28 November 2013

Have you escaped reality today?

The following should be considered a Public Service Announcement because reading the following novels will help the public be happier, more in tune with the universe, and gain insight into problems that will manifest themselves in the future. 

This announcement is also intended to serve as holiday shopping advice to ease efforts to please the discerning readers in your family.

The Dream Land Trilogy

An eloquently efficient epic of interdimensional intrigue and world domination by a pair of high school sweethearts, filled with twisted humor (think double-helix), some steampunk pathos, a patina of psychological thriller (imagine a police procedural gone bad), passionate romance (tears will be shed!), graphic violence (de rigueur in battles scenes with a cast of millions), and the inevitability of quirky conundrums of time and space.

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a doorway to another world?

The Dream Land I "Long Distance Voyager"

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty. 

Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly--he calls it “research”--and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates. 

Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. Then the headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back on his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.

But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.

Kindle- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AH1V78Q

Paper- http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939296226

Kindle- http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AH1V78Q
Paperback- http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1939296226


Kindle- http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00AH1V78Q

Kindle- http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00AH1V78Q

No Kindle? Get "Kindle for PC" and read on your computer or tablet!

The Dream Land II "Dreams of Future's Past"

After his adventures in Book I, Sebastian Talbot (a.k.a. Set-d’Elous, legendary warrior and Sekuatean cavalry captain) has exiled himself to a desolate island, content to laze away the days writing his memoir. Until the emissary from Queen Tammy arrives with a mission he cannot refuse. Tammy, the IRS clerk he took to Ghoupallesz along with Michael in Book I, wants him to go fetch her son who she left on Earth. How could she return for him? She married the King of Aivana.

That mission raises desperate questions for Sebastian: If he can go back and forth through these interdimensional doorways and arrive in different time periods, perhaps he can do something to prevent the big war he fought through, the war that destroyed his family and millions of others. So he returns to his Ghoupalle wife, Zaura. While on patrol duty, he comes upon a young poetess he knows will become the rebel leader who helps overthrow the monarchy and causes the wars. 

Meanwhile, back on Earth in another timeline, Sebastian awakens from a coma and is helped in his recovery by Dr. Toni Franck. An affair develops—just as his opportunity for escape comes along. Later, as Sebastian/Set escorts teams of mercenaries back and forth to conduct their history-changing business, he tries to meet up with Toni again only to realize the police are still in pursuing him. Desperate to see her, he arranges a meeting only to have a SWAT team show up, cornering him. Can he escape through an interdimensional doorway this time?

Paper- http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939296269

Kindle- http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D94Y06O
Paperback- http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1939296269

Kindle- http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00D94Y06O

Kindle- http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00D94Y06O

No Kindle? Get "Kindle for PC" and read on your computer or tablet!

The Dream Land III "Diaspora"

Set-d’Elous (a.k.a. Sebastian Talbot) finds himself paralyzed and mute, tormented daily by the mocking spirit of the evil Empress—his wife. His only hope is to be rescued, but all his fellow Voyagers have been blown to other places, some back to Earth. They awaken to a world they had left and now cannot comprehend. Tammy’s son, Chucker, awakens in the jungle, however, and in his years there realizes what went wrong in his team’s assassination attempt on the Emperor of Sekuate: they shot the wrong guy. 

Feeling guilty, Chucker tracks Set-d’Elous to Earth, where he is locked up in a prison hospital, let out once a month for a day with Dr. Toni Franck, his former psychiatrist now wife. With the aid of a retired cop, Chucker must rescue Sebastian in order to counter the rise of a violent prophet’s cult back on Ghoupallesz. Only a final battle will decide the truth—a truth that permeates the next few centuries.... 

Legend tells of a comet that will cleanse the world, and governments realize it is near. Fortunately, Jinetta-d’Elous (a.k.a. Gina Parton, Interdimensional Voyager), a struggling mother of two, comes forward to offer assistance. Leading the aerospace commission, she tries to drive forward Ghoupallean technology from airships to interstellar spacecraft in the time remaining. However, success has its price and as the clock counts down, Gina must rescue her daughter from the evil Overlord and secure seats aboard the last spacecraft departing before the comet strikes.

Kindle- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GVJGP9E

Paper- http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939296277

Kindle- http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GVJGP9E
Paperback- http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1939296277

Kindle- http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00GVJGP9E

Kindle- http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00GVJGP9E

No Kindle? Get "Kindle for PC" and read on your computer or tablet!

For additional information, check the Dream-o-pedia page, an index page of links to everything you want to know about the Dream Land.

in association with

*On a personal note, I really enjoy writing stories, especially those where I have free rein to plunge into fantastic worlds, as with the Dream Land trilogy. Since overcoming some medical issues, the desire to share this story was reawakened. Before that moment, Book I sat finished and Book II was started--then left on a dusty shelf deep inside my computer for almost ten years as I lived my life. With an encouraging kickoff via the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I was able to climb into the saddle again (metaphors and all) and finished Book II. Then in 2013 I was able to ride the Muses through a hard six-week writing marathon that became the bulk of Book III. So I'm excited to have this trilogy complete, and I offer it now to those who enjoy quirky, weird, otherworldly, science-fiction, epic steampunkish stories of normal people doing things they probably shouldn't and regretting their actions, forced to fight both the environment around them as well as within them. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing these books. Thanks!

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

23 November 2013

Stuff yer own bird! (free recipe included)

'Tis the time to tickle the titillating turkey! 

This week many will be slouching and slumping and snoring or snorting, content in the afterglow of their gluttonous indulgences and warm family camaraderie the put off for almost 365 days each year. That is our holiday tradition in the north of America, no matter how the origins and historical developments and political corrections have affected it. I, for one, do not indulge much on these days called holidays; however, I always enjoy a day off from the usual.

I recommend this source of information about Thanksgiving because practically all of it is wrong, or considered wrong to someone somewhere. Or the official source, Plymouth Plantation, if you care to surround yourself with facts and speculations. They may yet be debated, if you have time after dinner and between the games.

A bit of personal connection: I visited the Plymouth site in Massachusetts as a child, gazed down upon the 1621-stamped big rock called Plymouth, yet did not travel there in a Plymouth automobile. The irony!

Nevertheless, holiday traditions die hard (though the turkeys are fairly easy). From time immemorial I and all my relations would gather at the grandparents' residence with food in hand and have a grand feast. I recall dinners with a giant turkey and a giant ham and a hundred side dishes and a thousand desserts. I recall not having much leftovers, either. Now, however, I can barely finish a turkey sandwich and a side of sweet potato. Then my cousins grew up (and I suppose I did, too) and we all had our own families. By then, the grandparents passed on and Thanksgiving dinners became separate and self-contained. At some point it became pointless to go to the trouble of it, even at the risk of having no leftovers.

I remember the best of the worst:

  • 2003. Stuck in my doctoral program in the snowy hills of western Pennsylvania, it did not make sense to travel back to Kansas for three days. Especially so when I had final papers to prepare. So I just made burritos at home and kept typing my papers.
  • 2010. Nobody was interested in going to the trouble of cooking a big dinner, so I went out to the grocery and bought a portion of smoked turkey and side dishes from the deli in the store. Ended up I ate it all myself.
  • 1988 and 1989. I was living in Japan so it wasn't even a holiday. And turkey was an unfamiliar bird. I cannot recall exactly what I ate on those days yet it was likely something with teriyaki sauce on it.
  • 2007. I had the turkey dinner, which was fine. On the drive back to Pennsylvania, however, I had a flat tire on a rainy Sunday night passing through the bad part of Columbus, Ohio, and had to stay over to get the tire fixed the next morning. I ate at the Waffle House, but no turkey.
  • Another year in my youth I agreed to attend a "starve-in" at a local church. Young people would empathize with the starving masses of the world by not eating Thanksgiving dinner. At all. To help us endure our hunger we played games and had other entertainments. When it was done, I went home and dove into the leftovers my parents had. I only went to that event to impress a girl. What a turkey I was!
  • Not sure of the year but it was while I was living at my parents' house, so I must have been young. We had a goose, at my request. Richer taste, oily meat, less meat for leftovers, a free portion of pate de fois gras (liver), and a bad case of indigestion which was later identified as ptomaine poisoning. Cook your bird thoroughly!
Or, as the early founding chefs had the menu, stick with venison and lobster! Or, in the alternative, try soybean pudding, sometimes called "tofu." Perhaps a turkey substitute could be created from various local vegetables and exotic fruits. Use your imagination. And don't forget the turkey chili . . . for the next two weeks!

No matter what happens this year, indulge in moderation and may your moderation be indulgent. See you on the other side!

Yes, this post is mostly borrowed from a previous year's celebratory posting. So, for this year, I've sweetened the deal with my own stuffing recipe!

Stephen's Stuffing 
[please, no weird puns, ok?]

Ingredients: a loaf of cheap bread, stick of real butter, medium summer sausage, bag of dried apricots, bunch of celery, little jar of sage, a bottle of orange juice, salt & pepper to your tastes. (You could substitute cooked/dried cranberries for the apricots, if you wish; in that case, skip the OJ and use cranberry juice.)

Spread butter over several slices of bread. Tear up the bread into little pieces, putting the pieces into a large bowl.

Cut up the sausage; slice then dice. Put that it the large bowl with the bread pieces. Cut the apricots and celery into little pieces and put the pieces into the large bowl. Shake in a good amount of sage, salt, and pepper. Mix up everything in the large bowl.

Take the mixture from the bowl and put it into a small pan, something like 8x8 inches will do--or 9x9, 10x10, 12x12, whatever fits the size of your appetite. (I do not recommend stuffing the turkey itself because it is rather gross when you think about it and you don't know for sure what is still inside the turkey.) Then sprinkle some sage on top. Pour some orange juice into the pan; not a lot, but get everything wet. The OJ will make it slightly tart; you can skip the OJ if you want to and it will still be good.

Put the pan with the stuffing in it into the oven and bake until it starts to smell good, perhaps 30 to 40 minutes at 350*F. I'm going on memory now, so be careful. Putting foil over the top may help it along. It seems to me that we always put it in with the foil-wrapped potatoes for the same time and temp, so try that.

Or, you could layer each ingredient in the pan: bread pieces first, then the pieces of sausage, celery, apricot, sage, and repeat. Pour the orange juice over the top, let it soak down into the mixture, then bake.

NOTE: I am not, nor have I ever been, a cook, chef, or baker. However, this recipe is a hybrid of recipes I assisted with in my youth, standing alongside one or the other grandmother, so it checks out. You will not get sick from eating it. Enjoy!

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

16 November 2013

Are you better at wasting time than me?

Forgive me, for I have not blogged for a couple of weeks. I did not intend to worry anyone. I assumed that you would assume that I was busy. And we both would be half-right.

No, the truth is much more glamorous than that: I have been un-busy. Slothsome, in fact. Sure, I've held up my end of the bargain at Ye Ole Day Job, so that may count as some form of recreation. I go through my paces, saying the right words, smiling at the right moments, interacting as though I live and breathe. But it may be construed by any astute observer to be a very good act, perhaps worthy of an Oscar. (That Acting 101 class finally pays off!) I confess to using more and more of my office time to see what great things are happening in the world of social media...and find myself more often than not rather disappointed in humanity.

And I've been dutiful in my duties at home, i.e., the book business. Things are progressing nicely, but I shan't explain more lest certain somebodies be tempted to rant that I am promoting again. That nasty P-word! I'm not after huge sums of cash; I only wish to share a good story or two--or three. Welcome to my [invented] world, and all that! Enjoy the ride. (You can click on links to the top-right of my page if you wish to escape reality.)

It is simply the time of year that it happens to be now. The mirth of Halloween is done, the upswing to the Thanksgiving shopping season is about to begin, and that leaves us (well, me, anyway) with not much to do. Last blog post, I waxed on waxed off about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), lamenting how I could not participate because of my full schedule--then that full schedule never quite materialized. I look like a liar now.

So I made excuses. Sure, I've written 50,000 words in a month. No big deal. Sure, I've got papers to grade (well, those that have been turned in). Sure, I've got life issues to slap around--and, in turn, dodge the ripostes. Sure, the weather has been up and down, hot and cold, winter parkas and shirtsleeves. Sure, I avoid saying 'surely' so as not to link with that Airplane movie's tag line ("And don't call me Shirley!"). Still, they add up to no excuse, which is just a poor excuse.

However, I have been successful in one endeavor: wasting time. Of course, time is finite, and if you waste it, you don't get it back. It's a zero-sum game and you don't know the rules. Father Time is a cheater, too. (Truth be told, that time machine thing I mentioned a while back? Well, it's fictitious. I know you're shocked.) Clocks are evil, alarms like a musty foot out of hell. Calendars steal your soul. In a perfect universe time would be unmeasurable, one eternity as slick as one moment. Thus, what you waste is truly waste. And what a waste that is!

So one day last week, I found myself standing in the middle of my kitchen wondering what to do: at that moment, lost between one particular second and another particular second, wondering why it's called a 'second' when certainly there is a 'first' and a 'third' that will tick by just as blithely as the second second. Coffee, cocoa, or tea? Bagel, muffin, or oatmeal? See a movie, browse for books, or shop for groceries? Too many choices. And then it hit me: the insight I'd been waiting for:

When you turn the last page of a calendar, you're done. No more. The end.

Well, that probably was not as dramatic as it could have been, but it fulfills the goal of cranking out a crank blog post before my first sip of coffee. Notice I pasted an hour glass instead of a calendar? That's got to mean something. In the end I chose the muffin and the bookstore. I watched people come and go. Some of them stopped for a while, cracked book covers. Creepy! Others seemed as lost as me, wondering what to do between our lives, the here and now versus the whatever comes next. Some call it the weekend. End? Did someone just type 'w-e-e-k-e-n-d'?

Perhaps, I should have waited to write this until the first cup was finished. Then I would not need spellcheck. Then I could have been more verbose, more sanguine, more...whatever. I really should not blog on an empty stomach. Thanks for your patience. As always.

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

03 November 2013

Navigating the Ne'ery Month of November

November 1 is a day for anniversaries and deadlines. The end of hurricane season and the end of summer (in the south). Halloween festivities are done and Christmas decorations are being set up. Turkeys are milling warily about the barnyard, and students have decided once and for all whether the semester is salvageable--or not. Trees lose their leaves and the leaves are pressed between the pages of books....

It is also the start of National Novel Writing Month for those whose nervous fingers cannot avoid the lusty keys. I have never been able to participate because of its unfortunate scheduling. November is the fattiest meat of the fall semester; it's when I have the most day-job work to do. Sure, I could write a draft of a novel in a month--if I had no day job to tend to, if I had no other disruptions, and if I had the idea in advance. I would like to give it a go one of these years.

I sorta, kinda did that last spring (i.e., 2013). Actually it started in mid-April and went on every night and some afternoons and the occasional morning all the way into June. The day job was an interference only in April and the first half of May. More importantly, I had the idea in advance and it was compelling enough to drive me through the story in dramatic fashion.

I'm referring to the final volume of THE DREAM LAND Trilogy, subtitled "Diaspora"--which suggests the evacuation of a planet's population in advance of a fatal comet's arrival. Whoops! Was that a spoiler? Not really. The story is what the people do and how they do what they do in dealing with that news. And perhaps the best part is that my heroine from Book I (and who appears a few places in Book II) comes back in full glory to lead their industry from airships to interstellar spacecraft--all the while managing a rebellious daughter and countering the evil Overlord. It's a page-turner!

The goal for NaNoWriMo is a 50,000 word book, by definition the minimum length for a "novel". It's not easy to calculate and compare accurately, but when I leaped into DL3 Diaspora, I skipped over the 10,000 words I'd previously written back during the afterglow of completing DL2 Dreams of Future's Past, the first chapter plus some ideas for other chapters, and I went straight to what interested me at that point in time: the final years of the planet featured in the trilogy. I researched everything I could find about astrophysics and advanced propulsion systems, striving to bring authenticity to the story--like all good sci-fi authors do. By the time I let the comet hit, I'd written 72,000 words. Comparing the time factor, that writing effort approximated the 50,000 words in one month that is NaNoWriMo writers' goal. Now just shift that calender.

But we cannot usually just sit down at a given moment and type out a story. I, for one, am a slave to my muses. I cannot work unless they approve of the project. Once started, however, I can run on fumes until it's finished. Then, when it's finished, I fall into a useless funk, dreading I'll never write anything ever again. Months later I get another idea and run it by my muses to see if it passes muster. Then I wonder why I ever had doubts about writing again. It is what I do, after all. No matter what month it is. When I retire and have my Novembers free, I will be there. I have a few ideas sitting on the shelves, don't worry, waiting to be filled out as novels.

This blog post is sponsored by The Dream Land Trilogy:

THE DREAM LAND Book II "Dreams of Future's Past" has been available as an ebook and now is also available in paperback: Here's the ebook page on Amazon; click the paperback button when it shows up.

THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora" will be available as both ebook and paperback simultaneously in December 2013.

AND don't forget where it all begins:

THE DREAM LAND Book I "Long Distance Voyager" is currently available as both ebook and paperback.

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.