It’s been a while since I posted on my books that are in the process of getting written/edited/published/whatever, so I thought I’d write up a quick post to just let you all know about how those projects are going and when we can expect them to be in print. Spoiler: not any time soon.

Video Rage

The long-awaited sequel to Reborn City (especially by my sister and my stepmother). Last I was working on it, I’d made considerable progress on the book and had made it about halfway or so through the manuscript. Of course, senior year started, and I had to switch gears to work on Rose (more on that below). So I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back to that, but it’ll probably be when I don’t have classes, a thesis, and a job search to deal with all at once. So hopefully at some point next year. Yes, I know, it’s sad and frustrating. But when you’re working with my busy schedule, what can you do?

Actually, there is plenty you can do: offer me a job that matches my qualifications if you got one. Either that, or come by and do my homework for me. I’ve got an 8-10 page Shakespeare paper due December 9th. Any volunteers? No? Good, that’s cheating and I could get expelled for that.

Laura Horn

I’ve been thinking a lot about this novel lately. For those of you who haven’t seen me post about it before (it’s been a while), Laura Horn is a thriller about a teenage sexual assault victim who comes across information that threatens the United States and finds herself the only one who can stop it. At the same time, she must confront her demons and the man who assaulted her. The thing is, after I finished the first draft, I realized that certain parts of the story required too much suspension of disbelief. There was so much going on, some of it involved a stretch of the imagination to actually imagine happening, and at times I felt like there were glaring errors in the plot that I was missing. And then I found some of them!

All in all, the whole thing is unwieldy. But, I love the characters, especially my protagonist. I love the journey she goes on, and how it makes her go from a scared little girl to…well, she’s stronger. In a better place. And I liked the idea of the story very much.

So I think when the opportunity presents itself, I may try rewriting the story (because apparently a second draft for me is rewriting the whole damn thing, at least lately anyway). I’ve already got an idea for a new storyline that makes a lot more sense, it’ll be a bit shorter than the original version, and I think I’ll still get the story I want without facing those problems of believable storytelling. I just need the time to write it (what else is new?). So don’t expect LH to come out any time soon. I know, I know. It looks like nothing will be coming out soon, and that’s a fair opinion. But you never know. Something may change.

Rose

Last I updated you guys on my novel-that-doubles-as-my-thesis, I had to rewrite the outline again because the direction would’ve made the whole story a little crazy. So I sent the new outline to my advisor, and I was supposed to meet with him Friday. Sadly, the meeting got cancelled, so I’ll be emailing him this coming week to see if he would just send me his thoughts in an email. It might make it a bit easier since carving out a time for three busy people to meet up for even half an hour or more and just talk. If I hear anything, you guys will be among the first to know.

Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors

Hope to get a new article out some time soon. That’s all I’m saying on this.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got a bit of editing to do tonight, so I’m going to get on that. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. These days, I need all the luck I can get my hands on.

 

Y U NO 1

It’s the truth: authors want their families to read their work.

Whether it’s our first book or our thirtieth or higher. Whether we’ve just published a blog post we wrote during our lunch break yesterday or a short story we’ve been working months on appearing in a prestigious magazine. There’s one thing all us authors want when this sort of thing happens: we want our folks to pay attention to it. Hell, we want our folks to buy at least one copy, drop everything else to read it, and then call us up to comment on it, tell us how much they loved it or hated it, and then go on Amazon or whatever site they got it from and write a (hopefully) three star or higher review.

This isn’t just narcissism on our part (though I’m sure that plays a big role in it). Authors like vindication, it’s one of the reasons we write and publish. And praise from our families on something we toil away at for hours and hours at a time is at the same time both something we kind of expect and something we desperately want. It’s a big deal for authors, no matter what the relationships between us and our families, that they take a look at our work and let us know what they think (and hopefully they actually like it and aren’t just saying it’s the most awesome thing ever to make us happy).

Sadly, that’s not always going to happen. My folks love me and I love them. Sure, occasionally we get on each other’s nerves and more than once I’ve fantasized about Daleks chasing them down the street (or was that my TA who keeps assigning extra work for our recitation class?). But yeah, we care pretty deeply about each other. Still, I know there are certain members of my family who won’t read my books, or won’t read them immediately. And I have to accept that.

The latter is pretty easy to explain: my folks are busy. Everyone above the age of 18 in my immediate family has a job of some sort. Plus my sister has schoolwork, my parents all have kids to still take care of, and bills to pay, and pets to take care of, and chores to do…basically, a lot on their plates. Eventually they get around to it, but until then I just have to be patient. Do I like it? No. But I know I can’t do anything to change it, so I wait and I let those members of my family get around to it in their own time. Eventually they get it done.

OAG 1

For the former, it’s another matter entirely. Some of them just aren’t big readers. It isn’t how they relax in the evenings. And I won’t even pick that fight, so why even bother getting them to read it if I know it’s a losing battle? Others like to read, but they don’t enjoy anything with monsters. Or ghosts. Or murder. Or blood. Or missing limbs. Or the occasional hot and heavy sex scene. Or darkness. Or scares. In other words, what I write is the exact opposite of what they look for in a story. Well, you can try with these people, but I can’t guarantee it’ll work. For some, unless you’re writing comedy, romance, or a highfalutin coming-of-age literary novel, they just won’t read it.

Though if you still want a specific family member or friend to read your work, by all means go ahead and try. You can try by emphasizing to them the aspects of the story they would most likely enjoy (this worked with a friend of mine when I highlighted the romantic aspect of Snake). It’s better than cutting a deal with them or guilt-tripping them (though I think the latter worked for me one time).

And if that doesn’t work, don’t be too glum about it. There are always people out there willing to read your work. You just have to work hard and try to connect to them, wherever they may be. That’s part of the reason why I blog and post on Facebook and tweet and all that: because I know that by doing so it has the potential to open all sorts of doors. Maybe even allow me to find some people who would enjoy my work. You never know.

Does your family read your work?

How do you get your folks to read your work when it doesn’t necessarily appeal to them?

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the meme photos and where I got them, I made them. Yeah, I made them. I found this website that allows you to create your very own memes. It’s amazing! Now I can put hilarious memes in my stories whenever I want.

Oh dear. Maybe that’s not such a good thing after all…

It’s expected in the coming weeks that the grand jury will hand down a decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Protesters have threatened to riot if Wilson isn’t indicted, the governor has declared a state of emergency, and police are getting ready for what many see as a second, bigger powder keg after the first one went off back in August. And around the country, in living rooms and coffee shops, in workplaces and on news talk shows, people are asking what caused this and what will happen next.

I’ll keep my own personal views on what should happen to Wilson to myself, lest everything else I try to say in this piece gets forgotten because of one opinion. I will state that I think it’s tragic that a young man who had his whole life ahead of him and was planning to go college and maybe own his own business someday was taken too soon, and that his legacy has to be another awful bullet point in the United States’ long, troubled history with race.

And make no mistake, there is a racial element to this. I know some will say that we shouldn’t be talking about race, that we’re living in a post-racial society, that race is a sociological construct of the mind rather than a biological certainty, and that therefore race should not be brought up. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll keep saying it: social construct or not, many people treat race as a biological reality, and racism is still a pervasive problem in the United States. In fact, I’ve often compared racism to cancer, and the way you deal with cancer isn’t to avoid it or pretend it doesn’t exist. The way you deal with cancer is to take a multi-pronged approach to cure it, and one of those approaches is to talk about racism.

And for those who continue to insist that race shouldn’t be part of the discussion because we live in a so-called “post-racial” society, here are some facts:

  • In November 2012, students of the University of Mississippi rioted upon learning that Barack Obama was reelected. Several racial slurs were heard shouted out during the riot.
  • In February 2012, a young man in Florida was profiled by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who then followed the young man despite being told by police not to pursue, and engaged the young man in a scuffle that ultimately ended with the young man’s life being taken. The young man, Trayvon Martin, was black.
  • There are over 900 documented hate groups in the United States according to a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center last year. Most of them are primarily focused on race and racial differences.

Still want to argue that racism doesn’t exist? Racism is still very prevalent in the United States, and the fact that so many want to deny its existence or say that discussing race and racism in America makes you racist really disturb me. (The latter claim actually is the most ridiculous, especially since it goes against the very definition of racism, and real racists wouldn’t benefit from discussions on race as a societal problem unless it involved doing horrible things to other races. In fact, when economist Ben Stein went on Fox News the other day and called Obama the “most racist president” ever, I wanted to throw a dictionary and a history book at the guy. If you’re going to call a President racist, it’d be better to refer to possibly Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, or Franklin Roosevelt for starters.)

I think we owe today’s racism to some of the things that happened during Reconstruction, in part. Slavery itself definitely plays a role, but I want to focus on Reconstruction because during this time, President Andrew Johnson encouraged the return of defeated Confederate states to self-rule and to take part in federal government. The people who ended up seizing control were mostly plantation owners and businessmen, some of whom had been involved in the Confederate government, and had benefited from slavery. They used their power to pass sweeping legislation depriving freed slaves of rights, and used terror in the form of the KKK to prevent push back. There was also some propaganda directed to poorer whites who were told that giving freed slaves power was bad for them. The federal government, including Johnson, didn’t do much to prevent this (Johnson also didn’t support the Civil Rights Bill or the 13th Amendment, which is why I mentioned him above in my examples of racist presidents).

This set a painful pattern in motion that would last for nearly 100 years. The legislatures continued to have people in it who would keep up the status quo, African Americans and whites who sympathized with them were kept in place through lynching, the KKK, and other forms of terror, and efforts on state and federal levels to stop it faced uphill battles. It wasn’t until WWII, when African-Americans were determined to achieve victory at home and abroad after their rough treatment during WWI, that things began to change for the better.

Why do I go into all this, and at the risk of getting a bunch of people shouting at me in the comments about how I know nothing or I’m oversimplifying it or something along those lines? Because there are a lot of painful episodes, going back further than I have covered, that have happened and continue to happen long after MLK and the Civil Rights Acts, and we need to examine the whole picture in order to understand what is happening now. Racism existed then, and although they’re in new forms, racism exists today. So we need to confront the past and examine the present if we’re to better the future.

And now that I’ve led you through this long, somewhat rambling post, I have to ask: how do you think racism can be combated? What approaches should we take to stop racism and make it less prevalent in future generations?

*By the way, I know that some of the arguments here can also be applied to other forms of prejudice and discrimination towards other minorities, women, religions, ethnic groups, socioeconomic levels, and sexual orientations. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve only focused on race here, but I do cover other problems in other posts and in some of my fiction as well.

Boy, has this short story been something of a saga for me. For this second draft, not only did I have to go back twice to redo it because I didn’t like where it was going, but I also changed the name of the short story about…six times? I settled with “What Happened Saturday Night” after a while as the new title. So maybe this post should be called “What Happened Saturday Night: Finished”.

Anywho, for those who don’t know, for my creative writing class I have to turn in two original short stories and a revised short story for the class to critique. Having previously done a short story about fallen angels and one about a woman who turns into a wolf, I decided to do a revision of the latter story. And just like the first draft, where I went back several times because the plot was going nowhere fast, I had to go back several times on this one. The first time was because I realized the story’s ending would resemble that of a previous story, and I didn’t want to be repeating myself. The second time I added in a cult element, but then things got really complicated and I decided I didn’t need that.

So for this third round, I decided to simplify things, go in a new direction I hadn’t thought of before, and see what I got. I also turned off the Internet so I wouldn’t get distracted (it worked). And finally, four days before it was due, I finished the new draft of “Frauwolf”, which is now called “What Happened Saturday Night”, and I incorporated a lot of the suggestions I got from my peers. So now it’s done, with a little over five-thousand words. A little wordy should I try to get it published, but I’m sure after my next critique in two weeks I’ll get some great suggestions on how to improve it and maybe trim it down if necessary. It still incorporates the main elements though: a girl who turns into a werewolf, and her relationship with her lover, also a woman. Can’t argue about that.

For now though, I’m tired and I want to go to bed. I’ve got a big week starting tomorrow, including midterms on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I’d rather be well-rested for those.

I’ll try and blog later this week, my Followers of Fear. Until then, a terrifying sleep, and a good week to you all.

Reborn City

I’ve been advertising my novel Reborn City a lot lately (and doubtless I’ll be doing some of that here too), but I thought this was interesting enough that it deserved a blog post.

Near the end of RC, I introduced hoverbikes, motorcycles that, instead of wheels, hover in the air much like the hoverboards seen in Back to the Future Parts II and III. The way they hover is through magnetic plates that act against the magnetic forces in the earth, allowing them to hover. The thing is, neither hoverboards  or hoverbikes exist, so for now they’re still just science fiction.

Or are they?

Last month, tech company Arx Pax unveiled its own hoverboard, which does apparently hover a few inches off the ground. They are currently funding research and construction through a Kickstarter campaign which at this time has surpassed its original goal of two-hundred fifty-thousand dollars and made over four-hundred thirty-six thousand dollars. Backers have the option of getting their own Developers Kit or “White Box”, which allows them to create their own hover devices. Check out their campaign video.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Apparently the science behind it also revolves around magnetic forces, though not the same kind that the hoverbikes in Reborn City use. What the Hendo Hoverboard does is manipulate magnetic fields, which creates flux, or changing magnetic fields. In conductive surfaces like metals, it creates current, and according to a law known as Lenz’s Law, the current will create its own magnetic field which will act in opposition to the original flux. With enough flux, the magnetic fields will repel each other and, in the case of the Hendo Hoverboard, cause it to levitate (thanks to the Nerdist channel for explaining this to me. Click here for their video explaining the concept of the Hendo Hoverboard).

Now, the Hendo Hoverboard does have its limitations. It can only work on certain circumstances, it’s loud, and it has a short battery life. But part of the hopes of its creators, as expressed in the video above, is that people who buy a Developer Kit will be able to make breakthroughs and develop the technology further. With technology progressing in amazing new ways each and every day, and with people in high school developing amazing new programs or devices (like this kid who developed his own smart gun) we could be seeing new developments in this field within the next decade or so, enough that Wikipedia might stop calling hoverborads a”fictional device”.

And since Reborn City takes place in the year 2056, or about 41 years from when those first developer kits get shipped, there’s plenty of time to fine-tune the technology and find new applications for it, including in creating hoverbikes. Perhaps even utilizing the design that I made for the ones in Reborn City.

Below I’m including an excerpt from RC featuring the first appearance of the hoverbikes, which will also feature in the sequel Video Rage. If you’re interested in checking out RC, it’s on sale through Friday on Amazon and Smashwords, and there’s still a giveaway to participate in for a free copy. Hope you like what you read, Followers of Fear. And I’ll try to stop myself from talking anymore about RC till Friday, but I make no promises. HYDRAS!


 

When they were all safely inside, Harvey closed the door and pointed to a row of crates sitting under a single, unlit light bulb. The crates, five in all, were large and rectangular, and were marked with big red letters that read HEAVY BULK OBJECT.

            “D’ya guys want help openin’ ‘em up?” asked Harvey.

            “I got it.” said Rip. Extending his claws, he went to the crate closest to him and cut through the nails holding one of the sides to the rest of the crate. The wooden side fell with a loud clatter, revealing the hoverbike inside. It looked like a regular motorcycle, except it seemed more box-like and instead of wheels had two half-circle panels at each end. The entire thing had been painted black, even the handles and panels.

            “Huh.” said Rip. “I thought it’d be mo’ showy.”

            “Them rich kids prob’bly wanted to do the paint job,” said Fox. “Give it their own gang colors an’ shit.”

            Iori scoffed. “Never say ‘gang’ an’ ‘rich kids’ in the same sentence.”

            With Harvey’s help, Rip lifted the hoverbike up and out of the crate. The key, a small plastic rod with an electronic laser identification tag at the end, was wrapped around one of the handles with a small metal chain. Unwrapping the chain from the handle and setting the key in the ignition, Rip tried to start up the engine.

            There was a loud rumbling sound from within and the hoverbike rose a foot and a half into the air, bobbing slightly where it stopped. From beneath the panels there was a faint blue glow, probably from the magnets, Zahara guessed. Everyone around Zahara gasped and stared at the hoverbike.

            “Wow.” said Ilse. “’Kind of ‘em to put the gas in ‘fore we needed ‘em.”

            “Y’all mind if I test it out fo’ ya guys?” asked Harvey.

            “Be our guest.” said Rip, gesturing to the bike.

            Harvey swung his foot over the hoverbike and sat in the seat. It dipped slightly but other than that did not react to the new weight that had been added to it.

            Harvey sat there for a second, looking like he was trying to get his excitement under control. “Alright.” he said. “Now how the fuck d’ya drive this thing—?” Harvey twisted the throttle and the hoverbike sped forward. He lost his grip and fell off the bike, landing in Rip’s arms with a loud grunt. Both of them fell to the ground, neither really hurt but both looking shaken. A few yards away the hoverbike had come to a stop, hovering serenely as if nothing had happened.

            “Shit.” said Harvey.

            “That bastard’s gonna take some practice.” Rico observed, looking at the bike.

            Zahara was still staring at it, not really listening to the others. She had seen what Harvey had done and thought that if he had just twisted the throttle slowly and hadn’t tried to move too quickly, he wouldn’t have fallen off the bike.

            I have to try it out. she thought, feeling like she was being drawn to it. I just have to know if I’m right. Before she realized it, Zahara was striding towards the bike and swinging her leg over the seat.

            “Zahara?” said Alto, and Zahara knew without looking that all the others were watching her. “What’re ya doin’?

            “Babe, are ya crazy?” said Ilse. “Ya can’t just get on the bike an’ expect t’ get it right on the first try when we haven’t even tested it out—!”

            But she ignored them. Bending over the handlebars, she twisted the throttle slowly. The bike sped forward, going at a pace that was slower than what had it had been going when Harvey had gotten on but still pretty fast. Feeling the air whipping around her, Zahara timed a turn and spun to the left as the wall neared. Navigating the maze of boxes and crates, she reappeared in front of the Hydras, braking with ease.

            Only when she looked at the others and saw their mouths hanging open did she realize what she had done: she had ridden a hoverbike without any previous practice and made it look easy. She looked at all of them, then at the bike, then back to the rest of them again.

            Finally Miguel closed his mouth and said, “Well, whaddya know? The chica’s a gangsta after all.”

            “Yeah.” said Owl. “The riding-a-hoverbike-like-it’s-easy-as-pie type of gangsta.”

            “Wow Zahara.” said Ilse, and Zahara felt herself glowing with pride and accomplishment.

As I mentioned last month, I’m raising money for BuckeyeThon again. If you’re unfamiliar with BuckeyeThon, it’s a fundraiser done through Ohio State every year and that benefits the Children’s Miracle Network, funding cancer research, especially cancer affecting children. This year, the university is poised to raise a million dollars or more, and I’m trying to raise as much as I can. And not just because making my minimum fundraising goal gets me access to a 12-hour dance marathon. Actually, I’m in it for the kids: every year they bring some of the kids whom we’re helping to the dance and they are just the most fun and sweetest and you really see the effect we students are having on them.

Right now I’m very close to making my minimum goal of $250. Already one or two of you guys have donated on my page. But I still need your help. I know a lot of people would be hesitant to give any money to someone only known to them through a webpage (and maybe a couple of books). But if you feel comfortable donating, any amount of money would be appreciated.

If you feel like donating, you can follow this link to my page (by the way, Ephraim Ungar is my legal name, if you’re wondering why it doesn’t list Rami Ungar). Once again, I and so many people thank you for your consideration and your generosity. You have no idea how much we appreciate it.

All for now, I’m going to get another blog post out tonight if I can, so keep an eye out for it. But if I can’t, good night, my Followers of Fear. Hope you’re having a pleasant weekend. I know I am.

So last night, it’s very late and I’m exhausted. I’m getting ready for bed when an idea for a short story comes to me all of a sudden. I go to write it down in the notebook I carry around with me, so that in the morning I can write it down in the morning on the list I keep on my flash drive for stories. But just as I’m about to write it down, a thought occurs to me: Haven’t I had this idea before? As I think about it, I recall an idea, very vaguely, of a short story idea that sounds very similar to the one I just came up with, but I can’t remember that well.

I don’t feel like booting up my laptop and logging in just so I can look up something on my flash drive and then shutting down again. So I scribble myself a note reminding me to see if I already had this idea and I go to bed. The next morning (or I guess this morning) I see the note, get on my laptop, and pull up my list of short story ideas (now up to 367 ideas since the last time I added an entry. God help me find the time to write them all). I type in some relevant key words into the “Find” feature, and sure enough, entry number 108 matches the idea I had last night. The only differences were the genders were switched on the characters.

At that point, I felt a little silly. I know it’s common for authors to have similar ideas across all their works (Joss Whedon has powerful organizations whose very purpose allows them to wield strong influence in nearly every sphere of society, HP Lovecraft has those slithery Cthullu creatures, William Shakespeare had more than a few manipulative villains who seemed honest on the surface but were vile beasts underneath it all). Heck, a lot of my ideas involve female protagonists who rise to the occasion after travailing over several obstacles. I just never expected to happen across the same idea like that.

At least I can take comfort in the knowledge that this has probably happened before.

As for the idea that I had last night…well, maybe I’ll keep it, maybe I won’t. I know there’s room for variation, but the question is, do I want to do it if it sounds so similar to my previous idea, and should I do it when it seems so similar?

If you ever find two short stories of mine and they have similar plots behind them, as well as characters, settings, and whatever else, you’ll know the answer I came to.

Have you ever had an idea that was very similar to a previous idea? How did you deal with it?

By the way, there’s only 7 more days to buy Reborn City at discount price or participate in the special giveaway for a free copy. Better get on that while you still have the chance!