They Don’t Call ‘Em “Teufelhunde” for Nothing

It seems a would-be terrorist boarded an Amsterdam-Paris high speed train yesterday. He carried his bag into the restroom, pulled out an AK-47, loaded it, stepped out into the aisle, and attempted to massacre as many of the 550 passengers as he could. The operative phrase being “attempted to,” because a pair of off-duty United States Marines happened to be seated nearby. Reportedly, they heard the distinctive sound of the Kalashnikov being loaded and, being Marines, immediately sprang into action, quickly disarming and subduing the would-be mass murderer before he could actually murder anyone.

Unfortunately, one of the Marines was seriously wounded in the incident. Although both French and US authorities are saying that his injuries are not life-threatening, prayers for him and his family are nonetheless outbound.

The terrorist, by the way, is a Moroccan national with a very Arabic-sounding name that I won’t sully the blog with by posting it here. Makes me wonder if the Administration will try to pass this off as yet another incident of “workplace violence.”

Nonetheless, good on ya, Devil Dogs. Semper Fi. Oorah!

EDIT/UPDATE: Okay, it looks like the initial reports were wrong. There were three Americans, one Air Force, one Army Reserves or National Guard, and one civilian. Still, my remarks about them fighting like hounds from hell stands. Good on ya, Yanks. Good on ya.


      Charlie Rasczak swore he’d never go back to Mars. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so when the man he hates more than anything else in the solar system makes him a job offer he’d have to be crazy to refuse, the private investigator finds himself on the first liner back to the formerly-red planet.
The job seems simple enough at first, but Rasczak soon discovers that the stakes are far higher than he could have ever imagined. With fanatical terrorists on one side, trigger happy contractors on the other, and a paranoid corporate oligarch breathing down his neck every step of the way, Rasczak quickly finds himself alone and outgunned. Too bad for them, because when he’s alone and outgunned, Charlie Rasczak is in his element. But with the lifeblood of Mars itself at stake, he’ll need to be.

Remember that project I’ve mentioned in the last few posts? It’s live!

Lifeblood, my first “real” short story is now available for Amazon Kindle. You can purchase it either by clicking on either the link in the post, or on the picture of the cover in the sidebar. It’s a quick read, and at only $0.99, a real bargain! (If you’ll forgive me tooting my own horn).

I gotta be honest with you: I’m still in shock a little bit. I’ve been dreaming of this day for years and years, and now that it’s here, I find it to be awesome and exciting, yet a bit anticlimactic at the same time. Eh, guess now I have to write another one. ;-)

I do have one request. Well, one more request anyways: if you do buy it, please leave a review on Amazon. And please be honest: don’t just give me a 5-star review because you like me or my blog or you feel happy/sorry for me. Though if you want to leave a 5-star review because you think it’s the bestest, most awesomest thing you’ve ever read, I certainly won’t complain ;-)

Thanks for sticking with me, everyone. I hope you enjoy Lifeblood. There will be more coming, don’t worry.

EDIT: Oh, one thing I forgot to mention: if you don’t have a Kindle Device, you can download the Kindle App to your smartphone or the Kindle Reader to your PC. Both are free.

Until next time, peace.


Why Give Indie a Try


I’ve tried explaining to some folks why I’ve decided to go the indie route with my work, but Sarah A. Hoyt lays it out far better than I’ve been able to.

Originally posted on madgeniusclub:

I didn’t forget my post day. I forgot what day today is.  This is partly because I’m still feeling like “every day is Sunday” after we finished the heavy part of the house, and partly because today is a wee bit crazy.  We just took a load of hazardous waste (paint, mostly) to the local facility, and we’re now getting ready to go to the eye doctor (which is actually a good thing.  I think we’ll all agree it will be better if I can write without squinting at the screen and confusing os and es.) Also, I have the Hugo voting to do, I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.

So, what can I do that is useful to you on short notice?

Well, recently I had the opportunity to discuss indie…

View original 670 more words

Artists Like To Eat

Before I get into the meat of this post, a little background information is necessary.

I finished my novel. Yes, I know, finally. You can pick your jaws up off the floor. Only took… how many years? Eight? Nine? Regardless, I finally finished it. Or at least the first draft. I’m editing it (slowly), and eventually plan on self-publishing it once I get it cleaned up, proofed, get some Alpha Readers to look at it, etc. and so forth. That’ll probably take a couple of months. In the meantime, I’ve cranked out a short science-fiction story that I’m revising and plan on publishing once I get it all cleaned up. That should only take another 2 weeks or so.

My initial plan with the short (which I’m calling Lifeblood) was to self-publish it via Kindle Direct Publishing for $0.99 since I thought I’d only make a pittance selling it to a magazine while I’d earn 70% royalties from Amazon. That plan hit a snag when I actually did some research and ran the numbers. Turns out that I’d make a great deal more selling it to a magazine than I’d first anticipated (at least 3-4 times more), and in order to qualify for KDP’s 70% royalty program, you have to price your work between $2.99 and $9.99. A 13,000-ish word short story is not, IMO, worth $2.99, especially not a first story from a brand-new author. I’d earn KDP’s standard 35% royalty rate if I publish the story for $0.99, but that’s still half of what I’d anticipated. Long story short, I realized that I’d almost certainly earn more money by selling the story to a magazine rather than publishing it myself on KDP, which was the opposite of what I’d been expecting.

So my question became do I want to earn more money all at once, but a couple months down the road and if a magazine buys my story at all, or earn less money and spread over a long time, but starting much sooner and with a guarantee that it will actually happen. I voiced this question to a family member about a week ago, hoping to get some advice or at least an opinion. Instead, the response I got was:

But if writing really is your passion, you shouldn’t be doing it for money, right?

Or something to that effect. It was a couple days ago, and I’m running light on sleep (blame a neurotic dog who misses his Mommy) and heavy on caffiene. But the point made was that since I love to write, getting paid to do so should not be a concern. The statement wasn’t made with malice, but rather out of honest ignorance and with genuine curiosity. And I agree with the statement, to a point: writing is my passion because I love to do it and love being creative and not because I want to be able to sleep on a pile of hundred dollar bills (though I admit that would be nice), but at the same time, virtually every artist does ultimately want to get paid for their work.

I think my family member’s remark was born from the fact that our society has come to romanticize (and probably over-romanticize) the starving artist. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. What’s romantic about having to chose between paying a month’s rent and buying another week’s worth of Ramen noodles to put in your otherwise-empty pantry? Or, as in my case, having to still live with your parents long after the rest of your college friends have found “real” jobs and at the very least moved into their own apartments?

And before y’all jump on my case, yes, I know that old maxim, “Art Requires Sacrifice.” And I agree with it: it gfmeans dedicating time and energy to your craft even when you fervently want to be doing something else. There are days when I desperately want to go to the shooting range, for example, or go to the movies, or watch a DVD, but don’t because I know that I need to make progress on my novel and/or Lifeblood. Incidentally, I haven’t been to the range in months. In fact, it’s been so long that I’m not sure I remember what burnt powder smells like.

Art requires time, and effort, and passion, and artists who invest those three things into the creation of something new and wonderful should be lauded and respected. But at the same time, artists shouldn’t be criticized or shunned for wanting to be rewarded for their time, effort, and passion. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to call out an author (since that’s the field I know best) who turns out nothing but dreck and to hell with quality, because all that matters to them is a paycheck. I do that because they’re obviously not investing any meaningful time, effort, or passion into their product. They don’t care about their audience: just their audience’s money. A real artist wants their work to inspire their audience, or at least make them happy for a brief, shining moment. But the unfortunate truth is that an audience’s happiness alone won’t put a roof over an artist’s head or food on their table. So getting payed for their work is, for good or bad, a necessity.

Yet our society doesn’t seem to understand that. And certain segments of society seem to reject that notion outright: that any artist who receives compensation for their work isn’t really an “artist.” I’m mainly referring to those hard-core hipsters who only listen to indie musicians who self-publish their own albums, and immediately reject those same musicians when they “sell out” by accepting a contracts from a mainstream recording studio.

I have a reality check for those hipsters: pretty much any indie artist who has the opportunity to “sell out” and “go mainstream” is going to take it. They’re going to take it because it means they’ll be able to focus more of their energy into creating their art rather than worrying about how they’re going to be able to afford to do so. The indie garage band won’t have to worry about having to pay for professional studio time to record their album, or buying dozens/hundreds of blank CDs to burn copies of that album. Their record label will take care of all that now. The self-published author won’t have to worry about how many print-on-demand copies to purchase, or how she’s going to be able to afford them, or how much to charge for them, or how to market and sell them. Her publishing house will take care of that.

I’ve heard those hard-core hipsters point to the Great Masters, like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Mozart, Beethoven, etc., in defense of their position. Again, reality check: they all got paid for their work, and payed rather handsomely at that. And what’s more, some of their works weren’t even their own ideas. Michelangelo, for instance, didn’t just walk into the Sistine Chapel one day, look up at the roof, and think to himself, “I want to paint that.” No, the Catholic Church came to him and said, “We want you to paint the roof of the Sistine Chapel. This is what we want it to look like, this is the deadline we’re assigning you, and this is how much we’re going to pay you. Will you take the job?” And part of the reason Michelangelo said yes was probably because he needed the money.

A true artist pursues his craft because they thrive on expressing their creativity every chance (s)he gets. But at the same time, we generally prefer to sleep indoors and on a bed rather than outside on the cold, hard dirt. Which is why we like to get paid. We’re not being greedy, or selling out, we just want to be able to survive by doing what we love.

We like to eat, same as you.


Also, in case you’re wondering, I ultimately decided to publish Lifeblood on KDP. I’d rather not wait several months to maybe get paid, especially since I’m still between jobs at the moment. I’ll let y’all know when it finally goes live: probably in about 2 to 3 weeks or so.

What’s Left To Celebrate?

As you’ve probably surmised from yesterday’s post, I’ve been in something of a funk for the last few weeks. Watching my country, the land that I love, seemingly tear itself apart and being unable to do anything about it pushed me to the brink of despair. I was ready to give up on it, on America, on Liberty, because nobody cared anymore. Those who seek to tear it down, to reshape it into a perverse and twisted “social utopia” are running roughshod over the Constitution because almost nobody can be bothered to lift a finger to stop them, and the few who try are mercilessly trampled into dust.

I confess: I actually woke up this morning thinking, “Why bother? What is there that’s left to celebrate?”

Then I stumbled across this quotation, from a letter written by John Adams to his wife upon the Second Continental Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence:

You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.

Reading that, it dawned om me that Adams, and likewise the rest of our Founding Fathers, knew that the fight for Liberty did not end with the signing of the Declaration, nor would it end if – yes, if, not when – the Colonies succeeded in freeing themselves from the overpowering yoke of British tyranny and expelling the Redcoats from their shores. No, they knew that the struggle would be ongoing and eternal, that there will always be those who seek to extinguish the sacred flame of Liberty, from both beyond and within our borders. But at the same time, they knew that they must persevere in their quest, as must the succeeding generations, because the price of Liberty, no matter how great, would always be worth the cost.

And at the same time, I realized that America is not just a country, and it is not just a people: it is an idea.

It is the idea that Liberty and Justice exist for all people. Period. The End. Full Stop. End of Discussion. Not “for white property owners,” or “for former slaves,” or “for the rich,” or “for the poor,” or “for homosexuals, ” or “for heterosexuals,” or “for the elite,” or “for This Specific Religion,” or “for the Oppressed Group of the Month.” No. Liberty and Justice for all people, for all time.

It is the idea that a person, any person, can walk down any street in any neighborhood in any city in any state in this nation and be judged by their peers not by color, or creed, or by anything else except the content of their character or the lack thereof.

It is the idea that we are born into this world as equals, but where we go from there is determined only by our own goals, dreams, and aspirations, and how much of our own blood, sweat, and tears we are willing to shed in order to accomplish them.

It is the idea that we are measured not by how hard our lives are, but by how hard we work to build a better lives for ourselves and our children.

And if that idea is not worth celebrating, if that idea is not worth fighting for, then I don’t know what is.

And looking at the social media outlets, the same one that I was ready to give up on and unplug from, I discovered something that I should have known all along: that I am far from the only one who feels that way.

America is not perfect, I will be the first to admit that. We’ve had plenty of problems along the way, made mistakes, dark spots on our history, and there are likely more problems and mistakes to come.

Is America in trouble? It certainly seems that way to me, but then again it seems to me to have been in trouble since our very beginning but we have always endured, always overcome, and I believe that we will continue to do so in the future.

Is America in danger of collapse, of falling? For the first time in a long time, I can confidently say that my answer is a resounding “no!” America cannot collapse, not so long as a single person holds the idea in their heart, and is willing to fight for. And as I have seen today, there are plenty of Americans who still hold the cause of Liberty near and dear to them, and who are willing to fight, to suffer, and to die for it.

And that too is, I think, something worth celebrating.

…Resistance Is Futile…

I’ve been giving serious thought over the past several weeks to just giving up and unplugging.

From the media, I mean. Geez, what did you think I meant?

See, thing is, no matter where I go, no matter what outlet I tune into, I see and hear the same talking heads repeating (screaming? shrieking? bleating?) the same old mantra using the same old buzzwords and same old slogans over and over and over again. The only difference is what the focus of their righteous outrage and furious anger is this week. It usually changes week to week, but the buzzzwords and slogans and mantras never seem to change.

And then I go on Facebook (haven’t succumbed to Twitter yet, thank God), and I’m greeted with thousands of people caught up in the same righteous outrage and furious anger focused at the same target of the week, repeating (screaming? shrieking? bleating?) that exact same mantra using those exact same buzzwords and exact same slogans over and over and over again. Almost like they’ve lost the ability to form a thought or opinion of their own. All they seem to do is automatically follow the collective without thinking.

Today, it hit me: we are no longer living in the U.S.A., but rather the U.S.B.: the United States of Borg.

I’ll give my non-sci fi versed readers a moment to consult Wikipedia before I continue

Now granted, maybe I just watched too much TV growing up, but the more I think about it, the more it (horrifyingly) makes sense. The Borg Collective a hive-mind composed of billions, maybe trillions, of individual drones controlled by one (or more depending on how you interpret Trek continuity) Queen, who mindlessly labor to further the Collective in its ultimate goal of achieving “perfection.” Those who stand in there way are forcibly assimilated into the Collective or (according to later episodes & shows IIRC) completely annihilated if they are deemed by the Queen to be “unworthy of assimilation.” They even mindlessly repeat the same mantra in the same monotone over and over and over:

Does this sound at all familiar? Millions of drones mindlessly repeating the same mantra over and over? Following the whims, desires, and commands of a small number of elites without thought or question in pursuit of so-called “perfection?” Forcing others to embrace their leaders’ ideologies and beliefs or have their lives and livelihoods ruined? If it doesn’t, then I fear you either are not paying attention or have even been assimilated, maybe without even realizing it.

The Borg are upon us, ladies and gentlemen. I pray that it’s not to late for our society as we know it, that resistance has not yet become futile.

Teaching Away Evil

I’ve been noticing a trend in social media over the last year or so. Namely, whenever any sort of horrific event happens, whether real or (in the case of Rolling Stone’s UVA Rape Story) imagined, there is an overwhelming outcry that society needs to teach Group X not to do Action Y. Teach White People to not be racist. Teach Men not to Rape. Teach People to not Hate. Et cetera and so on.

Now this is probably going to come as a shocker, but I actually agree with this. We absolutely need to teach people, all people, to look beyond race, gender, religion, creed, sexual orientation, and to judge others solely by the content (or lack thereof) of their character. We absolutely need to teach men to respect women. We absolutely need to teach and preach love and respect and understanding rather than hatred and disgust. If you’ll forgive me quoting a certain Hollywood team of vigilantes, “Do not kill. Do not rape. Do not steal. These are principles which every man of every faith can embrace.” And I agree with that wholeheartedly.

However, the same social media force that launches the “Teach Group X Not to Action Y” mantras seems to believe that that single action, that teaching Group X to not do Action Y, will completely stop Action Y from ever happening. That simply teaching people to not do bad things will stop bad things from happening.

This idea is one that I absolutely reject, that I do not, cannot agree with.

You cannot teach away evil. To believe otherwise is wishful thinking at best, and a dangerous delusion at the worst.

I will say that a decent amount of hatred in this world is what I’ll call “learned hatred.” Children who are taught to be racist. Boys who are taught that women are second-class humans, or property, or little more than animals (such beliefs seem to be especially common in certain areas of the world and in a certain religion that have all become very politically incorrect to criticize). Societies have been brainwashed into hating particular races, as happened (again, forgive the example) in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Those people weren’t born evil: they were taught that particular brand of hatred, and they can be taught to reject it or let go of it as well.

Unfortunately, some people can’t be taught out of hatred. They can’t be taught out of it because they either don’t want to be, or else they weren’t taught it in the first place. Either they’re not wired right to begin with, or something goes wrong inside their head. Maybe it’s a chemical imbalance, or a neurological issue. I don’t know. I’m a writer, not a psychologist, neurologist, or biologist. But they’re out there. There was a guy at my high school who was very obviously not wired right. He’d been institutionalized when he was a kid, and he was institutionalized again partway through my sophomore year. And honestly, I’m glad he was: the more my friends and I talked to him (we couldn’t avoid him entirely since he was friends with a friend of ours, and the two of them stuck to each other like glue), the more scared we became of him, to the point where we all agreed that sooner or later he’d probably come to school with a gun and start shooting people. I thank God to this day that we never had to find out if we were right about him or not.

Now, granted, most of these people who are suffering from these conditions can be treated. But some people aren’t suffering from a physical condition that causes their hate and anger. The fact of the matter is that some people – an extreme minority to be certain, but a decent number all the same – are just plain evil. We usually call them psychopaths or sociopaths. But no matter what you call them, it doesn’t change the fact that they don’t care. They don’t care about what’s right or what’s wrong. And no amount of teaching, of begging, or pleading, will convince them otherwise. Because they do not care, and they do not want to care. All that matters to them is them, and what they want, and what they have to do to get it, and how big a risk trying to get it will be. It’s a predatory drive distilled down to its elemental core. You can’t simply teach that away. It’s like trying to teach a lion not to eat an antelope because the antelope never did anything to hurt anyone. The lion doesn’t care about the antelope. All it cares about is putting meat into its own stomach. Two legged predators are the same way. They don’t care about you or me. All they care about is how they can use us to fulfill their present desire or need.

We as a society do indeed need to teach right from wrong and good from bad. We do need to teach our youth and our fallen to love, respect, care for, and cherish one another. But like it or not, evil exists in this world, and there is nothing you or I or anything else can do that will change that, no matter how hard you might try. To believe otherwise is to live in a fantasy world.