My book The Teddy Bear Conspiracy is in its final day of its giveaway contest on Goodreads.
The book goes on sale everywhere starting tomorrow.
My book The Teddy Bear Conspiracy is in its final day of its giveaway contest on Goodreads.
The book goes on sale everywhere starting tomorrow.
I think I mentioned that I decided to quit my job a few weeks ago. I put in my notice, and I have a little over two weeks left. A couple of days, I almost quit on the same day I was working, but I’ve perservered, and my last date of work will be December 24th, Christmas Eve. There’s no significance to that day, but that will be my last day of work.
So far, no other jobs have lined themselves up for me. And I’m anticipating that it’s probably not going to happen either. This means I really need to make it as a writer, or I’m going to starve to death. Simple as that. I won’t even get unemployment benefits. I kind of screwed myself on this one, but I’m trying to move forward with a positive disposition, no matter how many dark thoughts keep overwhelming me about this decision and its process as its being carried out.
Monday, I have a release for one of my new novels, The Teddy Bear Conspiracy.
I ran a 2 month contest on Goodreads for this book, and nearly 600 requested a copy of it. I am giving away 10 copies. There’s still a few more days left in the contest, but I’ve given up hyping the contest. Check one of the older posts, or just go to Goodreads if you’re interested in that. I also listed a giveaway of The Ameriad through Library Thing, which I did this morning, and it has about a month before it will complete its giveaway process. I don’t have an immediate link to that one, but you can definitely find it if you just go to Library Thing’s site and search for it under giveaways.
But anxiety is definitely beginning to emerge for me because so far this month, I haven’t sold a single book on Amazon. I’ve sold a few through Barnes & Noble and Kobo, but Amazon, which is usually the one that does the bulk of the selling, has been dead cold for me this month so far. That is not a comforting feeling. Remember what I was saying about starving? Hunger pains are already starting to emerge, and I’m not even at the no food stage yet.
After the Teddy Bear Conspiracy goes live, my next project involves a romance series I’m writing with a female writing friend of mine, and then I’ll be heading for a “sometime in January” release of the first book of the Tales of Reagul series, A Season of Kings. Actually, it’s not really the first book, as Destiny was the first book, but I did something a little strange with this series that not too many other writers do with a series. The first book, Destiny, starts 3000 years after the Tales of Reagul series begins, which kind of makes it an interesting universe for someone following the saga. To explain:
During the period of the Roman Empire, a small group of villages were snatched up by an alien civilization and placed onto a planet called Reagul, where an experiment was being conducted to see how civilizations handle in different environments (the original Rome being the control group, and Reagul being the experiment group). One of the citizens of the new Reagul is a young man who eventually learns all of the alien technology (to be the shepherd of this planet) and immediately after he learns everything, the aliens are called back to their home system to fight a war that is obliterating their people. The young man becomes the prominent wizard of Reagul, as everyone sees his technology as magic, and with such knowledge, it practically is. This begins the Tales of Reagul. 3000 years later, which is about 1000 years in our future, the human empire has spread across the stars, and a coloony comes under attack from the empire. A survivor of the assault leads a mission to destroy the empire by killing the emperor, which brings her to the planet Reagul, where it is discovered that her abilities (the reason she was chosen for the mission) rival those of the wizards of Reagul, indicating a tie between her planet and the strange alien race that contacted them years before (obviously being the same aliens who started the experiment with Reagul in the first place). That loater story is Destiny.
As you can see, it’s kind of complicated, but it’s a great, fun story. The first of that story (aside from Destiny) is slated for release in January.
The next project is a sequel to Thompson’s Bounty: A Ship Out of Time, my time travel adventure involving pirates and the Coast Guard. The new adventure will take Thompson and his crew into the Greek and Roman eras. That should be a lot of fun to write (and hopefully, read). People have been asking for a sequel to this novel for years now, so I finally started plotting it out.
The other distant project is my Deck Const series, which received a bit of fame from a series of short stories that I published back in the 1990s in some of the pulp magazines of that time. They were often referred to as The Soldier stories, and there was always a hint of something called The Deck Const in every one of them. I’ve finally finished the first draft of three novels that I’m reworkiing for publication. It’s a dystopian suspense series of the last soldier who is trying to rebuild civilization while on the quest to find a mysterious talisman only known as The Deck Const.
That’s kind of an update for now. Not sure if anyone even reads these updates any more, but just in case this is being read by soldiers from the future who are in search of the elusive Deck Const, let this be your clue that it exists and perhaps you are one step closer to finding it and rebuilding civilization again. Until then, sorry life kind of sucks for you right now, but dystopian societies can be that way.
Last week, I received an email from two separate sources at the school where I teach. The first one was informing me that I would be charged for parking, and it would be coming out of my bi-weekly pay. It also stated to inform them if I was no longer working on campus, as that didn’t require a charge for parking. The same day, I received an email from another entity asking me pretty much the same thing.
So, I responded to both of them at separate times, indicating that I was teaching ON campus, BUT I didn’t utilize their parking because I worked down the street from school, which meant that I was walking there every day and haven’t used parking since I started working there years ago. In other words, each year they’ve been charging me for parking that I don’t actually use. And never will.
Their response: None. Last week, I was charged for parking.
Does anyone else find this a little annoying?
This falls into what I like to call false communication, meaning that someone addresses you with a conversation but isn’t really interested in the response. What was really going on here was that the administrators of my school were informing me that they were going to be charging me for parking, and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that they were going to do it regardless of what I said or did.
This is one of the problems a lot of businesses have. A great example of this was the debacle that Netflix went through a few years ago when they tried to raise their prices but did it as if they were offering a “service”. The service they were offering was one that no one wanted, so when people responded that this was a bad idea, they went ahead and did it any way. So, the result was that a lot of people left Netflix and never came back. No amount of cajoling or explaining “this is what we meant to say or do” made a difference. Because they lost their customers by basically telling them one thing, being adamant about it, and then going ahead and doing regardless of the feedback from customers.
And that’s the problem right there. When you ask for feedback from customers, you acctually need to do something about responding to it. If you say, I want to hear from people about our services, don’t be surprised when they respond with negative information. If your goal is to get only good responses, you’re basically wasting the opportunity of asking for information in the first place.
I’ve worked at a few places that have this faulty philosophy where they basically only want to put forth a positive image, so they suppress anything that sounds negative. An example is a human resources department I worked for that used to constantly say “Our company is the number one company in our area and people want to work here.” They say this even though their turn-over is massive, and they basically can’t hire people to remain even in the industry in which they are a pominent player. What has happened is that they kept telling this lie to themselves to the point of where actual employees used to joke with each other by insulting the company and stating “Yeah, this is the place where employees really want to work.” When your boast becomes a sarcastic retort, you’re obviously doing something wrong.
I once worked for a company that kept being hit by national scores on bad customer service. Therefore, management decided that it would educate staff on customer service so they could raise these scores. As I listened to executives explain how they would begin training the staff in customer service, the one thought going through my mind was “you know, if the customer service of the staff teaching customer service is atrocious, how do you expect to raise those scores?” And that was a huge concern. I’d listen to one supervisor talk about how staff was going to work hard to increase those customer service scores, and I’d look around the room at people who weren’t happy to be there in the meeting in the first place. And you’d wonder, do they even realize there’s a problem much bigger than customer service ratings on forms from people outside the organization?
And that’s the other problem. As long as people are short sighted enough to not realize the problems are inherent within the system itself, they’re never going to solve the problem.
I go back to my school and think, if they only knew that their lack of communication is hurting them, they might actually do something about improving it. But even if I said something, they’d most likely see me as an outlier and continue doing what they do, because up until now, nothing has caused them to think they’re doing anything wrong. Until people are affected and their illusions of security are threatened, they have no reason to make changes.
And thus, we get charged for parking even when we don’t need…or want…it.
Honestly, I never thought the day would come, and to be even more honest, it’s probably not the right time either. But my job hit a point where I realized I couldn’t keep working it any longer. So, on December 24th, the day before Christmas, I will be unemployed.
The job market is horrid these days, which means I don’t suspect I’m going to be finding anything else soon. I’ve got a few irons in the fire I’ve been trying to grab, but my belief is that they’re not going to work out, so I’m pretty sure that in a month from now, I’m going to be facing a new day without any means of survival behind me.
So, I’ve started thinking that perhaps this is the time to finally make a go at being a writer. I’ve been struggling at it for several decades now, and I know enough about the craft to know that my stuff is good. I just now need to figure out how to get readers to actually want to read what I have to write. Part of me has felt my whole life is a Van Gogh perspective, in that I really feel that I have monumental works, yet suspect that no one will ever discover me until long after I have left the planet.
My latest project is The Teddy Bear Conspiracy, which I’m finishing up for an early December release. Then I work on my triple play saga, The Tales of Reagul, a fantasy/science fiction epic based on the world of my book Destiny. I’m hoping to have the first of the series, A Season of Kings, out in early January and then follow up with the other two immediately after. I’ve never done a series before, so that should be interesting.
The next project I’m working on is a follow up to Thompson’s Bounty: A Ship Out of Time, which is a return to the time travel epic for the Coast Guard crew, except this time they’ll be traveling back to Roman times. The title is still kind of up in the air, although I’ll probably go with another “Thompson’s (something)”. I’ve had a lot of people asking for further adventures in this universe, so I decided after some years that perhaps there’s a lot of fun to be had there yet.
Two other projects are on the horizon as well. The first is a rewrite of a novel I wrote some years ago, called 72 Hours in August, which is an espionage, action thriller involving an Armageddon project that emerges during the 1991 August Coup in the Soviet Union, and it introduces my new character who goes by the code name of the Unicorn, because everyone who sees him is rarely believed. He was an idea of mine decades ago when I was working as a counterintelligence agent. He’s what I refer to as an economic hit man, a man who goes into countries and disrupts their economies on the orders of an illusive corporation that benefits.
The other project I’ll be completing is the first set of books in my Deck Const series. The Deck Const is a dystopian science fiction novel where a surviving soldier emerges from one of the last wars on a quest to find a rumored object, the Deck Const, which has been spoken of only in whispers, but may hold the key to rebuilding a very fractured world. The first set of novels takes place in California (from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas) where communities have become fun house versions of their former selves as the soldier starts to build his army which will one day have to confront the dark one (the other person seeking the Deck Const). Anyway, it’s a huge epic that I’ve planned out, and I’m finishing off the first three novels, of which the series will be continuous sets of three books.
Either way, wish me luck, or wave to me as I pass you on the street with my shopping cart.
Over the weekend, I had a bit of a problem. My hard drive failed. But if you would have interacted with me, you probably would have thought my own heart had stopped instead. I was basically devasted and not sure what to do. This is coming from a former computer technician who has probably fixed and replaced more hard drives than a Geek Squad trauma team. Yet, I was kind of put into a position where I couldn’t do anything about it.
First off, I have a computer that has two hard drives. One of them is only used for starting up the computer, and the other one is my high-capacity storage one. Well, the one that starts up the computer is the one that appears to be failing. So, instead of discovering my hard drive was failing, I was just basically told that the computer couldn’t read my drive, which is short speak for “Sorry, Duane, but I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with your computer but it could be your hard drive, your RAM, or possibly payback for a bad relationship you were once in.” Then I discovered that I had no idea where my recovery or Windows 7 disks were. I tore apart my office looking for them, finding numerous copies of disks that haven’t been useful in decades, and rummaging through pretty much everything I had before discovering that the disk that worked with my computer was labeled a lot like a videocard CD they sent in the boxes, which is why I kept tossing it aside as I was looking for the “real” disk. That wasted Saturday. On Sunday, I found it, and got my computer back up and running. Since then, I’ve been scared of even shutting it down.
Last night, I got a warning from my computer basically stating: “Your hard drive is probably going to fail soon, and I also believe you’re out of Oreos.” While I was overjoyed at the complexity of my computer’s warning system, I wasn’t all that happy about the fact that my computer is about to fail. Or maybe it already did. I shut it down, and I won’t know what happened to it until I get home. If I have to buy a new hard drive, I can’t afford one until next week, and that also means I’ll probably end up with lots of stressful anxiety during that period as well. Oh joy.
But what I’ve discovered is how much I rely on this computer. When it went down, I looked around my house and discovered I have four other computers in the place. So, I could fire up one of the older ones, or my laptop, or my Macbook Pro, or my Ipad, or my Ipad 2, or my Kindle, or the computers my stuffed animals seem to have lying around the house. The point is: I’m not lacking for any computers right now.
But my MAIN computer went down, and that’s what bothers me. I do everything on this computer. And I mean everything. When I get home at night, it’s the first thing I turn on. When I need to check something, I do it on that computer. When I watch TV, quite often I watch it on THAT computer. Losing THAT computer really bothers me because I’m not sure I can handle going back to something that’s not 22nd technology (all the others were made at least a year ago).
So, tonight, I have to face the fact that I might have to do some serious work on getting my computer up and running. But it’s like I’m losing my best friend, which isn’t all that surprsing, considering I don’t really have any close friends aside from that computer and my stuffed animals.
But it usually takes an incident like that for you to realize how significant something might actually be. I do know that I can’t play Star Wars The Old Republic until my computer comes back up to speed, and that alone is devastating. Yes, as a colleague pointed out today, “real problems in a first world environment.” But that doesn’t take away the fact that I’m bothered by the whole situation. It just leaves it less relevant when put into larger perspective.
There’s an interesting article on Salon this morning from Mary Elizabeth Williams on how white people shouldn’t use the N-word under any circumstance. Ignoring for a moment that most of MEW’s articles tend to be reactionary and designed to cause people to get upset over mundane things that they wouldn’t normally pay much attention to, the points she brings up are interesting, although I’m not sure I completely agree with all of them. I’ll let you read it for yourself and then decide. What I did want to discuss is my own particular perspective in the whole thing, coming from someone who would never use the word, mainly because I find it offensive, and even more important, that it rarely serves a purpose in any conversation I’ve ever had.
But I want to go back in time a bit to a friend of mine I had back in the days of my second visit to the college environment. I had decided to attend a community college (years after the Army AND West Point), cause I was interested in pursuing computer science as a future field. Anyway, my roommate at that time was a really cool guy named (for the sake of here) Bob. Bob was friendly, a good all around guy, and he was dating a woman that he was eventually going to end up marrying. He was also a pretty big guy, and he hung around with a bunch of other big guys, a few of them caucasians and a few of them of all different types of backgrounds, ethnicities and colors. But one thing that used to shock the crap out of me was that Bob used to refer to ALL of his friends as “my Nigga.” And they would refer to him in the same way. And none of them had a single problem with it.
I once asked Bob if that word didn’t bother him, and he looked at me like I was a moron. To him, the word had little contextual meaning as it did to me. It didn’t even have the same meaning to the African-American friends he had, because I couldn’t resist asking them either. They just didn’t grow up in an environment where they felt the typical socio-economic fabric that hangs over so many African-Americans of urban locales. They just smiled when I asked about it and didn’t have a negative thing to say whatseover.
No one thought of Bob as a racist, and not once was race even considered a part of the conversation.
But for me, I never could come around to using that word, even in the mixed company of where it was tossed around on a constant basis. I just didn’t feel comfortable saying it no matter how “welcome” the word was. And part of that is because I grew up in an environment where the word was used in very negative circumstances. The whites I grew up with around in the late 1960s and early 1970s were living through forced busing and the ramifications of the Civil Rights movement, so there was still a long of antagonism existing back then. I was fortunate in being integrated with very diverse populations as a child because I was dirt poor in an urban environment (Santa Monica, California). While many of my caucasian neighbors (meaning people who lived way out of my neighborhood of crack houses and prostitution dens) lived in isolated communities, I spent most of my free time at places like the Santa Monica Boys Club, which tended to cater to the poorest kids who couldn’t afford to spend time after school at the YMCA (where the richer kids hung out). So, I was exposed to all sorts of diversity that quickly educated me on what words were friendly and which words were taboo. As I was always a friendly sort of kid, I learned the ones that made friends (and made lots of friends) and discarded the words that turned friends into enemies.
Years later, in the presence of Bob and his friends, I was completely out of place because the conversations they were having were alien to me, so I did what I did when I was a kdi. I listened and avoided participating whenever I felt uncomfortable. There are certain words I’m not comfortable saying, and I’ve discovered that that is probably never going to change.
This is why I don’t feel concerned that there are rappers out there using the N-word in their music. I generally don’t sing to rap music, mainly because there’s not a lot of it that insterests me. The types that does generally doesn’t have profanity in it, or it’s impact is in a completely different direction. I do think that there are a lot of people who feel they have to emulate that type of behavior to be seen as cool, and fortunately, I’ve never been known to be someone who seeks out that type of status. Whenever I consider myself “cool”, there’s usually a sense of irony or sarcasm involved.
Which brings me back to that word. I don’t know why people feel such a need to use it. But unlike the professor mentioned in MEW’s article, I don’t care enough about the fact that others use it to feel slighted myself. Words do have power in some circumstances, but what MEW and people like her don’t often recognize is that they also lack power if people don’t subscribe to their doctrine. Whenever I hear the N-word, I don’t think “subversive”, “cool”, or even “outrageous.” I think “uneducated” and “limited in vocabulary”. But then, when writing a novel, there have been times when I have chosen the simple phrase rather than the more complicated one because the message was the medium, not the other way around. And in those cases, I guess my own jury is still out.
One of the few givens in today’s society is that either some pop star is going to try to push the envelope by participating in some semblance of outrageous behavior (like saying the wrong thing, or forgetting to wear her clothes in public, or just having sex with strangers in church) or that some corporate executive is going to overstep his or her authority and say things that probably should have been sent anonymously to the racist message board where it belonged. Today, the owner of Jelly Belly decided to come out against transgendered rights in California, somehow thinking that his ability to make candy filled with high-fructose corn syrup somehow makes him an advocate for anyone who advocates hating people who are just trying to live their lives without discrimination and problems that most of us generally don’t have to deal with because we’re part of mainstream society.
A few weeks ago, it was Abercrombie & Fitch. Before that, Chik-Fil-something or other (honestly, just didn’t feel like looking up their name to spell it right as their company isn’t that important to me that I’d waste that much time putting their name into a Google search engine. And before that, it was Martha Stewart doing whatever it is that rich white women do when they’re not doing what rich white women do normally.
The point is: I’m getting really tired of hearing about corporate CEOs acting badly in public. It was fine when I was dealing with Paris Hilton, who was kind of an acting-badly CEO, even though she’s not actually the Hilton CEO. At least she was attractive and said lots of dumb things that made me laugh, even if that wasn’t her main intention. She at least provided entertainment, and I never felt that behind her ridiculousness was someone who was actually out there hating other people for being different.
But that’s what these CEOs are doing. They’ve made a shit load of money off of the rest of us, and for some reason they think that somehow now gives them the platform to spout some really racist, homophobic bullshit that somehow is relevant to the rest of us. If anyone of us have a problem with what they have to say, they chalk it up as irrelevant because what’s relevant is that we paid them money to become very wealthy and now that somehow their wealth and power makes them think that their opinions are somehow more significant than the opinions of the rest of us.
Let me let you in on a little secret. Those CEOs are not smarter, more lived, or even cognizant of facts that the rest of us don’t know. They don’t have more education than the rest of us; some of them have tons less. The only thing they have that the rest of us don’t have is money and gobs of it. That money opens doors for them so that when they have something “important” to say, people listen, which is why we’re hearing their racist, homophobic rants instead of just eating their candy.
What really seems to be happening is that our media pays dire attention to these Neanderthals because of the money factor. This is why when one of them farts on national television, we all have to smell it for the next couple of days. So, if we want to make this problem go away, we need to write to our media sources and say to stop telling us whenever a millionaire/billionaire sneezes. We don’t care.
Sure, the usual response is to start the infamous boycott of Jelly Belly products, or whatever product a company makes when one of these morons starts spouting his or her nonsense, but most often these products are things we like; we just don’t like the owners of these companies who make them. Why should we lose the things we like because they’re made by morons we hate?
The simple fact is that these CEOs are nothing more than people who were lucky at getting their product to the market and made a killing doing it. What they’re good at is business, so if they want to tell me how to run a bookstore, then the media should pipe that discussion to me. But I don’t go to a guy who makes candies in order to find out how I should feel about social issues in America. For that, I usually go to social figures who have knowledge in those areas of information. By the same token, I don’t turn to LGBT folk to find out the best way to reinvest my 401K; that’s not their expertise. Sure, one of them might know something about it, but you generally don’t just randomly go out into a crowd and start trying to get knowledge by hoping that maybe one of them might know something about the issue you’re dealing with. At least I don’t, any more than I have a tendency to avoid bringing my back pain issue to my dentist, who might feel bad about it but can’t really do anything to make me better.
So, with that said, can you CEOs please kindly shut the fuck up and get back to selling us things we don’t need?