“Dance of the Lights” by Stephen Geez

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If you have any doubt regarding what life is all about, then you need to read this beautiful story, which will explain it to you. The ultimate love story, I definitely fell in love with most of the characters in this book. They were so real, you felt as if you knew them, that they were your own friends and neighbors, making their way through life and its struggles, including sometimes the painful loss of a loved one. It was an utterly convincing slice of life, where people work hard for what they have, interact with neighbors and loved ones, and most importantly, help one another when the need arises. It was about priorities, caring, and doing the right thing, but not in a flamboyant way. It was about the passage of time, how things change, including people, and the importance of friends.

A light paranormal touch permeated the story, a reminder that what we see is but a small part of what we know as reality. There are some things that simply can’t be explained. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one, yet felt their presence or heard them speaking inside their mind, will relate. Who and what are we? What about those with whom we share our lives, loves, and ambitions? Is it all random? Do certain people come into our lives by chance or design? What is the essence of life? Love? Our very existence?

Don’t expect specific answers to any of these questions because you won’t find them. Rather, there is plenty to ponder. On the one hand, it’s easy to note that those characters who made mistakes were beyond fortunate to find someone to stand behind them and help them get past their troubles. Finances were not a problem for the main characters, who generously shared their substance to help others. Most who fall upon hard times are not so lucky. Those who have had to dig their way out of a bad situation on their own could even feel a touch of bitterness. Yes, this story reflects the ideal, which life seldom is. However, I don’t believe it’s those in sorry circumstances to whom this story applies the most. Rather it would have the most powerful impact on those with the means to help others by expounding the deep satisfaction, friendship, and rewards that come from helping your fellow man.

The characters in this book were familiar in many respects; archetypes, if you will. No doubt you will relate to some more than others, recognize several, and with luck, even see yourself. There are parts that are heart-rending, yet that is a fact of life. Learning to deal with death and grief is part of living.  Learning not to take anything for granted, to appreciate each and every day, realizing that in a flash everything could change, is what enriches our existence.  Years pass a day at a time, yet in what can feel like an instant, they evaporate, leaving you in awe of their passing. Of course the older you are, the more obvious this is.

This cast who populated this story touched my heart in so many ways. In some respects, it was like a  soap opera, as diverse individuals entangled with one another through heredity or circumstance went about their lives, some days normal and predictable, others milestones, or marred by sudden tragedy. In many ways, stories like this are a measure of the reader’s capacity to love. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, feel as if you know them, and even wish you had some of them as friends or neighbors, perhaps you’ve lost touch with your own humanity and need for others in your life.

Author Stephen Geez renders characters you’ll never forget, who’ll live on within your heart forever.  If you could use a few new book-friends or book-neighbors, to say nothing of a nice dose of inspiration, then introduce yourself to these adorable souls over in Tarpon Springs. You’ll be glad you did.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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“The Touch: A Supernatural Story” by Robert Flynn III

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There were many things I enjoyed about this book. It was so original that I found it somewhat indescribable. At first the omniscient viewpoint threw me a bit, but it soon became obvious how appropriate it was as you ponder who is telling the tale. The author’s narrative voice is outstanding. It’s as if you can hear the narrator speaking in a somewhat archaic speech that totally works. The characters were real and engaging. I loved Alabama, Gabriel, and Josh as well as the others who joined in as the tale progressed. The premise and supernatural angle is unique and shows the author has a strong grasp on Biblical and Apocryphal descriptions of angels, yet adds a few interpretations of his own.

The plot is intriguing, suspenseful, and keeps you turning the pages. Clearly the world’s sorry situation is reflected and gives you pause what might be going on in other dimensions with regard to the host of wayward and evil humans at large on our planet.

I was somewhat disappointed by the ending, however. Not so much because the story is clearly part of a serial, but because the main characters were seemingly abandoned as new twists were introduced to the story line. I think the author could have handled it better, perhaps by including the characters in which I’d invested interest throughout the rest of the book more directly in the final chapters while still including teasers with regard to the next episode. It felt as if they simply dropped out of existence as a whole new story angle took shape, which would have been a great way to start the next volume as opposed to ending this one.  I was planning on giving this unique tale five stars until the ending, when I dropped it to four because I found its conclusion unsatisfying and not as skillfully rendered as the rest of the book.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

Review of “Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret” by Dr. Steven M. Greer”

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If you’re a follower of UFO lore, you’ve probably already heard much of what this fascinating book contains, given it mostly comprises eyewitness accounts of encounters with UFOs. However, what you may have heard on the numerous TV shows on the subject is but a very mild prelude to what is clearly “the rest of the story.” It takes quite a bit to surprise me, but I was definitely taken aback by much of what came out. For example, there’s a whole lot more to the Rendelsham Forest incident that has been covered in multiple documentaries. There is quite a bit of more information regarding good ol’ Roswell, as well as a considerable amount of information related to government involvement and the inevitable massive cover-ups.

Apparently, some of the UFOs seen are ETVs, i.e., extraterrestrial vehicles, while others are ARVs, alien reproduction vehicles, or those that have been built on Earth, based on back-engineering captured craft. ETVs have numerous capabilities our replicas lack, because some technologies have not yet been cracked sufficiently for us earthlings to duplicate. For example, the technology required to access other dimensions apparently still eludes us, in spite of all the mathematical antics of our best theoretical physicists. Then again, knowing something is there is a long ways from knowing how to access, much less use it, the job of which lies with engineers. That said, there is still a considerable amount of evidence that we are technologically far more advanced and our space exploration activities much more extensive than we’ve been led to believe.

Of course, this is where the conspiracy side of this subject comes to bear. In many respects, the alleged truth is so far-fetched, it’s no wonder numerous people refuse to believe such things exist. However, the fact remains that the number of credible witnesses coupled with the number of key people who have gone public on such things, including those who have mysteriously disappeared or turned up dead of suspicious causes, speaks volumes.

The real question unbelievers must ask themselves is why would anyone lie about such matters, knowing it could put their life at stake?

As a science fiction author I was quite astounded by the fact that much of the technology in my novels already exists. If you’ve ever heard the rumor that some of Steven Spielberg’s movies such as “ET: The Extraterrestrial” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” were planned leaks, this book seems to confirm that, as well as various other movies. Brace yourself, but I got the impression that just about anything I thought was too far out to be true, actually exists. Whoa!

The sad part is why this suppression has occurred. As you can probably guess, it’s all about money. If some of these technologies came out, such as those that can provide free energy, to say nothing of anti-gravity devices, some industries which defend their financial interests with a heavy albeit deadly hand would be forced out of business, such as power companies, the petrochemical and automobile industries, and most likely pharmaceutical manufacturers as well.

It’s indeed sad to think that there are people so full of greed that they think nothing of polluting our planet and forcing the populace as a whole to a lower standard of living than would be possible if these marvels were revealed. The corruption at governmental and corporate levels that sustain this travesty is so deep that eliminating it is next to impossible. With all due respect, such upsets in these industries would definitely impact the economy. There are enough people out of work as it is, much less if these disappeared. It’s these very tentacles that keeps these industries alive, beyond sheer greed.

However, I must say that I have my suspicions regarding Elon Musk, who seems to be walking the interface between them. Ever wonder exactly who he is and where he gets the money for his endeavors? Hmmmm….

What Greer suggests, and has founded an organization to support such an action, is for all those who have witnessed these things, at whatever level, from simply seeing a UFO to building an ARV, to come forward. This has happened to a small degree in the past, where former government officials, mostly from Canada and the United Kingdom, have admitted to this cover-up. Greer is proposing something much larger and more pervasive, a massive movement by the people to object and resist this heinous deception.

Perhaps, one of the most incredible things Greer suggests is that extraterrestrials, in addition to being among us in numbers which we can’t even conceive, are on our side and want to help us rid our planet of this despicable situation. Clearly, off-world civilizations with the engineering knowledge to build ETVs could surely annihilate us if they chose to do so. In fact, their concern is that we will ultimately destroy ourselves.

It’s more than interesting that the Roswell incident, that brought this situation out and remains its cornerstone, occurred in that location because that is where the USA began conducting nuclear testing back in the 40s. Assuming those on other planets had been observing these self-destructive antics on Earth, it’s no wonder they showed up here to warn us in no uncertain terms to quit this insanity, back during the Cold War days between Russia and NATO.

This begs the question of where are these concerned ETs now, and why aren’t they giving similar lectures and warnings to North Korea and the various other insane nations who are saber-rattling at this time? Or have they abandoned us to determine our own fate?

This book is but the tip of the iceberg of what is going on out there behind the scenes, entirely off the radar of the average person. We will be allowed to destroy ourselves and our planet if we so choose, but what kind of idiots would do such a thing? The answer to that lies on the news, fake and otherwise, where humanity has certainly demonstrated what a bloodthirsty and ruthless lot some of us are.

Whether or not you believe in UFOs, extraterrestrials, other dimensions or whatever, this book contains a boat load of information people need to have. Even if you read it with a grain of salt the size of Gibralter, and believe only a small fraction of what it contains, there is plenty to be concerned about. The future of the human race could easily depend on resistance from everyday individuals who have had enough. If nothing else, again ask yourself why anyone would lie about such things? Attention, fame, or fortune are out of the question.

There’s a lot of disturbing information in this book. It has all sorts of implications, some of which will definitely bother those with strong religious convictions. All I can say to that is that God works in mysterious ways. Maybe the beings reported as angels in holy writ were indeed extraterrestrials. When you think about it, God, by definition, is an extraterrestrial. At this point in time, considering the condition of life on Earth coupled with prophecy, maybe it’s time to pay attention. Maybe some of what Greer talks about has a bearing you wouldn’t expect from a secular source.

Truth is stranger than fiction, and this book definitely treads in that territory. Don’t miss it. If you do, you might miss your ride off this demented planet when the time comes to get out of Dodge. For the depth of research and sometimes unfathomable content I haven’t seen previously, I give it 5-stars.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here. Yes, the truth IS out there.

Is your inner Einstein looking for some brain candy?

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This deliciously meaty and heavily researched book should be on everyone’s shelf. Of course, I’m prejudiced as a scientist myself. I thrive on nonfiction books like this, because they clear the dust from those remote corners of my brain, many of which haven’t been used in a long, long time.  In many ways, the content reminds me of the popular physics books Isaac Azimov wrote years ago, which I thrived upon, prior to actually obtaining a physics degree myself.

Probably what I liked most is its focus on the numerous paradoxes that exist in just about every field of study. The author includes sections on medicine, neurology, and psychology; astronomy, cosmology, and physics; and geosciences and math. He points out through a host of examples that there is still so much we don’t understand and thus so much to learn and explore. On the other hand, research is often subjective and highly biased, conducted to prove a point that financially benefits someone or, more likely, a corporation or industry.

So can you trust research results? Maybe, maybe not, making scientific findings paradoxes in and of themselves.  Science should represent facts, but does it? If someone you don’t trust tells you one thing, scientific data notwithstanding, do you automatically assume the opposite to be true? Do you trust everything the pharmaceutical industry tells you? The tobacco industry? Monsanto? The government? How many times has USDA’s official “food pyramid” changed? How many drugs or food additives have been declared “safe” by the FDA only to be proven otherwise at a later date? is it a paradox we can’t believe so much of what we’re told in the name of science?

You’ve probably heard the quote “Lies, damn lies, and statistics”. The section on mathematical manipulation was particularly fascinating, especially pointing out a statistical flaw (or method, depending on whom you ask) known as HARKing, “hypothesizing after the results are known.” Sometimes, remarkable discoveries are found that way; but, on the other hand, it can be used deceptively.

Weimann notes how correlations are often implicated as causes, when there’s no solid evidence to substantiate it. Along similar lines, in some cases, I would have liked to have seen a specific source as opposed to the massive bibliography at the end. While I understand that footnoting every fact would have been a Herculean task, I definitely raised a eyebrow from time to time wondering, and would have appreciated more substantiation. Ironically, the author himself points out how so much of published scientific findings are suspect, yet other times presents them as gospel. I find this somewhat ironic, perhaps a subtle play on the title, perceivable only at the subconscious level, or maybe it’s the author’s way of messing with us.

What can we believe these days? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. In some ways, the entire book is a paradox, where facts are provided on one hand, yet the overall theme is that contradictions lie all around us. It’s as if it the book’s underlying message is something like, “This is all the cool stuff science is discovering these days, but don’t believe everything you hear.”

Maybe you need to be a scientist to see the humor in that. We nerds do tend to have a weird sense of humor, a trait that’s occasionally, but not always, captured on the popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s a matter of laughing with versus at someone and, more often than not, the humor in that show is directed at mocking those who are different. Personally, as a physics major myself, I find it marginally offensive, and if I were of certain political persuasions, I’d be out there protesting and demanding it be removed from the airwaves. Not that scientists can’t laugh at themselves. They just do it at a level the average person doesn’t grok.

Digression aside, Paradox contains a wealth of science, much of it unknown or cutting edge; the beauty of it lies in pointing out–sometimes clearly, sometimes, not–the various contradictions afoot. A favorite saying among physicists and mathematicians is that something is “intuitively obvious.” That tends to show our arrogant side, since so much isn’t, such as his expose of the number one in the math section.

One human behavior paradox I particularly enjoyed in Weimann’s book was in the section that addresses psychology. As humans, we want choices, even demand them, but too many options are overwhelming and tend to result in a person not selecting any of them. I know I’ve experienced this in the grocery store, where there is so much to choose from (especially in the ice cream cooler) that walking away and thus doing without is a far simpler decision, and probably healthier. Another example would be the plethora of political ideologies (some of which are idiotologies) where people scream for freedom to express their own views, then want the entire world to conform to their beliefs, a primary reason why democracies fail.

Some sections are more controversial than others, including the age of the Earth, as well as whether global warming is attributable to a natural climate cycle, which the Earth has endured for millennia, or being contributed to by fossil fuels. I must say, that section tended to convince me of the latter, though I previously leaned toward natural cycles. I found the section fascinating that addresses how our brains have evolved and actually become smaller. The author states that scientific evidence indicates that once daily environmental threats are removed by a “civilized” society, brains shrink, while disease increases. Apparently, “Survival of the fittest” conditions refine a species to top efficiency, whereas survival for everyone, including the drones, downgrades the species, generally. Who woulda thunk it?

The contradictions paradoxes represent keep us honest and humble. They remind us that all may not be as it seems, that our sense of reason may be flawed, implying we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are. What we believe is impossible is limited only by our knowledge of natural law. Perhaps the only individuals from centuries past who wouldn’t be surprised by what we’ve achieved would be Nostradamus and other visionaries who were considered crazy in their own time.

While this book serves as brain candy if you’re a scientist, you don’t have to have a physics degree to appreciate or understand this information. Rest assured, it’s presented for a lay audience, but won’t be palatable for everyone. For those who find science boring, it’ll serve best as bedtime reading for insomniacs.

On the other hand, this is a must read if you’re a science aficionado or entirely immersed in it by degree or profession. Stretch your synapses to fields outside your own! If you love science, yet aren’t formally educated in its tenets, Paradox is a wonderful primer that will keep you informed of some of the most interesting subjects under investigation today. If you’re surrounded by scientists or engineers, but aren’t one yourself, yet want to participate in conversations at work or social gatherings and show you’re smarter than they think you are, this handy volume will provide a wealth of the latest information on what’s going on out there in the world of research, both in the cosmos and on planet Earth.

Those heading for college to obtain a technical degree can benefit greatly as well. If you’re not sure which field you want to go into, you may find something that grabs you. Furthermore, this material will help grease the skids, so to speak, introducing concepts that will make them easier to understand later. Our brains require synaptic connections to work properly, and if a concept is entirely new, it’s harder to grasp than one with some level of familiarity where a niche has already been prepared in your grey matter, if you will. Anyone home schooling their kids will also find this an excellent resource. If you’re a science fiction author, you definitely need this book, not only to keep your writing credible, but to likewise trigger a wealth of new ideas.

As you can tell, if nothing else, this book made me think and possibly stimulated my neurons a bit too much. All that aside, even if you’re not interested yourself, pick up a copy of this five-star book and give it to your favorite nerd. They’ll be forever grateful.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“Gone: Catastrophe in Paradise” by O.J. Modjeska

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This book reminds me of the movie, “Titanic” in that you know from the start it’s not going to end well, yet up until that horrible moment, there’s nail-biting suspense as you wish that, somehow, it isn’t true and never happened. And like the Titanic, this incident is also horrifyingly true.

I blew through this gripping, yet heart rending book in a single day. I can’t name a single novel at which I’ve shed more tears. It recounts in incredible detail what went on behind the scenes of the catastrophic plane crash that occurred March 27, 1977 on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, when two jumbo jet Boeing 747s collided on the ground, killing 583 people.  I remember that accident well and how horrified I was that something so terrible could happen. I’d never even heard of Tenerife until that time, and unfortunately, every time I’ve heard it since, this tragedy is the first thing that comes to mind.

The author takes you, step by step, through all the events that led up to it, again showing that every disaster has multiple causes, an unfortunate chain that could have been broken at any number of points, yet never was, resulting in the unthinkable. Incredibly, it started way before that, with the placement of the airport at a horrible location where banks of fog were known to roll in from the adjacent mountains. Folklore has it that the “X” on the map was originally to indicate the place NOT to place the airport, yet later that rationale was lost, Murphy’s Law prevailed, and that was exactly where it was placed. How ironic and how human.

Having worked at NASA for over 20 years, including during the time immediately following the Challenger accident as well as when Columbia broke up over Texas skies in 2003, I’d already seen that pattern. It’s never one, single thing, one single mistake, that causes a major disaster, but an unfortunate chain that is seemingly cursed by fate.

It made my blood boil that it actually started with a terrorist attack on Las Palmas, another airport in the Canary Islands. While I’m sure there’s a special place in hell for the insidious individual perpetuating that scourge, it’s horrible the damage and loss of life their barbaric beliefs have caused. In this case, their actions of detonating a bomb in the Las Palmas terminal forced numerous aircraft to be rerouted to Los Rodeos, an airport far too small to accommodate such an influx of unexpected flights, especially wide-body, jumbo jets like the Boeing 747.

Truly, this situation was an accident waiting to happen from the start as two tower controllers near the end of their shift attempted to manage the unexpected situation with antiquated equipment; they didn’t even have ground radar. These critical circumstances were further exacerbated by cultural issues and the quirks of human nature, always a factor in such a tragedy, yet so often far from deliberate. Someone makes a bad decision, never dreaming in their worst nightmare what the result will be. And the coup de grace was the fog.

I’m not sure it would constitute a spoiler to say more, given the unfortunate end result is well known and documented. To say I enjoyed the book is a bit of a misnomer, given it was far from pleasant, yet a very emotional experience, which to me is the hallmark of an outstanding book.  This one is skillfully written and represents meticulously detailed research, which provides a three or even four dimensional view of the happenings of that day.

I’m probably not the “average reader” since I worked in shuttle and payload safety at NASA, I where I personally participated in accident investigations, had classes in such, and was involved in the post-mortem of the Columbia accident. I’ve read NTSB reports of other airline accidents with interest and had the privilege of attending Aerospace Medical Association Conferences a few times where such things were discussed, including TWA Flight 800, which went down in flames July 17, 1996 after taking off from JFK airport in New York.  Some pretty interesting theories exist related to that one, too, which were not included in the official accident report.

The author did a spectacular job of leaving no stone unturned, reporting the situations, circumstances, and results in an objective, yet thoughtful manner, demonstrating once again that accidents don’t just “happen,” at least not of this scope.

The message, of course, for us all, is to recognize that nothing in life is guaranteed. There’s no telling when what appears to be a benign decision might be the fatal link that takes a normal day into the realm of tragedy. For the human factors involved alone, this book deserves attention, especially for those who work in any industry that has the potential for a similar disaster.

I particularly appreciated mention at the end of various individuals reporting paranormal and ghostly apparitions appearing from time to time on the runway. This is the case of various locations where horrific loss of life has occurred. As a professional astrologer, upon finishing the book, I immediately cast the event chart for the accident and could see that there were definitely very sordid aspects in play at the time, all of which reflected much of what was included in the book.

Whether or not you believe in astrology, disaster charts tend to include details that fall into the category “you can’t make this stuff up.” For example, for this disaster it showed fog and unclear communications, power trips, rebellion against authority and regulations to one’s own self-undoing, death and separation from loved ones, and a tremendous amount of activity in the 8th house of death, including the asteroid Icarus, namesake of the mythological individual who tried to fly but went down in flames, on the cusp of the 8th house. It shows the compassionate action of those on the ground, and even that Tenerife would ultimately bear the stigma of being remembered for this horrific event. No, you can’t make this stuff up.

Read this book. It’s outstanding, albeit heartbreaking. And never take anything for granted again. I give this nonfiction thriller 5 stars for content, even though there were a few grammatical issues here and there. The research more than compensates.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“Infection” is out! Another page-turner from Elle Klass

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If you were left gasping by the ending of “Premonition,” then you’ll want to grab your copy right away of its sequel, “Infection,” latest of Elle Klass’ thrillers in the “Zombie Girl” series. While I’m not particularly enamored by zombies, I do enjoy and appreciate a good story, which the author never fails to produce. As always, her characters come to life before your eyes, the plot’s believable yet full of surprises, and the imagery gripping, to say nothing of plenty of breath-taking action.

In this episode Maddie finally meets Bryce, face-to-face, their first encounter in a shared dream you can read about in “Premonition.” After that, she sees him at the hospital where recognition strikes them both. They marvel that they’ve shared the same dream about the coming apocalypse and ponder its meaning. Were they supposed to somehow prevent it? Before long they find out it’s too late, it has already begun. Having been prepared by their premonition, they gather Maddie’s parents and her friend, Sarah, and head for their boat, picking up the neighbor’s cat and a strange and somewhat unstable but non-zombified man named Jack along the way.

The group heads toward Italy in her father’s sailboat, Earnest Earl. Maddie’s father, who has been failing since leaving the hospital following his accident in “Premonition”, appears to be turning into a zombie. Unable to accept the reality and dispose of him, Maddie and her mother tie up his unconscious and seemingly dead body with pantyhose, hoping they’ll be able to help keep him alive with love, encouragement, and some gentle physical therapy.

They proceed across the Atlantic, Bryce and Jack taking turns at the helm. For a while they have TV and radio reception, but before long, that, too, is lost, just in time for them to face a nasty storm in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. They survive and eventually reach Italy, where even Mother Nature is rebelling, resulting in more page-turning hazards and adventures I won’t spoil by revealing.

The best part of this vividly portrayed story and what makes it so convincing are the familiar daily activities the characters engage in while they deal with this crisis, albeit with a fair amount of luck. Personality clashes, disagreements, and simply surviving in a world that is falling apart make the story memorable and thought-provoking. Everything they do is well-motivated and it’s easy to picture yourself in a similar position, sometimes agreeing with their decisions and others advising “No! Don’t do it!” Yet it has a somewhat fantastic “Super Girl” feel which is fun, even if some elements stretch credibility. Maddie definitely has all the makings of an everyday girl turned “super heroine.”

I see zombies as an adept analogy for the “walking dead” among us, i.e. those who are so stuck on their daily treadmill that they fail to notice either the little joys in life or the effect their attitude is having on the deteriorating world around them. Their negativity attempts to pull everyone down to their level, even as they feed on those who still know what life is all about. If only it were as easy to get rid of these real-life figurative “zombies” as their fictitious counterparts.

That may sound a bit heavy and beyond the comprehension of most who indulge in the YA genre, but sometimes I can’t help philosophizing. All that aside, this story as well as its precursor make excellent beach reads or a grand escape into a world that will make your own seem like Utopia. Don’t miss it!

You can pick-up your copy here.

World UFO Day Flash Sale

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I can’t think of any better way to celebrate World UFO Day on July 9 than a flash sale of my latest release, The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51. Not only is it on sale for 99c, but A Dark of Endless Days, volume II of The Star Trails Tetralogy, is as well.

Why? Because that’s where The Terra Debacle began. Thus, if you haven’t read it yet, especially if you’re the type who’d like to get it all in context, you can grab that one, too, for a bargain price. (Note that since The Terra Debacle is a standalone book it’s not necessary, but it does fill in numerous blanks.)

So far, The Terra Debacle has been collecting great reviews. Here are some excerpts:

“Scintillating science and side-splitting humor.”

“Unique and titillating sci-fi entertainment.”

“Brilliantly conceived and finely crafted.”

“The research is profound and convincing.”

“Off-the-wall in a way similar to how Tom Robbins grabs the reader & shakes him.”

“A brilliant story, extremely well written and with great character development.”

“Easily comparable to a dark version of ET – The Extraterrestrial”

“Highly entertaining, suspenseful and thought-provoking”

“What an ending! What a story! I will always think differently about plant chloroplasts and bulbs in the future.”

And don’t miss the latest video, which gives you a glimpse of its darker side.

Happy reading! And remember: The truth is out there.

Book Descriptions on the Star Trails Website:

The Terra Debacle

A Dark of Endless Days

Buy Links:

The Terra Debacle

A Dark of Endless Days

The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51
Stock Photo Copyright:oorka / 123RF Stock Photo

N.J. Tanger’s “Ascension”: Masterfully Written Science Fiction

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This intriguing and suspense-filled tale intricately describes what it might take to reach an interstellar destination, both in the way of motivation as well as technology, to say nothing of the type of individuals who would assume such a feat.

Nathan Beauchamp, a member of the writing team known as N.J. Tanger, is the sole author of this episode in the Universe Eventual series which expands upon the workings of the interstellar vehicle, Chimera. The ship is designed to support a population comparable to a small city for years to come through hydroponics and other self-sufficiency techniques. It provides holographic scenery reminiscent of Earth; possesses a sophisticated power system; and includes a political structure drenched in intrigue.

The conspiratorial reason for leaving Earth is fascinating and smolders with much of what is seen in today’s corporatism-saturated world. Colonization is motivated by their destination’s rich deposits of ecomire, which I assume to be the next generation of uranium, i.e., it represents a powerful energy source rarely found elsewhere and motivates a power hungry (both literally and figuratively) corporation to finance the venture. Furthermore, they intend to maintain their tentacles in those making the journey through whatever means necessary. Some colonization efforts are about survival, others about profits, this one possessing elements of both.

New but intuitively familiar terminology provided a unique and convincing environment. For example, referring to the enforcement arm as “regulators” was cold and effective. The personal agenda of various characters provided plot complexity, but without over-populating the story. Yet, the massive dimensions of the ship, the number of those onboard, and their evolving culture and social strata were conveyed effectively. The main character, Ashley Samuelson, was credible and relatable, personalized further by the first person narrative point of view and the intimate details of his personal life and relationships, including a romantic one.

One of the most clever sci-fi elements serves as the mainstay of the plot and that is the means by which the Chimera is guided by its navigator with the support of a few assistants, one of which is Ashley. To travel through the esoteric, paranormal dimension described as “fractal space”, “stitches” are laid to form a connection between Earth and their ultimate destination through “The Everything”. Once this pathway is laid, other ships will traverse it more quickly, so the implication is that they are creating a wormhole. This is accomplished through the combined efforts of the navigator, who’s enclosed in a mysterious spherical work station, where he or she is psychically entangled with the ship’s artificial intelligence. This combination of thought energy provides the creative power to chart its course, stitch by stitch, an interesting play on the apparent consciousness/matter interface implied by quantum theory. Navigator assistants deal with resolving any paradoxes encountered along the way.

Not just anyone can perform this critical navigating function, so when their existing navigator dies unexpectedly of mysterious causes, it presents a significant threat, not only to their mission, but their very survival. The quest to find a new navigator combined with investigation into the death of the original one provides various provocative insights into the risks of AI as well as allowing it to interact with a human.

This complex tale is presented via a masterful style that demonstrates some of the most delicious prose I’ve seen. As a writer myself, I savored numerous vivid descriptions, such as a look of “distilled hatred”; “her angry, beautiful, treacherous eyes”; “stumbling my way into the truth”; “fear masqueraded as anger”; as well as several others.  I suppose the fact such jewels jumped out at me as exceptional descriptions could be considered throwing me out of the story, but for me it was in a good way. Some of the imagery was nearly blinding, which is not easily achieved without slowing down the story. However, the literary precision was such that the descriptions integrated with the action and increased the suspense, which made various scenes play out like a movie in my mind. The author’s skill itself made this tale a joy to read.

This story is part of the Universal Eventual series, yet stands alone. However, if you’ve read any of the other stories, it helps fill in a few of the gaps. It has been a while since I read Chimera and this makes me want to read it again. If you enjoy meaty hard science fiction with plenty of advanced technology and intrigue while maintaining a strong human element with philosophical implications as deep as you care to go, all of which is packaged with strong, skillful writing, I highly recommend this story.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“Stxeamtown” by John Reinhard Dizon is an Uproarious Steampunk Classic

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“Stxeamtown” by John Reinhold Dizon operates on so many levels that it can only be compared to such works as “The Wizard of Oz,” “Alice in Wonderland” and Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” To say it is brilliant is totally inadequate. Readers of all ages can enjoy its genius, though if you choose to read it as a bedtime story your young children may not understand why you laugh uproariously from time to time.

This brilliant satire creates a vivid post-apocalyptic world in which the few survivors following the “Big Bang” form a variety of societies. This was my first experience with the “steampunk” genre and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual twist on a post-apocalyptic world. The teenage protagonist is Trip Nortel, short for Amitriptylene, his name credited to the custom of finding baby’s names in pre-Big Bang formulary volumes. Trip is an Abovegrounder, a subculture that lives on the rooftops unbeknownst to the Grounders below due to a perpetual cloud of water vapor that obscures visibility; steam is the primary power source, having been rediscovered following the Big Bang. Abovegrounders are held to strict rules, including the need to be obsequious toward tyrannical “young-uns” by meeting their every demand. Those who don’t follow the rules are “crossed-out,” i.e. given a lobotomy, and sent to the ground below. Those who don’t make trouble don’t fare much better since upon reaching the ripe old age of 30 they, too, are banished. The rules are enforced by Big Boys who maintain limited contact with Traders below.

Trip falls in love with Lyrica, another Abovegrounder who lives on a different rooftop. She’s not only beautiful but wears stitched clothing rather than the wraps worn by most of the others. The two exchange Morse code messages in which they express their affection and finally the day comes that Trip finds his way to Lyrica and the pair makes a precarious escape to the ground, some rooftop friends subsequently joining them.

Once amongst the Grounders, Trip immediately connects with influential people who advise, “He who moves the most paper is the one who goes farthest ahead.” He’s quickly dressed in stitched clothing like the others in styles reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ world of fantasy. Eager to learn, he soon finds himself elevated to the upper echelons of society. The hero and his girl are instrumental in instituting numerous changes, including starting a school system to educate the Idiots, i.e. those “crossed-out” and cast from the rooftops, so they can reach their full potential. Things get more complicated as their Abovegrounder friends lament receiving unequal benefit from Trip’s influence and stir up trouble by associating with the Traders Guild and the Society of Black Beards who enjoy strong drink. The complications of the culture clash that follows are ultimately solved and of course everyone lives happily ever after.

While this tale is presented in a style similar to the best of fairy tales (which I assume is typical of steampunk), more sophisticated readers will be greatly entertained by recognizing the allegorical themes running throughout the surprisingly intricate plot, colorful characters and their societal predicaments. Dizon’s dry wit is only matched by his genius in creating this must-read allegorical tale that bears a striking resemblance to the world in which we live. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.

Don’t miss it! You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Amazon’s Review Policy Explained

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Most indie authors have encountered, either personally or vicariously, some of Amazon’s gestapo review policies. When reviews are so important to a book’s ranking, it’s no wonder that restrictions are frustrating and often confusing. More than anything, I simply wondered what was behind it? Clearly Amazon’s goal is to sell product, so why would they institute rules that compromise sales? It seems that “fake reviews” should be recognizable to any intelligent person and be discounted with an eye-roll as opposed to throwing out the baby with the bath water and tossing legitimate ones.

Well, I attended a free webinar the other day entitled “3 Catastrophic Marketing Landmines That Can Get You Into Serious Hot Water With The FTC Today: And What You Need To Know… ” that provided a classic “Aha!” moment that explained what’s more than likely behind Amazon’s review policy.  If you hurry, you can listen to it until June 4, 2017 here. [NOTE: If you should join their program, note that I am NOT an affiliate and will NOT receive any compensation. Rather, I’m sharing it because I feel it’s information that others can benefit from as I did.]

So what’s the deal? Why is Amazon being so ornery about reviews? Not surprisingly, it’s none other than our friend (?) the US Government, more specifically the Federal Trade Commission, a.k.a. FTC. Like the IRS, this is another government agency you don’t want to tangle with. They have strict rules regarding deceptive testimonials, which includes whether there was any material compensation involved; in other words, a paid affiliate needs to be disclosed, with what constitutes payment a somewhat grey area. Deceptive testimonials, another no-no, can obviously include reviews from friends and associates who may claim something is the best thing since the cell phone when in reality it’s not. We’ve all read books from time to time that had multiple 5-star ratings that were clearly undeserved. So, being compensated for a review in some manner or an inflated testimonial that is unlikely to represent the opinion of others are to be avoided.

In other words, the bottom line is Amazon is covering their butt against consumer complaints to the FTC, which is the prudent thing for a business to do. If you have a website where you offer products to consumers, there are various alligators in the water regarding disclosure with which you, also, should be aware. As with any government regulation, ignorance of the law is no excuse and failure to comply can get you into serious trouble. All authors need to be aware of such regulations, especially if they have a website where they have affiliate links or sell their own books.

But my main point here is that Amazon is not doing this to make our lives difficult, but to protect their interests and comply with government regulations. It’s no wonder they ignore our complaints since we certainly don’t wield the punch of Uncle Sam.

That said, I can’t help but wonder what the FTC would do if authors complained about the way Amazon handles trolls?  Undoubtedly it’s covered in our contract to their benefit, but as our sales agent, if they allow trolls to jeopardize our sales, it would make for an interesting conversation….