Sterling’s Just Desserts

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I am proud of the NBA today. 

Longtime LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling was outed as a bigot the other day, which didn’t really surprise many people who had followed sports for the past 30 years, but it was finally on-tape in the Twitter and YouTube age, which meant he wasn’t going to be able to hide from it anymore. I don’t agree with mob mentality, but in today’s culture, people cannot be in the public eye, say despicable things, and get away with it. 

Shoot, just take Paula Deen for instance. Deen’s comments and the words she used around African-Americans were horrible, but they also happened years ago. If she can be publicly called out for her racist views from years in the past, then Donald Sterling wasn’t going to evade this tape which was made just six months ago.

What I loved about what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did was he applied Karmic discipline. On the tape, Sterling tells his girlfriend (public mistress?) he hates that she associates with black people, specifically mentioning LA athletes Matt Kemp and Magic Johnson. (Side note: this woman, V. Stiviano, is half-black, half-Hispanic.) Sterling then specifically makes his distaste known that she brings other African-Americans to Clippers games. (This in addition to other strange viewpoints on race and religion that popped up in the audiotape.)

Last I checked, most of the NBA is black and many are on Sterling’s payroll. (In fact, former Clipper Baron Davis said the other day that Sterling would call him offensive names during his time there.)

So, the NBA has a problem. One of their owners is a racist. There was player and coach outrage. Many other owners voiced their anger at their fellow owner. There was even talk of a player strike — during the NBA playoffs. New Commissioner Adam Silver had to do something

So, he fined him the most he could — $2.5 million — and then did the best thing he could do. He took away the thing he loved the most. Going to the Clippers games. The very games where he didn’t want to see black people — now he can’t even go. Banned from games, practice, his own team corporate offices. Appropriate and justified. 

Well done, Commissioner Silver. You didn’t hesitate when you could have toed that line. I applaud your stance and hope the owners back your attempts to rid the league of this relic of a racist age. 

Book Review — Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker

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Tomorrow is the Pennsylvania Book Bomb, meaning if you are going to buy Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania Omnibus, tomorrow is the day. If you buy the paperback on Amazon, you can get the Kindle version for just 99 cents thanks to the Matchbook program. This is a great work of science fiction and encourage everyone to give it a try. My interview with Mr. Bunker from last week, can be found here

Bunker_PENNSYLVANIA_Omnibus_EbookEdition-640x1024In preparation for the Pennsylvania Omnibus launch, I went back and re-read my reviews for each part of Michael Bunker’s science fiction serial. I was reminded that I was amazed by the beginnings of the book and that I wouldn’t be surprised by any measure of success by the author.

Part of my review for Pennsylvania 1, read:

“If I went to sleep for nine years like the main character, Jed, does in “Pennsylvania” to awaken up to find Michael Bunker dominating bestseller lists, I wouldn’t be surprised. As I read Pennsylvania, I was struck by reminders to so many standard-bearers in the sci-fi field. Asimov. Heinlein. Bova. Scalzi.”

I grew up a huge Isaac Asimov fan, which meant I quickly grew to love the writings of Robert Heinlein as well. The space-age sci-fi transitioned into Ben Bova and now modern-day with the books of John Scalzi (Old Man’s War & Redshirts).

Then I stumbled upon Pennsylvania. Stumbled upon may not be the best turn-of phrase, but when you read a short story by a bearded dude in suspenders who lives off the land and generates his electricity by solar power, you may not be prepared for the story you find.

Bunker definitely derives a good chunk of his story from his “plain” lifestyle, putting his protagonist Jedediah Troyer in a “Stranger in a Strange Land” situation. Jed, is Amish, living in a future world where people can access the Internet via a chip in their heads. Jed is headed to New Pennsylvania where he will help establish a new Amish community.

As a reader, we identify with Jed in this story. We are just along for the journey in this futuristic, alien world, and Jed, with his simplicity and innocence, acts as the perfect vehicle for the audience. We are Jed and are forced into this new world and are just as confused as he is.

As great of a protagonist as Jed is in the book, I daresay Bunker’s supporting characters are even better. Jed befriends a number of people throughout the books, notably Dawn, a woman whose interests in Jed may have a number of motives. I find the character of Jed’s brother, Amos, perhaps the most fascinating and would love a book series focused solely on him. When Jed leaves Earth in book 1, Amos is a 14-year-old younger brother, but when we meet him again later on in the book, he is aged considerably, both by time and experiences. What happened and who is this man?

The trip to New Pennsylvania isn’t as easy as Jed is led to believe and that journey has its costs. By the time he arrives, the planet is fully at war – both in an active and Cold War capacity – between two groups: Transport and TRACE. We get more characters and more and more revealed as the story moves on. Just as Jed learns what is really happening all around him, the audience is slowly clued in as well.

The book is a great work, alternating between moments of calm with the Amish lifestyle, and anxiety with the pending war between the two factions on New Pennsylvania. The simple life that that Amish lead with the chaos and politics of the “English” world raging around them. Bunker has painted a brilliant picture of this dichotomy by showing the differences between Jed and Amos. One content to be plain – the other aware of a different calling on his life.

By the time Pennsylvania ends, it is clear this is a big story and too big for just one book as Bunker has already made plans for the sequel – Oklahoma. Sign me up for the sequel and some more Amish science fiction.

Pennsylvania Book Review and Interview with the Beard himself

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Pennsylvania is a special book. If you haven’t read it, you need to — for the words, for the amazing art by Ben Adams, for the formatting — all of it that makes this indie book look not so indie. Except — wait until April 29. That’s the launch date for the Omnibus and we need all hands on deck to buy it that day. I’ll explain in a bit…alright…everybody in? Good.
In Pennsylvania, Michael Bunker has created a futuristic world where the most unlikely of protagonists takes center stage — the Amish.
I read the first part of Pennsylvania last summer and thought it was genius. I went back to find my review of that installment and found myself comparing Bunker’s tale to Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, and John Scalzi. The comparisons are apt. While the men I mentioned have collectively written science fiction for decades, Mr. Bunker has been trying his hand at it for only a few years. Add “Amish” to that science fiction moniker and Mr. Bunker finds himself in a unique position.
I’ll have my full official review for Pennsylvania up next week when the Pennsylvania Omnibus drops in the Amazon store. (You can find my previous reviews of each of the parts on their respective Amazon pages.) The title is up for pre-order on both Kindle and Paperback right now, but you should wait until Tuesday, April 29 to buy.
Why?
Because as Indie Authors, we need all the help we can get. If the people who are going to buy PA anyway all buy it on one day, the book has a greater shot at rocketing up the charts, faster than an Amish Wagon heading to a barn raising. Michael Bunker calls it his “Book Bomb.”
I’ve read Pennsylvania and found it to be a great throwback to the Golden Age of Science Fiction, with the added element of 21st century independent author flair. Bunker did a great job crafting a world foreign to us, but yet based on a world he is all too familiar with. (If you don’t know already, Bunker lives an “off-the-grid” lifestyle, generating electricity for his computer off solar panels and sustaining him and his family off the land.) Readers really can sense a combination of a serious, but separate society in the Amish, combined with the modern politics of the time. He has already noted there will be a follow-up book, entitled Oklahoma.
With the release of Pennsylvania just a few days away, I decided I should ask Bunker the hard-hitting questions everyone is dying to know.
1. The Postal abbreviation for Pennsylvania is PA, which might also stand for Passive Aggressive. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble – why should people buy the Pennsylvania Omnibus? If you have the time to answer, that is…
Bunker employed the ridiculously-talented Jason Gurley to design his covers for Pennsylvania, including the Omnibus cover.

Bunker employed the ridiculously-talented Jason Gurley to design his covers for Pennsylvania, including the Omnibus cover.

MB:  Because if they don’t, they are with the terrorists. And besides, every time someone buys the Pennsylvania Omnibus an angel gets its wings. A puppy finds a home. An old, lonely person is comforted. But then… some people don’t care about those things…

 
2. Alright. You’ve said Pennsylvania is actually a prequel to the upcoming series Oklahoma. (Which is OK.) Can you confirm or deny that this is actually the futuristic retelling of the classic Broadway musical “Oklahoma!”? How will Curly’s story intersect with Jed’s?
MB: Jed goes back in time to stop Jud from killing Curley, only to be mistaken for Jud because of the name similarity. Because of the mix up, Jud kills Curley, hilarity ensues, and Jed goes to prison in a surrey with a fringe on top! It’s a comic love story.
 
3. As for this Facebook group, AZ… how do you feel about having your own fangroup? Also, does their name have any sense of foreshadowing, meaning is the third installment of the Michael Bunker state series entitled Arizona?
MB: It is weird and humbling having a fan-started, fan-run, Facebook fan group. I was honored when it got started and I’ve enjoyed getting to meet and know so many of the readers. But I am starting to feel I’ve been duped. Since the AZ got started, I think I’ve posted about 90% of the content in there. Wait a minute… Doh. (Interviewer’s Note: Mr. Bunker conveniently dodges the third installment question, leading me to assume he is looking to become the James Michener of state-named science fiction novels.)
 
4. What makes the Amish such great subjects for a science fiction novel?
MB: Great question. There really could be no better subject for a sci-fi novel in my opinion. The whole history of the Amish is a tale of how humans who deliberately consider what technologies they will use or adopt, interact with a world that tends to adopt technologies without much long-term consideration. Of course, no one is “anti-technology,” even the Amish, but the Amish culture is the perfect canvas to examine the future, technology, and how these things affect our lives. And of course, since the Amish came to America on huge, futuristic ships, the parallels of colonization and exploration are ready made for sci-fi.
 
Look at that marvelous beard. Gaze upon its beauty.

Look at that marvelous beard. Gaze upon its beauty.

5. I know every author these days does a zombie novel and technically you’ve already don’t yours, but what about Amish zombies?

MB: The biggest problem with Amish Zombies is trying to figure out how the first infection starts.  How do you get “patient zero”? Since the Amish eat wholesome, home-grown foods, and tend to avoid a lot of processed products, they are generally a healthy and robust people. Perhaps a young Amish man contracts the virus from an iPod earbud during rumspringa? Besides, the Amish practice of shunning would probably nip the infestation in the bud pretty quickly. Being undead is a definite violation of the Ordnung.
 
6. Hunker (Bunker + Howey) is so early 2013 and Burley (Bunker + Gurley) is so late 2013. The new jam is the Bunker-Nick Cole Bromance, which I am officially dubbing Nickel Co-Bunk. I will allow no more than 200 words of fangirling about Nick Cole’s work. And…go!
MB: You know, my relationship with Hugh was purely physical. He never appreciated my brain. And with Jason, well, I was in love with the art. We never really sat down for coffee. But with Nick, well.. he completes me. But, in all seriousness, these are three talented men, and I’m pleased to be their friend. But… desert island time? Give me some Nick Cole (or as I call him… Nick King Cole.) And unless Solzhenitsyn or Hemingway comes back in time… well, you know… (Interviewer’s Note — that response clocked in at just 84 words, meaning Mr. Bunker could have written another 116 words on his love for Nick Cole’s books. I’m sure he’s just trying to conceal his true emotions.)
 
7. There is a whole new sub-culture developing of independently published writers. In your opinion, what are some of the best aspects of being an independent author?
For each of the five parts of his Pennsylvania series, Michael Bunker employed Jason Gurley to design these mind-blowing covers.

For each of the five parts of his Pennsylvania series, Michael Bunker employed Jason Gurley to design these mind-blowing covers.

MB: There are the obvious answers. Creative freedom, more money, the community aspect of having direct access to readers and vice-versa. I am so happy to be where I am today, and in on watching and participating in the revolution. And that is my real answer. I honestly believe that we are in one of those times… those golden moments that become “a thing” historically. Like being on the Left Bank of the Seine in Paris in the 1920’s, or hanging around the Algonquin Hotel during the time of the Round Table. Very few people (when things like that are actually happening) realize that they are participating in a monumental period. There are things happening right now that students will study in the future, and we’re getting to take part in it. Some of the names we’re throwing around loosely will be (and are becoming) household names, and will become part of the cultural consciousness and lexicon of this very distinct time.  We’re a sub-culture, but what is happening now is fundamentally changing the world, and that is fun to consider!

 
8. Would you rather: Have a burrito for every lunch every day for the rest of your life OR have a donut for breakfast every day for the rest of your life?
MB: I refuse to live in a world where those two things are mutually exclusive. I choose “C”. BOTH!  (Although a breakfast burrito and lunch donut are also wonderfully valid options.)
 
9. What is Michael Bunker currently reading?
MB: I recently finished Andy Weir’s The Martian, which was wonderful, and I’ve been reading some fantastic short stories as they have been submitted for super-editior David Gatewood’s soon to be released Synchronic time-travel anthology which should be out in May.
 
10. Any other secrets in that beard of yours?
MB: Oh, I’m always finding things in there.  Bear claws, Cadbury eggs, new collaboration projects… even a whole new MB website coming soon with direct purchase and download of e-books for every e-reader.  Lots of cool stuff in that ol’, plain beard.
Thanks for having me, Will!
As always, it was a pleasure.
Michael
Additional information on the Book Bomb can be found here. (Note: thanks to Amazon’s Matchbook program, you can get the Kindle version for just 99 cents with the purchase of the Paperback — a steal!)

Help a Brother Out — John Hancock

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ImageHey guys…my friend John Hancock just launched his Kickstarter campaign to get audiobooks produced for his Dreamwood Tales stories. Hancock is a skilled writer and from the sample narration of this book, it sounds like it’ll be a killer audiobook. If you have a few bucks and a few minutes, check it out here.

I think this is a great idea. I’m currently getting my book Ant Apocalypse produced into an audiobook (news on that shortly!) and find the process fascinating. Audiobooks are new territory for me, but I know there are a number of people who are huge audiobook fans. Check it out.

 

ImageBack to John Hancock — you may remember I did a review of ROOF a little while back, Hancock’s latest book. Great writing and awesome illustrations to go along with it. Here’s a video I made when I got my paperback in the mail, and here’s my review on Amazon.

What Grinds My Gears? Lawns.

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You know what really grinds my gears?

Lawns.

You know what I’m talking about. The green space outside your house. Thanks to societal norms, we feel the need to tend our lawn — water it, fertilize it, mow it. We take better care of our lawns than we do developing countries.

If you happen to live in an apartment or are too young to worry about mowing a lawn, thank your lucky stars.

Now, there is a certain calmness that I’ve learned to enjoy from going out each week and mowing my lawn, so I can’t say I despise the entirety of the lawn care business, but overall I think as a society, we are obsessed with the wrong things and our lawns are more of a symptom of our apathy than anything else.

Don’t you want people to like how your house looks? 

Here’s a better question — who cares? I mean, it’s my house and I should decide how it looks, right? Now, I’m not saying I want to just let weeds take over or anything, but that’s kind of how I think about it. Part of my reasoning may be based on the fact that my house is the second to last lot on a dead-end road and very few people see it, so I hate to “get all dressed up” for company that never shows up.

What’s the big deal with lawn care? 

The big deal is that we as Americans spend an ABSURD amount of money on lawn care. According to the book American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn by Ted Steinberg, Americans will spend 150 hours on their lawn each year; North America spends over $40 billion on lawn care each year, more than the continent spends on foreign aid; and 30% of the water used on the East Coast goes towards the watering of lawns. In fact, the book mentions a golf course in Tampa, Florida that uses 178,800 gallons of water each day — enough water to meet the needs of 2,200 people.

So you’re like — stats from 2005? Those are so outdated. I agree. How about these figures from a Mental Floss article in 2012? The figure is still hovering at 2012 and that figure is care of Bloomberg. I suppose in light of the other figures on that site, the lawn care amount may be reasonable, but like I said, the numbers are just a symptom of the upside-down society we live in.

This guy. Seriously?

This guy. Seriously?

 

I see the Scott’s Lawn Care commercials on TV frequently (which tends to happen when you leave ESPN and their continuous run of baseball coverage on). While they are catchy, I find myself upset sometimes.

I suppose maybe I’m a little more aware of the rest of the world than some, but there are some serious starvation issues happening RIGHT NOW in South Sudan. I don’t want to sound like your mom with leftover brussel sprouts or asparagus on your plate, but there are literally starving people in Africa. If you didn’t water your lawn this week, would that really help?

Probably not, to be honest.

But…the more we were aware and the more we ignored the Scott’s Lawn dude, the more money we might have to send money and aid to areas in the world where fresh water is a serious problem.

How Elitist must we look to developing countries around the world? They don’t have enough potable water to drink in a day…yet we use it to brush our teeth, take 30 minute showers, wash our dishes, wash our clothes, and often times water our lawns. That if we turn up our noses at water that “doesn’t taste quite right.”

Yes, this is about lawns, but it is about so much more.

ws_infographics_outdoorWould you believe that the average American household uses 320 gallons of water each day? And 30 percent of that is used outside. (My math isn’t exceptional, but I come up with 96 gallons used outdoors by each family each day).

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it is believed approximately half of that water is wasted, whether due to evaporation, wind, runoff, or just inefficient methods of irrigation.

Ultimately, I know I’m not going to change a lot of minds. In fact, I just mowed my lawn yesterday and this afternoon and I’ll do it again next week. But, when it comes down to making it perfect or whether to save my money to give towards worthy charities, I’ll think twice for sure. It would be great practice for us all to do so. There are millions of people who cannot afford to feed their families, let alone give them safe drinking water. We take that water and feed it to grass — which has NO nutritional value. It might even be better if local municipalities would allow and encourage their residents to replace their ornamental lawns with more beneficial plants like corn, soybeans or wheat.

End rant. Thanks for listening.

 

Reader Requests #4 — Bilbies, Donuts, and Peeps

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I put out another call for blog ideas from my Facebook friends and family tonight and they did not let me down. Most of those ideas contained a kernel of similarity – food. Let’s kick it off, shall we?


 

Easter Bunnies.

Cute, adorable, giver of chocolate and hard-boiled eggs.

Except…maybe not.

Every year, numerous well-meaning parents in the U.S. adopt rabbits around Easter as gifts for their children. According to an article on Chicago Now:

“Too many families purchase a rabbit on impulse for Easter gifts and they don’t realize how complicated rabbit care can be,” says Marcia Coburn, President of Red Door. “We get so many calls from people that see rabbits running lose that don’t appear to be wild rabbits and we end up going out and rescuing them. Domestic rabbits just aren’t cut out to survive out there.”

These rabbits end up either killed by natural predators or rescued by local humane societies. This problem with bunnies isn’t just an American problem.

Looks like there is way more chocolate to a Bilby than a Bunny.

Looks like there is way more chocolate to a Bilby than a Bunny.

In Australia, rabbits have been a problem for a couple centuries. Rabbits are not native to the continent, but when settlers came from Europe and North America a few hundred years ago, they brought rabbits, foxes, and domesticated cats – all of which are now feral species that have harmed the Australian environment. From an article by Dr. Ian Gunn, an Adjunct Senior Associate at Monash University:

Australia has a sad history of importing European animals — rabbits, foxes and cats, for example — that now pose a great threat to the survival of our native species. Feral rabbits are Australia’s greatest pests, currently costing agriculture, and hence the community, about $200 million annually, in addition to untold costs to the environment.

The article goes on to suggest that instead of Australians going for the traditional Easter Bunny, they should instead an Easter Bilby. What is a bilby? A marsupial, the bilby is a type of bandicoot that lives in the desert of Australia. With large ears that help keep it cool in the hot arid climate of the Australian mid-section, the bilby is the natural replacement to the rabbit in Australian Easter folklore.

Credit to Scott Robert Glazier for the Bunny topic.


 

On other food topics, our friend Michael Bunker had a few food topics to address and I will do so in the following bullet points:

  • Ice Cream Sandwiches. Pro or Con? What? How is this even a question? Pro of course. The sandwich part by itself could be called a cookie. Sesame Street named one of their main characters the COOKIE MONSTER. On the inside is ice cream. Wonderful, amazing, creamy ice cream. How does the saying go? “You scream, I scream, WE ALL SCREAM for Ice Cream!” Put those two together and you have magic. In your mouth.
  • Steak: Pro or Con? Pro. You can’t beat a well-cooked steak. The trick is the well-cooked part, of course and that in itself drives some people away. Even pricey restaurants don’t always cook steaks well. I went to one of those pricey restaurants a few years ago – where their steaks are graded on a separate scale than the USDA – it was heaven.
  • Donuts and donut holes. I’ll just quote the bearded master here: “How do they get away with cutting a part of the middle of your donut away and selling it as a “donut hole” to someone else? If they did that with Pizza, there would be an uprising. And shouldn’t we demand that we get the middle part for free?” Absolutely, Mr. Bunker. The middle part should be our right. This is a food slippery slope. Sometime in our past, there was a pastry. Then someone took out the middle and called it a donut, forgetting that we still deserved that middle deliciousness. That simple act has spawned an entire industry on just donut holes. It’s like when Hitler demanded Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain thought – “we’ll just give it to him and he’ll be OK.” Except he wasn’t. We all know how that ended. We need to demand our holes back. Our HOLES!

Credit to Michael Bunker for the various food topics


 

And to close this one out, here is a brief editorial on Peeps.

Peeps. Peeps. Peeps. Just keep saying it out loud. After a while, you start sounding like 1/3 of a 90’s hip-hop group. At best.

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What do you think this is? Some kind of game?

Peeps, if you are not familiar, are pieces of marshmallow shaped into chick or bunny forms and coated with colored sugar. There is no nutritutional value. There is no spiritual value. There is no redeeming value.

If you’ve had a Peep (and if you have, you may not want to raise your hand), have you ever sat back afterwards and said, “Oh boy self, that sure was a mighty fine decision to eat that sugar-blasted, chick-shaped marshmallow?

You know what Peeps are good for? Dioramas (there are HUNDREDS of them. That is why they sell – so people can make scenes from their favorite movies with Peeps.)

In closing, pitch the Peeps. There is so many better things you could have.

Oh look – a Peep in a donut!

Thanks to Carrie Gillette for the Peeps

 

Reviews, Audiobooks, and Other Updates

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I’ve hit a few milestones the past couple weeks — let me list a few for you: 

  • I sold a paperback copy of Dead Sight on Amazon. Yeah…I know, that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I had not previously sold any physical copies through Amazon. I’ve sold physical books, but only after I ordered copies from CreateSpace and then personally delivered them. This sale was a milestone — a small one, but one nonetheless. Huzzah!
  • I received my 100th review the other day and now I’ve exceeded that number and am sitting at #103 as of this blog post. Now, this is out of seven different titles, one of which I am a small part of, but it is still meaningful to me. Ant Apocalypse has the most of my works with 30 reviews and a 4.4 star average. 
  • Speaking of AA, I got a review the other day of it from a fantastic source. Nick Cole, author of the amazing book Old Man and the Wasteland (previous review here), decided to read and review my short little ant tale. Nick doesn’t review a ton of books, but he graciously left me a review for Ant Apocalypse. Having a writer as talented as Nick read and love my work definitely encourages me to continue to write and push myself creatively. Thanks Nick! Check out his review here

Speaking of Ant Apocalypse, I began production last week on an audiobook of it. I got five auditions for it and one of them just really had the sound I was looking (listening?) for. I’ll share more late, but I should have it together in a few weeks. This is really exciting for me. I’ve never been an audiobook person myself, but I know loads of people who are huge audiobook fans. My brother, in particular, is psyched about it. Hopefully I can get the rest of my books transformed into audiobooks in the future as well. 

As for new writing…there isn’t any. Not much at least. In fact, to be honest, I’ve barely written anything for a few weeks. One reason was a book I edited that was just completed and delivered. My wife and I compiled a set of letters and memories for a fellow teacher who is retiring this year. We just handed it over a few nights ago and the thanks we received were priceless. There’s another reason I’ve been away from the keyboard — my wife’s annual Dinner Theatre production at school. I do my best to help out each year and that means putting my life on hold to be there for her. 

…and so, here I am on April 14, 2014 saying to you that my plans for the next four-five months include writing as much as I can. I’ve got the last month of school, final exams, and graduation of course, but then after that… I’ve got a few short stories to finish up, a silo saga trilogy to wrap up, the final Dead Sleep novel to begin (and hopefully finish). 

Thanks again to everyone for taking this journey with me. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a thrill this last year has been for me. Stay tuned for more awesomeness!