Free Fiction

It's been a great Labor Day Weekend.  

One of my daughters decided to stay home with me while the wife and other two kids headed to a nearby state to see family and celebrate a religious rite of passage.  The daughter that stayed with me is a bit of an activity addict, just like the other kids and her old man.  So, it was First Friday in downtown LV on Friday night.  Food, crafts, music, weirdness.  It was fun.

The next day was low key.  Some Crazy Pita and a movie.  We went and saw Baby Driver.  Yes, I know it's an R-rated film, but it really is some of the best writing and filmmaking to come out of Hollywood this year.  Having already seen it once, I had wanted her to be exposed to this kind of storytelling.

The story is powerful, the characters are compelling and the dialogue is fantastic.  If you haven't seen it yet, because you didn't like the title or it didn't appeal to you, do yourself a favor and get a ticket and go.  Edgar Wright shows why he's an underrated genius in this masterpiece.

Yesterday was pretty chill, but today with the other kids home, we decided to head up to Mary Jane Falls in the heart of Mount Charleston.  No joke, there are small waterfalls that are trickling down from the mountain (after a rather intense 2 mile hike) that you can stand under and cool off before heading back down the trail.  

Free Stuff!

Anyway, the other big thing to mention is that I decided to do a 'soft' promotion for The Son of San Diablo: A Manifest Galaxy Novel.  It's not the first free promotion I have done.  However, it is the first for this particular book.  At the time of this writing, a few dozen Amazon readers have 'purchased' the free book and have downloaded it to their Kindles or Kindle apps.  

I will admit that I struggle with the concept of 'Free' with Amazon.  Personally, I think that allowing people to sell their works as low as $0.99 or to allow for the reader to read it through the Kindle Unlimited program makes the most sense.  The problem with giving away everything for free is that free becomes the expectation and the rule.  It tells the reader 'Hey, I don't value all of the work I've done on this and really, neither should you.'  Maybe I'm just overthinking it, but it does seem silly that the way I'm supposed to get new readers in Amazon's eyes is to give things away for free.

Regardless, I am hard at work on a three part series that continues the 'Manifest Galaxy' legacy with some of the characters and concepts that were introduced in the first book.  It will be easier to give away one fiction book when I have multiple parts of the series to sell.  

It Should Mean Something 

It might just be me, but I think writing a fiction story should mean something.  I'm going out onto a limb here with this opinion, but since analytics tells me only a few dozen people are checking in every week, I am probably in pretty safe company at the moment.

When I say fiction should mean something, I don't mean that it must contain some moral message.  Nor do I think it has to teach or preach.  If some lesson or moral makes itself apparent through the theme of the story, then the best fiction will do that for some of the readers, some of the time.  I think the best stories don't have any kind of universal meaning, they just should have meaning.  Some things in the story might ring true for most of humanity, but it can mean something to others and neither is wrong.

Take for instance, the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness.  As far as we know, Conrad was being paid by the word and his intention may not have been to satirize the view that western culture was superior and that imperialism was some sort of infallible force.  Yet, after finishing the book the other week, I took to the Internet, as any inquisitive reader would do and I wanted to see what others thought of the book.  

While I can understand the racist overtones that many readers and critics perceive in the text along with some readers' dissatisfaction with what they call the underwhelming climax, I think there is something deeper there.  I believe that Conrad really wanted to explore the dark side of human nature and what a man might do were he left to his own devices and given all power out in the remoteness of nature.  Of course, this wouldn't be the case with every man or woman who was put into the same position as Kurtz was at the Inner Station.  However, his desire to enact on what were clearly psychopathic tendencies is clear and undeniable.  I think this was something Conrad was trying to explore, albeit indirectly.  

While we're digging for the truth, I have a confession to make.  I never finished Heart of Darkness until about a week ago.  I had made at least two valiant attempts to read the book over the years and failed in both at around the 40 page mark.  Conrad does seem to take his time getting things started.  However, once protagonist Marlow gets to the mouth of the river, things become more interesting.

Anyway, there is a reason for my strange confession to not reading a book that is over one hundred years old until just now.  It is because the stories we tell run parallel to each other in a certain way.  His story takes place in late 19th Century Africa and my story takes place over 600 after humanity has reckoned time in a way that coincides with the discovery of the first wormhole outside of our solar system.  Yet, both stories are told through the point of view of protagonists who meet charismatic and influential figures that have feet of clay.  

Both Kurtz in Conrad's book and Barney in The Son of San Diablo are held up as paragons of virtue by those around them.  In both cases, the truth becomes unravelled slowly and our heroes must make certain decisions related to what they will do with the truth.  I won't give up the end of Conrad's book and of course, I'm not going to tell you how my book ends.  The funny thing though is the way I ended up making decisions in the book that I never knew would be so closely related to Conrad's book.  However, let me be clear.  Conrad is the vastly superior writer to myself.  His way of weaving a yarn is so compelling and just darn fun, that once he gets going, it's hard to keep up.

Early Twentieth Century Literature

This brief touching upon Joseph Conrad and Heart of Darkness has led me to make another strange confession.  I've lately become a bit preoccupied and a little obsessed with fiction from the Edwardian Era.  This was early 20th Century fiction such as stuff written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling and of course, Joseph Conrad.  I have much more to say about this new avenue of study at some point, but I will digress.  I also have more to say about the mastery with which Conrad concocts his tale, but I will save it for another time.


A Tribute to My Mother

I’ve learned over the last week that nothing can prepare a child for the eventual loss of his or her parent. Last month, my mother took her final breaths and then her spirit shed its mortal coil and left us to join the angels in heaven. After a long-fought battle with cancer that started almost exactly twenty years ago, Julia Anne Clark finally succumbed last Thursday night in her and my dad’s house in Fontana.

Other than my wife, she was my biggest fan and cheerleader of my work and my writing.  She was one of the most optimistic and emotionally resilient people in my life.  She radiated positive energy to everyone around her.

My heart broke repeatedly as I sat in her home and watched the pain and discomfort she experienced during her final weeks in home hospice care. Despite all of our feeble efforts to ease the discomfort, her pain never fully subsided while she was still alive. As the days wore on, she had become smaller and more frail, but her fighting spirit stayed strong until the end. My mother was that kind of person. She was silently stubborn at times and had taught her kids to never give up and to hold on to their dreams. She also had an innocent sense of humor and was continually looking for fun things to do with her kids and her grandkids.

There are so many wonderful things that have been written about her by family and friends and I thank them for their kind words from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank my dad, brother, sister and sister-in-law for everything they did to assist and comfort her during those final weeks. In many ways, she was truly the embodiment of the generous, giving soul who always took an interest in others and helped them feel like they were a part of something bigger. Maybe that was one of the reasons why she chose to become a special education teacher. Those souls with special needs who came down to earth might have felt the most alone of us all and like they didn’t fit in. It was God who put them in her path and vice versa, so that those with special needs would feel that love and the inclusion from someone special like her.

She was someone that I admired throughout my life. When I look back now, my one ‘irrational’ regret is that I didn’t take more pictures standing beside her… just she and I and no one else in the frame. I was proud to have her as my mother. I guess I just thought she’d always be around and there would be time for more pictures.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but being a part of my mother’s end-of-life care taught me more deeply, some lessons I might have forgotten otherwise. Give time to loved ones. Cherish the present with the people you love. Be gentle. Be brave. Be kind. Life is too short to hold onto destructive grudges. Forgive while you can and seek others’ forgiveness before it’s too late.

My mom was a unique and special individual. I wish more of you could have gotten to know her like I did. She was the kind of person that really did take an interest in others and show it outwardly. I think some of her good qualities rubbed off on me, Cassell and Kenlon along with our spouses.

When I think of her life and example, I’m happy and proud to say I am and always will be Julia Clark’s boy.

Love you, Mom.

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Me and Mom.jpg