Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cloud Atlas—A Classic Before its Time

Cloud Atlas Poster     Fifty years from now, high-school students (if there are any) will be writing homework assignments on this masterful film. Today, in the year 2012, viewers under 18 aren't permitted to see this R-rated film without their parents. I agree with the rating. It does portray adult themes and it is violent, but still, little is shown that young-people today don't see on the web or while playing Halo 4.

     As a creative fiction writer, I think that I learned several important lessons from the film and the insightful story it tells. First, there are no limits to the way vitally important messages about humanity can be told. I expect that some might have trouble following the story-line, as it was told as if someone was weaving individual strands of people’s lives into an magnificent tapestry that transports the viewer from one era to another between heartbeats. Before long, we recognize the commonality of the threads as we lean back and see the story as a whole. It’s not just the faces of the hauntingly familiar characters that ebb and flow in the plot, like the years and ages that flash by before our eyes, it’s their common humanity or lack there-of. In each era there are those who strive and sacrifice themselves to make the world more habitable for themselves, but more importantly, for others. And there are those who would pray on the helpless, and the hapless and those who are just sitting astride the planet as if they were riding a carnival ride eating popcorn. For them, there are a number of exciting 3D chase scenes.

     I also learned that this story raises the bar on writing, directing and acting. I now have a rather lofty goal to create something at least half this impactful. I hope to fold in more of these life lessons of sacrifice, generosity and courage into my future work.

     Go see it. After you see it, consider taking your older sons and daughters and explain it to them or listen while others try to explain it to each other. I’ll be listening too. We all are in this together. I hope we survive.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Were The Iranians Looking For?

In December 1978, I was working for Ross Perot at Electronic Data Systems. I mean, for Ross Perot himself . Before then, I had been working as a senior developer on Part B healthcare systems. One afternoon afterimage lunch, I found a yellow sticky note stuck to my monitor. My first thoughts: I’m screwed. I took too long for lunch. We knew Ross monitored our card-key comings and goings and I had taken an extra ten minutes. I’m totally screwed. “What’s with this?” I asked Darrell, my manager. He just shrugged and told me to hustle my ass upstairs. I scurried up to Ross’ office on the 7th floor. His secretary/gatekeeper recognized me at once. “Hi Bill, go on in. He’s waiting for you.” Her cute Atlanta accent was wilting. How did she know me? I smiled, and began walking my final mile toward Ross’ office. The door was open.

“Hi Bill, have a seat. How’s the wife? I understand you have a new daughter.” His signature east-Texas twang made me feel a lot less like a condemned man and more like he lived next door. For the next few minutes I filled in the details on my family and how well I liked my job. But he already seemed to know everything. He knew how I had hacked into the EDS mainframes all over the country using a Radio Shack antenna switch to get my programs compiled on idle systems. And he had heard how I had soldered together my own personal computer, written my own BIOS and was programming at home as much as I was at the office. He didn’t know that I thought his operation was inefficient and I had bypassed many of their rules to get more done in less time. I’m screwed.

And then he told me why he had asked to talk to me. Ross had read a story in Popular Electronics that said the 8080 CPU would revolutionize the world. For the next hour we discussed the future of computing. He was a good listener. To make a long story short, that’s when I started to work for Ross himself as his technical advisor. I was moved into an office on the 7th floor and asked to sit in on meetings and consult on any number of technical issues. I eventually began work on an accounting program that would be sold with IBM 5110 “personal” computers to small businesses.

Fallout from the Iran Mission

In December of 1978 several bedraggled men were placed in the vacant desks all around us. Despite the fact they were wearing the EDS uniform (3-piece business suits), they looked like they had just returned from a harrowing battle in Vietnam. At first they didn’t really say much. But over the next few days we learned more and more about how EDS’s grand plans for Iran had fallen through.

They told us how EDS wanted to expand their foreign offices. When they discovered that the Shah of Iran wanted to modernize their systems to ostensibly keep track of their citizens, Ross jumped at the chance. He flew a team to Iran and EDS was awarded the bid. For some reason, the other vendors wanted a lot more time to get the system up but Ross’ people were confident they could get it up in a year. What they didn’t know is that it usually took several years to get anything through customs. The onsite team worked around this by “storing” the shipment in a sealed warehouse within the customs security fence. Less than a year later the system was up. After some time, they were bringing in a million dollars a month. It was widely rumored was the database was being used by SAVAK to track dissidents.

All was going well until the Shah was deposed and the government stopped paying their monthly bill. Eight months later, the situation had deteriorated dramatically. While the State Department was not providing much sensible intelligence, the EDS employees and their families were already very concerned. When someone drove by the EDS building and sprayed the second floor offices with an AK47, they knew they had to get out while they could. After getting the go-ahead from Dallas, the staff backed up the system to tape and formatted the hard drives. The tapes were taken to the American Embassy and put in an embassy pouch to be delivered back to the Dallas headquarters. Unfortunately, an informant working for the company notified Khomeini’s people. Most of the staff escaped Tehran as quickly as possible.

The story of what happened to the EDS employees (Paul Chiapparone and Bill Gaylord) that didn’t get out was fodder for a Ken Follett book “On Wings of Eagles.” After they were thrown in prison, the question they were asked a thousand times was “Where is the data?” Ross was able to engineer an escape for his employees and they returned to the Dallas headquarters. When I heard about it, I volunteered to fly the chopper out of Turkey. Ross thanked me but turned me down. He had recruited my flight-school instructor pilot.

When the mobs attacked the embassy in April of 1980, they turned the building inside out looking for something. Was it the data tapes containing SAVAK files?

Again, an American company was was paid millions (perhaps through naiveté) to make a tyrannical regime more efficient at monitoring its citizens (and victims). While EDS was told this system was to replicate the functionality of the Social Security system in the US, did the EDS people onsite know it was being used by the SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police? Were they ignorant, or did they turn a blind eye? Did Ross know? Only those men who survived this really know. Perhaps we should ask them—just to get the story straight.

Of course, all of this unfolded over three decades ago. My memory is not what it once was but this is the story as I remember it. Perhaps it will help those individuals working for companies here and abroad to be more cognizant of whom they are helping with their skills.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Yes Virginia, We Blame Bush and the Republicans.

I saw a post from a frustrated woman who was “tired” of people blaming Bush for the country’s problems. It’s as if her car was broken and the shop had taken four years to fix it. The American (or world) economy and our complex political situation is not as simple as a Honda Civic on a five-year warranty. While women’s issues, marriage equality and vote tampering are an important reasons not to vote for a party whose men think they have a God-given right to control their property (their women), there are many other, just as serious issues to consider.

Yes, Virginia, we blame the Republicans. You should blame Bush and the Republican Party. They squandered trillions on war while cutting taxes for the wealthy. They borrowed money from the Chinese to run the government instead of keeping the Clinton-era rates that taxed the wealthy at higher rates. As a result, the Republicans drove our economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression and took the rest of the world’s economies with it. They dropped regulations that had kept Wall Street in check for decades. That's a fact, not an opinion.

But in all fairness, I think George Bush (Jr.) is not to blame for our problems. IMHO, he was simply a puppet of the Dick Cheney's of this world. The Republican machine, funded by men like the Koch Brothers and a host of healthcare, big oil and other mega-corporations like Halliburton wanted a President that would smile and do their bidding. They wanted someone to rubber-stamp their plans to lower taxes for their friends and go to war—regardless of the threat. 9/11 was a godsend—a Tonkin Gulf that gave them an excuse to attack everyone in sight and spread Christianity. It was The Crusades all over again.

So, Obama takes over after four disastrous years. The banks are on the verge of collapse, Wall Street is heading for 1929 levels and  and what do the House Republicans do? They make defeating Obama their first and foremost goal. That's a fact. They block jobs legislation and vote over a dozen times to undo Obamacare. Why? Their billionaire friends like the fact they don’t like to pay their share of taxes. These are the same companies and individuals that bought legislation (paying millions in lobbying fees) to let them carve out massive payouts in reduced taxes and benefits. These same billionaire friends using their own media outlets (Newscorp which owns Fox and several influential newspapers) slam the President at every opportunity, making up the facts as they go. As a result, millions of Americans are grossly misinformed. Fox and their “pundits” ignore the fact that the Republican nominee has distorted the truth and outright lied about his position and his intentions. Actually, he’s never told anyone the specifics of his plan to get the economy back (unless you count the arithmetically impossible policies he’s selling like snake oil.) He hasn’t given the American public any idea what he’s really been paying in taxes or about why he’s so bent on shipping jobs to China.

And then the desperate Republicans have hired “consultants” to block Democrats from voting. There have been arrests, lawsuits and other attempts to stop this, but many voters won’t be able to cast their ballots through intimidation, unconstitutional laws and operatives destroying voter registration forms.  

Despite the Republican’s best efforts, Obama’s policies are working; albeit not as well as they could if the Republican House would cooperate. The housing industry has turned around, foreclosures are down, the number of employed is around 93% (that’s 7% unemployment), we’re out of Iraq, we’re getting out of Afghanistan, we haven’t started a war with Iran or Syria or North Korea or Somalia (despite demands by the Republicans that we do). We have a new healthcare law that covers millions that were on their own, for the first time in decades, healthcare costs are not over the level of inflation. Ironically, Obamacare is a law designed by the healthcare providers and the Republicans that the Obama administration didn’t want, but accepted in a spirit of compromise. And now the Republicans hate it—because it makes Obama look good.

So we’re finally coming out of the steep dive that the Republicans put us in and you want to give them the controls again? If you want them to rule your life and pillage the economy, vote for them. Heaven help us if they win.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Search of Names

I’m in the process of writing Truth Awakens, the third book in my Owl Wrangler trilogy and I would like to tap your imagination. I have created a new teenage character that appears in Chapter 1 and she and her parents need names. Of course, I have already chosen place-holder names but I think it would be fun if my readers got to choose the names for these new characters.

Based on a few requests for more details, I have included a short description of the character's predicament to set the scene. In Truth Awakens, we open the story at the simple camp of a clan of itinerant Seldith elves. Traditionally, the Seldith despise and shun any faeries that they encounter; treating them like insects and often attacking them on sight. Feesa, her older sister and her parents, are faeries, but they have hidden their wings and not long ago were able to blend in with a Seldith clan. So far, they’ve live quietly, pretending to be elves. After all, they look like elves (except for their dragonfly-like wings), so they’ve been able to pull this off—until now. A few days ago, Feesa’s 16-year-old sister was attacked and brutally killed. Feesa, only about 14, witnessed the attack. She hasn’t been able to tell anyone what happened—wanting to spare her parents and afraid of revealing their identity. Her sister was as close to Feesa as anyone could be. They shared their happy times, their worries and their aspirations. But Feesa’s sister was restless. She enjoyed being a faerie—especially flying, and looked forward to accepting the crown of Queen of the Faeries one day. Feesa knew that she felt trapped among the Seldith—and so did Feesa. Both Feesa and her sister hated having to put up with the jokes and bigotry about faeries, and having to laugh along with the rest. While Feesa wasn’t sure how it happened, somehow her sister’s real identity had been discovered and she paid for it with her life. She has spent every day and night since then unable to forget and blaming herself for what happened. But Feesa’s and her parent’s troubles had just begun.

I need names for Feesa’s parents and her sister. Can you suggest some? 

When I develop names, I often go to Google Translate and translate English words and phrases into Dutch, Flemish, German, Spanish or other languages that (more or less) share our alphabet. These give me ideas about how to come up with unique but meaningful character names.

I will be posting the suggestions to my website and to Facebook where I will permit anyone to vote on them. If your students would care to participate, just let me know. It would be best if they provided names with a short description of what the name means to them.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey—A Formula for Success?

After having seen countless references to Ms. E.L. James’ best-seller, I had to read it—at least that’s what I told my wife. I explained that I wanted to see what made a self-published book so popular. She just nodded and gave me her disapproving frown.

My more-experienced (and published) friends told me that Fifty Shades was not well-written, so I did not expect much in the way of literary excellence. Having read my share of ‘adult’ books (few of which were well written), I also had another benchmark with which to compare Ms. James’ work.

For me, I found Ms. James’ character arcs interesting and engaging. Miss Steele, the protagonist, seems, moral, genuine and naïve (at first)—hesitant to take advantage of Mr. Grey’s offers of gifts and the other ‘benefits’ of their budding relationship. In time, she evolves into to the controller—the one who dictates how the relationship is to proceed, and the boundaries to which it must be confined—at least to some extent. Mr. Grey’s domineering character also softens as he realizes how much he cares for his latest submissive.

While there are a number of passionate sex scenes, there are also love scenes which most of the adult books I’ve read don’t generally include. As Mr. Grey pushes Miss Steele’s boundaries, she resists and expands his own limits.  It’s these tender moments that make both of them feel more like lovers than simply sex partners, and what makes this book more than porn.

Is this a great work of literary art? Not really. I thought it could use another editing pass, as the word-choice was distracting from time-to-time and it could have been tighter in places. And no, I didn’t read the fine print in the seemingly endless contracts, but they did give me a better idea of what goes one behind the scenes in an dominate-submissive playroom.

So what makes this a best seller? I would say it’s the lack of sex. When you pick up a typical adult (okay, porn) book, you can turn to almost any page and find graphic intercourse nearby. Ms. James’ book has sex, but it’s the meat in the stew, not the slurry of flavors around it. Because of this, any reader can pick up Fifty Shades of Grey and not feel guilty about reading about people having sex and the intimate dance that leads up to it. It’s like buying Playboy—we (all) read it for the articles—at least mostly. Of course, reading Fifty Shades on the Kindle makes it far easier to be discreet.

“What are you reading, Sally?” A voice over my shoulder broke my concentration.
”Oh, just another political thriller,” I say, catching my breath and looking up. I pull the Kindle to my chest. It’s Donald, my boss. He doesn’t need to know that I’m immersed from the waist down into 50 shades.
”It must be exciting, you’re kinda flushed.”
”It’s just this fleece.” I discreetly press the power button on the ereader and give him my full attention, unzipping my sweater a bit. I can feel his steel-blue eyes seeing right through me. If he only knew what I was thinking…

Fifty Shades of Grey is a story is about two people with radically different ideas about romance and sex and male-female relationships, and how money can buy anything—but love. I liked it.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Are We Witnessing a Coup D'état?

     I spent my high-school years in Bangkok—we had a great time and came home having learned a great deal about other cultures. However, we also discovered that in Southeast Asia (like other parts of the world), one part of the military or another attempted to take over the government in a coup d'état every year or so. We just stayed home from school when the tanks started rumbling through the streets. In Bangkok in the 60’s, it was considered to be an unfortunate part of the culture.

     Typically, a coup would occur if one or more of the power groups felt it could not get their way through the elected government. Here in the US, we’re seeing the same thing playing out in the media. No, there aren’t any tanks in the streets (they aren’t back from Iraq yet), but this kind of coup is being fought with money and the media.

    Yes, IMHO, I think we’re witnessing a coup here in the United States. While it’s not the military taking over the TV stations (yet), it’s a coup just the same. Years from now history students will pour over the news accounts from Faux News and the spineless media outlets that played into the hands of the mega corporations and discuss how it happened—or almost happened. They’ll shake their heads as they add up how much money was spent buying votes (projected to be over $5.8 billion). While much of this money is coming from secret sources and corporate donors, too much of it is been wrung out of individuals from both parties using fear tactics, harassing phone calls and urgent pleas that suggest if a deadline isn’t met the election will be lost. In these hard times, this money would have paid for groceries, gas to get to work and rent. It’s a disgrace.

I made the mistake of giving to the Democrats. After that, I was called, emailed and incessantly prodded for more. I even offered to make another donation if I would not be contacted again. It’s like giving money to your derelict uncle who keeps coming back for more once he figures you’re a soft touch.

     Sadly, this entire election seems to be about money. The for-profit corporations that provide us fuel, healthcare, food and supply the military and about everything else have seen a golden opportunity to take over the country—literally. They know if a progressive congress is put back in place run by a progressive President, their days of wonton profiteering and election rigging are numbered. The military suppliers (what Eisenhower called the ‘Military Industrial Complex’) want us back in Iraq and Iran and North Korea—because they’ll be paid for everything from bombs to body bags. The corporations know if President Obama is reelected, the Supreme court will be repopulated with justices that really believe that corporations are not people and don’t deserve the rights and freedoms of individuals. They know that the people will ultimately insist that media corporations be held accountable for what they broadcast. I think it’s obscene that while a network can be fined for showing a human breast but are permitted to blatantly lie without fear of censure. While there are shades of truth to any story, outright lies and evil distortions of the truth must be eliminated from political discourse. If that takes a Constitutional amendment, then so be it.

     I expect campaign reform to be a plank of the Democrat’s platform. We have some very serious problems to face in the next decade, but we can’t face them if we don’t hear the truth from our media sources and those who would use their money to influence elections beyond their single, individual voice.


Monday, August 27, 2012

To Independent Voters—Trying to Make Sense of Campaign 2012


An independent voter asked how one should attempt to make sense out of the current election hype. I offered this appraisal.

I'm a democrat, but I think I understand your position. It's tough to know anymore given the overblown extremist rhetoric—on both sides. However, I suggest you consider who is driving the “Republican” party now-a-days. Long ago, we used to be able to depend on the Republicans for sanity, calm reason, and financially conservative points of view that balanced the oft’ over-exuberant Democrats—but those sane men and women aren’t in control any longer. For the most part, the current party leadership (which I call Talibublicans because of their extremist views on religion and gun violence that rivals the Taliban), is funded by wealthy individuals and corporations who have a lot to lose if the Democrats get control of the House and Senate—and the Presidency. In one case, (and there are many others) It’s no secret that the Koch brothers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaigns—both local, state and national. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling made all of that possible thanks to republican appointees on the court. The brothers Koch are also the primary funder of the radical Tea Party movement who has a thin understanding of the separation of church and state and the NRA. Despite the lack of any but a miniscule number of in-person voter fraud cases, the Talibublicans are also behind a host of outrageous bills to stop the poor, minorities, elderly and disadvantaged from voting. These state laws and local city regulations are clearly against existing, clear and enforced federal laws. Their purpose is dissuade at least a small percentage of the voters in key swing states. And it’s working.

Another problem the country is facing is the infiltration of the media. Years ago, the far right-wing Australian Rupert Murdoch purchased Fox (News Corp) and the Wall Street Journal (as well as many local TV stations all over the country). He staffed Fox’s CEO with the former political head of the Republican Party propaganda arm, Roger Ailes. This means virtually every story from man-bites dog to attempted assassinations is spun to make the Republicans look good or the President appear to be an interloper from Kenya. I’m not saying that the other media outlets are unbiased. They’re also running scared and worried about big advertisers pulling their funding—like the drug companies who pay for the evening “news”. So getting accurate, unbiased information for independent voters is as hard as it was in the days of Taft. I read and watch the BBC, NPR and the Seattle Times. All of which seem fairly unbiased and provide a refreshing off-continent point of view.

Basically, the Republicans want to take us back to the Bush years or to the 50’s whichever is closer. This was the time when the country was pushed into debt by two endless wars and unfunded mandates that fed the bottom-lines of their friends at Halliburton and the pharmaceutical companies. In response to their “socialism” comments, consider that most western countries provide healthcare and their presidents don’t keep pictures of Marks or Lenin (or Stalin) above the fireplace. Yes, Democrats feel it’s just fine to ask the wealthy to pay their fare share and pay for the infrastructure they depend on to maintain that wealth. We also think it’s rotten to send jobs overseas and pass laws to make it more profitable. We think it’s treasonous (if not criminal) to pass laws that help the wealthy move their money off-shore to avoid paying the lowest taxes they’ve paid in many decades. Democrats (or at least I) feel it’s criminal that people can’t afford health insurance while the healthcare providers are showing record profits. The right can spin that as socialism or communism or anyism all they want, it’s simply not right.

When it comes time to go to the polls, I suggest you vote your conscience. If you care about those that need our protection, about women’s issues or others who are the subject of bigotry and hate; if you care about the viability of our form of government and keeping the mega-wealthy from polluting our legislatures with millions in contributions to create and promote customized laws that keep them wealthy, then you’ll know how to vote.

History will look back on these times and wonder what we were thinking. They’ll wonder why education was handed over to the evangelists. They’ll wonder why proud Americans would let their country be taken over by oligarchs and international corporations.

And a side note. No, not all Republicans have embraced the radical ideas of the Tea Party, the misogynist views of Mr. Akins or the silliness of Sarah. Not even all of the Republican leadership has done so. But their candidate for Vice President has. Mr. Ryan the golden boy of the Talibublicans. Sadly, enough of the Republican leaders and their loyal followers have turned to the dark side. The saddest point of all is that they have a good chance of winning this election.

Bill Vaughn

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Discounts When They’re Not

I just had a long talk with an exceedingly helpful person at CreateSpace. They’re the arm of Amazon that prints my books. I spoke to another helpful person at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) conference last week, who suggested I email my questions to her and she would get them answered ASAP—I sent the mail on Monday. This is Wednesday. That’s pretty fast turnaround for a large company. Well done.

So, their answers to my questions will bore you for the most part, but a few might enlighten others who deal with CreateSpace or buy my print books.

1) The discount codes that I’ve been passing around to everyone who shows even a passing interest in my book (like the poor guy trapped in the elevator with me the other day) aren’t of much use. It seems they only work if you buy from the CreateSpace site directly. This means if you go to Amazon to buy my book (in print), you can’t use the code. It also means that Kindle purchases won’t accept the code. Sigh. The kind lady on the phone did indicate that this is a common concern for authors/publishers and might be addressed in the future. So if you want to use the discount code, you’ll have to click on the link shown above. Sorry. De’ms da rules.

2) The pricing for my book with color illustrations is far too high at $62.68. Apparently, because I asked for “Expanded Distribution” (which includes bookstores and libraries), the price jumps considerably due to the increased cost of distribution. As it is, I get no (as in zero) royalties at this level. I expect that will have to change now that I understand that the retail price is out of my control. And no, I don’t expect to sell many at this price—not even to my mother-in-law in Leavenworth, Kansas. Perhaps I should buy these in bulk and sell them myself. After all, that’s how I got started back in the early ‘90s with Hitchhiker’s Guide to VBSQL.

All in all, I was very pleased with the extra effort taken by the CreateSpace team. They seem to be very open to suggestions to make my and my reader’s experience better. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

     I jumped at the chance to get out of the house when my spouse suggested we take in a movie. We had seen a trailer for Moonrise Kingdom a few weeks ago—I was intrigued. To begin with, Bruce Willis in a movie with Bill Murray and Frances McDormand was quite a combination. We arrived at the AMC theater and tried (repeatedly) to buy tickets. It was senior night, but the young man (apparently his first day), was unable to charge us less than a dinner for two at the Capital Grill. After a brief conversation with the manager, we finally got in and were in time for the trailers for an upcoming movie Hyde Park on Hudson starring no other than Bill Murray as President Roosevelt. It looks great.

     Moonrise Kingdom is the charming story of a pair of kids (about Romeo and Juliet’s age) that fall in love and make elaborate plans to run away—sort of. They live on an island off the coast of New England so they can’t go very far in a miniature canoe. As the story unraveled, I was pleasantly surprised by the writing, wit and jabs at the establishment. One nameless character “Social Services” stuck out as especially stereotypical, but that furthered the plot. 

    Sam (played by Jared Gilman), while purportedly an out-of-control orphaned youth, was one of the least troubled kids in the movie. Suzy (played by Kara Hayward) was just as troubled, confused as any thirteen-year-old girl. The fact that she carried a good-sized suitcase of her favorite books the whole way (and read to the lost boys at night) was especially touching—and funny. I also enjoyed the seemingly endless supply of children dressed in felt animal costumes standing two-by-two in the wings for the church play about Noah.

     As to the rating: It’s PG-13. There was brief nudity (we saw Frances McDormand’s breast from the side for about 6 frames (OMG). While there was kissing and light petting, the love scenes were sweet and innocent. There was implied violence and a number of bloody shirts and noses. And a dog (the dog from The Artist) was killed by an errant arrow. I would wait until my granddaughters are 13 before I would take them, but I expect more mature kids would thoroughly enjoy it.

     I wish I had written down the titles of all the books Suzy read. Can anyone fill me in? As a young-adult writer, I would love to be able to capture the innocence of this lovely story. Go see it. You’ll come out smiling.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who is William Vaughn?

I’m not a new author—far from it. I’ve written over a dozen books and contributed chapters to a handful of others. I’ve written more magazine and Internet articles than Justin Bieber’s hair stylists, and I’m not counting the documentation I pumped out for Microsoft. Except for my two novels, these were all ‘technical fiction’. You know, books written about Microsoft software for developers. One has to be pretty imaginative to write an easy-to-read book on the data access interfaces SQL Server and still keep the reader awake.

Apparently, none of this experience helps get one recognized as a competent writer in the young adult world. That’s understandable—very few teens read Hitchhiker’s Guide to Visual Studio and SQL Server (7th Edition), and they wouldn’t get the jokes anyway. That’s fine. I know how to restart my career on a new path. I’ve had to do it many, many times over the last forty years. Anyone who’s worked in the personal computer industry also knows how to file for unemployment.

So I had an idea for a novel that would to weave a story about our turbulent times. And, of course, I wanted to wade into taboo topics of politics, religion and bigotry.  I saw (and still see) political corruption, corporations buying their own laws and media spigots dumping their propaganda on the naive public. I saw many social problems ignored or glossed over by the popular books impressionable teens were reading. I was convinced that our future leaders needed another 1984, Animal Farm or Alice In Wonderland. Ambitious? Of course. I expect that Don Quixote and I are cut from the same cloth.

The Owl Wrangler POD Cover (just front)I spent about three years and a bunch of money on classes, books, editors and illustrators to create The Owl Wrangler. On the surface, it’s a young adult story about tiny forest elves no taller than a pinecone. The Seldith live in the forests around the Northwest, perhaps behind that blackberry bush behind your fence line. They have parents, teachers and village elders that expect and demand quite a bit from them. Seldith teens are faced with most of the same hormonal and social pressures that my own kids faced when they were in their teens. But these elven teens are special. Many of them have fledgling magical powers that they’re just learning to wield. Check out http://theowlwrangler.com for a précis.

I published The Owl Wrangler April 1, 2011 on Kindle, Nook (1 sale) and through CreateSpace. 90% of the print copies were sold by hand to people that came to my book signings and through consignment placements. These have sold very well, but only in the local area. I’m a good salesman.  

The result? Despite tepid sales, the book got 99% 5-star reviews—but too few of them. I thought it was time to start marketing in earnest. While I found a publisher that was “very interested”, communicating with them is like standing in the back of a busy bar trying to get a drink on a Friday night. I’m still looking for a sincerely interested publisher. Sure, I’ve been racking up rejection letters, but my ego can only take so much rejection. I’m not as frail as George McFly; no experienced author is, but given the state of the publishing industry, does it make sense to keep prodding publishers that only want best sellers? One of the blog articles that clog up my browser like malware pop-ups, suggested that the only key to success for a new author was to write—and keep writing. So I did.

Copy of Front Cover Cats EyesThe story continued with Guardians of the Sacred Seven. This took another fifteen months, more classes, editors, copyeditors, conference fees and thousands of hours on Facebook, Twitter and countless blogs and reading similar fantasies. July 1st (2012), volume two of The Owl Wrangler trilogy was done. I’m happy with it. Taking my own advice, I started writing the third immediately. Frankly, the characters are calling me now to come back and listen to their stories.

Sure, I keep getting the occasional request to consult on SQL Server or Reporting Services projects, but I’m having too much fun listening to the Seldith tell me their stories.

Follow me on @vaughnwilliam or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/OwlWrangler.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Revised Website

I spent the day (between writing sprints) revising my book’s website. I created a new header, incorporating the Ink’s Eyes cover. Take a look and let me know what you think. Look for http://theowlwrangler.com.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mata is at it Again—A Craigslist Scam or a Poor Churchmouse?

I got another message from “Mata” today. She says that she’s a poor church mouse living in Nevada City… but I’ll let her tell the story:

Hi! I am a single mom who works as a teacher's assistant in church at
Nevada City. I want to give your item to our pastor as a gift.Do you
have a PayPal account? Invoice me using the same e-mail.

If you do not have a PayPal account, Kindly provide me with your
Fullname and Address to enable me send you a cash delivery money

i will be adding an extra funds during payment for shipment cost
because you will be required to ship the item. I prefer USPS Shipping

Have a Bless Day.”

So, the first time I got this message I hesitated a moment. It seemed strange that a “teacher’s assistant in church” would have the money to buy a $1500 professional camera. And as a teaching assistant, you would think her English would be a bit better. So I checked. “Mata” has been sending this same message to folks for quite some time—word-for-word. I don’t know how her scam works, but I expect she forges money orders. I guess she forgot that she and I already had an exchange about fraud—she sent me another message this morning.

What I don’t understand is why no one has put a stop to her nefarious deeds? Are there no police in “Nevada City” if that’s where she’s from? I expect that the “pastor” is on a mission in Nigeria and she would want to have the camera sent directly to him so folks don’t have Mata’s real address. Right.

Just watch yourselves folks. There are all kinds of fictional stories out there that more than stretch the truth.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guardians of the Sacred Seven has Arrived
After two years of writing, editing and rinse and repeat, I'm proud to announce that the second book in The Owl Wrangler trilogy has been published with brilliant illustrations by Sarah Livingston.

In Guardians, Hisbil finds that only a few of the clan believe his impossible story about uman giants, riding awakened beasts and transmogrifying his father back from an eagle. Who would believe it? Even his friends are skeptical. Alred convinces him to take an accounting of his exploits to the Summit at Glencairnon where it will be accepted into The Book of Truth--then they'll have to believe him. Unfortunately, the council members he got thrown in jail are plotting their revenge and a way to get back in power including writing their own account of Hisbil's evil ways. 
Hisbil's friend Weiger pays a heavy price to learn that Neychen and his cohorts will stop at nothing to put things back the way they were. While Hisbil has inherited his father's magical powers, it does not take long before he realizes the deadly burden he bears each time a spell is cast. Will he be able to overcome the treachery, lies and deceit or will he sacrifice everything to save Kassie, his sister and his clan?

Guardians of the Sacred Seven is currently available on Kindle and soon to appear in the Amazon listings for paper copies. Until Amazon catches up, you can find the print version on CreateSpace.  I've done something different this time--I've included color illustrations. This should enhance the reading experience for the Kindle Fire and other color Kindle eBook readers. There's also a special color print version available that includes these color illustrations.

A new beginning...

A new start. Sometimes that's what it takes. I've been fighting my MovableType blog for over three years--the six months or so with paid help from SixApart but it still does not work correctly. I have better things to do with my life than debug Perl scripts, so I thought I would try BlogSpot.
Let's see how it goes...