Welcome to my New Year and A New Look review and reveal. To say 2021 was difficult is an understatement. But there were surprising, positive moments, too. I’ll be posting my review of 2021 soon as well as my goals for this new year. But 2022 is a new year and I’m starting out with a new attitude and new looks for my website and my books.
Have you visited my home page lately? I took the last week of 2021 to make some changes. Take a look. Scroll down the page a bit and you’ll see that my books also are wearing new covers. Please, feel free check it all out. Tell me what you think.
Unfortunately, the transformation is incomplete. So, if you would please, be my second pair of eyes and let me know if you find “debris” from the old website, typos, or other errors. Leave a comment or use my contact form.
New Covers and a Reveal!
There are new covers for My Soul to Keep and Fellowship, but the big news is the reveal for If I Should Die.
The custom covers are by MiBlart.com. They are a team of designers located in the Ukraine. They were easy to communicate with despite the time difference. They were also incredibly fast and good.
The ebooks should be available in all online stores. Let me know if you have a problem with a particular store. The paperbacks are available on Amazon but taking a little longer to get processed on the other stores. Please be patient a little longer. They are coming. I’ll let you know when they are ready.
If I Should Die
Many of you have been patiently awaiting the next book in the series. I’m happy to report book two of the Fellowship Dystopia is moving forward. Beta readers have given me helpful feedback and I’m smoothing out the rough spots. I’m working on a tight deadline so I am able to get it to my editor when she’s available.
I have a basic page for the book on my website now. Over the next month or so, I’ll add more information to it.
By the end of this month I should have an idea of when it will be ready for publication and I’ll put up a preorder.
Happy New Year!
You presence here, your comments and good wishes over the past year, have meant more than you can know. Yes, that’s a cliché, but that doesn’t make it less true. And I’m looking forward to new challenges and experiences. It’s a new year. Time to write new stories.
I’m deep in the last minute edits for Fellowship before I send it to the proofreader. Writing a book in the same world as My Soul to Keep that is not a sequel, has been interesting. So this week, I want to share an outtake from Fellowship and a lesson learned about writing before research.
I am both a planner and a pantser. By that I mean, I write the story with a general outline. Since the outline isn’t very detailed I often go “off on a tangent.” I let the characters take me places that often end up on the cutting room floor as this excerpt did after I learned an important lesson.
Ian opened and closed his fists over and over. It was weird. He’d never been afraid of hiking through the mountains before. It’s not right. Not fair. The Blue Ridge Mountains are my mountains. It was where Pop had taught him to hunt and fish and think.
Pop was wrong about the Fellowship though. He thought it just needed some improvements. Pop used to talk about a time when he was young when he could walk where ever he wanted, even the streets of Lynchburg, without fear. Pop had said that was before the Prophet Josiah Shephard and billionaire J. D. Wagner created the Fellowship. Pop said at first it was about love and God and good stuff so he wanted to save that part of the Fellowship. Ian wasn’t about to try to save the Fellowship. Not after what they’d done.
When he got back to the old neighborhood his sense of danger increased. He pulled his collar up and the bill of his cap down. He couldn’t afford to be identified. One of these neighbors had turned his parents in. How could he find out who? His reporter’s brain didn’t give him an answer. He couldn’t interview people. Or visit the newspaper morgue—not that that would do him any good. How did he stay hidden and find out who betrayed his family? If it were just him, he’d not care. He’d suss out the details. But he owed it to Ma and Pop to keep Leslie and Travis and Kenny safe. So he couldn’t just go up to Monty’s house and knock like he used to.
He made a second circuit and passed the park again. Kids were playing, swinging, running around. A dark-haired boy about Kenny’s age ran smack into Ian’s legs.
“Whoa, kid. Watch where you’re going.”
The boy looked up at Ian. “Sorry mister.” The kid’s walkie talkie squawked. “Paulie. Come in Paulie.”
Ian caught his breath and squatted on his heels to be eye-level with the kid. “Say, if you let me use your walkie talkie for a minute, we’ll call it even, okay?”
The boy gave him a dubious look then stared at his walkie talkie.
“Don’t worry. I’ll give it back.” He grabbed the walkie talkie. For a moment he thought the kid wouldn’t let go, then he released it. “I’m gonna take three giant steps,” Ian said. “You can still see me, but I can talk to my buddy.” It was a long shot, but Monty loved to listen to CB radios and said he got kid chatter all the time. Ian took three giant steps and changed the walkie talkie’s channel. “This is Thorn calling Blackbird. Thorn to Blackbird. Do you read?”
Nothing but static answered. Ian glanced back at the little boy whose dubious look had changed to a pout.
“Thorn to Blackbird. I have a situation.”
“This is Blackbird,” Monty answered. “How do I know this is really Thorn?”
“I’ll meet you at the GTH in ten,” Ian said. “Over.”
“Holy cow. It really is you?” Monty sounded almost reverent. “Meet at the GTH in ten. Over and out.”
Ian’s chest filled with air and hope for the first time in days. He changed the walkie’s channel back and returned the walkie talkie to the little boy. “Thanks, little man.”
He zig-zagged through the park to be certain no one followed him. His steps were more sure, more energetic than they had been. His circuitous route still got him to the Green Tree House five minutes early.
He climbed the rope, crawled inside the patched-together little house, and pulled the rope up behind him.
Four and a half minutes later someone thumped a three-three-four rhythm on the tree. Ian peeked out. Monty flashed a mouthful of white teeth up at him.
Monty climbed into the tree house and bumped his fists against Ian’s shoulder. “Man, it’s good to see you,” Monty said.“What happened? Your whole family— I was afraid that you all were—you know.”
“Ma, Pop, and Henry were.” Ian’s throat thickened.
Monty gaped at him. “How did you—?”
“I was at the paper, the kids were at school…” Somehow Ian couldn’t say more.
“Where have you been?” Monty asked. “You look like you’ve slept in your clothes.”
Ian gave him a wan smile. “I did. All of our stuff was gone. I grabbed some stuff, but blankets, a hatchet, and a knife doesn’t help much.”
“Wow.” Monty scratched his neck. “I’ll be you’re hungry.” He pulled a napkin-wrapped lump out of one pocket then the other, handed them to Ian.
One napkin held a sandwich, the other an apple. Roast beef! Ian wolfed down half of the sandwich in two bites. “Thanks, man,” he muttered and took another big bite.
Monty folded his legs Indian-style. “Maybe you could hide in my basement?”
Ian shook his head. “Thanks, but we can’t put you in danger.”
“We? Who else made it?”
“Leslie, Travis, and Kenny.”
Monty’s mouth made an “O” but no sound came out. He closed his mouth and gave Ian an expectant look.
“I need help, Monty. We’re cold and hungry.”
Monty snickered at that one.
“We need a tent, clothes, food, and a hunting rifle.” Ian looked down at his feet. This asking for help was hard.
Monty rubbed his chin. “Mother has been collecting for the poor. I could bring you some blankets and canned goods, she’ll never miss them.”
Ian swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat. “That would be great.” He hesitated. “I could really use a hunting rifle. Know where I could get one?”
Monty wrinkled his brow and pressed his lips together, his concentrating face. “You know I’d have to get a license approved through the Second Sphere to get a rifle. I sure as heck don’t want to bring them down on you. I’ll have to think on that one and a tent. Haven’t ever seen a tent donated.”
“Sure,” Ian said, his voice showed more of his disappointment than he’d meant to do. He forced a smile. “Don’t do anything that’ll get you in trouble. Canned foods and blankets will be a big help.”
The Real World
I don’t remember what prompted me to look up walkie-talkies after I wrote the scene, but I did.
The first device to be widely nicknamed a “walkie-talkie” was developed by the US military during World War II, the backpacked MotorolaSCR-300.
After the war, surplus handheld radios made it into the market. The public called them “walkie-talkies.” At least one toy version of the handheld radios first appeared in the 1950s from Remco. Their limited availability, popularity, and particularly their limited range made them not acceptable for use in this story. Gulp. Lesson learned: do your research before writing thousands of words. Or, do as I did, but be prepared to cut your darlings.
The scene was cut. I used surplus Handie-Talkies instead of walkie-talkies.
You’ll have to read the book to see how the Handie-Talkie became important in the story. The book is available for preorder on Amazon. You can read an early draft of the beginning of Fellowship or check out the book page. And, if you are a Facebook user, follow my page and search for and join the group “Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans for my launch party. (Date to be announced soon.)
I hope you enjoyed reading this outtake from Fellowship and a lesson learned. Sometimes lessons are expensive. Sometimes they are simply a lesson for this story.
Dystopia is all the rage right now. Nearly every day in America, someone refers to a dystopia. From The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu to the current administration in America. A dystopian American society seems closer than ever. Discussion usually becomes a lament that “America is turning into a dystopia.” Do you see a dystopia in America? It’s both in the present and the past. We’ll take a look at a few historical examples, but first…
What is Dystopia
Dystopia is “an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.”
Merriam Webster Dictionary
Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (1884-1937), a Russian novelist, wrote the first dystopian novel, We. Also a playwright and satirist, he was a “chronic dissenter.” Tsarist censors condemned, arrested and tried Zamyatin. He won an acquittal. He wrote a novel, We, in 1921. His manuscript circulated in Russia but he could not publish it there. An English translation was published in the United States in 1924. The original Russian text was published in New York in 1952. The story tells of a “Single State” where workers live in glass houses and have numbers rather than names. According to Goodreads, the novel is “ a resounding cry for individual freedom.”
So is that what dystopia is? A fictional world of oppression yearning for or postulating that individual freedom is better?
Dictionary.com defines dystopia a “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”
Under this definition dystopia is no longer a fiction. Sadly, there are many societies in the world that can fall under this definition.
The first twenty African slaves brought ashore, landed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.
Kidnapping African men, women, and children and selling them for slaves continued for years. Hundreds of thousands of Africans lived in “squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” The ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 abolished slavery.
Next, it was the Native Americans. The first Indian Reservation was established in 1758. It was located in what would become Shamong Township, New Jersey.
Later, President Andrew Jackson prompted Congress to pass the “Removal Act” in 1830. The bill forced Native Americans to leave America and settle in the Indian Territories. One relocation effort forced Cherokees on a 1,000 mile march, the “Trail of Tears.” Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on that walk.
In 1850, Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act. This act created the reservation system. The reservations put the Indians under government control, to minimize conflict with settlers, and to “encourage” Native Americans to take on the ways of the white man. Another American dystopia.
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson established restrictions on German-born males over the age of 14 regardless of their citizenship. Hundreds of thousands of German-born males had to register at their local post office. They had to carry their registration at all times and report any changes of address or employment.
Thousands of German-born U.S. residents were interrogated. More than two thousand people were arrested. Their imprisonment lasted for the duration of the war.
In 1941, hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the FBI arrested 1,291 Japanese community and religious leaders. The FBI had no evidence of any wrong-doing.
From 1942 to 1945, about 117,000 people of Japanese descent—the majority of whom were American citizens—were placed in internment camps.
The immigration determent camps have been in the news. You’ve seen the numbers. Thousands of children separated from their families. Thousands held in camps.
Some claim the detention facilities are prisons. They use arguments about the legalities in that immigrants (legal or not) are not citizens. There are some who claim the determent camps are equal to concentration camps. That’s arguable. At the very least, these people have been forced to live in a dystopia as defined by Dictionary.com.
I’ve written a post about why we read dystopian fiction. In it, a list of twenty reasons why we read dystopian fiction. You can read that here. But it didn’t talk about dystopia in America.
So does writing dystopian fiction (books, movies, etc.) have a place in today’s world? I would answer with a vehement YES. Authors of dystopian fiction are not advocating this is a good way to live. They tell stories of pain and suffering. And there’s always a struggle to break free of the dystopian society.
Do you see a dystopia in America today? You may not live in it. I don’t live in it. But there are people who do. As long as there are, I will write stories encouraging people to break free of their dystopia.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these images from My Soul to Keep. Have you read the first book? It’s available on Amazon and other online booksellers. The second book, If I Should Die, is in progress. Fellowship, a book in the same world, is coming summer of 2019.
Did you ever want to run away from home? Did you pack a bag? If you had to go off-grid, how long would you survive on what you packed?
Perhaps you were six-years-old, packed your toys, and really didn’t plan to survive off-grid—you planned to walk to grandma’s house. Or you might have been thirteen and tired of sharing with your older brother or sister, so you packed a little more aware of what you needed to survive. But how long would you survive on what you packed?
My protagonist and his siblings in Fellowship must run for their lives. They escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with little more than what’s on their back. They use evasion and survival skills but the mountains aren’t very forgiving. Will they survive?
Today’s internet and reality TV may make you think you know how to survive in that kind of a situation, but do you really?
Here’s a quick quiz to test your knowledge. No cheating. Answer to the best of your ability without looking up the answer or reading ahead.
How long can a healthy adult live without water?
List four different ways to find water.
Name three symptoms of dehydration.
What is the one thing you must do to all found water before you drink it?
How long can you live without food?
What the best source of protein when you’re stranded in the woods?
List four ways to be sure you stay warm when stranded in the woods.
When preparing to sleep in the woods, what’s the first thing you should do?
What should you pack in a first aid kit?
List two ways to determine which direction is north.
Bonus Question: What five tools would be priority survival items to take with you?
Excess heat, excess exertion, and excess salt intake can alter a person’s need for water. Generally, a healthy adult can survive for three days without water. But symptoms of dehydration will set in and create dangerous situations.
How to Find Water
The first is to listen for running water. Hopefully, there’s a creek nearby. If there isn’t, no worries.
First thing in the morning, collect dew draw a shirt through wet foliage then wring out your shirt into your mouth or a container.
If you’re at a lower elevation you can dig for water. If you’re in the mountains remember water travels downhill. Travel parallel to the mountain, you should come across a stream or creek.
Follow ants up a tree. They usually have a source of water in one of the nooks and crannies.
Fatigue to sleepiness, confusion, or irritability.
What You Must Do to Found Water
Rain or creek water may look pure, but it’s not. Always purify found water before you drink it. You can learn ways to purify water here.
How Long Without Food
A healthy adult can survive three weeks without food. Your body goes into starvation mode 24-36 hours after your last meal. To help you survive, your body slows your metabolism and the functioning of the rest of your body. You’re fatigued and tire easily. You start losing your hair. Sleep issues, irritability, and feeling cold all the time are also symptoms of starvation.
The Best Source of Protein
Insects. Mealworms and crickets and grasshoppers are the best. Many others are edible, too. Remove the head, wings, and legs and eat the rest.
Insects with bright colors or strong odors could be dangerous.
Wild game is difficult to catch, especially if you’ve never done it before.
Fish are a good source of protein if you’re near water. But 100 grams of mealworms actually have more protein than 100 grams of salmon.
Besides appropriate clothing, shelter is the number one thing you’ll need to stay warm. A lean-to of deadfall packed with mud and leaves to stop the wind and deflect rain is a priority.