Free eBooks

I've scheduled some promotions for the next month.

January 11-15 the ebook of "Shooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy's Perspective" will be free on Amazon.com


January 25-29 the ebook of "Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age" will be free on Amazon.com


February 1-5 the ebook of Shooting Stars 3 "Blue Moon" will be free on Amazon.com


Yes. I'm still here.

These are not new years resolutions, only the things I currently have planned, coinciding with starting a monthly news letter and email list. With the way Amazon, Facebook, and other platforms may change their policies over night and cut my exposure down in an instant, it only makes sense to create a more intimate source, a more individually captained source, for contact with people who might be interested in my fiction.

So, if you're interested, here's what I have planned:

A monthly newsletter updating the status of each of my projects, sharing personal successes in writing, running, and family life, probably sharing an absurd observation or two, and sharing a short story from one of my fictional environments which shouldn't be available elsewhere.

Projects I currently have going are:

The Price of Friendship (ebook). It is through edits. I'm working on the book cover and formatting. It should be out by the end of February 2019.

The Galactic Battle Base: Space Dust (ebook) It is also through edits, the cover is almost done, and it needs formatting. Also should be out by the end of February 2019.

The Pariah. Episodes 15-20 are ready to be recorded and released as podcast episodes. After that, they will be released as the fourth novella/chapter book. I'm editing Episodes 21-24. When they are recorded and released as podcast episodes, I will re edit the entire novel and then send it to an editor.

Shooting Stars 4 needs another major edit with another 10K words.

Next week I'm taking a day off from the day job to outline my short stories for my monthly new letters with the first news letter due out at the beginning of February.

Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Girl in Pieces, by Kathleen Glasgow, starts out with a nameless, silent girl in a mental hospital sharing her mental observations. Silent Sue, one of the other patients calls her. All the women on this floor are the self-harmers, the NSSI--Non Suicidal Self Injury, the cutters and burners.
We learn her story is small slices--the chapters are short, some a single paragraph. But the author's ability to pack so much information, characterization and emotion into the each sentence is one of the things that makes this novel so great.
Left on the lawn of a hospital, freezing and bleeding to death, her own story comes back to her in pieces. Charlie begins to open to her doctors and fellow patients as she begins to remember who she is and what happened.
I felt her anxiety as she has to leave the safety of the hospital and enter the public world in the care of her mother whom she fears.
That's all the plot I will share, because the discovery of herself and of her capacities, scraping away the surface and finding the abuses and fears below is what kept me reading, (or listening in my  case).
I have written a novel where my main character is a teenage girl who cuts. It's science fiction, set 800 years in the future and I've shared some of the chapters on my blog. I've written it as "the other", as it is called in literature--writing from another's point of view, position of experience, not having lived it myself. I hurt for these girls, and the growing number of boys, who have  suffered so much at their own hands, whose only break from depression and anxiety is to create their own physical pain. I wanted to say something that would bring their plight more awareness.
Kathleen Glasgow comes at this novel, not as the other, but as the person who has experienced this life first hand and hearing her own words at the end of the audio version brought the impact of the novel to an even deeper level to me.
I loved this story for the author's beautiful, some call it poetic, writing. For Charlie's ceaseless striving for acceptance and love, and her eternal struggle to overcome her weaknesses and doubts.
Note: This novel contains strong language, violence, and sexual situations.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Pieces-Kathlee...

YA Books Podcast

I know. I've tried podcasting before, and believe me, I intend to finish the Pariah Podcast. I'm recording episode 11 right now, with 12 ready to record right afterward. I'm editing episode 13 and am writing 16 which will fold Nit into the story completely.

This new podcast is supposed to be my effort at doing something for the community. Whether you are readers of YA fiction or writers of the same, my hope is that you will find interesting interviews with author you read or want to emulate.

I want to interview authors of all types of YA Fiction: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Mystery, even Literary.

I've done about ten interviews so far and have launched the podcast with the first four episodes.

It's available on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/yabookspodcasts-podcast/id1044942015?mt=2 and on Libsyn.com. However, if you go to Libsyn, download the episodes. If you try to stream them they...well, they don't after 28 seconds.

I'm meeting lots of great authors and am having a blast talking with them about their lives, their books, inspiration and their writing methods.

Come by, check it out, and, by all means, subscribe and leave me a review. I don't care if the review is bad...that's what I need to get in front of more listeners: subscriptions and reviews.



Beat - How To Suspend Disbelief

I recently read the book, "Beat" by Jared Garrett. I was really looking forward to it because I've been impressed with what Adam Sidwell and Future House Publishing have put out. Adam even says that if you liked Hunger Games, you'll like this one.

While it was a good story, with driving action and suspense, at times, I didn't find a comparison to Hunger Games nearly accurate.

This is a great book for a teenager who wants an exciting book with action and tension. For a teenager who is analytical or an adult who is marginally familiar with statistics it could only be considered an average read--too many plot holes and far too many bullets for a fifteen-year-old boy to survive.

I'll try to avoid spoilers...

The premise is fun but a little too simple to work. Ninety percent of humanity is wiped out by a bug that kills when a victim's heart rate exceeds 140 to 150 beats per minute. This happened about 100 years before Nik Granjer rides his bike through New Frisko, a calm and controlled reproduction of the former, but now dead, city. I got the impression that the infection came during out current era. By my calculation there should have been over 700 million people left on earth; many more than seem to be left in this society.

This was the first thing that challenged my ability to suspend disbelief. With only ten percent of humanity left there would not be enough infrastructure left to not only continue the existing level of technology, but actually advance way beyond that.

Some simple things threw me off as well. Like the redwood trees and seeing snow on the mountains. I got the impression that the New Frisko was near the old one. You can't see any mountains with snow on them from anywhere near San Francisco and the redwood forests he describes would have to have grown up since the Infektion, about 100 years before. For trees to grow the size he describes, they would need closer to 1000 years.

The story is told in the first person point of view. I'm not a big fan. As a result, the middle twenty percent of the story drags as Nik "notices" and "realizes" things, and processes his thoughts over and over, and develops his theories.

Finally hooking up with a friend, the story picks up its pace again and becomes more interesting.

The author alters some spelling conventions under the pretense that these letters have been outlawed to simplify communication. I found these misspellings distracting and inconsistent.
Overall, the pace is fast with interesting--though not always believable--details. As I said at the beginning, a great read for a teenage boy.

What's Going On...

What's Happening Now.

So. In trying to find out if writing a blog every day was something that would help me sell books, I found out that it has no short term effect. I found I would only get new people reading my blog if I advertised it on twitter. The only person who came to my website and read my posts consistently was my daughter. Thanks, Lisa. Maybe longterm blogging will have an effect. Trying to come up with an idea every day was too hard. Maybe once a week.

In the last week I have finished editing the text of six episodes for the podcast novel, "The Pariah". I've recorded the first episode and I'm edeting it right now. I want to have at least three episodes completely done and ready to play at the end of the month (January). I want to post my first episode on Feb 6th.

I've signed up for the Grape Con, in Lodi, California for the 8th of Feb. It's a pretty small comic con, but it's a place for me to get used to taking to people about my books.

I got 25 copies of "Shooting Stars" to add to the 23 copies of "Flypaper Boy" to have at the con and I'll sell them for $9.99 instead of the regular $12.99. I ordered a iPhone credit card reader for Paypal, that I will have there so I can take credit card payments. I'll also have flyers about the Pariah Podcast and  the Patreon.com compain for it.

"Shooting Stars" launches on January 26th. It's really already on Amazon, but I'd like to have people buy it on that day if at all possible. I have a Kindle Countdown starting on that day for "Flypaper Boy" so it will be selling for 99 cents. It will be 99 cents until Wednesday, when it will change to $1.99 and then back to $2.99 on Friday. 

I paid for an advetisement for the first three days. I also paid for an ad for "Shooting Stars" whichi will be 99 cents for those first two days as well. I'm hoping the two books cross pollinate each other and boost sales over all. I'm also doing a book giveaway for Shooting Stars at good reads from now through launch day.

Finally, I'm giving away a Kindle Fire HD7 through a website that will administer the drawing and collect email addresses for me from an opt-in form they fill out while entering the give away and generating likes for my author's page on Facebook.

I added an author page on Amazon.com.

Trigger Warnings is still will the editor. The picture book idea sounded too risky for a publisher I talk with about it. I may try doing it for the Kindle with an application they have developed for picture books on the kindle.


Is this the way to be found?

Is this the way to be found?

I'm a big Peter Hollens fan. If you don't know who he is, he is a Youtube Acapella singer. He makes all of the sounds and music himself, and mixes them together. Kind of like what Bobby McFerrin does. (If you're old enough to remember him--"Don't Worry, Be Happy")

I've followed Peter Hollens for a few years after my daughter showed me one of his videos. He's incredibly talented and sings with all kinds of other Youtube stars, and occasionally his wife. 

I was watching one of his videos and he mentioned his Patreon account and requested people check it out. On that site, people can make standing donations per new video he puts out. There are rewards for donating larger amounts, like getting karaoki tracks of his songs, etc. I was convinced enough that I donate a few dollars per video, not to excede $10 per month.

He gets about $5000 per video he puts out now and this had made it possible to spend all of his time making videos, instead of as a hobby or on a limited basis. I feel 'special' that I'm one of the people who makes it possible to improve the quality of his videos.

As I surfed around his site I began to wonder if it would be possible for a writer to benefit from Patreon.

So, I'm giving it a shot. I set up my page, campaign, or whatever it is, for the podcast story I am working on right now. This is my site: http://www.patreon.com/Norvaljoe

I won't tell you everything about it--I want you to go look at it. I'll tell you this much, the podcast will still be free through iTunes or direct from my site, but there will be extras for those who donate. Things like "Story Only" versions of the podcast, Chapter Books, and the whole novel when it has been fully edited and a new cover designed.

As you know, I'm trying to make my way in this field. If this works, you'll hear about it right here.


The Pariah Podcast

The Pariah Podcast

Last year, 2013, for Nanowrimo, (National Novel Writing Month) I wanted to expand on a short story I wrote over the summer. It was in a fantasy world and featured a boy who believes he is destined to get a Tiger-Hawk on his King's Service selection day. Every third child in the kingdom is given into the King's Service. There are roughly 13,000 who enter every year. Each is tested to see if they have an empathic ability to connect with a fighting creature. About one half of one percent are able to do this, so there are roughly 500 who go into the creature handler corps ever year.

Keo, my hero is the ninth child of his family, which is extremely rare. Both his older sister and older brother were chosen for the creature handlers and both raised a Tiger-Hawk.

2013 was the first year that I used a detailed outline to write the story. However, it was so detailed that it turned into three books. I wrote the first of the three that year with 100K words written in 28 days.

So, what I've decided to do is break that into twenty episodes of about 5k words each and podcast the story, two episodes every month until it is done. If it goes well, I will work on continuing the remaining two stories as soon as the first ends. I need four episodes done to launch. I've edited the first two and hope to have this rolling by the first of February.

I'm looking at doing something with Patreon.com to generate a little monetary motivation for me to stay focused on this project. If you're not familiar with Patreon.com, there are a lot of wonderful artists, musicians, etc, there whom you can support and help them produce more content. (Specifically Peter Hollens. I support him.)


Nanowrimo Starts Tomorrow

I was working on my Character Motivations this morning. I finished my outline yesterday and ended up with over 7K words.

David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants yesterday talked a bit about writer's block for him was usually that he hadn't fleshed out his characters and their motivations. I figured since I had another day before the madness would begin, I would do just that.

My story this year is called, "Shooting Stars 2: Drawn into the Mist".  "Shooting Stars 1: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy's Perspective", will be released in early to mid-December. I thought it would be good to get started on the second in that "Trilogy", in the odd chance that someone, other than family and friends, actually buys in and looks forward to the next in the series. I will admit, up front, that the first book ends, but it is obvious that a second must follow. And I'll clue you in now, it will take a third to resolve. I will probably write that book in the summer, just as soon as I get #2 published.

So. Back to the Character Motivations. I know my primary characters well and am pretty clued in on what they are after. It's the secondary characters that they interact with in this book that I wanted a better clue about. While I was working on the motivation of these background people, and what brings them into contact with my primaries, I fell upon the plot for the fourth novel, (in this trilogy). (I know that jokes been used, but I like it to much to not apply it to my own story.

Look for Shooting Stars on Amazon in early December. This has been a favorite story of mine since I began it and all the feedback I've gotten from beta readers has been equally as positive.

Check out "Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age" available for Kindle and Print-On-Demand at Amazon. And get on my mailing list by sending an email to norvaljoe@gmail.com.


Flypaper Boy is launching

Here's the invitation I posted on Facebook. Everyone is welcome. Please come by and like my author page. It is: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPhilipCarroll

Facebook Friend:

Please forgive this spam. It's the only time I will ever spam my personal friend list on Facebook. But, right now, you're the only friends I have and I really need your help.
You may have seen that I've been working on publishing my first novel for about the last year. Well, "Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age" is finally happening on September 29th on Amazon as an eBook for Kindle and as a publish-on-demand paperback through Createspace.com (An Amazon company).
If I can get enough sales on September 29th it will push my book onto other lists which will make it more visible to people I don't know.
The eBook for Kindle will be just $2.99. If you don't have a kindle there are free Kindle apps for every kind of phone and tablet in existence (probably. . .the big names for sure.) The POD paperback will be $12.99 and if you purchase it, you can get the eBook for free for the next thirty days.
What I need you to do:
1) Like and follow my author page. (This way I can spam you when my next book comes out.) That's https://www.facebook.com/PhilipCarrollAuthor.
2) Share this with your followers, your friends, enemies, family members, anyone with a pulse and an internet connection.
3) Stop by Amazon on Monday, September 29th and purchase a book. I should have the link up on my author site no later than Sunday the 28th. (You could just search for Flypaper Boy. I searched it on Google and didn't get any hits with those two words together. . .Big surprise?)
And that's it! Simple, huh?
The story is about a sixteen year old boy with a lame superpower. . .he sticks to things. He gets manipulated into believing he's actually a supervillain and agrees to help kidnap the teenage daughter of the President of an Eastern European nation called Burgerslovegia.
If you've read this far, thank you. I hope you'll join me on the 29th. If you have any questions or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

A Monthly Update?

It wasn't my intention to do the same kind of blog post a month after the last, but I though I should at least up date all of my nonexistent followers on where I am.

My plan was to have two books released by this date. Did it happen? Not that I know of...

No. Really. Learn and live. I've found it takes a lot more time than I thought to get things completely nailed down and ready to go. So now I'm aiming for Monday, September 22nd, the last day of  summer, to be my launch day for "Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age". I have about thirty pages left to edit, then it's just a matter of getting it formatted for kindle and the cover art. I think it's doable.

So, Keep an eye out for information on my first run at amazon. I really need to push it up the charts on the first day if it is going to do me any substantial good as a first book.

Tell all your friends, all you imaginary people.

Thanks for reading this Lisa.


Whenever I have started one of these blogs I have done so to update all my unknown and non-existent fans about what I am currently working on and where I am on the various projects.

So, here's how it stands.

1) Fly Paper Boy: Coming of Age. I just completed my third full edit. It now stands at over 99.5K words and I believe it is complete. I have a ten minute pitch session with an agent at the LDStory Maker's conference later this month. But, unless he actually begs me for it, my plan is to self publish it as an ebook and audiobook concurrently at Scribl.com. They have a new approach to selling and pricing self published books. I figure if I can get a few YA books on the site before anyone else does, I will have a toe hold in their market that would be advantaous.

2) Shooting Stars: A Magical Teenage Love Story from a Boy's Perspective. I just got rejected by Tor YA. I had decided a week after I sent of this submission that I wanted to switch my attention to self publishing. So I started recording this one last week, figuring I would be getting my rejection soon. I've noticed is my 100 Word Weekly Challenge stories that I had an echo going on. So, I set up my recording booth  and I've recorded the first two chapters three times now. I think I've finally got the feel I want the narration to have. Now I just need to keep charging through the remaining 300 pages. This will be my first submission to the Scribl.com system. As I am recording this story, which I thought was complete, I'm finding a number of things I need to edit. Therefore, I'm making this my fourth and final edit. I'm marking down the corrections I make while recording and will go through the ebook manuscript again before formatting it for download.

3) What I'm working on next. I'm aiming to release Shooting Stars by June 1 and Fly Paper Boy by Aug 30. I'd like to have one more released by Dec 31. The three I have in the background are Galactic Battle Base: Knife Cuts, Galactic Battle Base: Family Ties and this last years Nanowrimo, The Pariah. I think the story most ready to fine tune is Pariah, but last month I got a wild hare and started re-writing Knife Cuts. I think it is the one which is the most emotionally charged, and the most meaningful to me.

Can you spot the Dystopia?

I recently listened to a new podcast call "Cast of Wonders". The describe themselves as a "Young Adult Fiction Audio Magazine" and you can find them at www.castofwonders.org.

I listened to an episode yesterday, Ep. 113. They're up to 115 now. This one was called "The Malthus Alternative" by Jamie Mason. The premise of the story is, well, to boil it down to a single phase, "America Sucks".

That's unfair. I don't want to put those words into Jamie's mouth. Perhaps the author sees things he or she feels are not right about America, and feels the Young Adults of the audience are too dense to appreciate subtlety.

I'm not saying the issues are false. I do not believe the country has the right to "legislate a woman's uterus". I don't believe having "For Profit Prisons" is good. I think our presence I any Middle East nation is counter productive to our domestic liberty and is not flattering to our International Image. Finally, something is wrong when one percent of the population own forty percent of the wealth.

I wrote a short story last summer shortly after the NSA thing blew up. I had felt for some time that the fourth amendment to the constitution had become increasingly weak, and the NSA's blatant abuse of our privacy was beyond excuse. The story I wrote, which follows this blog post, called "No Child Left Alone" presented our nation after an extreme attempt to protect our children had overboard.

I got criticism from the online reading group that my story was "Heavy Handed". Maybe I was. I've read "1984", "A Brave New World", "We" and "Farenheit 451", and I think any one of those would be described as "Heavy Handed". It's a dystopian environment. Have you seen "Catching Fire"? What part of the movie leading up to the actual arena would not be considered stereo typical of a bad political situation?

If a dystopian story needs to be heavy handed for the reader to grasp the enormity of a wrong, as perceived by the author, then, "The Malthus Alternative" is "Double Fisted, Heavy Handed". The author presents one awful aspect of the American Political climate after another.

I will cite only two aspects of the story, in case you want to listen to it yourself. First; Naming our involvement in war on a global level as "The War on Birth Control" never took the logical step to explain how the two were equal. Sure, they were sending their young people to the middle east to fight, and sure, the politicians saw birth control as a bad thing, but never brought the two together in a sensible way. Secondly; the inequality between the author's one percent, having it all, and the 99 percent having nothing, is unsupportable in the author's dystopia. With this large of an impoverished population the government couldn't generate enough in taxes to pay the rich. Our government cannot pay absurd amounts to military contractors or "For Profit Prison" owners, unless they tax a substantial working class to get the cash. The population has to want and pay for all the crap they get from China that makes the Vice Presients and CEO's all that cash from outsourcing American jobs to foreigners who can be told what to do, when to do it, and how much they are going to get paid for it.

What concerns me most is that this is Graeme Dunlop's Editor's choice story. He describes this as the best story from the preceding 112 stories. I'll give the podcast a few more tries, but if this story is the acme of Young Adult short fiction, it will only be a few more tries, after which I will have to redefine what it is I think I'm doing with my own writing.

Here is the story I wrote last summer:
"No Child Left Alone"
Approx 2800 words.
Writer's journey prompt for June 4, 2013
GPS injected into children’s spinal column to track tardiness and truancy.


A buzzer rang down the upper floor of Central High's liberal arts wing. Students filled the halls and hurried to their next class. 
Cody stepped into the hallway and watched the students, their faces set and determined as his would be, if his next class wasn't right across the way. No one wanted to be late, to be out of their seats when the tardy bell rang.

“Cody. Check this out,” Demmar whispered to him and tipping his head to the side of the hallway where they would be out of the main traffic and away from eyes and ears.

“What’s so secret?” Cody asked, only half interested, but stepping to where his friend stood next to a bank of lockers.

“I just finished this, this morning in electronics.”

He held a mat-black, cube which sat easily in the palm of his hand.

“Does it play the high school fight song, or just make farting sounds when everyone is quiet?”

"Ha, ha," Demmar laughed laying on sarcasm. “Nothing so trivial and I’m pretty sure it works. It’s a GPS decoy. You lock a GPS location on it and put it somewhere. Then, wherever the identified system goes it gives off the reading of where you’ve hidden the box.”

“Hold on,” Cody looked up and down the hallway. Few students were in sight.
A video camera on the hallway ceiling swung slowly side to side.

“Come over here,” Cody said indicating a spot just past where the row of lockers ended. He pulled out his Kindle to act like they were talking about a school assignment and he turned his back to the camera, blocking any possible view of the decoy.

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Cody asked.

“Yeah,” he said, a grin spreading across his face like a kid who’d just gotten caught steeling candy from a baby. “They won’t be able to monitor where we are. If we leave one of these for each of us in the classroom where we’re supposed to be, we can walk into any room in the high school and the GPS tracker will think we’re sitting in class. We can walk right into the girl’s locker room and the alarms won’t even sound.”

“Don’t tell me that’s why you made this thing, to get into the girl’s locker room.”

“Why not. I thought it was a good idea.”

“Sure you would,” Cody rolled his eyes. “Don’t you think any one of the girls in the room, not to mention the female coaches, would notice that you were a boy, and not a girl?”

Demaar’s smile faded. “I wasn’t planning on going in when anybody was watching.”

“Right,” Cody said. “Anyway, we’re probably beginning to look suspicious. Meet me after school. We need to talk. I’ll walk to your house with you. That should look fairly normal.”

Two hours later they had passed through the high school exit scanner and were walking to Demaar’s house.

“You said you were pretty sure the decoy worked. Why aren’t you sure?” Cody asked.

“I could only test it in the electronics lab. So I know it works for a short distance and with a local GPS Scanner. Wherever I put the decoy in the room, the scanner showed me there. I’m not sure what the actual range is, though it should have enough power to reach anywhere on campus.”

“It doesn’t need to reach far; especially if we use them during language arts. We would have two whole hours to test it out.” 

“Where are you planning on going?” Demaar asked.

“The one spot where we could see if it was working and answer a few questions I have about these GPS strings in our spines,” Cody said.

“You’re right. The data lab is directly below our language arts class. We could run some routines from the school’s system to imitate a GPS tracker and see if the decoy really works.”

“You’re close, Demaar, but not on the nose. What room can we access from the student’s data center?”

“You’re not talking about the GPS control room for the entire school are you?”

Demaar was incredulous. Cody only nodded his head.

They sat on Demaar’s front porch.

“You were quick to jump on this idea, today. The whole time I worked on the decoy I was thinking of all the ways I could use it, to, um, get into the locker room.”

"For a guy, smart enough to make this thing, you sure have some moronic reasons for developing it," Cody said and shook his head.

"I'm not cool like you are. You never see girls following me around, do you?" Demaar said and looked down the street.

Cody followed his friend's gaze. Two houses away, halfway up a light pole, a video camera slowly panned up and down the street. Cody didn’t think they, whoever they were behind the camera, could tell what the two talked about. Still, he waited until the camera’s lens had passed them before he spoke.

“These GPS strings they put into our spines, they say their biological, designed to deteriorate and be absorbed into the body between age eighteen and twenty.”

“Yeah. So?”

“I had to do a report for my Civics class about the Courts System and I found out some interesting facts. Did you know that the crime rate is one-fourth of what it was twenty years ago? That over the last twenty years there has been a steady and consistent decline in crime and the rate for people aged 20 to 30 is almost zero?”

“Those sound like good things to me.”

“Yeah, but at what cost? We’re Americans. And that’s something else I learned from Senior Civics; we’re supposed to be free and protected from unwarranted search and seizure.”

“You lost me, Cody. I can do magic with electronics, but politics, that’s your game.”

“Think about it, Demaar. They put these “No Child Left Alone” GPS strings into our spine so that all children, age five to eighteen, can be tracked and found at any moment. Sure, protecting children from abductors and abusers is great. Even keeping an eye on us in school is okay, for attendance reasons. But, what if they keep watching you after you leave the school’s campus, or the strings don’t degrade and their spying on us as adults? Is that okay as well?”

“No. I guess not.”

“You remember Sean, don’t you?”

“Yeah. He graduated last year. What about him.”

“That’s my question. Whenever we asked him what he was going to do after graduation, he said, ‘Nothing. Not a damn thing. And that’s what he did through the summer. Do you know where he is now?”

“Yeah. He joined the Army. That’s what his little brother said.”

“Think. Would a guy whose goal in life was to do nothing join the Army? No. But if someone was watching what everyone was doing and saw that he was doing nothing, he could be pegged as a potential criminal or drain on the state. Kill two potential birds with one stone; put him in the army.”

“You’re sounding paranoid, Cody.”

“Maybe I am. But getting into the GPS control room will be proof enough. I think we will see if this is all in my head.”

A week later, Cody waited in the hall next to their language arts class for Demaar to arrive with a second GPS decoy.

The two walked into the classroom a few minutes before the bell. Demaar passed Cody the decoy as they took their normal desks, side by side.

Cody thumbed the buttons in the order Demaar had told him and pressed the decoy to the underside of the desk, holding it in place with two pieces of self adhesive Velcro. 
First Cody, then his friend left the class and descended the stairs to the first floor. No one would assume they were anywhere other than where they should be. The attendance office showed them sitting in their seats and any teachers who passed them in the halls would figure they were on an approved and recognized task.

Rows of computer terminals and keyboards on tables were packed into the long narrow room. They took seats near an unidentified door at the far end of the room. Each boy opened a routine appropriate to their studies and appeared to work. They listened for sounds of people from beyond the door. 

A vidicam slowly panned the room and students.

“Okay?” Demaar asked.

Cody waited for the camera to angle past and counted, “One, two, three. Okay, let’s go.”

They stood, opened the door and stepped through into the dark room. As the door closed the overhead lights came on. Fans set high up on the walls whispered, keeping the small room cool as the numerous computers pumped out heat from their active processing.

They agreed before hand they wouldn’t speak, only move directly to their tasks.

Cody wandered between several computers set up at individual work stations. Demaar dashed from station to station until he found the one he was apparently looking for. He sat and powered on the screen. Cody settled into a station with a broad flat-screen monitor and flipped it on.

A floor plan of the school opened up before him. Most classrooms were filled with neat rows of tiny blue dots, each one indicating a student. Few moved through the hallways. Cody found the Data Center and rolled his cursor over the ‘dots’ in the room. With each dot the cursor passed over a number appeared above it on the screen. All the numbers he found were similar to his own, in the 46,320,000’s, but not his own. 

The room where he and Demaar worked wasn’t even on the schematic. He centered the screen back on his classroom, brought the view in close and cursored over the seats where he and Demaar sat.

Feeling satisfied and considerably more secure, he smiled and leaned back in his seat. Among the blue dots of students in his classroom were four yellow dots; one at the head of the class where the teacher usually sat. He tried to picture where the other yellows were positioned in the classroom and was sure of only one, Esteban Martinez. He had come from El Salvador at six years old and had difficulty with English. Because he was held back a year he was already eighteen, past the age when the GPS string should have degraded. 

And the teacher, he moved the cursor over her yellow dot. Though it didn’t show her name, her number was obviously not one of the students; 15,665,719; much older than the students.

Intending to go back to the original screen he expanded the view wider. However, the controls were more sensitive than he thought and the school dropped away from view and a map of the whole neighborhood appeared before him.

“I’m right,” Cody declared.

“Shhhh,” Demaar said, then in a whisper asked, “What are you right about?”

“There are dots everywhere.”

Demaar came over to Cody’s screen. It was true. Throughout the neighborhood tiny yellow dots moved around houses and floated along streets. Green, blue, turquoise and red dots were also present, but very few.

“I think the yellow dots are anyone over eighteen. Look at our classroom.”

Cody zoomed in on the classroom again. “Look. Here’s Ms. Alexander. Her number is pretty low, but here’s Esteban. He’s eighteen and his number is closer to ours.

“What do you think the red dots are for?” Demaar asked.

“I don’t know,” Cody began but realized what caused Demaar to ask. In their classroom two red dots sat side-by-side and Cody didn’t need to pass the cursor over to know who they were.

“Let’s get out of here,” Cody said, jumping from the chair and running for the door. Bolting through into the Data Center the two boys ran into the principal and two of his assistants.

“Bring the boys to my office,” the man said. 

The assistants grabbed the boys by their upper arms and marched them behind the principal to the administration building.

“How did you find my decoys?” Demaar asked.

Cody shushed him. They had the right to remain silent, didn’t they?

“Come on, Cody. We’re caught, and I want to know. Did they give off a conflicting signature to the GPS signal?”

“Decoys. I like that name.” The principal sounded smug. “Actually, yes. They did give off a signature, but it was incredibly hard to locate. We scanned the building several times before locating them. What gave you away was motion sensors in the control room. An alarm goes off in the attendance office and in my office as well. We found you two cloaked in there; that was when we searched for a cloned signal.”

The principal spoke matter-of-factly, as if discussing the weather with a next door neighbor. "Now that we have your devices, we will be able to protect against them. The whole GPS system is about protection, to protect you young people.”

“If that’s so, why don’t the strings degrade as they’re supposed to when we turn eighteen? Ms. Alexander’s string is still going and there are yellow dots moving all over the neighborhood.”

“You’re a perceptive young man, Cody. You have to remember, it’s for everyone’s safety, and you, being you, don't know the dangers you face. The original plan was to allow the GPS string to degrade at eighteen, but some of us saw a bigger picture where we could all be safe, regardless of age, just like the children.”

“You’re awfully free and open, all of a sudden,” Cody said at the same moment Demaar asked, “Are you going to kick us out of high school?”

“Both good questions; spoken, or implied,” the principal said.

They passed the attendance desk. 

The assistant, still holding the boys by their arms, ushered them directly into the principal’s office. Cody and Demaar were released and told to sit in chairs to the left side of the principal’s desk.

Principal Stevens sat at his desk and turned his attention to the computer terminal in front of him. He appeared to enter data on a form. The screen sat perpendicular to the boys and they were unable to see the form or the data entered. 

What Cody could see was across the principal’s desk; a bank of video screens mounted on the wall to the principal’s right, and directly in front of the two boys. He jabbed his elbow into Demaar and tipped his head toward the monitors.

Both boys were on five of the screens, shown repeating loops of video feed; the two standing by the lockers in the hallway; them entering the computer lab; passing the GPS decoys in the classroom; standing outside the school yesterday and sitting on Demaar’s front porch. Video feed of the two boys off the school grounds was disconcerting enough, but what really bothered Cody was that it was not from the angle of the vidicam he knew of. The view was from directly across the street; perhaps from under the eaves of the Zwickie’s home.

Did they have cameras everywhere? Cody wondered. Where else could they be watching?

“There. All done,” Stevens said. He looked up from the screen to the two boys with a wide grin. “Congratulations are in order. You’ve both just graduated from high school. Your diplomas will be mailed to your parent’s homes within the week.”

“What?” Demaar asked. 

Cody shook his head and said, “Okay?”

“You’re not the first students to figure out how the “No Child Left Alone” Technology is being used, both in school and out; not the first by a long shot. But over the twenty years of the program, how to deal with clever children like you has been, reformed.”

Demaar’s face went gray.

“Don’t worry Mr. Wilkins. You’re not going to jail. Quite the opposite. It would be a terrible waste to incarcerate and punish intelligent minds; they should be rewarded, and...” He paused a moment, looking thoughtful. He finally sighed, and said,“ Exploited sounds like such a harsh word. But, your “Decoy” is very impressive. The school will receive a large bonus for its development.”

He turned to Cody.

“And your lateral thinking, Mr. Ashkour, was very perceptive and shows an insight not common in a boy your age. Your parents will be pleased to learn you have been transferred to a prestigious university and will be pursuing an advanced degree in Political Ethics.”

He turned back to Demaar, “And you a degree in Electronic Engineering, Mr. Wilkins.”

Principal Stevens stood and said, “Transportation is here, boys. Enjoy the next six years of higher education. I’m sure by the time you graduate you will both have the appropriate perspective to help us carry out our important work.”

The End

Author's note: This is not a completed short story. I wrote it through and revised it once before submitting it to the Online Writing Workshop. I did a short rewrite after that. Since that time I have also decided it's not done. Demaar has a back up plan with another set of decoys which which deflects their GPS chips location randomly traveling in different directions. They break away from the guards and escape into the neighborhood.


I'm a novelist.

I crossed another milestone today. I'd submitted my YA urban fantasy to my first choice of a publisher, and apparently they didn't think it was as good as I did. Actually, I thought they would reject it, but I wanted the LDS fiction market to get the first choice.

I got my first "Rejection Form Letter" today. I believe authors used to paper their walls with these. To do that now, I would have to print it out. Instead, I think I'll just copy it into a Word Doc and start a file for them.

Onward and upward. I've already sent it off to another publisher. There was a third publisher I found who I think is my best bet for getting published. They are using the newer method of, No Advancement, but 50% of the sales. They also accept simultaneous submissions, so if it comes to that, in another 90 days, I can shotgun it out to a few of these new wave publishers.

Other projects right now are a short story for an anthology, my 2011 Nano is still out to Beta Readers and I'm getting some good feedback. My original plan was to do my first edit on my 2013 Nano rough draft, but I've had some experiences recently that pointed me to 2010 Nano and I've started to read/edit that one.

We'll just have to see what actually ends up as my next novel.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

My wife and I watched "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" last weekend. Don't tell her, but I've made a commitment to myself to go out with her more often. We haven't done that a lot in the past. But more than a month ago we went out to a movie. It was the first weekend that Hunger Games 2 was out and I frankly didn't want to see it.

My daughter was a big HG fan and I listened to all three of the books long before the first movie came out and I though each book was better than the next. In fact, I hated the third book, and it was based on that feeling that I chose to not want to see the second movie. But at that other movie we watched, they showed a preview of Catching Fire and said, "This movie was made to be experienced on the big screen." And from the preview, you could see why, and deep down, I believed them.

The following day I overheard some people talking about Catching Fire, saying it was so much better than the first movie. My problem with the first movie is that people who hadn't read the book often totally missed the premise of the whole story. I didn't think the directors did a good job of telling the story. I believe they did do a much better job with the second. In fact, there were some things that I thought were much clearer than the book.

I listen to most books. My family keeps Audible.com financially sound. I can listen at work, while driving, and when I want to tune out the kids. It would take me years to find the time to physically read as many books as I would like. So listening suits my needs well.

Finally, I will go see the third movie. There were some things in the third book the author did that I didn't agree with, that weren't necessary to the plot and I felt were only designed to elicit emotion. Also, as a reader of speculative fiction, and defining Hunger Games as a distopian urban fantasy I felt some duality when the author treated the story as a romance. From what I've heard from those who read romance novels, it appears that our heroine must make stupid decisions to perpetuate romantic tension. Again, I felt these plot twists were gratuitous.

I can only hope movie directors will improve the third installment of The Hunger Games as well they did in the second.

Happy New Year

In the last quarter of 2013 I stepped up my writing career to a new level. I feel like I made some significant progress. Here are my four successes of that quarter:

1) Submitted a novel manuscript to a publisher. This was the major turning point for me. After five years of practicing it's time to start playing the game.

2) Purchased my dedicated website. If you are reading this, you're at my site. That's good.

3) In November I took my sixth Nanowrimo challenge. I've completed at least 50K words each year, but never really felt like I had a complete novel in that amount of time. This year I finished the story in 28 days with a total of 100,138 words. That was almost 3600 words a day.

4) I edited my 2011 Nano, "Fly Paper Boy: Coming of Age" before January 2014. That ended up with 93K words.

What I believe this shows is that I can create a rough draft in a short period of time. With this years Nano, I did outline heavily in October, but ended up only covering the first third of the plot in this novel. It also shows that I can take that rough draft and smooth it considerably in an equally short period of time.

Goals for the first quarter of 2014 are:

1) Edit "The Pariah" (2013 Nano)

2) Write a short story for Jeff Hite's new anthology about a magic portal beneath the kitchen sink. I'll look for the link.

3) Fine tune Fly Paper Boy for submission. It's currently out to several beta readers and I've asked them to read it and get back to me with in 30 days.

Other things on the back burners are outlining the second and third books for "Shooting Stars", outline for the final book of "The Price of Friendship", a first edit on "Human Magnetism", my Nano from 2012, and finally, the second book after "The Pariah".

That should be enough to keep me busy.