Publication Day: Little Black Book. And a Ferocious Dog

Life’s Little Black Book

The first book in a new non-fiction series of Little Black Books comes out today.

Each of these books offer over 100 bite-sized snippets of information. Besides being informative, they make excellent gifts. As we hit graduation month, Life’s Little Black Book would be an excellent gift. It’s guaranteed there’s something you don’t know in it.

The Writer’s Little Black Book will be published on 10 June. I use my three decades of experience as a writer to point out mistakes I’ve seen, not only in the writing, but in selling books and the publishing business, and how to prevent those mistakes.

As always, there are other deals. Area 51: Interstellar is free ending today. Lawyers, Guns and Money, the second Will Kane book is only .99 and in Kindle Unlimited. The same for Valentines Day (Time Patrol).

The Green Beret Area Study Guidehas had a few reviews and all are positive. It really is an eye-opening way to look at where you live and learn about it from a different perspective. As we read the headlines regarding the effect of climate change, it becomes even more important.

Maggie

On a more serious note, several people who have met her have said that Maggie is very intimidating, which is a big departure from Cool Gus. What we’ve realized is you can’t really see her eyes until she gets close. She’s also the fastest dog we’ve ever had. We thought Scout was fast, but Maggie runs circles around her. Of course, she’s actually very sweet and wouldn’t harm a thing although she’s getting closer and closer to that squirrel in the front yard. And every once in while I see her looking at me with the wolfish glint.

I hope everyone is enjoying the warming weather and staying safe!

Enjoy.

Bob

Raised by Wolves: So Much Promise. So Much Dropoff

I really got into Raised by Wolves as the first season developed. So much so that some marketing company working for the studio sent me some gifts to promote it. I guess they think I’m an ‘influencer’ but my wife disagrees so I bow to a higher authority.

Anywho. I was into it. The backstory. The current story. But then. Spoiler ahead.

She gave birth to that thing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about because you haven’t seen it, too late. The android gave birth to a flying dragon that was so much bigger than her the physics were ludicrous for a show that spouted science fiction. Of course, it also spouted religion and atheism so, I guess a monster virgin birth from a robot wasn’t out of the question.

Nevertheless, it seemed to have nothing to do with the original story of believers vs atheists. Of robots raising humans. Of settling a new planet.

It just turned me off.

I started watching the second season but I didn’t see the point nor was I vested in the characters any more. And the CGI was awful. It looked like a bad video game. I know they must have a budget, but really, it was pretty bad.

I did some fast forwards, tried to watch the last episode and just couldn’t get hooked again. What would be cool is a prequel. Of how Earth fell into religious civil war. Because, hey that’s timely.

An Unpopular Take on Red Dawn

This movie is in the news again because the Wolverines rallying cry is being painted on destroyed Russian armored vehicles.

The consensus is that Red Dawn is pro-war, jingoistic movie.

Oddly, my take on it is the exact opposite. I think it’s a very anti-war movie. It shows the price to be paid for war. Betrayal. Executions. A key character is the Cuban officer who sees himself on the other side of an insurgency.

One of the last scenes is Patrick Swayze on the train out of town cradling his dead brother. The Cuban officer watches them leave and doesn’t shoot.

I can see people watching it in a target audience going: That’s a bummer. What’s the payoff?

Because it always felt to me the ending of the monument with the names and the voice over and then the American flag flapping was tacked on. I don’t know it if it was. Probably not. The monument was probably there to show the price of freedom. But the American flag? Seemed added.

Then there’s Road House and that’s another story.

Outer Range:  Outer Limits meets Yellowstone?

Outer Range

Between this series and From, we have two new series that are definitely mind-twisting. I’ve already posted on From, which has completed its first season with perhaps more questions than answers, but was intriguing enough to warrant that next season.

I’ve watched through episode 4, all that’s out, of Outer Range, an Amazon Original. Which might even be weirder than From.

Quick notes: The acting in Outer Range is much better. From Josh Brolin down through the cast, it’s top notch. Will Patterson seems to be having a blast as the master of the Tillerson family and his singing son is a hoot.

I can’t even begin to explain the plot other than a hole appears in Brolin’s west pasture and it appears to be some kind of time/space portal. I can say it’s not a good idea to toss a body in there trying to hide it.

Tamara Podemski is excellent as the sheriff. In fact, most of the characters are relatively well-rounded which is good because it’s hard slogging to keep up with everything that’s happening. We know time is distorted somehow and we have to wonder where Brolin came from originally along with the girl who has shown up to camp near that pasture. Who is she? What does she want? What’s with the buffalo with the two arrows in it?

There’s also a daughter-in-law who has been missing for 9 months.

Tillerson is trying to grab the Abbott’s land, that very pasture, Yellowstone style.

Confused? This is one of those shows where every little detail counts, but we don’t know how. Brolin’s fall through the hole and his flash-forward two years is perhaps the most startling scene. Who knows what that means?

Further confused? Yeah. Me too. But it’s fun.

Anyway. Yes. Watch it. Recommended.

Spring Arrives With Free and New Books

I put shorts on for the first time yesterday so it is officially spring. Maggie and Scout agree.

To celebrate I’ve prepared a number of book deals today on my Freebies page:

Independence Day (Time Patrol) is free. Roland’s mission in there is one of my favorites and if you want something to listen to, that entire mission is a short story free on Soundcloud.

Then there are discounts on the following:

Hell of a Town is only .99 or Kindle Unlimited

Chasing the Ghost is only .99 or Kindle Unlimited

Special Ops 3, a bundle consisting of Eternity Base and The Kennedy Endeavor is only $1.99 and in Kindle Unlimited.

Alternate Realities, a bundle consisting of the first Atlantis book and Psychic Warrior is only $1.99 for the next several days. Also in Kindle Unlimited.

I’m about finished with a draft of Phoebe and the Traitor and happy about the way it turned out. I’ve got a new nonfiction book coming out in about a week or so on 6 May, Life’s Little Black Book: Hacks That Save Time, Money and Your Life. Right now the eBook is on pre-order for only $2.99. The paperback will be available soon and this would make a great graduation gift with its life lessons. I’ll update with a short newsletter when that’s available.

This picture from Ukraine illustrates something we all need to take to heart: how quickly things can change. It’s why I harp on the fact that you have to be prepared. In all sorts of ways. I think about the people trapped on I-95 in a blizzard overnight just a few months ago and how few were prepared. I really recommend after you have your two cases of water per person, is a grab-n-go bag. Put it in the trunk of your car or in the back of your SUV. It could save your life. Making one on your own takes some time but this is what I ordered from Amazon for my son and grandsons in San Diego just to make sure he had something:  https://amzn.to/37ECeGJ

Stay safe and enjoy the nicer weather!

Bob

And Scout and Maggie

The Outfit: Watch It!

The Outfit

I really don’t want to give any spoilers so this is going to be short. I’ll just give my reactions. I liked it as I watched it, but when it ended I felt let down. I thought there were some big holes in the plot but it was obviously well written based on the scenes. I had trouble sleeping, thinking about it. Even had a dream that was connected. Then my wife and I talked about and we realized what we’d missed—and it was HUGE as we made sense of the plot holes, which aren’t holes. And what was shown but never really “used” but actually was representative of what the entire story was.

That is all.

Mark Rylance is excellent as the “cutter”, aka a tailor. It’s funny because my wife and I had just watched a documentary on Seville Row, so it was interesting to see a movie with a bespoke cutter as the protagonist.

Once you realize what the story really is, it is so obvious. But reading some reviews of the movie it seems that it is very hard to see.

Highly recommended and see what you make of it.

What Will Happen When the Next Pandemic Strikes?

Pandemic

I predicted a pandemic when I wrote the first draft of my Survival Guide in 2001. That doesn’t make me a genius. Anyone who spent more than a minute studying history knew one was inevitable. One always is.

What I didn’t predict, and I’m a glass half-full, and that half is poison, kind of guy, was that so many people would fight against common sense and easy controls such as wearing masks and social distancing. I would not have thought there would be such a strong anti-vax movement that defies science and logic. That the response to a scientific issue would be politicized.  That people would care so little about others that they wouldn’t try to protect themselves and other people.

This has caused me to re-assess. And that news assessment is: we’re screwed.

After all, we are still in this pandemic, no matter what the majority of maskless people believe. We have effective vaccines but our national vaccination rate is 66.4%, which means almost a third of the country either doesn’t have access, is uneducated about it, or simply don’t believe they need it. To be fair, not all of those unvaccinated are anti-vaxxers. Some people, because of pre-existing conditions can’t get it—and we need to wear masks and be thoughtful to help them. Some people simple have terrible health care given it’s for profit in this country.

The COVID mortality rate is 1.2% of infected. Now. With preventative measures and vaccines. Hundreds are still dying each day and most people think it’s long over.

Ebola has a mortality rate of 50%. Remember 2014, when we responded to a single case? We sent over 3,000 people, including military, to Liberia to help control the outbreak. And that response was politicized by Trump and others. That was the beginning of the end.

What happens when something with, let’s say, half that mortality rate, at 25%, touches down in earnest in the United States? What will our response be? Based on our current reality, it will be abysmal. It will collapse civilization and the death toll will be far greater than the mortality rate. It will take a generation or two for us to recover to a civilized level, if we do at all.

And here’s the scary thing. There WILL be another pandemic. And it won’t be a hundred years from now, as COVID was from the 1918 Flu. It will be much sooner. Why? Because fast international travel, encroachment on nature, larger and more compact populations, and numerous other realities of our modern world make for the perfect incubator and spreader.

We are in the midst of a great tipping point in the evolution of mankind. We will either move forward embracing science, logic and empathy, or we will allow the forces of hate, ignorance and superstition to destroy us.

The Worst Day In The History of the United States

Was today, 14 April, in 1865, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

In some ways, this tragic event is subdued by the fact that the Civil War was essentially over by that point with Robert E. Lee having already capitulated. It seems as if his major task in life, winning the Civil War and re-uniting the country, had been achieved.

But his greatest task still lay ahead and he was the only one who could do it and it the only time it could be done: rewrite the Constitution and get it ratified.

We know that was the golden moment because it has not happened since and our country is unraveling because we are still using a base document where every word was written incorporating the original sin of slavery.

We live with many of the anachronisms from that flawed document that needed to be thrown out and redone. Here are a couple of keys ones.

The electoral college.

The Senate where a fraction of our population has an oversized influence.

Additionally, we see a surging movement of “state’s rights”, part of what allowed the Confederacy to fester. Texas and Florida are in a race to the bottom with governors whose ambition cares little for the lives or livelihoods of their citizens. We see the Confederate battle flag, a symbol of hate and sedition, carried into our capitol on behalf of a president who lost the popular vote and was not the will of the people.

Lincoln was the one person, smart enough, crafty enough and understanding the foibles of human nature to pull off scrapping the Constitution and replacing it with one that didn’t have the horrible taint of slavery sewn into every word. He could have achieved this with a defeated South and in the glow of victory.

Rarely in history has the pull of a single trigger changed the course of history so much and definitely not in the history of our country.

I touch on Lincoln in several books, including The Jefferson Allegiance where he is confronted over his beyond the law actions by the Society of the Cincinnati . And in Equinox (Time Patrol)

V is for Vendetta: A Great Movie Well Ahead of Its Time

Vendetta

Made in 2005, some elements of V is for Vendetta feel quaint. The death toll from the virus that is released on the population to allow an autocratic government to take over is nothing compared to what we’ve experienced with COVID. In the States we’ve got over a million dead and there are still millions who refuse to get vaccinated or even acknowledge that it is an ongoing reality.

If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. Starring Hugo Weaving, whom we never see without his mask, and Natalie Portman in an excellent role, it is more applicable than ever.

Set in the future, in England, we learn the United States has broken down into civil strife, St. Mary’s Virus has ravaged the world, and a neo-fascist party has seized power in England. Not too far off where we’re heading. There are crackdowns on atheists, homosexuals, Muslims, Jews and other undesirables. Sound familiar?

A single figure, V, who wears a Guy Fawkes mask, blows up the Bailey on 4 November, and promises an even bigger explosion a year from then.

Hugo Weaver meets Natalie Portman who is out after curfew and being accosted by “Fingermen”—secret police. He rescues her and then shows her the way to true civil disobedience.

The prison scene for Natalie Portman is a brutal way to show how a person can learn to overcome fear: by accepting the reality of death.

The Wachowski’s of Matrix fame helmed the movie. It is the story of a revolt against fascism. There was, of course, controversy over the adaptation from the original comic book. However, I think the film gets a strong message across. Will we stand up for ourselves against the corruption that is flooding our countries? We are living through a rise in hate and intolerance that grows stronger every day. We watch as states and school districts ban books, accuse teachers of indoctrinating and ‘grooming’ children, there is a large anti-LBGT backlash and civil liberties are being curtailed by those who seek power. We are devolving to our lowest common denominator. And most are allowing it to meekly happen. The message in the movie is that we can stop it if we work together and take action. Will that happen?

I tried a different spin in my post-apocalyptic novel, Burners, where I focused on what will happen as the already gaping chasm between those with money and those without grows stronger and then throw in a cataclysmic event such as a world-wide EMP and what the result will be. Science fiction often accurately predicts the future and sometimes even undersells the threats.

Highly recommended.

Ken Burns “Franklin” is a great overview of a truly exceptional man

Franklin

I love Ken Burns’ documentaries, starting with the epic Civil War many years ago. The West is another favorite. His latest, Franklin, is a fascinating overview of a man who helped shape the United States of America as much, if not more, than anyone at the time of the birth of the country.

A number of things stand out. While there is no doubt Franklin was a genius, what is amazing is how he was able to change his mind when presented with facts. He did a complete pivot on his views on race after a single day visiting a school with African students. The last part of his life was dedicated to abolition. The ability to admit he was wrong is stunning when you consider the fact he might have been the smartest man of his generation. On the planet.

I consider the ability to change one’s mind when presented with facts to be a true sign of an accomplished person.

Another interesting thing is how much older he was by the time of the Revolution compared to the other “Founding Fathers”. He led the way in his own, personable style. While John Adams railed against Franklin’s style, we have to accept that Franklin’s way worked. By getting France to support our Revolution. He secured the eventual victory. Even though it would cost France its monarchy in the long run.

Ken Burns makes Franklin human which is what a good biographer does. His relationship with his son is a sad part. The documentary skims over Franklin’s relationship with women, but there is no doubt it was significant to Franklin. As much as his intelligence it was Franklin’s charm that was key to much of his success. People liked him. A lot.

I’m just about done reading Ken Atkinson’s excellent The British Are Coming that covers the early part of the Revolution and it was fun to compare what I learning in the book to the documentary.

An event touched on in the show is the Staten Island Peace Conference which I had as one of the stories in Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol). The reality is that it never had a chance of succeeding but we tend to forget that the people who led the Revolution were putting everything on the line. If they’d lost, they would have been hung.

Highly recommended!