myself and my three novels in the Tales series. I’m still hoping for traditional publication, but it might be a great vanguard for the rest of the series. The story concerns Nick Sorrows, a near-future investigator with the Bureau of Environmental Security, who infiltrates a terrorist cell bent on destroying wind farms and other green energy facilities. The cell’s real target hits Sorrows close to home. I think it’s a good introduction to my imaginary future Earth, which is ravaged by climate change.

What was the first thing demanded by my asshat boss? A strategic plan.

Carbon Run – The first full-length novel in the series is the first novel I completed, and I think it’s the strongest of the three. In the 22nd century, Bill Penn and his daughter Anne run afoul of the BES when an accidental fire at their ranch destroys an endangered species. Bill, now a fugitive accused of a capital crime, is pursued by BES Deputy Inspector Janine Kilel, who takes Anne halfway across the world as bait to draw out her father from hiding.

City of Ice and Dreams – Next in the series is City of Ice and Dreams. Sento, a beautiful, intelligent, tormented young woman with a fragmentary memory of her past, is obsessed by Isorropia, a city in Antarctica half-myth, half-legend, believing it is the key to her identity. Surviving a shipwreck on Antarctica’s shore, Sento resolves to trek south with a group of immigrants on a suicidal one-way journey across the desert left by the melting of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet. Is Isorropia real? Or an illusion? And who is trying to stop her?

Restoration – The final novel in the series is Restoration. Urbane young Junie Wye faces adjustment to rural life in a divided small town as her father, Ed Wye, demolishes the last great dam on the Columbia River. Junie falls in love with the son of a man who opposes the dam’s deconstruction, but a greater, deadly opposition emerges that threatens everything Junie loves.

The Mother Earth Insurgency: More Tales From A Warming Planet – In the final volume of the series, The Mother Earth Insurgency makes another appearance, but as one of a collection of short stories set in the world of Carbon Run and the other novels. Like the novella, I wrote these stories for submission to magazines, and one, Zillah Harmonia, will appear in the January 2018 edition of Bards and Sages Quarterly.

After the ebooks and print volumes are published, I’ll add audiobook versions. More about that later.

At the end of this process, I’ll have fourteen products in inventory: four print books, five ebooks, and five audiobooks. That doesn’t count potential for box sets of each type. With any luck, one or two of these products will perform well and perhaps bring the others along in terms of sales.

Or it could all flop. At least my jerk of a boss can’t accuse me of being timid.

Want to stay abreast of my publishing adventure? Subscribe to my blog via the Follow Now link above.

Just signed a four-book publishing deal. With myself.

publishing meme

Batman set me straight on the whole legacy publishing thing.

I’ve made a decision. Screw traditional publishing. I’ll sink or swim on my own.

I feel I’m pretty good with quick decision-making, but this one took a while, more than three years. That’s how long I’ve been pitching my climate-themed science fiction novel Carbon Run to agents and publishers, starting in December 2013 and ending in August 2016. I’ve sent 163 queries, and got back 72 rejections. The balance of my pitch letters disappeared into the publishing world ether.

That’s just Carbon Run. My two other novels in the series, City of Ice and Dreams, and Restoration, had pretty much the same fate.

A few agents and publishers asked for excerpts of Carbon Run. A few asked for full manuscripts. One agent asked for rewrites after a professional editor—whom I hired—suggested improvements. The agent still rejected the manuscript. (I’m forever grateful to the editor, John Paine, for his work. It was worth every penny. My experience with agents and publishers had nothing to do with him.)

I don’t have enough years left in my life to wait for the publishing industry to say Yes to me.

This week, after having Carbon Run in its hands for nearly eight months, the final publisher on my list of “possibles” sent its rejection. Then it sent a second rejection for City of Ice and Dreams two minutes—and I mean 120 seconds—later. I have never felt so small and dissed as a writer.

I had decided many months ago that if I could not land a traditional book publishing contract by July 1, I would self-publish the whole series. I picked that date partly to get the book into the marketplace by the Christmas buying season, and partly because I don’t have enough years left in my life to wait for the publishing industry to say Yes to me.

I admit I’m worried about the investment I have to make in time and money. I’m a full-time, career-change student, and I’ll likely dip into my retirement savings to make this indie publishing project happen. If I don’t do this, however, Carbon Run and the other novels may never see the light of day.

So today I signed a four-book publishing deal with myself: Carbon Run, City of Ice and Dreams, Restoration, and a book of short stories I’ve been pitching to magazines. (At least I got some good news on the shorts front; Bards and Sages Quarterly will publish one of my shorts early next year.)

Congratulations. To me.

School is a huge time suck, which isn’t a bad thing

Taking apart a computer

I’m practicing my new techie skills by disassembling and assembling old computers.



It’s been tough to maintain my blog lately.
Under the best of circumstances, I like to post about once a week, but school has a way of sucking time out of the universe, at least my universe.

It’s not a bad thing. I’ve never regretted my decision to go back to South Seattle College after my layoff in 2016, especially after I qualified for a little help from the state of Washington. I’ve been interested in computers most of my life, and the school’s network administration program is a natural fit. If you look at the totality of my interests and occupations, you might think that it was inevitable that I make a go of computers as a career.

The jury’s still out on whether I’ll succeed, but I’m having fun, all the same.

For spring quarter, my days are filled with figuring out MS Access databases, basic PC hardware, and Linux commands. The days rarely dull, and my skills are good enough that I can lend a hand to other students. That’s a big part of the fun. Continue reading

Review: Thank God King Arthur will survive ‘King Arthur’

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword poster

The latest take on the King Arthur legends opened in US theatres May 8.

The legends of King Arthur and the Round Table are possibly the most abused of the West’s mythic texts, more than the Greek myths, and certainly more than venerated texts, such as the Bible. It’s amazing they’ve survived almost 1,500 years of telling and retelling by most of Western Europe’s cultures, aristocratic Victorian poets and painters, and in the last century or so, Hollywood producers.

I’m certain they’ll survive King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but the tradition never had it so hard.

Fans of the Arthurian legends—Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and the world of Camelot—have waited a long time for a fresh version of the story. The last big attempt of note, King Arthur, was released in 2004. This year’s effort, directed by Guy Ritchie, whose last hit was the action-adventure retelling of the Sherlock Holmes novels, brought together stars Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, Jude Law as Vortigern, and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as “The Mage,” a follower of Merlin, the famed sorcerer and Druid priest.

Except for the names and a few popular themes, you’d hardly recognize the narrative from your reading of The Once and Future King or children’s books on King Arthur. Vortigern, Arthur’s uncle, usurps the throne of Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon. The boy escapes an assassination attempt and is raised in a brothel. He grows into the leader of a gang that protects the brothel and extorts money from whomever crosses him. When Excalibur appears at the bottom of a bay embedded in a stone, Vertigorn fears a threat to his power, and (taking a lesson from King Herod of the New Testament) orders all men of the right age to attempt pulling it out so he can kill him. Continue reading

Repurposing Wawona: Pieces at new exhibit made from ship’s salvaged wood

Jewelry sculpture

Jewelry artists made this piece, titled Travel the Ocean, for an exhibit using wood salvaged from the schooner Wawona.

Earlier this year, I was contacted by Kari Berger of the Seattle Metals Guild, a non-profit arts group with a focus on metalworking. The group was working on an exhibit of jewelry and sculpture made from wood salvaged from the historic schooner Wawona. I published a history of the ship in 2006, three years before she was broken up on Seattle’s Lake Union, 112 years after she was launched in Eureka, Calif.

The Guild will exhibit the pieces at the Northwind Arts Center May 4-29 in Port Townsend, Wash.

I spent several years working on maritime history projects, but none captured my heart quite so much as Wawona. She was launched in 1897 and carried lumber from Puget Sound and Washington coast ports to San Francisco and other California ports until World War I. After the war, fishermen based in Seattle took her to the Bering Sea to fish for cod. Northwest Seaport, the non-profit that once owned Wawona, worked for nearly a half-century to preserve her, but the elements finally won the battle and she was deconstructed in 2009.

Port Townsend’s Northwind Arts Center hosts the exhibit May 4-29, 2017.

Continue reading

Five Questions: James Marquis and his Dark Day Dreams

Dark Day Dreams cover

Dark Day Dreams is a collection of shorts by Seattle writer Jim Marquis.

James Marquis is a Seattle writer and author of science fiction novels, a memoir, and a collection of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories titled Dark Day Dreams, written under the pen name of James Hawthorne. He enjoys writing as a way to explore and expose the ways pop culture, politics, music and literature shape our everyday lives. An Amazon reviewer calls Dark Day Dreams “a book filled with curiosities.” I know Jim exclusively through Facebook. His posts are thoughtful and funny.

Do you remember the first character you created? It was a guy named Time Hunter. He was the hero of a comic book I created when I was around nine or ten. He went back to ancient Egypt.

James Marquis

James Marquis

How did you feel when you saw your work in print / electronic form for the first time? When I first saw my book in print, I was so happy. It just seemed like a miracle. And I felt reconnected with the creativity I felt as a child but had set aside for several decades.

What is your favorite piece of advice for new writers? Immerse yourself in the writing world as much as possible. Your friends and family will be supportive but networking is what actually gets stuff done. Continue reading

How LibreOffice freed my inner rebel from the shackles of Microsoft Office

meme

Yes, you do have a choice.

As moral beings, humans try to align their behavior with their values.

I don’t use Microsoft Word to write. I’ve successfully resisted putting Office on my laptop. I refuse to have anything to do with Office, if I can help it.

I admit it’s a quirk, but it’s how I live my values.

Why would a writer care about his word processing software? Do painters worry about the brand of paints they use, so long as the colors are true?

Writers don’t care about software, but they ought to.

Artists in general, and writers in particular, like to set themselves against The Man, whether it’s a corporation, a government, or some other institution that demands control and stereotyped thinking. But no writer ever thinks of the software they depend on.

I do.

Microsoft is a behemoth of a company that rakes in billions of dollars a year mostly because its convinced manufacturers and the general public that it’s the only game in town.

It isn’t.

Though they may grumble, individuals and independent businesses feel compelled to fork over hundreds of dollars every few years for the latest version of Office because they don’t think they have a choice.

They do.
Continue reading