Perfect for WORLD UFO DAY!

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What could be more perfect to celebrate World UFO Day than a great UFO story? And better yet, it’s on sale at Smashwords for half price!  If you’re an audio book fan and liked the old TV show, ALF, you’ll love Thyron. If you’re an Audible member and would like to listen for free, I still have a few promotional codes left, so give me a holler in the comments if you’re interested. If you’re not a member, you can get two free audible books when you join. Sign up here. Find out more about the story on the Star Trails Tetralogy website.

I believe. How about you?

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“Gravity Waves” by Scott Skipper: Another Hilarious Addition to the “Alien Affairs” Series

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This is one of my very favorite series, ever, and this episode further confirmed that whatever science fiction sub-genre this happens to be, it’s what I’d choose if I had to, over just about anything else. I guess it could be called something like “snarky, politically incorrect, hard sci-fi” and I love it. It has technology and theoretical physics speculations to feed my nerdy, physicist brain; sarcasm that makes me wish I could be as witty; and snarky undertones to evoke hysterical laughter, such that my cat glares at me for disturbing her sleep when I’m reading in bed.

It was so much fun to get a glimpse of half-breed, Terrie Dreshler, now fully grown not only to adulthood, but middle age, to say nothing of her mother, Carrie Player, now an old lady, at least chronologically, and stepping into that role where she admonishes those around her for their every faux pas.

Every time Terrie called Deshler “Dad” I cracked up. I can just see this entire series as an uproarious sit-com that comprises a family where the father is a grey alien; the mother, human; and the daughter, well, mostly human, other than her eyes. It just gets better and better. Such a show could even beat out my two favorite sit-coms of all times, “Third Rock from the Sun” and “Alf.”

Situations involving interdimensional time travel sometimes left my head spinning with regard to when and where they were, but things sorted themselves out eventually. The new alien, Emelda, a towering Nordic wonder, was a great addition to the group. Her penchant for Uncle Eddy was hilarious, as well as her insisting repeatedly that Mars was still a “sh*thole”, in spite of  the earthlings’ innovative terraforming efforts. Then there’s Terrie’s renewed relationship with Marcus, which adds a touch of something bordering on romance. The inclusion of a character who was supposedly Elon Musk’s grandson, to say nothing of the involvement of SpaceX, tied the story into current events, which gave it even more credibility. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Terrie turn up on the news one of these days, or an equivalent of their electronic personal assistant, Casseopeia, in the local Wal-Mart.

While the author does a tremendous job of tying in events from previous books as reminders and plot gap fillers, I highly recommend reading this series from the start. The evolution of the absurd situation that started in Roswell in 1947 as well as the roles of this diverse cast of characters is priceless. Trust me when I say you don’t want to miss out on any of it.

Anything that can make me laugh is worth its weight in gold. I’ve already read the first book twice. These are definitely stories that I’ll read again and again, which is extremely unusual for me since I tend to have a very long To-Be-Read list. But who doesn’t go back to their favorite stories, whether it’s a two year old wanting mommy to read the same tale every night, or a great-grandma who’s found a series that couldn’t be more perfect if it were written expressly for me?

Keep ’em coming, Scott! I think the entire “Alien Affairs” series is nothing short of magnificent. (But be warned, you probably won’t agree if you think it’s important to be politically correct. It’s not, but some things just need to be said.)

You can get your copy from Smashwords, Amazon, or your favorite online retailer.

“Detours in Time” by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

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“Back to the Future” is one of my favorite movies of all time, and this book had various similarities. Who isn’t fascinated with the concept of time travel and its various paradoxes? The characters in this story were vivid and engaging, a middle-aged professor named Milt and his younger female friend, Tabitha, whose nickname is Pinkie. Their time base is 1997. and they venture forward to 2047, and then back to 2018 due to a mishap while they were time-shifting. While it was supposed to be mostly a pleasure trip of exploration, much as we would visit a foreign country, naturally it turns into more.

Milt’s curiosity as a scientist drives him to unearth information about his future as well as Pinkie’s, which has a strong impact on his outlook and motivation. The view of the future was well-done, with interesting political and scientific developments that influenced the popular culture, including a second civil war which has once again divided the USA. These were all presented in a credible manner which showed the author’s great imagination and research skills regarding such things as body modification and hybridization. The growing feelings and budding  romance between the main characters as their friendship evolves gave additional depth and interest to the story.

The author did not belabor the scientific aspects of time travel or why it might be possible, so it wasn’t what I would consider “hard” sci-fi. In this story time travel wasn’t available to everyone, only them, much like it was in “Back to the Future”, since Milt was the one who initially discovered it. The expected paradoxes come into play, as well as moral and legal implications.

I really liked the author’s straight-forward, family-friendly style, which moved along smoothly with a steady stream of suspense, action, and dialog. Additional plot twists toward the end set the stage for a sequel, which should be equally engaging. I look forward to what lies ahead for Milt and Pinkie as they seek to untangle the twisted web of time that results from their adventures.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“The Last Dog” is Sci-fi at it’s Best, Especially if You’re an Animal Lover!

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5stars

The Last Dog

by Dawn Greenfield Ireland

This story is not only original, but science fiction at its absolute best. While the story is suitable for young adults, it has enough substance to satisfy even a hardcore science fiction fan like myself. Animal lovers will especially love it, since one of the main characters is a dog.

The story is set in the 2080s in a dystopian setting. The author provides background in the prologue, which explains how different events in the 21st century, of both a political and natural disaster variety transformed the United States. It was a story in itself, which was not only tremendously interesting and entertaining, but showed how much thought and creativity the author has invested to develop this outstanding story.

Probably the most important technological angle is the development of the Dot, invented by one of the main characters, Bill Maxwell, which enables dogs to talk. The human birth rate has been greatly compromised, so few are able to have children. Thus, having dog and cat “children” is the norm. Anyone who’s ever had a beloved pet knows they are like our children. Then add the ability to have them talk to you and you can imagine how amazing that would be.

However, another disaster comes along, which kills millions of people as well as nearly all the dog and cat children, except a puppy named Abby, who belongs to Bill and Teresa Maxwell. However, Abby is taken by the government under the pretense of trying to find any other canine survivors and cloning or otherwise finding a way to re-establish the canine population. Meanwhile, a robotic dog has also been created, which is endowed with artificial intelligence. One of these in particular, named Rex, is another major character who is entirely endearing.

While all of this probably sounds pretty far-fetched, the author has done a fantastic job of creating a futuristic world where it all comes off as believable. Furthermore, if you’re an animal lover, chances are you already talk to your pets and can imagine them talking back. The gist of the story relates to if and how the Maxwell’s and Abby will ever be reunited. I absolutely loved it and know that I will someday read it again, which is the highest recommendation I can ever give a book because my TBR is so long, it’s a rare book indeed that I indulge in more than once.

If you’re a science fiction fan you’ll love the technologies and if you’re a dog or cat lover, you’ll love the pet angle. I highly recommend this heart-warming and original story from one of my favorite authors.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

 

“Prophecy of Thol”: Science Fiction at its Best!

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5stars

Prophecy of Thol

by Dawn Greenfield Ireland

This five-star beauty of a story is so well done I hardly know where to start. First of all, while it is definitely suitable for teens and young adults based on its content, as someone who has grandkids in that age group I thoroughly enjoyed it, too. More than enjoyed, actually. I loved it!

The author did a fabulous job of transitioning the heroine, seventeen year old D’Laine, from what had been a very trying time, to some semblance of normalcy as she prepared to go to college, to being plunged unexpectedly into an entirely different world.  Her premonitions in the form of nightmares provided great background and suspense. In most cases, giving the reader more information instead of less actually builds more suspense as you have so many more things to consider and worry about. Not only did D’Laine fall through a portal and find herself on another planet with a variety of weird creatures, she also was introduced to powers she possessed of which she had no idea! Her transition into the role effectively took the reader along for the ride in a very smooth and credible manner.

The unusual sentient creatures and their respective cultures were well-drawn, full of imagery, and convincing, as well as their interactions among themselves and the planet as a whole. The humans were just alien enough, being somewhat medieval in some senses, yet high-tech on another, making them relatable.

The advantage of having a modern earthling as a protagonist is that the descriptions can be familiar. Some of the comparison and references to sci-fi icons such as the Star Wars movies were effective and often humorous.  The science element was convincing as well, the physicists involved straight out of “The Big Bang Theory.” I loved the characters left behind on Earth and their efforts to find the portal so they could bring back D’Laine. On a subjective level, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact they were in Houston, where I used to live. Thus, I enjoyed the references to familiar places including the Katy Mills Mall and local roadways. It’s always a plus when the location details are authentic, which adds credibility. Those who have never been there never know the difference, but to those who have it makes the story come even more alive.

I’ll even forgive the fact the story broke one of my cardinal rules of writing, (which I posted today in my “Writing Tips”) about starting a story with the main character. I can forgive any deviance that works, in this case giving it a story-telling flavor similar to “The Princess Bride.” (However, if I had been the editor, I would have recommended using a prologue.)

For a while I was worried that the story would end with a cliff hanger. Fortunately, it had a very satisfying conclusion, yet I definitely look forward to the promised sequel, which is the perfect ending. This is a great story for all ages. Don’t miss it!

If you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, you can read this jewel for free, or pick up your copy on Amazon here. An audio version is also available.

Robert Eggleton: The Man Behind a Landmark Story to Combat Child Abuse

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Child abuse is not only tragic, but complicated. It sullies all economic classes and cultures with no easy answers. Author Robert Eggleton, a child advocate of many years, has been in the trenches fighting this social ill for decades. His debut novel, a science fiction comedy entitled Rarity from the Hollow, evolved from his experiences, and he donates half of the sales proceeds to the West Virginia Children’s Home Society. I’ve read it and it’s not only outstanding but well-worth reading. You can find the review I wrote a while back here.

I’m honored that Robert agreed to an interview that will not only educate readers to the depth of the problem, but show this cultural warrior’s dedication to do whatever he can to combat this serious societal problem.

* * * * *

MF: Your career as a children’s advocate and counselor gave you first hand knowledge of the problems depicted in “Rarity from the Hollow.” At what point did you get the idea to incorporate your decades of experience into a story?

 RE: The characters in Rarity from the Hollow are more real than not. They are based on people that I’ve met during over forty years in my role as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state. The concept of sensitizing people to the huge social problem of child maltreatment through a comical and satiric adventure demanded that I use realistic characters. During my career, most of my jobs required the production of written materials – service models, policy, research…. In 2002, I went to work as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. It was my first job that my longstanding need to write was not, in part, met by performing within my scope of employment. – nonfiction published by public and private agencies in the field of child welfare, much of which is now archived by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

Part of my job at the mental health center was to facilitate group therapy sessions. In 2006, I met the real-life Lacy Dawn, the protagonist of my stories during one of those group psychotherapy sessions. She was an eleven year old empowered survivor of extreme child abuse and spoke about her hopes and dreams for a bright future. Although I’m not sure that it was a conscious decision at the time, I incorporated my experiences as a children’s advocate in her story because that is what I know best about life – hopes and dreams for the future despite any adversity.

* * * * *

MF: Those of us who are horrified by child abuse usually don’t want to read about it. While it’s a necessary component of the story, it nonetheless may be preventing some from reading it. Is there anything you’d like to say to these folks?

RE: Yes. While I believe that readers of my novel will become increasingly sensitized to child maltreatment, it is a fun read with tragedy amplifying the comedy and satire, as stated by some of the book’s reviews:rarityfrom the hollowcvr

“…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

“…I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go…if it does not make you think, you are not really reading it….”  http://www.onmykindle.net/2015/11/rarity-from-hollow.html

“…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…” https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow

* * * * *

MF: Your career must have been tremendously painful at times. How did you cope with it?

RE: I can’t remember a day since I entered the field in 1973 that I didn’t take work home with me, emotionally. For example, many tears were shed on one investigative report that I will never forget writing – “Daniel’s Death, West Virginia’s First Child Maltreatment Fatality Report.” I had to write that report at home because I didn’t want to become a mess at work – the West Virginia Supreme Court where everybody was dressed up as emotionally detached professionals. Despite the conviction of the parents, the term “murder” was edited out of my report, and I now agree that it became a more effective product because of the great editing. My state established a child fatality process, in part, as a result of this report.

A very short time after entering the field of child welfare, I focused on effectiveness of my work. This coping skill served me well as it increased over the years. All of the tears in the world will do little to help needful children, and my internalization of this fact kept me strong. That’s why I didn’t want Rarity from the Hollow to be a depressing or an emotionally draining story. I could have written another novel like Push by Sapphire, which I watched in 2009 as a movie backed by Oprah: Precious. But, I didn’t feel that this masterpiece was effective as a social change agent, so I wanted to produce a novel that people would enjoy reading, not just one that was merely meaningful.

* * * * *

MF: What do you think is the underlying cause of child abuse? Is there one thing that could greatly improve the situation?

RE: Rather than causation, let’s look at some of the correlates of child abuse:

  • undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues experienced by parents, such as Bipolar Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, or PTSD;
  • addiction or substance abuse by parents;
  • lack of economic opportunity within geographical areas, including when children are sold or traded by their parents as a source of income;
  • lack of support services for struggling families, especially including when children have mental or physical disabilities, such as ADHD, mental retardation, or demanding physical handicaps;
  • cultural or subcultural values, including sexism, within, as examples, religious cults or organizations that demean the value of women and children or which protect those who use extreme corporeal punishment or hide offensive behaviors of its members, such as sexual abuse;
  • insensitivity to the issue of child abuse, or failure to enforce existing laws, such as mandatory reporting by professionals involved with children;
  • failure to perform ethical duties by professionals, including intentional disregard by law enforcement, doctors, teachers, or religious leaders because they don’t want to get involved in potential child abuse cases;
  • parents who were abused as children and as a generational effect due to lack of treatment for the parent as victims;
  • parental stress related to bills and inadequate income – the parent simply losing self-control and later regretting and hiding the child abuse for fear of losing custody;
  • the natural mistrust felt by children when considering telling on adults who maltreat them, especially relatives or those adults in positions of authority.

This list is not exhaustive and I’m sure that you, Marcha, can come up with additional correlates. Several of these issues were addressed in Rarity from the Hollow. However, I do want to emphasize that there is nothing that blames or that is preachy in my story. Child abuse is not a simplistic good vs. evil issue, although the last item that I want to add to the list is PURE EVIL! During my career, I have met child abusers who have no identifiable redeeming quality and to qualify their abusive behaviors with a mental health diagnosis diminishes the significance of their evil.

The one thing that I think would help decrease child abuse is the belief that it is preventable. Being a parent is a tough job and “it takes a village” to raise a child. While some people might object to funding community-based supports for needful children and their parents, it costs a lot more in the long run if we close our eyes and ears to ignore this huge social problem.

* * * * *

MF: Dot Com’s artificial intelligence evolution was hilarious. Did you have an underlying message in mind with regard to where AI could possibly go?

RE: While I’ve appreciated compliments by book reviewers who have spoken about my wild imagination, I want to confess that the fantastical means employed by the alien in my story to treat the parents were based on today’s medical reality. Dwayne, the abusive father was a war damaged Vet experiencing anger outbursts and night terrors. The mother was a downtrodden victim of domestic violence who had lost hope of ever getting her G.E.D. or driver’s license, or of protecting her daughter. Diagnosis and treatment of these concerns affecting the parents, as representative of many similarly situated, was based on emerging technologies presented at the 2015 World Medical Innovation Forum: https://worldmedicalinnovation.org/ . Yes, in real life, like in my story, patients have been hooked up to computer technology for medial diagnosis and treatment.

Additional exciting research was presented at that Forum and may one day may revolutionize psychiatric treatment. Most relevant to my story were: (1) smart brain prosthetics, wireless devises being tested for potential to relieve depression, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder…neural engineering to manipulate brain signals; (2) sophisticated imaging systems that are minimally invasive to brain circuitry for diagnosis (3) and, healing the brain with neuromodulation and electroceuticals to treat depression and schizophrenia. http://hitconsultant.net/2015/04/30/tech-revolutionize-neurological-psychiatric-care/ I expect that medical science will continue to evolve and hope that it prioritizes treatment of those who most inflict injury on others.

* * * * *

MF: What drew you to writing? Is writing fiction something you’ve always aspired to or did it develop later?

RE: Writing is a compulsion for me. It doesn’t have to be fiction, but I couldn’t stop no matter how hard that I tried.

* * * * *

MF: Do you have any plans for a sequel to “Rarity from the Hollow”?

RE: The next Lacy Dawn Adventure is titled “Ivy.” It’s about an alien invasion of Earth, exploitation for mineral content, and the primary weapon used by the invaders is the addiction to a drug that causes narcissism or extreme ego centrism.

* * * * *

MF: You have a definite knack for dry humor. Any thoughts toward writing a book that lacks the darker elements?

RE: As a debut novelist, I’m still working on finding the compromise between aspiring to achieve literary excellence as avant garde and mainstream consumer expectations. Perhaps because this project is also an effort to raises funds to help abused children, yes, I have recurring thoughts about writing a book that lacks darker elements. I very much appreciate your finding that: “I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.” But, some of these children will not live to see the future if more is not done to help them now, and I want to contribute.

* * * * *

MF: I suspect that most intelligent people at one time or another have thought that some people shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce. What are your thoughts on the matter?

RE: I try to stop myself from getting emotionally involved in should or should not type of issues. I’m sure that you noticed that the political parody in Rarity from the Hollow, unlike Animal Farm that you compared it to, was not preachy. I don’t know the answers to the most important questions that humans ask, and whether or not to reproduce given the totality of circumstances is one of life’s most important questions. If you remember, Lacy’s cousin in Rarity experienced a preteen pregnancy, an occurrence that may be correlated with human misery, but the baby became the pride and joy of the entire extended family.

I respect an individual’s right to self-determination, including about reproductive rights. For example, abortion is part of the animal kingdom and not unique to humanity. From rabbits living in overcrowded warrens, to orcas off the coast of the state of Washington aborting sixty percent of pregnancies, or Canadian caribou…while grief is impossible to measure, only humans seem to face such moral dilemmas about reproduction as you presented to me as a question.

As a notation about my personal values, although the National Organization for Women was established in 1966, I live in West Virginia and it wasn’t until 1969 or so that I participated in its first march in my state, one of the very few males to attend. I believe that this affiliation sums up my thoughts about reproduction and most humans.

Increasingly, medical sciences have presented findings that help us understand ourselves, including those of us who have mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities such as Downs Syndrome, and other, sometimes genetic, problems that could be passed on to offspring. Other fields have also presented information about cultural, religious, and sociological practices and beliefs that could be regarded as harmful to humanity if passed on to offspring. For example, Rarity presented the issues of immigration, extreme capitalism, and consumerism and its impact on the exploitation of one geographical area by members of a more aggressive geographic area –  beliefs, values, and practices that could be passed on to offspring, as well.

I believe that for me to express that a person with Downs Syndrome, for example, should be prevented from getting pregnant would be the same as saying that a very wealthy, greedy, dishonest, and exploitive member of the “High Class” should be prevented from getting pregnant because both scenarios present risk to humanity. Plus, there are no absolutes in life. The baby born with Downs Syndrome might experience a wonderful life that fills others with meaning and happiness. The baby “destined” to become a spoiled rich kid might, instead, turn out to become a great philanthropist.

All that said, in answer to this highly philosophical question, I respect the opinion of anyone who takes the time to educate oneself about the issues and who doesn’t propagandize or lie to promote one side or another.

* * * * *

MF: If you were king of the world for a day, what message would you deliver to the people of the planet?

RE: As King of the World for a day, my message would be:

Life is short, the blink of a cosmic eye from one generation to the next. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel so that it ends at your correct destination.

Thanks, Marcha, for providing me an opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow.

MF: You’re certainly very welcome, Robert. I’m touched and impressed by your knowledge and dedication as you continue to do what you can to combat this horrific practice.

* * * * *

Here’s a short book trailer video:

Rarity from the Hollow is available at most sales channels, including K-Mart and Books-A-Million, and is also available electronically. Half of all proceeds are donated to the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

5* Wacky British Humor Suitable for Nerds Like Myself

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This book strikes me as what would result if Monty Python had directed “The Martian”; picture Eric Idle playing Mark Watney. If you’re not a fan of that particular brand of British humor, then this story’s genius will undoubtedly escape you. I laughed myself silly several times at the absolutely ludicrous characters, situations, and scenes. You wouldn’t expect that such a silly, outrageous premise would be brilliant, but it is. As someone who worked for NASA for over twenty years, I think it takes considerable imagination to come up with something so far from reality. Nonetheless, the characters are amazingly well-developed, not only the humans, but the plethora of robots as well.

The plot is more complex than you’d expect and includes not only the totally bungled Mars mission, but a murder mystery as well as a tie back to the Roswell UFO crash. The basic story is that the Brits have put together a mission to Mars, for which a robotic crew was tasked with building and preparing the base. This does not happen on schedule, which means that the humans arrive to a facility that is not only unfinished, but built incorrectly, i.e., too small because they used “old meters” (yards) instead of “new meters.”

The crew is not what you’d expect, but a motley bunch  that ranges from librarians to scientists and their child prodigy-type offspring plus various others unlikely to be part of such a mission. The commander, Flint Dugdale, who acquired that position when the original one was murdered en route, won his place on the ship originally from a reality show, then strong-armed his way into the top seat. He’s rude, crude, and obnoxious, typically swilling beer and belching, thus not endearing in any way, but does lend a certain level of humor with some of his exploits, especially when they finally get settled at the base. I won’t say any more than that because it would constitute a spoiler, as would mentioning any of the funniest scenes that had me laughing so hard I was in tears.

Yes, I laughed a lot, hard, at how outrageously crazy the entire situation was. There is clearly no semblance of reality here, especially on the science side, which the reader needs to recognize. It’s a spoof and a satire, which I felt was well-done. It certainly expanded my knowledge of British slang, including boffins, twonk, pillock, kerfuffle, conkers, and numerous others, which for me added to the flavor of the story and kept me aware that this was a bunch of Brits. Fortunately, I read it on my Kindle, which has a built-in dictionary to help with such matters. As an author myself, I enjoy learning new words and have been known to read the dictionary. So I’m probably not your normal reader.

Clearly this book is not for everyone. For me it was just what I was looking for, something to make me laugh out loud while I was recovering from pneumonia. As a physicist and former rocket scientist, I have a weird, nerd-like sense of humor that resonated with this story. Consider that our college ritual every semester’s end back in the 80s was to have a pizza party and watch “Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.” To me “The Big Bang Theory” is a reality show. If you can relate to that, you’d probably find this book amusing. I certainly did. You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

What do Wacky Sci-Fi, the LSAT, and MCAT have in Common?

I certainly never would have thought avant garde science fiction and entrance test preparation manuals for law or medical school would have anything in common–until I came across author, Jay Cutts. Our “meeting” was in a somewhat notorious manner, in that he gave one of my books a rather scathing review, replete with a grammar lesson about the use of periods. However, after my initial tantrum, I had to admit he was correct, so subsequently edited the book accordingly, sent him the revised copy, and he generously improved the book’s rating. It was during this correspondence that I discovered that, in addition to being a grammar Nazi, he was a fellow author as well as a professional editor.  After sampling his brand of humor in his novels on his website, I wanted to know more about him, so asked him for an interview. Indeed, he is as diverse and unconventional as I suspected. To wit:

MF: I find it fascinating that your writing spans such diverse writing skills, i.e., editing study guides for the LSAT and MCAT versus the wacky humor of Death by Haggis and Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom. Conveying facts and editing are left brain activities while fiction falls more on the right. Which talent were you aware of first? Does one come more easily than the other?

JC: Yes, it’s true that I’ve edited and/or written thousands of pages of science and logic! Actually, it feels to me that real creativity requires both some “organizing” skills and some “wild fantasy” skills. The trick is to keep my imagination from going crazy when I’m writing non-fiction stuff. My publisher has to make sure I haven’t included bizarre aliens in my test prep materials. In the LSAT book I did include a logic dialogue between my dog (Baxter) and the neighbor’s dog (Beardsley). I finally confessed to my editor but she said not to worry. All authors do that. Of course, the dialogue was pure fiction because Baxter NEVER talks to Beardsley, stuck-up little mutt that he is.

MF: I can see that. And cats are even worse. Tell us about your educational background. Where did you go to school, what did you major in when you were in college, etc. If you were to go back to school now, what would you study?

JC: I went to the University of Michigan, where I tried to major in (in chronological order) chemistry and/or cooking, psychology, anthropology, and linguistics. I eventually managed to complete the linguistics degree. Many  years later I got a masters in special education.

If I were to go back to school now, I would be anxious for summer vacation to come! I have always loved summer vacation more than anything.

If I had to take classes, they would be in dance and jazz piano.

MF: I can relate. Summer was always my favorite, too. Who are your favorite authors? Whose work do you enjoy most and why? Did any one in particular influence you more than the others?

JC: Terry Pratchett is my favorite. He has a wonderful sense of humor, a great imagination and really captures the human condition. I’ve never read anyone else with his combination of qualities. I also like Kage Baker, Jasper Fforde, Connie Willis, and Douglas Adams. I once read a Terry Pratchett novel in Slovak. It’s amazing how well he writes in Slovak!!

MF: I’m impressed that you can read Slovak! What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had? What did you learn from it? Has it affected your writing in any way?

JC: I once cleaned houses. It affected my writing in that my hands were too sore to write!

MF: Harsh detergents can do that. Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea for them? Do they have a hidden message?

JC: Death by Haggis had a very interesting genesis (as explained in its intro.) I have an old friend, Terry Boothman, who is a great writer with a wonderful sense of humor. We often email back and forth a dozen or more times  a day with riddles and jokes.

At one point I suggested to him that he send me the first line for a novel and that I would write back. Continuing in that way I figured we could complete the book in a couple weeks. He did send me a wacky first line and I responded.

I found that every time I tried to develop a plot, he instinctively destroyed whatever I had started. That made for an amazing challenge. Eventually he dropped out of the project and let me finish it myself. The basic plot and characters of the story, however, were set in those early exchanges that were random and chaotic.

I wrote Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom because one of my Barron’s (test prep publisher) contacts said they were now publishing YA fiction. I asked him if he had a particular request for a type of story that he thought could sell. He said I could just write whatever I wanted.

A year later I sent him the result, which he said was very nice but they don’t really publish sci fi. Oops.

In any case the character of Annie was inspired in part by my granddaughter and I hope some day she will read it!

MF: For what it’s worth, I gave a copy of it to my granddaughter for Christmas and I hope she’ll read it, too! Maybe even give you a review, since she’s an aspiring author herself so should appreciate the concept of reviews! What is your life like outside of writing?  Is there anything you would like us to know about yourself and your books?

JC: When I’m not writing, I sometimes take a three minute break for a sponge bath and to open a random can of, hopefully, food from the kitchen.

Just kidding.

I like to dance (especially with my sweetie), play the accordion and piano, garden, travel, study strange languages, go to meditation retreats and roller skate with my granddaughter.

MF: My paternal grandfather was a linguist, but he had the ill-grace to die before I was born. Supposedly, he spoke nine languages. You’re a brave soul to roller skate, which I gave up in 9th grade after breaking my tailbone. Who (living or dead) would you like to invite for dinner? What would you like to know about him or her?

JC: I would invite the living. It’s hard to know what to cook for the dead. They are so picky. And I hate it when the food dribbles out of their mouths like that. Yuck.

MF: There’s that logic side of yours coming out again. Switching to the creative, is there any particular song you’d pick to go with your books?

JC: House of the Rising Sun. Three drunk guys once paid me $20 to play it on the accordion on the streets of Tempe, Arizona. I have a feeling that the next day, they wondered what happened to all their money.

deathbyhaggisNo but seriously folks, I did produce a trailer for Death by Haggis and it has some cool detective-y music. It’s on youtube here. If the book is ever made into a movie, it could have some eery Scottish music in it. And of course some Greek music when the hero arrives in the Aegean.

I’ve never thought about music for Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom. It’s about teens so I suppose it would have to have some godawful rap music in it. Just sayin’.

MF: Will there be a sequel to Annie Gomez and the Giant Foot of Doom or Death by Haggis? If so, do you have anything you’d like to tell us about it or a target day for its release?

JC: I don’t have plans for sequels for either. I’m waiting for all you fans to beg me desperately to write more.  In the meantime I’ve been very much enjoying writing short stories. I’ve poured my heart and funny bone (assuming one can pour a funny bone) out into them.

I’m thinking of publishing a collection of short stories woven together by an overall story, possibly based on a Time Lizard, who may just happen to have appeared – though not identified as such – as a character in Annie Gomez.

MF: Some of these characters who just appear are among the best. Anything else you’d like to tell your existing and potential readers and fans?

JC: Eat a nectarine. Half a peach, half a plum. It’s a hell of a fruit. And never run for a bus. Just stroll, jaunty jolly. (Shamelessly quoted from Mel Brooks’ 2000 year old man.)

Other than that, if you like humor in your sci fi/fantasy and admire writers like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, please do browse through my website at cuttsbooks.wordpress.com

I also send free short stories monthly to my Twitter followers. I’m at @jaycuttsbooks.

Thanks for allowing me to do an interview. I enjoy being in touch with readers and writers!

MF: Thank you, Jay, for sharing your wit! I hope my blog readers check out your books, which can be found on Amazon by following these links:

Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom

Death by Haggis

99c Holiday Book Sale!

HOLIDAY SALE! All my books are only 99c/each until December 31. If you or someone you know likes science, this science fiction is just for them! As one reviewer stated, “Seamless integration of real science with an eye toward plausibility reminds me of Asimov.” The Terra Debacle, the story of a sentient plant stuck on Earth, will undoubtedly put a smile on the face of any botanists out there.

More information about the individual stories, including reviews and videos, can be found on the series website here, or you can find all of them on my Amazon page here. Happy reading!

More FREE Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels!

Brave New Worlds share 1

Here’s another chance to download dozens of FREE science fiction and fantasy ebooks! You can also enter the drawing for a chance to win a $50 gift card! Is that cool or what?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]With this particular promotion you can grab an ecopy of Star Trails Tetralogy volume iv, Refractions of Frozen Time, which means, if you’ve been paying attention, at this point you could have the entire Star Trails series including The Terra Debacle at no cost to you!

Please bear in mind that giving away books  does not pay my bills. I don’t like working for free any more than anyone else, but without readers it’s pretty pointless to be an author.  All I ask in return if you like my book is to PLEASE leave a short review on Amazon or Goodreads. That will help other potential readers decide whether they might like it and perhaps actually buy it. The same goes for all the other authors. That’s all we ask in return for providing you with hours of no cost entertainment. Thank you so much!