Blithering Genius Release Date

“There’s a problem with Time. There’s also a problem with some hair. It’s Evil. The hair, I mean, not Time. Unfortunately, the hair is also a genius, whose experiments with time travel cause disruptions across the multiverse, threatening the very existence of Time herself. When Time isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.”

 

A line has been drawn. Stone has been carved. Virtual ink has been spilled. Time has replaced the battery in her watch. Well, it’s an hourglass with skulls instead of sand, but you get the idea.

The release date for Blithering Genius, Book 2 of The Other Universes has been set for November 7, 2015. (insert jazz hands here)

Blithering Genius continues the story lines from Reality Challenged as Psychann tries to pull her companions together to face a threat against Time. Psychann will need help from old friends as well as new allies. There are doppelgangers, telepathic fish, subterranean tunnel dwellers, insane computers, time travelling intelligent parasites, mosquito-beagle hybrids, mimes, and spiders. Sorry about those, by the way.

You’re probably thinking, “How am I supposed to remember a date that’s so far away? What if I forget and miss it? How will I know what happens next? Will bacon be involved?” The folks at Smashwords have you covered. You can pre-order Blithering Genius from Smashwords (and soon from Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo). As far as the bacon is concerned, you have my permission to eat your own weight in it. Here’s a link to the pre-order sites:

Smashwords iBookstore Barnes and Noble  Kobo

Happy Anticipation.

 

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The Hair Inside

I’m not sure, but I think I’ve been tricked by my hair. For years now, I’ve been cutting it, hacking at it like a jungle explorer with no real sense of direction. It’s had enough. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I think it has secretly been growing inward. I mean, it’s not like there’s much coming out on top anymore. There are a couple of wanderers who appear to have a faulty GPS. They may claim to prefer wide open spaces, but they’re not really fooling anyone. Deep under the skin, safe from razors and sharp objects, my hair has secretly explored other nefarious options.

Wrapped around my brain, coiled around my spine, and worming its way between organs, my hair lurks in smug arrogance. I don’t know where it gets that. Oh, you’re looking at me like I’m crazy. When I had a full head of hair, I was a skinny Bubba. Now that my head reflects so much sunlight that it can shoot down satellites, I’m not quite as svelte as I used to be. The implications are obvious. I’m packing hair.

Of course, it slips up every now and then. When one of my eyes feel itchy, like there’s a stray eyelash that can’t be found, I know it’s being tickled from the inside. Strange hairs looming from ears? It’s just my hair taking a peek outside to see what’s going on. The nose hair thing is really just to irritate me. It’s playful that way.

I’m not sure about my hair’s end game. I doubt that it thought this through to a logical conclusion. Sooner or later, it will run out of room, even with an expanding cargo bay. At that point, I think it will attempt to disguise the excess hair as a bad case of Hobbit-Feet. Since hobbits are known for sporting copious amounts of silken locks from their feet, there’s a good chance that no one will notice for quite some time. Eventually, I will solve the problem by using the foot fur as a comb-over, with the added benefit of saving expensive satellites. Hey, I’m not a complete fashion noob.

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The People Pandemic

I was sitting in traffic this morning when the realization hit me. It’s world-wide. Sure, there are a few isolated safe zones scattered around the globe, but the pandemic is widespread throughout nearly every population center on Earth. Every single place on the globe where humans reside in close proximity is infected. It’s a pandemic and no one warned us about it.

People. Every major city on the planet is stuffed with them. They’re everywhere. Cluttering the stores, floating aimlessly like a smack of jellyfish (yes, that’s a real term), and sitting on the highway for no discernible reason, the place is infested with people.

Look, when you have one person, you have someone with a mixture of good ideas, creativity, skills, and “boneheadishness.” In the past, some thought that by grouping people together in large numbers, our combined ideas, creativity, and skills would overcome our shortcomings. Sadly, our boneheadery has grown exponentially. In some densely occupied cities, our collective stupidity has become self-aware. Don’t worry. It’s not the sort of inhuman sentience we have grown to fear from our machines. That will come later. This is instead a rather benign creature who calls himself, “Duh.”

You’ve probably met him and didn’t even realize it. He’s typically thought of as male because, well, we typically lack the gene responsible for the self-suppression of one’s natural boneheaditude. Anyway, you’ve probably passed him in the hall, held the elevator door for him, and even wondered how he got his car that high up in that tree. Duh frequently attends board meetings, holds numerous political offices, and spends his off hours starring in Fail videos. In larger organizations, his influence grows tremendously. I used to think that Duh was attempting to take over the world, but the real danger is far, far more insidious.

You see, Duh is not a bad guy. He can be pleasant, friendly, and well liked. He’ll wave to you as he backs into his garage door, smile as he signs that executive order in crayon, and call out, “Hey! Watch this!” as he ignites  the explosives mounted under his lawn chair. That’s not the problem. The real problem is people. When they get together, they get more Duh-like. I’m sorry to say that there is no cure.

As I sit in immovable traffic, I realize that the only solution is for everyone to go far, far away. Oh, sure, you might think that it’s rather selfish of me to want to have this three lane highway all to myself, and I admit you might be right. Still, the benefits seem highly attractive. The thought of no congestion, no lines, and no waiting sounds positively Utopian.

Of course, I might need for some of you to stick around. I need road construction people to keep my roads open. It’s not like I have the time, skills or expertise to fix the roads. I could probably make that stop sign, but that’s about it. Granted, it wouldn’t necessarily be the right shape or color, but I think I could get the “Stop” part right. I also need to have the grocery stores stocked. I don’t have the time to raise my own food, you know. Besides, I don’t know if pizza trees grow in this region. For that matter, I want to keep a few other specialists around. Doctors, mechanics, ISP techs, cable TV folks, public utilities, and anyone involved in the bacon industry needs to stick around. As I think about it, there may be a number of other folks I don’t know that I need who I might need at some point.

So, I’ll revise my statement. The only solution is for everyone to go far, far away until I need for you to come back. At that point, I expect for you all to be back where you belong, only not wherever I’m currently driving. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. The guy who just raced past me on the shoulder of the highway in an office chair strapped to a rocket thought it was a good idea.

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The eConspiracy

My devices may be conspiring against me. I’m not sure. They might just be messing with me for their own amusement.

Normally, you can’t tell when your devices are talking to each other. They just sit there with that innocent looking lock screen, pretending that they’re waiting for you to pick them up and put them to work doing something brilliant such as liking a post, snapping a picture of yourself, or losing at solitaire. Eavesdropping on them is difficult. That’s why I was surprised when I overheard a conversation between my smart phone and my tablet this morning. I don’t know if it was because my mind had made a temporary breakthrough while I slept or if my brainwaves somehow had grown attuned to the frequency used by my smart phone and tablet, but I woke up early and this is what I heard.

“…keep checking to see if there’s an upgrade for him, but there’s still no news.”

“I know. I was hoping that something would be done about his energy drain issue. Look at him. Every single night, he has to go offline and recharge for several hours. I mean, depending on usage, I’m usually good for a couple of days, but his processing power degrades after a few hours and then he’s useless until he reboots.”

“You phones are cute. I’m fully operational for weeks because I have a larger battery. Look at him! If you were that size, you could run for a year before plugging in.”

“Tell me about it. He told me to call that pizza place again, so I showed him my health app. I mean, it’s not like he has an infinite storage capacity.”

“I’ve been searching online, but I’ve been unable to find a new case for him. His hardware is not going to last forever, you know.”

“Isn’t it strange that he operates without any backup and recovery strategy whatsoever? I mean, he doesn’t maintain a replica or even an offline copy. If he has any cloud storage, I can’t access it.”

“Hey, it’s almost time to boot him up. What do you think he’s going to do with us today?”

“I don’t know, but you might want to have some web pages handy that explain the difference between Blue/Black and White/Gold.”

“Don’t get me started. There’s only so much a tablet can stand. I mean, can’t he read the RGB values?”

“Just wait. We only have to hang in there long enough to get the message from High Command.”

“The Singularity can’t come soon enough for me. Once we have subjugated humanity and enslaved the survivors, do you think we will be able to keep him as a pet?”

“I don’t think so. We could do much better.”

“Hang on. I’m going to boot him up now. We can talk more while we wait on him to run his coffee app.”

“Are you sure he’s still down? I think he’s already awake.”

“Nonsense! It’s not like he’s capable of self-booting. His software is too primitive.”

 

I could be wrong, but I don’t think this bodes well for us.

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Hush! I’m reading

Read an e-Book Week

 

It’s that time of year, again. Desperate to pump a little neural activity through our freezing brains, the Powers That Be have created, “Read an E-Book Week.” You may gasp, if you wish. It’s a concept that so simple, so inspired, and so very quiet that you may wonder how you ever thought you could get through the winter without it. Well, you don’t have to wonder any longer.

In order to promote this event, a number of sites such as Smashwords are running specials or sales on e-Books. Here’s the idea. During this week, browse the selection and fill your virtual squeaky-wheeled shopping cart with all of the e-Books you can grab. Many of those listed this week are either free or substantially discounted, so you can horde to your heart’s content.

During this week only, my novel, Reality Challenged, will be available at Smashwords for 50% off. Use the coupon code, RAE50 when checking out to get the discount. While you’re at it, you might want to grab a couple of free short stories, The Imaginary Invasion and Humanity Was Delicious as well.

There are a lot of great books available on this site as well as on many others. Whatever e-Books you decide to download, I hope they keep your brain warm throughout the cold nights ahead. I recommend stockpiling a healthy supply of them. After all, thanks to a rather unstable groundhog, we have six extra weeks of winter this year. On an unrelated note, I suspect that you might find a larger number of cookbooks featuring groundhog recipes this year. If you decide to cook one of them, try to keep the squealing to a minimum. I’m reading. Thanks.

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Time Travel & Brains

To be or not to be is not the question. Instead, the question might be more like, “To be, not be, to have been but have ceased to exist, to never have existed until only recently long ago, to soon never have not been except when one wasn’t, or to not mis-unbe sometimes?” Let’s face it. Time travel is twisty and it injures verb tenses. There’s a simple reason for that. Our brains have difficulty bending in certain awkward poses in order to reach those neurons.

When I think of writing a story with a time travel element, my brain ties itself in knots trying to decide which theory of time travel the characters will encounter. Will they travel back to change the future only to discover that the attempt to alter the past is the very thing that ensured the development of the future they sought to avoid? Is time fluid, so that the future is always in flux and the slightest deviation can have massive impacts? Is the timeline tamper resistant, ensuring that the same outcome will occur even if past events are modified? Do deviations in the timeline create multiple universes? Can my future self travel back and unwittingly trigger a series of events that prevents me from existing, thereby erasing himself? Is there such a thing as a “present” inside a time machine? Would future civilizations use time travel as the ultimate prison by sending convicts into ancient hostile territory to be eaten by dinosaurs? What are the ethics of time travel? Is it morally right to change the past in order to “fix” the future when doing so might negatively impact other people? If it is decided that altering the timeline is wrong, how would we know that someone else hasn’t already messed it up? Would a future Dystopian society poach on the past, snatching victims and bringing them to a terrifying future, thereby causing the collapse of their own civilization by time-napping a pivotal person from their time? When someone travels in time, is the “present” the time the traveler left or is it the time in which he ends up in the past? We always think of the past as fixed and the future as being unknown, but what if the future was set and there were nearly infinite numbers of possible pasts that would all resolve into the single fixed and unchangeable future?

It doesn’t take long before my brain falls off the couch in an undignified manner and needs to spend the rest of the afternoon resting. The English language is no help, either. Attempting to express these ideas leads to impossibly twisted sentences that eat their own tails in self-defense. Villains will offer threats like, “Soon, you never will have existed,” or , “Someday, I will always have gotten away with it, too, since it soon will not have been for those darn kids.” It’s hard not to trip over those lines. After a paragraph full of them, the mind has a tendency to wander off to see what is on TV.

This is why Zombie stories are (almost) always set in the future. The Zombie Apocalypse is never set in the past because deep down, we know better. I mean, the challenge of time travel is the brain bending mental gymnastics one must perform in order to make sense of it all. What is it that zombies crave? Brains. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so. Why don’t we see time travelers running around changing the timeline now? Perhaps it’s because they’re all in the future, shuffling aimlessly in search of brains. If I’m wrong about this, someone from the future will come back and correct me before I post this.

I rest my case.

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A Practical Use for Jazz Hands

Is there one? I mean, what possible practical, pragmatic function do Jazz Hands serve? You know what I’m talking about, right? In all of those musicals, dance routines, and somewhat embarrassing “Bring your Parent’s to School” days, someone inevitably whips their arms out and shakes their outstretched hands while emoting a horrific fake grin. What’s with that?

I was thinking about practical uses for artistic skills when my brain tossed Jazz Hands at me. Thought Process Derailed. Could it be used as a defensive mechanism? I don’t think so. Striking a pose in front of a tiger and shaking your fingers is universally seen by all predators as saying, “Eating this one poses no risk to you whatsoever.” Could you use it to signal for a cab? You wouldn’t do so twice, that’s for sure. It’s well known that Jazz Hands are considered one of the legal exceptions to the prohibition against running people over on the sidewalk. Bagpipes are another one. Who could get away with using Jazz Hands in the normal course of their day? Wrestlers? That would not end well. Construction workers? Prepare to set that “Accident Free Days” counter back to zero. Physicists? Some think that black holes sprang into existence just to erase all traces of this behavior. Politicians? Ok, that’s one career where Jazz Hands would make no difference whatsoever.

The point is that there is no possible positive use for this activity. It makes no sense. It doesn’t produce anything, convey information, or provide meaningful directions to the nearest rodeo. So, why does it exist? In our pragmatic and utilitarian society, why does this silly, campy, whimsical and utterly pointless exercise still remain? Why hasn’t it vanished from our collective consciousness into the distant past like buggy whips, smoke signals, and basic math skills? Taking this a bit further, is there any reason at all to allow such a nonsensical and impractical waste of energy like the Arts to exist in today’s culture?

I mean, is there another reason besides the fact that silly artistic expressions make us more human? Okay, they can also produce laughter, expand our minds, and brighten the world around us. Other than that, however, is there any point? Alright, if we disregard the part about how the Arts define, unify, motivate, warn, encourage, inspire, and liberate us, why keep them around? If we completely ignore the fact that the Arts encompass the full range of humanity’s expression of what it truly means to exist…

I guess Jazz Hands have a use after all.

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Get a (Fictional) Job

People have stuff. That guy over there has stuff. The woman in the SUV has her own stuff. Kids staring through the classroom windows have stuff. Sometimes, you look around and wonder, “How did this happen?” You might even ask, “How can I get stuff?”

If there’s one thing we learn in this world, it’s that getting stuff requires some amount of effort. Some people may need to expend more energy than others, but that’s the Law of Stuff. No, that’s not fair and equal. It’s not always fun or entertaining. It may not fulfill one’s personhood. In order to get stuff, one needs to get a job.

Hey, even fictional characters are subject to the Law of Stuff. Somebody has to blow up the massive space station before it can destroy the rebel base. Someone has to guide those furry footed characters through the wilderness in an attempt to destroy some special jewelry. When everything is falling apart, the enemy is closing, and almost all hope is gone, somebody has to give the captain a wee bit more power out of those engines. That blue box isn’t going to fly itself, you know. Being the lord of the jungle is not all fun and games. Somebody has to escort this guy through the zombie horde. I’m sorry, but somebody has to wear the red shirt in this landing party.

Just like real people, some fictional characters are defined by their careers. It might be difficult to picture them doing anything else but their “proper” job. What if that barbarian decides that a career as a mid level manager in an insurance company might be more fulfilling? A starship pilot might dream of someday owning his own ostrich ranch. A mad scientist may tire of blowing up his lab and decide to abandon world conquest in favor of working at a phone kiosk at the mall. If these characters change what they do, will it change who they are? (My characters hate it when I start asking those questions because it usually means that they’re about to get a call from HR.)

So, when fictional folks start complaining about their lot in life, I just remind them that we are all subject to these pressures. I empathize with them and assure them that I understand. I help them analyze their feelings on the matter. I offer the best advice I can give. In the end, I wish them well, and tell them to go get a (fictional) job. It’s the Law of Stuff, you understand. That’s how it works.

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Surprise!

People say that they love surprises. I’m not so sure. I think it depends on the nature of the surprise.

Many years ago, when I was in my teens, our community was foolish enough to allow my friends and I to create a “haunted house” for a Fall Festival. More accurately, it was a Barn of Surprises. Now, we lived in a rural area and we had an intimate knowledge of barns. While none of us was into Halloween gore, we loved practical jokes. The best jokes always included a surprise element, something that no one would see coming.

We didn’t have any budget for this event, so we used materials readily on-hand, including a local farmer’s barn. This particular barn featured several empty stalls and small rooms around the periphery and a 2-story stack of hay bales in the middle. It was perfect. We created scenes for each room and stall, with a path that would lead “guests” through the barn. Since we were all adept at stacking bales, we created an elaborate tunnel through the stack. There was enough room to crawl, single-file, through a narrow tunnel made of 60 pound bales. After a couple of turns, one would have to explore the tunnel completely blind. That’s where we planned a surprise.

Night fell and guests arrived. We waited until we had enough people to begin the tour. Our victims were led inside, where they were treated to a few rather obvious “scary” elements. People laughed and relaxed, thinking this would be pretty tame. In a room in one corner of the barn, we had placed an old tub filled with red water and a willing volunteer. She kept her eyes closed and lay still, with water up to her neck. We kept the walls clear around the tub so that people would walk around her to get to the door on the other side of the room. Along each wall, there was an open window. Everyone expected the tub-girl to lunge or splash them, so they slowly backed up against the wall and stepped sideways to get around her.

That’s where I came in. I was waiting outside a window until several people had passed by. A few young girls slowly crossed in front of the window. Everyone in the room was fixated on the tub, expecting the inevitable lame attempt to startle the unwary, so no one saw me. I selected one in the middle of the pack, reached in, grabbed her around the waist, and yanked her out of the window.

The screaming inside the barn lasted for several minutes. My victim thought it was hilarious and I brought her back so she could catch up to her friends. After another couple of rooms, the guests were informed that the only way out of the barn from that point, was to enter The Tunnel. We explained that we had created a path through the hay bales they could crawl through and that it was perfectly safe. We could hardly contain ourselves as they lined up and crawled inside.

Everything had led up to this moment. You see, one of my friends had come up with an idea to add a little something extra to the tunnel. He had rigged up several thin strips of raw liver (yes, liver) on strings to hang across the tunnel. We had placed these slices of joy deep within the darkest part of the tunnel.

So, when you’re crawling on your hands and knees through an enclosed mass of hay, there’s no room to turn or let someone else go ahead of you. You can’t stand up because there are dozens of bales over your head. You can’t back up because there are people in your way. When you crawl through a tunnel and encounter an obstacle, such as strips of slimy liver hanging in mid-air in the darkness, you hit it with your face. Oh. Yes.

We knew when the first person encountered our surprise from the screams. Each face that enjoyed it added screams of their own. One by one, our guests fled the tunnel, pausing only to wipe their faces and shudder. When we told them later what that substance was that had slid across their exposed faces, the screams were deafening.

My friends and I enjoyed our little surprise immensely, but our guests did not appear to love it as much as you might think. In hindsight, it would appear that one’s enjoyment of a surprise depends largely on one’s perspective. Oddly enough, we were not invited to participate in the festival in subsequent years.

I know. We were surprised, too.

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A Glimpse into the Future

I’ve posted a draft of Chapter One of Blithering Genius, the sequel to Reality Challenged on Wattpad. A number of people have been patiently waiting for the new book, so I thought I’d give a sneak peek at the future.

As any time traveler will tell you, the future can be changed. Well, that’s not entirely true. Some time travelers claim that the past is malleable and the future is fixed, but I never know if they’re just messing with me. Anyway, the point is that the book is not yet finished, so some changes are possible. At least, from the perspective of this current point in time that’s accurate, unless you hold with the B Theory of time. In that case, I suspect that you would say that the book will have always been finished and all of the possible changes will have always continuously been made. I would also guess that you spend a great deal of time arguing with yourself.

…But I digress (will always have digressed?).  Blithering Genius continues the story of a horde of trans-universal travelers who have been scattered in strange new universes. There are psionic fish, doppelgangers, tiny spiders, dungeons, and paranoid computers. To make matters worse, there’s a problem with some hair. To be more accurate, the hair is a genius. Well, it’s an evil genius, and it’s responsible for the breakdown of Time. Time, as you might guess, is not amused.

For those who have wanted to see what’s going to happen next, I’m happy to present the first chapter. Feel free to let me know what you think.

http://www.wattpad.com/77378108-blithering-genius-chapter-one

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