OH MOTHER OF INVENTION, HOW ABOUT ELIMINATING US?

It’s really a simple solution, you know.

We may already have one somewhere. It probably needs a little refinement, but I think it would solve the Earth’s problems. A bomb. A huge one.

Not neutron because  that kills animals as well as people. Too much other destruction, too. We need a special people-eliminating bomb. After all the people are gone, Earth can recover and eventually, a new species will reign supreme. Hopefully the new masters of earth will show respect for Mother Earth and other creatures who share her bounty. A species which would allow the trees to grow, water to flow without damming or poisoning every stream. A species without the compulsion to dig up every mineral, pave every inch of ground, replace forests with cities belching soot, smoke and chemical fumes.

Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster - Walt Kelly

Pogo – Earth Day 1971 poster – Walt Kelly

Earth needs a caretaker species. Not humans. We don’t care. We think God gave us permission to ravage and destroy our home as well as every living thing on it. I don’t remember any God — ours or anyone else’s — saying anything of the sort. How did I miss such an important passage in someone’s mythology? Why do I think that isn’t what any God would want?

Short of wiping out the human race, how about our species display a little self-restraint? How about not pouring sewage and industrial poison into the rivers, filling the air with dirt? Tearing open the earth to get to fossil fuels on which we should not be depending? How about behaving like proper guests of Mother Earth? You know, not eating our own Mother? How about that?

Are we even capable of not destroying our own nest?

YEAR ZERO – ROB REID – GET IT FOR 99 CENTS (KINDLE) NOW!

What with the NSA XBox and spying thing — and now the shut down and who know what else coming to get us, Year Zero gets more and more relevant … and hilarious. And right now, you can grab a Kindle copy for 99 cents from Del Rey via Amazon! If you have not read this gem — grab it now!

Truly one of the funniest, smartest pieces of science fiction in many years. I don’t merely like this book. I really LOVE it!

When in 2012, Rob Reid wrote Year Zero, a science fiction novel about the music business and its impact on the universe, many people sat up and took notice. Who better to write about the Byzantine complexities of the music business than Rob Reid?

The author of Year ZeroRob Reid does not have the kind of bio one would expect of a science fiction author. In fact, he was and is an entrepreneur and multi-millionaire, the kind of self-made multi millionaire who makes many of us realize what failures we are.

Born in New York City, raised in Darien, Connecticut, got his undergraduate degree at Stanford University in Arabic and International Relations. Earned an MBA from Harvard. In 1994 he moved to Silicon Valley where he managed Silicon Graphic’s relations with Netscape. In 1999 he became a founding member of IGN Entertainment which went public in 2000. IGN was acquired by News Corp in 2005 for $650 million.

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Reid was the sole founder of Listen.com for which he served as CEO and Executive Chairman. Listen.com launched Rhapsody, a music streaming service, the first legal service of its kind. Rhapsody was bought by RealNetworks in 2003 and Reid continued to serve as one of its vice president until MTV purchased it for $230 million.

Year Zero is one of the funniest, scariest, weirdest science fiction novels I’ve ever read — up there with Jasper Fforde and the great Douglas Adams and certainly the only book of its kind that includes footnotes. They are hilarious too.

The scary part of the novel is not the story but how it mirrors the realities of the music business. The music business is scary.

It turns out that Earth is the only planet in the universe that can create music worth listening to. It is not merely the best music in the universe. For all practical purpose, it is the only music. Other worlds have made something that had been called music … until the discovery of Earth’s music. From the moment our music was heard by the highly advanced sentient cosmos, there was no turning back. The year of the discovery of Earth’s music was Year Zero, the dawn of a new era for every planet in every galaxy everywhere. It also signaled the likely end of life on Earth unless some legal loophole could be found in our insanely punitive copyright laws.

If not, the combined amount of money owed to Earth’s music corporations would be so monumental it would bankrupt the entire universe. Unable to pay the bill yet obligated by inter-galactic law to pay it, the easier choice would be to destroy Earth, eliminating the problem and de facto, canceling the debt.

Whether or not you will find the book as fascinating and funny as I did is probably a matter of what you find funny. No one knows the intricacies of law as it pertains to the music industry better than Rob Reid.

English: 42, The Answer to the Ultimate Questi...

The humans are funny and oddly heroic, each in his or her own way. People rise to the occasion. The aliens are deliciously bizarre and some of them also rise … or fall … to the occasion. The combination of law and the ridiculousness of the situation is hilarious.

Although Year Zero is every bit as weird as any of Douglas Adams’ books to which it has been compared, the strangeness of the story is based on facts of law. Douglas Adams created the Improbability Drive from his own imagination. Rob Reid only has to quote the actual laws — every bit as bizarre as anything you could imagine. That’s scary.

I loved this book. I read it, read it again. Then I bought the audio book and listened to it twice more. I’ll probably read it several more times.

There is no sequel. It’s the only novel Rob Reid has written. Otherwise, he is the author of two non-fiction books: Architects of the Web about Silicon Valley, and Year One about life as a student at Harvard Business School.

This is a great book and I bet you’ll love it too. Give it a read. If nothing else, you’ll learn everything you never wanted to know about the music business!

THE REST OF THE STORY – THE PLAGUE FORGE, Jason M. Hough

PlagueForge

The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough

Book 3 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group

Del Rey Spectra - Del Rey

Publication Date: September 24, 2013

This story of a future dystopian earth continues where The Exodus Tower left off.

SPOILER ALERT: This review contains spoilers If you have not read the first two episodes of this series, stop now, go back and read them. 

On their first visit, the aliens  left an elevator that can lift space craft up high enough so that they need little fuel to launch out of Earth’s atmosphere. For a while, it gave the world a great economic boost … until they dropped by again and left the plague. It killed millions upon millions and left millions more as mindless, kill crazy sub-humans.

The setting for all the books is the late mid-24th (2385) century. The first “gift” from the aliens was the elevator in Darwin, Australia. The second was the plague that forced the remainder of earth’s population to gather in their remnants. The Elevator — its proximity — confers a kind of protection from plague.

Skyler Luiken is an immune. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon affecting a tiny percentage of the population, enabling them to walk freely in the atmosphere without special breathing apparatus. Originally, with a crew of fellow immunes Skyler flew scavenging missions to collect resources to keep Darwin alive. His ship is gone and half his crew dead. Those not killed were separated when a piece of Darwin’s population broke away to build a new settlement in Belém, Brazil where the aliens dropped a second space elevator.

Now, the aliens are back again. On schedule as predicted. Why? What do they want? They’ve left artifacts, keys for the humans to patch together … to what purpose?

Not only are they back, but they are heading for the exact spot where the plague started. Are they coming to finish off what they began and kill the rest of the human population? Or are they coming to save earth and end the plague? How about both?

In this third volume of the Dire Earth trilogy, the intrepid Skyler Luiken is back in touch with Samantha, who is living undercover in the Jacobite-dominated city of Darwin … and his original group captain has reappeared.

It’s time for a reckoning. Skyler and Tania — now the unwilling “head” of the Belém colony — have to figure out how to put the puzzle together. Their problem? They have little to go on except hints, speculation, and fear. The urgent question remains: what do the aliens want? The secondary question is … well … who is going to wind up with who when it’s all sorted out. Skyler and … Tania? Ana? That is if anyone survives.

This final volume is where you will get the answers you’ve been waiting for. It’s a fast, taut thriller-type trip into a badly broken future as the good guys have to figure out who the bad guys are, if the bad guys are the bad guys or maybe they are good guys, sort of. Then, there are the Jacobites and Grillo who have taken over Darwin … bad enough without the potential doom coming with the aliens. Ultimate destruction or salvation await — in the air and on the ground. Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place …

Of the new science fiction I’ve read in the past couple of years, this is one of the most interesting. It is classic sci fi, the kind of story that hooked me on the genre more than 40 years ago.A tight, taut thriller, it raises plenty of questions, an endless number of questions. The final book holds the answers and I can hardly wait!

The Plague Forge is a great read. If anything, it’s faster moving and more like a thriller than the first two books. It is exactly what you have been hoping for if you’ve been following the series. Now available!

Gift of doom? The aliens return with The Exodus Tower, by Jason M. Hough

The Exodus Tower by Jason M. Hough

Book 2 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group – Del Rey Spectra - Del Rey

Publication Date: August 27, 2013

This unique story of a future dystopian earth continues where The Darwin Tower left off.

Dystopian futures for our planet have become a genre. This story manages to combine elements of the Zombie apocalypse (not real Zombies, but  similar behavior), alien visitors with a strange, secret and maybe lethal agenda … and of course … the post plague survival.

On their first visit, the aliens  left an elevator that can lift space craft up high enough so that they need little fuel to launch out of Earth’s atmosphere. For a while, it gave the world a great economic boost … until they dropped by again and left the plague. It killed millions upon millions and left millions more as mindless, kill crazy sub-humans.

The setting for all the books is the late mid-24th (2385) century. The first “gift” from the aliens was the elevator in Darwin, Australia. The second was the plague that forced the remainder of earth’s population to gather in their remnants. The Elevator — its proximity — confers a kind of protection from plague.

Skyler Luiken is an immune. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon affecting a tiny percentage of the population, enabling them to walk freely in the atmosphere without special breathing apparatus. Originally, with a crew of fellow immunes Skyler flew scavenging missions to collect resources needed to keep Darwin’s population alive. His ship is gone and half his crew dead. Those not killed were separated when a piece of Darwin’s population broke away to build a new settlement in Belém, Brazil. Because the aliens have been back and that is where they have dropped a second space elevator.

Structural diagram of a space elevator. The ea...

Structural diagram of a space elevator. The earth is shown in a “top-down” perspective looking at the north pole, with the space elevator in equatorial orbit.  Space elevator structural diagram.

Confusion and fear deepen as the human population starts to tear itself apart. Skyler Luiken and scientist Dr. Tania Sharma have formed a colony around the new Elevator’s base, utilizing mobile towers to protect humans from the Builders’ plague. After fending off an attack from a roving band of plague-immune mercenaries bent on world domination (do humans ever learn?) a frightening suspicion is growing day by day.

The aliens are coming back. There’s a schedule. What will they do this time. But more important? What do they want? Why have the come, what’s the real purpose of the elevators and the towers? Deepening unease and ever wider rifts between colonists makes the future dark indeed..

In this second volume of the Dire Earth trilogy, the intrepid Skyler Luiken in Belém, and Samantha, his co-explorer from his first crew each begin to uncover and to some degree, unravel a lot of truth … disturbing and frightening truths with dark implications.

It’s a great read, as good as the first book. I’m just taking a short break before I dive into the final volume.

Of the new science fiction I’ve read in the past couple of years, this is one of the most interesting. It is classic sci fi, the kind of story that hooked me on the genre more than 40 years ago.A tight, taut thriller, it raises plenty of questions, an endless number of questions. The final book holds the answers and I can hardly wait!

I enjoyed these books from the first page of the first book. Taut and tense, full of thought-provoking concepts, there is nary a dull moment..

The Exodus Tower is scheduled for release on Kindle and paperback on August 27th.

The third and final volume of the trilogy — Plague Force — scheduled for release September 24th.

Keep watching the skies … and this site for the review of the final book in September.

Dystopia with a twist – The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough - Book 1 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group – Del Rey Spectra - Del Rey

Publication Date: July 30 2013

Books about the dystopian future of earth are an entire genre nowadays. Whether it’s the post Zombie apocalypse, earth after the aliens have worked us over, earth after the bombs have dropped, earth after we’ve destroyed our own environment, earth after a plague or any of myriad unpleasant futures our imaginative science fiction writing community envision for us, postapocalyptic dystopian science fiction has proliferated. We can’t get enough of it. Me neither. I just eat it up.

The Darwin Elevator fall into two dystopian categories — post alien and post plague. It’s also a fine, fun piece of science fiction writing. It has great heroes (male and female) and some seriously nasty, bad-ass villains. There’s plenty of action and nary a dull moment.

SpaceElevator

In brief? The aliens came. They built an elevator in Darwin, Australia that is functionally a ladder to the stars as well as a quick-launch (well, not so quick, but highly economical of energy) pad for space shots.

The setting is late mid-24th century — around 2385 in Darwin, Australia. It’s the last human city. Most of the world’s population died of the plague brought by the aforementioned aliens. No one is quite sure whether the plague was unleashed intentionally or not, but the results of it have been devastating. Any parts of the human population not huddled around the elevator (built by the aliens) in Darwin — an area that confers protection on people under its “umbrella” — are now mindless, savage subhumans. Not zombies. Just very nasty.

Skyler Luiken was born with a natural immunity to the plague. It’s rare, though not unheard of. He and a group of fellow immunes  fly missions to scavenge urgently needed resources to keep Darwin functional. When the Elevator starts to experience frequent — unprecedented — power outages, Skyler and his intrepid crew, as well as the young and beautiful scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma are tasked to solve the mystery and repair the elevator. If the elevator fails, that’s the end of humanity. Doom.

This is the first book of a trilogy. The second and third parts are due out in mid August and early September. This is good insofar as you don’t have a long wait for the rest of the story. Bad, insofar as you know the good guy — Skyler — is going to make it, no matter how dubious his situation looks because, well, he’s the hero and there are two more books scheduled for publication. I don’t have a problem with this since I read a lot of series, trilogies, duologies and frankly, I prefer knowing the hero is going to survive. I’m not good with high level literary stress.

Although this certainly falls into the dystopian postapocalyptic science fiction designation, it isn’t quite like anything else I’ve read. The elevator — the entire concept — is interesting and unique. There are hints that there’s a lot more to this technology than mere technology. It’s not just power and gears and engineering specs. There’s something more going on, but we aren’t going to find out what that is quite yet.

I enjoyed the book from the first page. Sometimes, when you start a book, you just know it’s going to be a good one. This is a good one. Real science fiction, well written, nice and tight and tense. And based on an interesting premise. As sci fi goes, that’s pretty much what you need. It’s available on Kindle and paperback.

I highly recommend it. I can promise a good, not boring read that will make you absolutely want to read the next installment — The Exodus Tower — scheduled for release August 27th.

Tomorrow, you can read my review of The Exodus Tower. You can pre-order it through Amazon and probably elsewhere, too.

Rereading Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart

Cover of "Earth Abides"

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 40 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stayed with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period of almost 30 years when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. It was especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post apocalyptic science fiction. Above all it is a book of rebuilding, renewal and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.

The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and gradually create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds a new balance.

Most diseases of old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are wonderfully healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religious and outdated social structures are shed. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice and the color line becomes non-existent. There is much that needs doing in this new world, but there’s an infinite amount of time in which to do it.

Ultimately, earth will be repopulated. But gently … and hopefully, in peace. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before, but without its demons.

The book was re-released as a 60th anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was immediately after it was re-released. Four years has given me time to be surprised by the book all over again. Be surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years, how much he grows and matures. How his belief structure adapts to new realities, how much more open his mind becomes. It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but only to a point.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, the world begins. Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the capacity to not only survive, but reinvent civilization and make a better world.

Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart – The EARTH ABIDES Project. Definitely check it out!

It’s available in every configuration including Kindle, Audible download, audiobook (CD and MP3), hardcover and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back. I have owned at least a dozen copies of Earth Abides and keep an extra copy tucked away to give to friends who haven’t read it yet. I’m glad.

It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present. I have a spare copy, just in case.

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Full Moon, Blue Moon

Tonight’s full moon is the third of four that will occur this summer. Thus is the alternative and older definition of a Blue Moon.The modern definition of a Blue Moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.

Either way, it’s a blue moon and a relatively rare occurrence.

This full moon is called a Sturgeon Moon. According to the old Farmer’s Almanac, tribes near the Great Lakes named this moon, identifying it as the best season for catching sturgeon.

I live in under a canopy of oaks. When I first looked for the moon this evening, it was invisible, behind the trees. When finally it was almost directly overhead — for about 90 seconds — I could see it though it was only a partial view. My lens was trying so hard to figure out on what to focus. With the leaves in the way, it could not quite get a fix on the moon, nor in the dark could it get a fix on the leaves. In that light, with my vision, manual focus was not in the equation.

But … that doesn’t mean the pictures aren’t interesting.

I tried as many settings as I could within such a short period. The pictures are interesting. Not traditional pictures of a full moon. Anyway, you can see plenty of them all over the Internet tonight. On the other hand, I’ll bet no one else’s moon shots look quite like these :-)

WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGES – At Winter’s End, Robert Silverberg

Original Publication date: October 1, 2005, Kindle Publication date: May 14, 2013

At Winter’s End: The New Springtime, Volume 1. By Robert Silverberg, .

The falling death stars came again at last. Long predicted, the recurring catastrophic collision of earth with the world-destroying celestial bodies arrived on scheduled. In its last pass, it had killed the dinosaurs, brought the ice ages and ultimately, the ascendency of humankind as Earth’s dominant special.

It is many hundreds of thousands of years in the future when the cycle recurred. By then, Earth had not only humans, but other intelligent species — vegetals, mechanicals, hjjk (insect-like) and emerald-eyes (heirs to the dinosaurs) sharing the planet. Of the intelligent earth-based species, only humans and the hjjk were destined to survive the longest cold winter of the Earth. The others either could not or would not endure the 700,000 years of the Long Winter.

Simians who will become heirs to humanity have survived in an underground cocoon. Within this highly structured, rigidly organized society, they are driven by a singular goal. Endure until the New Spring comes. Survive until the sun warms the Earth. It’s an unthinkably long wait.

When finally signs portend the arrival of spring and The People are led by their chieftain Koshmar and chronicler Taggoran from the cocoon into the Outer World, it’s terrifying to many. The odds against survival are formidable. There are but 60 of them in total, the exact same number who entered the cocoon. This number has been maintained through ruthless reproductive control and pre-scheduled death dates. The number of tribe members has never in all 700,000 years been allowed to grow by a single member. But now, it’s a new day. The rules are gone and from where will the new rules come? robertSilverberg

Earth does not exactly throw the People a welcome party. Many are glad to see them, but not for the happiest of reasons. The rat wolves, the bloodbirds, endless vermin, bizarre predators and hideous insects await them … hungrily. With the warming has come the yearning for a taste of warm flesh.

The hjjk — those strange, cold insect like beings — have survived, to no one’s surprise. But there seem to be no other humans or humanoids anywhere. Koshmar’s band is so small and the earth so huge and empty. Losing Taggoran, the Old Man and Chronicler — preserver of the People’s knowledge and history — to the rat wolves means Koshmar must anoint a new Chronicler. She chooses the 9-year-old prodigy Hreesh-of-the-questions. It’s never been done before … but nothing is as it was. Everything must change.

Can this small doughty band of survivors fulfill the age-old promise to become the masters of the new-born Earth?

This is a long book with a lot of philosophical content. I enjoy the speculative nature of science fiction. That’s why I read it and that is, in my opinion, what sets sci fi apart — as a genre — from other kinds of fiction.

Sci fi is concept-oriented rather than centered on personal and emotional stuff. This is classic science fiction. There is a lot of thought-provoking stuff in here, much of it about the importance of following rules — and when rules no longer apply. How to know when it’s time to change and when it’s better to stand fast. If you are looking for a novel that explores the personal feelings of people and their relationships, you’ve come to the wrong book. If you like to give your brain a little exercise, don’t mind philosophical meandering (better yet, you enjoy it), give this one a read. And then read volume 2 — The Queen of Springtime. If you like one, you’ll like the other.

 At Winter’s End is available in hardcoverpaperback and now in Kindle. It’s a powerful, thought-provoking novel of world’s end, world’s beginning. Robert Silverberg is a  master science fiction writer. Earth and its people reborn.

The World’s Most Powerful Soccer Mom Vampire – Samantha Moon Rising, by J.R. Rain

Samantha Moon Rising, by J.R. Rain includes 3 short novels and a short story.

Under one cover, you’ll find books 5, 6, and 7 in the Vampire for Hire Series: Vampire Dawn, Vampire Games, Moon Island, and the short story Teeth.

BenBella Books – Publication Date May 21, 2013

I was really happy to have the opportunity to review this collection. I read the first four books when I had just gotten my first Kindle and they were on sale, whipped right through them and looked for more. Alas, there were no more and I grumpily moved on.

A couple of years have passed and lo and behold, she’s back. And wow, is she back. More powerful than a locomotive. Maybe more powerful than two locomotives and not merely able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, but able to fly long distances on her very own, powerful wings. Okay,  she’s not really human when she’s flying having morphed into “something else” which I glean is more or less bat-like, but still and all … she can fly. She can do a lot of things. Read minds. Send mind messages. Control other people’s minds. Beat the crap out of almost anyone, human or other.

But she’s still a total wimp about her kids … but her kids are growing up. Fast and they aren’t your ordinary kids, either.

Her ex is still a total sleaze, but hey, what are exes for, right? She’s more than a vampire. Much more. She has powers and abilities well beyond the ordinary and she is beginning to realize what she knows she can do is the tip of a very large iceberg of power she has barely tapped. It may turn out that Samantha Moon will be the most powerful of her kind — ever. Because she is changing and growing and learning … and so are her children and even the friends and family who are in frequent contact with her. It turns out that power is contagious.

She retains her ambivalence about her peculiar condition. There are aspects of it she loves. There’s nothing like a good long fly to clear ones head and her physical strength and ability to virtually instantly heal from injury is nothing to sneer at. But she knows her powers come from a foreign entity who lives as a parasite in her … an “other” who is not the kind of creature she would welcome into her parlor, much less her body. She has a lot to sort out. In the mean time, there are crimes to solve and wrongs to right — and Samantha Moon is the vampire to do it.

These are short books. Too long to be novellas, but not really long enough for me to consider them full-length novels. Having three of them under one cover is much more satisfying. I could dig in and read my way through to the end. These are very smooth reading and quite addictive. The characters are unique, interesting, with enough back story for long contemplation. A bit of philosophy, arcane history, modern mystery, some love and cuddly sex … and you have a formula that will keep you up until dawn is breaking. I lost some serious sleep reading this book — or maybe books.

No, it’s not deathless literature, but it’s very well written, smooth as silk. The characters are unique. Highly recommended and I do hope that more books are on the way!!

Samantha Moon Rising follows your favorite suburban-mother vampire to where she’s never gone before as she tackles her most frightening cases yet.

Book 1: Vampire Dawn – Someone is leaving victims drained of blood, and all signs point to a killer vampire. At the same time, Samantha’s son is undergoing some astounding changes. He’s becoming a little super guy and she needs to understand what this means. But her work is keeping her busy, tracking down a serial murderer. Soon, another ancient medallion will change her world …

Book 2: Vampire Games – Samantha Moon is investigating the strange death of a popular boxer. She realizes the official story doesn’t add up; there’s a lot more going on than reports indicate. A talk with the M.E. confirms her suspicions and as she uncovers the young fighter’s past, she comes face-to-face with an unexpected evil. Samantha has to confront the growing supernatural powers of those near and dear to her and the unexpected betrayal of someone she has come to trust, maybe love.

Book 3: Moon Island — In a very Agatha Christie setting, Samantha and her new best friend travel to a private and remote island off the Pacific coast. Here she must hunt not merely a killer, but an entity of enormous and evil power who has been murdering members of one family for generations. Still struggling to understand what she has become and is becoming, she realizes that this creature is personally targeting her,  threatening to destroy her and those about whom she most cares.

Available in paper back. So far, I could not find the three-in-one version on Kindle. Probably it will become available. In the meantime, you can buy the paperback and you can buy each of the books included as a separate Kindle download. Worth it, no matter how you do it.

Mother’s Day, As It Began — Julia Ward Howe

The modern commercialized celebration of gifts, flowers and candy, bears little resemblance to Julia Ward Howe‘s original idea. Here is the Proclamation that explains, in her own powerful words, the goals of the original Mother’s Day in the United States

English: Portrait drawing of poet, anti-slavel...

Portrait drawing of poet, antislavery activist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe.

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Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means

Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

- – -

To all mothers and children of mothers, wishes of strength, peace and hope for this Mother’s Day.

Awakenings: Earth Day – The History of A Movement

See on Scoop.itAwakenings: America & Beyond

Each year, Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 marking the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. This was during a time when protest was of the highest order, especially as war raged in Vietnam. Earth Day, however, did shift conscious awareness away from the war opposition and more toward environmental concerns.

The photos of the first Earth Day are courtesy of National Geographic Daily News.

Sharla Shults‘s insight:

The immediate aftermath of the first Earth Day celebration resulted in people looking hung over and litter-filled parks which partly negated the previous day’s environmental message.

 

"The crowds again are often people looking for something to do or an axe to grind on some other issue. People should practice what they preach."

See on awakenings2012.blogspot.com

About those dinosaurs … It all started with “Fantasia”

This conversation started because my husband, unlike me, is not fascinated by dinosaurs. He seemed a bit baffled as to why I’d include a big story about dinosaurs when I didn’t write it or take any of the photographs. Note: Should a dinosaur wander through my back yard, be assured that I will be out there taking pictures until either the huge reptile ambles away or eats me, whichever comes first.

Unlike many things which have adult origins — technology, philosophy, history — all the “ologies” and “osophies” that attended my education and subsequent research — my passion for dinosaurs goes all the way back, back, back in time to when I was four or five years old and my Aunt Ethel took me to see “Fantasia,” the original, not the later remake.

Who remembers in “Fantasia” the history of the earth, starring the rise and fall of the dinosaurs? It is set to Igor Stravinsky‘s brilliant “The Rites of Spring.” The music itself might be enough, but with the Disney artists on their best game, it was something else and embedded itself in my mind for a lifetime.

In case you’ve forgotten or have by some oversight never seen it, here it is. I wish it were a little brighter but the sound is excellent and it is still as extraordinary as ever it was:

None of these graphics were generated by computers. All of it … each frame … was drawn by human artists. The music was played live by an orchestra full of real musicians. Contrary to popular opinion, special effects were not invented by Steven Spielberg.

I was just a little kid and it scared the bejeezus out of me. I had nightmares for years about dinosaurs hiding under the bed, in the hallway, in my closet. I couldn’t sleep without a nightlight because I was sure there was a dinosaur lurking, ready to grab me in giant jaws with teeth 9 feet long. I was a child of great imagination and excessive sensitivity.

As I got older, I began to read books and discovered lots of really cool stuff about dinosaurs, most important (to me) was that North America — what is now the middle of the United States had been giant reptile central, the heartland of the Brontosaurus, Velociraptor and other astonishing creatures. Where now stand cities like St. Louis and Kansas City, Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled. Perhaps their legacy lives on in corporate boardrooms and Washington D.C., but I digress.

When this was made, the whole asteroid thing was yet unknown, so the history of the earth is missing that piece of information, but I’m sure Disney’s artists would have happily included it had they known. Meanwhile, I’m totally whacked at the idea of earth getting hit by an asteroid. I always have a good laugh when someone in some space lab mentions, casually, that there’s an asteroid headed our way, but not to worry, there’s no better than a 50-50 chance it will really hit us.

That we pathetic creatures, crawling around the surface of the earth, believe we are all-powerful and can control our destiny by technology is funny. Not only has this planet been hit by asteroids — not once but many times — but each time, the event precipitated the extinction of Earth’s dominant species. The dinosaurs lasted a lot longer than we have. Should one of those big hunks of space debris smack into us, I think it unlikely that all the computers, weaponry, technology or prayers we can muster will be of any use at all. Our collective ass will be grass without even the opportunity to text our best buddies about the impending big bang.

We will be gone, quite likely having had even less effect on our planet, in the final analysis, than did the dinosaurs.

Humankind has always suffered above all from the sin of pride. Hubris, as the Greeks called it. We think we are creatures of God and perhaps we are, but who said we are the only creatures of God or that He gave us a permanent free pass from extermination?

map-dinosaurs-1993

And this is what so fascinates me and probably always will. That these creatures, these huge, powerful creatures who ruled this planet for more years than we can comprehend were, in a single calamitous event, exterminated. Eliminated from the earth leaving just their bones by which to remember them. And we think we are so all-powerful. I bet they thought so, too.

The End of the World in 2012 | Top Secret Writers

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

End of Days. Ragnarok. Armageddon. We have heard all of these terms before. These are the terms used throughout the generations to describe the end of the world.

Men and women have been prophesying about the end since the beginning. Each “prophecy” claims a new era will be ushered in through massive change and, usually, massive loss of human life.

The first of these theories started to appear with the emergence of organized religion. It seems that every major religion as an end of the world theory. Even science as had its own end of the world theories, such as millennium bug, giant asteroids, and global warming.

The newest theory is the 2012 theory. This theory states that the world will end or, at the very least, drastically change on December 21, 2012. The end of the world in 2012 theory is based on the 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar.

The calendar, widely used on Mayan and other Mesoamerican monuments, uses a modified base-20 count to identify a single day by counting the total number of days that has passed since the creation. This creation is given in detail in the Mayan book Popol Vuh.

However, this end-of-the-world in 2012 theory is not detailed anywhere on the Mayan Long Count or in the Popol Vuh. The “end” referred to in these Mayan writings simply mark the end of one count and the beginning of another.

The end of the world theory derived from these is actually a modern interpretation. However, this modern interpretation has split into to factions. One faction interprets the “end” as new era where the world and the beings living in it will experience a change equivalent to a new enlightenment. The other faction is not so optimistic. It is this faction that receives all the media hype with its tales of global destruction and mass human extinction.

Who’s right? Well, mainstream science and most Mayan scholars agree: neither. Mainstream science actually views the theories that the Mayan Long Count will usher in a world ending cataclysm are contradicted by simple scientific observations.

Mainstream Mayan Historians view theories as a gross misunderstanding of Mayan history and culture. Mayan writing and documents are very hard to come by and the ones that are available do not shed much light on the subject.

Neither science nor Mayan history seems to view December 21, 2012 any more significant than December 20 or December 23.

The only significance that December 21, 2012 holds is that it marks the date of the winter solstice. On this day, the shortest day, longest night, and the sun’s daily maximum position in the sky is at its lowest can be observed. It could be possible that this was a day of celebration for the ancient Mayans. The winter solstice is a day of celebration for many cultures (ancient and modern) around the world. However, there is no such celebration in present day Mayan culture, and modern-day Mayans do not view the day as significant in any way.

Modern day scientists and scholars say that the end-of-the-world in 2012 theory is nothing more than a sensationalized rumor created to sell books, newspapers, and television ads. Believers of the 2012 theory argue that science has been wrong before and December 21, 2012 will throw the Earth and its inhabitants in a period of change and destruction.

Who should we believe? Should we go on about our daily lives? Should prepare for the end? With all of the contradictions and hype, what is the average human being to do?

My advice: remember Y2K.

See on www.topsecretwriters.com

Weekly Writing Challenge: And Now For Something Completely Different: Samhain’s Tree

 I have been an enthusiastic amateur photographer for decades, and a writer always. I wrote professionally for more than 40 years: technical writing, promotional materials, public relations, advertising, poetry, news, news features and one novel. Thus I can’t claim to be doing something completely different — at least as it pertains to me — but I certainly can do something that I have not usually done in this blog.

A few days ago, I was out with the camera. It was the first sunny day in a week. Autumn in New England is all too brief, so as soon as I saw the sun shining, I grabbed my photo gear and hit the road.

It was a good day. I caught some amazing pictures. One entire set of perhaps 50 frames were taken of a huge golden tree that stands alone near the end of town on Main Street. After doing basic processing on a half-dozen of these, I decided to play a bit with Photoshop and see what else I could do with this overflow of images. Thus emerged the tree in an entirely new light (everyone who uses Photoshop is snickering at this). For the first time I had an image that needed a story. That is a first for me, because always the words have come first and images later. This picture screamed at me it needed a story. I knew the name of the story before a single word hit the page: Samhain’s Tree.

I have written the introduction and introduced the woman who I believe will be my main character, but it is so new and so far from complete that everything remains subject to change. Whether it will be a book or a shorter story, what additional characters will become part of this world, I don’t know. Characters often create themselves. One of the ways you know your story is working is that characters come to life and do unexpected things that you hadn’t thought of. They don’t behave, are sometimes quite naughty and redefine your original ideas by having their own.

 

Samhain’s Tree

No one could remember a time before ancient trees, their roots sunk deep into the Earth, drew magic upward to protect people, creatures, and all things that grow. This Earth magic kept the water pure, the soil fertile, the seasons on schedule, and life thrived.

Village people knew their trees and which ones had roots that tapped the magic. Such trees were evident to everyone. It seemed natural that Beltane and Samhain would be celebrated under their spreading arms and indeed they were.

Trees are sentient, but it is a different sentience than that of humans. Trees transmit knowledge and the secrets whispered to them, but do not judge the relative importance of one thing over another, nor necessarily understand what they pass along. At the time of the great festivals, if you know the right words, the right ritual, you can whisper to a tree who will obligingly pass it through its network to a different power.

Asking magical favors should never be done lightly. Magic has value, but it is powerful and power equals danger. Though many have deluded themselves that they could harness the forces of the Earth to their will and whim, humans are not adept at magic. Magicians learn to manipulate power, but never understand what they are doing or how they do it. Earth cares nothing for people. It is the Deities, the immortals both great and small who protect humans, often from their own stupidity.

Knowing the dangers, desperate people will nonetheless go to the trees at the hours when power is most available and the veil between the worlds is thin. It is very human to take great risks in times of perceived great need.

So it was in older times, earlier days. As man’s civilization has taken over, most people have fallen out of harmony with the Earth. One can live an entire life, birth to death, and never touch the soil, never sense the magic. City life, busy lives and most folks forgot the trees and magic. A young child running barefoot on the grass has reached the pinnacle of knowledge of Earth’s magic. These days, it’s all downhill from there.

The trees never did much care what people did. They continue to grow, to find places and spaces in rural fields, suburban backyards and city parks. Wherever a tree can sink roots deep enough, it seeks the magic.

In a small town in rural New England, exactly central to the middle of nowhere, there is a richly verdant valley that was briefly, as the Earth reckons time, filled with factories, mills, and squalid towns. Through this valley a river flows, today as it has for ages past. Much of the area’s agricultural land had returned to the trees. Some farms continue breeding their chickens and dairy cattle; every summer, fields of butter and sugar corn grew along pastures where fat horses graze.

As in most human habitats, many – maybe most – of the oldest trees have been felled for wood and some have died. Even trees are not immortal. In this valley, the tall oaks are fewer than a hundred years old, but you can find old trees with deep roots here, there, and elsewhere. When you see one of these old ones, you recognize them. You do not need anyone to tell you that this tree is old and runs deep. Tree knowledge is inborn to all people. We know trees bring the Earth’s magic up to the light. We’ve forgotten the rituals, but we can’t forget the magic. It waits for us.

In this town, everyone knows Samhain’s tree. Annabelle understood its name, though she was not sure who had named it thus, because it had not been Annabelle … yet it seemed that no one but her knew what its name symbolized. They didn’t know Samhain from Santa Claus. Most townspeople assumed the name originated with whoever had once owned the land. Nor were they sufficiently curious to look it up, though it would have been easy enough what with everyone owning a computer.

This was not a town afflicted by excessive curiosity. If anyone other than Annabelle understood what the tree’s name implied, they kept the information to themselves.

The tree was huge and stood alone at the northern end of Main Street. It occupied an open field along the road on a slight rise, so it was easy to see from a distance. Neither an oak or maple, it was a much less common tree, an alder. Not extremely tall, its branches spread wider than its height, an untypical growth pattern for an alder. Huge, heavy branches dipped close to the ground. Rather than arching up to reach the sun, Samhain’s tree seemed inclined to touch the grass, inviting children to swing on low-hanging branches. But children did not play in the tree. No tree houses were built and no one set up a lemonade stand in its shade. When children approached it, they did so cautiously and quietly.

Annabelle had lived in the town as long as it had been a town. As far as she knew, the tree had always been there. It was there when she had arrived in the New World. It always stood alone, first in a meadow, now in a field as if other trees preferred to give it space, not wishing to crowd too close.

The tree was orange and yellow today. It was the middle of October. The air was chilly at night, brisk in the morning. Just another couple of weeks to Halloween.

“That’s what Samhain is to them,” she thought wryly. Well, what did it really matter? It was close enough. Costumes, bonfires, candy, figures made of rags and straw … all done with not a trace of understanding. The celebrants had no clue what holiday they were celebrating. Yet, they had were effectively observing most of the customs. Blindly, but Annabelle felt quite sure that her Goddess cared not at all if those who celebrated knew why they observed the festival and would only care that they celebrated at all. Immortals are not detail-oriented. If more people realized that, the world would be a more peaceful place by far.

Halloween was the next most popular holiday to Christmas. Halloween was the harvest, the bounty of the summer before the little death of winter. Decorations, costumes, candy and parties … terribly appropriate for whatever the reason.

Annabelle was bemused at how celebrations of ancient rituals persisted though virtually no one saw their significance. Ask anyone why did they did all this stuff they do for this rather unimportant holiday. They would stare at you blankly and answer with “It’s just fun.” “We felt like doing it.” “There’s nothing like a great bonfire on a chilly night.” They cared nothing beyond that. They would have laughed had Annabelle told them it was Earth’s magic calling to them.

The weeks passed quickly and as the end of the month drew near, the trees were close to bare. Hard to believe just a fortnight ago, the world had been aglow with color. A few stubborn leaves clung to branches, but peak was gone and icy tendrils of winter sometimes nipped at a nose or a fingertip. Just a reminder from Mr. Frost that he was coming soon, so lay in a supply of wood. Be ready.

“Well,” murmured Annabelle, “Tonight I will build the greatest Samhain fire ever seen in these parts.”

Building her bonfire was no mean feat for Annabelle. She had wanted to do it herself, the way she always had. But in the end, she couldn’t and she’d hired a boy to help her haul and stack things. The kid thought she was a nutty old lady and maybe she was. The years had taken their toll. Her hands were gnarled with arthritis and her balance was askew. She knew she walked at an odd tilt, but she was old enough to not care. Her white hair seemed to give the world leave to ignore her eccentricities.

“No one pays any attention to old people,” thought Annabelle, as she plodded along the sidewalk toward her house all the way at the southern end of town. It had been a short trip when she could drive, but her eyes weren’t good anymore. She didn’t trust her reflexes. At the exact time of her life when she most needed to drive, she had to walk on tired old feet. It wasn’t fair. She supposed she could have gotten an electric chair, but somehow, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Pride? A little. But also a tooth-grinding determination to stay on her own feet as long as she was able … and she sincerely hoped that would be until she no longer needed legs at all.

Which was stupid, because life was never fair.

“I have disappeared,” she thought. “The day my hair turned white, I became invisible to all but other old eyes.” Older people saw her, but younger ones looked right through her. She was the hag who heralded the true fate of all humankind, inevitable death. The hag was never a popular incarnation of the Great Mother.

Invisibility cut both ways, because Annabelle could see right through the pretensions of the younger generations. They seemed to think that they could exercise or maybe straight out buy eternal life. Sometimes, she wanted to stop and ask them “How’s that working out for you?” but she didn’t. It would be rude.

Age might not bring wisdom, but it did bring a certain level of cynicism and shrewdness. You might not be able to read the fine print with your old eyes, but you could see through the veil and easily see through most people. Yet when they looked at her, they saw nothing. Just a bit of white hair wrapped in an overcoat.

Annabelle attended church, if not every Sunday, then often enough. Christmas Eve and Easter at least. When she was younger, she’s gone regularly, but she’d lived in this town so long no one questioned what or who she was or might have been. No one could remember a time before Annabelle lived there. If there was an eternal person, she had to be it. In return, Annabelle was greatly amused by watching her fellow parishioners at church. Some were sincerely devoted to their God, but most were there for some other reason. Obligation. Habit. To show off. Because they liked the music or the Pastor or the sound of church bells … but genuine devotion to any God was rare. Annabelle saw it less and less with the passage of the years.

Tonight was not their God’s special night. Tonight was the night for her Goddess. Samhain was Morrigan’s holiday and though Morrigan had not visited for many years, Annabelle believed with the help of the tree, this time, she could bring her out and end the silence that had grown between them.

In just a few hours, as darkness fell, it would be time for Annabelle to implement her plan.

-

Not the end.

Winter Tipi

The fire was the heart of the tipi.

Fire is both light and heat. I built a great little fire pit in my tipi. When the fire was burning bright, it was all the light I needed. The peace I found quietly by the fire on winter nights in the tipi is impossible to exaggerate.

It seems impossible that you could safely have an open fire in a little 12-foot tipi, but it works beatufiully. If the flaps are set properly and the fire is high enough, you don’t need a chimney. The tipi is a chimney. Sparks can be startling since wood will pop and crackle, but the sparks flare out before they make contact with anything.

Even when it was bitterly cold and snowing outside, it was cozy and warm in the tipi, sometimes too warm. I had to open the door to let the cold air in. Sometimes, I sat half in and half out in the doorway because it was so warm … and this was the dead of a New England winter.

Fire pit. The trails are sparks from the fire.

There is something very soothing about a tipi. Is it the shape? Of maybe it was just that it was my own place that I had — with help — built. It’s the only thing I ever built. I was very proud of it.

I painted the tipi door from a design I found online. Not an exact reproduction. Not even close, but all thing considered, not bad.

I could light the fire in under a minute. When it’s zero and snowing outside, you have to be quick.

Native Commandments

Jasper Saunkeah, Cherokee

Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
Remain close to the Great Spirit.
Show great respect for your fellow beings.
Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.

Do what you know to be right.
Look after the well being of mind and body.
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
Be truthful and honest at all times.
Take full responsibility for your actions.
Let us greet the dawn of a new day
when all can live as one with nature
and peace reigns everywhere.

Oh Great Spirit, bring to our brothers
the wisdom of Nature and the knowledge
that if her laws are obeyed
this land will again flourish
and grasses and trees will grow as before.

Guide those that through their councils
seek to spread the wisdom of their leaders to all people.
Heal the raw wounds of the earth
and restore to our soul the richness
which strengthens men’s bodies
and makes them wise in their councils.

Bring to all the knowledge that great cities
live only through the bounty
of the good earth beyond their paved streets
and towers of stone and steel.