Teaser for #NaNoWriMo18 Novel: Spinal Transfer Interruption

Well, I’ve made it about halfway through.  Yay, 42000 words. 🙂
How about a teaser?

Spinal Transfer Interruption

There were no more DUIs.  No more break-ins.  No more robberies.  The implant stopped them all.  The only crimes that could still take place were those the implant AIs weren’t smart enough to see, so pretty much white collar crimes.  Faking numbers and the like.  Scams.
Your implant could work out for you.  Could make your food.  Take your dog for a walk. You’d never even notice you were doing it. You could be in your own virtual reality, writing a novel, taking part in an interactive drama, or doing your day job all at the same time.
It can control your body, freeing your brain for higher tasks.  Which is great.  Well, until someone hacks it.  Sophie, a programmer at STI, the company that makes the implant, gets assigned the task of finding the hacker.  It’s the perfect route to a promotion, at least until the hacker decides to take out the investigator.
Sophie must find a way to discover who the hacker is, before he removes her from the equation.  Her task is complicated by evidence pointing in every direction, and she doesn’t know who to trust, where to turn to.  Will she find the hacker, before he finds her?

 

Podcast about Teaching in Germany

I’ve been teaching in Germany for nearly six years now, and have had quite the range of things happen in that time. For anyone who is looking to work abroad, some of them might be helpful for you to get an insight into working abroad.
A while ago, I was interviewed by Carlie Bonavia at Expat Focus, and thought that some people might enjoy hearing about it here. My experiences, both good and bad, about working in a foreign country. The full interview is below, as well as a transcript of the conversation:
https://www.expatfocus.com/c/aid=4980/podcast/2018/teaching-in-germany/

The Baldness Cure

So, on the eve of the election, why not have a fun little story to get people into gear?  This is, of course, a work of fiction, despite having a fact or two thrown in.  Hope you enjoy it!

The Baldness Cure

John W. Siskar

It screams. The straight razor scrapes along my scalp. A reassuring snick as the strands sever. A small smile as the blade rasps against the skin. Getting rid of the damn thing. I can tell the world.

It would have never gotten to me if I hadn’t been vain in the first place. As my hair began to thin, I told myself, ‘it’s fine.’ I won’t really go bald. Look at my family! All full heads of hair. I won’t be the first.

But I was. As my hair receded over the years, I tried it all. The shampoos they hawk on you. The vitamin supplements. Lasers. Hell, I even tried meditation.

So, as you can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity when, in a chain of click bait articles, I came across a case study in the Big Apple. New Treatment – Hair Implant (blondes only): Just fill out our questionnaire, and be amazed by the results. Participants will receive treatment at no charge. The fine print at the bottom (this is a Clinical Trial, participate at own risk), seemed like every other warning I consistently ignored when it came to medicine. I clicked on the link, filled out the form, and a week later I was in New York.

The doctor’s office, its too bright lights and shiny gadgets a recipe for an epileptic seizure – nothing special. The nurse (blonde and dumpy) and the doctor (blonder and bloated), both friendly and welcoming. They plopped me in a chair. Asked me the normal questions (“Have you ever had…”) and a few minutes later they pulled it out.

It looked almost like a wig, long strands of light blonde hair billowing slightly in the cool air cast from the overhead vent. From the bottom sprouted a forest of nearly invisible black strands.

“So,” the doctor was saying. “It’s a very simple procedure. Almost fully automated. The filaments on the bottom attach to your scalp. They root in the hair follicles. In a matter of minutes, you should have a full head of hair again.”

I wavered for a second, the thought of black threads digging into my head made my stomach turn. But I wanted, needed hair back. I couldn’t even work up the courage to talk to women anymore. I was twenty-six.  I was ugly, old, bald. I was an idiot.

I nodded at the doctor. He smiled, his eyes blazing in a triumph I couldn’t comprehend, and even as I started to open my mouth, a million last minute questions to ask, his hands were already lowering the wig onto my head. I screamed. A thousand – a million – needles stabbed into my brain. It was every migraine I had ever had, times ten, the pain of a star crashing into my brain. The world went black.

The razor rasps against my head again. Another handful of hair falls to the floor. The agony of the creature is delicious. I feel the pain just as it does. I shudder in delight. It’s pushing now, grasping, clawing – trying to exert its influence once more. I want to laugh out loud. I do.

I catch an image of myself reflected in one of the windows.  I’ve put on weight. I used to be in top physical shape, compensating my lack of hair with muscle.  They didn’t give a crap.

They came to Earth with hatred and spite. They found likely targets and then, bam, power and influence. God save you if you were affluent and had thin, unruly blonde hair.
I don’t know why mine didn’t ever get full control. Maybe its personality and mine clashed more than the others. Maybe I was stronger willed. Maybe it was just weak. It doesn’t matter – it may have taken me a decade and a half, but I’d won back my body.

The thing is, it worked both ways. They’d grow themselves into your brain, and you’d become one. Everything it knew, I knew. Everything it felt, I felt. Secrets of interstellar flight? Check. Unified theory? Child’s play. Time travel? Okay, that one they didn’t know. Probably for the best.

They don’t like competition. Humanity, their studies had shown, was on the cusp of some pretty amazing discoveries. We were going to be a threat (in several hundred years, but what’s that to a civilization that learned to stop aging millennia ago?), unless we destroyed ourselves first. They put that chance at about fifty/fifty, given the current state of the world. Not good enough.

I was one of the first. I was just a test, a nobody. They needed to make sure it could be done. Then they started taking politicians, businessmen. Some they managed to get into positions of power, others not so much. But by 2017, they had three high hopes. One of which succeeded beyond all belief.

he first won “politician of the year” in 2007 from the Dutch political press. His Freedom Party grew, and took more seats. His inflammatory hate speech resonated with many. The extreme right grew in power in the Netherlands. He pushed to leave the EU. He lost the election. This time.

Then we come to the mayor of London. He pushed Britain to the leave the EU. He does better than our Dutch friend – Brexit passes. He pushed anti-immigrant, anti-outsider rhetoric. Are we seeing a pattern here?

The last took place in the USA, leader of the free world and all that garbage. He was an outsider, new to politics – the crème de la crème of their plans. He promised to drain the swamps, to make America great again, but again came the anti-immigrant, anti-other policies. He won a victory that confused the world, pushed them away from America. Exactly what they wanted.

Once more I draw the razor across my head. Almost of a third of the parasite is gone now. It screams out – a desperate psychic cry of rage and agony. I’ve been hiding in an old missile silo in the Midwest. It’s tried to call for help before, but this time it was so strong…maybe it made it through the rock and metal? No, not possible. If it could have gotten through, it would have by now.

They had to destroy the world, yes, and what better way than to split the nations apart? One of the first things the American president did was promise a physical border wall with America’s southern neighbor. He said he wouldn’t honor NATO commitments. Insulted allied leaders. Pushing the world apart was a brilliant move by them.

The next part of their plan was buried in a myriad of the president’s other blunders and follies. What would have been a top news story for weeks was barely a blip in the press. It was well known he didn’t believe in climate change, but he took further steps to remove it from all government websites, causing any official record of it to disappear. He ordered the EPA to stop investigating it. He made it clear that jobs were at stake to anyone who opposed him. While the world still laughed at COFEFE. He promised more jobs for coal miners. Promised to step up the use of coal, pump even more CO2 into the air.

With the Paris Agreement not signed, they shouted out their cry of victory. Twenty, thirty years at most and climate change would be irreversible. Humanity would end itself. Oh, there were small pockets of resistance still, a few cities that promised to uphold the agreement anyway, but overall the wealthiest nation in the world smashed the first nail into our collective coffin. If the USA didn’t uphold emissions controls, others would follow. A chain reaction of biblical proportions.

Did I just feel something? A tentative connection? Impossible. Not now. I’m so close. They can’t be coming. Several quick strokes and another third of the creature is gone. I’m bleeding now too, my frantic swiping drawing blood. It drips into the hair on the floor, making a lumpy mess. I feel my grin turn manic. I will be free.

They had the secret to ending climate change once and for all, of course, so I had the secret too. Cold fusion, turning heavy water into clean energy. Extraordinarily high output solar cells. A Dyson sphere, if we survived long enough to build it. The facts stored in my brain, stolen from them, would advance us to the point where it wasn’t centuries before we were a threat, it would put us on equal footing with them in a matter of years.

How quickly would the world unite, too, knowing that an alien race had it in for us? That they wanted to exterminate us? Don’t worry about those pesky little religious differences, a few terrorists blowing up a subway station or two. The real threat of extinction would come from weapons beyond our imagining. They could wipe us out in an instant.

Why hadn’t they, then? Why take this route? Two reasons. First, why destroy a perfectly good world when it would recover from climate change after we were gone? Our loss, their gain. Bastards. The second, a small but vocal minority of their population preaching about the rights of any sentient species in the galaxy. If it looks like we wiped ourselves out, all the better.

The last strands of hair drift to the ground, the last whimpers slowly fading from my mind. There wasn’t much left of a consciousness at that point anyway, just a few shards of an intelligence that had once dominated my own. I let out a sigh.  Freedom. Relief.  Feeling the muscles in my back loosen for the first time in fifteen years. Climbing back up through the twisted passageways and ladders, I step outside. The sky seems bluer than ever, the air fresher. I take a deep breath—

“United States Secret Service! We are armed.” A voice shouts out.

Why am I still holding the razor, blood dripping, blood on to my hand? My head dripping more. It got the word out. But it doesn’t matter. I just need one person to listen, one person to believe. I can write the science down. Someone will use it. Someone will save us.

“Drop the weapon or we’ll shoot!” That voice again.

I go to drop the razor, but my hand refuses to respond. Confused, I try again. Nothing. What…?

I pat the back of my head with the other hand, feeling my now-smooth scalp. Nothing. It’s gone, this isn’t right. I drop to the back of neck, and there, at the top of my spine. Hair. No! I was free. I wasn’t. It held on. 

“No!” I shout, meaning, ‘don’t shoot,’ but my hand raises of its own accord, my right foot taking one step forward. A thunderstorm of shots rings out. I barely feel the thudding impacts as I slip to the ground. A gloating afterimage of a thought seeps into my brain. What is left of the creature slips off my back.

“You must listen,” I try to speak, but it comes out as a gurgle. Blood bubbling from my lips. Blood in my lungs. Can’t. The world. I failed. No, not really. I’m free—

#Nanowrimo 2018 Book Intro

Well, I started Nanowrimo again.  I’m about 8000 words in now, but here’s the first 700 words I wrote:

Pulling the covers back, she stood up and stretched, each bone in her back cracking in succession.  Fluffing each pillow three times, she laid them back on the bed before neatly turning down the blanket.  A pair of slippers lay precisely at the edge of the bed, next to a silk bathrobe hanging from the hook attached to the post.  With three steps and a shrug of the shoulders, she was dressed for the morning.

Walking into the morning room, her daily workout started with squats, moved on to pushups and sit-ups, and then a set of the free weights from the shelves lining one wall.  Finishing with pull-ups and aerobics, a few spots of sweat stained her garments, despite her breathing remaining even and regular. 

Her feet took her into the kitchen, and she woke up to eggs frying and bacon sizzling on the stove, the smell of toasting bread mixing pleasantly with the other odors of breakfast.  As soon as her eyes opened, the shutters in the house started rolling themselves up, letting in the weak pre-dawn light of mid-November.  Yawning, she looked down as her hands stirred the eggs.

“Pause morning routine,” she murmured, her voice a bit scratchy.  Sensation returned to her hands, and she used her newfound control of her body to rub the sleep out of her eyes.  Hanging next to the stove were a pair of what looked like swimming goggles, jet black with a small CK logo on the side.

Pulling the strap back she adjusted them on her face before saying, “Resume.”

Despite the pitch black lenses, her side of the goggles showed her environment in every visible direction.  If she hadn’t felt their slight weight tugging against the back of her head, she’d have been hard pressed to notice any difference between them being on or off.  Some people had opted for the optic nerve implants, but she was a traditionalist.  Her hands moved of their own accord to the bacon and flipped it in the pan.

“Show notifications.”

What looked like a flip-chart sized piece of paper appeared over the stove, with notifications divided into different areas.  From social media, she had the usual run of alerts about birthdays and new photos, her e-mail was mostly spam, and the news was still running with the same garbage about the ex-president and his continuing attempts to blame everyone but himself for past failures.

A ringing echoed in her ears and three circles popped up, two neon green on the right edge of her vision, one fire-truck red on the left.  The upper green one had a camera icon, the lower a microphone.  In the center of her field of vision a picture of Sam popped up, the words, “I know you’re not really awake, but answer this anyway,” displayed below the portrait. 

Sighing, she focused on the lower green circle for a second, her field of vision clearing as the call connected.  “What, Sam?”

Sam’s voice, bright and bubbly, chattered in her head.  “Sophie!  It happened again.  There’s another one.  Can you believe it?”

“Sam, I haven’t had my coffee yet.  Can’t this wait?”  Even as she said it, her hands reached over to the coffee machine, where a fresh-ground cup of coffee had just finished pouring itself.  The sharp tang of it had her mouth watering, and her stomach let out an angry growl.  Her hands placed the coffee onto a tray, expertly transferred the bacon and eggs to a plate that they had prepared a minute before. 

She found herself carrying the tray from the kitchen to the dining room as Sam’s annoying chipper voice replied.  “No, it can’t.  Get into the office as soon as you can.  Isn’t this exciting?”

After muttering her true thoughts below the volume that the implant would register as actual speech, she adopted a resigned tone and replied, “I just need to eat and shower, then I’ll be in.”

“Be quick,” he said, and she could practically hear the smile in his voice.  “This won’t wait for us any more.  We need to deal with it.”

Book Review – The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

Traitor God

The Traitor God sucks you in from the beginning and holds you to the end.  A broken protagonist brings you into a world where magi have all the power, and the rest are left to make their way as best as they are able.  While most magi hold themselves aloof from the world, the protagonist has managed to keep himself in touch with them all, despite having more than a few problems of his own.

In a classic story of revenge, the protagonist is just trying to figure out what happened to his closest friend.  Be ready in this book for our poor protagonist to go through hell and back to try to find out what he wants to know.

The world is beautifully crafted, with great depth that leads the reader to realize how deeply Cameron has delved into his own imagination.  The magic system is wonderfully realized, being both powerful but having deep consequences.  The book itself is dark, feeding into the realities and consequences of a world where magic exists.

In all, I highly recommend reading this.  For a first book from an author, I found it to be incredibly well written.  If you need a new book, this is the one.

My #NaNoWriMo 2017

National Novel Writing Month.  A 50,000 word manuscript written in 30 days.  Sounds like a dream, right?  Get that novel down on paper (well, typed on the computer for most of us) and in a month you’re suddenly an author.  Sounds great.  Here’s my experience.
For NaNoWriMo this year, I had just finished a first draft of my second novel in the series I am writing three days before November started.  As I had to put that draft aside and wait six weeks to get some space from it before revising, I decided to try for the third novel.  I succeeded.  I won.  Yay!
Here are my thoughts on NaNoWriMo.  It’s a great idea, in theory.  In practice, I found it very different from how I would normally write.  Normally, I write when I’m motivated and I have some time to put towards it.  This month, I forced myself to sit down every day and write.  And write.  And write.  I managed to finish my novel with a week to spare to spare in the month.  Great, right?
I’m not sure.  Normally, since I write when I’m really motivated, the words I put down on the page are words I trust and often really like.  With this, I found myself writing just because I knew I had to.  This means that sometimes I was just throwing words down on the page to get to the word counts I was supposed to have.  I managed to write my novel of 80,517 words in about three weeks, and this scares me.
In general, when I find I’m not motivated to add more words to a manuscript, the reason for it tends to be good.  Maybe things aren’t going exactly as they should be, maybe I need a plot twist or one of the characters is feeling emotionally insecure about things but I haven’t noticed yet.  Maybe I need a change of direction, where I had thought I was going was just not going to work.
I think in part it is because I am completely a pantser when it comes to writing.  For those planners out there, who have a detailed plot with characters already developed, it might be easier to just get those words on the page and you know the story will work.  For me, each scene, each action of a character has consequences.  Sometimes I need time to process them before I continue writing, before I see how the characters will respond to it.
This time, I just plowed through it all and kept writing.  Ordinarily, problems would eat at me until I realized exactly what the next move is.  So what does that mean for this manuscript?  Is it complete crap?  Probably not.  Is it going to need a lot more revising than my previous manuscripts?  Yeah, probably.  Okay, definitely.
I enjoy writing.  Not as much as I enjoy reading, but I find when I’m writing, I feel more of a sense of satisfaction than when reading, a sense that I’ve accomplished something.  Revision on the other hand is tedious for me.  I’m working on the seventh draft of my first manuscript now and I continuously find things I need to change.  No such thing as perfect, right?  Does this mean I might need to do an extra few drafts for this manuscript?  Maybe.
The interesting part is that I just don’t know right now.  Until I go through the manuscript again, I won’t have an idea how badly I messed anything up or what I got right.  To do that though, I need emotional and intellectual distance from the manuscript.  So guess what?  It’ll be six weeks before I even look at it again.  During that time, I have two other manuscripts that need revising.
So to conclude.  It’s pretty cool that I wrote a novel in three weeks.  Depending on my reading of that draft though, it might have been better to have taken the two months to do it right the first time.  Just my thoughts as I sit here now, an official NaNoWriMo winner.
 

NaNoWriMo

So, it’s that time of year, it seems.  National Novel Writers Month (#NaNoWriMo) is in full swing.  I decided to participate this year, a first for me.  As we are approaching the halfway point of the month, I approach the halfway point of my novel.
For those of you who are unaware, NaNoWriMo is when thousands of writers across the world attempt to write a draft of 50,000 words in one month.  As my novels tend to run around 80k words, that is actually my goal.  To do it I need to write an average of 2,600 words a day.
I’m on day 14 and just hit 36,000 words.  My word average is hovering around 2,800 words, so doing just fine.  It’s an interesting experience.  I’m in competition with myself to write write write.
Sundays I’ve given myself a pass.  If I write 3k words every day during the week, I can rest on Sunday.  It’s worked out well for me so far.  I find that 3k words tends to be about 2-3 hours of writing, which is certainly possible, though my reading has fallen to the side as I have less time for it.
Overall, I think the experience has taught me two things so far.  First, I can really get words down on paper when I dedicate myself to it.  Second, this is something I wouldn’t want to do every month.  Writing twelve drafts in a year is doable, yes.  But I’d have to toss aside social commitments, reading, me time.  Also, a first draft is pretty much garbage anyways.  Redrafting is as much a commitment as writing, more so in many ways as it takes longer and you have to constantly put aside a draft to wait for your brain to reset to see it with fresh eyes.
In the end, NaNoWriMo — cool.  I’m happy I’m writing.  I’m happy I have a goal.  But next month, it’s time to hit that draft of book 2 and make it better.  Beta readers are waiting, but they’ll have to wait a bit longer.  I went through five drafts of book one before I decided that it was good enough for another person to look at it.  I don’t see book two as being any different.

PITCH WARS 2017: #PIMPMYBIO CONTESTANT BLOG HOP

From Lana Pattinsin:

Time for the annual #PimpMyBio blog hop for Pitch Wars Contestants!!!
This is just for fun, for mentees and mentors to get to know each other better. I repeat, this is NOT mandatory…but I know some mentors use it to  get to know contestants better.
The Blog Hop closes when the Pitch Wars sub window does…August 6th
Enter here: http://www.lanapattinson.com/pitch-wars-2017-pimpmybio-contestant-blog-hop/

My Bio:

John is an avid reader, often blowing through a novel or more a week.  A lover of both scifi and fantasy, he has always had aspirations as a writer but often found motivation lacking.
John was born in Western New York.  When he was five, his father read the red leatherbound version of Lord of the Rings to him.  He fell in love with the idea of other universes, other realities.  Star Wars and Star Trek gave him new insights into these and he was forever changed by both.
He attended schools and universities in Western New York. He moved to Europe in 2012 to teach in a secondary school in Germany (English, History, Geography, Politics and Computer Science).  He is totally addicted to travel and has visited over a hundred cities across thirty-four countries since the move.
His first novel is adult fantasy written in his own world.  He is currently searching for an agent with the hopes of publishing it.
Book Blurb:

There were once eleven artifacts made by an ancient race.  Together, they have the power to alter the very nature of reality.  Scattered to the winds, they have only been brought together twice, both times to a tragic end.  Now, the search to bring them together begins anew.
One man struggles to find his way through this search, while being hunted by those who would find and use them for themselves.  His search is complicated by the fact that his past is a mystery, even to himself.
With no memories, who can he trust to help him?  Who is chasing him, and why?  And most importantly, how can he get those memories back?


My Favorite Books/Authors of All Time (Often I really like many books from each of these authors, but I picked my favorites for each)
(In no particular order):

















If you’re here from the Pitchwars blog hop:
Previous blog (#79):  Ralph Walker
Next blog (#81):  Rosina
 

Finished Beta Reader Revisions, So Why Not a Giveaway?

So, as I’ve finally finished making all the changes my beta readers and I decided upon, and doing one last revision, I am to the point where I shall start sending out those cover letters to agents.  In celebration of this, I’ve decided to run a contest by giving away one of my favorite books of the past couple years:

Click here to join the giveaway!
 
The Name of the Wind Giveaway- OFFICIAL RULES
 
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    1. PRIVACY: Any personal information supplied by you will be subject to the privacy policy of the Sponsor. By entering the Sweepstakes, you grant Sponsor permission to share your email address and any other personally identifiable information with the other Sweepstakes Entities for the purpose of administration and prize fulfillment, including use in a publicly available Winners list.

 

    1. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY: Sponsor assumes no responsibility or liability for (a) any incorrect or inaccurate entry information, or for any faulty or failed electronic data transmissions; (b) any unauthorized access to, or theft, destruction or alteration of entries at any point in the operation of this Sweepstakes; (c) any technical malfunction, failure, error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or communications line failure, regardless of cause, with regard to any equipment, systems, networks, lines, satellites, servers, camera, computers or providers utilized in any aspect of the operation of the Sweepstakes; (d) inaccessibility or unavailability of any network or wireless service, the Internet or website or any combination thereof; (e) suspended or discontinued Internet, wireless or landline phone service; or (f) any injury or damage to participant’s or to any other person’s computer or mobile device which may be related to or resulting from any attempt to participate in the Sweepstakes or download of any materials in the Sweepstakes.
      If, for any reason, the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned for reasons which may include without limitation, infection by computer virus, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes which may corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Sweepstakes, the Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes in whole or in part. In such event, Sponsor shall immediately suspend all drawings and prize awards, and Sponsor reserves the right to award any remaining prizes (up to the total ARV as set forth in these Official Rules) in a manner deemed fair and equitable by Sponsor. Sponsor and Released Parties shall not have any further liability to any participant in connection with the Sweepstakes.

 

    1. SOCIAL NETWORK DISCLAIMER

 
 
A Facebook account may be required to enter. If you don’t already have a Facebook account, visit www.facebook.com to create one. It is free to create an account. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to the Sponsor and not to Facebook. By participating via the Facebook platform, participants are also subject to Facebook’s data policy and terms of use, which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy and https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms/update.
 
 

    1. WINNER LIST/OFFICIAL RULES: To obtain a copy of the Winner List or a copy of these Official Rules, send your request to johnwsiskar@gmail.com. Requests for the names of the winners must be received no later than 2 days after the Promotion Period has ended. For accessing a Winner List online, visit johnwsiskar.com. The winner list will be posted after winner confirmation is complete.

 

  1. SPONSOR: John W Siskar, johnwsiskar@gmail.com